appointed by the Creator for the progress of humanity. The seeds of them are planted in the heart of man, and, in the sunshine and air of freedom, they must germinate and grow, and eventually produce such fruit as the eternal laws of God have made necessary from the beginning.
The social question shaped itself amidst the turbulent elements, and came out clear and well defined, in the perfect contrast and antagonism of the two sectional systems. Free labor, educated, skilful, prosperous, self-poised, and independent, grew into great strength, and accumulated untold wealth, in all the States in which slavery had been supplanted. Unexampled and prodigious inventive energy had multiplied the physical power of men by millions, and these wonderful creations of wealth and power seemed destined to have no bounds in the favored region in which this system of free labor prevailed. Immigration, attracted by this boundless prosperity, flowed in with a steady stream, and an overflowing population was fast spreading the freedom and prosperity of the Northern States to all the uncultivated regions of the Union.
On the other hand, by a sort of social repulsion—a sort of polarity which intensifies opposition and repugnance—the theory of slavery was carried to an extreme never before known in the history of mankind. Capital claimed to own labor, as the best relation in which the two could be placed toward each other. The masses of men, compelled to spend their lives in physical toil, were held to be properly kept in ignorance, under the guidance of intelligent masters. The skilful control of the master, when applied to slaves, was hold to be superior in its results to the self-regulating energies of educated men, laboring for their own benefit, and impelled by the powerful motives of self-interest and independent enterprise. The safety of society demanded the subordination of the laboring class; and especially in free governments, where the representative system prevails, was it necessary that working men should be held in subjection. Slavery, therefore, was not only justifiable; it was the only possible condition on which free society could be organized, and liberal institutions maintained. This was 'the corner stone' of the new confederacy. The opposite system in the free States, at the first touch of internal trouble and civil war, would prove the truth of the new theory by bread riots and agrarian overthrow of property and of all other institutions held sacred in the true conditions of social order.
Such was the monstrous inversion of social phenomena which the Southern mind accepted at the hands of their leading men, and conceived to be possible in this advanced age of the world. Seizing upon a system compatible only with the earliest steps in the progress of man, and suitable only to the moral sentiments and unenlightened ideas of the most backward races of the world, they undertook to naturalize and establish it—nay, to perpetuate it, and to build up society on its basis—in the nineteenth century, and among the people of one of the freest and most enlightened nations! Evidently, this was a monstrous perversion of intellect—a blindness and madness scarcely finding a parallel in history. It was expected, too, that this anomalous social proceeding—this backward march of civilization on this continent—would excite no animadversion and arouse no antagonism in the opposite section. It involved the reopening of the slave trade, and it was expected that foreign nations would abate their opposition, lower their flags, and suffer the new empire, founded on 'the corner stone of slavery,' to march forward in triumph and achieve its splendid destiny.
These moral and social ideas might have had greater scope to work out their natural results, had not the political connections between the North and the South implicated the two sections, alike, in the consequences of any error or folly on the part of either. Taxation and representation, and the surrender of fugitive slaves, all provided for in the Constitution, were the points in which the opposite polities came into contact in the ordinary workings of the Federal Government. Perpetual conflicts necessarily arose. But it was chiefly on the question of territorial extension, and in the formation of new States, that the most inveterate of all the contests were engendered. The constitutional provisions applicable to these questions are not without some obscurity, and this afforded a plausible opportunity for all the impracticable subtleties arising out of the doctrine of strict construction. From the time of the admission of Missouri, in 1820, down to the recent controversy about Kansas, the territorial question was unsettled, and never failed to be the cause of terrible agitation.
But the march of events soon superseded the question; and even while the contest was fiercest and most bitter, the silent operation of general causes was sweeping away the whole ground of dispute. The growth of population in the Northern States was so unexampled, and so far exceeded that of the Southern States, that there could be no actual rivalry in the settlement of the territories. The latter already had more territory than they could possibly occupy and people. While the Northern population, swollen by European emigration, was taking possession of the new territories and filling them with industry and prosperity, slavery was repelling white emigration, and the South, from sheer want of men, was wholly unable to meet the competition. Yet, with most unreasonable clamors, intended only to arouse the passions of the ignorant, Southern statesmen insisted on establishing the law of slavery where they could not plant the institution itself. They finally demanded that slavery should be recognized everywhere within the national domain; and that the Federal power should be pledged for its protection, even against the votes of the majority of the people. This was nothing less than an attempt to check the growth of the country, by the exclusion of free States, when it was impossible to increase it by the addition of any others.
Upon the failure of this monstrous demand, civil war was to be inaugurated! A power which had been relatively dwindling and diminishing from the beginning—which, in the very nature of things, could not maintain its equality in numbers and in constitutional weight—this minority demanded the control of the Government, in its growth, and in all its policy, and, in the event of refusal, threatened to rend and destroy it. Such pretensions could not have been made with sincerity. They were but the sinister means of exciting sectional enmities, and preparing for the final measures of the great conspiracy. Having discarded the rational and humane views of their own fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and others—it was but the natural sequel that they should signalize their degeneracy by aiming to overthrow the work in which those sages had embodied their generous ideas—the Constitution of the United States and the whole fabric of government resting upon it.
In what manner these mischievous absurdities became acceptable to the Southern people—by what psychological miracle so great a transformation was accomplished in so short a time—is only to be explained by examining some of the delusions which blinded the authors of the rebellion, and enabled them to mislead the masses who confided too implicitly in the leadership of their masters.
Weak as were the Southern people in point of numbers and political power, compared with those of the opposite section, the haughty slaveholders easily persuaded themselves and their dependents that they could successfully cope in arms with the Northern adversary, whom they affected to despise for his cowardly and mercenary disposition. Wealth, education, and ample leisure gave them the best opportunity for political studies and public employments. Long experience imparted skill in all the