Alexis de Tocqueville,
Democracy in America,
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This is the concluding chapter to volume one with the following seven sections =
THE INDIAN TRIBES
CHANCES OF DURATION AND DANGERS
DURATION OF REPUBLICAN INSTITUTIONS
CONCLUSION (with famous final words about Russia)
THE PRESENT AND PROBABLE FUTURE CONDITION OF THE THREE RACES THAT INHABIT THE TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES
THE principal task that I had imposed upon myself is now performed: I have shown, as far as I was able, the laws and the customs of the American democracy. Here I might stop; but the reader would perhaps feel that I had not satisfied his expectations.
An absolute and immense democracy is not all that we find in America; the inhabitants of the New World may be considered from more than one point of view. In the course of this work my subject has often led me to speak of the Indians and the Negroes, but I have never had time to stop in order to show what place these two races occupy in the midst of the democratic people whom I was engaged in describing. I have shown in what spirit and according to what laws the Anglo-American Union was formed; but I could give only a hurried and imperfect glance at the dangers which menace that confederation and could not furnish a detailed account of its chances of survival independently of its laws and manners. When speaking of the united republics, I hazarded no conjectures upon the permanence of republican forms in the New World; and when making frequent allusions to the commercial activity that reigns in the Union, I was unable to inquire into the future of the Americans as a commercial people.
These topics are collaterally connected with my subject without forming a part of it; they are American without being democratic, and to portray democracy has been my principal aim. It was therefore necessary to postpone these questions, which I now take up as the proper termination of my work.
The territory now occupied or claimed by the American Union spreads from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific Ocean. On the east and west its limits are those of the continent itself On the south it advances nearly to the tropics, and it extends upward to the icy regions of the north.
The human beings who are scattered over this space do not form, as in Europe, so many branches of the same stock. Three races, naturally distinct, and, I might almost say, hostile to each other, are discoverable among them at the first glance. Almost insurmountable barriers had been raised between them by education and law, as well as by their origin and outward characteristics, but fortune has brought them together on the same soil, where, although they are mixed, they do not amalgamate, and each race fulfills its destiny apart.
Among these widely differing families of men, the first that attracts attention, the superior in intelligence, in power, and in enjoyment, is the white, or European, the MAN pre-eminently so called, below him appear the Negro and the Indian. These two unhappy races have nothing in common, neither birth, nor features, nor language, nor habits. Their only resemblance lies in their misfortunes. Both of them occupy an equally inferior position in the country they inhabit; both suffer from tyranny; and if their wrongs are not the same, they originate from the same authors.
If we reason from what passes in the world, we should almost say that the European is to the other races of mankind what man himself is to the lower animals: he makes them subservient to his use, and when he cannot subdue he destroys them. Oppression has, at one stroke, deprived the descendants of the Africans of almost all the privileges of humanity. The Negro of the United States has lost even the remembrance of his country; the language which his forefathers spoke is never heard around him; he abjured their religion and forgot their customs when he ceased to belong to Africa, without acquiring any claim to European privileges. But he remains half-way between the two communities, isolated between two races; sold by the one, repulsed by the other; finding not a spot in the universe to call by the name of country, except the faint image of a home which the shelter of his master's roof affords.
The Negro has no family: woman is merely the temporary companion of his pleasures, and his children are on an equality with himself from the moment of their birth. Am I to call it a proof of God's mercy, or a visitation of his wrath, that man, in certain states, appears to be insensible to his extreme wretchedness and almost obtains a depraved taste for the cause of his misfortunes? The Negro, plunged in this abyss of evils, scarcely feels his own calamitous situation. Violence made him a slave, and the habit of servitude gives him the thoughts and desires of a slave, he admires his tyrants more than he hates them, and finds his joy and his pride in the servile imitation of those who oppress him. His understanding is degraded to the level of his soul.
The Negro enters upon slavery as soon as he is born, nay, he may have been purchased in the womb, and have begun his slavery before he began his existence. Equally devoid of wants and of enjoyment, and useless to himself, he learns, with his first notions of existence, that he is the property of another, who has an interest in preserving his life, and that the care of it does not devolve upon himself; even the power of thought appears to him a useless gift of Providence, and he quietly enjoys all the privileges of his debasement.
If he becomes free, independence is often felt by him to be a heavier burden than slavery; for, having learned in the course of his life to submit to everything except reason, he is too unacquainted with her dictates to obey them. A thousand new desires beset him, and he has not the knowledge and energy necessary to resist them: these are masters which it is necessary to contend with, and he has learned only to submit and obey. In short, he is sunk to such a depth of wretchedness that while servitude brutalizes, liberty destroys him.
Oppression has been no less fatal to the Indian than to the Negro race, but its effects are different. Before the arrival of white men in the New World, the inhabitants of North America lived quietly in their woods, enduring the vicissitudes and practicing the virtues and vices common to savage nations. The Europeans having dispersed the Indian tribes and driven them into the deserts, condemned them to a wandering life, full of inexpressible sufferings.
Savage nations are only controlled by opinion and custom. When the North American Indians had lost the sentiment of attachment to their country; when their families were dispersed, their traditions obscured, and the chain of their recollections broken; when all their habits were changed, and their wants increased beyond measure, European tyranny rendered them more disorderly and less civilized than they were before. The moral and physical condition of these tribes continually grew worse, and they became more barbarous as they became more wretched. Nevertheless, the Europeans have not been able to change the character of the Indians; and though they have had power to destroy, they have never been able to subdue and civilize them.
The lot of the Negro is placed on the extreme limit of servitude, while that of the Indian lies on the uttermost verge of liberty; and slavery does not produce more fatal effects upon the first than independence upon the second. The Negro has lost all property in his own person, and he cannot dispose of his existence without committing a sort of fraud. But the savage is his own master as soon as he is able to act; parental authority is scarcely known to him; he has never bent his will to that of any of his kind, nor learned the difference between voluntary obedience and a shameful subjection; and the very name of law is unknown to him. To be free, with him, signifies to escape from all the shackles of society. As he delights in this barbarous independence and would rather perish than sacrifice the least part of it, civilization has little hold over him.
The Negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself among men who repulse him; he conforms to the tastes of his oppressors, adopts their opinions, and hopes by imitating them to form a part of their community. Having been told from infancy that his race is naturally inferior to that of the whites, he assents to the proposition and is ashamed of his own nature. In each of his features he discovers a trace of slavery, and if it were in his power, he would willingly rid himself of everything that makes him what he is.
The Indian, on the contrary, has his imagination inflated with the pretended nobility of his origin, and lives and dies in the midst of these dreams of pride. Far from desiring to conform his habits to ours, he loves his savage life as the distinguishing mark of his race and repels every advance to civilization, less, perhaps, from hatred of it than from a dread of resembling the Europeans.1
While he has nothing to oppose to our perfection in the arts but the resources of the wilderness, to our tactics nothing but undisciplined courage, while our well-digested plans are met only by the spontaneous instincts of savage life, who can wonder if he fails in this unequal contest?
The Negro, who earnestly desires to mingle his race with that of the European, cannot do so; while the Indian, who might succeed to a certain extent, disdains to make the attempt. The servility of the one dooms him to slavery, the pride of the other to death.
I remember that while I was traveling through the forests which still cover the state of Alabama, I arrived one day at the log house of a pioneer. I did not wish to penetrate into the dwelling of the American, but retired to rest myself for a while on the margin of a spring, which was not far off, in the woods. While I was in this place ( which was in the neighborhood of the Creek territory ), an Indian woman appeared, followed by a Negress, and holding by the hand a little white girl of five or six years, whom I took to be the daughter of the pioneer. A sort of barbarous luxury set off the costume of the Indian; rings of metal were hanging from her nostrils and ears, her hair, which was adorned with glass beads, fell loosely upon her shoulders; and I saw that she was not married, for she still wore that necklace of shells which the bride always deposits on the nuptial couch. The Negress was clad in squalid European garments. All three came and seated themselves upon the banks of the spring; and the young Indian, taking the child in her arms, lavished upon her such fond caresses as mothers give, while the Negress endeavored, by various little artifices, to attract the attention of the young Creole. The child displayed in her slightest gestures a consciousness of superiority that formed a strange contrast with her infantine weakness; as if she received the attentions of her companions with a sort of condescension. The Negress was seated on the ground before her mistress, watching her smallest desires and apparently divided between an almost maternal affection for the child and servile fear; while the savage, in the midst of her tenderness, displayed an air of freedom and pride which was almost ferocious. I had approached the group and was contemplating them in silence, but my curiosity was probably displeasing to the Indian woman, for she suddenly rose, pushed the child roughly from her, and, giving me an angry look, plunged into the thicket.
In the same place I had often chanced to see individuals together who belonged to the three races that people North America. I had perceived from many different traits the preponderance of the whites. But in the picture that I have just been describing there was something peculiarly touching; a bond of affection here united the oppressors with the oppressed, and the effort of Nature to bring them together rendered still more striking the immense distance placed between them by prejudice and the laws.
THE PRESENT AND PROBABLE FUTURE CONDITION OF THE INDIAN TRIBES THAT INHABIT THE TERRITORY POSSESSED BY THE UNION.
Gradual disappearance of the native tribes--Manner in which it takes place--Miseries accompanying the forced migrations of the Indians--The savages of North America had only two ways of escaping destruction, war or civilization--They are no longer able to make war--Reasons why they refused to become civilized when it was in their power, and why they cannot become so now that they desire it--Instance of the Creeks and Cherokees--Policy of the particular states towards these Indians--Policy of the Federal government.
NONE of the Indian tribes which formerly inhabited the territory of New England, the Narragansetts, the Mohicans, the Pequots, have any existence but in the recollection of man. The Lenapes, who received William Penn a hundred and fifty years ago upon the banks of the Delaware, have disappeared; and I myself met with the last of the Iroquois, who were begging alms. The nations I have mentioned formerly covered the country to the seacoast; but a traveler at the present day must penetrate more than a hundred leagues into the interior of the continent to find an Indian. Not only have these wild tribes receded, but they are destroyed; 2 and as they give way or perish, an immense and increasing people fill their place. There is no instance upon record of so prodigious a growth or so rapid a destruction; the manner in which the latter change takes place is not difficult to describe.
When the Indians were the sole inhabitants of the wilds whence they have since been expelled, their wants were few. Their arms were of their own manufacture, their only drink was the water of the brook, and their clothes consisted of the skins of animals, whose flesh furnished them with food.
The Europeans introduced among the savages of North America firearms, ardent spirits, and iron; they taught them to exchange for manufactured stuffs the rough garments that had previously satisfied their untutored simplicity. Having acquired new tastes, without the arts by which they could be gratified, the Indians were obliged to have recourse to the workmanship of the whites; but in return for their productions the savage had nothing to offer except the rich furs that still abounded in his woods. Hence the chase became necessary, not merely to provide for his subsistence, but to satisfy the frivolous desires of Europeans. He no longer hunted merely to obtain food, but to procure the only objects of barter which he could offer.3 While the wants of the natives were thus increasing, their resources continued to diminish.
From the moment when a European settlement is formed in the neighborhood of the territory occupied by the Indians, the beasts of chase take the alarm.4 Thousands of savages, wandering in the forests and destitute of any fixed dwelling, did not disturb them; but as soon as the continuous sounds of European labor are heard in their neighborhood, they begin to flee away and retire to the West, where their instinct teaches them that they will still find deserts of immeasurable extent. "The buffalo is constantly receding," say Messrs. Clarke and Cass in their Report of the year 1829; "a few years since they approached the base of the Allegheny; and a few years hence they may even be rare upon the immense plains which extend to the base of the Rocky Mountains." I have been assured that this effect of the approach of the whites is often felt at two hundred leagues' distance from their frontier. Their influence is thus exerted over tribes whose name is unknown to them, and who suffer the evils of usurpation long before they are acquainted with the authors of their distress.5
Bold adventurers soon penetrate into the country the Indians have deserted, and when they have advanced about fifteen or twenty leagues from the extreme frontiers of the whites, they begin to build habitations for civilized beings in the midst of the wilderness. This is done without difficulty, as the territory of a hunting nation is ill defined; it is the common property of the tribe and belongs to no one in particular, so that individual interests are not concerned in protecting any part of it.
A few European families, occupying points very remote from one another, soon drive away the wild animals that remain between their places of abode. The Indians, who had previously lived in a sort of abundance, then find it difficult to subsist, and still more difficult to procure the articles of barter that they stand in need of. To drive away their game has the same effect as to render sterile the fields of our agriculturists; deprived of the means of subsistence, they are reduced, like famished wolves, to prowl through the forsaken woods in quest of prey. Their instinctive love of country attaches them to the soil that gave them birth,6 even after it has ceased to yield anything but misery and death. At length they are compelled to acquiesce and depart; they follow the traces of the elk, the buffalo, and the beaver and are guided by these wild animals in the choice of their future country. Properly speaking, therefore, it is not the Europeans who drive away the natives of America; it is famine, a happy distinction which had escaped the casuists of former times and for which we are indebted to modern discovery!
It is impossible to conceive the frightful sufferings that attend these forced migrations. They are undertaken by a people already exhausted and reduced; and the countries to which the newcomers betake themselves are inhabited by other tribes, which receive them with jealous hostility. Hunger is in the rear, war awaits them, and misery besets them on all sides. To escape from so many enemies, they separate, and each individual endeavors to procure secretly the means of supporting his existence by isolating himself, living in the immensity of the desert like an outcast in civilized society. The social tie, which distress had long since weakened, is then dissolved; they have no longer a country, and soon they will not be a people; their very families are obliterated; their common name is forgotten; their language perishes; and all traces of their origin disappear. Their nation has ceased to exist except in the recollection of the antiquaries of America and a few of the learned of Europe.
I should be sorry to have my reader suppose that I am coloring the picture too highly; I saw with my own eyes many of the miseries that I have just described, and was the witness of sufferings that I have not the power to portray.
At the end of the year 1831, while I was on the left bank of the Mississippi, at a place named by Europeans Memphis, there arrived a numerous band of Choctaws (or Chactas, as they are called by the French in Louisiana). These savages had left their country and were endeavoring to gain the right bank of the Mississippi, where they hoped to find an asylum that had been promised them by the American government. It was then the middle of winter, and the cold was unusually severe; the snow had frozen hard upon the ground, and the river was drifting huge masses of ice. The Indians had their families with them, and they brought in their train the wounded and the sick, with children newly born and old men upon the verge of death. They possessed neither tents nor wagons, but only their arms and some provisions. I saw them embark to pass the mighty river, and never will that solemn spectacle fade from my remembrance. No cry, no sob, was heard among the assembled crowd; all were silent. Their calamities were of ancient date, and they knew them to be irremediable. The Indians had all stepped into the bark that was to carry them across, but their dogs remained upon the bank. As soon as these animals perceived that their masters were finally leaving the shore, they set up a dismal howl and, plunging all together into the icy waters of the Mississippi, swam after the boat.
The expulsion of the Indians often takes place at the present day in a regular and, as it were, a legal manner. When the European population begins to approach the limit of the desert inhabited by a savage tribe, the government of the United States usually sends forward envoys who assemble the Indians in a large plain and, having first eaten and drunk with them, address them thus: "What have you to do in the land of your fathers? Before long, you must dig up their bones in order to live. In what respect is the country you inhabit better than another? Are there no woods, marshes, or prairies except where you dwell? And can you live nowhere but under your own sun? Beyond those mountains which you see at the horizon, beyond the lake which bounds your territory on the west, there lie vast countries where beasts of chase are yet found in great abundance; sell us your lands, then, and go to live happily in those solitudes." After holding this language, they spread before the eyes of the Indians firearms, woolen garments, kegs of brandy, glass necklaces, bracelets of tinsel, ear-rings, and looking-glasses.7 If, when they have beheld all these riches, they still hesitate, it is insinuated that they cannot refuse the required consent and that the government itself will not long have the power of protecting them in their rights. What are they to do? Half convinced and half compelled, they go to inhabit new deserts, where the importunate whites will not let them remain ten years in peace. In this manner do the Americans obtain, at a very low price, whole provinces, which the richest sovereigns of Europe could not purchase.8
These are great evils; and it must be added that they appear to me to be irremediable. I believe that the Indian nations of North America are doomed to perish, and that whenever the Europeans shall be established on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, that race of men will have ceased to exist.9 The Indians had only the alternative of war or civilization; in other words, they must either destroy the Europeans or become their equals.
At the first settlement of the colonies they might have found it possible, by uniting their forces, to deliver themselves from the small bodies of strangers who landed on their continent.10 They several times attempted to do it, and were on the point of succeeding; but the disproportion of their resources at the present day, when compared with those of the whites, is too great to allow such an enterprise to be thought of. But from time to time among the Indians men of sagacity and energy foresee the final destiny that awaits the native population and exert themselves to unite all the tribes in common hostility to the Europeans; but their efforts are unavailing. The tribes which are in the neighborhood of the whites are too much weakened to offer an effectual resistance; while the others, giving way to that childish carelessness of the morrow which characterizes savage life, wait for the near approach of danger before they prepare to meet it; some are unable, others are unwilling, to act.
It is easy to foresee that the Indians will never civilize themselves, or that it will be too late when they may be inclined to make the experiment.
Civilization is the result of a long social process, which takes place in the same spot and is handed down from one generation to another, each one profiting by the experience of the last. Of all nations, those submit to civilization with the most difficulty who habitually live by the chase. Pastoral tribes, indeed, often change their place of abode; but they follow a regular order in their migrations and often return to their old stations, while the dwelling of the hunter varies with that of the animals he pursues.
Several attempts have been made to diffuse knowledge among the Indians, leaving unchecked their wandering propensities, by the Jesuits in Canada and by the Puritans in New England; 11 but none of these endeavors have been crowned by any lasting success. Civilization began in the cabin, but soon retired to expire in the woods. The great error of these legislators for the Indians was their failure to understand that in order to succeed in civilizing a people it is first necessary to settle them permanently which cannot be done without inducing them to cultivate the soil; the Indians ought in the first place to have been accustomed to agriculture. But not only are they destitute of this indispensable preliminary to civilization, they would even have great difficulty in acquiring it. Men who have once abandoned themselves to the restless and adventurous life of the hunter feel an insurmountable disgust for the constant and regular labor that tillage requires. We see this proved even in our own societies; but it is far more visible among races whose partiality for the chase is a part of their national character.
Independently of this general difficulty, there is another, which applies peculiarly to the Indians. They consider labor not merely as an evil, but as a disgrace; so that their pride contends against civilization as obstinately as their indolence.12
There is no Indian so wretched as not to retain under his hut of bark a lofty idea of his personal worth; he considers the cares of industry as degrading occupations; he compares the plowman to the ox that traces the furrow; and in each of our handicrafts he can see only the labor of slaves. Not that he is devoid of admiration for the power and intellectual greatness of the whites; but although the result of our efforts surprises him, he despises the means by which we obtain it; and while he acknowledges our ascendancy, he still believes in his own superiority. War and hunting are the only pursuits that appear to him worthy of a man.13 The Indian, in the dreary solitudes of his woods, cherishes the same ideas, the same opinions, as the noble of the Middle Ages in his castle; and he only needs to become a conqueror to complete the resemblance. Thus, however strange it may seem, it is in the forests of the New World, and not among the Europeans who people its coasts, that the ancient prejudices of Europe still exist.
More than once in the course of this work I have endeavored to explain the prodigious influence that the social condition appears to exercise upon the laws and the manners of men, and I beg to add a few words on the same subject.
When I perceive the resemblance that exists between the political institutions of our ancestors, the Germans, and the wandering tribes of North America, between the customs described by Tacitus and those of which I have sometimes been a witness, I cannot help thinking that the same cause has brought about the same results in both hemispheres; and that in the midst of the apparent diversity of human affairs certain primary facts may be discovered from which all the others are derived. In what we usually call the German institutions, then, I am inclined to perceive only barbarian habits, and the opinions of savages in what we style feudal principles.
However strongly the vices and prejudices of the North American Indians may be opposed to their becoming agricultural and civilized, necessity sometimes drives them to it. Several of the Southern tribes, considerably numerous, and among others the Cherokees and the Creeks,14 found themselves, as it were, surrounded by Europeans, who had landed on the shores of the Atlantic and, either descending the Ohio or proceeding up the Mississippi, arrived simultaneously upon their borders. These tribes had not been driven from place to place like their Northern brethren; but they had been gradually shut up within narrow limits, like game driven into an enclosure before the huntsmen plunge among them. The Indians, who were thus placed between civilization and death, found themselves obliged to live ignominiously by labor, like the whites. They took to agriculture and, without entirely forsaking their old habits or manners, sacrificed only as much as was necessary to their existence.
The Cherokees went further; they created a written language, established a permanent form of government, and, as everything proceeds rapidly in the New World, before they all of them had clothes they set up a newspaper.15
The development of European habits has been much accelerated among these Indians by the mixed race which has sprung up.16 Deriving intelligence from the father's side without entirely losing the savage customs of the mother, the half-blood forms the natural link between civilization and barbarism. Wherever this race has multiplied, the savage state has become modified and a great change has taken place in the manners of the people.17
The success of the Cherokees proves that the Indians are capable of civilization, but it does not prove that they will succeed in it. This difficulty that the Indians find in submitting to civilization proceeds from a general cause, the influence of which it is almost impossible for them to escape. An attentive survey of history demonstrates that, in general, barbarous nations have raised themselves to civilization by degrees and by their own efforts. Whenever they derived knowledge from a foreign people, they stood towards them in the relation of conquerors, and not of a conquered nation. When the conquered nation is enlightened and the conquerors are half-savage, as in the invasion of the Roman Empire by the northern nations, or that of China by the Mongols, the power that victory bestows upon the barbarian is sufficient to keep up his importance among civilized men and permit him to rank as their equal until he becomes their rival. The one has might on his side, the other has intelligence; the former admires the knowledge and the arts of the conquered, the latter envies the power of the conquerors. The barbarians at length admit civilized man into their palaces, and he in turn opens his schools to the barbarians. But when the side on which the physical force lies also possesses an intellectual superiority, the conquered party seldom becomes civilized; it retreats or is destroyed. It may therefore be said, in a general way, that savages go forth in arms to seek knowledge, but do not receive it when it comes to them.
If the Indian tribes that now inhabit the heart of the continent could summon up energy enough to attempt to civilize themselves, they might possibly succeed. Superior already to the barbarous nations that surround them, they would gradually gain strength and experience, and when the Europeans appear upon their borders, they would be in a state, if not to maintain their independence, at least to assert their right to the soil and to incorporate themselves with the conquerors. But it is the misfortune of Indians to be brought into contact with a civilized people, who are also ( it must be owned ) the most grasping nation on the globe, while they are still semi-barbarian; to find their masters in their instructors, and to receive knowledge and oppression at the same time. Living in the freedom of the woods, the North American Indian was destitute, but he had no feeling of inferiority towards anyone; as soon, however, as he desires to penetrate into the social scale of the whites, he can take only the lowest rank in society, for he enters ignorant and poor within the pale of science and wealth. After having led a life of agitation, beset with evils and dangers, but at the same time filled with proud emotions,18 he is obliged to submit to a wearisome, obscure, and degraded state. To gain by hard and ignoble labor the bread that nourishes him is in his eyes the only result of which civilization can boast; and even this he is not always sure to obtain.
When the Indians undertake to imitate their European neighbors, and to till the earth as they do, they are immediately exposed to a formidable competition. The white man is skilled in the craft of agriculture; the Indian is a rough beginner in an art with which he is unacquainted. The former reaps abundant crops without difficulty, the latter meets with a thousand obstacles in raising the fruits of the earth.
The European is placed among a population whose wants he knows and shares. The savage is isolated in the midst of a hostile people, with whose customs, language, and laws he is imperfectly acquainted, but without whose assistance he cannot live. He can procure only the materials of comfort by bartering his commodities for the goods of the European, for the assistance of his countrymen is wholly insufficient to supply his wants. Thus, when the Indian wishes to sell the produce of his labor, he cannot always find a purchaser, while the European readily obtains a market; the former can produce only at considerable cost what the latter sells at a low rate. Thus the Indian has no sooner escaped those evils to which barbarous nations are exposed than he is subjected to the still greater miseries of civilized communities; and he finds it scarcely less difficult to live in the midst of our abundance than in the depth of his own forest.
He has not yet lost the habits of his erratic life; the traditions of his fathers and his passion for the chase are still alive within him. The wild enjoyments that formerly animated him in the woods painfully excite his troubled imagination; the privations that he endured there appear less keen, his former perils less appalling. He contrasts the independence that he possessed among his equals with the servile position that he occupies in civilized society. On the other hand, the solitudes which were so long his free home are still at hand; a few hours' march will bring him back to them once more. The whites offer him a sum which seems to him considerable for the half-cleared ground whence he obtains sustenance with difficulty. This money of the Europeans may possibly enable him to live a happy and tranquil life far away from them; and he quits the plow, resumes his native arms, and returns to the wilderness forever.19 The condition of the Creeks and Cherokees, to which I have already alluded, sufficiently corroborates the truth of this sad picture.
The Indians, in the little which they have done, have unquestionably displayed as much natural genius as the peoples of Europe in their greatest undertakings; but nations as well as men require time to learn, whatever may be their intelligence and their zeal. While the savages were endeavoring to civilize themselves, the Europeans continued to surround them on every side and to confine them within narrower limits; the two races gradually met, and they are now in immediate contact with each other. The Indian is already superior to his barbarous parent, but he is still far below his white neighbor. With their resources and acquired knowledge, the Europeans soon appropriated to themselves most of the advantages that the natives might have derived from the possession of the soil: they have settled among them, have purchased land at a low rate, or have occupied it by force, and the Indians have been ruined by a competition which they had not the means of sustaining. They were isolated in their own country, and their race constituted only a little colony of troublesome strangers in the midst of a numerous and dominant people.20
Washington said in one of his messages to Congress: "We are more enlightened and more powerful than the Indian nations; we are therefore bound in honor to treat them with kindness, and even with generosity." But this virtuous and high-minded policy has not been followed. The rapacity of the settlers is usually backed by the tyranny of the government. Although the Cherokees and the Creeks are established upon territory which they inhabited before the arrival of the Europeans, and although the Americans have frequently treated with them as with foreign nations, the surrounding states have not been willing to acknowledge them as an independent people and have undertaken to subject these children of the woods to Anglo-American magistrates, laws, and customs.21 Destitution had driven these unfortunate Indians to civilization, and oppression now drives them back to barbarism: many of them abandon the soil which they had begun to clear and return to the habits of savage life.
If we consider the tyrannical measures that have been adopted by the legislatures of the Southern states, the conduct of their governors, and the decrees of their courts of justice, we shall be convinced that the entire expulsion of the Indians is the final result to which all the efforts of their policy are directed. The Americans of that part of the Union look with jealousy upon the lands which the natives still possess; 22 they are aware that these tribes have not yet lost the traditions of savage life, and before civilization has permanently fixed them to the soil it is intended to force them to depart by reducing them to despair. The Creeks and Cherokees, oppressed by the several states, have appealed to the central government, which is by no means insensible to their misfortunes and is sincerely desirous of saving the remnant of the natives and of maintaining them in the free possession of that territory which the Union has guaranteed to them. 23 But when it seeks to carry out this plan, the several states set up a tremendous resistance, and so it makes up its mind not to take the easier way, and to let a few savage tribes perish, since they are already half-decimated, in order not to endanger the safety of the American Union.
But the Federal government, which is not able to protect the Indians, would fain mitigate the hardships of their lot; and with this intention it has undertaken to transport them into remote regions at the public cost.
Between the 33rd and 37th degrees of north latitude lies a vast tract of country that has taken the name of Arkansas, from the principal river that waters it. It is bounded on one side by the confines of Mexico, on the other by the Mississippi. Numberless streams cross it in every direction; the climate is mild and the soil productive, and it is inhabited only by a few wandering hordes of savages. The government of the Union wishes to transport the broken remnants of the indigenous population of the South to the portion of this country that is nearest to Mexico and at a great distance from the American settlements.
We were assured, towards the end of the year 1831, that 10,000 Indians had already gone to the shores of the Arkansas, and fresh detachments were constantly following them. But Congress has been unable to create a unanimous determination in those whom it is disposed to protect. Some, indeed, joyfully consent to quit the seat of oppression; but the most enlightened members of the community refuse to abandon their recent dwellings and their growing crops; they are of opinion that the work of civilization, once interrupted, will never be resumed; they fear that those domestic habits which have been so recently contracted may be irrevocably lost in the midst of a country that is still barbarous and where nothing is prepared for the subsistence of an agricultural people; they know that their entrance into those wilds will be opposed by hostile hordes, and that they have lost the energy of barbarians without having yet acquired the resources of civilization to resist their attacks. Moreover, the Indians readily discover that the settlement which is proposed to them is merely temporary. Who can assure them that they will at length be allowed to dwell in peace in their new retreat? The United States pledges itself to maintain them there, but the territory which they now occupy was formerly secured to them by the most solemn oaths.24 The American government does not indeed now rob them of their lands, but it allows perpetual encroachments on them. In a few years the same white population that now flocks around them will doubtless track them anew to the solitudes of the Arkansas; they will then be exposed to the same evils, without the same remedies; and as the limits of the earth will at last fail them, their only refuge is the grave.
The Union treats the Indians with less cupidity and violence than the several states, but the two governments are alike deficient in good faith. The states extend what they call the benefits of their laws to the Indians, believing that the tribes will recede rather than submit to them; and the central government, which promises a permanent refuge to these unhappy beings in the West, is well aware of its inability to secure it to them.25 Thus the tyranny of the states obliges the savages to retire; the Union, by its promises and resources, facilitates their retreat; and these measures tend to precisely the same end.26
"By the will of our Father in heaven, the Governor of the whole world," said the Cherokees in their petition to Congress,27 "the red man of America has become small, and the white man great and renowned. When the ancestors of the people of these United States first came to the shores of America, they found the red man strong: though he was ignorant and savage, yet he received them kindly and gave them dry land to rest their weary feet. They met in peace and shook hands in token of friendship. Whatever the white man wanted and asked of the Indian, the latter willingly gave. At that time the Indian was the lord, and the white man the suppliant. But now the scene has changed. The strength of the red man has become weakness. As his neighbors increased in numbers, his power became less and less; and now, of the many and powerful tribes who once covered these United States, only a few are to be seen--a few whom a sweeping pestilence has left. The Northern tribes, who were once so numerous and powerful, are now nearly extinct. Thus it has happened to the red man in America. Shall we, who are remnants, share the same fate? "The land on which we stand we have received as an inheritance from our fathers, who possessed it from time immemorial, as a gift from our common Father in heaven. They bequeathed it to us as their children, and we have sacredly kept it, as containing the remains of our beloved men. This right of inheritance we have never ceded nor ever forfeited. Permit us to ask what better right can the people have to a country than the right of inheritance and immemorial peaceable possession? We know it is said of late by the state of Georgia and by the Executive of the United States that we have forfeited this right; but we think this is said gratuitously. At what time have we made the forfeit? What great crime have we committed whereby we must forever be divested of our country and rights? Was it when we were hostile to the United States and took part with the King of Great Britain during the struggle for independence? If so, why was not this forfeiture declared in the first treaty of peace between the United States and our beloved men? Why was not such an article as the following inserted in the treaty: 'The United States give peace to the Cherokees, but, for the part they took in the late war, declare them to be but tenants at will, to be removed when the convenience of the states within whose chartered limits they live shall require it'? That was the proper time to assume such a possession. But it was not thought of; nor would our forefathers have agreed to any treaty whose tendency was to deprive them of their rights and their country."
Such is the language of the Indians: what they say is true; what they foresee seems inevitable. From whichever side we consider the destinies of the aborigines of North America, their calamities appear irremediable: if they continue barbarous, they are forced to retire; if they attempt to civilize themselves, the contact of a more civilized community subjects them to oppression and destitution. They perish if they continue to wander from waste to waste, and if they attempt to settle they still must perish. The assistance of Europeans is necessary to instruct them, but the approach of Europeans corrupts and repels them into savage life. They refuse to change their habits as long as their solitudes are their own, and it is too late to change them when at last they are forced to submit.
The Spaniards pursued the Indians with bloodhounds, like wild beasts; they sacked the New World like a city taken by storm, with no discernment or compassion; but destruction must cease at last and frenzy has a limit: the remnant of the Indian population which had escaped the massacre mixed with its conquerors and adopted in the end their religion and their manners.28 The conduct of the Americans of the United States towards the aborigines is characterized, on the other hand, by a singular attachment to the formalities of law. Provided that the Indians retain their barbarous condition, the Americans take no part in their affairs; they treat them as independent nations and do not possess themselves of their hunting-grounds without a treaty of purchase; and if an Indian nation happens to be so encroached upon as to be unable to subsist upon their territory, they kindly take them by the hand and transport them to a grave far from the land of their fathers.
The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor did they succeed even in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world.29 It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity.
SITUATION OF THE BLACK POPULATION IN THE UNITED STATES,30 AND DANGERS WITH WHICH ITS PRESENCE THREATENS THE WHITES
Why it is more difficult to abolish slavery, and to efface all vestiges of it among the moderns than it was among the ancients [Prejudices embodied in old European feudal hierarchy unnatural, while racial prejudice is more natural] -- In the United States the prejudices of the whites against them seem to increase in proportion as slavery is abolished -- Situation of the Negroes in the Northern and Southern states --Why the Americans abolish slavery--Servitude, which debases the slave, impoverishes the master -- Contrast between the left and the right bank of the Ohio -- To what attributable -- The black race, as well as slavery, recedes towards the South -- Explanation of this fact -- Difficulties attendant upon the abolition of slavery in the South -- Dangers to come --General anxiety -- Foundation of a black colony in Africa -- Why the Americans of the South increase the hardships of slavery while they are distressed at its continuance.
The Indians will perish in the same isolated condition in which they have lived, but the destiny of the Negroes is in some measure interwoven with that of the Europeans. These two races are fastened to each other without intermingling; and they are alike unable to separate entirely or to combine. The most formidable of all the ills that threaten the future of the Union arises from the presence of a black population upon its territory; and in contemplating the cause of the present embarrassments, or the future dangers of the United States, the observer is invariably led to this as a primary fact.
Generally speaking, men must make great and unceasing efforts before permanent evils are created; but there is one calamity which penetrated furtively into the world, and which was at first scarcely distinguishable amid the ordinary abuses of power: it originated with an individual whose name history has not preserved; it was wafted like some accursed germ upon a portion of the soil; but it afterwards nurtured itself, grew without effort, and spread naturally with the society to which it belonged. This calamity is slavery. Christianity suppressed slavery, but the Christians of the sixteenth century re-established it, as an exception, indeed, to their social system, and restricted to one of the races of mankind; but the wound thus inflicted upon humanity, though less extensive, was far more difficult to cure.
It is important to make an accurate distinction between slavery itself and its consequences. The immediate evils produced by slavery were very nearly the same in antiquity as they are among the moderns, but the consequences of these evils were different. The slave among the ancients belonged to the same race as his master, and was often the superior of the two in education 31 and intelligence. Freedom was the only distinction between them; and when freedom was conferred, they were easily confounded together. The ancients, then, had a very simple means of ridding themselves of slavery and its consequences: that of enfranchisement; and they succeeded as soon as they adopted this measure generally. Not but that in ancient states the vestiges of servitude subsisted for some time after servitude itself was abolished. There is a natural prejudice that prompts men to despise whoever has been their inferior long after he has become their equal; and the real inequality that is produced by fortune or by law is always succeeded by an imaginary inequality that is implanted in the manners of the people. But among the ancients this secondary consequence of slavery had a natural limit; for the freedman bore so entire a resemblance to those born free that it soon became impossible to distinguish him from them.
The greatest difficulty in antiquity was that of altering the law; among the moderns it is that of altering the customs, and as far as we are concerned, the real obstacles begin where those of the ancients left off. This arises from the circumstance that among the moderns the abstract and transient fact of slavery is fatally united with the physical and permanent fact of color. The tradition of slavery dishonors the race, and the peculiarity of the race perpetuates the tradition of slavery. No African has ever voluntarily emigrated to the shores of the New World, whence it follows that all the blacks who are now found there are either slaves or freedmen Thus the Negro transmits the eternal mark of his ignominy to all his descendants; and although the law may abolish slavery, God alone can obliterate the traces of its existence.
The modern slave differs from his master not only in his condition but in his origin. You may set the Negro free, but you cannot make him otherwise than an alien to the European. Nor is this all we scarcely acknowledge the common features of humanity in this stranger whom slavery has brought among us. His physiognomy is to our eyes hideous, his understanding weak, his tastes low; and we are almost inclined to look upon him as a being intermediate between man and the brutes.32 The moderns, then, after they have abolished slavery, have three prejudices to contend against, which are less easy to attack and far less easy to conquer than the mere fact of servitude: the prejudice of the master, the prejudice of the race, and the prejudice of color.
It is difficult for us, who have had the good fortune to be born among men like ourselves by nature and our equals by law, to conceive the irreconcilable differences that separate the Negro from the European in America. But we may derive some faint notion of them from analogy. France was formerly a country in which numerous inequalities existed that had been created by law. Nothing can be more fictitious than a purely legal inferiority nothing more contrary to the instinct of mankind than these permanent divisions established between beings evidently similar. Yet these divisions existed for ages; they still exist in many places and everywhere they have left imaginary vestiges, which time alone can efface. If it be so difficult to root out an inequality that originates solely in the law, how are those distinctions to be destroyed which seem to be based upon the immutable laws of Nature herself? When I remember the extreme difficulty with which aristocratic bodies, of whatever nature they may be, are commingled with the mass of the people, and the exceeding care which they take to preserve for ages the ideal boundaries of their caste inviolate, I despair of seeing an aristocracy disappear which is founded upon visible and indelible signs. Those who hope that the Europeans will ever be amalgamated with the Negroes appear to me to delude themselves. I am not led to any such conclusion by my reason or by the evidence of facts. Hitherto wherever the whites have been the most powerful, they have held the blacks in degradation or in slavery; wherever the Negroes have been strongest, they have destroyed the whites: this has been the only balance that has ever taken place between the two races.
I see that in a certain portion of the territory of the United States at the present day the legal barrier which separated the two races is falling away, but not that which exists in the manners of the country, slavery recedes, but the prejudice to which it has given birth is immovable. Whoever has inhabited the United States must have perceived that in those parts of the Union in which the Negroes are no longer slaves they have in no wise drawn nearer to the whites. On the contrary, the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known.
It is true that in the North of the Union marriages may be legally contracted between Negroes and whites; but public opinion would stigmatize as infamous a man who should connect himself with a Negress, and it would be difficult to cite a single instance of such a union. The electoral franchise has been conferred upon the Negroes in almost all the states in which slavery has been abolished, but if they come forward to vote, their lives are in danger. If oppressed, they may bring an action at law, but they will find none but whites among their judges; and although they may legally serve as jurors, prejudice repels them from that office. The same schools do not receive the children of the black and of the European. In the theaters gold cannot procure a seat for the servile race beside their former masters; in the hospitals they lie apart; and although they are allowed to invoke the same God as the whites, it must be at a different altar and in their own churches, with their own clergy. The gates of heaven are not closed against them, but their inferiority is continued to the very confines of the other world. When the Negro dies, his bones are cast aside, and the distinction of condition prevails even in the equality of death. Thus the Negro is free, but he can share neither the rights, nor the pleasures, nor the labor, nor the afflictions, nor the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared to be; and he cannot meet him upon fair terms in life or in death.
In the South, where slavery still exists, the Negroes are less carefully kept apart; they sometimes share the labors and the recreations of the whites; the whites consent to intermix with them to a certain extent, and although legislation treats them more harshly, the habits of the people are more tolerant and compassionate. In the South the master is not afraid to raise his slave to his own standing, because he knows that he can in a moment reduce him to the dust at pleasure. In the North the white no longer distinctly perceives the barrier that separates him from the degraded race, and he shuns the Negro with the more pertinacity since he fears lest they should some day be confounded together.
Among the Americans of the South, Nature sometimes reasserts her rights and restores a transient equality between the blacks and the whites; but in the North pride restrains the most imperious of human passions. The American of the Northern states would perhaps allow the Negress to share his licentious pleasures if the laws of his country did not declare that she may aspire to be the legitimate partner of his bed, but he recoils with horror from her who might become his wife.
Thus it is in the United States that the prejudice which repels the Negroes seems to increase in proportion as they are emancipated, and inequality is sanctioned by the manners while it is effaced from the laws of the country. But if the relative position of the two races that inhabit the United States is such as I have described, why have the Americans abolished slavery in the North of the Union, why do they maintain it in the South, and why do they aggravate its hardships? The answer is easily given. It is not for the good of the Negroes, but for that of the whites, that measures are taken to abolish slavery in the United States.
The first Negroes were imported into Virginia about the year 1621. 33 In America, therefore, as well as in the rest of the globe, slavery originated in the South. Thence it spread from one settlement to another; but the number of slaves diminished towards the Northern states, and the Negro population was always very limited in New England.34
A century had scarcely elapsed since the foundation of the colonies when the attention of the planters was struck by the extraordinary fact that the provinces which were comparatively destitute of slaves increased in population, in wealth, and in prosperity more rapidly than those which contained many of them. In the former, however, the inhabitants were obliged to cultivate the soil themselves or by hired laborers; in the latter they were furnished with hands for which they paid no wages. Yet though labor and expense were on the one side and ease with economy on the other, the former had the more advantageous system. This result seemed the more difficult to explain since the settlers, who all belonged to the same European race, had the same habits, the same civilization, the same laws, and their shades of difference were extremely slight.
Time, however, continued to advance, and the Anglo-Americans, spreading beyond the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, penetrated farther and farther into the solitudes of the West. They met there with a new soil and an unwonted climate; they had to overcome obstacles of the most various character; their races intermingled, the inhabitants of the South going up towards the North, those of the North descending to the South. But in the midst of all these causes the same result occurred at every step; in general, the colonies in which there were no slaves became more populous and more prosperous than those in which slavery flourished. The farther they went, the more was it shown that slavery, which is so cruel to the slave, is prejudicial to the master.
But this truth was most satisfactorily demonstrated when civilization reached the banks of the Ohio. The stream that the Indians had distinguished by the name of Ohio, or the Beautiful River, waters one of the most magnificent valleys which have ever been made the abode of man. Undulating lands extend upon both shores of the Ohio, whose soil affords inexhaustible treasures to the laborer; on either bank the air is equally wholesome and the climate mild, and each of them forms the extreme frontier of a vast state: that which follows the numerous windings of the Ohio upon the left is called Kentucky; that upon the right bears the name of the river. These two states differ only in a single respect: Kentucky has admitted slavery, but the state of Ohio has prohibited the existence of slaves within its borders.35 Thus the traveler who floats down the current of the Ohio to the spot where that river falls into the Mississippi may be said to sail between liberty and servitude; and a transient inspection of surrounding objects will convince him which of the two is more favorable to humanity.
Upon the left bank of the stream the population is sparse; from time to time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-desert fields; the primeval forest reappears at every turn; society seems to be asleep, man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and life.
From the right bank, on the contrary, a confused hum is heard, which proclaims afar the presence of industry; the fields are covered with abundant harvests; the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and activity of the laborers; and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that wealth and contentment which is the reward of labor.36
The state of Kentucky was founded in 1775, the state of Ohio only twelve years later; but twelve years are more in America than half a century in Europe; and at the present day the population of Ohio exceeds that of Kentucky by two hundred and fifty thousand souls.37 These different effects of slavery and freedom may readily be understood; and they suffice to explain many of the differences which we notice between the civilization of antiquity and that of our own time.
Upon the left bank of the Ohio labor is confounded with the idea of slavery, while upon the right bank it is identifies with that of prosperity and improvement; on the one side it is degraded, on the other it is honored. On the former territory no white laborers can be found, for they would be afraid of assimilating themselves to the Negroes; all the work is done by slaves; on the latter no one is idle, for the white population extend their activity and intelligence to every kind of employment. Thus the men whose task it is to cultivate the rich soil of Kentucky are ignorant and apathetic, while those who are active and enlightened either do nothing or pass over into Ohio, where they may work without shame.
It is true that in Kentucky the planters are not obliged to pay the slaves whom they employ, but they derive small profits from their labor, while the wages paid to free workmen would be returned with interest in the value of their services. The free workman is paid, but he does his work quicker than the slave; and rapidity of execution is one of the great elements of economy. The white sells his services, but they are purchased only when they may be useful; the black can claim no remuneration for his toil, but the expense of his maintenance is perpetual; he must be supported in his old age as well as in manhood, in his profitless infancy as well as in the productive years of youth, in sickness as well as in health. Payment must equally be made in order to obtain the services of either class of men: the free workman receives his wages in money; the slave in education, in food, in care, and in clothing. The money which a master spends in the maintenance of his slaves goes gradually and in detail, so that it is scarcely perceived; the salary of the free workman is paid in a round sum and appears to enrich only him who receives it; but in the end the slave has cost more than the free servant, and his labor is less productive.38
The influence of slavery extends still further: it affects the character of the master and imparts a peculiar tendency to his ideas and tastes. Upon both banks of the Ohio the character of the inhabitants is enterprising and energetic, but this vigor is very differently exercised in the two states. The white inhabitant of Ohio, obliged to subsist by his own exertions, regards temporal prosperity as the chief aim of his existence; and as the country which he occupies presents inexhaustible resources to his industry, and ever varying lures to his activity, his acquisitive ardor surpasses the ordinary limits of human cupidity: he is tormented by the desire of wealth, and he boldly enters upon every path that fortune opens to him; he becomes a sailor, a pioneer, an artisan, or a cultivator with the same indifference, and supports with equal constancy the fatigues and the dangers incidental to these various professions; the resources of his intelligence are astonishing, and his avidity in the pursuit of gain amounts to a species of heroism.
But the Kentuckian scorns not only labor but all the undertakings that labor promotes; as he lives in an idle independence, his tastes are those of an idle man; money has lost a portion of its value in his eyes; he covets wealth much less than pleasure and excitement; and the energy which his neighbor devotes to gain turns with him to a passionate love of field sports and military exercises; he delights in violent bodily exertion, he is familiar with the use of arms, and is accustomed from a very early age to expose his life in single combat. Thus slavery prevents the whites not only from becoming opulent, but even from desiring to become so.
As the same causes have been continually producing opposite effects for the last two centuries in the British colonies of North America, they have at last established a striking difference between the commercial capacity of the inhabitants of the South and those of the North. At the present day it is only the Northern states that are in possession of shipping, manufactures, railroads, and canals. This difference is perceptible not only in comparing the North with the South, but in comparing the several Southern states. Almost all those who carry on commercial operations or endeavor to turn slave labor to account in the most southern districts of the Union have emigrated from the North. The natives of the Northern states are constantly spreading over that portion of the American territory where they have less to fear from competition; they discover resources there which escaped the notice of the inhabitants; and as they comply with a system which they do not approve, they succeed in turning it to better advantage than those who first founded and who still maintain it.
Were I inclined to continue this parallel, I could easily prove that almost all the differences which may be noticed between the characters of the Americans in the Southern and in the Northern states have originated in slavery; but this would divert me from my subject, and my present intention is not to point out all the consequences of servitude, but those effects which it has produced upon the material prosperity of the countries that have admitted it.
The influence of slavery upon the production of wealth must have been very imperfectly known in antiquity, as slavery then obtained throughout the civilized world, and the nations that were unacquainted with it were barbarians. And, indeed, Christianity abolished slavery only by advocating the claims of the slave; at the present time it may be attacked in the name of the master, and upon this point interest is reconciled with morality.
As these truths became apparent in the United States, slavery receded before the progress of experience. Servitude had begun in the South and had thence spread towards the North, but it now retires again. Freedom, which started from the North, now descends uninterruptedly towards the South. Among the great states, Pennsylvania now constitutes the extreme limit of slavery to the North; but even within those limits the slave system is shaken: Maryland, which is immediately below Pennsylvania, is preparing for its abolition; and Virginia, which comes next to Maryland, is already discussing its utility and its dangers.39
No great change takes place in human institutions without involving among its causes the law of inheritance. When the law of primogeniture obtained in the South, each family was represented by a wealthy individual, who was neither compelled nor induced to labor; and he was surrounded, as by parasitic plants, by the other members of his family, who were then excluded by law from sharing the common inheritance, and who led the same kind of life as himself. The same thing then occurred in all the families of the South which still happens in the noble families of some countries in Europe: namely, that the younger sons remain in the same state of idleness as their elder brother, without being as rich as he is. This identical result seems to be produced in Europe and in America by wholly analogous causes. In the South of the United States the whole race of whites formed an aristocratic body, headed by a certain number of privileged individuals, whose wealth was permanent and whose leisure was hereditary. These leaders of the American nobility kept alive the traditional prejudices of the white race, in the body of which they were the representatives, and maintained idleness in honor. This aristocracy contained many who were poor, but none who would work; its members preferred want to labor; consequently Negro laborers and slaves met with no competition; and, whatever opinion might be entertained as to the utility of their industry, it was necessary to employ them, since there was no one else to work.
No sooner was the law of primogeniture abolished than fortunes began to diminish and all the families of the country were simultaneously reduced to a state in which labor became necessary to existence; several of them have since entirely disappeared, and all of them learned to look forward to the time when it would be necessary for everyone to provide for his own wants. Wealthy individuals are still to be met with, but they no longer constitute a compact and hereditary body, nor have they been able to adopt a line of conduct in which they could persevere and which they could infuse into all ranks of society. The prejudice that stigmatized labor was, in the first place, abandoned by common consent, the number of needy men was increased, and the needy were allowed to gain a subsistence by labor without blushing for their toil. Thus one of the most immediate consequences of the equal division of estates has been to create a class of free laborers. As soon as competition began between the free laborer and the slave, the inferiority of the latter became manifest and slavery was attacked in its fundamental principle, which is the interest of the master.
As slavery recedes, the black population follows its retrograde course and returns with it towards those tropical regions whence it originally came. However singular this fact may at first appear to be, it may readily be explained. Although the Americans abolish the principle of slavery, they do not set their slaves free. To illustrate this remark, I will quote the example of the state of New York. In 1788 this state prohibited the sale of slaves within its limits, which was an indirect method of prohibiting the importation of them. Thenceforward the number of Negroes could only increase according to the ratio of the natural increase of population. But eight years later, a more decisive measure was taken, and it was enacted that all children born of slave parents after the 4th of July 1799 should be free. No increase could then take place, and although slaves still existed, slavery might be said to be abolished.
As soon as a Northern state thus prohibited the importation, no slaves were brought from the South to be sold in its markets. On the other hand, as the sale of slaves was forbidden in that state, an owner could no longer get rid of his slave ( who thus became a burdensome possession) otherwise than by transporting him to the South. But when a Northern state declared that the son of the slave should be born free, the slave lost a large portion of his market value, since his posterity was no longer included in the bargain, and the owner had then a strong interest in transporting him to the South. Thus the same law prevents the slaves of the South from coming North and drives those of the North to the South.
But there is another cause more powerful than any that I have described. The want of free hands is felt in a state in proportion as the number of slaves decreases. But in proportion as labor is performed by free hands, slave labor becomes less productive; and the slave is then a useless or onerous possession, whom it is important to export to the South, where the same competition is not to be feared. Thus the abolition of slavery does not set the slave free, but merely transfers him to another master, and from the North to the South.
The emancipated Negroes and those born after the abolition of slavery do not, indeed, migrate from the North to the South; but their situation with regard to the Europeans is not unlike that of the Indians; they remain half civilized and deprived of their rights in the midst of a population that is far superior to them in wealth and knowledge, where they are exposed to the tyranny of the laws 40 and the intolerance of the people. On some accounts they are still more to be pitied than the Indians, since they are haunted by the reminiscence of slavery, and they cannot claim possession of any part of the soil. Many of them perish miserably,41 and the rest congregate in the great towns, where they perform the meanest offices and lead a wretched and precarious existence.
If, moreover, the number of Negroes were to continue to grow in the same proportion during the period when they did not have their liberty, yet, with the number of the whites increasing at a double rate after the abolition of slavery, the Negroes would soon be swallowed up in the midst of an alien population.
A district which is cultivated by slaves is in general less populous than a district cultivated by free labor; moreover, America is still a new country, and a state is therefore not half peopled when it abolishes slavery. No sooner is an end put to slavery than the want of free labor is felt, and a crowd of enterprising adventurers immediately arrives from all parts of the country, who hasten to profit by the fresh resources which are then opened to industry. The soil is soon divided among them, and a family of white settlers takes possession of each portion. Besides, European immigration is exclusively directed to the free states; for what would a poor immigrant do who crosses the Atlantic in search of ease and happiness if he were to land in a country where labor is stigmatized as degrading?
Thus the white population grows by its natural increase, and at the same time by the immense influx of immigrants; while the black population receives no immigrants and is upon its decline. The proportion that existed between the two races is soon inverted. The Negroes constitute a scanty remnant, a poor tribe of vagrants, lost in the midst of an immense people who own the land; and the presence of the blacks is only marked by the injustice and the hardships of which they are the victims.
In several of the Western states the Negro race never made its appearance, and in all the Northern states it is rapidly declining. Thus the great question of its future condition is confined within a narrow circle, where it becomes less formidable, though not more easy of solution. The more we descend towards the South, the more difficult it becomes to abolish slavery with advantage; and this arises from several physical causes which it is important to point out.
The first of these causes is the climate: it is well known that, in proportion as Europeans approach the tropics, labor becomes more difficult to them. Many of the Americans even assert that within a certain latitude it is fatal to them, while the Negroes can work there without danger; 42 but I do not think that this opinion, which is so favorable to the indolence of the inhabitants of the South, is confirmed by experience. The southern parts of the Union are not hotter than the south of Italy and of Spain; 43 and it may be asked why the European cannot work as well there as in the latter two countries. If slavery has been abolished in Italy and in Spain without causing the destruction of the masters, why should not the same thing take place in the Union? I cannot believe that nature has prohibited the Europeans in Georgia and the Floridas, under pain of death, from raising the means of subsistence from the soil; but their labor would unquestionably be more irksome and less productive 44 to them than to the inhabitants of New England. As the free workman thus loses a portion of his superiority over the slave in the Southern states, there are fewer inducements to abolish slavery.
All the plants of Europe grow in the northern parts of the Union; the South has special products of its own. It has been observed that slave labor is a very expensive method of cultivating cereal grain. The farmer of grainland in a country where slavery is unknown habitually retains only a small number of laborers in his service, and at seed-time and harvest he hires additional hands, who live at his cost for only a short period. But the agriculturist in a slave state is obliged to keep a large number of slaves the whole year round in order to sow his fields and to gather in his crops, although their services are required only for a few weeks; for slaves are unable to wait till they are hired and to subsist by their own labor in the meantime, like free laborers; in order to have their services, they must be bought. Slavery, independently of its general disadvantages, is therefore still more inapplicable to countries in which grain is cultivated than to those which produce crops of a different kind. The cultivation of tobacco, of cotton, and especially of sugar-cane demands, on the other hand, unremitting attention; and women and children are employed in it, whose services are of little use in the cultivation of wheat. Thus slavery is naturally more fitted to the countries from which these productions are derived.
Tobacco, cotton, and sugar-cane are exclusively grown in the South, and they form the principal sources of the wealth of those states. If slavery were abolished, the inhabitants of the South would be driven to this alternative: they must either change their system of cultivation, and then they would come into competition with the more active and more experienced inhabitants of the North; or, if they continued to cultivate the same produce without slave labor, they would have to support the competition of the other states of the South, which might still retain their slaves. Thus peculiar reasons for maintaining slavery exist in the South which do not operate in the North.
But there is yet another motive, which is more cogent than all the others: the South might, indeed, rigorously speaking, abolish slavery; but how should it rid its territory of the black population? Slaves and slavery are driven from the North by the same law; but this twofold result cannot be hoped for in the South.
In proving that slavery is more natural and more advantageous in the South than in the North, I have shown that the number of slaves must be far greater in the former. It was to the Southern settlements that the first Africans were brought, and it is there that the greatest number of them have always been imported. As we advance towards the South, the prejudice that sanctions idleness increases in power. In the states nearest to the tropics there is not a single white laborer; the Negroes are consequently much more numerous in the South than in the North. And, as I have already observed, this disproportion increases daily, since the Negroes are transferred to one part of the Union as soon as slavery is abolished in the other. Thus the black population augments in the South, not only by its natural fecundity, but by the compulsory emigration of the Negroes from the North; and the African race has causes of increase in the South very analogous to those which accelerate the growth of the European race in the North.
In the state of Maine there is one Negro in three hundred inhabitants; in Massachusetts, one in one hundred; in New York, two in one hundred; in Pennsylvania, three in the same number; in Maryland, thirty-four; in Virginia, forty-two; and lastly, in South Carolina,45 fifty-five per cent of the inhabitants are black. Such was the proportion of the black population to the whites in the year 1830. But this proportion is perpetually changing, as it constantly decreases in the North and augments in the South.
It is evident that the most southern states of the Union cannot abolish slavery without incurring great dangers, which the North had no reason to apprehend when it emancipated its black population. I have already shown how the Northern states made the transition from slavery to freedom, by keeping the present generation in chains and setting their descendants free; by this means the Negroes are only gradually introduced into society; and while the men who might abuse their freedom are kept in servitude, those who are emancipated may learn the art of being free before they become their own masters. But it would be difficult to apply this method in the South. To declare that all the Negroes born after a certain period shall be free is to introduce the principle and the notion of liberty into the heart of slavery; the blacks whom the law thus maintains in a state of slavery from which their children are delivered are astonished at so unequal a fate, and their astonishment is only the prelude to their impatience and irritation. Thenceforward slavery loses, in their eyes, that kind of moral power which it derived from time and habit; it is reduced to a mere palpable abuse of force. The Northern states had nothing to fear from the contrast, because in them the blacks were few in number, and the white population was very considerable. But if this faint dawn of freedom were to show two millions of men their true position, the oppressors would have reason to tremble. After having enfranchised the children of their slaves, the Europeans of the Southern states would very shortly be obliged to extend the same benefit to the whole black population.
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 immigrants from Europe, hasten to fill 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 to allow any expectation of their being removed from the country; 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 number 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, while abolishing slavery, would not be able, like their Northern countrymen, to initiate the slaves gradually into a state of freedom; they have no means of perceptibly diminishing the black population, and they would remain unsupported to repress its excesses. Thus 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 that now maintain slavery would then become the source of the most alarming perils to the white population of the South. At the present time the descendants of the Europeans are the sole owners of the land and the absolute masters of all labor; they alone possess wealth, knowledge, and arms. The black is destitute of all these advantages, but can subsist 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 while 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 far removed from that of the brutes; but with his liberty he cannot but acquire a degree of instruction that 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 firmly implanted in the human heart. Men are much more forcibly struck by those inequalities which exist within the same class than by those which may be noted between different classes. One can understand slavery, but how 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 indignities, but its numbers and its powers are small, while 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 foreign communities, it will readily be understood that there are but two chances for the future: the Negroes and the whites must either wholly part or wholly mingle. I have already expressed my conviction as to the latter event.46 I do not believe 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.47
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 with one another that it is rare to meet with a man who is entirely black or entirely white; when they have 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 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 infinitely fewer 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 towards the lower orders.
The pride of origin, which is natural to the English, is singularly augmented by the personal pride that democratic liberty fosters among 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 being confounded with 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 the future, 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 blacks. I base this opinion upon the analogous observation I have already made in the North. I have 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 an imaginary danger; in the South, where the danger would be real, I cannot believe that the fear would be less.
If, on the one hand, it be admitted ( and the fact is unquestionable) that the colored population perpetually accumulate in the extreme South and increase more rapidly than 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? 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 vague conjectures. The human mind may succeed in tracing a wide circle, as it were, which includes the future; but within that circle chance rules, and eludes all our foresight. In every picture of the future there is a dim spot which the eye of the understanding cannot penetrate. It appears, however, extremely probable that in the West Indies islands the white race is destined to be subdued, and upon the continent the blacks.
In the West Indies the white planters are isolated amid an immense black population; on the continent the blacks are placed between the ocean and an innumerable people, who already extend above them, in a compact 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 is difficult to believe that the Negroes will escape the destruction which menaces them; they must be subdued by want or by the sword. But the black population accumulated along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico have a chance of success if the American Union should be dissolved when the struggle between the two races begins. The Federal tie once broken, the people of the South could not 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 race will be powerless.
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 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 retire by degrees to the country whence its ancestors came and abandon to the Negroes the possession of a territory which Providence seems to have destined for them, since they can subsist and labor in it more easily than 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, like a painful dream. The inhabitants of the North make it a common topic of conversation, although directly they have nothing to fear from it; 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; he 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 North.
This all-pervading disquietude has given birth to an undertaking as yet but little known, which, however, may change the fate of a portion of the human race. From apprehension of the dangers that I have just described, some 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.48
In 1820 the society to which I allude formed a settlement in Africa, on the seventh degree of north latitude, which bears the name of Liberia. The most recent intelligence informs us that two thousand five hundred Negroes are collected there. They have introduced the democratic institutions of America into the country of their forefathers. Liberia has a representative system of government, Negro jurymen, Negro magistrates, and Negro priests; churches have been built, newspapers established, and, by a singular turn in the vicissitudes of the world, white men are prohibited from establishing themselves within the settlement.49
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. Now the European settlers are engaged in sending back the descendants of those very Negroes to the continent whence they were originally taken: the barbarous Africans have learned 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 fruitful idea; but, whatever may be its results with regard to Africa, it can afford no remedy to the New World.
In twelve years the Colonization Society has transported two thousand five hundred Negroes to Africa; in the same space of time about seven hundred thousand blacks were born in the United States. If the colony of Liberia were 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,50 and to transport the Negroes to Africa in government vessels, it would still be unable to counterpoise the natural increase of population among the blacks; and as it could not remove as many men in a year as are born upon its territory within that time, it could not prevent the growth of the evil which is daily increasing in the states.51 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.
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 Southern states. The Negroes may long remain slaves without complaining; but if they are once raised to the level of freemen, they will soon revolt at being deprived of almost all their civil rights; and as they cannot become the equals of the whites, they will speedily show themselves as enemies. In the North everything facilitated the emancipation of the slaves, and slavery was abolished without rendering the free Negroes formidable, since their number was too small for them ever to claim their rights. But such is not the case in the South. The question of slavery was a commercial and manufacturing question 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! I say only 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 discover only two modes of action for the white inhabitants of those States: namely, either to emancipate the Negroes and to intermingle with them, or, remaining isolated from them, to keep them in 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 the other of the two races. Such is the view that 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; on this point many of them agree with their Northern countrymen, in freely admitting that slavery is prejudicial to their interests; but they are convinced that the removal of this evil would imperil their own existence. 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 it is almost an impossibility to get rid of it. Hence arises a singular contrast: the more the utility of slavery is contested, the more firmly is it established in the laws; and while its principle is gradually abolished in the North, that selfsame 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 that the laws of humanity have been totally 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; on the contrary, they have 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 for freedom. The ancients kept the bodies of their slaves in bondage, but placed no restraint upon the mind and no check upon eduction; 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, under severe penalties, to be taught to read or write; 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 away from slave-owners the right of emancipating their slaves in most cases.52
I happened to meet 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 before he could surmount the legal obstacles to their emancipation, and meanwhile his old age had 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 I then understood 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 consequences 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 any notion of intimate union with which they all repelled with horror, they must have believed that slavery would last forever, since there is no intermediate state that can be durable between the excessive inequality produced by servitude and the complete equality that 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 been dictated either 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 opened their ranks to their slaves, and when the latter tried to come in, they drove them forth in scorn. Desiring slavery, they have allowed themselves unconsciously to be swayed in spite of themselves towards liberty, without having the courage to be either completely iniquitous or completely just.
If it is 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 that are taking place in the Southern states 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, now confined to a single tract of the civilized earth, attacked by Christianity as unjust and by political economy as prejudicial, and now contrasted with democratic liberty and the intelligence of our age, cannot survive. By the act 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 forcibly seize it for themselves; if it be given, they will before long abuse it.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF DURATION OF THE AMERICAN UNION, AND WHAT DANGERS THREATEN IT
What makes the preponderant force lie in the states rather than in the Union -- The Union will last only as long as all the states choose to belong to it -- Causes that tend to keep them united -- Utility of the Union to resist foreign enemies and to exclude foreigners from 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 [central federal government] decrease --Internal improvements -- Wastelands -- Indians -- The bank -- The tariff -- General Jackson.
THE maintenance of the existing institutions of the several states depends in part upon the maintenance of the Union itself. We must therefore first inquire into the probable fate of the Union. One point may 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 that I have already taken and to revert to topics that 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 not 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 separate existence and superior strength 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 order to understand the consequences of this division it is necessary to make a short distinction between the functions of government. There are some objects which are national by their very nature; that is to say, which affect the nation as a whole, and can be entrusted only to the man or the assembly of men who most completely represent the entire nation. Among these may be reckoned war and diplomacy. There are other objects which are provincial by their very nature; that is to say, which affect only certain localities and which can be properly treated only in that locality. Such, for instance, is the budget of a municipality. Lastly, there are 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 that 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 sovereign power; and these are found in all well-constituted communities, whatever may be the basis of the political constitution. Between these two extremes the objects which I have termed mixed may be considered to lie. As these are neither exclusively national nor entirely provincial, the care of them may be given to a national or a provincial government, according to the agreement of the contracting parties, without in any way impairing the object of association.
The sovereign power is usually formed by the union of individuals, who compose a people; and individual powers or collective forces, each representing a small fraction of the sovereign, are the only elements that are found under the general government. In this case the general government is more naturally called upon to regulate not only those affairs which are essentially national, but most of those which I have called mixed; and the local governments are reduced to that small share of sovereign authority which is indispensable to their well-being.
But sometimes the sovereign authority is composed of pre-organized political bodies, by virtue of circumstances anterior to their union; and in this case the state governments assume the control not only of those affairs which more peculiarly belong to them, but of all or a part of the mixed objects in question. For the confederate nations, which were independent sovereignties before their union, and which still represent a considerable share of the sovereign power, have consented to cede to the general government the exercise only of those rights which are indispensable to the Union.
When the national government, independently of the prerogatives inherent in its nature, is invested with the right of regulating the mixed objects of sovereignty, it possesses a preponderant influence. Not only are its own rights extensive, but all the rights which it does not possess exist by its sufferance; and it is to be feared that the provincial governments may be deprived by it of their natural and necessary prerogatives.
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 preponderant 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 that are necessary to its existence.
Single nations have therefore a natural tendency to centralization, and confederations to dismemberment.
It now remains to apply these general principles to the American Union. The several states necessarily retained the right of regulating all purely local affairs. Moreover, these same states kept the rights of determining the civil and political competency of the citizens, of regulating the reciprocal relations of the members of the community, and of dispensing justice--rights which are general in their nature, but do not necessarily appertain to the national government. We have seen 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 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 it has less frequent occasion to act at all. Those of the state governments are comparatively small, but they are incessant and they keep alive the authority which they represent. The government of the Union watches over the general interests of the country; but the general interests of a people have but a questionable influence upon individual happiness, while state interests produce an 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 far removed from its subjects, while the state governments are within the reach of them all and are ready to attend to the smallest appeal. The central government has on its side the passions of a few superior men who aspire to conduct it; but on the side of the state 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 more authority over the people because they are nearer to them.
The Americans have, therefore, much more to hope and to fear from the states than from the Union; and, according to the natural tendency of the human mind, they are more likely to attach themselves strongly 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 usages of the people for a long time struggle against the laws and give an influence to the central government which the laws forbid. But 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 be more energetic 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 long remain weaker than the French. When the national existence of the Anglo-Americans began, their colonial 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 that are familiar to the citizens and dear to them all. It is identified with the 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 selfishness, is still directed to the state and has not passed over to the Union. Thus the tendency of the interests, the habits, and the feelings of the people is to center political activity in the states in preference to the Union.
It is easy to estimate the different strength of the two governments by noting the manner in which they exercise their respective powers. Whenever the government of a state addresses an individual or an assembly of individuals, its language is clear and imperative, and such is also the tone of the Federal government when it speaks to individuals; but no sooner has it anything to do with a state than it begins to parley, to explain its motives and 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 either government, the state government prefers its claim with boldness and takes prompt and energetic steps to support it. Meanwhile the government of the Union reasons; it appeals to the interests, the good sense, 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 state 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, more than any other, it requires the free consent of the governed to enable it to exist. 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, it is wise, strong, and active. 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 voluntary 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 it has distinctly refused to act, it was left to do as it thought fit.53
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.54 The United States covers an immense territory, the individual states 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 by arms the allegiance of the federated states, it would be in a position very analogous to that of England at the time of the War of Independence.
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 these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their sovereignty, 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 that may be offered to it by any 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 among the states that are united by the federal tie there are some which exclusively enjoy the principal advantages of union, or whose prosperity entirely 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 among the states.
If one of the federated states acquires 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 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.55 In both these cases the power that acts in the name of the confederation becomes stronger the more it abandons the natural state and the acknowledged principles of confederations.
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 the sum of their joint prosperity would be less. As the existence and the happiness of none of the states are wholly dependent on the present Constitution, none of them would be disposed to make great personal sacrifices to maintain it. On the other hand, there is no state which seems hitherto to have been by 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 can hope to domineer over the rest or to treat them as its inferiors or as its subjects.
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 last only 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.
Among the various reasons that tend to render the existing Union useful to the Americans, two principal ones are especially evident to the observer. Although the Americans are, as it were, alone upon their continent, commerce gives them for neighbors all the nations with which they trade. Notwithstanding their apparent isolation, then, the Americans need to be strong, and they can be strong only by remaining united. If the states were to split, not only would they diminish the strength that they now have against foreigners, 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 impeded, and a multitude of hindrances would prevent the Americans from using that vast continent which Providence has given 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 things would before long be required. The Americans are, then, most deeply interested in the maintenance of their Union. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to discover any private interest that might now tempt a portion of the Union to separate from the other states.
When we cast our eyes on the map of the United States, we perceive the chain of the Allegheny 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 coasts 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 Alleghenies does not exceed 800 meters.56 Their rounded summits, and the spacious valleys which they enclose within their passes, are of easy access in several directions. Besides, the principal rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson, the Susquehanna, and the Potomac, take their rise beyond the Alleghenies, in an open elevated plain, which borders on the valley of the Mississippi. These streams quit this region,57 make their way through the barrier which would seem to turn them westward, and, as they wind through the mountains, open an easy and natural passage to man.
No natural barrier divides the regions that are now inhabited by the Anglo-Americans; the Alleghenies are so far from separating nations that they do not even divide different states. New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia comprise them within their borders and extend as much to the west as to the east of these mountains.58
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, cover a surface of 131,144 square leagues,59 which is about equal to five times the extent of France. Within these limits the quality 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 duration of the state. But if the inhabitants of these vast regions are not divided by contrary interests, the extent of the territory is favorable to their prosperity; for the unity of the government promotes the interchange of the different products of the soil and increases their value by facilitating their sale.
It is indeed easy to discover different interests in the different parts of the Union, but I am unacquainted with any that are hostile to one another. 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, rice, cotton, and sugar, in the North and the West, of wheat and corn. These are different sources of wealth, but union is the means by which these sources are opened and rendered equally advantageous to all.
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 on 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 willingly contribute to the expense of a 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 that grow in the valley of the Mississippi? Every portion of the Federal budget does, therefore, contribute to the maintenance of material interests that are common to all the federated states.
Independently of this commercial utility, the South and the West derive great political advantages from their union with each other and 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 occupy a single valley; the rivers that intersect their territory rise in the Rocky Mountains or in the Alleghenies, 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 material interests of all the parts of the Union are, then, intimately connected; and the same assertion holds true respecting those opinions and sentiments that may be termed the immaterial interests of men.
The inhabitants of the United States talk much 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 may destroy. Nor do I attach much importance to the language of the Americans when they manifest, in their daily conversation, 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 exist only when a great number of men consider a great number of things under the same aspect, 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 what is passing in the United States upon this principle will readily discover that their inhabitants, though divided into twenty-four distinct sovereignties, still constitute a single people; and he may perhaps be led to think that the Anglo-American Union is more truly a united society than some 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 that 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 that ought to rule human society. From Maine to the Floridas, and from the Missouri to the Atlantic Ocean, the people are held to be the source of all legitimate 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 that regulate the daily actions of life and govern their conduct, we still find the same uniformity. The Anglo-Americans 60 acknowledge the 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 by following his own interest, rightly understood, will be led to do what is just and good. 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 judge that 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 d changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they admit that what appears to them today to be good, may be superseded by something better tomorrow. I do not give all these opinions as true, but as American opinions.
Not only are the Anglo-Americans united by these common opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a feeling of pride. For the last fifty years no pains have been spared to convince the inhabitants of the United States that they are the only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for the present, their own democratic institutions prosper, while those of other countries fail; hence they conceive a high opinion of their superiority and are not very remote from believing themselves to be a distinct species of mankind.
Thus the dangers that threaten the American Union do not originate in 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 climate, and more especially slavery, have gradually introduced marked 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 the other, but I have not found 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 of slavery 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 his master, but he never withstands him. In the South there are no families so poor as not to have slaves. The citizen of the Southern states becomes a sort of domestic dictator from infancy; the first notion he acquires in life is that he is born to command, and the first habit which he contracts is that of ruling without resistance. His education tends, then, to give him the character of a haughty and hasty man, irascible, violent, ardent in his desires, impatient of obstacles, but easily discouraged if he cannot succeed upon his first attempt.
The American of the North sees no slaves around him in his childhood; he is even unattended by free servants, for he is usually obliged to provide for his own wants. As soon as he enters the world, the idea of necessity assails him on every side; he soon learns to know exactly the natural limits of his power; he never expects to subdue by force those who withstand him; 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 pressing wants of life are always supplied; the inhabitants, therefore, are not occupied with the material cares of life, from which they are relieved 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, 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 material cares which are disdained by the white population of the South. They are taught from infancy to combat want and to place wealth 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, clearer, and more precise. As prosperity is the sole aim of exertion, it is excellently well attained; nature and men are turned to the best pecuniary advantage; and society is dexterously made to contribute to the welfare of each of its members, while individual selfishness is the source of general happiness.
The American of the North has not only experience but knowledge; yet he values science not as an enjoyment, but as a means, and is only anxious to seize its useful applications. The American 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, common sense, information, and 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 most 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.
The states that gave their assent to the Federal contract in 1790 were thirteen in number; the Union now consists of twenty-four members. The population, which amounted to nearly four millions in 1790, had more than tripled in the space of forty years; in 1830 it amounted to nearly thirteen millions.61 Changes of such magnitude cannot take place without danger.
A society of nations, as well as a society of individuals, has three principal chances of duration: namely, 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 wilderness, they are unknown to one another; they have neither traditions, family feeling, nor the force of example to check their excesses. The authority of the laws is feeble among them; that of morality is still weaker. The settlers who are constantly peopling the valley of the Mississippi are, then, in every respect, inferior to the Americans who inhabit the older parts of the Union. But they already exercise a great influence in its councils; and they arrive at the government of the commonwealth before they have learned to govern themselves.62
The greater the individual weakness 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,63 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 federated states reckons, like the state of New York, two million inhabitants and covers an extent of territory equal to a quarter of France,64 it feels its own strength; and although it may still support the Union as useful to its prosperity, it no longer regards it as necessary to its existence; and while consenting to continue in it, it aims at preponderance in the federal councils. The mere increase in number of the states weakens the tie that holds them together. All men who are placed at the same point of view do not look at the same objects in the same manner. Still less do they do so when the point of view is different. In proportion, then, as the American republics become more numerous, there is less chance of their unanimity in matters of legislation. At present the interests of the different parts of the Union are not at variance, but who can foresee the various changes of the future in a country in which new towns are founded every day and new states almost every year?
Since the first settlement of the British colonies the number of inhabitants has about doubled every twenty-two years. I perceive no causes that are likely to check this ratio of increase of the Anglo-American population for the next hundred years; and before that time has elapsed, I believe that the territories and dependencies of the United States will be covered by more than a hundred millions of inhabitants and divided into forty states.65 I admit that these hundred millions of men have no different interests. I suppose, on the contrary, that they are all equally interested in the maintenance of the Union; but I still say that, for the very reason that they are a hundred millions, forming forty distinct nations unequally strong, the continuance of the Federal government can be only a fortunate accident.
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 that is called upon to hold together forty different nations spread over a territory equal to one half of Europe,66 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 displacement of its internal forces. The distance from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico is more than twelve hundred miles as the crow 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 this vast boundary.67 Obstacles such as an unproductive district, a lake, or an Indian nation are from time to time encountered. The advancing column then halts for a while; its two extremities curve round 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.
Within this front 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; 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 four million.68 The city of Washington was founded in 1800, in the very center 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, in order to take their seats in Congress, are already obliged to perform a journey as long as that from Vienna to Paris.69
All the states of the Union are carried forward at the same time towards prosperity, but all cannot grow and prosper at the same rate. In the North of the Union the detached branches of the Allegheny chain, extending as far as the Atlantic Ocean, form spacious roads and ports, constantly accessible to the largest vessels. But from the Potomac, following the shore, to the mouth of the Mississippi, the coast is sandy and fiat. In this part of the Union the mouths of almost all the rivers are obstructed; and the few harbors that exist among these inlets do not offer the same depth to vessels and present, for commerce, facilities less extensive than those of the North.
The first and natural cause of inferiority is united to another cause proceeding from the laws. We have 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 70 and in manufacture, the natural consequence of which is the more rapid increase of population and wealth within its borders. The states on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean are already half peopled. Most of the land is held by an owner, and they cannot therefore receive so many immigrants as the Western states, where a boundless field is still open to industry. 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 new states adjacent to the Mississippi the population 71 has increased thirty-one-fold within the same time.72
The center of the federal power is continually displaced. Forty years ago the majority of the citizens of the Union were established upon the coast of the Atlantic, in the environs of the spot where 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 Alleghenies. If the Union continues, the basin of the Mississippi is evidently marked out, by its fertility and its extent, to be the permanent center of the Federal government. In thirty or forty years that tract of country will have assumed its natural rank. It is easy to calculate that its population, compared with that of the coast of the Atlantic, will then be, in round numbers, as 40 to 11. In a few years the states that 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 that each state sends to Congress is settled anew.73 In 1790 Virginia had nineteen representatives in Congress. This number continued to increase until 1813, when it reached twenty-three; from that time it began to decrease, and in 1833 Virginia elected only twenty-one.74 During the same period the state of New York followed 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 already had nineteen.
It is difficult to imagine a durable union of a nation that is rich and strong with one that 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 when 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 two million inhabitants and its forty representatives, in dictating to the other states in Congress. But even if the more powerful states make no attempt to oppress the smaller 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 that increase less rapidly than the others look upon those that 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 attitude taken by the South recently is 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 ones who threaten to break the tie of confederation. It is easy to perceive that the South, which has given four Presidents to the Union,75 which perceives that it is losing its federal influence and that the number of its representatives in Congress is diminishing from year to year, while those of the Northern and Western states are increasing, the South, which is peopled with ardent and irascible men, is becoming more and more irritated and alarmed. Its inhabitants 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 that 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 that loads them with burdens while it deprives them of the 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; while the South, which may be styled the garden of America, is rapidly declining." 76
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 that 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.77 But they believe themselves to be impoverished because their wealth does not augment as rapidly as that of their neighbors; and they think that their power is lost because they suddenly come in contact with a power greater than their own.78 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, war would scarcely be known among mankind.
Thus the prosperity of the United States is the source of their most serious dangers, since it tends to create in some of the federated states that intoxication which accompanies a rapid increase of fortune, and to awaken in others those feelings of envy, mistrust, and regret which usually attend the loss of it. The Americans contemplate this extraordinary 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 offspring will cover almost the whole of North America; the continent that 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 this immense 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 that may induce some of the states to separate from the others. The Union may, however, perish in two different ways: one of the federated 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 gradually lost 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 fulfill its purpose, and the second union would perish, like the first, by a sort of senile imbecility. 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 exist 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 that may induce the Anglo-Americans to disunite, it is important to inquire whether, if the Union continues to survive, their government will extend or contract its sphere of action, and whether it will become more energetic or more weak.
The Americans are evidently disposed to look upon their condition with alarm. They perceive that in most of the nations of the world the exercise of the rights of sovereignty tends to fall into a few hands, and they are dismayed by the idea that it may be so 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, while the Union is composed of different communities, a fact that is sufficient to baffle all the inferences which might be drawn from analogy. I confess that I am inclined to consider these fears of a great number of Americans as purely imaginary. 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 strength. 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 there, like two currents flowing in contrary directions in the same channel. The Union has now existed for forty-five years, and time has done away with many provincial prejudices which were at first hostile to its power. The patriotic feeling that attached each of the Americans to his own state has become less exclusive, and the different parts of the Union have become more amicable as they have become better acquainted with each other. The post, that great instrument of intercourse, now reaches into the backwoods; 79 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.80 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. There is not a province in France in which the natives are so well known to one another as the thirteen millions of men who cover the territory of the United States.
While the Americans intermingle, they assimilate; 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 enlightened than the men among whom they are about to dwell, they soon rise to the head of affairs and 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 that unite the federated states are strengthened by the increasing manufactures of the Americans, and the union which began in their opinions gradually forms a part of their habits; the course of time has swept away the bugbear thoughts that haunted the imaginations of the citizens in 1789. The Federal power has not become oppressive; it has not destroyed the independence of the states; it has not subjected the confederates to monarchical institutions; and the Union has not rendered the lesser states dependent upon the larger ones. 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 as they were in 1789, and that the enemies of the Union are not so numerous.
And yet 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. When the Constitution of 1789 was promulgated, the nation was a prey to anarchy; the Union which succeeded this confusion excited much dread and hatred, but it was warmly supported because it satisfied an imperious want. Although it was then more attacked than it is now, the Federal power soon reached the maximum of its authority, as is usually the case with a government that 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 some extent, above itself.
The Constitution had not destroyed the individuality of the states, and all communities, of whatever nature they may be, are impelled by a secret instinct towards independence. This propensity is still more decided in a country like America, in which every village forms a sort of republic, accustomed to govern itself. It therefore cost the states an effort to submit to the Federal supremacy; and all efforts, however successful, necessarily subside with the causes in which they originated.
As the Federal government consolidated its authority, America resumed its rank among the nations, peace returned to its frontiers, and public credit was restored; confusion was succeeded by a fixed state of things, which permitted the full and free exercise of industrious enterprise. It was this very prosperity that made the Americans forget the cause which had produced it; and when once the danger was passed, the energy and the patriotism that had enabled them to brave it disappeared from among them. Delivered from the cares that oppressed them, 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. Everything prospered under the Union, and the states were not inclined to abandon the Union; but they desired to render the action of the power which represented it as light as possible. The general principle of union was adopted, but in every minor detail there was a tendency to independence. The principle of confederation was every day more easily admitted and more rarely applied, so that the Federal government, by creating order and peace, brought about its own decline.
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, as often as it has entered the lists with the governments of the states, has almost invariably been obliged to recede. And whenever an interpretation of the terms of the Federal Constitution has been pronounced, that interpretation has generally been opposed to the Union and favorable to the states.
The Constitution gave to the Federal government the right of providing for the national interests; and it had been held that no other authority was so fit to superintend the internal improvements that affected the prosperity of the whole Union, such, for instance, as the cutting of canals. But the states were alarmed at a power that could thus dispose of a portion of their territory; they were afraid that the central government would by this means acquire a formidable patronage within their own limits, and exercise influence which they wished to reserve exclusively to their own agents. The Democratic Party, which has constantly opposed the increase of the Federal authority, accused Congress of usurpation, and the chief magistrate of ambition. The central government was intimidated by these clamors, and it finally acknowledged its error, promising to confine its influence for the future within the circle that 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 residence upon a given spot, the adjacent states claimed possession of the lands and a right 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.81
Some of the states which had been founded on the Atlantic coast extended indefinitely to the West, into wild regions where no European had yet penetrated. The states whose confines were irrevocably fixed looked with a jealous eye upon the unbounded regions that were thus opened to their neighbors. The latter, with a view to conciliate the others and to facilitate the act of union, then agreed to lay down their own boundaries and to abandon all the territory that lay beyond them to the confederation at large.82 Thenceforward the Federal government became the owner of all the uncultivated lands that lie beyond the borders of the thirteen states first confederated. It had the right of parceling and selling them, and the sums derived from this source were paid into the public treasury to furnish the means of purchasing tracts of land from the Indians, opening roads to the remote settlements, and accelerating the advance of civilization. New states have been formed in the course of time in the midst of those wilds which were formerly ceded by the Atlantic states. 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 have the right of converting the produce of these sales exclusively 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 that 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.83
The slightest observation in the United States enables one to appreciate the advantages that the country derives from the Bank of the United States. These advantages are of several kinds, but one of them is peculiarly striking to the stranger. The notes of the bank are taken upon the borders of the wilderness for the same value as at Philadelphia, where the bank conducts its operations.84
But the Bank of the United States is the object of great animosity. Its directors proclaimed their hostility to the President, and they were accused, not without probability, of having abused their influence to thwart his election. The President therefore attacked the establishment with all the warmth of personal enmity; and he was encouraged in the pursuit of his revenge by the conviction that he was supported by the secret inclinations 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 that tend to render the states independent of the central power contributed to the overthrow of the bank.
The Bank of the United States always held a great number of the notes issued by the state 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 able to issue only a quantity of notes duly proportioned to their capital. They submitted with impatience to this salutary control. The newspapers that they bought over, and the President, whose interest rendered him their instrument, attacked the bank with the greatest vehemence. They roused the local passions and the blind democratic instinct of the country to aid their cause; and they asserted that the bank directors formed a permanent aristocratic body, whose influence would ultimately be felt in the government and affect those principles of equality upon which society rests in America.
The contest between the bank and its opponents was only an incident in the great struggle which is going on in America between the states and the central power, between the spirit of democratic independence and that of a proper distribution and subordination of power. I do not mean that the enemies of the bank were identically the same individuals who on other points attacked the Federal government, but I assert that the attacks directed against the Bank of the United States originated in the same propensities that militate against the Federal government, and that the very numerous opponents of the former afford a deplorable symptom of the decreasing strength of the latter.
But the Union has never shown so much weakness as on the celebrated question of the tariff.85 The wars of the French Revolution and of 1812 had created manufacturing establishments in the North of the Union, by cutting off 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. I do not pretend to examine here whether their complaints were well or ill founded, but only to recite the facts.
As early as 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 Nullification.
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 one and the same 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 once spoken, it is the duty of the minority to submit. Such is the sound legal doctrine, and the only one that agrees with the text of the Constitution and the known intention of those who framed it.
The partisans of Nullification in the South maintain, on the contrary, that the intention of the Americans in uniting was not to combine themselves into one and the same people, but that they meant only to form 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 seem 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 1833: "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 common arbiter 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 such a doctrine destroys the very basis of the Federal Constitution and brings back the anarchy from which the Americans were delivered by the act of 1789.
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 law. Congress persisted in its system, and at length the storm broke out. In the course of 1832 the people of South Carolina 86 named a national convention to consult upon the extraordinary measures that remained to be taken; and on the 24th of November of the same year this convention promulgated a law, under the form of a decree, which annulled the Federal tariff law, forbade the levy of the duties which that law commands, and refused to recognize the appeal that might be made to the Federal courts of law.87 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 federated states. In the meantime South Carolina armed her militia and prepared for war.
But Congress, which had slighted its suppliant subjects, listened to their complaints as soon as they appeared with arms in their hands.88 A law was passed 89 by which the tariff duties were to be gradually reduced for ten years, until they were brought so low as not to exceed the supplies necessary to the government. Thus Congress completely abandoned the principle of the tariff and substituted a mere fiscal impost for a system of protective duties.90 The government of the Union, to conceal its defeat, had recourse to an expedient that is much in vogue with feeble governments. It yielded the point de facto, but remained inflexible upon the principles; and while it was altering the tariff law, it passed another bill by which the President was invested with extraordinary powers enabling him to overcome by force a resistance which was then no longer to be feared.
But South Carolina did not consent to leave the Union in the enjoyment of these scanty appearances of success: the same national convention that had annulled the tariff bill met again and accepted the proffered concession; but at the same time it declared its unabated perseverance in the doctrine of Nullification; and to prove what it said, it annulled the law investing the President with extraordinary powers, although it was very certain that the law would never be carried into effect.
Almost all the controversies of which I have been speaking have taken place under the Presidency of General Jackson; and it cannot be denied that in the question of the tariff he has supported the rights of the Union with energy and skill. I think, however, that the conduct of this President of the Federal government may be reckoned as one of the dangers that threaten its continuance.
Some persons in Europe have formed an opinion of the influence of General Jackson upon the affairs of his country which appears highly extravagant to those who have seen the subject nearer at hand. We have been told that General Jackson has won battles; that he is an energetic man, prone by nature and habit to the use of force, covetous of power, and a despot by inclination. All this may be true; but the inferences which have been drawn from these truths are very erroneous. It has been imagined that General Jackson is bent on establishing a dictatorship in America, introducing a military spirit, and giving a degree of influence to the central authority that cannot but be dangerous to provincial liberties. But in America the time for similar undertakings, and the age for men of this kind, has not yet come; if General Jackson had thought of exercising his authority in this manner, he would infallibly have forfeited his political station and compromised his life; he has not been so imprudent as to attempt anything of the kind.
Far from wishing to extend the Federal power, the President belongs to the party which is desirous of limiting that power to the clear and precise letter of the Constitution, and which never puts a construction upon that act favorable to the government of the Union; far from standing forth as the champion of centralization, General Jackson is the agent of the state jealousies; and he was placed in his lofty station by the passions that are most opposed to the central government. It is by perpetually flattering these passions that he maintains his station and his popularity. General Jackson is the slave of the majority: he yields to its wishes, its propensities, and its demands--say, rather, anticipates and forestalls them.
Whenever the governments of the states come into collision with that of the Union, the President is generally the first to question his own rights; he almost always outstrips the legislature; and when the extent of the Federal power is controverted, he takes part, as it were, against himself; he conceals his official interests, and labors to diminish his own dignity. Not, indeed, that he is naturally weak or hostile to the Union; for when the majority decided against the claims of Nullification, he put himself at their head, asserted distinctly and energetically the doctrines which the nation held, and was the first to recommend force; but General Jackson appears to me, if I may use the American expression, to be a Federalist by taste and a Republican by calculation.
General Jackson stoops to gain the favor of the majority; but when he feels that his popularity is secure, he overthrows all obstacles in the pursuit of the objects which the community approves or of those which it does not regard with jealousy. Supported by a power that his predecessors never had, he tramples on his personal enemies, whenever they cross his path, with a facility without example; he takes upon himself the responsibility of measures that no one before him would have ventured to attempt. He even treats the national representatives with a disdain approaching to insult; he puts his veto on the laws of Congress and frequently neglects even to reply to that powerful body. He is a favorite who sometimes treats his master roughly. The power of General Jackson perpetually increases, but that of the President declines; in his hands the Federal government is strong, but it will pass enfeebled into the hands of his successor.
I am strangely mistaken if the Federal government of the United States is not constantly losing strength, retiring gradually from public affairs, and narrowing its circle of action. It is naturally feeble, but it now abandons even the appearance of strength. On the other hand, I thought that I noticed a more lively sense of independence and a more decided attachment to their separate governments in the states. The Union is desired, but only as a shadow; they wish it to be strong in certain cases and weak in all others; in time of warfare it is to be able to concentrate all the forces of the nation and all the resources of the country in its hands, and in time of peace its existence is to be scarcely perceptible, as if this alternate debility and vigor were natural or possible.
I do not see anything for the present that can check this general tendency of opinion; the causes in which it originated do not cease to operate in the same direction. The change will therefore go on, and it may be predicted that unless some extraordinary event occurs, the government of the Union will grow weaker and weaker every day.
I think, however, that the period is still remote at which the Federal power will be entirely extinguished by its inability to protect itself and to maintain peace in the country. The Union is sanctioned by the manners and desires of the people; its results are palpable, its benefits visible. When it is perceived that the weakness of the Federal government compromises the existence of the Union, I do not doubt that a reaction will take place with a view to increase its strength.
The government of the United States is, of all the federal governments which have hitherto been established, the one that is most naturally destined to act. As long as it is only indirectly assailed by the interpretation of its laws and as long as its substance is not seriously impaired, a change of opinion, an internal crisis, or a war may restore all the vigor that it requires. What I have been most anxious to establish is simply this: Many people in France imagine that a change of opinion is going on in the United States which is favorable to a centralization of power in the hands of the President and the Congress. I hold that a contrary tendency may distinctly be observed. So far is the Federal government, as it grows old, from acquiring strength and from threatening the sovereignty of the states that I maintain it to be growing weaker and the sovereignty of the Union alone to be in danger. Such are the facts that the present time discloses. The future conceals the final result of this tendency and the events which may check, retard, or accelerate the changes I have described; I do not pretend to be able to remove the veil that hides them.
OF THE REPUBLICAN INSTITUTIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, AND WHAT THEIR CHANCES OF DURATION ARE.
The Union is only an accident -- Republican institutions have more permanence [and a different meaning than that of our "European demagogues"] -- A republic for the present is the natural state of the Anglo-Americans -- Reason for this -- In order to destroy it, all the laws must be changed at the same time, and a great alteration take place in manners [factional dynamism is healthy] --Difficulties which the Americans would experience in creating an aristocracy.
THE dismemberment of the Union, by introducing war into the heart of those states which are now federated, with standing armies, a dictatorship, and heavy taxation, might eventually compromise the fate of republican institutions. But we ought not to confound the future prospects of the republic with those of the Union. The Union is an accident, which will last only as long as circumstances favor it; but a republican form of government seems to me the natural state of the Americans, which nothing but the continued action of hostile causes, always acting in the same direction, could change into a monarchy. The Union exists principally in the law which formed it; one revolution, one change in public opinion, might destroy it forever; but the republic has a deeper foundation to rest upon.
What is understood by a republican government in the United States is the slow and quiet action of society upon itself. It is a regular state of things really founded upon the enlightened will of the people. It is a conciliatory government, under which resolutions are allowed time to ripen, and in which they are deliberately discussed, and are executed only when mature. The republicans in the United States set a high value upon morality, respect religious belief, and acknowledge the existence of rights. They profess to think that a people ought to be moral, religious, and temperate in proportion as it is free. What is called the republic in the United States is the tranquil rule of the majority, which, after having had time to examine itself and to give proof of its existence, is the common source of all the powers of the state. But the power of the majority itself is not unlimited. Above it in the moral world are humanity, justice, and reason; and in the political world, vested rights. The majority recognizes these two barriers; and if it now and then oversteps them, it is because, like individuals, it has passions and, like them, it is prone to do what is wrong, while it discerns what is right.
But the demagogues of Europe have made strange discoveries, According to them, a republic is not the rule of the majority, as has hitherto been thought, but the rule of those who are strenuous partisans of the majority. It is not the people who preponderate in this kind of government, but those who know what is good for the people, a happy distinction which allows men to act in the name of nations without consulting them and to claim their gratitude while their rights are trampled underfoot. A republican government, they hold, moreover, is the only one that has the right of doing whatever it chooses and despising what men have hitherto respected, from the highest moral laws to the vulgar rules of common sense. Until our time it had been supposed that despotism was odious, under whatever form it appeared. But it is a discovery of modern days that there are such things as legitimate tyranny and holy injustice, provided they are exercised in the name of the people.
The ideas that the Americans have adopted respecting the republic render it easy for them to live under it and ensure its duration. With them, if the republic is often bad practically, at least it is good theoretically; and in the end the people always act in conformity to it.
It was impossible at the foundation of the states, and it would still be difficult, to establish a central administration in America. The inhabitants are dispersed over too great a space and separated by too many natural obstacles for one man to undertake to direct the details of their existence. America is therefore preeminently the country of state and municipal government. To this cause, which was plainly felt by all the Europeans of the New World, the Anglo-Americans added several others peculiar to themselves.
At the time of the settlement of the North American colonies municipal liberty had already penetrated into the laws as well as the customs of the English, and the immigrants adopted it, not only as a necessary thing, but as a benefit which they knew how to appreciate. We have already seen how the colonies were founded: every colony and almost every district was peopled separately by men who were strangers to one another or were associated with very different purposes. The English settlers in the United States, therefore, early perceived that they were divided into a great number of small and distinct communities, which belonged to no common center; and that each of these little communities must take care of its own affairs, since there was not any central authority that was naturally bound and easily enabled to provide for them Thus the nature of the country, the manner in which the British colonies were founded, the habits of the first immigrants--in short, everything--united to promote in an extraordinary degree municipal and state liberties.
In the United States, therefore, the mass of the institutions of the country is essentially republican; and in order permanently to destroy the laws which form the basis of the republic, it would be necessary to abolish all the laws at once. At the present day it would be even more difficult for a party to found a monarchy in the United States than for a set of men to convert France into a republic. Royalty would not find a system of legislation prepared for it beforehand; and a monarchy would then really exist surrounded by republican institutions. The monarchical principle would likewise have great difficulty in penetrating into the customs of the Americans.
In the United States the sovereignty of the people is not an isolated doctrine, bearing no relation to the prevailing habits and ideas of the people; it may, on the contrary, be regarded as the last link of a chain of opinions which binds the whole Anglo-American world. That Providence has given to every human being the degree of reason necessary to direct himself in the affairs that interest him exclusively is the grand maxim upon which civil and political society rests in the United States. The father of a family applies it to his children, the master to his servants, the township to its officers, the county to its townships, the state to the counties, the Union to the states; and when extended to the nation, it becomes the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.
Thus in the United States the fundamental principle of the republic is the same which governs the greater part of human actions; republican notions insinuate themselves into all the ideas opinions, and habits of the Americans and are formally recognized by the laws; and before the laws could be altered, the whole community must be revolutionized. In the United States even the religion of most of the citizens is republican, since it submits the truths of the other world to private judgment, as in politics the care of their temporal interests is abandoned to the good sense of the people. Thus every man is allowed freely to take that road which he thinks will lead him to heaven, just as the law permits every citizen to have the right of choosing his own government.
It is evident that nothing but a long series of events, all having the same tendency, could substitute for this combination of laws, opinions, and manners a mass of opposite opinions, manners, and laws.
If republican principles are to perish in America, they can yield only after a laborious social process, often interrupted and as often resumed, they will have many apparent revivals and will not become totally extinct until an entirely new people have succeeded to those who now exist. There is no symptom or presage of the approach of such a revolution. There is nothing more striking to a person newly arrived in the United States than the kind of tumultuous agitation in which he finds political society. The laws are incessantly changing, and at first sight it seems impossible that a people so fickle in its desires should avoid adopting, within a short space of time, a completely new form of government. But such apprehensions are premature; the instability that affects political institutions is of two kinds, which ought not to be confounded. The first, which modifies secondary laws, is not incompatible with a very settled state of society. The other shakes the very foundations of the constitution and attacks the fundamental principles of legislation; this species of instability is always followed by troubles and revolutions, and the nation that suffers under it is in a violent and transitory state.
Experience shows that these two kinds of legislative instability have no necessary connection, for they have been found united or separate, according to times and circumstances. The first is common in the United States, but not the second: the Americans often change their laws, but the foundations of the Constitution are respected.
In our days the republican principle rules in America, as the monarchical principle did in France under Louis XIV. The French of that period not only were friends of the monarchy, but thought it impossible to put anything in its place; they received it as we receive the rays of the sun and the return of the seasons. Among them the royal power had neither advocates nor opponents. In like manner the republican government exists in America, without contention or opposition, without proofs or arguments, by a tacit agreement, a sort of consensus universalis.
It is my opinion, however, that by changing their administrative forms as often as they do, the inhabitants of the United States compromise the stability of their government. It may be apprehended that men perpetually thwarted in their designs by the mutability of legislation will learn to look on the republic as an inconvenient form of society, the evil resulting from the instability of the secondary enactments might then raise a doubt as to the nature of the fundamental principles of the Constitution and indirectly bring about a revolution; but this epoch is still very remote.
It may be foreseen even now that when the Americans lose their republican institutions they will speedily arrive at a despotic government, without a long interval of limited monarchy Montesquieu remarked that nothing is more absolute than the authority of a prince who immediately succeeds a republic, since the indefinite powers that had fearlessly been entrusted to an elected magistrate are then transferred to a hereditary sovereign. This is true in general, but it is more peculiarly applicable to a democratic republic. In the United States the magistrates are not elected by a particular class of citizens, but by the majority of the nation; as they are the immediate representatives of the passions of the multitude and are wholly dependent upon its pleasure, they excite neither hatred nor fear; hence, as I have already shown, very little care has been taken to limit their authority, and they are left in possession of a vast amount of arbitrary power. This state of things has created habits that would outlive itself; the American magistrate would retain his indefinite power, but would cease to be responsible for it; and it is impossible to say what bounds could then be set to tyranny.
Some of our European politicians expect to see an aristocracy arise in America, and already predict the exact period at which it will assume the reins of government. I have previously observed and I repeat it, that the present tendency of American society appears to me to become more and more democratic. Nevertheless, I do not assert that the Americans will not at some future time restrict the circle of political rights, or confiscate those rights to the advantage of a single man; but I cannot believe that they will ever give the exclusive use of them to a privileged class of citizens or, in other words, that they will ever found an aristocracy
An aristocratic body is composed of a certain number of citizens who, without being very far removed from the mass of the people, are nevertheless permanently stationed above them; a body which it is easy to touch, and difficult to strike, with which the people are in daily contact, but with which they can never combine. Nothing can be imagined more contrary to nature and to the secret instincts of the human heart than a subjection of this kind; and men who are left to follow their own bent will always prefer the arbitrary power of a king to the regular administration of an aristocracy. Aristocratic institutions cannot exist without laying down the inequality of men as a fundamental principle, legalizing it beforehand and introducing it into the family as well as into society; but these are things so repugnant to natural equity that they can only be extorted from men by force.
I do not think a single people can be quoted, since human society began to exist, which has, by its own free will and its own exertions, created an aristocracy within its own bosom. All the aristocracies of the Middle Ages were founded by military conquest; the conqueror was the noble, the vanquished became the serf. Inequality was then imposed by force; and after it had once been introduced into the manners of the country, it maintained itself and passed naturally into the laws. Communities have existed which were aristocratic from their earliest origin, owing to circumstances anterior to that event, and which became more democratic in each succeeding age. Such was the lot of the Romans, and of the barbarians after them. But a people, having taken its rise in civilization and democracy, which should gradually establish inequality of condition, until it arrived at inviolable privileges and exclusive castes, would be a novelty in the world; and nothing indicates that America is likely to be the first to furnish such an example.
SOME CONSIDERATIONS ON THE CAUSES OF THE COMMERCIAL PROSPERITY OF THE UNITED STATES.
The Americans destined by nature to be a great maritime people -- Extent of their coasts -- Depth their ports -- Size of their rivers -- The commercial superiority of the Anglo-Americans less attributable, however, to physical circumstances than to moral and intellectual causes -- Reason for this opinion -- Future of the Anglo-Americans as a commercial nation -- The dissolution of the Union would not check the maritime vigor of the state -- Reason for this [e.g., absence of division of labor] -- Anglo-Americans will naturally supply the wants of the inhabitants of South America -- They will become, like the English, the commercial agents of a great portion of the world.
THE coast of the United States, from the Bay of Fundy to the Sabine River in the Gulf of Mexico, is more than two thousand miles in extent. These shores form an unbroken line, and are all subject to the same government. No nation in the world possesses vaster, deeper, or more secure ports for commerce than the Americans.
The inhabitants of the United States constitute a great civilized people, which fortune has placed in the midst of an uncultivated country, at a distance of three thousand miles from the central point of civilization. America consequently stands in daily need of Europe. The Americans will no doubt ultimately succeed in producing or manufacturing at home most of the articles that they require; but the two continents can never be independent of each other, so numerous are the natural ties between their wants, their ideas, their habits, and their manners.
The Union has peculiar commodities which have now become necessary to us, as they cannot be cultivated or can be raised only at an enormous expense upon the soil of Europe. The Americans consume only a small portion of this produce, and they are willing to sell us the rest. Europe is therefore the market of America, as America is the market of Europe; and maritime commerce is no less necessary to enable the inhabitants of the United States to transport their raw materials to the ports of Europe than it is to enable us to supply them with our manufactured produce. The United States must therefore either furnish much business to other maritime nations, even if they should themselves renounce commerce, as the Spaniards of Mexico have hitherto done, or they must become one of the foremost maritime powers of the globe.
The Anglo-Americans have always displayed a decided taste for the sea. The Declaration of Independence, by breaking the commercial bonds that united them to England, gave a fresh and powerful stimulus to their maritime genius. Ever since that time the shipping of the Union has increased almost as rapidly as the number of its inhabitants. The Americans themselves now transport to their own shores nine tenths of the European produce which they consume.91 And they also bring three quarters of the . exports of the New World to the European consumer.92 The ships of the United States fill the docks of Havre and of Liverpool, while the number of English and French vessels at New York is comparatively small.93
Thus not only does the American merchant brave competition on his own ground, but he even successfully supports that of foreign nations in their own ports. This is readily explained by the fact that the vessels of the United States cross the seas at a cheaper rate. As long as the mercantile shipping of the United States preserves this superiority, it will not only retain what it has acquired, but will constantly increase in prosperity.
It is difficult to say for what reason the Americans can navigate at a lower rate than other nations; one is at first led to attribute this superiority to the physical advantages that nature gives them; but it is not so. The American vessels cost almost as much to build as our own; 94 they are not better built, and they generally last a shorter time. The pay of the American sailor is higher than the pay on board European ships, as is proved by the great number of Europeans who are to be found in the merchant vessels of the United States. How does it happen, then, that the Americans sail their vessels at a cheaper rate than we can ours? I am of the opinion that the true cause of their superiority must not be sought for in physical advantages, but that it is wholly attributable to moral and intellectual qualities.
The following comparison will illustrate my meaning. During the campaigns of the Revolution the French introduced a new system of tactics into the art of war, which perplexed the oldest generals and very nearly destroyed the most ancient monarchies of Europe. They first undertook to make shift without a number of things that had always been held to be indispensable in warfare; they required novel exertions of their troops which no civilized nations had ever thought of; they achieved great actions in an incredibly short time and risked human life without hesitation to obtain the object in view. The French had less money and fewer men than their enemies; their resources were infinitely inferior; nevertheless, they were constantly victorious until their adversaries chose to imitate their example.
The Americans have introduced a similar system into commerce: they do for cheapness what the French did for conquest. The European sailor navigates with prudence; he sets sail only when the weather is favorable; if an unforeseen accident befalls him, he puts into port; at night he furls a portion of his canvas; and when the whitening billows intimate the vicinity of land, he checks his course and takes an observation of the sun. The American neglects these precautions and braves these dangers. He weighs anchor before the tempest is over; by night and by day he spreads his sails to the wind; such damage as his vessel may have sustained from the storm, he repairs as he goes along; and when he at last approaches the end of his voyage, he darts onward to the shore as if he already descried a port. The Americans are often shipwrecked, but no trader crosses the seas so rapidly. And as they perform the same distance in a shorter time, they can perform it at a cheaper rate.
The European navigator touches at different ports in the course of a long voyage; he loses precious time in making the harbor or in waiting for a favorable wind to leave it; and he pays daily dues to be allowed to remain there. The American starts from Boston to purchase tea in China; he arrives at Canton, stays there a few days, and then returns. In less than two years he has sailed as far as the entire circumference of the globe and has seen land but once. It is true that during a voyage of eight or ten months he has drunk brackish water and lived on salt meat; that he has been in a continual contest with the sea, with disease, and with weariness; but upon his return he can sell a pound of his tea for a halfpenny less than the English merchant, and his purpose is accomplished.
I cannot better explain my meaning than by saying that the Americans show a sort of heroism in their manner of trading. The European merchant will always find it difficult to imitate his American competitor, who, in adopting the system that I have just described, does not follow calculation, but an impulse of his nature.
The inhabitants of the United States experience all the wants and all the desires that result from an advanced civilization; and as they are not surrounded, as in Europe, by a community skillfully organized to satisfy them, they are often obliged to procure for themselves the various articles that education and habit have rendered necessaries. In America it sometimes happens that the same person tills his field, builds his dwelling, fashions his tools, makes his shoes, and weaves the coarse stuff of which his clothes are composed. This is prejudicial to the excellence of the work, but it powerfully contributes to awaken the intelligence of the workman. Nothing tends to materialize man and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind more than the extreme division of labor. In a country like America, where men devoted to special occupations are rare, a long apprenticeship cannot be required from anyone who embraces a profession. The Americans therefore change their means of gaining a livelihood very readily, and they suit their occupations to the exigencies of the moment. Men are to be met with who have successively been lawyers, farmers, merchants, ministers of the Gospel, and physicians. If the American is less perfect in each craft than the European, at least there is scarcely any trade with which he is utterly unacquainted. His capacity is more general, and the circle of his intelligence is greater.
The inhabitants of the United States are never fettered by the axioms of their profession; they escape from all the prejudices of their present station; they are not more attached to one line of operation than to another; they are not more prone to employ an old method than a new one; they have no rooted habits, and they easily shake off the influence that the habits of other nations might exercise upon them, from a conviction that their country is unlike any other and that its situation is without a precedent in the world. America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement. The idea of novelty is there indissolubly connected with the idea of amelioration. No natural boundary seems to be set to the efforts of man; and in his eyes what is not yet done is only what he has not yet attempted to do.
This perpetual change which goes on in the United States, these frequent vicissitudes of fortune, these unforeseen fluctuations in private and public wealth, serve to keep the minds of the people in a perpetual feverish agitation, which admirably invigorates their exertions and keeps them, so to speak, above the ordinary level of humanity. The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle. As the same causes are continually in operation throughout the country, they ultimately impart an irresistible impulse to the national character. The American, taken as a chance specimen of his countrymen, must then be a man of singular warmth in his desires, enterprising, fond of adventure and, above all, of novelty. The same bent is manifest in all that he does: he introduces it into his political laws, his religious doctrines, his theories of social economy, and his domestic occupations; he bears it with him in the depth of the backwoods as well as in the business of the city. It is this same passion, applied to maritime commerce, that makes him the cheapest and the quickest trader in the world.
As long as the sailors of the United States retain these mental advantages, and the practical superiority which they derive from them, they not only will continue to supply the wants of the producers and consumers of their own country, but will tend more and more to become, like the English,95 the commercial agents of other nations. This prediction has already begun to be realized; we perceive that the American traders are introducing themselves as intermediate agents in the commerce of several European nations,96 and America will offer a still wider field to their enterprise.
The great colonies that were founded in South America by the Spaniards and the Portuguese have since become empires. Civil war and oppression now lay waste those extensive regions. Population does not increase, and the thinly scattered inhabitants are too much absorbed in the cares of self-defense even to attempt any amelioration of their condition. But it will not always be so. Europe has succeeded by her own efforts in piercing the gloom of the Middle Ages. South America has the same Christian laws and usages as we have; she contains all the germs of civilization that have grown amid the nations of Europe or their offshoots added to the advantages to be derived from our example: why, then, should she always remain uncivilized? It is clear that the question is simply one of time; at some future period, which may be more or less remote, the inhabitants of South America will form flourishing and enlightened nations.
But when the Spaniards and Portuguese of South America begin to feel the wants common to all civilized nations, they will still be unable to satisfy those wants for themselves; as the youngest children of civilization they must perforce admit the superiority of their elder brothers. They will be agriculturists long before they succeed in manufactures or commerce; and they will require the mediation of strangers to exchange their produce beyond seas for those articles for which a demand will begin to be felt.
It is unquestionable that the North Americans will one day be called upon to supply the wants of the South Americans. Nature has placed them in contiguity and has furnished the former with every means of knowing and appreciating those demands, of establishing permanent relations with those states and gradually filling their markets. The merchant of the United States could only forfeit these natural advantages if he were very inferior to the European merchant; but he is superior to him in several respects. The Americans of the United States already exercise a great moral influence upon all the nations of the New World. They are the source of intelligence, and all those who inhabit the same continent are already accustomed to consider them as the most enlightened, the most powerful, and the most wealthy members of the great American family. All eyes are therefore turned towards the United States: these are the models which the other communities try to imitate to the best of their power; it is from the Union that they borrow their political principles and their laws.
The Americans of the United States stand in precisely the same position with regard to the South Americans as their fathers, the English, occupy with regard to the Italians, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, and all those nations of Europe that receive their articles of daily consumption from England because they are less advanced in civilization and trade. England is at this time the natural emporium of almost all the nations that are within its reach; the American Union will perform the same part in the other hemisphere, and every community which is founded or which prospers in the New World is founded and prospers to the advantage of the Anglo-Americans.
If the Union were to be dissolved, the commerce of the states that now compose it would undoubtedly be checked for a time, but less than one would think. It is evident that, whatever may happen, the commercial states will remain united. They are contiguous, they have the same opinions, interests, and manners, and they alone form a great maritime power. Even if the South of the Union were to become independent of the North, it would still require the services of those states. I have already observed that the South is not a commercial country, and nothing indicates that it will become so. The Americans of the South of the United States will therefore long be obliged to have recourse to strangers to export their produce and supply them with the commodities which satisfy their wants. But the Northern states are undoubtedly able to act as their intermediate agents more cheaply than any other merchants. They will therefore retain that employment, for cheapness is the sovereign law of commerce. Sovereign will and national prejudices cannot long resist the influence of cheapness. Nothing can be more virulent than the hatred that exists between the Americans of the United States and the English. But in spite of these hostile feelings the Americans derive most of their manufactured commodities from England, because England supplies them at a cheaper rate than any other nation. Thus the increasing prosperity of America turns, notwithstanding the grudge of the Americans, to the advantage of British manufactures.
Reason and experience prove that no commercial prosperity can be durable if it cannot be united, in case of need, to naval force. This truth is as well understood in the United States as anywhere else: the Americans are already able to make their flag respected; in a few years they will make it feared. I am convinced that the dismemberment of the Union would not have the effect of diminishing the naval power of the Americans, but would powerfully contribute to increase it. At present the commercial states are connected with others that are not commercial and that unwillingly see the increase of a maritime power by which they are only indirectly benefited. If, on the contrary, the commercial states of the Union formed one and the same nation, commerce would become the foremost of their national interests; they would consequently be willing to make great sacrifices to protect their shipping, and nothing would prevent them from pursuing their desires on this point.
Nations as well as men almost always betray the prominent features of their future destiny in their earliest years. When I contemplate the ardor with which the Anglo-Americans prosecute commerce, the advantages which aid them, and the success of their undertakings, I cannot help believing that they will one day become the foremost maritime power of the globe. They are born to rule the seas, as the Romans were to conquer the world.
[French lost their chance in the New World]
[USA (Anglo-Americans) will rule whole continent]
[Comparison with Russia frontier and imperialist expansion]
I AM approaching the close of my inquiry; hitherto, in speaking of the future destiny of the United States, I have endeavored to divide my subject into distinct portions in order to study each of them with more attention. My present object is to embrace the whole from one point of view; the remarks I shall make will be less detailed, but they will be more sure. I shall perceive each object less distinctly, but I shall descry the principal facts with more certainty. A traveler who has just left a vast city climbs the neighboring hill; as he goes farther off, he loses sight of the men whom he has just quitted; their dwellings are confused in a dense mass; he can no longer distinguish the public squares and can scarcely trace out the great thoroughfares; but his eye has less difficulty in following the boundaries of the city, and for the first time he sees the shape of the whole. Such is the future destiny of the British race in North America to my eye; the details of the immense picture are lost in the shade, but I conceive a clear idea of the entire subject.
The territory now occupied or possessed by the United States of America forms about one twentieth of the habitable earth. But extensive as these bounds are, it must not be supposed that the Anglo-American race will always remain within them; indeed, it has already gone far beyond them.
There was a time when we also might have created a great French nation in the American wilds, to counterbalance the influence of the English on the destinies of the New World. France formerly possessed a territory in North America scarcely less extensive than the whole of Europe. The three greatest rivers of that continent then flowed within her dominions. The Indian tribes that dwelt between the mouth of the St. Lawrence and the delta of the Mississippi were unaccustomed to any other tongue than ours; and all the European settlements scattered over that immense region recalled the traditions of our country. Louisburg, Montmorency, Duquesne, St. Louis, Vincennes, New Orleans (for such were the names they bore) are words dear to France and familiar to our ears.
But a course of circumstances which it would be tedious to enumerate 97 has deprived us of this magnificent inheritance. Wherever the French settlers were numerically weak and partially established, they have disappeared; those who remain are collected on a small extent of country and are now subject to other laws. The 400,000 French inhabitants of Lower Canada constitute at the present time the remnant of an old nation lost in the midst of a new people. A foreign population is increasing around them unceasingly and on all sides, who already penetrate among the former masters of the country, predominate in their cities, and corrupt their language. This population is identical with that of the United States; it is therefore with truth that I asserted that the British race is not confined within the frontiers of the Union, since it already extends to the northeast.
To the northwest nothing is to be met with but a few insignificant Russian settlements; but to the southwest Mexico presents a barrier to the Anglo-Americans. Thus the Spaniards and the Anglo-Americans are, properly speaking, the two races that divide the possession of the New World. The limits of separation between them have been settled by treaty; but although the conditions of that treaty are favorable to the Anglo-Americans, I do not doubt that they will shortly infringe it. Vast provinces extending beyond the frontiers of the Union towards Mexico are still destitute of inhabitants. The natives of the United States will people these solitary regions before their rightful occupants. They will take possession of the soil and establish social institutions, so that when the legal owner at length arrives, he will find the wilderness under cultivation, and strangers quietly settled in the midst of his inheritance.
The lands of the New World belong to the first occupant; they are the natural reward of the swiftest pioneer. Even the countries that are already peopled will have some difficulty in securing themselves from this invasion. I have already alluded to what is taking place in the province of Texas. The inhabitants of the United States are perpetually migrating to Texas, where they purchase land; and although they conform to the laws of the country, they are gradually founding the empire of their own language and their own manners. The province of Texas is still part of the Mexican dominions, but it will soon contain no Mexicans; the same thing has occurred wherever the Anglo-Americans have come in contact with a people of a different origin.
It cannot be denied that the British race has acquired an amazing preponderance over all other European races in the New World; and it is very superior to them in civilization, industry, and power. As long as it is surrounded only by wilderness or thinly peopled countries, as long as it encounters on its route no dense population through which it cannot work its way, it will assuredly continue to spread. The lines marked out by treaties will not stop it, but it will everywhere overleap these imaginary barriers.
The geographical position of the British race in the New World is peculiarly favorable to its rapid increase. Above its northern frontiers the icy regions of the Pole extend; and a few degrees below its southern confines lies the burning climate of the Equator. The Anglo-Americans are therefore placed in the most temperate and habitable zone of the continent.
It is generally supposed that the prodigious increase of population in the United States is posterior to their Declaration of Independence, but this is an error. The population increased as rapidly under the colonial system as at the present day; that is to say, it doubled in about twenty-two years. But this proportion, which is now applied to millions of inhabitants, was then applied to thousands; and the same fact which was scarcely noticeable a century ago is now evident to every observer.
The English in Canada, who are dependent on a king, augment and spread almost as rapidly as the British settlers of the United States, who live under a republican government. During the War of Independence, which lasted eight years, the population continued to increase without intermission in the same ratio. Although powerful Indian nations allied with the English existed at that time on the western frontiers, the emigration westward was never checked. While the enemy laid waste the shores of the Atlantic, Kentucky, the western parts of Pennsylvania, and the states of Vermont and of Maine were filling with inhabitants. Nor did the unsettled state of things which succeeded the war prevent the increase of the population or stop its progress across the wilds. Thus the difference of laws, the various conditions of peace and war, of order or anarchy, have exercised no perceptible influence upon the continued development of the Anglo-Americans. This may be readily understood, for no causes are sufficiently general to exercise a simultaneous influence over the whole of so extensive a territory. One portion of the country always offers a sure retreat from the calamities that afflict another part; and however great may be the evil, the remedy that is at hand is greater still.
It must not, then, be imagined that the impulse of the British race in the New World can be arrested. The dismemberment of the Union and the hostilities that might ensue, the abolition of republican institutions and the tyrannical government that might succeed, may retard this impulse, but they cannot prevent the people from ultimately fulfilling their destinies. No power on earth can shut out the immigrants from that fertile wilderness which offers resources to all industry and a refuge from all want. Future events, whatever they may be, will not deprive the Americans of their climate or their inland seas, their great rivers or their exuberant soil. Nor will bad laws, revolutions, and anarchy be able to obliterate that love of prosperity and spirit of enterprise which seem to be the distinctive characteristics of their race or extinguish altogether the knowledge that guides them on their way.
Thus in the midst of the uncertain future one event at least is sure. At a period that may be said to be near, for we are speaking of the life of a nation, the Anglo-Americans alone will cover the immense space contained between the polar regions and the tropics, extending from the coasts of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific Ocean. The territory that will probably be occupied by the Anglo-Americans may perhaps equal three quarters of Europe in extent.98 The climate of the Union is, on the whole, preferable to that of Europe, and its natural advantages are as great; it is therefore evident that its population will at some future time be proportionate to our own. Europe, divided as it is between so many nations and torn as it has been by incessant wars growing out of the barbarous manners of the Middle Ages, has yet attained a population of 410 inhabitants to the square league.99 What cause can prevent the United States from having as numerous a population in time?
Many ages must elapse before the different offshoots of the British race in America will cease to present the same physiognomy; and the time cannot be foreseen at which a permanent inequality of condition can be established in the New World. Whatever differences may arise, from peace or war, freedom or oppression, prosperity or want, between the destinies of the different descendants of the great Anglo-American family, they will all preserve at least a similar social condition and will hold in common the customs and opinions to which that social condition has given birth.
In the Middle Ages the tie of religion was sufficiently powerful to unite all the different populations of Europe in the same civilization. The British of the New World have a thousand other reciprocal ties; and they live at a time when the tendency to equality is general among mankind. The Middle Ages were a period when everything was broken up, when each people, each province, each city, and each family tended strongly to maintain its distinct individuality. At the present time an opposite tendency seems to prevail, and the nations seem to be advancing to unity. Our means of intellectual intercourse unite the remotest parts of the earth; and men cannot remain strangers to one another or be ignorant of what is taking place in any corner of the globe. The consequence is that there is less difference at the present day between the Europeans and their descendants in the New World, in spite of the ocean that divides them, than there was in the thirteenth century between certain towns that were separated only by a river. If this tendency to assimilation brings foreign nations closer to each other, it must a fortiori prevent the descendants of the same people from becoming aliens to one another.
The time will therefore come when one hundred and fifty million men will be living in North America,100 equal in condition, all belonging to one family, owing their origin to the same cause, and preserving the same civilization, the same language, the same religion, the same habits, the same manners, and imbued with the same opinions, propagated under the same forms. The rest is uncertain, but this is certain; and it is a fact new to the world, a fact that the imagination strives in vain to grasp.
There are at the present time two great nations in the world, which started from different points, but seem to tend towards the same end. I allude to the Russians and the Americans. Both of them have grown up unnoticed; and while the attention of mankind was directed elsewhere, they have suddenly placed themselves in the front rank among the nations, and the world learned their existence and their greatness at almost the same time.
All other nations seem to have nearly reached their natural limits, and they have only to maintain their power; but these are still in the act of growth.101 All the others have stopped, or continue to advance with extreme difficulty; these alone are proceeding with ease and celerity along a path to which no limit can be perceived. The American struggles against the obstacles that nature opposes to him; the adversaries of the Russian are men. The former combats the wilderness and savage life; the latter, civilization with all its arms. The conquests of the American are therefore gained by the plowshare; those of the Russian by the sword. The Anglo-Americans relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm. The principal instrument of the former is freedom; of the latter, servitude. Their starting-point is different and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.
1 The native of North America retains his opinions and the
most insignificant of his habits with a degree of tenacity that
has no parallel in history. For more than two hundred years the
wandering tribes of North America have had daily intercourse with
the whites, and they have never derived from them a custom or an
idea. Yet the Europeans have exercised a powerful influence over
the savages: they have made them more licentious, but not more
European. In the summer of 1831 1 happened to be beyond Lake
Michigan, at a place called Green Bay, which serves as the
extreme frontier between the United States and the Indians of the
Northwest. Here I became acquainted with an American
officer, Major H., who, after talking to me at length
about the inflexibility of the Indian character,
related the following fact: "I formerly knew a young Indian,"
said he, "who had been educated at a college in New England,
where he had greatly distinguished himself and had acquired the
external appearance of a civilized man. When the war broke out
between ourselves and the English in 1812, I saw this young man
again he was serving in our army, at the head of the warriors of
his tribe; for the Indians were admitted among the ranks of the
Americans, on condition only that they would abstain from their
horrible custom of scalping their victims. On the evening of the
battle of , C. came and sat himself down by the fire of our
bivouac. I asked him what had been his fortune that day. He
related his exploits, and growing warm and animated by the
recollection of them, he concluded by suddenly opening the breast
of his coat, saying: 'You must not betray me; see here!' And I
actually beheld," said the major, "between his body and his
shirt, the skin and hair of an English head, still dripping with
2 In the thirteen original states there are only 6,278
Indians remaining. (See Legislative Documents, 20th Congress, No.
117, p. 20.)
3 Messrs. Clarke and Cass, in their Report to Congress, of
February 4 1829, p. 28, remarked: "The time when the Indians
generally could supply themselves with food and clothing, without
any of the articles of civilized life, has long since passed
away. The more remote tribes, beyond the Mississippi, who live
where immense herds of buffalo are yet to be found, and who
follow those animals in their periodical migrations, could more
easily than any others recur to the habits of their ancestors,
and live without the white man or any of his manufactures. But
the buffalo is constantly receding. The smaller animals, the
bear, the deer, the beaver, the otter, the musk-rat, etc,
principally minister to the comfort and support of the Indians,
and these cannot be taken without guns, ammunition, and traps.
Among the Northwestern Indians, particularly, the labor of
supplying a family with food is excessive Day after day is spent
by the hunter without success, and during this interval his
family must exist upon bark or roots, or perish. Want and misery
are around them and among them. Many die every winter from actual
The Indians will not live as Europeans live; and yet they can
neither exist without them nor live exactly after the fashion of
their fathers. This is demonstrated by a fact which I likewise give upon
official authority. Some Indians of a tribe on the banks of Lake
Superior had killed a European; the American government
prohibited all traffic with the tribe to which the guilty parties
belonged until they were delivered up to justice. This measure
had the desired effect.
4 "Five years ago," says Volney in his Tableau des
Etats-Unis, p. 370 "in going from Vincennes to Kaskaskia, a
territory which now forms part of the state of Illinois, but
which at the time I mention was completely wild ( 1797), you
could not cross a prairie without seeing herds of from four to
five hundred buffaloes. There is now none remaining, they swam
across the Mississippi, to escape from the hunters, and more
particularly from the bells of the American cows."
5 The truth of what I here advance may be easily proved by
consulting the tabular statement of Indian tribes inhabiting the
United States and their territories. (Legislative Documents, 20th
Congress, No. 117, pp. 90-105.) It is there shown that the tribes
in the center of America are rapidly decreasing, although the
Europeans are still at a considerable distance from them.
6 "The Indians," say Messrs. Clarke and Cass, in their
Report to Congress, p. 15, "are attached to their country by
the same feelings which bind us to ours and, besides, there are
certain superstitious notions connected with the alienation of
what the Great Spirit gave to their ancestors, which operate
strongly upon the tribes which have made few or no cessions, but
which are gradually weakened as our intercourse with them is
extended. 'We will not sell the spot which contains the bones of
our fathers,' is almost always the first answer to a proposal to
buy their land."
7 See in the Legislative Documents of Congress (Doc. 117)
the narrative of what takes place on these occasions. This
curious passage is from the formerly mentioned Report made to
Congress by Messrs. Clarke and Cass, February 4, 1829.
"The Indians," says the Report "reach the treaty-ground
poor, and almost naked. Large quantities of goods are taken there
by the traders, and are seen and examined by the Indians. The
women and children become importunate to have their wants
supplied, and their influence is soon exerted to induce a sale.
Their improvidence is habitual and unconquerable. The gratification
of his immediate wants and desires is the ruling passion
of an Indian. The expectation of future advantages seldom
produces much effect. The experience of the past is lost, and the
prospects of the future disregarded. It would be utterly hopeless
to demand a cession of land, unless the means were at hand of
gratifying their immediate wants; and when their condition and
circumstances are fairly considered, it ought not to surprise us
that they are so anxious to relieve themselves."
8 On May 19, 1830 Mr. Edward Everett affirmed before the
House of Representatives that the Americans had already acquired
by treaty, to the east and west of the Mississippi, 230,000,000
acres. In 1808 the Osages gave up 48,000,000 acres for an annual
payment of 1,000 dollars. In 1818 the Quapaws yielded up
20,000,000 acres for 4,000 dollars. They reserved for themselves
a territory of 1,000,000 acres for a hunting-ground. A solemn
oath was taken that it should be respected, but before long it
was invaded like the rest.
Mr. Bell, in his Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs,
February 24, 1830, has these words: "To pay an Indian tribe what
their ancient hunting grounds are worth to them after the game is
fled or destroyed, as a mode of appropriating wild lands claimed
by Indians, has been found more convenient, and certainly it is
more agreeable to the forms of justice, as well as more merciful,
than to assert the possession of them by the sword. Thus the
practice of buying Indian titles is only the substitute which
humanity and expediency have imposed, in place of the sword, in
arriving at the actual enjoyment of property claimed by the right
of discovery, and sanctioned by the natural superiority allowed
to the claims of civilized communities over those of savage
tribes. Up to the present time, so invariable has been the
operation of certain causes, first in diminishing the value of
forest lands to the Indians, and secondly, in disposing them to
sell readily, that the plan of buying their right of occupancy
has never threatened to retard, in any perceptible degree
the prosperity of any of the States. (Legislative Documents,
21st Congress. No. 227, p. 6. )
9 This seems, indeed, to be the opinion of almost all
American statesmen. "Judging of the future by the past," says Mr.
Cass, "we cannot err in anticipating a progressive diminution of
their numbers, and their eventual extinction, unless our border
should become stationary, and they be removed beyond it, or
unless some radical change should take place in the principles of
our intercourse with them, which it is easier to hope for than to
10 Among other warlike enterprises, there was one of the
Wampanoags, and other confederate tribes, under Metacom, in 1675,
against the colonists of New England; the English were also
engaged in war with them in Virginia in 1622.
11 See the historians of New England, the Histoire de la
Nouvelle France by Charlevoix, and the work entitled Lettres édifiantes.
12 "In all the tribes," says Volney, in his Tableau des
Etats-Unis ( p. 423), "there still exists a generation of old
warriors who cannot forbear, when they see their countrymen using
the hoe, from exclaiming against the degradation of ancient
manners and asserting that the savages owe their decline to these
innovations; adding that they have only to return to their
primitive habits in order to recover their power and glory."
13 The following description occurs in an official document:
"Until a young man has been engaged with an enemy, and has
performed some acts of valor, he gains no consideration, but is
regarded nearly as a woman. In their great war-dances, all the
warriors in succession strike the post, as it is called, and
recount their exploits. On these occasions, their audience
consists of the kinsmen, friends, and comrades of the narrator.
The profound impression which his discourse produces on them is
manifested by the silent attention it receives, and by the loud
shouts which hail its termination. The young man who finds
himself at such a meeting without anything to recount is very
unhappy; and instances have sometimes occurred of young warriors,
whose passions had been thus inflamed, quitting the war-dance
suddenly and going off alone to seek for trophies which they
might exhibit and adventures by which they might be allowed to
14 These nations are now swallowed up in the states of
Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. There were
formerly in the South four great nations (remnants of which
still exist), the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Creeks, and
the Cherokees. The remnants of these four nations amounted
in 1830 to about 75,000 individuals. It is computed that
there are now remaining in the territory occupied
or claimed by the Anglo-American Union about 300,000 Indians.
(See Proceedings of the Indian Board in the City of New York.)
The official documents supplied to Congress make the number
amount to 313,130. The reader who is curious to know the names
and numerical strength of all the tribes that inhabit the
Anglo-American territory should consult the documents I have just
referred to. ( Legislative Documents 20th Congress, No. 117, pp.
15 I brought back with me to France one or two copies of
this singular publication.
16 See, in the Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs, 21st
Congress, No. 227, p. 23, the reasons for the multiplication of
Indians of mixed blood among the Cherokees. The principal cause
dates from the War of Independence. Many Anglo-Americans of
Georgia, having taken the side of England, were obliged to
retreat among the Indians, where they married.
17 Unhappily the mixed race has been less numerous and less
influential in North America than in any other country. The
American continent was peopled by two great nations of Europe,
the French and the English. The former were not slow in
connecting themselves with the daughters of the natives, but
there was an unfortunate affinity between the Indian character
and their own: instead of giving the tastes and habits of
civilized life to the savages, the French too often grew
passionately fond of Indian life. They became the most
dangerous inhabitants of the wilderness, and won
the friendship of the Indian by exaggerating his vices and his
virtues. M. de Senonville the Governor of Canada, wrote thus to
Louis XIV in 1685: "It has long been believed that in order to
civilize the savages we ought to draw them nearer to us. But
there is every reason to suppose we have been mistaken Those that
have been brought into contact with us have not become French,
and the French who have lived among them are changed into
savages, affecting to dress and live like them." ( History of New
France, by Charlevoix, Vol II p. 345.) The Englishman, on the
contrary, continuing obstinately attached to the customs and the
most insignificant habits of his forefathers, has remained in the
midst of the American solitudes just what he was in the heart of
European cities; he would not establish any communication with
savages whom he despised, and avoided with care the union of his
race with theirs. Thus, while the French exercised no salutary
influence over the Indians, the English have always remained
alien from them.
18 There is in the adventurous life of the hunter a certain
irresistible charm, which seizes the heart of man and carries him
away in spite of reason and experience. This is plainly shown by
the Memoirs of Tanner. Tanner was a European who was carried away
at the age of six by the Indians and remained thirty years with
them in the woods. Nothing can be conceived more appalling than
the miseries that he describes. He tells us of tribes without a
chief, families without a nation to call their own, men in a
state of isolation, wrecks of powerful tribes wandering at random
amid the ice and snow and desolate solitudes of Canada. Hunger
and cold pursue them; every day their life is in jeopardy. Among
these men manners have lost their empire, traditions are without
power. They become more and more savage. Tanner shared in all
these miseries; he was aware of his European origin; he was not
kept away from the whites by force; on the contrary, he came
every year to trade with them, entered their dwellings, and
witnessed their enjoyments- he knew that whenever he chose to
return to civilized life, he was perfectly able to do so, and he
remained thirty years in the wilderness. When he came into
civilized society, he declared that the rude existence, the
miseries of which he described, had a secret charm for him which he
could not define, he returned to it again and again, at length he
abandoned it with poignant regret- and when he was at length
settled among the whites, several of his children refused to
share his tranquil and easy situation. I saw Tanner myself at the
lower end of Lake Superior: he seemed to me more like a savage
than a civilized being. His book is written without either taste
or order; but he gives, even unconsciously, a lively picture of
the prejudices, the passions, the vices, and, above all, the
destitution in the midst of which he lived.
The Viscount Ernest de Blosseville, author of an excellent
treatise on the penal colonies of England, has translated the
Memoirs of Tanner. M. de Blosseville has added to his translation
some very interesting notes which will enable the reader to
compare the facts related by Tanner with those already recorded
by a great number of observers, ancient and modern.
All those who desire to know the present status of the
Indians of North America and would foresee their destiny should
consult M. de Blosseville's work.
19 This destructive influence of highly civilized nations
upon others which are less so has been observed among the
Europeans themselves. About a century ago the French founded the
town of Vincennes on the Wabash, in the middle of the wilderness;
and they lived there in great plenty until the arrival of the
American settlers, who first ruined the previous inhabitants by
their competition and afterwards purchased their lands at a very
low rate. At the time when M. de Volney, from whom I borrow these
details, passed through Vincennes, the number of the French was
reduced to a hundred individuals, most of whom were about to
migrate to Louisiana or to Canada. These French settlers were
worthy people, but idle and uninstructed; they had contracted
many of the habits of savages. The Americans, who were perhaps
their inferiors from a moral point of view, were immeasurably
superior to them in intelligence: they were industrious, well
informed, well off, and accustomed to govern their own community.
I myself saw in Canada, where the intellectual difference
between the two races is less striking, that the English are the
masters of commerce and manufacture in the Canadian country, that
they spread on all sides and confine the French within limits
which scarcely suffice to contain them. In like manner in
Louisiana almost all activity in commerce and manufacture centers
in the hands of the Anglo-Americans.
But the case of Texas is still more striking: the state of
Texas is a part of Mexico and is on the frontier between that
country and the United States. In the course of the last few
years the Anglo-Americans have penetrated into this province,
which is still thinly peopled; they purchase land, they produce
the commodities of the country, and supplant the original
population. It may easily be foreseen that if Mexico takes no
steps to check this change, the province of Texas will very
shortly cease to belong to that government.
If the differences, comparatively less obvious, which exist
in European civilization lead to similar results, it is easy to
understand what must happen when the most perfect European
civilization comes in contact with Indian barbarism.
20 See in the Legislative Documents (21st Congress, No. 89)
instances of excesses of every kind committed by the whites upon
the territory of the Indians, either in taking possession of a
part of their lands, until compelled to retire by federal troops,
or carrying off their cattle, burning their houses cutting down
their corn, and doing violence to their persons.
The Union has a representative agent continually employed to
reside among the Indians; and the report of the Cherokee agent,
which is among the documents I have referred to, is almost always
favorable to the Indians. "The intrusion of whites," he says,
"upon the lands of the Cherokees will cause ruin to the poor,
helpless, and inoffensive inhabitants." And he further remarks
upon the attempt of the state of Georgia to establish a boundary
line for the country of the Cherokees that the line, having been
made by the whites alone, and entirely upon ex parte evidence of
their several rights, was of no validity whatever.
21 In 1829 the state of Alabama divided the Creek territory
into counties and subjected the Indian population to European
In 1830 the state of Mississippi assimilated the Choctaws
and Chickasaws to the white population and declared that any of
them who should take the title of chief would be punished by a
fine of 1,000 dollars and a year's imprisonment. When these laws
were announced to the Choctaws who inhabited that district, the
tribe assembled, their chief communicated to them the intentions
of the whites and read to them some of the laws to which it was
intended that they should submit, and they unanimously declared
that it was better at once to retreat again into the wilds.
22 The Georgians, who are so much troubled by the proximity
of the Indians, inhabit a territory that does not at present
contain more than seven inhabitants to the square mile. In France
there are one hundred and sixty-two inhabitants in the same
extent of country.
23 In 1818 Congress appointed commissioners to visit the
Arkansas territory, accompanied by a deputation of Creeks,
Choctaws, and Chickasaws. This expedition was commanded by
Messrs. Kennerly, M'Coy, Wash Hood, and John Bell. See the
different reports of the commissioners and their journal in the
Documents of Congress, No. 87, House of Representatives.
24 One finds in the treaty made with the Creeks in 1790 this
clause "The United States solemnly guarantee to the Creek nation
all their land within the limits of the United States."
The treaty concluded in 1791 with the Cherokees states: "The
United States solemnly guarantee to the Cherokee nation all their
lands not hereby ceded. If any citizen of the United States, or
other settler not of the Indian race, establishes himself upon
the territory of the Cherokees, the United States declare that
they will withdraw their protection from that individual and give
him up to be punished as the Cherokee nation thinks fit." (Art.
25 This does not prevent them from promising in the most
solemn manner to do so. See the letter of the President addressed
to the Creek Indians, March 23, 1829 ( Proceedings of the Indian
Board in the City of New York, p. 5): "Beyond the great river
Mississippi, where a part of your nation has gone, your father
has provided a country large enough for all of you, and he
advises you to remove to it. There your white brothers will not
trouble you, they will have no claim to the land, and you can
live upon it, you and all your children, as long as the grass
grows, or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be yours
The Secretary of War in a letter written to the Cherokees,
April 18, 1829, declares to them that they cannot expect to
retain possession of the lands at that time occupied by them, but
gives them the most positive assurance of uninterrupted peace if
they would remove beyond the Mississippi (ibid., p. 6) as if the
power which could not grant them protection then would be able to
afford it to them hereafter!
26 To obtain a correct idea of the policy pursued by the
several states and the Union with respect to the Indians, it is
necessary to consult: (1) "The Laws of the Colonial and State
Governments relating to the Indian Inhabitants" (see Legislative
Documents, 21st Congress, No. 319); (2) "The Laws of the Union on
the same subject, and especially that of March 60th, 1802" (these
laws will be found in the work of Mr. Story entitled Laws of the
United States); (8) "The Report of Mr. Cass, Secretary of War,
relative to Indian Affairs, November 29th, 1823."
27 November 19, 1829. This item is literally translated.
28 The honor of this result, however, is by no means due to
the Spaniards. If the Indian tribes had not been tillers of the
ground at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, they would
unquestionably have been destroyed in South as well as in North
29 See, among other documents, the Report made by Mr. Bell
in the name of the Committee on Indian Affairs, February 24,
1830, in which it is most logically established and most
learnedly proved that "the fundamental principle, that the
Indians had no right, by virtue of their ancient possession,
either of soil or sovereignty, has never been abandoned either
expressly or by implication."
In perusing this Report, which is evidently drawn up by a
skillful hand, one is astonished at the facility with which the
author gets rid of all arguments founded upon reason and natural
right, which he designates as abstract and theoretical
principles. The more I contemplate the difference between
civilized and uncivilized man with regard to the principles of
justice, the more I observe that the former contests the
foundation of those rights, which the latter simply violates.
30 Before treating of this matter, I would call the reader's
attention to a book of which I spoke at the beginning of this
work, and which is about to be published. The chief aim of M.
Gustave de Beaumont, my traveling-companion, was to inform
Frenchmen of the position of the Negroes among the white
population in the United States. M. de Beaumont has plumbed the
depths of a question which my subject has allowed me merely to
His book, the notes to which contain a great number of
legislative and historical documents, extremely valuable and
heretofore unpublished, furthermore presents pictures the
vividness of which is ample proof of their verity. M. de
Beaumont's book should be read by all those who would know into
what excesses men may be driven when once they attempt to go
against natural and human laws.
31 It is well known that several of the most distinguished
authors of antiquity, and among them ’sop and Terence, were, or
had been, slaves. Slaves were not always taken from barbarous
nations; the chances of war reduced highly civilized men to
32 To induce the whites to abandon the opinion they have
conceived of the moral and intellectual inferiority of their
former slaves, the Negroes must change; but as long as this
opinion persists, they cannot change.
33 See Beverley's History of Virginia. See also, in
Jefferson's Memoirs, some curious details concerning the
introduction of Negroes into Virginia, and the first Act that
prohibited the importation of them, in 1778.
34 The number of slaves was less considerable in the North,
but the advantages resulting from slavery were not more contested
there than in the South. In 1740 the legislature of the state of
New York declared that the direct importation of slaves ought to
be encouraged as much as possible, and smuggling severely
punished, in order not to discourage the fair trader. (Kent's
Commentaries, Vol. II, p. 206.) Curious researches by Belknap
upon slavery in New England are to be found in the Historical
Collections of Massachusetts, Vol. IV, p. 193. It appears that
Negroes were introduced there in 1630, but that the legislation
and manners of the people were opposed to slavery from the first.
See also, in the same work, the manner in which public opinion,
and afterwards the laws, finally put an end to slavery.
35 Not only is slavery prohibited in Ohio, but no free
Negroes are allowed to enter the territory of that state or to
hold property in it. See the statutes of Ohio.
36 The activity of Ohio is not confined to individuals, but
the undertakings of the state are surprisingly great: a canal has
been established between Lake Erie and the Ohio, by means of
which the valley of the Mississippi communicates with the river
of the North, and the European commodities which arrive at New
York may be forwarded by water to New Orleans across five hundred
leagues of continent.
37 The exact numbers given by the census of 1830 were:
Kentucky, 688,844; Ohio, 937,619.
38 Independently of these causes, which, wherever free
workmen abound, render their labor more productive and more
economical than that of slaves, another cause may be pointed out
which is peculiar to the United States: sugar-cane has hitherto
been cultivated with success only upon the banks of the
Mississippi, near the mouth of that river in the Gulf of Mexico.
In Louisiana the cultivation of sugar-cane is exceedingly
lucrative; nowhere does a laborer earn so much by his work; and
as there is always a certain relation between the cost of
production and the value of the produce, the price of slaves is
very high in Louisiana. But Louisiana is one of the federal
states, and slaves may be carried thither from all parts of the Union;
the price given for slaves in New Orleans consequently raises the
value of slaves in all the other markets. The consequence of this
is that in the regions where the land is less productive, the
cost of slave labor is still very considerable, which gives an
additional advantage to the competition of free labor.
39 A peculiar reason contributes to detach the two
last-mentioned states from the cause of slavery. The former
wealth of this part of the Union was principally derived from the
cultivation of tobacco. This cultivation is specially suited to
slave labor; but within the last few years the market price of
tobacco has diminished, while the value of the slaves remains the
same. Thus the ratio between the cost of production and the value
of the produce is changed The inhabitants of Maryland and
Virginia are therefore more disposed than they were thirty years
ago to give up slave labor in the cultivation of tobacco, or to
give up slavery and tobacco at the same time.
40 The states in which slavery is abolished usually do what
they can to render their territory disagreeable to the Negroes as
a place of residence; and as a kind of emulation exists between
the different states in this respect the unhappy blacks can only
choose the least of the evils that beset them.
41 There is a great difference between the mortality of the
blacks and of the whites in the states in which slavery is
abolished; from 1820 to 1881 only one out of forty-two
individuals of the white population died in Philadelphia; but one
out of twenty-one of the black population died in the same time.
The mortality is by no means so great among the Negroes who are
still slaves. (See Emerson's Medical Statistics, p. 28.)
42 This is true of the places in which rice is cultivated;
rice-fields, which are unhealthful in all countries, are
particularly dangerous in those regions which are exposed to the
rays of a tropical sun. Europeans would not find it easy to
cultivate the soil in that part of the New World if they insisted
on making it produce rice; but may they not exist without growing
43 These states are nearer to the equator than Italy and
Spain, but the temperature of the continent of America is much
lower than that of Europe.
44 The Spanish government formerly caused a certain number
of peas ants from the Azores to be transported into a district of
Louisiana called Attakapas. Slavery was not introduced among
them; it was an experiment, These settlers still cultivate the
soil without the assistance of slaves, but their industry is so
sluggish as scarcely to supply their most necessary wants.
45 We find it asserted in an American work entitled Letters
on the Colonization Society, by Mr. Carey (1833): "That for the
last forty years, the black race has increased more rapidly than
the white race in the State of South Carolina; and that, if we
take the average population of the five States of the South into
which slaves were first introduced, viz. Maryland, Virginia South
Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, we shall find that from
1790 to 1830 the whites have augmented in the proportion of 80 to
100, and the blacks in that of 100 to 112."
In the United States in 1830 the population of the two races
stood as follows: States where slavery is abolished, 6,565,434
whites; 120,520 blacks. Slave States, 3,960,814 whites; 2,208,102
46 This opinion is sanctioned by authorities infinitely
weightier than anything that I can say. Thus, for instance, it is
stated in the Mem¢¡rs of Jefferson: "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 opinion
have established between them." (See Extracts from the Memoirs of
Jefferson by M. Conseil.)
47 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
48 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, April 1833).
49 This last regulation was laid down by the founders of the
settlement; they believed 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
50 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 that would profit them but
little. 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 courses are equally impossible.
51 In 1830 there were in the United States 2,010,327 slaves
and 319,439 free blacks, in all 2,329,766 Negroes, who formed
about one fifth of the total population of the United States at
52 Emancipation is not prohibited, but surrounded with such
formalities as to render it difficult.
53 See the conduct of the Northern states in the War of
1812. "During that war," says Jefferson in a letter of March 17,
1817, to General Lafayette "four of the Eastern States were only
attached to the Union like so many inanimate bodies to living
men." (Correspondence of Jefferson, published by M. Conseil.)
54 The state of 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 seize the sovereign power by surprise.
55 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.
56 Average height of the Alleghenies, following Volney
(Atlas of the United States, p. 33), 700-800 meters; following
Derby, 500-6,000 feet. The highest point of the Vosges is 1,400
meters above sea level.
57 See View of the United States, by Darby, pp. 64 and 79.
58 The chain of the Alleghenies is not so high as that of
the Vosges and does not offer as many obstacles as the latter to
the efforts of human industry. The regions Iying on the eastern
slopes of the Alleghenies are as naturally attached to the
Mississippi Valley as Franche-Comt‚, Upper Burgundy, and Alsace
are to France.
59 1,002,600 square miles. See Darby's View of the United
States, p. 435.
60 It is, scarcely necessary for me to observe that by the
expression Anglo-Americans I mean to designate only the great
majority of the nation. Some isolated individuals, of course,
hold very different opinions.
61 Census of 1790 3,929,328
Census of 1830 12,856,165
62 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 Atlantic coast.
63 Pennsylvania contained 431,373 inhabitants in 1790.
64 The area of the state of New York is about 6,213 square
leagues (500 [sic, actually about 50,000] square miles). See View
of the United States, by Darby, p. 435.
65 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-four
million; in 1874, forty-eight million; and in 1896, ninety-six
million. This may still be the case even if the lands on the
eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains should be found unfit for
cultivation. The territory that is already occupied can easily
contain this number of inhabitants. One hundred million men
spread over the surface of the twenty-four states and the three
dependencies which now constitute the Union would give only 762
inhabitants to the square league; this would be far below the
mean population of France, which is 1,006 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.
66 The area of the United States is 295,000 square leagues,
that of Europe, following Malte-Brun (Vol. VI, p. 4), is 500,000.
67 See Legislative Documents, 20th Congress, No. 111, p. 105.
68 3,672 317, census of 1830.
69 The distance from Jefferson, the capital of the state of
Missouri, to Washington is 1,019 miles or 420 leagues. (American
Almanac, 1831, p. 48.)
70 The following statements will show the difference between
the commercial activity of the South and 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 S,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,
2nd Session, No. 140, p. 244. ) Thus Massachusetts alone had three
times as much shipping as the four above-mentioned states.
Nevertheless, the area of the state of Massachusetts is only
959 square leagues (7,335 square miles), and its population amounts
to 610,014 inhabitants; while the area of the four other states I
have quoted is 27,204 square leagues ( 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 but one fifth of theirs. (View of the United States, by
Darby. ) Slavery is prejudicial to the commercial prosperity of the
South in several different ways, by diminishing the spirit of
enterprise among the whites and by preventing them from obtaining
the sailors whom they require. Sailors are usually taken only 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
fears would always be entertained of their mutinying in the middle of
the ocean or of their escaping in the foreign countries at which they
71 View of the United States, by Darby, p. 444.
72 Note that when I speak of the basin of the Mississippi, I
do not include that portion of the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and
Virginia situated west of the Alleghenies, which should, however,
be considered as also comprising a part of it.
73 It may be seen that in the course of the last ten years
the population of one district, as, for instance, the state of
Delaware, has increased in the proportion of 5 per cent; while
that of another, like the territory of Michigan has increased 250
per cent. Thus the population of Virginia had augmented 13 per
cent, and that of the border state of Ohio 61 per cent, in the
same time. The general table of these changes, which is given in
the National Calendar is a striking picture of the unequal
fortunes of the different states.
74 It has been said that in the course of the last period
the population of Virginia has increased 13 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 increasing. I take the state of
Virginia, to which I have already alluded, as the basis of my
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 its 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, increased in the course of ten years, bore to the
increased population of the Union in the same space of time. The
new number of Virginian representatives will then be to the old
number, on the one hand, as the new number of all the
representatives is to the old number; and, on
the other hand, as the increase 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 region 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 Virginia population be to that of the whole
Union in a smaller ratio than the new number of the
representatives of the Union to the old number, the number of the
representatives of Virginia must decrease.
75 Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. 401
76 See the report of its committee to the convention that
proclaimed nullification in South Carolina
77 The population of a country assuredly constitutes the
first element of its wealth. During this same period, from 1820
to 1832, in 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 15 per cent; and that
of Georgia 15.5 per cent. (See 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; of France at the rate of 7 per cent;
and of Europe all together at the rate of 4.7 per cent. (See
Malte-Brun, Vol. VI, p. 95.)
78 It must be admitted, however, that the depreciation that
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.
79 In 1832 the district of Michigan, which had only 31639
inhabitants and was hardly more than a wilderness, had developed
940 miles of post roads. The almost entirely unsettled territory
of Arkansas was already covered by 1,938 miles of post roads. See
the Report of the Postmaster General, November 30, 1833. The
carriage of newspapers alone throughout the Union brought in
80 In the course of ten years, from 1821 to 1831, 271
steamboats were launched on the rivers flowing through the
Mississippi Valley. In 1829 there were 256 steamboats in the
United States. See Legislative Documents, No. 140, p. 274.
81 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.
82 The first act of cession was made by the state of New
York in 1780; Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, South and
North Carolina followed this example at different times, Georgia
making the last; its act of cession was not completed till 1802.
83 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.
84 The Bank of the United States was established in 1816,
with a capital of 35,000,000 dollars ( 185,500,000 fr.), its
charter expired in 1830. In 1832 Congress passed a law to renew
it, but the President vetoed the bill. The struggle continues
with great violence on either side, and it is easy to forecast
the speedy fall of the bank.
85 See principally, for the details of this affair,
Legislative Documents, 22nd Congress, 2nd Session, No. 30.
86 That is to say, the majority of the people; for the
opposite party, called the Union Party, always formed a very
strong and active minority. Carolina may contain about 47,000
voters, 30,000 were in favor of nullification, and 17,000 opposed
87 This decree was preceded by a Report of the committee by
which it was framed, containing the explanation of the motives
and object of the law. The following passage occurs in it (p.
34): "When the rights reserved by the Constitution to the
different States are deliberately violated, it is the duty and
the right of those States to interfere, in order to check the
progress of the evil; to resist usurpation, and to maintain,
within their respective limits those powers and privileges which
belong to them as independent, sovereign States. If they were
destitute of this right, they would not be sovereign. South
Carolina declares that she acknowledges no tribunal upon earth
above her authority. She has indeed entered into a solemn compact
of union with the other States; but she demands, and will
exercise, the right of putting her own construction upon it; and
when this compact is violated by her sister States, and by the
government which they have created, she is determined to avail
herself of the unquestionable right of judging what is the extent
of the infraction, and what are the measures best fitted to
88 Congress was finally persuaded to take this step by the
conduct of the powerful state of Virginia, whose legislature
offered to serve as a mediator between the Union and South
Carolina. Hitherto the latter state had appeared to be entirely
abandoned, even by the states that had joined in her remonstrances.
89 Law of March 2, 1833.
90 This bill was brought in by Mr. Clay, and it passed, in
four days through both houses of Congress, by an immense
91 The total value of imports for the year ending September
30, 1832 was $101,129,266. The imports carried in foreign vessels
amounted to only $10,731,039, or approximately one tenth.
92 The total value of exports during the same year was
$87,176,945. The exports carried in foreign vessels was
$21,036,183, or approximately one fourth. ( Williams's Register,
1833, p. 398. )
93 During the years 1829, 1830, and 1831, vessels of the
tonnage of 3,307,719 entered the ports of the Union. Foreign
vessels accounted for a total of only 544,571 tons. The latter
were approximately in the proportion of 16 to 100. (National
Calendar, 1833, p. 304.) During the years 1820, 1826, and 1831
the English vessels entering the ports of London, Liverpool, and
Hull amounted to a tonnage of 443,800. Foreign vessels entering
the same ports during the same years amounted to a tonnage of
159,431. The relation between the two was approximately 36 to
100. ( Companion to the Almanac 1834, p. 169.) In 1832, the
proportion of foreign to English vessels entering British ports
was 29 to 100.
94 Materials are, generally speaking, less expensive in
America than in Europe, but the price of labor is much higher.
95 It must not be supposed that English vessels are
exclusively employed in transporting foreign produce into
England, or British produce to foreign countries; at the present
day the merchant shipping of England may be regarded in the light
of a vast system of public conveyances, ready to serve all the
producers of the world, and to open communications between all
nations. The maritime genius of the Americans prompts them to
enter into competition with the English.
96 Part of the commerce of the Mediterranean is already
carried on by American vessels.
97 The foremost of these circumstances is that nations which
are accustomed to township institutions and municipal government
are better able than any others to establish prosperous colonies.
The habit of thinking and governing for oneself is indispensable
in a new country, where success necessarily depends in a great
measure upon the individual exertions of the settlers.
98 The United States alone cover an area equal to one half
of Europe. The area of Europe is 500,000 square leagues; its
population is 205,000,000. (Malte-Brun, Vol.VI, Bk.114, p.4.)
99 See Malte-Brun, Vol.VI, Bk.116, p.92.
100 This would be a population proportionate to that of
Europe, taken at a mean rate of 410 inhabitants to the square
101 The population of Russia increases proportionately more
rapidly than that of any other country in the Old World.
review of James Q. Wilson's “Tocqueville and America”, in 2012sp:The Claremont Review of Books
Alexis de Tocqueville literally wrote the book on the Unites States. Democracy in America (1835–1840), informed by his wide-ranging nine-month visit to the country, is generally recognized as one of the classic studies of American political culture.
But Tocqueville was only human, and Democracy in America is still just a book. For all its insight, writes the late political scientist James Q. Wilson, the French nobleman’s magnum opus “left a bit to be desired.”
Tocqueville believed that Americans would come to value equality over liberty. Reasoning that liberty appears immediately valuable only to dissidents, he concluded that equality, which can be enjoyed by all immediately, would lure the general public. But he was wrong, Wilson writes, observing that “we accept economic inequality here to a much greater degree than it is accepted elsewhere.” He notes that many Americans oppose equality-driven measures such as the inheritance tax and affirmative action quotas. Freedom, rather, is “the central organizing story of American life.” U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq, for example, often said they were defending freedom—even though that’s not the reason U.S. leaders gave for the Iraq war.
Tocqueville was deeply worried by American individualism, equating it with corrosive selfishness. But for Americans, Wilson argues, individualism has more to do with being “masters of our own souls.” A healthy skepticism of majority opinion hasn’t made us indifferent to others. Americans value local governance and excel in collective enterprises; compared to the people of other countries, Americans are much more likely to join civic groups and other voluntary organizations.
If you really want an acute 18th-century perspective on how the United States would work, Wilson argues, you should look to the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution. While Tocqueville feared that democracy would lead to a tyranny of the majority, the Founding Fathers predicted the emergence of factions [ID]. Tocqueville hoped Americans’ customs and mores would preserve liberty; the Founders saw the need to design new means of doing so, notably the separation of powers [ID]. And while the aristocratic Tocqueville dismissed commerce as vulgar, Alexander Hamilton and others prevailed over their opponents and shaped a frankly commercial republic, paving the way for American prosperity.
Tocqueville did see one thing more clearly than the Founders. He argued that religion was needed to temper and broaden individuals’ understanding of what constituted their self-interest, and that Protestant traditions of self-government had a restraining influence on the formation of interest groups. The Founders, however, were largely silent on religion in writing the Constitution, recognizing that it would be impossible to encompass all the religious traditions that existed in America.
Acknowledging Tocqueville’s greatness, Wilson qualifies his criticism by explaining, “I want to put Tocqueville in context; I do not want him to be a cardboard hero of American thought with all of his arguments left unexamined.”