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Dicey, Edward. Six Months in the Federal States, Vol. II . London: MacMillan and Co., 1863. [format: book], [genre: travelogue]. Permission: Newberry Library
"WHAT on earth is the North fighting for?" is a question which I have often heard asked in England. If you were to put it to an American, he would doubt your asking it seriously; the answer seems to him so very simple and obvious. The Americans are not a reflective people; they look at facts much more than at theories, and, like ourselves, act rather from general convictions than on any logical system of reasoning. Their answer, therefore, to such a question is often indistinct and illogical enough. But having talked with scores of Northern men of all States and all classes on the subject, I should say that the general chain of argument, which forms the basis of the different answers you receive, is easy to explain and understand. In considering it, it should be borne in mind that the merits or demerits of the Northern cause are entirely independent of the issue of the war. Before the war commenced, the North had no doubt, whether right or wrong, that it possessed the power to suppress the insurrection by armed force. The present question, therefore, is not whether the North was wise in going to war,
but whether her motives were sufficient to justify her in so doing? I am not going to enter upon the questions, whether war is ever justifiable except in self-defence, or whether any nation is ever at liberty morally to coerce another against its will. The arguments against aggression and coercion are very strong ones, but they are not ones which an Englishman can use; and I wish to speak of this question from an English point of view.
The answer, then, would be much after this fashion
"We will put the slavery question aside. On that point we are divided among ourselves. We do not claim to be carrying on a war of emancipation; we are not fighting for the blacks, but for the whites. Universal emancipation may come, probably will come, as one result of our war; but the object of the war is to preserve the Union. We allowed perfect freedom to the Southern States freedom as full and as untrammelled as we enjoyed ourselves. Not only did we not interfere with their peculiar institution, but we granted them every facility they claimed for its maintenance. We permitted the South to have more than its full share of power and to fill up the Government with Southern men. There was one thing only we objected to, and that was to having slavery forced upon the Free Territories of the North. We objected to this legally and constitutionally; and by legal and constitutional measures we expressed the will of the nation. Our whole Government, like all free governments,
rests upon the principle that the will of the majority must decide. The South revolted at once, because it was defeated by the vote of the majority. If we had acquiesced in that revolt, the vital principle of our Government was overthrown. Any minority whatever, either in the Union or in the separate States, which happened to be dissatisfied with the decision of the majority, might have followed the example of the South, and our Government would have fallen to pieces, like an arch without a keystone. The one principle of power in a Democracy is the submission of the minority to the will of the people; and, in fighting against the South, we are fighting for the vital principle of our Government. You call a man a coward who will let himself be robbed of all that makes life valuable without making an effort to resist; and what would you have called a nation that submitted placidly to its own dismemberment?
"We are fighting too," so the Northerners would urge, "not only for abstract constitutional principles, but for clear matter-of-fact interests. Our Government was at any rate a very good one in our own eyes. As a people we had prospered under it. We had enjoyed more of freedom, order, and happiness beneath the Union than, we believe, any people had ever enjoyed before. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, we were one people, dwelling under one Government, speaking
one language, without custom-houses, or passports, or frontier lines to separate us; without the fear of invasion and war; without the need for standing armies, and camps, and fortified cities free to carry on unmolested our great mission of reclaiming the vast wilderness. We are asked to abandon all this, and you wonder that we refuse to do so without striking a blow in defence of our rights.
It is not only our present, but our future, that is at stake. Supposing we had acceded to the proposals of tame submission, what would have been the inevitable result? We should have had upon our frontier a hostile power, to whom our free institutions were a standing menace, and to whom extension of territory was a necessity of political existence. War must have come sooner or later, and in the interests of our future peace it was better to fight at once. Even if a peaceable and durable separation had been possible, and if terms of compromise could have been devised, where was the process of disunion to end? If once the South goes, the Union is dissolved; the Western States would inevitably part company before long with the seaboard States; California would assert its independence, the Border States would fall away from the Central States; and the Union, the great work of our forefathers, would give place to a system of rival republics, with mutual enmities, antagonistic policies, foreign alliances, and intestine wars.
We have seen the whole of Europe applauding Italy for endeavouring to become one people, under one Government, and are we to be blamed because we decline being reduced into the same political condition as Italy was in before the revolution?"
Such in substance would be the answer of any average Northerner. In speaking to a foreigner, he would not dwell much on the national dream of the golden future, to whose realization Secession is absolutely fatal; but I believe that in the heart of most Americans this feeling is uppermost. That dream of the possible future was not so unreasonable or so chimerical a one, as we are apt to fancy. It was the one great beauty of the Federal Constitution that it was adapted to an almost indefinite expansion of territory. Such complete and absolute liberty was granted to the individual States by the Federal compact; the Central Government conferred so many advantages, and demanded so few sacrifices, that it was really possible for State after State to have joined the Union, as civilization pushed further westwards, without the necessity of change or revolution. It was within the bounds of possibility, almost of probability, that the dream might have been realized, and that the whole of that vast continent might have been occupied by a hundred states, each ruling itself as it thought best, and all living under one common free Government. The idea that Washington should one day be the seat of Government
of the whole of North America was not a more absurd one than that the little island of England should rule over India and Australia and Canada. Be the idea reasonable or not, it was at least a very grand one, and one consonant, too, to that admiration for sheer magnitude which is peculiar to the American mind. It was an idea palpable to all understandings, and shared by all classes.
It would be very difficult for the writer, or probably for the reader, or for ninety-nine Englishmen out of every hundred, to show in what single respect, financial, commercial, or political, they were one atom better off from the fact that the British flag waves over a thousand colonies; and yet every Englishman must feel that our colonial empire adds somehow or other to his personal dignity and happiness. So, in like manner, if an American feels that his pride and sense of dignity are involved in that possible empire of the future, it is not for an Englishman to ridicule the idea. It happened that early in this war I had the pleasure of being introduced to General Scott. With that frank cordiality of manner which gives a charm to the conversation of well-bred Americans at home, he began talking to me about England, expressing his keen desire to see our country again after an absence of forty years; and he wound up by saying, "England, sir, is a noble country a country worth fighting for." What the old hero said of England, I think, any candid Englishman, who knew the country,
would say of America. The North has a cause worth fighting for; and, successful or unsuccessful, it will be better for the North, better also for the world at large, that a great cause has been fought for gallantly.
I admit freely, on the other hand, that the South also has fought gallantly. I can understand the sympathy that bystanders inevitably feel for the weaker party fighting against great odds, and holding out manfully against defeat and discouragement. Any one who knows the facts must be aware that the odds in favour of the North were not nearly so strong as they looked at first sight. I suppose, too, the most ardent of revolutionists must admit that every revolution should be justified by some act of oppression; and the most eager of Secessionists would be puzzled to find any one act of oppression which the South had endured at the hands of the North before secession, with that one single exception, which Southern partisans always keep in the background, namely that the North objected to the extension of slavery. "I do not like you, Dr. Fell," may be a very good argument for a school-boy; but when a nation can give no better "reason why" for revolution, I confess that my sympathies are with the established Government. It is curious, indeed, to hear Englishmen, who stand aghast at the notion of the Repeal of the Union, and who look on the Indian Mutiny as an act of unparalleled ingratitude, advocating the sacred right of revolution with regard to the South. Still, to my mind, the
right of every nation, wisely or unwisely, to choose its own Government is so important a principle, that I should admit its application to the case of the South, if it were not for the question of slavery.
"Qui veut la fin veut les moyens," according to the French proverb; and a large party in England are so anxious for the disruption of the Union, that they are disposed to look very tenderly on the peculiar institution whose maintenance is essential to the success of their hopes. Still, happily, we have as yet had no party cynical enough to advocate openly the merits of slavery. Everybody still professes to disapprove of slavery.
"Of course," so the cant of the day runs, "slavery is a very dreadful thing, and everybody the South above all would be glad to see it abolished; but slavery has nothing to do with the present war. The North dislikes the negro even more than the South does; and whichever side conquers, the negro has nothing to expect from the war. He is out of court, and any attempt to get up sympathy on his behalf is irrelevant to the present question."
Now, in answer to this sort of talk, I grant that the North has not gone to war for the idea of Emancipation, and is not fighting for it now. Nations very seldom do fight for an idea. There has been one war for an idea in the last half-century, and we have never left off deriding it, and sneering at it, till the present hour. Very few great causes in this world are fought for on abstract
principles; and if one out of many motives for which the North is fighting is a dislike to slavery, it is as much as you can reasonably expect. In any great question, you must look much more to the principles at stake than to the motives of the actors. The racehorse who runs for the stake does not know or care a straw about your betting-book, but you feel as much interest in his success as if he was running for your sake alone. I would impress on my readers that the issue of slavery is really involved in the present struggle. Soon after the return of the Comte de Paris, he said to an informant of mine: "The thing that surprises me most in England is to be told, that slavery has nothing to do with the American war. Why, from the day I set foot in America to the day I left it, I never heard of anything except the question of slavery." Every English traveller must confirm this opinion. During my whole stay in the United States, I never took up a newspaper and Heaven only knows how many I did take up daily without seeing the slave question discussed in some form or other. If the war had done no other good, it would have effected this much, that the case of the slave has been forced upon the conscience of the North, and that the criminal apathy, which acquiesced tamely in the existence of an admitted evil, has received its death-blow. More than this, however, the one casus belli has been, throughout, the question of the extension of slavery. Stories about tariff grievances,
about aristocratic incompatibility to put up with democratic institutions, about difference of race, and political government, are mere inventions to suit an European public, which their authors must have laughed inwardly to see swallowed so willingly. It would be as well, by the way, if the persons who talk so much of the aristocratic character of Southern institutions would take the trouble to study the constitutions of the Slaveholding States. They would find that, with the single exception of South Carolina, the institutions of the South are founded on the most advanced democratic principles. It was my fortune to see a good deal of Southern men and newspapers in the States, and the one cause of complaint against the North was always and alone the slave question. If slavery were not the cause of secession, it is impossible to explain the limits of the secession movement. Massachusetts is not more different from Georgia in geographical position, commercial interests, and social character, than Tennessee is from Louisiana, or Virginia from Alabama. Every Free State, without one exception, is loyal to the Union. Every Slave State, with the single exception of Delaware where slavery is nominal, has been disloyal openly or covertly. The inference is obvious, and to my mind, undeniable. Now, the Southern leaders have shown too much acuteness to make it probable that they risked everything to avoid an imaginary danger. They seceded from the Union, solely and avowedly,
because slavery was in danger from the North; and it is more probable that they knew the real state of affairs than their enthusiastic partisans on this side the water, who assert that slavery had nothing to do with secession. I believe myself, from their own point of view, they were right in seceding. They understood the position better than the North did. They knew perfectly that the Republican party had no intention of interfering with slavery as it existed; they knew that the peculiar institution was as safe under Lincoln as it had been under Buchanan; but they knew also, that to the permanent existence of slavery in the Union, two things were essential the supremacy of the slave power in the Central Government, and the faculty of indefinite expansion. Another election might restore them to the seats of office in Washington; but, if once the extension of slavery were prohibited, as it was by the adoption of the Chicago programme, slavery was doomed. The system of cotton production under slave-labour exhausts the soil so rapidly, that slavery would be starved out without a constant supply of fresh ground to occupy. I hear constantly that the South only wants to establish its independence. If the European Powers could offer to-morrow to guarantee the independence of the Gulf States, the offer would be rejected without hesitation, unless the Confederacy could be secured also the possession of the vast regions that lie west of the Mississippi, whereon to ground new Slave States and Territories.
The North is fighting against, the South is fighting for, the power of extending slavery across the American continent; and, if this was all that could be said, it is clear on which side must be the sympathies of any one, who really and honestly believes that slavery is an evil and a sin.
But this is not all that can be said. The present war is working directly for the overthrow of Slavery where it exists already. If you look at facts, not at words, you will see that, since the outbreak of the war, the progress of the Anti-slavery movement has been marvellously rapid. Slavery is abolished once for all in the district of Columbia, and no senator can come henceforth to Washington, bringing his slaves with him. With a free territory lying in their midst, Slavery becomes ultimately impossible in Maryland, as well as in Virginia. For the first time in American history, distinct national proposals have been made to emancipate the slaves. The proposals are impracticable and unsatisfactory enough, but still they form a solemn avowal of the fact, that Slavery is to be abolished. The Slave-trade has been finally suppressed, as far as the United States are concerned, and, after half a century of delay, Hayti has been recognised. These measures are no unimportant ones in the world's history; but what renders them more important is, that they are due, not to popular enthusiasm, but to the inexorable logic of facts. Stern experience is teaching the North that
Slavery is fatal to their own freedom, and it is beneath the growth of this conviction that these blows have been dealt against the system.
At last, this growing conviction has terminated in its inevitable result, the Emancipation edict of President Lincoln. It is useless to speculate on what the effect of this measure may be upon the fortunes of the war. Before these pages appear in print, one single battle may reverse the whole position of affairs. It is possible that this great act, which was the inevitable result of secession, may have been performed too late. But this does not effect the question of abstract justice. I, myself, plead guilty to a faith in the higher law, and hold, that the Federal Government would have done more wisely and more justly if it had abolished slavery throughout the whole of the Union on grounds, not of temporary expediency, but of eternal justice. Still, I cannot condemn Mr. Lincoln, or his advisers, for their almost servile adherence to the letter of the law, as they construed it. In virtue of the war power the Government has, or believes it has, authority to emancipate the slaves in the insurgent States, as it has power to perform any other act, necessary for the preservation of the Union. But, by the constitution, it has no more power to interfere with slavery in any loyal state, than England has to interfere with serfdom in Russia. By the proclamation, the Federal Government has done everything that it could do legally with reference to
slavery. That it has not done more is a complaint that cannot be brought justly.
It is no answer to statements such as these to vapour about the inhumanity of the North towards the free negro. Anybody, who knows England and Englishmen, must be aware that if we had an immense foreign population among ourselves, belonging to an ignorant, half-savage, and inferior race, too numerous to be objects of sentimental curiosity, too marked in form and feature to be absorbed gradually, our feeling towards them would be very much that of the Northerner towards the negro. The sentiment which dictates the advertisement, so common in our newspapers, of "No Irish need apply," is in principle very much the same as that which in the North objects to the contact of the negro. Moreover, in all the Northern States, after all is said and done, the negro is treated like a man, not like a beast of burden. In half the New England States, the black man has exactly the same legal rights and privileges as the white, and throughout the whole of the older Free States the growth of public opinion is in favour of a more kindly treatment of the negro. Somehow or other, the men of colour in the Free States prefer their treatment, however inconsiderate, to the considerate care of slave-owners. There is nothing easier than for an emancipated or runaway slave, who has experienced the vanity of freedom, to recover the joys of slavery. He has only got to appear as a vagrant in a Slave State, and the
State will take the trouble of providing him with a master free of expense; yet, strange to say, slaves are not found to avail themselves of the privilege. But, admitting the very worst that could be said of the condition of free negroes in the North, a humane man must, I fear, conclude that, on the whole, it is better for the world the American negroes should die out like the Indians, than that they should go on increasing and multiplying under Slavery, and thus perpetuating an accursed system to generations yet unborn.
Southern friends, whom I knew in the North, used to try hard to persuade me, that the best chance for Abolition lay in the establishment of a Southern Confederacy. I do not doubt they were sincere in their convictions, but, like most Secession advocates, they proved too much. When you are told that the slaves are the happiest people in the world, and that Slavery is the best institution ever devised for the benefit of the poor, you are surprised to learn, in one and the same breath, that the main object and chief desire of the Secessionists is to abolish Slavery. Whatever may be asserted abroad, I have never seen any address or proclamation of the Southern leaders, in which the possibility of emancipation was even hinted at in which, on the contrary, the indefinite extension of Slavery was not rather held forward as the reward of success. That a social system, based on Slavery, must fall to pieces ultimately, I have little doubt myself; but, "ultimately"
is a long word. The immediate result of the establishment of the Southern Confederacy is obvious enough. A new lease of existence will be given to Slavery; vast additional territories will be added to the dominions of Slavery, and the cancer of Slavery will spread its roots over the width and length of the New World. Those who wish the South to succeed, wish Slavery to be extended and strengthened. There is no avoiding this conclusion; and, therefore, as I hold that the right of every man to be free is a principle even more important than the right of every nation to choose its own government, I am deaf to the appeal that the South deserves our sympathy because it is fighting to establish its independence. If the North had but dared to take for its battle-cry the grand preamble of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that amongst these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" then it might have appealed to the world for sympathy in a manner it cannot now. That this cannot be, I regret bitterly. The North still ignores the principles contained in its great charter of freedom, but it does not repudiate them like the South. And, in the words of a homely proverb, "Half a loaf is better than no bread."
Facts, however, not words or sentiments, will decide the contest between North and South. The causa
victa may be better than the causa victrix, but after all the real question is which side will conquer, not which side ought to conquer. It would be absurd to enter in these pages on prognostications, as to the military issue of the war, but there are certain broad features in the struggle which are too much lost sight of over here. Ever since the attack on Fort Sumter, the Northern frontier has advanced, and the Southern receded. The progress of the Federal armies has been slow enough, but all they have gained they have kept. No single town of any importance has been permanently recaptured by the Confederates; no single victory has ever been followed up, and no Southern army has ever succeeded in occupying any portion of free-state soil. Still Southern partisans would reply, with some show of reason, that these considerations, important as they are, do not affect the vital question of the possibility of the North ever subjugating the South. This is true; and, if the South was really fighting only to secure its independence, and to establish a Confederacy of the Gulf States, the answer would be conclusive. But, in reality, as I pointed out before, the struggle between North and South is, which party shall obtain possession of the Border States and the territories west of the lower Mississippi; which party, in fact, shall be the ruling power on the North American Continent? So far the successes of the North are fatal to the hopes of Southern Empire. The South would not value, the
North would not fear, a confederacy confined within the Gulf States; and yet the result of the campaign has been to render it most improbable that the Confederacy, even if successful, will extend beyond its present narrow limits. So far the North has gained and the South lost.
The war will be decided, not by any single defeat or victory, but by the relative power of the two combatants. Now, as far as wealth, numbers, and resources are concerned, it is not worth the trouble of proving that the North is superior to the South. As far as mere personal courage is concerned, one may fairly assume that both sides are equal. Any one who has, like myself, been through the hospitals of the North, where Federal and Confederate wounded are nursed together, can entertain no doubt that the battles of the war have been fought on both sides only too gallantly. The one doubt is, whether the South may not be superior to the North in resolution, in readiness to make sacrifices, and in unity of action. If it is so, the chances are in favour of the South; but there is no proof as yet that it is the case. Much, and as I think undue, stress has been laid on the slow progress of enlistment in the North. It is very easy to talk glibly about what England would do in case she was at war, but if England did as much relatively as the United States have done, it would be a grand and a terrible effort. There is no evidence that the South has done
as much, but the contrary. More than a year ago the volunteering energies of the South were exhausted, and though the enemy was actually invading the sacred soil, it was necessary to resort to conscription, in order to raise soldiers for the war. By this time the Confederacy must have as many men under arms as she can raise in any event. Her armies have suffered fearfully in battle, and still more fearfully from disease. Moreover, all the defects, inherent to irregular troops, which tell so much on the North, tell doubly and trebly upon the South. Southern papers, which I saw while in America, were full of complaints of the misconduct of their troops, the want of patriotism of their citizens, and the incompetence of their generals. Of course these stories were exaggerations, or only partial truths, otherwise the South could not have held out so long, but they serve to show that there is disorder, and jobbery, and mal-administration, and discontent, South as well as North. At any rate, before we offer up a Te Deum for the success of the Confederacy, it would be well to wait a little while longer.
"But granting all this," I hear my intelligent objector my moral ninepin, whom, disputant-like, I put up for the sole purpose of bowling down conclude by saying, "if the North should win, how is it possible permanently to hold and govern the South?" Now this is a question that I bored all my American acquaintances, ministers and senators amongst the number,
with asking, and I own that very few of them seemed to be able to answer it satisfactorily. The nation is too much wrapt up in the immediate issue of the war to trouble itself much with speculations on the future. Moreover, the plain fact is, that the vast majority of Americans cannot realize the idea that the Southerners really do not like the Union. To themselves the Union appears so natural, so liberal, and so good a government, that it is impossible anybody who has lived beneath its rule should leave it willingly. Secession in Northern eyes is still an unaccountable and inexplicable act of madness. If the Southern States were, some fine morning, to lay down their arms, say they had been mistaken, and reunite themselves of their own accord to the Union, I believe that half, or more than half, the Americans of the Federal States would declare, with truth, that they had expected it all along. The belief in the existence of a strong Union-party in the South has survived every refutation. The influence of this belief has diverted the popular mind from contemplating seriously the difficulties of reconstitution. Once conquer the South, suppress the armed insurrection, and all, according to the popular Northern faith, will be well. The leaders and promoters of Secession will be exiled, ruined, or reduced to insignificance; the great mass of the army will acknowledge that resistance is hopeless, and will make the best of their position: and then, somehow or other, it
is incredible that the people of the South should not return to the belief that they are better off under the Union than under any other possible government. There is a good deal to be said for this view. All American politicians I have spoken to have assured me that in the South, even more than in the North, public opinion changes with a degree of rapidity we cannot realize in Europe. There is no doubt, also, that, as a rule, nations do not resist without a chance of success. Between North and South there is no barrier of race, or religion, or language; and, if once the supremacy of either side was indisputably established, I think the weaker of the two would acquiesce in the rule of the stronger, without great reluctance or coercion.
The reason why the great majority of the Northern people are unwilling to interfere unflinchingly with the system of Slavery is, because any interference destroys the possibility of reconstituting "the Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was." But there is a powerful party in the North, who are opposed to this Micawberlike policy. According to their views, Slavery is an inevitable source of hostility between North and South. To them, any peaceable restoration of the status quo ante bellum, unaccompanied by a settlement of the Slavery question, would appear a national calamity. Slavery, they argue, has caused the war. There can be no peace till the cause of war is removed. The South must be reorganized and reconstituted. The slave-owners
some three hundred thousand in all must be virtually removed, whether by ruin, exile, or confiscation, matters little. Their place must be supplied by capitalists from the free North. Slavery once abolished, labour will cease to be dishonourable in the South. Emigration will pour in. A social revolution must be accomplished, and a new system of society constituted in the South, in which Slavery has no part or share. To my mind, this view is really more rational than the popular one.
Very rapidly this view is gaining strength in the North. The people of the North, as a body, have no love for Slavery, care very little about the slave, but have an intense attachment to the Union. The Abolitionists were unpopular at the commencement of the war, because it was believed their policy retarded the restoration of the Union by embittering the South. As it has grown apparent that there is no chance of conciliating the South, the policy of Abolition has become popular, as the one best adapted for preserving the Union.
If the war continues, it must continue as a war for emancipation. This is a fact it is useless ignoring. As long as emancipation does come, it can matter little to any true enemy of Slavery by whom, or through whom, it does come; and, of all countries in the world, England is not the one to retard such a consummation. Whenever the partisans of the South are unable to deny
the probability of emancipation being brought about by the war, they begin at once to lament the horrors of this wicked contest, to moan about the brutality of the North, and to hold up the bugbear of a servile war.
Now, that all war is an awful thing, and that a war amongst kinsmen, speaking the same language, is the most awful of wars, I admit most fully. But supposing war is justifiable when your cause is good, and supposing the cause of the North, as I have endeavoured to show, is good, it is mere cant to maunder about the inevitable miseries and horrors of this particular war, as if every war had hitherto been exempt from them. As to the brutality of the North, that is a question of fact, not of sentiment; and if anybody can show me another instance in the world's history of a civil war having raged in a country for a year, without one traitor being executed, it will be matter of surprise to me. That individual acts of barbarity have been committed I cannot doubt, because such occur in every war; but there has been no national demand for vengeance, such as was raised in England at the Indian Mutiny. Ex-President Buchanan lives at Wheatlands, unmolested and unnoticed. Avowed Secessionists reside in New York and Boston with as much security as though they were in Paris or London, and the policy of confiscation has been forced upon the Government by Congress without the support, if not against the wishes, of the
people. Surely these facts are worth setting against General Butler's "bunkum" proclamation. As to the servile war, the horrors of which are constantly held in terrorem over the friends of emancipation, I see no cause to anticipate it. If the slaves are so contented with their position, so attached to their masters as we are told they are, there can be no danger of their butchering their masters' families at the first opportunity which offers. There is, indeed, little prospect of their rising. I should think more highly of the negro race than I do, if I believed there was any probability that, unarmed and unassisted by white men, they would rise against their owners. The slaves on the plantations will not rise till they are supplied with arms, and the Federal Government has steadily refused to supply them with arms. Even if they should be armed, they will fight, if at all, in company with white men. Now, the feeling of race is so strong amongst the whites, so much stronger than any other feeling whatever, that, however grievous the provocation given to the black man might be, no American would look on and see a negro butchering a fellow-white man without interfering on the side of the white. Even in Canada, the volunteers refused, the other day, to be drilled in company with a coloured regiment; and from a kindred feeling, only bitterly intensified, no slave would be permitted to wreak his vengeance on the white man as long as he was fighting under the orders of American soldiers. If ever there should be a
servile war, it must be carried on by black men alone against the whites, not by blacks aided by whites.
If, then, the North succeeds in subjugating the South, the one clear result is, that Slavery must be abolished. What else will follow it is idle to speculate on now, but this conclusion is sufficient to make me desire that the North should succeed.
It is, so I am told, unpatriotic to desire the success of the North, because the continuance of the war causes such bitter misery in Lancashire, and because the restoration of the Union would lead inevitably to a war between the United States and England. With regard to the first of these objections, I feel its force strongly. Every Englishman must care more about his own countrymen than he does about either Yankees or negroes. I could not, indeed, wish the distress in Lancashire to be removed at the price of a great national sin; and such, in my judgment, would be the interference of England to establish a Slave Power in order to procure cotton. But if the war could be terminated without any action on our part, I own I should regret, what I consider a misfortune to humanity, less acutely if I thought it would bring permanent relief to our manufacturing poor. But I do not think so. If the Confederacy were established now, there would be no chance of cotton being procured elsewhere; the supremacy of Southern slave-grown cotton would be re-inaugurated all the more firmly for the sufferings we have undergone;
and England would be virtually dependent on the South, entangled in her alliances, involved in her wars, and liable for her embarrassments. Moreover, it is a delusion to suppose that the South would prove a good customer to English manufacturers. The South can never be a maritime power. For years to come she must be afraid of Northern invasion. For the sake therefore, of her own safety, she cannot rely upon England to supply her with manufactures, and must encourage manufactures of her own. The only way to do this in a poor half-civilized country like the South, is by a high prohibitive tariff; and such a tariff will certainly be adopted by the South whenever her independence is established. By the establishment, therefore, of the Southern Confederacy, our manufacturing districts would purchase exemption from present distress at the price of much heavier and more permanent loss in future.
As to the danger of war between England and America, it is idle to deny its existence. There is a state of feeling on both sides the Atlantic which is only too likely to lead to war. Both nations believe that they are entirely in the right, that they have given no cause of offence. Which is most right or the most wrong there is no good in discussing now. It is enough that a feeling of hostility exists. But the danger of war is far greater in the event of the failure of the North than in the event of its success.
If the North should subjugate the South, a generation must pass away before the South is really re-united to the North; and, until the South is re-united, the Union cannot make war upon any foreign power. The necessity of keeping down insurrection in the South would render impossible aggression in the North. But take the other alternative. The North will be for a time a homogeneous, powerful, and prosperous nation of twenty millions of white freemen. As a nation, it will be burning under a sense of disgrace and defeat. The necessity of cementing together what remains of the Union will render a foreign war politically desirable. No war will be so gratifying to the national pride as a war with England. The neutrality of the Southern Confederacy will be purchased easily by acquiescence in its designs on Cuba and Mexico; and a war with England for the Canadas will be the inevitable result of a divided Union. Those who wish for peace, then, must desire the success of the North.
This, then, is the upshot of the conclusions I formed during my journeyings through the Federal States, that in the interest of humanity, in the interest of America, and in the interest of England, the success of the North is the thing we ought to hope and wish for.
Dicey, Edward. Six Months in the Federal States, Vol. II . London: MacMillan and Co., 1863. [format: book], [genre: travelogue]. Permission: Newberry Library
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