[FROM OCR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
New York, April 27, 1866.
Tits political world is very quiet. The problem of the reconstruc- tion of the Union is still studied in secret by the Committee of Fifteen, and it is said, and I have reason for believing with truth, that the longer they ponder, and listen, .and argue, the farther they find themselves from the solution which they are seeking, the less accordant become their counsels. The passage of the Civil Rights' Bill seems to have diminished rather than increased the probability that the Committee would report the necessity of imposing universal negro suffrage on the late rebels, as a condition of their admission to representation in Congress, as a man who means to ask for a thousand to-morrow diminishes his chances of getting it by asking and obtaining.fi.ve hundred to-day. Men who voted heartily for the Civil Rights' Bill will not vote for negro suffrage, and upon this the Radical leaders insist. President Johnson has taken a step of some significance in the appointment of a col- lector of the Customs for the port of New York. This port is worth 50,000 dols. a year at a moderate computation, and has attached to it an enormous patronage, which, as I have told before, is used for political purposes, without any consideration whatever for length of service or good character on the part of incumbents. Mr. Johnson's nominee is a Mr. Smythe, a man quite unknown in politics, but of good standing in commercial circles ; a thorough going antislavery man in past days, but, it is safe to say from the mere fact of his appointment, not a Radical now. As Demo- crats who had been very serviceable to the country in the war were pressed upon the President for this office, his appointment of Mr. Smythe, with whom he had no previous acquaintance, looks decidedly as if he had no thought of endeavouring to resuscitate the old Democratic party, for which more could be done by the use of patronage in this city than in any other means in the way of - political management. He is wise, for that party is really dead, and would never have been able to make even a show of life, had it not been for Mr. Stevens, Mr. Sumner, and the Committee of Fifteen ; and never slid any party, either for its long past or its recent deeds, better deserve extinction.
A decision has been recently made in our Courts which is very important at the present juncture of affairs, and which illustrates a subject necessarily touched upon in some of my letters. In Massa- chusetts there is a State law by which all places used illegally for the sale of intoxicating liquors are declared common nuisances, subject to immediate abatement or indictment. Under this law
proceedings were instituted against a Mr. McGuire, who resisted, and pleaded his licence to carry on his business obtained from the
General Government, and that the State law being in conflict with a constitutional law of the United States was void, in virtue of the provision of the Constitution that that instrument, "and all the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof
shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." His plea, however, was set aside, and it was ruled that "the Internal Revenue law did not authorize the sale of liquor in Massachusetts in
violation of her statutes," but, what is more important, the judge went on to say that "even if Congress had by positive enactment authorized such a sale in violation of the laws of the State, such an enactment would have been unconstitutional and void." This was the decision of the Massachusetts State Court. As the case involved a question of the construction of the Constitution, the defendant had an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the decision of the State Court was fully sustained, and Mr. McGuire remains indicted for a nuisance. The question has instantly arisen on all sides, —if a State law is so inviolable, even by an Act of Congress, upon a minor matter of this kind, what hope can Mr. Stevens and Mr. Sumner have of interfering with the supreme question of citizenship and suffrage by Act of Congress? It is noteworthy, too, that this decision is made in the Court of a State which is supposed to be most willing to disregard State rights in the case of others, upon the more important subject. The fact is that any attempt to impose negro suffrage upon whatever State by legislative action as a condition of representation in Congress must fail. The proper course for those who desire it is to abandon their present tactics, and seek it by way of constitutional amend- ment. Meantime, let lovers of justice and of peace in England who watch the course of affairs in this country, do so with the certain assurance that the longer the representatives of the Southern States are excluded from Congress in mass, the greater is the probability of the return to power of the old Pro-Slavery Democrats, North and South, the party which oppresses the negro and seeks occasion of quarrel with Great Britain. The only fear of serious political trouble in our future springs from the possi- bility of the prolonged exclusion of the Southern representatives not as individuals, but as representatives. An attempt to make this exclusion permanent, except upon conditions, would certainly bring about a conflict which I cannot even think about without horror. It would be far worse than the late war ; more intestine, more internecine. But I believe the people who have the control of this matter, i. e., the people of the old Free States, are far too common-sensible for such a conflict to be looked for among the possibilities.
A passage in a recent speech by Mr. Lowe in the House of Commons upon the Reform Bill demands from me a passing notice. Ile is reported as having asked, "Did you ever hear of a man who was ostracized from.public life in America in consequence of his having committed a murder, a forgery, a perjury, or any- thing of the kind ?" and as having accompanied his query, which was received with "Hear, heir, an 1 laughter," with some remarks to the same effect. Now it is difficult for me to discover how Mr. Lowe can justify himself to himself for such an implied assertion as that. I do not believe, and would not willingly believe, that he said what he did knowing it to be false ; but he has certainly borne witness against his neighbour without knowing that his witness was true. When did Mr. Lowe ever hear of a man who had committed a murder, a forgery, or a perjury ever being in public life in this country ? I will venture to say that he cannot call an instance to mind, or find one, if given a year in which to seek it? But he evidently was not alone in his error. He made his point. His audience cheered and laughed, and manifestly did so because they thought he had put to use a notorious fact. I can assure my readers that it gives me much greater pleasure to see members of Parliament showing knowledge and wisdom than the other thing. Therefore on this occasion I did not have the pleasure that I like to have in reading the proceedings of that body, which are to me second in import- ance only to those of my own country, and which I find, I freely confess, intrinsically of much greater interest. No one here who knows anything about the subject, would think of disputing that the average of education and social culture is much higher in Par- liament than it is in Congress, and that there go to the latter body from our emigrant quarters, and from our Australia (i. e., our frontier and south-western States) men very much like those who would be sent to Parliament from your Australia, if she sent members. This, and the violence of Southern Congressmen, during past years, looming through memories misty with British prejudice and ignorance in regard to this country, rather than a carelessness of truth, produced Mr. Lowe's extraordinary argument against the Reform Bill, and secured him the general favour with which it seems to have been received. Our experience of universal suffrage, as nearly as we have it, leads all thinking and moderate men here to the belief that when exercised in communities the mass of which (like those in and around our seaboard cities, in which a large proportion of the voters are naturalized foreigners) are unfitted by education and training for its exercise, it is not favourable to purity of elections, or in any way to the general welfare. Nor does it generally tend throughout the country to the selection of high-toned and cultivated men for legislative bodies. They rarely offer themselves as candidates, and are still more rarely chosen. But between culture and high tone on the one side and crime on the other there is a very wide gulf, and I repeat that the general belief indicated by Mr. Lowe's speech and the manner in which it was received is altogether unfounded. The only case that occurs to me as at all supporting Mr. Lowe's charge is the notorious one of Mr. Fernando Wood, who has been Mayor of New York and a member of Congress, and who is said to have falsified his accounts and to be a corrupt man. But his constituency was composed almost purely of Irish emi- grants. To secure his election he left the district in which he lived, and went to a hotel on the borders of an Irish quarter. Democrat as he is, able as be is, he could not be chosen constable in the strongest Democratic village in New England or in New York. A mistake of like kind was recently made by the Pall Mall Gazette, one of the fairest and ablest papers in England. Notic- ing the advertisement of a pew in one of your provincial churches or chapels "to be raffled for," it remarked, "This is surely a sign of the spread of American ideas, and one more proof of the popu- larity of Transatlantic ideas in this country." Now, raffling for a pew is something quite unheard of here. So strange is the idea to us, in fact, that the simple announcement of this project (the project itself, not the attributing the idea to us) was regarded as sufficiently remarkable to be mentioned in our papers without comment thus :—" An English journal contains an advertisement announcing that a pew in a certain church is to be raffled for." Pews in churches, being private property, are of course sold here, and sometimes by auction, but raffling, although it is common enough, is looked upon by so large a part of our people with dis- favour, that at the great fair held for the Sanitary Commission in New York this mode of disposing of articles even of great value was condemned by the managers, although by so doing they deprived their fund of thous= Is of dollars. So very loose and inaccurate are the notions of most Englishmen in regard to the tone of our society ; and it is remarkable that the error is always on the side unfavourable to the Yankees. This does us no harm of course, and is of little consequence to you, except in so far as you care whether we are to regard you as well or ill disposed towards our people.
As I am making explanations, I will refer to a passage in my letter upon the discomforts of prosperity, in which I spoke of recognizing a Yankee chiefly by his eye. Two or three of my British acquaintances, and one or two to the manner born, have spoken of this passage, and asked what it meant, seeming to suppose that some particular kind of eye, in form, shape, or colour, was indicated. Nothing of the kind. As far as I have been able to discover, the English eye has not been changed in any of these respects by coming across the sea. The peculiarity in question, distinctive as it is to a close observer, is merely one of expression, or, to make a phrase, one of the habit of looking. It is almost indescribable, but, once noticed, quite unmistakable. I never saw it, with an exception that I shall notice, in a man born and brought up in a country in which government was. monarchical and society aristocratic. The Irish and the Ger- mans do not get it here ; but (this is my exception) English- men, including of course the Lowland Scotch, who live herer a long while almost always do. And in those cases, I think I have observed that if they return to England intending to remain there, they generally abandon that intention, and come back to settle themselves for life in this country. Their reason. for so doing I have not thought it proper to ask. I am not alone in remarking this expression. An Englishman who visited this country two or three years ago, and who has since written a book,. (not about America) which has received universal and well- deserved commendation, told me that it was the first personal pecu- liarity he noticed after his arrival at Boston. One of my own countrymen, who has just returned from a visit to England and_ the Continent, said, on the discussion of my letter in his presence, that he had noticed this expression of the eye immediately upon his landing. And in Hospital Transports, one of the simplest and most faithful pictures of one aspect of our civil war, the following passage occurs in the description of an interview with a New Hamp- shire man, who had been frightfully wounded in the hip, the bone- shattered, and whose wound had not been dressed for three days —" Poor fellow ! he said, 'I guess if they'll let me go home, I can pull through it somehow ; and if I don't, that's God Almighty's business. I ain't consarned about that.' And he smiled again,, that brave man-to-man, knowing, New England smile." Now whatever was peculiar in this New England smile (the bravery certainly was not) was not on the man's lips, but in his eye. PerhapsI am superfluous in writing this, but I thought that what provoked inquiry here might not be without interest im