[Footnote B: For the best sketch of this see Caillet, L'Administration sous Richelieu.]
We are brought now to the third great object of Richelieu's policy. He saw from the beginning that Austria and her satellite Spain must be humbled, if France was to take her rightful place in Europe.
Hardly, then, had he entered the council, when he negotiated a marriage of the King's sister with the son of James I. of England; next he signed an alliance with Holland; next he sent ten thousand soldiers to drive the troops of the Pope and Spain out of the Valtelline district of the Alps, and thus secured an alliance with the Swiss. We are to note here the fact which Buckle wields so well, that, though Richelieu was a Cardinal of the Roman Church, all these alliances were with Protestant powers against Catholic.[C] Austria and Spain intrigued against him,—sowing money in the mountain-districts of South France which brought forth those crops of armed men who defended La Rochelle. But he beat them at their own game. He set loose Count Mansfyld, who revived the Thirty Tears' War by raising a rebellion in Bohemia; and when one great man, Wallenstein, stood between Austria and ruin, Richelieu sent his monkish diplomatist, Father Joseph, to the German Assembly of Electors, and persuaded them to dismiss Wallenstein and to disgrace him.
[Footnote C: History of Civilisation in England, Vol. I. Chap. VIII.]
But the great Frenchman's master-stroke was his treaty with Gustavus Adolphus. With that keen glance of his, he saw and knew Gustavus while yet the world knew him not,—while he was battling afar off in the wilds of Poland. Richelieu's plan was formed at once. He brought about a treaty between Gustavus and Poland; then he filled Gustavus's mind with pictures of the wrongs inflicted by Austria on German Protestants, hinted to him probably of a new realm, filled his treasury, and finally hurled against Austria the man who destroyed Tilly, who conquered Wallenstein, who annihilated Austrian supremacy at the Battle of Lueizen, who, though in his grave, wrenched Protestant rights from Austria at the Treaty of Westphalia, who pierced the Austrian monarchy with the most terrible sorrows it ever saw before the time of Napoleon.
To the main objects of Richelieu's policy already given might be added two subordinate objects.
The first of these was a healthful extension of French territory. In this Richelieu planned better than the first Napoleon; for, while he did much to carry France out to her natural boundaries, he kept her always within them. On the South he added Roussillon, on the East, Alsace, on the Northeast, Artois.
The second subordinate object of his policy sometimes flashed forth brilliantly. He was determined that England should never again interfere on French soil. We have seen him driving the English from La Rochelle and from the Isle of Rhe; but he went farther. In 1628, on making some proposals to England, he was repulsed with English haughtiness. "They shall know," said the Cardinal, "that they cannot despise me." Straightway one sees protests and revolts of the Presbyterians of Scotland, and Richelieu's agents in the thickest of them.
And now what was Richelieu's statesmanship in its sum?
I. In the Political Progress of France, his work has already been sketched as building monarchy and breaking anarchy.
Therefore have men said that he swept away old French liberties. What old liberties? Richelieu but tore away the decaying, poisonous husks and rinds which hindered French liberties from their chance at life and growth.
Therefore, also, have men said that Richelieu built up absolutism. The charge is true and welcome. For, evidently, absolutism was the only force, in that age, which could destroy the serf-mastering caste. Many a Polish patriot, as he to-day wanders through the Polish villages, groans that absolutism was not built to crush that serf-owning aristocracy which has been the real architect of Poland's ruin. Any one who reads to much purpose in De Mably, or Guizot, or Henri Martin, knows that this part of Richelieu's statesmanship was but a masterful continuation of all great French statesmanship since the twelfth-century league of king and commons against nobles, and that Richelieu stood in the heirship of all great French statesmen since Suger. That part of Richelieu's work, then, was evidently bedded in the great line of Divine Purpose running through that age and through all ages.
II. In the Internal Development of France, Richelieu proved himself a true builder. The founding of the French Academy and of the Jardin des Plantes, the building of the College of Plessis, and the rebuilding of the College of the Sorbonne, are among the monuments of this part of his statesmanship. His, also, is much of that praise usually lavished on Louis XIV. for the career opened in the seventeenth century to science, literature, and art. He was also a reformer, and his zeal was proved, when, in the fiercest of the La Rochelle struggle, he found time to institute great reforms not only in the army and navy, but even in the monasteries.
III. On the General Progress of Europe, his work must be judged as mainly for good. Austria was the chief barrier to European progress, and that barrier he broke. But a far greater impulse to the general progress of Europe was given by the idea of Toleration which he thrust into the methods of European statesmen. He, first of all statesmen in France, saw, that, in French policy, to use his own words, "A Protestant Frenchman is better than a Catholic Spaniard"; and he, first of all statesmen in Europe, saw, that, in European policy, patriotism, must outweigh bigotry.
IV. His Faults in Method were many. His under-estimate of the sacredness of human life was one; but that was the fault of his age. His frequent working by intrigue was another; but that also was a vile method accepted by his age. The fair questions, then, are,—Did he not commit the fewest and smallest wrongs possible in beating back those many and great wrongs? Wrong has often a quick, spasmodic force; but was there not in his arm a steady growing force, which could only be a force of right?
V. His Faults in Policy crystallized about one: for, while he subdued the serf-mastering nobility, he struck no final blow at the serf-system itself.
Our running readers of French history need here a word of caution. They follow De Tocqueville, and De Tocqueville follows Biot in speaking of the serf-system as abolished in most of France hundreds of years before this. But Biot and De Tocqueville take for granted a knowledge in their readers that the essential vileness of the system, and even many of its most shocking outward features, remained.
Richelieu might have crushed the serf-system, really, as easily as Louis X. and Philip the Long had crushed it nominally. This Richelieu did not.
And the consequences of this great man's great fault were terrible. Hardly was he in his grave, when the nobles perverted the effort of the Paris Parliament for advance in liberty, and took the lead in the fearful revolts and massacres of the Fronde. Then came Richelieu's pupil, Mazarin, who tricked the nobles into order, and Mazarin's pupil, Louis XIV., who bribed them into order. But a nobility borne on high by the labor of a servile class must despise labor; so there came those weary years of indolent gambling and debauchery and "serf-eating" at Versailles.
Then came Louis XV., who was too feeble to maintain even the poor decent restraints imposed by Louis XIV.; so the serf-mastering caste became active in a new way, and their leaders in vileness unutterable became at last Fronsac and De Sade.
Then came "the deluge." The spirit of the serf-mastering caste, as left by Richelieu, was a main cause of the miseries which brought on the French Revolution. When the Third Estate brought up their "portfolio of grievances," for one complaint against the exactions of the monarchy there were fifty complaints against the exactions of the nobility.[D]
[Footnote D: See any Resume des Cahiers,—even the meagre ones in Buchez and Roux, or Le Bas, or Cheruel.]
Then came the failure of the Revolution in its direct purpose; and of this failure the serf-mastering caste was a main cause. For this caste, hardened by ages of domineering over a servile class, despite fourth of August renunciations, would not, could not, accept a position compatible with freedom and order: so earnest men were maddened, and sought to tear out this cancerous mass, with all its burning roots.
But for Richelieu's great fault there is an excuse. His mind was saturated with ideas of the impossibility of inducing freed peasants to work,—the impossibility of making them citizens,—the impossibility, in short, of making them men. To his view was not unrolled the rich newer world-history, to show that a working class is most dangerous when restricted,—that oppression is more dangerous to the oppressor than to the oppressed,—that, if man will hew out paths to liberty, God will hew out paths to prosperity. But Richelieu's fault teaches the world not less than his virtues.
At last, on the third of December, 1642, the great statesman lay upon his death-bed. The death-hour is a great revealer of motives, and as with weaker men, so with Richelieu. Light then shot over the secret of his whole life's plan and work.
He was told that he must die: he received the words with calmness. As the Host, which he believed the veritable body of the Crucified, was brought him, he said, "Behold my Judge before whom I must shortly appear! I pray Him to condemn me, if I have ever had any other motive than the cause of religion and my country." The confessor asked him if he pardoned his enemies: he answered, "I have none but those of the State."
So passed from earth this strong man. Keen he was in sight, steady in aim, strong in act. A true man,—not "non-committal," but wedded to a great policy in the sight of all men: seen by earnest men of all times to have marshalled against riot and bigotry and unreason divine forces and purposes; seen by earnest men of these times to have taught the true method of grasping desperate revolt, and of strangling that worst foe of liberty and order in every age,—a serf-owning aristocracy.
UNDER THE SNOW.
The spring had tripped and lost her flowers, The summer sauntered through the glades, The wounded feet of autumn hours Left ruddy footprints on the blades.
And all the glories of the woods Had flung their shadowy silence down,— When, wilder than the storm it broods, She fled before the winter's frown.
For her sweet spring had lost its flowers, She fell, and passion's tongues of flame Ran reddening through the blushing bowers, Now haggard as her naked shame.
One secret thought her soul had screened, When prying matrons sought her wrong, And Blame stalked on, a mouthing fiend, And mocked her as she fled along.
And now she bore its weight aloof, To hide it where one ghastly birch Held up the rafters of the roof, And grim old pine-trees formed a church.
'Twas there her spring-time vows were sworn, And there upon its frozen sod, While wintry midnight reigned forlorn, She knelt, and held her hands to God.
The cautious creatures of the air Looked out from many a secret place, To see the embers of despair Flush the gray ashes of her face.
And where the last week's snow had caught The gray beard of a cypress limb, She heard the music of a thought More sweet than her own childhood's hymn.
For rising in that cadence low, With "Now I lay me down to sleep," Her mother rocked her to and fro, And prayed the Lord her soul to keep.
And still her prayer was humbly raised, Held up in two cold hands to God, That, white as some old pine-tree blazed, Gleamed far o'er that dark frozen sod.
The storm stole out beyond the wood, She grew the vision of a cloud, Her dark hair was a misty hood, Her stark face shone as from a shroud.
Still sped the wild storm's rustling feet To martial music of the pines, And to her cold heart's muffled beat Wheeled grandly into solemn lines.
And still, as if her secret's woe No mortal words had ever found, This dying sinner draped in snow Held up her prayer without a sound.
But when the holy angel bands Saw this lone vigil, lowly kept, They gathered from her frozen hands The prayer thus folded, and they wept.
Some snow-flakes—wiser than the rest— Soon faltered o'er a thing of clay, First read this secret of her breast, Then gently robed her where she lay.
The dead dark hair, made white with snow, A still stark face, two folded palms, And (mothers, breathe her secret low!) An unborn infant—asking alms.
God kept her counsel; cold and mute His steadfast mourners closed her eyes, Her head-stone was an old tree's root, Be mine to utter,—"Here she lies."
SLAVERY, IN ITS PRINCIPLES, DEVELOPMENT, AND EXPEDIENTS.
Within the memory of men still in the vigor of life, American Slavery was considered by a vast majority of the North, and by a large minority of the South, as an evil which should, at best, be tolerated, and not a good which deserved to be extended and protected. A kind of lazy acquiescence in it as a local matter, to be managed by local legislation, was the feeling of the Free States. In both the Slave and the Free States, the discussion of the essential principles on which Slavery rests was confined to a few disappointed Nullifiers and a few uncompromising Abolitionists, and we can recollect the time when Calhoun and Garrison were both classed by practical statesmen of the South and North in one category of pestilent "abstractionists." Negro Slavery was considered simply as a fact; and general irritation among most politicians of all sections was sure to follow any attempt to explore the principles on which the fact reposed. That these principles had the mischievous vitality which events have proved them to possess, few of our wisest statesmen then dreamed, and we have drifted by degrees into the present war without any clear perception of its animating causes.
The future historian will trace the steps by which the subject of Slavery was forced on the reluctant attention of the citizens of the Free States, so that at last the most cautious conservative could not ignore its intrusive presence, could not banish its reality from his eyes, or its image from his mind. He will show why Slavery, disdaining its old argument from expediency, challenged discussion on its principles. He will explain the process by which it became discontented with toleration within its old limits, and demanded the championship or connivance of the National Government in a plan for its limitless extension. He will indicate the means by which it corrupted the Southern heart and Southern brain, so that at last the elemental principles of morals and religion were boldly denied, and the people came to "believe a lie." He will, not unnaturally, indulge in a little sarcasm, when he comes to consider the occupation of Southern professors of ethics, compelled by their position to scoff at the "rights" of man, and Southern professors of theology, compelled by their position to teach that Christ came into the world, not so much to save sinners, as to enslave negroes. He will be forced to class these among the meanest and most abject slaves that the planters owned. In treating of the subserviency of the North, he will be constrained to write many a page which will flush the cheeks of our descendants with indignation and shame. He will show the method by which Slavery, after vitiating the conscience and intelligence of the South, contrived to vitiate in part, and for a time, the conscience and intelligence of the North. It will be his ungrateful task to point to many instances of compliance and concession on the part of able Northern statesmen which will deeply affect their fame with posterity, though he will doubtless refuse to adopt to the full the contemporary clamor against their motives. He will understand, better than we, the amount of patriotism which entered into their "concessions," and the amount of fraternal good-will which prompted their fatal "compromises." But he will also declare that the object of the Slave Power was not attained. Vacillating statesmen and corrupt politicians it might address, the first through their fears, the second through their interests; but the intrepid and incorruptible "people" were but superficially affected. A few elections were gained, but the victories were barren of results. From political defeat the free people of the North came forth more earnest and more united than ever.
The insolent pretensions of the Slavocracy were repudiated; its political and ethical maxims were disowned; and after having stirred the noblest impulses of the human heart by the spectacle of its tyranny, its attempt to extend that tyranny only roused an insurrection of the human understanding against the impudence of its logic. The historian can then only say, that the Slave Power "seceded," being determined to form a part of no government which it could not control. The present war is to decide whether its real force corresponds to the political force it has exerted heretofore in our affairs.
That this war has been forced upon the Free States by the "aggressions" of the Slave Power is so plain that no argument is necessary to sustain the proposition. It is not so universally understood that the Slave Power is aggressive by the necessities of the wretched system of labor on which its existence is based. By a short exposition of the principles of Slavery, and the expedients it has practised during the last twenty or thirty years, we think that this proposition can be established.
And first it must be always borne in mind, that Slavery, as a system, is based on the most audacious, inhuman, and self-evident of lies,—the assertion, namely, that property can be held in men. Property applies to things. There is a meta-physical impossibility implied in the attempt to extend its application to persons. It is possible, we admit, to ordain by local law that four and four make ten, but such an exercise of legislative wisdom could not overcome certain arithmetical prejudices innate in our minds, or dethrone the stubborn eight from its accustomed position in our thoughts. But you might as well ordain that four and four make ten as ordain that a man has no right to himself, but can properly be held as the chattel of another. Yet this arrogant falsehood of property in men has been organized into a colossal institution. The South calls it a "peculiar" institution; and herein perhaps consists its peculiarity, that it is an absurdity which has lied itself into a substantial form, and now argues its right to exist from the fact of its existence. Doubtless, the fact that a thing exists proves that it has its roots in human nature; but before we accept this as decisive of its right to exist, it may be well to explore those qualities in human nature, "peculiar" and perverse as itself, from which it derives its poisonous vitality and strength. It is plain, we think, that an institution embodying an essential falsity, which equally affronts the common sense and the moral sense of mankind, and which, as respects chronology, was as repugnant to the instincts of Homer as it is to the instincts of Whittier, must have sprung from the unblessed union of wilfulness and avarice, of avarice which knows no conscience, and of wilfulness that tramples on reason; and the marks of this parentage, the signs of these its boasted roots in human nature, are, we are constrained to concede, visible in every stage of its growth, in every argument for its existence, in every motive for its extension.
It is not, perhaps, surprising that some of the advocates of Slavery do not relish the analysis which reveals the origin of their institution in those dispositions which connect man with the tiger and the wolf. Accordingly they discourage, with true democratic humility, all genealogical inquiries into the ancestry of their system, substitute generalization for analysis, and, twisting the maxims of religion into a philosophy of servitude, bear down all arguments with the sounding proposition, that Slavery is included in the plan of God's providence, and therefore cannot be wrong. Certain thinkers of our day have asserted the universality of the religious element in human nature: and it must be admitted that men become very pious when their minds are illuminated by the discernment of a Providential sanction for their darling sins, and by the discovery that God is on the side of their interests and passions. Napoleon's religious perceptions were somewhat obtuse, as tried by the standards of the Church, yet nothing could exceed the depth of his belief that God "was with the heaviest column"; and the most obdurate jobber in human flesh may well glow with apostolic fervor, as, from the height of philosophic contemplation to which this principle lifts him, he discerns the sublime import of his Providential mission. It is true, he is now willing to concede, that a man's right to himself, being given by God, can only by God be taken away. "But," he exultingly exclaims, "it has been taken away by God. The negro, having always been a slave, must have been so by divine appointment; and I, the mark of obloquy to a few fanatical enthusiasts, am really an humble agent in carrying out the designs of a higher law even than that of the State, of a higher will even than my own." This mode of baptizing man's sin and calling it God's providence has not altogether lacked the aid of certain Southern clergymen, who ostentatiously profess to preach Christ and Him crucified, and by such arguments, we may fear, crucified by them. Here is Slavery's abhorred riot of vices and crimes, from whose soul-sickening details the human imagination shrinks aghast,—and over all, to complete the picture, these theologians bring in the seraphic countenance of the Saviour of mankind, smiling celestial approval of the multitudinous miseries and infamies it serenely beholds!
It may be presumptuous to proffer counsel to such authorized expositors of religion, but one can hardly help insinuating the humble suggestion, that it would be as well, if they must give up the principles of liberty, not to throw Christianity in. We may be permitted to doubt the theory of Providence which teaches that a man never so much serves God as when he serves the Devil. Doubtless, Slavery, though opposed to God's laws, is included in the plan of God's providence, but, in the long run, the providence most terribly confirms the laws. The stream of events, having its fountains in iniquity, has its end in retribution. It is because God's laws are immutable that God's providence can be foreseen as well as seen. The mere fact that a thing exists, and persists in existing, is of little importance in determining its right to exist, or its eventual destiny. These must be found in an inspection of the principles by which it exists; and from the nature of its principles, we can predict its future history. The confidence of bad men and the despair of good men proceed equally from a too fixed attention to the facts and events before their eyes, to the exclusion of the principles which underlie and animate them; for no insight of principles, and of the moral laws which govern human events, could ever cause tyrants to exult or philanthropists to despond.
If we go farther into this question, we shall commonly find that the facts and events to which we give the name of Providence are the acts of human wills divinely overruled. There is iniquity and wrong in these facts and events, because they are the work of free human wills. But when these free human wills organize falsehood, institute injustice, and establish oppression, they have passed into that mental state where will has been perverted into wilfulness, and self-direction has been exaggerated into self-worship. It is the essence of wilfulness that it exalts the impulses of its pride above the intuitions of conscience and intelligence, and puts force in the place of reason and right. The person has thus emancipated himself from all restraints of a law higher than his personality, and acts from self, for self, and in sole obedience to self. But this is personality in its Satanic form; yet it is just here that some of our theologians have discovered in a person's actions the purposes of Providence, and discerned the Divine intention in the fact of guilt instead of in the certainty of retribution. The tyrant element in man is found in this Satanic form of his individuality. His will, self-released from restraint, preys upon and crushes other wills. He asserts himself by enslaving others, and mimics Divinity on the stilts of diabolism. Like the barbarian who thought himself enriched by the powers and gifts of the enemy he slew, he aggrandizes his own personality, and heightens his own sense of freedom, through the subjection of feebler natures. Ruthless, rapacious, greedy of power, greedy of gain, it is in Slavery that he wantons in all the luxury of injustice, for it is here that he tastes the exquisite pleasure of depriving others of that which he most values in himself.
Thus, whether we examine this system in the light of conscience and intelligence, or in the light of history and experience, we come to but one result,—that it has its source and sustenance in Satanic energy, in Satanic pride, and in Satanic greed. This is Slavery in itself, detached from the ameliorations it may receive from individual slaveholders. Now a bad system is not continued or extended by the virtues of any individuals who are but partially corrupted by it, but by those who work in the spirit and with the implements of its originators. Every amelioration is a confession of the essential injustice of the thing ameliorated, and a step towards its abolition; and the humane and Christian slaveholders owe their safety, and the security of what they are pleased to call their property, to the vices of the hard and stern spirits whom they profess to abhor. If they invest in stock of the Devil's corporation, they ought not to be severe on those who look out that they punctually receive their dividends. The true slaveholder feels that he is encamped among his slaves, that he holds them by the right of conquest, that the relation is one of war, and that there is no crime he may not be compelled to commit in self-defence. Disdaining all cant, he clearly perceives that the system, in its practical working, must conform to the principles on which it is based. He accordingly believes in the lash and the fear of the lash. If he is cruel and brutal, it may as often be from policy as from disposition, for brutality and cruelty are the means by which weaker races are best kept "subordinated" to stronger races; and the influence of his brutality and cruelty is felt as restraint and terror on the plantation of his less resolute neighbor. And when we speak of brutality and cruelty, we do not limit the application of the words to those who scourge, but extend it to some of those who preach,—who hold up heaven as the reward of those slaves who are sufficiently abject on earth, and threaten damnation in the next world to all who dare to assert their manhood in this.
If, however, any one still doubts that this system develops itself logically and naturally, and tramples down the resistance offered by the better sentiments of human nature, let him look at the legislation which defines and protects it,—a legislation which, as expressing the average sense and purpose of the community, is to be quoted as conclusive against the testimony of any of its individual members. This legislation evinces the dominion of a malignant principle. You can hear the crack of the whip and the clank of the chain in all its enactments. Yet these laws, which cannot be read in any civilized country without mingled horror and derision, indicate a mastery of the whole theory and practice of oppression, are admirably adapted to the end they have in view, and bear the unmistakable marks of being the work of practical men,—of men who know their sin, and "knowing, dare maintain." They do not, it is true, enrich the science of jurisprudence with any large or wise additions, but we do not look for such luxuries as justice, reason, and beneficence in ordinances devised to prop up iniquity, falsehood, and tyranny. Ghastly caricatures of justice as these offshoots of Slavery are, they are still dictated by the nature and necessities of the system. They have the flavor of the rank soil whence they spring.
If we desire any stronger evidence that slaveholders constitute a general Slave Power, that this Slave Power acts as a unit, the unity of a great interest impelled by powerful passions, and that the virtues of individual slaveholders have little effect in checking the vices of the system, we can find that evidence in the zeal and audacity with which this power engaged in extending its dominion. Seemingly aggressive in this, it was really acting on the defensive,—on the defensive, however, not against the assaults of men, but against the immutable decrees of God. The world is so constituted, that wrong and oppression are not, in a large view, politic. They heavily mortgage the future, when they glut the avarice of the present. The avenging Providence, which the slaveholder cannot find in the New Testament, or in the teachings of conscience, he is at last compelled to find in political economy; and however indifferent to the Gospel according to Saint John, he must give heed to the gospel according to Adam Smith and Malthus. He discovers, no doubt to his surprise, and somewhat to his indignation, that there is an intimate relation between industrial success and justice; and however much, as a practical man, he may despise the abstract principles which declare Slavery a nonsensical enormity, he cannot fail to read its nature, when it slowly, but legibly, writes itself out in curses on the land. He finds how true is the old proverb, that, "if God moves with leaden feet, He strikes with iron hands." The law of Slavery is, that, to be lucrative, it must have a scanty population diffused over large areas. To limit it is therefore to doom it to come to an end by the laws of population. To limit it is to force the planters, in the end, to free their slaves, from an inability to support them, and to force the slaves into more energy and intelligence in labor, in order that they may subsist as freemen. People prattle about the necessity of compulsory labor; but the true compulsory labor, the labor which has produced the miracles of modern industry, is the labor to which a man is compelled by the necessity of saving himself, and those who are dearer to him than self, from ignominy and want. It was by this policy of territorial limitation, that Henry Clay, before the annexation of Texas, declared that Slavery must eventually expire. The way was gradual, it was prudent, it was safe, it was distant, it was sure, it was according to the nature of things. It would have been accepted, had there been any general truth in the assertion that the slaveholders were honestly desirous of reconverting, at any time, and on any practicable plan, their chattels into men. But true to the malignant principles of their system, they accepted the law of its existence, but determined to evade the law of its extinction. As Slavery required large areas and scanty population, large areas and scanty population it should at all times have. New markets should be opened for the surplus slave-population; to open new markets was to acquire new territory; and to acquire new territory was to gain additional political strength. The expansive tendencies of freedom would thus be checked by the tendencies no less expansive of bondage. To acquire Texas was not merely to acquire an additional Slave State, but it was to keep up a demand for slaves which would prevent Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Kentucky from becoming Free States. As soon as old soils were worn out, new soils were to be ready to receive the curse; and where slave-labor ceased to be profitable, slave-breeding was to take its place.
This purpose was so diabolical, that, when first announced, it was treated as a caprice of certain hot spirits, irritated by the declamations of the Abolitionists. But it is idle to refer to transient heat thoughts which bear all the signs of cool atrocity; and needless to seek for the causes of actions in extraneous sources, when they are plainly but steps in the development of principles already known. Slave-breeding and Slavery-extension are necessities of the system. Like Romulus and Remus, "they are both suckled from one wolf."
But it was just here that the question became to the Free States a practical question. There could be no "fanaticism" in meeting it at this stage. What usually goes under the name of fanaticism is the habit of uncompromising assault on a thing because its principles are absurd or wicked; what usually goes under the name of common sense is the disposition to assail it at that point where, in the development of its principles, it has become immediately and pressingly dangerous. Now by no sophistry could we of the Free States evade the responsibility of being the extenders of Slavery, if we allowed Slavery to be extended. If we did not oppose it from a sense of right, we were bound to oppose it from a sense of decency. It may be said that we had nothing to do with Slavery at the South; but we had something to do with rescuing the national character from infamy, and unhappily we could not have anything to do with rescuing the national character from infamy without having something to do with Slavery at the South. The question with us was, whether we would allow the whole force of the National Government to be employed in upholding, extending, and perpetuating this detestable and nonsensical enormity?—especially, whether we would be guilty of that last and foulest atheism to free principles, the deliberate planting of slave institutions on virgin soil? If this question had been put to any despot of Europe,—we had almost said, to any despot of Asia,—his answer would undoubtedly have been an indignant negative. Yet the South confidently expected so to wheedle or bully us into dragging our common sense through the mud and mire of momentary expedients, that we should connive at the commission of this execrable crime!
There can be no doubt, that, if the question had been fairly put to the inhabitants of the Free States, their answer would have been at once decisive for freedom. Even the strongest conservatives would have been "Free-Soilers,"—not only those who are conservatives in virtue of their prudence, moderation, sagacity, and temper, but prejudiced conservatives, conservatives who are tolerant of all iniquity which is decorous, inert, long-established, and disposed to die when its time comes, conservatives as thorough in their hatred of change as Lamennais himself. "What a noise," says Paul Louis Courier, "Lamennais would have made on the day of creation, could he have witnessed it. His first cry to the Divinity would have been to respect that ancient chaos." But even to conservatives of this class, the attempt to extend Slavery, though really in the order of its natural development, must still have appeared a monstrous innovation, and they were bound to oppose the Marats and Robespierres of despotism who were busy in the bad work. Indeed, in our country, conservatism, through the presence of Slavery, has inverted its usual order. In other countries, the radical of one century is the conservative of the next; in ours, the conservative of one generation is the radical of the next. The American conservative of 1790 is the so-called fanatic of 1820; the conservative of 1820 is the fanatic of 1856. The American conservative, indeed, descended the stairs of compromise until his descent into utter abnegation of all that civilized humanity holds dear was arrested by the Rebellion. And the reason of this strange inversion of conservative principles was, that the movement of Slavery is towards barbarism, while the movement of all countries in which labor is not positively chattellized is towards freedom and civilization. True conservatism, it must never be forgotten, is the refusal to give up a positive, though imperfect good, for a possible, but uncertain improvement: in the United States it has been misused to denote the cowardly surrender of a positive good from a fear to resist the innovations of an advancing evil and wrong.
There was, therefore, little danger that Slavery would be extended through the conscious thought and will of the people, but there was danger that its extension might, somehow or other, occur. Misconception of the question, devotion to party or the memory of party, prejudice against the men who more immediately represented the Anti-Slavery principle, might make the people unconsciously slide into this crime. And it must be said that for the divisions in the Free States as to the mode in which the free sentiment of the people should operate the strictly Anti-Slavery men were to some extent responsible. It is difficult to convince an ardent reformer that the principle for which he contends, being impersonal, should be purified from the passions and whims of his own personality. The more fervid he is, the more he is identified in the public mind with his cause; and, in a large view, he is bound not merely to defend his cause, but to see that the cause, through him, does not become offensive. Men are ever ready to dodge disagreeable duties by converting questions of principles into criticisms on the men who represent principles; and the men who represent principles should therefore look to it that they make no needless enemies and give no needless shock to public opinion for the purpose of pushing pet opinions, wreaking personal grudges, or gratifying individual antipathies. The artillery of the North has heretofore played altogether too much on Northerners.
But to return. The South expected to fool the North into a compliance with its designs, by availing itself of the divisions among its professed opponents, and by dazzling away the attention of the people from the real nature of the wickedness to be perpetrated. Slavery was to be extended, and the North was to be an accomplice in the business; but the Slave Power did not expect that we should be active and enthusiastic in this work of self-degradation. It did not ask us to extend Slavery, but simply to allow its extension to occur; and in this appeal to our moral timidity and moral laziness, it contemptuously tossed us a few fig-leaves of fallacy and false statement to save appearances.
We were informed, for instance, that by the equality of men is meant the equality of those whom Providence has made equal. But this is exactly the sense in which no sane man ever understood the doctrine of equality; for Providence has palpably made men unequal, white men as well as black.
Then we were told that the white and black races could dwell together only in the relation of masters and slaves,—and, in the same breath, that in this relation the slaves were steadily advancing in civilization and Christianity. But, if steadily advancing in civilization and Christianity, the time must inevitably come when they would not submit to be slaves; and then what becomes of the statement that the white and black races cannot dwell together as freemen? Why boast of their improvement, when you are improving them only that you may exterminate them, or they you?
Then, with a composure of face which touches the exquisite in effrontery, we were assured that this antithesis of master and slave, of tyrant and abject natures, is really a perfect harmony. Slavery—so said these logicians of liberticide—has solved the great social problem of the working-classes, comfortably for capital, happily for labor; and has effected this by an ingenious expedient which could have occurred only to minds of the greatest depth and comprehension, the expedient, namely, of enslaving labor. Now doubtless there has always been a struggle between employers and employed, and this struggle will probably continue until the relations between the two are more humane and Christian. But Slavery exhibits this struggle in its earliest and most savage stage, a stage answering to the rude energies and still ruder conceptions of barbarians. The issue of the struggle, it is plain, will not be that capital will own labor, but that labor will own capital, and no man be owned.
Still we were vehemently told, that, though the slaves, for their own good, were deprived of their rights as men, they were in a fine state of physical comfort. This was not and could not be true; but even if it were, it only represented the slaveholder as addressing his slave in some such words of derisive scorn as Byron hurls at Duke Alphonso,—
"Thou! born to eat, and be despised, and die, Even as the brutes that perish,"—
though we doubt if he could truly add,—
"save that thou Hast a more splendid trough and wider sty."
Then we were solemnly warned of our patriotic duty to "know no North and no South." This was the very impudence of ingratitude; for we had long known no North, and unhappily had known altogether too much South.
Then we were most plaintively adjured to to comply with the demands of the Slave Power, in order to save the Union. But how save the Union? Why, by violating the principles on which the Union was formed, and scouting the objects it was intended to serve.
But lastly came the question, on which the South confidently relied as a decisive argument, "What could we do with our slaves, provided we emancipated them?" The peculiarity which distinguished this question from all other interrogatories ever addressed to human beings was this, that it was asked for the purpose of not being answered. The moment a reply was begun, the ground was swiftly shifted, and we were overwhelmed with a torrent of words about State Rights and the duty of minding our own business.
But it is needless to continue the examination of these substitutes and apologies for fact and reason, especially as their chief characteristic consisted in their having nothing to do with the practical question before the people. They were thrown out by the interested defenders of Slavery, North and South, to divert attention from the main issue. In the fine felicity of their in appropriateness to the actual condition of the struggle between the Free and Slave States, they were almost a match for that renowned sermon, preached by a metropolitan bishop before an asylum for the blind, the halt, and the legless, on "The Moral Dangers of Foreign Travel." But still they were infinitely mischievous, considered as pretences under which Northern men could skulk from their duties, and as sophistries to lull into a sleepy acquiescence the consciences of those political adventurers who are always seeking occasions for being tempted and reasons for being rogues. They were all the more influential from the circumstance that their show of argument was backed by the solid substance of patronage. These false facts and bad reasons were the keys to many fat offices. The South had succeeded in instituting a new political test, namely, that no man is qualified serve the United States unless he is the champion or the sycophant of the Slave Power. Proscription to the friends of American freedom, honors and emoluments to the friends of American slavery,—adopt that creed, or you did not belong to any "healthy" political organization! Now we have heard of civil disabilities for opinion's sake before. In some countries no Catholics are allowed to hold office, in others no Protestants, in others no Jews. But it is not, we believe, in Protestant countries that Protestants are proscribed; it is not in Catholic countries that Catholics are incompetent to serve the State. It was left for a free country to establish, practically, civil disabilities against freemen,—for Republican America to proscribe Republicans! Think of it,—that no American, whatever his worth, talents, or patriotism,—could two years ago serve his country in any branch of its executive administration, unless he was unfortunate enough to agree with the slaveholders, or base enough to sham an agreement with them! The test, at Washington, of political orthodoxy was modelled on the pattern of the test of religious orthodoxy established by Napoleon's minister of police. "You are not orthodox," he said to a priest "In what," inquired the astonished ecclesiastic, "have I sinned against orthodoxy?" "You have not pronounced the eulogium of the Emperor, or proved the righteousness of the conscription."
Now we had been often warned of the danger of sectional parties, on account of their tendency to break up the Government. The people gave heed to this warning; for here was a sectional party in possession of the Government. We had been often advised not to form political combinations on one idea. The people gave heed to this advice; for here was a triumphant political combination, formed not only on one idea, but that the worst idea that ever animated any political combination. Here was an association of three hundred and fifty thousand persons, spread over some nine hundred and fifty thousand square miles of territory, and wielding its whole political power, engaged in the work of turning the United States into a sort of slave plantation, of which they were to be overseers. We opposed them by argument, passion, and numerical power; and they read us long homilies on the beauty of law and order,—order sustained by Border Ruffians, law which was but the legalizing of criminal instincts,—law and order which, judged by the code established for Kansas, seemed based on legislative ideas imported from the Fegee Islands. We opposed them again, and they talked to us about the necessity of preserving the Union;—as if, in the Free States, the love of the Union had not been a principle and a passion, proof against many losses, and insensible to many humiliations; as if, with our teachers, disunion had not been for half a century a stereotyped menace to scare us into compliance with their rascalities; as if it were not known that only so long as they could wield the powers of the National Government to accomplish their designs, were they loyal to the Union! We opposed them again, and they clamored about their Constitutional rights and our Constitutional obligations; but they adopted for themselves a theory of the Constitution which made each State the judge of the Constitution in the last resort, while they held us to that view of it which made the Supreme Court the judge in the last resort. Written constitutions, by a process of interpretation, are always made to follow the drift of great forces; they are twisted and tortured into conformity with the views of the power dominant in the State; and our Constitution, originally a charter of freedom, was converted into an instrument which the slaveholders seemed to possess by right of squatter sovereignty and eminent domain.
Did any one suppose that we could retard the ever-onward movement of their unscrupulous force and defiant wills by timely compromises and concessions? Every compromise we made with them only stimulated their rapacity, heightened their arrogance, increased their demands. Every concession we made to their insolent threats was only a step downwards to a deeper abasement; and we parted with our most cherished convictions of duty to purchase, not their gratitude, but their contempt. Every concession, too, weakened us and strengthened them for the inevitable struggle, into which the Free States were eventually goaded, to preserve what remained of their dignity, their honor, and their self-respect. In 1850 we conceded the application of the Wilmot Proviso; in 1856 we were compelled to concede the principle of the Wilmot Proviso. In 1850 we had no fears that slaves would enter New Mexico; in 1861 we were threatened with a view of the flag of the rattlesnake floating over Faneuil Hall. If any principle has been established by events, with the certainty of mathematical demonstration, it is this, that concession to the Slave Power is the suicide of Freedom. We are purchasing this fact at the expense of arming five hundred thousand men and spending a thousand millions of dollars. More than this, if any concessions were to be made, they ought, on all principles of concession, to have been made to the North. Concessions, historically, are not made by freedom to privilege, but by privilege to freedom. Thus King John conceded Magna Charta; thus King Charles conceded the Petition of Right; thus Protestant England conceded Catholic Emancipation to Ireland; thus aristocratic England conceded the Reform Bill to the English middle class. And had not we, the misgoverned many, a right to demand from the slaveholders, the governing few, some concessions to our sense of justice and our prejudices for freedom? Concession indeed! If any class of men hold in their grasp one of the dear-bought chartered "rights of man," it is infamous to concede it.
"Make it the darling of your precious eye! To lose or give 't away were such perdition As nothing else could match."
Considerations so obvious as these could not, by any ingenuity of party-contrivance, be prevented from forcing themselves by degrees into the minds of the great body of the voters of the Free States. The common sense, the "large roundabout common sense" of the people, slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, came up to the demands of the occasion. The sophistries and fallacies of the Northern defenders of the pretensions of the slave-holding sectional minority were gradually exposed, and were repudiated in the lump. The conviction was implanted in the minds of the people of the Free States, that the Slave Power, representing only a thirtieth part of the population of the Slave States, and a ninth part of the property of the country, was bent on governing the nation, and on subordinating all principles and all interests to its own. Not being ambitious of having the United States converted into a Western Congo, with the traffic in "niggers" as its fundamental idea, the people elected Abraham Lincoln, in a perfectly Constitutional way, President. As the majority of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the Supreme Court was still left, by this election, on the side of the "rights of the South," (humorously so styled,) and as the President could do little to advance Republican principles with all the other branches of the Government opposed to him, the people naturally imagined that the slaveholders would acquiesce in their decision.
But such was not the result. The election was in November. The new President could not assume office until March. The triumphs of the Slave Power had been heretofore owing to its willingness and readiness to peril everything on each question as it arose, and each event as it occurred. South Carolina, perhaps the only one of the Slave States that was thoroughly in earnest, at once "seceded." The "Gulf States" and others followed its example, not so much from any fixed intention of forming a Southern Confederacy as for the purpose of intimidating the Free States into compliance with the extreme demands of the South. The Border Slave States were avowedly neutral between the "belligerents," but indicated their purpose to stand by their "Southern brethren," in case the Government of the United States attempted to carry out the Constitution and the laws in the seceded States by the process of "coercion."
The combination was perfect. The heart of the Rebellion was in South Carolina, a State whose free population was about equal to that of the city of Brooklyn, and whose annual productions were exceeded by those of Essex County, in the State of Massachusetts. Around this centre was congregated as base a set of politicians as ever disgraced human nature. A conspiracy was formed to compel a first-class power, representing thirty millions of people, to submit to the dictation of about three hundred thousand of its citizens. The conspirators did not dream of failure. They were sure, as they thought, of the Gulf States and of the Border States, of the whole Slave Power, in fact. They also felt sure of that large minority in the Free States which had formerly acted with them, and obeyed their most humiliating behests. They therefore entered the Congress of the nation with a confident front, knowing that President Buchanan and the majority of his Cabinet were practically on their side. Before Mr. Lincoln could be inaugurated they imagined they could accomplish all their designs, and make the Government of the United States a Pro-Slavery power in the eyes of all the nations of the world. Mr. Calhoun's paradoxes had heretofore been indorsed only by majorities in the national legislature and by the Supreme Court. What a victory it would be, if, by threatening rebellion, they could induce the people of the United States to incorporate those paradoxes into the fundamental law of the nation, dominant over both Congress and the Court! All their previous "compromises" had been merely legislative compromises, which, as their cause advanced, they had themselves annulled. They now seized the occasion, when the "people" had risen against them, to compel the people to sanction their most extreme demands. They determined to convert defeat, sustained at the polls, into a victory which would have far transcended any victory they might have gained by electing their candidate, Breckinridge, as President.
A portion of the Republicans, seeing clearly the force arrayed against them, and disbelieving that the population of the Free States would be willing, en masse, to sustain the cause of free labor by force of arms, tried to avert the blow by proposing a new compromise. Mr. Seward, the calmest, most moderate, and most obnoxious statesman of the Republican party, offered to divide the existing territories of the United States by the Missouri line, all south of which should be open to slave labor. As he at the same time stated that by natural laws the South could obtain no material advantage by his seeming concession, the concession only made him enemies among the uncompromising champions of the Wilmot Proviso. The conspirators demanded that the Missouri line should be the boundary, not only between the territories which the United States then possessed, but between the territories they might hereafter acquire. As the country north of the Missouri line was held by powerful European States which it would be madness to offend, and as the country south of that line was held by feeble States which it would be easy to conquer, no Northern or Western statesman could vote for such a measure without proving himself a rogue or a simpleton. Hence all measures of "compromise" necessarily failed during the last days of the administration of James Buchanan.
It is plain, that, when Mr. Lincoln—after having escaped assassination from the "Chivalry" of Maryland, and after having been subjected to a virulence of invective such as no other President had incurred—arrived at Washington, his mind was utterly unaffected by the illusions of passion. His Inaugural Message was eminently moderate. The Slave Power, having failed to delude or bully Congress, or to intimidate the people,—having failed to murder the elected President on his way to the capital,—was at wits' end. It thought it could still rely on its Northern supporters, as James II. of England thought he could rely on the Church of England. While the nation, therefore, was busy in expedients to call back the seceded States to their allegiance, the latter suddenly bombarded Fort Sumter, trampled on the American flag, threatened to wave the rattlesnake rag over Faneuil Hall, and to make the Yankees "smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel." All this was done with the idea that the Northern "Democracy" would rally to the support of their "Southern brethren." The result proved that the South was, in the words of Mr. Davis's last and most melancholy Message, the victim of "misplaced confidence" in its Northern "associates." The moment a gun was fired, the honest Democratic voters of the North were even more furious than the Republican voters; the leaders, including those who had been the obedient servants of Slavery, were ravenous for commands in the great army which was to "coerce" and "subjugate" the South; and the whole organization of the "Democratic party" of the North melted away at once in the fierce fires of a reawakened patriotism. The slaveholders ventured everything on their last stake, and lost. A North, for the first time, sprang into being; and it issued, like Minerva from the brain of Jove, full-armed. The much-vaunted engineer, Beauregard, was "hoist with his own petard."
Now that the slaveholders have been so foolish as to appeal to physical force, abandoning their vantage-ground of political influence, they must be not only politically overthrown, but physically humiliated. Their arrogant sense of superiority must be beaten out of them by main force. The feeling with which every Texan and Arkansas bully and assassin regarded a Northern mechanic—a feeling akin to that with which the old Norman robber looked on the sturdy Saxon laborer—must be changed, by showing the bully that his bowie-knife is dangerous only to peaceful, and is imbecile before armed citizens. The Southerner has appealed to force, and force he should have, until, by the laws of force, he is not only beaten, but compelled to admit the humiliating fact. That he is not disposed "to die in the last ditch," that he has none of the practical heroism of desperation, is proved by the actual results of battles. When defeated, and his means of escape are such as only desperation can surmount, he quickly surrenders, and is even disposed to take the oath of allegiance. The martial virtues of the common European soldier he has displayed in exceedingly scanty measure in the present conflict. He has relied on engineers; and the moment his fortresses are turned or stormed, he retreats or becomes a prisoner of war. Let Mr. Davis's Message to the Confederate Congress, and his order suspending Pillow and Floyd, testify to this unquestionable statement. Even if we grant martial intrepidity to the members of the Slavocracy, the present war proves that the system of Slavery is not one which develops martial virtues among the "free whites" it has cajoled or forced into its hateful service. Indeed, the armies of Jefferson Davis are weak on the same principle on which the slave-system is weak. Everything depends on the intelligence and courage of the commanders, and the moment these fail the soldiers become a mere mob.
American Slavery, by the laws which control its existence, first rose from a local power, dominant in certain States, to a national power, assuming to dominate over the United States. At the first faint fact which indicated the intention of the Free States to check its progress and overturn its insolent dominion, it rebelled. The rebellion now promises to be a failure; but it will cost the Free States the arming of half a million of men and the spending of a thousand millions of dollars to make it a failure. Can we afford to trifle with the cause which produced it? We note that some of the representatives of the loyal Slave States in Congress are furious to hang individual Rebels, but at the same time are anxious to surround the system those Rebels represent with new guaranties. When they speak of Jeff Davis and his crew, their feeling is as fierce as that of Tilly and Pappenheim towards the Protestants of Germany. They would burn, destroy, confiscate, and kill without any mercy, and without any regard to the laws of civilized war; but when they come to speak of Slavery, their whole tone is changed. They wish us to do everything barbarous and inhuman, provided we do not go to the last extent of barbarity and inhumanity, which, according to their notions, is, to inaugurate a system of freedom, equality, and justice. Provided the negro is held in bondage and denied the rights of human nature, they are willing that any severity should be exercised towards his rebellious master. Now we have no revengeful feeling towards the master at all. We think that he is a victim as well as an oppressor. We wish to emancipate the master as well as the slave, and we think that thousands of masters are persons who merely submit to the conditions of labor established in their respective localities. Our opposition is directed, not against Jefferson Davis, but against the system whose cumulative corruptions and enormities Jefferson Davis very fairly represents. As an individual, Jefferson Davis is not worse than many people whom a general amnesty would preserve in their persons and property. To hang him, and at the same time guaranty Slavery, would be like destroying a plant by a vain attempt to kill its most poisonous blossom. Our opposition is not to the blossom, but to the root.
We admit that to strike at the root is a very difficult operation. In the present condition of the country it may present obstacles which will practically prove insuperable. But it is plain that we can strike lower than the blossom; and it is also plain that we must, as practical men, devise some method by which the existence of the Slavocracy as a political power may be annihilated. The President of the United States has lately recommended that Congress offer the cooperation and financial aid of the whole nation in a peaceful effort to abolish Slavery,—with a significant hint, that, unless the loyal Slave States accept the proposition, the necessities of the war may dictate severer measures. Emancipation is the policy of the Government, and will soon be the determination of the people. Whether it shall be gradual or immediate depends altogether on the slaveholders themselves. The prolongation of the war for a year, and the operation of the internal tax bill, will convert all the voters of the Free States, whether Republicans or Democrats, into practical Emancipationists. The tax bill alone will teach the people important lessons which no politicians can gainsay. Every person who buys a piece of broadcloth or calico,—every person who takes a cup of tea or coffee,—every person who lives from day to day on the energy he thinks he derives from patent medicines, or beer, or whiskey,—every person who signs a note, or draws a bill of exchange, or sends a telegraphic despatch, or advertises in a newspaper, or makes a will, or "raises" anything, or manufactures anything, will naturally inquire why he or she is compelled to submit to an irritating as well as an onerous tax. The only answer that can possibly be returned is this,— that all these vexatious burdens are necessary because a comparatively few persons out of an immense population have chosen to get up a civil war in order to protect and foster their slave-property, and the political power it confers. As this property is but a small fraction of the whole property of the country, and as its owners are not a hundredth part of the population of the country, does any sane man doubt that the slave-property will be relentlessly confiscated in order that the Slave Power may be forever crushed?
There are, we know, persons in the Free States who pretend to believe that the war will leave Slavery where the war found it,—that our half a million of soldiers have gone South on a sort of military picnic, and will return in a cordial mood towards their Southern brethren in arms,—and that there is no real depth and earnestness of purpose in the Free States. Though one year has done the ordinary work of a century in effecting or confirming changes in the ideas and sentiments of the people, these persons still sagely rely on the party-phrases current some eighteen months ago to reconstruct the Union on the old basis of the domination of the Slave Power, through the combination of a divided North with a united South. By the theory of these persons, there is something peculiarly sacred in property in men, distinguishing it from the more vulgar form of property in things; and though the cost of putting down the Rebellion will nearly equal the value of the Southern slaves, considered as chattels, they suppose that the owners of property in things will cheerfully submit to be taxed for a thousand millions,—a fourth of the almost fabulous debt of England,—without any irritation against the chivalric owners of property in men, whose pride, caprice, and insubordination have made the taxation necessary. Such may possibly be the fact, but as sane men we cannot but disbelieve it. Our conviction is, that, whether the war is ended in three months or in twelve months, the Slave Power is sure to be undermined or overthrown.
The sooner the war is ended, the more favorable will be the terms granted to the Slavocracy; but no terms will be granted which do not look to its extinction. The slaveholders are impelled by their system to complete victory or utter ruin. If they obey the laws of their system, they have, from present appearances, nothing but defeat, beggary, and despair to expect. If they violate the laws of their system, they must take their place in some one of the numerous degrees, orders, and ranks of the Abolitionists. It will be well for them, if the wilfulness developed by their miserable system gives way to the plain reason and logic of facts and events. It will be well for them, if they submit to a necessity, not only inherent in the inevitable operation of divine laws, but propelled by half a million of men in arms. Be it that God is on the side of the heaviest column,—there can be no doubt that the heaviest column is now the column of Freedom.
* * * * *
"At dawn," he said, "I bid them all farewell, To go where bugles call and rifles gleam." And with the restless thought asleep he fell, And glided into dream.
A great hot plain from sea to mountain spread,— Through it a level river slowly drawn. He moved with a vast crowd, and at its head Streamed banners like the dawn.
There came a blinding flash, a deafening roar, And dissonant cries of triumph and dismay; Blood trickled down the river's reedy shore, And with the dead he lay.
The morn broke in upon his solemn dream; And still, with steady pulse and deepening eye, "Where bugles call," he said, "and rifles gleam, I follow, though I die!"
Wise youth! By few is glory's wreath attained; But death or late or soon awaiteth all. To fight in Freedom's cause is something gained,— And nothing lost, to fall.
SPEECH OF HON'BLE PRESERVED DOE IN SECRET CAUCUS.
To the Editors of the ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
Jaalam, 12th April, 1862.
GENTLEMEN,—As I cannot but hope that the ultimate, if not speedy, success of the national arms is now sufficiently ascertained, sure as I am of the righteousness of our cause and its consequent claim on the blessing of God, (for I would not show a faith inferiour to that of the pagan historian with his Facile evenit quod Dis cordi est,) it seems to me a suitable occasion to withdraw our minds a moment from the confusing din of battle to objects of peaceful and permanent interest. Let us not neglect the monuments of preterite history because what shall be history is so diligently making under our eyes. Cras ingens iterabimus aequor; to-morrow will be time enough for that stormy sea; to-day let me engage the attention of your readers with the Runick inscription to whose fortunate discovery I have heretofore alluded. Well may we say with the poet, Multa renascuntur quae jam cecidere. And I would premise, that, although I can no longer resist the evidence of my own senses from the stone before me to the ante-Columbian discovery of this continent by the Northmen, gens inclytissima, as they are called in Palermitan inscription, written fortunately in a less debatable character than that which I am about to decypher, yet I would by no means be understood as wishing to vilipend the merits of the great Genoese, whose name will never be forgotten so long as the inspiring strains of "Hail Columbia" shall continue to be heard. Though he must be stripped also of whatever praise may belong to the experiment of the egg, which I find proverbially attributed by Castilian authours to a certain Juanito or Jack, (perhaps an offshoot of our giant-killing my thus,) his name will still remain one of the most illustrious of modern times. But the impartial historian owes a duty likewise to obscure merit, and my solicitude to render a tardy justice is perhaps quickened by my having known those who, had their own field of labour been less secluded, might have found a readier acceptance with the reading publick. I could give an example, but I forbear: forsitan nostris ex ossibus oritur ultor.
Touching Runick inscriptions, I find that they may be classed under three general heads: 1 deg.. Those which are understood by the Danish Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries, and Professor Rafn, their Secretary; 2 deg.. Those which are comprehensible only by Mr Rafn; and 3. Those which neither the Society, Mr Rafn, nor anybody else can be said in any definite sense to understand, and which accordingly offer peculiar temptations to enucleating sagacity. These last are naturally deemed the most valuable by intelligent antiquaries, and to this class the stone now in my possession fortunately belongs. Such give a picturesque variety to ancient events, because susceptible oftentimes of as many interpretations as there are individual archaeologists; and since facts are only the pulp in which the Idea or event-seed is softly imbedded till it ripen, it is of little consequence what colour or flavour we attribute to them, provided it be agreeable. Availing myself of the obliging assistance of Mr. Arphaxad Bowers, an ingenious photographick artist, whose house-on-wheels has now stood for three years on our Meeting-House Green, with the somewhat contradictory inscription,—"Our motto is onward,"—I have sent accurate copies of my treasure to many learned men and societies, both native and European. I may hereafter communicate their different and (me judice) equally erroneous solutions. I solicit also, Messrs. Editors, your own acceptance of the copy herewith inclosed. I need only premise further, that the stone itself is a goodly block of metamorphick sandstone, and that the Runes resemble very nearly the ornithichnites or fossil bird-tracks of Dr. Hitchcock, but with less regularity or apparent design than is displayed by those remarkable geological monuments. These are rather the non bene junctarum discordia semina rerum. Resolved to leave no door open to cavil, I first of all attempted the elucidation of this remarkable example of lithick literature by the ordinary modes, but with no adequate return for my labour. I then considered myself amply justified in resorting to that heroick treatment the felicity of which, as applied by the great Bentley to Milton, had long ago enlisted my admiration. Indeed, I had already made up my mind, that, in case good-fortune should throw any such invaluable record in my way, I would proceed with it in the following simple and satisfactory method. After a cursory examination, merely sufficing for an approximative estimate of its length, I would write down a hypothetical inscription based upon antecedent probabilities, and then proceed to extract from the characters engraven on the stone a meaning as nearly as possible conformed to this a priori product of my own ingenuity. The result more than justified my hopes, inasmuch as the two inscriptions were made without any great violence to tally in all essential particulars. I then proceeded, not without some anxiety, to my second test, which was, to read the Runick letters diagonally, and again with the same success. With an excitement pardonable under the circumstances, yet tempered with thankful humility, I now applied my last and severest trial, my experimentum crucis. I turned the stone, now doubly precious in my eyes, with scrupulous exactness upside down. The physical exertion so far displaced my spectacles as to derange for a moment the focus of vision. I confess that it was with some tremulousness that I readjusted them upon my nose, and prepared my mind to bear with calmness any disappointment that might ensue. But, O albo dies notanda lapillo! what was my delight to find that the change of position had effected none in the sense of the writing, even by so much as a single letter! I was now, and justly, as I think, satisfied of the conscientious exactness of my interpretation. It is as follows:—
FIRST DRANK CLOUD-BROTHER
that is, drew smoke through a reed stem. In other words, we have here a record of the first smoking of the herb Nicotiana Tabacum by a European on this continent. The probable results of this discovery are so vast as to baffle conjecture. If it be objected, that the smoking of a pipe would hardly justify the setting up of a memorial stone, I answer, that even now the Moquis Indian, ere he takes his first whiff, bows reverently toward the four quarters of the sky in succession, and that the loftiest monuments have been reared to perpetuate fame, which is the dream of the shadow of smoke. The Saga, it will be remembered, leaves this Bjarna to a fate something like that of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on board a sinking ship in the "wormy sea," having generously given up his place in the boat to a certain Icelander. It is doubly pleasant, therefore, to meet with this proof that the brave old man arrived safely in Vinland, and that his declining years were cheered by the respectful attentions of the dusky denizens of our then uninvaded forests. Most of all was I gratified, however, in thus linking forever the name of my native town with one of the most momentous occurrences of modern times. Hitherto Jaalam, though in soil, climate, and geographical position as highly qualified to be the theatre of remarkable historical incidents as any spot on the earth's surface, has been, if I may say it without seeming to question the wisdom of Providence, almost maliciously neglected, as it might appear, by occurrences of world-wide interest in want of a situation. And in matters of this nature it must be confessed that adequate events are as necessary as the vates sacer to record them. Jaalam stood always modestly ready, but circumstances made no fitting response to her generous intentions. Now, however, she assumes her place on the historick roll. I have hitherto been a zealous opponent of the Circean herb, but I shall now reexamine the question without bias.
I am aware that the Rev'd Jonas Tutchel, in a recent communication to the Bogus Four Corners Weekly Meridian, has endeavoured to show that this is the sepulchral inscription of Thorwald Eriksson, who, as is well known, was slain in Vinland by the natives. But I think he has been misled by a preconceived theory, and cannot but feel that he has thus made an ungracious return for my allowing him to inspect the stone with the aid of my own glasses (he having by accident left his at home) and in my own study. The heathen ancients might have instructed this Christian minister in the rites of hospitality; but much is to be pardoned to the spirit of self-love. He must indeed be ingenious who can make out the words her hrilir from any characters in the inscription in question, which, whatever else it may be, is certainly not mortuary. And even should the reverend gentleman succeed in persuading some fantastical wits of the soundness of his views, I do not see what useful end he will have gained. For if the English Courts of Law hold the testimony of grave-stones from the burial-grounds of Protestant dissenters to be questionable, even where it is essential in proving a descent, I cannot conceive that the epitaphial assertions of heathens should be esteemed of more authority by any man of orthodox sentiments.
At this moment, happening to cast my eyes upon the stone, on which a transverse light from my southern window brings out the characters with singular distinctness, another interpretation has occurred to me, promising even more interesting results. I hasten to close my letter in order to follow at once the clue thus providentially suggested.
I inclose, as usual, a contribution from Mr. Biglow, and remain, Gentlemen, with esteem and respect,
Your Ob't Humble Servant,
HOMER WILBUR. A.M.
I thank ye, my friens, for the warmth o' your greetin': Ther' 's few airthly blessins but wut's vain an' fleetin'; But ef ther' is one thet hain't no cracks an' flaws, An' is wuth goin' in for, it's pop'lar applause; It sends up the sperits ez lively ez rockets, An' I feel it—wal, down to the eend o' my pockets. Jes' lovin' the people is Canaan in view, But it's Canaan paid quarterly t' hev 'em love you; It's a blessin' thet's breakin' out ollus in fresh spots; It's a-follerin' Moses 'thout losin' the flesh-pots.
But, Gennlemen,'scuse me, I ain't sech a raw cus Ez to go luggin' ellerkence into a caucus,— Thet is, into one where the call comprehens Nut the People in person, but on'y their friens; I'm so kin' o' used to convincin' the masses Of th' edvantage o' bein' self-governin' asses, I forgut thet we 're all o' the sort thet pull wires An' arrange for the public their wants an' desires, An' thet wut we hed met for wuz jes' to agree Wut the People's opinions in futur' should be.
But to come to the nuh, we've ben all disappinted, An' our leadin' idees are a kind o' disjinted,— Though, fur ez the nateral man could discern, Things ough' to ha' took most an oppersite turn. But The'ry is jes' like a train on the rail, Thet, weather or no, puts her thru without fail, While Fac's the ole stage thet gits sloughed in the ruts, An' hez to allow for your darned efs an' buts, An' so, nut intendin' no pers'nal reflections, They don't—don't nut allus, thet is—make connections: Sometimes, when it really doos seem thet they'd oughter Combine jest ez kindly ez new rum an' water, Both 'll be jest ez sot in their ways ez a bagnet, Ez otherwise-minded ez th' eends of a magnet, An' folks like you 'n me, thet ain't ept to be sold, Git somehow or 'nother left out in the cold.
I expected 'fore this, 'thout no gret of a row, Jeff D. would ha' ben where A. Lincoln is now, With Taney to say 't wuz all legle an' fair, An' a jury o' Deemocrats ready to swear Thet the ingin o' State gut throwed into the ditch By the fault o' the North in misplacin' the switch. Things wuz ripenin' fust-rate with Buchanan to nuss 'em; But the People they wouldn't be Mexicans, cuss 'em! Ain't the safeguards o' freedom upsot, 'z you may say, Ef the right o' rev'lution is took clean away? An' doosn't the right primy-fashy include The bein' entitled to nut be subdued? The fact is, we'd gone for the Union so strong, When Union meant South ollus right an' North wrong, Thet the people gut fooled into thinkin' it might Worry on middlin' wal with the North in the right. We might ha' ben now jest ez prosp'rous ez France, Where politikle enterprise hez a fair chance, An' the people is heppy an' proud et this hour, Long ez they hev the votes, to let Nap hev the power; But our folks they went an' believed wut we'd told 'em, An', the flag once insulted, no mortle could hold 'em. 'T wuz pervokin' jest when we wuz cert'in to win,— An' I, for one, wunt trust the masses agin: For a people thet knows much ain't fit to be free In the self-cockin', back-action style o' J.D.
I can't believe now but wut half on't is lies; For who'd thought the North wuz a-goin' to rise, Or take the pervokin'est kin' of a stump, 'Thout't wuz sunthin' ez pressin' ez Gabr'el's las' trump? Or who'd ha' supposed, arter sech swell an' bluster 'Bout the lick-ary-ten-on-ye fighters they'd muster, Raised by hand on briled lightnin', ez op'lent 'z you please In a primitive furrest o' femmily-trees, Who'd ha' thought thet them Southerners ever 'ud show Starns with pedigrees to 'em like theirn to the foe, Or, when the vamosin' come, ever to find Nat'ral masters in front an' mean white folks behind? By ginger, ef I'd ha' known half I know now, When I wuz to Congress, I wouldn't, I swow, Hev let 'em cair on so high-minded an' sarsy, 'Thout some show o' wut you may call vicy-varsy. To be sure, we wuz under a contrac' jes' then To be dreffle forbearin' towards Southun men; We hed to go sheers in preservin' the bellance: An' ez they seemed to feel they wuz wastin' their tellents 'Thout some un to kick, 't warn't more 'n proper, you know, Each should funnish his part; an' sence they found the toe, An' we wuzn't cherubs—wal, we found the buffer, For fear thet the Compromise System should suffer.
I wun't say the plan hed n't onpleasant featurs,— For men are perverse an' onreasonin' creaturs, An' forgit thet in this life 't ain't likely to heppen Their own privit fancy should oltus be cappen,— But it worked jest ez smooth ez the key of a safe, An' the gret Union bearins played free from all chafe. They warn't hard to suit, ef they hed their own way; An' we (thet is, some on us) made the thing pay: 'T wuz a fair give-an'-take out of Uncle Sam's heap; Ef they took wut warn't theirn, wut we give come ez cheap; The elect gut the offices down to tidewaiter, The people took skinnin' ez mild ez a tater, Seemed to choose who they wanted tu, footed the bills, An' felt kind o' 'z though they wuz havin' their wills, Which kep' 'em ez harmless an' clerfle ez crickets, While all we invested wuz names on the tickets: Wal, ther' 's nothin' for folks fond o' lib'ral consumption, Free o' charge, like democ'acy tempered with gumption!
Now warn't thet a system wuth pains in presarvin', Where the people found jints an' their friens done the carvin',— Where the many done all o' their thinkin' by proxy, An' were proud on't ez long ez't wuz christened Democ'cy,— Where the few let us sap all o' Freedom's foundations, Ef you called it reformin' with prudence an' patience, An' were willin' Jeff's snake-egg should hetch with the rest, Ef you writ "Constitootional" over the nest? But it's all out o' kilter, ('t wuz too good to last,) An' all jes' by J.D.'s perceedin' too fast; Ef he'd on'y hung on for a month or two more, We'd ha' gut things fixed nicer 'n they hed ben before: Afore he drawed off an' lef all in confusion, We wuz safely intrenched in the ole Constitootion, With an outlyin', heavy-gun, casemated fort To rake all assailants,—I mean th' S.J. Court. Now I never 'II acknowledge (nut ef you should skin me) 'T wuz wise to abandon sech works to the in'my, An' let him fin' out thet wut scared him so long, Our whole line of argyments, lookin' so strong, All our Scriptur' an' law, every the'ry an' fac', Wuz Quaker-guns daubed with Pro-slavery black. Why, ef the Republicans ever should git Andy Johnson or some one to lend 'em the wit An' the spunk jes' to mount Constitootion an' Court With Columbiad guns, your real ekle-rights sort, Or drill out the spike from the ole Declaration Thet can kerry a solid shot clearn roun' creation, We'd better take maysures for shettin' up shop, An' put off our stock by a vendoo or swop.
But they wun't never dare tu; you 'll see 'em in Edom 'Fore they ventur' to go where their doctrines 'ud lead 'em: They 've ben takin' our princerples up ez we dropt 'em, An' thought it wuz terrible 'cute to adopt 'em; But they'll fin' out 'fore long thet their hope 's ben deceivin' 'em, An' thet princerples ain't o' no good, ef you b'lieve in 'em; It makes 'em tu stiff for a party to use, Where they'd ough' to be easy 'z an ole pair o' shoes. Ef we say 'n our pletform thet all men are brothers, We don't mean thet some folks ain't more so 'n some others; An' it's wal understood thet we make a selection, An' thet brotherhood kin' o' subsides arter 'lection. The fust thing for sound politicians to larn is, Thet Truth, to dror kindly in all sorts o' harness, Mus' be kep' in the abstract,—for, 'come to apply it, You're ept to hurt some folks's interists by it. Wal, these 'ere Republicans (some on 'em) acs Ez though gineral mexims 'ud suit speshle facs; An' there's where we 'll nick 'em, there 's where they 'll be lost: For applyin' your princerple's wut makes it cost, An' folks don't want Fourth o' July t' interfere With the business-consarns o' the rest o' the year, No more 'n they want Sunday to pry an' to peek Into wut they are doin' the rest o' the week.
A ginooine statesman should be on his guard, Ef he must hev beliefs, nut to b'lieve 'em tu hard; For, ez sure ez he doos, he'll be blartin' 'em out 'Thout regardin' the natur' o' man more 'n a spout, Nor it don't ask much gumption to pick out a flaw In a party whose leaders are loose in the jaw: An' so in our own case I ventur' to hint Thet we'd better nut air our perceedins in print, Nor pass resserlootions ez long ez your arm Thet may, ez things heppen to turn, do us harm; For when you've done all your real meanin' to smother, The darned things'll up an' mean sunthin' or 'nother. Jeff'son prob'ly meant wal with his "born free an' ekle," But it's turned out a real crooked stick in the sekle; It's taken full eighty-odd year—don't you see?— From the pop'lar belief to root out thet idee, An', arter all, sprouts on 't keep on buddin' forth In the nat'lly onprincipled mind o' the North. No, never say nothin' without you're compelled tu, An' then don't say nothin' thet you can be held tu, Nor don't leave no friction-idees layin' loose For the ign'ant to put to incend'ary use.
You know I'm a feller thet keeps a skinned eye On the leetle events thet go skurryin' by, Coz it's of'ner by them than by gret ones you'll see Wut the p'litickle weather is likely to be. Now I don't think the South's more 'n begun to be licked, But I du think, ez Jeff says, the wind-bag's gut pricked; It'll blow for a spell an' keep puffin' an' wheezin', The tighter our army an' navy keep squeezin',— For they can't help spread-eaglein' long 'z ther's a mouth To blow Enfield's Speaker thru lef' at the South. But it's high time for us to be settin' our faces Towards reconstructin' the national basis, With an eye to beginnin' agin on the jolly ticks We used to chalk up 'hind the back-door o' politics; An' the fus' thing's to save wut of Slav'ry ther's lef' Arter this (I mus' call it) imprudence o' Jeff: For a real good Abuse, with its roots fur an' wide, Is the kin' o' thing I like to hev on my side; A Scriptur' name makes it ez sweet ez a rose, An' it's tougher the older an' uglier it grows— (I ain't speakin' now o' the righteousness of it, But the p'litickle purchase it gives, an' the profit).