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Often as I am called upon to speak in England upon public questions, I have never deemed it courteous nor wise for me as a foreigner to meddle in domestic controversies, nor to hint at these as affecting the life or death of the nation, destined to make her “ great in glory,” or “great in shame.” We, too, have our problems, grave, earnest, imminent. But these are questions of party, of policy, of reform, of adaptation, not at all questions of the form of government, of the life of the State. These last do not enter into the thought of the American citizen, do not come within the horizon of political action. They are settled in the very organism of society; and this is part of the life of the individual. Our race-stock is as old and as vital as the English, from which it sprang; our political force and sagacity have not lost by transplanting; our area for the ventilation of necessary social problems is wider, freer, and therefore safer, than that of England. Every question affecting government has been tried and determined. The problems hinted at by Prof. Huxley are simply problems of administration and adjustment, and do not come within a thousand leagues of the form and essence of government.
Let English critics once master this distinction, and their counsels will be respected where now their croakings are laughed at. Mr. Mill perceived this when he indorsed the opinion of M. de Tocqueville, that “ if a community is so situated or so ordered that it can support the transitory action of bad laws, and can await without destruction the result of the general tendency of the laws, that country will prosper more under a democratic government than under any other."
NOTE ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND CIVIL WAR.
The closeness of the presidential vote in 1876, and the charges of fraud, and threats of violence, that the uncertainty of the count gave rise to, called forth in Europe fresh prophecies of civil war and the failure of republican government. The silly suggestion of somebody in New Orleans, that the United States should be transformed into an empire under Gen. Grant, was paraded in German newspapers with an air of triumph, and in delicious obliviousness of the fact, that though an American editor could make such a suggestion, and simply be laughed at, should a German editor propose the abolition of the empire for a republic, and the disbanding of the standing army, he might be treated to a change of air and diet in the nearest jail or fortress. Some English critics have assumed that civil war was imminent, because, as they conceive, the Rebellion broke out with as little warning, through dissatisfaction with the election of a president. It is not surprising that foreigners should have imagined the crisis to be so serious, since so few even of the best-informed European writers have fairly mastered the Constitution and Government of the United States or the characteristics of the American people, and since. so much of European experience has pointed to revolution or war as the normal solution of political
difficulties. But people should not pronounce upon what they do not understand, nor prophesy without valid tokens of inspiration. Grave and perplexing as was this phase of a presidential contest, the thoughtful American could see in it nothing perilous, nor even threatening. Riots there might be, and heated dispute ; but there was no analogy in the case to the Rebellion of 1861. First, there was not now, as in the Rebellion, any great social, financial, and sectional interest binding one portion or party against the other, and forming at once the motive and the nucleus for resistance and revolt. Though the election of Mr. Lincoln was made a pretext for the Rebellion, the preservation of the system of slavery was its real and only motive. The speech of Mr. Stephens, then Vice-President of the Confederacy, at Savannah, in March 1801, put that point squarely and conclusively. After characterizing Jefferson's doctrine of the rights of nature and the equality of races as an error, and the government founded upon such ideas as resting on the sand, Mr. Stephens said, “ Our new government is based upon quite the contrary ideas. Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. Our government is the first in the history of the world that rests upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. ... The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner-stone of our new edifice.”
When we consider in how many States contiguous to one another slavery was the one vital interest of society, the basis of labor, the source of wealth, the drudge of the household and the plantation ; how it had existed from the foundation of the Colonies, and had grown with the Commonwealth, until every life, fortune, and estate was bound up with it, we see in this interest, concentrated within a circumscribed territory, a motive to violent defence to which there is nothing analogous in the political differences of parties scattered over the whole country, changing their relations and proportions year by year, and, except in the matter of voting, accustomed to act together as neighbors and friends. There is not enough to kindle civil war in the breezes of a popular contest that may change about at the next election. Next: the election of 1876 involved no question of separation, or of change in the form of government. Both parties were alike interested in maintaining the Union and the Constitution : the only dispute was, which party, by legal methods, should gain control of the administration for a term of years. Again : there was no organization on either side for deciding the issue by force. So far as there was any show of force, this was on the part of the actual government, by way of police, as a precaution for maintaining pub
1 In a literary circle where false quantity in a Latin quotation was the subject of criticism, Macaulay said, “No one is under obligation to quote: bence, when one does quote, he is bound to quote correctly." No foreigner is under obligation to utter oracles concerning the United States: hence, when a foreigner volunteers to pronounce or prophesy, he is bound to understand what he is talking about, under penalty of being langhed at for a pretentious ignorance. Even the Latter-day Prophecies fall under this rule.
lic order. Even this was deprecated by the political leaders upon both sides, who desired that the election should be decided fairly, without violence or fraud. In point of fact, the political crisis of 1876 brought out in fine relief the merits of the Constitution of the United States and the better qualities of the American people. It showed how marvellously the Constitution has provided for every emergency; that even should the popular election be thwarted by fraud, or declared void through irregularity, no function of the government would be suspended even for a moment. There being neither President nor Vice-President, the President of the Senate — itself a permanent body would at once become the executive head of the nation; and the Supreme Court is at hand to settle any issues of fact. The crisis exhibited the law-abiding character of the American people. There were days of excitement; there was, of course, more or less loose and wild talk: but public opinion and the press were united in demanding that all legal forms should be observed, and the legal result accepted and obeyed. The practical good sense of the people was also brought out by this peculiar conjuncture of affairs. It was felt that there would be a way out of all complications, as there had been in like complications before. At the opening of the twenty-sixth Congress, in December, 1839, two delegations appeared, contesting the seats of New Jersey. Now, on first assembling, the House has no officers; and the clerk of the preceding Congress acts, by usage, as chairman of the body till a speaker is chosen. On this occasion, after reaching the State of New Jersey, the acting clerk declined to proceed in calling the roll, and refused to entertain any of the motions which were made for the purpose of extricating the House from its embarrassment.” This went on for four days. Then John Quincy Adams rose, and “submitted a motion requiring the acting clerk to proceed in calling the roll. Mr. Adams was immediately interrupted by a burst of voices demanding, 'How shall the question be put? Who will put the question?' The voice of Mr. Adams was heard above the tumult, “I intend to put the question myself.'” 1 That stroke of common sense solved the whole difficulty. And such confidence has the American in the average common sense of his fellow-citizens, that, during the whole presidential crisis of 1876, gold remained quietly and steadily at the lowest figure.
Notorious and scandalous cases of political corruption had led European critics to look upon American politics as hopelessly given over to venality. Now, here was a case in which only one vote was needed to secure the triumph of a great and powerful party; yet, in all the weeks of uncertainty, no one suggested nor imagined that this one vote could be bought. Peculation in secret, fraud by contrivance, there has been: but, in this case, whoever should betray his trust would certainly be known; and no clector could have the hardihood to face the scorn and obloquy which the whole American people would visit upon such venal treachery. He must flee the country, or, like Judas, go out and hang himself. Upon the whole, the Ameri
1 Eulogy on John Quincy Adams, by Edward Everett.
can Constitution and the American people have nothing to fear from the judgment of history upon the peculiar tests of 1876.
At the same time, this momentous contest has given emphasis to three measures of reform :
(1.) The establishment of the civil service upon the permanent basis of character and competence, by providing, on the one hand, that a civil officer shall have no vote, and take no part, in elections, during his tenure of office; and, on the other, that all staff-officers of the government be placed beyond the reach of party favoritism in appointment or removal. What a large, persistent, and irritating element of excitement would be withdrawn from the presidential contest, if there were no hungry thousands struggling over offices either in possession or in expectation !
(2.) The creation of permanent boards of election, whose members shall have no vote, and shall not be eligible to any office, shall be well paid, and be liable to fine and imprisonment for any malfeas
The ridiculous blunders of nominating electors who were ineligible, and of omitting specific legal conditions, and the suspicions of fraudulent counting, would be obviated, if the registration of voters and the counting of votes were the duty of permanent non-partisan officials — like the town-clerks of Scotland — who had the fear of the states-prison before them if guilty of corruption or fraud.
(3.) The withdrawal of the National Government from political contests in the South. In the treatment of the South, three capital blunders have been made, from the mischief of which the whole land is still suffering. The first blunder was that of treating with the rebels as States, instead of remanding them to a territorial condition, from which new commonwealths should have emerged one by one when thoroughly purified. The alternative of “in the Union, or under it” – in it as loyal and legalized States, or under it as territories forfeited to the National Government — was originally set forth in my address in New York, of July 4, 1801; and I have reason to believe that Mr. Lincoln regretted not having adopted this as the solution of the problems of slavery and of reconstruction. Of course, it is too late now to retrieve Mr. Seward's cardinal misconception of the situation. The next blunder was that of admitting to suffrage the emancipated blacks, with no conditions of time, character, or education. That mischief, also, seems beyond intervention.
But the worst blunder of all has been the attempt of the General Government to do in the States of the South what it might properly have done in Territories of the United States. The mischiefs of this policy of intervention are now so apparent, that the good sense of the country demands that it shall be abandoned. The cure of the South must be left to time, and to the workings of self-interest and political ambition under the normal laws of human nature. If, in some districts, whites and blacks will fight, there is no way but to let them fight till they tire of anarchy and bloodshed. But, in most districts, it will be found that politicians, left to themselves, will court the negro vote upon opposite sides; and the bugbear of a “solid South” will vanish before the election of 1880.
THE NATION JUDGED BY ITS SELF-DEVELOPMENT AND
ITS BENEFITS TO MANKIND.
N the 18th June, 1875, the Crown Prince of Prus
sia, by command of his Majesty the Emperor, announced his purpose to erect upon the heights near Hakenberg, in East Havelland, a monument to commemorate the victory of the Great Elector Frederic William at Fehrbellin on the same day of June, 1675. The order ran, “For our house, for our land and people, for the German fatherland, this great and memorable day of victory marks the beginning of the deliverance of German soil from foreign rule; of the revival of Germany's renown in arms, and her peaceful military preparation for defensive and offensive war; of the fulfilment of those rising duties in which the name Brandenburg found and approved its German call. To coming generations of our house, our Prussian people, and the German nation, this monument will serve through all time as a remembrancer of the hard beginnings, the long struggles, the sterling virtues, with which that was grounded and acquired, which it will be their duty and their honor before God and men to hold, to guard, and to strengthen."
These heroic recollections can well stir the pride of every Prussian, and move to admiration, also, every one who honors patriotism in rulers and people, and can respect noble achievement and substantial progress in nations other than his own.
Notwithstanding many re-actions, reverses, failures, such as led Von Schön to write in 1808, “Fate seems to think