THE UPRISING OF A GREAT PEOPLE. THE UNITED STATES IN 1861.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A WORD OF PEACE ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENGLAND AND THE UNITED STATES.
FROM THE FRENCH OF COUNT AGENOR DE GASPARIN
BY MARY L. BOOTH.
NEW AMERICAN EDITION FROM THE AUTHOR'S REVISED EDITION. 1862.
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TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE TO THE REVISED AMERICAN EDITION.
The edition of the Uprising of a Great People which we issue herewith, has been carefully revised to conform to the new edition of the original work, just published at Paris. The author has corrected several errors of fact, which were noted by American reviewers on the appearance of the translation, and has also made sundry changes in the work, designed to bring it down to the present time, and to adapt its counsels to the new light that is breaking in upon us in the progress of events. These changes, however, have been few, and relate chiefly to the policy of emancipation, for so truly has this remarkable book proved a prophecy, that the author, on reviewing it after a lapse of several eventful months, can find nothing to strike out as having proved untrue. We are indebted to the kindness of Count de Gasparin for one or two corrections of trifling biographical misstatements in the translator's preface.
The pamphlet concerning the Trent affair, and the surrender of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, which we append to this edition, will be read with interest at the present crisis, as an able exposition of the views of European statesmen on the international difficulty which has sprung so unexpectedly upon us. While it justifies the surrender on the ground of technical error, it utters a solemn warning in the name of Europe, that, if the demand were a mere pretext to force us into a ruinous war, such a proceeding will not again be tolerated. This pamphlet, entitled Une Parole de Paix, is the article which appeared in the Journal des Debats, December 11, 12, and 13, since published as a brochure, with some additions.
This new edition is especially valuable, inasmuch as it seals the faith of our noble friend and sympathizer. "A few months ago," says Count de Gasparin, in his preface, "I believed in the uprising of a great people; now I am sure of it." Let not the issue shame us by disappointing his trust!
MARY L. BOOTH.
NEW YORK, February, 1862.
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TO THE SECOND EDITION.
I have nothing to change in these pages. When I wrote them before the breaking out of the American crisis, I foreboded, which was not difficult, that the crisis would be long and grievous, that there would be mistakes and reverses; but I foreboded, also, that through these mistakes and reverses, an immense progress was about to come to light. Some have undertaken to doubt it: at the sight of civil war, and the evils which it necessarily entails, at the recital of one or two defeats, they have hastened to raise their hands to Heaven, and to proclaim in every key the ruin of the United States.
This is not the place to discuss judgments, sometimes superficial, sometimes malevolent, which too often pass current among us; to examine what has been, what should be the attitude of our Europe, what is our responsibility, what are our interests and our duties. We alone, I am ashamed to admit it, we alone run the risk of rendering doubtful the final triumph of the good cause; we have not ceased to be, in spite of ourselves, the only chance and the only hope of the champions of slavery.
Perhaps I shall enter ere long, in a new study, upon the important subject which I confine myself to indicating here, and which pre-occupies the government at Washington to such a degree that it seems inclined to order defensive preparations in view of an unnatural conflict between liberal America and ourselves. Everything may happen—alas! the seemingly impossible like all else. It is not enough, therefore, to declare this impossible and monstrous, it is not enough to prove that the present state of feeling in Europe is far from giving reason to foresee an intervention in favor of the South; it is necessary to sap at the base these deplorable sophisms, more fully credited than is imagined, which may, in due time, under the pressure of certain industrial needs or of certain political combinations, urge France and England into a course which is not their own.
For the present, I have only wished to repeat, with a strengthened conviction, what I said a few months ago. I believed then in the uprising of a great people; now I am sure of it.
VALLEYRES, November 2, 1861.
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At this moment, when we are anxiously scrutinizing every indication of European feeling with respect to the American question, the advent of a book, bearing the stamp of a close philosophical, political, and practical study of the subject, and written, withal, in so hopeful a spirit as to make us feel with the writer that whatever may result from the present crisis must be for good, cannot fail to be of public interest and utility. So truly prophetic is this work in its essence, that we can hardly believe that it was written in great part amid the mists that preceded the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. All probabilities appear to have been foreseen, and the unerring exactness with which events have taken place hitherto precisely in the direction indicated by the author, encourages us to believe that this will continue until his predictions will have been fulfilled to the end. Clear-sighted, philosophical, appreciative of American genius and accomplishment, critical, yet charitable to tenderness, stigmatizing the fault, yet forgiving the offender, cheering our nation onward by words of encouragement, bravely spoken at the needed-moment, menacing Europe with the scorn of posterity, if, forgetting her oft-repeated professions, she dare forsake the side of liberty to traffic in principles; such is the scope of what a late reviewer calls "the wisest book which has been written upon America since De Tocqueville."
Few men are better qualified to judge American affairs than Count de Gasparin. A many-sided man, combining the scholar, the statesman, the politician, the man of letters, and the finished gentleman, possessed of every advantage of culture, wealth, and position, he has devoted a long life to the advocacy of liberty in all its forms, whether religious or political, and has ended by making a profound study of American history and politics, the accuracy of which is truly remarkable. A few facts with respect to his career, kindly furnished by his personal friend, Rev. Dr. Robert Baird, of New York, will be here in place.
Count Agenor Etienne de Gasparin was born at Orange, July 4, 1810. His family is Protestant, and of Corsican origin; his father was a man of talent and position, who served for many years as Prefect of the District of the Rhone, and afterwards as Minister of the Interior under Louis Philippe, by whom he was highly esteemed. He received a liberal education, and devoted himself especially to literature, till 1842, when he was elected by the people of the island of Corsica to represent them in the Chamber of Deputies. Here began his political career. At that time, religious liberty was in danger of perishing in France, assailed by the powerful opposition of the tribunals and the administration. De Gasparin declared himself its champion, and, in an eloquent speech in the Chamber of Deputies, which moved the audience to tears, he boldly accused the courts of perverting the civil code in favor of religious intolerance, and claimed unlimited freedom for evangelical preaching and colportage. He also made strenuous efforts to effect the immediate emancipation of slaves in the French colonies, and published several essays on the subject. He devoted himself especially to the protection of Protestantism, and founded in France the Society for the Protection of Protestant interests, and the Free Protestant Church, yet, detesting religious intolerance everywhere, he did not hesitate to denounce the Protestant persecutions of Sweden as bitterly as he had done the Catholic bigotry of France. He was head of the Cabinet in the Ministry of the Interior while his father was Minister, and was in the Ministry of Public Instruction under M. Guizot. In 1848, while travelling in the East with his wife, a talented Swiss lady, the author of several works, he received intelligence of the downfall of the government of Louis Philippe. This event closed his public career. He addressed a letter of condolence to the dethroned monarch, to whom he was warmly attached, then retired to Switzerland to devote himself to literature and philanthropy, being too warm an adherent of the Orleans dynasty to take part in the new administration. Politically, he is, like Guizot, an advocate of constitutional monarchy. Since the Revolution, he has continued to reside in Switzerland. He has published numerous works on philosophical and social questions, among which may be instanced: Esclavage et Traite; De l'Affranchissement des Esclaves; Interets generaux du Protestantisme Francais, Paganismet Christianisme, Des tables tournantes, du surnaturel en general, et des esprits, etc.
His present work, so hopeful and sympathizing, recommends itself to the attention of the American public; and even those who may dissent from some of his positions or conclusions, cannot but admire his vigorous comprehension of the outlines of the subject, and be cheered by his predictions of the future. As the expression of the opinion of an intelligent, clear-sighted European, in a position to comprehend men and things, concerning the storm which is now agitating the whole country, it can scarcely fail of a hearty welcome. I commend the following interpretation, which I have sought to make as conscientiously literal as due regard to idioms of language would permit, to all true lovers of liberty and of the Union, of whatever State, section, or nation.
MARY L. BOOTH.
NEW YORK, June 15, 1861.
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In publishing this study at the present time, I expose myself to the blame of prudent men. I shall be told that I ought to have waited.
To have waited for what? Until there shall be no more great questions in Europe to dispute our attention with the American question? Or until the American question has shaped itself, and we are able to know clearly what interests it will serve, in what consequences it will end?
I am not sorry, I confess, to applaud duty before it is recommended by success. When success shall have come, men eager to celebrate it will not be wanting, and I shall leave to them the care of demonstrating then that the North has been in the right, that it has saved the United States.
To construct the philosophy of events after they have passed is very interesting, without doubt, but the work to be accomplished to-day is far more serious. The point in question is to sustain our friends when they are in need of us; when their battle, far from being won, is scarcely begun; the point in question is to give our support—the very considerable support of European opinion—at the time when it can be of service; the point in question is to assume our small share of responsibility in one of the gravest conflicts of this age.
Let us enlist; for the Slave States, on their part, are losing no time. They have profited well, I must admit, by the advantages assured to them by the complicity of the ministers of Mr. Buchanan. In the face of the inevitable indecision of a new government, around which care had been taken to accumulate in advance every impossibility of acting, the decided bearing of the extreme South, its airs of audacity and defiance have had a certain eclat and a certain success. Already its partisans raise their heads; they dare speak in its favor among us; they insult free trade, by transforming it into an argument destined to serve the interests of slavery. And shall we remain mute? Shall we listen to the counsels of that false wisdom that always comes too late, so much does it fear to declare itself too early? Shall we not feel impelled to show in all its true light the sacred cause of liberty? Ah! I declare that the blood boils in my veins; I have hastened and would gladly have hastened still more. Circumstances independent of my will alone have retarded a publication prepared more than a month ago.
ORANGE, March 19, 1861.
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II.—WHERE THE NATION WAS DRIFTING BEFORE THE ELECTION OF MR. LINCOLN.
III.—WHAT THE ELECTION OF MR. LINCOLN SIGNIFIES.
IV.—WHAT WE ARE TO THINK OF THE UNITED STATES.
V.—THE CHURCHES AND SLAVERY.
VI.—THE GOSPEL AND SLAVERY.
VII.—THE PRESENT CRISIS.
VIII.—PROBABLE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CRISIS.
IX.—COEXISTENCE OF THE TWO RACES AFTER EMANCIPATION.
X.—THE PRESENT CRISIS WILL REGENERATE THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE UNITED STATES.
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A GREAT PEOPLE RISING.
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The title of this work will produce the effect of a paradox. The general opinion is that the United States continued to pursue an upward course until the election of Mr. Lincoln, and that since then they have been declining. It is not difficult, and it is very necessary, to show that this opinion is absolutely false. Before the recent victory of the adversaries of slavery, the American Confederation, in spite of its external progress and its apparent prosperity, was suffering from a fearful malady which had well-nigh proved mortal; now, an operation has taken place, the sufferings have increased, the gravity of the situation is revealed for the first time, perhaps, to inattentive eyes. Does this mean that the situation was not grave when it did not appear so? Does this mean that we must deplore a violent crisis which alone can bring the cure?
I do not deplore it—I admire it. I recognize in this energetic reaction against the disease, the moral vigor of a people habituated to the laborious struggles of liberty. The rising of a people is one of the rarest and most marvellous prodigies presented by the annals of humanity. Ordinarily, nations that begin to decline, decline constantly more and more; a rare power of life is needed to retrieve their position, and stop in its course a decay once begun.
We have a strange way of seconding the generous enterprise into which the United States have entered with so much courage! We prophesy to them nothing but misfortunes; we almost tell them that they have ceased to exist; we give them to understand, that in electing Mr. Lincoln they have renounced their greatness; that they have precipitated themselves head foremost into an abyss; that they have ruined their prosperity, sacrificed their future, rendered henceforth impossible the magnificent character which was reserved to them. Mr. Buchanan, we seem to say, is the last President of the Union.
This, thank God, is the reverse of the truth. But lately, indeed, the United States were advancing to their ruin; but lately there was reason to mourn in thinking of them; the steps might have been counted which it remained for them to take to complete the union of their destiny with that of an accursed and perishable institution—an institution which corrupts and destroys every thing with which it comes in contact. To-day, new prospects are opening to them; they will have to combat, to labor, to suffer; the crime of a century is not repaired in a day; the right path when long forsaken is not found again without effort; guilty traditions and old complicities are not broken through without sacrifices. It is none the less true, notwithstanding, that the hour of effort and of sacrifice, grievous as it may be, is the very hour of deliverance. The election of Mr. Lincoln will be one of the great dates of American history; it closes the past, but it opens the future. With it is about to commence, if the same spirit be maintained, and if excessive concessions do not succeed in undoing all that has been done, a new era, at once purer and greater than that which has just ended.
Let others accuse me of optimism; I willingly agree to it. I believe that optimism is often right here below. We need hope; we need sometimes to receive good news; we need to see sometimes the bright side of things. The bright side is often the true side; if Love is blindfolded, I see a triple bandage on the eyes of Hate. Kindliness has its privileges; and I do not think myself in a worse position than another to judge the United States because they inspire me with an earnest sympathy; because, after having mourned their faults and trembled at their perils, I have joyfully saluted the noble and manly policy of which the election of Mr. Lincoln is the symptom. Is it not true, that at the first news we all seemed to breathe a whiff of pure and free air from the other side of the ocean?
It is a pleasure, in times like ours, to feel that certain principles still live; that they will be obeyed, cost what it may; that questions of conscience can yet sometimes weigh down questions of profit. The abolition of slavery will be, I have always thought, the principal conquest of the nineteenth century. This will be its recommendation in the eyes of posterity, and the chief compensation for many of its weaknesses. As for us old soldiers of emancipation, who have not ceased to combat for it for twenty years and more, at the tribunal and elsewhere, we shall be excused without doubt for seeing in the triumph of our American friends something else than a subject of lamentation.
If they had not triumphed, do you know who would have gained the victory? Slavery is only a word—a vile word, doubtless, but to which we in time become habituated. To what do we not become habituated? We have stores of indulgence and indifference for the social iniquities which have found their way into the current of cotemporary civilization, and which can invoke prescription. So we have come to speak of American slavery with perfect sang froid. We are not, therefore, to stop at the word, but to go straight to the thing; and the thing is this:
Every day, in all the Southern States, families are sold at retail: the father to one, the mother to another, the son to a third, the young daughter to a fourth; and the father, the mother, the children, are scattered to the four winds of heaven; these hearts are broken, these poor beings are given a prey to infamy and sorrow, these marriages are ruptured, and adulterous unions are formed twenty leagues, a hundred leagues away, in the bosom and with the assent of a Christian community. Every day, too, the domestic slave-trade carries on its work; merchants in human flesh ascend the Mississippi, to seek in the producing States wherewith to fill up the vacuum caused unceasingly by slavery in the consuming States; their ascent made, they scour the farms of Virginia or of Kentucky, buying here a boy, there a girl; and other hearts are torn, other families are dispersed, other nameless crimes are accomplished coolly, simply, legally: it is the necessary revenue of the one, it is the indispensable supply of the others. Must not the South live, and how dares any one travesty a fact so simple? by what right was penned that eloquent calumny called "Uncle Tom's Cabin"?
A calumny! I ask how any one would set to work to calumniate the customs which I have just described. Say, then, that the laws of the South are a calumny, that the official acts of the South are a calumny; for I affirm that the simple reading of these acts and these laws, a glance at the advertisements of a Southern journal, saddens the heart more, and wounds the conscience deeper, than the most poignant pages of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. I admit willingly that there are many masters who are very kind and very good. I admit that there are some slaves who are relatively happy. I cast aside unhesitatingly the stories of exceptional cruelty; it is enough for me to see that these happy slaves expose themselves to a thousand deaths to escape a situation declared "preferable to that of our workmen." It is enough for me to hear the heart-rending cries of those women and young girls who, adjudged to the highest and last bidder, become, by the law and in a Christian country, the property, yes, the property (excuse the word, it is the true one) of the debauchees, their purchasers. And remark here that the virtues of the master are a weak guarantee: he may die, he may become bankrupt, and nothing then can hinder his slaves from being sold into the hands of the buyer who scours the country and makes his choice.
We should calumniate the South if we amused ourselves by making a collection of atrocious deeds, in the same manner that we should calumniate France by seeking in the Police Gazette for the description of her social state. There is, notwithstanding, this difference between the iniquities of slavery and our own: the first are almost always unpunished, while the second are repressed by the courts. An institution which permits evil, creates it in a great measure: in saying that men are things, it necessarily engenders more crimes, more acts of violence, more cowardly deeds, than the imagination of romancers will ever invent. When a class has neither the right to complain, nor to defend itself, nor to testify in law; when it cannot make its voice heard in any manner, we may be excused for not taking in earnest the idyls chanted on its felicity. We must be ignorant at once of the heart of man and of history to preserve the slightest doubt on this point. I add that those who, like me, have had in their hands the documents of our colonial slavery, have become terribly suspicious, and are likely to look with a skeptical eye on these Arcadian descriptions, the worth of which they can appreciate.
Once more, I do not contest the humanity of many masters, but I remember that there were humane masters too in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Bourbon; yet this did not prevent the discovery, on a rigid scrutiny, sometimes of excesses, as fearful as inevitable, of the discretionary power; at others, of a systematic depravation, and this to such a point that in one of our colonies the custom of regular unions had become absolutely unknown to the slaves.
I cannot help believing that man is the same everywhere. Never, in any time or in any latitude, has it been given him to possess his fellow, without fearful misfortunes having resulted to both. Have we not heard celebrated the delightful mildness of Spanish slavery in Cuba? Travellers entertained by the Creoles usually return enchanted with it. Yet, notwithstanding, it is found that on quitting the cities and penetrating into the plantations, the most barbarous system of labor is discovered that exists in the entire world. Cuba devours her black population so rapidly that she is unceasingly obliged to purchase negroes from abroad; and these, being once on the island, have not before them an average life exceeding ten years! In the United States, the planters of the extreme South are also obliged to renew their supply of negroes; but, as they have recourse to the domestic instead of the African trade, and as the domestic trade furnishes slaves at an excessively high price, it follows that motives of interest oppose the adoption of the destructive system of Cuba. Other higher motives also oppose it, I am certain; and I am far from comparing the system of Louisiana or the Carolinas to that which prevails in the Spanish island. We exaggerate nothing, however; and whatever may be the points of difference, we may hold it as certain that those of resemblance are still more numerous: the tree is the same, it cannot but bear the same fruits.
It must be affirmed, besides, that slavery is peculiarly odious on that soil where the equality of mankind has been inscribed with so much eclat at the head of a celebrated constitution. Liberty imposes obligations; there is at the bottom of the human conscience something which will always cause slavery to be more scandalous at Washington than at Havana. What happens in the United States will be denounced more violently, more loudly, than what happens in Brazil; and this is right.
This said, I pause: I have not the slightest wish to introduce here a perfectly superfluous discussion on the principle and the consequences of slavery. I know all with which Americans reproach us Europeans. It was we, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Spaniards, Hollanders, who imposed on them this institution which we take delight in combating—this inheritance which we anathematize! Before attacking slavery, we would do well to turn our attention to our own crimes—to the oppression of the weak in our manufactories, for instance! But these retaliatory arguments have the fault of proving nothing at all. We will leave them; we have said enough on the nature of American slavery; let us proceed to the special subject of our work.
WHERE THE UNITED STATES WERE DRIFTING BEFORE THE ELECTION OF MR. LINCOLN.
I have spoken of the great perils which the United States encountered before the election of Mr. Lincoln. The time has come to enter into some details in justification of this proposition, which must have appeared strange at first sight, but the terms of which I have weighed well: if the slavery party had again achieved a victory, the United States would have gone to ruin. Here are the facts:
Formerly, there was but one opinion among Americans on the subject of slavery. The Southerners may have considered it as a necessary evil; in any case, they considered it as an evil. Carolina herself nobly resisted its introduction upon her soil; other colonies did the same. Washington inscribed the wish in his will that so baleful an institution might be promptly suppressed. To pen up slavery, to prevent its extension, to reduce it to the role of a local and temporary fact, which it was determined to restrain still more—such was the sentiment which prevailed in the South, as in the North. And, in fact, slavery was ere long abolished in the majority of the States composing the Union. To-day, slavery has become a beneficent, evangelical institution, the corner-stone of republics, the foundation of all liberties; it has become a source of blessings for the blacks as for the whites. We not only are not to think of reducing the number of slave States, but it becomes important to increase them unceasingly: to interdict to slavery the entrance into a new territory is almost iniquitous. Such are the theories proclaimed by the governors, by the legislators of the cotton States; they propose them openly, without scruple and without circumlocution, under the name of political—what do I say? of moral and Christian axioms. For these theories they take fire, they become excited; they feel that enthusiasm which was inspired in other times by the love of liberty. See entire populations, who, under the eye of God, and invoking his support, devote themselves, body, soul, and goods, to the holy cause of slavery, its conquests, its indefinite extension, its inter-State and African trade.
And the conquests of slavery do not figure only in platforms; they are pursued and accomplished effectively on the soil of America. In the face of the nineteenth century, free Texas has been transformed into a slave State. To create other slave countries is the aim proposed; and slave countries multiply, and the South does not tolerate the slightest obstacle to conquests of this kind, and it goes forward, and nothing stops it—I am wrong, the election of Mr. Lincoln has stopped it, and this is why its fury breaks out to-day.
One would he furious for less cause! Every thing had gone so well till then! The South spoke as a master, and the North humbly bowed its head before its imperious commands. Its exactions increased from day to day, and it was not difficult to see to what abysses it was leading the entire American Union. Shall we give our readers an idea of this crescendo of pretensions?
We will content ourselves with going back to the last Mexican war and to the Wilmot proviso. This was, as is known, a measure, or proviso, stipulating that slavery could not be introduced into conquered provinces. Such was the starting point. It was sought then, in 1847, to prevent the territorial extension of slavery. This seems to me reasonable enough; and I am not astonished that the Lincoln platform tends simply to return to this primitive policy. The measure passes the House of Representatives, but is defeated in the Senate. Notwithstanding, the American people hold firm to the principle that slavery shall henceforth no longer be extended; it elects, in 1848, the upright Administration of Gen. Taylor. The cause of justice seems about to triumph, when the death of the whig President, succeeded by the feeble Mr. Fillmore, comes to restore good fortune to the Southerners, the proviso is forgotten, and the nation, weary of resistance, ends by adopting a series of deplorable compromises.
Beginning from this moment, the progress of the evil is rapid. Among the compromises, the oldest and most respected, dating back to 1820, was that which bore the name of the Missouri Compromise. On admitting Missouri as a Slave State, it had been stipulated that slavery should be no longer introduced north of the 36th degree of latitude. Of this limit, so long accepted, the South now complains; it is no longer willing that the development of its "peculiar institution" shall be obstructed in any thing. Other combats, another victory. A bill proposed by Mr. Douglas annuls the Missouri Compromise, and, based on the principle of local sovereignties, withdraws from Congress the right to interfere in the question of slavery.
The Wilmot proviso could not subsist in the presence of these absolute pretensions. The liberty of slavery (pardon me this mournful and involuntary conjunction) finds an application on the spot. At this juncture, Texas, a province detached from Mexico, is admitted in the quality of a slave State.
What happens then? The partisans of slavery, hampered by nothing any longer, either by limits at the North, or limits at the South, or provisos, or compromises, encounter, to their great horror, an obstacle of quite a different nature. The local sovereignty which they have invoked turns against them; in the Territory of Kansas, the majority votes the exclusion of slavery. At once the Southerners change theory; against local sovereignty they invoke the central power; they demand, they exact that the decisions of the majority in Kansas shall be trodden under foot; they put forward the natural right of slavery. Why shall they be prevented from settling in a Territory with the slaves, their property? When this Territory shall be by and by transformed into a State, there will doubtless be a right to determine the question; but to abolish slavery is quite a different thing from excluding it.
If the South did not win the cause this time, it was not the fault of the government of the United States, but of the inhabitants of Kansas. As for Mr. Buchanan, he showed himself what he has constantly been, the most humble servant of the slavery party. They came together into collision with squatter sovereignty: they found for the first time in their path that solid resistance of the West which was manifested in the last election, and which, I firmly hope, is about to save America. But in the mean time, they had taken a new step forward—a formidable step, and one which introduced them into the very bosom of the free States: they had obtained a decision from the Supreme Court—the Dred Scott decree. In the preamble of this too celebrated decision, the highest judicial power of the Confederation did not fear to proclaim two principles: first, that there is no difference between a slave and any other kind of property; secondly, that all American citizens may settle everywhere with their property.
What a menace for the free-soilers! How easy to see to what lengths the South would shortly go! Since slavery constituted property like any other, it was necessary to prohibit the majority from proscribing it in States as well as in Territories. Who knew whether we should not some day see slaves and even slave-markets (the right of property carries with it that of sale) in the streets even of Philadelphia or Boston!
Let no one cry out against this: those who demanded and those who framed the Dred Scott decision knew probably what they wished to do. With the right of property understood in this wise, no State has the power either to vote the real abolition of slavery, or to forbid the introduction of slaves, or to refuse their extradition. And, effectively, horrible laws, ordering fugitive slaves to be given up, were accorded to the violent demands of the South. Liberty by contact with the soil, that great maxim of our Europe, was interdicted America; the very States that most detested slavery were condemned to assist, indignant and shuddering, in the federal invasion of a sheriff entering their homes to lay hands on a poor negro, who had believed in their hospitality, and who was about to be delivered up to the whip of the planter.
It was asking much of the patience of the North; yet, notwithstanding, this patience was not yet at an end. The Administration was given up a prey to the will of the Southerners. On their prohibition, the mails ceased to carry books, journals, letters, which excited their suspicion. They had seized upon the policy of the Union, and they ruled it according to their liking. No one has forgotten those enterprises, favored underhand, then disavowed after failure, those filibustering expeditions in Central America and in the islands of Cuba. They were the policy of the South, executed by Mr. Buchanan with his accustomed docility. The point in question was to make conquests, and conquests for slavery. By any means, and at any price, the South was to procure new States. Cuba would furnish some, several would be carved out of Mexico and Central America; for otherwise the slavery majorities would be compromised in Congress, and slavery would be forced to renounce forever the election of the Presidents of free America. To avoid such a misfortune, there is nothing that they would not have been ready to undertake.
Thus, step after step, and exaction after exaction, overthrowing, one after the other, all barriers, the Wilmot proviso, the Missouri Compromise, the right of majorities in the Territories, the very sovereignty of the States annulled by the Dred Scott decision, the South had succeeded in drawing the United States into those violent and dishonest political practices which filled the administration of Mr. Buchanan. The barriers of public probity, and the right of men, yielded in turn; the administration dared write officially that Cuba was necessary to the United States, and that the affranchisement of slaves in Cuba would be a legitimate cause of war. The United States were yoked to the car of slavery: to make slave States, to conquer Territories for slavery, to prevent the terrible misfortune of an abolition of slavery, such was the programme. In negotiations, in elections, nothing else was perceived than this. If the liberty of the seas and the independence of the flag were proudly claimed, it was by the order of the South, and there resulted thence, whether desired or not, a progressive resurrection of the African slave-trade; if candidates in favor of the maintenance of the Union were recommended, it was to assure the conquests of slavery within and without, the invasion of neighboring countries, the extradition of fugitive slaves, the subjugation of majorities rebellious to the South, the suppression of laws disagreeable to the South, the overthrow of the last obstacles which fettered the progress of the South.
And it was thus far, to this degree of disorder and abasement, that a noble people had been dragged downwards in the course of years, sinking constantly deeper, abandoning, one by one, its guarantees, losing its titles to the esteem of other nations, approaching the abyss, seeing the hour draw nigh in which to rise would be impossible, bringing down maledictions upon itself, forcing those who love it to reflect on the words of one of its most illustrious leaders: "I tremble for my country, when I remember that God is just!"
All this under the tyrannical and pitiless influence of a minority constantly transformed into a majority! Picture to yourself a man on a vessel standing by the gun-room with a lighted match, in his hand; he is alone, but the rest obey him, for at the first disobedience he will blow up himself with all the crew. This is precisely what has been going on in America since she went adrift. The working of the ship was commanded by the man who held the match. "At the first disobedience, we will quit you." Such has always been the language of the Southern States. They were known to be capable of keeping their word; therefore, there ceased to be but one argument in America: secession. "Revoke the compromise, or else secession; modify the legislation of the free States, or else secession; risk adventures, and undertake conquests with us for slavery, or else secession; lastly and above all, never suffer yourselves to elect a president who is not our candidate, or else secession."
Thus spoke the South, and the North submitted. Let us not be unduly surprised at it, there was patriotism in this weakness; many citizens, inimical to slavery, forbore to combat its progress, in order to avoid what appeared to them a greater evil. Declivities like these are descended quickly, and the deplorable presidency of Mr. Buchanan stands to testify to this. The policy of the United States had become doubtful; their good renown was dwindling away even with their warmest friends; their cause was becoming blended more and more with that of servitude; their liberties were compromised, and the Federal institutions were bending before the "institution" of the South; no more rights of the majority before the "institution;" no more sovereignty of the States before the "institution." The ultra policy of Mr. Buchanan had coveted Cuba, essayed violence in Kansas, given up the government of America in fine to a cabinet of such a stamp, that a majority was nearly found in it, ready to disavow Major Anderson, and to order the evacuation of forts of the Confederation, menaced by Carolinian forces.
During this time, an incredible fact had come to light. It was one of the glories of America to have abolished the African slave trade before any other nation, and even to have put it on the same footing with the crime of piracy. The South had openly demanded the re-establishment of a commerce which alone could furnish it at some day with the number of negroes proportioned to its vast designs. What had Mr. Buchanan done? He doubtless had not consented officially to an enormity which Congress, on its part, would not have tolerated; but repression had become so lax under his administration, that the number of slave ships fitted out in the ports of the United States had at length become very considerable. The port of New York alone, which participates but too much in the misdeeds and tendencies of the South, fitted out eighty-five slavers between the months of February, 1859, and July, 1860. These slavers proudly bore the United States' flag over the seas, and defied the English cruisers. As for the American cruisers, Mr. Buchanan had taken care to remove them all from Cuba, where every one knows that the living cargoes are landed. The slave trade is therefore in the height of prosperity, whatever the last presidential message may say of it, and as to the application of the laws concerning piracy, I do not see that they have had many victims.
We can now measure the perils which menaced the United States. It was not such or such a measure in particular, but a collection of measures, all directed towards the same end, and tending mutually to complete each other: conquests, the domestic and the foreign slave trade, the overthrow of the few barriers opposed to the extension of slavery, the debasement of institutions, the definitive enthroning of an adventurous policy, a policy without principles and without scruples; to this the country was advancing with rapid strides. Do they who raise their hands and eyes to heaven, because the election of Mr. Lincoln has caused the breaking forth of an inevitable crisis, fancy then that the crisis would have been less serious if it had broken forth four years later, when the evil would have been without remedy? Already, the five hundred thousand slaves of the last century have given place to four millions; was it advisable to wait until there were twenty millions, and until vast territories, absorbed by American power, had been peopled by blacks torn from Africa? Was it advisable to await the time when the South should have become decidedly the most important part of the Confederation, and when the North, forced to secede, should have left to others the name, the prestige, the flag of the United States? Do they fancy that, by chance, with the supremacy of the South, with its conquests, with the monstrous development of its slavery, secession would have been avoided? No! it would have appeared some day as a necessary fact; only it would have been accomplished under different auspices and in different conditions. Such a secession would have been death, a shameful death.
And slavery itself, who imagines, then, that it can be immortal? It is in vain to extend it; it will perish amidst its conquests and through its conquests: one can predict this without being a prophet. But, between the suppression of slavery such as we hope will some time take place, and that which we should have been forced to fear, in case the South had carried it still further, is the distance which separates a hard crisis from a terrible catastrophe. The South knows not what nameless misfortunes it has perhaps just escaped. If it had been so unfortunate as to conquer, if it had been so unfortunate as to carry out its plans, to create slave States, to recruit with negroes from Africa, it would have certainly paved the way, with its own hands, for one of those bloody disasters before which the imagination recoils: it would have shut itself out from all chance of salvation.
It is not possible, in truth, to put an end to certain crimes, and wholly avoid their chastisement; there will always be some suffering in delivering the American Confederation from slavery, and it depends to-day again upon the South to aggravate, in a fearful measure, the pain of the transition. However, what would not have been possible with the election of Mr. Douglas or Mr. Breckenridge, has become possible now with the election of Mr. Lincoln; we are at liberty to hope henceforth for the rising of a great people.
WHAT THE ELECTION OF MR. LINCOLN SIGNIFIES.
I think that I have justified the fundamental idea of this work, and the title which I have given it. If the slavery policy had achieved a new triumph; if the North had not elected its President, the first that has belonged to it in full since the existence of the Confederation; if supremacy had not ranged itself in fine on the side with force and justice, this unstable balance would have had its hour of downfall: and what a downfall! Of so much true liberty, of so much progress, of so many noble examples, what would have been left standing? The secession of the South is not the secession of the North; affranchisement with four millions of slaves is not affranchisement with twenty millions; the crisis of 1861 is not that of 1865 or of 1869. The United States, I repeat, with a profound and studied conviction,—the United States have just been saved.
There are those who ask gravely whether the electors of Mr. Lincoln have a plan all ready to effect the abolition of slavery. We answer that this is not in question. Among the influential and earnest men of the victorious party, not one could be cited who would think of proposing any plan whatever of emancipation. One thing alone is proposed: to check the conquests of slavery. That it shall not be extended, that it shall be confined within its present limits, is all that is sought to-day. The policy of the founders of the Confederation has become that of their successors in turn; and to this policy, what can be objected? Is not the sovereignty of the States respected? do they not remain free to regulate what concerns them? do they not preserve the right of postponing, so long as they deem proper, the solution of a dreaded problem? could not this solution be thought over and prepared by those who best know its elements?
The matter is, indeed, more complicated and difficult than is generally imagined. Should we be imprudent enough to meddle with it, we might rightfully be blamed. Here, summary proceedings are evidently not admissible. Time and the spirit of Christianity must do their work by degrees; they will do it, be sure, provided the evil be circumscribed, provided the seat of the conflagration be hemmed in and prevented henceforth from spreading further.
Now, such is the great result acquired by the election of Mr. Lincoln; it is nothing more than this, but it is all this: it is prudence in the present, and it is also the certainty of success in the future. Emancipation is by no means decreed; it will not be for a long time, perhaps: yet the principle of emancipation is established, irrevocably established in the sight of all. Irrevocability has prodigious power over our minds: without being conscious of it, we make way for it; we arrange in view of it our conduct, our plans, and even our doctrines. Once fully convinced that its propagandism is checked, that the future of which it dreamed has no longer any chances of success, the South itself will become accustomed to consider its destiny under a wholly new aspect. The border States, in which emancipation is easy, will range themselves one after another on the side of liberty. Thus the extent of the evil will become reduced of itself, and instead of advancing, as during some years past, towards a colossal development of servitude, it will proceed in the direction of its gradual attenuation.
I reason on the hypothesis of a final maintenance of the Union, whatever may be the incidents of temporary secession. I am not ignorant that there are other hypotheses, which may possibly be realized, and which I shall examine in the course of this treatise; but whatever may happen, I have a full right to call to mind the true scope of the vote which has just been taken. It does not involve the slightest idea of present emancipation; it contents itself with checking the progress of slavery; and to check its progress is, doubtless, to diminish the perils of its future abolition.
It was important to present this observation, for nothing perverts our judgment of the American crisis more than the inexact definitions which are given of abolitionism. We willingly picture abolitionists to ourselves as madmen, seeking to attain their end on the spot, regardless of all else, through blood and ruin! That there may be such is possible, is even inevitable; but the men who exercise any political influence over the North have not for a moment adopted such theories. This is so true, that the other day, at Boston, the people themselves (the people who nominated Mr. Lincoln) dispersed a meeting intended to discuss plans of immediate emancipation.
What if abolitionism, moreover, be a party? what if it make use of the means employed by parties? what if it have its journals, its publicists, its orators? what if it seek allies? what if it be based on interests which may be given it by the majority? what if it appeal to the passions of the North, as the slavery party appeals to those of the South? I do not see, in truth, why this should astonish us. I am far from believing that all the acts of abolitionism are worthy of approbation; I say only that it would be puerile to repudiate a great party for the sole reason that it has the bearing of a party. The duty of citizens in a free country is to choose between parties, and to unite with that whose cause is just and holy. Let them protest against wrong measures, let them refuse to participate in them—nothing can be better; but to withdraw into a sort of political Thebais because the noblest parties have stains on their banner, is, in truth, to turn their back on the civil obligations of real life.
The abolition party is a noble one. Several of its champions have given their lives to propagate their faith. But lately, indeed, the Texan journals took pains to tell us that a number of them had just been hung in that State; and, without even speaking of these noble victims, whose death completes the dishonor of the Southern cause, are there any bolder deeds in the history of mankind than those of the citizens of New England who, to wrest Kansas from slavery, went thither to build their cabins, thus braving a fearful struggle, not only with the slaveholders, but with the President, his illegal measures, and the troops charged with maintaining them?
We must fight to conquer. This seems little understood by those who reproach abolitionism with having been a party militant; to hear them, the true way of bringing about the abolition of slavery was to let it alone: to attack was to exasperate it.
This argument is so unfortunate as to be employed in all bad causes. I remember that when measures were taken against the slave trade, we were told that the sufferings of the slaves would be thus increased, and that the slavers would be exasperated. Later, when we held up to the indignation of the whole world the Protestant intolerance of Sweden, we were assured that these public denunciations would put back the question instead of accelerating it. We persevered, and we did rightly. Sweden is advancing, though at too slow a pace, towards religious liberty. It would be difficult to cite any social iniquities that have reformed of themselves; and, since the existence of the world, the method which consists in attacking evil has been the one sanctioned by success. In America itself, the progress made by the border States does not seem to confirm what is told us of the reaction caused by the aggressions of abolitionism. In Virginia, in Kentucky, in Missouri, in Delaware, etc., the liberty party has been continually gaining ground; and the votes received in the slave States by Mr. Lincoln prove it a very great mistake to suppose letting alone to be the condition of progress. Would to God that slavery had not been let alone when the republic of the United States was founded! Then, abolition was easy, the slaves were few in number, and no really formidable antagonism was in play. Unhappily, false prudence made itself heard: it was resolved to keep silence, and not to deprive the South of the honor of a voluntary emancipation—in fine, to reserve the question for the future. The future has bent under the weight of a task which has continued to increase with years, thanks to letting it alone.
A little more letting alone, and the weight would have crushed America; it was time to act. The Abolition party, or rather the party opposed to the extension of slavery, has acted with a resolution which should excite our sympathies. The future of the United States was at stake; it knew it, and it struggled in consequence. Remember the efforts essayed four years ago for the election of Mr. Fremont, efforts which would have succeeded perhaps, if Mr. Fremont had not been a Catholic. Remember those three months of balloting, by which the North succeeded in carrying the election of speaker of the House of Representatives. Remember the conduct of the North, in the sad affair of John Brown, its refusal to approve an illegal act, its admiration of the heroic farmer who died after having witnessed the death of his sons. On seeing the public mourning of the Free States, on hearing the minute gun discharged in the capital of the State of New York on the day of execution, one might have foreseen the irresistible impulse which has just ended in the triumph of Mr. Lincoln.
The indignation against slavery, the love of country and of its compromised honor, the just susceptibilities of the North, the liberal instincts so long repressed, the desire of elevating the debased and corrupt institutions of the land, the need of escaping insane projects, the powerful impulse of the Christian faith, all these sentiments contributed, without doubt, to swell the resistance against which the supremacy of the South has just been broken. This, then, is a legal victory, one of the most glorious spectacles that the friends of liberty can contemplate on earth. It was the more glorious, the more efforts and sacrifices it demanded. The Lincoln party had opposed to it, the Puseyistic and financial aristocracy of New York; the manoeuvres of President Buchanan were united against it with those of the Southern States. Many of the Northern journals accused it of treading under foot the interests of the seaports, and of compromising the sacred cause of the Union.
To succeed in electing Mr. Lincoln, we must not forget that it was necessary to put the question of principle above the questions of immediate interests, which usually make themselves heard so distinctly. The unity, the greatness of the country, the gigantic future towards which it was advancing, were so many obstacles arising in the way. Then came the reckoning of profits and losses, the inevitable crisis, the Southern orders already withdrawn, the certain loss of money; it seems to me that men who have braved such chances, have nobly accomplished their duty.
America, it is said, is the country of the dollar; the Americans think only of making money, all other considerations are subordinate to this. If the reproach is sometimes well-founded, we must admit, at least, that it is not always so. Those who wish to persuade us that the Abolitionists in this again have simply sought their own interests, by seeking to break down the competition of servile labor, forget two or three things: first, that the slaves produce tobacco or cotton, while the North produces wheat, so that there is not a race in the world that competes less with it: next, that the cotton of the South is very useful to the North, useful to its manufactures, useful to its trade, both transit and commission. The people of the North are not reputed to lack foresight; they were not ignorant that in electing Mr. Lincoln, they had, for the time at least, every thing to lose and nothing to gain; they were not ignorant that Mr. Lincoln occasioned the immediate threat of secession; that the threat of secession was a commercial crisis, was the political weakening of the country, and the unsettling of many fortunes. But neither were they ignorant that above the fleeting interests of individuals and of the nation, arose those permanent interests which must rest only on justice; they decided, cost what it might, to wrest themselves from the detestable, and ere long fatal allurements of the slavery policy.
Let us beware how we calumniate, without intending it, the few generous impulses which break out here and there among mankind. I know that there is a would-be prudent skepticism which attacks all moral greatness that it may depreciate it, all enthusiasm that it may translate it into calculation. To admire nothing is most deplorable, and, I hasten to add, most absurd. Without wandering from the subject of slavery, I can cite the great Emancipation Act, wrested from Parliament by Christian public opinion in England. Have not means been found to prove, or at least to insinuate, that this act, the most glorious of our century, was at the bottom nothing but a Machiavellian combination of interests? Doubtless, those who have taken the trouble to look over the debates of the times know what we are to think of this fine explanation; they know what resistance was opposed by interests to the emancipation, both in the colonies and in the heart of the metropolis; they know with how much obstinacy the Tories, representing the traditions of English politics, combated the proposed plans; they know in what terms the certain ruin of the planters, the manufactures, and the seaports, was described; they know by how many petitions the churches, the religious societies, the women, and even the children, succeeded in wresting from Parliament a measure refused by so many statesmen. But the mass of the people do not go back to the beginning; they take for granted the summary judgment that English emancipation was a master-piece of perfidy.
We hear very nearly the same thing said of that glorious movement which has just taken place in America. We would gladly detect all motives in it except one that is generous and Christian. As if a vulgar calculation of interest would not have dictated a contrary course! And it is precisely this that makes the greatness of the resolution adopted by the North. It knew all the consequences; they had been announced by the South, recapitulated by prudent men, stated in detail by the newspapers of great commercial cities; it chose to be just. Despite the inevitable mingling of base and selfish impulses, which always become complicated in such manifestations, the ruling motive in this was a protest of conscience, and of the spirit of liberty.
The accounts that have come to us from America demonstrate the lofty character of the joy which was manifested after the election. Men shook hands with each other in the streets; they congratulated each other on having at last escaped from the yoke of an ignoble policy; they felt as though relieved from a weight; they breathed more freely; the true, the noble destinies of the United States reappeared on the horizon, they saluted a future that should be better than the present, a future worthy of their sires, those early pilgrims who, carrying nothing with them but their Bibles, had laid the foundation of a free country with poor but valiant hands.
I should like to quote here the sermon in which the Rev. Mr. Beecher poured out his Christian joy at that time. He spoke of the strength of the weak; he showed that principles, however despised they may be, end by revenging themselves on interests; he recalled the fact that the Gospel is a power in America. To rise up, to attack its enemy manfully, to arraign the causes of the national decline, to approach boldly the solution of the most formidable problem which could be propounded here on earth, such is not the act of a nation of calculators. Something else is implied in it than tactics, something else than combinations of votes or sectional rivalries. To vote as they did, they had to overcome almost as many obstacles in the North as in the South; for, in consequence of the vote, the North had to suffer like the South, and they knew it.
If you wish to be just to the United States, compare them with other countries in which slavery exists. In the United States there is a struggle; the question is a living one; men do not turn aside from it with lax indifference. I love the noise of free nations; I find in the very violence of their debates a proof of the earnestness of convictions. Men must become excited about great social problems; if abuses exist, they must, at least, be pointed out, attacked, and stigmatized; the prescription of silence must never be accorded them; devoted voices must exclaim against them, unceasingly, in the name of justice and of humanity. Such a spectacle does good to the soul; it solaces the sorrows of the present, it carries within itself guarantees for the future.
The sad, profoundly sad, spectacle, is that of nations where crimes make no noise. Look at Brazil. Like the United States, it has slavery, but it is an honorable, discreet slavery, of which nothing is said. Whatever may happen there, no one inquires about it; there are no discussions, either through the press or in the courts. No party would dare insert such a question into its platform. One thing, very properly, has been found to disturb it, and the public sale of slaves has just been forbidden.
Look, above all, at Spain and its island of Cuba. There, too, is perfect silence. Nothing, in truth, opposes the belief that Cuba is the abode of felicity, and that the atrocities of slavery are the monopoly of the United States. But inquisitive people, who like to search to the bottom of things, discover that if the masters are very gentle at Havana, the overseers are scarcely so on their account on the plantations; I have already given the proof of it. Out of ten slavers that are seized on the high seas, nine are always destined to Cuba. Spain has forbidden the slave trade; she has even been compensated for it by the English; but this does not prevent her from suffering it to be carried on before her eyes with almost absolute impunity. Her high-sounding phrases change nothing; the smallest fact is of more value. At Cuba, the landing of slaves is continual, and the places of disembarkation are known. Now, the American flag protects no one at the time of disembarking. Why is no opposition made to this? Why has the importation of negroes tripled in Cuba? Why does no slaver, American or any other, steer towards Brazil, since Brazil has desired to put an end to the slave trade? The answer to these questions will be given us on the day when Spain shall desire, in turn, to suppress it. In the mean time she prefers to keep silence, unless when a word from London strikes out a concert of protestations more patriotic than convincing; save in this case, the government is silent, public opinion is silent, no colonial sheet is found ready to hazard an objection, nor even a metropolitan journal that is willing to disturb so touching an equanimity. The court of Madrid, in which many questions are agitated, prudently stands aloof in the matter of slavery and the slave trade; among the numerous parties disputing for power, not one dares venture on a ground where it would meet nothing but unpopularity. Ah! after this death-like silence, how the soul is refreshed by the fiery contests of the United States, the great word-combats carried on in every village of the Union, the appeals addressed to the conscience, the battle in broad daylight! How refreshing to see by the side of these nations, who sleep so tranquilly, while regarding the inroads of slavery, a people whom, it disquiets, whom it irritates, who refuse to take part in it, and who, rather than conform to the evil, agitate, become divided, and rend themselves perchance with their own hands!
WHAT WE ARE TO THINK OF THE UNITED STATES.
We are not just towards the United States. Their civilization, so different from ours, wounds us in various ways, and we turn from them in the ill-humor excited by their real defects, without taking note enough of their eminent qualities. This country, which possesses neither church, nor State, nor army, nor governmental protection; this country, born yesterday, and born under a Puritanic influence; this country, without past history, without monuments, separated from the Middle Ages by the double interval of centuries and beliefs; this rude country of farmers and pioneers, has nothing fitted to please us. It has the exuberant life and the eccentricities of youth; that is, it affords to our mature experience inexhaustible subjects of blame and raillery.
We are so little inclined to admire it, that we seek in its territorial configuration for the essential explanation of its success. Is it so difficult to maintain good order and liberty at home when one has immense deserts to people, when land offers itself without stint to the labor of man?—I do not see, for my part, that land is lacking at Buenos Ayres, at Montevideo, in Mexico, or in any of the pronunciamento republics that cover South America. It seems to me that the Turks have room before them, and that the Middle Ages were not suffering precisely from an excess of population when they presented everywhere the spectacle of anarchy and oppression.
Be sure that the United States, which have something to learn of us, have also something to teach us. Theirs is a great community, which it does not become us to pass by in disdain. The more it differs from our own Europe, the more necessary is impartial attention to comprehend and appreciate it. Especially is it impossible for us to form an enlightened opinion of the present crisis, unless we begin by taking into consideration the surroundings in which it has broken out. The nature of the struggle and its probable issue, the difficulties of the present, and the chances of the future, will be clear to us only on condition of our making a study of the United States. A few details will, therefore, be permitted me.
Among the Yankees, the faults are on the surface. I am not one to justify Lynch law, whatever may be the necessities which exist in the Far West. Riots in the United States are cited which have performed their work of fire and devastation, and which no one has dared treat rigorously afterwards, for fear of incurring disgrace from the sovereign people; but I remember, I fancy, that similar things have been seen in Paris itself. We will not, therefore, lay too great stress on them.
One thing that is not seen in Paris, is, unhappily, remarked in America: the general tendency among women to substitute masculine qualities which scarcely befit them, for the feminine qualities which constitute their grace, their strength, and their dignity; thence results a certain something unpleasant and rude which does no credit to the New World. I by no means admire coarseness, and I do not admit that it is the necessary companion of energy; the tone of the journals and of the debates in Congress is often calculated to excite a just reprobation. There is in the United States a levelling spirit, a jealousy of acquired superiority, and, above all, of inherited distinctions, which proceeds from the worst sentiments of the heart. What is graver still, the tender and gentle side of the human soul, such as shines forth in the Gospel, appears too rarely among this people, where the Gospel, notwithstanding, is in honor, but where the labor of a gigantic growth has developed the active instead of the loving virtues; the Americans are cold even when good, charitable and devout.
They may love money, and often concentrate their thoughts on the means of making it; I will not contest this, although I doubt, on seeing what passes among ourselves, whether we have the right to cast the stone at them; especially as American liberality, as I shall presently show, is of a nature to put our parsimony to shame. As to the bankrupt acts, of which American creditors have many times complained, nothing can justify them; yet here again the role of pedagogue scarcely becomes us. If more than one American railroad company have taken advantage of a crisis to declare without much dishonor, a suspension of payment, it is not proved that these suspensions of payment must be converted into bankruptcy. If more than one town or more than one county make the half yearly payments of their debts with reluctance, the courts always do fair justice on this ill will; there are some countries, Russia, for instance, where the courts do not do as much. If, in fine, at one time, a number of States failed to keep their engagements, and a single one dared proclaim the infamous doctrine of repudiation, all have since paid, except one State of the extreme South, Mississippi. Once more, are we sure of being in a position to reprove such misdeeds; we, whose governments, anterior to '89, made use, without much scruple, of the fall of stocks, and bankruptcies; we, whose debt, on emerging from the Revolution, took the significant name of tiers consolide?
Let us not forget that the population of the United States has increased tenfold since the close of the last century; they have received immigrants annually, by hundreds of thousands, who have not always been the elite of the Old World. Must not this perpetual invasion of strangers promptly transformed into citizens, have necessarily introduced into the decision of public affairs some elements of immorality? I admire the honorable and religious spirit of the Americans which has been able to assimilate and rule to such a degree these great masses of Irish and Germans. Few countries would have endured a like ordeal as well.
Remark that, in spite of all, public order is maintained without paid troops, (Continental Europe will find it hard to credit this.) Tranquillity reigns in the largest cities of the United States; respect for the law is in every heart; great ballotings take place, millions of excited men await the result with trembling; yet, notwithstanding, not an act of violence is committed. American riots—for some there are—are certainly less numerous than ours; and they have the merit of not being transformed into revolutions.
The greater part of the immigrants remain, of course, in the large cities; here they come almost to make the laws, and here, too, noble causes encounter the most opponents. Mr. Lincoln, to cite an example, received only a minority of suffrages in the city of New York, whilst the unanimity of the country suffrages secured him the vote of the State. Contempt of the colored class, that crime of the North, breaks out most of all in the large cities, and particularly among agglomerations of immigrants; none are harsher to free negroes, it must be admitted, than newly-landed Europeans who have come to seek a fortune in America.
As to crimes, they are numerous only in cities; still the criminal records of the United States appear somewhat full when compared with ours. I know how great a part of this must be assigned to the insufficiency of repression; in America, criminals doubtless escape punishment much oftener than among us. Notwithstanding, there is real security; and a child might travel over the entire West without being exposed to the slightest danger.
M. de Tocqueville has said that morals are infinitely more rigid in North America than elsewhere. This is not, it seems to me, a trifling advantage. Whatever may be the depravity of the seaports, where the whole world holds rendezvous, it remains certain that it does not penetrate into the interior of the country. Open the journals and novels of the United States; you will not find a corrupt page in them. You might leave them all on the drawing-room table, without fearing to call a blush to the brow of a woman, or to sully the imagination of a child.
In the heart of the manufacturing States, model villages are found, in which every thing is combined to protect the artisans of both sexes from the perils that await them in other countries. Who has not heard of the town of Lowell, where farmers' daughters go to earn their dowry, where the labor of the factories brings no dissipation in its train, where the workwomen read, write, teach Sunday-schools, where their morality detracts nothing from their liberty and progress? When I have added that the United States have not a single foundling asylum, it seems to me that I have indicated what we are to think at once of their good morals and good sense.
And let not the Americans he represented as a people at once honest and narrow-minded. If they are still far from our level—and this must necessarily be true, in an artistic and literary point of view—we are not, however, at liberty to despise a country which counts such names as Hawthorne, Longfellow, Emerson, Cooper, Poe, Washington Irving, Channing, Prescott, Motley, and Bancroft. Note that among these names, men of imagination hold a prominent place, which proves, we may say in passing, that the country where we oftenest hear the exclamation, "Of what use is it?" agrees in finding poetry of some use. And I speak here neither of orators, like Mr. Seward or Mr. Douglas, nor of scholars, like Lieutenant Maury, nor of those who, like Fulton or Morse, have applied science to art: judgment has been passed on all these points.
But the true superiority of Americans is in the universality of common instruction. The Puritans, who came hither with their Bibles, were of necessity zealous founders of schools; the Bible and the school go together. See, therefore, what the schools are in the United States! The State of Massachusetts alone, which does not number a million of souls, devotes five millions yearly to its public instruction. If other States are far from equalling it in academies and higher institutions, all are on a level with it as regards primary schools; a man or woman, therefore, is rarely found outside the class of immigrants, who does not possess a solid knowledge of the elementary sciences, the extent of which would excite our surprise. By the side of the primary school, and to complete its instruction in the religious point of view, the Americans have everywhere opened Sunday-schools, kept gratuitously by volunteer teachers, among whom have figured many men of the highest standing, several of whom have been Presidents of the Confederation. These Sunday-schools, not less than twenty thousand in number, and superintended by one hundred and fifty thousand teachers, count more than a million of pupils, of which ten thousand at least are adults. Calculate the power of such an instrument!
People read enormously in America. There is a library in the meanest cabin of roughly-hewn logs, constructed by the pioneers of the West. These poor log-houses almost always contain a Bible, often journals, instructive books, sometimes even poetry. We in Europe, who fancy ourselves fine amateurs of good verses, would scarcely imagine that copies of Longfellow are scattered among American husbandmen. The political journals have many subscribers; those of the religious papers are no less numerous. I know of a monthly journal designed for children, (the Child's Paper,) of which three hundred thousand copies are printed. This is the intellectual aliment of the country. In the towns, lectures are added to books, journals, and reviews: in all imaginable subjects, this community, which the Government does not charge itself with instructing, (at least, beyond the primary education,) educates and develops itself with indefatigable ardor. Ideas are agitated in the smallest market-town; life is everywhere.
Accustomed to act for themselves, knowing that they cannot count on the administrative patronage of the State, the Americans excel in bringing individual energies into action. There are few functionaries, few soldiers, and few taxes among them. They know nothing, like us, of that malady of public functions, the violence of which increases in proportion as we advance. They know nothing of those enormous imposts under which Europe is bending by degrees—those taxes which almost suppress property by overburdening its transmission; they have not come to the point of finding it very natural to devote one or two millions every year to the expenses of the State, and no theory has been formed to prove to them that of all the expenses of the citizens, this is applied to the best purpose. They have not entered with the Old World into that rivalry of armaments in which each nation, though it become exhausted in the effort, is bound to keep on a level with its neighbors, and in which no one will be stronger in the end when the whole world shall be subjugated. Their ten thousand regulars suffice, and they have their militia for extraordinary occasions. Lastly, their Federal debt is insignificant; and, if the private debts of a few States reach a high figure, they are nowhere of a nature to impose on the tax-payers a large surplus of charges.
All of the great liberties exist in the United States: liberty of the press, liberty of speech, right of assemblage, right of association. Except in the slave States, where the national institutions have been subjected to deplorable mutilations in fact, every citizen can express his opinion and maintain it openly, without meeting any other obstacle than the contrary opinion, which is expressed with equal freedom.
But there is one ground above all where we should acknowledge the superiority of America: I mean, religious liberty. We are still in the beginning of doubts upon the point as to where the interference of the State should cease; in what measure it should govern the belief of the citizens, and its manifestation. These questions, alas, are still propounded among us. And there are countries at our doors, where men shudder at the mere idea that the law may some day cease to decide for each in what manner he is bound to worship God, that the courts may cease to punish those whose conscience turns aside from the path of the nation. Protestant Sweden but lately condemned dissenters to fine and imprisonment; Catholic Spain daily inflicts the severest penalties on those who suffer themselves to profess or to propagate beliefs which are not those of the country—those who sell the Scriptures, and those who read them.
The United States have not only proclaimed and loyally carried out the glorious principle of religious liberty, but have adopted as a corollary another principle, much more contested among us, but which I believe destined also to make the tout of the world: the principle of separation of Church and State. That believers should support their own worship, that religious and political questions should never be blended, that the two provinces should remain distinct, is a simple idea which seems most strange to us to-day. It will make its way like all other true ideas, which begin as paradoxes and end by becoming axioms. Meanwhile, the American Confederation enjoys an advantage which more than one European government, I suspect, would at some moments purchase at a high price: it has not to trouble itself about religious interests, either in its action without or its administration within. If there are conflicts everywhere in the spiritual order, it leaves them to struggle and become resolved in the spiritual order, without needing to trouble itself in the matter. Hence arises for the State a freedom of bearing, a simplicity of conduct, which we, who have to steer adroitly through so many dangers, can hardly comprehend. The American government is sure of never offending any church—it knows none; it does not interfere either to combat or to aid them; it has renounced, once for all, intervention, in the domain of conscience.
The result, doubtless, is, that this domain is not so well ordered as in Europe; the administrative ecclesiastical state has by no means submitted to such regulation. Is that to say that this inconvenience (if it be one) is not largely compensated for by its advantages? Is it nothing to suppress inheritance in religious matters, and to force each soul to question itself as to what it believes? In the United States, adhesion to a church is an individual, spontaneous act, resulting from a voluntary determination. This is so true that four-fifths of the inhabitants of the country do not bear, the title of church members. Although attending worship, although manifesting an interest and zeal in the subject to which we are little accustomed, although assiduous church-goers, and liberal givers, they have not yet felt within themselves a conviction strong and clear enough to make a public profession of faith. Think what we may of such a system, we must avow, at least, that it implies a profound respect for sacred things; nothing can less resemble that indolent and formal assent which we give, in conformity with custom, and without binding ourselves, in earnest, to the religion that prevails among us.
Hence arises something valiant in American convictions. Hence arises also, it may be said, that dispersion of sects, the picture of which is so often drawn for us. I am far from loving the spirit of sectarianism, and I am careful not to present the American churches as the beau ideal in religious matters. The sectarian spirit, the fundamental trait of which is to confound unity with uniformity, to transform divergencies into separations, to refuse to admit into the bosom of the church the element of diversity and of liberty; to exact the signing of a theological formula, and the formal adhesion as a whole to a collection of dogmas and practices, without tolerating the slightest shade of difference—the sectarian spirit, with its narrowness, with its traditions of men, with its exaggeration of little things, with its separate denominations, is certainly not worthy of admiration. I reject it in America as elsewhere, but I think it well to state that the religious disruption produced by it has been much exaggerated. We must greatly abbreviate the formidable list of churches furnished us by travellers. Putting aside those which have no value, either as to influence or numbers, we reduce the numbers of denominations existing in the United States, outside the Roman Catholic church, to five, (and these are too many;) namely: Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal, and Presbyterian. The remainder is composed of small eccentric congregations which spring up and die, and of which no one takes heed, except a few tourists, who are always willing to note down extraordinary facts.
We will add that the sectarian spirit is now attacked in America, and that the essential unity which binds the members of the five denominations together, in spite of some external differences, is manifesting itself forcibly. Not only does the evangelical alliance prove to the most sceptical that this unity is real, but a fact peculiar to the United States, the great awakening produced by the crisis of 1857, has given evidence of the perfect harmony of convictions. In the innumerable meetings caused to spring up by this awakening from one end of the country to the other, it has been impossible to distinguish Baptists, Presbyterians, or Congregationalists from each other. All have been there, and no one has betrayed by the least shade of dogmatism those self-styled profound divisions about which so much noise is made. I invite those still in doubt to look at the manner in which public worship is established in the West: as soon as a few men have formed a settlement, a missionary comes to visit them; no one inquires about his denomination, for the Bible that he brings is the Bible of all, and the salvation, through Christ, which he proclaims, is the faith of all. It suffices, besides, to see this entire people, so restless, so laborious, leaving its business on Sunday to occupy itself with the thoughts of another life; it suffices to observe the unanimous uprising of the public conscience at the rumor of an attack directed against the Gospel, to perceive that unity subsists beneath lamentable divisions, and that individual conviction creates the most active of all cohesive powers in the heart of human communities; I know of no cement that equals it.
If individual convictions are a strong bond, they are also an inexhaustible source of life. It is easy to assure ourselves of this by a brief survey of the proofs of Christian liberality which are displayed in the United States. Here, there is no legal charity, no aid to be expected from the government, either for the support of churches, or for that of the sick and poor; the voluntary system must suffice for all. And, in fact, it does suffice for all.
What is the first thing in question? To collect thirty million francs annually for the payment of the clergy. The thirty millions are furnished: poor and rich, all give eagerly, and without compulsion. The next thing in question is to provide for the construction of new churches; now, it is necessary to finish not less than three of these daily, for the clearing of the forests advances with rapid strides, and a thousand churches, at least, are built every year. The majority of these churches are doubtless composed of beams laid one upon another, then painted white, or left of the natural color, and surmounted by a bell; they are simple and inexpensive, and, in the infant villages, the streets of which are still blocked up by trees left standing, the place, serving at once for a church and a school, where the people gather round an itinerant preacher, is not decorated with much sumptuousness; yet these new edifices demand annually from twelve to fifteen millions.
Next come the religious societies. In the West, preachers are needed, hardy laborers, who live in privations, traversing vast solitudes on horseback, and journeying continually, without repose, until their strength is exhausted. Eight hundred missionaries or agents are required for the American Board of Missions, for the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and all the other churches. Now, they cannot send them to the four quarters of the globe without providing for their wants. The Bible Society, which prints three hundred thousand Bibles annually, the Religious Tract Society, which publishes every year five millions of tracts, and which, in New York alone, employs a thousand visitors or distributors; the various works, in a word, expend from nine to ten million francs.
Such, then, is the budget of voluntary charity in the United States.[A] It amounts to fifty or sixty million francs, without counting the very considerable donations destined to public instruction; without counting (and this is immense) the relief of the sick and the poor. You will scarcely find a village in the whole United States that has not its benevolent society, and private benevolence, which is the best, also carries on its work, independently of societies. I know of no country where acts of profuse liberality are more frequent; one man founds a hospital, another an observatory. Asylums are opened for all human unfortunates, for lunatics, the blind, the deaf, orphans, abandoned children.
Was I not right in saying that this is a great people? Whatever may be its vices, we are not at liberty to speak of it with disdain. If the Americans know how to make a fortune, they know, also, how to make a noble use of their fortune; accused with reason, as they are, of being too often preoccupied with questions of profit, we have seen them retrenching much of their luxury since the commercial crisis, yet economizing very little in their charities. The budget of the churches and religious societies remained intact at the very time that embarrassment was everywhere prevailing. I cannot help believing that there are peculiar blessings attached to so many voluntary sacrifices which carry back the mind to the early ages of Christianity. We may be sure that the religion that costs something, brings something also in return.
[Footnote A: It seems that I have understated the truth; but I prefer to do so; I wish, above all, to avoid exaggeration.]
THE CHURCHES AND SLAVERY.
This leads me to examine a side of the American question upon which, attention is, naturally fixed at the present time; how is it that the iniquities of slavery are maintained among this charitable and liberal people? how is it that such iniquities have subsisted under the influence of so powerful a Christian sentiment? Can it be true that Christians have deserted the cause of justice? Has the Gospel had the place which belongs to it, in the great struggle that is going on between the North and the South? yes; or no. This is perhaps the point of all others most important to clear up; first, because it is the one on which the most errors have accumulated; next, because it is the one most closely connected with the final solution; for this solution will not be happy, if the Gospel has no hand in it.
To judge rightly, let us approach and endeavor to comprehend the true position of those whose conduct we seek to appreciate. See the South, for example, where the almost universal opinion is favorable to slavery, where governors write dithyrambics on its benefits, where many Christians have succeeded in discovering that it is sanctioned by the Gospel, where men of sincerity are now placing their impious crusades in behalf of its extension under the protection of God, where numerous preachers expound in their own way the celebrated text "Cursed be Canaan!" Do not these sentiments of the South, detestable as they are, find, to a certain point, their explanation and excuse in the circumstances in which the South is placed?
The power of surroundings is incalculable. If we ourselves, who condemn slavery, and are right in so doing, had been reared in Charleston; if we had led a planter's life from our earliest infancy; if we had nourished our minds with their ideas; if we considered our monetary interests menaced by Abolitionism; if the image of more fearful perils, of violent destructions and massacres, appeared to haunt our thoughts; if the political antagonism between the North and the South came to add its venom to the passions already excited within us, is it certain that we ourselves should no be figuring at the present time among the desperadoes who are firing upon the ships of the Union, and attempting the foundation of a Southern Confederacy?
It is well to ask this of ourselves, in order to learn to respect, to love, and consequently to aid those whose conduct we blame the most strongly. For my part, whenever I am tempted to set myself up as a judge or an accuser of the South, I ask myself what I should do if I belonged to the South, and this brings me back to the true position. I remember, too, what I saw, with my own eyes, at the time when the discussion on slavery was carried on in France; the colonial passions, the blindest and most violent of all, broke out in Martinique and the isle of Bourbon, as they had broken out before in Jamaica, where the circulars of Mr. Canning, the proposition, for example, to suppress the flagellation of women, had excited a veritable explosion. There were some very honorable men among those who were indignant at this measure; and, among us, likewise, the planters who determined to combat all modification of the negro system, were good men. Severity is almost always a defect of memory; we blame others without pity, only when we begin by forgetting our own history. We Frenchmen, who had so much difficulty in emancipating our own slaves, and who would not, perhaps, have succeeded in it, had it not been for the bold decision of M. Schoelcher; we, who have sought to take back, in part, through our colonial regulations, the liberty accorded the blacks; we, who suffered recruitals by purchase to be made on the African coast; who formerly organized the expedition charged with re-establishing slavery and the slave trade at St. Domingo; who suppressed the slave trade at the Congress of Vienna only in stipulating its continuance for some years; who carried into our discussions on the right of search, a very meagre interest for the victims of the slavers; we, whose consciences are burdened with these misdeeds, are bound to use indulgence towards the States of the South.