14 APRIL 1866, Page 14


[Fnom OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.] New York, March 23, 1866. POLITICAL signs have changed very notably within the last few months. When Mr. Johnson was suddenly placed in the Presi- dent's chair, we all said, divining his future by his past, and judging his temper towards rebels and their Free-State supporters, the Copperheads, by his declarations, that Mr. Lincoln's assassin had killed the rebels' best friend, and that where Mr. Lincoln had scourged them with whips Mr. Johnson would scourge them with scorpions. Abroad, even by the most moderate and kindly dis- posed of his critics, Mr. Johnson was pronounced red; and it was declared that he was plainly about to use an almost despotic power for the purpose of destroying and scattering the cultivated and wealthy class at the South, and of transferring land and power to the mean whites and the negroes. Now, Mr. Johnson has done somewhat to attract the attention of the world in general since he has been President, and more than somewhat to create profound political agitation in the United States, but it is remarkable that what he was expected to do is exactly what he has not done. He has not yet brought about, even indirectly, I believe, the punishment of a single rebel for his rebel- lion. His policy is rather that of rehabilitating than of persecuting and repressing the wealthy classes at the South ; and whatever may be his personal feeling towards rebels, his executive clemency is so benignant and so expanded in its operation that in effect it is almost universal amnesty. Immediately after the death of Mr. Lincoln it was amusing, yet sad and painful, to see the abjectness with which the Copperhead wing of the old Democratic party, whose organ is the New York World, bowed down to, and fawned upon, and crawled before the man upon whom, while he was only Governor of Tennessee and Vice-President, the very same party, through the very same presses, had poured for a year and a hall a steady stream of slander and gross personal abuse. There was no moderation, no sense of decorum, even for their own sake, in the manner in which these people spoke of Mr. Johnson. His elevation to the Presidents' chair was compared to Caligula's elevation of his horse to the consulship, and "beastly, besotted, and boorish" were the epithets constantly applied to him. On the other hand, the Union party, composed of Abolitionists, Republicans, Free-Soil Democrats, and War Democrats of the old school, seemed proud of their man, and sustained him heartily. When he became President, they maintained their old position towards him, even the Abolitionists at first giving him their confi- dence. But the Copperheads began immediately the attempt to win him to them or to join themselves to him, and if eating dirt could have affected their digestion, the whole party must ere this have been in their graves with dyspepsia. The object of course was to reinstate tile old Democratic party, of which, as my readers

know, Mr. Johnson had been a prominent member, and the means looked to of doing this were the President's patronage and his influence with Congress. For some time these hopes appeared to be vain, and they were severely dashed by the result of the elections last autumn, which left not enough of the old Democratic party in Congress or in the country at large to go into effective opposition. Had the Republicans managed affairs with sagacity, this condi- tion of parties might have continued, and the Union party of the war might have consolidated itself, perfected its organization, and extended its ramifications, until in a few years it would have held a control of the country more absolute than that of the Demo- cratic party ever was. The managers of the Union party were generally shrewd enough to keep negro suffrage out of the elec- tions ; but the Radical Republicans did not keep it out of Con- gress, and from the moment when it was discovered that the Joint Committee of Fifteenon Reconstruction was appointed, not to take order for the restoration of the late rebel States to their privileges, but to find means of keeping them out of Congress as long as possible, the hopes of the Democrats began to rise. They had vainly tried to wheedle and coax Mr. Johnson to their side, but it remains to be seen whether the Radicals may not drive him into their arms.

If statesmanship be the assertion and the attempted enforcement of certain principles, regardless of circumstances, the Radical Republican leaders are masters in the craft, but if it be the wise direction of existing forces, they certainly have not. shown states- manship. It was altogether unreasonable, at variance with the workings of human nature, to expect that Mr. Johnson, however earnest or even fierce he might be in his antagonism to rebellion, would in the course of four years absolutely change his funda- mental views of politics, and be ready to lightly contravene his read- ing of the Constitution, their defiance of which was in his eyes the great crime of the rebels. It was equally unwise to suppose that the possession of an overwhelming majority in both Houses of Congress was a security against both assault and defection. Had the war continued, indeed the majority would have been practically unanimous and omnipotent. But with peace came the restoration of party tactics, personal influence, and little ambitions and intrigues to something of their old sway, and the result of these, operating in con- nection with the disagreement between the President and the Radi- cal leaders, has been a gradual widening of the breach, and gradual aggravation of ill feeling, until finally it has reached the point of exasperation. The other day I was in a counting-house, where

two months ago I saw Mr. Lincoln's and Mr. Johnson's portraits hanging side by side. But now Mr. Johnson's is turned round

with its face to the wall in disgrace, "not to be restored again to its former honours," as the head of the firm said to me, "until the original shows signs of returning sanity." But while he said this, I could not but remember that during the war he was ready to desert Mr. Lincoln as "too slow and cautious," and to pronounce for General Fremont. On the other hand, the last few days have furnished an indication which, trifling in itself and under other circumstances, seems at present to me full of significance. A club has been recently established in New York called "The Man- hattan." I have not seen its constitution and byelaws, but its purpose is generally understood to be to furnish an offset to the Union League Club, which was born of the war, and many members of which were Democrats, and to reinstate the old Demo- cratic party in its control of the political affairs of the country. Its members are chiefly men whose record during the war is one of ceaseless, bitter, unscrupulous, and in some cases desperate, resist- ance to Mr. Lincoln in his endeavours to subdue the rebellion,— men who have nothing to hope in the way of political influence or consideration while the Union party continues in power, or while the people remain faithful to the sentiment which carried the country through the rebellion. Well, this club has elected Mr.

Johnson an honorary member, and asked him to sit for a full- length portrait. The correspondence was published two days ago. Among the names of the signers are some of high respectability, but even the most respectable of these is that of a man who lost a high position which he had held for many years in another club, not at all political in its character, solely because of his secession sympathies. Another of these names is that of a man who said that he would hang Republicans to the lamp-posts. (My withers were unwrttng; I was no Republican.) Another is that of a man of such notorious disloyalty that when, towards the close of the war, he, wishing to hedge a little, caused himself to be proposed as a mem- bers of a patriotic association composed of men of all political creeds, the bare proposal was resented as so insulting that the name was at once withdrawn without the attempt to take a ballot. Another is that of the very editor who day after day held up Mr. John- son to scorn and execration as a beastly, besotted, boorish tyrant; and he with the rest now signs a letter expressing the desire of this club to "adorn their walls with a representation of the form and lineaments of a statesman and patriot who," &c., &c., &c. And Mr. Johnson "accepts the compliment ! " Now we all know that a man in Mr. Johnson's position must receive and acknowledge many attentions as a mere incident of his office. He cannot refuse what ofteu he would very gladly do without. If there is to be no limit to this, well ; but if we must draw a line somewhere, it would seem as if the President of the United States, and that President Andrew Johnson, might well draw his line just here. Had he chosen to do so, the whole country would have assented, even if it did not unanimously approve. He did not, and his not doing so seems to me one of the most significant of recent minor political events.

I observe that in the Spectator of March 3 you express an apprehension that your saying that Mr. Bancroft has apparently proved Mr. Dickens's Young Columbian' to be a real and not a fictitious personage, will doom you to a conviction of gross igno- rance at the hands of your New York correspondent. I regret that you have not learned to know that meek, submissive person better. If he has a fault (which I doubt), it is a disposition to acquiesce without a murmur in the authoritative decisions of British judges of his country, especially when they are expreved - with the -manly candour of the Times and the singleminded generosity of the Saturday &vim. As to the point in question, let me confess, once for all, that not only can the "Young Colum- bian," be found here, and sometimes with his young head on very old shoulders, but that Elijah Pogrom might also be found, if Dio- genes would search for him ; and that, .to make a long story short, there is hardly anything told in Mr. Dickens's American Notes, or even in Mrs. 'I'rollope's Domestic Manners of the Americans, which may not have been sketched from the life. But let me also say that, from an overwhelming concurrence of British testimony, lain sure that books representing British society in just as ridiculous, just as contemptible, and just as disgusting a light might be written, and be just as true as those books, and also just as untruthful. And to take the present instance as it has been and probably will be treated, what seems to us a little strange, and somewhat inconsistent with the fairness that we like to believe is an English trait, is that Mr. Bancroft's oration and Mr. Johnion's 22nd of February speech will be condemned all over the United Kingdom for their bad taste of all kinds, and that this will be set forth as a distinctive trait of the American mind, while not one word will be said in the same quarters of the significant fact that the taste of both .those performances, both the rhetorical taste and the taste as regards decorum, has been condemned in nearly, if not quite, all the respectable journals and periodicals north of the Potomac, and that among all tolerably educated, not to say cultivated people, the censure is even more general and more severe. Venturing to interpose only -a mild pro- test against the Spectator's very ingenious, but it seems to me over subtle conclusion, that American bombast springs chiefly from an enthusiastic devotion to the Union and the Con- stitution, I promise my readers to tell them soon what is its origin, and of what it is the exponent.

Mr. Henry Sedley's letter in the Spectator of March 10 shows me that I owe him an apology for misquoting a passage from Marian Rooks. I regret that what was mere carelessness in copy- ing has been the occasion of annoyance to him ; I will only say with regard to his imputation of misrepresentation, that it fails to touch me, because I cannot see the slightest difference made in the significance of the passage by the word which I omitted. It would have given me much more pleasure to find that I had inad- vertently done Mr. Sedley the great wrong of an essential misre- presentation, than to say that I am quite willing to leave the matter just where he has placed it. None the less, however,