CHAPTER III. THE CAUSES OF THE WAR.
The Southern States were driven into rebellion by no wrongs inflicted on them; but their desire for secession is not on that account matter for astonishment. It would have been surprising had they not desired secession. Secession of one kind, a very practical secession, had already been forced upon them by circumstances. They had become a separate people, dissevered from the North by habits, morals, institutions, pursuits, and every conceivable difference in their modes of thought and action. They still spoke the same language, as do Austria and Prussia; but beyond that tie of language they had no bond but that of a meager political union in their Congress at Washington. Slavery, as it had been expelled from the North, and as it had come to be welcomed in the South, had raised such a wall of difference that true political union was out of the question. It would be juster, perhaps, to say that those physical characteristics of the South which had induced this welcoming of slavery, and those other characteristics of the North which had induced its expulsion, were the true causes of the difference. For years and years this has been felt by both, and the fight has been going on. It has been continued for thirty years, and almost always to the detriment of the South. In 1845 Florida and Texas were admitted into the Union as slave States. I think that no State had then been admitted, as a free State, since Michigan, in 1836. In 1846 Iowa was admitted as a free State, and from that day to this Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Kansas have been brought into the Union; all as free States. The annexation of another slave State to the existing Union had become, I imagine, impossible - unless such object were gained by the admission of Texas. We all remember that fight about Kansas, and what sort of a fight it was! Kansas lies alongside of Missouri, a slave State, and is contiguous to no other State. If the free-soil party could, in the days of Pierce and Buchanan, carry the day in Kansas, it is not likely that they would be beaten on any new ground under such a President as Lincoln. We have all heard in Europe how Southern men have ruled in the White House, nearly from the days of Washington downward; or if not Southern men, Northern men, such as Pierce and Buchanan, with Southern politics; and therefore we have been taught to think that the South has been politically the winning party. They have, in truth, been the losing party as regards national power. But what they have so lost they have hitherto recovered by political address and individual statecraft. The leading men of the South have seen their position, and have gone to their work with the exercise of all their energies. They organized the Democratic party so as to include the leaders among the Northern politicians. They never begrudged to these assistants a full share of the good things of official life. They have been aided by the fanatical abolitionism of the North by which the Republican party has been divided into two sections. It has been fashionable to be a Democrat, that is, to hold Southern politics, and unfashionable to be a Republican, or to hold anti-Southern politics. In that way the South has lived and struggled on against the growing will of the population; but at last that will became too strong, and when Mr. Lincoln was elected, the South knew that its day was over.
It is not surprising that the South should have desired secession. It is not surprising that it should have prepared for it. Since the days of Mr. Calhoun its leaders have always understood its position with a fair amount of political accuracy. Its only chance of political life lay in prolonged ascendency at Washington. The swelling crowds of Germans, by whom the Western States were being filled, enlisted themselves to a man in the ranks of abolition. What was the acquisition of Texas against such hosts as these? An evil day was coming on the Southern politicians, and it behooved them to be prepared. As a separate nation - a nation trusting to cotton, having in their hands, as they imagined, a monopoly of the staple of English manufacture, with a tariff of their own, and those rabid curses on the source of all their wealth no longer ringing in their ears, what might they not do as a separate nation? But as a part of the Union, they were too weak to hold their own if once their political finesse should fail them. That day came upon them, not unexpected, in 1860, and therefore they cut the cable.
And all this has come from slavery. It is hard enough, for how could the South have escaped slavery? How, at least, could the South have escaped slavery any time during these last thirty years? And is it, moreover, so certain that slavery is an unmitigated evil, opposed to God's will, and producing all the sorrows which have ever been produced by tyranny and wrong? It is here, after all, that one comes to the difficult question. Here is the knot which the fingers of men cannot open, and which admits of no sudden cutting with the knife. I have likened the slaveholding States to the drunken husband, and in so doing have pronounced judgment against them. As regards the state of the drunken man, his unfitness for partnership with any decent, diligent, well-to-do wife, his ruined condition, and shattered prospects, the simile, I think, holds good. But I refrain from saying that as the fault was originally with the drunkard in that he became such, so also has the fault been with the slave States. At any rate I refrain from so saying here, on this page. That the position of a slaveowner is terribly prejudicial, not to the slave, of whom I do not here speak, but to the owner; of so much at any rate I feel assured. That the position is therefore criminal and damnable, I am not now disposed to take upon myself to assert.