Harper's Weekly 11/04/1865


THE Daily Transcript, of Augusta, Georgia,
in commenting upon some recent remarks
of ours, and with more bitterness than the oc-
casion seems to justify, says that we seriously
insist “upon the acceptance of the trite and
exploded maxim, borrowed from Locke, that
all men—white, red, and black—are born free
and equal, when any body who knows any thing
of the family relation never saw a child born
into a state of freedom or found equality even
among the little circle who acknowledge the
same parentage.”

The Transcript is mistaken in supposing that
the doctrine of the natural rights of man is bor-
rowed from Locke, or is exploded, or is any
the less true because Rufus Choate called it
a glittering generality. Jefferson in the Dec-
laration of Independence, and all the fathers of
this country, said with perfect accuracy, that it
is a self-evident truth. But the equality as-
serted by them is not an equality of condition
or of capacity, any more than of height or
weight. The fathers defined the natural rights
of which they spoke. They were the equal
right of every man to life, liberty, and the pur-
suit of happiness. They declared the very ob-
ject of government to be the protection of these
rights, and that experience had proved the best
system for that purpose was a government of
all the people, not of a class, nor of a family,
nor of a race. This was what they meant by
saying that governments justly exist by the con-
sent of the governed; for experience also proves
that the rule of one man, or of one family, or
of one class, or of one race, is, in the long-
run, unjust and oppressive. If the Transcript
denies it, it must settle its account with history
and human nature. Government exists for
man. The destruction of natural rights inevit-
ably plunges society into war. The practical
question, therefore, always is, how shall those
rights be best secured.

The Transcript speaks of “Government mak-
ing laws for its citizens,” as if governments
were elemental forces. But they are not.
They are human devices. The Transcript may
think that a monarchy or an oligarchy is the
best device. We do not. We believe that to
be the best which springs from the consent of
the governed; and we hold that every political
community being morally bound to defend all
the natural rights of its individual members
should impose no qualification for an equal
voice in the government which excludes any
great number of them or which may not be
readily attained by all. Hence nothing was
unsounder or more un-American than Mr.
Douglas's doctrine of Squatter Sovereignty,
which was nothing but an assertion of the right
of a numerical majority to deprive a minority
of their natural rights. He confounded might
with right. But as good morals and good pol-
icy are at last identical, the government which
most fully secures the natural rights of every
citizen will be the most permanent, the most
peaceful, and the most prosperous.

The Transcript further says: “It is ineffa-
bly mean to urge on a war for the sake of the
, as Harper's man has done; and then
when the defeated States are returning, in the
observance of all the conditions required by the
Executive, to attempt to keep them out of the Union
by jeers and innuendoes and affectations of panic
terror.” The Transcript is again mistaken. We
have no more desire to keep any State out of
the Union than the President has. We wish
merely to take care that the Union shall be as
surely, as it is likely to be swiftly, restored.
It is a real Union at which we aim, not im-
periled by distracting elements. In the sen-
tence next to that we have quoted the Tran-
speaks of the Union as “the ancient
League.” In a late letter to the editor of
Harper's Magazine General Beauregard speaks
of the measures of the late rebel leaders as
“our national affairs,” and of Jefferson
as “our chief magistrate.” We do not
think that persons who hold such views of the
late rebellion and of the character of the Unit-
ed States Government are safe depositaries of
the honor of that Government. Men who hold
the Union to be “a League,” and the late con-
spiracy a “national” government, will not be
likely to vote taxes to pay for the expense of
compelling them to remain in the League or
for the cost of overthrowing that “nation.”
We neither jeer nor taunt when we say that
we do not believe the Union would be secure
if such were the views of Congress. Will the
Transcript tell us why the votes of men should
be trusted as sincerely favorable to the Union,
whose arms, yesterday raised to destroy it, were
no laid down, but were overpowered by su-
perior force, while the men themselves pro-
fess the same opinions as those which led them
to raise their arms?

Our view is that the United States Govern-
ment is morally bound to require every thing
of its lately rebellious citizens which it deems
essential to the security of the Union, which it
has maintained by so long and terrible a strug-
gle. Certainly those who saved that Govern-
ment are equally bound not to insult their
baffled fellow-citizens. But they are also not
less bound to treat with contempt the charge
that they are hostile to reunion, because they
are averse to haste, and advise the utmost
care, and prudence, and sagacity in the work
of reorganization.

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