Democracy in America Vol I (09 of 10)

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Section 37 Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races—Part
In the North, as I have already remarked, a twofold migration ensues
upon the abolition of slavery, or even precedes that event when
circumstances have rendered it probable; the slaves quit the country
to be transported southwards; and the whites of the Northern States, as
well as the emigrants from Europe, hasten to fill up their place. But
these two causes cannot operate in the same manner in the Southern
States. On the one hand, the mass of slaves is too great for any
expectation of their ever being removed from the country to be
entertained; and on the other hand, the Europeans and Anglo-Americans of
the North are afraid to come to inhabit a country in which labor has not
yet been reinstated in its rightful honors. Besides, they very justly
look upon the States in which the proportion of the negroes equals or
exceeds that of the whites, as exposed to very great dangers; and they
refrain from turning their activity in that direction.
Thus the inhabitants of the South would not be able, like their Northern
countrymen, to initiate the slaves gradually into a state of freedom by
abolishing slavery; they have no means of perceptibly diminishing the
black population, and they would remain unsupported to repress its
excesses. So that in the course of a few years, a great people of free
negroes would exist in the heart of a white nation of equal size.
The same abuses of power which still maintain slavery, would then become
the source of the most alarming perils which the white population of the
South might have to apprehend. At the present time the descendants of
the Europeans are the sole owners of the land; the absolute masters of
all labor; and the only persons who are possessed of wealth, knowledge,
and arms. The black is destitute of all these advantages, but he
subsists without them because he is a slave. If he were free, and
obliged to provide for his own subsistence, would it be possible for
him to remain without these things and to support life? Or would not the
very instruments of the present superiority of the white, whilst slavery
exists, expose him to a thousand dangers if it were abolished?
As long as the negro remains a slave, he may be kept in a condition
not very far removed from that of the brutes; but, with his liberty,
he cannot but acquire a degree of instruction which will enable him to
appreciate his misfortunes, and to discern a remedy for them. Moreover,
there exists a singular principle of relative justice which is very
firmly implanted in the human heart. Men are much more forcibly struck
by those inequalities which exist within the circle of the same class,
than with those which may be remarked between different classes. It is
more easy for them to admit slavery, than to allow several millions
of citizens to exist under a load of eternal infamy and hereditary
wretchedness. In the North the population of freed negroes feels these
hardships and resents these indignities; but its numbers and its powers
are small, whilst in the South it would be numerous and strong.
As soon as it is admitted that the whites and the emancipated blacks
are placed upon the same territory in the situation of two alien
communities, it will readily be understood that there are but two
alternatives for the future; the negroes and the whites must either
wholly part or wholly mingle. I have already expressed the conviction
which I entertain as to the latter event. *r I do not imagine that
the white and black races will ever live in any country upon an equal
footing. But I believe the difficulty to be still greater in the
United States than elsewhere. An isolated individual may surmount the
prejudices of religion, of his country, or of his race, and if this
individual is a king he may effect surprising changes in society; but a
whole people cannot rise, as it were, above itself. A despot who should
subject the Americans and their former slaves to the same yoke, might
perhaps succeed in commingling their races; but as long as the American
democracy remains at the head of affairs, no one will undertake so
difficult a task; and it may be foreseen that the freer the white
population of the United States becomes, the more isolated will it
remain. *s
[Footnote r: This opinion is sanctioned by authorities infinitely
weightier than anything that I can say: thus, for instance, it is stated
in the "Memoirs of Jefferson" (as collected by M. Conseil), "Nothing is
more clearly written in the book of destiny than the emancipation of the
blacks; and it is equally certain that the two races will never live in
a state of equal freedom under the same government, so insurmountable
are the barriers which nature, habit, and opinions have established
between them."]
[Footnote s: If the British West India planters had governed themselves,
they would assuredly not have passed the Slave Emancipation Bill which
the mother-country has recently imposed upon them.]
I have previously observed that the mixed race is the true bond of union
between the Europeans and the Indians; just so the mulattoes are the
true means of transition between the white and the negro; so that
wherever mulattoes abound, the intermixture of the two races is not
impossible. In some parts of America, the European and the negro races
are so crossed by one another, that it is rare to meet with a man who is
entirely black, or entirely white: when they are arrived at this point,
the two races may really be said to be combined; or rather to have been
absorbed in a third race, which is connected with both without being
identical with either.
Of all the Europeans the English are those who have mixed least with the
negroes. More mulattoes are to be seen in the South of the Union than in
the North, but still they are infinitely more scarce than in any other
European colony: mulattoes are by no means numerous in the United
States; they have no force peculiar to themselves, and when quarrels
originating in differences of color take place, they generally side
with the whites; just as the lackeys of the great, in Europe, assume the
contemptuous airs of nobility to the lower orders.
The pride of origin, which is natural to the English, is singularly
augmented by the personal pride which democratic liberty fosters amongst
the Americans: the white citizen of the United States is proud of his
race, and proud of himself. But if the whites and the negroes do not
intermingle in the North of the Union, how should they mix in the South?
Can it be supposed for an instant, that an American of the Southern
States, placed, as he must forever be, between the white man with all
his physical and moral superiority and the negro, will ever think of
preferring the latter? The Americans of the Southern States have two
powerful passions which will always keep them aloof; the first is the
fear of being assimilated to the negroes, their former slaves; and the
second the dread of sinking below the whites, their neighbors.
If I were called upon to predict what will probably occur at some future
time, I should say, that the abolition of slavery in the South will,
in the common course of things, increase the repugnance of the white
population for the men of color. I found this opinion upon the analogous
observation which I already had occasion to make in the North. I there
remarked that the white inhabitants of the North avoid the negroes with
increasing care, in proportion as the legal barriers of separation are
removed by the legislature; and why should not the same result
take place in the South? In the North, the whites are deterred from
intermingling with the blacks by the fear of an imaginary danger; in the
South, where the danger would be real, I cannot imagine that the fear
would be less general.
If, on the one hand, it be admitted (and the fact is unquestionable)
that the colored population perpetually accumulates in the extreme
South, and that it increases more rapidly than that of the whites; and
if, on the other hand, it be allowed that it is impossible to foresee
a time at which the whites and the blacks will be so intermingled as to
derive the same benefits from society; must it not be inferred that the
blacks and the whites will, sooner or later, come to open strife in the
Southern States of the Union? But if it be asked what the issue of the
struggle is likely to be, it will readily be understood that we are
here left to form a very vague surmise of the truth. The human mind may
succeed in tracing a wide circle, as it were, which includes the course
of future events; but within that circle a thousand various chances
and circumstances may direct it in as many different ways; and in
every picture of the future there is a dim spot, which the eye of the
understanding cannot penetrate. It appears, however, to be extremely
probable that in the West Indian Islands the white race is destined to
be subdued, and the black population to share the same fate upon the
In the West India Islands the white planters are surrounded by an
immense black population; on the continent, the blacks are placed
between the ocean and an innumerable people, which already extends over
them in a dense mass, from the icy confines of Canada to the frontiers
of Virginia, and from the banks of the Missouri to the shores of the
Atlantic. If the white citizens of North America remain united, it
cannot be supposed that the negroes will escape the destruction with
which they are menaced; they must be subdued by want or by the sword.
But the black population which is accumulated along the coast of
the Gulf of Mexico, has a chance of success if the American Union is
dissolved when the struggle between the two races begins. If the federal
tie were broken, the citizens of the South would be wrong to rely upon
any lasting succor from their Northern countrymen. The latter are
well aware that the danger can never reach them; and unless they are
constrained to march to the assistance of the South by a positive
obligation, it may be foreseen that the sympathy of color will be
insufficient to stimulate their exertions.
Yet, at whatever period the strife may break out, the whites of the
South, even if they are abandoned to their own resources, will enter
the lists with an immense superiority of knowledge and of the means of
warfare; but the blacks will have numerical strength and the energy of
despair upon their side, and these are powerful resources to men who
have taken up arms. The fate of the white population of the Southern
States will, perhaps, be similar to that of the Moors in Spain. After
having occupied the land for centuries, it will perhaps be forced to
retire to the country whence its ancestors came, and to abandon to the
negroes the possession of a territory, which Providence seems to have
more peculiarly destined for them, since they can subsist and labor in
it more easily that the whites.
The danger of a conflict between the white and the black inhabitants of
the Southern States of the Union—a danger which, however remote it may
be, is inevitable—perpetually haunts the imagination of the Americans.
The inhabitants of the North make it a common topic of conversation,
although they have no direct injury to fear from the struggle; but they
vainly endeavor to devise some means of obviating the misfortunes which
they foresee. In the Southern States the subject is not discussed: the
planter does not allude to the future in conversing with strangers; the
citizen does not communicate his apprehensions to his friends; he seeks
to conceal them from himself; but there is something more alarming in
the tacit forebodings of the South, than in the clamorous fears of the
Northern States.
This all-pervading disquietude has given birth to an undertaking which
is but little known, but which may have the effect of changing the fate
of a portion of the human race. From apprehension of the dangers which
I have just been describing, a certain number of American citizens have
formed a society for the purpose of exporting to the coast of Guinea,
at their own expense, such free negroes as may be willing to escape from
the oppression to which they are subject. *t In 1820, the society to
which I allude formed a settlement in Africa, upon the seventh degree
of north latitude, which bears the name of Liberia. The most recent
intelligence informs us that 2,500 negroes are collected there; they
have introduced the democratic institutions of America into the country
of their forefathers; and Liberia has a representative system of
government, negro jurymen, negro magistrates, and negro priests;
churches have been built, newspapers established, and, by a singular
change in the vicissitudes of the world, white men are prohibited from
sojourning within the settlement. *u
[Footnote t: This society assumed the name of "The Society for
the Colonization of the Blacks." See its annual reports; and more
particularly the fifteenth. See also the pamphlet, to which allusion has
already been made, entitled "Letters on the Colonization Society, and on
its probable Results," by Mr. Carey, Philadelphia, 1833.]
[Footnote u: This last regulation was laid down by the founders of
the settlement; they apprehended that a state of things might arise
in Africa similar to that which exists on the frontiers of the United
States, and that if the negroes, like the Indians, were brought into
collision with a people more enlightened than themselves, they would be
destroyed before they could be civilized.]
This is indeed a strange caprice of fortune. Two hundred years have now
elapsed since the inhabitants of Europe undertook to tear the negro
from his family and his home, in order to transport him to the shores of
North America; at the present day, the European settlers are engaged in
sending back the descendants of those very negroes to the Continent from
which they were originally taken; and the barbarous Africans have been
brought into contact with civilization in the midst of bondage, and have
become acquainted with free political institutions in slavery. Up to the
present time Africa has been closed against the arts and sciences of the
whites; but the inventions of Europe will perhaps penetrate into those
regions, now that they are introduced by Africans themselves. The
settlement of Liberia is founded upon a lofty and a most fruitful idea;
but whatever may be its results with regard to the Continent of Africa,
it can afford no remedy to the New World.
In twelve years the Colonization Society has transported 2,500 negroes
to Africa; in the same space of time about 700,000 blacks were born in
the United States. If the colony of Liberia were so situated as to be
able to receive thousands of new inhabitants every year, and if the
negroes were in a state to be sent thither with advantage; if the Union
were to supply the society with annual subsidies, *v and to transport
the negroes to Africa in the vessels of the State, it would still be
unable to counterpoise the natural increase of population amongst the
blacks; and as it could not remove as many men in a year as are born
upon its territory within the same space of time, it would fail in
suspending the growth of the evil which is daily increasing in the
States. *w The negro race will never leave those shores of the American
continent, to which it was brought by the passions and the vices of
Europeans; and it will not disappear from the New World as long as it
continues to exist. The inhabitants of the United States may retard
the calamities which they apprehend, but they cannot now destroy their
efficient cause.
[Footnote v: Nor would these be the only difficulties attendant upon
the undertaking; if the Union undertook to buy up the negroes now in
America, in order to transport them to Africa, the price of slaves,
increasing with their scarcity, would soon become enormous; and the
States of the North would never consent to expend such great sums for a
purpose which would procure such small advantages to themselves. If the
Union took possession of the slaves in the Southern States by force, or
at a rate determined by law, an insurmountable resistance would arise in
that part of the country. Both alternatives are equally impossible.]
[Footnote w: In 1830 there were in the United States 2,010,327 slaves
and 319,439 free blacks, in all 2,329,766 negroes: which formed about
one-fifth of the total population of the United States at that time.]
I am obliged to confess that I do not regard the abolition of slavery
as a means of warding off the struggle of the two races in the United
States. The negroes may long remain slaves without complaining; but if
they are once raised to the level of free men, they will soon revolt at
being deprived of all their civil rights; and as they cannot become the
equals of the whites, they will speedily declare themselves as enemies.
In the North everything contributed to facilitate the emancipation of
the slaves; and slavery was abolished, without placing the free negroes
in a position which could become formidable, since their number was too
small for them ever to claim the exercise of their rights. But such is
not the case in the South. The question of slavery was a question of
commerce and manufacture for the slave-owners in the North; for those of
the South, it is a question of life and death. God forbid that I should
seek to justify the principle of negro slavery, as has been done by
some American writers! But I only observe that all the countries which
formerly adopted that execrable principle are not equally able to
abandon it at the present time.
When I contemplate the condition of the South, I can only discover two
alternatives which may be adopted by the white inhabitants of those
States; viz., either to emancipate the negroes, and to intermingle
with them; or, remaining isolated from them, to keep them in a state of
slavery as long as possible. All intermediate measures seem to me likely
to terminate, and that shortly, in the most horrible of civil wars, and
perhaps in the extirpation of one or other of the two races. Such is the
view which the Americans of the South take of the question, and they
act consistently with it. As they are determined not to mingle with the
negroes, they refuse to emancipate them.
Not that the inhabitants of the South regard slavery as necessary to the
wealth of the planter, for on this point many of them agree with their
Northern countrymen in freely admitting that slavery is prejudicial to
their interest; but they are convinced that, however prejudicial it may
be, they hold their lives upon no other tenure. The instruction which is
now diffused in the South has convinced the inhabitants that slavery is
injurious to the slave-owner, but it has also shown them, more clearly
than before, that no means exist of getting rid of its bad consequences.
Hence arises a singular contrast; the more the utility of slavery is
contested, the more firmly is it established in the laws; and whilst
the principle of servitude is gradually abolished in the North, that
self-same principle gives rise to more and more rigorous consequences in
the South.
The legislation of the Southern States with regard to slaves, presents
at the present day such unparalleled atrocities as suffice to show how
radically the laws of humanity have been perverted, and to betray the
desperate position of the community in which that legislation has
been promulgated. The Americans of this portion of the Union have not,
indeed, augmented the hardships of slavery; they have, on the contrary,
bettered the physical condition of the slaves. The only means by which
the ancients maintained slavery were fetters and death; the Americans of
the South of the Union have discovered more intellectual securities
for the duration of their power. They have employed their despotism and
their violence against the human mind. In antiquity, precautions were
taken to prevent the slave from breaking his chains; at the present day
measures are adopted to deprive him even of the desire of freedom. The
ancients kept the bodies of their slaves in bondage, but they placed
no restraint upon the mind and no check upon education; and they
acted consistently with their established principle, since a natural
termination of slavery then existed, and one day or other the slave
might be set free, and become the equal of his master. But the Americans
of the South, who do not admit that the negroes can ever be commingled
with themselves, have forbidden them to be taught to read or to write,
under severe penalties; and as they will not raise them to their own
level, they sink them as nearly as possible to that of the brutes.
The hope of liberty had always been allowed to the slave to cheer the
hardships of his condition. But the Americans of the South are well
aware that emancipation cannot but be dangerous, when the freed man can
never be assimilated to his former master. To give a man his freedom,
and to leave him in wretchedness and ignominy, is nothing less than to
prepare a future chief for a revolt of the slaves. Moreover, it has long
been remarked that the presence of a free negro vaguely agitates the
minds of his less fortunate brethren, and conveys to them a dim notion
of their rights. The Americans of the South have consequently taken
measures to prevent slave-owners from emancipating their slaves in most
cases; not indeed by a positive prohibition, but by subjecting that step
to various forms which it is difficult to comply with. I happened
to meet with an old man, in the South of the Union, who had lived in
illicit intercourse with one of his negresses, and had had several
children by her, who were born the slaves of their father. He had indeed
frequently thought of bequeathing to them at least their liberty; but
years had elapsed without his being able to surmount the legal obstacles
to their emancipation, and in the mean while his old age was come, and
he was about to die. He pictured to himself his sons dragged from market
to market, and passing from the authority of a parent to the rod of
the stranger, until these horrid anticipations worked his expiring
imagination into frenzy. When I saw him he was a prey to all the anguish
of despair, and he made me feel how awful is the retribution of nature
upon those who have broken her laws.
These evils are unquestionably great; but they are the necessary and
foreseen consequence of the very principle of modern slavery. When the
Europeans chose their slaves from a race differing from their own, which
many of them considered as inferior to the other races of mankind,
and which they all repelled with horror from any notion of intimate
connection, they must have believed that slavery would last forever;
since there is no intermediate state which can be durable between the
excessive inequality produced by servitude and the complete equality
which originates in independence. The Europeans did imperfectly feel
this truth, but without acknowledging it even to themselves. Whenever
they have had to do with negroes, their conduct has either been dictated
by their interest and their pride, or by their compassion. They first
violated every right of humanity by their treatment of the negro
and they afterwards informed him that those rights were precious and
inviolable. They affected to open their ranks to the slaves, but the
negroes who attempted to penetrate into the community were driven back
with scorn; and they have incautiously and involuntarily been led to
admit of freedom instead of slavery, without having the courage to be
wholly iniquitous, or wholly just.
If it be impossible to anticipate a period at which the Americans of the
South will mingle their blood with that of the negroes, can they allow
their slaves to become free without compromising their own security? And
if they are obliged to keep that race in bondage in order to save their
own families, may they not be excused for availing themselves of the
means best adapted to that end? The events which are taking place in
the Southern States of the Union appear to me to be at once the most
horrible and the most natural results of slavery. When I see the order
of nature overthrown, and when I hear the cry of humanity in its vain
struggle against the laws, my indignation does not light upon the men of
our own time who are the instruments of these outrages; but I reserve
my execration for those who, after a thousand years of freedom, brought
back slavery into the world once more.
Whatever may be the efforts of the Americans of the South to maintain
slavery, they will not always succeed. Slavery, which is now confined to
a single tract of the civilized earth, which is attacked by Christianity
as unjust, and by political economy as prejudicial; and which is now
contrasted with democratic liberties and the information of our age,
cannot survive. By the choice of the master, or by the will of the
slave, it will cease; and in either case great calamities may be
expected to ensue. If liberty be refused to the negroes of the South,
they will in the end seize it for themselves by force; if it be given,
they will abuse it ere long. *x
[Footnote x: [This chapter is no longer applicable to the condition of
the negro race in the United States, since the abolition of slavery
was the result, though not the object, of the great Civil War, and the
negroes have been raised to the condition not only of freedmen, but of
citizens; and in some States they exercise a preponderating political
power by reason of their numerical majority. Thus, in South Carolina
there were in 1870, 289,667 whites and 415,814 blacks. But the
emancipation of the slaves has not solved the problem, how two races so
different and so hostile are to live together in peace in one country on
equal terms. That problem is as difficult, perhaps more difficult than
ever; and to this difficulty the author's remarks are still perfectly
Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races—Part VI
What Are The Chances In Favor Of The Duration Of The American Union, And
What Dangers Threaten It *y
[Footnote y: [This chapter is one of the most curious and interesting
portions of the work, because it embraces almost all the constitutional
and social questions which were raised by the great secession of the
South and decided by the results of the Civil War. But it must be
confessed that the sagacity of the author is sometimes at fault in these
speculations, and did not save him from considerable errors, which the
course of events has since made apparent. He held that "the legislators
of the Constitution of 1789 were not appointed to constitute the
government of a single people, but to regulate the association of
several States; that the Union was formed by the voluntary agreement
of the States, and in uniting together they have not forfeited their
nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the
same people." Whence he inferred that "if one of the States chose to
withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove
its right of doing so; and that the Federal Government would have no
means of maintaining its claims directly, either by force or by right."
This is the Southern theory of the Constitution, and the whole case of
the South in favor of secession. To many Europeans, and to some
American (Northern) jurists, this view appeared to be sound; but it was
vigorously resisted by the North, and crushed by force of arms.
The author of this book was mistaken in supposing that the "Union was a
vast body which presents no definite object to patriotic feeling." When
the day of trial came, millions of men were ready to lay down their
lives for it. He was also mistaken in supposing that the Federal
Executive is so weak that it requires the free consent of the governed
to enable it to subsist, and that it would be defeated in a struggle
to maintain the Union against one or more separate States. In 1861 nine
States, with a population of 8,753,000, seceded, and maintained for four
years a resolute but unequal contest for independence, but they were
Lastly, the author was mistaken in supposing that a community of
interests would always prevail between North and South sufficiently
powerful to bind them together. He overlooked the influence which the
question of slavery must have on the Union the moment that the majority
of the people of the North declared against it. In 1831, when the author
visited America, the anti-slavery agitation had scarcely begun; and the
fact of Southern slavery was accepted by men of all parties, even in the
States where there were no slaves: and that was unquestionably the view
taken by all the States and by all American statesmen at the time of the
adoption of the Constitution, in 1789. But in the course of thirty years
a great change took place, and the North refused to perpetuate what had
become the "peculiar institution" of the South, especially as it gave
the South a species of aristocratic preponderance. The result was the
ratification, in December, 1865, of the celebrated 13th article or
amendment of the Constitution, which declared that "neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude—except as a punishment for crime—shall exist
within the United States." To which was soon afterwards added the 15th
article, "The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged
by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color, or
previous servitude." The emancipation of several millions of negro
slaves without compensation, and the transfer to them of political
preponderance in the States in which they outnumber the white
population, were acts of the North totally opposed to the interests
of the South, and which could only have been carried into effect by
conquest.—Translator's Note.]]
Reason for which the preponderating force lies in the States rather than
in the Union—The Union will only last as long as all the States choose
to belong to it—Causes which tend to keep them united—Utility of
the Union to resist foreign enemies, and to prevent the existence
of foreigners in America—No natural barriers between the several
States—No conflicting interests to divide them—Reciprocal interests
of the Northern, Southern, and Western States—Intellectual ties of
union—Uniformity of opinions—Dangers of the Union resulting from the
different characters and the passions of its citizens—Character of the
citizens in the South and in the North—The rapid growth of the
Union one of its greatest dangers—Progress of the population to the
Northwest—Power gravitates in the same direction—Passions originating
from sudden turns of fortune—Whether the existing Government of the
Union tends to gain strength, or to lose it—Various signs of its
decrease—Internal improvements—Waste lands—Indians—The Bank—The
Tariff—General Jackson.
The maintenance of the existing institutions of the several States
depends in some measure upon the maintenance of the Union itself. It is
therefore important in the first instance to inquire into the probable
fate of the Union. One point may indeed be assumed at once: if
the present confederation were dissolved, it appears to me to be
incontestable that the States of which it is now composed would not
return to their original isolated condition, but that several unions
would then be formed in the place of one. It is not my intention to
inquire into the principles upon which these new unions would probably
be established, but merely to show what the causes are which may effect
the dismemberment of the existing confederation.
With this object I shall be obliged to retrace some of the steps which
I have already taken, and to revert to topics which I have before
discussed. I am aware that the reader may accuse me of repetition, but
the importance of the matter which still remains to be treated is my
excuse; I had rather say too much, than say too little to be thoroughly
understood, and I prefer injuring the author to slighting the subject.
The legislators who formed the Constitution of 1789 endeavored to confer
a distinct and preponderating authority upon the federal power. But they
were confined by the conditions of the task which they had undertaken
to perform. They were not appointed to constitute the government of a
single people, but to regulate the association of several States; and,
whatever their inclinations might be, they could not but divide the
exercise of sovereignty in the end.
In order to understand the consequences of this division, it is
necessary to make a short distinction between the affairs of the
Government. There are some objects which are national by their very
nature, that is to say, which affect the nation as a body, and can
only be intrusted to the man or the assembly of men who most completely
represent the entire nation. Amongst these may be reckoned war and
diplomacy. There are other objects which are provincial by their very
nature, that is to say, which only affect certain localities, and which
can only be properly treated in that locality. Such, for instance, is
the budget of a municipality. Lastly, there are certain objects of
a mixed nature, which are national inasmuch as they affect all the
citizens who compose the nation, and which are provincial inasmuch as
it is not necessary that the nation itself should provide for them all.
Such are the rights which regulate the civil and political condition of
the citizens. No society can exist without civil and political rights.
These rights therefore interest all the citizens alike; but it is not
always necessary to the existence and the prosperity of the nation that
these rights should be uniform, nor, consequently, that they should be
regulated by the central authority.
There are, then, two distinct categories of objects which are submitted
to the direction of the sovereign power; and these categories occur in
all well-constituted communities, whatever the basis of the political
constitution may otherwise be. Between these two extremes the objects
which I have termed mixed may be considered to lie. As these objects
are neither exclusively national nor entirely provincial, they may be
obtained by a national or by a provincial government, according to the
agreement of the contracting parties, without in any way impairing the
contract of association.
The sovereign power is usually formed by the union of separate
individuals, who compose a people; and individual powers or collective
forces, each representing a very small portion of the sovereign
authority, are the sole elements which are subjected to the general
Government of their choice. In this case the general Government is more
naturally called upon to regulate, not only those affairs which are
of essential national importance, but those which are of a more local
interest; and the local governments are reduced to that small share of
sovereign authority which is indispensable to their prosperity.
But sometimes the sovereign authority is composed of preorganized
political bodies, by virtue of circumstances anterior to their union;
and in this case the provincial governments assume the control, not only
of those affairs which more peculiarly belong to their province, but of
all, or of a part of the mixed affairs to which allusion has been made.
For the confederate nations which were independent sovereign States
before their union, and which still represent a very considerable share
of the sovereign power, have only consented to cede to the general
Government the exercise of those rights which are indispensable to the
When the national Government, independently of the prerogatives inherent
in its nature, is invested with the right of regulating the affairs
which relate partly to the general and partly to the local interests,
it possesses a preponderating influence. Not only are its own rights
extensive, but all the rights which it does not possess exist by its
sufferance, and it may be apprehended that the provincial governments
may be deprived of their natural and necessary prerogatives by its
When, on the other hand, the provincial governments are invested
with the power of regulating those same affairs of mixed interest, an
opposite tendency prevails in society. The preponderating force resides
in the province, not in the nation; and it may be apprehended that the
national Government may in the end be stripped of the privileges which
are necessary to its existence.
Independent nations have therefore a natural tendency to centralization,
and confederations to dismemberment.
It now only remains for us to apply these general principles to the
American Union. The several States were necessarily possessed of the
right of regulating all exclusively provincial affairs. Moreover these
same States retained the rights of determining the civil and political
competency of the citizens, or regulating the reciprocal relations of
the members of the community, and of dispensing justice; rights which
are of a general nature, but which do not necessarily appertain to the
national Government. We have shown that the Government of the Union is
invested with the power of acting in the name of the whole nation in
those cases in which the nation has to appear as a single and undivided
power; as, for instance, in foreign relations, and in offering a common
resistance to a common enemy; in short, in conducting those affairs
which I have styled exclusively national.
In this division of the rights of sovereignty, the share of the Union
seems at first sight to be more considerable than that of the States;
but a more attentive investigation shows it to be less so. The
undertakings of the Government of the Union are more vast, but their
influence is more rarely felt. Those of the provincial governments are
comparatively small, but they are incessant, and they serve to keep
alive the authority which they represent. The Government of the Union
watches the general interests of the country; but the general interests
of a people have a very questionable influence upon individual
happiness, whilst provincial interests produce a most immediate effect
upon the welfare of the inhabitants. The Union secures the independence
and the greatness of the nation, which do not immediately affect private
citizens; but the several States maintain the liberty, regulate the
rights, protect the fortune, and secure the life and the whole future
prosperity of every citizen.
The Federal Government is very far removed from its subjects, whilst the
provincial governments are within the reach of them all, and are ready
to attend to the smallest appeal. The central Government has upon its
side the passions of a few superior men who aspire to conduct it; but
upon the side of the provincial governments are the interests of all
those second-rate individuals who can only hope to obtain power within
their own State, and who nevertheless exercise the largest share of
authority over the people because they are placed nearest to its level.
The Americans have therefore much more to hope and to fear from the
States than from the Union; and, in conformity with the natural tendency
of the human mind, they are more likely to attach themselves to the
former than to the latter. In this respect their habits and feelings
harmonize with their interests.
When a compact nation divides its sovereignty, and adopts a confederate
form of government, the traditions, the customs, and the manners of the
people are for a long time at variance with their legislation; and the
former tend to give a degree of influence to the central government
which the latter forbids. When a number of confederate states unite to
form a single nation, the same causes operate in an opposite direction.
I have no doubt that if France were to become a confederate republic
like that of the United States, the government would at first display
more energy than that of the Union; and if the Union were to alter
its constitution to a monarchy like that of France, I think that the
American Government would be a long time in acquiring the force
which now rules the latter nation. When the national existence of the
Anglo-Americans began, their provincial existence was already of long
standing; necessary relations were established between the townships and
the individual citizens of the same States; and they were accustomed
to consider some objects as common to them all, and to conduct other
affairs as exclusively relating to their own special interests.
The Union is a vast body which presents no definite object to
patriotic feeling. The forms and limits of the State are distinct and
circumscribed; since it represents a certain number of objects which are
familiar to the citizens and beloved by all. It is identified with the
very soil, with the right of property and the domestic affections, with
the recollections of the past, the labors of the present, and the hopes
of the future. Patriotism, then, which is frequently a mere extension of
individual egotism, is still directed to the State, and is not excited
by the Union. Thus the tendency of the interests, the habits, and the
feelings of the people is to centre political activity in the States, in
preference to the Union.
It is easy to estimate the different forces of the two governments, by
remarking the manner in which they fulfil their respective functions.
Whenever the government of a State has occasion to address an individual
or an assembly of individuals, its language is clear and imperative; and
such is also the tone of the Federal Government in its intercourse with
individuals, but no sooner has it anything to do with a State than it
begins to parley, to explain its motives and to justify its conduct, to
argue, to advise, and, in short, anything but to command. If doubts are
raised as to the limits of the constitutional powers of each government,
the provincial government prefers its claim with boldness, and takes
prompt and energetic steps to support it. In the mean while the
Government of the Union reasons; it appeals to the interests, to the
good sense, to the glory of the nation; it temporizes, it negotiates,
and does not consent to act until it is reduced to the last extremity.
At first sight it might readily be imagined that it is the provincial
government which is armed with the authority of the nation, and that
Congress represents a single State.
The Federal Government is, therefore, notwithstanding the precautions of
those who founded it, naturally so weak that it more peculiarly requires
the free consent of the governed to enable it to subsist. It is easy
to perceive that its object is to enable the States to realize with
facility their determination of remaining united; and, as long as this
preliminary condition exists, its authority is great, temperate, and
effective. The Constitution fits the Government to control individuals,
and easily to surmount such obstacles as they may be inclined to
offer; but it was by no means established with a view to the possible
separation of one or more of the States from the Union.
If the sovereignty of the Union were to engage in a struggle with
that of the States at the present day, its defeat may be confidently
predicted; and it is not probable that such a struggle would be
seriously undertaken. As often as a steady resistance is offered to the
Federal Government it will be found to yield. Experience has hitherto
shown that whenever a State has demanded anything with perseverance
and resolution, it has invariably succeeded; and that if a separate
government has distinctly refused to act, it was left to do as it
thought fit. *z
[Footnote z: See the conduct of the Northern States in the war of 1812.
"During that war," says Jefferson in a letter to General Lafayette,
"four of the Eastern States were only attached to the Union, like so
many inanimate bodies to living men."]
But even if the Government of the Union had any strength inherent in
itself, the physical situation of the country would render the exercise
of that strength very difficult. *a The United States cover an immense
territory; they are separated from each other by great distances; and
the population is disseminated over the surface of a country which is
still half a wilderness. If the Union were to undertake to enforce the
allegiance of the confederate States by military means, it would be in
a position very analogous to that of England at the time of the War of
[Footnote a: The profound peace of the Union affords no pretext for a
standing army; and without a standing army a government is not prepared
to profit by a favorable opportunity to conquer resistance, and take the
sovereign power by surprise. [This note, and the paragraph in the text
which precedes, have been shown by the results of the Civil War to be a
misconception of the writer.]]
However strong a government may be, it cannot easily escape from the
consequences of a principle which it has once admitted as the foundation
of its constitution. The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement
of the States; and, in uniting together, they have not forfeited their
nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the
same people. If one of the States chose to withdraw its name from the
contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so; and
the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims
directly, either by force or by right. In order to enable the Federal
Government easily to conquer the resistance which may be offered to it
by any one of its subjects, it would be necessary that one or more of
them should be specially interested in the existence of the Union, as
has frequently been the case in the history of confederations.
If it be supposed that amongst the States which are united by the
federal tie there are some which exclusively enjoy the principal
advantages of union, or whose prosperity depends on the duration of that
union, it is unquestionable that they will always be ready to support
the central Government in enforcing the obedience of the others. But the
Government would then be exerting a force not derived from itself, but
from a principle contrary to its nature. States form confederations in
order to derive equal advantages from their union; and in the case
just alluded to, the Federal Government would derive its power from the
unequal distribution of those benefits amongst the States.
If one of the confederate States have acquired a preponderance
sufficiently great to enable it to take exclusive possession of
the central authority, it will consider the other States as subject
provinces, and it will cause its own supremacy to be respected under the
borrowed name of the sovereignty of the Union. Great things may then
be done in the name of the Federal Government, but in reality that
Government will have ceased to exist. *b In both these cases, the power
which acts in the name of the confederation becomes stronger the more
it abandons the natural state and the acknowledged principles of
[Footnote b: Thus the province of Holland in the republic of the Low
Countries, and the Emperor in the Germanic Confederation, have sometimes
put themselves in the place of the union, and have employed the federal
authority to their own advantage.]
In America the existing Union is advantageous to all the States, but it
is not indispensable to any one of them. Several of them might break
the federal tie without compromising the welfare of the others, although
their own prosperity would be lessened. As the existence and the
happiness of none of the States are wholly dependent on the present
Constitution, they would none of them be disposed to make great personal
sacrifices to maintain it. On the other hand, there is no State which
seems hitherto to have its ambition much interested in the maintenance
of the existing Union. They certainly do not all exercise the same
influence in the federal councils, but no one of them can hope to
domineer over the rest, or to treat them as its inferiors or as its
It appears to me unquestionable that if any portion of the Union
seriously desired to separate itself from the other States, they would
not be able, nor indeed would they attempt, to prevent it; and that
the present Union will only last as long as the States which compose
it choose to continue members of the confederation. If this point be
admitted, the question becomes less difficult; and our object is, not
to inquire whether the States of the existing Union are capable of
separating, but whether they will choose to remain united.
Amongst the various reasons which tend to render the existing Union
useful to the Americans, two principal causes are peculiarly evident to
the observer. Although the Americans are, as it were, alone upon their
continent, their commerce makes them the neighbors of all the nations
with which they trade. Notwithstanding their apparent isolation, the
Americans require a certain degree of strength, which they cannot retain
otherwise than by remaining united to each other. If the States were to
split, they would not only diminish the strength which they are now able
to display towards foreign nations, but they would soon create foreign
powers upon their own territory. A system of inland custom-houses would
then be established; the valleys would be divided by imaginary boundary
lines; the courses of the rivers would be confined by territorial
distinctions; and a multitude of hindrances would prevent the Americans
from exploring the whole of that vast continent which Providence has
allotted to them for a dominion. At present they have no invasion to
fear, and consequently no standing armies to maintain, no taxes to levy.
If the Union were dissolved, all these burdensome measures might ere
long be required. The Americans are then very powerfully interested
in the maintenance of their Union. On the other hand, it is almost
impossible to discover any sort of material interest which might at
present tempt a portion of the Union to separate from the other States.
When we cast our eyes upon the map of the United States, we perceive
the chain of the Alleghany Mountains, running from the northeast to the
southwest, and crossing nearly one thousand miles of country; and we are
led to imagine that the design of Providence was to raise between the
valley of the Mississippi and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean one of
those natural barriers which break the mutual intercourse of men, and
form the necessary limits of different States. But the average height of
the Alleghanies does not exceed 2,500 feet; their greatest elevation is
not above 4,000 feet; their rounded summits, and the spacious valleys
which they conceal within their passes, are of easy access from several
sides. Besides which, the principal rivers which fall into the Atlantic
Ocean—the Hudson, the Susquehanna, and the Potomac—take their rise
beyond the Alleghanies, in an open district, which borders upon the
valley of the Mississippi. These streams quit this tract of country,
make their way through the barrier which would seem to turn them
westward, and as they wind through the mountains they open an easy and
natural passage to man. No natural barrier exists in the regions which
are now inhabited by the Anglo-Americans; the Alleghanies are so far
from serving as a boundary to separate nations, that they do not even
serve as a frontier to the States. New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
comprise them within their borders, and they extend as much to the
west as to the east of the line. The territory now occupied by the
twenty-four States of the Union, and the three great districts which
have not yet acquired the rank of States, although they already contain
inhabitants, covers a surface of 1,002,600 square miles, *c which is
about equal to five times the extent of France. Within these limits the
qualities of the soil, the temperature, and the produce of the country,
are extremely various. The vast extent of territory occupied by the
Anglo-American republics has given rise to doubts as to the maintenance
of their Union. Here a distinction must be made; contrary interests
sometimes arise in the different provinces of a vast empire, which often
terminate in open dissensions; and the extent of the country is then
most prejudicial to the power of the State. But if the inhabitants of
these vast regions are not divided by contrary interests, the extent of
the territory may be favorable to their prosperity; for the unity of the
government promotes the interchange of the different productions of the
soil, and increases their value by facilitating their consumption.
[Footnote c: See "Darby's View of the United States," p. 435. [In 1890
the number of States and Territories had increased to 51, the population
to 62,831,900, and the area of the States, 3,602,990 square miles.
This does not include the Philippine Islands, Hawaii, or Porto Rico.
A conservative estimate of the population of the Philippine Islands is
8,000,000; that of Hawaii, by the census of 1897, was given at 109,020;
and the present estimated population of Porto Rico is 900,000. The area
of the Philippine Islands is about 120,000 square miles, that of Hawaii
is 6,740 square miles, and the area of Porto Rico is about 3,600 square
It is indeed easy to discover different interests in the different parts
of the Union, but I am unacquainted with any which are hostile to each
other. The Southern States are almost exclusively agricultural. The
Northern States are more peculiarly commercial and manufacturing. The
States of the West are at the same time agricultural and manufacturing.
In the South the crops consist of tobacco, of rice, of cotton, and
of sugar; in the North and the West, of wheat and maize. These are
different sources of wealth; but union is the means by which these
sources are opened to all, and rendered equally advantageous to the
several districts.
The North, which ships the produce of the Anglo-Americans to all parts
of the world, and brings back the produce of the globe to the Union,
is evidently interested in maintaining the confederation in its present
condition, in order that the number of American producers and consumers
may remain as large as possible. The North is the most natural agent
of communication between the South and the West of the Union on the one
hand, and the rest of the world upon the other; the North is therefore
interested in the union and prosperity of the South and the West,
in order that they may continue to furnish raw materials for its
manufactures, and cargoes for its shipping.
The South and the West, on their side, are still more directly
interested in the preservation of the Union, and the prosperity of the
North. The produce of the South is, for the most part, exported
beyond seas; the South and the West consequently stand in need of the
commercial resources of the North. They are likewise interested in
the maintenance of a powerful fleet by the Union, to protect them
efficaciously. The South and the West have no vessels, but they cannot
refuse a willing subsidy to defray the expenses of the navy; for if the
fleets of Europe were to blockade the ports of the South and the delta
of the Mississippi, what would become of the rice of the Carolinas, the
tobacco of Virginia, and the sugar and cotton which grow in the valley
of the Mississippi? Every portion of the federal budget does therefore
contribute to the maintenance of material interests which are common to
all the confederate States.
Independently of this commercial utility, the South and the West of the
Union derive great political advantages from their connection with the
North. The South contains an enormous slave population; a population
which is already alarming, and still more formidable for the future. The
States of the West lie in the remotest parts of a single valley; and all
the rivers which intersect their territory rise in the Rocky Mountains
or in the Alleghanies, and fall into the Mississippi, which bears them
onwards to the Gulf of Mexico. The Western States are consequently
entirely cut off, by their position, from the traditions of Europe and
the civilization of the Old World. The inhabitants of the South, then,
are induced to support the Union in order to avail themselves of its
protection against the blacks; and the inhabitants of the West in order
not to be excluded from a free communication with the rest of the globe,
and shut up in the wilds of central America. The North cannot but desire
the maintenance of the Union, in order to remain, as it now is, the
connecting link between that vast body and the other parts of the world.
The temporal interests of all the several parts of the Union are, then,
intimately connected; and the same assertion holds true respecting those
opinions and sentiments which may be termed the immaterial interests of
Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races—Part VII
The inhabitants of the United States talk a great deal of their
attachment to their country; but I confess that I do not rely upon
that calculating patriotism which is founded upon interest, and which
a change in the interests at stake may obliterate. Nor do I attach much
importance to the language of the Americans, when they manifest, in
their daily conversations, the intention of maintaining the federal
system adopted by their forefathers. A government retains its sway
over a great number of citizens, far less by the voluntary and rational
consent of the multitude, than by that instinctive, and to a certain
extent involuntary agreement, which results from similarity of feelings
and resemblances of opinion. I will never admit that men constitute a
social body, simply because they obey the same head and the same laws.
Society can only exist when a great number of men consider a great
number of things in the same point of view; when they hold the same
opinions upon many subjects, and when the same occurrences suggest the
same thoughts and impressions to their minds.
The observer who examines the present condition of the United States
upon this principle, will readily discover, that although the citizens
are divided into twenty-four distinct sovereignties, they nevertheless
constitute a single people; and he may perhaps be led to think that the
state of the Anglo-American Union is more truly a state of society than
that of certain nations of Europe which live under the same legislation
and the same prince.
Although the Anglo-Americans have several religious sects, they all
regard religion in the same manner. They are not always agreed upon the
measures which are most conducive to good government, and they vary upon
some of the forms of government which it is expedient to adopt; but
they are unanimous upon the general principles which ought to rule
human society. From Maine to the Floridas, and from the Missouri to the
Atlantic Ocean, the people is held to be the legitimate source of all
power. The same notions are entertained respecting liberty and equality,
the liberty of the press, the right of association, the jury, and the
responsibility of the agents of Government.
If we turn from their political and religious opinions to the moral and
philosophical principles which regulate the daily actions of life and
govern their conduct, we shall still find the same uniformity. The
Anglo-Americans *d acknowledge the absolute moral authority of the
reason of the community, as they acknowledge the political authority of
the mass of citizens; and they hold that public opinion is the surest
arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. The majority
of them believe that a man will be led to do what is just and good by
following his own interest rightly understood. They hold that every man
is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no one
has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They
have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of
opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily
be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all
consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a
changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they
admit that what appears to them to be good to-day may be superseded by
something better-to-morrow. I do not give all these opinions as true,
but I quote them as characteristic of the Americans.
[Footnote d: It is scarcely necessary for me to observe that by the
expression Anglo-Americans, I only mean to designate the great majority
of the nation; for a certain number of isolated individuals are of
course to be met with holding very different opinions.]
The Anglo-Americans are not only united together by these common
opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a common
feeling of pride. For the last fifty years no pains have been spared to
convince the inhabitants of the United States that they constitute the
only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for
the present, their own democratic institutions succeed, whilst those
of other countries fail; hence they conceive an overweening opinion
of their superiority, and they are not very remote from believing
themselves to belong to a distinct race of mankind.
The dangers which threaten the American Union do not originate in the
diversity of interests or of opinions, but in the various characters and
passions of the Americans. The men who inhabit the vast territory of
the United States are almost all the issue of a common stock; but the
effects of the climate, and more especially of slavery, have gradually
introduced very striking differences between the British settler of the
Southern States and the British settler of the North. In Europe it is
generally believed that slavery has rendered the interests of one
part of the Union contrary to those of another part; but I by no means
remarked this to be the case: slavery has not created interests in the
South contrary to those of the North, but it has modified the character
and changed the habits of the natives of the South.
I have already explained the influence which slavery has exercised upon
the commercial ability of the Americans in the South; and this same
influence equally extends to their manners. The slave is a servant who
never remonstrates, and who submits to everything without complaint. He
may sometimes assassinate, but he never withstands, his master. In the
South there are no families so poor as not to have slaves. The citizen
of the Southern States of the Union is invested with a sort of domestic
dictatorship, from his earliest years; the first notion he acquires
in life is that he is born to command, and the first habit which he
contracts is that of being obeyed without resistance. His education
tends, then, to give him the character of a supercilious and a hasty
man; irascible, violent, and ardent in his desires, impatient of
obstacles, but easily discouraged if he cannot succeed upon his first
The American of the Northern States is surrounded by no slaves in
his childhood; he is even unattended by free servants, and is usually
obliged to provide for his own wants. No sooner does he enter the world
than the idea of necessity assails him on every side: he soon learns
to know exactly the natural limit of his authority; he never expects to
subdue those who withstand him, by force; and he knows that the surest
means of obtaining the support of his fellow-creatures, is to win their
favor. He therefore becomes patient, reflecting, tolerant, slow to act,
and persevering in his designs.
In the Southern States the more immediate wants of life are always
supplied; the inhabitants of those parts are not busied in the material
cares of life, which are always provided for by others; and their
imagination is diverted to more captivating and less definite objects.
The American of the South is fond of grandeur, luxury, and renown, of
gayety, of pleasure, and above all of idleness; nothing obliges him
to exert himself in order to subsist; and as he has no necessary
occupations, he gives way to indolence, and does not even attempt what
would be useful.
But the equality of fortunes, and the absence of slavery in the North,
plunge the inhabitants in those same cares of daily life which are
disdained by the white population of the South. They are taught from
infancy to combat want, and to place comfort above all the pleasures
of the intellect or the heart. The imagination is extinguished by the
trivial details of life, and the ideas become less numerous and less
general, but far more practical and more precise. As prosperity is
the sole aim of exertion, it is excellently well attained; nature and
mankind are turned to the best pecuniary advantage, and society is
dexterously made to contribute to the welfare of each of its members,
whilst individual egotism is the source of general happiness.
The citizen of the North has not only experience, but knowledge:
nevertheless he sets but little value upon the pleasures of knowledge;
he esteems it as the means of attaining a certain end, and he is only
anxious to seize its more lucrative applications. The citizen of the
South is more given to act upon impulse; he is more clever, more frank,
more generous, more intellectual, and more brilliant. The former, with
a greater degree of activity, of common-sense, of information, and of
general aptitude, has the characteristic good and evil qualities of
the middle classes. The latter has the tastes, the prejudices, the
weaknesses, and the magnanimity of all aristocracies. If two men are
united in society, who have the same interests, and to a certain extent
the same opinions, but different characters, different acquirements, and
a different style of civilization, it is probable that these men will
not agree. The same remark is applicable to a society of nations.
Slavery, then, does not attack the American Union directly in its
interests, but indirectly in its manners.
[Footnote e: Census of 1790, 3,929,328; 1830, 12,856,165; 1860,
31,443,321; 1870, 38,555,983; 1890, 62,831,900.]
The States which gave their assent to the federal contract in 1790 were
thirteen in number; the Union now consists of thirty-four members. The
population, which amounted to nearly 4,000,000 in 1790, had more than
tripled in the space of forty years; and in 1830 it amounted to nearly
13,000,000. *e Changes of such magnitude cannot take place without some
A society of nations, as well as a society of individuals, derives its
principal chances of duration from the wisdom of its members, their
individual weakness, and their limited number. The Americans who quit
the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to plunge into the western wilderness,
are adventurers impatient of restraint, greedy of wealth, and frequently
men expelled from the States in which they were born. When they arrive
in the deserts they are unknown to each other, and they have neither
traditions, family feeling, nor the force of example to check their
excesses. The empire of the laws is feeble amongst them; that of
morality is still more powerless. The settlers who are constantly
peopling the valley of the Mississippi are, then, in every respect very
inferior to the Americans who inhabit the older parts of the Union.
Nevertheless, they already exercise a great influence in its councils;
and they arrive at the government of the commonwealth before they have
learnt to govern themselves. *f
[Footnote f: This indeed is only a temporary danger. I have no doubt
that in time society will assume as much stability and regularity in the
West as it has already done upon the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.]
The greater the individual weakness of each of the contracting parties,
the greater are the chances of the duration of the contract; for their
safety is then dependent upon their union. When, in 1790, the most
populous of the American republics did not contain 500,000 inhabitants,
*g each of them felt its own insignificance as an independent people,
and this feeling rendered compliance with the federal authority more
easy. But when one of the confederate States reckons, like the State of
New York, 2,000,000 of inhabitants, and covers an extent of territory
equal in surface to a quarter of France, *h it feels its own strength;
and although it may continue to support the Union as advantageous to
its prosperity, it no longer regards that body as necessary to its
existence, and as it continues to belong to the federal compact, it soon
aims at preponderance in the federal assemblies. The probable unanimity
of the States is diminished as their number increases. At present the
interests of the different parts of the Union are not at variance; but
who is able to foresee the multifarious changes of the future, in a
country in which towns are founded from day to day, and States almost
from year to year?
[Footnote g: Pennsylvania contained 431,373 inhabitants in 1790 [and
5,258,014 in 1890.]]
[Footnote h: The area of the State of New York is 49,170 square miles.
[See U. S. census report of 1890.]]
Since the first settlement of the British colonies, the number of
inhabitants has about doubled every twenty-two years. I perceive no
causes which are likely to check this progressive increase of the
Anglo-American population for the next hundred years; and before
that space of time has elapsed, I believe that the territories
and dependencies of the United States will be covered by more than
100,000,000 of inhabitants, and divided into forty States. *i I admit
that these 100,000,000 of men have no hostile interests. I suppose,
on the contrary, that they are all equally interested in the maintenance
of the Union; but I am still of opinion that where there are 100,000,000
of men, and forty distinct nations, unequally strong, the continuance of
the Federal Government can only be a fortunate accident.
[Footnote i: If the population continues to double every twenty-two
years, as it has done for the last two hundred years, the number of
inhabitants in the United States in 1852 will be twenty millions; in
1874, forty-eight millions; and in 1896, ninety-six millions. This may
still be the case even if the lands on the western slope of the Rocky
Mountains should be found to be unfit for cultivation. The territory
which is already occupied can easily contain this number of inhabitants.
One hundred millions of men disseminated over the surface of the
twenty-four States, and the three dependencies, which constitute the
Union, would only give 762 inhabitants to the square league; this would
be far below the mean population of France, which is 1,063 to the square
league; or of England, which is 1,457; and it would even be below the
population of Switzerland, for that country, notwithstanding its lakes
and mountains, contains 783 inhabitants to the square league. See "Malte
Brun," vol. vi. p. 92.
[The actual result has fallen somewhat short of these calculations, in
spite of the vast territorial acquisitions of the United States: but in
1899 the population is probably about eighty-seven millions, including
the population of the Philippines, Hawaii, and Porto Rico.]]
Whatever faith I may have in the perfectibility of man, until human
nature is altered, and men wholly transformed, I shall refuse to believe
in the duration of a government which is called upon to hold together
forty different peoples, disseminated over a territory equal to one-half
of Europe in extent; to avoid all rivalry, ambition, and struggles
between them, and to direct their independent activity to the
accomplishment of the same designs.
But the greatest peril to which the Union is exposed by its increase
arises from the continual changes which take place in the position of
its internal strength. The distance from Lake Superior to the Gulf of
Mexico extends from the 47th to the 30th degree of latitude, a distance
of more than 1,200 miles as the bird flies. The frontier of the United
States winds along the whole of this immense line, sometimes falling
within its limits, but more frequently extending far beyond it, into the
waste. It has been calculated that the whites advance every year a mean
distance of seventeen miles along the whole of his vast boundary. *j
Obstacles, such as an unproductive district, a lake or an Indian nation
unexpectedly encountered, are sometimes met with. The advancing column
then halts for a while; its two extremities fall back upon themselves,
and as soon as they are reunited they proceed onwards. This gradual and
continuous progress of the European race towards the Rocky Mountains has
the solemnity of a providential event; it is like a deluge of men rising
unabatedly, and daily driven onwards by the hand of God.
[Footnote j: See Legislative Documents, 20th Congress, No. 117, p. 105.]
Within this first line of conquering settlers towns are built, and
vast States founded. In 1790 there were only a few thousand pioneers
sprinkled along the valleys of the Mississippi; and at the present day
these valleys contain as many inhabitants as were to be found in the
whole Union in 1790. Their population amounts to nearly 4,000,000. *k
The city of Washington was founded in 1800, in the very centre of the
Union; but such are the changes which have taken place, that it now
stands at one of the extremities; and the delegates of the most remote
Western States are already obliged to perform a journey as long as that
from Vienna to Paris. *l
[Footnote k: 3,672,317—Census of 1830.]
[Footnote l: The distance from Jefferson, the capital of the State of
Missouri, to Washington is 1,019 miles. ("American Almanac," 1831, p.
All the States are borne onwards at the same time in the path of
fortune, but of course they do not all increase and prosper in the
same proportion. To the North of the Union the detached branches of
the Alleghany chain, which extend as far as the Atlantic Ocean, form
spacious roads and ports, which are constantly accessible to vessels
of the greatest burden. But from the Potomac to the mouth of the
Mississippi the coast is sandy and flat. In this part of the Union the
mouths of almost all the rivers are obstructed; and the few harbors
which exist amongst these lagoons afford much shallower water to
vessels, and much fewer commercial advantages than those of the North.
This first natural cause of inferiority is united to another cause
proceeding from the laws. We have already seen that slavery, which is
abolished in the North, still exists in the South; and I have pointed
out its fatal consequences upon the prosperity of the planter himself.
The North is therefore superior to the South both in commerce *m and
manufacture; the natural consequence of which is the more rapid increase
of population and of wealth within its borders. The States situate upon
the shores of the Atlantic Ocean are already half-peopled. Most of the
land is held by an owner; and these districts cannot therefore receive
so many emigrants as the Western States, where a boundless field is
still open to their exertions. The valley of the Mississippi is far more
fertile than the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This reason, added to all
the others, contributes to drive the Europeans westward—a fact which
may be rigorously demonstrated by figures. It is found that the sum
total of the population of all the United States has about tripled in
the course of forty years. But in the recent States adjacent to the
Mississippi, the population has increased thirty-one-fold, within the
same space of time. *n
[Footnote m: The following statements will suffice to show the
difference which exists between the commerce of the South and that of
the North:—
In 1829 the tonnage of all the merchant vessels belonging to Virginia,
the two Carolinas, and Georgia (the four great Southern States),
amounted to only 5,243 tons. In the same year the tonnage of the vessels
of the State of Massachusetts alone amounted to 17,322 tons. (See
Legislative Documents, 21st Congress, 2d session, No. 140, p. 244.) Thus
the State of Massachusetts had three times as much shipping as the
four above-mentioned States. Nevertheless the area of the State of
Massachusetts is only 7,335 square miles, and its population amounts
to 610,014 inhabitants [2,238,943 in 1890]; whilst the area of the four
other States I have quoted is 210,000 square miles, and their population
3,047,767. Thus the area of the State of Massachusetts forms only
one-thirtieth part of the area of the four States; and its population
is five times smaller than theirs. (See "Darby's View of the United
States.") Slavery is prejudicial to the commercial prosperity of the
South in several different ways; by diminishing the spirit of enterprise
amongst the whites, and by preventing them from meeting with as numerous
a class of sailors as they require. Sailors are usually taken from the
lowest ranks of the population. But in the Southern States these lowest
ranks are composed of slaves, and it is very difficult to employ them at
sea. They are unable to serve as well as a white crew, and apprehensions
would always be entertained of their mutinying in the middle of the
ocean, or of their escaping in the foreign countries at which they might
[Footnote n: "Darby's View of the United States," p. 444.]
The relative position of the central federal power is continually
displaced. Forty years ago the majority of the citizens of the Union was
established upon the coast of the Atlantic, in the environs of the spot
upon which Washington now stands; but the great body of the people
is now advancing inland and to the north, so that in twenty years the
majority will unquestionably be on the western side of the Alleghanies.
If the Union goes on to subsist, the basin of the Mississippi is
evidently marked out, by its fertility and its extent, as the future
centre of the Federal Government. In thirty or forty years, that tract
of country will have assumed the rank which naturally belongs to it. It
is easy to calculate that its population, compared to that of the coast
of the Atlantic, will be, in round numbers, as 40 to 11. In a few
years the States which founded the Union will lose the direction of
its policy, and the population of the valley of the Mississippi will
preponderate in the federal assemblies.
This constant gravitation of the federal power and influence towards
the northwest is shown every ten years, when a general census of the
population is made, and the number of delegates which each State
sends to Congress is settled afresh. *o In 1790 Virginia had nineteen
representatives in Congress. This number continued to increase until the
year 1813, when it reached to twenty-three; from that time it began to
decrease, and in 1833 Virginia elected only twenty-one representatives.
*p During the same period the State of New York progressed in the
contrary direction: in 1790 it had ten representatives in Congress; in
1813, twenty-seven; in 1823, thirty-four; and in 1833, forty. The State
of Ohio had only one representative in 1803, and in 1833 it had already
[Footnote o: It may be seen that in the course of the last ten years
(1820-1830) the population of one district, as, for instance, the State
of Delaware, has increased in the proportion of five per cent.; whilst
that of another, as the territory of Michigan, has increased 250 per
cent. Thus the population of Virginia had augmented thirteen per cent.,
and that of the border State of Ohio sixty-one per cent., in the same
space of time. The general table of these changes, which is given in the
"National Calendar," displays a striking picture of the unequal fortunes
of the different States.]
[Footnote p: It has just been said that in the course of the last term
the population of Virginia has increased thirteen per cent.; and it is
necessary to explain how the number of representatives for a State may
decrease, when the population of that State, far from diminishing, is
actually upon the increase. I take the State of Virginia, to which
I have already alluded, as my term of comparison. The number of
representatives of Virginia in 1823 was proportionate to the total
number of the representatives of the Union, and to the relation which
the population bore to that of the whole Union: in 1833 the number of
representatives of Virginia was likewise proportionate to the total
number of the representatives of the Union, and to the relation which
its population, augmented in the course of ten years, bore to the
augmented population of the Union in the same space of time. The new
number of Virginian representatives will then be to the old numver, on
the one hand, as the new numver of all the representatives is to the old
number; and, on the other hand, as the augmentation of the population of
Virginia is to that of the whole population of the country. Thus, if
the increase of the population of the lesser country be to that of the
greater in an exact inverse ratio of the proportion between the new
and the old numbers of all the representatives, the number of the
representatives of Virginia will remain stationary; and if the
increase of the Virginian population be to that of the whole Union in a
feeblerratio than the new number of the representatives of the Union
to the old number, the number of the representatives of Virginia
must decrease. [Thus, to the 56th Congress in 1899, Virginia and West
Virginia send only fourteen representatives.]]
Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races—Part VIII
It is difficult to imagine a durable union of a people which is rich and
strong with one which is poor and weak, even if it were proved that the
strength and wealth of the one are not the causes of the weakness and
poverty of the other. But union is still more difficult to maintain at a
time at which one party is losing strength, and the other is gaining it.
This rapid and disproportionate increase of certain States threatens
the independence of the others. New York might perhaps succeed, with its
2,000,000 of inhabitants and its forty representatives, in dictating to
the other States in Congress. But even if the more powerful States make
no attempt to bear down the lesser ones, the danger still exists; for
there is almost as much in the possibility of the act as in the act
itself. The weak generally mistrust the justice and the reason of the
strong. The States which increase less rapidly than the others look upon
those which are more favored by fortune with envy and suspicion. Hence
arise the deep-seated uneasiness and ill-defined agitation which are
observable in the South, and which form so striking a contrast to the
confidence and prosperity which are common to other parts of the Union.
I am inclined to think that the hostile measures taken by the Southern
provinces upon a recent occasion are attributable to no other cause. The
inhabitants of the Southern States are, of all the Americans, those
who are most interested in the maintenance of the Union; they would
assuredly suffer most from being left to themselves; and yet they are
the only citizens who threaten to break the tie of confederation. But
it is easy to perceive that the South, which has given four Presidents,
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, to the Union, which
perceives that it is losing its federal influence, and that the number
of its representatives in Congress is diminishing from year to year,
whilst those of the Northern and Western States are increasing; the
South, which is peopled with ardent and irascible beings, is becoming
more and more irritated and alarmed. The citizens reflect upon their
present position and remember their past influence, with the melancholy
uneasiness of men who suspect oppression: if they discover a law of
the Union which is not unequivocally favorable to their interests,
they protest against it as an abuse of force; and if their ardent
remonstrances are not listened to, they threaten to quit an association
which loads them with burdens whilst it deprives them of their due
profits. "The tariff," said the inhabitants of Carolina in 1832,
"enriches the North, and ruins the South; for if this were not the case,
to what can we attribute the continually increasing power and wealth
of the North, with its inclement skies and arid soil; whilst the South,
which may be styled the garden of America, is rapidly declining?" *q
[Footnote q: See the report of its committee to the Convention which
proclaimed the nullification of the tariff in South Carolina.]
If the changes which I have described were gradual, so that each
generation at least might have time to disappear with the order of
things under which it had lived, the danger would be less; but the
progress of society in America is precipitate, and almost revolutionary.
The same citizen may have lived to see his State take the lead in the
Union, and afterwards become powerless in the federal assemblies; and
an Anglo-American republic has been known to grow as rapidly as a man
passing from birth and infancy to maturity in the course of thirty
years. It must not be imagined, however, that the States which lose
their preponderance, also lose their population or their riches: no stop
is put to their prosperity, and they even go on to increase more
rapidly than any kingdom in Europe. *r But they believe themselves to be
impoverished because their wealth does not augment as rapidly as that of
their neighbors; any they think that their power is lost, because they
suddenly come into collision with a power greater than their own: *s
thus they are more hurt in their feelings and their passions than
in their interests. But this is amply sufficient to endanger the
maintenance of the Union. If kings and peoples had only had their true
interests in view ever since the beginning of the world, the name of war
would scarcely be known among mankind.
[Footnote r: The population of a country assuredly constitutes the
first element of its wealth. In the ten years (1820-1830) during which
Virginia lost two of its representatives in Congress, its population
increased in the proportion of 13.7 per cent.; that of Carolina in the
proportion of fifteen per cent.; and that of Georgia, 15.5 per cent.
(See the "American Almanac," 1832, p. 162) But the population of Russia,
which increases more rapidly than that of any other European country,
only augments in ten years at the rate of 9.5 per cent.; in France, at
the rate of seven per cent.; and in Europe in general, at the rate of
4.7 per cent. (See "Malte Brun," vol. vi. p. 95)]
[Footnote s: It must be admitted, however, that the depreciation which
has taken place in the value of tobacco, during the last fifty years,
has notably diminished the opulence of the Southern planters: but this
circumstance is as independent of the will of their Northern brethren as
it is of their own.]
Thus the prosperity of the United States is the source of the most
serious dangers that threaten them, since it tends to create in some of
the confederate States that over-excitement which accompanies a rapid
increase of fortune; and to awaken in others those feelings of envy,
mistrust, and regret which usually attend upon the loss of it. The
Americans contemplate this extraordinary and hasty progress with
exultation; but they would be wiser to consider it with sorrow and
alarm. The Americans of the United States must inevitably become one of
the greatest nations in the world; their offset will cover almost
the whole of North America; the continent which they inhabit is their
dominion, and it cannot escape them. What urges them to take possession
of it so soon? Riches, power, and renown cannot fail to be theirs at
some future time, but they rush upon their fortune as if but a moment
remained for them to make it their own.
I think that I have demonstrated that the existence of the present
confederation depends entirely on the continued assent of all the
confederates; and, starting from this principle, I have inquired into
the causes which may induce the several States to separate from the
others. The Union may, however, perish in two different ways: one of
the confederate States may choose to retire from the compact, and so
forcibly to sever the federal tie; and it is to this supposition that
most of the remarks that I have made apply: or the authority of
the Federal Government may be progressively entrenched on by the
simultaneous tendency of the united republics to resume their
independence. The central power, successively stripped of all its
prerogatives, and reduced to impotence by tacit consent, would become
incompetent to fulfil its purpose; and the second Union would perish,
like the first, by a sort of senile inaptitude. The gradual weakening of
the federal tie, which may finally lead to the dissolution of the
Union, is a distinct circumstance, that may produce a variety of minor
consequences before it operates so violent a change. The confederation
might still subsist, although its Government were reduced to such
a degree of inanition as to paralyze the nation, to cause internal
anarchy, and to check the general prosperity of the country.
After having investigated the causes which may induce the
Anglo-Americans to disunite, it is important to inquire whether, if the
Union continues to subsist, their Government will extend or contract
its sphere of action, and whether it will become more energetic or more
The Americans are evidently disposed to look upon their future condition
with alarm. They perceive that in most of the nations of the world the
exercise of the rights of sovereignty tends to fall under the control of
a few individuals, and they are dismayed by the idea that such will also
be the case in their own country. Even the statesmen feel, or affect
to feel, these fears; for, in America, centralization is by no means
popular, and there is no surer means of courting the majority than by
inveighing against the encroachments of the central power. The Americans
do not perceive that the countries in which this alarming tendency to
centralization exists are inhabited by a single people; whilst the fact
of the Union being composed of different confederate communities is
sufficient to baffle all the inferences which might be drawn from
analogous circumstances. I confess that I am inclined to consider the
fears of a great number of Americans as purely imaginary; and far from
participating in their dread of the consolidation of power in the hands
of the Union, I think that the Federal Government is visibly losing
To prove this assertion I shall not have recourse to any remote
occurrences, but to circumstances which I have myself witnessed, and
which belong to our own time.
An attentive examination of what is going on in the United States will
easily convince us that two opposite tendencies exist in that country,
like two distinct currents flowing in contrary directions in the same
channel. The Union has now existed for forty-five years, and in the
course of that time a vast number of provincial prejudices, which were
at first hostile to its power, have died away. The patriotic feeling
which attached each of the Americans to his own native State is become
less exclusive; and the different parts of the Union have become more
intimately connected the better they have become acquainted with each
other. The post, *t that great instrument of intellectual intercourse,
now reaches into the backwoods; and steamboats have established daily
means of communication between the different points of the coast. An
inland navigation of unexampled rapidity conveys commodities up and down
the rivers of the country. *u And to these facilities of nature and art
may be added those restless cravings, that busy-mindedness, and love
of pelf, which are constantly urging the American into active life,
and bringing him into contact with his fellow-citizens. He crosses the
country in every direction; he visits all the various populations of the
land; and there is not a province in France in which the natives are
so well known to each other as the 13,000,000 of men who cover the
territory of the United States.
[Footnote t: In 1832, the district of Michigan, which only contains
31,639 inhabitants, and is still an almost unexplored wilderness,
possessed 940 miles of mail-roads. The territory of Arkansas, which
is still more uncultivated, was already intersected by 1,938 miles of
mail-roads. (See the report of the General Post Office, November 30,
1833.) The postage of newspapers alone in the whole Union amounted to
[Footnote u: In the course of ten years, from 1821 to 1831, 271
steamboats have been launched upon the rivers which water the valley
of the Mississippi alone. In 1829 259 steamboats existed in the United
States. (See Legislative Documents, No. 140, p. 274.)]
But whilst the Americans intermingle, they grow in resemblance of each
other; the differences resulting from their climate, their origin, and
their institutions, diminish; and they all draw nearer and nearer to the
common type. Every year, thousands of men leave the North to settle in
different parts of the Union: they bring with them their faith, their
opinions, and their manners; and as they are more enlighthned than the
men amongst whom they are about to dwell, they soon rise to the head of
affairs, and they adapt society to their own advantage. This continual
emigration of the North to the South is peculiarly favorable to the
fusion of all the different provincial characters into one national
character. The civilization of the North appears to be the common
standard, to which the whole nation will one day be assimilated.
The commercial ties which unite the confederate States are strengthened
by the increasing manufactures of the Americans; and the union which
began to exist in their opinions, gradually forms a part of their
habits: the course of time has swept away the bugbear thoughts which
haunted the imaginations of the citizens in 1789. The federal power
is not become oppressive; it has not destroyed the independence of
the States; it has not subjected the confederates to monarchial
institutions; and the Union has not rendered the lesser States dependent
upon the larger ones; but the confederation has continued to increase in
population, in wealth, and in power. I am therefore convinced that the
natural obstacles to the continuance of the American Union are not so
powerful at the present time as they were in 1789; and that the enemies
of the Union are not so numerous.
Nevertheless, a careful examination of the history of the United States
for the last forty-five years will readily convince us that the federal
power is declining; nor is it difficult to explain the causes of this
phenomenon. *v When the Constitution of 1789 was promulgated, the
nation was a prey to anarchy; the Union, which succeeded this confusion,
excited much dread and much animosity; but it was warmly supported
because it satisfied an imperious want. Thus, although it was more
attacked than it is now, the federal power soon reached the maximum of
its authority, as is usually the case with a government which triumphs
after having braced its strength by the struggle. At that time the
interpretation of the Constitution seemed to extend, rather than to
repress, the federal sovereignty; and the Union offered, in several
respects, the appearance of a single and undivided people, directed in
its foreign and internal policy by a single Government. But to attain
this point the people had risen, to a certain extent, above itself.
[Footnote v: [Since 1861 the movement is certainly in the opposite
direction, and the federal power has largely increased, and tends to
further increase.]]
The Constitution had not destroyed the distinct sovereignty of the
States; and all communities, of whatever nature they may be, are
impelled by a secret propensity to assert their independence. This
propensity is still more decided in a country like America, in which
every village forms a sort of republic accustomed to conduct its own
affairs. It therefore cost the States an effort to submit to the federal
supremacy; and all efforts, however successful they may be, necessarily
subside with the causes in which they originated.
As the Federal Government consolidated its authority, America resumed
its rank amongst the nations, peace returned to its frontiers, and
public credit was restored; confusion was succeeded by a fixed state of
things, which was favorable to the full and free exercise of industrious
enterprise. It was this very prosperity which made the Americans forget
the cause to which it was attributable; and when once the danger was
passed, the energy and the patriotism which had enabled them to brave
it disappeared from amongst them. No sooner were they delivered from the
cares which oppressed them, than they easily returned to their ordinary
habits, and gave themselves up without resistance to their natural
inclinations. When a powerful Government no longer appeared to
be necessary, they once more began to think it irksome. The Union
encouraged a general prosperity, and the States were not inclined to
abandon the Union; but they desired to render the action of the power
which represented that body as light as possible. The general principle
of Union was adopted, but in every minor detail there was an actual
tendency to independence. The principle of confederation was every
day more easily admitted, and more rarely applied; so that the Federal
Government brought about its own decline, whilst it was creating order
and peace.
As soon as this tendency of public opinion began to be manifested
externally, the leaders of parties, who live by the passions of the
people, began to work it to their own advantage. The position of the
Federal Government then became exceedingly critical. Its enemies were
in possession of the popular favor; and they obtained the right of
conducting its policy by pledging themselves to lessen its influence.
From that time forwards the Government of the Union has invariably been
obliged to recede, as often as it has attempted to enter the lists with
the governments of the States. And whenever an interpretation of
the terms of the Federal Constitution has been called for, that
interpretation has most frequently been opposed to the Union, and
favorable to the States.
The Constitution invested the Federal Government with the right of
providing for the interests of the nation; and it had been held that no
other authority was so fit to superintend the "internal improvements"
which affected the prosperity of the whole Union; such, for instance, as
the cutting of canals. But the States were alarmed at a power,
distinct from their own, which could thus dispose of a portion of their
territory; and they were afraid that the central Government would, by
this means, acquire a formidable extent of patronage within their own
confines, and exercise a degree of influence which they intended to
reserve exclusively to their own agents. The Democratic party, which has
constantly been opposed to the increase of the federal authority,
then accused the Congress of usurpation, and the Chief Magistrate of
ambition. The central Government was intimidated by the opposition;
and it soon acknowledged its error, promising exactly to confine its
influence for the future within the circle which was prescribed to it.
The Constitution confers upon the Union the right of treating with
foreign nations. The Indian tribes, which border upon the frontiers of
the United States, had usually been regarded in this light. As long as
these savages consented to retire before the civilized settlers,
the federal right was not contested: but as soon as an Indian tribe
attempted to fix its dwelling upon a given spot, the adjacent States
claimed possession of the lands and the rights of sovereignty over the
natives. The central Government soon recognized both these claims; and
after it had concluded treaties with the Indians as independent nations,
it gave them up as subjects to the legislative tyranny of the States. *w
[Footnote w: See in the Legislative Documents, already quoted in
speaking of the Indians, the letter of the President of the United
States to the Cherokees, his correspondence on this subject with his
agents, and his messages to Congress.]
Some of the States which had been founded upon the coast of the
Atlantic, extended indefinitely to the West, into wild regions where no
European had ever penetrated. The States whose confines were irrevocably
fixed, looked with a jealous eye upon the unbounded regions which the
future would enable their neighbors to explore. The latter then agreed,
with a view to conciliate the others, and to facilitate the act
of union, to lay down their own boundaries, and to abandon all the
territory which lay beyond those limits to the confederation at large.
*x Thenceforward the Federal Government became the owner of all the
uncultivated lands which lie beyond the borders of the thirteen States
first confederated. It was invested with the right of parcelling and
selling them, and the sums derived from this source were exclusively
reserved to the public treasure of the Union, in order to furnish
supplies for purchasing tracts of country from the Indians, for opening
roads to the remote settlements, and for accelerating the increase of
civilization as much as possible. New States have, however, been formed
in the course of time, in the midst of those wilds which were formerly
ceded by the inhabitants of the shores of the Atlantic. Congress has
gone on to sell, for the profit of the nation at large, the uncultivated
lands which those new States contained. But the latter at length
asserted that, as they were now fully constituted, they ought to enjoy
the exclusive right of converting the produce of these sales to their
own use. As their remonstrances became more and more threatening,
Congress thought fit to deprive the Union of a portion of the privileges
which it had hitherto enjoyed; and at the end of 1832 it passed a law
by which the greatest part of the revenue derived from the sale of
lands was made over to the new western republics, although the lands
themselves were not ceded to them. *y
[Footnote x: The first act of session was made by the State of New York
in 1780; Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, South and North Carolina,
followed this example at different times, and lastly, the act of cession
of Georgia was made as recently as 1802.]
[Footnote y: It is true that the President refused his assent to this
law; but he completely adopted it in principle. (See Message of December
8, 1833.)]
The slightest observation in the United States enables one to appreciate
the advantages which the country derives from the bank. These advantages
are of several kinds, but one of them is peculiarly striking to the
stranger. The banknotes of the United States are taken upon the borders
of the desert for the same value as at Philadelphia, where the bank
conducts its operations. *z
[Footnote z: The present Bank of the United States was established in
1816, with a capital of $35,000,000; its charter expires in 1836. Last
year Congress passed a law to renew it, but the President put his veto
upon the bill. The struggle is still going on with great violence on
either side, and the speedy fall of the bank may easily be foreseen. [It
was soon afterwards extinguished by General Jackson.]]
The Bank of the United States is nevertheless the object of great
animosity. Its directors have proclaimed their hostility to the
President: and they are accused, not without some show of probability,
of having abused their influence to thwart his election. The President
therefore attacks the establishment which they represent with all the
warmth of personal enmity; and he is encouraged in the pursuit of
his revenge by the conviction that he is supported by the secret
propensities of the majority. The bank may be regarded as the great
monetary tie of the Union, just as Congress is the great legislative
tie; and the same passions which tend to render the States independent
of the central power, contribute to the overthrow of the bank.
The Bank of the United States always holds a great number of the notes
issued by the provincial banks, which it can at any time oblige them to
convert into cash. It has itself nothing to fear from a similar demand,
as the extent of its resources enables it to meet all claims. But
the existence of the provincial banks is thus threatened, and their
operations are restricted, since they are only able to issue a quantity
of notes duly proportioned to their capital. They submit with impatience
to this salutary control. The newspapers which they have bought over,
and the President, whose interest renders him their instrument, attack
the bank with the greatest vehemence. They rouse the local passions and
the blind democratic instinct of the country to aid their cause; and
they assert that the bank directors form a permanent aristocratic body,
whose influence must ultimately be felt in the Government, and must
affect those principles of equality upon which society rests in America.
The contest between the bank and its opponents is only an incident in
the great struggle which is going on in America between the provinces
and the central power; between the spirit of democratic independence
and the spirit of gradation and subordination. I do not mean that the
enemies of the bank are identically the same individuals who, on other
points, attack the Federal Government; but I assert that the attacks
directed against the bank of the United States originate in the same
propensities which militate against the Federal Government; and that the
very numerous opponents of the former afford a deplorable symptom of the
decreasing support of the latter.
The Union has never displayed so much weakness as in the celebrated
question of the tariff. *a The wars of the French Revolution and of 1812
had created manufacturing establishments in the North of the Union,
by cutting off all free communication between America and Europe. When
peace was concluded, and the channel of intercourse reopened by which
the produce of Europe was transmitted to the New World, the Americans
thought fit to establish a system of import duties, for the twofold
purpose of protecting their incipient manufactures and of paying off the
amount of the debt contracted during the war. The Southern States,
which have no manufactures to encourage, and which are exclusively
agricultural, soon complained of this measure. Such were the simple
facts, and I do not pretend to examine in this place whether their
complaints were well founded or unjust.
[Footnote a: See principally for the details of this affair, the
Legislative Documents, 22d Congress, 2d Session, No. 30.]
As early as the year 1820, South Carolina declared, in a petition
to Congress, that the tariff was "unconstitutional, oppressive, and
unjust." And the States of Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama,
and Mississippi subsequently remonstrated against it with more or less
vigor. But Congress, far from lending an ear to these complaints, raised
the scale of tariff duties in the years 1824 and 1828, and recognized
anew the principle on which it was founded. A doctrine was then
proclaimed, or rather revived, in the South, which took the name of
I have shown in the proper place that the object of the Federal
Constitution was not to form a league, but to create a national
government. The Americans of the United States form a sole and undivided
people, in all the cases which are specified by that Constitution; and
upon these points the will of the nation is expressed, as it is in all
constitutional nations, by the voice of the majority. When the majority
has pronounced its decision, it is the duty of the minority to submit.
Such is the sound legal doctrine, and the only one which agrees with the
text of the Constitution, and the known intention of those who framed
The partisans of Nullification in the South maintain, on the contrary,
that the intention of the Americans in uniting was not to reduce
themselves to the condition of one and the same people; that they meant
to constitute a league of independent States; and that each State,
consequently retains its entire sovereignty, if not de facto, at least
de jure; and has the right of putting its own construction upon the laws
of Congress, and of suspending their execution within the limits of its
own territory, if they are held to be unconstitutional and unjust.
The entire doctrine of Nullification is comprised in a sentence uttered
by Vice-President Calhoun, the head of that party in the South,
before the Senate of the United States, in the year 1833: could: "The
Constitution is a compact to which the States were parties in their
sovereign capacity; now, whenever a compact is entered into by parties
which acknowledge no tribunal above their authority to decide in the
last resort, each of them has a right to judge for itself in relation
to the nature, extent, and obligations of the instrument." It is
evident that a similar doctrine destroys the very basis of the Federal
Constitution, and brings back all the evils of the old confederation,
from which the Americans were supposed to have had a safe deliverance.
When South Carolina perceived that Congress turned a deaf ear to its
remonstrances, it threatened to apply the doctrine of nullification to
the federal tariff bill. Congress persisted in its former system; and at
length the storm broke out. In the course of 1832 the citizens of
South Carolina, *b named a national Convention, to consult upon the
extraordinary measures which they were called upon to take; and on
November 24th of the same year this Convention promulgated a law, under
the form of a decree, which annulled the federal law of the tariff,
forbade the levy of the imposts which that law commands, and refused to
recognize the appeal which might be made to the federal courts of law.
*c This decree was only to be put in execution in the ensuing month of
February, and it was intimated, that if Congress modified the tariff
before that period, South Carolina might be induced to proceed no
further with her menaces; and a vague desire was afterwards expressed
of submitting the question to an extraordinary assembly of all the
confederate States. End of section 40