THE AMERICAN "CAUSE."
ENGLISH politicians are watching the new American struggle with more intelligence than they displayed during the Civil War. They understand constitutional changes, see clearly what votes mean and do not mean, and are not biassed by any secret idea that this or that result will be disadvantageous to England. They have ceased to believe, too, in the guidance of the Times, did not, for example, swallow Mr. Johnson quite whole, as they swallowed General M'Clellan ; and they begin therefore to show something of their usual acuteness in perceiving the general drift of facts. But they have still one great fact to recognize before their eyes are clear to all the phases of the constitutional contest, and are trying visibly to postpone the recognition as long as they can without too much inconvenience. They judge the machinery very keenly, but have yet to acknowledge the motors, to see that the President and his Congress are not the principals in the struggle, but that each represents a "cause," an idea infinitely stronger and greater than either the Man or the Parliament. The contest, which looks like a conflict of powers, is really a conflict of principles, the very principles which underlaid the contest while confined to the field, prin- ciples which it is not easy to translate into our English poli- tical phrases. To say that the battle is one between democracy and aristocracy is true, but needs the qualification that the words must be interpreted in their ancient sense rather than the sense of to-day, and to say it is one between equality and privilege is also true, but needs the explanation that in America the only equality sought or possible is equality of legal right. Liberty, as opposed to privilege, is perhaps the expression nearest to the truth, the power of the Union and the power of the State being merely the levers which are to be used to secure those ends. If the "rights" of the States can be maintained as the President desires and advises, then the South can reorganize its society on the basis of privilege, that is, of unequal suffrages, unequal rights
Courts, unequal claims to distinction, unequal protec- tion from the laws. A great caste will bear rule over the people, instead of the people ruling itself. If the power of the States is overthrown, or suspended, or greatly reduced, the North can reorganize the South upon the basis of liberty, of the right, that is, of all men to the protection for which they pay, to the suffrages of which they are worthy, and to the standing which, with the road open, they can of themselves attain. Caste as a legal system will be compelled to dis- appear. The Radicals are in fact struggling to obtain,— whether by wise or unwise means is not the question,—pre- cisely that liberty which we in England secured at the Revo- lution, the liberty for every man under the law to do and acquire and enjoy all that it is in him to enjoy and acquire and do. Nothing whatever is to be given to the depressed, nothing taken away from those who depress them; the single object is to remove once for all every artificial obstacle from the path of every citizen of the Union, to establish the Petition of Right as the first law of the land.
It "is civil and religious liberty," the old war-cry of the British Liberals, neither more nor less, which is the American Liberal "Cause," the idea which induces the most law-loving people in the world, a people actually weak and superstitious in its reverence for authoritative documents, to encounter the risks of a revolution, to upset "State rights," and limit the power of the President, and disregard.the ancient traditions of the Go- vernment, and tear up a document which they almost believe to be verbally inspired. It is to secure the end of the American system that they are breaking it to bits, just as we broke ours when we accepted the Convention of 1688, to save the crop that they are throwing away the old agricultural tools, as we flung away our Kings. Till we perceive this clearly, we shall remain in the dark as to the motives for each step, and we should perceive it and sympathize with it as heartily as we sympa- thize in the battle of free thought against obscurantism which is now fighting at Rome, could we only rid ourselves of the cross light produced by the introduction of the idea of colour. That idea has really nothing whatever to do with the matter. Supposing an English Liberal to disbelieve in the negro as much as our " Yankee " correspondent disbelieves in him, he is still bound to sympathize with Mr. Sumner in his effort to secure legal equality. Otherwise he not only admits that some men may be disqualified for freedom, but admits also that the caste now in power ought to settle which men. We are too apt to regard privilege only in its action on those below, and forget altogether its action on those above, which is the action Mr. Stevens is first of all resisting. Suppose it to be very good for Scotch labourers that they should be serfs or permanent servants of the Scotch landlords, still the Scotch landlords would thereby be elevated into a privileged class necessarily opposed to freedom, necessarily hostile to British principles, necessarily inconsistent with the British Constitution. If numerous enough to take the reins into their own hands, one of two things would happen, either our constitutional progress would be deflected towards an entirely different civilization, or they would be abolished. This is just what is happen- ing in the South now. Whether negroes are compe- tent to be free or not,—and they are at least as competent as the Highlanders were when the hereditary jurisdictions were abolished,—so long as they are not free, the whites form a privileged class necessarily powerful from their wealth, neces- sarily hostile to American civilization, necessarily inconsistent with its natural development. It would be essential to make the negro free, even if freedom were not his right, and the North, enlightened by the danger arising from this reflex action of oppression, has at last perceived that it is, that the "Cause" which they admit to cover all whites covers the coloured man also. Every objection to his freedom is an objection to the freedom of every class in every State, except the wise, and the good, and the strong,—to the freedom, that is, of the majority in every nation. Englishmen feel this so strongly about many dark races, that fifty years ago they legally abol- ished every Indian disqualification for office, and have ever since rigidly striven to maintain in India an almost impossible equality before the law. Mr. Sumner, the most logical of all the American Radicals, does not ask for any privileges for the negro, but only for the abolition of privileges which tell against him. He makes no demand that he shall be appointed to office, but wants his legal disquali- fication removed ; no stipulation, even for franchise, except that he shall have as much chance of getting it as if he were white. In the district of Columbia white men have voted simply in right of manhood and residence ; and consequently in granting to negroes the same conces- sion Congress granted universal suffrage ; but that is acci- dental. They are perfectly ready to accept a property qualification, provided it is imposed alike upon all, and only object to an educational franchise because they think it would make it the interest of the white majority to keep the coloured minority uneducated. It is not in fact "the negro" for which they are fighting, but liberty ; the right which we English hold almost sacred, the right of each man to do the very most it is in him to do without obstacles artificially raised by a caste-made law. The suffrage is not the "cause," it is merely an instrument through which the cause is to win. Most abolitionists would agree with us, that if the grant of the suffrage could be postponed for thirty years it would be much more beneficial to the negroes, but it accidentally happens that the suffrage in America is the only guarantee on which the coloured men can rely. Therefore, and only therefore, these "fanatics" of freedom, these Ameri- can Russells, are fighting for that, are granting that, will, we believe, secure that, whatever the constitutional obstacles in the way. The cause of liberty was to triumph in England, even if we had to call in Dutch troops, and break an oath of allegiance, and make Parliament Sovereign, in clear violation of the Con- stitution. There are people among us—Russells, Cavendishes, Stanleys, Bentincks, and others—who are not very much dis- posed to anarchy, and are, nevertheless, very proud indeed of that feat ; and the American " Radicals " are imitating them, doing the same thing for the same reasons, and, barring the introduction of foreign troops, in very much the same way. The Whigs of 1688 may have been wrong, may have missed their true duty, may have mistaken the great principles of political civilization; but if they were right, then the American Radicals are right too, and their leaders may say, with just pride, that they have a " cause" for which it is rightful to make a peaceful, or, if needful, a bloody Revolution.