TOPICS OF THE DAY.
IS RIGHT ALSO MIGHT IN AMERICA ?
IS the governing class of Great Britain about to make another American blunder ? It looks like it, if we may judge from symptoms to be observed both in the press and in society identical with those which appeared in 1860 and 1861. In every comment upon this quarrel between the President and Congress, there is the same ferocity of preju- dice on the side of the South, the same disposition to applaud its leaders, the same refusal to look beyond the narrowest legal issues for the principles of the struggle. Above all, there is the same inability to look the facts of the matter in the face, to discern where power really lies, to reckon up forces, or cal- culate, as men would calculate in any European contest, to which side the probabilities incline. Names have changed since 1861, but everything else remains as unaltered as if all English publicists were Stuarts or Bourbons, equally unable to learn and to forget. All that was said of the South is now said of the " great Democratic party," Mr. Johnson is exalted instead of Mr. Davis, General Sherman has taken—we suspect without his own consent—the place of GeneralBeauregard, and the calumnies once heaped upon " the North " are now spat- tered over " the Radical fanatics," that is the majority of North- ern men. The cause at stake is forgotten in silly gossip about the follies of those who defend it, every outrage committed by Democrats is blankly denied, every bgtise committed by Radi- cals illustrated with pictorial colouring and imaginary addi- tions. Above all, the ancient " constitutional " arguments are refurbished, and anybody who ventures to suggest that the true quarrel is between ideas which cannot be equally triumphant, slavery and freedom, privilege and equality, caste and Christianity, is beaten down under a hail of puerile legalities about Conventions and Legislatures, and the divine right of white majorities everywhere except in New England to do what seems pleasant in their own eyes. Opponents are deafened in 1866 with chatter about illegal Legislatures, just as they were deafened in 1860 with talk about State sovereignty and the pro-slavery clauses. Our correspondent "Palmetto" affords an excellent illustration of the revival of the old spirit. As Southern in feeling as if he had been born among the trees whose name he adopts for his signature, he perceives instinctively that the recent riot at New Orleans was the consequence of an outbreak of Southern feeling, and grows white at the lips with anybody who thinks that the right was with the Northerners, talks about truth as if it were impossible that an honest man should think his ideas utterly bad, and of course proves to demonstration that the killing of citizens who happen to believe that a coloured man has rights as well as a blanched one, by a local police armed with revolvers for the occasion, aided by a frantic mob, was a thoroughly legal and " constitutional " proceeding. We have answered his " point " elsewhere, but it is really waste of time and trouble, for the real idea in his head, or rather the true feeling in his heart, is precisely the one upon which we base our whole argument in disproof of his assertions. He believes that if the reign of legality were restored in the South, that is, if the State Con- ventions and Legislatures were really elected by the white majority, the reign of the Radicals would be over; and so do we, and it is therefore that we believe a renewal of the war so completely within the range of political probabilities, and Mr. Johnson so false to the nation that elected him. It is because men like him, Southerners only in sympathy, believe that " illegal assemblies," if they happen to be in favour of freedom, ought to be put down by military force, that we expect to see Southerners far more impassioned than himself ultimately exert that force. The Convention' of Louisiana, admitting all our correspondent's legalities to be strictly correct, was one of two things,—either a Convention, as it claimed to be, and therefore the supreme legislature of the State for certain purposes, or a debating club, engaged in dis- cussions highly approved by the majority in the North. In the former case the slaughter of the delegates, either by police or by townspeople, was simply a revolt, and the Presi- dent's order directing the military to aid in suppressing it was a coup d'e'tat directed against freedom ; and in the second, the attack was a furious outrage, in which the President openly sympathized because it was an outrage directed against free- Boilers. Now, the free-soilers of Louisiana, be they only one ten-thousandth of the population of the State, represent the cause for which the war was fought, and in declaring his hos- tility to them the President declares his hostility to their cause, that is, to the policy which the American nation, after an unparalleled struggle, has interwoven with its Constitution. In reality the delegates murdered represented the majority , even in Louisiana, the law having formally registered the citizenship of the coloured population, but we are careless to press that argument. If the delegates were self-elected they would still have been representatives of freedom as against slavery, and as such they were attacked by the police and the townspeople and defended by the negroes, and as such Mr. Johnson ordered the military to assist in putting them down. Where is the law, if we are to be legal, which. authorizes the President to suppress an assembly by the bayonet because it has called itself by any title whatsoever The President ordered the meeting to be put down because he- considered its tone offensive to his policy. If Mr. Johnson can carry out his design, the military force of the Union is to' be employed to suppress " propagandist abolitionism." We purposely use those two words, in opposition to all the convic- tions we entertain, in order that the case may be stated in the way most pleasant to men like "Palmetto," and our question to-day is, can propagandist abolitionism, i. e., the right to teach and establish absolute legal equality, be suppressed in America by the sword ?
This is the blunder Englishmen, as we conceive, are once more going to make, the blunder which has already produced such disastrous effects. Blinded by a prejudice against colour which in its strength and permanence is to cool reasonere scarcely intelligible, they could not see the most brutal facts of the old war, could not perceive that, apart from justice, and morality, and Providence altogether, twenty millions of peopte earnest enough to send their male population into the field mast inevitably beat eight millions of the same race, and they are blind to the same facts now. They hear that Democrats carry this and that election, that State legislatures are elected wholly of Confederate soldiers, that the Irish are with the President, that even Congress contained representatives ready to support his policy, that his opponents are silly per-. sons, and that Radicals are very much hated, and they think that, strong man as he clearly is, and armoured in prerogative, he must defeat a mere House of Commons guided by ideologues, and capable in an hour of supreme excitement of voting an immense increase to its own salary. Very likely, if the parties to the contest were as the Times and Telegraph describe them, he would defeat his adversaries, and certainly we should raise no, dirge over their fall. With all the will in the world, with a pro, found sense that they are, unconsciously even to themselves, the vanguard of the only cause worth a fidelity even unto slaying, we are wholly unable to sympathize with the majority of Con- gress, with men who import into the grandest of earthly strug- gles the meanest of petty trickeries. But Mr. Johnson 'does not. happen to be fighting Congress, but a foe of a very different stamp, the foe which has already defeated a man probably greater than himself, backed by allies undoubtedly stronger than any he is at all likely to secure—the great American people. The freeholders of the North, seventeen millions of them, the one solid power within the Union, fought out the terrible struggle of four years, at first incidentally and then consciously, in order that propagandist abolition should have free course within the United States, and rather than sur- render that object they will fight it out again. From the day when they clearly perceive that the President intends that this result of the war shall be thrown away, that the South shall build up its own civilization on a basis hostile to the civilization of the North, they will at once become an organ- ized mass, before whose steady advance the President and his allies will be as powerless as a dyke before a storm wave. That they will be very slow to perceive the truth is exceed- ingly probable. Masses of agricultural persons living on their own farms are always slow, and Americans, penetrated from birth with an idea of their future, are the most sanguine of mankind ; but from the day they do perceive it the country will be divided, as in 1861, into two camps, of which one will contain twenty millions of brave men, this time accustomed to arms and organization, this time fully conscious of the end to be reached, rich, educated, and flushed with victory ; and the other, some seven millions, equally brave, but poor, exhausted with battle, and conscious of a certainty of their own ultimate defeat. What has the President to trust in that the original Seceders had not ? His own genius ? It is not greater than that of Mr. Davis. The South, which, says a. democratic correspondent of the Times, is ranging itself like a. wall behind him ? The South is not stronger than it was in 1861, for if it has gained Kentucky, which then stood neutral, it has lost the youth of Virginia. The Border States ? Apart from Kentucky, they are, what they always have been, reservoirs of partizans for either side, the Southern one being the more exhausted. The Democratic party ? It is no stronger when the test of actual battle is applied than it was in 1861, when its organ, in the centre of its own stronghold, purchased existence by a sudden enlistment in the ranks of its enemies. New England is as determined as ever, and New England is the brain of the Union ; the West is as free-soil as ever, and the West is the body of the nation. The Radicals -would within a week from the commencement of the struggle he again the North, and the North is in America irresistible, if only because it receives every year an army of emigrants which must fill up any vacancies in the field. The Radicals have no organization, we shall be told, but in 1860 the little organization existing was in Southern hands. They have no leaders, but how many had they when Lincoln was distrusted as a man who had pasied through Baltimore in disguise ? The President controls the army ? He has himself decreed its reduction to less than fifty thousand men. He commands the navy ? Just so long as the navy, -now officered by Northerners, conceives itself bound to obey. He has the control of Washington ? Possibly, but Chicago is a much more fitting centre of political action. He has the prestige of a position consecrated by a hundred years of custom, by a constitution which seems to Americans almost divine, by the habitual reverence of three generations ? And so has Congress, and while Congress has the legal power of impeaching him, he has not the legal power of proscribing Con- gress. One advantage we concede to him,—he possesses Mr. Seward, the statesman who, when the Revolution began, declared it would end in ninety days, and who, now that its fourth act has closed, cannot see, cannot even guess, whither the plot of the drama tends, has not, we verily believe, a sus- picion that twenty millions of freemen did not fight to the death in order that their defeated foes should be constitu- tionally admitted to govern them. We say nothing of the cause, or the energy it has always lent to men willing to die on its behalf, nothing of the congeries of forces which philoso- phers define in the phrase the " spirit of the age," nothing even of our own belief that there is power in right.. We :simply state the brutal fact, that force, the force which wins 'on battle-fields, is against the President, and entreat English- men not rendered insane by prejudice to pause and reflect, before for the second time they widen the gulf between them and the only race to whom in the hour of extremity they could turn for aid.