ePub 版

the house politely added, that she had charged nothing for the rooms, and would leave the compensation for them to my discretion, although three or four hundred dollars would not be too much for the inconvenience to which she had been put by myself and my followers.” This is not the complaint of an American at Vienna during the International Exposition, nor of an Englishman afflicted with Confederate or Turkish bonds. It was the experience of Gen. Baron von Kalb on his way through Virginia, to re-enforce the Southern army, in the spring of 1780. In Philadelphia he paid four hundred dollars for a hat, the same for a pair of boots; and for a good horse “ was asked a price equivalent to ten years of his pay."! A Tory wit of the time of the Revolution announced that there would be a new issue of paper dollars by Congress as soon as the rags of Washington's army could be spared for that purpose. Another Tory advertised for Continental money at the rate of a guinea per thousand, to be used for papering rooms. Yet this money was an enforced legal tender; and I have read upon the face of a sixpenny note the awful warning, “ To counterfeit is death." Jefferson computed that the two hundred millions of dollars emitted by Congress from 1775 to 1779 inclusive were worth, to those who received them, but about thirty-six millions of silver dollars. But the nation survived this degradation of its credit, this bankruptcy of its treasury, and a few years later, under the genius of Alexander Hamilton, produced a financial system that at once gave stability at home, and confidence abroad. In the strong but just words of Webster, “ Hamilton touched the dead corpse of the public credit, and it sprang upon its feet.” 4

Again: during the war of 1812 all the banks south of New England suspended specie payments; and their paper “fell so low, that a bill on Boston could not be purchased at Washington under an advance of from twenty to twentyfive per cent.' Yet the nation emerged with safety and honor from the financial complications of that day. The war of Gen. Jackson upon the Bank of the United States, and his famous Specie Circular, brought on another financial flurry; yet in 1836 the United States presented the unwonted spectacle of a government having a surplus revenue without levying one direct tax upon the people. The country has passed through commercial revulsions, in which a class of merchants, bankers, and institutions, have proved dishonest; now and then a State has taken upon itself the dishonesty and disgrace of repudiation: but such acts do not represent the tone of commercial or national honor. With a debt of enormous proportions, the United States are in no danger of following the precedent of Turkey; with a depreciated currency and a disordered commerce, they are not going to dishonor their bonds. If Congress will but take the warning of Walsingham in 1780, that “money is on a footing with commerce and religion, they all three refuse to be the subjects of law,' the nation will come out of its present depression more sober, more stable, more solid, than ever; and no financial storm shall ever shake its centre, or jeopard its life.

1 G. W. Greene, in Atlantic Monthly, October, 1875. 2 Moore's Diary of the Revolution, ii. 16. 8 Works, vol. ix, 259, 260. 4 Works, vol. i. 200.

War, always a severe strain upon any nation, brings special risks to a republic. Besides the tax upon industry, finances, loyalty, and life, a state of war in a republic may facilitate encroachments upon popular liberty, and open the way to military usurpation or the rivalries of military factions. One needs but to recall the later history of the Roman Republic, and the Italian Republics of the middle ages, to realize how imminent and fatal such dangers may be. But the people of the United States have three times met these perils, and surmounted them. Not to speak of the wars with Tripoli and Algiers, which gave a mortal blow to piracy in the Mediterranean; the Indian war, in which Gen. Harrison broke Tecumseh's league; the Florida war, that prepared the cession of the territory by Spain; and the later war with the Seminoles, that led to their extermination, — the century has tested the American people by two foreign wars of significance and a civil war of colossal proportions. The war with England in 1812 was entered into with little enthusiasm, and much open opposition; and it dragged along, with no decisive results and some humiliating disasters, till both parties were ready for peace in 1815. But it proved the United States able to cope in arms with the power from which they had won their independence, and especially capable of defying the mistress of the sea. The war was begun to resist the right of search and the impressment of seamen from American vessels: it made the names of Bainbridge, Biddle, Decatur, Hull, Jones, Lawrence, Perry, Porter, Stewart, illustrious in naval warfare; and when Perry quit his sinking flag-ship in an open boat, under fire of the enemy, and, mounting his second ship, captured the entire squadron of Lake Erie, the hitherto unchallenged refrain,“ Rule, Britannia, rule the waves,” was broken by his laconic report, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” The closing battles of Lundy's Lane and New Orleans left America mistress of herself, at least from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico.

The war with Mexico in 1846, though costing relatively little in treasure and blood, was a severe strain upon the morale of the nation. It was not only against the judgment, but against the conscience, of a large body of the people, who looked upon it as an unwarrantable invasion of a neighbor country in order to extend the area of slavery. Though it gave occasion for brilliant feats of arms under Gens. Scott, Taylor, and Wool, and secured to the United States possession of Texas, New Mexico, and California, this acquisition proved a Pandora's box of plagues and woes.

We have seen in the Third Lecture how sedulously the term “ slavery” and any formal sanction of the system were kept out of the Constitution, and how general, at that time, was the expectation that slavery would come to an end, as incongruous with the new order of things, and wasteful in the view of political economy. As the sentiment and practice of Christendom then were, slavery having been at first forced upon the Colonies, its existence at the formation of the Union was a thing for which“ nobody was to blame;" and it was left, without recrimination, to those who were implicated in it to ease themselves of it in their

But, as time went on, the invention of the cotton-gin, by giving new facility to slave-hands, increased the value of slave-labor; and the fact that slaves, though not citizens, were reckoned as three-fifths in the basis of representation, proved to the South a valuable element of

own way:

political power. Nevertheless, the North and West, inviting immigration, and favoring enterprise and expansion, began to give a political preponderance to free labor: and, inasmuch as the Ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri Compromise had set a barrier to the extension of slavery northward, the system demanded new territory for its own productiveness, and new States for retaining its balance in the Senate ; and so the old-fashioned toleration to slavery, doomed to a natural death, gave place to the propagation of slavery by use of the Constitution as its vital force, and to a counter-movement for its abolition as a political danger and a moral evil. If, in the period from 1820 to 1850, the South had resolutely planned the gradual but certain extinction of slavery, I am persuaded that the North would have freely shared with her the financial loss, and left her to transform her domestic institutions in her own way. But when the policy of maintaining and propagating the system was pushed not only over the territory of the continent, but within the territory of the Constitution, the North took alarm; and when, finally, the restrictive compromises of former days were repealed, and the Fugitive-slave Law made the United-States Government active, and the people of the United States personally responsible, in the support and extension of slavery, then that old troublesome, stubborn, sometimes wilful Puritan thing called conscience was roused; and this soon entered into and controlled political action. Under the old state of things, the existence of slavery as a purely local institution of the Southern States touched no man's conscience at the North, since the resident of a non-slaveholding State had no more responsibility for it there than in Cuba. He might regret it; but he could not reach it to remove it. But when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise (1854) threw open to slavery territory once consecrated to freedom, and the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case held slaves to be property in every part of the national territory, the conscientious men of the North felt, that, through their representatives at the seat of government, they were made personally responsible for a system which they disapproved politically, and condemned morally. Therefore they organized a party against the

extension of slavery, and the support of it by the National Government. This organization was not directed against the South as a section, nor against the laws and institutions of the Southern States, but against certain political demagogues of the North, — the worst friends the South ever had, — who courted the support of the South by volunteering to be propagandists of slavery. These were the mischief-makers who arrayed party against party, and section against section. New compromises were essayed ; but blood was up. The armed resistance to the slave occupation of Kansas, and the raid of John Brown into Virginia, had opened the gates of war; and the election of Mr. Lincoln, in face of the threat of secession, determined the Southern leaders to put that threat in execution. Mr. Lincoln declared in his inaugural address, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so; and I have no inclination to do so.” None can doubt the honesty of that statement: for though Mr. Lincoln was opposed to slavery upon moral grounds, and had opposed its extension into free territory upon grounds both political and moral, he was sworn to uphold the Constitution; and he knew that the Constitution gave him no power or pretext of interfering with slavery in the States. Later on, the state of war gave him that power as a measure for suppressing rebellion. But the die was cast. The fact of his inauguration showed that the political rule of slavery was over; and, on the part of the South, secession was a foregone conclusion. As the conscience of the free States was roused by the acts of 1850–54, so now the loyal enthusiasm of the people was roused

by the firing on the flag of the nation at Fort Sumter. Then came four years of weary, bloody war,

-on the one side for the disruption of the Union, on the other for the maintenance of the Union in its entirety and supremaсу. . As the executive head of the nation, Mr. Lincoln said, “ In the contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the union of these States is perpetual. It is safe to say that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” 1

1 Inaugural, 1861.

6. The

« 上一頁繼續 »