Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of President-makers whom I have spoken of; and they bear rule not in the South but in the North.

It is astonishing how words get to lose their meanings. In the South popular suffrage really prevails. By the operation of that régime the people elect as public servants those who are most fit for it. It may very well be that hereditary wealth, by affording room for education, leisure, habits of command and independence, may point out those who possess it as fittest for that purpose; but it nowhere confers the right of nomination. And yet the people among whom this system prevails are called aristocrats by those who are themselves the helpless puppets of the irresponsible wirepullers of the North. The truth is, that the South has been getting more and more democratic. At the commencement of the Union, most of the States used to nominate their presidential electors through their Legislatures. In process of time this was voted not democratic enough, and the nomination was referred directly to the people. We have seen what this means in the North. In the South it is more real. The people there are more disposed to be influenced by their natural leaders, and consequently escape being commanded by such a class as that which has been allowed to usurp power in the other section. In one State only has the old plan been adhered to; and of course she has been vituperated by the North as aristocratic. I do not fancy that her detractors have much reason to boast themselves over her as things stand. That State is South Carolina.

The virtues of an aristocracy have been supposed to be the fostering of political talent, and the power of facing danger with resolution and constancy. Its failings have been supposed to be a hesitation in acting, sometimes approaching to timidity, and want of impulsiveness and generosity. Wherever there is any democratic influence, these faults are less prominent; and consequently there has been less of them in the histories of Rome and England than in those of Sparta, Carthage, and Venice. The best government will be that which combines the merits of the two with as little as possible of the faults of either. In the old Lombard republics it may have been some distant notion of this which made it legally necessary that the rulers even of the most jealous democracies should belong to the class of nobles, and which causes the constant reappearance of the same names on the lists of consuls, gonfaloniers, podestas, or whatever the name might be, of the most turbulent and high-spirited cities.

If these qualities may be taken as tests, I think we shall be forced to the conclusion that the States of the Confederacy have just about as much aristocracy

and as much democracy in their composition as is good for them. While the ability which guides their counsels, the dignity of their bearing towards the outer world, the moderation and self-restraint which marks the relations of their legislature with their executive, are symptoms of the existence of a class trained to the duties of government, and while the unflinching heroism with which they have sustained a long, bloody, and unequal conflict shows them to be capable of a tenacity of purpose such as does not often reside in a democracy; yet they seem, as far as we can judge, to be free from the vices which are the besetting sins of the other form of republican government. The two Southern States which I pitched upon as the types of the two sections into which the Confederacy may be supposed to be divided, are also the two which are considered most aristocratic. And I think that if what I said is at all to be trusted, Virginia cannot be accused of a want of generosity, nor South Carolina of a want of promptitude.

It seems to me that admirers of democracy are very short-sighted in not taking the part of the South. They are sorely put to it by the question, “What has become of your model republic now?" And they have every right to look foolish if they persist in looking only at the North. But they might take up a stronger ground than they have hitherto done if

they would for a moment listen to their reason rather than their passions, and bring themselves to say, “You who are afraid of a slight extension of the franchise, look at what is being done by a people of English origin under a system of universal suffrage. Does the spectacle not convince you more than any reasoning could, that an affirmative answer may be returned to Montalembert's celebrated question* L'Angleterre democratisée, restera-t-elle libre ?!”

I have thought it worth while to say so much about this argument, because it is the only one put forward in perfect sincerity. It rests, not upon reason, but upon passion and prejudice; and I believe, if it were once distinctly understood that the Southern Governments are not framed as the Venetian was, a good many ardent Federal sympathisers would perhaps see that there is something to be said on the other side.

As to the third reason, I have already said pretty nearly enough about slavery, and need not go into that question. I cannot help believing that the argument is put forward as a blind. When one considers that slavery is a thing which has existed ever since the foundation of the world—that though it has often been regretted by humane and enlightened men, it never till the present century has been considered as a crime—that its existence has been

recognised distinctly both in the Old Testament and in the New, without a word being said against itthat the Jewish law on the subject would cause a tremendous outcry among some of us if it was published at the present day in (say) Louisiana—that the ancient Greek and Roman worthies, whom we are taught from our infancy to revere, nay, that many of the Fathers of the Christian Church, were slave-owners, and that Washington, whose name is reverenced, and that deservedly, on both sides of the Atlantic, was a slave-owner, and that nobody thinks any the worse of him for it,—one is tempted to doubt whether all the indignation which one hears at the present day directed against slavery is not really directed against something else, which it is not thought convenient to avow. And when one notices that the cry is raised by the frequenters of Exeter Hall, perhaps louder than by any one else, it is difficult not to be somewhat angry as one thinks of the part which some of those who are there revered as men of God have taken in connection with the question. I wonder that a touch of shame does not sometimes reach the heart and redden the cheeks of the fiery orators of that institution or its correlatives in New England, when they recollect that Newton was supercargo of a slaver—that he used never to find his heavenly meditations at all disturbed by the

« AnteriorContinuar »