The World’s Crisis
A SYSTEM OF ADMINISTRATION in violation of THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF THE CONSTITUTION:
With the effect upon HOME AFFAIRS OF TARNISHING THE NATIONAL HONOR;
dwarfing our INDUSTRIAL PROSPERITY;
warping our SOCIAL LIFE;
and plunging the country into frightful POLITICAL EVILS.
Evils Inflicted upon our Country by our Violations of the Constitution.
The stormy character of our political career, and, latterly, the prevalence of political corruption must strike every student of American history.
The observer of our social life cannot fail to remark the decay of republican simplicity of manners, coupled with a social excitement unparalleled in the annals of the world.
Monarchist statesmen have inveighed against these irregularities as the spawn of Republicanism: Philosophers more favorable to our institutions would charitably account them the wild offshoots of a too rapid growth. But neither the genius of Republicanism, nor prosperity, however great, is responsible for these evils. They are the spawn of political pruriency. Radicalism, stealing with Tarquin step to its design, has debauched our Government, and engendered a misbegotten brood of Shame, and Vice, and Crime.
The insults which shamed our flag during the early period of our national career, and the social demoralization and political troubles which mark our later history, may all be traced directly to violations of the Constitution. A strict adherence to the principles of that instrument, would have induced a healthy development, combining simplicity of manners and social tranquillity with a grand, steady and permanent prosperity, free alike from foreign insult and domestic vicissitude. The abnormal development we behold is the consequence of the action of a government wrested from its constitutional moorings.
The evils which have afflicted our country are divided, in the order of time, into two eras:
1st. The evils arising out of the Carrying Trade, staining our early history with dishonor, and ending only with the disasters of the war of 1812.
2d. The evils arising out of the American System, dwarfing our industrial development, corrupting our social and political life, and ending only in the calamitous Civil War from which we are just emerging.
The subject will be presented under these natural divisions.
Evils of the Carrying Trade.
The Era of Federalist Rule.
Adherence to the principles of our Constitution would have caused us to avoid all the evils which beset our early, as well as our later history. But, almost contemporaneously with our national birth, an evil fate precipitated the government into an unconstitutional course of administration.
Two antagonistic Theories of constitutional construction arose immediately upon the inauguration of the Federal government. These Rival Theories, advocated by successive political parties, have ever since been wrestling for the mastery. The fierce political contests which have rendered the history of America one long turmoil, took their rise in the ceaseless antagonism of these conflicting systems of constitutional interpretation.
As we have seen, the Constitution was a compromise of opposing views in the Convention. Its adoption only transferred the conflict between the advocates of these conflicting views from the hall of the Convention to the arena of the nation.
Two Rival Parties arose under the administration of Washington.
In the Convention, the advocates of State rights thought that the Constitution established a government so powerful as to endanger the reserved rights of the states. But they gave their adhesion to it as much preferable to the weakness, the adverse interests, and, perchance, the antagonism of separate nationalities. When the instrument had been adopted by the states, the State-Rights party accepted it in good faith, adhering to its letter, and its spirit.
They cheerfully acquiesced in the assumption by the Federal government of all the powers vested in it by the Constitution; but they were disposed to resist to the uttermost any attempt of the government to exercise powers beyond the limits of its constitutional jurisdiction.
It had been well for the country, had the advocates of a strong central government in the Convention accepted the Constitution, with its careful limitations of Federal power, in equal good faith. Had they been willing to acquiesce in the simple literal meaning of the instrument, taken in the sense designed by its framers, America would never have been a prey to political agitation and the numberless evils of our past career. But, unfortunately, they contemned the Constitution as organizing a government too feeble to sustain itself, and too narrow in its range of powers to foster domestic interests. They had accepted it, not cordially, but as the best instrument the prejudices of their opponents would concede. They now resolved to bestow upon the government, by construction, those powers, which the Convention that framed the Constitution had refused to confer.
Alexander Hamilton was the leader of this party. He had been a member of the Convention; but he had retired from the body in disgust weeks before its labors terminated. He was now resolved to amend the Constitution at will, by subjecting its articles to a construction so broad as to make it confer upon the government any powers he deemed it necessary to exercise. Thus the government might free itself from obnoxious limitations, and placing its own interpretation upon the charter of its powers, extend its functions as expediency or ambition might dictate.
Many who believed with Hamilton that powers more extensive should have been conferred, yet shrank from his scheme of construction, as enabling the Federal Government to usurp authority without limit or control. They had wished the Convention to confer powers more enlarged; but now, dreading unlimited usurpation, they contended for a strict construction as the only security against unbridled autocracy. When Hamilton broached his scheme of constructive powers, all these, under the lead of Madison, separated from his party, and united themselves with the advocates of state’s rights in endeavoring to restrict the Federal government to the exercise of those powers only, which the Constitution actually conferred.
Thus, at the very outset of the government, the country became divided into two opposing parties. In strict nomenclature, these parties should have been styled, the one, Latitudinarian Constructionists, the other, Strict Constructionists. But political parties rarely assume a cognomen which designates their principles. The former assumed the title of FEDERALISTS; the latter styled themselves REPUBLICANS. The political strife then inaugurated has ever since distracted the country. Since that age the struggle has assumed various phases; issues have changed; parties have fallen, and risen again, with new names, to renew their ceaseless struggle under new banners; but, in every era, the Constitution has been the bone of contention, the party of Latitudinarian Construction struggling for power with the party maintaining a strict construction of the Constitution. Whatever names they have assumed, the one party has been Latitudinarian Constructionists, the other Strict Constructionists. And violations of the Constitution by the Latitudinarian Constructionists, during the periods of their temporary triumph, have gendered all the evils that have afflicted the country.
The Policy of The Federalists.
In the mind of Hamilton the stability of the government was the first object to be secured. Every other consideration must yield to this. He believed Republicanism, at best, a weak system of government, to which only the best and surest safeguards can give stability. A close and practical observer of human nature, he placed little confidence in the power of mere sentiment. Observation had taught him that the patriotism which springs from selfinterest is the surest support of a government. In monarchical countries, government is pillared upon the attachment of privileged orders, whose privileges depend upon its stability. As the gew-gaws of rank and title had no place in Republican America, Hamilton proposed to secure the stability of the Federal government, by attaching to it powerful property classes with the solid ties of interest. He never paused to inquire whether the measures he proposed were constitutional. He consulted expediency only. The declaration of the preamble, that the instrument was designed to promote the public welfare, was the only clause in the Constitution which he regarded. In his view whatever would promote the public welfare was constitutional. The formula which satisfied his scruples was similar to that which has become fashionable at a later period: “The Government must live: to this end it must conciliate the attachment of wealth and influence: if the Constitution does not suffer it to adopt a policy that will secure this end, the life of the Government is superior to the Constitution, and instrument must give place to the necessity of self-preservation.”
He saw, as he believed, grave dangers arising to menace the stability of the government. His comprehensive and statesmanlike intellect grasped every point of the situation, and conceived the measures necessary to avert the dangers he apprehended, and impart to the government the requisite stability and strength. Thus satisfied that his measures were expedient for the general welfare, he gave no further thought to the question of their constitutionality.
A brief retrospect will show the dangers he apprehended, and display the sagacity of the statesman who grappled them with a boldness, which, whatever our opinion of his principles, must challenge our admiration.
The climate and productions of the Southern states gave them an immense advantage ever those of the North. Their products constituted almost the entire exports of the country. Their tobacco, rice, and indigo found ready sale in the markets of Europe, and cotton now began to be exported. But Europe afforded no market for cereals and live stock, the only products of the North. During the Colonial era, the West Indies had afforded a limited market for rum, live stock, and vegetables; but Independence had out off this only market, and, at the inauguration of the government, the trade of the Northern states languished in absolute stagnation.
The advantages of the Southern colonies had caused them to outstrip those of the North during the Colonial era. Though all except Virginia of more recent planting, and, at first, of slower growth, yet, in 1790, their population was almost equal to that of the Northern states. If the two sections should continue to grow in the same ratio, the South would soon be the stronger. The apprehension that the South might in a few years attain entire control of the government, the North sinking into a provincial condition, caused much hesitancy in the latter section in adopting the Constitution, unless such advantages were secured to their industry as would enable them to maintain an equality in the Union.
The comprehensive mind of the astute statesman who was about to give direction to the policy of Federal government grasped this state of affairs. He beheld in it grave cause of alarm. The country was already divided by sectional lines; and it had been disturbed by sectional jealousy even during the War of Independence. Should the South attain the decided predominance which its greater prosperity rendered probable, Hamilton might fear that the North would be impelled by jealousy to separate from the Union. He resolved to avert the danger by giving to Northern industry such advantages as would maintain the equilibrium, and attach that section to the Federal government by the ties of gratitude and interest.
With an eye to this end, the great statesman sought to place himself in a position that would enable him to mould the policy of the government. The unbounded confidence of Washington permitted him to select his position in the cabinet. As Secretary of the Treasury he had jurisdiction of the entire internal policy of the infant Republic.
It needed not his influence to secure the passage of a tariff law giving incidental protection to American manufactures, and a navigation act for the protection of the shipping interest. These were carried with the support of Madison. But these measures, in the existing state of affairs, afforded scarcely any special advantage to Northern interests. Manufactures were in their infancy; the shipping of Virginia rivaled that of New England: while the North was crippled for want of capital, there seemed a probability that the proceeds of Southern exportations might be invested in these new channels of enterprise, and give that prosperous section the same superiority in manufactures and shipping as in agriculture.
The pressing want of the North was capital. While the labor of the South was profitably directed toward agricultural staples which found ready sale in the markets of the world, only so much industry was diverted from these products as was necessary to produce articles of prime necessity. If the North were supplied with the necessary capital, it might, while the South was occupied with agriculture, engross the manufactures and the shipping interest of the country. It possessed every requisite for success in these pursuits except capital. It had no market for its agricultural produce; industry was stagnant for want of necessary capital to engage in profitable enterprise: the two prime requisiteslabor and provisionsthe North possessed in abundance. It was the aim of the Secretary of the Treasury to furnish it capital, to embark with energy in commerce, which the fostering care of government rendered so profitable an investment.
A legitimate means of partially accomplishing his object was obvious. The Federal government was bound in honor to pay, at some fair rate, the revolutionary debt. The armies had been stationed, for the most part, in the Northern states during the war, and the debt was in the hands of Northern capitalists. Its assumption by the government would give the North a capital of fifty million dollars, yielding an annual income of three millions from the Federal treasury. Hamilton challenged the gratitude and admiration of the Eastern and Middle states, by his earnest and influential advocacy of assumption; and he sought to make the capital available, by having the bonds issued in a form negotiable in the European market. But returns from this source would be slow. Money could not be promptly realized from the bonds of an infant republic; and the three millions of annual interest was not sufficient to advance Northern interests so rapidly as was desirable. The North needed a large and available ready capital. To effect this object Hamilton brought forward a plan for a United States Bank.
An attempt had been made in the convention to invest the Federal government with power to incorporate chartered institutions, but the power had been denied. The Bank was clearly unconstitutional. No clause in the Constitution could be strained to bestow this power upon the government. But the North needed money, and the government only could furnish it. The Secretary of the Treasury deemed this a fit occasion for a latitudinarian construction of the Constitution. The loan of money based upon public credit and created for their express benefit would attach large property classes in the Middle and Eastern states to the government by the strongest ties of interest: it would enable the North to embark, at once, in profitable enterprises, and rival or outstrip the growth of the South, thus averting the threatened danger of Southern predominance, and Northern secession. The measure seemed expedient in every point of view; it promised to promote the general welfare,a main design of the establishment of the government: and even if power to charter a Bank was not granted in the Constitution, the safety of the government is superior to the instrument on which it is based ! the Constitution must not be suffered to become a barrier to the well-being of the country !
Hamilton maintained that the government has the right to perform all acts which tend to promote the general welfare, without looking further for a grant of constitutional authority. Expediency was the only limit he recognized to its powers. He was inclined to contemn limitations which restricted the government within a sphere too narrow for his imperial temper, and did not scruple to call the Constitution “a thing of naught which must be changed.” With the temper of a monarchist, he deemed gradual augmentations of power a justifiable art of State craft; and, conscious of the authority of precedent, he knew that a power once exercised is soon conceded as a right. He embarked upon his policy of centralization without scruple, and with consummate craft and boldness.
The Bank project encountered the most strenuous opposition. Madison, and many others were unwilling to blot out all the limitations of federal power by a sweeping system of latitudinarian construction, which perverted the Constitution from the safeguard of liberty into an instrument of usurpation. They took issue with Hamilton in opposition to the measure. But the Bank favored too many interests to be defeated. Its location at Philadelphia, securing to her merchants large prospective loans, conciliated the great State of Pennsylvania: the shipping interests of New England influenced the vote of that section. Constitutional limitations were insufficient to withstand the dictates of self-interest. The Bank charter was carried through Congress, by the votes of the Eastern, and Middle states.
When the Bank charter was presented for his approval, Washington found his position one of peculiar delicacy and embarrassment. To assist him in his decision, he asked the opinions of his cabinet ministers. Their counter opinionsthe Northern members, Hamilton and Knox, favoring the measure, the Southern, Jefferson and Randolph, opposing itincreased his irresolution. He hesitated long, wavering between opposing views. He even asked Madison to prepare a veto message. His vacillation proves that, upon the abstract constitutional question, he would have refused his sanction. But personal and political considerations combined to sway his mind in the opposite direction. Jefferson and Randolph were from his own state: Hamilton and Knox were his companions in arms. Himself a citizen of a Southern state, his veto would appear the result of sectional prejudice: magnanimity,always the strongest impulse of that great soul, prompted Washington to consider favorably a measure designed to relieve the severe distress, of the North. Moreover, the Federal government was as yet only an experiment, which a gust of sectional anger might overturn: the measure would attach the North warmly to the government, and to his administration: its rejection might subject him to the imputation of narrow views, sacrificing Northern interests to his sectional feelings, and might precipitate the crisis which it was Hamilton’s aim to avert. The perpetuity or the disruption of the Union seemed to hang upon his decision. In such a crisis the bill seemed necessary “to promote the general welfare;” and, after long hesitation, Washington signed it, and it became a law.
Here was the first false step of the government, which, in it’s issues, proved the fruitful source of all our subsequent calamities. The United States Bank changed the entire course of national industry and development. It brought about a present good: but we sacrificed to it our normal destiny. It was the apple “pleasant to the eyes,” for which we gave up our Eden of peace, virtue, tranquillity, and sacrificed the progress which Nature designed for us, tranquil and void of excitement, but glorious beyond all we have attained, or even imagined.
The charter of the United States Bankour first violation of the Constitutionbrought the influence of the Federal government within the prohibited province of the internal interests of the country. It diverted the industry of the country from the natural channel in which the laws of industrial development would have impelled it, and gave it an unfortunate direction, from which it never afterward recovered. The normal course of our national industry will be best considered in a future chapter. We confine ourselves, here, to tracing the evils which flowed from the establishment of the Bank. As we proceed, it will appear that the charter of the United States Bank was the Pandora’s box whence issued all our calamities.
The influence of the Bank was instantly felt by the industry of the North. The Southern states, having already a large capital invested in profitable agriculture, left the Bank accommodations to be engrossed by Northern enterprise. The Bank capital was freely loaned, and instantly infused new activity into the warehouses and dockyards of the North. Having no other field for enterprise, the North, having command at last of capital, turned its entire attention to commerce. Ships were built with Bank loans, and soon repaid the cost of construction with the enormous profits derived from the navigation laws. Again bank loans and navigation profits were invested in new vessels; and in a few years, through the impulse of bank capital and the protection of navigation laws, the growing marine of the North became more than adequate to the carrying trade of the country.
The influx of government capital quickened Northern industry in every nerve. Labor was diverted from profitless agriculture to profitable enterprise. The control of the shipping interest carried with it the control of the mercantile interests of the country. Northern ships naturally brought their cargoes to Northern ports; and, while the South was engrossed with agriculture, Northern enterprise monopolized the entire commerce and shipping of the country. Northern agriculture also felt the impulse: the numbers diverted to commercial enterprise freed it from the stagnation incident to excessive production, and gave it a ready and profitable market in the increased consumption of the seaport towns.
Hamilton’s policy succeeded in averting the dangers threatening the Union from the approaching preponderance of the South; and it strengthened the government with the interested devotion of the Middle and Eastern states.
But his object was broader than this. He wished to identify the policy of the government with his Party, and to attach the Middle and Eastern states, with equal devotion to the Federal government and the Federalist party. He proposed to base his party upon the close union and firm support of those two sections, and govern the country by means of their votes. He might with justice hope that they would support with constancy the party whose policy originated their prosperity, and was necessary to maintain it.
The Strict Constructionists found their chief support in the Southern states. Southern interests, needing no patronage, united with reverence for the Constitution and zeal for State rights, to commit the South to the support of that party which aimed to restrict the Federal government within the constitutional limits of its authority, and debar it from interference with the internal interests of the country.
The leaders of this party beheld with concern the Middle and Eastern states leagued by interest in support of a policy subversive of the Constitution and dangerous to liberty. Self interest would cause them to maintain the policy it had impelled them to adopt: the leaders of the “Strict Constructionists” perceived that a direct issue upon the question of policy would result in the firm establishment of the Federalist party. Hamilton had planned his scheme of party domination with the skill of a consummate statesman. His antagonists prepared to counter him with skill and finesse equal to his own.
Hamilton’s scheme of power was admirably conceived, and but for the force of an element which he had not calculated would have infallibly proved successful. His system of administration comprehended a double aim,a means, and an end. It was the immediate aim of his measures to confer vast benefits upon the Middle and Eastern states; his ultimate object, to transform the government into a Centralization based upon a moneyed aristocracy. He trusted that the immediate advantages derived from his system of administration would reconcile the people to its Anti-Republican tendency. He relied entirely upon interest, without estimating the force of sentiment. He trusted to the aid of the property classes, without taking into consideration the sentiments of the masses, who feel more than they reflect, and are swayed more by impulse than calculation.
In resting his party upon the support of the wealthy class, Hamilton was governed by prudent calculations based upon past experience. During the Colonial era, the American colonies had much of the aristocratic class distinctions which obtained in the Mother country. Men of wealth and high social position swayed the public sentiment of the Colonies. Even at the period of which we write, the property class continued to control the states by their influence. Hamilton seemed to consult the principles of sound policy, in choosing the support of the moneyed aristocracy as the foundation of his party. The Federalist party, founded upon the interested support of the Eastern and Middle states and the established influence of the aristocratic class, seemed stable beyond the possibility of overthrow.
But an event now occurred, destined to exert the most important influence upon the political and industrial development of the United States :
The French Revolution broke out simultaneously with the organization of the Federalist party, and disappointed all the calculations of Hamilton. It everywhere fanned democratic sympathies into a flame. The reverence which prevailed in America for aristocratic position was changed into antagonism. Instead of bowing, as formerly, to the influence of superior social position, the masses were ready to assert democracy against rank, and oppose the pride of equality to the pride of aristocracy. Slow alike to comprehend the policy of Hamilton and the constitutional scruples of Jefferson, they had a keen perception of the gradations of rank, and were easily wounded by the purse-proud assumption of wealth. The mass of the American population, especially in the Middle states, were democratic in their tastes and warmly republican in their feelings, and were keenly jealous of the aristocratic sympathies and monarchical tendencies of the Federalists.
The leaders of the “Strict Constructionist” party seized this feature in the aspect of the age, and determined to array it against their opponents. The Federalists desired to lead the people into an Aristocratic Centralization, by conferring upon them unconstitutional benefits: it was their policy to enlarge upon the benefits derived from their system of administration, ignoring its aristocratic tendency. On the other hand, it was the policy of the Strict Constructionists to denounce the ultimate aim of the Federalists, ignoring the practical benefits resulting to the North from their measures. By appealing to class feelings and republican sympathies, they hoped to gain the masses in the Middle states, and array that section against the party with whose policy its interests were identified. Their rally words were Democracy and Republicanism, against Aristocracy and Monarchical tendencies. The better to enforce the grand issues they chose to present, and inflame the passions they wished to enkindle, they fixed upon a name which embodied this distinction, and styled themselves Republicans.
The attitude of the parties toward each other, and their respective sympathies, necessarily made European politics a prominent feature of antagonism. The French Revolution had entirely changed the aspect of American politics. It wrested from the Federalists a victory already won, and compelled them to dash down the chaplet of victory to harness them for doubtful conflict. They had expected to array the Eastern and Middle states against the South: it roused the masses in those sections against them. They expected puny assaults from opponents armed with abstractions: it confronted them with an angry democracy. They naturally resented the injury the French Revolution inflicted upon their cause: they saw in it the mob rule they dreaded at home: they hated it as an insurrection against established authority the triumph of principles they deemed inimical to all government and tending to universal anarchy. These views naturally led them to oppose the French Republic, and sympathize with Great Britain in the wars raging in Europe. The Republicans, on the other hand, hailed the French Revolution as the Savior of America, and the Deliverer of Europe. Their enthusiasm was heightened by gratitude and admiration. In their eyes, it was the triumph of the People over long-established wrongs, the victory of Liberty over Oppression. They declared themselves the champions of French Republicanism against the armed despotisms of Europe, applauded its triumphs, excused its excesses, and palliated its crimes.
The Republican leaders availed themselves with energy and skill of all the advantages of their position. They cast a veil over the measures of the Federalists so popular at the North. The funding system was complete: the Bank was established for twenty years: the Republicans declared these measures beyond the politics of the time, and pointed attention exclusively to the monarchical sympathies, and ulterior aims of the Federalists. They denounced them as an aristocratic party, opposed to republicanism, everywhere; secretly aiming at monarchy at home, and in sympathy with despotism abroad. Their attachment to England was characterized as sycophancy to our oppressor; their hostility to France, as treason against Liberty, and black ingratitude toward our Revolutionary benefactor.
The Federalists were obliged to meet the issues tendered by their antagonists, and in the march of the French Revolution, European politics, originally incidental, became a leading feature in the antagonism of the parties.
The long, fierce contest of these parties, with its vicissitudes and changing fortunes, constitutes the first grand epic of our political history. A cursory sketch of its salient points is all, our limits will allow.
Humiliations Arising from the Policy of the Federalists.
The outbreak of the French Revolution exerted an influence upon the material progress of America, not less potent than upon the political condition of the country. The immense mass of French population withdrawn from agriculture and thrown into the armies, caused an immense demand for American breadstuffs, stimulating both our agricultural and shipping interests. The supremacy of Great Britain on the ocean cut France off from communication with her colonies; and the French government, abandoning the colonial system which had hitherto been strictly maintained, threw open her colonial and home ports to the vessels of neutrals. The fortune of war which soon after subjected Holland to the arms of France opened the Dutch colonies, also, to the trade of neutrals. Spain also relaxed her colonial system; and, in a few years, the course of events consigned the entire trade of her colonies, also, to neutral vessels.
A narrow mind deeming money the chief good, may hold it fortunate for America that the financial policy of Hamilton had stimulated the naval enterprise of the North into such activity that American vessels were ready to engage in this lucrative Carrying Trade. But measured even by the pecuniary standard, this neutral Carrying Trade was unfortunate for the country; its uncertain and interrupted profits turned us aside from a career of steady, uninterrupted, and enduring prosperity.And then the measureless humiliation to which it subjected us ! If wealth is purchased at a price too dear in the sacrifice of national honor and the deterioration of national character, the financial policy which, by enabling the North to extemporize a great merchant navy, embarked the Eastern and Middle States in the neutral Carrying Trade, was a great national misfortune. We obtained commercial advantages, it is true; but in acquiring them we became the football of the combatants. They both despised us, while availing themselves of our neutral position; and they mutually gave us such kicks, as wrestlers might bestow upon a beggar who was groveling around their feet for the coins that dropped in their struggle.
This accession of prosperity was dearly purchased by moral decadence, also. In the reckless fever of maritime speculation, the simplicity of manners that characterized the Colonial era was wholly lost. The thirst of sudden wealth seized the Northern mind, no longer patient of steady industry, and the prosperity attendant upon economy and patient application. New England was especially engaged in this new branch of marine speculation; the Middle states being more occupied with mercantile enterprise, and agricultural industry. It was the grand pursuit of New England, and its effects were chiefly visible upon the New England character. The character of the race was fused in the crucible of maritime speculation, and underwent a lasting and deleterious change. The stern, hardy Puritan pioneers would have failed to recognize their crafty and avaricious descendants. The New Englander became a speculator by natural bias. The wealthy embarked in the Colonial Carrying Trade where success was won by finesse and trickery; those in humble circumstances, seized with the prevailing mania, became perambulating peddlers of “Yankee notions.” Then were developed the peculiar characteristics, which, wherever the race is known, have generated the proverb, “As sharp as a Yankee.” From being stern, unbending, upright, they became models of address, suppleness, and finesse. Even the stern enthusiasm of the Puritan character partook of the general deterioration, and assumed a modified form of fiery fanaticism, controlled and directed by the dictates of crafty policy.
Far better for America, had Bank loans never enabled American shippers to extemporize a merchant navy, the fruitful source of gain and demoralization. Without the Bank, we should not have had a navy sufficient to engage in the Carrying Trade, until the course of events rendered it impracticable. Pursuing our career of normal industry, we should have escaped the complications and humiliations which characterize an era of our history, upon which no American can look back without a blush.
The political revolution of 1800 which ejected the Latitudinarian Constructionists from power, is a proper epoch at which to pause a moment and note the fruits of their policy. At this point of American history, we find the following “counts,” in the indictment against the unconstitutional Centralization policy.
1. It laid the foundation of its power in public corruption, debauching the national mind into violations of compact, by bribes offered to interest.
2. It convulsed the country with party strife.
3. It gendered political trickery, causing the presentation of false issues, veiling Truth at the shrine of Expediency.
4. It fostered sectional interests, and embittered sectional strife,which would otherwise have remained dormant, and sunk into oblivion.
5. It compromised the national dignity, making the Federalists and Republicans, respectively, the subservient partizans of England and France.
6. It diverted us from a career of steady prosperity which would have maintained our tranquillity, fostered our virtues, and conserved our honor, and plunged us headlong into the Carrying Trade,a vortex of reckless, exciting speculation, that engulfed them all.
7. Through the agency of the Carrying Trade:
a: It subjected us to ceaseless humiliations at the hands of the European belligerents:
b: It brought upon us the contempt of mankind:
c: It debased the national character, teaching us to submit to humiliations with patience which at first had fired our blood with indignation:
d: In the absorbing pursuit of gain, it rendered us oblivious of honor, heedless of insult, and regardless of our plighted faith.
No American can look back upon that period without shame. The Carrying Trade demoralized us. We were ready to endure all things, so the Trade were not taken away. We entered upon it full of becoming national pride, taking fire at insult, from whatever quarter it came. But this pride soon forsook us, and the roar of indignation sunk into the whine of the peddler robbed of his wares. Nor is it strange that such causes produced national degeneracy. Humiliation debases the character as rapidly as vice,and we were steeped in humiliation to the lips. We were the ally of France by revolutionary treaties, and had conceded to her the sole right to enter our harbors with captured prizes, to the exclusion of her enemies. England heaped indignity upon us: instead of resenting it, we agreed to violate our treaty with France, exclude her vessels with prizes, and admit those of England alone ! so that we might be allowed to prosecute the Carrying Trade ! France, in turn, trampled upon us: we sent an embassy to solicit a treaty ! It was spurned out of the country: we sent another ! and agreed to pocket all past wrongs ! and violate our treaty with England, and allow French prizes to enter our ports ! so that we might but prosecute the Carrying Trade ! Thus we shuffled between the combatants, making outcry as a cuff was received from one, and a kick from the other; begging dishonorable treaties with both, and keeping faith with neither; but always with a keen eye to the main chance, industriously engaged in the Carrying Trade !
Pah ! the deeds of that time smell to heaven, and even yet taint our reputation with mankind.
The Era of Republican Rule.
The policy of Centralization was overthrown in the election of Jefferson, but the consequences of the policy remained when the party which had maintained it had fallen.
The policy of Centralization left the nation a legacy of insult and humiliation to be borne, more galling than any yet received.
The peace of Amiens gave a respite to Europe from war, and to America from insult. But the tocsin was soon heard again; and its sound was the signal for a renewal of contemptuous assaults upon our rights, and our honor.
The war of 1812 was necessary to vindicate our rights and assert our honor. The excessive insolence of the British government passed the measure of patience; the impudence of its negotiations surpassed, if possible, the insulting arrogance of its acts. Had the pacification of Europe found us still tamely enduring outrage and contumely, we had been branded with dishonor forever.
Still, it was a sad necessity which drove us to make common cause with Napoleon, at the very moment when he crossed the Russian frontier, to overthrow the last barrier to universal dominion. It was the last curse of Hamilton‘s system.
The War of 1812 was the legacy, which the Bank, expiring the year before, bequeathed to the country. In a domestic point of view, the war was the greatest evil the country had ever suffered. It destroyed the wealth which had been accumulated in the Carrying Trade; it paralyzed commerce; prostrated industry; and left the government overwhelmed with debt, and bankrupt in credit.
In 1815, the system inaugurated by Hamilton had run its course; and it left the country in a worse condition than it found it. We were deeper in debt than in 1791, when the Bank was chartered; credit was as prostrate; bankruptcy was as general; commerce and industry were at as low an ebb. The system of interference with the internal interests of the country by the Federal government had run its career. It had violated the Constitution, to force a hectic prosperity; the short lived prosperity was dead. It had trampled down limitations of power, to foster accumulation of wealth; the wealth had vanished. It had disregarded the institutions of the country to foster commerce; commerce was ruined. Nothing remained of the fruits of Hamilton’s system but a few hulks rotting in our harborsYes, the opprobrium it had brought upon us, hardly effaced by all the blood of the war, still lingered on our garments ! and it had planted the seed of Centralization, and covered it in the ruin wrought by war, where it germinated as in a congenial soil, and overshadowed the country with a new and more baneful growth of Federal usurpation.
We have now traced the history of causation through which the financial system of 1791 led the country into the humiliations and short-lived profits of the Carrying Trade, ending in the ruin of the War with England. It will be the work of a future chapter to trace the operation of natural causes, broken by the intervention of the Federal government in the internal development of the country, and mark the unbroken career of prosperity on which they would have borne as. We look not to that now. But leaving this out of view, no one will deny that even the most moderate degree of prosperity would have been preferable to the career on which Hamilton’s system launched us. No one who traces the history of the country from the inauguration of the Federal government down to 1815 will maintain that our abnormal career of factious politics and excited speculation, with its concomitants of reverse and opprobrium, and its denouement in war, and industrial and financial ruin, is preferable to a normal career of steady, uninterrupted development.
Far better had the industry of the country been left to the influence of natural laws, without the interference of government. Then our people, escaping the demoralizing vicissitudes of speculation, would have remained tranquil and virtuous: no party banners would have waved over the Republic: no complications with European affairs would have induced alternate breaches of faith toward both belligerents, and brought upon us a series of humiliations dearly purchased by the gains of traffic, and expiated by the ruin of a war which swept all the fruits of toil and humiliation away. Instead we should have been content with our own commerce: British jealousy would not have imposed restrictions upon our intercourse with foreign countries in violation of national law: our own mariners would have sufficed for our commerce, without tempting British sailors with high bounties to engage in our merchant service, thus inducing impressment in violation of our flag. A steady prosperity would have illustrated our progress; and with a spotless fame, resources conserved, and energies unwasted, we should have entered the course when quiet was restored in Europe, ready to bear away the palm of industrial prosperity from the war-worn nation of the Old World.
Normal Social State of the United States.
The social life of a country takes its form, in great measure, from its industrial development.
The three forming principles of the social life of a people are, their religion, their government, and their industry. The influence of these three principles must be combined, to induce a high degree of social advancement. Religion produces little effect upon a population degraded by oppression and want. Nor can religion and elevated political institutions develop a high state of social progress, where the industrial condition of a people is unfavorable. Our own country is a striking example of this fact. The elevating influence of Christianity and Free government has been neutralized by an abnormal industrial system. The social life of the country has been perverted by the evils attendant upon excessive wealth, on the one hand, and excessive poverty on the other. Social excitement has prevailed to an extent unknown elsewhere. Vice, and immorality, and looseness of religious belief are alarming characteristics of American society.
We leave to a future chapter the task of tracing the effect of our abnormal industrial system in causing these forms of social evil. The present task before us is, to show the influence of our true industrial system, acting jointly with religion and free institutions, in promoting the social advancement of our people.
We Should Have Escaped Social Excitement.
Social excitement is the first characteristic of American society that strikes the observer. This is an offshoot of our industrial system. It has been, generated by the universal spirit of speculation, the friction of city excitements, and the abuses of easily acquired wealth. In a normal course of industry, this social excitement could not have been fostered into activity.
Under our true industrial system, each section would have supplied its own agricultural wants. The West would have found a market for its provisions and raw material in its own manufactories; the East would have afforded an active market for the agricultural products of that section; the South would have grown its own supplies, raising cotton as an extra crop. The only interchange between the sections would have consisted in manufactured products, and, in one instance, raw material. The bulky products of agriculture would have found a home market. Production and consumption would have been brought into juxtaposition, and would not have required a multitude of transporters, all levying upon produce heavy profits.
Under such circumstances speculation would have no place in the business of the country. Almost the entire population would be engaged in productive industry. Each section would find a market at home for its breadstuffs and live stock, and where the producer was so near the consumer, few persons need be engaged in the transfer. The village merchant who supplied the farmer’s wants would purchase his products, in turn, and sell them to the grocer in the neighboring manufacturing town. The wants of the seaports and commercial towns would be supplied with equal facility by the adjacent country.The supply trade of the several sections would have been conducted without speculation or excitement.
The same would be true of the interchange between the different sections and the foreign commerce of the country. The true principles of commerce would obtain,all bulky articles would find a ready market at home, and be withdrawn from commerce. Except the transfer of Southern cotton to the Western mills, the interchange between the sections would consist entirely of manufactured products and imported articles of luxurious consumption. And foreign commerce would comprise only our manufactured products in exchange for the industrial products of other countries. Commerce would consist in staple articles, not liable to fluctuation in price, and consequently not open to speculation.
The business of the country would have its regular channels, in which it would flow with methodical regularity. The cotton of the South, and the wool of the West would find their way directly to the factories, and thence to the seaboard. This would constitute the regular course of commerce. Methodical industry would be universal. Speculation could never have demoralized the public mind, and run the people mad with avarice and excitement.
As we should have escaped the excitement and demoralisation incident to speculation, so we should equally have avoided the excitements incident to great cities. We should probably have had few very large cities. Consulting economy of production, factories would be located immediately upon the banks of our rivers, for convenience of transportation. The Mississippi and its tributaries would now be one great quay dotted with manufacturing towns. A few interior cities would rise to conduct the exchange between the sections; and with a few seaports, would suffice to carry on the commerce of the country. New Orleans would at first have taken the export trade. But Eastern enterprise would ere now have constructed ship canals from the Ohio and Upper Mississippi to the Hudson and the Chesapeake; and steamers laden at the Western factory would bear their freight to the ocean, and frequently to foreign lands.
Industrious mercantile cities do not necessarily foster excitement and corrupt the social life of a country. Social excitement and demoralization are begotten, not of business activity, but of furious speculation, and the prodigal extravagance arising from wealth easily won and readily squandered. In our normal industrial career, steady business activity would have fostered the active mentality, and the healthy prosperity essential to social advancement. The highest national prosperity would have been conjoined with moderate individual profits. Industry, contentment, and tranquillity, would have illustrated our prosperous career.
No Oppression of the Laboring Classes.
In our normal industrial career, we should have escaped, not only the excessive social excitement consequent upon speculation and the abuse of wealth, but also the evils incident to the oppression of the laboring classes.
Prices would have been equalized. Wages, though low, would have been upon the same scale as all articles of consumption. The factories being in the heart of the agricultural region, the operative would obtain the necessaries of life so cheap, as to live in comfort, and lay aside a fund for future necessities. Laborers in sea-ports and mercantile towns and villages, obtaining an abundant supply of cheap food from the adjacent country, and finding all manufactured articles cheap, would derive from their wages a comfortable support. The entire operative population would be happy, cheerful, and contented.
The Prevailing Mania of Thought and Impulse.
If the excitement of the era of commerce had merely caused a dearth of mind, it would have wrought a grievous evil ruinous to the progress of the age; for, from the age of Tarquin it has been known that the destruction of the leading minds of a country is the surest method of subverting a state.
But more than this must be charged against the prevailing social effervescence. It has not only created a dearth of great minds; it has filled the world with the bubbling froth of mental and moral excitement.
The mind of the age, tossed in perpetual unrest, has lost its tone. Conservatism of thought, of principle, is no more. The perpetual dashing of the billows has displaced the buoys, that served to mark the proper channel of thought, and adventurous minds are constantly dashing into wreck upon the shoals that bound the way. Genius is constantly exploring new and impossible theories of progress. Novelty is the rage. Old things are held to be wrong because old and established. New theories of government, of morals, of religion, are broached on every hand. Every theorist has his hobby, which is the panacea for all the ills man labors under; and no hobby is too absurd to find zealous votaries among brains turned with social and business excitement.
An unsettled brain is marked by the dominance of a single idea. The world is full of monomaniacspolitical monomaniacssocial monomaniacsreligious monomaniacs; all having some ruling idea some special direction their frenzy takessome special object of hatred, to overthrow which they are willing to involve every thing in wreck.
The tendency of all these visionaries, however, is to greater license. Some assail one, some another of the conservative elements of social order, which impose restraint upon the unbridled passions of man. An extension of liberty is the common cry of all. Their rantings do great injury, by misleading many, and by producing a reaction in the minds of many against conservative progress. Though longing for a better order of things, the world dreads these distempered phantasms, and prefers to cling to the evils of the past, rather than throw down the dikes to the dashings of radical innovation. None know where it would end; the innovator of the present would be out-Heroded by the wilder innovator of the future, until every principle of order were lost, and society resolved into a mass of chaotic elements. Thus mankind, like a madman with enough reason left to misdoubt his fancies and dread their promptings, is ready to extinguish the torch of progress, lest it should set the world on flame.
First among these visionaries, we notice those whose mania takes a political direction.
The Red Republican finds the source of all evils in the protection extended by government to vested rights, and would save the world, by leveling all distinctions, and placing mankind upon the platform of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. In dread of his doctrines, France cowered back beneath Imperialism, for protection against the evils of licentious liberty unbridled by conservatism and reason.
The political monomaniacs of America, like their brethren of France, have revolted against the protection afforded by our constitution to vested rights, and have set the country on fire to destroy the object of their hate. One-half our land lies blackened and desolate; and, unless they are timely checked, the flames of desolation may spread, until the whole country is involved in one common ruin. They have acted as madly as a frenzied lunatic who, to destroy the vermin that infest his cellar, pulls down the foundation walls of his house, and continues to glory in his sagacity and resolution until the toppling building whelms him in its ruins.
Many classes of social monomaniacs exist, who rant their frenzied crudities to audiences almost as frenzied as they.
One class finds the germ of all evils in the social position of woman, which they choose to term subordinate. They hold that if the softness of woman’s nature were hardened into steel by rough contact with social and political life, it would work the regeneration of our race. They would mar the one redeeming feature of society, the gentle clinging tenderness of woman, which so fits her to soothe the excitements and soften into gentleness the asperities of the masculine nature; and would transform her into a hard, stern, strong-minded creature, wrestling and struggling with life, endeavoring to compensate the lack of strength and massiveness of organism by fiery excitability, and degenerating into a fierce, malignant, revengeful virago. An unsexed woman is a demon. A race of women formed upon the model of these monomaniacs would be the mothers of a race of savages.
Another class find all evils in the restraints of the matrimonial relation ! They believe the race will never improve until it is animalized and riots in the license of bestial liberty !
Another class find in communism a remedy for all social evils. Beholding the sufferings of poverty and the riotous luxury of wealth, their souls are filled with indignation at the unequal distribution of social blessings. They behold mankind universally disquieted by care the care of avarice, or the care of penury; and they would cut the Gordian knot of social ill by an universal distribution of goods. In other words, they would confiscate the property of the industrious, prosperous class, for the benefit of vagabonds and Bohemians; they would convert the world into a vast poor-house system, where the industrious should work for the support of the sluggards, until at last mutual disgust should empty the lazar-house Babels, and disperse over the earth a race of barbarians destitute of the principles of government and the rules of social order.
But another class of these social reformers surpass all their brethren in zeal and frenzy. They, too, believe in the perfectability of the human race, and they would destroy sin by removing the law. These philosophers hold that selfishness and covetousness of property and person, are the leashed bloodhounds that are hunting down the happiness of man. They would destroy these two twin passions: starve self-love, by allowing man nothing to call his own neither property, nor wife, nor children; and kill covetousness, with a surfeitby giving man full and free possession of everything he desired ! The selfishness which desires exclusive possession of anything, they say, is odiouswholly opposed to the golden rule of benevolence which loves our neighbor as ourself ! If man loved his fellow as himself, he would not wish to claim any exclusive blessing either in love or wealth; and the narrow selfishness of the human heart should be mortified, that the broad principle of universal benevolence may sway his soul ! “What a beautiful world,” they cry with enthusiasm, “would it be, with every man possessing nothing and having everythinghis soul neither narrowed with selfishness, nor fevered with vain desire of others’ blessingsfree alike from carking care, and gnawing envyand with no narrow family ties to fetter the heart’s expansive benevolence and prevent its embracing all mankind. Then, indeed, would the world be happy !”
Yes, happy as beasts ! provided man could swap his soul for another pair of legs !
All these various forms of socialistic mania are based upon the infidel assumption that Christianity is a failure; that its principles of religion and social life might answer for a less enlightened age, but that the world has now advanced beyond them and requires a new platform a new adjustment of social relations better adapted to the elevated stand-point of this age of enlightened progress ! And the class of theorists thus far mentioned look to social and governmental reforms as the great source of amelioration, to the exclusion of the religious idea.
But there is another class of reformers crazed by the excitement of this age. They, too, believe Christianity a failure, but they severally look to other systems of religion as the source whence the world is to expect its deliverance.
Some of these systems claim to be modifications of Christianity later revelations to favored children of Heaven.
Mormonism numbers its votaries by millions. Its appeals to a morbid imagination, and its toleration of polygamy, constitute to a certain class of excited minds irresistible attractions; and, through the tragic death of Joe Smith, it is glorified in excited fancies with the blood of a martyred prophet.
Swedenborg was a man whose sensitive organism made him the subject of clairvoyant phenomena, which, being then unknown, turned his brain and convinced him that he was the chosen prophet of a new revelation. The remarkable phenomena of which he was the subject challenged the conviction of a few wonder-mongers of his own time, but made little impression upon the public mind. But the excited imaginativeness of our era has brought myriads of minds into a fit state to embrace his fanciful dreamings. His votaries are numbered by millions; and they continue to increase as the excitement of the time ripens into more decided delirium.
But Spiritualism is less modest than its rival manias. It discards Christianity as an ultimate revelation, and professes to open revelations from another world to all its votaries.
This age has many Swedenborgs. Amid the prevailing excitement, many sensitive natures have developed an abnormal organism once very rare, which gives a clairvoyant power construed into revelations from the unseen world. The suggestions of an insane fancy are credited as spiritual revelations, and are regarded as the highest authority in establishing principles for the regulation of social, moral, and religious life. The millions of votaries of spiritualism daily seek new revelations from the spirit land. The necromancy of the olden time, probably engendered in the excitement of the first age of Phoenician commerce, has been revived among us. Man, discarding the guidance of reason, is again seeking answers from oracles, and asking of the dead enlightenment and direction. So far has it gone, that every sovereign in Europe is a spiritualist. The Queen of England is lost to the world while seeking daily communion with the spirit of her deceased husband. Napoleon III takes counsel, as he fancies, with great statesmen and sages of past ages, who suggest the policy he should adopt. All the sovereigns of Europe, disquieted and oppressed by fear of those things which are coming on the earth, are seeking, like Saul, to the dead, for counsel and direction.
And what is Christianity doing ? If the age will not follow its guidance, it might at least lock the wheels and check the mad rush toward ruin. The only conservative principle that is left to curb the madness of the time, is reverence for divine authority. Were the majesty of God proclaimedthe holiness of His law the blindness of manhis weakness and sinfulness the race might hear, and be humbled into submission to Jehovah; or, at least, the headstrong pride which now riots uncontrolled would be held in check, and prevented from making man the victim of his own wayward and unbridled fancies. Why this seeking to the dead ? this bending in homage to the fancies of Swedenborg, and the pretensions of the Mormon impostor ? It is because the Christian ministry ceased to claim the veneration of mankind for the Bible. Christianity dropped the reins, and the riderless horse is seeking a master. Man must revere something must bow to something with blind veneration; and when the Christian ministry no longer challenge his reverence for God, he bows his neck to the yoke of necromancy and the pretensions of imposture.
It is the worst misfortune of the time that the votaries of Christianity are maddened too. The excitement that prevails has swept religious thought from its moorings. Imagination rules the hour, and leads reason captive to adorn its triumph. The votaries of Christianity are divided into two classes, equally wayward, and almost equally mad. The pious and despondent give up the world to ruin; they turn to prophecy for comfort, and await in rapt and hopeful expectation the coming of their Lord, to arrest the progress of impiety and summon man to judgment. But the largest class of professed Christians partake of the visionary theories which agitate the age. They discard reverence for divine revelation where it comes in conflict with their views. They have forgot the precepts of the religion of peace, of reverence, of love, and joined the hell-dance of madness and passion. They follow the meteor flame gendered of the general fermentation, supposing it the beacon light of progress. Religion is no longer reverence for God and obedience to his will; it is devotion to the principles of progress recognized in this generation.
Shepherd and flock are gone astray together. Preachers love popularity; and congregations variously agitated with business cares, fashionable jealousies, stormy politics, and fiery fiction, will not listen patiently to an earnest appeal to the conscience, or devoutly to a presentation of the majesty of God. Veneration and conscientiousness are overwhelmed in the prevailing excitement: besides, these views are old; and to minds so long swept onward in the excited rush from one novelty to another, familiar thought has lost its charm. The ministry, moreover, has been swept along with the current of agitated feeling, and is prepared to become the organ of the prevailing intoxication of thought. Consequently, the pulpit, instead of asserting the conservative dignity of Christianity, and commanding man, everywhere, to repent and bow down in humility before God, is hounding on the excitement, and represents the Almighty as the leader of the cry.
The truths which teach humility are ignored. The ministry satisfy the consciences and please the self love of admiring audiences, by rousing their hatred of sins not their own, and, like the authors of fiction, inspiring them with pity of sorrows far away that do not appeal to self-sacrificing benevolence. They are lecturers upon popular and exciting topics appertaining to philanthropy and progress, suited to the prevailing taste; and afford their audiences on the Sabbath an agreeable entertainment, as exciting in its way as the lectures, the theaters, the political harangues, the ball-rooms, and concerts that occupy their weekly hours. They have lowered Christianity to the level of the various Deistical movements of the day, representing its grand aim as social advancement, instead of the salvation of men. They encourage their hearers to question the inspiration of the bible, by setting human reason and the suggestions of a fanatical spirit above its teachings. The professed ministers of Jesus are beginning to question the divinity of the Savior, and, even while ministering in the functions of their office, are marshaling on the hosts of infidelity.
The excitement of the age has mastered the citadel of conservatism and turned its guns against opposition, and is almost undisputed master of the field.
Whence all this fermentation ? these debasing, or fanciful theories of social reform ? these inquiries after new forms of religion ? these seekings after counsel from the dead ? these panderings of current Christianity to the wayward impulses of the hour ? It is not the march of mind; for the age is characterized by the vagaries of a wayward imagination, not the fixed conclusions of calm, enlightened reason. Sober thought is silent and unregarded, while our generation is watching the speculative flights of soaring fancy.
The World is fast going mad. Wisdom is discarded and the mad fancies of lunatic spirits, under the guise of oracles from the departed, are assuming the guidance of mankind. What can we hope when madness leads the thought, and directs the counsels of the age ? This generation is moving on in a bacchanal procession where the wildest are the leaders. Crazed genius marshals the dance, and, drunken with excitement, the thoughtless multitude rush on, frantic with baseless hope and maniac gleeto ruin. It is fruitless to argue with madmen-to point to the evils that already environ them. All is well. They have escaped from the bondage of thought which fettered past ages ! they are in the wilderness now but are bound to the land of promise ! and, heedless of argument or remonstrance, they rush blindly on. Ah ! whither will the pillar of darkness that guides their footsteps lead them ?
This agitation of the human mind arose nearly forty years ago with the expansion of the new commercial era. The agitation for Reform in England, the Polish insurrection, and the Revolution in France which dethroned Charles XII, mark its inception in Europe; as strikingly, as the political tempest which overswept our country during the administration of Jackson, displays its rise in America.
It was repressed in Europe, by power; in America, by financial revulsion.
But the flood continued to rise, until, in 1848, it overflowed Europe and America with political excitement.
Power again repaired the broken dykes in Europe; and Compromise, in America.
But the torrent has gone on deepening and swelling ever since, as the growing commerce of Britain has increased. And still that exciting commerce continues its annual expansion, increasing the volume of excitement, which is threatening to deluge the earth, and sweep away all vestiges of order and civilized progress.
In our own country, the frenzy of passion and speculative thought have overleaped all bounds, and the billows of excitement are rolling a general deluge over the land. All the landmarks of our fathers have been obliterated beneath the rising flood. The old features of social and industrial life are lost. The surges of commerce dash unceasingly where placid content and quiet routine once reigned. Frothlike theories of progress and reform are bubbling up to the surface, everywhere agitated and seething with fermentation. The ark of the Constitution, freighted with the hopes of man, is drifting tempest-broken, upon the heaving billows. The dove of peace has returned, but bearing no olive branch in its mouth. The same causes which have wrought our ruin, are everywhere in operation. Commercial excitement, and, with it, social agitation, is rapidly increasing. The world is already rocking in the throes of an universal earthquake. The fountains of the deep are breaking up. Alas for man, unless the agitation subside ! The foundations of social life will be everywhere upheaved; society will rock into ruins, and chaos come again.
Positive Evils of the War
Under favorable circumstances, nothing improves so rapidly as husbandrynothing develops so rapidly as industry. Forty years ago, our own system of husbandry was rude. Our agricultural implements were of the most primitive model, and our system of culture was little in advance of that which now prevails in India and South America. Nor was systematic industry much further advanced. Their system of culture has already been much improved. The lavish use of British capital, and four years of extraordinary prosperity, have enabled them to adopt improved processes in every part of the cotton culture. If, under the old system, with imperfect implements for culture, primitive machinery for ginning and packing, no roads, and a bad government, India was able to sell cotton for twelve cents a pound in the Liverpool market, that price will certainly suffice, now, when such improvements have been made.
The question with us is, not whether those fields will maintain their standard of production when cotton falls to the price of 1860; the past proves that ! but, whether they will not, as their system of husbandry continues to improve under the fostering care of England, be able to export cotton at a price cheaper than we can afford. If their industry continues to develop, we may expect them to compete with us in the Liverpool market, with cotton worth only twelve cents a pound, and perhaps even lower than that.
But it is urged as a last resort, that the cotton market is unlimited, and that the industry of all is not more than sufficient to supply it. This is a grave mistake. That the demand for cotton is advancing, and will continue to advance, is unquestionable. But the increase of the crop in our own country more than kept pace with it. In 1860, we had glutted the market. If our production, alone, sufficed to glut the market, how will it be when the United States, South America, Egypt, Turkey, India, and China, are all competitors in the market, and all annually increasing their crops ? The market will be glutted to the gorge, and the fields which can produce cheapest will drive others from competition.
It will then come to the test of cheap production. And when those fields shall have improved their system of agriculture, what advantage shall we have over them ? They have the conditions of cheap production in a more eminent degree than we. They have the low scale of prices based upon a specie currency. Their luxuriant soil and tropical climate enables them to grow life-sustaining products in the greatest abundance; and the distance of a foreign market keeps prices at a standard far lower than with us. In Brazil, beef is worth only a cent a pound; the distance of a market renders Egyptian produce extremely low; in India, the ordinary price of rice and wheat, the principal food of the population, is only forty cents a bushel. Moreover, the tropical climate of those countries produces cheaply products of luxurious consumption, which we must purchase at greatly enhanced prices. Furthermore, the clothing of the cultivators of Hindostan, Egypt, and Brazil, is much less expensive than with us. And finally, they have fewer of the expensive habits of civilization. If it comes to the test of cheap production, they will, in the end, drive us from the English market.
Such are the elements of the industrial situation we have to face. England has fortified her position, and become independent of our supply of cotton, and even threatens to supersede it, altogether, with the production of foreign fields. The War has given her an immense advantage over her position six years ago. Then, we might, by a resolute, well-directed effort, have easily deprived her of her cotton manufacture. Now, with her factories supplied with staple from those new fields, Britain is a formidable competitor.
THE WAR HAS WEAKENED US.
The War has not only enabled Great Britain to strengthen her position, and fortify her centralization of industry; it has diminished our resources for competition, in even a greater degree.
The War Has Weakened Us,
by the Devastation of the South, and the Prostration of Southern Industry
Who can estimate the losses it has entailed ! In the usual ratio of progress, the Southern States ought, now, to be advanced far beyond the status of 1860. In the ten years preceding the war, millions of acres were added to farms. The value of the farming lands more than doubled. Instead of the usual rate of increase, the present condition of the Southern States presents a most deplorable contrast with their prosperous state, in 1860. The track of armies is marked with desolation; the condition of the country is one of general poverty, resources wasted, property ruined, labor demoralized. Of the negroes who cultivated our great staple, vast numbers have perished, and a great part of the survivors are subsisting in comparative idleness, a burden, rather than a benefit to the community. The supply of cotton has greatly fallen off, with no prospect, from present indications, of a change for the better. Large districts in Georgia and South Carolina are being forsaken by the negro population; in the Mississippi delta, the country is threatened with desolation by the destruction of levys, and the bankrupt landowners, disheartened by the unpromising circumstances of their condition, are almost ready to abandon their, lands to the river.
Six thousand million dollars will not cover the losses of the South from the War. The loss of property, representing accumulated capital, will amount to nearly or quite five thousand millions; and one thousand million dollars will not cover the losses from the stagnation of industry during the war.
The devastation of war, the dismantling of plantations, the destruction of property and stock, the demoralization of labor, have reduced the Southern states to a condition the most unfavorable for competing with the new cotton fields developing under the intelligent patronage of Britain.
The war has weakened us
by the National Debt it has Accumulated.
The war has imposed on us a national debt of almost unexampled magnitude. The recognized debt of the country amounts to $2,500,000,000. Bounty grants, and the assumption of state war debts, increase it by several hundred millions. Besides this, there are said to be outstanding claims to the amount of $3,000,000,000 more, Leaving this aside, the recognized debt will involve an annual taxation of $150,000,000 for the payment of interest.
This debt entails upon us another serious disadvantage, pregnant with danger to our prosperity. While the British debt is owned by capitalists at home, a considerable portion of ours is in the hands of foreign capitalists. It has been estimated that the payment of interest on American securities abroad requires the annual exportation of $100,000,000 of gold, or its equivalent. This is hardly an exaggerated estimate. The foreign debt is sufficient to keep us drained of the precious metals. The produce of our mines is insufficient to meet the draft. In default of a large cotton production, the balance of trade has, for years, been heavily against us; and this, with the payment of interest, necessitates a large annual exportation of our bonds, with increasing drafts upon the resources of the country for the payment of interest. The existing tendency, unless soon arrested, will have caused, at no distant day, the exportation of the entire debt, mortgaging us to a ruinous extent to foreign capitalists.
The effect of this state of things upon our competition with Great Britain is apparent. It places our credit at the mercy of English capitalists; and London bankers, acting in the interest of British manufacturers, may, upon occasion, by a turn of the screw, prostrate the national credit, and bring upon the country a ruinous financial revulsion.
But these evils, however great, would not prevent us from engaging in successful competition with Great Britain. Under a wise and conservative administration of the government, the Southern states would soon repair the ravages of war, and regain their former prosperity. Nor would the debt, under a prudent financial system, endanger the prosperity of the country.
But the War has inflicted upon the country an evil worse than military ravage, or the burden of debt. IT HAS SEATED THE LATITUDINARIAN CONSTRUCTIONISTS, the party whose ascendancy in former periods produced such great industrial, and political evils, FIRMLY IN POWER; and they are carrying out to the uttermost their crude and ruinous theories of government.
RUINOUS POLICY OF THE RADICALS.
The worst infliction of the War is its having given the country over to the domination of a radical, revolutionary party. They are no longer merely Latitudinarian Constructionists of the Constitution; they have boldly adopted the policy of disregarding the Constitution, trampling its restraints under foot, and forcing, by violence, the adoption of such changes in the instrument as they see fit to dictate.
The policy of the Radical party is both subversive of our republican system of government, and ruinous to our industrial interests.
The Policy of the Radicals Subversive of Republicanism.
They are Establishing a Centralization.
The Radical party has at length thrown aside the flimsy vail which masked its principles and its purposes, and has boldly inaugurated the policy of Revolution.
Having obtained uncontrolled possession of Congress, by the exclusion of representatives elected from Southern states, they are using their congressional majority, thus obtained, to pass unconstitutional and revolutionary laws, having for their sole object the perpetuation of their power. The vote in the Northern states at the last Congressional election filled them with uneasiness. In seven of the great states of the North, their majorities were so small, that a change of twenty-five thousand votes would have given all the states in a presidential election to Conservatism. It was apparent that a very slight change in public sentiment in the North would enable the Northern Conservatives, with the vote of the Southern states, to elect the next President. The Radicals were resolved to prevent this consummation at every hazard. To this end, they determined to adopt measures the most revolutionary, in order to revolutionize the Southern state governments, and bring them to the support of the Radical party.
Many obstacles were in the way.
The citizens of the Southern states were almost unanimously opposed to the Radicals, and regarded their measures with the utmost abhorrence. The negroes of the South might be relied on; but they were not invested with the right of suffrage; and the people of the states, who alone had jurisdiction of the matter, were most resolutely opposed to investing them with the franchise. Moreover, the negroes, even if enfranchised, were, in most of the states, a minority of the population, and could not control elections.
The Radical leaders grappled resolutely with all these difficulties. They devised a scheme of policy that would overcome all obstacles.
As the state governments would not invest the negroes with the franchise; they resolved to reduce the states to a territorial form of government; to invest, the negroes in these inchoate governments with the right of suffrage; and to place the states under military domination, until the population should establish state constitutions investing the negro with the franchise, ratify certain amendments of the Federal Constitution, and send such representatives to Congress as the Radicals should approve.
But the white population of those states would prefer to remain under military domination forever, rather than adopt these measures; and the white vote in most of the states would overbalance the negro vote, and defeat the programme. They resolved to overcome this obstacle by ordering an election, in which none should vote but those whose names were registered by officials appointed in the interest of the Radical party; these registration officers to have the power of rejecting whom they would, with no appeal from their decision. By this means, a majority of negro and submissionist votes might be secured, without difficulty.
Having devised these measures for revolutionizing the governments of the Southern states, the leaders of the Radical party found several obstacles in the way of carrying them into execution. The first was the repugnance of the more scrupulous Radicals in Congress, to vote for measures so plainly unconstitutional, so palpably revolutionary. The next obstacle was found in the foreseen opposition of the Executive, and the adverse decision of the Judiciary. The framers of the Constitution provided safeguards against unconstitutional and revolutionary measures, by requiring the co-operation of all three departments of the government for their execution. It was known that the President disapproved of the revolutionary policy they contemplated, and though, by their exclusion of the Southern representatives, their Congressional majority was so great as to render his veto a nullity, yet he might refuse to carry out their acts, until the Supreme Court should pronounce upon their constitutionality. And it was known that, if the question were ever brought before the Supreme Court, that respectable bench of judges could not do otherwise than pronounce the measures unconstitutional and revolutionary.
The Radical leaders resolved to overcome these obstacles. They began their programme by subjecting all the congressmen of their party to a thorough party drill, whipping in the reluctant and the conscientious, and forcing them to go with the majority. Having thus secured the requisite majority, they resolved to override the opposition of the executive and judicial departments of the government, if possible, by intimidation, if necessary, by the impeachment and removal of the President, and the reconstruction of the Supreme Court.
Having taken these preliminary measures, the Radical leaders pressed through Congress the Military Reconstruction Bill, followed by a supplementary act; both embodying the details of their plan for revolutionizing the governments and the politics of ten States of the Union.
The policy of the Radicals is revolutionary, throughout. The Reconstruction act is revolutionary, in reducing the states to territories in subjecting them to military domination in enfranchising the negro population in opposition to the will of the people of the states –in forcing the states to ratify constitutional amendments against their will, thus changing the Constitution by revolutionary violence. Not only is the law revolutionary, but it was carried by revolutionary violence. The requisite majority to pus it was obtained by the revolutionary exclusion of Southern representatives. Its execution was enforced by the revolutionary intimidation of the co-ordinate branches of the government.
But the policy will succeed. The President, overawed by the fear of removal, is executing the Reconstruction law; the Supreme Court, with the fear of reconstruction before its eyes, has declined to consider the merits of the law, when brought before it for adjudication. The Southern people are preparing to submit to the inevitable. The train is laid which must inevitably force the reconstruction of those states under the Radical programme, in defiance of the opposition of the citizens. The negroes who have a voice in the election of members of the conventions to form state constitutions are of course eager to vote themselves the franchise ! The great mass of the population, overawed by the presence of soldiers, discouraged by the helplessness of their condition, and apprehensive of farther Congressional oppression, cannot venture to offer any opposition. The Southern states will be reconstructed upon the negro and Radical programme.
The Southerners are indulging the delusive hope that they may control the negro vote, and thus prevent the States from being revolutionized into Radicalism. In that hope they are endeavoring to fraternize with the negro. If the negroes were left to their own impulses, the impressible nature of the race would probably induce them to vote in the interests of conservatism. But it is a part of the astute Radical programme to prevent the black race in the South from harmonizing with the white.
The party leaders have already taken their measures with profound sagacity and foresight, to secure to their own party the solid n negro vote. They began their propitiation of negro favor by the constitutional amendment declaring them citizens of the United States, one of the amendments they are now embodying by violence in the Constitution, through the coerced ratification of the Southern states. They have taken other measures to propitiate the negro vote. To this end, Stephens introduced his bill into Congress, providing for the wholesale confiscation of Southern property for their benefit. Sumner’s bill enfranchising them by law of Congress in all the states, had the same object in view. Those measures could not be passed in the present constitution of Congress. They were therefore merely offered, as indicative of the purposes of the Radical leaders, to propitiate the Southern negro vote, and secure their allegiance to the party. Those bills summon the negroes of the South to the aid of Radicalism, and urge them to send representatives to Congress who will strengthen the ultra Radical party, and enable it to pass those measures over the veto of the President and the opposition of Conservatism.
The appeal will not be in vain. The negro population of the South will give a solid vote for the Radical party. The trickery of the irresponsible Radical registration officers, and the presence of soldiers at the polls, will give the states to the domination of negro and Radical voters. They will follow the lead of Tennessee and Missouri in passing disfranchisement laws that will give them undisputed control of the states. They will send such representatives to Congress as will urge on Stephens’ confiscation bill, and the bill of Sumner giving suffrage to the negroes in every state in the Union.
When the Southern states shall have been revolutionized, and brought to the support of the Radical party, the first act in the drama of Centralization will be over, what next ? Will Radicalism pause in its career ? Will it retrace its steps ? A fate attends crime which always prevents the criminal from returning to the path of virtue. New forces are forever arising, which urge him onward to the consummation of his career. In summoning the Southern negroes to their assistance, the Radicals have invoked a spirit that will not down at their bidding. The Southern negroes have had Confiscation, and negro suffrage in all the states, held out to them; and when they are represented in Congress, they will demand the fulfillment of the bond. A refusal to comply with their wishes would leave the negroes to go eventually with the Southern Conservatives. The Radicals have not taken so many unconstitutional and revolutionary measures, already, in order to secure the negro vote in the South, to flinch from the final acts necessary to the achievement of their object.
The confiscation and distribution of Southern lands is a necessary part of the Radical programme. The enfranchisement of the negroes in all the states is equally essential to their scheme of power.
But it will be urged that the Congress has no constitutional power to enfranchise the negroes of the Northern states. How many other things has Congress done it had no constitutional power to do ! The power can easily be manufactured out of the new constitutional amendment that is being carried by the bayonet in the Southern states, an amendment which invests the negro with citizenship. No government is Republican, is the dogma, which deprives citizens of the right of voting; the Federal government is bound to secure to the states a republican form of government; ergo, the Federal government has the right to force the states to admit negroes to the suffrage. Congress will not blink at the question of constitutional power. It will only ask the question, Is it expedient for the achievement of party power ? In Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, the negro vote holds the balance of power; and, in a closely contested election, the 56,000 negroes in Pennsylvania, the 60,000 in New York, the 36,000 in Ohio, the 24,000 in New Jersey, the 10,000 in Indiana, the 7000 in Illinois, the 6000 in Michigan, would carry those states for the Radicals. Mr. Sumner is pressing the question through the press, seeking to leaven the public mind. The New York Tribune, in many respects more moderate in its tone than the Massachusetts Radical, yet agrees with him in the advocacy of this measure. It only remains to educate the Radical party up to the issue, a less difficult thing than many already achieved, and Congress will pass the law. It will be easy to carry the measure, when Northern Radicalism is infused with fresh ardor by the Radical representatives from the South, who, themselves elected by negro votes, will aim to carry out the wishes of their constituents, by placing Northern representatives upon the same basis as themselves.
The party in power have established what the old Federalists aimed at, a Centralization, ruling the states with autocratic power, and dominating the country by the armed rule of force. They have carried out the dogma of Hamilton, “The Constitution is a thing of nought which must be changed.” It is now boldly avowed that the Constitution must give way to the wants and ideas of the age, and its restrictions are haughtily put aside whenever they impose a bar against the will of a dominant majority. The Federalists were insidious in their usurpations of power by means of construction; but, now, the mask is cast aside, and the Radicals trample the Constitution, trample the Executive, trample the Judiciary, trample the States; and they boldly bring bayonets to bear to force the states to adopt such changes in the Constitution as they choose to suggest, and to submit to usurpations in opposition to law, to justice, and to right. Hitherto the Southern states have been the chief objects of this coercive rule. But already the principle is avowed that in the Northern states, also, the Federal government will pronounce upon the qualification of voters, and overrule the states at will.
The trampling of the Southern states is the inauguration of the sway of a Centralization resting its power upon force. The force is now applied to the Southern states, to compel them to revolutionize their governments, so as to give the Radicals control of their elections. This is the initial step in the programme, by which the Radicals are determined to rule the country by violence, in opposition to the will of a majority of the American people. They use a temporary victory in the Northern states, to revolutionize the Southern states by force, and bring them to the support of their tottering party; then, when reaction comes in the North and West, the people of those sections will find themselves controlled by the votes of Southern negroes, and New England fanatics and manufacturers.
Their scheme for maintaining their power is a bold one; and it is so well devised, that, once on foot, it can hardly fail of success. In all the states in which slavery recently existed, the negro holds the balance of power. In a presidential election, New England and the Southern states including Kentucky and Missouri, will cast one hundred and sixty nine electoral votes; while the Middle, North-western, and Pacific states, all combined, only out one hundred and sixty votes. New England manufacturers and Southern negroes will maintain the Radicals in power, against the votes of all the rest of the country, combined.
Radical domination would thus be very much simplified. As the party stands at present, its sway is continually threatened by the just dissatisfaction of the west with the protective policy dictated by New England. But, then, the votes of Southern negroes would be secured by the confiscation and distribution of Southern lands; while they lived in lazy indolence upon homesteads received from Radical beneficence, the negroes would vote with the party to which they owed their lands, without perplexing themselves with regard to the policy of the government: the manufacturers of New England, by coercing the suffrage of their employés, can easily control the vote of that section. And it will be the constant policy of the Radicals to propitiate those two sections. The cunning which looks no higher than party aims will always enable them to present issues that will secure them the support of New England and the Southern negro population; and, assured of this, the party can rest its government upon the bayonet, and bid defiance to the rest of the country. Let them once firmly establish their power, and the Middle and Northwestern states will be the objects of their oppression, as the South is, now. Let the west remonstrate against negro suffrage, and the oppressive system of legislation that will end in the prostration of its prosperity the only answer will be the bayonet.
A measure has already been proposed in Congress which provides for the organization of a standing army of half a million men completely devoted to the interests of the party controlling the centralized government, a force that will enable it to crush out all opposition to its power, by force of arms. The measure was laid aside for the moment, having met with bold exposure of its dangerous tendencies. But its suggestion shows that the Radical leaders contemplate a government resting upon military power. It was no doubt offered in accordance with their usual subtle policy of preparing public sentiment gradually for the adoption of startling innovations. The measure is the natural and necessary sequence of the policy of violence inaugurated by the party. Military force is the essential support of all centralisations. Let the Radical scheme of power once be fairly established, and the country will be placed under the rule of the sword. The Middle and Western states, having assisted in placing the yoke upon the neck of the South, will find, in turn, the subjugated South become the instrument of tyranny, to fix the yoke upon their own necks. The retribution denounced against Ahab will be theirs: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.“
Radical Centralization Policy Ruinous and Oppressive
Radicalism like all Centralizations administers the government in the interest of its two constituencies, the Southern Negro, and the Northern Capitalist; to the ruin of the national industry, and the oppression of the Northern industrial class.
The Radical party is devoted to the principles of centralization. They have conformed the public administration to their model. Centralization is already inaugurated under their rule. The party is resolved to maintain their possession of the government at all hazards, if necessary, by the exhibition of force. They remove with inflexible resolution every obstacle from their path. They have overawed the executive by the threat of impeachment