« AnteriorContinuar »
In itself the impossibility of introducing slaves into that new State signified but little, for I suppose that, even if it had been constitutionally possible, it would not have been so practically; negro labour would have been scarcely available in California. Nor do I suppose that Calhoun expected it to be; but it was the spirit which dictated the Northern action that he dreaded and protested against. That a faction should exist which would be willing to break through the compacts, expressed and implied, which itself had dictated and by which it had largely profited, was a fact of disastrous omen; but that that faction should gain the upper hand, and control the legislation of the Federal Congress, was a sign that the end could not be far distant.
THE BATTLE OF THE TERRITORIES-KNOW
NOTHINGS AND REPUBLICANS.
THINGS seem to have been brought to such a pitch by the breach of the Missouri Compromise on the question of the admission of California, that the final outbreak of the long antagonism of the two nations, in some form or other of declared estrangement, could only be a question of time; and the time before it came would clearly be short enough without the introduction of any fresh causes of disturbance. And yet, almost immediately after the Californian dispute, such a cause was introduced. This was the way of its introduction.
There was another element in the question of the formation of new States which interested the jobbers and wirepullers, and those who made a trade of politics, more directly than any arising out of the necessity, for factious purposes, of bribing or conciliating either Abolitionists or nigger - haters. The Government of the United States, with the object of getting the Territories settled and colonised, was in the habit of selling land in the Far West for very small sums. Of course those who hung about Washington, and either belonged to or had got the ear of the party in Congress, took advantage of this to get large domains assigned to them; and a hanger-on of the party which had placed its man in the presidential chair might, without much trouble or expense, if he was lucky, become the possessor of estates matching for extent those of the Woronzoffs or the Lichtensteins. But in order to make those possessions of any solid value to their owner they required something else; and that something was hands to cultivate them. There was therefore every inducement to this powerful class of speculators to encourage the tide of emigration to the backwoods. The task was not easy; America hardly supplied men enough for the purpose. In spite of the wonderful rapidity with which population increased in the New World, its progress was not rapid enough to overtake the occupation of the enormous extent of land that every year was thrown into the market. No doubt it was only a question of time, and sooner or later the land would be replenished. But the speculators could not afford to wait. They turned
their eyes to the Eastern hemisphere and its overcrowded populations. They appealed to Europe for assistance. They offered, as a reward to those who might be induced to respond, the inducements of high wages, of abundant sustenance, and of freedom; by their influence over the Government and the Legislature of their country they were enabled to offer still more, by shortening the period necessary for qualification for citizenship; and the European pauper was told that by emigrating to the United States he might become at once a flourishing denizen of the great regions of the West, where the earth was ready to pour forth treasures enough to satisfy his utmost desires, in reward for very slight labour, and that after a probation so short as to be almost nominal he might be a member of the commonwealth of kings, might have the privilege of choosing his own rulers——nay, that he might even be elected as chief and governor of that land of promise, to the presidency, to which the “log-cabin” was rather a stepping-stone than a bar. And it was this sort of appeal which came across the Atlantic to Ireland in the terrible days of the potato famine. It was irresistible. The tide of emigration of those flying from starvation to plenty astonished even those who had invited it. “Glacial Ierne” had long ago mourned over the accumulated mass of the corpses of her sons which were cumbering her soil. The famine was producing the same dismal effects as the Roman sword had done; and again, though in a different sense, the “Scot” had set the whole of her land in motion, and the ocean was foaming with his hostile oars. I am sorry to say that the object detested by the “infesto remige” was not the country towards which he was going, but that which sent him forth.
However, in spite of the urgent invitation which America had addressed to Europe, the arrival of these living “Scotorum cumuli” (the word “Scotus" in the days of Claudian, and much later, meant an Irishman as well as a Scotchman) was not universally hailed with joy by the citizens of the Union. The Eastern States did not care very much about the speculators finding hands to cultivate their lands for them: but they did care about having such a sudden cargo of immigrants and presidential electors suddenly introduced into the Federation; in other words, an enormous mass of fresh competitors for the spoils. In addition to this, a religious question was introduced. Theological differences had not hitherto been an element of much importance in America. The different sects were scattered pretty evenly up and down the Union; and if in Louisiana the Roman Catholics rather preponderated,