CONGRESS AND THE SOUTH.
TiTexperience of the last five years ought to have thrown iscredit on the assumption, so habitually made by English critics of American affairs, that the views expressed by the dominant party in the States do not coincide with those of the American people. The theory is improbable in itself, and has been found wanting whenever it was put to a practical test.
Throughout the whole duration of the war we were per- petually informed that the Republican party had lost its hold
upon the public, and that the country was prepared to throw off the dominion of the New England fanatics. Yet time after time the opinions which were asserted to be those of an insig- nificant minority have been shown to be those of the over- whelming majority of the nation. At the close of the war it seemed probable enough that there might be a reaction in the North, similar to that which unseated the Whigs in England after the passage of the Reform Bill. But though the war passion had died out by the time the elections were held, the Republicans carried everything before them. Only some three or four months have elapsed since the elections, and during this period popular opinion may have veered round to the Democratic side. That it should have done so is extremely unlikely, and therefore there is a strong prinui facie presump- tion that the opposition offered by Congress to the Presidential scheme of reconstruction is approved of by the States repre- sented at Washington.
Under these circumstances it is utterly unphilosophical to condemn the Republican opposition without a hearing. And it appears to us as unreasonable to suppose that the members of the majority are influenced solely or mainly by a desire to maintain their own party in office. No doubt under all par- liamentary governments party considerations must have their due weight, and it is conceivable that the Northern Republicans might advocate the admission of the negroes to the suffrage from a desire to strengthen their own hands. But it must be remembered that if this proposition is distasteful to the North, or condemned, as we are told it is, by the good sense of the nation, then its advocacy would clearly be fatal to the party who adopted it as their policy. Moreover, within the last few years the American Congress has given quite sufficient proof of patriotism, intelligence, and moderation to entitle it not to be accused without proof of base and unworthy motives. However much, then, thinking men in this country may be disposed to believe that President Johnson is in the right, they are bound to believe that the opposition offered to his policy by Congress is based upon intelligible grounds, whose justice has so far, more or less, approved itself to the majority of the American people. What these grounds are it is our wish to explain as briefly as possible. Leaiing aside all minor details, the plain issue between the President and the Congress is this. Mr. Johnson would recommend the admission of the Southern members to Con- gress and the restoration of complete local self-government, so soon as the States lately in rebellion agree to the new clause in the Constitution abolishing slavery and recant generally the errors of secession. The Republican majority declare, on the other hand, that the status quo ante bellum cannot safely or honestly be restored till such time as free labour is firmly established in the Southern States, and secured by local legislation. Now with respect to the issue thus laid down there are two different aspects in which it ought to be viewed. We are bound to consider how the adoption or rejection of the Presidential policy will affect the condition of the negroes, and also how it will influence the permanent prospects of the reconstituted Union. The answer to the first of these questions we take to be almost self-evident. As far as the freedmen are concerned, no greater misfortune could well befall them than the immediate rein- statement of the Southern States in the full rights of self- government. It is simply childish to imagine that the South, which fought to the death for the sake of upholding slavery, has suddenly become enamoured of free institutions. Emanci- pation is accepted as an inevitable necessity, and it is regarded not only as a calamity, but as a symbol of national humilia- tion. The one idea of every Southerner, with scarcely an ex- ception, is that the free negro must be "kept down," and that such laws must be passed as will secure the legal as well as social supremacy of the superior race. Our own experience of Jamaica, and of the bitter resentment entertained there, after thirty years of freedom, at the bare idea of negro equality, would be suf- ficient to convince us that such must be the state of things in the old Slave States. We have, however, direct evidence as to the existence of the feeling to which we have alluded. There are before the public three statements from different Federal officers of high character and station, who have been sent down South in order to report upon the condition of affairs. General Grant, whose report is considered to be in favour of thePresidential scheme of reconstruction, gives somewhat reluctant testimony to the absolute necessity of maintaining the "Freedmen's Bureau," and also of keeping garrisons in the Southern towns, if the
emancipated slaves are to be protected in their rights. He says with truth that, " The opinions held for so many years by the inhabitants of the South cannot be expected to change in a single day, and that in consequence the freedmen will require for sonic years not only the protection of the law, but the care and friendly supervision of men who will give them good advice, and in whom they can have confidence." General Howard, whose report is a very model of moderation, says that " Some guarantee beyond any existing ordinance in any State I visited is essential to secure the actual and continuous protection of life and property to the freedmen." General Carl Schurz,
- who from his breeding in the European school of democracy is less hampered by technical considerations than most native-born American Liberals, is still more outspoken in his protest against precipitate reconstruction. After a residence of many months in all parts of the South, during which time he was specially engaged in ascertaining the aspect of affairs, he gives it as his deliberate opinion that " the emancipation of the slaves is submitted to only in so far as chattel-slavery in the old form could not be kept up. But although the freed- man is no longer considered the property of the individual master, he is considered the slave of society, and all indepen- dent State legislation will show the tendency to make him such. The ordinances abolishing slavery passed by the con- ventions under the pressure of circumstances will not be looked upon as causing the establishment of a new form of servitude."
Whatever may be the policy adopted, it is, we believe, impossible to over-estimate the magnitude of the change wrought by the formal abolition of slavery. Whatever else may happen, the direct property of man in man is henceforth impossible under the Union ; and if this boon alone is gained, the end will be well worth the heroic sacrifices that the Free States have made in. order to obtain it. But while allowing this, the evils and hardships to which the negroes may be sub- jected through class legislation are no f ancif ul or sentimental ones. It seems clear that if the States are permitted absolute freedom of internal legislation subject to the formal conditions proposed by the President, they will enforce many of the most hateful rules of the old slavery system. The negroes will probably be prohibited from acquiring land, will be subjected to cor- poral punishment for minor offences, will be disqualified from giving evidence against white men in the courts of law, will be precluded from following any pursuit or trade they choose, and will in fact be reduced, as far as laws can secure such an end, to the condition of a subject caste. In other words, the spirit of slavery will be maintained, though happily the system will be divested of its most hateful characteristics. It is therefore intelligible enough that the Abolitionist party should be bitterly opposed to the immediate restoration of State government in the South. They would be false to their principles if they failed to oppose it ; and experience has shown that their opinions have a hold upon the Northern mind far greater than even the Americans themselves imagined before the outbreak of the war.
But even admitting the justice of these views, we are told that Americans are not prepared to jeopardize the restoration of the Union in order to provide for the better treatment of the negro. We cannot doubt that throughout the country there is a great and praiseworthy longing for peace, and this longing unquestionably renders any settlement which will restore civil order and government at once peculiarly accept- able to the Northern States. But we think the strength of this desire for peace at any price is much exaggerated by ordinary English critics of Transatlantic affairs. The North has no apprehension whatever of a second Southern rising. Secession is played out, and practically the ex-Confederate States must submit to any terms the North chooses to impose, and it so happens that the idea of sacrificing the interests of the negro in order to facilitate the reconstruction of the Union is objected to by the dominant majority, on grounds not so much of abstract justice as of practical expediency. Now that this is so can be easily understood by any one who appreciates the popular American point of view concerning the war.
If there is one fact which the history of the war should make sell-evident, it is that there is no conceivable sac- rifice to which the Free States will not submit in order to preserve the Union. Now anybody in America who asserted that slavery was not the cause of the war would be regarded there as a modern Rip van Winkle. The conviction that slavery all but destroyed the Union, is such an acknowledged article of faith in the North, that all political calculations are based upon it. Now the Republicans assert, and we think with great force, that this source of danger to the Union con-
sisted not so much in the innate wickedness of slavery, as in its incompatibility with Republican institutions. The im- patience of law, the contempt for the decision of popular election, the hatred to free labour, and the dislike to public education which led to secession, were due to the existence in the South of a servile caste and an aristocracy of colour. It is argued therefore, with much show of reason, that so long as the internal customs and legislation of the Southern States are founded on the subjection of the negro, the same causes which brought about secession will tend to create alienation between North and South. In the words of Carl Schurz's report, " As to the future peace and harmony of the Union, it is of the highest importance that the people of the States lately in rebellion be not permitted to build up another peculiar institution, whose spirit is in conflict with the funda- mental principles of our political system, for as long as they cherish interests peculiar to them in preference to those they have in common with the rest of the American people, their loyalty to the Union will always be suspected."
It is of course easy for disappointed partizans of the South who cannot forgive the success of the Republican party to stigmatize them as fanatics, and assert that they think of nothing but the negro, and desire to despoil the whites for his especial benefit. Such charges may find a certain colouring from the speeches of hot-headed men like Mr. Stevens, but to any one at all acquainted with America they are simply ludi- crous. You might as reasonably accuse the Whigs of desiring a Red Republic, as suspect the Republicans as a party of wishing to elevate the black man at the cost of the white. All that the majority in Congress has really asked, or rather suggested, is that the Southern States should not be restored to their full rights till they consent to allow the negro the same freedom of labour as is conceded to the white working man. Unless, they say, in fact you permit him to acquire property, to give evidence in court, to receive education, and to contract for employment on the best terms he can get, you are re-establishing a class oligarchy founded on the most odious distinction, that of colour ; and such an oligarchy is dangerous to the Union. We have just, they urge, restored the Union at an immense sacrifice of life and blood and treasure, and we should be madmen to undo the work we have thus accomplished, in order to be able to say that the work of reconstruction is accomplished. There are undoubtedly many solid considerations which may be alleged in favour of the Presidential scheme ; but on the whole we deem the course pursued by the Republican majority is the more philosophical and patriotic of the two policies. At any rate it would be well for the newspapers, which have so recently discovered that Mr. Johnson is a statesman instead of a drunken buffoon, to meditate before they accuse Congress of fanaticism and corrupt selfishness, because it has declined to admit the Southern members without further investigation.