AN AMERICAN COERCION BILL
IT is natural enough that Englishmen, and- particularly English Tories, should sway, just now towards the Ameri- can Democrats, for the Democrats, though hostile to England, are the Tories of the Union. But we fail altogether to see any reason for the persistent misrepresentation of recant Re- publican policy which seems to have become the ,fashion, and to threaten a revival of that old tone of friendliness for the South as against the North, for the planter as against the freedman, which, had the workmen but joined in the un- reasoning cry, would in 1863 have produced a war. If we were to believe the most influential English journals, the party which for fourteen years has governed the Union, and may to-morrow govern it again, has not only become demoralised, but has lost its political capacity, and is now intent on keeping power by the sacrifice of every institution reverenced by the mass of its own followers. The Rept:111E6mi Representatives in Congress, who are all anxious to conciliate the voters who have broken away from them, are accused openly of wishing to secure General Grant's third term at any hazard, of desiring to enslave the South, and of hatching a plot to overthrow freedoin of election through- out more than a third of the entire territory of the Union. The Force Bill is triumphantly quoted as proof positive of the sinister designs of the -Republican leaders, and we are asked gravely' to believe that the Administration, with less than 25,000 over-worked Regulars in the entire country, is anxious by successive humiliations and oppressions to force the Southern States to renew the attempt at insurrection, and thus render themselves once more undisputed masters of the country.
There is, we believe, very little foundation, if any, for all these suspicions and invectives. That the Republicans may have been in certain ways demoralised by the Jong possession of power is, no doubt true, for the war demoralised part of American society, and that part clung after its instincts to the successful side. That the Republican leaders are not so single-eyed as they were may also be true, for the men who rise in stormy times have often a touch of unscrupulousness about them, and
with-the ship danger men cannot stop to ask the private character- of good steersmen. But no -great party has ever been ,able t tq exist long in a free country without a _creed, visible or esoteric, and a, policy which its followers can mere or less reluetantly accept, and the Repnblican party stills retains both a creed and a policy. The mass of those who vote within the Union on that side, and who., are still immensely numenons and powerful, believe, and rightly or wrongly believe heartily, that the great -dispute between .,two, forms of civili- sation, roughly. represented by the :words "freedom" and "slavery," is not ended yet; that the Southern Whites have not been conciliated ; and that if unrestrained., they would first re- store their old; ascendancy, and next_ endeavour either to rule or to quit the Union. They do not, indeed, fear the restoration of open slavery, which is probably, not even wished by the Southern Whites, but they do fear the reconstitution of society in the South on an oligarchic basis, consolidated by severe labour laws, guarded by masses of poor men full of the Fide of race and colour, and protecte4. by alliance with that party in the States which deems everything but secession allowable to the municipal sovereignties of the Federation. They say that everywhere in the South a struggle is,-going on between the races which threatens at every moment to break out into soeial war, and which will end, if the restraining force of the general Government is withdrawn, -in the complete victory of a caste, which ,cannot,:even if it is willing, be heartily loyal to a Republic based on the absolute legal equality of all citizens. They point, as justification of/their theories, to Georgia, where the White men are triumphant and the Negroes of no political account ; to. the Carolinas, where the struggle fog poweryis avowedly between two :colours, and swindlers are avowedly supported- because they will protect the Blacks ; to Texas, where it -is, abuost;; as dangerous to be, au Abolitionist as before the war ; to Kentucky, where there is peace be- cause the old order of society was except as regards the bare fact of slavery, never broken up ; audio the social anarchy which reigns in States like Louisiana, Miesissippi„- Florida, mad Arkansas. The Democrats deuy that this anarchy exista,, or that it is -political, but the mass of Northern -Republicans ask why all officen of the Army should think the situation so grave, why Governors should, always be appealhagr,for protection. to WashingtonEwhy President Grant, who cares nothing about negroes except as citizens, sheuld be spcominced of the necessity of repression, and why the minority of a„p4i4yeatigating com- mittee, like that appointed to inquire into affairs in Louisiana, should be so convideed—orthe anaray -there prevailing as to insist on pr-eAerifiting'a :Separate relidig1khntitiaing sentences like these -?—e "Spread over all these years were a large number of murders a d other acts of violence doxie for political ends. In roply- to an inquiry of the Committee, General Sheridau, who is getting careful statistics of the number of-persons killed and wounded in Louisiana up to February 8, 1875, since 1866, on account of their political opiniona, reports the number so far as ascertained to be as follows:: Killed. 2.141 ' • -wounded, 2,115; total, 4,258. Much evidence was taken by the Committee from persons. of both political parties in regard to this matter. Lists of homicides in different parishes were produced before the Committee by Persons familiar with the localities. On One side it was denied that these grew to any extent eta of politics i . on the ether, statements were made which would tend te show that- the number reported to General Sheridan fall far short of the truth. But the statements on both sides left it beyond dispute that murders were events: of the Most ordinary occurrence, so as hardly to make an impression on the Memory of intelligent men in whose neighbourhood tatty occurred; ;and this not only in the cities, but in the rural communities; that there existed throughout a great part of the state an intense degree of political heat and hatred; that, as a ride, homicide, murder, and assault with intent to kill went without legal punishment; and that the white Men generally were armed. Under all the circumstances, we do not .doubt the substantial truth of General Sheridan's statement. We have recapitulated these evils, which took place before the campaign of 1874, net because we desire to keep alive their painful and odious memory, but because it is absolutely necessary to do go to interpret the evehte of that campaign, in determining whether the negro voters were intimklated in 1874 to an extent which seriously affected the result of-the election. We cannot agree with those who think no evidence should be weighed but that of matters since September of that year, and whedeem it of no consequence that 2,000 political murders had been committed, and -the murderers were at large."
The whole of this statement may, for aught we know, be what the majbiity consider it, unfounded so far as it refers to politics —though the defeat of the 90,981 coloured voters of the State by the 76,823 white voters seems to suggest terror—and the whites may have abandoned all Wish for the laws by which up to 1868 they " regulated " labour—laws which made it a penal offence to harbour a labourer who had quitted his employ —but that is not the question at issue. The certainty is that the Republicans, whether deluded or well informed, believe
these reports, and take their action not from a mere desire to retain power, though of course they do desire it, and may de- sire it from mixed motives, but from a sincere conviction that the Whites in most Southern States are bent on restoring their ascendancy, and that this ascendancy is dangerous to the safety of the country. That may be an erroneous belief, but it is, at all events, a political one and not the mere product of a selfish de esirto do—we do ,noCknow exactly what, for if the Negro vote were as free as the Democrats allege, a Republican majority in the South was already secured. . Supposing, as is certain, that the Republicans entertained the belief we have explained, what were they to do ?.
Englishmen will reply at once, To secure order," and when interrogated as to the means, will instinctively look round for some ..Irish precedent, Now let us reflect for one moment what our policy in regard to a disturbed Irish county habitu- ally is. Is it not to retain the constitutional rights Of that county—to abstain, for example, from disfranchising Westmeath—and to suspend the Habeas Corpus, to punish by Commission all persons accused ef treason, to make the carrying of arms a penal offence, and to protect the polling-booths by military force ? What else did the Repub- licans propose • to do, even by their much-abused and very objectionable Force Bill ? That Bill was a mistake as to method, because of the special circumstances of the Union, but it does not lie in our mouths to say that it was a mistake as to object. In the United Kingdom, Parlia- ment is absolute ; we have no quadrennial election to drive men politically mad ; justice is not affected by elections ; and the quarrels are between owners and tillers, not between masses of citizens nearly equal in numbers, in arms, and in
• readiness to appeal to force. In the United States, Congress has. limits to its constitutional powers which it is very easy to overstep, and easier to say have been overstepped ; the Presi- dential election is a contest of excessive importance, the administration of justice is seriously affected by elections, and the quarrels to be composed are between masses so equal that a weight thrown on one side or another may, through the elections affect-every detail of administration, of daily justice, and of legislation. The Republicans, therefore, in imitating English ways of action make the fatal mistake of appearing ,%e protect not the nation, but a party, and to a, certain extent do protect it, and thus rouse against themselves not only the hatred of the disorderly, which every government must risk, and which we also incur, but the fiercer anger which springs from a sense that it is not justice, but, party, injustice, which is the moving cause of such high-handed action. Men will bear almost any laws, if only they, press on all alike. The Force Bill could net, from the nature of the conditions, press on all alike, all the disturbers on the theory of its proniotens belonging to ,pne political party, and it was therefore an unwise measure. It would have been far wiser, if the reports from Louisiana were believed, to declare the State in military occupation and govern it as we govern an Indian Chief Com- missitsnershin with rigorous and even-handed justice,but with- out conceding political freedom, till passions had calmed down. That would have shown conclusively that the Republicans wanted no votes,- and, moreover, would have avoided one of the worst results to have been expected from the Force Bill,—the un- measured and irritating exultation with which it would have been regarded by one of the two parties to the struggle, an exul- tation whichavauldhave turnedevery step taken on behalf of order into an insult to those against whom it was necessary to take it. That is the course, we venture to predict, which, if anarchy goes too far, the War Democrats will take, because it is the only one which does not visibly conflict with their theory of State- rights. But the unwistiom of a project of law is no proof of the rascality of legislators, and the Republicans no more de- serve the abuse they get for their Force Bill than Parliament would deserve it if it were in too great a..hurry to accept a Coercion Act The party has lost power now, and everybody expectaits rivals to take a very different course ; but we venture to say, if they have to deal with anarchy, it is not with weak- ness in repression they will be taunted. Their bias may be against another side in the quarrel, but the Force Bill Will be feeble compared with the legislation they will sanction.