THE POLITICAL CRISIS IN AMERICA.
frift, war between the President and the Radical Republi- 1 cans has broken out at last with great fury. Both par- 'ties were in fault, but the unhappy freedmen will for the present suffer for those faults. The American Radicals were almost as violent and ungoverned in their language as English- men used to be some thirty-five years ago when they were is ruggling for a less important cause. They talked of im- peaching the President for acting on what no one doubts to be the President's own most conscientious judgment, and In a manner perfectly legal, however unjust and unwise. Mr. Stevens and Mr. Sumner have both talked nonsense, and vio- lent nonsense too, in what we believe to have been a good cause. They seem to have been animated as much, or even more, by aversion, not to say hatred, to the late rebels of the South, as by a sense of justice to the loyal freedmen of the South. The consequence of their excessive violence has been that the Pre- sident has vetoed the mildest of their measures,—the measure for strengthening and extending the organization of the Freedmen's Bureau in the rebellious States so as to protect more effectually the rights of the emancipated negroes. This Bill, which was supported even by the Conservatives of the Republican party,—even by such men as Mr. Raymond,—was -thought certain to receive Mr. Johnson's assent. And perhaps it would have received it, had not the language of the extreme Republicans irritated his vehement spirit beyond endurance. The message with which he returned it to *Congress was dignified. It enumerated indeed none but -what we may call the hackneyed democratic reasons against the Bill,—the danger of putting more patronage into the hands of the executive, the costliness of such an extension 'of the Freedmen's Bureau, which would, says Mr. Johnson, double the appropriation required, increasing it from 1,000,000/. sterling to 4,000,000/.,—the irritating effect it would have on the South which would be thus taxed addi- tionally for a measure for which it had not voted,—the im- propriety of legislating any longer for the Southern States -without admitting them to Congress,—and other varieties of -the same class of reasons. The effect of this message on the Senate appears to have been to detach several adherents from the Bill,—not from its principle, but through the consideration that as the execution of the policy must be entrusted tothe President, 4o vote a Bill over the head of the President the policy of which he dislikes, would only be an invitation to him to neutralize by feeble or reluctant administration what he had no longer the power to veto. The majority in the Senate on the recon- -:sideration of the Bill was 30 to 18, lees than a majority of two- thirds, and consequently the Senate failed to pass it over the head of the President. To make up for this failure some of the extreme men of the party appear to have talked of the president's usurpation of power in very absurd and irritating language, while one member of Congress. proposed to forbid the re-election of a President by a new Constitutional amend- ment,—a measure ostentatiously pointed at Mr. Johnson. To this Mr. Johnson replied by a speech on Washington's birth- -day of a character even more violent and vulgar than that of his opponents. He spoke of Mr. Stevens, Mr. Sumner, Mr. Wendell Phillips, as being as much traitors to the Union as the Southern rebels. They might vituperate, traduce, and 'slander him, he said, but that did not move him :- " And because I dared to say in a conversation with a fellow- -citizen, and a Senator too, that I thought amendments to the 'Constitution ought not to be so frequent ; that their effect would be that it would lose all its dignity; that the old instrument - would be lost sight of in small time ; because I happened to say that if it was amended such and such amendments should be adopted—it was an usurpation of power that would have cost a king his head at a certain time They may talk about "beheading and usurpation, but when I am beheaded I want the American people to witness I do not want by inuendoes, in in- -direct remarks in high places, to see the man who has assassination 'brooding in his bosom exclaim, 'This Presidential obstacle must be gotten out of the way.' I make use of a very strong expres- sion when I say that I have no doubt the intention was to incite _assassination, and so get out of the way the obstacle from place and power. Whether by assassination or not, there are individuals in this Government, I doubt not, who want to destroy our insti- tutions and change the character of the Government. Are they mot satisfied with the blood which has been shed ? Does not the murder of Lincoln appease the vengeance and wrath of the oppo- nents of this Government ? Are they still unslaked? Do they still want more blood ? Have they not got honour and courage -enough to attain their objects otherwise than by the hands of the assassin ? No, no, I am not afraid of assassins attacking me where a brave and courageous man would attack another. I only dread him when he would go in disguise, his footsteps noiseless. If it is blood they want, let them have courage enough to strike like men. I know they are willing to wound, but they are afraid to strike. If my blood is to be shed because I vindicate the Union and the preservation of the Government in its original purity and character, let it be shed ; let an altar to the Union be erected, and then, if it is necessary, take me, and lay me upon it, and the blood that now warms and animates my existence shall be poured out as a fit libation to the Union of these States. But let the opponents of this Government remember that when it is poured out, the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the church.' Gentlemen, this Union will grow; it will continue to increase in strength and power, though it may be cemented and cleansed with blood."
The whole speech is utterly unworthy of the communica- tions which, with all his faults, we have hitherto learned to ex- pect from Mr. Johnson. Is he growing jealous of the reputation of his great predecessor as a martyr, and anxious to show, by something that sounds to us like bounce, that he would not shrink from incurring such a danger in the discharge of his duty ? If he had not boasted of it, we should never have thought of doubting it. But as every one must be well aware that none even of the most violent Republicans ever thought for an instant of assassinating Mr. Johnson, this menacing language sounds at once insincere and undignified. Yet Mr. Seward is said to have spoken of the President's speech as `triumphant,' and as securing the safety of the country.
That the speech is likely enough to prove triumphant in paralyzing for a time the Radical party in Congress by de- taching the waverers, and making even the most firm and sagacious hesitate as to what they ought to do when they have got an Administration so hostile to the freedmen, so full of partiality to the South, through which alone they can work, is likely enough. That it will secure the safety of the country, looks to every one who measures the gravity of the political crisis by a standard rather less hasty and Congressional than Mr. Seward's, problematic in the ex- treme. Much fault as we find with the language and de- meanour of both sides, we must say that the view taken by the Administration of the true policy to be adopted towards the Southern party and the loyal freedmen, seems to us far the shallower, and, in substantial matters, far the least states- manlike. Its radical error lies in supposing that a four years' war and the defeat which followed it, can eradicate the evils which generations have sown and fostered. Mr. Johnson hopes that by resolutely ignoring disloyalty to the Union and the spirit of caste, he can manage to erase it. He carries all the full-blown State-rights prejudices into the heart of a policy which has only succeeded as far as it has done, by assailing State rights wherever they came into collision with the national spirit, and which can only succeed in future by so sternly limiting State rights in the disloyal States, as to carry out in its fullest extent the purport of the recent Constitutional amendment, which not only abolished slavery, but gave Congress the power to secure the freedmen in the enjoyment of theirliberty by "appropriate legislation." Without jealously preserving and using this power, there can be no manner of doubt but that the old caste-spirit which produced secession once, and is capable, whenever the exhaustion produced by the war is over, of pro- ducing it again, will grow up once more, and will grow up only the more vigorous for the pruning to which it has been re- cently subjected. Indeed Mr. Johnson has himself given the first impulse to this reaction. No sooner was it known in Washing- ton that he had vetoed the Bill for extending the protection given to the freedmen in the recently rebellious States, than the violent anti-negro feeling which has lately been under control in Washington burst out afresh. Negroes were ex- cluded again from the ordinary vehicles and railway cars ; they were once more subjected to public insult ; a building which was to have been lent them for a meeting was re- fused by the directors,—though the proprietors on ap- peal reversed the decision,—and generally a strong im- pulse was given throughout the country to the old cruel spirit of caste. For this Mr. Johnson is unquestionably responsible. He set the example by undoing all that Mr. Lincoln did in admitting the negroes to his levees, and directly it was known that he wished to diminish the powers of the Freedmen's Bureau in the South as unconstitutional, instead of to extend them, the reaction which had already set in in manners was certain to extend to more important matters. How terrible such a reaction will be only those who have mastered the present state of things in the South can know. Wherever United .States troops have been withdrawn the schoolhouses of the freedmen have been burnt. The negroes are forced into lawless contracts, and their persons are habitually outraged. One writer from Western Louisiana says that he saw three freedmen butchered in one day. The most corrupt and ignorant men ruled wherever the troops were withdrawn, —men who had only two principles on their lips—hatred to the Yankee, and hatred to the freedman. Nay, it is said that so far as cancelling the expenditure on the schools for freed- men is concerned, and authorizing the extinction of these bene- ficent institutions, which the Freedmen's Bureau, under Mr. Lin- coln's special impulse had founded, the President is himself per- sonally responsible ;—and we can quite believe, looking to Mr. Johnson's fanatic attachment to the old democraticformula, and his evident contempt for the welfare of persons so unim- portant as negroes, in comparison with the sanctity of the holy principle of State taxation, that it is so. In Louisiana the Freedmen's Bureau had set on foot 300 schools, which were suddenly broken up in November by General Fullerton, —the freedmen and discharged coloured soldiers were arrested as vagrants in the streets of New Orleans, and the orphans of freedmen returned to former slaveowners as " apprentices." And for this General Fullerton is now said to plead the direct order of the President. Whether that be true or not, it is certain that to all such iniquities the President is compara- tively indifferent, so long as he can hasten the restoration of the old State organizations, and throw all responsibility from the Federal Government on to the shoulders of the Southerners who profess to represent those States. We do not suppose that Mr. Johnson wishes to see any negro suffer. But weigh the lives and dearest liberties of all the three millions of freedmen against the smallest State privileges of the lately recalcitrant whites of the South, and he is unable even to realize that there can be a question as to the relative importance of the opposite causes. Perish Africa and the Africans, rather than the State rights of the most disloyal of Southern states should be withdrawn !—that clearly is his feeling.
We confess that we feel the glaring, the inexpressible, injustice and ingratitude of this policy to the loyal freedmen, more than anything else. When the President speaks with such profound delicacy and tenderness of the financial rights of the rebellious minority of the population of such a State as South Carolina, and shows no regard whatever for the moral claims of the loyal majority, we cannot help noting the grossly arbitrary conceptions of right and justice which over- ride the whole nature of upright men in a land that professes to 'return, more than any other, to the old and natural ' standard. But though this is the first and most obvious aspect of the matter, it is by no means the only one, nor pro- bably the most important. If this attempt to heal over the wounds of the Union superficially and hastily,—in which Mr. Johnson is going far beyond the advice even of his most trusted military counsellors, in which, indeeed, he is neglecting even the very moderate cautions of General Grant,—is to be prose- cuted, it can have but one result,—to foster the seedsof a new and perhaps not very distant repetition of the rebellion which has so recently failed. The abolition of slavery can be of no political use in cementing the Union, unless it is to represent something that affects the whole groundwork and constitution of Southern society. If the spirit of respect for freedom and for individual rights is to be fostered and guarded, and the old slaveowning animus is to be rooted out, then, and then only, will there be an end of danger to the Union from this source. But if all the old spirit of caste is to revive again in even greater strength than before,—greater on account of the new jealousy felt of the rights nominally given to the negro,- and if the Southern States are to become the scenes of chronic passions, far less ungoverned because far less restrained by law, than those of our own Jamaica planters,—then in another ten years Southern society will be in an attitude at least as hostile to the spirit of the free North as it was six years ago ; and if its material resources are once more recruited by peace, we do not see how a new collision as fierce as the old, and provoked probably with more cautious statesmanship, is to be averted. If ever that time comes, the North will have to regret even more bitterly than it now does that it trusted the destinies of the Union to the hands of statesmen bred up like Mr. Jeffer- son Davis, and we fear we must say Mr. Johnson, in habits of thought -radically incompatible with true freedom.