'The ample proposition, that hope makes In all designs begun on earth below, Fails in the promised largeness.'
But perhaps, after all, it is we, ourselves, who are the victims of delusive hope in reference to the destiny of our noble Union. Possibly our disinterested friends across the water, calmly looking on from a distance, may be better able to understand the tendency of events, and to foresee the issue of the mighty civil contest which rages around us. They are not at all involved in the awful passions which the war has engendered in our bosoms, and thus, cool and deliberate, from the great altitude of their assumed moral serenity and disinterestedness, they may in reality behold the division of our country already accomplished, whatever may be the result of our grand strategy and our bloody battles.
Let us open our eyes fully, and look this matter dispassionately in the face. Let us try and ascertain whether we are in reality deceiving ourselves and waging a vain and fruitless war against our exasperated and misguided brethren of the South. We know they have instituted a causeless rebellion, which has brought unnumbered woes upon our common country. But if we cannot restore the Union, and reestablish one great and powerful nationality within the magnificent domain which we possess as it was when this unhappy war began, then surely we are wasting our blood and treasure—our lives and fortunes—with the most wanton and wicked disregard of the sufferings and sacrifices of the people. If the war is to accomplish nothing, then the sooner it is closed the better. If the Union is indeed irrevocably broken and gone forever, let us, by all means, hasten to arrange the terms of honorable peace, and stop the effusion of blood at the earliest practicable moment. Unless we can assure ourselves that there is some object to be gained, commensurate in value with all the terrible sacrifices we are daily making, it is only criminal stubbornness and passion which induce us to continue the awful conflict.
Of one thing, at least, there is no shadow of doubt. The people of the loyal States, who, by an immense majority, have just emphasized their determination to sustain the war, are firmly convinced that they are not laboring and suffering in vain. It is no spasmodic impulse of blind passion, or even of useless though just resentment against wrong, which impels them, after nearly three years of ruinous war, to redouble their sublime efforts to conquer the treason that still obstinately resists the lawful authority of the Union. Whatever else may be truly said of this great conflict and its terrible results, it cannot be questioned that the people of the loyal States are profoundly impressed with the inestimable value of their free institutions and of the constitutional integrity and unity of the Government which shall administer them on this continent. They have faith in the exalted destiny of their country. They at least do not admit that the Union is irrecoverably lost; on the contrary, they believe, with a religious sincerity, which no temporary disaster can shake, in the certainty of its speedy restoration. This earnest faith is not merely the result of education and national prejudice. While it is to some extent an instinctive or intuitive insight of the American people, prophetically anticipating the future, it is also a matter of sober judgment, founded upon the most substantial and convincing reasons.
In the first place, the loyal people of the United States plainly see that the true interests of both sections demand the restoration of their old connection under one free and benign Government. Having originated and developed a mighty republican government, until it became continental in its dimensions, and having through it achieved results unexampled in history, with the promise of future prosperity immeasurably grand and imposing, the lovers of the Union would hold themselves utterly unworthy of their lineage and of their inherited freedom, if they could consent, in the presence of whatever dangers and difficulties, to see the glorious destiny of their country defeated. They would justly consider themselves traitors, not only to their country, but also to the highest interests of humanity itself; and they would feel the ineffable shame of imprinting the brand of their degradation upon their own brows. Partakers of the noblest forms and the most precious blessings of liberty, under a splendid, powerful, and growing nationality, they are too conscious of the dignity and glory of the American character ever to be willing to fall from that high estate without a struggle which shall fully demonstrate their lofty patriotism and their intelligent appreciation of the priceless political and social structure they seek to preserve for the benefit of the whole country and of the world. The history of Europe, and indeed the experience of the entire human race, have taught them the immense value of a mighty continental organization, such as our Union has hitherto established. Solemnly impressed with this great lesson of human history, they will never consent to see their country broken up into discordant fragments. As they plainly foresee the tremendous and ever-increasing evils of such a national disintegration, they have deliberately come to consider the worst calamities of this war as mere dust in the balance when weighed against them. It is this awful picture of bloody conflicts, perpetuated through coming generations, wasting the substance and paralyzing the fruitful energies of this mighty nation, perhaps for centuries to come—it is this vista of inevitable calamities and horrors, which reconciles the loyal people of North America to the dreadful war in which they have been so earnestly engaged for the last two years and more. They feel the inspiration of a sacred cause, the mighty impulse of an idea as grand as their cherished hopes for their country, and as immense as the interests of all humanity. They hear the mute appeals of a swarming posterity, gathered from all nations in pursuit of freedom, progress, and happiness, and they know that these countless millions will justly hold them responsible for the deeds of the present momentous hour. Is it strange that, penetrated and nerved with the high motives to be derived from these solemn considerations, the American people are prepared to accept the responsibilities of the great occasion, and even to wade through blood for the realization of the grandeur of those human hopes which are now intrusted to their keeping? One nation—one government—one universal freedom within those imperial boundaries which have heretofore been the theatre of our glorious achievements as a people! This is the grand thought of the Union men of America. This is the principle of their organization, and this it is which gives them hope, and strength, and courage. What weakness, what degeneracy, what dwindling of power for good and retrogression of thought and aim would be the consequence of permanent division! What a lamentable fall in our position among the nations of the earth, and what a diminution of our capacity for progress among ourselves and for usefulness to mankind! It is our duty and our destiny to develop all the physical resources of the continent—to stimulate its agricultural capabilities—to bring to light its boundless mineral treasures—to pierce its mountains and level its valleys—to control its mighty floods—and to make it worthy to be the seat of human freedom and of human empire. Nor is it less our destiny to build up a moral and social power and a political organization, which shall shed abroad a new and glorious light, beaming with immortal hopes, and penetrating to the farthest verge of the habitable globe. Nature, in every form of benignant usefulness and unequalled grandeur, invites us to this tremendous task. The loyal people of the nation have not been insensible to these mystic calls and the noble anticipations growing out of them, fraught as they are with the happiness and progress of the human race. They have projected works of the most gigantic proportions, nor, although they are conscious that union is indispensable to their success, have they hesitated to begin them, with all the high confidence necessary to their completion. Even amid the perils and the vast expenditures of civil war have they embarked in the grand enterprise of uniting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by a continental highway, equal in its cost and its importance to the power and resources of a mighty empire. Vast internal streams and lakes call for union by canals, which shall typify the union of hearts and of interests destined to bind together millions of freemen, whose connection of brotherhood and national unity shall be as lasting as the perpetual flow of our mighty rivers, and as full of blessings as our great lakes are of their pure and crystal waters. The agitation of these momentous schemes, under existing circumstances, is a phenomenon indicating a consciousness of security and of vast power in the community, which, at the same time that it is engaged in the perilous and bloody work of preserving the Union, is preparing to perform the most important duties appertaining to the nation in the hour of its most perfectly established and permanent authority. It is the instinct of the national destiny working out its ends in spite of the difficulties and dangers of the hour. It is the prophetic vision of the popular mind, unconsciously preparing for a great future not yet visible to the natural eye, but which the providence of God, in its own good time, will verify to the firm and courageous hearts of our people.
The loyal people of our country, those who are determined to restore the Union, are well aware that it cannot be maintained by force. That great political organization was voluntary in its origin, based on the consent of the governed; and it has been upheld through all its marvellous career of prosperity by the free and unconstrained will of the people, who rejoiced in its common benefits and blessings. The novel system on which it was built, not only required the largest liberty for its very conception and for its practical embodiment, but was also admirably devised to secure the complete and permanent enjoyment of that individual independence in thought and action, which is the first of human privileges. Those States of the Union which are preeminently loyal to it, have ever cherished the most liberal principles of civil polity, and have framed their constitutions in accordance with the most modern and advanced maxims of popular rights. So far are they from any disposition to usurp authority or to impose unjust or unnecessary restraints upon the political action of the people, that they are charged with the opposite fault of carrying liberty to the extreme of ungoverned license. Of all the American States, these are the least likely to interfere with the great principles of civil liberty, or to impose an unacceptable government on the people by force. All the violence, so far as any has been shown, is wholly on the other side. Leaving entirely out of view the exceptional irregularities arising from a state of civil war, and it must be acknowledged that the social and political system of the Southern States is one which rests on arbitrary force as its corner stone. It is this arbitrary and tyrannical spirit embodied in Southern institutions which has seized on the pretext of secession in order to destroy the Government of the Union. The efforts of the loyal States and of the Federal authority in the present war are antagonistic to this spirit. Their purpose is to break down and destroy this system of arbitrary power, which has set itself up against the Union; and in its stead to bring into play the great principle of popular assent to the fundamental principles and conditions of government. Annihilate the despotism which controls in the pretended confederacy, give the masses of the people absolute freedom of choice under the conditions necessary for deliberate and intelligent decision, and they will certainly pronounce for the restoration of the old Union, under which they have enjoyed such boundless prosperity. No friend of the Union entertains any serious thought of disregarding or destroying the great principle that governments are only rightly founded on the consent of the governed. But it is not every temporary aberration of thought, nor every outbreak of revolutionary violence, which may properly be allowed to avail in changing the forms of an established government. Some respect is due to obligations once assumed and long recognized as the basis of a permanent political organization; and when the minority in that organization have taken up arms against it, the majority, in possession of the lawful power of the nation, are bound to vindicate its constitutional authority. If the Union cannot be maintained by force, it ought not to be destroyed by force. The instinct of self-preservation, which is but the impulse of a solemn duty, would necessarily and rightfully lead it to suppress the lawless force that assailed it. If this assault is wholly wrong and unjustifiable, if it is in reality as injurious to the seceding States themselves as to those which remain in the Union, then it is certain that, with the suppression of the violence prevailing in the disaffected region, the spirit of disunion itself will disappear. The Federal Government cannot escape the necessity of performing this duty, of suppressing and destroying the lawless power which assails it, and permitting the Southern people to return to the Union. At the present moment, in the midst of a sanguinary conflict, they are blinded with passion and overflowing with enmity. But set them free from the power which now deceives and abuses them, which arrays them against their own best interests, and makes them the helpless victims of a wicked war, and they will, at no distant period, gladly pronounce for the unity of the great nation with which Providence has cast their lot. Innumerable indications of this disposition among the masses of the Southern people are visible in the events of every day; and these will multiply in proportion to the success of our arms and the decline of power in the rebellion. If we are mistaken in this view, then our argument falls to the ground. If, upon a full consideration of all the circumstances and with perfect freedom to act according to their understanding of their best interests, the people of the Southern States should deliberately determine upon a permanent separation, our noblest hopes would be sadly disappointed. But this is utterly impossible. In moments of frenzy, men may perpetrate deeds of desperation. Among the masses of all communities, some are found who, under various impulses, will commit suicide. But the conduct of the great majority everywhere is controlled by the dictates of reason and self-interest. Whatever folly, even to the extremity of self-destruction, a few madmen in the Southern States may counsel, it may confidently be expected that rational thoughts will prevail among the masses. The paths of duty and of interest are for them the same; and, upon the whole, are too broad and plain to be mistaken. Their self-constituted leaders have already overwhelmed them with calamities. The emancipated people will scarcely heed the advice of these, when their plausible schemes shall have been all baffled, and their usurped power utterly overthrown.
It is, therefore, very far from the thoughts of loyal men, in upholding the Federal Government, to establish the principle of force as the bond of the American Union. They repel the lawless force which now assails it; and even while they do so, they invite the misguided people of the rebellious region to return again to their allegiance and to take shelter under the political system which is their only security for permanent peace and prosperity. The result of the contest in the restoration of the Union, so far from establishing force as the basis of political authority, on the contrary, will certainly destroy it, and give a far wider scope to the voluntary principle of consent, which is the only solid foundation of freedom. In the normal condition of the larger number of the loyal States, that is to say, in times of peace, liberty prevails in its broadest and most universal sense. Force nowhere holds a place in society, except for the protection of individual rights and of public order. Every man is permitted to pursue happiness in his own way, and to enjoy perfect freedom of thought, of speech, and of action, except when his published words or his overt acts are calculated to interfere with the acknowledged rights or interests of others. This is, theoretically, the consummation of the greatest possible human liberty. It provides only for order and justice, and leaves everything else to the control of individual will and social cooeperation. In the present war for the Union, the loyal States are by no means contending for the abrogation of this principle of liberty, but for its extension. They desire neither to abolish it with reference to the Union, when exercised through the forms provided in the Constitution, nor to prevent its operations within the limits of the Southern States themselves.
It is not possible that the great civil conflict now pending could take place without causing, in the end, an important extension of liberal principles. These, when they once acquire a firm hold upon any society possessed of the requisite intelligence, are altogether too strong for the antagonistic principle of force, because the latter can be nothing but an authority usurped by the few and exerted against the many; while the former is the accumulation of the whole power of society wielded for the benefit of all. Obviously, this affords the only basis broad enough to sustain a social structure of any stability and permanence.
Under the operation of this voluntary principle—the principle of voluntary consent and of universal freedom—the conflicting elements of Southern society will be compelled to adjust themselves to each other more wisely, and therefore more safely and profitably, than under the arbitrary system which has hitherto prevailed.
Some of the wealthiest men and the largest slaveholders have already discerned the necessities of their condition, and are fully prepared to accept the new order of things, and to make their arrangements for future operations accordingly. Under the law of liberty, the races, in their new relations, will soon find their appropriate positions in the social organization, subject chiefly to the natural influences of intelligence, morality, industry, and property, but not without the inevitable pressure and disturbance of traditional prejudice to hinder and embarrass the operation of the principle of freedom. It is impossible to prevent this, so long as human nature retains its present tendency to selfishness and violence. The only alternative is to await the soothing operation of time, which gradually softens the asperities of prejudice, and may be expected ultimately to bring the noblest harmony out of the present confusion and disorder.
Many good and humane men apprehend the most serious evils from the sudden change of relations, now certain to be effected, between the two races in the South. It will be a rude and violent shock to the interests and feelings of the whites, and will undoubtedly produce that inconvenience which always results from great social transformations. But the anticipation is doubtless worse than the reality will prove to be. There is a plastic capacity in human nature which enables it readily to adjust itself in new situations when overruling necessity compels submission. It remains to be seen what will be the results, immediate and remote, of freedom in a society composed of so nearly equal proportions of the two races. Whatever may be the mere temporary difficulties at the outset, we do not doubt that, in the long run, freedom will produce the best results to both. Nature is unerring in the wisdom of her general purposes and in the selection of the means by which she fulfils them, when left free to pursue her own laws. Whatever oscillations may take place, the mean result is always good. The experience of a single generation will dissipate all the delusions which now blind and enrage the Southern people.
With the disappearance of the principle of arbitrary power now embodied in Southern society, the last motive for a dissolution of the American Union will have vanished forever. Should that principle only decline to a subordinate authority, with the certainty of gradual extinction, the interests of freedom will be in the ascendant, and their influence secure the restoration of the Federal authority. Here lies the whole problem: let despotism continue to prevail in the South, and the separation, with all its terrible consequences, must inevitably be accomplished; let freedom succeed, and from that moment, every hostile sentiment at once subsides, and the sundered sections, 'like kindred drops,' again 'mingle into one.' A free community will gravitate to the central orb of liberty; one that is repellent to freedom will fly off on its erratic course to the regions of outer darkness, and will never return until, having completed the cycle of its destiny of ruin, it shall be brought back to be regenerated at the fountain of light, and truth, and liberty.
WAS HE SUCCESSFUL?
PART THE LAST.
'Do but grasp into the thick of human life! Every one lives it—to not many is it known; and seize it where you will, it is interesting.'—GOETHE.
'SUCCESSFUL.—Terminating in accomplishing what is wished or intended.'—WEBSTER'S Dictionary.
More than twenty-five years have elapsed since the events narrated in the last chapter.
New York has become a great and magnificent metropolis. The avenues of the city extend for miles beyond the old landmarks. The adjacent farms have been converted into lots, and covered with handsome houses. The old buildings are torn down, and new and elegant ones erected in their place. The streets are thronged with a purely cosmopolitan class. You behold specimens of every nation under the heavens jostling the citizens on the sidewalk, or filling the omnibuses which choke the way. And from the commingled sounds of the tramp of horses, the rolling of vehicles, and the tread of human beings, there arises through the day and far into the night a perpetual but muffled roar from this great thoroughfare.
* * * * *
It is a lovely October afternoon—one of those mellow days for which this latitude is so remarkable—possessing the softness and genial temperature of summer, without its scorching heat.
The world of fashion has returned from the Spas, the mountains, the seaside. Elegant equipages pass up and down, or stop before the favorite resorts for shopping. The streets and sidewalks are literally crowded, as if it were some grand gala-time.
It is nearly four o'clock. Walking slowly up Broadway is a person probably about fifty-five, of medium height, inclining to be stout, who carries his hands behind him as he proceeds thoughtfully along. His dress is particularly neat. His hat, while it conceals an excessive baldness, permits the escape of a quantity of light hair, quite unmixed with gray, which fringes the back of the head. At a distance, his complexion looks soft and fair; but, on closer observation, it has the appearance of smooth leather. Occasionally he raises his face to regard a building, as if he had a special interest in so doing; then one may see a light-blue eye, clear and icy as a fine December day, having an expression like a flint.
He walks on. Two young men are just passing him. One says to his companion:
'Do you know who that is?'
'That old fellow right by your side.'
'No. Who is it?'
'That's Hiram Meeker.'
'You don't say so!'
He pauses, and lets the individual alluded to pass, that he may take a good look at him.
'I would like to have some of his cash, anyhow. What do you suppose he is worth?'
'Oh, there is no telling; he is variously estimated at from five to ten millions, but nobody knows. Started without a penny, as clerk in a ship-chandler's store.'
Yes, reader, that is Hiram. [We shall continue our familiarity, and call him, when we see fit, by his first name.] That is our old acquaintance Hiram Meeker, who commenced at Hampton, with Benjamin Jessup—Hiram Meeker of Burnsville, now the great Hiram Meeker of New York.
We have devoted a large part of this volume to Hiram's early career, going into the minutiae of his education, his religious training, and his business life. This was not without design. For the reader, once in possession of these circumstances, had no need to be informed in detail of the achievements of those years in which Hiram worked vigorously on through successive stages in his career, while his heart grew hard as the nether millstone.
As you see him now, pursuing his way along the street, he has really but one single absorbing idea—ACQUISITION. True, he clings to his belief in the importance of church membership. He has long been the leading vestryman at St. Jude's. He is the friend and adviser of the Bishop.
Famous is Hiram Meeker the millionaire!
Famous is Hiram Meeker the Churchman!
Still, I repeat, he has but one thought—one all-absorbing, all-engrossing passion.
You have not forgotten, I am sure, the early calculating policy of Hiram, and to what degree he had carried it when we took leave of him. Imagine this developed and intensified day by day, month by month, and year by year, over more than a quarter of a century.
Since we first made his acquaintance, he has kept on rigidly. In all his intercourse with his fellow beings—man to man—with high and low—with the sex—with his nearest relations,—he has never, no, never looked to anything except what he considered his personal advantage. He is a member of the Church; he performs certain rites and formulae of our holy religion; he subscribes to charities: but it is to secure to himself personally the benefit of heaven and whatever advantages may be connected with it. So that, where he has acted wisely and well, the action has been robbed of all merit, because there was no wise or right intent, but simply a politic end in view.
Look at him, as he pushes along in the crowd! Notwithstanding his millions, he is there a mere atom out of this world's creation. He has not a sympathy beyond himself—not a hope which does not centre in self—no connecting link with anything outside or beyond—no thought, no emotion, no sense, no feeling, which are not produced by a desire to advance the interests of "H. Meeker," here and hereafter.
* * * * *
We will go on in advance of Hiram, and enter his house before him.
It is one of the best in the city. Not showy, but large, ample, and well constructed; indicating the abode of a solid man. It is situated in one of the finest streets far 'up town.'
Before the door are two equipages. One is Mrs. Meeker's carriage, very handsome and in exquisite taste. The other is a stylish single-seat phaeton, with two horses tandem, and a rather flashy-looking servant in gay livery.
Let us go into the house.
Mrs. Meeker is just preparing for a short shopping excursion before dinner. At the distance from which we regard her, Time seems to have dealt very kindly with her. The figure is quite the same, the style the same, the face the same, and you see no gray hairs. In short, you behold our old friend Arabella, slightly exaggerated, perhaps—but it is she.
She leaves her room, and prepares to descend.
As she passes to the top of the staircase, a faint voice exclaims:
Mrs. Meeker stops with an expression of impatience, turns, and enters the adjoining apartment.
On a sort of couch or ottoman reclines a young lady, who, you can perceive at a glance, is a victim of consumption.
It is their oldest child, who for five years has been an invalid, and whose strength of late has been fast declining. One can hardly say how she would have looked in health, for disease is a fearful ravager. Still, Harriet (she is named for Mr. Meeker's mother) probably resembled her own mother more than any one else in personal appearance, but beyond that there was no resemblance whatever. Neither was she like her father, but more like her grandfather Meeker, of whom her uncle says she always reminds him. She possesses a kind and happy nature; and since she was stricken by the terrible malady, she has grown day by day more gentle and more heavenly, as her frame has been gradually weakened under its insidious inroads.
When Mrs. Meeker came in, she demanded, in an irritated tone, 'What do you want, Harriet?'
'I wish very much, mamma, you would send and ask Uncle Frank if he will not come and see me to-day.'
'I think it very improper, Harriet, for you to be sending for your uncle when you are under Dr. Alsop's charge.'
'But, mamma, Uncle Frank does not prescribe for me. I do not send for him as my physician.'
'It looks very odd, though,' continued Mrs. Meeker, with increased irritation. 'I am sure Dr. Alsop would not like it if he knew it.'
'Dr. Alsop met Uncle Frank here one day, and they appeared to be excellent friends. I am sure there can be no misunderstanding on his part, and papa says he is quite willing.'
'Do as you like, child,' replied Mrs. Meeker. Then turning to the nurse she said, 'You may ring, and send Thomas with a message from Miss Meeker, if she desires.'
'Thank you, dear mamma. If you will come to me, I will give you a kiss.'
The door closed before the sentence was finished, and Mrs. Meeker descends the staircase, passes through the hall, and steps into the open air.
Alas, what is revealed to you! Marks, grim and ghastly marks of those years of wear and tear, which the sunlight, that remorseless trier of woman's looks, makes quite apparent. What evidence of irritability, of discontent, and general disappointment and disgust with everything and all things, is revealed in those deep-cut lines and angles which in the light of day become painfully visible under the delicate layers of Baume d'Osman, rouge, and pearl powder!
Mrs. Meeker adjusts her veil so as to hang gracefully down to the tip of her nose, and enters her carriage.
I had nearly forgotten to point out a very genteel-looking young man in black, who wears a distressingly long frock coat and a white neckcloth, who escorts Mrs. Meeker to her carriage, and enters it after her.
Arabella has not lost her penchant for young clergymen, nor young clergymen for her.
Leaving Mrs. Meeker to her excursion, we go into the parlors.
On one of the sofas is a young fair girl, no more than eighteen years old. Her complexion, eyes, and general cast of features, exhibit a striking likeness to her father. She is of medium height, and her form is fine and well rounded. Add to these the adornments and appliances of dress, and you have before you a very beautiful young woman.
Seated on the same sofa, and in very close proximity, is a person whose status it will be difficult to decide from mere inspection. He is a tall, large, coarse-featured, but well-proportioned man, with black hair, inclining to curl, dark complexion, and very black eyes. His age is possibly thirty. He is showily dressed, with a vast expanse of cravat and waistcoat. Across the latter stretches a very heavy gold chain, to which is attached a quantity of seals and other trinkets known as charms. A massive ring, with coat of arms and crest carved on it, encircles the little finger of the right hand. Every point of the dress and toilet is in keeping with what I have already described. The hair dresser has been devoted. There has been no stint of oil and pomade in the arrangement of whiskers and mustache. In short, judging the individual by a certain standard, which passes current with a good many people, you would pronounce him remarkably well 'got up.'
Looking at the fine and delicate-featured girl, in whose surroundings you behold evidences of so much taste and refinement, you could scarcely be made to believe that the gross organization by her side is to her liking. Yet I assure you she is in love with the handsome animal—'madly in love' with him, as she herself avows!
This girl is the youngest of Hiram's three children. She is named for her mother, but is called by all her acquaintance, Belle. And she is belle every way—except in temper and disposition. Resembling her father so closely, she inherits her mother's jealous irritability and tyrannical nature. She is beautiful only to look on. She is a spoiled child besides.
I cannot avow that Hiram has any genuine parental affection. He is so entirely absorbed in gathering in his harvests from the golden fields at his command, that I think in God's providence this is denied to him.
[Else he would exhibit some tenderness and love for the poor, sinking child who is lying in her chamber, with no companion but her nurse.]
But there is that about the youngest which commends itself (I know no other way to express it) to his senses. She is fair and young, and graceful and a beauty, and she resembles him; and he loves to look at her and have her near him when he is at home, and to pet her, after a sort.
Hiram is too much occupied, however, to attend at all to the well-being of his children, and his wife 'has no taste for anything of the kind.' So, as I said, Belle grows up a spoiled child. She has never been subject to control, and has not the slightest idea of self-restraint.
This is her second season in society. She is universally admired—indeed, is quite 'the rage.' 'All the young men are dying for her'—I quote from the observations about town; but few have the hardihood to pay serious court to the daughter of Hiram Meeker.
Yet you perceive one man has ventured—successfully ventured.
Who is he? I do not wonder you inquire with some degree of curiosity. I shall proceed to gratify it.
The large, dark, coarse-visaged, foreign-looking fellow, who 'lives but to adore the angel of beauty and perfection' at his side, and with whom the 'angel' is so blindly infatuated, is Signor Filippo Barbonne, a second-rate performer of the last season's opera troupe!
It is a fact, reader, so it will be vain for me to deny it.
What, meantime, can I say by way of explanation? I hardly know. This Signor Filippo, who is an impudent, audacious scamp, made the acquaintance of Belle two years ago, when she was a schoolgirl. She was amused at seeing him follow her persistently, and at last she permitted him to accost her.
The cunning fellow conducted himself with the utmost deference, not to say humility. He pretended not to have the slightest knowledge who she was. He had been seized and subdued by her charms, her loveliness; and it was quite sufficient happiness for him to be permitted to watch for her and to tread in her steps day by day. He only wished to speak and tell her so, lest she might suppose him disrespectful.
The ice once broken, arrangements for accidental meetings followed.
Signer Filippo did not disclose himself, except to say his position was so far below hers, that he had but one hope, one aspiration, which was, that she would permit him to be her willing slave forever. He asked and expected nothing beyond the privilege of worshipping her.
But how happens it that Belle Meeker is desperately in love with the Signor?
I will endeavor to explain.
Possessing not one spark of sentiment or native refinement, accustomed to no restraint on her temper or will, she presents an example of a strong sensuous nature, uncontrolled by any fine moral instincts or perceptions.
This is why in person and appearance Signor Filippo is quite to her taste. The wily adventurer had made no mistake when he judged of the girl's nature. Understanding her arbitrary disposition, and her impatience of any restraint whatever, he adroitly maintained his air of extreme deference and respect, which was increased a thousand-fold on his discovering, as he pretended one day to do, who the object of his adoration was.
What an agony he was in, lest now he should not be permitted even to look on her! Though assured on this point, he became reserved and shy, giving vent to his impassioned feelings by sighs and various mute but eloquent expressions.
Miss Belle began to be very impatient. These sentimental meetings had lasted more than a year. Meantime, she was 'brought out.' This made it difficult for her to keep up her stolen interviews, but she could now ask the Signor to the house.
To effect this, however, she must first bring over her mother. She informed her that the gentleman was a Neapolitan Count, who from political motives was forced to remain perdu for a time, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth. By dint of entreaty and argument, and exhibition of much temper, Belle persuaded her mother to say nothing to her father about the visits of this Count in disguise. The truth is, Mrs. Meeker had sometimes to request Belle's silence about little matters involving some expenditures which Mr. Meeker might consider extravagant. So, with occasional protests on her part, the Signor was permitted to make his visits.
Belle was too shrewd to attempt to impose on her father in such a case. She knew she could not succeed for a minute. So the intimacy is continued without his knowledge.
Long before this, she has been told by the Signor who he really is. He admits his late position in the troupe, but has a long story to recount of adverse fortune, and so on. His respectful manner still continues; it is the young lady who woos.
What is to be done? This state of things cannot last forever. Belle is more and more impatient. Her adorer still respectful and sad.
After this long but necessary digression, I return to our place in the front parlor, where the lovers are seated.
'I must leave you, oh, my angel—I must leave you! It is nearly time for your father to be here.'
'I do not care if it is. I want you to stay.'
'As you will, but—'
'If you really loved me, you would not be so indifferent,' exclaims the young lady, passionately.
Then follows a scene. The result is, that Belle vows she will endure the suspense no longer. She will not ask her father's permission—she will marry him—yes, she will marry the Signor; and who dare prevent, who dare thwart her wishes!
The Signor takes impressive leave. His little plot approaches a denouement. He walks with an 'air noble' down the steps, and, mounting his phaeton, he takes the ribbons from the servant in gay livery, and the tandem team, after some well-trained prancing, dash forward.
Miss Belle is at the window, a delighted witness of the spectacle.
[The Signor has got up this fine turn-out, through aid of a friend who is in the plot, especially to captivate her.]
'What a singular man!' she exclaims to herself. 'How heroic he seems, controlling those wild creatures! Strange he should always be so diffident when in my society. There shall be an end of this; I cannot endure it!'
Presently she sees her father mount the steps, and runs to meet him, a little doubtful whether or not he beheld her lover start from before the door.
The greeting is most affectionate; Belle throws her arms caressingly around her father's neck.
'Who is our new visitor, Belle, who indulges in a tandem?' said Hiram, turning his penetrating eyes on his daughter, but with no suspicious glance.
'New visitor! What do you mean, papa?'
'I thought I saw a phaeton drive from here.'
'Oh, that was at Mrs. Longworth's. Such a handsome man, though, papa! I was at the window when he got in.'
Hiram patted his daughter's cheek playfully, and passed in. Keen and discerning as he was, his child could deceive him.
'Where is your mamma?' he asked.
'Out for a drive.'
'Is Gus at home?'
'No, papa; I have not seen him to-day.'
'Give orders to have dinner served punctually. I must go out immediately after.'
I have spoken of Hiram's three children.
The individual referred to in the last chapter as 'Gus' is the oldest, and the only son. He is, at this period, about twenty-three years of age.
His father undertook to bring him up in a very strict manner. He could, however, give none of his time to the important business of starting his son in the right path, and aiding him to continue in it. It was enough for Hiram that he was secure. He contented himself with laying down severe courses, and holding his boy to the strictest fulfilment of 'duty.'
The result can readily be imagined. The young man, as he grew up and understood fully his father's position, came to the conclusion that it was quite unnecessary for him to practise the strict habits which had been so despotically inculcated. So he gave loose rein to his fancies, and while yet in college was one of the wildest in the class. By his mother's interposition, he was sent abroad. He came back all the worse for the year's sojourn, and, young as he was, soon got to be a regular 'man about town.' He lived at home—ostensibly; but he was seldom to be seen in the house. He had come to entertain very little respect for his father; for he had a sort of native insight into his character. He constantly complains of his miserly treatment, though Hiram makes his son a respectable allowance—more, I think, to be rid of the annoyance of his repeated and incessant applications, than for any other reason.
'Gus' was a favorite with his mother (I forgot to say she had named him Augustus Myrtle Meeker, with her husband's full consent), and heavy were the drafts he made on her purse. This was a point of constant discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Meeker. It was of no use. The lady continued to indulge her only son, and her husband to protest against it.
Of late, Gus had been in possession of pretty large sums of money, which he certainly had not obtained either from his father or mother. And it was something connected with this circumstance which takes Hiram out immediately after dinner.
I think it is in place here to say something of Hiram Meeker's domestic life.
Taking 'Arabella' for just what the reader knows her to be, it is probable he has made her a better husband than ninety-nine men of a hundred would have made. True, he is master, in every respect. But this is just what Arabella requires. She would have been the death of any ordinary man in a short time. There is not the slightest danger of her injuring Hiram's prospects of a long life, or of causing him an hour's uneasiness. To be sure, he is despotic, but he is neither irritable nor unamiable. Besides, he has a great desire for social position (it aids in carrying out his plans), in which his wife is of real service. Hiram, although close and careful in all matters, is not what would be called penurious. In other words, he makes liberal provision for his household, while he rules it with rigor; besides, in petty things he has not proved a tyrant.
On the whole, we repeat our conviction that Arabella has been fortunate in her husband. To be sure, she is fretful, discontented, peevish, irritable, cross; but that is her normal condition. At times Hiram has treated her with severity, but never cruelty. He has borne quietly and with patience what would have set most husbands frantic; and has contented himself with remaining silent, when many would have been tempted to positive acts of violence.
Toward his sick child Hiram Meeker's conduct has been exemplary—that is the word. He considers the affliction a direct chastening of him from the Lord; and 'whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.' He spends some moments with his daughter daily, but he has no more sympathy for her situation than if his heart were made of leather. Yet the best care is provided, the best medical attendance, and everything done for the poor girl which is proper. Hiram even overrules his wife in many things where he thinks her severe toward the invalid, as in the instance of her wishing to see her Uncle Frank, who is our old acquaintance 'Doctor Frank,' as you no doubt understand—now one of the first medical men of New York.
Although there has never been the least cordiality between the brothers since the Doctor came to the city, still they have kept on visiting terms. The Doctor has taken a deep interest in his invalid niece, and she is never so happy as when he is talking with her. He has told her to send for him at any time when she feels disposed to do so, and he is a frequent visitor.
* * * * *
It was late before Mrs. Meeker returned. Something occurred to give her excursion a very unpleasant direction. She was engaged in turning over some new silks at Stewart's, while the young clerical gentleman stood admiringly by, when a man of very coarse appearance and vulgar aspect approached and placed a letter before her.
Mrs. Meeker was prepared to utter a faint shriek, but it occurred to her that it would not appear well where she was. The young clerical gentleman cast a look of disgust and indignation on the intruder, who did not stop to resent it, but turned quickly on his heel and left the place.
Mrs. Meeker, after waiting a moment to regain her composure, opened the note, and read as follows:
'DEAR MA: Come to me directly, and bring all the money you can. I am in a terrible fix! GUS.'
Mrs. Meeker pushed aside the rich purple silk she was examining, with so much suddenness, that the young clerical gentleman could not but notice it.
'My dear madam, are you ill?' he asked, with a show of devotion distressing to witness.
'No, oh no; but this moment I recollect I have a commission to execute for a friend, which I had quite forgotten. And, do you know, I am going to ask you to drive home, and tell Belle not to delay dinner for me.'
The young clerical gentleman bowed in acquiescence. For him to hear was to obey. But he felt curious to know what was the cause of so abrupt a termination of the afternoon's shopping.
'I hope there was nothing unpleasant in that letter?'
It was presuming a good deal to ask such a question, but the young clerical gentleman could not restrain his curiosity.
'That letter!' exclaimed Mrs. Meeker, now quite herself again—'no, indeed; it is only a word from Augustus. What a queer creature, to send it by such a horrid fright of a man!' And Mrs. Meeker laughed.
The young clerical gentleman was thrown completely off the scent. He bowed and hurried to the carriage, leaving Mrs. Meeker still at the counter.
She looked carelessly over the different patterns, and said, in a languid tone, 'I think I will not buy anything to-day,' to which the clerk obsequiously assented—he well knew whom he was serving—and Mrs. Meeker left the store.
Her carriage was out of sight; first she assured herself of that. Then she called a hack, and ordered it to be driven to a distant quarter of the city.
The carriage stopped at the number indicated in the note. Mrs. Meeker was met at the door by her son, who conducted her to a back room in the third story. It was dirty and in disorder. Bottles, wine glasses, and tumblers were scattered around, and the atmosphere was full of the fumes of whiskey and tobacco.
What a spot for the son of Hiram Meeker to select, in which to receive his mother's visit!
What a place for the fastidious Arabella to enter!
THE GREAT AMERICAN CRISIS.
We come, in this paper, to the consideration of the possible results which this war might have, viewed from the beginning; of the several modes, in other words, in which it might terminate. The most distant extremes of possible eventuality were the entire conquest of the North by the South, and the entire conquest of the Southern rebellion by the North, so as to secure the continuance of the old Union upon the old basis; or with such modifications as the changed condition of things at the South might require. The supposition of the conquest of the Northern States by the Southern Vandals has been already glanced at and sufficiently considered for so remote and improbable a contingency. The counter supposition of the entire success of the United States Government in the reassertion of its own authority over the whole of its original domain, divided, at the commencement of the war, into two branches.
It was the general theory at the North, at that time, that the animus of rebellion was confined at the South to comparatively few minds, and that the war was to be a war, not against the South as a people, but against a tyrannical and usurping faction at the South, and for the defence of the people at large residing in that region. There was a modicum of truth in this theory, but events have shown, and any one who knew the South well might safely have predicted, that the whole people there would soon be subdued to the authority of those few. Such was the terror throughout the confederacy, and still is, where the facts have not been already changed by the war, at the mere imputation of sympathy with anti-slavery sentiment in any form, that a part, hardly one tenth even of the whole, in numerical strength, could successfully put the remaining nine tenths into Coventry, and bully them out of all expression of adverse opinion, by simply threatening to accuse them of abolition tendencies. No people on earth were ever so completely cowed by the nightmare of unpopular opinion as the people of the South. Hence whatever was violently advocated under pretence of excessive devotion to, or ultra championship of the cause of slavery, was sure in the end to succeed. By this process, the Union party at the South has been gradually overawed and diminished for years past, and finally driven, since the outbreak of the rebellion, into a complete surrender to, and a full cooeperation with the rebel chiefs. Whatever may seem to be the reaction in behalf of Union sentiment, as the triumphant armies of the North march to the Gulf, it will be long before the real opinion of the masses will declare itself in full as it exists. The fear of the renewal of the old terrorism, so soon as our armies shall be withdrawn, will effectually prevent the free expression of the favorable sentiment which has heretofore existed, and still exists, as a substratum of Southern opinion in favor of the Union, unless the Northern conquest is made unquestionably final.
In the event that the theory just stated should have proved true, that, aided by the presence of Northern troops, there should have been a loyal sentiment sufficiently powerful and extended to reassert itself, in the extreme South, and that, consequently, all the Southern States should have been again represented in Congress at an early day, and should again have taken their places as equal partners under the Constitution of our common country, it seemed just possible that the results of the war should be confined, in their immediate action, to what may be called its educational effects upon the Southern mind and its economical bearings upon the wealth and industry of the nation.
As the other branch of the alternative, the South might have to be conquered by the force of our arms, and might remain unanimously, or in vast preponderance, disloyal and rebellious in spirit. In that event, it would be requisite, if those States were to be retained at all as part of the Union, that they should be reconsigned to the Territorial condition, or otherwise governed still by the central authority.
In the former of these two latter suppositions: that of the reestablishment of the old status, it was foreseen by some, as not impossible, that the final result might prove disastrous to the freedom of the North. With the advent of peace, the suspicions of the Northern people with regard to the designs and real character of Southern men would have been allayed. A certain appeal would even have been made, by the suggestions of their own generosity, to the hearts of Northern men to lay aside all hostile and adverse action as against the South, and to welcome them with open arms to all the rights and privileges of the common country. Meantime, a horde of unscrupulous machinators would have been installed in the seats of power at Washington, and would have recommenced operations, in the consciousness of the new strength acquired in the field from which they had just retired, with all the chicanery and craft with which heretofore they had blinded the North and secretly controlled the destinies of our Government. Southern men and Southern women would again have been feasted and feted at Northern hotels and watering places, and again have given tone to Northern opinion, while new and especial reasons would have seemed to exist for opposing countervailing influences, as unnecessary agitation, and causes of the retention of acrimonious feeling between the two sections, which had now resolved to live in amity with each other. In a word, all the sources of corruption of Northern sentiment, emanating from the South, would have been renewed in their operation, with some circumstances added, tending to give to them greater potency than ever before.
Undoubtedly, immense advantages were to be contemplated in the restoration of the United States to their primitive boundaries and united power. But it was not without deep apprehension of moral taint and ulterior evil consequences, that a wise patriot could look even then to any attempt of the old matrimonial partners to dwell again in a common household, upon the old terms, and with no real settlement of the dispute between them.
The latter of these suppositions, the remanding of a hostile and rebellious tier of States, who had long and proudly enjoyed the dignity of State sovereignty, to a subordinate condition, had also its proportion of difficulty and danger. To carry out a programme of this kind would demand a great increase of the army and navy, and would give to the military spirit and power a preponderance in the councils of the nation which has always been deemed dangerous to the liberties of the country. A constant drain of expenditure of the resources of the nation; a continuous unrest and anxiety of the whole people; a succession of outbreaks and partial renewals of the civil war; the installation of a necessary system of proconsular or viceroyal commissions; the appointment of men who, whether as provost-marshals, dictators, or what not, would be in the stated exercise of authority unmeasured by the theories of republican policy—all these were serious and threatening considerations, which must give the thoughtful mind some pause ere it entered upon their adoption.
There were other remaining possible suppositions in respect to the termination of the war, of a middling character, or those lying between the two opposite extremes. In case, without any positive conquest or submission on either side, the general tenor of success throughout the war should be with the South, so that it finally behooved the North to secure the most favorable terms, but to submit, nevertheless, to great deductions from its confident expectations, a theory then not wholly impossible, we had to contemplate, as one evil of the war, a final disruption of the original territory of the United States into two nationalities, coincident, as to boundary, with the Free and the Slave States. Except in the way of absolute conquest, the South would be little inclined to insist upon the addition to itself of any territory absolutely free. We were not required, therefore, to make this supposition any less favorable to the North than the division just suggested; and unless, again, power had been acquired by the South to impose terms on the North little short of those which a conqueror imposes on a conquered people, the North, within its own limit of Free States, would be left in a condition boldly to announce and actively to defend its own legitimate policy in behalf of the extension of free institutions and their development to the supreme degree of beneficent truth.
But again, it might have been foreseen that in case the eagle of victory should perch on the banners of the North; in case our arms should be generally victorious after a few incipient disasters; in case our armies should move in power southward, meeting, nevertheless, a steady and resisting front on the part of the South, making the prospect of ultimate conquest remote or hopeless; in case, in a single word, the North should find herself in position to dictate terms short of absolute submission and return to the common fold, but substantially in accordance with her own wishes, the question of boundary and of the future policy of the new North would have become one of immense importance.
Had such considerations been forced on the attention of the country by the course of the war, it may not be uninteresting to speculate upon the nature of the possible boundary, which a drawn game in the contest—a possibility at least, viewed from that early point of observation—might have imposed upon the two future nationalities. We are considering the case still in which the preponderance of advantage should have remained with the North. It would have been, in that event, of the first importance that we should retain within the limits of the North all that portion of the South—by no means inconsiderable in extent—which has never been thoroughly debauched by Southern slaveholding opinion and theories of government; where the true American feeling is still extant; and where a good degree of loyalty to the Government of the United States has been hitherto exhibited. Such are especially Delaware, Maryland, Western Virginia, Kentucky, Western North Carolina, Eastern, and to some extent, Middle Tennessee, Northern Georgia, Northern Alabama, and Missouri. An important object would have been, had the power of the North proved inadequate to do more, to secure this territory within the boundary of the new North, and upon such terms as to give strength and new impetus to the freedom-loving sentiment there extant. A second object would have been the retention of Washington City, to be used, at least for the time being, as the capital of the country; avoiding the disgrace of being driven from that centre of national authority; and to secure it on terms in respect to territorial arrangement which should prevent it from being continually threatened from the South. To this end, it would have been necessary that the boundary be carried far enough south to include a portion of Northern and Northeastern Virginia, as thoroughly imbued at that day with slaveholding faith and practice, and as little loyal, perhaps, as any portion of the South—a region, however, which at this time has been so completely devastated by the operations of the war, that it would be readily liable to be resettled from the North, and made into an efficient military border.
If, retaining Fortress Monroe, we should then have run with the James River and the line of Richmond and Lynchburg, or if, ascending higher to the Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock, we were to run with the line of Fredericksburg, we should reach either the Blue Ridge or the Alleghany Mountains, as in the case of power on our part, we might have chosen. With these mountains, sweeping in a southwesterly direction into Northern Georgia and Alabama, runs the line of division between the 'true-blue' Southern slaveholding opinion and policy, on the south and east, and the semi-Free-State opinion and policy on the north and west. One or other of these mountain ranges, with their unfrequent and difficult passes, would have offered the best natural boundary between the two future nations, whose divergent national tendencies would not have ceased with the nominal termination of the war to be essentially hostile.
Following this line till we reach the Tennessee river, thence along the course of that stream, turning northwardly to the Ohio, or more properly, perhaps, to the southern line of Kentucky, we exclude the most pestilent portion of Tennessee, of which Memphis is the capital, and retain the middle and eastern parts, along with Eastern Kentucky and Western Virginia. Thence passing westward with the southern line of Missouri to the Indian Territory, thence southward with the western line of Arkansas to the Red river, thence westward along that river as the boundary between the Indian Territory and Texas, to the one hundredth degree of longitude west from Greenwich, and with that meridian south, to the Rio Grande and the Gulf—dividing the western from the eastern half of Texas—we circumscribe very fairly the exact region of country in which the slaveholding epidemic is violent and intense, and throw within the limits of the great Northern Republic all of the region in which freedom is already established, and all that in which, as above stated, there was still a surviving and half vital tendency in freedom's behalf.
In addition to a boundary so favorable to ourselves, and forced by our commanding position upon our unwilling adversary, we might have imposed upon her such other terms in relation to her foreign policy, custom-house regulations, and the like, as the extent of our power should have authorized. We might even have consigned the Southern States to a species of provisional and quasi nationality, with the claim and expectation of their ultimate return within the pale of the Union, when, through the severe ordeal of military despotism or anarchy at home, or from other causes, they should have purged themselves of that institution, adverse to all our policy, which has been the sole cause of all our woes.
Still more important it would have been, under the theory of this essentially victorious position of the Northern people, that Northern opinion and the purposes of Americanism on this continent—the assertion and defence of freedom and of free institutions of all sorts—should have been distinctly, peremptorily, and finally impressed upon the character and future career of our own Northern nationality. While those portions of slaveholding territory which would still have remained within the Union, would have had, of course, to be treated with courtesy and consideration, if the institution of slavery were to have been permitted to survive, they should have been thoroughly made to know from the first, that slavery among us was no longer to be regarded as a perpetuity; that it was only tolerated provisionally; and that we, as a people, had no intention of permitting its renewed influence in the councils of the nation. Cut off as these States would then have been from the possibilities of carrying on an inter-State slave trade with the Southern confederacy, the institution of slavery would have lost much of its value and potency; and allied, as those States would have been, as a small minority, with a country whose territorial and institutional preponderance would have been wholly in favor of freedom, we might have anticipated that, if closely watched and incidentally aided in its decline, the institution in these adhering slaveholding States would have reached its term of existence at no very distant day; at any rate, that it would, from the first, have been neutralized for any serious bad effects which it might have otherwise impressed upon our healthy national life. It was even worth reflection at that time whether, if the whole adjustment of the future were placed at our own disposition, there would not be less danger incurred, and more promise of a prompt, healthy, and powerful development on this continent of those grand purposes of national existence which the true American people have always had in view and at heart, if this plan were to be adopted, than if, on the contrary, the whole South were either quiescently, by the subsidence of the rebellion, or forcibly, to be reinstated within the limits of the Union, the institution of slavery remaining intact.
Northeastern Virginia, Southern Maryland, and portions of Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, and Middle Missouri would still have furnished pestilent centres of intense slaveholding sentiment, and would have required, perhaps, as much exercise of vigilance in preventing their undue influence as our usually sleepy habits of inattention to such causes would have authorized us to count upon.
With the gradual decline of this remnant of slavery in the Northern Union, and with the thousand contingencies threatening its perpetuity in the Southern States, after the sustaining influence of the North in its behalf should have been finally withdrawn, the anticipation would not have been without high grounds of probability, that the institution, as a whole, would have hastened more or less rapidly to its final dissolution; and that, one by one, the States of the South, ridding themselves of the incubus of slavery and its comcomitants—oligarchic, mobocratic, and military despotism—would have sought, for their own protection and happiness, to reenter the original Union as Free States. Such an issue of the conflict might at the commencement of the war have been looked forward to as almost fortunate, and as perhaps that which Providence had in store for us as a people. That larger measure of success, the entire destruction of slavery throughout the land, now rapidly coming to be a foregone conclusion in most minds, was then hardly hoped for by the most sanguine, although, as will appear by what follows, that alternative was then anticipated by the writer.
Finally, in case the war should have proved a drawn game between the two sections, with no special advantage on either side, some middle ground of adjustment between the two last suppositions might have been sought out, and an irregular line, running anywhere between Mason and Dixon's line and the Ohio, on the one hand, and the Blue Ridge and the Tennessee river on the other, might have been forced upon us. In that event, a long-continued border warfare would have been to be anticipated, with innumerable complex difficulties from expenditure in the protection of the irregular and imperfect boundary, the collection of the revenues, and the like.
The reason why we have chosen, in these glances at the possible outcomings of the conflict, to go back to the state of the case as it was at the opening of the war, and to view the subject as it would present itself to the mind of a thoughtful man then, is, that this very paper was originally written at that day, and is now only recast to adapt it to the altered events from the actual progress of the war. The boundary line above sketched, as one which the nation might possibly find itself compelled to accept, was sketched, as it stands above, at that time, nearly two and a half years ago; and the reader will hardly fail to be struck with the remarkable coincidence between it and the present state of the military lines between the Northern and Southern armies; except in the fact of our actual possession of the Mississippi river to its mouth, cutting the Southern confederacy in twain. Had the defences below New Orleans proved impregnable, and Vicksburg more than a match for the strategy of General Grant, our present position would be almost identical with that contemplated by the writer at that early period of the war, as one of the alternative positions at which the struggle might at least temporarily terminate; and our present military line would be almost the same as that indicated as the halting point of the war, then to be nominally but not really brought to an end. The pages following, and until the reader is advised to the contrary, are literally extracted from the original article, and should be read therefore as relating to the past period in question. Quotation marks are added to aid this understanding of the subject. They indicate, in this exceptional way, not literally the words of another writer, but those of the same writer, upon a different occasion.
'We have reserved to the last the consideration of that possible outcoming of the war which is looked upon with most dread, both at the South and the North; from which both sections almost equally shrink as the possible issue; but which, nevertheless, may be forced on them by the logic of events, and that, too, at an earlier day than has been indicated by the expectations of either. While we write, the startling announcement is made from St. Louis that Major-General Fremont has been forced, by the threatening progress of the Southern armies, to declare martial law for the whole State of Missouri, coupled with the offer of freedom to the slaves. A military critic, writing from the Potomac and the lower counties of Maryland, is urging the application of the same policy to that region, as a means of defeating the contemplated passage of the river by the forces of the South. Whether the rumor so announced prove to be literally correct or not, it is hardly possible that the war can continue long, and grow desperate and earnest on any territory where slavery exists, without leading to this result. Tenderness and deference are sentiments which must soon give place to the stern struggle for life between hostile and desperate men. Already the South has not hesitated, in some instances, to muster her slaves into armed regiments, and in all cases to avail herself of their brawny arms as equally valuable assistants in the work of fortification, camp service, and all the other incidents of war. Still further, as a great body of laborers, undisturbed by the war, quietly conducting the general industry at home, and providing the means of sustaining immense armies in the field, the slaves are, in effect, an important auxiliary of the enemy's power. Already the Congress of the United States has passed a law for the confiscation of all property so used, so stringent in its terms that, without much strain of legal ingenuity, it might be made to cover the whole case. The threatened continuance of disaster to Northern arms may at any moment force upon our generals the military necessity of declaring emancipation within a given district or State, and finally, it may be incumbent on the Government to resort to the same policy in reference to the whole South. The contest is one of life and death for the greatest human interests ever brought face to face in hostile array. But a single step is wanting, and we may at any moment be forced over the boundary which hitherto has prevented it from being a conflict avowedly for the utter extinction of the institution of slavery on the North American continent, on the one hand, and for the triumphant establishment of the policy and power of that institution over the whole land on the other.
'In case such an event as that above alluded to should occur, a new disappointment will probably, to some extent, break upon the Northern mind. It will be found that the slaves of the South are not, as a body, so desirous of freedom, not so consciously intent upon the attainment of that boon, as ardent philanthropists at the North have supposed. The great masses of that population are too far depressed in the scale of humanity to avail themselves earnestly and at once, of even the most favorable means which should be placed at their disposal to secure their own emancipation from thraldom.
'To progress, even from slavery to freedom, is progression, nevertheless; and, as such, it is beset with all the hindrances and prejudices from ignorance and superstition which the advancement of the race meets always and at every step. Those among the slaves who fully appreciate the disadvantages of their position, and are earnestly intent upon the achievement of freedom, are a minority—the vigorous thinkers and reformers of the slave-population. The great masses are stupid and conservative, in the midst of the evil which they endure, until aroused by circumstances or the appeals of their more enterprising leaders. Even John Brown, knowing as much as he did of the South and of the negro character, miscalculated the readiness of the slaves of Virginia to fly to his standard, judging them by his knowledge of the readiness of Missouri slaves upon the Kansas border, who, through a few years of local agitation, had come to be on the alert and ready to move.
'In case, therefore, of the proclamation of emancipation in any slaveholding districts by our military chiefs, it will not be surprising if, for a time, the results of that step shall seem to be feeble, and shall be disproportionate to the expectations based upon it.
'The course of events will probably be this: The emancipation of slaves by the proclamation of Northern generals will be followed by a partial tendency on the part of the slave-population to flock to their camps in a way similar to what has already happened in the neighborhood of Fortress Monroe; and this, again, by mustering them into our service, arming and drilling them as part of the regular and effective force of our armies, after the example of General Jackson in the defence of New Orleans, and other Southern generals on various occasions in the South. A step like this will be met by a nearly or precisely similar expedient of desperate necessity by the military chieftains of the South. Either with or without the offer of emancipation, they will muster the blacks in great numbers into their army, arming, equipping, and drilling them as thoroughly as the same offices are performed for the white soldiers.
'Things may seem to stand much upon this footing, and no great advantage have been gained by the North through emancipation, until, in the event of some great battle, or successively through a series of local contests, the blacks in the Southern army will fraternize with those of the North, and go over in a body to their Northern allies, so soon as the course of events shall have informed them somewhat of the true state of the case, and have given them confidence in the earnest intention of the Northern troops to stand by them in the assertion of their freedom. A defection of this kind would carry dismay and insure defeat throughout the whole South, especially if it were vigorously followed up by the same policy and by adequate military skill on the part of the North; and the result of a war so inaugurated could hardly fail to be the rapid and complete disorganization of the whole system of Southern industry and the total revolution and final submission of the Southern States.
'No man can exactly foresee the consequences of so great a conflict, nor predict with any certainty the course of events through such an untried and tremendous pathway; but it is next to impossible to conceive that the Southern war-spirit could in any way long survive the disasters inevitably consequent upon the general prevalence of a claim to freedom by the slaves, upon any legal basis, suddenly diffused throughout the South. Should the alternative be forced upon the people of that region, of submission, or servile in addition to civil war, their troubles will thicken upon them to a degree calculated to calm their over-excited imaginations, and to subdue their vaulting ambition. Panic will come to their own doors with a new and all-pervading significance, such as the North hardly knows how to conceive. The North should abstain to the last moment from thrusting even enemies into calamity so dire. But, if the arrogance and madness of the South shall force on us, now or later, this terrific resort, the world may witness, as the result of this war, the most tremendous retribution for national and organic sin which any people has ever yet been called on to endure. The Nemesis of History may, perhaps, impress the darkest record of her terrible sanctions on the page which records the termination of the great American Rebellion.
'In the event last supposed, that is to say, if the war shall end in the entire extinction of American slavery, the state in which the Southern country, with its diverse populations, will find itself placed; the future destiny of the cotton-growing region, of the South generally; of our whole country, and of the continent, under this immense change of our condition as a nation, are subjects of sufficient importance to demand, on some future occasion, a distinct consideration. Enough points have been crowded, in this article, upon the reflections of the reader. History must not be too audaciously anticipated. The phases of the great crisis, already developed and developing, are sufficiently grave and numerous for the present occasion. Let the future withdraw her own veil from our eyes, while we reverentially await the revelation of coming events.
'All the forbearance hitherto on the part of the North, may have had in it an element of wisdom. It is not the object of this paper to criticize or complain of the past conduct of the war, nor to urge on the Government to convert a war, begun for the resistance of a violent and fraudulent dismemberment of the Union, into a war against slavery or a crusade in behalf of human rights. There is no present purpose on the part of the writer to conduct the discussion—far less to attempt the decision—of so grave a question of national policy at this eventful and critical epoch in the affairs of our national life. No doubt the subject stands as yet complicated in the minds of statesmen with the possibilities of the early and frank submission of the South, and the consequent early reestablishment substantially of the status quo ante bellum; with the dread of inflicting measureless calamity upon those who are at heart faithful to our cause in the South; and, most of all, with the interests and feelings of the population of the few slaveholding States remaining faithful to the Union. The object of the present article is simply to lay open the true state of the case; to reveal to the Northern mind in a clearer light, if possible, the causes emanating from the South, which have gone and which go still to the formation of Northern opinion adversely to the spirit of our own institutions, and begetting, unconsciously in ourselves, a secret treasonable sympathy at the bottom of our own hearts; a sympathy which is the parent of that otherwise unaccountable tenderness on our part in respect to the patent weakness of the enemy's defences. It is not that we counsel, for the present, a change in the tenor of the war, but that we wish, as the logic of circumstances shall force this question upon us, that we may come to the consideration of it, in the future, disabused of any preconceived prejudices in favor of that which is the vital source of all the trouble which exists, and fully armed by a complete understanding of the subject.'
So ended the original paper, the same, with a few changes of the tense-forms to adapt it to the present time, as the Part One, published in the last number of THE CONTINENTAL, and Part Two of this series up to this point. The document was written for publication at that time, more than two years ago, but no periodical was found then ready to indulge in such bold speculations on the future. What has now in great part become history, was deemed too audacious for the public ear then. Perhaps no better gauge of the progress of events and opinion could have happened. A magazine article, rejected so recently, as too radical or wild in its prognostications, now stands in danger of being thought tame, in the light of the changes already effected. Thrown into a drawer as refuse matter, it has been like the log of a ship thrown overboard, and remaining quiescent, while the winds, the waves, and the current have combined to surge the vessel onward in her course; and, hauled in by the line at this hour, it may serve to chronicle the rate of our speed.
Events hurry forward in this age with tremendous velocity. Great as has been the progress of our arms, numerous as our warlike achievements and advantages, the real victories we have won are, in the truest method of judging, the victories of opinion which have occurred and are now occurring. Our greatest conquest, as a people, is, and is to be, the conquest over our own prejudices; our highest attainment the readiness to be just, and to act with the boldness and vigor which justice requires.
Taking things as they now are, let us again try to penetrate the future, or at least to sketch different alternatives of what may happen. Let us then try to catch the spirit of each alternative, and so be prepared to draw from the event such of good, and to guard against such of evil as each may involve.
As a first alternative, we may now speedily conquer the South. Insurrection may spring up in the South, against the insurrection there, and in aid of our arms. New vigor and new fortune may attend our own military operations; and our future military task may—somewhat contrary to our expectations, we confess—prove easy, and its conclusion close at hand. In that event, dangers of another kind, dangers already alluded to as existing at the commencement of the war, and hardly less to be apprehended now than then, hardly less, indeed, than the indefinite continuance of war, threaten the future of our political horizon. We may see in a few months' time the very men who are leading the armies and the councils of the Southern confederacy again cracking the whip of their sharp and arrogant logic about the ears of the men who had conquered them in the field of battle; claiming to dictate every political measure; forcing the mould of their thought upon every form of opinion, and, by astute political combinations, wielding the destiny of the nation in behalf of slavery and despotism, and against the principle of freedom. Do not imagine for an instant that any considerations of modesty or humiliation on the one hand, nor of haughtiness or pride on the other, would stand in the way of the immediate participation of those men in our affairs. Let there be no delusions either, with regard to the ability of the same leading class of men to keep themselves in the saddle at the South, through all political changes not involving the absolute destruction of slavery, and the complete and consolidated establishment of other institutions and habits of life among the people at large;—the virtual creation, in fact, of a new and different population, by the blending of our own Northern men and manners with the feeble indigenous freedom-loving growth. The return of this dominant class of cotton lords among the common masses of a Southern population anywhere, on any terms short of the utter extinction of their basis of wealth and distinction, will be the return of an armed overseer to a cowering mob of insubordinate slaves. The mere assertion of their authority will be its instant acceptance, and the most abject submission by the people. They will only have to demand reelection to the National Congress, and to every place of power, to be reinstated in precisely their old position, their arrogance and self-assertion only augmented by their having met and survived every disaster short of the destruction of the source of their superiority.
Already schemes to restore the old State governments are rife, in respect to Louisiana, Mississippi, and other of the rebel States, now again brought within our military lines. Let this be done upon the old footing at an early day, for these States and for the others, which under the hypothesis now under consideration, will soon be subjugated; let the Emancipation Proclamation fall into desuetude; let the military authority of our army officers be withdrawn, and there is nothing in the character of the Southern slaveholding aristocracy, and no other power on earth, to prevent their flocking in crowds and at the very first general election back to Washington, reuniting their forces with the old body of profligate political hacks at the North, and flaunting with increased presumption and activity the pretensions of slavery to dictate the whole policy of the land. In that event, a strong party, more distinctively proslavery and Southern than ever before, will be organized; more openly and shamelessly than ever devoted to the destruction of the last remnant of American liberty. Of course there will be a new reaction against the new usurpation. The conflict will be renewed, beginning precisely where the first war began, with the only exception that the issue will be then more distinctly understood, the conflict more desperate, and the result more definitive.
It is of the utmost importance that the true nature of the case be understood: that this war is no accident of the hour, no merely political or national event even. It is a death struggle between two antagonist civilizations; if indeed one of them can be called a civilization, and not rather a conspiracy against the very idea of civilization. Again, the men involved in that conspiracy are not hidalgos, ancien regime, nor any of the proud aristocracies of the old world, who, when beaten, retire upon their dignity and hide their time. They are, on the contrary, an enterprising gang of desperadoes, who for the nonce may find it convenient to play the role of high life and dignified pretension, but who, on the slightest change of circumstances, are ready for any shift, any seeming degradation or humiliation, any temporary lowering of their claims, in order to rise higher on the next wave. There is also enough of the savage and barbarous element of character remaining in the Southern bogus chivalry to make them, like the Chinaman or the Japanese, incapable of appreciating magnanimity. All conciliation or clemency will be construed into weakness; generosity and forbearance into poltroonery. These are sad truths; but being truths, the failure to know them in season may cost us another and a more desperate war, with more doubtful and dangerous results.
Let us once surrender, through national verdancy, sentimental commiseration, misunderstanding of the nature and purposes of our enemy, or any or all of these causes combined with others, the dear-bought advantages we have won, and disasters untold involve the future of the land. Terrible beyond description will be, in that event, the condition of the Union and emancipationist party now incipiently developing itself at the South;—abandoned and deserted by the withdrawal of the actual presence and protection of Northern arms. No barbarism on earth, no savagism extant, is so barbarous or so savage as the ruthless vengeance with which this hybrid civilization of the South is ready at any time to visit the crime of abolitionism; and seven times hotter than usual will the furnace of their wrath be heated against Southern men who under the aegis of Northern protection shall have exhibited some sympathy with freedom.
That a powerful Northern party will immediately arise in behalf of the simple readmission of the Southern States, upon precisely the old basis, when the war shall end by the suppression of the rebellion, is certain. The existence of such a party will rest, in part, upon a real sympathy with the South and the rebellion; partly upon interested political motives of a more ordinary and short-sighted character; and, in still greater part than either of these, upon the easy credence and insufficient information of the great mass of the Northern people; somewhat, indeed, upon a magnanimity highly creditable to their character as men, but unwise and dangerous in the extreme, in any exercise of it which should surrender a vital advantage.
It does not require even that the complete reconquest of the South should be awaited in order that the question of the return of subdued States into the Union upon the old terms should be sprung upon the nation, and perhaps decided, by a precedent, before the attention of the country can be thoroughly directed to the momentous nature of the step proposed. The New York Herald has been hitherto a steady and consistent advocate of this policy, and a powerful agitator in its behalf. The following extract from its columns indicates the imminence of the issue, as well as the simple and seemingly reasonable political machinery by which the whole thing is to be effected:
'It appears from the correspondence to which we have referred that certain citizens of New Orleans, some of whose names are given elsewhere, have resolved to restore Louisiana to the Union, and that they intend to do this in the manner pointed out by Secretary Seward in his famous reply to the intervention despatch of M. Drouyn de Lhuys. That is to say, they intend to set the State Government in motion, elect members of the Legislature, and send loyal representatives to Congress. These gentlemen assert—and the Tribune does not deny—that Mr. Seward and Mr. Bates indorse this idea, and that Mr. Etheridge, as Clerk of the House of Representatives, has consented to receive the loyal members from Louisiana, upon their own credentials, until the House is organized. They also say—and the Tribune does not deny—that Mr. Etheridge has a perfect right to do this upon the precedent established by the Broad Seal controversy, some twenty years ago. Under these circumstances, the Union men propose to hold an election for five members of Congress—one from each district and one on the general ticket—and also for members of the State Senate and Assembly. 'They are anxious,' says the Tribune correspondent, 'that Louisiana shall take the lead in this matter, and there is no doubt but Mississippi and the other States will, in due time, follow.' So far, the patriotic reader will search in vain for any objection to a plan which promises so much good for the Union, and will be at a loss to know upon what grounds the Tribune can oppose it with any show of loyalty.'
It is no part of the object of this writing to discuss the legality or the constitutionality of any course of proceeding in the premises. What can be done and what cannot be done under the law, as it stands, is a question for lawyers and judges. How far, if at all, the exigency has annulled or modified the law; how far the axiom, inter arma silent leges ('in war the laws are silent'), shall be stretched to cover the case, is a question for statesmen and military commanders. The writer of these strictures speaks from none of those points of view, but as a social philosopher, viewing the drifts of inevitable consequence from one or the other grand policy in respect to the national destiny—irrespective of the minor measures by which it may be executed. A course utterly suicidal, viewed from this higher platform of observation, may proceed with the most unimpeachable subserviency to all the forms of the law; or, contrariwise, a policy replete with the highest prosperity and happiness of the coming ages, may chance to have its foundations laid in some startling deviation from all considerations of precedent and routine.
In other words, what can be done or cannot be done under the law, or without violence to the law, is not now the question under consideration. What must be done, whether under the law or above the law, to secure certain great ends of human progression, and to avoid positions of utter disaster to the life of the American people of the future, is so.
Whether the theory of Mr. Sumner, that the revolted States are, by the operation of the revolt, or should be by the action of the Government, remanded to the territorial condition, holds good; whether the theory of Mr. Owen, that the machinery of the State Governments at the South remains unaffected by the insurrection, but that the inhabitants, being traitors, are incapable of administering it, until they are purged of their treason by the action of the United States Government, is held to be the better opinion; or, whether, in fine, the easy and simple theory of the Herald is the law of the subject—none of these points is the point of the present investigation. We seek to fix attention on the consequences of the act of an early readmission of the revolted States, and, what would be the same thing, of the old and governing set of slaveholding politicians, from those States, into the administration of our national affairs, no matter what should be the method of its accomplishment. In that event, the war will not be ended, but smothered merely, and left smouldering. It will burst out again, and all that has been done hitherto will have to be done over again, or fail to be accomplished, and the consequences of failure endured.
Let no ordinary and superficial method of reasoning obfuscate the public mind on this subject. It is becoming popular to say and to think that slavery at the South is already a dead or a dying institution, by the operation of the war. This opinion has in it, undoubtedly, the value of a prophecy, provided the war be continued to its legitimate termination; provided all the measures against slavery hitherto adopted are firmly maintained; provided the incipient anti-slavery sentiment now being developed in the South, be wisely fostered and protected by the strong arm long enough, or until new institutions and new methods of thinking and acting have time to consolidate. But, whoever supposes that slavery is as yet even essentially weakened, provided, for any reason, our forces and the influence of Northern sentiment were suddenly withdrawn from the South, and the ocean waves of the old despotism were for a moment even permitted to surge back over those portions of the territory which have been partially redeemed, has no adequate idea of the tremendous vitality of that institution.
A mistake on this subject, of the safe early return of the revolted States, will be one of those political blunders worse than a crime; and yet it is precisely this mistake which the American people are at this hour most likely to commit. A latent love of Southern institutions per se; the hope of personal political advantage, among politicians, by an alliance with Southern leaders, on the part of others who care nothing for the South as such; a lingering tenderness, a forgiving magnanimity and generosity, among the people at large, which would in this case be wholly misplaced; and finally an easy faith in the extent and irrevocable nature of the successes already accomplished—all concur to lead on to the commission of this error.