America To-Day, Observations and Reflections/North and South

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
America To-Day, Observations & Reflections  (1900)  by William Archer
North and South





In Washington, on the 6th of April last, business was suspended from mid-day onwards, while President McKinley and all the high officers of State attended the public funeral at Arlington Cemetery of several hundred soldiers, brought home from the battlefields of Cuba. The burial ground on the heights of Arlington—the old Virginian home, by the way, of the Lee family—had hitherto been known as the resting-place of numbers of Northern soldiers, killed in the Civil War. But among the bodies committed to earth that afternoon were those of many Southerners, who had stood and fallen side by side with their Northern comrades at El Caney and San Juan. The significance of the event was widely felt and commented upon. "Henceforth," said one paper, "the graves at Arlington will constitute a truly national cemetery"; and the same note was struck in a thousand other quarters. Poets burst into song at the thought of their

"Resting together side by side,
Comrades in blue and grey!

"Healed in the tender peace of time,
The wounds that once were red
With hatred and with hostile rage,
While sanguined brothers bled.

"They leaped together at the call
Of country one in one,
The soldiers of the Northern hills
And of the Southern sun !

"'Yankee' and 'Rebel,' side by side,
Beneath one starry fold
To-day, amid our common tears,
Their funeral bells are tolled."

The artlessness of these verses renders them none the less significant. They express a popular sentiment in popular language. But, as here expressed, it is clearly the sentiment of the North: how far is it shared and acknowledged by the South? Happening to be on the spot, I could not but try to obtain some sort of answer to this question.

Again, as I stood on the terrace of the Capitol that April afternoon, and looked out across the Potomac to the old Lee mansion at Arlington, while all the flags of Washington drooped at half-mast, a very different piece of verse somehow floated into my memory:

"Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword and the flame,
And salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars!—it's blue with our bones!)"

The association was obvious: how the price of lead would go up if England brought home all her dead "heroes" in hermetically-sealed caskets! My thought (so an anti-Imperialist might say) was like the smile of the hardened freebooter at the amiable sentimentalism of a comrade who was "yet but young in deed." But why should Mr. Kipling's rugged lines have cropped up in my memory rather than the smoother verses of other poets, equally familiar to me, and equally well fitted to point the contrast?—for instance, Mr. Housman's:

"It dawns in Asia, tombstones show,
And Shropshire names are read;
And the Nile spills his overflow
Beside the Severn's dead."

Or Mr. Newbolt's:

"Qui procul hinc—the legend's writ,
The frontier grave is far away;
Qui ante diem periit,
Sed miles, sed pro patriâ.

The reason simply was that during the month I had spent in America the air had been filled with Kipling. His name was the first I had heard uttered on landing—by the conductor of a horse-car. Men of light and leading, and honourable women not a few, had vied with each other in quoting his refrains; and I had seen the crowded audience at a low music-hall stirred to enthusiasm by the delivery of a screed of maudlin verses on his illness. He, the rhapsodist of the red coat, was out and away the most popular poet in the country of the blue, and that at a time when the blue coat in itself was inimitably popular. Nor could there be any doubt that his Barrack-room Ballads were the most popular of his works. Not a century had passed since the Tommy Atkins of that day had burnt the Capitol on whose steps I was standing (a shameful exploit, to which I allude only to point the contrast); and here was the poet of Tommy Atkins so idolised by the grandsons of the men of 1812 and 1776, that I, a Briton and a staunch admirer of Kipling, had almost come to resent as an obsession the ubiquity of his name!

It seemed then, that the rancour of the blue coat against the red must have dwindled no less significantly than the rancour of the grey coat against the blue. Into the reality of this phenomenon, too, I made it my business to inquire.


There can be no doubt that the Spanish War has done a great deal to bring the North and the South together. It has not in any sense created in the South a feeling of loyalty to the Union, but it has given the younger generation in the South an opportunity of manifesting that loyalty to the Union which has been steadily growing for twenty years. Down to 1880, or thereabouts, the wound left by the Civil War was still raw, its inflammation envenomed rather than allayed by the measures of the "reconstruction" period. Since 1880, since the administration of President Hayes, the wound has been steadily healing, until it has come to seem no longer a burning sore, but an honourable cicatrice.

Every one admits that the heaviest blow ever dealt to the South was that which laid Abraham Lincoln in the dust. He, if any one, could have averted the mistakes which delayed by fifteen years the very beginning of the process of reconciliation. His wise and kindly influence removed, the North committed what is now recognised as the fatal blunder of forcing unrestricted negro suffrage on the South. This measure was dictated partly, no doubt, by honest idealism, partly by much lower motives. Then the horde of "carpet-baggers" descended upon the "reconstructed" States, and there ensued a period of humiliation to the South which made men look back with longing even to the sharper agonies of the war. Coloured voters were brought in droves, by their Northern fuglemen, to polling-places which were guarded by United States troops. Utterly illiterate negroes crowded the benches of State legislatures. A Northerner and a staunch Union man has assured me that in the Capitol of one of the reconstructed States he has seen a coloured representative gravely studying a newspaper which he held upside down. The story goes that in the legislature of Mississippi a negro majority, which had opposed a certain bill, was suddenly brought round to it in a body by a chance allusion to its "provisions," which they understood to mean something to eat! This anecdote perhaps lacks evidence; but there can be no doubt that the freedmen of 1865 were, as a body, entirely unfitted to exercise the suffrage thrust upon them. A degrading and exasperating struggle was the inevitable result—the whites of the South striving by intimidation and chicanery to nullify the negro vote, the professional politicians from the North battling, with the aid of United States troops, to render it effectual. Such a state of things was demoralising to both parties, and in process of time the common sense of the North revolted against it. United States troops no longer stood round the ballot-boxes, and the South was suffered, in one way and another, to throw off the "Dominion of Darkness." Different States modified their constitutions in different ways. Many offices which had been elective were made appointive. The general plan adopted of late years has been to restrict the suffrage by means of a very simple test of intelligence, the would-be voter being required to read a paragraph of the State constitution and explain its meaning. The examiner, if one may put it so, is the election judge, and he can admit or exclude a man at his discretion. Thus illiterate whites are not necessarily deprived of the suffrage. They may be quite intelligent men and responsible citizens, who happened to grow to manhood precisely in the years when the war and its sequels upset the whole system of public education in the South. At any rate (it is argued), the illiterate white is a totally different man from the illiterate negro. How far such modifications of the State constitutions are consistent with the Constitution of the United State, is a nice question upon which I shall not attempt to enter. The arguments used to reconcile this test of intelligence with Amendments XIV. and XV. of the United States Constitution seem to me more ingenious than convincing. But, constitutional or not, the compromise is reasonable; and though people in the South still feel, as one of them put it to me, that the Republican party "may yet wield the flail of the negro over them," the flail has been laid aside long enough to permit the South, in the main, to recover its peace of mind and its self-respect. The negro problem is still difficult enough, as many tragic evidences prove; but there is no reason to despair of its ultimate solution.

Meanwhile material prosperity has been returning to the South; agriculture has revived, and manufactures have increased. Social intercourse and intermarriage have done much to promote mutual comprehension between North and South, and to wipe out rankling animosities. Each party has made a sincere effort to understand the other's "case," and the war has come to seem a thing fated and inevitable, or at any rate not to have been averted save by superhuman wisdom and moderation on both sides. With mutual comprehension, mutual admiration has gone hand in hand. The gallantry and tenacity of the South are warmly appreciated in the North, and it is felt on both sides that the very qualities which made the tussle so long and terrible are the qualities which ensure the greatness of the reunited nation. But changes of sentiment are naturally slow and, from moment to moment, imperceptible. It needs some outside stimulus or shock to bring them clearly home to the minds of men. Such a stimulus was provided by the conflict with Spain. It did not create a new sense of solidarity between the North and the South, but rather brought prominently to the surface of the national consciousness a sense of solidarity that had for years been growing and strengthening, more or less obscurely and inarticulately, on both sides of Mason and Dixon's line. It consummated a process of consolidation which had been going on for something like twenty years.

Furthermore, the Spanish War deposed the Civil War from its position as the last event of great external picturesqueness in the national history. However sincere may be our love of peace, war remains irresistibly fascinating to the imagination; and the imagination of young America has now a foreign war instead of a civil war to look back upon. The smoke of battle, in which the South stood shoulder to shoulder with the North, has done more than many years of peace could do to soften in retrospect the harsh outlines of the fratricidal struggle.

At the same time, there is another side to the case which ought not to be overlooked. The South is proud, very proud; and the older generation, the generation which fought and agonised through the terrible years from '61 to '65, is more than a little inclined to resent what it regards as the condescending advances of the North. This feeling is not confined to those out-of-the-way corners where, as the saying goes, they have not yet heard that the war—the Civil War—is over. It is not confined to the old families, ruined by the war, whom the tide of returning prosperity has not reached, and never will reach. It is strong among even the most active and progressive of the veterans of '65. They smile a grim smile in their grizzled beards at the fuss which has been made over this "picayune war," as they call it. They, who came crushed, impoverished, heartbroken, out of the duel of the Titans—they, who know what it really means to sacrifice everything, everything, to a patriotic ideal—they, to whom their cause seems none the less sacred because they know it irrevocably lost—how can they be expected to toss up their caps and help the party which first vanquished, and then, for many bitter years, oppressed them, to make political capital out of what appears, in their eyes, a more or less creditable military picnic? It is especially the small scale of the conflict that excites their derision. "Did you ever hear of the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House?" one of them said to me. I confessed that I had not. "No," he said, "nor has any one else heard of the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House. It was one of the most insignificant fights in the war. But there were more men killed in half an hour in that almost forgotten battle than in all this mighty war we hear so much about." "Ah!" he continued, "they think we are vastly gratified when they 'fraternise' with us on our battlefields and decorate the graves of our dead. I don't know but I prefer the 'waving of the bloody shirt' to this flaunting of the olive-branch. They have their victory; let them leave us our graves."

An intense loyalty, not only to the political theories of the South, but to the memory of the men who died for them—"qui bene pro patria cum patriaque jacent"—still animates the survivors of the war. With a confessed but none the less pathetic illogicality, they feel as though Death had not gone to work impartially, but had selected for his prey the noblest and the best. One of these survivors, in a paper now before me, quotes from Das Siegesfest the line—

"Ja, der Krieg verschlingt die Besten!"

and then remarks: "Still, when Schiller says—

'Denn Patroklus liegt begraben,
Und Thersites kommt zurück,'

his illustration is only half right. The Greek Thersites did not return to claim a pension."

The dash of bitterness in this remark must not be taken too seriously. The fact remains, however, that among the veterans of the South there prevails a certain feeling of aloofness from the national jubilation over the Spanish War. They "don't take much stock in it." The feeling is widespread, I believe, but not loud-voiced. If I represented it as surly or undignified, I should misrepresent it grossly. It is simply the outcome of an ancient and deep-seated sorrow, not to be salved by phrases or ceremonies—the most tragic emotion, I think, with which I ever came face to face. But it prevails almost exclusively among the older generation in the South, the men who "when they saw the issue of the war, gave up their faith in God, but not their faith in the cause." To the young, or even the middle-aged, it has little meaning. I met a scholar-soldier in the South who had given expression to the sentiment of his race and generation in an essay—one might almost say an elegy—so chivalrous in spirit and so fine in literary form that it moved me well-nigh to tears. Reading it at a public library, I found myself so visibly affected by it that my neighbour at the desk glanced at me in surprise, and I had to pull myself sharply together. Yet the writer of this essay told me that when he gave it to his son to read, the young man handed it back to him, saying, "All this is a sealed book to me. I cannot feel these things as you do."

More important, perhaps, than the sentiment of the veterans is the feeling, which has been pretty generally expressed, that the South was slighted in the actual conduct of the late war—that Southern regiments and Southern soldiers (notably General Fitzhugh Lee) were unduly kept in the background. Still, there is every reason to believe that the general effect of the war has been one of conciliation and consolidation. From the ultra-Southern point of view, the North seems merely to have seized the opportunity of making honourable amends for the "horrors of reconstruction"; but even those who take this view admit that the North has seized the opportunity, and that gladly. As a matter of fact the goodwill of the North, and its desire to let bygones be bygones, are probably very little influenced by any such recondite motive. It is in most cases quite simple and instinctive. "There are no rebels now," said the commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard when he gave orders to delete the fourth word of the inscription "Taken from the rebel ram Mississippi" over a trophy of the Civil War displayed outside his quarters. Admiral Philips had probably no thought of "reconstruction" or of "making amends"; he simply obeyed a spontaneous and general sentiment. The Southern heroes of the Civil War, moreover, are freely admitted, and enthusiastically welcomed, into the national Pantheon. When the thirty-fourth anniversary of "Appomattox Day," which brought the war to an end, was celebrated in Chicago on April 10 last (Governor Roosevelt being the guest of honour), the memory of Lee was eulogised along with that of Grant, and the oration in his honour was received with equal applause. Finally, it is admitted even by those who are most inclined to make light of the sentiment elicited by the late war, that all the States of the Atlantic seaboard are instinctively drawing together to counterpoise the growing predominance of the West. This substitution of a new line of cleavage for the old one may seem a questionable matter for rejoicing. But in any great community, conflicts of interest must always arise. The recognition of the problems which await the Republic in the near future does not imply any doubt of her ability to arrive at a wise and just solution of them.


The most loyal of the Southern veterans, I have said, recognise that the cause of the South is irrevocably lost. By the cause of the South I do not, of course, mean slavery. There is probably no one in the South who would advocate the reinstatement of that "peculiar institution," even if it could be effected by the lifting of a finger. "The cause we fought for and our brothers died for," says Professor Gildersleeve of Baltimore, "was the cause of civil liberty, not the cause of human slavery. . . . If the secrets of all hearts could have been revealed, our enemies would have been astounded to see how many thousands and tens of thousands in the Southern States felt the crushing burden and the awful responsibility of the institution which we were supposed to be defending with the melodramatic fury of pirate kings."

What was it, then, that the South fought for? In what sense was its cause the cause of "civil liberty"? A brief inquiry into this question may be found to have more than a merely historic interest—to have a direct bearing, indeed, upon the problems of the future, not only for America, but for the English-speaking world.

Let me state at once the true inwardness of the matter, as I have been led to see it. The cause of the South was the cause of small against large political aggregations; and the world regards the defeat of the South as righteous and inevitable, because instinct tells it that the welfare of humanity is to be sought in large political aggregations, and not in small. Providence, in a word, is on the side of the big (social) battalions.

From the point of view of pure logic, of academic argument, the case of the South was enormously strong. Consequently, the latter-day apologists of the Confederacy devote themselves with pathetic fervour, and often with great ingenuity, to what the impartial outsider cannot but feel to be barren discussions of constitutional law. They point out that the States—that is, the thirteen original States—preceded the Federal Union, and voluntarily entered into it under clearly defined conditions; that the Federal Government actually derived its powers from the consent of the States, and could have none which they did not confer upon it; that the maintenance of slavery in the Southern States, and the right to claim the extradition of fugitive slaves, were formally safeguarded in the Constitution; that it was in reliance upon these provisions that the Southern States consented to enter the Union; that the right of secession had been openly and repeatedly asserted by leading politicians and influential parties in several Northern States, and was therefore no novel and treasonable invention of the South; and, finally, that the right to enter into a compact implied the right to recede from it when its provisions were broken, or obviously on the point of being broken, by the other party or parties to the agreement. All this is logically and historically indisputable. The Southerners were the conservative party, and had the letter of the Constitution on their side; the Northerners were the reformers, the innovators. Entrenched in the theory of State Sovereignty, the South denied the right of the North, acting through the Central Government, to interfere with its "peculiar institution"; and even those who deplored the existence of slavery felt themselves none the less bound to assert and defend the right of their respective States to manage their own affairs.[1] It was a conflict as old as the Revolution—and even, in its germs, of still older date—between centripetal and centrifugal forces, between national and local patriotism. The makers of the Constitution had tried to hold the scales justly, but in their natural jealousy of a strong central power, they had allowed the balance to deflect unduly on the side of local independence. The North, the national majority, felt, obscurely and reluctantly, that a revision of the Constitution in the matter of slavery was essential to the national welfare.[2] The South maintained that the States were antecedent and superior to the Nation, and said, "If your Nation, in virtue of its mere majority vote, insists on encroaching on State rights which we formally reserved as a condition of entering the Nation, why then, we prefer to withdraw from this Nation and set up a nation of our own, in which the true principles of the Constitution shall be preserved." Thereupon the North retorted, "We deny your right to withdraw," and the battle was joined.

The North said, "You have no right to withdraw," but it meant, I think, something rather different. It threw overboard the question of abstract, formal, technical right, and fought primarily, no doubt, for a humanitarian ideal, but fundamentally to enforce its instinct of the highest political expediency. The right interpretation of a state-paper, however venerable, would not have been a question worthy of such terrible arbitrament. Even the emancipation of the negro, had that been the sole object of the contest, would have been too dearly paid for in blood and tears. The question at issue was really this: What is the ideal political unit? The largest possible? or the smallest convenient? What mattered abstract argument as to the right to secede? Once grant the power to secede, once suffer the precedent to be established, and the greatest democracy the world had ever seen was bound to break up, not only into two, but ultimately into many petty republics, wrangling and jangling like those of Spanish America. To this negation of a great ideal the North refused its consent. National patriotism had outgrown local patriotism. It had become to all intents and purposes a fiction that the Federal Government derived its powers from the States. Thirteen of them, indeed, had sanctioned the Federal Government, but the Federal Government had sanctioned and admitted to the Union twenty-one more. In these the sentiment of priority to the Union could not exist, while State Sovereignty was a doctrine limited by considerations of expediency, rather than a patriotic dogma. Immigration, and westward migration from the north-eastern States, had produced a race of men and women whose patriotism was divorced, so to speak, from any given patch of soil, but was wedded to the all-embracing idea of the United States, with the emphasis on the epithet. They thought of themselves first of all as American citizens, and only in the second place as citizens of this State or of that. This habit or instinct is still incomprehensible, and almost contemptible, to the Southerner of the older generation; but the Time-Spirit was clearly on its side.

Thus, then, I interpret the fundamental feeling which impelled the North to take up arms: "Better one stout tussle for the idea of Unity than a facile acquiescence in the idea of Multiplicity, with all its sequels of instability, distrust, rivalry, and rancour. Better for our children, if not for us, one great expenditure of blood and gold than never-ending threats and rumours of war, commercial conflicts, political complications, frontiers to be safeguarded, bureaucracies to be financed." Of course I do not put this forward as a new interpretation of the question at issue. It is old and it is obvious. But though the national significance of the struggle has long been recognised, I am not sure that its international, its world-historic, significance has been sufficiently dwelt upon. We Europeans have been apt to think that, because the theatre of conflict was so distant, we had only a spectacular, or at most an abstract-humanitarian, interest in it. There could not be a greater mistake. The whole world, I believe, will one day come to hold Vicksburg and Gettysburg names of larger historic import than Waterloo or Sedan.


The iconoclast of to-day is full of scorn for patriotism, which he holds the most retrograde of emotions. He may as usefully declaim against friendship, comradeship, the love of man for woman or of mother for child. The lowest savage regards himself, and cannot but regard himself, as a member of some sort of political aggregation. This feeling is one of the primal instincts of humanity, and as such one of the permanent data of the problem of the future. It is folly to denounce or seek to eradicate it. The wise course is to give it large and noble instead of petty and parochial concepts to which to attach itself. Rightly esteemed and rightly directed, patriotism is not a retrograde emotion, but one of the indispensable conditions of progress.

"Nothing is," says Hamlet, "but thinking makes it so." It is not oceans, straits, rivers, or mountain-barriers that constitute a Nation, but the idea in the minds of the people composing it. Now, the largest political idea that ever entered the mind—not of a man—not of a governing class—but of a people, is the idea of the United States of America. The "Pax Romana" was a great idea in its day, but it was imposed from without, and by military methods, upon a number of subject peoples, who did not realise and intelligently co-operate in it, but merely submitted to it. It has its modern analogue in the "Pax Britannica" of India. The idea of the United States, on the other hand, gives what may be called psychological unity to one of the largest political aggregates, both in territory and population, ever known to history. In the modern world there are only two political aggregates in any wise comparable to it: the British Empire, whereof the idea is not as yet quite clearly formulated; and the Russian Empire, whereof the idea, in so far as it belongs to the people at all, is a blind and slavish superstition. Holy Russia is a formidable idea, Greater Britain is a picturesque and pregnant idea; but the United States is a self-conscious, clearly defined and heroically vindicated idea, in whose further vindication the whole world is concerned.

It is only an experiment, say some—an experiment which, thirty years ago, trembled on the brink of disastrous failure, and which may yet have even greater perils to encounter. This is true in a sense, but not the essential truth. Let us substitute for "experiment" another word which means the same thing—with a difference. The United States of America, let us say, is a rehearsal for the United States of Europe, nay, of the world. It is the very difficulties over which the croakers shake their heads that make the experiment interesting, momentous. The United States is a veritable microcosm: it presents in little all the elements which go to make up a world, and which have hitherto kept the world, almost unintermittently, in a state of battle and bloodshed. There are wide differences of climate and of geographical conditions in the United States, with the resulting conflict of material interest between different regions of the country. There are differences of race and even of language to be overcome, extremes of wealth and poverty to be dealt with. As though to make sure that no factor in the problem of civilisation should be omitted, the men of last century were at pains to saddle their descendants with the burden of the negro—a race incapable of assimilation and yet tenacious of life. In brief, a thousand difficulties and temptations to dissension beset the giant Republic: in so far as it overcomes them, and carries on its development by peaceful methods, it presents a unique and invaluable object-lesson to the world. The idea of unity, annealed in the furnace of the Civil War, has as yet been stronger than all the forces of disintegration; and there is no reason to doubt that it will continue to be so. When France falls out with Germany, or Russia with Turkey, there is nothing save a purely material counting of the cost to hinder them from flying at each other's throats. The abstract humanitarianism of a few individuals is as a feather on the torrent. Such sentiment as comes into play is all on the side of bloodshed. It takes very little to make a Frenchman and a German feel that they are in a state of war by nature, and that peace between them is an artificial and necessarily unstable condition. But in America, should two States or two groups of States fall out, there is a strong, and we may hope unconquerable, sentiment of unity to be overcome before the dissentients even reach the point of counting the material cost of war. Men feel that they are in a state of peace by nature, and that war between them, instead of being a hereditary and almost consecrated habit, would be a monstrous and almost unthinkable crime. The National Government, as established by the Constitution, is in fact a permanent court of abitration between the States; and the common-sense of all may be trusted to "hold a fractious State in awe." "Did not people say and think the same thing in 1859," it may be asked, "on the eve of the greatest Civil War in history?" Possibly; but that war was precisely what was needed to ratify the Union, and lift it out of the experimental stage. "Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft," and it is sometimes necessary that other pacts than those of hell should be written in blood, before the world recognises their full validity. Heaven forbid that the Deed of Union of the United States should require a second time to be retraced in red!

But it is an illusion, though a salutary one, that civil war is any more barbarous than international war. What the world wants is the realisation that every war is a civil war, a war between brothers, justifiable only for the repression of some cruelty more cruel than war itself, some barbarism more barbarous. Towards this realisation the United States is leading the way, by showing that, under the conditions of modern life, an effective sense of brotherhood, a resolute loyalty to a unifying idea, may be maintained throughout a practically unlimited extent of territory.

But, while enumerating the difficulties which the Republic has to overcome, I have said nothing of the one great advantage it enjoys—a common, or at any rate a dominant, language. The diversity of tongues which prevails in Europe is doubtless one of the chief hindrances to that "Federation of the World" of which the poet dreamed. But if the many tongues of Europe retard its fusion into what I have called a political aggregate, there exists in the world a political aggregate larger in extent than either Europe or the United States, which possesses, like the United States, the advantage of one dominant language. I mean, of course, the British Empire; and surely it is, on the face of it, a fact of good augury for the world that the dominant language of these two vast aggregations of democracies should happen to be one and the same. The hopes—and perhaps, too, some apprehensions—arising from this unity of speech will form the subject of another article.

Postscript.—My representation of the South as the conservative and the North as the innovating party is the only point in this article to which (so far as I know) serious objection has been made. A very able and courteous critic—Mr. Norman Hapgood—writes to me as follows: "I think the history of the Kansas-Nebraska trouble, in which the preliminary conflict centred, the speeches of the time, North and South, the party platforms, all proved that the North said, 'Slavery shall keep its rights and have no further extension,' while the South said, 'It shall go into any newly acquired territory it chooses.' In 1860 the slave interest was more protected and extended by law than ever before in the history of the country. It had simply made a new claim which the North could not allow. The abolitionists were few; the Northerners who said that slavery should not be extended were many. . . . I don't believe there is an American historian of standing who does not say that the propositions of the South, on which the North took issue in 1861, were these: (1) Slavery shall go into all territory hereafter acquired; (2) We will secede if this is not allowed."

It was inevitable that this protest should be raised, since, in the limited space at my command, I had imperfectly expressed my meaning. My reply to Mr. Hapgood puts it, I hope, more clearly. It ran as follows: ". . .What I was trying to do was not so much to summarise conscious motives as to present my own interpretation (right or wrong) of the sub-conscious, the unconscious forces that were at work. I go behind the declarations of Northern statesmen, and what, I have no doubt, was the sincere sentiment of the majority in the North, against interference with slavery in the existing slave States. I have tried to allow to this sentiment what weight it deserves, in saying that the North 'obscurely and reluctantly felt a revision of the Constitution essential to the national welfare.' But my view is that whatever they said, and whatever, on the surface of their minds, they thought, the people of the North knew, even if they denied it to themselves, that chattel slavery was impossible in the modern world; and furthermore that the people of the South were justified in that instinct which told them that the institution, fatally menaced, was to be saved only by secession. The kernel of the matter, to my thinking, lay in the fugitive slave question. The provision of the Constitution for the return of fugitive slaves, though it may seem a matter of detail, was, I think, in reality the keystone of the arch. Make it inoperative, and the institution was doomed. Now many of the Northern States, by 'personal liberty laws' and the like, had long been picking at that keystone. Whatever were the professions of politicians and people as to non-interference, they shrank from the logical corollary, which would have been the sincere, whole-hearted and cheerful carrying out of Article IV., Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution. They were even, I think, logically bound to accept loyally the Dred Scott decision, which was absolutely constitutional. To protest against it, to seek to evade it, was to insist on a revision of the Constitution. But it was inconceivable that a civilised community, not blinded by local Southern prejudice, could loyally accept the Dred Scott decision, or could cheerfully assist the Southern slaveholder to capture and carry off from their own hearthstones, as it were, his run-away chattel. Therefore, the position and the protestations of the North were mutually contradictory. It was a case of trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds; and the North was bound to the hare by fundamental considerations of humanity and self-interest, to the hounds only by a compact accepted at a time when its consequences could not possibly be foreseen. I do not doubt that the North, on the surface of its will, sincerely desired to keep this compact; but the South, with an instinct which was really that of self-preservation, looked, as I am trying to look, beneath the conscious surface to the unconscious sweep of current. It is not with reference to the struggle for Western expansion that I call the South the conservative and constitutional party. There, as it seems to me, the question was entirely an open one, the power of Congress over territories being undefined in the Constitution; and no doubt the South, in the course of the struggle, often took up violent and extravagant positions. My argument is that the attitude of the North, whatever its protestations, virtually threatened the institution of slavery in the old slave States, and that therefore the South had virtual, if not formal, justification for holding the constitutional compact broken."

  1. "Submission to any encroachment," says Professor Gildersleeve, "the least as well as the greatest, on the rights of a State, means slavery"; this remark occurring early in an article of twenty-five columns, in which negro slavery is not so much as mentioned until the twenty-first column.
  2. See Postscript to this article.