The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe, Chapter 1

The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe


WITHOUT entering into a searching discussion of the origin of the American Civil War, it is impossible for us—since we have it at heart to set forth in relief his character who, on the side of the Confederates, was commander-in-chief-not to say, in a few words, what were in our opinion the causes of this war.

Coleridge used to say of the United States, that they were splendid materials out of which, at some future time, several great countries would be constructed. The Civil War of 1861 has been the first sign of dislocation, the first token of breaking-up, the first trembling of the soil—forerunners of the commotion yet to come. According to the party of separation, the Federal union had served its time. The interests of the Southern States demanded a distinct and independent government. The Federal system, founded at the epoch of the Revolution, admirable in its early form and application, had been subsequently perverted, giving birth to a dismal rivalry between state and state, and becoming the source of all kinds of intestine dissensions. The Federal principle regulated the American Union, but this union States: this principle operated on was only a confederation of an equality with another principle, that of the States’ internal government Often, therefore, there was a confusion between their attributes, or rather encroachments, sometimes on the one side, sometimes on the other. Hence a multitude of abuses. It was easy, after this, to foresee how many causes of decay and death the system concealed in its bosom.

In the early years of the Federal agreement, the different political parties, only having in view the advantages which they could draw from it, did not fail to work what defects there were in the new system to their own profit. It was no longer the calm and dignified judgment of Washington which presided over the destinies of the republic. Under Jefferson, the third President, it became subject to the meddling of democratic passions.

Whatever may be the tradition in America to regard the authors of this Constitution of 1787 as public idols, sad experience has proved to us that their work comprehended enormous deficiencies. It witnesses to a want of foresight and an absence of solicitude for the changes which the future would bring beyond all idea. Only to speak of the question of slavery, no precaution was taken in view of the complications which were sure to arise. It was only said that persons held for service or labour who attempted to escape should be given up to their masters.

If the Constitution had explained itself on this question without ambiguity, in a few clear and precise words, what misfortunes might have been avoided!

Another article provides that: “Each state shall retain its sovereignty, liberty, and independence, as well as all the powers, jurisdiction, and rights with which, by this act of confederation, the United States assembled in Congress are not expressly invested.”

At the time of the discussion of the Constitution of 1787, there were in the convention three political parties. Some wished to confine themselves to a review of the provisional confederation which had existed during the war. Others desired to abolish the division into states entirely, and absorb them into one great centralized country. The third party sought to conciliate the interests of the smaller and larger states; whence sprung the representation, in two grades, of the people and the states, each having its separate chamber. The amendments made in the Constitution introduced, on certain points, a clearness which was wanting to the original work. For instance: “The enunciation in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be interpreted in the sense of a negation or lessening of certain other rights reserved to the people.”

Another article: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or not interdicted by it to the different states, are reserved to each state individually, or to the people.”

The union thus constituted formed neither a nationality, nor a simple republic divided into provinces, nor a league of states without any power over individuals. In separating from the British Empire, the Americans had preferred to retain their thirteen sovereignties distinct, rather than to form a single state. This fractional division guaranteed them their lives, property, and municipal rights. On its side, the Federal Government was to serve for their defence against the foreigner in time of war, and, in time of peace, to protect the smaller states against the ambition of the larger.

This Constitution was adopted only by a certain number of the states forming part of the first Confederation, that which had victoriously brought to a conclusion the contest with the mother country. The other states took to it later, at different epochs, each in its quality of a sovereign state; so that the second union was formed from states withdrawing from the first, and three of them expressly reserved to themselves, when ratifying the act of this second Confederation, the right to withdraw from this also, if it seemed good to them. Virginia, when giving its assent, said, “We, delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected, &c., &c., declare and make known in its name that the powers granted according to the Constitution, proceeding from the people of the United States, can be resumed by it, in case any abuse be made of them to do it wrong or oppress it.” The States of New York and Rhode Island made analogous declarations.

It is a great mistake to think that the act of union was an inauguration of new principles. Each state had long enjoyed civil institutions which left nothing to be desired. The Federal tie had been merely conceived as a convenient means for mutual extension and protection. That was its mission. Principles guaranteeing individual liberty, or protecting the rights of each, had been defined five hundred years previously, with as much precision as vigour, in England, in the great charter of Runnymede; they had passed from thence into all the colonial charters, and formed at all times the basis of English institutions in America.

What was new, and what had a real value in the Federal Constitution, was the delicate adjustment of the relations between the state and the central government, whence resulted a harmonious whole. The division of powers between the States’ Governments and the Federal Government, the first reserving to themselves their internal affairs, and all that affected the interests of the citizens, the second holding sway over all relations with the foreigner, and between the states themselves, was the triumph of local self-government, the importance of which was recognised. The two great political schools of America, the partisans of centralization and those of states-rights, naturally arose from the different manner of looking at the relations existing between the Central Government and the states. Now let us here touch on the question of slavery.

According to the idea of the centralizing party, all Northerners, the Federal Government, which exercised the power, had also the responsibility of it; and the existence of slavery ought to be regulated according to the greater or less extent of power which the Federal Government might have to restrain or abolish it. The partisans of states-rights replied, that each state had reserved to itself the sovereignty for the precise purpose of not allowing to the Central Government the least pretext to meddle with internal affairs, of which slavery was one of the chief.*

These latter regarded the union as a contract between the states; the centralizing party looked upon it as a government above the states, and, consequently, superior to them.

The question of slavery must not be separated from what renders it complicate. It has got so entangled in all the past of the country, that, to study it from an aesthetic point of view, to make it the thesis of a declamation on morality, would tie in the highest degree unjust. In the development of the political rivalship between the Go regions of the American Union, North and South, it has been a mere incident imported with a good deal of cleverness, but with little caution. Slavery furnished a most seasonable battlefield to the opponents; it served as a line of demarcation ready traced; it was the most marked difference between the two rivals. Like the Trojan horse, it offered a very convenient vehicle by means of which to introduce discord and confusion into the heart of the edifice of the Constitution. Every one found there arms to his taste, offensive and defensive; the North saw in it a fact damaging the South, a ground on which it would have for itself the sympathies of Europe; the South, exasperated because the North, formerly its ally (since it was associated with it in a participation of the cause), thrust in its face a disgrace, the responsibility of which mounted far back into the past, found in this proceeding a want of good faith, a case of the accused become accuser. In the long run the discussion grew envenomed; the attention became concentrated on this question; it threw all others into the shade; the occasion was substituted for the cause, and what at first was only a secondary incident came to be regarded as the principal subject of the strife.

In the early years of the new confederation, all measures relative to slavery were always voted in Congress without discussion, almost unanimously. Louisiana and Florida, slave territories, received their definitive organization without giving place to the least agitation. Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama entered into the Union without the fact of their being slave states making any difficulty. Not till 1820, upon the admission of the State of Missouri, whence resulted a compromise limiting slavery to a degree of latitude fixed beforehand, did the true nature of the controversy on slavery burst out; what had existed in a latent state for a long time then first became apparent, a political organization in the North opposed to another political organization in the South.

Slavery was an evil, a great evil, a frightful misfortune for that part of the American Continent afflicted with it. What endeavours have not been made, by Northerners and Southerners, with equity, charity, and moderation, to root out, little by little, this scourge; to restrain it within limits narrower and narrower; to accentuate still more the marked progress in the increase of the number of states, formerly slave-holding, which renounced the maintenance of negroes in slavery! At the time of the declaration of independence, in 1776, Massachusetts was the only state which had no slaves. In 1861, of the thirteen original states, six, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey had abolished slavery. Two others of the states which founded the Union, Delaware and Maryland, were on the eve of doing so. A great majority of the more recently admitted states, some detached from the old states, others new territories promoted to the rank of states, had never known slavery. Missouri, Kentucky, the West, could hardly delay following the example of Maryland, so that the space occupied by slave states tended to diminish from year to year by an inevitable law. To wish to force events, and precipitate an issue already foreseen, was a criminal act, when one thinks of the interests at stake, the lives that were about to be put in peril, the complexity of the problems which would have to be solved. The ardour, the fury, the stubbornness, the injustice of the abolitionists, provoked the same ardour, the same fury, the same stubbornness, and the same injustice among their adversaries. Did the North appeal to the Bible and to the authority of the Scriptures? The South did likewise. Did the school of Mr. Sumner, the chief of the abolitionist party, cite acts of cruelty in the slave states? The partisans of the South recalled to it the condition of the free negroes in the North, where they were treated as a pestilence, absolutely forbidden to ride in a wagon or omnibus, to go into a church, temple, or theatre, or to rest in a cemetery reserved exclusively for the use of the white race. In Illinois, the foot of a negro could not tread upon the soil of the state. He exposed himself to be whipped and led back to the frontier. In other states, if he married a white he was soundly thrashed. The North forgot too readily, in attacking slavery, that it had long been particeps criminis. Only from the day when a considerable party in the free states believed it would be able to make use of the fact as a powerful lever against its associate, now become its rival—only from that day did it bethink itself to be shocked at the profound immorality.

The rivalry of interests between the two districts of the country, North and South, between the manufacturing and the agricultural states, powerfully contributed, on its side, to hasten the explosion. The North, having to protect fabrics of every kind and numerous manufactures, was protectionist to the utmost. The South, on the contrary, producing only raw materials, would have every inducement to exchange them for the manufactured products of Europe, and was for free trade. The Southern ports would have acquired a great development if they had been able to hold direct relations with the Old World. In the colonial era these relations had existed; the prosperity of Virginia was then much greater than that of the Northern States. But the protectionist tariff, imposing excessive duties on European products, prevented all direct trade between the South and Europe. Thus the South saw itself compelled to sell its raw materials in the North, at a price which suited the latter, which, by skilfully devised duties, had succeeded in removing all foreign participation from American markets.

After the war of 1812–1814 against England, manufacturers in the Northern States acquired a great development. In 1816 the duties on foreign objects were raised, as well to protect indigenous manufactures as to pay the national debt, the legacy of the late war. This protectionist tariff met with a lively opposition in the country. Its adversaries at once made the remark, that the Constitution did not recognise in the Federal Government any right to create imposts to protect one branch of national industry to the detriment of another; and then, that these protectionist laws injured the interests of the states producing raw materials, and deprived the inhabitants of those states of their legitimate right to sell in the dearest and buy in the cheapest market.

Prohibitive duties received, in 1824, a new augmentation, to the great displeasure of the Southern States, which, however, resigned themselves to it, hoping that, the public debt once paid, these imposts would disappear. In 1828 the adoption of a series of prohibitive laws in favour of the hemp and wool of the West, the iron of Pennsylvania, and the cotton goods of New England, highly exasperated the Southern States, which saw well that the majority had resolved to render this system of imposts permanent.

In 1831, the debt having been discharged, and Congress refusing to reduce the duties on goods of foreign manufacture, the people of South Carolina met and appointed delegates to a State Convention. These there set forth the grievances of the Southerners. “Of what importance to the Southern States is the creation of a government highly centralized? These states will never form anything but a minority in the country. They differ from the states of the majority in institutions, industry, and interests;—their interests, indeed, are incompatible with those of the North. It will happen, therefore, that they will not be governed according to their own interests, or according to their own views and sentiments, but according to the interests and prejudices of the states of the majority. . . . Under the pretext of obtaining the means of liquidating the public debt, and of providing for the defence and well-being of the entire country, certain laws have been adopted, the avowed end of which is to preserve the monopoly of our market exclusively to American manufacturers, to the great detriment of those among us who produce commodities much sought after in European markets. Although a tax of ten or twelve per cent suffices for all the legitimate expenditure of the government, a tax of fifty per cent has been imposed on all the woollen and cotton goods, the cast and wrought iron, the sugar, salt, and nearly all other articles which the foreigner sends us in exchange for the cotton, rice, and tobacco of the South, in order to benefit those Northern manufacturers who produce the same articles. . . . The industry of the North is protected, and that of the South discouraged.”

This was the language .already prevalent in 1831. There was, after the South Carolina resistance, a passing appeasement, but the protectionist tariff did not the less continue till the Civil War, and was, indeed, one of the causes bringing it about.

Another reason which greatly influenced events was the long standing antipathy between the inhabitants of the North and those of the South. The population of the United States is far from being homogeneous. From the early times of the colonization a great diversity has shown itself. Cromwell’s Roundheads, sectarian Puritans, emigrated in a crowd at the restoration of Charles II., in 1660. And they went to join their co-religionists in New England, who settled there under James I. and Charles I. Nearly all these Puritans belonged to the middle classes. This part of the United States, now subdivided into six small states, but still known under the general name of “New England,” is a cold, barren, and stony country, on a subsoil of rock and granite, beaten by the waves of the Atlantic, under a rigorous sky. The Puritans who took refuge there, having hearts of rock and granite also, had to struggle against the rigour of the elements, after having suffered so much from the rigour of their fellow creatures. Persecuted, they founded there a society of persecutors. The exile of Roger Williams, and the hundreds of poor sorcerers who were burnt there, are sad proofs of this. The Civil War in 1861 testified that the old Puritan leaven had lost nothing of its harshness. Little by little its strong will has absorbed the social liberty of the individual for the profit of the mass, and imposed on all the North and West its scriptural phraseology, nasal accent, and meagre type, pale, angular, persevering, laborious, calculating, cold and agitated at the same time.

The American of the Northern States has further undergone the influence of a climate very different from that whence came his ancestors. In the South the sky is more clement; those long colds which strain the nerves are rare. Consequently the people here are more inclined to enjoy life. In the North the population is much mixed with German or Irish blood, without speaking of other varieties. Its type has been affected by it, sometimes approaching the Teuton or the Celt, sometimes, under the influence of climate, recalling the red-skins who were indigenous to the country. Lincoln was a striking example of this; a true Cherokee white, with straight hair, high cheekbones, unfathomable aspect, with a stony nature in the large hands, destined to manual labour, a nature withdrawing from intellectual work as much as possible. A mind of mediocrity, honourable and upright through the absence of passions, vulgar, but by no means wicked, loving allegory in the manner of common people, full of self-confidence, a believer in his own mission, a true representative of the most recent form of American democracy.

The Southern districts, on the contrary, were first colonized under the auspices and by the influence of the Court. Elizabeth, James I., and the two Charleses, granted to different noblemen territorial concessions on the banks of the Potomac and the river James. These sent, or, like the lords Baltimore and Fairfax, themselves conducted, thither numerous colonists—farmers, tradesmen, servants born on their English estates, or younger sons of good families seeking to better their condition. Very naturally, this society was a reflection of that which it had left behind it. Founded by the Cavaliers, it carried into Virginia toasts to the confusion of the regicides, and continued to be essentially aristocratic—the antipodes, consequently, of the neighbouring colonies of New England. The refuge Huguenots in Carolina, Louisiana, an old French colony, and Florida, peopled by Spaniards, came in time to join the Southern States, and render still more marked the contrast between the Southern and Northern parts of the United States.

By the introduction of negroes from Africa, a new element was introduced, which increased the features of difference between the Virginians and Puritans. The Southerner had not, like the Northerner, to struggle against a harsh and barren nature. Field-work, the cultivation of the vast territories granted by the crown, was in the charge of this African race, introduced apparently in such a providential manner. It is proper to say here that, for a long time, the colonial assemblies of the South protested to the mother country against this traffic; but too many people profited by it, and many a large fortune in Old and New England proceeds from this impure source.

Thus it is not doubtful that the great qualities of the Northerners, the companions of the Winthrops and Cottons, were developed in this contest against so many difficulties; they extended their influence over the neighbouring colonies, and everywhere established the foundations of that power which has become the United States.

The Southerner, on the contrary, a planter and hunter, of open nature, and not mercenary, living in a more enervating country, and preserving entire the good qualities of the English race from which he descended, did not acquire new traits. He remained a European transplanted into Virginia, while his New England neighbour identified himself thoroughly with his new country, and worked incessantly to subdue and appropriate it, to develop all its riches. The first seemed somewhat denationalised in this nineteenth century, the second was a most faithful expression of his origin. Thus the diversity of race, the difference of habits, manners, and occupations, methods of education absolutely opposed—all have contributed to render the discord to which the Union has been a prey the more profound.

The great qualities of the English colonists who founded the United States, and of their descendants, have been described by the most eloquent writers of the two worlds; consequently, we only seek here to seize the contrast between the two branches of the English race who have peopled the North and the South.

But there were other causes which rendered the relations between the two halves of the Union more difficult The contest between them dates back to a period long before the Constitution. On two important questions their rivalry had been great. One had reference to the territory of Virginia, the other to the navigation of the Mississippi. No question could be dearer to the American colonists than that which touched their territory; it was their future. It shows clearly the little agreement there was between the North and South, without recourse being had to the troubled question of the plague of slavery, thrust continually to the front by too many writers as the veritable and only cause of the war.

The Virginian territory, before the formation of the American Union, would of itself have sufficed for a vast empire. Its limits extended to the Mississippi, comprising all Kentucky, and beyond the river Ohio to the Great Lakes, embracing an area equal to two-and-a-half times that of all France. In more modem times the following states have been formed out of it:—Ohio (39,971 square miles in area); Indiana (33,152 square miles); Illinois (54,336 square miles); Michigan (55,149 square miles); Wisconsin (53,728 square miles); Minnesota (84,457 square miles); Dacotah (about 154,450 square miles); which, added to the two Virginias, East and West (32,704 square miles, and 23,253 square miles respectively), and Kentucky proper (36,936 square miles), gives a grand total of 531,200 square miles, while the whole of France occupies but 209,428 square miles.

It may be easily imagined that, with such a territorial preponderance, all union with the neighbouring colonies, some of them very small, would have been impossible. This obstacle was removed by an act emanating from Virginia itself, an act of which history probably offers no other example. Not only did it, in 1783, cede to the United States all its territory north-west of the Ohio, but, by an ordinance of 1787, it consented further that slavery should be excluded from all these vast dominions in perpetuity. The states which have been formed of these ceded territories were, as is well known, nearly all ranged against Virginia in the vehement and pitiless war of 1861. The North has never exhausted its eulogies on this great act of generous disinterestedness, on the sacrifice which Virginia made to the Union. Why did it not follow such an example, not according to the letter, but according to the spirit? The order, harmony, peace, and prosperity of the New World would not then have been so cruelly and foolishly troubled.

Virginia, it is true, had fixed two conditions to this concession. The first was, that the country ceded should never form but five states. The second was, that all fugitive slaves who were found on this territory, or on states subsequently formed from it, should be given up to their owners. In 1784, however, there was already a thought in the North of dividing the territory under consideration into ten states, and to admit each state into the Union when its population came to equal that of the least populous of the states already in the Confederation. This project was intended to augment, as much as possible, the relative power of the free states, that is to say, of the North. Thus, from the earliest disagreement, we see the Northern party displaying its intention of increasing its preponderance, and the Southern party seeking only to preserve its independence in the Union, and make it respected.

The two conditions which Virginia had made were treated as if they did not exist. It has been pretended that that which had reference to fugitive slaves was immoral, and consequently ought not to be observed.

As to the Mississippi question, it will suffice to recollect that, in 1786, this river marked the boundary between the United States and the countries dependent on the crowns of France and Spain. When, in 1787, the Convention assembled at Philadelphia to discuss the new Constitution, the seven Northern States only appeared disposed to cede to the Spaniards the exclusive right of the navigation of the Mississippi, which step would have paralysed in its infancy the development of the Western and Southern States, and for a long time rendered safe the political predominance of the North.

It was under the influence of sentiments awakened by these conflicts that, on the 15th of May, 1787, the representatives of the North and of the South were opposed to each other, resolved on either side, if a more intimate union was to be established between them, to take care that, in the confederation, their rights, interests, independence and liberty should be efficaciously regarded. At that epoch slavery afforded no obstacle, and ruffled no one. But it was not easy, even then, to conciliate people whose interests agreed so badly. All that could be accomplished was to slip over difficulties which were insurmountable. When one reads afresh the history of this Convention, and remarks all the precautions taken by the North against the South, and by this against its rival, there can only be astonishment at the ignorance of those writers of the Old World who pretend that slavery was the only cause of the Civil War of 1861.

Neither of the two parties wished to regulate definitively the powers to be entrusted to the Central Government, before ascertaining what portion of the control over these powers would return to each of them, and what influence each would have on the course of the government. As, in order to refine this control and influence, it was necessary first to decide the proportion and mode of representation of each region in the Federal Congress, it followed that, of all questions debated in the Convention, none was discussed with more violence and obstinacy than that which had reference to the manner in which the representatives would be elected. More than once, in connection with this question, they were on the eve of a total misunderstanding and a dissolution of the Union.

The relation between population and the number of representatives offers some very curious comparisons. Thus, in 1789, there was one representative to 33,000 inhabitants; according to the census of 1860, each delegate represented 127,381 inhabitants. In the first chamber of representatives, under General Washington, ten members sat for the State of Virginia, as against six for the State of New York; in the last, under Buchanan, Virginia had eleven members against thirty for New York. South Carolina at first nominated one-thirteenth of the representatives sitting in Congress; in 1860 it was no longer represented but by four members in a chamber of 233. The North, therefore, had in Congress the disposal of a majority so crushing, that it had only to act unanimously in order to nullify all opposition coming from the South. Mr. Lincoln, at the presidential election of 1861, polled 1,858,200 votes. The other candidates had combined, Douglas, 1,276,780, Breckenridge, 81 2,500, and Bell, 735,554. Here was a total of 2,824,874, or nearly a million more than Lincoln. But, having obtained the relative majority, the latter was declared elected. His election was purely geographical. All the Northern States, except New Jersey, had voted for him; all the Southern States against. He was not nominated for himself, being unknown, but his name possessed a significance which caused great fear to the South. In Congress, the North counted 183 votes, the South only 120. In 1840, the abolitionist party had been able to assemble only 7,000 votes; in 1860, it gathered together nearly 2,000,000, and succeeded in carrying its candidate for the presidential chair. There was nothing to be hoped for from the conservative democratic party, the Southern ally in the North; it no longer existed. In critical times there was a place only for extremes.

The South has been severely blamed for having retired from the Union when its preponderating power escaped it, after having wielded it without interruption from the foundation of the United States. This is true; the South had exercised at Washington a great political preponderance, but it did not thereby menace any of the institutions established in the North, it demanded from it no sacrifice, it did not seek to bring about any revolution on its own behalf. Its political projects never had anything aggressive in them. The South was continually on the defensive.

” Do not forget,” said Senator Hammond, of South Carolina, answering Mr. Seward, who bragged in the Senate that henceforth the North would govern the country; “Do not forget—for that would be impossible, for it is one of the most brilliant pages in the history of mankind—that we slave-owners of the South took charge of our country from its cradle, and that after having governed it for sixty years out of the seventy it has lived, we give it back to your hands without a stain on its honour, flourishing and prosperous, inexhaustible in its resources, high-spirited in the development of its forces, the envy and admiration of the whole world. The future will demonstrate what you will do with it; but no future will be able to tarnish our glory, or diminish your responsibility.”

As long as the South prevailed in the councils of the nation, certain persons belonging to the radical party in the North were simply deprived of places, and did not attain to power. But from the day when the North, acting not only as a political party, but also as a people united for an end, supplanted the South, the latter was exposed to something much more serious than a passing evil or antagonistic ambition—it was the accession at Washington of a despotism of a section which threatened the institutions, fortune, and life of the entire people of the Southern States. The South, armed with central power, only injured a certain political party in the North, the abolitionists; the North, master at Washington, held in its hands the repose and prosperity of every individual in the South. It was, therefore, very natural for the latter to withdraw from an association where the stake was so unequal, and where its loss must inevitably lead to its ruin.

Without carrying our retrospective researches further, we think enough has been said to demonstrate clearly how profound and legitimate was the antagonism between North and South, from the times which preceded the definitive establishment of the Federal Constitution, and how, in these latter years, this state of things has only grown worse.

The belief, therefore, must not be permitted that slavery was the real subject of the strife. This, to-day, would be a proof of marvellous ignorance, or of an unpardonable bias. A question so complex could not be reduced to terms so simple. What rules everything in this great fratricidal war, and in the parliamentary storms which preceded it, is the struggle of federalism against centralization, the desperate resistance of states feeling themselves menaced in their right of self-government, and on the eve of being absorbed into a Unitarian power. The duel becoming envenomed, everything coming to hand was converted into a weapon. The question of slavery, which should have had, and would have had, a happy termination, with the aid of time and mutual concessions, offered to the fanatic partisans of abolition in America and elsewhere too tempting an opportunity for them to neglect making use of it.

To seek to establish a strong centralization in the United States was less excusable than in any other country whatever. There were no dangerous neighbours; nothing in local institutions shackled individual liberty; military, civil, and commercial liberty, in fact, existed everywhere. Only the thirst to exclude their adversaries from power, stained with the name of slave-traders, but whose true wrong was that of being sincere conservatives, little disposed to allow themselves to be invaded by the radical ideas so much in favour in the North, set fire to the train.

Slavery was to disappear; but it is to be regretted that, by enveloping in the same ruin all that the South contained of conservative and respectable elements, that half of the Union was devoted to destruction, which was a counterpoise to the political fanaticism, financial corruption, and impassioned love of change so developed in the North. This country of the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Lees, Munroes, Madisons—this nursery of statesmen, where the social life allowed men to prepare themselves to guide their fellow-creatures—is to-day represented in congress by illiterate negroes—a crying anomaly which the North would not permit as regards itself, but which it has imposed on the conquered South!

In spite of all the faults with which it can be reproached, the work of bygone generations which obeyed the Washingtons, Adamses, and Hamiltons, has left grand and beautiful traces. It knew how to ally a wise love of liberty with respect for the past. It remains to be seen whether the actual régime, where only mediocrities and characters often wanting in honour predominate, will leave to future generations a testimony which shall cause them to forget, in spite of the deficienc[i]es which have had such sad consequences, the Act of Independence, and the wise institutions which emanated from the founders of the American Union.


* The Legislative Assemblies of Virginia and Kentucky, in 1798, passed some resolutions which very clearly defined, from the states-rights’ point of view, the idea of people who foresaw the dangers of the future. Here is the first of these resolutions: “The different states composing the United States of America do not acknowledge themselves as obliged to a submission without limit to the Central Government. Under the name of Constitution of the United States, and amendments to that Constitution, they have established a General Government for a definitive end, delegating to this Government certain definite powers, but each state reserving to itself, for its own self-government, all the rest of its attributes. When, therefore, the General Government arrogates to itself powers not delegated, its acts are unauthorized, null, and of no effect. Each state is associated to this contract in its quality of sovereign state. The Government created by this agreement can in nowise be constituted a judge without appeal of the powers conceded to it, since, in that case, it would be its moderation, and not the Constitution, which would fix the limit of its attributes. It follows, therefore, that, as in all contracts between parties not having a common judge, each party will have an equal right to judge for itself, both with regard to damage and redress.”

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