14 APRIL 1866, Page 6


IN vetoing the Bill for securing civil rights to all Americans I without distinction of colour, the President has finally broken with the Liberals of the North. That Bill was framed as a corapromise,—a measure which, while securing the principle for which the war has been waged, could be accepted by moderate men in every part of the Union. The Northern leaders intended at first to secure the negroes the franchise, arguing, as we did, that however objectionable that course might be in other ways, the negroes could never be safe from oppression or the Union from aristocratic assault, unless legislative power were entrusted to the weakest class. The American people were, however, scarcely prepared for so decided a step. Convinced that serfage was politically dan- gerous, they were still,—we speak of the masses,—obtuse to its moral evils, and excessively disinclined to run the risk of seeing office entrusted to negro hands. So closely do the numbers of the negroes tread upon those of the whites, that in hundreds of parishes, many districts, and at least two States, they might have elected all officials, and the whites, even when ready to recognize the justice of equality before the law, are not ready to obey dark governors or to be tried by black judges. This idea therefore was silently laid aside, and the Bill rendering the Freedmen's Bureau a permanent and effective department introduced in its stead. The object of this Bill was to vest the Central Government with full power over the negro question, and compel it, whenever the negro appealed against local oppression, to secure him the protection of the national strength and sense of justice. Unfortunately it was indispensable for this end to override State laws, to employ military force, and to give negroes a special appeal denied by State law to whites, and Mr. Johnson, availing himself of State jealousy, civilian jealousy, and the jealousy of colour, in an exceedingly skilful message vetoed the Bill. His action was not endorsed by the country, as most English journals asserted, but it was endorsed by the Demo- crats, by the South, and by a number of Liberals sufficient to make the leading statesmen pause. They were afraid of alienating that useful wing of their army called during the struggle the War Democrats, men resolved to end slavery as dangerous to the Union, but otherwise holding the old Demo- cratic faith. They resolved therefore to shape a measure which should bring the groat issue finally before the country, and test the professions so frequently made by the President of willingness to protect the negro in -every civil right, provided political rights were withheld. They accordingly drew tip a Bill which may be briefly described as placing all persons of colour born in America precisely in the position of American women, the position, that is, of free human beings deprived for reasons of public policy of political power. Of course the negroes, Chinese, and tax-paying Indians being encamped among a population hostile to their claims, it was necessary to enforce them through agencies other than elected Courts, but there the interference of Congress with the State or municipal arrangements ended. So slight indeed was the wound to the State amour propre that the North as a whole accepted the Bill, and it was for a time believed, even by those most opposed to the President's policy, that he would permit the Bill to pass, and thus reconcile himself, if not with the Republicans, at least with the great Union party, the party which, caring little for the negro himself, believes that equality of civil rights is essential to the security of Republican insti- tutions. Mr. Lincoln, had he lived, would certainly have passed the Bill, not only as wise in itself, but as necessary to, the fulfilment of his pledges to the negro, and the mainten- ance of the national honour towards men who had fought, and fought bravely, under the national standard. Mr. John- son, however, though opposed to the slaveholding planters as- an aristocracy, has been a slaveholder, and at heart does net believe that the negro is entitled to any rights save those which his State, i. e., a majority of the white men whose interest it is to oppress him, ehoose to concede. He has therefore vetoed the Bill in a message full of the most extraordinary fallacies. It is, he says, unjust to give to the negro, the Chinaman, and the Indian rights refused to the foreigner, who is presumably much more competent to- exercise them, quite forgetting that every "foreigner" born in the States is ex facto a citizen of the Union, and, moreover, possessed of the electoral franchise. The Liberals proposed to give the celotired citizens less than white foreigners already possess, and the President because it is too much vetoes the Bill. -State rights, he says, will be invaded, as if the amend- ment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and authorizing Congress to make laws against it had not been drawn tip with a special view to such invasion, as a necessary consequence of a rebellion begun by States to sustain slavery. Moreover, he says, with an accent of horror in his voice, the Bill enables- black men to recover their debts, authorizes them to hold property, entitles them to be protected in life and limb as mileh as if they were whites. So astounding is his declara- tion on this point, that we must quote his actual words The first section of the Bill also contains an enumeration of the rights to be enjoyed by those classes so made citizens in every State and Territory of the United States. These rights are to make and enforce -contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to have the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens. So, too, they are made subject to the same punishment, pains, and penalties. common with white citizens, and to none others. Tien a perfect equality of the white and coloured races is attempted to be fixed by a Federal law, in every State of the Union over the vast field of State jurisdiction covered by these enumerated rights. In no one of them can any State exercise any power of discrimination between different races." What, punish a man who breaks a negro's head, or ravishes his wife, or refuses his wages, as if a white man had been his victim The President will have none of such Jacobinism, will not allow the commonest civil right to be- secured by national law. The soldier who has fought for the Union against Alabama may, if Alabama pleases, be robbed of his property or flogged to death, and the Union for which he fought, which promised him freedom, which claims his allegiance, and which taxes him on every article he wears, or sells, or manufactures—on his hat, and his jacket, and his hut, and his liquor—is not to interfere. In the long and weary history of human oppression we doubt if another such utter- ance has ever been recorded. The Spartans murdered the- Helots they had enfranchised, but at least they did enfran- chise them, sent them to Hades freemen, and were silent upon their deed. We verily believe that the planters, the very caste whom Mr. Johnson so hated, the men who owned these slaves, would have played a nobler part, would, had they promised freedom, have observed the bond in its meaning as well as in its letter. They would not have abolished the right to sell and retained the right to flog, abrogated the claim to service without wages but refused permis- sion to enforce wages by suits at law. They were states- men at least, and would never by refusing the right of civil process have exposed the honest employer to the irresistible competition of the dishonest one, the capitalist to the rivalry of the man who had only promises to offer, and therefore piled them high. The President says openly that he does not think negroes have any claim to civil rights, thinks in fact, not like Judge Taney, that the black man has no rights which the white man is bound to respect, but that he ought to have none. He goes, that is, one step farther in the path of in. justice than the judge whose decision helped so materially to break up the Union. It is clear that henceforward the Liberals have nothing to hope from President Johnson, clear also that the American Revolution, so far from being ended, has passed through but one phase. Congress being paralyzed by the Executive, and the Southern States declared loyal, their legislatures have only to pass any laws they please, organize a mild serfage, as in Georgia, or refuse all rights even of testimony, as in Alabama. Society can be slowly rebuilt upon the basis of compulsory labour, and when the States are readmitted they will have as much reason for secession as ever, as many resources for seceding, and greatly increased inclination to secede. The whole fruit of the war is surrendered, and the Union left ex- posed to the very dangers which it has expended five hundred minions sterling, and perhaps a quarter of a million of lives, in order to avert. It is impossible that the North should bear this, that the quiet freeholders who have given their sons and their savings to preserve a nationality and realize a dream, should placidly see their nationality threatened and their dream once more dispelled, should tamely hear of their chief executive officer passing openly over to the hostile side, in order that faith may be broken with their own allies. They will resist, and the only point is how. At present the idea is to pass the Bill over the President's head, and this may possibly be effected ; but even in a free country no law, however carefully drawn, can be worked in the teeth of the executive. The President will himself select the men who are to carry it out, and may if he pleases select determined Southerners, whose action, again, will be fettered by every device ingenuity can suggest or State Legislatures carry out. During his term of office the President is irremovable, except by impeachment, and for impeachment there are no legal grounds. He is -strictly within his prerogative in vetoing any Act, in disband- ing all volunteers encamped in the South, in ordering his Generals not to interfere with the reorganization of Southern society, in striving by an unscrupulous use of patronage to compel the Houses to readmit the members from the South. That he will stretch his prerogative to the last limit it is impossible to doubt, and it is strong enough to paralyze parliamentary action. The only step that Congress can take is to refuse the supplies, and this would put them in the wrong with the bondholders, the army, and the civil adminis- tration. Moreover, it would not affect the President. The State Governments would go on, and he would wait, confident, that no nation will long endure administrative anarchy. The only course- is to wait patiently, passing laws over the President's head to be carried out when his term has expired, to watch for any action -which may afford ground for impeach- ment, and to inspire the people with energy to elect as his successor a thoroughly Northern man. No compromise is now possible. If the negro is not entitled to ordinary civil rights the war has been fought in vain, and the North has only to await the day when the South, reinvigorated by rest and harvests and the influx of northern capital, is ready to re- commence it.

We have said nothing of revolution, for we do not believe that it is, except in one contingency, even possible. The North will not consent to overthrow the Constitution which it considers almost divine, rather than wait three years, even with the certainty of another civil war at the end. Buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in mar- riage will go on, as if no crisis were in progress ; the Freed- men's Bureau will protect the negroes for at least a year, and when its term has expired the Houses can extend it over the

President's head. Even should the negroes be abandoned for two years, the Liberals, we fear, will still abide by the law.

The only contingency in which revolution is likely to be tolerated is that of the President attempting to introduce the South by force. We do not believe that unless prepared to play Mr. Davis's role, he will venture upon any scheme of

the sort, and he is not prepared. If he did, he could not avoid breaking the Constitution, and then the task of the Liberals would be easy. Summoning the North to protect their deliberations, they could either order his impeachment, or pass an amendment enabling Congress in time of great public danger to depose the President by a two-thirds or three-fourths vote.

They would, in-such an event, be supported by the whole peo- ple, and it is almost inconceivable that it should ever occur.

The natural course of events is to await the November elec-

tions, and then let the country decide on the clear issue, which by that time will be before it, whether it does or does not intend that the South should rebuild a society based upon compulsory toil. If it does, it has resolved to fling away all the results of the war except debts, wounds, and widowhoods ; if it does not,- it will speedily diseover the means either to con- trol or remove a President who, in declaring openly for South- ern ideas, has declared moral war on the Union he has vowed to defend.