Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

agricultural South where every man knew how to ride and how to handle a gun.

When the South struck its blow for independence there certainly was confusion in Washington and throughout the States of the North. In describing the condition of the country in 1861 the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War reported : There was treason in the Executive Mansion, treason in the Cabinet, treason in the Senate and the House of Representatives, treason in the Army and Navy, treason in every department, bureau and office connected with the Government. The position of affairs was more fully described in the First Executive Order in Relation to State Prisoners, which was issued on behalf of the President by Mr. Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, on February 14, 1862. He wrote:

The breaking out of a formidable insurrection, based on a conflict of political ideas, being an event without precedent in the United States, was necessarily attended by great confusion and perplexity of the public mind. Disloyalty, before unsuspected, suddenly became bold, and treason astonished the world by bringing at once into the field military forces superior in numbers to the standing army of the United States.

Every Department of the Government was paralysed by treason. Defection appeared in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the Cabinet, in the Federal Courts ; Ministers and Consuls returned from foreign countries to enter the insurrectionary councils or land or naval forces ; commanding and other officers of the army and in the navy betrayed the councils or deserted their posts for commands in the insurgent forces. Treason was flagrant in the revenue and in the post office service, as well as in the Territorial Governments and in the Indian reserves.

Not only Governors, Judges, Legislators, and Ministerial Officers in the States, but even whole States rushed, one after another, with apparent unanimity into rebellion. The capital was besieged and its connection with all the States cut off.

Even in the portions of the country which were most loyal political combinations and secret societies were formed furthering the work of disunion, while, from motives of disloyalty or cupidity, or from excited passions or perverted sympathies, individuals were found furnishing men, money, and materials of war and supplies to the insurgents' military and naval forces. Armies, ships, fortifications, navy yards, arsenals, military posts and garrisons, one after another, were betrayed or abandoned to the insurgents.

Congress had not anticipated, and so had not provided for, the emergency. The municipal authorities were powerless and inactive. The judicial machinery seemed as if it had been designed not to sustain the Government, but to embarrass and betray it.

Foreign intervention, openly invited and industriously instigated by the abettors of the insurrection, became imminent, and has only been prevented by the practice of strict and impartial justice with the most perfect moderation in our intercourse with nations.

Extraordinary arrests will hereafter be made under the direction of the military authorities alone.

[ocr errors]

At the touch of war all the factors of national strength, the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Administration, had broken down. Consternation and confusion were general. At the head of affairs was a quaint and old-fashioned country attorney from the backwoods, possessed of a homely wit and infinite humour, ignorant of national government, surrounded by treason and besieged by a mob of clamorous office-seekers who blocked the ante-rooms and the passages at the White House, sat on the stairs and overflowed into the garden. Congress was not in session. Washington was isolated and threatened. It was questionable whether the two Houses of the Legislature would be able to meet in the Federal Capital. Many people in the North sympathised secretly with the South. Few officials could be trusted. The position was desperate. Everything had broken down except the Constitution. In the hour of the direst need the American Constitution proved a source of the greatest strength and it saved the country.

The American Constitution had been planned not by politicians but by great statesmen and soldiers, by the able and energetic men of action who had fought victoriously against England. They had wisely, and after mature deliberation, concentrated vast powers in the hands of the President, and had given him almost despotic powers in a time of national danger. President Lincoln unhesitatingly made use of these powers. It will appear in the course of these pages that the Southern States were defeated not so much by President Lincoln and the Northern Armies as by the Fathers of the Commonwealth, who in another century had prepared for the use of the President a powerful weapon which would be ready to his hand in the hour of peril.

Those who wish to understand the foundations of American statesmanship as laid down by the American nation-builders, should not turn to Lord Bryce's excellent volumes but should go to the fountain-head, to the pages of The Federalist. The Federalist was published in a number of letters to the Press for the information of the public in 1787-88, at the time when the American Constitution was being painfully evolved by the Convention and was being discussed by the public. The authors of The Federalist were three of the greatest American statesmen-Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, and the lion's share was taken by that great genius, Hamilton. The Federalist was, and is still, the a blest and the most authoritative exposition of the Constitution. It contains the Arcana Reipublicae. It is the American statesman's Bible. It has inspired America's leading men to the present day, and among them Abraham Lincoln. If we wish to understand America's policy in the Civil War we shall do well to acquaint ourselves at the outset with some of the most important views contained in The Federalist.

The founders of the American Republic were democrats

but not demagogues. They were statesmen who feared the rise of demagogues. It is highly significant that we read in the very first letter of The Federalist: ‘History will teach us ... that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people ; commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.' The Fathers of the American Commonwealth were not sentimentalists but statesmen and men of common sense. They did not believe that an era of universal peace was approaching or was possible, that monarchy meant war and democracy meant peace, that popular government or 'democratic control,' as it is now usually called, would bring about the millennium. In the sixth and seventh letters of The Federalist we read :

Nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it. ..

... There are still to be found visionary or designing men who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace between the States though dismembered and alienated from each other. The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men.

Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies ? Are not the former administered by men as well as the latter? Are there not aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust acquisitions that affect nations as well as kings ? Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities ? Is it not well known that their determinations are often governed by a few individuals in whom they place confidence, and are, of course, liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those individuals ? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not been as many wars founded upon commercial motives . . as were before occasioned by the cupidity of territory or dominion ?

Believing that the United States were likely to be involved in further wars, the founders of the American Republic wished to strengthen the State by making the President powerful and independent, by giving him almost monarchical authority in time of peace and by making him a kind of Dictator in time of war. The United States Constitution states : The President shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several States when called into the active service of the United States.' In time of danger State rights were to disappear, the military independence of the individual States was to come to an end.

Unlike the British Prime Minister, the American Presi. dent is free from popular and Parliamentary control. He can at any time repudiate a majority of both Houses. He can veto any act of Congress even if it is supported by large majorities, and he has frequently done so, for he is supposed to act solely in the interests of the nation and in accordance with his own conscience without regard to party majorities and party intrigues. He can place at the head of the Army and Navy any man he chooses, or he can command in person and no one can question his action. His Cabinet, the Secretaries of State, are nominated by him, and they are his subordinates. They are the President's, nor the people's, servants. They have no seat and no voice in Congress. They are supposed to stand, like the President, outside and above party, to be servants of the nation as a whole. The Ministers, like the President, cannot be removed by a chance majority. The President and his Secretaries of State are not s0 constantly hampered in their actions by the fear of losing popularity and office as are British statesmen. The founders of the Commonwealth gave to the President a vast and truly royal authority because they believed that a national executive could be efficient only if it was strong, and that

« AnteriorContinuar »