From Boston, on the 27th of November, my wife returned to England, leaving me to prosecute my journey southward to Washington by myself. I shall never forget the political feeling which prevailed in Boston at that time, or the discussions on the subject of Slidell and Mason, in which I felt myself bound to take a part. Up to that period I confess that my sympathies had been strongly with the Northern side in the general question; and so they were still, as far as I could divest the matter of its English bearings. I have always thought, and do think, that a war for the suppression of the Southern rebellion could not have been avoided by the North without an absolute loss of its political prestige. Mr. Lincoln was elected President of the United States in the autumn of 1860, and any steps taken by him or his party toward a peaceable solution of the difficulties which broke out immediately on his election must have been taken before he entered upon his office. South Carolina threatened secession as soon as Mr. Lincoln’s election was known, while yet there were four months left of Mr. Buchanan’s government. That Mr. Buchanan might, during those four months, have prevented secession, few men, I think, will doubt when the history of the time shall be written. But instead of doing so he consummated secession. Mr. Buchanan is a Northern man, a Pennsylvanian; but he was opposed to the party which had brought in Mr. Lincoln, having thriven as a politician by his adherence to Southern principles. Now, when the struggle came, he could not forget his party in his duty as President. General Jackson’s position was much the same when Mr. Calhoun, on the question of the tariff, endeavored to produce secession in South Carolina thirty years ago, in 1832 — excepting in this, that Jackson was himself a Southern man. But Jackson had a strong conception of the position which he held as President of the United States. He put his foot on secession and crushed it, forcing Mr. Calhoun, as Senator from South Carolina, to vote for that compromise as to the tariff which the government of the day proposed. South Carolina was as eager in 1832 for secession as she was in 1859-60; but the government was in the hands of a strong man and an honest one. Mr. Calhoun would have been hung had he carried out his threats. But Mr. Buchanan had neither the power nor the honesty of General Jackson, and thus secession was in fact consummated during his Presidency.
But Mr. Lincoln’s party, it is said — and I believe truly said — might have prevented secession by making overtures to the South, or accepting overtures from the South, before Mr. Lincoln himself had been inaugurated. That is to say, if Mr. Lincoln and the band of politicians who with him had pushed their way to the top of their party, and were about to fill the offices of State, chose to throw overboard the political convictions which had bound them together and insured their success — if they could bring themselves to adopt on the subject of slavery the ideas of their opponents — then the war might have been avoided, and secession also avoided. I do believe that had Mr. Lincoln at that time submitted himself to a compromise in favor of the Democrats, promising the support of the government to certain acts which would in fact have been in favor of slavery, South Carolina would again have been foiled for the time. For it must be understood, that though South Carolina and the Gulf States might have accepted certain compromises, they would not have been satisfied in so accepting them. The desired secession, and nothing short of secession, would in truth have been acceptable to them. But in doing so Mr. Lincoln would have been the most dishonest politician even in America. The North would have been in arms against him; and any true spirit of agreement between the cotton-growing slave States and the manufacturing States of the North, or the agricultural States of the West, would have been as far off and as improbable as it is now. Mr. Crittenden, who proffered his compromise to the Senate in December, 1860, was at that time one of the two Senators from Kentucky, a slave State. He now sits in the Lower House of Congress as a member from the same State. Kentucky is one of those border States which has found it impossible to secede, and almost equally impossible to remain in the Union. It is one of the States into which it was most probable that the war would be carried — Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri being the three States which have suffered the most in this way. Of Mr. Crittenden’s own family, some have gone with secession and some with the Union. His name had been honorably connected with American politics for nearly forty years, and it is not surprising that he should have desired a compromise. His terms were in fact these — a return to the Missouri compromise, under which the Union pledged itself that no slavery should exist north of 36.30 degrees N. lat., unless where it had so existed prior to the date of that compromise; a pledge that Congress would not interfere with slavery in the individual States — which under the Constitution it cannot do; and a pledge that the Fugitive Slave Law should be carried out by the Northern States. Such a compromise might seem to make very small demand on the forbearance of the Republican party, which was now dominant. The repeal of the Missouri compromise had been to them a loss, and it might be said that its re-enactment would be a gain. But since that compromise had been repealed, vast territories south of the line in question had been added to the union, and the re-enactment of that compromise would hand those vast regions over to absolute slavery, as had been done with Texas. This might be all very well for Mr. Crittenden in the slave State of Kentucky — for Mr. Crittenden, although a slave owner, desired to perpetuate the Union; but it would not have been well for New England or for the West. As for the second proposition, it is well understood that under the Constitution Congress cannot interfere in any way in the question of slavery in the individual States. Congress has no more constitutional power to abolish slavery in Maryland than she has to introduce it into Massachusetts. No such pledge, therefore, was necessary on either side. But such a pledge given by the North and West would have acted as an additional tie upon them, binding them to the finality of a constitutional enactment to which, as was of course well known, they strongly object. There was no question of Congress interfering with slavery, with the purport of extending its area by special enactment, and therefore by such a pledge the North and West could gain nothing; but the South would in prestige have gained much.
But that third proposition as to the Fugitive Slave Law and the faithful execution of that law by the Northern and Western States would, if acceded to by Mr. Lincoln’s party, have amounted to an unconditional surrender of everything. What! Massachusetts and Connecticut carry out the Fugitive Slave Law? Ohio carry out the Fugitive Slave Law after the “Dred Scott” decision and all its consequences? Mr. Crittenden might as well have asked Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ohio to introduce slavery within their own lands. The Fugitive Slave Law was then, as it is now, the law of the land; it was the law of the United States as voted by Congress, and passed by the President, and acted on by the supreme judge of the United States Court. But it was a law to which no free State had submitted itself, or would submit itself. “What!” the English reader will say, “sundry States in the Union refuse to obey the laws of the Union — refuse to submit to the constitutional action of their own Congress?” Yes. Such has been the position of this country! To such a dead lock has it been brought by the attempted but impossible amalgamation of North and South. Mr. Crittenden’s compromise was moonshine. It was utterly out of the question that the free States should bind themselves to the rendition of escaped slaves, or that Mr. Lincoln, who had just been brought in by their voices, should agree to any compromise which should attempt so to bind them. Lord Palmerston might as well attempt to reenact the Corn Laws.
Then comes the question whether Mr. Lincoln or his government could have prevented the war after he had entered upon his office in March, 1861? I do not suppose that any one thinks that he could have avoided secession and avoided the war also; that by any ordinary effort of government he could have secured the adhesion of the Gulf States to the Union after the first shot had been fired at Fort Sumter. The general opinion in England is, I take it, this — that secession then was manifestly necessary, and that all the blood-shed and money-shed, and all this destruction of commerce and of agriculture might have been prevented by a graceful adhesion to an indisputable fact. But there are some facts, even some indisputable facts, to which a graceful adherence is not possible. Could King Bomba have welcomed Garibaldi to Naples? Can the Pope shake hands with Victor Emmanuel? Could the English have surrendered to their rebel colonists peaceable possession of the colonies? The indisputability of a fact is not very easily settled while the circumstances are in course of action by which the fact is to be decided. The men of the Northern States have not believed in the necessity of secession, but have believed it to be their duty to enforce the adherence of these States to the Union. The American governments have been much given to compromises, but had Mr. Lincoln attempted any compromise by which any one Southern State could have been let out of the Union, he would have been impeached. In all probability the whole Constitution would have gone to ruin, and the Presidency would have been at an end. At any rate, his Presidency would have been at an end. When secession, or in other words rebellion, was once commenced, he had no alternative but the use of coercive measures for putting it down — that is, he had no alternative but war. It is not to be supposed that he or his ministry contemplated such a war as has existed — with 600,000 men in arms on one side, each man with his whole belongings maintained at a cost of 150l. per annum, or ninety millions sterling per annum for the army. Nor did we when we resolved to put down the French revolution think of such a national debt as we now owe. These things grow by degrees, and the mind also grows in becoming used to them; but I cannot see that there was any moment at which Mr. Lincoln could have stayed his hand and cried peace. It is easy to say now that acquiescence in secession would have been better than war, but there has been no moment when he could have said so with any avail. It was incumbent on him to put down rebellion, or to be put down by it. So it was with us in America in 1776.
I do not think that we in England have quite sufficiently taken all this into consideration. We have been in the habit of exclaiming very loudly against the war, execrating its cruelty and anathematizing its results, as though the cruelty were all superfluous and the results unnecessary. But I do not remember to have seen any statement as to what the Northern States should have done — what they should have done, that is, as regards the South, or when they should have done it. It seems to me that we have decided as regards them that civil war is a very bad thing, and that therefore civil war should be avoided. But bad things cannot always be avoided. It is this feeling on our part that has produced so much irritation in them against us — reproducing, of course, irritation on our part against them. They cannot understand that we should not wish them to be successful in putting down a rebellion; nor can we understand why they should be outrageous against us for standing aloof, and keeping our hands, if it be only possible, out of the fire.
When Slidell and Mason were arrested, my opinions were not changed, but my feelings were altered. I seemed to acknowledge to myself that the treatment to which England had been subjected, and the manner in which that treatment was discussed, made it necessary that I should regard the question as it existed between England and the States, rather than in its reference to the North and South. I had always felt that as regarded the action of our government we had been sans reproche; that in arranging our conduct we had thought neither of money nor political influence, but simply of the justice of the case — promising to abstain from all interference and keeping that promise faithfully. It had been quite clear to me that the men of the North, and the women also, had failed to appreciate this, looking, as men in a quarrel always do look, for special favor on their side. Everything that England did was wrong. If a private merchant, at his own risk, took a cargo of rifles to some Southern port, that act to Northern eyes was an act of English interference — of favor shown to the South by England as a nation; but twenty shiploads of rifles sent from England to the North merely signified a brisk trade and a desire for profit. The “James Adger,” a Northern man-of-war, was refitted at Southampton as a matter of course. There was no blame to England for that. But the Nashville, belonging to the Confederates, should not have been allowed into English waters. It was useless to speak of neutrality. No Northerner would understand that a rebel could have any mutual right. The South had no claim in his eyes as a belligerent, though the North claimed all those rights which he could only enjoy by the fact of there being a recognized war between him and his enemy the South. The North was learning to hate England, and day by day the feeling grew upon me that, much as I wished to espouse the cause of the North, I should have to espouse the cause of my own country. Then Slidell and Mason were arrested, and I began to calculate how long I might remain in the country. “There is no danger. We are quite right,” the lawyers said. “There are Vattel, and Puffendorff, and Stowell, and Phillimore, and Wheaton,” said the ladies. “Ambassadors are contraband all the world over — more so than gunpowder; and if taken in a neutral bottom,” etc. I wonder why ships are always called bottoms when spoken of with legal technicality? But neither the lawyers nor the ladies convinced me. I know that there are matters which will be read not in accordance with any written law, but in accordance with the bias of the reader’s mind. Such laws are made to be strained any way. I knew how it would be. All the legal acumen of New England declared the seizure of Slidell and Mason to be right. The legal acumen of Old England has declared it to be wrong; and I have no doubt that the ladies of Old England can prove it to be wrong out of Yattel, Puffendorff, Stowell, Phillimore, and Wheaton.
“But there’s Grotius,” I said, to an elderly female at New York, who had quoted to me some half dozen writers on international law, thinking thereby that I should trump her last card. “I’ve looked into Grotius too,” said she, “and as far as I can see,” etc. etc. etc. So I had to fall back again on the convictions to which instinct and common sense had brought me. I never doubted for a moment that those convictions would be supported by English lawyers.
I left Boston with a sad feeling at my heart that a quarrel was imminent between England and the States, and that any such quarrel must be destructive to the cause of the North. I had never believed that the States of New England and the Gulf States would again become parts of one nation, but I had thought that the terms of separation would be dictated by the North, and not by the South. I had felt assured that South Carolina and the Gulf States, across from the Atlantic to Texas, would succeed in forming themselves into a separate confederation; but I had still hoped that Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri might be saved to the grander empire of the North, and that thus a great blow to slavery might be the consequence of this civil war. But such ascendency could only fall to the North by reason of their command of the sea. The Northern ports were all open, and the Southern ports were all closed. But if this should be reversed. If by England’s action the Southern ports should be opened, and the Northern ports closed, the North could have no fair expectation of success. The ascendency in that case would all be with the South. Up to that moment — the Christmas of 1861 — Maryland was kept in subjection by the guns which General Dix had planted over the City of Baltimore. Two-thirds of Virginia were in active rebellion, coerced originally into that position by her dependence for the sale of her slaves on the cotton States. Kentucky was doubtful, and divided. When the Federal troops prevailed, Kentucky was loyal; when the Confederate troops prevailed, Kentucky was rebellious. The condition in Missouri was much the same. These four States, by two of which the capital, with its District of Columbia, is surrounded, might be gained or might be lost. And these four States are susceptible of white labor — as much so as Ohio and Illinois — are rich in fertility, and rich also in all associations which must be dear to Americans. Without Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky, without the Potomac, the Chesapeake, and Mount Vernon, the North would indeed be shorn of its glory! But it seemed to be in the power of the North to say under what terms secession should take place, and where should be the line. A Senator from South Carolina could never again sit in the same chamber with one from Massachusetts; but there need be no such bar against the border States. So much might at any rate be gained, and might stand hereafter as the product of all that money spent on 600,000 soldiers. But if the Northerners should now elect to throw themselves into a quarrel with England, if in the gratification of a shameless braggadocio they should insist on doing what they liked, not only with their own, but with the property of all others also, it certainly did seem as though utter ruin must await their cause. With England, or one might say with Europe, against them, secession must be accomplished, not on Northern terms, but on terms dictated by the South. The choice was then for them to make; and just at that time it seemed as though they were resolved to throw away every good card out of their hand. Such had been the ministerial wisdom of Mr. Seward. I remember hearing the matter discussed in easy terms by one of the United States Senators. “Remember, Mr. Trollope,” he said to me, “we don’t want a war with England. If the choice is given to us, we had rather not fight England. Fighting is a bad thing. But remember this also, Mr. Trollope, that if the matter is pressed on us, we have no great objection. We had rather not, but we don’t care much one way or the other.” What one individual may say to another is not of much moment, but this Senator was expressing the feelings of his constituents, who were the legislature of the State from whence he came. He was expressing the general idea on the subject of a large body of Americans. It was not that he and his State had really no objection to the war. Such a war loomed terribly large before the minds of them all. They know it to be fraught with the saddest consequences. It was so regarded in the mind of that Senator. But the braggadocio could not be omitted. Had be omitted it, he would have been untrue to his constituency.
When I left Boston for Washington, nothing was as yet known of what the English government or the English lawyers might say. This was in the first week in December, and the expected voice from England could not be heard till the end of the second week. It was a period of great suspense, and of great sorrow also to the more sober-minded Americans. To me the idea of such a war was terrible. It seemed that in these days all the hopes of our youth were being shattered. That poetic turning of the sword into a sickle, which gladdened our hearts ten or twelve years since, had been clean banished from men’s minds. To belong to a peace party was to be either a fanatic, an idiot, or a driveler. The arts of war had become everything. Armstrong guns, themselves indestructible but capable of destroying everything within sight, and most things out of sight, were the only recognized results of man’s inventive faculties. To build bigger, stronger, and more ships than the French was England’s glory. To hit a speck with a rifle bullet at 800 yards distance was an Englishman’s first duty. The proper use for a young man’s leisure hours was the practice of drilling. All this had come upon us with very quick steps since the beginning of the Russian war. But if fighting must needs be done, one did not feel special grief at fighting a Russian. That the Indian mutiny should be put down was a matter of course. That those Chinese rascals should be forced into the harness of civilization was a good thing. That England should be as strong as France — or, perhaps, if possible a little stronger — recommended itself to an Englishman’s mind as a State necessity. But a war with the States of America! In thinking of it I began to believe that the world was going backward. Over sixty millions sterling of stock — railway stock and such like — are held in America by Englishmen, and the chances would be that before such a war could be finished the whole of that would be confiscated. Family connections between the States and the British isles are almost as close as between one of those islands and another. The commercial intercourse between the two countries has given bread to millions of Englishmen, and a break in it would rob millions of their bread. These people speak our language, use our prayers, read our books, are ruled by our laws, dress themselves in our image, are warm with our blood. They have all our virtues; and their vices are our own too, loudly as we call out against them. They are our sons and our daughters, the source of our greatest pride, and as we grow old they should be the staff of our age. Such a war as we should now wage with the States would be an unloosing of hell upon all that is best upon the world’s surface. If in such a war we beat the Americans, they with their proud stomachs would never forgive us. If they should be victors, we should never forgive ourselves. I certainly could not bring myself to speak of it with the equanimity of my friend the Senator.
I went through New York to Philadelphia, and made a short visit to the latter town. Philadelphia seems to me to have thrown off its Quaker garb, and to present itself to the world in the garments ordinarily assumed by large cities — by which I intend to express my opinion that the Philadelphians are not, in these latter days, any better than their neighbors. I am not sure whether in some respects they may not perhaps be worse. Quakers — Quakers absolutely in the very flesh of close bonnets and brown knee-breeches — are still to be seen there; but they are not numerous, and would not strike the eye if one did not specially look for a Quaker at Philadelphia. It is a large town, with a very large hotel — there are no doubt half a dozen large hotels, but one of them is specially great — with long, straight streets, good shops and markets, and decent, comfortable-looking houses. The houses of Philadelphia generally are not so large as those of other great cities in the States. They are more modest than those of New York, and less commodious than those of Boston. Their most striking appendage is the marble steps at the front doors. Two doors, as a rule, enjoy one set of steps, on the outer edges of which there is generally no parapet or raised curb-stone. This, to my eye, gave the houses an unfinished appearance — as though the marble ran short, and no further expenditure could be made. The frost came when I was there, and then all these steps were covered up in wooden cases.
The City of Philadelphia lies between the two rivers, the Delaware and the Schuylkill. Eight chief streets run from river to river, and twenty-four principal cross-streets bisect the eight at right angles. The cross-streets are all called by their numbers. In the long streets the numbers of the houses are not consecutive, but follow the numbers of the cross-streets; so that a person living on Chestnut Street between Tenth Street and Eleventh Street, and ten doors from Tenth Street, would live at No. 1010. The opposite house would be No. 1011. It thus follows that the number of the house indicates the exact block of houses in which it is situated. I do not like the right-angled building of these towns, nor do I like the sound of Twentieth Street and Thirtieth Street; but I must acknowledge that the arrangement in Philadelphia has its convenience. In New York I found it by no means an easy thing to arrive at the desired locality.
They boast in Philadelphia that they have half a million inhabitants. If this be taken as a true calculation, Philadelphia is in size the fourth city in the world — putting out of the question the cities of China, as to which we have heard so much and believe so little. But in making this calculation the citizens include the population of a district on some sides ten miles distant from Philadelphia. It takes in other towns, connected with it by railway but separated by large spaces of open country. American cities are very proud of their population; but if they all counted in this way, there would soon be no rural population left at all. There is a very fine bank at Philadelphia, and Philadelphia is a town somewhat celebrated in its banking history. My remarks here, however, apply simply to the external building, and not to its internal honesty and wisdom, or to its commercial credit.
In Philadelphia also stands the old house of Congress — the house in which the Congress of the United States was held previous to 1800, when the government and the Congress with it were moved to the new City of Washington. I believe, however, that the first Congress, properly so called, was assembled at New York in 1789, the date of the inauguration of the first President. It was, however, here in this building at Philadelphia that the independence of the Union was declared in 1776, and that the Constitution of the United States was framed.
Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia for its capital, was once the leading State of the Union, leading by a long distance. At the end of the last century it beat all the other States in population, but has since been surpassed by New York in all respects — in population, commerce, wealth, and general activity. Of course it is known that Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn, the Quaker, by Charles II. I cannot completely understand what was the meaning of such grants — how far they implied absolute possession in the territory, or how far they confirmed simply the power of settling and governing a colony. In this case a very considerable property was confirmed; as the claim made by Penn’s children, after Penn’s death, was bought up by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 130,000l., which, in those days, was a large price for almost any landed estate on the other side of the Atlantic.
Pennsylvania lies directly on the borders of slave land, being immediately north of Maryland. Mason and Dixon’s line, of which we hear so often, and which was first established as the division between slave soil and free soil, runs between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The little State of Delaware, which lies between Maryland and the Atlantic, is also tainted with slavery, but the stain is not heavy nor indelible. In a population of a hundred and twelve thousand, there are not two thousand slaves, and of these the owners generally would willingly rid themselves if they could. It is, however, a point of honor with these owners, as it is also in Maryland, not to sell their slaves; and a man who cannot sell his slaves must keep them. Were he to enfranchise them and send them about their business, they would come back upon his hands. Were he to enfranchise them and pay them wages for work, they would get the wages, but he would not get the work. They would get the wages; but at the end of three months they would still fall back upon his hands in debt and distress, looking to him for aid and comfort as a child looks for it. It is not easy to get rid of a slave in a slave State. That question of enfranchising slaves is not one to be very readily solved.
In Pennsylvania the right of voting is confined to free white men. In New York the colored free men have the right to vote, providing they have a certain small property qualification, and have been citizens for three years in the State, whereas a white man need have been a citizen but for ten days, and need have no property qualification — from which it is seen that the position of the negro becomes worse, or less like that of a white man, as the border of slave land is more nearly reached. But, in the teeth of this embargo on colored men, the constitution of Pennsylvania asserts broadly that all men are born equally free and independent. One cannot conceive how two clauses can have found their way into the same document so absolutely contradictory to each other. The first clause says that white men shall vote, and that black men shall not — which means that all political action shall be confined to white men. The second clause says that all men are born equally free and independent.
In Philadelphia I for the first time came across live secessionists — secessionists who pronounced themselves to be such. I will not say that I had met in other cities men who falsely declared themselves true to the Union; but I had fancied, in regard to some, that their words were a little stronger than their feelings. When a man’s bread — and, much more, when the bread of his wife and children — depends on his professing a certain line of political conviction, it is very hard for him to deny his assent to the truth of the argument. One feels that a man, under such circumstances, is bound to be convinced, unless he be in a position which may make a stanch adherence to opposite politics a matter of grave public importance. In the North I had fancied that I could sometimes read a secessionist tendency under a cloud of Unionist protestations. But in Philadelphia men did not seem to think it necessary to have recourse to such a cloud. I generally found, in mixed society, that even there the discussion of secession was not permitted; but in society that was not mixed I heard very strong opinions expressed on each side. With the Unionists nothing was so strong as the necessity of keeping of Slidell and Mason; when I suggested that the English government would probably require their surrender, I was talked down and ridiculed. “Never that — come what may.” Then, within half an hour, I would be told by a secessionist that England must demand reparation if she meant to retain any place among the great nations of the world; but he also would declare that the men would not be surrendered. “She must make the demand,” the secessionists would say, “and then there will be war; and after that we shall see whose ports will be blockaded!” The Southerner has ever looked to England for some breach of the blockade quite as strongly as the North has looked to England for sympathy and aid in keeping it.
The railway from Philadelphia to Baltimore passes along the top of Chesapeake Bay and across the Susquehanna River; at least the railway cars do so. On one side of that river they are run on to a huge ferry-boat, and are again run off at the other side. Such an operation would seem to be one of difficulty to us under any circumstances; but as the Susquehanna is a tidal river, rising and falling a considerable number of feet, the natural impediment in the way of such an enterprise would, I think, have staggered us. We should have built a bridge costing two or three millions sterling, on which no conceivable amount of traffic would pay a fair dividend. Here, in crossing the Susquehanna, the boat is so constructed that its deck shall be level with the line of the railway at half tide, so that the inclined plane from the shore down to the boat, or from the shore up to the boat, shall never exceed half the amount of the rise or fall. One would suppose that the most intricate machinery would have been necessary for such an arrangement; but it was all rough and simple, and apparently managed by two negroes. We would employ a small corps of engineers to conduct such an operation, and men and women would be detained in their carriages under all manner of threats as to the peril of life and limb; but here everybody was expected to look out for himself. The cars were dragged up the inclined plane by a hawser attached to an engine, which hawser, had the stress broken it, as I could not but fancy probable, would have flown back and cut to pieces a lot of us who were standing in front of the car. But I do not think that any such accident would have caused very much attention. Life and limbs are not held to be so precious here as they are in England. It may be a question whether with us they are not almost too precious. Regarding railways in America generally, as to the relative safety of which, when compared with our own, we have not in England a high opinion, I must say that I never saw any accident or in any way became conversant with one. It is said that large numbers of men and women are slaughtered from time to time on different lines; but if it be so, the newspapers make very light of such cases. I myself have seen no such slaughter, nor have I even found myself in the vicinity of a broken bone. Beyond the Susquehanna we passed over a creek of Chesapeake Bay on a long bridge. The whole scenery here is very pretty, and the view up the Susquehanna is fine. This is the bay which divides the State of Maryland into two parts, and which is blessed beyond all other bays by the possession of canvas-back ducks. Nature has done a great deal for the State of Maryland, but in nothing more than in sending thither these webfooted birds of Paradise.
Nature has done a great deal for Maryland; and Fortune also has done much for it in these latter days in directing the war from its territory. But for the peculiar position of Washington as the capital, all that is now being done in Virginia would have been done in Maryland, and I must say that the Marylanders did their best to bring about such a result. Had the presence of the war been regarded by the men of Baltimore as an unalloyed benefit, they could not have made a greater struggle to bring it close to them. Nevertheless fate has so far spared them.
As the position of Maryland and the course of events as they took place in Baltimore on the commencement of secession had considerable influence both in the North and in the South, I will endeavor to explain how that State was affected, and how the question was affected by that State. Maryland, as I have said before, is a slave State lying immediately south of Mason and Dixon’s line. Small portions both of Virginia and of Delaware do run north of Maryland, but practically Maryland is the frontier State of the slave States. It was therefore of much importance to know which way Maryland would go in the event of secession among the slave States becoming general; and of much also to ascertain whether it could secede if desirous of doing so. I am inclined to think that as a State it was desirous of following Virginia, though there are many in Maryland who deny this very stoutly. But it was at once evident that if loyalty to the North could not be had in Maryland of its own free will, adherence to the North must be enforced upon Maryland. Otherwise the City of Washington could not be maintained as the existing capital of the nation.
The question of the fidelity of the State to the Union was first tried by the arrival at Baltimore of a certain Commissioner from the State of Mississippi, who visited that city with the object of inducing secession. It must be understood that Baltimore is the commercial capital of Maryland, whereas Annapolis is the seat of government and the legislature — or is, in other terms, the political capital. Baltimore is a city containing 230,000 inhabitants, and is considered to have as strong and perhaps as violent a mob as any city in the Union. Of the above number 30,000 are negroes and 2000 are slaves. The Commissioner made his appeal, telling his tale of Southern grievances, declaring, among other things, that secession was not intended to break up the government but to perpetuate it, and asked for the assistance and sympathy of Maryland. This was in December, 1860. The Commissioner was answered by Governor Hicks, who was placed in a somewhat difficult position. The existing legislature of the State was presumed to be secessionist, but the legislature was not sitting, nor in the ordinary course of things would that legislature have been called on to sit again. The legislature of Maryland is elected every other year, and in the ordinary course sits only once in the two years. That session had been held, and the existing legislature was therefore exempt from further work — unless specially summoned for an extraordinary session. To do this is within the power of the Governor. But Governor Hicks, who seems to have been mainly anxious to keep things quiet, and whose individual politics did not come out strongly, was not inclined to issue the summons. “Let us show moderation as well as firmness,” he said; and that was about all he did say to the Commissioner from Mississippi. The Governor after that was directly called on to convene the legislature; but this he refused to do, alleging that it would not be safe to trust the discussion of such a subject as secession to “excited politicians, many of whom, having nothing to lose from the destruction of the government, may hope to derive some gain from the ruin of the State!” I quote these words, coming from the head of the executive of the State and spoken with reference to the legislature of the State, with the object of showing in what light the political leaders of a State may be held in that very State to which they belong. If we are to judge of these legislators from the opinion expressed by Governor Hicks, they could hardly have been fit for their places. That plan of governing by the little men has certainly not answered. It need hardly be said that Governor Hicks, having expressed such an opinion of his State’s legislature, refused to call them to an extraordinary session.
On the 18th of April, 1860, Governor Hicks issued a proclamation to the people of Maryland, begging them to be quiet, the chief object of which, however, was that of promising that no troops should be sent from their State, unless with the object of guarding the neighboring City of Washington — a promise which he had no means of fulfilling, seeing that the President of the United States is the commander-inchief of the army of the nation, and can summon the militia of the several States. This proclamation by the Governor to the State was immediately backed up by one from the Mayor of Baltimore to the city, in which he congratulates the citizens on the Governor’s promise that none of their troops are to be sent to another State; and then he tells them that they shall be preserved from the horrors of civil war.
But on the very next day the horrors of civil war began in Baltimore. By this time President Lincoln was collecting troops at Washington for the protection of the capital; and that army of the Potomac, which has ever since occupied the Virginian side of the river, was in course of construction. To join this, certain troops from Massachusetts were sent down by the usual route, via New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore; but on their reaching Baltimore by railway, the mob of that town refused to allow them to pass through — and a fight began. Nine citizens were killed and two soldiers, and as many more were wounded. This, I think, was the first blood spilt in the civil war; and the attack was first made by the mob of the first slave city reached by the Northern soldiers. This goes far to show, not that the border States desired secession, but that, when compelled to choose between secession and Union, when not allowed by circumstances to remain neutral, their sympathies were with their sister slave States rather than with the North.
Then there was a great running about of official men between Baltimore and Washington, and the President was besieged with entreaties that no troops should be sent through Baltimore. Now this was hard enough upon President Lincoln, seeing that he was bound to defend his capital, that he could get no troops from the South, and that Baltimore is on the high-road from Washington both to the West and to the North; but, nevertheless, he gave way. Had he not done so, all Baltimore would have been in a blaze of rebellion, and the scene of the coming contest must have been removed from Virginia to Maryland, and Congress and the government must have traveled from Washington north to Philadelphia. “They shall not come through Baltimore,” said Mr. Lincoln. “But they shall come through the State of Maryland. They shall be passed over Chesapeake Bay by water to Annapolis, and shall come up by rail from thence.” This arrangement was as distasteful to the State of Maryland as the other; but Annapolis is a small town without a mob, and the Marylanders had no means of preventing the passage of the troops. Attempts were made to refuse the use of the Annapolis branch railway, but General Butler had the arranging of that. General Butler was a lawyer from Boston, and by no means inclined to indulge the scruples of the Marylanders who had so roughly treated his fellow-citizens from Massachusetts. The troops did therefore pass by Annapolis, much to the disgust of the State. On the 27th of April, Governor Hicks, having now had a sufficiency of individual responsibility, summoned the legislature of which he had expressed so bad an opinion; but on this occasion he omitted to repeat that opinion, and submitted his views in very proper terms to the wisdom of the senators and representatives. He entertains, as he says, an honest conviction that the safety of Maryland lies in preserving a neutral position between the North and the South. Certainly, Governor Hicks, if it were only possible! The legislature again went to work to prevent, if it might be prevented, the passage of troops through their State; but luckily for them, they failed. The President was bound to defend Washington, and the Marylanders were denied their wish of having their own fields made the fighting ground of the civil war.
That which appears to me to be the most remarkable feature in all this is the antagonism between United States law and individual State feeling. Through the whole proceeding the Governor and the State of Maryland seemed to have considered it quite reasonable to oppose the constitutional power of the President and his government. It is argued in all the speeches and written documents that were produced in Maryland at the time, that Maryland was true to the Union; and yet she put herself in opposition to the constitutional military power of the President. Certain Commissioners went from the State legislature to Washington in May, and from their report it appears that the President had expressed himself of opinion that Maryland might do this or that “as long as she had not taken and was not about to take a hostile attitude to the Federal government!” From which we are to gather that a denial of that military power given to the President by the Constitution was not considered as an attitude hostile to the Federal government. At any rate, it was direct disobedience to Federal law. I cannot but revert from this to the condition of the Fugitive Slave Law. Federal law, and indeed the original constitution, plainly declare that fugitive slaves shall be given up by the free-soil States. Massachusetts proclaims herself to be specially a Federal law-loving State. But every man in Massachusetts knows that no judge, no sheriff, no magistrate, no policeman in that State would at this time, or then, when that civil war was beginning, have lent a hand in any way to the rendition of a fugitive slave. The Federal law requires the State to give up the fugitive, but the State law does not require judge, sheriff, magistrate, or policeman to engage in such work, and no judge, sheriff or magistrate will do so; consequently that Federal law is dead in Massachusetts, as it is also in every free-soil State — dead, except in as much as there was life in it to create ill blood as long as the North and South remained together, and would be life in it for the same effect if they should again be brought under the same flag.
On the 10th of May, the Maryland legislature, having received the report of their Commissioners above mentioned, passed the following resolution:—
“Whereas, the war against the Confederate States is unconstitutional and repugnant to civilization, and will result in a bloody and shameful overthrow of our constitution, and while recognizing the obligations of Maryland to the Union, we sympathize with the South in the struggle for their rights; for the sake of humanity we are for peace and reconciliation, and solemnly protest against this war, and will take no part in it.
“RESOLVED, That Maryland implores the President, in the name of God, to cease this unholy war, at least until Congress assembles”— a period of above six months. “That Maryland desires and consents to the recognition of the independence of the Confederate States. The military occupation of Maryland is unconstitutional, and she protests against it, though the violent interference with the transit of the Federal troops is discountenanced. That the vindication of her rights be left to time and reason, and that a convention under existing circumstances is inexpedient.” From which it is plain that Maryland would have seceded as effectually as Georgia seceded, had she not been prevented by the interposition of Washington between her and the Confederate States — the happy intervention, seeing that she has thus been saved from becoming the battle-ground of the contest. But the legislature had to pay for its rashness. On the 13th of September thirteen of its members were arrested, as were also two editors of newspapers presumed to be secessionists. A member of Congress was also arrested at the same time, and a candidate for Governor Hicks’s place, who belonged to the secessionist party. Previously, in the last days of June and beginning of July, the chief of the police at Baltimore and the members of the Board of Police had been arrested by General Banks, who then held Baltimore in his power.
I should be sorry to be construed as saying that republican institutions, or what may more properly be called democratic institutions, have been broken down in the States of America. I am far from thinking that they have broken down. Taking them and their work as a whole, I think that they have shown and still show vitality of the best order. But the written Constitution of the United States and of the several States, as bearing upon each other, are not equal to the requirements made upon them. That, I think, is the conclusion to which a spectator should come. It is in that doctrine of finality that our friends have broken down — a doctrine not expressed in their constitutions, and indeed expressly denied in the Constitution of the United States, which provides the mode in which amendments shall be made — but appearing plainly enough in every word of self-gratulation which comes from them. Political finality has ever proved a delusion — as has the idea of finality in all human institutions. I do not doubt but that the republican form of government will remain and make progress in North America, but such prolonged existence and progress must be based on an acknowledgment of the necessity for change, and must much depend on the facilities for change which shall be afforded.
I have described the condition of Baltimore as it was early in May, 1861. I reached that city just seven months later, and its condition was considerably altered. There was no question then whether troops should pass through Baltimore, or by an awkward round through Annapolis, or not pass at all through Maryland. General Dix, who had succeeded General Banks, was holding the city in his grip, and martial law prevailed. In such times as those, it was bootless to inquire as to that promise that no troops should pass southward through Baltimore. What have such assurances ever been worth in such days? Baltimore was now a military depot in the hands of the Northern army, and General Dix was not a man to stand any trifling. He did me the honor to take me to the top of Federal Hill, a suburb of the city, on which he had raised great earthworks and planted mighty cannons, and built tents and barracks for his soldiery, and to show me how instantaneously he could destroy the town from his exalted position. “This hill was made for the very purpose,” said General Dix; and no doubt he thought so. Generals, when they have fine positions and big guns and prostrate people lying under their thumbs, are inclined to think that God’s providence has specially ordained them and their points of vantage. It is a good thing in the mind of a general so circumstanced that 200,000 men should be made subject to a dozen big guns. I confess that to me, having had no military education, the matter appeared in a different light, and I could not work up my enthusiasm to a pitch which would have been suitable to the general’s courtesy. That hill, on which many of the poor of Baltimore had lived, was desecrated in my eyes by those columbiads. The neat earth-works were ugly, as looked upon by me; and though I regarded General Dix as energetic, and no doubt skillful in the work assigned to him, I could not sympathize with his exultation.
Previously to the days of secession Baltimore had been guarded by Fort McHenry, which lies on a spit of land running out into the bay just below the town. Hither I went with General Dix, and he explained to me how the cannon had heretofore been pointed solely toward the sea; that, however, now was all changed, and the mouths of his bombs and great artillery were turned all the other way. The commandant of the fort was with us, and other officers, and they all spoke of this martial tenure as a great blessing. Hearing them, one could hardly fail to suppose that they had lived their forty, fifty, or sixty years of life in full reliance on the powers of a military despotism. But not the less were they American republicans, who, twelve months since, would have dilated on the all-sufficiency of their republican institutions, and on the absence of any military restraint in their country, with that peculiar pride which characterizes the citizens of the States. There are, however, some lessons which may be learned with singular rapidity!
Such was the state of Baltimore when I visited that city. I found, nevertheless, that cakes and ale still prevailed there. I am inclined to think that cakes and ale prevail most freely in times that are perilous, and when sources of sorrow abound. I have seen more reckless joviality in a town stricken by pestilence than I ever encountered elsewhere. There was General Dix seated on Federal Hill with his cannon; and there, beneath his artillery, were gentlemen hotly professing themselves to be secessionists, men whose sons and brothers were in the Southern army, and women, alas! whose brothers would be in one army, and their sons in another. That was the part of it which was most heartrending in this border land. In New England and New York men’s minds at any rate were bent all in the same direction — as doubtless they were also in Georgia and Alabama. But here fathers were divided from sons, and mothers from daughters. Terrible tales were told of threats uttered by one member of a family against another. Old ties of friendship were broken up. Society had so divided itself that one side could hold no terms of courtesy with the other. “When this is over,” one gentleman said to me, “every man in Baltimore will have a quarrel to the death on his hands with some friend whom he used to love.” The complaints made on both sides were eager and open-mouthed against the other.
Late in the autumn an election for a new legislature of the State had taken place, and the members returned were all supposed to be Unionists. That they were prepared to support the government is certain. But no known or presumed secessionist was allowed to vote without first taking the oath of allegiance. The election, therefore, even if the numbers were true, cannot be looked upon as a free election. Voters were stopped at the poll and not allowed to vote unless they would take an oath which would, on their parts, undoubtedly have been false. It was also declared in Baltimore that men engaged to promote the Northern party were permitted to vote five or six times over, and the enormous number of votes polled on the government side gave some coloring to the statement. At any rate, an election carried under General Dix’s guns cannot be regarded as an open election. It was out of the question that any election taken under such circumstances should be worth anything as expressing the minds of the people. Red and white had been declared to be the colors of the Confederates, and red and white had of course become the favorite colors of the Baltimore ladies. Then it was given out that red and white would not be allowed in the streets. Ladies wearing red and white were requested to return home. Children decorated with red and white ribbons were stripped of their bits of finery — much to their infantile disgust and dismay. Ladies would put red and white ornaments in their windows, and the police would insist on the withdrawal of the colors. Such was the condition of Baltimore during the past winter. Nevertheless cakes and ale abounded; and though there was deep grief in the city, and wailing in the recesses of many houses, and a feeling that the good times were gone, never to return within the days of many of them, still there existed an excitement and a consciousness of the importance of the crisis which was not altogether unsatisfactory. Men and women can endure to be ruined, to be torn from their friends, to be overwhelmed with avalanches of misfortune, better than they can endure to be dull.
Baltimore is, or at any rate was, an aspiring city, proud of its commerce and proud of its society. It has regarded itself as the New York of the South, and to some extent has forced others so to regard it also. In many respects it is more like an English town than most of its Transatlantic brethren, and the ways of its inhabitants are English. In old days a pack of fox hounds was kept here — or indeed in days that are not yet very old, for I was told of their doings by a gentleman who had long been a member of the hunt. The country looks as a hunting country should look, whereas no man that ever crossed a field after a pack of hounds would feel the slightest wish to attempt that process in New England or New York. There is in Baltimore an old inn with an old sign, standing at the corner of Eutaw and Franklin Streets, just such as may still be seen in the towns of Somersetshire, and before it there are to be seen old wagons, covered and soiled and battered, about to return from the city to the country, just as the wagons do in our own agricultural counties. I have seen nothing so thoroughly English in any other part of the Union.
But canvas-back ducks and terrapins are the great glories of Baltimore. Of the nature of the former bird I believe all the world knows something. It is a wild duck which obtains the peculiarity of its flavor from the wild celery on which it feeds. This celery grows on the Chesapeake Bay, and I believe on the Chesapeake Bay only. At any rate, Baltimore is the headquarters of the canvas-backs, and it is on the Chesapeake Bay that they are shot. I was kindly invited to go down on a shooting-party; but when I learned that I should have to ensconce myself alone for hours in a wet wooden box on the water’s edge, waiting there for the chance of a duck to come to me, I declined. The fact of my never having as yet been successful in shooting a bird of any kind conduced somewhat, perhaps, to my decision. I must acknowledge that the canvas-back duck fully deserves all the reputation it has acquired. As to the terrapin, I have not so much to say. The terrapin is a small turtle, found on the shores of Maryland and Virginia, out of which a very rich soup is made. It is cooked with wines and spices, and is served in the shape of a hash, with heaps of little bones mixed through it. It is held in great repute, and the guest is expected as a matter of course to be helped twice. The man who did not eat twice of terrapin would be held in small repute, as the Londoner is held who at a city banquet does not partake of both thick and thin turtle. I must, however, confess that the terrapin for me had no surpassing charms.
Maryland was so called from Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I., by which king, in 1632, the territory was conceded to the Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore. It was chiefly peopled by Roman Catholics, but I do not think that there is now any such specialty attaching to the State. There are in it two or three old Roman Catholic families, but the people have come down from the North, and have no peculiar religious tendencies. Some of Lord Baltimore’s descendants remained in the State up to the time of the Revolution. From Baltimore I went on to Washington.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14