Harper's Weekly 01/13/1866


THE SITUATION.

That General Wade Hampton was received
with all the honors by the Legislature of Ala-
bama, and responded to their acclamations by
eulogizing the noble and heroic effort of the
people of that State to destroy the United
States Government for the glorious purpose of
perpetuating and extending human slavery, is
not a surprising event. It is in strict accord
with the other demonstrations in the lately in-
surgent States, which have not been directly
coerced by the National Government. It is
akin to the election of General Humphreys over
the Union candidate, as Governor of Missis-
sippi, and the defeat of the representative
Unionist, Mr. Holden, as Governor of North
Carolina; and illustrates what no well-informed
person denies, that proved fidelity to the rebell-
ion is the present ground of popularity and pub-
lic confidence at the South.


Such things we say are not amazing. They
are natural. They were to be expected. It
is foolish to ask men to change their opinions
because they have been overpowered, or to love
the hand which smites and subdues them. How
foolish it is to ask it may be seen not only from
the study of human nature in general, but of
Southern human nature in particular. The
talk of the rebel officers who swarm in the large
Northern cities, and of the “society” which
“sympathizes with the South;” the action and
debates of the Conventions in the Southern
States; the elections; the reluctant assent to
the most imperative national requirements;
the reports which come through every source—
military, mercantile, religious, social, private,
and official—from the late rebel section, all
confirm the truth of the statement that the con-
dition of the South is just what was to be ex-
pected, hostile and defiant.


Some of the States have accepted the eman-
cipation amendment, have repudiated their
rebel debt, have revoked their acts of seces-
sion, and have granted a certain form of equal-
ity in the courts, simply because they could
not help themselves. Or are we mistaken?
Have South Carolina and Mississippi passed
the amendment heartily and freely? Is the
fraternal intercourse of the great churches be-
ginning again? Is trade rapidly reviving? Is
immigration setting copiously toward the South?
Is there an evident determination to make the
best of it?


We hope there may be, but will any candid
man say that there is any proof of it? General
Grant reports that leading men told him that
the decision of battle was accepted as final;
but the General adds that he found no loyal
men who “thought it practicable to withdraw
the military from the South at present.” The
reasons are obvious.


Now we do not care to be told again that
this condition of the public mind at the South
is natural and to be expected. We grant it
freely; but that is not the whole truth. When
that is said much more remains to be said be-
fore you have accurately defined the situation.
If the mass of the voting population in the
Southern States be naturally and inevitably hos-
tile to the Government, is it not essential to be
very cautious and sagacious about intrusting
them with a share in the control of the Govern-
ment? If it be difficult to say how the Union
is to prosper while some of the States are un-
represented, it is not at all difficult to say how
the Government will fare in hostile hands.
There are difficulties and dangers in every pol-
icy proposed. If it be true that confidence be-
gets confidence, it is no less true that party
spirit in a section of the country has proved to
be stronger than patriotism, and that experience
has kept a dear school for the United States.
The work we have to do can not be done in a
moment. If ever a nation ought to make haste
slowly, we ought to do so now.


We do not anticipate any general armed
resistance in the disaffected part of the coun-
try. We do not believe that any attempt will
be made to restore exactly the system of slav-
ery which has been abolished. And unquestion-
ably as a free press and free discussion gradu-
ally penetrate the South, and immigration turns
thither, and the passions of trade are revived,
the heaving waves will be slowly stilled and
there will be peace.


But our practical question is how to hasten
the operation of all these influences? The
radically disturbing element at the South is the
overthrow of its industrial system, which was
the basis of its political system and the spring
of all its political heresies. Its industrial pop-
ulation is a very large proportion of the whole.
Colonization, exportation, and all other dainty
devices of drainage are out of the question.
The colored population will remain upon its
native soil. It is impossible that it should very
long remain peaceably as a purely pariah class.
Even the Raleigh Progress, which makes oppo-
sition to equal suffrage the test of Unionism in
North Carolina, confesses that it is sure to
come. And is it not clear that until it does
come there will not be that condition in the
Southern States which will give the pacifying
influences fair play? So long as a large class
of the population is subject to unfair laws there
will be no temptation to immigration or trade,
and free speech will be constantly threatened.
So long, consequently, there will be no har-
mony or peace.


No man who really understands the charac-
ter of our Government, and accepts from con-
viction the principles upon which it is founded,
as they are impressively stated by President
Johnson in his Message, can believe that there
will be any actual pacification of the country
until this fundamental point of political equal-
ity is settled. The question, then, is vital and
imminent. Reasoning from evidence and hu-
man nature, have we any right to suppose that
the present voting population will, without fur-
ther suggestion from the National Government
—in other words, from the people of the United
States—take, within this generation, the neces-
sary steps to settle the question of political
rights in such a manner as to promise speedy
peace and reunion? Or, to put it in the other
way, will the true welfare of the country be
more endangered by the immediate admission
of the unrepresented States, seeing and know-
ing what we do—or by requiring, as a prece-
dent condition, in addition to the amendment
to which their assent has already been required
by the President, and for the purpose of secur-
ing its rightful intent, a further amendment
apportioning representation to the number of
voters?


There is no occasion for heat and fury in the
discussion of the question. All loyal men have
but one great object in view, and that is the
earliest real—not nominal or ceremonial—re-
union. And it is very foolish for those who
differ upon the question of method to denounce
each other as reprobates or malcontents.



Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com