THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE UNITED STATES.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
New York, September 28, 1866. THE Legislature of South Carolina has passed an Act declaring the rights of the negro inhabitants of that State, new happily all freemen. Those rights are henceforth, in brief, the enjoyment of personal security, liberty, and property, including legal remedies for their protection and enforcement such as are enjoyed by all other inhabitants of the State. All differences of punishment both in kind and in degree are abolished, and all laws inconsistent with the new enactment are repealed. I do not know, of course, whether the telegraph has informed you of this important and significant legislative action on the part of the State which took the lead in secession, and which contained the largest proportion- ate slave population of all the Southern States. But it is safe to assume that the telegraph has not told the fact—equally impor- tant to an understanding of the political situation of the coun- try—that this action of South Carolina, which makes the Civil Rights' Bill andthe pending Constitutional Amendment superfluous in regard to the negroes in that State, is entirely approved by mul- titudes of people who are entirely opposed to the action of the " Radicals " in Congress in regard to that amendment and in regard to the lately rebellious States. Their opposition is neither to the endowment of the negroes with civil rights nor to any provision in the amendment for the benefit of the freedmen, nor to that which, by making the voting population the basis of representation, deprives States which do not admit negroes to the ballot-box of the benefit of the enumeration of their negro popu- lation in the apportionment of representatives in the lower House of Congress. All this they regard as just, and as the inevitable consequence of the amendment already adopted making slavery unconstitutional. What they do so strenuously oppose is the making the adoption of the pending amendment the condition of any representation at all in Congress on the part of certain States, and the attempt to declare by the Civil Rights' Bill who are citizens. Citizens of the United States are now, and have always hitherto been, such in virtue of citizenship of some State or Terri- tory. It might be better—let me say that your correspondent thinks that it would be better—that citizenship of the United States should be a question subject to the authority of Congress. But until it becomes so in a constitutional manner, they oppose all attempts of Congress to control that matter. This opposition is just as strenuous on the part of men who are, and for years have been, earnest advocates of the admission of the negroes to all civil rights, including those of suffrage and eligibi- lity to office, as on the part of those who hold the contrary to be the best policy for the country, and one not at all unjust. Let me frankly say, merely that the readers of the Spectator may know your correspondent's personal point of view, that I am one of the latter. If I believed in manhood suffrage, i e., that every inhabi- tant of every country, white or black, being of mature age and out of prison, is justly entitled to suffrage and eligibility to office, I should, of course, admit the right of negroes and also of women to those privileges, which, however, in that case would cease to be privileges. But as I not only would not admit women to the ballot-box and to office, but would exclude therefrom many white persons, and as I can see no other fit reason for the granting of the privileges in question than the judgment, or, if you please, the mere preference, of those who have made the th)vernment,—of those people who are the State,—it seems to me not at all unjust (equality of civil rights being secured to all) to exclude negroes or any other class of persons whose exclusion is, in the judgment of the people in question, desirable for the general welfare of the whole country. But aside from this question is the great one of constitutional government, which by many of the best, the most liberal, and most philanthropic minds in this country, to say the least, is regarded as paramount to all others. As to this, the Evening Post, which is one of the most important organs of public opinion in the North, not only because of the high reputa- tion of its editor, Mr. Bryant, and the fact that it has for years been the unwavering advocate of giving all rights and privileges, political as well as personal, to the negroes, but because of its very large circulation and of its representative position in regard to a multitudinous class of educated and thoughtful people, takes this position. After saying that "there are two theories of political action held in this country by two sets of men, both of which desire the spread of universal liberty, justice, and equal rights," it mentions as one of these two that which is represented by "the Garrisonian abolitionists, who denounced the Constitution of the United States as a covenant with death and a league with hell ; and by the Tribune, which says, "constitutional forms are very
well Secure us essential justice, and we are not particular as to forms ;" and then it states the other theory thus :—
" The other view, to which the Evening Post has constantly adhered, regards the Union as the great safeguard of popular liberty, and the Constitution as a wise and noble instrument, under which, with the powers of amendment secured in it, the American people may justly expect to make steady progress in liberty and enlightenment, and which therefore the highest interest of the American people should lead them most jealously to guard against violation, by any party or for any cause
Now it is an important question which of these two theories is right. They are very different ; the one despises law, the other de- pends upon law ; the one seeks to attain liberty by violence, and the other desires to secure liberty by the strict enforcement of law ; the one sees no hope of progress, except by spasmodic extra-constitutional efforts ; the other believes that true and safe progress in liberty and justice is only possible by the faithful observance of the Constitution, and the zealous use of all the rights and powers it guarantees. The first is impatient, the last patient ; the one regards the Constitution as a source of oppression ; the other holds it to be the ark of safety for the liberties of the people. The history of our country shows that the con- stitutional theory is wise and right ; the history of Mexico, of France, of the unhappy South American Republics, shows equally that the anti- constitutional theory is wrong, destructive of liberty, and productive only of anarchy and despotism."
On these grounds the action of the " Radicals " in Congress is opposed by the Evening Post and those whom it represents, among whom is Henry Ward Beecher, than whom there is not in the world a man of wider sympathies, or a sturdier, more unflinching champion of the oppressed, of whatever race or clime. But it may be, it has been said, this does not touch the important question. Will you allow the South full power to tax, fine, imprison, massacre its own negro population just as it pleases, without any impediment from Congress? Shall they be left uncontrolled by any laws except their own to lynch and oppress the emancipated negroes as they please? To which these men reply, "How can it be other- wise without setting law and constitutional government at naught? We, whose fathers framed this Government and fought at Bunker Hill and Saratoga, and who ourselves have fought on half the battle-fields of the civil war, may be taxed, and fined, and mur- dered without any impediment from Congress, our kinsmen may be lynched and oppressed unprotected by any laws except those of their own State. The Government at Washington has in the time of peace no more right to interfere for the protection of white men in New York, except at the request of its Governor, than it has to do the same in Canada. Why should constitutional government be set aside for the negro and not for us? Memphis and New Orleans are frightful facts, but that is because Memphis and New Orleans are frightful places. They treated white men there before the war just as they have treated negrosa since, and Con- gress could not interfere. And has the war changed either their nature or the obligations of constitutional government ?" Thus these men reason, and no attempt to appreciate the political position here can be successful without a full recognition of their perfect candour, love of justice, and good-will to the negro, and also of the fact that they are exceedingly numerous, and even more influential than their numbers would seem to warrant.
But in spite of all this, true as it is, truer than I fear many in England for whom I have more than high respect will believe it to be, the Spectator's prophecy that the Philadelphia Convention would be practically fruitless will be fulfilled. Its nauseous melo- dramatic clap-trap of the entry of the delegates of Massachusetts and South Carolina arm-in-arm, which would not take in a school-boy, has proved as futile and meaningless as the entry into its successor of Mr. Tilton, the white editor of the Independent, arm-in-arm with the mulatto, Frederick Douglass. The latter was afraid to demand negro suffrage, and the former has proved to be simply naught. The political situation is now as if it had never taken place. This was brought about by the Democratic party leaders, who sought merely to use the feeling represented in that Convention for the rehabilitation of the old Democratic party. That party has always been ready to coalesce with any party or body of men that would consent to be merged in it. Not neces- sarily to adopt its principles. As to those, some of which are very good, it has never been exacting or consistent. It has in the same canvas talked differently in different places. But upon one point it has been inflexible, the support of "regular nominations," "regular standing" in the party. And in its recent nominations it has shown itself the mere old rotten political machine it was for many years before the war. It has rejected General Dix in New York for Governor, life-long member of the party though he has been, and has nominated Mr. Hoffman, the Mayor of this city. In Pennsylvania it has nominated a gentleman who rejoices in the name of Heister Olymer, and who was one of the bitterest opponents of the Government all through the war. After all, I for one am glad that the Democratic leaders have done this ; for it secures the utter destruction of the Democratic party, which as a political organization was the pest and incubus of the country. It was crushed before, but owing to the lack of statesmanship of the Republican leaders it was beginning to lift up its hideous head again. Now it will be ground to powder. General Dix, a Democrat, would have been elected by a tremendous majority ; Mayor Hoffman, also a Democrat and a very estimable gentle- man, will be tremendously defeated ; and Heister Olymer will be "histed" the wrong way in such a fashion that he will feel like disowning his surname for ever after. The best and also the largest part of the people will not trust the Democratic party with the government.. I verily believe they would sooner put it in the hinchi of Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, and General Lee than in those of the Democratic leaders. Among the intelligent and educated classes almost all the young men are deserting, or not joining the Democratic party. It is quite common to see a father a Democrat, and his sons just arrived at manhood ready to vote for anybody but a nominee of the Democratic party, even although they are not Radicals, or even Republicans. The reverse is almost unknown. Therefore it is that the Philadelphia Con- vention has failed in effecting a coalition against the Radicals. There is another reason ; the President's tour, which has had just the contrary effect from that which it was intended to have. But I venture to assure you that under any circum- stances that are likely to occur there is not the slightest chance of "an outbreak," or of any conflict of force between the President and Congress. The President will veto, but he will execute all laws constitutionally passed in spite of his veto. The ballot-box and the Supreme Court will decide all political questions ; and the President will not be impeached, unless we have a majority in Congress composed of Wendell Phillipses, which is not probable.
With this letter I hope that I have bid adieu to politics for a