The Extension of Canals and Railways.
Banking and Finance.
The Labor of Women and Children.
The Agrarian West Turns to Industry.
The Growth of the Industrial Population.
The Coming of the Irish and German.
The Rise of Organized Labor.
Labor and Politics.
The South Dependent on the North.
Part V. Sectional conflict and reconstruction
Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard *
THE RISE OF THE INDUSTRIAL SYSTEMIf Jefferson could have lived to see the Stars and Stripes planted on the Pacific Coast, the broad empire of Texas added to the planting states, and the valley of the Willamette waving with wheat sown by farmers from New England, he would have been more than fortified in his faith that the future of America lay in agriculture. Even a stanch old Federalist like Gouverneur Morris or Josiah Quincy would have mournfully conceded both the prophecy and the claim. Manifest destiny never seemed more clearly written in the stars.
As the farmers from the Northwest and planters from the Southwest poured in upon the floor of Congress, the party of Jefferson, christened anew by Jackson, grew stronger year by year. Opponents there were, no doubt, disgruntled critics and Whigs by conviction; but in 1852 Franklin Pierce, the Democratic candidate for President, carried every state in the union except Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This victory, a triumph under ordinary circumstances, was all the more significant in that Pierce was pitted against a hero of the Mexican War, General Scott, whom the Whigs, hoping to win by rousing the martial ardor of the voters, had nominated. On looking at the election returns, the new President calmly assured the planters that "the general principle of reduction of duties with a view to revenue may now be regarded as the settled policy of the country." With equal confidence, he waved aside those agitators who devoted themselves "to the supposed interests of the relatively few Africans in the United States." Like a watchman in the night he called to the country: "All's well."
The party of Hamilton and Clay lay in the dust.
The Industrial RevolutionAs pride often goeth before a fall, so sanguine expectation is sometimes the symbol of defeat. Jackson destroyed the bank. Polk signed the tariff bill of 1846 striking an effective blow at the principle of protection for manufactures. Pierce promised to silence the abolitionists. His successor was to approve a drastic step in the direction of free trade. Nevertheless all these things left untouched the springs of power that were in due time to make America the greatest industrial nation on the earth; namely, vast national resources, business enterprise, inventive genius, and the free labor supply of Europe. Unseen by the thoughtless, unrecorded in the diaries of wiseacres, rarely mentioned in the speeches of statesmen, there was swiftly rising such a tide in the affairs of America as Jefferson and Hamilton never dreamed of in their little philosophies.
The Inventors.—Watt and Boulton experimenting with steam in England, Whitney combining wood and steel into a cotton gin, Fulton and Fitch applying the steam engine to navigation, Stevens and Peter Cooper trying out the "iron horse" on "iron highways," Slater building spinning mills in Pawtucket, Howe attaching the needle to the flying wheel, Morse spanning a continent with the telegraph, Cyrus Field linking the markets of the new world with the old along the bed of the Atlantic, McCormick breaking the sickle under the reaper—these men and a thousand more were destroying in a mighty revolution of industry the world of the stagecoach and the tallow candle which Washington and Franklin had inherited little changed from the age of Cæsar. Whitney was to make cotton king. Watt and Fulton were to make steel and steam masters of the world. Agriculture was to fall behind in the race for supremacy.
Industry Outstrips Planting.—The story of invention, that tribute to the triumph of mind over matter, fascinating as a romance, need not be treated in detail here. The effects of invention on social and political life, multitudinous and never-ending, form the very warp and woof of American progress from the days of Andrew Jackson to the latest hour. Neither the great civil conflict—the clash of two systems—nor the problems of the modern age can be approached without an understanding of the striking phases of industrialism.
A New England Mill Built in 1793
First and foremost among them was the uprush of mills managed by captains of industry and manned by labor drawn from farms, cities, and foreign lands. For every planter who cleared a domain in the Southwest and gathered his army of bondmen about him, there rose in the North a magician of steam and steel who collected under his roof an army of free workers. In seven league boots this new giant strode ahead of the Southern giant. Between 1850 and 1859, to use dollars and cents as the measure of progress, the value of domestic manufactures including mines and fisheries rose from $1,019,106,616 to $1,900,000,000, an increase of eighty-six per cent in ten years. In this same period the total production of naval stores, rice, sugar, tobacco, and cotton, the staples of the South, went only from $165,000,000, in round figures, to $204,000,000. At the halfway point of the century, the capital invested in industry, commerce, and cities far exceeded the value of all the farm land between the Atlantic and the Pacific; thus the course of economy had been reversed in fifty years. Tested by figures of production, King Cotton had shriveled by 1860 to a petty prince in comparison, for each year the captains of industry turned out goods worth nearly twenty times all the bales of cotton picked on Southern plantations. Iron, boots and shoes, and leather goods pouring from Northern mills surpassed in value the entire cotton output.
The Extension of Canals and Railways.—As necessary to mechanical industry as steel and steam power was the great market, spread over a wide and diversified area and knit together by efficient means of transportation. This service was supplied to industry by the steamship, which began its career on the Hudson in 1807; by the canals, of which the Erie opened in 1825 was the most noteworthy; and by the railways, which came into practical operation about 1830.
Banking and Finance.—Out of commerce and manufactures and the construction and operation of railways came such an accumulation of capital in the Northern states as merchants of old never imagined. The banks of the four industrial states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania in 1860 had funds greater than the banks in all the other states combined. New York City had become the money market of America, the center to which industrial companies, railway promoters, farmers, and planters turned for capital to initiate and carry on their operations. The banks of Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, it is true, had capital far in excess of the banks of the Northwest; but still they were relatively small compared with the financial institutions of the East.
The Growth of the Industrial Population.—A revolution of such magnitude in industry, transport, and finance, overturning as it did the agrarian civilization of the old Northwest and reaching out to the very borders of the country, could not fail to bring in its train consequences of a striking character. Some were immediate and obvious. Others require a fullness of time not yet reached to reveal their complete significance. Outstanding among them was the growth of an industrial population, detached from the land, concentrated in cities, and, to use Jefferson's phrase, dependent upon "the caprices and casualties of trade" for a livelihood. This was a result, as the great Virginian had foreseen, which flowed inevitably from public and private efforts to stimulate industry as against agriculture.
The Coming of the Irish.—The opposition of the Irish people to the English government, ever furious and irrepressible, was increased in the mid forties by an almost total failure of the potato crop, the main support of the peasants. Catholic in religion, they had been compelled to support a Protestant church. Tillers of the soil by necessity, they were forced to pay enormous tributes to absentee landlords in England whose claim to their estates rested upon the title of conquest and confiscation. Intensely loyal to their race, the Irish were subjected in all things to the Parliament at London, in which their small minority of representatives had little influence save in holding a balance of power between the two contending English parties. To the constant political irritation, the potato famine added physical distress beyond description. In cottages and fields and along the highways the victims of starvation lay dead by the hundreds, the relief which charity afforded only bringing misery more sharply to the foreground. Those who were fortunate enough to secure passage money sought escape to America. In 1844 the total immigration into the United States was less than eighty thousand; in 1850 it had risen by leaps and bounds to more than three hundred thousand. Between 1820 and 1860 the immigrants from the United Kingdom numbered 2,750,000, of whom more than one-half were Irish. It has been said with a touch of exaggeration that the American canals and railways of those days were built by the labor of Irishmen.
The German Migration.—To political discontent and economic distress, such as was responsible for the coming of the Irish, may likewise be traced the source of the Germanic migration. The potato blight that fell upon Ireland visited the Rhine Valley and Southern Germany at the same time with results as pitiful, if less extensive. The calamity inflicted by nature was followed shortly by another inflicted by the despotic conduct of German kings and princes. In 1848 there had occurred throughout Europe a popular uprising in behalf of republics and democratic government. For a time it rode on a full tide of success. Kings were overthrown, or compelled to promise constitutional government, and tyrannical ministers fled from their palaces. Then came reaction. Those who had championed the popular cause were imprisoned, shot, or driven out of the land. Men of attainments and distinction, whose sole offense was opposition to the government of kings and princes, sought an asylum in America, carrying with them to the land of their adoption the spirit of liberty and democracy. In 1847 over fifty thousand Germans came to America, the forerunners of a migration that increased, almost steadily, for many years. The record of 1860 showed that in the previous twenty years nearly a million and a half had found homes in the United States. Far and wide they scattered, from the mills and shops of the seacoast towns to the uttermost frontiers of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Labor of Women and Children.—If the industries, canals, and railways of the country were largely manned by foreign labor, still important native sources must not be overlooked; above all, the women and children of the New England textile districts. Spinning and weaving, by a tradition that runs far beyond the written records of mankind, belonged to women. Indeed it was the dexterous housewives, spinsters, and boys and girls that laid the foundations of the textile industry in America, foundations upon which the mechanical revolution was built. As the wheel and loom were taken out of the homes to the factories operated by water power or the steam engine, the women and, to use Hamilton's phrase, "the children of tender years," followed as a matter of course. "The cotton manufacture alone employs six thousand persons in Lowell," wrote a French observer in 1836; "of this number nearly five thousand are young women from seventeen to twenty-four years of age, the daughters of farmers from the different New England states." It was not until after the middle of the century that foreign lands proved to be the chief source from which workers were recruited for the factories of New England. It was then that the daughters of the Puritans, outdone by the competition of foreign labor, both of men and women, left the spinning jenny and the loom to other hands.
The Rise of Organized Labor.—The changing conditions of American life, marked by the spreading mill towns of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania and the growth of cities like Buffalo, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago in the West, naturally brought changes, as Jefferson had prophesied, in "manners and morals." A few mechanics, smiths, carpenters, and masons, widely scattered through farming regions and rural villages, raise no such problems as tens of thousands of workers collected in one center in daily intercourse, learning the power of coöperation and union.
Even before the coming of steam and machinery, in the "good old days" of handicrafts, laborers in many trades—printers, shoemakers, carpenters, for example—had begun to draw together in the towns for the advancement of their interests in the form of higher wages, shorter days, and milder laws. The shoemakers of Philadelphia, organized in 1794, conducted a strike in 1799 and held together until indicted seven years later for conspiracy. During the twenties and thirties, local labor unions sprang up in all industrial centers and they led almost immediately to city federations of the several crafts.
As the thousands who were dependent upon their daily labor for their livelihood mounted into the millions and industries spread across the continent, the local unions of craftsmen grew into national craft organizations bound together by the newspapers, the telegraph, and the railways. Before 1860 there were several such national trade unions, including the plumbers, printers, mule spinners, iron molders, and stone cutters. All over the North labor leaders arose—men unknown to general history but forceful and resourceful characters who forged links binding scattered and individual workers into a common brotherhood. An attempt was even made in 1834 to federate all the crafts into a permanent national organization; but it perished within three years through lack of support. Half a century had to elapse before the American Federation of Labor was to accomplish this task.
All the manifestations of the modern labor movement had appeared, in germ at least, by the time the mid-century was reached: unions, labor leaders, strikes, a labor press, a labor political program, and a labor political party. In every great city industrial disputes were a common occurrence. The papers recorded about four hundred in two years, 1853-54, local affairs but forecasting economic struggles in a larger field. The labor press seems to have begun with the founding of the Mechanics' Free Press in Philadelphia in 1828 and the establishment of the New York Workingman's Advocate shortly afterward. These semi-political papers were in later years followed by regular trade papers designed to weld together and advance the interests of particular crafts. Edited by able leaders, these little sheets with limited circulation wielded an enormous influence in the ranks of the workers.
Labor and Politics.—As for the political program of labor, the main planks were clear and specific: the abolition of imprisonment for debt, manhood suffrage in states where property qualifications still prevailed, free and universal education, laws protecting the safety and health of workers in mills and factories, abolition of lotteries, repeal of laws requiring militia service, and free land in the West.
Into the labor papers and platforms there sometimes crept a note of hostility to the masters of industry, a sign of bitterness that excited little alarm while cheap land in the West was open to the discontented. The Philadelphia workmen, in issuing a call for a local convention, invited "all those of our fellow citizens who live by their own labor and none other." In Newcastle county, Delaware, the association of working people complained in 1830: "The poor have no laws; the laws are made by the rich and of course for the rich." Here and there an extremist went to the length of advocating an equal division of wealth among all the people—the crudest kind of communism.
Agitation of this character produced in labor circles profound distrust of both Whigs and Democrats who talked principally about tariffs and banks; it resulted in attempts to found independent labor parties. In Philadelphia, Albany, New York City, and New England, labor candidates were put up for elections in the early thirties and in a few cases were victorious at the polls. "The balance of power has at length got into the hands of the working people, where it properly belongs," triumphantly exclaimed the Mechanics' Free Press of Philadelphia in 1829. But the triumph was illusory. Dissensions appeared in the labor ranks. The old party leaders, particularly of Tammany Hall, the Democratic party organization in New York City, offered concessions to labor in return for votes. Newspapers unsparingly denounced "trade union politicians" as "demagogues," "levellers," and "rag, tag, and bobtail"; and some of them, deeming labor unrest the sour fruit of manhood suffrage, suggested disfranchisement as a remedy. Under the influence of concessions and attacks the political fever quickly died away, and the end of the decade left no remnant of the labor political parties. Labor leaders turned to a task which seemed more substantial and practical, that of organizing workingmen into craft unions for the definite purpose of raising wages and reducing hours.
The Industrial Revolution and National PoliticsSouthern Plans for Union with the West.—It was long the design of Southern statesmen like Calhoun to hold the West and the South together in one political party. The theory on which they based their hope was simple. Both sections were agricultural—the producers of raw materials and the buyers of manufactured goods. The planters were heavy purchasers of Western bacon, pork, mules, and grain. The Mississippi River and its tributaries formed the natural channel for the transportation of heavy produce southward to the plantations and outward to Europe. Therefore, ran their political reasoning, the interests of the two sections were one. By standing together in favor of low tariffs, they could buy their manufactures cheaply in Europe and pay for them in cotton, tobacco, and grain. The union of the two sections under Jackson's management seemed perfect.
The East Forms Ties with the West.—Eastern leaders were not blind to the ambitions of Southern statesmen. On the contrary, they also recognized the importance of forming strong ties with the agrarian West and drawing the produce of the Ohio Valley to Philadelphia and New York. The canals and railways were the physical signs of this economic union, and the results, commercial and political, were soon evident. By the middle of the century, Southern economists noted the change, one of them, De Bow, lamenting that "the great cities of the North have severally penetrated the interior with artificial lines until they have taken from the open and untaxed current of the Mississippi the commerce produced on its borders." To this writer it was an astounding thing to behold "the number of steamers that now descend the upper Mississippi River, loaded to the guards with produce, as far as the mouth of the Illinois River and then turn up that stream with their cargoes to be shipped to New York via Chicago. The Illinois canal has not only swept the whole produce along the line of the Illinois River to the East, but it is drawing the products of the upper Mississippi through the same channel; thus depriving New Orleans and St. Louis of a rich portion of their former trade."
If to any shippers the broad current of the great river sweeping down to New Orleans offered easier means of physical communication to the sea than the canals and railways, the difference could be overcome by the credit which Eastern bankers were able to extend to the grain and produce buyers, in the first instance, and through them to the farmers on the soil. The acute Southern observer just quoted, De Bow, admitted with evident regret, in 1852, that "last autumn, the rich regions of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were flooded with the local bank notes of the Eastern States, advanced by the New York houses on produce to be shipped by way of the canals in the spring.... These moneyed facilities enable the packer, miller, and speculator to hold on to their produce until the opening of navigation in the spring and they are no longer obliged, as formerly, to hurry off their shipments during the winter by the way of New Orleans in order to realize funds by drafts on their shipments. The banking facilities at the East are doing as much to draw trade from us as the canals and railways which Eastern capital is constructing." Thus canals, railways, and financial credit were swiftly forging bonds of union between the old home of Jacksonian Democracy in the West and the older home of Federalism in the East. The nationalism to which Webster paid eloquent tribute became more and more real with the passing of time. The self-sufficiency of the pioneer was broken down as he began to watch the produce markets of New York and Philadelphia where the prices of corn and hogs fixed his earnings for the year.
The West and Manufactures.—In addition to the commercial bonds between the East and the West there was growing up a common interest in manufactures. As skilled white labor increased in the Ohio Valley, the industries springing up in the new cities made Western life more like that of the industrial East than like that of the planting South. Moreover, the Western states produced some important raw materials for American factories, which called for protection against foreign competition, notably, wool, hemp, and flax. As the South had little or no foreign competition in cotton and tobacco, the East could not offer protection for her raw materials in exchange for protection for industries. With the West, however, it became possible to establish reciprocity in tariffs; that is, for example, to trade a high rate on wool for a high rate on textiles or iron.
The South Dependent on the North.—While East and West were drawing together, the distinctions between North and South were becoming more marked; the latter, having few industries and producing little save raw materials, was being forced into the position of a dependent section. As a result of the protective tariff, Southern planters were compelled to turn more and more to Northern mills for their cloth, shoes, hats, hoes, plows, and machinery. Nearly all the goods which they bought in Europe in exchange for their produce came overseas to Northern ports, whence transshipments were made by rail and water to Southern points of distribution. Their rice, cotton, and tobacco, in as far as they were not carried to Europe in British bottoms, were transported by Northern masters. In these ways, a large part of the financial operations connected with the sale of Southern produce and the purchase of goods in exchange passed into the hands of Northern merchants and bankers who, naturally, made profits from their transactions. Finally, Southern planters who wanted to buy more land and more slaves on credit borrowed heavily in the North where huge accumulations made the rates of interest lower than the smaller banks of the South could afford.
The South Reckons the Cost of Economic Dependence.—As Southern dependence upon Northern capital became more and more marked, Southern leaders began to chafe at what they regarded as restraints laid upon their enterprise. In a word, they came to look upon the planter as a tribute-bearer to the manufacturer and financier. "The South," expostulated De Bow, "stands in the attitude of feeding ... a vast population of [Northern] merchants, shipowners, capitalists, and others who, without claims on her progeny, drink up the life blood of her trade.... Where goes the value of our labor but to those who, taking advantage of our folly, ship for us, buy for us, sell to us, and, after turning our own capital to their profitable account, return laden with our money to enjoy their easily earned opulence at home."
Southern statisticians, not satisfied with generalities, attempted to figure out how great was this tribute in dollars and cents. They estimated that the planters annually lent to Northern merchants the full value of their exports, a hundred millions or more, "to be used in the manipulation of foreign imports." They calculated that no less than forty millions all told had been paid to shipowners in profits. They reckoned that, if the South were to work up her own cotton, she would realize from seventy to one hundred millions a year that otherwise went North. Finally, to cap the climax, they regretted that planters spent some fifteen millions a year pleasure-seeking in the alluring cities and summer resorts of the North.
Southern Opposition to Northern Policies.—Proceeding from these premises, Southern leaders drew the logical conclusion that the entire program of economic measures demanded in the North was without exception adverse to Southern interests and, by a similar chain of reasoning, injurious to the corn and wheat producers of the West. Cheap labor afforded by free immigration, a protective tariff raising prices of manufactures for the tiller of the soil, ship subsidies increasing the tonnage of carrying trade in Northern hands, internal improvements forging new economic bonds between the East and the West, a national banking system giving strict national control over the currency as a safeguard against paper inflation—all these devices were regarded in the South as contrary to the planting interest. They were constantly compared with the restrictive measures by which Great Britain more than half a century before had sought to bind American interests.
As oppression justified a war for independence once, statesmen argued, so it can justify it again. "It is curious as it is melancholy and distressing," came a broad hint from South Carolina, "to see how striking is the analogy between the colonial vassalage to which the manufacturing states have reduced the planting states and that which formerly bound the Anglo-American colonies to the British empire.... England said to her American colonies: 'You shall not trade with the rest of the world for such manufactures as are produced in the mother country.' The manufacturing states say to their Southern colonies: 'You shall not trade with the rest of the world for such manufactures as we produce.'" The conclusion was inexorable: either the South must control the national government and its economic measures, or it must declare, as America had done four score years before, its political and economic independence. As Northern mills multiplied, as railways spun their mighty web over the face of the North, and as accumulated capital rose into the hundreds of millions, the conviction of the planters and their statesmen deepened into desperation.
Efforts to Start Southern Industries Fail.—A few of them, seeing the predominance of the North, made determined efforts to introduce manufactures into the South. To the leaders who were averse to secession and nullification this seemed the only remedy for the growing disparity in the power of the two sections. Societies for the encouragement of mechanical industries were formed, the investment of capital was sought, and indeed a few mills were built on Southern soil. The results were meager. The natural resources, coal and water power, were abundant; but the enterprise for direction and the skilled labor were wanting. The stream of European immigration flowed North and West, not South. The Irish or German laborer, even if he finally made his home in a city, had before him, while in the North, the alternative of a homestead on Western land. To him slavery was a strange, if not a repelling, institution. He did not take to it kindly nor care to fix his home where it flourished. While slavery lasted, the economy of the South was inevitably agricultural. While agriculture predominated, leadership with equal necessity fell to the planting interest. While the planting interest ruled, political opposition to Northern economy was destined to grow in strength.
The Southern Theory of Sectionalism.—In the opinion of the statesmen who frankly represented the planting interest, the industrial system was its deadly enemy. Their entire philosophy of American politics was summed up in a single paragraph by McDuffie, a spokesman for South Carolina: "Owing to the federative character of our government, the great geographical extent of our territory, and the diversity of the pursuits of our citizens in different parts of the union, it has so happened that two great interests have sprung up, standing directly opposed to each other. One of these consists of those manufactures which the Northern and Middle states are capable of producing but which, owing to the high price of labor and the high profits of capital in those states, cannot hold competition with foreign manufactures without the aid of bounties, directly or indirectly given, either by the general government or by the state governments. The other of these interests consists of the great agricultural staples of the Southern states which can find a market only in foreign countries and which can be advantageously sold only in exchange for foreign manufactures which come in competition with those of the Northern and Middle states.... These interests then stand diametrically and irreconcilably opposed to each other. The interest, the pecuniary interest of the Northern manufacturer, is directly promoted by every increase of the taxes imposed upon Southern commerce; and it is unnecessary to add that the interest of the Southern planter is promoted by every diminution of taxes imposed upon the productions of their industry. If, under these circumstances, the manufacturers were clothed with the power of imposing taxes, at their pleasure, upon the foreign imports of the planter, no doubt would exist in the mind of any man that it would have all the characteristics of an absolute and unqualified despotism." The economic soundness of this reasoning, a subject of interesting speculation for the economist, is of little concern to the historian. The historical point is that this opinion was widely held in the South and with the progress of time became the prevailing doctrine of the planting statesmen.
Their antagonism was deepened because they also became convinced, on what grounds it is not necessary to inquire, that the leaders of the industrial interest thus opposed to planting formed a consolidated "aristocracy of wealth," bent upon the pursuit and attainment of political power at Washington. "By the aid of various associated interests," continued McDuffie, "the manufacturing capitalists have obtained a complete and permanent control over the legislation of Congress on this subject [the tariff].... Men confederated together upon selfish and interested principles, whether in pursuit of the offices or the bounties of the government, are ever more active and vigilant than the great majority who act from disinterested and patriotic impulses. Have we not witnessed it on this floor, sir? Who ever knew the tariff men to divide on any question affecting their confederated interests?... The watchword is, stick together, right or wrong upon every question affecting the common cause. Such, sir, is the concert and vigilance and such the combinations by which the manufacturing party, acting upon the interests of some and the prejudices of others, have obtained a decided and permanent control over public opinion in all the tariff states." Thus, as the Southern statesman would have it, the North, in matters affecting national policies, was ruled by a "confederated interest" which menaced the planting interest. As the former grew in magnitude and attached to itself the free farmers of the West through channels of trade and credit, it followed as night the day that in time the planters would be overshadowed and at length overborne in the struggle of giants. Whether the theory was sound or not, Southern statesmen believed it and acted upon it.
ReferencesM. Beard, Short History of the American Labor Movement.
E.L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States.
J.R. Commons, History of Labour in the United States (2 vols.).
E.R. Johnson, American Railway Transportation.
C.D. Wright, Industrial Evolution of the United States.
Questions1. What signs pointed to a complete Democratic triumph in 1852?
2. What is the explanation of the extraordinary industrial progress of America?
3. Compare the planting system with the factory system.
4. In what sections did industry flourish before the Civil War? Why?
5. Show why transportation is so vital to modern industry and agriculture.
6. Explain how it was possible to secure so many people to labor in American industries.
7. Trace the steps in the rise of organized labor before 1860.
8. What political and economic reforms did labor demand?
9. Why did the East and the South seek closer ties with the West?
10. Describe the economic forces which were drawing the East and the West together.
11. In what way was the South economically dependent upon the North?
12 State the national policies generally favored in the North and condemned in the South.
13. Show how economic conditions in the South were unfavorable to industry.
14. Give the Southern explanation of the antagonism between the North and the South.
Research TopicsThe Inventions.—Assign one to each student. Satisfactory accounts are to be found in any good encyclopedia, especially the Britannica.
River and Lake Commerce.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 313-326.
Railways and Canals.—Callender, pp. 326-344; 359-387. Coman, Industrial History of the United States, pp. 216-225.
The Growth of Industry, 1815-1840.—Callender, pp. 459-471. From 1850 to 1860, Callender, pp. 471-486.
Early Labor Conditions.—Callender, pp. 701-718.
Early Immigration.—Callender, pp. 719-732.
Clay's Home Market Theory of the Tariff.—Callender, pp. 498-503.
The New England View of the Tariff.—Callender, pp. 503-514.
THE PLANTING SYSTEM AND NATIONAL POLITICSJames Madison, the father of the federal Constitution, after he had watched for many days the battle royal in the national convention of 1787, exclaimed that the contest was not between the large and the small states, but between the commercial North and the planting South. From the inauguration of Washington to the election of Lincoln the sectional conflict, discerned by this penetrating thinker, exercised a profound influence on the course of American politics. It was latent during the "era of good feeling" when the Jeffersonian Republicans adopted Federalist policies; it flamed up in the contest between the Democrats and Whigs. Finally it raged in the angry political quarrel which culminated in the Civil War.
Slavery—North and SouthThe Decline of Slavery in the North.—At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, slavery was lawful in all the Northern states except Massachusetts. There were almost as many bondmen in New York as in Georgia. New Jersey had more than Delaware or Tennessee, indeed nearly as many as both combined. All told, however, there were only about forty thousand in the North as against nearly seven hundred thousand in the South. Moreover, most of the Northern slaves were domestic servants, not laborers necessary to keep mills going or fields under cultivation.
There was, in the North, a steadily growing moral sentiment against the system. Massachusetts abandoned it in 1780. In the same year, Pennsylvania provided for gradual emancipation. New Hampshire, where there had been only a handful, Connecticut with a few thousand domestics, and New Jersey early followed these examples. New York, in 1799, declared that all children born of slaves after July 4 of that year should be free, though held for a term as apprentices; and in 1827 it swept away the last vestiges of slavery. So with the passing of the generation that had framed the Constitution, chattel servitude disappeared in the commercial states, leaving behind only such discriminations as disfranchisement or high property qualifications on colored voters.
The Growth of Northern Sentiment against Slavery.—In both sections of the country there early existed, among those more or less philosophically inclined, a strong opposition to slavery on moral as well as economic grounds. In the constitutional convention of 1787, Gouverneur Morris had vigorously condemned it and proposed that the whole country should bear the cost of abolishing it. About the same time a society for promoting the abolition of slavery, under the presidency of Benjamin Franklin, laid before Congress a petition that serious attention be given to the emancipation of "those unhappy men who alone in this land of freedom are degraded into perpetual bondage." When Congress, acting on the recommendations of President Jefferson, provided for the abolition of the foreign slave trade on January 1, 1808, several Northern members joined with Southern members in condemning the system as well as the trade. Later, colonization societies were formed to encourage the emancipation of slaves and their return to Africa. James Madison was president and Henry Clay vice president of such an organization.
The anti-slavery sentiment of which these were the signs was nevertheless confined to narrow circles and bore no trace of bitterness. "We consider slavery your calamity, not your crime," wrote a distinguished Boston clergyman to his Southern brethren, "and we will share with you the burden of putting an end to it. We will consent that the public lands shall be appropriated to this object.... I deprecate everything which sows discord and exasperating sectional animosities."
Uncompromising Abolition.—In a little while the spirit of generosity was gone. Just as Jacksonian Democracy rose to power there appeared a new kind of anti-slavery doctrine—the dogmatism of the abolition agitator. For mild speculation on the evils of the system was substituted an imperious and belligerent demand for instant emancipation. If a date must be fixed for its appearance, the year 1831 may be taken when William Lloyd Garrison founded in Boston his anti-slavery paper, The Liberator. With singleness of purpose and utter contempt for all opposing opinions and arguments, he pursued his course of passionate denunciation. He apologized for having ever "assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition." He chose for his motto: "Immediate and unconditional emancipation!" He promised his readers that he would be "harsh as truth and uncompromising as justice"; that he would not "think or speak or write with moderation." Then he flung out his defiant call: "I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard....
'Such is the vow I take, so help me God.'"Though Garrison complained that "the apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal," he soon learned how alive the masses were to the meaning of his propaganda. Abolition orators were stoned in the street and hissed from the platform. Their meeting places were often attacked and sometimes burned to the ground. Garrison himself was assaulted in the streets of Boston, finding refuge from the angry mob behind prison bars. Lovejoy, a publisher in Alton, Illinois, for his willingness to give abolition a fair hearing, was brutally murdered; his printing press was broken to pieces as a warning to all those who disturbed the nation's peace of mind. The South, doubly frightened by a slave revolt in 1831 which ended in the murder of a number of men, women, and children, closed all discussion of slavery in that section. "Now," exclaimed Calhoun, "it is a question which admits of neither concession nor compromise."
As the opposition hardened, the anti-slavery agitation gathered in force and intensity. Whittier blew his blast from the New England hills:
"No slave-hunt in our borders—no pirate on our strand; No fetters in the Bay State—no slave upon our land."
How deep was the impression made upon the country by this agitation for immediate and unconditional emancipation cannot be measured. If the popular vote for those candidates who opposed not slavery, but its extension to the territories, be taken as a standard, it was slight indeed. In 1844, the Free Soil candidate, Birney, polled 62,000 votes out of over a million and a half; the Free Soil vote of the next campaign went beyond a quarter of a million, but the increase was due to the strength of the leader, Martin Van Buren; four years afterward it receded to 156,000, affording all the outward signs for the belief that the pleas of the abolitionist found no widespread response among the people. Yet the agitation undoubtedly ran deeper than the ballot box. Young statesmen of the North, in whose hands the destiny of frightful years was to lie, found their indifference to slavery broken and their consciences stirred by the unending appeal and the tireless reiteration. Charles Sumner afterward boasted that he read the Liberator two years before Wendell Phillips, the young Boston lawyer who cast aside his profession to take up the dangerous cause.
Early Southern Opposition to Slavery.—In the South, the sentiment against slavery was strong; it led some to believe that it would also come to an end there in due time. Washington disliked it and directed in his will that his own slaves should be set free after the death of his wife. Jefferson, looking into the future, condemned the system by which he also lived, saying: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are the gift of God? Are they not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." Nor did Southern men confine their sentiments to expressions of academic opinion. They accepted in 1787 the Ordinance which excluded slavery from the Northwest territory forever and also the Missouri Compromise, which shut it out of a vast section of the Louisiana territory.
The Revolution in the Slave System.—Among the representatives of South Carolina and Georgia, however, the anti-slavery views of Washington and Jefferson were by no means approved; and the drift of Southern economy was decidedly in favor of extending and perpetuating, rather than abolishing, the system of chattel servitude. The invention of the cotton gin and textile machinery created a market for cotton which the planters, with all their skill and energy, could hardly supply. Almost every available acre was brought under cotton culture as the small farmers were driven steadily from the seaboard into the uplands or to the Northwest.
The demand for slaves to till the swiftly expanding fields was enormous. The number of bondmen rose from 700,000 in Washington's day to more than three millions in 1850. At the same time slavery itself was transformed. Instead of the homestead where the same family of masters kept the same families of slaves from generation to generation, came the plantation system of the Far South and Southwest where masters were ever moving and ever extending their holdings of lands and slaves. This in turn reacted on the older South where the raising of slaves for the market became a regular and highly profitable business.
Slave Owners Dominate Politics.—The new doctrine of Calhoun was eagerly seized by the planters as they came more and more to overshadow the small farmers of the South and as they beheld the menace of abolition growing upon the horizon. It formed, as they viewed matters, a moral defense for their labor system—sound, logical, invincible. It warranted them in drawing together for the protection of an institution so necessary, so inevitable, so beneficent.
Though in 1850 the slave owners were only about three hundred and fifty thousand in a national population of nearly twenty million whites, they had an influence all out of proportion to their numbers. They were knit together by the bonds of a common interest. They had leisure and wealth. They could travel and attend conferences and conventions. Throughout the South and largely in the North, they had the press, the schools, and the pulpits on their side. They formed, as it were, a mighty union for the protection and advancement of their common cause. Aided by those mechanics and farmers of the North who stuck by Jacksonian Democracy through thick and thin, the planters became a power in the federal government. "We nominate Presidents," exultantly boasted a Richmond newspaper; "the North elects them."
This jubilant Southern claim was conceded by William H. Seward, a Republican Senator from New York, in a speech describing the power of slavery in the national government. "A party," he said, "is in one sense a joint stock association, in which those who contribute most direct the action and management of the concern.... The slaveholders, contributing in an overwhelming proportion to the strength of the Democratic party, necessarily dictate and prescribe its policy." He went on: "The slaveholding class has become the governing power in each of the slaveholding states and it practically chooses thirty of the sixty-two members of the Senate, ninety of the two hundred and thirty-three members of the House of Representatives, and one hundred and five of the two hundred and ninety-five electors of President and Vice-President of the United States." Then he considered the slave power in the Supreme Court. "That tribunal," he exclaimed, "consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices. Of these, five were called from slave states and four from free states. The opinions and bias of each of them were carefully considered by the President and Senate when he was appointed. Not one of them was found wanting in soundness of politics, according to the slaveholder's exposition of the Constitution." Such was the Northern view of the planting interest that, from the arena of national politics, challenged the whole country in 1860.
Slavery in National PoliticsNational Aspects of Slavery.—It may be asked why it was that slavery, founded originally on state law and subject to state government, was drawn into the current of national affairs. The answer is simple. There were, in the first place, constitutional reasons. The Congress of the United States had to make all needful rules for the government of the territories, the District of Columbia, the forts and other property under national authority; so it was compelled to determine whether slavery should exist in the places subject to its jurisdiction. Upon Congress was also conferred the power of admitting new states; whenever a territory asked for admission, the issue could be raised as to whether slavery should be sanctioned or excluded. Under the Constitution, provision was made for the return of runaway slaves; Congress had the power to enforce this clause by appropriate legislation. Since the control of the post office was vested in the federal government, it had to face the problem raised by the transmission of abolition literature through the mails. Finally citizens had the right of petition; it inheres in all free government and it is expressly guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution. It was therefore legal for abolitionists to present to Congress their petitions, even if they asked for something which it had no right to grant. It was thus impossible, constitutionally, to draw a cordon around the slavery issue and confine the discussion of it to state politics.
There were, in the second place, economic reasons why slavery was inevitably drawn into the national sphere. It was the basis of the planting system which had direct commercial relations with the North and European countries; it was affected by federal laws respecting tariffs, bounties, ship subsidies, banking, and kindred matters. The planters of the South, almost without exception, looked upon the protective tariff as a tribute laid upon them for the benefit of Northern industries. As heavy borrowers of money in the North, they were generally in favor of "easy money," if not paper currency, as an aid in the repayment of their debts. This threw most of them into opposition to the Whig program for a United States Bank. All financial aids to American shipping they stoutly resisted, preferring to rely upon the cheaper service rendered by English shippers. Internal improvements, those substantial ties that were binding the West to the East and turning the traffic from New Orleans to Philadelphia and New York, they viewed with alarm. Free homesteads from the public lands, which tended to overbalance the South by building free states, became to them a measure dangerous to their interests. Thus national economic policies, which could not by any twist or turn be confined to state control, drew the slave system and its defenders into the political conflict that centered at Washington.
Slavery and the Territories—the Missouri Compromise (1820).—Though men continually talked about "taking slavery out of politics," it could not be done. By 1818 slavery had become so entrenched and the anti-slavery sentiment so strong, that Missouri's quest for admission brought both houses of Congress into a deadlock that was broken only by compromise. The South, having half the Senators, could prevent the admission of Missouri stripped of slavery; and the North, powerful in the House of Representatives, could keep Missouri with slavery out of the union indefinitely. An adjustment of pretensions was the last resort. Maine, separated from the parent state of Massachusetts, was brought into the union with freedom and Missouri with bondage. At the same time it was agreed that the remainder of the vast Louisiana territory north of the parallel of 36° 30' should be, like the old Northwest, forever free; while the southern portion was left to slavery. In reality this was an immense gain for liberty. The area dedicated to free farmers was many times greater than that left to the planters. The principle was once more asserted that Congress had full power to prevent slavery in the territories.
It so happened, however, that the events which, it was thought, would secure slavery let loose a storm against it. A sign appeared first on August 6, 1846, only a few months after war was declared on Mexico. On that day, David Wilmot, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution to the effect that, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico, slavery should be forever excluded from every part of it. "The Wilmot Proviso," as the resolution was popularly called, though defeated on that occasion, was a challenge to the South.
The South answered the challenge. Speaking in the House of Representatives, Robert Toombs of Georgia boldly declared: "In the presence of the living God, if by your legislation you seek to drive us from the territories of California and New Mexico ... I am for disunion." South Carolina announced that the day for talk had passed and the time had come to join her sister states "in resisting the application of the Wilmot Proviso at any and all hazards." A conference, assembled at Jackson, Mississippi, in the autumn of 1849, called a general convention of Southern states to meet at Nashville the following summer. The avowed purpose was to arrest "the course of aggression" and, if that was not possible, to provide "in the last resort for their separate welfare by the formation of a compact and union that will afford protection to their liberties and rights." States that had spurned South Carolina's plea for nullification in 1832 responded to this new appeal with alacrity—an augury of the secession to come.
Experience, learning, statecraft—all these things they now marshaled in a mighty effort to solve the slavery problem. On January 29, 1850, Clay offered to the Senate a compromise granting concessions to both sides; and a few days later, in a powerful oration, he made a passionate appeal for a union of hearts through mutual sacrifices. Calhoun relentlessly demanded the full measure of justice for the South: equal rights in the territories bought by common blood; the return of runaway slaves as required by the Constitution; the suppression of the abolitionists; and the restoration of the balance of power between the North and the South. Webster, in his notable "Seventh of March speech," condemned the Wilmot Proviso, advocated a strict enforcement of the fugitive slave law, denounced the abolitionists, and made a final plea for the Constitution, union, and liberty. This was the address which called forth from Whittier the poem, "Ichabod," deploring the fall of the mighty one whom he thought lost to all sense of faith and honor.
The Terms of the Compromise of 1850.—When the debates were closed, the results were totaled in a series of compromise measures, all of which were signed in September, 1850, by the new President, Millard Fillmore, who had taken office two months before on the death of Zachary Taylor. By these acts the boundaries of Texas were adjusted and the territory of New Mexico created, subject to the provision that all or any part of it might be admitted to the union "with or without slavery as their constitution may provide at the time of their admission." The Territory of Utah was similarly organized with the same conditions as to slavery, thus repudiating the Wilmot Proviso without guaranteeing slavery to the planters. California was admitted as a free state under a constitution in which the people of the territory had themselves prohibited slavery.
The slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia, but slavery itself existed as before at the capital of the nation. This concession to anti-slavery sentiment was more than offset by a fugitive slave law, drastic in spirit and in letter. It placed the enforcement of its terms in the hands of federal officers appointed from Washington and so removed it from the control of authorities locally elected. It provided that masters or their agents, on filing claims in due form, might summarily remove their escaped slaves without affording their "alleged fugitives" the right of trial by jury, the right to witness, the right to offer any testimony in evidence. Finally, to "put teeth" into the act, heavy penalties were prescribed for all who obstructed or assisted in obstructing the enforcement of the law. Such was the Great Compromise of 1850.
An Old Cartoon Representing Webster "Stealing Clay's Thunder"The Pro-slavery Triumph in the Election of 1852.—The results of the election of 1852 seemed to show conclusively that the nation was weary of slavery agitation and wanted peace. Both parties, Whigs and Democrats, endorsed the fugitive slave law and approved the Great Compromise. The Democrats, with Franklin Pierce as their leader, swept the country against the war hero, General Winfield Scott, on whom the Whigs had staked their hopes. Even Webster, broken with grief at his failure to receive the nomination, advised his friends to vote for Pierce and turned away from politics to meditate upon approaching death. The verdict of the voters would seem to indicate that for the time everybody, save a handful of disgruntled agitators, looked upon Clay's settlement as the last word. "The people, especially the business men of the country," says Elson, "were utterly weary of the agitation and they gave their suffrages to the party that promised them rest." The Free Soil party, condemning slavery as "a sin against God and a crime against man," and advocating freedom for the territories, failed to carry a single state. In fact it polled fewer votes than it had four years earlier—156,000 as against nearly 3,000,000, the combined vote of the Whigs and Democrats. It is not surprising, therefore, that President Pierce, surrounded in his cabinet by strong Southern sympathizers, could promise to put an end to slavery agitation and to crush the abolition movement in the bud.
Anti-slavery Agitation Continued.—The promise was more difficult to fulfill than to utter. In fact, the vigorous execution of one measure included in the Compromise—the fugitive slave law—only made matters worse. Designed as security for the planters, it proved a powerful instrument in their undoing. Slavery five hundred miles away on a Louisiana plantation was so remote from the North that only the strongest imagination could maintain a constant rage against it. "Slave catching," "man hunting" by federal officers on the streets of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, or Milwaukee and in the hamlets and villages of the wide-stretching farm lands of the North was another matter. It brought the most odious aspects of slavery home to thousands of men and women who would otherwise have been indifferent to the system. Law-abiding business men, mechanics, farmers, and women, when they saw peaceful negroes, who had resided in their neighborhoods perhaps for years, torn away by federal officers and carried back to bondage, were transformed into enemies of the law. They helped slaves to escape; they snatched them away from officers who had captured them; they broke open jails and carried fugitives off to Canada.
Assistance to runaway slaves, always more or less common in the North, was by this time organized into a system. Regular routes, known as "underground railways," were laid out across the free states into Canada, and trusted friends of freedom maintained "underground stations" where fugitives were concealed in the daytime between their long night journeys. Funds were raised and secret agents sent into the South to help negroes to flee. One negro woman, Harriet Tubman, "the Moses of her people," with headquarters at Philadelphia, is accredited with nineteen invasions into slave territory and the emancipation of three hundred negroes. Those who worked at this business were in constant peril. One underground operator, Calvin Fairbank, spent nearly twenty years in prison for aiding fugitives from justice. Yet perils and prisons did not stay those determined men and women who, in obedience to their consciences, set themselves to this lawless work.
From thrilling stories of adventure along the underground railways came some of the scenes and themes of the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," published two years after the Compromise of 1850. Her stirring tale set forth the worst features of slavery in vivid word pictures that caught and held the attention of millions of readers. Though the book was unfair to the South and was denounced as a hideous distortion of the truth, it was quickly dramatized and played in every city and town throughout the North. Topsy, Little Eva, Uncle Tom, the fleeing slave, Eliza Harris, and the cruel slave driver, Simon Legree, with his baying blood hounds, became living specters in many a home that sought to bar the door to the "unpleasant and irritating business of slavery agitation."
The Drift of Events toward the Irrepressible ConflictRepeal of the Missouri Compromise.—To practical men, after all, the "rub-a-dub" agitation of a few abolitionists, an occasional riot over fugitive slaves, and the vogue of a popular novel seemed of slight or transient importance. They could point with satisfaction to the election returns of 1852; but their very security was founded upon shifting sands. The magnificent triumph of the pro-slavery Democrats in 1852 brought a turn in affairs that destroyed the foundations under their feet. Emboldened by their own strength and the weakness of their opponents, they now dared to repeal the Missouri Compromise. The leader in this fateful enterprise was Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois, and the occasion for the deed was the demand for the organization of territorial government in the regions west of Iowa and Missouri.
Douglas, like Clay and Webster before him, was consumed by a strong passion for the presidency, and, to reach his goal, it was necessary to win the support of the South. This he undoubtedly sought to do when he introduced on January 4, 1854, a bill organizing the Nebraska territory on the principle of the Compromise of 1850; namely, that the people in the territory might themselves decide whether they would have slavery or not. Unwittingly the avalanche was started.
After a stormy debate, in which important amendments were forced on Douglas, the Kansas-Nebraska Bill became a law on May 30, 1854. The measure created two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and provided that they, or territories organized out of them, could come into the union as states "with or without slavery as their constitutions may prescribe at the time of their admission." Not content with this, the law went on to declare the Missouri Compromise null and void as being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the states and territories. Thus by a single blow the very heart of the continent, dedicated to freedom by solemn agreement, was thrown open to slavery. A desperate struggle between slave owners and the advocates of freedom was the outcome in Kansas.
If Douglas fancied that the North would receive the overthrow of the Missouri Compromise in the same temper that it greeted Clay's settlement, he was rapidly disillusioned. A blast of rage, terrific in its fury, swept from Maine to Iowa. Staid old Boston hanged him in effigy with an inscription—"Stephen A. Douglas, author of the infamous Nebraska bill: the Benedict Arnold of 1854." City after city burned him in effigy until, as he himself said, he could travel from the Atlantic coast to Chicago in the light of the fires. Thousands of Whigs and Free-soil Democrats deserted their parties which had sanctioned or at least tolerated the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, declaring that the startling measure showed an evident resolve on the part of the planters to rule the whole country. A gage of defiance was thrown down to the abolitionists. An issue was set even for the moderate and timid who had been unmoved by the agitation over slavery in the Far South. That issue was whether slavery was to be confined within its existing boundaries or be allowed to spread without interference, thereby placing the free states in the minority and surrendering the federal government wholly to the slave power.
The Rise of the Republican Party.—Events of terrible significance, swiftly following, drove the country like a ship before a gale straight into civil war. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill rent the old parties asunder and called into being the Republican party. While that bill was pending in Congress, many Northern Whigs and Democrats had come to the conclusion that a new party dedicated to freedom in the territories must follow the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Several places claim to be the original home of the Republican party; but historians generally yield it to Wisconsin. At Ripon in that state, a mass meeting of Whigs and Democrats assembled in February, 1854, and resolved to form a new party if the Kansas-Nebraska Bill should pass. At a second meeting a fusion committee representing Whigs, Free Soilers, and Democrats was formed and the name Republican—the name of Jefferson's old party—was selected. All over the country similar meetings were held and political committees were organized.
When the presidential campaign of 1856 began the Republicans entered the contest. After a preliminary conference in Pittsburgh in February, they held a convention in Philadelphia at which was drawn up a platform opposing the extension of slavery to the territories. John C. Frémont, the distinguished explorer, was named for the presidency. The results of the election were astounding as compared with the Free-soil failure of the preceding election. Prominent men like Longfellow, Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and George William Curtis went over to the new party and 1,341,264 votes were rolled up for "free labor, free speech, free men, free Kansas, and Frémont." Nevertheless the victory of the Democrats was decisive. Their candidate, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, was elected by a majority of 174 to 114 electoral votes.
The Dred Scott Decision (1857).—In his inaugural, Buchanan vaguely hinted that in a forthcoming decision the Supreme Court would settle one of the vital questions of the day. This was a reference to the Dred Scott case then pending. Scott was a slave who had been taken by his master into the upper Louisiana territory, where freedom had been established by the Missouri Compromise, and then carried back into his old state of Missouri. He brought suit for his liberty on the ground that his residence in the free territory made him free. This raised the question whether the law of Congress prohibiting slavery north of 36° 30' was authorized by the federal Constitution or not. The Court might have avoided answering it by saying that even though Scott was free in the territory, he became a slave again in Missouri by virtue of the law of that state. The Court, however, faced the issue squarely. It held that Scott had not been free anywhere and that, besides, the Missouri Compromise violated the Constitution and was null and void.
The decision was a triumph for the South. It meant that Congress after all had no power to abolish slavery in the territories. Under the decree of the highest court in the land, that could be done only by an amendment to the Constitution which required a two-thirds vote in Congress and the approval of three-fourths of the states. Such an amendment was obviously impossible—the Southern states were too numerous; but the Republicans were not daunted. "We know," said Lincoln, "the Court that made it has often overruled its own decisions and we shall do what we can to have it overrule this." Legislatures of Northern states passed resolutions condemning the decision and the Republican platform of 1860 characterized the dogma that the Constitution carried slavery into the territories as "a dangerous political heresy at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself ... with legislative and judicial precedent ... revolutionary in tendency and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country."
The Panic of 1857.—In the midst of the acrimonious dispute over the Dred Scott decision, came one of the worst business panics which ever afflicted the country. In the spring and summer of 1857, fourteen railroad corporations, including the Erie, Michigan Central, and the Illinois Central, failed to meet their obligations; banks and insurance companies, some of them the largest and strongest institutions in the North, closed their doors; stocks and bonds came down in a crash on the markets; manufacturing was paralyzed; tens of thousands of working people were thrown out of employment; "hunger meetings" of idle men were held in the cities and banners bearing the inscription, "We want bread," were flung out. In New York, working men threatened to invade the Council Chamber to demand "work or bread," and the frightened mayor called for the police and soldiers. For this distressing state of affairs many remedies were offered; none with more zeal and persistence than the proposal for a higher tariff to take the place of the law of March, 1857, a Democratic measure making drastic reductions in the rates of duty. In the manufacturing districts of the North, the panic was ascribed to the "Democratic assault on business." So an old issue was again vigorously advanced, preparatory to the next presidential campaign.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.—The following year the interest of the whole country was drawn to a series of debates held in Illinois by Lincoln and Douglas, both candidates for the United States Senate. In the course of his campaign Lincoln had uttered his trenchant saying that "a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." At the same time he had accused Douglas, Buchanan, and the Supreme Court of acting in concert to make slavery national. This daring statement arrested the attention of Douglas, who was making his campaign on the doctrine of "squatter sovereignty;" that is, the right of the people of each territory "to vote slavery up or down." After a few long-distance shots at each other, the candidates agreed to meet face to face and discuss the issues of the day. Never had such crowds been seen at political meetings in Illinois. Farmers deserted their plows, smiths their forges, and housewives their baking to hear "Honest Abe" and "the Little Giant."
The results of the series of debates were momentous. Lincoln clearly defined his position. The South, he admitted, was entitled under the Constitution to a fair, fugitive slave law. He hoped that there might be no new slave states; but he did not see how Congress could exclude the people of a territory from admission as a state if they saw fit to adopt a constitution legalizing the ownership of slaves. He favored the gradual abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the total exclusion of it from the territories of the United States by act of Congress.
Moreover, he drove Douglas into a hole by asking how he squared "squatter sovereignty" with the Dred Scott decision; how, in other words, the people of a territory could abolish slavery when the Court had declared that Congress, the superior power, could not do it under the Constitution? To this baffling question Douglas lamely replied that the inhabitants of a territory, by "unfriendly legislation," might make property in slaves insecure and thus destroy the institution. This answer to Lincoln's query alienated many Southern Democrats who believed that the Dred Scott decision settled the question of slavery in the territories for all time. Douglas won the election to the Senate; but Lincoln, lifted into national fame by the debates, beat him in the campaign for President two years later.
John Brown's Raid.—To the abolitionists the line of argument pursued by Lincoln, including his proposal to leave slavery untouched in the states where it existed, was wholly unsatisfactory. One of them, a grim and resolute man, inflamed by a hatred for slavery in itself, turned from agitation to violence. "These men are all talk; what is needed is action—action!" So spoke John Brown of New York. During the sanguinary struggle in Kansas he hurried to the frontier, gun and dagger in hand, to help drive slave owners from the free soil of the West. There he committed deeds of such daring and cruelty that he was outlawed and a price put upon his head. Still he kept on the path of "action." Aided by funds from Northern friends, he gathered a small band of his followers around him, saying to them: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" He went into Virginia in the autumn of 1859, hoping, as he explained, "to effect a mighty conquest even though it be like the last victory of Samson." He seized the government armory at Harper's Ferry, declared free the slaves whom he found, and called upon them to take up arms in defense of their liberty. His was a hope as forlorn as it was desperate. Armed forces came down upon him and, after a hard battle, captured him. Tried for treason, Brown was condemned to death. The governor of Virginia turned a deaf ear to pleas for clemency based on the ground that the prisoner was simply a lunatic. "This is a beautiful country," said the stern old Brown glancing upward to the eternal hills on his way to the gallows, as calmly as if he were returning home from a long journey. "So perish all such enemies of Virginia. All such enemies of the Union. All such foes of the human race," solemnly announced the executioner as he fulfilled the judgment of the law.
The raid and its grim ending deeply moved the country. Abolitionists looked upon Brown as a martyr and tolled funeral bells on the day of his execution. Longfellow wrote in his diary: "This will be a great day in our history; the date of a new revolution as much needed as the old one." Jefferson Davis saw in the affair "the invasion of a state by a murderous gang of abolitionists bent on inciting slaves to murder helpless women and children"—a crime for which the leader had met a felon's death. Lincoln spoke of the raid as absurd, the deed of an enthusiast who had brooded over the oppression of a people until he fancied himself commissioned by heaven to liberate them—an attempt which ended in "little else than his own execution." To Republican leaders as a whole, the event was very embarrassing. They were taunted by the Democrats with responsibility for the deed. Douglas declared his "firm and deliberate conviction that the Harper's Ferry crime was the natural, logical, inevitable result of the doctrines and teachings of the Republican party." So persistent were such attacks that the Republicans felt called upon in 1860 to denounce Brown's raid "as among the gravest of crimes."
The Democrats Divided.—When the Democratic convention met at Charleston in the spring of 1860, a few months after Brown's execution, it soon became clear that there was danger ahead. Between the extreme slavery advocates of the Far South and the so-called pro-slavery Democrats of the Douglas type, there was a chasm which no appeals to party loyalty could bridge. As the spokesman of the West, Douglas knew that, while the North was not abolitionist, it was passionately set against an extension of slavery into the territories by act of Congress; that squatter sovereignty was the mildest kind of compromise acceptable to the farmers whose votes would determine the fate of the election. Southern leaders would not accept his opinion. Yancey, speaking for Alabama, refused to palter with any plan not built on the proposition that slavery was in itself right. He taunted the Northern Democrats with taking the view that slavery was wrong, but that they could not do anything about it. That, he said, was the fatal error—the cause of all discord, the source of "Black Republicanism," as well as squatter sovereignty. The gauntlet was thus thrown down at the feet of the Northern delegates: "You must not apologize for slavery; you must declare it right; you must advocate its extension." The challenge, so bluntly put, was as bluntly answered. "Gentlemen of the South," responded a delegate from Ohio, "you mistake us. You mistake us. We will not do it."
For ten days the Charleston convention wrangled over the platform and balloted for the nomination of a candidate. Douglas, though in the lead, could not get the two-thirds vote required for victory. For more than fifty times the roll of the convention was called without a decision. Then in sheer desperation the convention adjourned to meet later at Baltimore. When the delegates again assembled, their passions ran as high as ever. The division into two irreconcilable factions was unchanged. Uncompromising delegates from the South withdrew to Richmond, nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for President, and put forth a platform asserting the rights of slave owners in the territories and the duty of the federal government to protect them. The delegates who remained at Baltimore nominated Douglas and endorsed his doctrine of squatter sovereignty.
The Constitutional Union Party.—While the Democratic party was being disrupted, a fragment of the former Whig party, known as the Constitutional Unionists, held a convention at Baltimore and selected national candidates: John Bell from Tennessee and Edward Everett from Massachusetts. A melancholy interest attached to this assembly. It was mainly composed of old men whose political views were those of Clay and Webster, cherished leaders now dead and gone. In their platform they sought to exorcise the evil spirit of partisanship by inviting their fellow citizens to "support the Constitution of the country, the union of the states, and the enforcement of the laws." The party that campaigned on this grand sentiment only drew laughter from the Democrats and derision from the Republicans and polled less than one-fourth the votes.
The Republican Convention.—With the Whigs definitely forced into a separate group, the Republican convention at Chicago was fated to be sectional in character, although five slave states did send delegates. As the Democrats were split, the party that had led a forlorn hope four years before was on the high road to success at last. New and powerful recruits were found. The advocates of a high protective tariff and the friends of free homesteads for farmers and workingmen mingled with enthusiastic foes of slavery. While still firm in their opposition to slavery in the territories, the Republicans went on record in favor of a homestead law granting free lands to settlers and approved customs duties designed "to encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country." The platform was greeted with cheers which, according to the stenographic report of the convention, became loud and prolonged as the protective tariff and homestead planks were read.
Having skillfully drawn a platform to unite the North in opposition to slavery and the planting system, the Republicans were also adroit in their selection of a candidate. The tariff plank might carry Pennsylvania, a Democratic state; but Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were equally essential to success at the polls. The southern counties of these states were filled with settlers from Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky who, even if they had no love for slavery, were no friends of abolition. Moreover, remembering the old fight on the United States Bank in Andrew Jackson's day, they were suspicious of men from the East. Accordingly, they did not favor the candidacy of Seward, the leading Republican statesman and "favorite son" of New York.
After much trading and discussing, the convention came to the conclusion that Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was the most "available" candidate. He was of Southern origin, born in Kentucky in 1809, a fact that told heavily in the campaign in the Ohio Valley. He was a man of the soil, the son of poor frontier parents, a pioneer who in his youth had labored in the fields and forests, celebrated far and wide as "honest Abe, the rail-splitter." It was well-known that he disliked slavery, but was no abolitionist. He had come dangerously near to Seward's radicalism in his "house-divided-against-itself" speech but he had never committed himself to the reckless doctrine that there was a "higher law" than the Constitution. Slavery in the South he tolerated as a bitter fact; slavery in the territories he opposed with all his strength. Of his sincerity there could be no doubt. He was a speaker and writer of singular power, commanding, by the use of simple and homely language, the hearts and minds of those who heard him speak or read his printed words. He had gone far enough in his opposition to slavery; but not too far. He was the man of the hour! Amid lusty cheers from ten thousand throats, Lincoln was nominated for the presidency by the Republicans. In the ensuing election, he carried all the free states except New Jersey.
ReferencesP.E. Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War (American Nation Series).
W.E. Dodd, Statesmen of the Old South.
E. Engle, Southern Sidelights (Sympathetic account of the Old South).
A.B. Hart, Slavery and Abolition (American Nation Series).
J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States, Vols. I and II.
T.C. Smith, Parties and Slavery (American Nation Series).
Questions1. Trace the decline of slavery in the North and explain it.
2. Describe the character of early opposition to slavery.
3. What was the effect of abolition agitation?
4. Why did anti-slavery sentiment practically disappear in the South?
5. On what grounds did Calhoun defend slavery?
6. Explain how slave owners became powerful in politics.
7. Why was it impossible to keep the slavery issue out of national politics?
8. Give the leading steps in the long controversy over slavery in the territories.
9. State the terms of the Compromise of 1850 and explain its failure.
10. What were the startling events between 1850 and 1860?
11. Account for the rise of the Republican party. What party had used the title before?
12. How did the Dred Scott decision become a political issue?
13. What were some of the points brought out in the Lincoln-Douglas debates?
14. Describe the party division in 1860.
15. What were the main planks in the Republican platform?
Research TopicsThe Extension of Cotton Planting.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 760-768.
Abolition Agitation.—McMaster, History of the People of the United States, Vol. VI, pp. 271-298.
Calhoun's Defense of Slavery.—Harding, Select Orations Illustrating American History, pp. 247-257.
The Compromise of 1850.—Clay's speech in Harding, Select Orations, pp. 267-289. The compromise laws in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, pp. 383-394. Narrative account in McMaster, Vol. VIII, pp. 1-55; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 540-548.
The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise.—McMaster, Vol. VIII, pp. 192-231; Elson, pp. 571-582.
The Dred Scott Case.—McMaster, Vol. VIII, pp. 278-282. Compare the opinion of Taney and the dissent of Curtis in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 405-420; Elson, pp. 595-598.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.—Analysis of original speeches in Harding, Select Orations pp. 309-341; Elson, pp. 598-604.
Biographical Studies.—Calhoun, Clay, Webster, A.H. Stephens, Douglas, W.H. Seward, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION"The irrepressible conflict is about to be visited upon us through the Black Republican nominee and his fanatical, diabolical Republican party," ran an appeal to the voters of South Carolina during the campaign of 1860. If that calamity comes to pass, responded the governor of the state, the answer should be a declaration of independence. In a few days the suspense was over. The news of Lincoln's election came speeding along the wires. Prepared for the event, the editor of the Charleston Mercury unfurled the flag of his state amid wild cheers from an excited throng in the streets. Then he seized his pen and wrote: "The tea has been thrown overboard; the revolution of 1860 has been initiated." The issue was submitted to the voters in the choice of delegates to a state convention called to cast off the yoke of the Constitution.
The Southern ConfederacySecession.—As arranged, the convention of South Carolina assembled in December and without a dissenting voice passed the ordinance of secession withdrawing from the union. Bells were rung exultantly, the roar of cannon carried the news to outlying counties, fireworks lighted up the heavens, and champagne flowed. The crisis so long expected had come at last; even the conservatives who had prayed that they might escape the dreadful crash greeted it with a sigh of relief.
The United States in 1861
The border states (in purple) remained loyal.
The border states (in purple) remained loyal.
South Carolina now sent forth an appeal to her sister states—states that had in Jackson's day repudiated nullification as leading to "the dissolution of the union." The answer that came this time was in a different vein. A month had hardly elapsed before five other states—Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—had withdrawn from the union. In February, Texas followed. Virginia, hesitating until the bombardment of Fort Sumter forced a conclusion, seceded in April; but fifty-five of the one hundred and forty-three delegates dissented, foreshadowing the creation of the new state of West Virginia which Congress admitted to the union in 1863. In May, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee announced their independence.
Secession and the Theories of the Union.—In severing their relations with the union, the seceding states denied every point in the Northern theory of the Constitution. That theory, as every one knows, was carefully formulated by Webster and elaborated by Lincoln. According to it, the union was older than the states; it was created before the Declaration of Independence for the purpose of common defense. The Articles of Confederation did but strengthen this national bond and the Constitution sealed it forever. The federal government was not a creature of state governments. It was erected by the people and derived its powers directly from them. "It is," said Webster, "the people's Constitution, the people's government; made for the people; made by the people; and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law." When a state questions the lawfulness of any act of the federal government, it cannot nullify that act or withdraw from the union; it must abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. The union of these states is perpetual, ran Lincoln's simple argument in the first inaugural; the federal Constitution has no provision for its own termination; it can be destroyed only by some action not provided for in the instrument itself; even if it is a compact among all the states the consent of all must be necessary to its dissolution; therefore no state can lawfully get out of the union and acts of violence against the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary. This was the system which he believed himself bound to defend by his oath of office "registered in heaven."
All this reasoning Southern statesmen utterly rejected. In their opinion the thirteen original states won their independence as separate and sovereign powers. The treaty of peace with Great Britain named them all and acknowledged them "to be free, sovereign, and independent states." The Articles of Confederation very explicitly declared that "each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence." The Constitution was a "league of nations" formed by an alliance of thirteen separate powers, each one of which ratified the instrument before it was put into effect. They voluntarily entered the union under the Constitution and voluntarily they could leave it. Such was the constitutional doctrine of Hayne, Calhoun, and Jefferson Davis. In seceding, the Southern states had only to follow legal methods, and the transaction would be correct in every particular. So conventions were summoned, elections were held, and "sovereign assemblies of the people" set aside the Constitution in the same manner as it had been ratified nearly four score years before. Thus, said the Southern people, the moral judgment was fulfilled and the letter of the law carried into effect.
The Formation of the Confederacy.—Acting on the call of Mississippi, a congress of delegates from the seceded states met at Montgomery, Alabama, and on February 8, 1861, adopted a temporary plan of union. It selected, as provisional president, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, a man well fitted by experience and moderation for leadership, a graduate of West Point, who had rendered distinguished service on the field of battle in the Mexican War, in public office, and as a member of Congress.In March, a permanent constitution of the Confederate states was drafted. It was quickly ratified by the states; elections were held in November; and the government under it went into effect the next year. This new constitution, in form, was very much like the famous instrument drafted at Philadelphia in 1787. It provided for a President, a Senate, and a House of Representatives along almost identical lines. In the powers conferred upon them, however, there were striking differences. The right to appropriate money for internal improvements was expressly withheld; bounties were not to be granted from the treasury nor import duties so laid as to promote or foster any branch of industry. The dignity of the state, if any might be bold enough to question it, was safeguarded in the opening line by the declaration that each acted "in its sovereign and independent character" in forming the Southern union.
Financing the Confederacy.—No government ever set out upon its career with more perplexing tasks in front of it. The North had a monetary system; the South had to create one. The North had a scheme of taxation that produced large revenues from numerous sources; the South had to formulate and carry out a financial plan. Like the North, the Confederacy expected to secure a large revenue from customs duties, easily collected and little felt among the masses. To this expectation the blockade of Southern ports inaugurated by Lincoln in April, 1861, soon put an end. Following the precedent set by Congress under the Articles of Confederation, the Southern Congress resorted to a direct property tax apportioned among the states, only to meet the failure that might have been foretold.
The Confederacy also sold bonds, the first issue bringing into the treasury nearly all the specie available in the Southern banks. This specie by unhappy management was early sent abroad to pay for supplies, sapping the foundations of a sound currency system. Large amounts of bonds were sold overseas, commanding at first better terms than those of the North in the markets of London, Paris, and Amsterdam, many an English lord and statesman buying with enthusiasm and confidence to lament within a few years the proofs of his folly. The difficulties of bringing through the blockade any supplies purchased by foreign bond issues, however, nullified the effect of foreign credit and forced the Confederacy back upon the device of paper money. In all approximately one billion dollars streamed from the printing presses, to fall in value at an alarming rate, reaching in January, 1863, the astounding figure of fifty dollars in paper money for one in gold. Every known device was used to prevent its depreciation, without result. To the issues of the Confederate Congress were added untold millions poured out by the states and by private banks.
Human and Material Resources.—When we measure strength for strength in those signs of power—men, money, and supplies—it is difficult to see how the South was able to embark on secession and war with such confidence in the outcome. In the Confederacy at the final reckoning there were eleven states in all, to be pitted against twenty-two; a population of nine millions, nearly one-half servile, to be pitted against twenty-two millions; a land without great industries to produce war supplies and without vast capital to furnish war finances, joined in battle with a nation already industrial and fortified by property worth eleven billion dollars. Even after the Confederate Congress authorized conscription in 1862, Southern man power, measured in numbers, was wholly inadequate to uphold the independence which had been declared. How, therefore, could the Confederacy hope to sustain itself against such a combination of men, money, and materials as the North could marshal?
Southern Expectations.—The answer to this question is to be found in the ideas that prevailed among Southern leaders. First of all, they hoped, in vain, to carry the Confederacy up to the Ohio River; and, with the aid of Missouri, to gain possession of the Mississippi Valley, the granary of the nation. In the second place, they reckoned upon a large and continuous trade with Great Britain—the exchange of cotton for war materials. They likewise expected to receive recognition and open aid from European powers that looked with satisfaction upon the breakup of the great American republic. In the third place, they believed that their control over several staples so essential to Northern industry would enable them to bring on an industrial crisis in the manufacturing states. "I firmly believe," wrote Senator Hammond, of South Carolina, in 1860, "that the slave-holding South is now the controlling power of the world; that no other power would face us in hostility. Cotton, rice, tobacco, and naval stores command the world; and we have the sense to know it and are sufficiently Teutonic to carry it out successfully. The North without us would be a motherless calf, bleating about, and die of mange and starvation."
There were other grounds for confidence. Having seized all of the federal military and naval supplies in the South, and having left the national government weak in armed power during their possession of the presidency, Southern leaders looked to a swift war, if it came at all, to put the finishing stroke to independence. "The greasy mechanics of the North," it was repeatedly said, "will not fight." As to disparity in numbers they drew historic parallels. "Our fathers, a mere handful, overcame the enormous power of Great Britain," a saying of ex-President Tyler, ran current to reassure the doubtful. Finally, and this point cannot be too strongly emphasized, the South expected to see a weakened and divided North. It knew that the abolitionists and the Southern sympathizers were ready to let the Confederate states go in peace; that Lincoln represented only a little more than one-third the voters of the country; and that the vote for Douglas, Bell, and Breckinridge meant a decided opposition to the Republicans and their policies.
Efforts at Compromise.—Republican leaders, on reviewing the same facts, were themselves uncertain as to the outcome of a civil war and made many efforts to avoid a crisis. Thurlow Weed, an Albany journalist and politician who had done much to carry New York for Lincoln, proposed a plan for extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. Jefferson Davis, warning his followers that a war if it came would be terrible, was prepared to accept the offer; but Lincoln, remembering his campaign pledges, stood firm as a rock against it. His followers in Congress took the same position with regard to a similar settlement suggested by Senator Crittenden of Kentucky.
Though unwilling to surrender his solemn promises respecting slavery in the territories, Lincoln was prepared to give to Southern leaders a strong guarantee that his administration would not interfere directly or indirectly with slavery in the states. Anxious to reassure the South on this point, the Republicans in Congress proposed to write into the Constitution a declaration that no amendment should ever be made authorizing the abolition of or interference with slavery in any state. The resolution, duly passed, was sent forth on March 4, 1861, with the approval of Lincoln; it was actually ratified by three states before the storm of war destroyed it. By the irony of fate the thirteenth amendment was to abolish, not guarantee, slavery.
The War Measures of the Federal GovernmentRaising the Armies.—The crisis at Fort Sumter, on April 12-14, 1861, forced the President and Congress to turn from negotiations to problems of warfare. Little did they realize the magnitude of the task before them. Lincoln's first call for volunteers, issued on April 15, 1861, limited the number to 75,000, put their term of service at three months, and prescribed their duty as the enforcement of the law against combinations too powerful to be overcome by ordinary judicial process. Disillusionment swiftly followed. The terrible defeat of the Federals at Bull Run on July 21 revealed the serious character of the task before them; and by a series of measures Congress put the entire man power of the country at the President's command. Under these acts, he issued new calls for volunteers. Early in August, 1862, he ordered a draft of militiamen numbering 300,000 for nine months' service. The results were disappointing—ominous—for only
87,000 soldiers were added to the army. Something more drastic was clearly necessary.
In March, 1863, Lincoln signed the inevitable draft law; it enrolled in the national forces liable to military duty all able-bodied male citizens and persons of foreign birth who had declared their intention to become citizens, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years—with exemptions on grounds of physical weakness and dependency. From the men enrolled were drawn by lot those destined to active service. Unhappily the measure struck a mortal blow at the principle of universal liability by excusing any person who found a substitute for himself or paid into the war office a sum, not exceeding three hundred dollars, to be fixed by general order. This provision, so crass and so obviously favoring the well-to-do, sowed seeds of bitterness which sprang up a hundredfold in the North.
The beginning of the drawings under the draft act in New York City, on Monday, July 13, 1863, was the signal for four days of rioting. In the course of this uprising, draft headquarters were destroyed; the office of the Tribune was gutted; negroes were seized, hanged, and shot; the homes of obnoxious Unionists were burned down; the residence of the mayor of the city was attacked; and regular battles were fought in the streets between the rioters and the police. Business stopped and a large part of the city passed absolutely into the control of the mob. Not until late the following Wednesday did enough troops arrive to restore order and enable the residents of the city to resume their daily activities. At least a thousand people had been killed or wounded and more than a million dollars' worth of damage done to property. The draft temporarily interrupted by this outbreak was then resumed and carried out without further trouble.
War Finance.—In the financial sphere the North faced immense difficulties. The surplus in the treasury had been dissipated by 1861 and the tariff of 1857 had failed to produce an income sufficient to meet the ordinary expenses of the government. Confronted by military and naval expenditures of appalling magnitude, rising from $35,000,000 in the first year of the war to $1,153,000,000 in the last year, the administration had to tap every available source of income. The duties on imports were increased, not once but many times, producing huge revenues and also meeting the most extravagant demands of the manufacturers for protection. Direct taxes were imposed on the states according to their respective populations, but the returns were meager—all out of proportion to the irritation involved. Stamp taxes and taxes on luxuries, occupations, and the earnings of corporations were laid with a weight that, in ordinary times, would have drawn forth opposition of ominous strength. The whole gamut of taxation was run. Even a tax on incomes and gains by the year, the first in the history of the federal government, was included in the long list.
Revenues were supplemented by bond issues, mounting in size and interest rate, until in October, at the end of the war, the debt stood at $2,208,000,000. The total cost of the war was many times the money value of all the slaves in the Southern states. To the debt must be added nearly half a billion dollars in "greenbacks"—paper money issued by Congress in desperation as bond sales and revenues from taxes failed to meet the rising expenditures. This currency issued at par on questionable warrant from the Constitution, like all such paper, quickly began to decline until in the worst fortunes of 1864 one dollar in gold was worth nearly three in greenbacks.
The Blockade of Southern Ports.—Four days after his call for volunteers, April 19, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation blockading the ports of the Southern Confederacy. Later the blockade was extended to Virginia and North Carolina, as they withdrew from the union. Vessels attempting to enter or leave these ports, if they disregarded the warnings of a blockading ship, were to be captured and brought as prizes to the nearest convenient port. To make the order effective, immediate steps were taken to increase the naval forces, depleted by neglect, until the entire coast line was patrolled with such a number of ships that it was a rare captain who ventured to run the gantlet. The collision between the Merrimac and the Monitor in March, 1862, sealed the fate of the Confederacy. The exploits of the union navy are recorded in the falling export of cotton: $202,000,000 in 1860; $42,000,000 in 1861; and $4,000,000 in 1862.
The deadly effect of this paralysis of trade upon Southern war power may be readily imagined. Foreign loans, payable in cotton, could be negotiated but not paid off. Supplies could be purchased on credit but not brought through the drag net. With extreme difficulty could the Confederate government secure even paper for the issue of money and bonds. Publishers, in despair at the loss of supplies, were finally driven to the use of brown wrapping paper and wall paper. As the railways and rolling stock wore out, it became impossible to renew them from England or France. Unable to export their cotton, planters on the seaboard burned it in what were called "fires of patriotism." In their lurid light the fatal weakness of Southern economy stood revealed.
Diplomacy.—The war had not advanced far before the federal government became involved in many perplexing problems of diplomacy in Europe. The Confederacy early turned to England and France for financial aid and for recognition as an independent power. Davis believed that the industrial crisis created by the cotton blockade would in time literally compel Europe to intervene in order to get this essential staple. The crisis came as he expected but not the result. Thousands of English textile workers were thrown out of employment; and yet, while on the point of starvation, they adopted resolutions favoring the North instead of petitioning their government to aid the South by breaking the blockade.
With the ruling classes it was far otherwise. Napoleon III, the Emperor of the French, was eager to help in disrupting the American republic; if he could have won England's support, he would have carried out his designs. As it turned out he found plenty of sympathy across the Channel but not open and official coöperation. According to the eminent historian, Rhodes, "four-fifths of the British House of Lords and most members of the House of Commons were favorable to the Confederacy and anxious for its triumph." Late in 1862 the British ministers, thus sustained, were on the point of recognizing the independence of the Confederacy. Had it not been for their extreme caution, for the constant and harassing criticism by English friends of the United States—like John Bright—and for the victories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, both England and France would have doubtless declared the Confederacy to be one of the independent powers of the earth.
While stopping short of recognizing its independence, England and France took several steps that were in favor of the South. In proclaiming neutrality, they early accepted the Confederates as "belligerents" and accorded them the rights of people at war—a measure which aroused anger in the North at first but was later admitted to be sound. Otherwise Confederates taken in battle would have been regarded as "rebels" or "traitors" to be hanged or shot. Napoleon III proposed to Russia in 1861 a coalition of powers against the North, only to meet a firm refusal. The next year he suggested intervention to Great Britain, encountering this time a conditional rejection of his plans. In 1863, not daunted by rebuffs, he offered his services to Lincoln as a mediator, receiving in reply a polite letter declining his proposal and a sharp resolution from Congress suggesting that he attend to his own affairs.
In both England and France the governments pursued a policy of friendliness to the Confederate agents. The British ministry, with indifference if not connivance, permitted rams and ships to be built in British docks and allowed them to escape to play havoc under the Confederate flag with American commerce. One of them, the Alabama, built in Liverpool by a British firm and paid for by bonds sold in England, ran an extraordinary career and threatened to break the blockade. The course followed by the British government, against the protests of the American minister in London, was later regretted. By an award of a tribunal of arbitration at Geneva in 1872, Great Britain was required to pay the huge sum of $15,500,000 to cover the damages wrought by Confederate cruisers fitted out in England.
British vessel for safe conduct abroad, and made appropriate apologies.
Emancipation.—Among the extreme war measures adopted by the Northern government must be counted the emancipation of the slaves in the states in arms against the union. This step was early and repeatedly suggested to Lincoln by the abolitionists; but was steadily put aside. He knew that the abolitionists were a mere handful, that emancipation might drive the border states into secession, and that the Northern soldiers had enlisted to save the union. Moreover, he had before him a solemn resolution passed by Congress on July 22, 1861, declaring the sole purpose of the war to be the salvation of the union and disavowing any intention of interfering with slavery.
The federal government, though pledged to the preservation of slavery, soon found itself beaten back upon its course and out upon a new tack. Before a year had elapsed, namely on April 10, 1862, Congress resolved that financial aid should be given to any state that might adopt gradual emancipation. Six days later it abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. Two short months elapsed. On June 19, 1862, it swept slavery forever from the territories of the United States. Chief Justice Taney still lived, the Dred Scott decision stood as written in the book, but the Constitution had been re-read in the light of the Civil War. The drift of public sentiment in the North was being revealed.
While these measures were pending in Congress, Lincoln was slowly making up his mind. By July of that year he had come to his great decision. Near the end of that month he read to his cabinet the draft of a proclamation of emancipation; but he laid it aside until a military achievement would make it something more than an idle gesture. In September, the severe check administered to Lee at Antietam seemed to offer the golden opportunity. On the 22d, the immortal document was given to the world announcing that, unless the states in arms returned to the union by January 1, 1863, the fatal blow at their "peculiar institution" would be delivered. Southern leaders treated it with slight regard, and so on the date set the promise was fulfilled. The proclamation was issued as a war measure, adopted by the President as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, on grounds of military necessity. It did not abolish slavery. It simply emancipated slaves in places then in arms against federal authority. Everywhere else slavery, as far as the Proclamation was concerned, remained lawful.
To seal forever the proclamation of emancipation, and to extend freedom to the whole country, Congress, in January, 1865, on the urgent recommendation of Lincoln, transmitted to the states the thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the United States. By the end of 1865 the amendment was ratified. The house was not divided against itself; it did not fall; it was all free.
The Restraint of Civil Liberty.—As in all great wars, particularly those in the nature of a civil strife, it was found necessary to use strong measures to sustain opinion favorable to the administration's military policies and to frustrate the designs of those who sought to hamper its action. Within two weeks of his first call for volunteers, Lincoln empowered General Scott to suspend the writ of habeas corpus along the line of march between Philadelphia and Washington and thus to arrest and hold without interference from civil courts any one whom he deemed a menace to the union. At a later date the area thus ruled by military officers was extended by executive proclamation. By an act of March 3, 1863, Congress, desiring to lay all doubts about the President's power, authorized him to suspend the writ throughout the United States or in any part thereof. It also freed military officers from the necessity of surrendering to civil courts persons arrested under their orders, or even making answers to writs issued from such courts. In the autumn of that year the President, acting under the terms of this law, declared this ancient and honorable instrument for the protection of civil liberties, the habeas corpus, suspended throughout the length and breadth of the land. The power of the government was also strengthened by an act defining and punishing certain conspiracies, passed on July 31, 1861—a measure which imposed heavy penalties on those who by force, intimidation, or threat interfered with the execution of the law.
Thus doubly armed, the military authorities spared no one suspected of active sympathy with the Southern cause. Editors were arrested and imprisoned, their papers suspended, and their newsboys locked up. Those who organized "peace meetings" soon found themselves in the toils of the law. Members of the Maryland legislature, the mayor of Baltimore, and local editors suspected of entertaining secessionist opinions, were imprisoned on military orders although charged with no offense, and were denied the privilege of examination before a civil magistrate. A Vermont farmer, too outspoken in his criticism of the government, found himself behind the bars until the government, in its good pleasure, saw fit to release him. These measures were not confined to the theater of war nor to the border states where the spirit of secession was strong enough to endanger the cause of union. They were applied all through the Northern states up to the very boundaries of Canada. Zeal for the national cause, too often supplemented by a zeal for persecution, spread terror among those who wavered in the singleness of their devotion to the union.
These drastic operations on the part of military authorities, so foreign to the normal course of civilized life, naturally aroused intense and bitter hostility. Meetings of protest were held throughout the country. Thirty-six members of the House of Representatives sought to put on record their condemnation of the suspension of the habeas corpus act, only to meet a firm denial by the supporters of the act. Chief Justice Taney, before whom the case of a man arrested under the President's military authority was brought, emphatically declared, in a long and learned opinion bristling with historical examples, that the President had no power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. In Congress and out, Democrats, abolitionists, and champions of civil liberty denounced Lincoln and his Cabinet in unsparing terms. Vallandigham, a Democratic leader of Ohio, afterward banished to the South for his opposition to the war, constantly applied to Lincoln the epithet of "Cæsar." Wendell Phillips saw in him "a more unlimited despot than the world knows this side of China."
Sensitive to such stinging thrusts and no friend of wanton persecution, Lincoln attempted to mitigate the rigors of the law by paroling many political prisoners. The general policy, however, he defended in homely language, very different in tone and meaning from the involved reasoning of the lawyers. "Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of the wily agitator who induces him to desert?" he asked in a quiet way of some spokesmen for those who protested against arresting people for "talking against the war." This summed up his philosophy. He was engaged in a war to save the union, and all measures necessary and proper to accomplish that purpose were warranted by the Constitution which he had sworn to uphold.
Military Strategy—North and South.—The broad outlines of military strategy followed by the commanders of the opposing forces are clear even to the layman who cannot be expected to master the details of a campaign or, for that matter, the maneuvers of a single great battle. The problem for the South was one of defense mainly, though even for defense swift and paralyzing strokes at the North were later deemed imperative measures. The problem of the North was, to put it baldly, one of invasion and conquest. Southern territory had to be invaded and Southern armies beaten on their own ground or worn down to exhaustion there.
In the execution of this undertaking, geography, as usual, played a significant part in the disposition of forces. The Appalachian ranges, stretching through the Confederacy to Northern Alabama, divided the campaigns into Eastern and Western enterprises. Both were of signal importance. Victory in the East promised the capture of the Confederate capital of Richmond, a stroke of moral worth, hardly to be overestimated. Victory in the West meant severing the Confederacy and opening the Mississippi Valley down to the Gulf.
As it turned out, the Western forces accomplished their task first, vindicating the military powers of union soldiers and shaking the confidence of opposing commanders. In February, 1862, Grant captured Fort Donelson on the Tennessee River, rallied wavering unionists in Kentucky, forced the evacuation of Nashville, and opened the way for two hundred miles into the Confederacy. At Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, desperate fighting followed and, in spite of varying fortunes, it resulted in the discomfiture and retirement of Confederate forces to the Southeast into Georgia. By the middle of 1863, the Mississippi Valley was open to the Gulf, the initiative taken out of the hands of Southern commanders in the West, and the way prepared for Sherman's final stroke—the march from Atlanta to the sea—a maneuver executed with needless severity in the autumn of 1864.
General Ulysses S. Grant
General Robert E. Lee
For the almost unbroken succession of achievements in the West by Generals Grant, Sherman, Thomas, and Hooker against Albert Sidney Johnston, Bragg, Pemberton, and Hood, the union forces in the East offered at first an almost equally unbroken series of misfortunes and disasters. Far from capturing Richmond, they had been thrown on the defensive. General after general—McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade—was tried and found wanting. None of them could administer a crushing defeat to the Confederate troops and more than once the union soldiers were beaten in a fair battle. They did succeed, however, in delivering a severe check to advancing Confederates under General Robert E. Lee, first at Antietam in September, 1862, and then at Gettysburg in July, 1863—checks reckoned as victories though in each instance the Confederates escaped without demoralization. Not until the beginning of the next year, when General Grant, supplied with almost unlimited men and munitions, began his irresistible hammering at Lee's army, did the final phase of the war commence. The pitiless drive told at last. General Lee, on April 9, 1865, seeing the futility of further conflict, surrendered an army still capable of hard fighting, at Appomattox, not far from the capital of the Confederacy.
Is it a complaint from a citizen, deprived, as he believes, of his civil liberties unjustly or in violation of the Constitution? Lincoln is ready to hear it and anxious to afford relief, if warrant can be found for it. Is a mother begging for the life of a son sentenced to be shot as a deserter? Lincoln hears her petition, and grants it even against the protests made by his generals in the name of military discipline. Do politicians sow dissensions in the army and among civilians? Lincoln grandly waves aside their petty personalities and invites them to think of the greater cause. Is it a question of securing votes to ratify the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery? Lincoln thinks it not beneath his dignity to traffic and huckster with politicians over the trifling jobs asked in return by the members who hold out against him. Does a New York newspaper call him an ignorant Western boor? Lincoln's reply is a letter to a mother who has given her all—her sons on the field of battle—and an address at Gettysburg, both of which will live as long as the tongue in which they were written. These are tributes not only to his mastery of the English language but also to his mastery of all those sentiments of sweetness and strength which are the finest flowers of culture.
Throughout the entire span of service, however, Lincoln was beset by merciless critics. The fiery apostles of abolition accused him of cowardice when he delayed the bold stroke at slavery. Anti-war Democrats lashed out at every step he took. Even in his own party he found no peace. Charles Sumner complained: "Our President is now dictator, imperator—whichever you like; but how vain to have the power of a god and not to use it godlike." Leaders among the Republicans sought to put him aside in 1864 and place Chase in his chair. "I hope we may never have a worse man," was Lincoln's quiet answer.
Wide were the dissensions in the North during that year and the Republicans, while selecting Lincoln as their candidate again, cast off their old name and chose the simple title of the "Union party." Moreover, they selected a Southern man, Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, to be associated with him as candidate for Vice President. This combination the Northern Democrats boldly confronted with a platform declaring that "after four years of failure to restore the union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part and public liberty and private right alike trodden down ... justice, humanity, liberty, and public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, to the end that peace may be restored on the basis of the federal union of the states." It is true that the Democratic candidate, General McClellan, sought to break the yoke imposed upon him by the platform, saying that he could not look his old comrades in the face and pronounce their efforts vain; but the party call to the nation to repudiate Lincoln and his works had gone forth. The response came, giving Lincoln 2,200,000 votes against 1,800,000 for his opponent. The bitter things said about him during the campaign, he forgot and forgave. When in April, 1865, he was struck down by the assassin's hand, he above all others in Washington was planning measures of moderation and healing.
The Results of the Civil WarThere is a strong and natural tendency on the part of writers to stress the dramatic and heroic aspects of war; but the long judgment of history requires us to include all other significant phases as well. Like every great armed conflict, the Civil War outran the purposes of those who took part in it. Waged over the nature of the union, it made a revolution in the union, changing public policies and constitutional principles and giving a new direction to agriculture and industry.
The Supremacy of the Union.—First and foremost, the war settled for all time the long dispute as to the nature of the federal system. The doctrine of state sovereignty was laid to rest. Men might still speak of the rights of states and think of their commonwealths with affection, but nullification and secession were destroyed. The nation was supreme.
The Destruction of the Slave Power.—Next to the vindication of national supremacy was the destruction of the planting aristocracy of the South—that great power which had furnished leadership of undoubted ability and had so long contested with the industrial and commercial interests of the North. The first paralyzing blow at the planters was struck by the abolition of slavery. The second and third came with the fourteenth (1868) and fifteenth (1870) amendments, giving the ballot to freedmen and excluding from public office the Confederate leaders—driving from the work of reconstruction the finest talents of the South. As if to add bitterness to gall and wormwood, the fourteenth amendment forbade the United States or any state to pay any debts incurred in aid of the Confederacy or in the emancipation of the slaves—plunging into utter bankruptcy the Southern financiers who had stripped their section of capital to support their cause. So the Southern planters found themselves excluded from public office and ruled over by their former bondmen under the tutelage of Republican leaders. Their labor system was wrecked and their money and bonds were as worthless as waste paper. The South was subject to the North. That which neither the Federalists nor the Whigs had been able to accomplish in the realm of statecraft was accomplished on the field of battle.
The Triumph of Industry.—The wreck of the planting system was accompanied by a mighty upswing of Northern industry which made the old Whigs of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania stare in wonderment. The demands of the federal government for manufactured goods at unrestricted prices gave a stimulus to business which more than replaced the lost markets of the South. Between 1860 and 1870 the number of manufacturing establishments increased 79.6 per cent as against 14.2 for the previous decade; while the number of persons employed almost doubled. There was no doubt about the future of American industry.
The Victory for the Protective Tariff.—Moreover, it was henceforth to be well protected. For many years before the war the friends of protection had been on the defensive. The tariff act of 1857 imposed duties so low as to presage a tariff for revenue only. The war changed all that. The extraordinary military expenditures, requiring heavy taxes on all sources, justified tariffs so high that a follower of Clay or Webster might well have gasped with astonishment. After the war was over the debt remained and both interest and principal had to be paid. Protective arguments based on economic reasoning were supported by a plain necessity for revenue which admitted no dispute.
A Liberal Immigration Policy.—Linked with industry was the labor supply. The problem of manning industries became a pressing matter, and Republican leaders grappled with it. In the platform of the Union party adopted in 1864 it was declared "that foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, the development of resources, and the increase of power to this nation—the asylum of the oppressed of all nations—should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy." In that very year Congress, recognizing the importance of the problem, passed a measure of high significance, creating a bureau of immigration, and authorizing a modified form of indentured labor, by making it legal for immigrants to pledge their wages in advance to pay their passage over. Though the bill was soon repealed, the practice authorized by it was long continued. The cheapness of the passage shortened the term of service; but the principle was older than the days of William Penn.
The Homestead Act of 1862.—In the immigration measure guaranteeing a continuous and adequate labor supply, the manufacturers saw an offset to the Homestead Act of 1862 granting free lands to settlers. The Homestead law they had resisted in a long and bitter congressional battle. Naturally, they had not taken kindly to a scheme which lured men away from the factories or enabled them to make unlimited demands for higher wages as the price of remaining. Southern planters likewise had feared free homesteads for the very good reason that they only promised to add to the overbalancing power of the North.
In spite of the opposition, supporters of a liberal land policy made steady gains. Free-soil Democrats,—Jacksonian farmers and mechanics,—labor reformers, and political leaders, like Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, kept up the agitation in season and out. More than once were they able to force a homestead bill through the House of Representatives only to have it blocked in the Senate where Southern interests were intrenched. Then, after the Senate was won over, a Democratic President, James Buchanan, vetoed the bill. Still the issue lived. The Republicans, strong among the farmers of the Northwest, favored it from the beginning and pressed it upon the attention of the country. Finally the manufacturers yielded; they received their compensation in the contract labor law. In 1862 Congress provided for the free distribution of land in 160-acre lots among men and women of strong arms and willing hearts ready to build their serried lines of homesteads to the Rockies and beyond.
Internal Improvements.—If farmers and manufacturers were early divided on the matter of free homesteads, the same could hardly be said of internal improvements. The Western tiller of the soil was as eager for some easy way of sending his produce to market as the manufacturer was for the same means to transport his goods to the consumer on the farm. While the Confederate leaders were writing into their constitution a clause forbidding all appropriations for internal improvements, the Republican leaders at Washington were planning such expenditures from the treasury in the form of public land grants to railways as would have dazed the authors of the national road bill half a century earlier.
Sound Finance—National Banking.—From Hamilton's day to Lincoln's, business men in the East had contended for a sound system of national currency. The experience of the states with paper money, painfully impressive in the years before the framing of the Constitution, had been convincing to those who understood the economy of business. The Constitution, as we have seen, bore the signs of this experience. States were forbidden to emit bills of credit: paper money, in short. This provision stood clear in the document; but judicial ingenuity had circumvented it in the age of Jacksonian Democracy. The states had enacted and the Supreme Court, after the death of John Marshall, had sustained laws chartering banking companies and authorizing them to issue paper money. So the country was beset by the old curse, the banks of Western and Southern states issuing reams of paper notes to help borrowers pay their debts.
In dealing with war finances, the Republicans attacked this ancient evil. By act of Congress in 1864, they authorized a series of national banks founded on the credit of government bonds and empowered to issue notes. The next year they stopped all bank paper sent forth under the authority of the states by means of a prohibitive tax. In this way, by two measures Congress restored federal control over the monetary system although it did not reëstablish the United States Bank so hated by Jacksonian Democracy.
Destruction of States' Rights by Fourteenth Amendment.—These acts and others not cited here were measures of centralization and consolidation at the expense of the powers and dignity of the states. They were all of high import, but the crowning act of nationalism was the fourteenth amendment which, among other things, forbade states to "deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The immediate occasion, though not the actual cause of this provision, was the need for protecting the rights of freedmen against hostile legislatures in the South. The result of the amendment, as was prophesied in protests loud and long from every quarter of the Democratic party, was the subjection of every act of state, municipal, and county authorities to possible annulment by the Supreme Court at Washington. The expected happened.
Few negroes ever brought cases under the fourteenth amendment to the attention of the courts; but thousands of state laws, municipal ordinances, and acts of local authorities were set aside as null and void under it. Laws of states regulating railway rates, fixing hours of labor in bakeshops, and taxing corporations were in due time to be annulled as conflicting with an amendment erroneously supposed to be designed solely for the protection of negroes. As centralized power over tariffs, railways, public lands, and other national concerns went to Congress, so centralized power over the acts of state and local authorities involving an infringement of personal and property rights was conferred on the federal judiciary, the apex of which was the Supreme Court at Washington. Thus the old federation of "independent states," all equal in rights and dignity, each wearing the "jewel of sovereignty" so celebrated in Southern oratory, had gone the way of all flesh under the withering blasts of Civil War.
Reconstruction in the SouthTheories about the Position of the Seceded States.—On the morning of April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered his army to General Grant, eleven states stood in a peculiar relation to the union now declared perpetual. Lawyers and political philosophers were much perturbed and had been for some time as to what should be done with the members of the former Confederacy. Radical Republicans held that they were "conquered provinces" at the mercy of Congress, to be governed under such laws as it saw fit to enact and until in its wisdom it decided to readmit any or all of them to the union. Men of more conservative views held that, as the war had been waged by the North on the theory that no state could secede from the union, the Confederate states had merely attempted to withdraw and had failed. The corollary of this latter line of argument was simple: "The Southern states are still in the union and it is the duty of the President, as commander-in-chief, to remove the federal troops as soon as order is restored and the state governments ready to function once more as usual."
Lincoln's Proposal.—Some such simple and conservative form of reconstruction had been suggested by Lincoln in a proclamation of December 8, 1863. He proposed pardon and a restoration of property, except in slaves, to nearly all who had "directly or by implication participated in the existing rebellion," on condition that they take an oath of loyalty to the union. He then announced that when, in any of the states named, a body of voters, qualified under the law as it stood before secession and equal in number to one-tenth the votes cast in 1860, took the oath of allegiance, they should be permitted to reëstablish a state government. Such a government, he added, should be recognized as a lawful authority and entitled to protection under the federal Constitution. With reference to the status of the former slaves Lincoln made it clear that, while their freedom must be recognized, he would not object to any legislation "which may yet be consistent as a temporary arrangement with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class."
Andrew Johnson's Plan—His Impeachment.—Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, the Vice President, soon after taking office, proposed to pursue a somewhat similar course. In a number of states he appointed military governors, instructing them at the earliest possible moment to assemble conventions, chosen "by that portion of the people of the said states who are loyal to the United States," and proceed to the organization of regular civil government. Johnson, a Southern man and a Democrat, was immediately charged by the Republicans with being too ready to restore the Southern states. As the months went by, the opposition to his measures and policies in Congress grew in size and bitterness. The contest resulted in the impeachment of Johnson by the House of Representatives in March, 1868, and his acquittal by the Senate merely because his opponents lacked one vote of the two-thirds required for conviction.
Congress Enacts "Reconstruction Laws."—In fact, Congress was in a strategic position. It was the law-making body, and it could, moreover, determine the conditions under which Senators and Representatives from the South were to be readmitted. It therefore proceeded to pass a series of reconstruction acts—carrying all of them over Johnson's veto. These measures, the first of which became a law on March 2, 1867, betrayed an animus not found anywhere in Lincoln's plans or Johnson's proclamations.
They laid off the ten states—the whole Confederacy with the exception of Tennessee—still outside the pale, into five military districts, each commanded by a military officer appointed by the President. They ordered the commanding general to prepare a register of voters for the election of delegates to conventions chosen for the purpose of drafting new constitutions. Such voters, however, were not to be, as Lincoln had suggested, loyal persons duly qualified under the law existing before secession but "the male citizens of said state, twenty-one years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, ... except such as may be disfranchised for participation in the rebellion or for felony at common law." This was the death knell to the idea that the leaders of the Confederacy and their white supporters might be permitted to share in the establishment of the new order. Power was thus arbitrarily thrust into the hands of the newly emancipated male negroes and the handful of whites who could show a record of loyalty. That was not all. Each state was, under the reconstruction acts, compelled to ratify the fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution as a price of restoration to the union.
The composition of the conventions thus authorized may be imagined. Bondmen without the asking and without preparation found themselves the governing power. An army of adventurers from the North, "carpet baggers" as they were called, poured in upon the scene to aid in "reconstruction." Undoubtedly many men of honor and fine intentions gave unstinted service, but the results of their deliberations only aggravated the open wound left by the war. Any number of political doctors offered their prescriptions; but no effective remedy could be found. Under measures admittedly open to grave objections, the Southern states were one after another restored to the union by the grace of Congress, the last one in 1870. Even this grudging concession of the formalities of statehood did not mean a full restoration of honors and privileges. The last soldier was not withdrawn from the last Southern capital until 1877, and federal control over elections long remained as a sign of congressional supremacy.
The Status of the Freedmen.—Even more intricate than the issues involved in restoring the seceded states to the union was the question of what to do with the newly emancipated slaves. That problem, often put to abolitionists before the war, had become at last a real concern. The thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery had not touched it at all. It declared bondmen free, but did nothing to provide them with work or homes and did not mention the subject of political rights. All these matters were left to the states, and the legislatures of some of them, by their famous "black codes," restored a form of servitude under the guise of vagrancy and apprentice laws. Such methods were in fact partly responsible for the reaction that led Congress to abandon Lincoln's policies and undertake its own program of reconstruction.
Still no extensive effort was made to solve by law the economic problems of the bondmen. Radical abolitionists had advocated that the slaves when emancipated should be given outright the fields of their former masters; but Congress steadily rejected the very idea of confiscation. The necessity of immediate assistance it recognized by creating in 1865 the Freedmen's Bureau to take care of refugees. It authorized the issue of food and clothing to the destitute and the renting of abandoned and certain other lands under federal control to former slaves at reasonable rates. But the larger problem of the relation of the freedmen to the land, it left to the slow working of time.
Against sharp protests from conservative men, particularly among the Democrats, Congress did insist, however, on conferring upon the freedmen certain rights by national law. These rights fell into broad divisions, civil and political. By an act passed in 1866, Congress gave to former slaves the rights of white citizens in the matter of making contracts, giving testimony in courts, and purchasing, selling, and leasing property. As it was doubtful whether Congress had the power to enact this law, there was passed and submitted to the states the fourteenth amendment which gave citizenship to the freedmen, assured them of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and declared that no state should deprive any person of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Not yet satisfied, Congress attempted to give social equality to negroes by the second civil rights bill of 1875 which promised to them, among other things, the full and equal enjoyment of inns, theaters, public conveyances, and places of amusement—a law later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The matter of political rights was even more hotly contested; but the radical Republicans, like Charles Sumner, asserted that civil rights were not secure unless supported by the suffrage. In this same fourteenth amendment they attempted to guarantee the ballot to all negro men, leaving the women to take care of themselves. The amendment declared in effect that when any state deprived adult male citizens of the right to vote, its representation in Congress should be reduced in the proportion such persons bore to the voting population.
This provision having failed to accomplish its purpose, the fifteenth amendment was passed and ratified, expressly declaring that no citizen should be deprived of the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." To make assurance doubly secure, Congress enacted in 1870, 1872, and 1873 three drastic laws, sometimes known as "force bills," providing for the use of federal authorities, civil and military, in supervising elections in all parts of the Union. So the federal government, having destroyed chattel slavery, sought by legal decree to sweep away all its signs and badges, civil, social, and political. Never, save perhaps in some of the civil conflicts of Greece or Rome, had there occurred in the affairs of a nation a social revolution so complete, so drastic, and far-reaching in its results.
Summary of the Sectional ConflictJust as the United States, under the impetus of Western enterprise, rounded out the continental domain, its very existence as a nation was challenged by a fratricidal conflict between two sections. This storm had been long gathering upon the horizon. From the very beginning in colonial times there had been a marked difference between the South and the North. The former by climate and soil was dedicated to a planting system—the cultivation of tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar cane—and in the course of time slave labor became the foundation of the system. The North, on the other hand, supplemented agriculture by commerce, trade, and manufacturing. Slavery, though lawful, did not flourish there. An abundant supply of free labor kept the Northern wheels turning.
This difference between the two sections, early noted by close observers, was increased with the advent of the steam engine and the factory system. Between 1815 and 1860 an industrial revolution took place in the North. Its signs were gigantic factories, huge aggregations of industrial workers, immense cities, a flourishing commerce, and prosperous banks. Finding an unfavorable reception in the South, the new industrial system was confined mainly to the North. By canals and railways New York, Boston, and Philadelphia were linked with the wheatfields of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. A steel net wove North and Northwest together. A commercial net supplemented it. Western trade was diverted from New Orleans to the East and Eastern credit sustained Western enterprise.
In time, the industrial North and the planting South evolved different ideas of political policy. The former looked with favor on protective tariffs, ship subsidies, a sound national banking system, and internal improvements. The farmers of the West demanded that the public domain be divided up into free homesteads for farmers. The South steadily swung around to the opposite view. Its spokesmen came to regard most of these policies as injurious to the planting interests.
The economic questions were all involved in a moral issue. The Northern states, in which slavery was of slight consequence, had early abolished the institution. In the course of a few years there appeared uncompromising advocates of universal emancipation. Far and wide the agitation spread. The South was thoroughly frightened. It demanded protection against the agitators, the enforcement of its rights in the case of runaway slaves, and equal privileges for slavery in the new territories.
With the passing years the conflict between the two sections increased in bitterness. It flamed up in 1820 and was allayed by the Missouri compromise. It took on the form of a tariff controversy and nullification in 1832. It appeared again after the Mexican war when the question of slavery in the new territories was raised. Again compromise—the great settlement of 1850—seemed to restore peace, only to prove an illusion. A series of startling events swept the country into war: the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854, the rise of the Republican party pledged to the prohibition of slavery in the territories, the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid, the election of Lincoln, and secession.
The Civil War, lasting for four years, tested the strength of both North and South, in leadership, in finance, in diplomatic skill, in material resources, in industry, and in armed forces. By the blockade of Southern ports, by an overwhelming weight of men and materials, and by relentless hammering on the field of battle, the North was victorious.
The results of the war were revolutionary in character. Slavery was abolished and the freedmen given the ballot. The Southern planters who had been the leaders of their section were ruined financially and almost to a man excluded from taking part in political affairs. The union was declared to be perpetual and the right of a state to secede settled by the judgment of battle. Federal control over the affairs of states, counties, and cities was established by the fourteenth amendment. The power and prestige of the federal government were enhanced beyond imagination. The North was now free to pursue its economic policies: a protective tariff, a national banking system, land grants for railways, free lands for farmers. Planting had dominated the country for nearly a generation. Business enterprise was to take its place.
J.K. Hosmer, The Appeal to Arms and The Outcome of the Civil War (American Nation Series).
J. Ropes, History of the Civil War (best account of military campaigns).
J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States, Vols. III, IV, and V.
J.T. Morse, Abraham Lincoln (2 vols.).
Southern AccountsW.E. Dodd, Jefferson Davis.
Jefferson Davis, Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.
E. Pollard, The Lost Cause.
A.H. Stephens, The War between the States.
Questions1. Contrast the reception of secession in 1860 with that given to nullification in 1832.
2. Compare the Northern and Southern views of the union.
3. What were the peculiar features of the Confederate constitution?
4. How was the Confederacy financed?
5. Compare the resources of the two sections.
6. On what foundations did Southern hopes rest?
7. Describe the attempts at a peaceful settlement.
8. Compare the raising of armies for the Civil War with the methods employed in the World War. (See below, chapter xxv.)
9. Compare the financial methods of the government in the two wars.
10. Explain why the blockade was such a deadly weapon.
11. Give the leading diplomatic events of the war.
12. Trace the growth of anti-slavery sentiment.
13. What measures were taken to restrain criticism of the government?
14. What part did Lincoln play in all phases of the war?
15. State the principal results of the war.
16. Compare Lincoln's plan of reconstruction with that adopted by Congress.
17. What rights did Congress attempt to confer upon the former slaves?
Research TopicsWas Secession Lawful?—The Southern view by Jefferson Davis in Harding, Select Orations Illustrating American History, pp. 364-369. Lincoln's view, Harding, pp. 371-381.
The Confederate Constitution.—Compare with the federal Constitution in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 424-433 and pp. 271-279.
Federal Legislative Measures.—Prepare a table and brief digest of the important laws relating to the war. Macdonald, pp. 433-482.
Economic Aspects of the War.—Coman, Industrial History of the United States, pp. 279-301. Dewey, Financial History of the United States, Chaps. XII and XIII. Tabulate the economic measures of Congress in Macdonald.
Military Campaigns.—The great battles are fully treated in Rhodes, History of the Civil War, and teachers desiring to emphasize military affairs may assign campaigns to members of the class for study and report. A briefer treatment in Elson, History of the United States, pp. 641-785.
Biographical Studies.—Lincoln, Davis, Lee, Grant, Sherman, and other leaders in civil and military affairs, with reference to local "war governors."
English and French Opinion of the War.—Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. IV, pp. 337-394.
The South during the War.—Rhodes, Vol. V, pp. 343-382.
The North during the War.—Rhodes, Vol. V, pp. 189-342.
Reconstruction Measures.—Macdonald, Source Book, pp. 500-511; 514-518; 529-530; Elson, pp. 786-799.
The Force Bills.—Macdonald, pp. 547-551; 554-564.
PART VI. NATIONAL GROWTH AND WORLD POLITICS
THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC EVOLUTION OF THE SOUTHThe outcome of the Civil War in the South was nothing short of a revolution. The ruling class, the law, and the government of the old order had been subverted. To political chaos was added the havoc wrought in agriculture, business, and transportation by military operations. And as if to fill the cup to the brim, the task of reconstruction was committed to political leaders from another section of the country, strangers to the life and traditions of the South.
The South at the Close of the WarA Ruling Class Disfranchised.—As the sovereignty of the planters had been the striking feature of the old régime, so their ruin was the outstanding fact of the new. The situation was extraordinary. The American Revolution was carried out by people experienced in the arts of self-government, and at its close they were free to follow the general course to which they had long been accustomed. The French Revolution witnessed the overthrow of the clergy and the nobility; but middle classes who took their places had been steadily rising in intelligence and wealth.
The Southern Revolution was unlike either of these cataclysms. It was not brought about by a social upheaval, but by an external crisis. It did not enfranchise a class that sought and understood power, but bondmen who had played no part in the struggle. Moreover it struck down a class equipped to rule. The leading planters were almost to a man excluded from state and federal offices, and the fourteenth amendment was a bar to their return. All civil and military places under the authority of the United States and of the states were closed to every man who had taken an oath to support the Constitution as a member of Congress, as a state legislator, or as a state or federal officer, and afterward engaged in "insurrection or rebellion," or "given aid and comfort to the enemies" of the United States. This sweeping provision, supplemented by the reconstruction acts, laid under the ban most of the talent, energy, and spirit of the South.
The Condition of the State Governments.—The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the state governments thus passed into the control of former slaves, led principally by Northern adventurers or Southern novices, known as "Scalawags." The result was a carnival of waste, folly, and corruption. The "reconstruction" assembly of South Carolina bought clocks at $480 apiece and chandeliers at $650. To purchase land for former bondmen the sum of $800,000 was appropriated; and swamps bought at seventy-five cents an acre were sold to the state at five times the cost. In the years between 1868 and 1873, the debt of the state rose from about $5,800,000 to $24,000,000, and millions of the increase could not be accounted for by the authorities responsible for it.
Economic Ruin—Urban and Rural.—No matter where Southern men turned in 1865 they found devastation—in the towns, in the country, and along the highways. Atlanta, the city to which Sherman applied the torch, lay in ashes; Nashville and Chattanooga had been partially wrecked; Richmond and Augusta had suffered severely from fires. Charleston was described by a visitor as "a city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant houses, of rotten wharves, of deserted warehouses, of weed gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets.... How few young men there are, how generally the young women are dressed in black! The flower of their proud aristocracy is buried on scores of battle fields."
Those who journeyed through the country about the same time reported desolation equally widespread and equally pathetic. An English traveler who made his way along the course of the Tennessee River in 1870 wrote: "The trail of war is visible throughout the valley in burnt-up gin houses, ruined bridges, mills, and factories ... and large tracts of once cultivated land are stripped of every vestige of fencing. The roads, long neglected, are in disorder and, having in many places become impassable, new tracks have been made through the woods and fields without much respect to boundaries." Many a great plantation had been confiscated by the federal authorities while the owner was in Confederate service. Many more lay in waste. In the wake of the armies the homes of rich and poor alike, if spared the torch, had been despoiled of the stock and seeds necessary to renew agriculture.
Railways Dilapidated.—Transportation was still more demoralized. This is revealed in the pages of congressional reports based upon first-hand investigations. One eloquent passage illustrates all the rest. From Pocahontas to Decatur, Alabama, a distance of 114 miles, we are told, the railroad was "almost entirely destroyed, except the road bed and iron rails, and they were in a very bad condition—every bridge and trestle destroyed, cross-ties rotten, buildings burned, water tanks gone, tracks grown up in weeds and bushes, not a saw mill near the line and the labor system of the country gone. About forty miles of the track were burned, the cross-ties entirely destroyed, and the rails bent and twisted in such a manner as to require great labor to straighten and a large portion of them requiring renewal."
Capital and Credit Destroyed.—The fluid capital of the South, money and credit, was in the same prostrate condition as the material capital. The Confederate currency, inflated to the bursting point, had utterly collapsed and was as worthless as waste paper. The bonds of the Confederate government were equally valueless. Specie had nearly disappeared from circulation. The fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution had made all "debts, obligations, and claims" incurred in aid of the Confederate cause "illegal and void." Millions of dollars owed to Northern creditors before the war were overdue and payment was pressed upon the debtors. Where such debts were secured by mortgages on land, executions against the property could be obtained in federal courts.
The Restoration of White SupremacyIntimidation.—In both politics and economics, the process of reconstruction in the South was slow and arduous. The first battle in the political contest for white supremacy was won outside the halls of legislatures and the courts of law. It was waged, in the main, by secret organizations, among which the Ku Klux Klan and the White Camelia were the most prominent. The first of these societies appeared in Tennessee in 1866 and held its first national convention the following year. It was in origin a social club. According to its announcement, its objects were "to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenceless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal; and to succor the suffering, especially the widows and orphans of the Confederate soldiers." The whole South was called "the Empire" and was ruled by a "Grand Wizard." Each state was a realm and each county a province. In the secret orders there were enrolled over half a million men.
The methods of the Ku Klux and the White Camelia were similar. Solemn parades of masked men on horses decked in long robes were held, sometimes in the daytime and sometimes at the dead of night. Notices were sent to obnoxious persons warning them to stop certain practices. If warning failed, something more convincing was tried. Fright was the emotion most commonly stirred. A horseman, at the witching hour of midnight, would ride up to the house of some offender, lift his head gear, take off a skull, and hand it to the trembling victim with the request that he hold it for a few minutes. Frequently violence was employed either officially or unofficially by members of the Klan. Tar and feathers were freely applied; the whip was sometimes laid on unmercifully, and occasionally a brutal murder was committed. Often the members were fired upon from bushes or behind trees, and swift retaliation followed. So alarming did the clashes become that in 1870 Congress forbade interference with electors or going in disguise for the purpose of obstructing the exercise of the rights enjoyed under federal law.
In anticipation of such a step on the part of the federal government, the Ku Klux was officially dissolved by the "Grand Wizard" in 1869. Nevertheless, the local societies continued their organization and methods. The spirit survived the national association. "On the whole," says a Southern writer, "it is not easy to see what other course was open to the South.... Armed resistance was out of the question. And yet there must be some control had of the situation.... If force was denied, craft was inevitable."
The Struggle for the Ballot Box.—The effects of intimidation were soon seen at elections. The freedman, into whose inexperienced hand the ballot had been thrust, was ordinarily loath to risk his head by the exercise of his new rights. He had not attained them by a long and laborious contest of his own and he saw no urgent reason why he should battle for the privilege of using them. The mere show of force, the mere existence of a threat, deterred thousands of ex-slaves from appearing at the polls. Thus the whites steadily recovered their dominance. Nothing could prevent it. Congress enacted force bills establishing federal supervision of elections and the Northern politicians protested against the return of former Confederates to practical, if not official, power; but all such opposition was like resistance to the course of nature.
Amnesty for Southerners.—The recovery of white supremacy in this way was quickly felt in national councils. The Democratic party in the North welcomed it as a sign of its return to power. The more moderate Republicans, anxious to heal the breach in American unity, sought to encourage rather than to repress it. So it came about that amnesty for Confederates was widely advocated. Yet it must be said that the struggle for the removal of disabilities was stubborn and bitter. Lincoln, with characteristic generosity, in the midst of the war had issued a general proclamation of amnesty to nearly all who had been in arms against the Union, on condition that they take an oath of loyalty; but Johnson, vindictive toward Southern leaders and determined to make "treason infamous," had extended the list of exceptions. Congress, even more relentless in its pursuit of Confederates, pushed through the fourteenth amendment which worked the sweeping disabilities we have just described.
To appeals for comprehensive clemency, Congress was at first adamant. In vain did men like Carl Schurz exhort their colleagues to crown their victory in battle with a noble act of universal pardon and oblivion. Congress would not yield. It would grant amnesty in individual cases; for the principle of proscription it stood fast. When finally in 1872, seven years after the surrender at Appomattox, it did pass the general amnesty bill, it insisted on certain exceptions. Confederates who had been members of Congress just before the war, or had served in other high posts, civil or military, under the federal government, were still excluded from important offices. Not until the summer of 1898, when the war with Spain produced once more a union of hearts, did Congress relent and abolish the last of the disabilities imposed on the Confederates.
The Force Bills Attacked and Nullified.—The granting of amnesty encouraged the Democrats to redouble their efforts all along the line. In 1874 they captured the House of Representatives and declared war on the "force bills." As a Republican Senate blocked immediate repeal, they resorted to an ingenious parliamentary trick. To the appropriation bill for the support of the army they attached a "rider," or condition, to the effect that no troops should be used to sustain the Republican government in Louisiana. The Senate rejected the proposal. A deadlock ensued and Congress adjourned without making provision for the army. Satisfied with the technical victory, the Democrats let the army bill pass the next session, but kept up their fight on the force laws until they wrung from President Hayes a measure forbidding the use of United States troops in supervising elections. The following year they again had recourse to a rider on the army bill and carried it through, putting an end to the use of money for military control of elections. The reconstruction program was clearly going to pieces, and the Supreme Court helped along the process of dissolution by declaring parts of the laws invalid. In 1878 the Democrats even won a majority in the Senate and returned to power a large number of men once prominent in the Confederate cause.
The passions of the war by this time were evidently cooling. A new generation of men was coming on the scene. The supremacy of the whites in the South, if not yet complete, was at least assured. Federal marshals, their deputies, and supervisors of elections still possessed authority over the polls, but their strength had been shorn by the withdrawal of United States troops. The war on the remaining remnants of the "force bills" lapsed into desultory skirmishing. When in 1894 the last fragment was swept away, the country took little note of the fact. The only task that lay before the Southern leaders was to write in the constitutions of their respective states the
of law which would clinch the gains so far secured and establish white supremacy beyond the reach of outside intervention.
White Supremacy Sealed by New State Constitutions.—The impetus to this final step was given by the rise of the Populist movement in the South, which sharply divided the whites and in many communities threw the balance of power into the hands of the few colored voters who survived the process of intimidation. Southern leaders now devised new constitutions so constructed as to deprive negroes of the ballot by law. Mississippi took the lead in 1890; South Carolina followed five years later; Louisiana, in 1898; North Carolina, in 1900; Alabama and Maryland, in 1901; and Virginia, in 1902.
The authors of these measures made no attempt to conceal their purposes. "The intelligent white men of the South," said Governor Tillman, "intend to govern here." The fifteenth amendment to the federal Constitution, however, forbade them to deprive any citizen of the right to vote on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. This made necessary the devices of indirection. They were few, simple, and effective. The first and most easily administered was the ingenious provision requiring each prospective voter to read a section of the state constitution or "understand and explain it" when read to him by the election officers. As an alternative, the payment of taxes or the ownership of a small amount of property was accepted as a qualification for voting. Southern leaders, unwilling to disfranchise any of the poor white men who had stood side by side with them "in the dark days of reconstruction," also resorted to a famous provision known as "the grandfather clause." This plan admitted to the suffrage any man who did not have either property or educational qualifications, provided he had voted on or before 1867 or was the son or grandson of any such person.
The devices worked effectively. Of the 147,000 negroes in Mississippi above the age of twenty-one, only about 8600 registered under the constitution of 1890. Louisiana had 127,000 colored voters enrolled in 1896; under the constitution drafted two years later the registration fell to 5300. An analysis of the figures for South Carolina in 1900 indicates that only about one negro out of every hundred adult males of that race took part in elections. Thus was closed this chapter of reconstruction.
The Supreme Court Refuses to Intervene.—Numerous efforts were made to prevail upon the Supreme Court of the United States to declare such laws unconstitutional; but the Court, usually on technical grounds, avoided coming to a direct decision on the merits of the matter. In one case the Court remarked that it could not take charge of and operate the election machinery of Alabama; it concluded that "relief from a great political wrong, if done as alleged, by the people of a state and by the state itself, must be given by them, or by the legislative and executive departments of the government of the United States." Only one of the several schemes employed, namely, the "grandfather clause," was held to be a violation of the federal Constitution. This blow, effected in 1915 by the decision in the Oklahoma and Maryland cases, left, however, the main structure of disfranchisement unimpaired.
Proposals to Reduce Southern Representation in Congress.—These provisions excluding thousands of male citizens from the ballot did not, in express terms, deprive any one of the vote on account of race or color. They did not, therefore, run counter to the letter of the fifteenth amendment; but they did unquestionably make the states which adopted them liable to the operations of the fourteenth amendment. The latter very explicitly provides that whenever any state deprives adult male citizens of the right to vote (except in certain minor cases) the representation of the state in Congress shall be reduced in the proportion which such number of disfranchised citizens bears to the whole number of male citizens over twenty-one years of age.
Mindful of this provision, those who protested against disfranchisement in the South turned to the Republican party for relief, asking for action by the political branches of the federal government as the Supreme Court had suggested. The Republicans responded in their platform of 1908 by condemning all devices designed to deprive any one of the ballot for reasons of color alone; they demanded the enforcement in letter and spirit of the fourteenth as well as all other amendments. Though victorious in the election, the Republicans refrained from reopening the ancient contest; they made no attempt to reduce Southern representation in the House. Southern leaders, while protesting against the declarations of their opponents, were able to view them as idle threats in no way endangering the security of the measures by which political reconstruction had been undone.
The Solid South.—Out of the thirty-year conflict against "carpet-bag rule" there emerged what was long known as the "solid South"—a South that, except occasionally in the border states, never gave an electoral vote to a Republican candidate for President. Before the Civil War, the Southern people had been divided on political questions. Take, for example, the election of 1860. In all the fifteen slave states the variety of opinion was marked. In nine of them—Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, and Arkansas—the combined vote against the representative of the extreme Southern point of view, Breckinridge, constituted a safe majority. In each of the six states which were carried by Breckinridge, there was a large and powerful minority. In North Carolina Breckinridge's majority over Bell and Douglas was only 849 votes. Equally astounding to those who imagine the South united in defense of extreme views in 1860 was the vote for Bell, the Unionist candidate, who stood firmly for the Constitution and silence on slavery. In every Southern state Bell's vote was large. In Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee it was greater than that received by Breckinridge; in Georgia, it was 42,000 against 51,000; in Louisiana, 20,000 against 22,000; in Mississippi, 25,000 against 40,000.
The effect of the Civil War upon these divisions was immediate and decisive, save in the border states where thousands of men continued to adhere to the cause of Union. In the Confederacy itself nearly all dissent was silenced by war. Men who had been bitter opponents joined hands in defense of their homes; when the armed conflict was over they remained side by side working against "Republican misrule and negro domination." By 1890, after Northern supremacy was definitely broken, they boasted that there were at least twelve Southern states in which no Republican candidate for President could win a single electoral vote.
Dissent in the Solid South.—Though every one grew accustomed to speak of the South as "solid," it did not escape close observers that in a number of Southern states there appeared from time to time a fairly large body of dissenters. In 1892 the Populists made heavy inroads upon the Democratic ranks. On other occasions, the contests between factions within the Democratic party over the nomination of candidates revealed sharp differences of opinion. In some places, moreover, there grew up a Republican minority of respectable size. For example, in Georgia, Mr. Taft in 1908 polled 41,000 votes against 72,000 for Mr. Bryan; in North Carolina, 114,000 against 136,000; in Tennessee, 118,000 against 135,000; in Kentucky, 235,000 against 244,000. In 1920, Senator Harding, the Republican candidate, broke the record by carrying Tennessee as well as Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Maryland.
The Economic Advance of the SouthThe Break-up of the Great Estates.—In the dissolution of chattel slavery it was inevitable that the great estate should give way before the small farm. The plantation was in fact founded on slavery. It was continued and expanded by slavery. Before the war the prosperous planter, either by inclination or necessity, invested his surplus in more land to add to his original domain. As his slaves increased in number, he was forced to increase his acreage or sell them, and he usually preferred the former, especially in the Far South. Still another element favored the large estate. Slave labor quickly exhausted the soil and of its own force compelled the cutting of the forests and the extension of the area under cultivation. Finally, the planter took a natural pride in his great estate; it was a sign of his prowess and his social prestige.
In 1865 the foundations of the planting system were gone. It was difficult to get efficient labor to till the vast plantations. The planters themselves were burdened with debts and handicapped by lack of capital. Negroes commonly preferred tilling plots of their own, rented or bought under mortgage, to the more irksome wage labor under white supervision. The land hunger of the white farmer, once checked by the planting system, reasserted itself. Before these forces the plantation broke up. The small farm became the unit of cultivation in the South as in the North. Between 1870 and 1900 the number of farms doubled in every state south of the line of the Potomac and Ohio rivers, except in Arkansas and Louisiana. From year to year the process of breaking up continued, with all that it implied in the creation of land-owning farmers.
The Diversification of Crops.—No less significant was the concurrent diversification of crops. Under slavery, tobacco, rice, and sugar were staples and "cotton was king." These were standard crops. The methods of cultivation were simple and easily learned. They tested neither the skill nor the ingenuity of the slaves. As the returns were quick, they did not call for long-time investments of capital. After slavery was abolished, they still remained the staples, but far-sighted agriculturists saw the dangers of depending upon a few crops. The mild climate all the way around the coast from Virginia to Texas and the character of the alluvial soil invited the exercise of more imagination. Peaches, oranges, peanuts, and other fruits and vegetables were found to grow luxuriantly. Refrigeration for steamships and freight cars put the markets of great cities at the doors of Southern fruit and vegetable gardeners. The South, which in planting days had relied so heavily upon the Northwest for its foodstuffs, began to battle for independence. Between 1880 and the close of the century the value of its farm crops increased from $660,000,000 to $1,270,000,000.
The Industrial and Commercial Revolution.—On top of the radical changes in agriculture came an industrial and commercial revolution. The South had long been rich in natural resources, but the slave system had been unfavorable to their development. Rivers that would have turned millions of spindles tumbled unheeded to the seas. Coal and iron beds lay unopened. Timber was largely sacrificed in clearing lands for planting, or fell to earth in decay. Southern enterprise was consumed in planting. Slavery kept out the white immigrants who might have supplied the skilled labor for industry.
After 1865, achievement and fortune no longer lay on the land alone. As soon as the paralysis of the war was over, the South caught the industrial spirit that had conquered feudal Europe and the agricultural North. In the development of mineral wealth, enormous strides were taken. Iron ore of every quality was found, the chief beds being in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas. Five important coal basins were uncovered: in Virginia, North Carolina, the Appalachian chain from Maryland to Northern Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Texas. Oil pools were found in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. Within two decades, 1880 to 1900, the output of mineral wealth multiplied tenfold: from ten millions a year to one hundred millions. The iron industries of West Virginia and Alabama began to rival those of Pennsylvania. Birmingham became the Pittsburgh and Atlanta the Chicago of the South.
In other lines of industry, lumbering and cotton manufacturing took a high rank. The development of Southern timber resources was in every respect remarkable, particularly in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, primacy in lumber had passed from the Great Lakes region to the South. In 1913 eight Southern states produced nearly four times as much lumber as the Lake states and twice as much as the vast forests of Washington and Oregon.
The development of the cotton industry, in the meantime, was similarly astounding. In 1865 cotton spinning was a negligible matter in the Southern states. In 1880 they had one-fourth of the mills of the country. At the end of the century they had one-half the mills, the two Carolinas taking the lead by consuming more than one-third of their entire cotton crop. Having both the raw materials and the power at hand, they enjoyed many advantages over the New England rivals, and at the opening of the new century were outstripping the latter in the proportion of spindles annually put into operation. Moreover, the cotton planters, finding a market at the neighboring mills, began to look forward to a day when they would be somewhat emancipated from absolute dependence upon the cotton exchanges of New York, New Orleans, and Liverpool.
Transportation kept pace with industry. In 1860, the South had about ten thousand miles of railway. By 1880 the figure had doubled. During the next twenty years over thirty thousand miles were added, most of the increase being in Texas. About 1898 there opened a period of consolidation in which scores of short lines were united, mainly under the leadership of Northern capitalists, and new through service opened to the North and West. Thus Southern industries were given easy outlets to the markets of the nation and brought within the main currents of national business enterprise.
The Social Effects of the Economic Changes.—As long as the slave system lasted and planting was the major interest, the South was bound to be sectional in character. With slavery gone, crops diversified, natural resources developed, and industries promoted, the social order of the ante-bellum days inevitably dissolved; the South became more and more assimilated to the system of the North. In this process several lines of development are evident.
In the first place we see the steady rise of the small farmer. Even in the old days there had been a large class of white yeomen who owned no slaves and tilled the soil with their own hands, but they labored under severe handicaps. They found the fertile lands of the coast and river valleys nearly all monopolized by planters, and they were by the force of circumstances driven into the uplands where the soil was thin and the crops were light. Still they increased in numbers and zealously worked their freeholds.
The war proved to be their opportunity. With the break-up of the plantations, they managed to buy land more worthy of their plows. By intelligent labor and intensive cultivation they were able to restore much of the worn-out soil to its original fertility. In the meantime they rose with their prosperity in the social and political scale. It became common for the sons of white farmers to enter the professions, while their daughters went away to college and prepared for teaching. Thus a more democratic tone was given to the white society of the South. Moreover the migration to the North and West, which had formerly carried thousands of energetic sons and daughters to search for new homesteads, was materially reduced. The energy of the agricultural population went into rehabilitation.
The increase in the number of independent farmers was accompanied by the rise of small towns and villages which gave diversity to the life of the South. Before 1860 it was possible to travel through endless stretches of cotton and tobacco. The social affairs of the planter's family centered in the homestead even if they were occasionally interrupted by trips to distant cities or abroad. Carpentry, bricklaying, and blacksmithing were usually done by slaves skilled in simple handicrafts. Supplies were bought wholesale. In this way there was little place in plantation economy for villages and towns with their stores and mechanics.
The abolition of slavery altered this. Small farms spread out where plantations had once stood. The skilled freedmen turned to agriculture rather than to handicrafts; white men of a business or mechanical bent found an opportunity to serve the needs of their communities. So local merchants and mechanics became an important element in the social system. In the county seats, once dominated by the planters, business and professional men assumed the leadership.
Another vital outcome of this revolution was the transference of a large part of planting enterprise to business. Mr. Bruce, a Southern historian of fine scholarship, has summed up this process in a single telling paragraph: "The higher planting class that under the old system gave so much distinction to rural life has, so far as it has survived at all, been concentrated in the cities. The families that in the time of slavery would have been found only in the country are now found, with a few exceptions, in the towns. The transplantation has been practically universal. The talent, the energy, the ambition that formerly sought expression in the management of great estates and the control of hosts of slaves, now seek a field of action in trade, in manufacturing enterprises, or in the general enterprises of development. This was for the ruling class of the South the natural outcome of the great economic revolution that followed the war."
As in all other parts of the world, the mechanical revolution was attended by the growth of a population of industrial workers dependent not upon the soil but upon wages for their livelihood. When Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President of the Southern Confederacy, there were approximately only one hundred thousand persons employed in Southern manufactures as against more than a million in Northern mills. Fifty years later, Georgia and Alabama alone had more than one hundred and fifty thousand wage-earners. Necessarily this meant also a material increase in urban population, although the wide dispersion of cotton spinning among small centers prevented the congestion that had accompanied the rise of the textile industry in New England. In 1910, New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and Houston stood in the same relation to the New South that Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit had stood to the New West fifty years before. The problems of labor and capital and municipal administration, which the earlier writers boasted would never perplex the planting South, had come in full force.
The Revolution in the Status of the Slaves.—No part of Southern society was so profoundly affected by the Civil War and economic reconstruction as the former slaves. On the day of emancipation, they stood free, but empty-handed, the owners of no tools or property, the masters of no trade and wholly inexperienced in the arts of self-help that characterized the whites in general. They had never been accustomed to looking out for themselves. The plantation bell had called them to labor and released them. Doles of food and clothing had been regularly made in given quantities. They did not understand wages, ownership, renting, contracts, mortgages, leases, bills, or accounts.
When they were emancipated, four courses were open to them. They could flee from the plantation to the nearest town or city, or to the distant North, to seek a livelihood. Thousands of them chose this way, overcrowding cities where disease mowed them down. They could remain where they, were in their cabins and work for daily wages instead of food, clothing, and shelter. This second course the major portion of them chose; but, as few masters had cash to dispense, the new relation was much like the old, in fact. It was still one of barter. The planter offered food, clothing, and shelter; the former slaves gave their labor in return. That was the best that many of them could do.
A third course open to freedmen was that of renting from the former master, paying him usually with a share of the produce of the land. This way a large number of them chose. It offered them a chance to become land owners in time and it afforded an easier life, the renter being, to a certain extent at least, master of his own hours of labor. The final and most difficult path was that to ownership of land. Many a master helped his former slaves to acquire small holdings by offering easy terms. The more enterprising and the more fortunate who started life as renters or wage-earners made their way upward to ownership in so many cases that by the end of the century, one-fourth of the colored laborers on the land owned the soil they tilled.
In the meantime, the South, though relatively poor, made relatively large expenditures for the education of the colored population. By the opening of the twentieth century, facilities were provided for more than one-half of the colored children of school age. While in many respects this progress was disappointing, its significance, to be appreciated, must be derived from a comparison with the total illiteracy which prevailed under slavery.
In spite of all that happened, however, the status of the negroes in the South continued to give a peculiar character to that section of the country. They were almost entirely excluded from the exercise of the suffrage, especially in the Far South. Special rooms were set aside for them at the railway stations and special cars on the railway lines. In the field of industry calling for technical skill, it appears, from the census figures, that they lost ground between 1890 and 1900—a condition which their friends ascribed to discriminations against them in law and in labor organizations and their critics ascribed to their lack of aptitude. Whatever may be the truth, the fact remained that at the opening of the twentieth century neither the hopes of the emancipators nor the fears of their opponents were realized. The marks of the "peculiar institution" were still largely impressed upon Southern society.
The situation, however, was by no means unchanging. On the contrary there was a decided drift in affairs. For one thing, the proportion of negroes in the South had slowly declined. By 1900 they were in a majority in only two states, South Carolina and Mississippi. In Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina the proportion of the white population was steadily growing. The colored migration northward increased while the westward movement of white farmers which characterized pioneer days declined. At the same time a part of the foreign immigration into the United States was diverted southward. As the years passed these tendencies gained momentum. The already huge colored quarters in some Northern cities were widely expanded, as whole counties in the South were stripped of their colored laborers. The race question, in its political and economic aspects, became less and less sectional, more and more national. The South was drawn into the main stream of national life. The separatist forces which produced the cataclysm of 1861 sank irresistibly into the background.
ReferencesH.W. Grady, The New South (1890).
H.A. Herbert, Why the Solid South.
W.G. Brown, The Lower South.
E.G. Murphy, Problems of the Present South.
B.T. Washington, The Negro Problem; The Story of the Negro; The Future of the Negro.
A.B. Hart, The Southern South and R.S. Baker, Following the Color Line (two works by Northern writers).
T.N. Page, The Negro, the Southerner's Problem.
Questions1. Give the three main subdivisions of the chapter.
2. Compare the condition of the South in 1865 with that of the North. Compare with the condition of the United States at the close of the Revolutionary War. At the close of the World War in 1918.
3. Contrast the enfranchisement of the slaves with the enfranchisement of white men fifty years earlier.
4. What was the condition of the planters as compared with that of the Northern manufacturers?
5. How does money capital contribute to prosperity? Describe the plight of Southern finance.
6. Give the chief steps in the restoration of white supremacy.
7. Do you know of any other societies to compare with the Ku Klux Klan?
8. Give Lincoln's plan for amnesty. What principles do you think should govern the granting of amnesty?
9. How were the "Force bills" overcome?
10. Compare the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments with regard to the suffrage provisions.
11. Explain how they may be circumvented.
12. Account for the Solid South. What was the situation before 1860?
13. In what ways did Southern agriculture tend to become like that of the North? What were the social results?
14. Name the chief results of an "industrial revolution" in general. In the South, in particular.
15. What courses were open to freedmen in 1865?
16. Give the main features in the economic and social status of the colored population in the South.
17. Explain why the race question is national now, rather than sectional.
Research TopicsAmnesty for Confederates.—Study carefully the provisions of the fourteenth amendment in the Appendix. Macdonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, pp. 470 and 564. A plea for amnesty in Harding, Select Orations Illustrating American History, pp. 467-488.
Political Conditions in the South in 1868.—Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic (American Nation Series), pp. 109-123; Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 445-458, 497-500; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 799-805.
Movement for White Supremacy.—Dunning, Reconstruction, pp. 266-280; Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 39-58; Beard, American Government and Politics, pp. 454-457.
The Withdrawal of Federal Troops from the South.—Sparks, National Development (American Nation Series), pp. 84-102; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 1-12.
Southern Industry.—Paxson, The New Nation, pp. 192-207; T.M. Young, The American Cotton Industry, pp. 54-99.
The Race Question.—B.T. Washington, Up From Slavery (sympathetic presentation); A.H. Stone, Studies in the American Race Problem (coldly analytical); Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 647-649, 652-654, 663-669.
BUSINESS ENTERPRISE AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTYIf a single phrase be chosen to characterize American life during the generation that followed the age of Douglas and Lincoln, it must be "business enterprise"—the tremendous, irresistible energy of a virile people, mounting in numbers toward a hundred million and applied without let or hindrance to the developing of natural resources of unparalleled richness. The chief goal of this effort was high profits for the captains of industry, on the one hand; and high wages for the workers, on the other. Its signs, to use the language of a Republican orator in 1876, were golden harvest fields, whirling spindles, turning wheels, open furnace doors, flaming forges, and chimneys filled with eager fire. The device blazoned on its shield and written over its factory doors was "prosperity." A Republican President was its "advance agent." Released from the hampering interference of the Southern planters and the confusing issues of the slavery controversy, business enterprise sprang forward to the task of winning the entire country. Then it flung its outposts to the uttermost parts of the earth—Europe, Africa, and the Orient—where were to be found markets for American goods and natural resources for American capital to develop.
Railways and IndustryThe Outward Signs of Enterprise.—It is difficult to comprehend all the multitudinous activities of American business energy or to appraise its effects upon the life and destiny of the American people; for beyond the horizon of the twentieth century lie consequences as yet undreamed of in our poor philosophy. Statisticians attempt to record its achievements in terms of miles of railways built, factories opened, men and women employed, fortunes made, wages paid, cities founded, rivers spanned, boxes, bales, and tons produced. Historians apply standards of comparison with the past. Against the slow and leisurely stagecoach, they set the swift express, rushing from New York to San Francisco in less time than Washington consumed in his triumphal tour from Mt. Vernon to New York for his first inaugural. Against the lazy sailing vessel drifting before a genial breeze, they place the turbine steamer crossing the Atlantic in five days or the still swifter airplane, in fifteen hours. For the old workshop where a master and a dozen workmen and apprentices wrought by hand, they offer the giant factory where ten thousand persons attend the whirling wheels driven by steam. They write of the "romance of invention" and the "captains of industry."
The Service of the Railway.—All this is fitting in its way. Figures and contrasts cannot, however, tell the whole story. Take, for example, the extension of railways. It is easy to relate that there were 30,000 miles in 1860; 166,000 in 1890; and 242,000 in 1910. It is easy to show upon the map how a few straggling lines became a perfect mesh of closely knitted railways; or how, like the tentacles of a great monster, the few roads ending in the Mississippi Valley in 1860 were extended and multiplied until they tapped every wheat field, mine, and forest beyond the valley. All this, eloquent of enterprise as it truly is, does not reveal the significance of railways for American life. It does not indicate how railways made a continental market for American goods; nor how they standardized the whole country, giving to cities on the advancing frontier the leading features of cities in the old East; nor how they carried to the pioneer the comforts of civilization; nor yet how in the West they were the forerunners of civilization, the makers of homesteads, the builders of states.
Government Aid for Railways.—Still the story is not ended. The significant relation between railways and politics must not be overlooked. The bounty of a lavish government, for example, made possible the work of railway promoters. By the year 1872 the Federal government had granted in aid of railways 155,000,000 acres of land—an area estimated as almost equal to Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The Union Pacific Company alone secured from the federal government a free right of way through the public domain, twenty sections of land with each mile of railway, and a loan up to fifty millions of dollars secured by a second mortgage on the company's property. More than half of the northern tier of states lying against Canada from Lake Michigan to the Pacific was granted to private companies in aid of railways and wagon roads. About half of New Mexico, Arizona, and California was also given outright to railway companies. These vast grants from the federal government were supplemented by gifts from the states in land and by subscriptions amounting to more than two hundred million dollars. The history of these gifts and their relation to the political leaders that engineered them would alone fill a large and interesting volume.
Railway Fortunes and Capital.—Out of this gigantic railway promotion, the first really immense American fortunes were made. Henry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, related that his grandfather on his mother's side, Peter Brooks, on his death in 1849, left a fortune of two million dollars, "supposed to be the largest estate in Boston," then one of the few centers of great riches. Compared with the opulence that sprang out of the Union Pacific, the Northern Pacific, the Southern Pacific, with their subsidiary and component lines, the estate of Peter Brooks was a poor man's heritage.
The capital invested in these railways was enormous beyond the imagination of the men of the stagecoach generation. The total debt of the United States incurred in the Revolutionary War—a debt which those of little faith thought the country could never pay—was reckoned at a figure well under $75,000,000. When the Union Pacific Railroad was completed, there were outstanding against it $27,000,000 in first mortgage bonds, $27,000,000 in second mortgage bonds held by the government, $10,000,000 in income bonds, $10,000,000 in land grant bonds, and, on top of that huge bonded indebtedness, $36,000,000 in stock—making $110,000,000 in all. If the amount due the United States government be subtracted, still there remained, in private hands, stocks and bonds exceeding in value the whole national debt of Hamilton's day—a debt that strained all the resources of the Federal government in 1790. Such was the financial significance of the railways.
Growth and Extension of Industry.—In the field of manufacturing, mining, and metal working, the results of business enterprise far outstripped, if measured in mere dollars, the results of railway construction. By the end of the century there were about ten billion dollars invested in factories alone and five million wage-earners employed in them; while the total value of the output, fourteen billion dollars, was fifteen times the figure for 1860. In the Eastern states industries multiplied. In the Northwest territory, the old home of Jacksonian Democracy, they overtopped agriculture. By the end of the century, Ohio had almost reached and Illinois had surpassed Massachusetts in the annual value of manufacturing output.
That was not all. Untold wealth in the form of natural resources was discovered in the South and West. Coal deposits were found in the Appalachians stretching from Pennsylvania down to Alabama, in Michigan, in the Mississippi Valley, and in the Western mountains from North Dakota to New Mexico. In nearly every coal-bearing region, iron was also discovered and the great fields of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota soon rivaled those of the Appalachian area. Copper, lead, gold, and silver in fabulous quantities were unearthed by the restless prospectors who left no plain or mountain fastness unexplored. Petroleum, first pumped from the wells of Pennsylvania in the summer of 1859, made new fortunes equaling those of trade, railways, and land speculation. It scattered its riches with an especially lavish hand through Oklahoma, Texas, and California.
The Trust—an Instrument of Industrial Progress.—Business enterprise, under the direction of powerful men working single-handed, or of small groups of men pooling their capital for one or more undertakings, had not advanced far before there appeared upon the scene still mightier leaders of even greater imagination. New constructive genius now brought together and combined under one management hundreds of concerns or thousands of miles of railways, revealing the magic strength of coöperation on a national scale. Price-cutting in oil, threatening ruin to those engaged in the industry, as early as 1879, led a number of companies in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia to unite in price-fixing. Three years later a group of oil interests formed a close organization, placing all their stocks in the hands of trustees, among whom was John D. Rockefeller. The trustees, in turn, issued certificates representing the share to which each participant was entitled; and took over the management of the entire business. Such was the nature of the "trust," which was to play such an unique rôle in the progress of America.
The idea of combination was applied in time to iron and steel, copper, lead, sugar, cordage, coal, and other commodities, until in each field there loomed a giant trust or corporation, controlling, if not most of the output, at least enough to determine in a large measure the prices charged to consumers. With the passing years, the railways, mills, mines, and other business concerns were transferred from individual owners to corporations. At the end of the nineteenth century, the whole face of American business was changed. Three-fourths of the output from industries came from factories under corporate management and only one-fourth from individual and partnership undertakings.
The Banking Corporation.—Very closely related to the growth of business enterprise on a large scale was the system of banking. In the old days before banks, a person with savings either employed them in his own undertakings, lent them to a neighbor, or hid them away where they set no industry in motion. Even in the early stages of modern business, it was common for a manufacturer to rise from small beginnings by financing extensions out of his own earnings and profits. This state of affairs was profoundly altered by the growth of the huge corporations requiring millions and even billions of capital. The banks, once an adjunct to business, became the leaders in business.
It was the banks that undertook to sell the stocks and bonds issued by new corporations and trusts and to supply them with credit to carry on their operations. Indeed, many of the great mergers or combinations in business were initiated by magnates in the banking world with millions and billions under their control. Through their connections with one another, the banks formed a perfect network of agencies gathering up the pennies and dollars of the masses as well as the thousands of the rich and pouring them all into the channels of business and manufacturing. In this growth of banking on a national scale, it was inevitable that a few great centers, like Wall Street in New York or State Street in Boston, should rise to a position of dominance both in concentrating the savings and profits of the nation and in financing new as well as old corporations.
The Significance of the Corporation.—The corporation, in fact, became the striking feature of American business life, one of the most marvelous institutions of all time, comparable in wealth and power and the number of its servants with kingdoms and states of old. The effect of its rise and growth cannot be summarily estimated; but some special facts are obvious. It made possible gigantic enterprises once entirely beyond the reach of any individual, no matter how rich. It eliminated many of the futile and costly wastes of competition in connection with manufacture, advertising, and selling. It studied the cheapest methods of production and shut down mills that were poorly equipped or disadvantageously located. It established laboratories for research in industry, chemistry, and mechanical inventions. Through the sale of stocks and bonds, it enabled tens of thousands of people to become capitalists, if only in a small way. The corporation made it possible for one person to own, for instance, a $50 share in a million dollar business concern—a thing entirely impossible under a régime of individual owners and partnerships.
There was, of course, another side to the picture. Many of the corporations sought to become monopolies and to make profits, not by economies and good management, but by extortion from purchasers. Sometimes they mercilessly crushed small business men, their competitors, bribed members of legislatures to secure favorable laws, and contributed to the campaign funds of both leading parties. Wherever a trust approached the position of a monopoly, it acquired a dominion over the labor market which enabled it to break even the strongest trade unions. In short, the power of the trust in finance, in manufacturing, in politics, and in the field of labor control can hardly be measured.
The Corporation and Labor.—In the development of the corporation there was to be observed a distinct severing of the old ties between master and workmen, which existed in the days of small industries. For the personal bond between the owner and the employees was substituted a new relation. "In most parts of our country," as President Wilson once said, "men work, not for themselves, not as partners in the old way in which they used to work, but generally as employees—in a higher or lower grade—of great corporations." The owner disappeared from the factory and in his place came the manager, representing the usually invisible stockholders and dependent for his success upon his ability to make profits for the owners. Hence the term "soulless corporation," which was to exert such a deep influence on American thinking about industrial relations.
Cities and Immigration.—Expressed in terms of human life, this era of unprecedented enterprise meant huge industrial cities and an immense labor supply, derived mainly from European immigration. Here, too, figures tell only a part of the story. In Washington's day nine-tenths of the American people were engaged in agriculture and lived in the country; in 1890 more than one-third of the population dwelt in towns of 2500 and over; in 1920 more than half of the population lived in towns of over 2500. In forty years, between 1860 and 1900, Greater New York had grown from 1,174,000 to 3,437,000; San Francisco from 56,000 to 342,000; Chicago from 109,000 to 1,698,000. The miles of city tenements began to rival, in the number of their residents, the farm homesteads of the West. The time so dreaded by Jefferson had arrived. People were "piled upon one another in great cities" and the republic of small farmers had passed away.
To these industrial centers flowed annually an ever-increasing tide of immigration, reaching the half million point in 1880; rising to three-quarters of a million three years later; and passing the million mark in a single year at the opening of the new century. Immigration was as old as America but new elements now entered the situation. In the first place, there were radical changes in the nationality of the newcomers. The migration from Northern Europe—England, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia—diminished; that from Italy, Russia, and Austria-Hungary increased, more than three-fourths of the entire number coming from these three lands between the years 1900 and 1910. These later immigrants were Italians, Poles, Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks, Russians, and Jews, who came from countries far removed from the language and the traditions of England whence came the founders of America.
In the second place, the reception accorded the newcomers differed from that given to the immigrants in the early days. By 1890 all the free land was gone. They could not, therefore, be dispersed widely among the native Americans to assimilate quickly and unconsciously the habits and ideas of American life. On the contrary, they were diverted mainly to the industrial centers. There they crowded—nay, overcrowded—into colonies of their own where they preserved their languages, their newspapers, and their old-world customs and views.
So eager were American business men to get an enormous labor supply that they asked few questions about the effect of this "alien invasion" upon the old America inherited from the fathers. They even stimulated the invasion artificially by importing huge armies of foreigners under contract to work in specified mines and mills. There seemed to be no limit to the factories, forges, refineries, and railways that could be built, to the multitudes that could be employed in conquering a continent. As for the future, that was in the hands of Providence!
Business Theories of Politics.—As the statesmen of Hamilton's school and the planters of Calhoun's had their theories of government and politics, so the leaders in business enterprise had theirs. It was simple and easily stated. "It is the duty of the government," they urged, "to protect American industry against foreign competition by means of high tariffs on imported goods, to aid railways by generous grants of land, to sell mineral and timber lands at low prices to energetic men ready to develop them, and then to leave the rest to the initiative and drive of individuals and companies." All government interference with the management, prices, rates, charges, and conduct of private business they held to be either wholly pernicious or intolerably impertinent. Judging from their speeches and writings, they conceived the nation as a great collection of individuals, companies, and labor unions all struggling for profits or high wages and held together by a government whose principal duty was to keep the peace among them and protect industry against the foreign manufacturer. Such was the political theory of business during the generation that followed the Civil War.
The Supremacy of the Republican Party (1861-85)Business Men and Republican Policies.—Most of the leaders in industry gravitated to the Republican ranks. They worked in the North and the Republican party was essentially Northern. It was moreover—at least so far as the majority of its members were concerned—committed to protective tariffs, a sound monetary and banking system, the promotion of railways and industry by land grants, and the development of internal improvements. It was furthermore generous in its immigration policy. It proclaimed America to be an asylum for the oppressed of all countries and flung wide the doors for immigrants eager to fill the factories, man the mines, and settle upon Western lands. In a word the Republicans stood for all those specific measures which favored the enlargement and prosperity of business. At the same time they resisted government interference with private enterprise. They did not regulate railway rates, prosecute trusts for forming combinations, or prevent railway companies from giving lower rates to some shippers than to others. To sum it up, the political theories of the Republican party for three decades after the Civil War were the theories of American business—prosperous and profitable industries for the owners and "the full dinner pail" for the workmen. Naturally a large portion of those who flourished under its policies gave their support to it, voted for its candidates, and subscribed to its campaign funds.
Sources of Republican Strength in the North.—The Republican party was in fact a political organization of singular power. It originated in a wave of moral enthusiasm, having attracted to itself, if not the abolitionists, certainly all those idealists, like James Russell Lowell and George William Curtis, who had opposed slavery when opposition was neither safe nor popular. To moral principles it added practical considerations. Business men had confidence in it. Workingmen, who longed for the independence of the farmer, owed to its indulgent land policy the opportunity of securing free homesteads in the West. The immigrant, landing penniless on these shores, as a result of the same beneficent system, often found himself in a little while with an estate as large as many a baronial domain in the Old World. Under a Republican administration, the union had been saved. To it the veterans of the war could turn with confidence for those rewards of service which the government could bestow: pensions surpassing in liberality anything that the world had ever seen. Under a Republican administration also the great debt had been created in the defense of the union, and to the Republican party every investor in government bonds could look for the full and honorable discharge of the interest and principal. The spoils system, inaugurated by Jacksonian Democracy, in turn placed all the federal offices in Republican hands, furnishing an army of party workers to be counted on for loyal service in every campaign.
Of all these things Republican leaders made full and vigorous use, sometimes ascribing to the party, in accordance with ancient political usage, merits and achievements not wholly its own. Particularly was this true in the case of saving the union. "When in the economy of Providence, this land was to be purged of human slavery ... the Republican party came into power," ran a declaration in one platform. "The Republican party suppressed a gigantic rebellion, emancipated four million slaves, decreed the equal citizenship of all, and established universal suffrage," ran another. As for the aid rendered by the millions of Northern Democrats who stood by the union and the tens of thousands of them who actually fought in the union army, the Republicans in their zeal were inclined to be oblivious. They repeatedly charged the Democratic party "with being the same in character and spirit as when it sympathized with treason."
Republican Control of the South.—To the strength enjoyed in the North, the Republicans for a long time added the advantages that came from control over the former Confederate states where the newly enfranchised negroes, under white leadership, gave a grateful support to the party responsible for their freedom. In this branch of politics, motives were so mixed that no historian can hope to appraise them all at their proper values. On the one side of the ledger must be set the vigorous efforts of the honest and sincere friends of the freedmen to win for them complete civil and political equality, wiping out not only slavery but all its badges of misery and servitude. On the same side must be placed the labor of those who had valiantly fought in forum and field to save the union and who regarded continued Republican supremacy after the war as absolutely necessary to prevent the former leaders in secession from coming back to power. At the same time there were undoubtedly some men of the baser sort who looked on politics as a game and who made use of "carpet-bagging" in the South to win the spoils that might result from it. At all events, both by laws and presidential acts, the Republicans for many years kept a keen eye upon the maintenance of their dominion in the South. Their declaration that neither the law nor its administration should admit any discrimination in respect of citizens by reason of race, color, or previous condition of servitude appealed to idealists and brought results in elections. Even South Carolina, where reposed the ashes of John C. Calhoun, went Republican in 1872 by a vote of three to one!
Republican control was made easy by the force bills described in a previous chapter—measures which vested the supervision of elections in federal officers appointed by Republican Presidents. These drastic measures, departing from American tradition, the Republican authors urged, were necessary to safeguard the purity of the ballot, not merely in the South where the timid freedman might readily be frightened from using it; but also in the North, particularly in New York City, where it was claimed that fraud was regularly practiced by Democratic leaders.
The Democrats, on their side, indignantly denied the charges, replying that the force bills were nothing but devices created by the Republicans for the purpose of securing their continued rule through systematic interference with elections. Even the measures of reconstruction were deemed by Democratic leaders as thinly veiled schemes to establish Republican power throughout the country. "Nor is there the slightest doubt," exclaimed Samuel J. Tilden, spokesman of the Democrats in New York and candidate for President in 1876, "that the paramount object and motive of the Republican party is by these means to secure itself against a reaction of opinion adverse to it in our great populous Northern commonwealths.... When the Republican party resolved to establish negro supremacy in the ten states in order to gain to itself the representation of those states in Congress, it had to begin by governing the people of those states by the sword.... The next was the creation of new electoral bodies for those ten states, in which, by exclusions, by disfranchisements and proscriptions, by control over registration, by applying test oaths ... by intimidation and by every form of influence, three million negroes are made to predominate over four and a half million whites."
The War as a Campaign Issue.—Even the repeal of force bills could not allay the sectional feelings engendered by the war. The Republicans could not forgive the men who had so recently been in arms against the union and insisted on calling them "traitors" and "rebels." The Southerners, smarting under the reconstruction acts, could regard the Republicans only as political oppressors. The passions of the war had been too strong; the distress too deep to be soon forgotten. The generation that went through it all remembered it all. For twenty years, the Republicans, in their speeches and platforms, made "a straight appeal to the patriotism of the Northern voters." They maintained that their party, which had saved the union and emancipated the slaves, was alone worthy of protecting the union and uplifting the freedmen.
Though the Democrats, especially in the North, resented this policy and dubbed it with the expressive but inelegant phrase, "waving the bloody shirt," the Republicans refused to surrender a slogan which made such a ready popular appeal. As late as 1884, a leader expressed the hope that they might "wring one more President from the bloody shirt." They refused to let the country forget that the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, had escaped military service by hiring a substitute; and they made political capital out of the fact that he had "insulted the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic" by going fishing on Decoration Day.
Three Republican Presidents.—Fortified by all these elements of strength, the Republicans held the presidency from 1869 to 1885. The three Presidents elected in this period, Grant, Hayes, and Garfield, had certain striking characteristics in common. They were all of origin humble enough to please the most exacting Jacksonian Democrat. They had been generals in the union army. Grant, next to Lincoln, was regarded as the savior of the Constitution. Hayes and Garfield, though lesser lights in the military firmament, had honorable records duly appreciated by veterans of the war, now thoroughly organized into the Grand Army of the Republic. It is true that Grant was not a politician and had never voted the Republican ticket; but this was readily overlooked. Hayes and Garfield on the other hand were loyal party men. The former had served in Congress and for three terms as governor of his state. The latter had long been a member of the House of Representatives and was Senator-elect when he received the nomination for President.
All of them possessed, moreover, another important asset, which was not forgotten by the astute managers who led in selecting candidates. All of them were from Ohio—though Grant had been in Illinois when the summons to military duties came—and Ohio was a strategic state. It lay between the manufacturing East and the agrarian country to the West. Having growing industries and wool to sell it benefited from the protective tariff. Yet being mainly agricultural still, it was not without sympathy for the farmers who showed low tariff or free trade tendencies. Whatever share the East had in shaping laws and framing policies, it was clear that the West was to have the candidates. This division in privileges—not uncommon in political management—was always accompanied by a judicious selection of the candidate for Vice President. With Garfield, for example, was associated a prominent New York politician, Chester A. Arthur, who, as fate decreed, was destined to more than three years' service as chief magistrate, on the assassination of his superior in office.
The Disputed Election of 1876.—While taking note of the long years of Republican supremacy, it must be recorded that grave doubts exist in the minds of many historians as to whether one of the three Presidents, Hayes, was actually the victor in 1876 or not. His Democratic opponent, Samuel J. Tilden, received a popular plurality of a quarter of a million and had a plausible claim to a majority of the electoral vote. At all events, four states sent in double returns, one set for Tilden and another for Hayes; and a deadlock ensued. Both parties vehemently claimed the election and the passions ran so high that sober men did not shrink from speaking of civil war again. Fortunately, in the end, the counsels of peace prevailed. Congress provided for an electoral commission of fifteen men to review the contested returns. The Democrats, inspired by Tilden's moderation, accepted the judgment in favor of Hayes even though they were not convinced that he was really entitled to the office.
The Growth of Opposition to Republican RuleAbuses in American Political Life.—During their long tenure of office, the Republicans could not escape the inevitable consequences of power; that is, evil practices and corrupt conduct on the part of some who found shelter within the party. For that matter neither did the Democrats manage to avoid such difficulties in those states and cities where they had the majority. In New York City, for instance, the local Democratic organization, known as Tammany Hall, passed under the sway of a group of politicians headed by "Boss" Tweed. He plundered the city treasury until public-spirited citizens, supported by Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic leader of the state, rose in revolt, drove the ringleader from power, and sent him to jail. In Philadelphia, the local Republican bosses were guilty of offenses as odious as those committed by New York politicians. Indeed, the decade that followed the Civil War was marred by so many scandals in public life that one acute editor was moved to inquire: "Are not all the great communities of the Western World growing more corrupt as they grow in wealth?"
In the sphere of national politics, where the opportunities were greater, betrayals of public trust were even more flagrant. One revelation after another showed officers, high and low, possessed with the spirit of peculation. Members of Congress, it was found, accepted railway stock in exchange for votes in favor of land grants and other concessions to the companies. In the administration as well as the legislature the disease was rife. Revenue officers permitted whisky distillers to evade their taxes and received heavy bribes in return. A probe into the post-office department revealed the malodorous "star route frauds"—the deliberate overpayment of certain mail carriers whose lines were indicated in the official record by asterisks or stars. Even cabinet officers did not escape suspicion, for the trail of the serpent led straight to the door of one of them.
In the lower ranges of official life, the spoils system became more virulent as the number of federal employees increased. The holders of offices and the seekers after them constituted a veritable political army. They crowded into Republican councils, for the Republicans, being in power, could alone dispense federal favors. They filled positions in the party ranging from the lowest township committee to the national convention. They helped to nominate candidates and draft platforms and elbowed to one side the busy citizen, not conversant with party intrigues, who could only give an occasional day to political matters. Even the Civil Service Act of 1883, wrung from a reluctant Congress two years after the assassination of Garfield, made little change for a long time. It took away from the spoilsmen a few thousand government positions, but it formed no check on the practice of rewarding party workers from the public treasury.
On viewing this state of affairs, many a distinguished citizen became profoundly discouraged. James Russell Lowell, for example, thought he saw a steady decline in public morals. In 1865, hearing of Lee's surrender, he had exclaimed: "There is something magnificent in having a country to love!" Ten years later, when asked to write an ode for the centennial at Philadelphia in 1876, he could think only of a biting satire on the nation:
"Show your state legislatures; show your Rings; And challenge Europe to produce such things As high officials sitting half in sight To share the plunder and fix things right. If that don't fetch her, why, you need only To show your latest style in martyrs,—Tweed: She'll find it hard to hide her spiteful tears At such advance in one poor hundred years."
The Reform Movement in Republican Ranks.—The sentiments expressed by Lowell, himself a Republican and for a time American ambassador to England, were shared by many men in his party. Very soon after the close of the Civil War some of them began to protest vigorously against the policies and conduct of their leaders. In 1872, the dissenters, calling themselves Liberal Republicans, broke away altogether, nominated a candidate of their own, Horace Greeley, and put forward a platform indicting the Republican President fiercely enough to please the most uncompromising Democrat. They accused Grant of using "the powers and opportunities of his high office for the promotion of personal ends." They charged him with retaining "notoriously corrupt and unworthy men in places of power and responsibility." They alleged that the Republican party kept "alive the passions and resentments of the late civil war to use them for their own advantages," and employed the "public service of the government as a machinery of corruption and personal influence."
It was not apparent, however, from the ensuing election that any considerable number of Republicans accepted the views of the Liberals. Greeley, though indorsed by the Democrats, was utterly routed and died of a broken heart. The lesson of his discomfiture seemed to be that independent action was futile. So, at least, it was regarded by most men of the rising generation like Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachusetts, and Theodore Roosevelt, of New York. Profiting by the experience of Greeley they insisted in season and out that reformers who desired to rid the party of abuses should remain loyal to it and do their work "on the inside."
The Mugwumps and Cleveland Democracy in 1884.—Though aided by Republican dissensions, the Democrats were slow in making headway against the political current. They were deprived of the energetic and capable leadership once afforded by the planters, like Calhoun, Davis, and Toombs; they were saddled by their opponents with responsibility for secession; and they were stripped of the support of the prostrate South. Not until the last Southern state was restored to the union, not until a general amnesty was wrung from Congress, not until white supremacy was established at the polls, and the last federal soldier withdrawn from Southern capitals did they succeed in capturing the presidency.
The opportune moment for them came in 1884 when a number of circumstances favored their aspirations. The Republicans, leaving the Ohio Valley in their search for a candidate, nominated James G. Blaine of Maine, a vigorous and popular leader but a man under fire from the reformers in his own party. The Democrats on their side were able to find at this juncture an able candidate who had no political enemies in the sphere of national politics, Grover Cleveland, then governor of New York and widely celebrated as a man of "sterling honesty." At the same time a number of dissatisfied Republicans openly espoused the Democratic cause,—among them Carl Schurz, George William Curtis, Henry Ward Beecher, and William Everett, men of fine ideals and undoubted integrity. Though the "regular" Republicans called them "Mugwumps" and laughed at them as the "men milliners, the dilettanti, and carpet knights of politics," they had a following that was not to be despised.
The campaign which took place that year was one of the most savage in American history. Issues were thrust into the background. The tariff, though mentioned, was not taken seriously. Abuse of the opposition was the favorite resource of party orators. The Democrats insisted that "the Republican party so far as principle is concerned is a reminiscence. In practice it is an organization for enriching those who control its machinery." For the Republican candidate, Blaine, they could hardly find words to express their contempt. The Republicans retaliated in kind. They praised their own good works, as of old, in saving the union, and denounced the "fraud and violence practiced by the Democracy in the Southern states." Seeing little objectionable in the public record of Cleveland as mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York, they attacked his personal character. Perhaps never in the history of political campaigns did the discussions on the platform and in the press sink to so low a level. Decent people were sickened. Even hot partisans shrank from their own words when, after the election, they had time to reflect on their heedless passions. Moreover, nothing was decided by the balloting. Cleveland was elected, but his victory was a narrow one. A change of a few hundred votes in New York would have sent his opponent to the White House instead.
Changing Political Fortunes (1888-96).—After the Democrats had settled down to the enjoyment of their hard-earned victory, President Cleveland in his message of 1887 attacked the tariff as "vicious, inequitable, and illogical"; as a system of taxation that laid a burden upon "every consumer in the land for the benefit of our manufacturers." Business enterprise was thoroughly alarmed. The Republicans characterized the tariff message as a free-trade assault upon the industries of the country. Mainly on that issue they elected in 1888 Benjamin Harrison of Indiana, a shrewd lawyer, a reticent politician, a descendant of the hero of Tippecanoe, and a son of the old Northwest. Accepting the outcome of the election as a vindication of their principles, the Republicans, under the leadership of William McKinley in the House of Representatives, enacted in 1890 a tariff law imposing the highest duties yet laid in our history. To their utter surprise, however, they were instantly informed by the country that their program was not approved. That very autumn they lost in the congressional elections, and two years later they were decisively beaten in the presidential campaign, Cleveland once more leading his party to victory.
ReferencesL.H. Haney, Congressional History of Railways (2 vols.).
J.P. Davis, Union Pacific Railway.
J.M. Swank, History of the Manufacture of Iron.
M.T. Copeland, The Cotton Manufacturing Industry in the United States (Harvard Studies).
E.W. Bryce, Progress of Invention in the Nineteenth Century.
Ida Tarbell, History of the Standard Oil Company (Critical).
G.H. Montague, Rise and Progress of the Standard Oil Company (Friendly).
H.P. Fairchild, Immigration, and F.J. Warne, The Immigrant Invasion (Both works favor exclusion).
I.A. Hourwich, Immigration (Against exclusionist policies).
J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States, 1877-1896, Vol. VIII.
Edward Stanwood, A History of the Presidency, Vol. I, for the presidential elections of the period.
Questions1. Contrast the state of industry and commerce at the close of the Civil War with its condition at the close of the Revolutionary War.
2. Enumerate the services rendered to the nation by the railways.
3. Explain the peculiar relation of railways to government.
4. What sections of the country have been industrialized?
5. How do you account for the rise and growth of the trusts? Explain some of the economic advantages of the trust.
6. Are the people in cities more or less independent than the farmers? What was Jefferson's view?
7. State some of the problems raised by unrestricted immigration.
8. What was the theory of the relation of government to business in this period? Has it changed in recent times?
9. State the leading economic policies sponsored by the Republican party.
10. Why were the Republicans especially strong immediately after the Civil War?
11. What illustrations can you give showing the influence of war in American political campaigns?
12. Account for the strength of middle-western candidates.
13. Enumerate some of the abuses that appeared in American political life after 1865.
14. Sketch the rise and growth of the reform movement.
15. How is the fluctuating state of public opinion reflected in the elections from 1880 to 1896?
Research TopicsInvention, Discovery, and Transportation.—Sparks, National Development (American Nation Series), pp. 37-67; Bogart, Economic History of the United States, Chaps. XXI, XXII, and XXIII.
Business and Politics.—Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 92-107; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VII, pp. 1-29, 64-73, 175-206; Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. IV, pp. 78-96.
Immigration.—Coman, Industrial History of the United States (2d ed.), pp. 369-374; E.L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States, pp. 420-422, 434-437; Jenks and Lauck, Immigration Problems, Commons, Races and Immigrants.
The Disputed Election of 1876.—Haworth, The United States in Our Own Time, pp. 82-94; Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic (American Nation Series), pp. 294-341; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 835-841.
Abuses in Political Life.—Dunning, Reconstruction, pp. 281-293; see criticisms in party platforms in Stanwood, History of the Presidency, Vol. I; Bryce, American Commonwealth (1910 ed.), Vol. II, pp. 379-448; 136-167.
Studies of Presidential Administrations.—(a) Grant, (b) Hayes, (c) Garfield-Arthur, (d) Cleveland, and (e) Harrison, in Haworth, The United States in Our Own Time, or in Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), or still more briefly in Elson.
Cleveland Democracy.—Haworth, The United States, pp. 164-183; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 240-327; Elson, pp. 857-887.
Analysis of Modern Immigration Problems.—Syllabus in History (New York State, 1919), pp. 110-112.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREAT WESTAt the close of the Civil War, Kansas and Texas were sentinel states on the middle border. Beyond the Rockies, California, Oregon, and Nevada stood guard, the last of them having been just admitted to furnish another vote for the fifteenth amendment abolishing slavery. Between the near and far frontiers lay a vast reach of plain, desert, plateau, and mountain, almost wholly undeveloped. A broad domain, extending from Canada to Mexico, and embracing the regions now included in Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma, had fewer than half a million inhabitants. It was laid out into territories, each administered under a governor appointed by the President and Senate and, as soon as there was the requisite number of inhabitants, a legislature elected by the voters. No railway line stretched across the desert. St. Joseph on the Missouri was the terminus of the Eastern lines. It required twenty-five days for a passenger to make the overland journey to California by the stagecoach system, established in 1858, and more than ten days for the swift pony express, organized in 1860, to carry a letter to San Francisco. Indians still roamed the plain and desert and more than one powerful tribe disputed the white man's title to the soil.
The Railways As Trail BlazersOpening Railways to the Pacific.—A decade before the Civil War the importance of rail connection between the East and the Pacific Coast had been recognized. Pressure had already been brought to bear on Congress to authorize the construction of a line and to grant land and money in its aid. Both the Democrats and Republicans approved the idea, but it was involved in the slavery controversy. Indeed it was submerged in it. Southern statesmen wanted connections between the Gulf and the Pacific through Texas, while Northerners stood out for a central route.
The North had its way during the war. Congress, by legislation initiated in 1862, provided for the immediate organization of companies to build a line from the Missouri River to California and made grants of land and loans of money to aid in the enterprise. The Western end, the Central Pacific, was laid out under the supervision of Leland Stanford. It was heavily financed by the Mormons of Utah and also by the state government, the ranchmen, miners, and business men of California; and it was built principally by Chinese labor. The Eastern end, the Union Pacific, starting at Omaha, was constructed mainly by veterans of the Civil War and immigrants from Ireland and Germany. In 1869 the two companies met near Ogden in Utah and the driving of the last spike, uniting the Atlantic and the Pacific, was the occasion of a great demonstration.
Other lines to the Pacific were projected at the same time; but the panic of 1873 checked railway enterprise for a while. With the revival of prosperity at the end of that decade, construction was renewed with vigor and the year 1883 marked a series of railway triumphs. In February trains were running from New Orleans through Houston, San Antonio, and Yuma to San Francisco, as a result of a union of the Texas Pacific with the Southern Pacific and its subsidiary corporations. In September the last spike was driven in the Northern Pacific at Helena, Montana. Lake Superior was connected with Puget Sound. The waters explored by Joliet and Marquette were joined to the waters plowed by Sir Francis Drake while he was searching for a route around the world. That same year also a third line was opened to the Pacific by way of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé, making connections through Albuquerque and Needles with San Francisco. The fondest hopes of railway promoters seemed to be realized.
Western Railways Precede Settlement.—In the Old World and on our Atlantic seaboard, railways followed population and markets. In the Far West, railways usually preceded the people. Railway builders planned cities on paper before they laid tracks connecting them. They sent missionaries to spread the gospel of "Western opportunity" to people in the Middle West, in the Eastern cities, and in Southern states. Then they carried their enthusiastic converts bag and baggage in long trains to the distant Dakotas and still farther afield. So the development of the Far West was not left to the tedious processes of time. It was pushed by men of imagination—adventurers who made a romance of money-making and who had dreams of empire unequaled by many kings of the past.
These empire builders bought railway lands in huge tracts; they got more from the government; they overcame every obstacle of cañon, mountain, and stream with the aid of science; they built cities according to the plans made by the engineers. Having the towns ready and railway and steamboat connections formed with the rest of the world, they carried out the people to use the railways, the steamships, the houses, and the land. It was in this way that "the frontier speculator paved the way for the frontier agriculturalist who had to be near a market before he could farm." The spirit of this imaginative enterprise, which laid out railways and towns in advance of the people, is seen in an advertisement of that day: "This extension will run 42 miles from York, northeast through the Island Lake country, and will have five good North Dakota towns. The stations on the line will be well equipped with elevators and will be constructed and ready for operation at the commencement of the grain season. Prospective merchants have been active in securing desirable locations at the different towns on the line. There are still opportunities for hotels, general merchandise, hardware, furniture, and drug stores, etc."
Among the railway promoters and builders in the West, James J. Hill, of the Great Northern and allied lines, was one of the most forceful figures. He knew that tracks and trains were useless without passengers and freight; without a population of farmers and town dwellers. He therefore organized publicity in the Virginias, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska especially. He sent out agents to tell the story of Western opportunity in this vein: "You see your children come out of school with no chance to get farms of their own because the cost of land in your older part of the country is so high that you can't afford to buy land to start your sons out in life around you. They have to go to the cities to make a living or become laborers in the mills or hire out as farm hands. There is no future for them there. If you are doing well where you are and can safeguard the future of your children and see them prosper around you, don't leave here. But if you want independence, if you are renting your land, if the money-lender is carrying you along and you are running behind year after year, you can do no worse by moving.... You farmers talk of free trade and protection and what this or that political party will do for you. Why don't you vote a homestead for yourself? That is the only thing Uncle Sam will ever give you. Jim Hill hasn't an acre of land to sell you. We are not in the real estate business. We don't want you to go out West and make a failure of it because the rates at which we haul you and your goods make the first transaction a loss.... We must have landless men for a manless land."
Unlike steamship companies stimulating immigration to get the fares, Hill was seeking permanent settlers who would produce, manufacture, and use the railways as the means of exchange. Consequently he fixed low rates and let his passengers take a good deal of live stock and household furniture free. By doing this he made an appeal that was answered by eager families. In 1894 the vanguard of home seekers left Indiana in fourteen passenger coaches, filled with men, women, and children, and forty-eight freight cars carrying their household goods and live stock. In the ten years that followed, 100,000 people from the Middle West and the South, responding to his call, went to the Western country where they brought eight million acres of prairie land under cultivation.
When Hill got his people on the land, he took an interest in everything that increased the productivity of their labor. Was the output of food for his freight cars limited by bad drainage on the farms? Hill then interested himself in practical ways of ditching and tiling. Were farmers hampered in hauling their goods to his trains by bad roads? In that case, he urged upon the states the improvement of highways. Did the traffic slacken because the food shipped was not of the best quality? Then live stock must be improved and scientific farming promoted. Did the farmers need credit? Banks must be established close at hand to advance it. In all conferences on scientific farm management, conservation of natural resources, banking and credit in relation to agriculture and industry, Hill was an active participant. His was the long vision, seeing in conservation and permanent improvements the foundation of prosperity for the railways and the people.
Indeed, he neglected no opportunity to increase the traffic on the lines. He wanted no empty cars running in either direction and no wheat stored in warehouses for the lack of markets. So he looked to the Orient as well as to Europe as an outlet for the surplus of the farms. He sent agents to China and Japan to discover what American goods and produce those countries would consume and what manufactures they had to offer to Americans in exchange. To open the Pacific trade he bought two ocean monsters, the Minnesota and the Dakota, thus preparing for emergencies West as well as East. When some Japanese came to the United States on their way to Europe to buy steel rails, Hill showed them how easy it was for them to make their purchase in this country and ship by way of American railways and American vessels. So the railway builder and promoter, who helped to break the virgin soil of the prairies, lived through the pioneer epoch and into the age of great finance. Before he died he saw the wheat fields of North Dakota linked with the spinning jennies of Manchester and the docks of Yokohama.
The Evolution of Grazing and AgricultureThe Removal of the Indians.—Unlike the frontier of New England in colonial days or that of Kentucky later, the advancing lines of home builders in the Far West had little difficulty with warlike natives. Indian attacks were made on the railway construction gangs; General Custer had his fatal battle with the Sioux in 1876 and there were minor brushes; but they were all of relatively slight consequence. The former practice of treating with the Indians as independent nations was abandoned in 1871 and most of them were concentrated in reservations where they were mainly supported by the government. The supervision of their affairs was vested in a board of commissioners created in 1869 and instructed to treat them as wards of the nation—a trust which unfortunately was often betrayed. A further step in Indian policy was taken in 1887 when provision was made for issuing lands to individual Indians, thus permitting them to become citizens and settle down among their white neighbors as farmers or cattle raisers. The disappearance of the buffalo, the main food supply of the wild Indians, had made them more tractable and more willing to surrender the freedom of the hunter for the routine of the reservation, ranch, or wheat field.
The Cowboy and Cattle Ranger.—Between the frontier of farms and the mountains were plains and semi-arid regions in vast reaches suitable for grazing. As soon as the railways were open into the Missouri Valley, affording an outlet for stock, there sprang up to the westward cattle and sheep raising on an immense scale. The far-famed American cowboy was the hero in this scene. Great herds of cattle were bred in Texas; with the advancing spring and summer seasons, they were driven northward across the plains and over the buffalo trails. In a single year, 1884, it is estimated that nearly one million head of cattle were moved out of Texas to the North by four thousand cowboys, supplied with 30,000 horses and ponies.
During the two decades from 1870 to 1890 both the cattle men and the sheep raisers had an almost free run of the plains, using public lands without paying for the privilege and waging war on one another over the possession of ranges. At length, however, both had to go, as the homesteaders and land companies came and fenced in the plain and desert with endless lines of barbed wire. Already in 1893 a writer familiar with the frontier lamented the passing of the picturesque days: "The unique position of the cowboys among the Americans is jeopardized in a thousand ways. Towns are growing up on their pasture lands; irrigation schemes of a dozen sorts threaten to turn bunch-grass scenery into farm-land views; farmers are pre-empting valleys and the sides of waterways; and the day is not far distant when stock-raising must be done mainly in small herds, with winter corrals, and then the cowboy's days will end. Even now his condition disappoints those who knew him only half a dozen years ago. His breed seems to have deteriorated and his ranks are filling with men who work for wages rather than for the love of the free life and bold companionship that once tempted men into that calling. Splendid Cheyenne saddles are less and less numerous in the outfits; the distinctive hat that made its way up from Mexico may or may not be worn; all the civil authorities in nearly all towns in the grazing country forbid the wearing of side arms; nobody shoots up these towns any more. The fact is the old simon-pure cowboy days are gone already."
Settlement under the Homestead Act of 1862.—Two factors gave a special stimulus to the rapid settlement of Western lands which swept away the Indians and the cattle rangers. The first was the policy of the railway companies in selling large blocks of land received from the government at low prices to induce immigration. The second was the operation of the Homestead law passed in 1862. This measure practically closed the long controversy over the disposition of the public domain that was suitable for agriculture. It provided for granting, without any cost save a small registration fee, public lands in lots of 160 acres each to citizens and aliens who declared their intention of becoming citizens. The one important condition attached was that the settler should occupy the farm for five years before his title was finally confirmed. Even this stipulation was waived in the case of the Civil War veterans who were allowed to count their term of military service as a part of the five years' occupancy required. As the soldiers of the Revolutionary and Mexican wars had advanced in great numbers to the frontier in earlier days, so now veterans led in the settlement of the middle border. Along with them went thousands of German, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrants, fresh from the Old World. Between 1867 and 1874, 27,000,000 acres were staked out in quarter-section farms. In twenty years (1860-80), the population of Nebraska leaped from 28,000 to almost half a million; Kansas from 100,000 to a million; Iowa from 600,000 to 1,600,000; and the Dakotas from 5000 to 140,000.
The Diversity of Western Agriculture.—In soil, produce, and management, Western agriculture presented many contrasts to that of the East and South. In the region of arable and watered lands the typical American unit—the small farm tilled by the owner—appeared as usual; but by the side of it many a huge domain owned by foreign or Eastern companies and tilled by hired labor. Sometimes the great estate took the shape of the "bonanza farm" devoted mainly to wheat and corn and cultivated on a large scale by machinery. Again it assumed the form of the cattle ranch embracing tens of thousands of acres. Again it was a vast holding of diversified interest, such as the Santa Anita ranch near Los Angeles, a domain of 60,000 acres "cultivated in a glorious sweep of vineyards and orange and olive orchards, rich sheep and cattle pastures and horse ranches, their life and customs handed down from the Spanish owners of the various ranches which were swept into one estate."
Irrigation.—In one respect agriculture in the Far West was unique. In a large area spreading through eight states, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of adjoining states, the rainfall was so slight that the ordinary crops to which the American farmer was accustomed could not be grown at all. The Mormons were the first Anglo-Saxons to encounter aridity, and they were baffled at first; but they studied it and mastered it by magnificent irrigation systems. As other settlers poured into the West the problem of the desert was attacked with a will, some of them replying to the commiseration of Eastern farmers by saying that it was easier to scoop out an irrigation ditch than to cut forests and wrestle with stumps and stones. Private companies bought immense areas at low prices, built irrigation works, and disposed of their lands in small plots. Some ranchers with an instinct for water, like that of the miner for metal, sank wells into the dry sand and were rewarded with gushers that "soused the thirsty desert and turned its good-for-nothing sand into good-for-anything loam." The federal government came to the aid of the arid regions in 1894 by granting lands to the states to be used for irrigation purposes. In this work Wyoming took the lead with a law which induced capitalists to invest in irrigation and at the same time provided for the sale of the redeemed lands to actual settlers. Finally in 1902 the federal government by its liberal Reclamation Act added its strength to that of individuals, companies, and states in conquering "arid America."
"Nowhere," writes Powell, a historian of the West, in his picturesque End of the Trail, "has the white man fought a more courageous fight or won a more brilliant victory than in Arizona. His weapons have been the transit and the level, the drill and the dredge, the pick and the spade; and the enemy which he has conquered has been the most stubborn of all foes—the hostile forces of Nature.... The story of how the white man within the space of less than thirty years penetrated, explored, and mapped this almost unknown region; of how he carried law, order, and justice into a section which had never had so much as a speaking acquaintance with any one of the three before; of how, realizing the necessity for means of communication, he built highways of steel across this territory from east to west and from north to south; of how, undismayed by the savageness of the countenance which the desert turned upon him, he laughed and rolled up his sleeves, and spat upon his hands, and slashed the face of the desert with canals and irrigating ditches, and filled those ditches with water brought from deep in the earth or high in the mountains; and of how, in the conquered and submissive soil, he replaced the aloe with alfalfa, the mesquite with maize, the cactus with cotton, forms one of the most inspiring chapters in our history. It is one of the epics of civilization, this reclamation of the Southwest, and its heroes, thank God, are Americans.
"Other desert regions have been redeemed by irrigation—Egypt, for example, and Mesopotamia and parts of the Sudan—but the people of all those regions lay stretched out in the shade of a convenient palm, metaphorically speaking, and waited for some one with more energy than themselves to come along and do the work. But the Arizonians, mindful of the fact that God, the government, and Carnegie help those who help themselves, spent their days wielding the pick and shovel, and their evenings in writing letters to Washington with toil-hardened hands. After a time the government was prodded into action and the great dams at Laguna and Roosevelt are the result. Then the people, organizing themselves into coöperative leagues and water-users' associations, took up the work of reclamation where the government left off; it is to these energetic, persevering men who have drilled wells, plowed fields, and dug ditches through the length and breadth of that great region which stretches from Yuma to Tucson, that the metamorphosis of Arizona is due."
The effect of irrigation wherever introduced was amazing. Stretches of sand and sagebrush gave way to fertile fields bearing crops of wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables, and grass. Huge ranches grazed by browsing sheep were broken up into small plots. The cowboy and ranchman vanished. In their place rose the prosperous community—a community unlike the township of Iowa or the industrial center of the East. Its intensive tillage left little room for hired labor. Its small holdings drew families together in village life rather than dispersing them on the lonely plain. Often the development of water power in connection with irrigation afforded electricity for labor-saving devices and lifted many a burden that in other days fell heavily upon the shoulders of the farmer and his family.
Mining and Manufacturing in the WestMineral Resources.—In another important particular the Far West differed from the Mississippi Valley states. That was in the predominance of mining over agriculture throughout a vast section. Indeed it was the minerals rather than the land that attracted the pioneers who first opened the country. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 was the signal for the great rush of prospectors, miners, and promoters who explored the valleys, climbed the hills, washed the sands, and dug up the soil in their feverish search for gold, silver, copper, coal, and other minerals. In Nevada and Montana the development of mineral resources went on all during the Civil War. Alder Gulch became Virginia City in 1863; Last Chance Gulch was named Helena in 1864; and Confederate Gulch was christened Diamond City in 1865. At Butte the miners began operations in 1864 and within five years had washed out eight million dollars' worth of gold. Under the gold they found silver; under silver they found copper.
Even at the end of the nineteenth century, after agriculture was well advanced and stock and sheep raising introduced on a large scale, minerals continued to be the chief source of wealth in a number of states. This was revealed by the figures for 1910. The gold, silver, iron, and copper of Colorado were worth more than the wheat, corn, and oats combined; the copper of Montana sold for more than all the cereals and four times the price of the wheat. The interest of Nevada was also mainly mining, the receipts from the mineral output being $43,000,000 or more than one-half the national debt of Hamilton's day. The yield of the mines of Utah was worth four or five times the wheat crop; the coal of Wyoming brought twice as much as the great wool clip; the minerals of Arizona were totaled at $43,000,000 as against a wool clip reckoned at $1,200,000; while in Idaho alone of this group of states did the wheat crop exceed in value the output of the mines.
Timber Resources.—The forests of the great West, unlike those of the Ohio Valley, proved a boon to the pioneers rather than a foe to be attacked. In Ohio and Indiana, for example, the frontier line of homemakers had to cut, roll, and burn thousands of trees before they could put out a crop of any size. Beyond the Mississippi, however, there were all ready for the breaking plow great reaches of almost treeless prairie, where every stick of timber was precious. In the other parts, often rough and mountainous, where stood primeval forests of the finest woods, the railroads made good use of the timber. They consumed acres of forests themselves in making ties, bridge timbers, and telegraph poles, and they laid a heavy tribute upon the forests for their annual upkeep. The surplus trees, such as had burdened the pioneers of the Northwest Territory a hundred years before, they carried off to markets on the east and west coasts.
Western Industries.—The peculiar conditions of the Far West stimulated a rise of industries more rapid than is usual in new country. The mining activities which in many sections preceded agriculture called for sawmills to furnish timber for the mines and smelters to reduce and refine ores. The ranches supplied sheep and cattle for the packing houses of Kansas City as well as Chicago. The waters of the Northwest afforded salmon for 4000 cases in 1866 and for 1,400,000 cases in 1916. The fruits and vegetables of California brought into existence innumerable canneries. The lumber industry, starting with crude sawmills to furnish rough timbers for railways and mines, ended in specialized factories for paper, boxes, and furniture. As the railways preceded settlement and furnished a ready outlet for local manufactures, so they encouraged the early establishment of varied industries, thus creating a state of affairs quite unlike that which obtained in the Ohio Valley in the early days before the opening of the Erie Canal.
Social Effects of Economic Activities.—In many respects the social life of the Far West also differed from that of the Ohio Valley. The treeless prairies, though open to homesteads, favored the great estate tilled in part by tenant labor and in part by migratory seasonal labor, summoned from all sections of the country for the harvests. The mineral resources created hundreds of huge fortunes which made the accumulations of eastern mercantile families look trivial by comparison. Other millionaires won their fortunes in the railway business and still more from the cattle and sheep ranges. In many sections the "cattle king," as he was called, was as dominant as the planter had been in the old South. Everywhere in the grazing country he was a conspicuous and important person. He "sometimes invested money in banks, in railroad stocks, or in city property.... He had his rating in the commercial reviews and could hobnob with bankers, railroad presidents, and metropolitan merchants.... He attended party caucuses and conventions, ran for the state legislature, and sometimes defeated a lawyer or metropolitan 'business man' in the race for a seat in Congress. In proportion to their numbers, the ranchers ... have constituted a highly impressive class."
Although many of the early capitalists of the great West, especially from Nevada, spent their money principally in the East, others took leadership in promoting the sections in which they had made their fortunes. A railroad pioneer, General Palmer, built his home at Colorado Springs, founded the town, and encouraged local improvements. Denver owed its first impressive buildings to the civic patriotism of Horace Tabor, a wealthy mine owner. Leland Stanford paid his tribute to California in the endowment of a large university. Colonel W.F. Cody, better known as "Buffalo Bill," started his career by building a "boom town" which collapsed, and made a large sum of money supplying buffalo meat to construction hands (hence his popular name). By his famous Wild West Show, he increased it to a fortune which he devoted mainly to the promotion of a western reclamation scheme.
While the Far West was developing this vigorous, aggressive leadership in business, a considerable industrial population was springing up. Even the cattle ranges and hundreds of farms were conducted like factories in that they were managed through overseers who hired plowmen, harvesters, and cattlemen at regular wages. At the same time there appeared other peculiar features which made a lasting impression on western economic life. Mining, lumbering, and fruit growing, for instance, employed thousands of workers during the rush months and turned them out at other times. The inevitable result was an army of migratory laborers wandering from camp to camp, from town to town, and from ranch to ranch, without fixed homes or established habits of life. From this extraordinary condition there issued many a long and lawless conflict between capital and labor, giving a distinct color to the labor movement in whole sections of the mountain and coast states.
The Admission of New StatesThe Spirit of Self-Government.—The instinct of self-government was strong in the western communities. In the very beginning, it led to the organization of volunteer committees, known as "vigilantes," to suppress crime and punish criminals. As soon as enough people were settled permanently in a region, they took care to form a more stable kind of government. An illustration of this process is found in the Oregon compact made by the pioneers in 1843, the spirit of which is reflected in an editorial in an old copy of the Rocky Mountain News: "We claim that any body or community of American citizens which from any cause or under any circumstances is cut off from or from isolation is so situated as not to be under any active and protecting branch of the central government, have a right, if on American soil, to frame a government and enact such laws and regulations as may be necessary for their own safety, protection, and happiness, always with the condition precedent, that they shall, at the earliest moment when the central government shall extend an effective organization and laws over them, give it their unqualified support and obedience."
People who turned so naturally to the organization of local administration were equally eager for admission to the union as soon as any shadow of a claim to statehood could be advanced. As long as a region was merely one of the territories of the United States, the appointment of the governor and other officers was controlled by politics at Washington. Moreover the disposition of land, mineral rights, forests, and water power was also in the hands of national leaders. Thus practical considerations were united with the spirit of independence in the quest for local autonomy.
Nebraska and Colorado.—Two states, Nebraska and Colorado, had little difficulty in securing admission to the union. The first, Nebraska, had been organized as a territory by the famous Kansas-Nebraska bill which did so much to precipitate the Civil War. Lying to the north of Kansas, which had been admitted in 1861, it escaped the invasion of slave owners from Missouri and was settled mainly by farmers from the North. Though it claimed a population of only 67,000, it was regarded with kindly interest by the Republican Congress at Washington and, reduced to its present boundaries, it received the coveted statehood in 1867.
This was hardly accomplished before the people of Colorado to the southwest began to make known their demands. They had been organized under territorial government in 1861 when they numbered only a handful; but within ten years the aspect of their affairs had completely changed. The silver and gold deposits of the Leadville and Cripple Creek regions had attracted an army of miners and prospectors. The city of Denver, founded in 1858 and named after the governor of Kansas whence came many of the early settlers, had grown from a straggling camp of log huts into a prosperous center of trade. By 1875 it was reckoned that the population of the territory was not less than one hundred thousand; the following year Congress, yielding to the popular appeal, made Colorado a member of the American union.
Six New States (1889-1890).—For many years there was a deadlock in Congress over the admission of new states. The spell was broken in 1889 under the leadership of the Dakotas. For a long time the Dakota territory, organized in 1861, had been looked upon as the home of the powerful Sioux Indians whose enormous reservation blocked the advance of the frontier. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills, however, marked their doom. Even before Congress could open their lands to prospectors, pioneers were swarming over the country. Farmers from the adjoining Minnesota and the Eastern states, Scandinavians, Germans, and Canadians, came in swelling waves to occupy the fertile Dakota lands, now famous even as far away as the fjords of Norway. Seldom had the plow of man cut through richer soil than was found in the bottoms of the Red River Valley, and it became all the more precious when the opening of the Northern Pacific in 1883 afforded a means of transportation east and west. The population, which had numbered 135,000 in 1880, passed the half million mark before ten years had elapsed.
Remembering that Nebraska had been admitted with only 67,000 inhabitants, the Dakotans could not see why they should be kept under federal tutelage. At the same time Washington, far away on the Pacific Coast, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, boasting of their populations and their riches, put in their own eloquent pleas. But the members of Congress were busy with politics. The Democrats saw no good reason for admitting new Republican states until after their defeat in 1888. Near the end of their term the next year they opened the door for North and South Dakota, Washington, and Montana. In 1890, a Republican Congress brought Idaho and Wyoming into the union, the latter with woman suffrage, which had been granted twenty-one years before.
Utah.—Although Utah had long presented all the elements of a well-settled and industrious community, its admission to the union was delayed on account of popular hostility to the practice of polygamy. The custom, it is true, had been prohibited by act of Congress in 1862; but the law had been systematically evaded. In 1882 Congress made another and more effective effort to stamp out polygamy. Five years later it even went so far as to authorize the confiscation of the property of the Mormon Church in case the practice of plural marriages was not stopped. Meanwhile the Gentile or non-Mormon population was steadily increasing and the leaders in the Church became convinced that the battle against the sentiment of the country was futile. At last in 1896 Utah was admitted as a state under a constitution which forbade plural marriages absolutely and forever. Horace Greeley, who visited Utah in 1859, had prophesied that the Pacific Railroad would work a revolution in the land of Brigham Young. His prophecy had come true.
Rounding out the Continent.—Three more territories now remained out of the Union. Oklahoma, long an Indian reservation, had been opened for settlement to white men in 1889. The rush upon the fertile lands of this region, the last in the history of America, was marked by all the frenzy of the final, desperate chance. At a signal from a bugle an army of men with families in wagons, men and women on horseback and on foot, burst into the territory. During the first night a city of tents was raised at Guthrie and Oklahoma City. In ten days wooden houses rose on the plains. In a single year there were schools, churches, business blocks, and newspapers. Within fifteen years there was a population of more than half a million. To the west, Arizona with a population of about 125,000 and New Mexico with 200,000 inhabitants joined Oklahoma in asking for statehood. Congress, then Republican, looked with reluctance upon the addition of more Democratic states; but in 1907 it was literally compelled by public sentiment and a sense of justice to admit Oklahoma. In 1910 the House of Representatives went to the Democrats and within two years Arizona and New Mexico were "under the roof." So the continental domain was rounded out.
The Influence of the Far West on National LifeThe Last of the Frontier.—When Horace Greeley made his trip west in 1859 he thus recorded the progress of civilization in his journal:
"May 12th, Chicago.—Chocolate and morning journals last seen on the hotel breakfast table.
23rd, Leavenworth (Kansas).—Room bells and bath tubs make their final appearance.
26th, Manhattan.—Potatoes and eggs last recognized among the blessings that 'brighten as they take their flight.'
27th, Junction City.—Last visitation of a boot-black, with dissolving views of a board bedroom. Beds bid us good-by."
23rd, Leavenworth (Kansas).—Room bells and bath tubs make their final appearance.
26th, Manhattan.—Potatoes and eggs last recognized among the blessings that 'brighten as they take their flight.'
27th, Junction City.—Last visitation of a boot-black, with dissolving views of a board bedroom. Beds bid us good-by."
and with it that frontier of pioneers and settlers who had long given such a bent and tone to American life and had "poured in upon the floor of Congress" such a long line of "backwoods politicians," as they were scornfully styled.
Free Land and Eastern Labor.—It was not only the picturesque features of the frontier that were gone. Of far more consequence was the disappearance of free lands with all that meant for American labor. For more than a hundred years, any man of even moderate means had been able to secure a homestead of his own and an independent livelihood. For a hundred years America had been able to supply farms to as many immigrants as cared to till the soil. Every new pair of strong arms meant more farms and more wealth. Workmen in Eastern factories, mines, or mills who did not like their hours, wages, or conditions of labor, could readily find an outlet to the land. Now all that was over. By about 1890 most of the desirable land available under the Homestead act had disappeared. American industrial workers confronted a new situation.
Grain Supplants King Cotton.—In the meantime a revolution was taking place in agriculture. Until 1860 the chief staples sold by America were cotton and tobacco. With the advance of the frontier, corn and wheat supplanted them both in agrarian economy. The West became the granary of the East and of Western Europe. The scoop shovel once used to handle grain was superseded by the towering elevator, loading and unloading thousands of bushels every hour. The refrigerator car and ship made the packing industry as stable as the production of cotton or corn, and gave an immense impetus to cattle raising and sheep farming. So the meat of the West took its place on the English dinner table by the side of bread baked from Dakotan wheat.
Aid in American Economic Independence.—The effects of this economic movement were manifold and striking. Billions of dollars' worth of American grain, dairy produce, and meat were poured into European markets where they paid off debts due money lenders and acquired capital to develop American resources. Thus they accelerated the progress of American financiers toward national independence. The country, which had timidly turned to the Old World for capital in Hamilton's day and had borrowed at high rates of interest in London in Lincoln's day, moved swiftly toward the time when it would be among the world's first bankers and money lenders itself. Every grain of wheat and corn pulled the balance down on the American side of the scale.
Eastern Agriculture Affected.—In the East as well as abroad the opening of the western granary produced momentous results. The agricultural economy of that part of the country was changed in many respects. Whole sections of the poorest land went almost out of cultivation, the abandoned farms of the New England hills bearing solemn witness to the competing power of western wheat fields. Sheep and cattle raising, as well as wheat and corn production, suffered at least a relative decline. Thousands of farmers cultivating land of the lower grade were forced to go West or were driven to the margin of subsistence. Even the herds that supplied Eastern cities with milk were fed upon grain brought halfway across the continent.
The Expansion of the American Market.—Upon industry as well as agriculture, the opening of vast food-producing regions told in a thousand ways. The demand for farm machinery, clothing, boots, shoes, and other manufactures gave to American industries such a market as even Hamilton had never foreseen. Moreover it helped to expand far into the Mississippi Valley the industrial area once confined to the Northern seaboard states and to transform the region of the Great Lakes into an industrial empire. Herein lies the explanation of the growth of mid-western cities after 1865. Chicago, with its thirty-five railways, tapped every locality of the West and South. To the railways were added the water routes of the Lakes, thus creating a strategic center for industries. Long foresight carried the McCormick reaper works to Chicago before 1860. From Troy, New York, went a large stove plant. That was followed by a shoe factory from Massachusetts. The packing industry rose as a matter of course at a point so advantageous for cattle raisers and shippers and so well connected with Eastern markets.
To the opening of the Far West also the Lake region was indebted for a large part of that water-borne traffic which made it "the Mediterranean basin of North America." The produce of the West and the manufactures of the East poured through it in an endless stream. The swift growth of shipbuilding on the Great Lakes helped to compensate for the decline of the American marine on the high seas. In response to this stimulus Detroit could boast that her shipwrights were able to turn out a ten thousand ton Leviathan for ore or grain about "as quickly as carpenters could put up an eight-room house." Thus in relation to the Far West the old Northwest territory—the wilderness of Jefferson's time—had taken the position formerly occupied by New England alone. It was supplying capital and manufactures for a vast agricultural empire West and South.
America on the Pacific.—It has been said that the Mediterranean Sea was the center of ancient civilization; that modern civilization has developed on the shores of the Atlantic; and that the future belongs to the Pacific. At any rate, the sweep of the United States to the shores of the Pacific quickly exercised a powerful influence on world affairs and it undoubtedly has a still greater significance for the future.
Very early regular traffic sprang up between the Pacific ports and the Hawaiian Islands, China, and Japan. Two years before the adjustment of the Oregon controversy with England, namely in 1844, the United States had established official and trading relations with China. Ten years later, four years after the admission of California to the union, the barred door of Japan was forced open by Commodore Perry. The commerce which had long before developed between the Pacific ports and Hawaii, China, and Japan now flourished under official care. In 1865 a ship from Honolulu carried sugar, molasses, and fruits from Hawaii to the Oregon port of Astoria. The next year a vessel from Hongkong brought rice, mats, and tea from China. An era of lucrative trade was opened. The annexation of Hawaii in 1898, the addition of the Philippines at the same time, and the participation of American troops in the suppression of the Boxer rebellion in Peking in 1900, were but signs and symbols of American power on the Pacific.
Conservation and the Land Problem.—The disappearance of the frontier also brought new and serious problems to the governments of the states and the nation. The people of the whole United States suddenly were forced to realize that there was a limit to the rich, new land to exploit and to the forests and minerals awaiting the ax and the pick. Then arose in America the questions which had long perplexed the countries of the Old World—the scientific use of the soils and conservation of natural resources. Hitherto the government had followed the easy path of giving away arable land and selling forest and mineral lands at low prices. Now it had to face far more difficult and complex problems. It also had to consider questions of land tenure again, especially if the ideal of a nation of home-owning farmers was to be maintained. While there was plenty of land for every man or woman who wanted a home on the soil, it made little difference if single landlords or companies got possession of millions of acres, if a hundred men in one western river valley owned 17,000,000 acres; but when the good land for small homesteads was all gone, then was raised the real issue. At the opening of the twentieth century the nation, which a hundred years before had land and natural resources apparently without limit, was compelled to enact law after law conserving its forests and minerals. Then it was that the great state of California, on the very border of the continent, felt constrained to enact a land settlement measure providing government assistance in an effort to break up large holdings into small lots and to make it easy for actual settlers to acquire small farms. America was passing into a new epoch.
ReferencesHenry Inman, The Old Santa Fé Trail.
R.I. Dodge, The Plains of the Great West (1877).
C.H. Shinn, The Story of the Mine.
Cy Warman, The Story of the Railroad.
Emerson Hough, The Story of the Cowboy.
H.H. Bancroft is the author of many works on the West but his writings will be found only in the larger libraries.
Joseph Schafer, History of the Pacific Northwest (ed. 1918).
T.H. Hittel, History of California (4 vols.).
W.H. Olin, American Irrigation Farming.
W.E. Smythe, The Conquest of Arid America.
H.A. Millis, The American-Japanese Problem.
E.S. Meany, History of the State of Washington.
H.K. Norton, The Story of California.
Questions1. Name the states west of the Mississippi in 1865.
2. In what manner was the rest of the western region governed?
3. How far had settlement been carried?
4. What were the striking physical features of the West?
5. How was settlement promoted after 1865?
6. Why was admission to the union so eagerly sought?
7. Explain how politics became involved in the creation of new states.
8. Did the West rapidly become like the older sections of the country?
9. What economic peculiarities did it retain or develop?
10. How did the federal government aid in western agriculture?
11. How did the development of the West affect the East? The South?
12. What relation did the opening of the great grain areas of the West bear to the growth of America's commercial and financial power?
13. State some of the new problems of the West.
14. Discuss the significance of American expansion to the Pacific Ocean.
Research TopicsThe Passing of the Wild West.—Haworth, The United States in Our Own Times, pp. 100-124.
The Indian Question.—Sparks, National Development (American Nation Series), pp. 265-281.
The Chinese Question.—Sparks, National Development, pp. 229-250; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 180-196.
The Railway Age.—Schafer, History of the Pacific Northwest, pp. 230-245; E.V. Smalley, The Northern Pacific Railroad; Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 20-26, especially the map on p. 23, and pp. 142-148.
Agriculture and Business.—Schafer, Pacific Northwest, pp. 246-289.
Ranching in the Northwest.—Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life, and Autobiography, pp. 103-143.
The Conquest of the Desert.—W.E. Smythe, The Conquest of Arid America.
Studies of Individual Western States.—Consult any good encyclopedia.
DOMESTIC ISSUES BEFORE THE COUNTRY (1865-1897)For thirty years after the Civil War the leading political parties, although they engaged in heated presidential campaigns, were not sharply and clearly opposed on many matters of vital significance. During none of that time was there a clash of opinion over specific issues such as rent the country in 1800 when Jefferson rode a popular wave to victory, or again in 1828 when Jackson's western hordes came sweeping into power. The Democrats, who before 1860 definitely opposed protective tariffs, federal banking, internal improvements, and heavy taxes, now spoke cautiously on all these points. The Republicans, conscious of the fact that they had been a minority of the voters in 1860 and warned by the early loss of the House of Representatives in 1874, also moved with considerable prudence among the perplexing problems of the day. Again and again the votes in Congress showed that no clear line separated all the Democrats from all the Republicans. There were Republicans who favored tariff reductions and "cheap money." There were Democrats who looked with partiality upon high protection or with indulgence upon the contraction of the currency. Only on matters relating to the coercion of the South was the division between the parties fairly definite; this could be readily accounted for on practical as well as sentimental grounds.
After all, the vague criticisms and proposals that found their way into the political platforms did but reflect the confusion of mind prevailing in the country. The fact that, out of the eighteen years between 1875 and 1893, the Democrats held the House of Representatives for fourteen years while the Republicans had every President but one showed that the voters, like the politicians, were in a state of indecision. Hayes had a Democratic House during his entire term and a Democratic Senate for two years of the four. Cleveland was confronted by a belligerent Republican majority in the Senate during his first administration; and at the same time was supported by a Democratic majority in the House. Harrison was sustained by continuous Republican successes in Senatorial elections; but in the House he had the barest majority from 1889 to 1891 and lost that altogether at the election held in the middle of his term. The opinion of the country was evidently unsettled and fluctuating. It was still distracted by memories of the dead past and uncertain as to the trend of the future.
The Currency QuestionNevertheless these years of muddled politics and nebulous issues proved to be a period in which social forces were gathering for the great campaign of 1896. Except for three new features—the railways, the trusts, and the trade unions—the subjects of debate among the people were the same as those that had engaged their attention since the foundation of the republic: the currency, the national debt, banking, the tariff, and taxation.
Debtors and the Fall in Prices.—For many reasons the currency question occupied the center of interest. As of old, the farmers and planters of the West and South were heavily in debt to the East for borrowed money secured by farm mortgages; and they counted upon the sale of cotton, corn, wheat, and hogs to meet interest and principal when due. During the war, the Western farmers had been able to dispose of their produce at high prices and thus discharge their debts with comparative ease; but after the war prices declined. Wheat that sold at two dollars a bushel in 1865 brought sixty-four cents twenty years later. The meaning of this for the farmers in debt—and nearly three-fourths of them were in that class—can be shown by a single illustration. A thousand-dollar mortgage on a Western farm could be paid off by five hundred bushels of wheat when prices were high; whereas it took about fifteen hundred bushels to pay the same debt when wheat was at the bottom of the scale. For the farmer, it must be remembered, wheat was the measure of his labor, the product of his toil under the summer sun; and in its price he found the test of his prosperity.
Creditors and Falling Prices.—To the bondholders or creditors, on the other hand, falling prices were clear gain. If a fifty-dollar coupon on a bond bought seventy or eighty bushels of wheat instead of twenty or thirty, the advantage to the owner of the coupon was obvious. Moreover the advantage seemed to him entirely just. Creditors had suffered heavy losses when the Civil War carried prices skyward while the interest rates on their old bonds remained stationary. For example, if a man had a $1000 bond issued before 1860 and paying interest at five per cent, he received fifty dollars a year from it. Before the war each dollar would buy a bushel of wheat; in 1865 it would only buy half a bushel. When prices—that is, the cost of living—began to go down, creditors therefore generally regarded the change with satisfaction as a return to normal conditions.
The Cause of Falling Prices.—The fall in prices was due, no doubt, to many factors. Among them must be reckoned the discontinuance of government buying for war purposes, labor-saving farm machinery, immigration, and the opening of new wheat-growing regions. The currency, too, was an element in the situation. Whatever the cause, the discontented farmers believed that the way to raise prices was to issue more money. They viewed it as a case of supply and demand. If there was a small volume of currency in circulation, prices would be low; if there was a large volume, prices would be high. Hence they looked with favor upon all plans to increase the amount of money in circulation. First they advocated more paper notes—greenbacks—and then they turned to silver as the remedy. The creditors, on the other hand, naturally approved the reduction of the volume of currency. They wished to see the greenbacks withdrawn from circulation and gold—a metal more limited in volume than silver—made the sole basis of the national monetary system.
The Battle over the Greenbacks.—The contest between these factions began as early as 1866. In that year, Congress enacted a law authorizing the Treasury to withdraw the greenbacks from circulation. The paper money party set up a shrill cry of protest, and kept up the fight until, in 1878, it forced Congress to provide for the continuous re-issue of the legal tender notes as they came into the Treasury in payment of taxes and other dues. Then could the friends of easy money rejoice:
"Thou, Greenback, 'tis of thee Fair money of the free, Of thee we sing."
The Specie Problem—the Parity of Gold and Silver.—Defeated in their efforts to stop "the present suicidal and destructive policy of contraction," the advocates of an abundant currency demanded an increase in the volume of silver in circulation. This precipitated one of the sharpest political battles in American history. The issue turned on legal as well as economic points. The Constitution gave Congress the power to coin money and it forbade the states to make anything but gold and silver legal tender in the payment of debts. It evidently contemplated the use of both metals in the currency system. Such, at least, was the view of many eminent statesmen, including no less a personage than James G. Blaine. The difficulty, however, lay in maintaining gold and silver coins on a level which would permit them to circulate with equal facility. Obviously, if the gold in a gold dollar exceeds the value of the silver in a silver dollar on the open market, men will hoard gold money and leave silver money in circulation. When, for example, Congress in 1792 fixed the ratio of the two metals at one to fifteen—one ounce of gold declared worth fifteen of silver—it was soon found that gold had been undervalued. When again in 1834 the ratio was put at one to sixteen, it was found that silver was undervalued. Consequently the latter metal was not brought in for coinage and silver almost dropped out of circulation. Many a silver dollar was melted down by silverware factories.
Silver Demonetized in 1873.—So things stood in 1873. At that time, Congress, in enacting a mintage law, discontinued the coinage of the standard silver dollar, then practically out of circulation. This act was denounced later by the friends of silver as "the crime of '73," a conspiracy devised by the money power and secretly carried out. This contention the debates in Congress do not seem to sustain. In the course of the argument on the mint law it was distinctly said by one speaker at least: "This bill provides for the making of changes in the legal tender coin of the country and for substituting as legal tender, coin of only one metal instead of two as heretofore."
The Decline in the Value of Silver.—Absorbed in the greenback controversy, the people apparently did not appreciate, at the time, the significance of the "demonetization" of silver; but within a few years several events united in making it the center of a political storm. Germany, having abandoned silver in 1871, steadily increased her demand for gold. Three years later, the countries of the Latin Union followed this example, thus helping to enhance the price of the yellow metal. All the while, new silver lodes, discovered in the Far West, were pouring into the market great streams of the white metal, bearing down the price. Then came the resumption of specie payment, which, in effect, placed the paper money on a gold basis. Within twenty years silver was worth in gold only about half the price of 1870.
That there had been a real decline in silver was denied by the friends of that metal. They alleged that gold had gone up because it had been given a monopoly in the coinage markets of civilized governments. This monopoly, they continued, was the fruit of a conspiracy against the people conceived by the bankers of the world. Moreover, they went on, the placing of the greenbacks on a gold basis had itself worked a contraction of the currency; it lowered the prices of labor and produce to the advantage of the holders of long-term investments bearing a fixed rate of interest. When wheat sold at sixty-four cents a bushel, their search for relief became desperate, and they at last concentrated their efforts on opening the mints of the government for the free coinage of silver at the ratio of sixteen to one.
Republicans and Democrats Divided.—On this question both Republicans and Democrats were divided, the line being drawn between the East on the one hand and the South and West on the other, rather than between the two leading parties. So trusted a leader as James G. Blaine avowed, in a speech delivered in the Senate in 1878, that, as the Constitution required Congress to make both gold and silver the money of the land, the only question left was that of fixing the ratio between them. He affirmed, moreover, the main contention of the silver faction that a reopening of the government mints of the world to silver would bring it up to its old relation with gold. He admitted also that their most ominous warnings were well founded, saying: "I believe the struggle now going on in this country and in other countries for a single gold standard would, if successful, produce widespread disaster throughout the commercial world. The destruction of silver as money and the establishment of gold as the sole unit of value must have a ruinous effect on all forms of property, except those investments which yield a fixed return."
This was exactly the concession that the silver party wanted. "Three-fourths of the business enterprises of this country are conducted on borrowed capital," said Senator Jones, of Nevada. "Three-fourths of the homes and farms that stand in the names of the actual occupants have been bought on time and a very large proportion of them are mortgaged for the payment of some part of the purchase money. Under the operation of a shrinkage in the volume of money, this enormous mass of borrowers, at the maturity of their respective debts, though nominally paying no more than the amount borrowed, with interest, are in reality, in the amount of the principal alone, returning a percentage of value greater than they received—more in equity than they contracted to pay.... In all discussions of the subject the creditors attempt to brush aside the equities involved by sneering at the debtors."
The Silver Purchase Act (1878).—Even before the actual resumption of specie payment, the advocates of free silver were a power to be reckoned with, particularly in the Democratic party. They had a majority in the House of Representatives in 1878 and they carried a silver bill through that chamber. Blocked by the Republican Senate they accepted a compromise in the Bland-Allison bill, which provided for huge monthly purchases of silver by the government for coinage into dollars. So strong was the sentiment that a two-thirds majority was mustered after President Hayes vetoed the measure.
The effect of this act, as some had anticipated, was disappointing. It did not stay silver on its downward course. Thereupon the silver faction pressed through Congress in 1886 a bill providing for the issue of paper certificates based on the silver accumulated in the Treasury. Still silver continued to fall. Then the advocates of inflation declared that they would be content with nothing short of free coinage at the ratio of sixteen to one. If the issue had been squarely presented in 1890, there is good reason for believing that free silver would have received a majority in both houses of Congress; but it was not presented.
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the Bond Sales.—Republican leaders, particularly from the East, stemmed the silver tide by a diversion of forces. They passed the Sherman Act of 1890 providing for large monthly purchases of silver and for the issue of notes redeemable in gold or silver at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. In a clause of superb ambiguity they announced that it was "the established policy of the United States to maintain the two metals on a parity with each other upon the present legal ratio or such other ratio as may be provided by law." For a while silver was buoyed up. Then it turned once more on its downward course. In the meantime the Treasury was in a sad plight. To maintain the gold reserve, President Cleveland felt compelled to sell government bonds; and to his dismay he found that as soon as the gold was brought in at the front door of the Treasury, notes were presented for redemption and the gold was quickly carried out at the back door. Alarmed at the vicious circle thus created, he urged upon Congress the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. For this he was roundly condemned by many of his own followers who branded his conduct as "treason to the party"; but the Republicans, especially from the East, came to his rescue and in 1893 swept the troublesome sections of the law from the statute book. The anger of the silver faction knew no bounds, and the leaders made ready for the approaching presidential campaign.
The Protective Tariff and TaxationFluctuation in Tariff Policy.—As each of the old parties was divided on the currency question, it is not surprising that there was some confusion in their ranks over the tariff. Like the silver issue, the tariff tended to align the manufacturing East against the agricultural West and South rather than to cut directly between the two parties. Still the Republicans on the whole stood firmly by the rates imposed during the Civil War. If we except the reductions of 1872 which were soon offset by increases, we may say that those rates were substantially unchanged for nearly twenty years. When a revision was brought about, however, it was initiated by Republican leaders. Seeing a huge surplus of revenue in the Treasury in 1883, they anticipated popular clamor by revising the tariff on the theory that it ought to be reformed by its friends rather than by its enemies. On the other hand, it was the Republicans also who enacted the McKinley tariff bill of 1890, which carried protection to its highest point up to that time.
The Democrats on their part were not all confirmed free traders or even advocates of tariff for revenue only. In Cleveland's first administration they did attack the protective system in the House, where they had a majority, and in this they were vigorously supported by the President. The assault, however, proved to be a futile gesture for it was blocked by the Republicans in the Senate. When, after the sweeping victory of 1892, the Democrats in the House again attempted to bring down the tariff by the Wilson bill of 1894, they were checkmated by their own party colleagues in the upper chamber. In the end they were driven into a compromise that looked more like a McKinley than a Calhoun tariff. The Republicans taunted them with being "babes in the woods." President Cleveland was so dissatisfied with the bill that he refused to sign it, allowing it to become a law, on the lapse of ten days, without his approval.
The Income Tax of 1894.—The advocates of tariff reduction usually associated with their proposal a tax on incomes. The argument which they advanced in support of their program was simple. Most of the industries, they said, are in the East and the protective tariff which taxes consumers for the benefit of manufacturers is, in effect, a tribute laid upon the rest of the country. As an offset they offered a tax on large incomes; this owing to the heavy concentration of rich people in the East, would fall mainly upon the beneficiaries of protection. "We propose," said one of them, "to place a part of the burden upon the accumulated wealth of the country instead of placing it all upon the consumption of the people." In this spirit the sponsors of the Wilson tariff bill laid a tax upon all incomes of $4000 a year or more.
In taking this step, the Democrats encountered opposition in their own party. Senator Hill, of New York, turned fiercely upon them, exclaiming: "The professors with their books, the socialists with their schemes, the anarchists with their bombs are all instructing the people in the ... principles of taxation." Even the Eastern Republicans were hardly as savage in their denunciation of the tax. But all this labor was wasted. The next year the Supreme Court of the United States declared the income tax to be a direct tax, and therefore null and void because it was laid on incomes wherever found and not apportioned among the states according to population. The fact that four of the nine judges dissented from this decision was also an index to the diversity of opinion that divided both parties.
The Railways and TrustsThe Grangers and State Regulation.—The same uncertainty about the railways and trusts pervaded the ranks of the Republicans and Democrats. As to the railways, the first firm and consistent demand for their regulation came from the West. There the farmers, in the early seventies, having got control in state legislatures, particularly in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, enacted drastic laws prescribing the maximum charges which companies could make for carrying freight and passengers. The application of these measures, however, was limited because the state could not fix the rates for transporting goods and passengers beyond its own borders. The power of regulating interstate commerce, under the Constitution, belonged to Congress.
The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.—Within a few years, the movement which had been so effective in western legislatures appeared at Washington in the form of demands for the federal regulation of interstate rates. In 1887, the pressure became so strong that Congress created the interstate commerce commission and forbade many abuses on the part of railways; such as discriminating in charges between one shipper and another and granting secret rebates to favored persons. This law was a significant beginning; but it left the main question of rate-fixing untouched, much to the discontent of farmers and shippers.
The Sherman Anti-Trust Law of 1890.—As in the case of the railways, attacks upon the trusts were first made in state legislatures, where it became the fashion to provide severe penalties for those who formed monopolies and "conspired to enhance prices." Republicans and Democrats united in the promotion of measures of this kind. As in the case of the railways also, the movement to curb the trusts soon had spokesmen at Washington. Though Blaine had declared that "trusts were largely a private affair with which neither the President nor any private citizen had any particular right to interfere," it was a Republican Congress that enacted in 1890 the first measure—the Sherman Anti-Trust Law—directed against great combinations in business. This act declared illegal "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade and commerce among the several states or with foreign nations."
The Futility of the Anti-Trust Law.—Whether the Sherman law was directed against all combinations or merely those which placed an "unreasonable restraint" on trade and competition was not apparent. Senator Platt of Connecticut, a careful statesman of the old school, averred: "The questions of whether the bill would be operative, of how it would operate, or whether it was within the power of Congress to enact it, have been whistled down the wind in this Senate as idle talk and the whole effort has been to get some bill headed: 'A bill to punish trusts,' with which to go to the country." Whatever its purpose, its effect upon existing trusts and upon the formation of new combinations was negligible. It was practically unenforced by President Harrison and President Cleveland, in spite of the constant demand for harsh action against "monopolies." It was patent that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats were prepared for a war on the trusts to the bitter end.
The Minor Parties and UnrestThe Demands of Dissenting Parties.—From the election of 1872, when Horace Greeley made his ill-fated excursion into politics, onward, there appeared in each presidential campaign one, and sometimes two or more parties, stressing issues that appealed mainly to wage-earners and farmers. Whether they chose to call themselves Labor Reformers, Greenbackers, or Anti-monopolists, their slogans and their platforms all pointed in one direction. Even the Prohibitionists, who in 1872 started on their career with a single issue, the abolition of the liquor traffic, found themselves making declarations of faith on other matters and hopelessly split over the money question in 1896.
A composite view of the platforms put forth by the dissenting parties from the administration of Grant to the close of Cleveland's second term reveals certain notions common to them all. These included among many others: the earliest possible payment of the national debt; regulation of the rates of railways and telegraph companies; repeal of the specie resumption act of 1875; the issue of legal tender notes by the government convertible into interest-bearing obligations on demand; unlimited coinage of silver as well as gold; a graduated inheritance tax; legislation to take from "land, railroad, money, and other gigantic corporate monopolies ... the powers they have so corruptly and unjustly usurped"; popular or direct election of United States Senators; woman suffrage; and a graduated income tax, "placing the burden of government on those who can best afford to pay instead of laying it on the farmers and producers."
Criticism of the Old Parties.—To this long program of measures the reformers added harsh and acrid criticism of the old parties and sometimes, it must be said, of established institutions of government. "We denounce," exclaimed the Labor party in 1888, "the Democratic and Republican parties as hopelessly and shamelessly corrupt and by reason of their affiliation with monopolies equally unworthy of the suffrages of those who do not live upon public plunder." "The United States Senate," insisted the Greenbackers, "is a body composed largely of aristocratic millionaires who according to their own party papers generally purchased their elections in order to protect the great monopolies which they represent." Indeed, if their platforms are to be accepted at face value, the Greenbackers believed that the entire government had passed out of the hands of the people.
The Grangers.—This unsparing, not to say revolutionary, criticism of American political life, appealed, it seems, mainly to farmers in the Middle West. Always active in politics, they had, before the Civil War, cast their lot as a rule with one or the other of the leading parties. In 1867, however, there grew up among them an association known as the "Patrons of Husbandry," which was destined to play a large rôle in the partisan contests of the succeeding decades. This society, which organized local lodges or "granges" on principles of secrecy and fraternity, was originally designed to promote in a general way the interests of the farmers. Its political bearings were apparently not grasped at first by its promoters. Yet, appealing as it did to the most active and independent spirits among the farmers and gathering to itself the strength that always comes from organization, it soon found itself in the hands of leaders more or less involved in politics. Where a few votes are marshaled together in a democracy, there is power.
The Greenback Party.—The first extensive activity of the Grangers was connected with the attack on the railways in the Middle West which forced several state legislatures to reduce freight and passenger rates by law. At the same time, some leaders in the movement, no doubt emboldened by this success, launched in 1876 a new political party, popularly known as the Greenbackers, favoring a continued re-issue of the legal tenders. The beginnings were disappointing; but two years later, in the congressional elections, the Greenbackers swept whole sections of the country. Their candidates polled more than a million votes and fourteen of them were returned to the House of Representatives. To all outward signs a new and formidable party had entered the lists.
The sanguine hopes of the leaders proved to be illusory. The quiet operations of the resumption act the following year, a revival of industry from a severe panic which had set in during 1873, the Silver Purchase Act, and the re-issue of Greenbacks cut away some of the grounds of agitation. There was also a diversion of forces to the silver faction which had a substantial support in the silver mine owners of the West. At all events the Greenback vote fell to about 300,000 in the election of 1880. A still greater drop came four years later and the party gave up the ghost, its sponsors returning to their former allegiance or sulking in their tents.
The Rise of the Populist Party.—Those leaders of the old parties who now looked for a happy future unvexed by new factions were doomed to disappointment. The funeral of the Greenback party was hardly over before there arose two other political specters in the agrarian sections: the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, particularly strong in the South and West; and the Farmers' Alliance, operating in the North. By 1890 the two orders claimed over three million members. As in the case of the Grangers many years before, the leaders among them found an easy way into politics. In 1892 they held a convention, nominated a candidate for President, and adopted the name of "People's Party," from which they were known as Populists. Their platform, in every line, breathed a spirit of radicalism. They declared that "the newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; business prostrate; our homes covered with mortgages; and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists.... The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few." Having delivered this sweeping indictment, the Populists put forward their remedies: the free coinage of silver, a graduated income tax, postal savings banks, and government ownership of railways and telegraphs. At the same time they approved the initiative, referendum, and popular election of Senators, and condemned the use of federal troops in labor disputes. On this platform, the Populists polled over a million votes, captured twenty-two presidential electors, and sent a powerful delegation to Congress.
Industrial Distress Augments Unrest.—The four years intervening between the campaign of 1892 and the next presidential election brought forth many events which aggravated the ill-feeling expressed in the portentous platform of Populism. Cleveland, a consistent enemy of free silver, gave his powerful support to the gold standard and insisted on the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act, thus alienating an increasing number of his own party. In 1893 a grave industrial crisis fell upon the land: banks and business houses went into bankruptcy with startling rapidity; factories were closed; idle men thronged the streets hunting for work; and the prices of wheat and corn dropped to a ruinous level. Labor disputes also filled the crowded record. A strike at the Pullman car works in Chicago spread to the railways. Disorders ensued. President Cleveland, against the protests of the governor of Illinois, John P. Altgeld, dispatched troops to the scene of action. The United States district court at Chicago issued an injunction forbidding the president of the Railway Union, Eugene V. Debs, or his assistants to interfere with the transmission of the mails or interstate commerce in any form. For refusing to obey the order, Debs was arrested and imprisoned. With federal troops in possession of the field, with their leader in jail, the strikers gave up the battle, defeated but not subdued. To cap the climax the Supreme Court of the United States, the following year (1895) declared null and void the income tax law just enacted by Congress, thus fanning the flames of Populist discontent all over the West and South.
The Sound Money Battle of 1896Conservative Men Alarmed.—Men of conservative thought and leaning in both parties were by this time thoroughly disturbed. They looked upon the rise of Populism and the growth of labor disputes as the signs of a revolutionary spirit, indeed nothing short of a menace to American institutions and ideals. The income tax law of 1894, exclaimed the distinguished New York advocate, Joseph H. Choate, in an impassioned speech before the Supreme Court, "is communistic in its purposes and tendencies and is defended here upon principles as communistic, socialistic—what shall I call them—populistic as ever have been addressed to any political assembly in the world." Mr. Justice Field in the name of the Court replied: "The present assault upon capital is but the beginning. It will be but the stepping stone to others larger and more sweeping till our political conditions will become a war of the poor against the rich." In declaring the income tax unconstitutional, he believed that he was but averting greater evils lurking under its guise. As for free silver, nearly all conservative men were united in calling it a measure of confiscation and repudiation; an effort of the debtors to pay their obligations with money worth fifty cents on the dollar; the climax of villainies openly defended; a challenge to law, order, and honor.
The Republicans Come Out for the Gold Standard.—It was among the Republicans that this opinion was most widely shared and firmly held. It was they who picked up the gauge thrown down by the Populists, though a host of Democrats, like Cleveland and Hill of New York, also battled against the growing Populist defection in Democratic ranks. When the Republican national convention assembled in 1896, the die was soon cast; a declaration of opposition to free silver save by international agreement was carried by a vote of eight to one. The Republican party, to use the vigorous language of Mr. Lodge, arrayed itself against "not only that organized failure, the Democratic party, but all the wandering forces of political chaos and social disorder ... in these bitter times when the forces of disorder are loose and the wreckers with their false lights gather at the shore to lure the ship of state upon the rocks." Yet it is due to historic truth to state that McKinley, whom the Republicans nominated, had voted in Congress for the free coinage of silver, was widely known as a bimetallist, and was only with difficulty persuaded to accept the unequivocal indorsement of the gold standard which was pressed upon him by his counselors. Having accepted it, however, he proved to be a valiant champion, though his major interest was undoubtedly in the protective tariff. To him nothing was more reprehensible than attempts "to array class against class, 'the classes against the masses,' section against section, labor against capital, 'the poor against the rich,' or interest against interest." Such was the language of his acceptance speech. The whole program of Populism he now viewed as a "sudden, dangerous, and revolutionary assault upon law and order."
The Democratic Convention at Chicago.—Never, save at the great disruption on the eve of the Civil War, did a Democratic national convention display more feeling than at Chicago in 1896. From the opening prayer to the last motion before the house, every act, every speech, every scene, every resolution evoked passions and sowed dissensions. Departing from long party custom, it voted down in anger a proposal to praise the administration of the Democratic President, Cleveland. When the platform with its radical planks, including free silver, was reported, a veritable storm broke. Senator Hill, trembling with emotion, protested against the departure from old tests of Democratic allegiance; against principles that must drive out of the party men who had grown gray in its service; against revolutionary, unwise, and unprecedented steps in the history of the party. Senator Vilas of Wisconsin, in great fervor, avowed that there was no difference in principle between the free coinage of silver—"the confiscation of one-half of the credits of the nation for the benefit of debtors"—and communism itself—"a universal distribution of property." In the triumph of that cause he saw the beginning of "the overthrow of all law, all justice, all security and repose in the social order."
The Crown of Thorns Speech.—The champions of free silver replied in strident tones. They accused the gold advocates of being the aggressors who had assailed the labor and the homes of the people. William Jennings Bryan, of Nebraska, voiced their sentiments in a memorable oration. He declared that their cause "was as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity." He exclaimed that the contest was between the idle holders of idle capital and the toiling millions. Then he named those for whom he spoke—the wage-earner, the country lawyer, the small merchant, the farmer, and the miner. "The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the cross roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York. The farmer ... is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the board of trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go a thousand feet into the earth or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs ... are as much business men as the few financial magnates who in a back room corner the money of the world.... It is for these that we speak. We do not come as aggressors. Ours is not a war of conquest. We are fighting in defense of our homes, our families, and our posterity. We have petitioned and our petitions have been scorned. We have entreated and our entreaties have been disregarded. We have begged and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them.... We shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, 'You shall not press upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.'"
Bryan Nominated.—In all the history of national conventions never had an orator so completely swayed a multitude; not even Yancey in his memorable plea in the Charleston convention of 1860 when, with grave and moving eloquence, he espoused the Southern cause against the impending fates. The delegates, after cheering Mr. Bryan until they could cheer no more, tore the standards from the floor and gathered around the Nebraska delegation to renew the deafening applause. The platform as reported was carried by a vote of two to one and the young orator from the West, hailed as America's Tiberius Gracchus, was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President. The South and West had triumphed over the East. The division was sectional, admittedly sectional—the old combination of power which Calhoun had so anxiously labored to build up a century earlier. The Gold Democrats were repudiated in terms which were clear to all. A few, unable to endure the thought of voting the Republican ticket, held a convention at Indianapolis where, with the sanction of Cleveland, they nominated candidates of their own and endorsed the gold standard in a forlorn hope.
The Democratic Platform.—It was to the call from Chicago that the Democrats gave heed and the Republicans made answer. The platform on which Mr. Bryan stood, unlike most party manifestoes, was explicit in its language and its appeal. It denounced the practice of allowing national banks to issue notes intended to circulate as money on the ground that it was "in derogation of the Constitution," recalling Jackson's famous attack on the Bank in 1832. It declared that tariff duties should be laid "for the purpose of revenue"—Calhoun's doctrine. In demanding the free coinage of silver, it recurred to the practice abandoned in 1873. The income tax came next on the program. The platform alleged that the law of 1894, passed by a Democratic Congress, was "in strict pursuance of the uniform decisions of the Supreme Court for nearly a hundred years," and then hinted that the decision annulling the law might be reversed by the same body "as it may hereafter be constituted."
The appeal to labor voiced by Mr. Bryan in his "crown of thorns" speech was reinforced in the platform. "As labor creates the wealth of the country," ran one plank, "we demand the passage of such laws as may be necessary to protect it in all its rights." Referring to the recent Pullman strike, the passions of which had not yet died away, the platform denounced "arbitrary interference by federal authorities in local affairs as a violation of the Constitution of the United States and a crime against free institutions." A special objection was lodged against "government by injunction as a new and highly dangerous form of oppression by which federal judges, in contempt of the laws of states and rights of citizens, become at once legislators, judges, and executioners." The remedy advanced was a federal law assuring trial by jury in all cases of contempt in labor disputes. Having made this declaration of faith, the Democrats, with Mr. Bryan at the head, raised their standard of battle.
The Heated Campaign.—The campaign which ensued outrivaled in the range of its educational activities and the bitterness of its tone all other political conflicts in American history, not excepting the fateful struggle of 1860. Immense sums of money were contributed to the funds of both parties. Railway, banking, and other corporations gave generously to the Republicans; the silver miners, less lavishly but with the same anxiety, supported the Democrats. The country was flooded with pamphlets, posters, and handbills. Every public forum, from the great auditoriums of the cities to the "red schoolhouses" on the countryside, was occupied by the opposing forces.
Mr. Bryan took the stump himself, visiting all parts of the country in special trains and addressing literally millions of people in the open air. Mr. McKinley chose the older and more formal plan. He received delegations at his home in Canton and discussed the issues of the campaign from his front porch, leaving to an army of well-organized orators the task of reaching the people in their home towns. Parades, processions, and monster demonstrations filled the land with politics. Whole states were polled in advance by the Republicans and the doubtful voters personally visited by men equipped with arguments and literature. Manufacturers, frightened at the possibility of disordered public credit, announced that they would close their doors if the Democrats won the election. Men were dismissed from public and private places on account of their political views, one eminent college president being forced out for advocating free silver. The language employed by impassioned and embittered speakers on both sides roused the public to a state of frenzy, once more showing the lengths to which men could go in personal and political abuse.
The Republican Victory.—The verdict of the nation was decisive. McKinley received 271 of the 447 electoral votes, and 7,111,000 popular votes as against Bryan's 6,509,000. The congressional elections were equally positive although, on account of the composition of the Senate, the "hold-over" Democrats and Populists still enjoyed a power out of proportion to their strength as measured at the polls. Even as it was, the Republicans got full control of both houses—a dominion of the entire government which they were to hold for fourteen years—until the second half of Mr. Taft's administration, when they lost possession of the House of Representatives. The yoke of indecision was broken. The party of sound finance and protective tariffs set out upon its lease of power with untroubled assurance.
Republican Measures and ResultsThe Gold Standard and the Tariff.—Yet strange as it may seem, the Republicans did not at once enact legislation making the gold dollar the standard for the national currency. Not until 1900 did they take that positive step. In his first inaugural President McKinley, as if still uncertain in his own mind or fearing a revival of the contest just closed, placed the tariff, not the money question, in the forefront. "The people have decided," he said, "that such legislation should be had as will give ample protection and encouragement to the industries and development of our country." Protection for American industries, therefore, he urged, is the task before Congress. "With adequate revenue secured, but not until then, we can enter upon changes in our fiscal laws." As the Republicans had only forty-six of the ninety Senators, and at least four of them were known advocates of free silver, the discretion exercised by the President in selecting the tariff for congressional debate was the better part of valor.
Congress gave heed to the warning. Under the direction of Nelson P. Dingley, whose name was given to the bill, a tariff measure levying the highest rates yet laid in the history of American imposts was prepared and driven through the House of Representatives. The opposition encountered in the Senate, especially from the West, was overcome by concessions in favor of that section; but the duties on sugar, tin, steel, lumber, hemp, and in fact all of the essential commodities handled by combinations and trusts, were materially raised.
Growth of Combinations.—The years that followed the enactment of the Dingley law were, whatever the cause, the most prosperous the country had witnessed for many a decade. Industries of every kind were soon running full blast; labor was employed; commerce spread more swiftly than ever to the markets of the world. Coincident with this progress was the organization of the greatest combinations and trusts the world had yet seen. In 1899 the smelters formed a trust with a capital of $65,000,000; in the same year the Standard Oil Company with a capital of over one hundred millions took the place of the old trust; and the Copper Trust was incorporated under the laws of New Jersey, its par value capital being fixed shortly afterward at $175,000,000. A year later the National Sugar Refining Company, of New Jersey, started with a capital of $90,000,000, adopting the policy of issuing to the stockholders no public statement of its earnings or financial condition. Before another twelvemonth had elapsed all previous corporate financing was reduced to small proportions by the flotation of the United States Steel Corporation with a capital of more than a billion dollars, an enterprise set in motion by the famous Morgan banking house of New York.
In nearly all these gigantic undertakings, the same great leaders in finance were more or less intimately associated. To use the language of an eminent authority: "They are all allied and intertwined by their various mutual interests. For instance, the Pennsylvania Railroad interests are on the one hand allied with the Vanderbilts and on the other with the Rockefellers. The Vanderbilts are closely allied with the Morgan group.... Viewed as a whole we find the dominating influences in the trusts to be made up of a network of large and small capitalists, many allied to one another by ties of more or less importance, but all being appendages to or parts of the greater groups which are themselves dependent on and allied with the two mammoth or Rockefeller and Morgan groups. These two mammoth groups jointly ... constitute the heart of the business and commercial life of the nation." Such was the picture of triumphant business enterprise drawn by a financier within a few years after the memorable campaign of 1896.
America had become one of the first workshops of the world. It was, by virtue of the closely knit organization of its business and finance, one of the most powerful and energetic leaders in the struggle of the giants for the business of the earth. The capital of the Steel Corporation alone was more than ten times the total national debt which the apostles of calamity in the days of Washington and Hamilton declared the nation could never pay. American industry, filling domestic markets to overflowing, was ready for new worlds to conquer.
ReferencesF.W. Taussig, Tariff History of the United States.
J.L. Laughlin, Bimetallism in the United States.
A.B. Hepburn, History of Coinage and Currency in the United States.
E.R.A. Seligman, The Income Tax.
S.J. Buck, The Granger Movement (Harvard Studies).
F.H. Dixon, State Railroad Control.
H.R. Meyer, Government Regulation of Railway Rates.
W.Z. Ripley (editor), Trusts, Pools, and Corporations.
R.T. Ely, Monopolies and Trusts.
J.B. Clark, The Control of Trusts.
Questions1. What proof have we that the political parties were not clearly divided over issues between 1865 and 1896?
2. Why is a fall in prices a loss to farmers and a gain to holders of fixed investments?
3. Explain the theory that the quantity of money determines the prices of commodities.
4. Why was it difficult, if not impossible, to keep gold and silver at a parity?
5. What special conditions favored a fall in silver between 1870 and 1896?
6. Describe some of the measures taken to raise the value of silver.
7. Explain the relation between the tariff and the income tax in 1894.
8. How did it happen that the farmers led in regulating railway rates?
9. Give the terms of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. What was its immediate effect?
10. Name some of the minor parties. Enumerate the reforms they advocated.
11. Describe briefly the experiments of the farmers in politics.
12. How did industrial conditions increase unrest?
13. Why were conservative men disturbed in the early nineties?
14. Explain the Republican position in 1896.
15. Give Mr. Bryan's doctrines in 1896. Enumerate the chief features of the Democratic platform.
16. What were the leading measures adopted by the Republicans after their victory in 1896?
Research TopicsGreenbacks and Resumption.—Dewey, Financial History of the United States (6th ed.), Sections 122-125, 154, and 378; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, pp. 446, 566; Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 531-533; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 97-101.
Demonetization and Coinage of Silver.—Dewey, Financial History, Sections 170-173, 186, 189, 194; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 174, 573, 593, 595; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 529-531; Rhodes, History, Vol. VIII, pp. 93-97.
Free Silver and the Campaign of 1896.—Dewey, National Problems (American Nation Series), pp. 220-237, 314-328; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 533-538.
Tariff Revision.—Dewey, Financial History, Sections 167, 180, 181, 187, 192, 196; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 518-525; Rhodes, History, Vol. VIII, pp. 168-179, 346-351, 418-422.
Federal Regulation of Railways.—Dewey, National Problems, pp. 91-111; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 581-590; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 521-523; Rhodes, History, Vol. VIII, pp. 288-292.
The Rise and Regulation of Trusts.—Dewey, National Problems, pp. 188-202; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 591-593.
The Grangers and Populism.—Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 20-37, 177-191, 208-223.
General Analysis of Domestic Problems.—Syllabus in History (New York State, 1920), pp. 137-142.
AMERICA A WORLD POWER (1865-1900)It has now become a fashion, sanctioned by wide usage and by eminent historians, to speak of America, triumphant over Spain and possessed of new colonies, as entering the twentieth century in the rôle of "a world power," for the first time. Perhaps at this late day, it is useless to protest against the currency of the idea. Nevertheless, the truth is that from the fateful moment in March, 1775, when Edmund Burke unfolded to his colleagues in the British Parliament the resources of an invincible America, down to the settlement at Versailles in 1919 closing the drama of the World War, this nation has been a world power, influencing by its example, by its institutions, by its wealth, trade, and arms the course of international affairs. And it should be said also that neither in the field of commercial enterprise nor in that of diplomacy has it been wanting in spirit or ingenuity.
When John Hay, Secretary of State, heard that an American citizen, Perdicaris, had been seized by Raisuli, a Moroccan bandit, in 1904, he wired his brusque message: "We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead." This was but an echo of Commodore Decatur's equally characteristic answer, "Not a minute," given nearly a hundred years before to the pirates of Algiers begging for time to consider whether they would cease preying upon American merchantmen. Was it not as early as 1844 that the American commissioner, Caleb Cushing, taking advantage of the British Opium War on China, negotiated with the Celestial Empire a successful commercial treaty? Did he not then exultantly exclaim: "The laws of the Union follow its citizens and its banner protects them even within the domain of the Chinese Empire"? Was it not almost half a century before the battle of Manila Bay in 1898, that Commodore Perry with an adequate naval force "gently coerced Japan into friendship with us," leading all the nations of the earth in the opening of that empire to the trade of the Occident? Nor is it inappropriate in this connection to recall the fact that the Monroe Doctrine celebrates in 1923 its hundredth
American Foreign Relations (1865-98)French Intrigues in Mexico Blocked.—Between the war for the union and the war with Spain, the Department of State had many an occasion to present the rights of America among the powers of the world. Only a little while after the civil conflict came to a close, it was called upon to deal with a dangerous situation created in Mexico by the ambitions of Napoleon III. During the administration of Buchanan, Mexico had fallen into disorder through the strife of the Liberal and the Clerical parties; the President asked for authority to use American troops to bring to a peaceful haven "a wreck upon the ocean, drifting about as she is impelled by different factions." Our own domestic crisis then intervened.
Observing the United States heavily involved in its own problems, the great powers, England, France, and Spain, decided in the autumn of 1861 to take a hand themselves in restoring order in Mexico. They entered into an agreement to enforce the claims of their citizens against Mexico and to protect their subjects residing in that republic. They invited the United States to join them, and, on meeting a polite refusal, they prepared for a combined military and naval demonstration on their own account. In the midst of this action England and Spain, discovering the sinister purposes of Napoleon, withdrew their troops and left the field to him.
The French Emperor, it was well known, looked with jealousy upon the growth of the United States and dreamed of establishing in the Western hemisphere an imperial power to offset the American republic. Intervention to collect debts was only a cloak for his deeper designs. Throwing off that guise in due time, he made the Archduke Maximilian, a brother of the ruler of Austria, emperor in Mexico, and surrounded his throne by French soldiers, in spite of all protests.
This insolent attack upon the Mexican republic, deeply resented in the United States, was allowed to drift in its course until 1865. At that juncture General Sheridan was dispatched to the Mexican border with a large armed force; General Grant urged the use of the American army to expel the French from this continent. The Secretary of State, Seward, counseled negotiation first, and, applying the Monroe Doctrine, was able to prevail upon Napoleon III to withdraw his troops. Without the support of French arms, the sham empire in Mexico collapsed like a house of cards and the unhappy Maximilian, the victim of French ambition and intrigue, met his death at the hands of a Mexican firing squad.
Alaska Purchased.—The Mexican affair had not been brought to a close before the Department of State was busy with negotiations which resulted in the purchase of Alaska from Russia. The treaty of cession, signed on March 30, 1867, added to the United States a domain of nearly six hundred thousand square miles, a territory larger than Texas and nearly three-fourths the size of the Louisiana purchase. Though it was a distant colony separated from our continental domain by a thousand miles of water, no question of "imperialism" or "colonization foreign to American doctrines" seems to have been raised at the time. The treaty was ratified promptly by the Senate. The purchase price, $7,200,000, was voted by the House of Representatives after the display of some resentment against a system that compelled it to appropriate money to fulfill an obligation which it had no part in making. Seward, who formulated the treaty, rejoiced, as he afterwards said, that he had kept Alaska out of the hands of England.
American Interest in the Caribbean.—Having achieved this diplomatic triumph, Seward turned to the increase of American power in another direction. He negotiated, with Denmark, a treaty providing for the purchase of the islands of St. John and St. Thomas in the West Indies, strategic points in the Caribbean for sea power. This project, long afterward brought to fruition by other men, was defeated on this occasion by the refusal of the Senate to ratify the treaty. Evidently it was not yet prepared to exercise colonial dominion over other races.
Undaunted by the misadventure in Caribbean policies, President Grant warmly advocated the acquisition of Santo Domingo. This little republic had long been in a state of general disorder. In 1869 a treaty of annexation was concluded with its president. The document Grant transmitted to the Senate with his cordial approval, only to have it rejected. Not at all changed in his opinion by the outcome of his effort, he continued to urge the subject of annexation. Even in his last message to Congress he referred to it, saying that time had only proved the wisdom of his early course. The addition of Santo Domingo to the American sphere of protection was the work of a later generation. The State Department, temporarily checked, had to bide its time.
The Alabama Claims Arbitrated.—Indeed, it had in hand a far more serious matter, a vexing issue that grew out of Civil War diplomacy. The British government, as already pointed out in other connections, had permitted Confederate cruisers, including the famous Alabama, built in British ports, to escape and prey upon the commerce of the Northern states. This action, denounced at the time by our government as a grave breach of neutrality as well as a grievous injury to American citizens, led first to remonstrances and finally to repeated claims for damages done to American ships and goods. For a long time Great Britain was firm. Her foreign secretary denied all obligations in the premises, adding somewhat curtly that "he wished to say once for all that Her Majesty's government disclaimed any responsibility for the losses and hoped that they had made their position perfectly clear." Still President Grant was not persuaded that the door of diplomacy, though closed, was barred. Hamilton Fish, his Secretary of State, renewed the demand. Finally he secured from the British government in 1871 the treaty of Washington providing for the arbitration not merely of the Alabama and other claims but also all points of serious controversy between the two countries.
The tribunal of arbitration thus authorized sat at Geneva in Switzerland, and after a long and careful review of the arguments on both sides awarded to the United States the lump sum of $15,500,000 to be distributed among the American claimants. The damages thus allowed were large, unquestionably larger than strict justice required and it is not surprising that the decision excited much adverse comment in England. Nevertheless, the prompt payment by the British government swept away at once a great cloud of ill-feeling in America. Moreover, the spectacle of two powerful nations choosing the way of peaceful arbitration to settle an angry dispute seemed a happy, if illusory, omen of a modern method for avoiding the arbitrament of war.
Samoa.—If the Senate had its doubts at first about the wisdom of acquiring strategic points for naval power in distant seas, the same could not be said of the State Department or naval officers. In 1872 Commander Meade, of the United States navy, alive to the importance of coaling stations even in mid-ocean, made a commercial agreement with the chief of Tutuila, one of the Samoan Islands, far below the equator, in the southern Pacific, nearer to Australia than to California. This agreement, providing among other things for our use of the harbor of Pago Pago as a naval base, was six years later changed into a formal treaty ratified by the Senate.
Such enterprise could not escape the vigilant eyes of England and Germany, both mindful of the course of the sea power in history. The German emperor, seizing as a pretext a quarrel between his consul in the islands and a native king, laid claim to an interest in the Samoan group. England, aware of the dangers arising from German outposts in the southern seas so near to Australia, was not content to stand aside. So it happened that all three countries sent battleships to the Samoan waters, threatening a crisis that was fortunately averted by friendly settlement. If, as is alleged, Germany entertained a notion of challenging American sea power then and there, the presence of British ships must have dispelled that dream.
The result of the affair was a tripartite agreement by which the three powers in 1889 undertook a protectorate over the islands. But joint control proved unsatisfactory. There was constant friction between the Germans and the English. The spheres of authority being vague and open to dispute, the plan had to be abandoned at the end of ten years. England withdrew altogether, leaving to Germany all the islands except Tutuila, which was ceded outright to the United States. Thus one of the finest harbors in the Pacific, to the intense delight of the American navy, passed permanently under American dominion. Another triumph in diplomacy was set down to the credit of the State Department.
Cleveland and the Venezuela Affair.—In the relations with South America, as well as in those with the distant Pacific, the diplomacy of the government at Washington was put to the test. For some time it had been watching a dispute between England and Venezuela over the western boundary of British Guiana and, on an appeal from Venezuela, it had taken a lively interest in the contest. In 1895 President Cleveland saw that Great Britain would yield none of her claims. After hearing the arguments of Venezuela, his Secretary of State, Richard T. Olney, in a note none too conciliatory, asked the British government whether it was willing to arbitrate the points in controversy. This inquiry he accompanied by a warning to the effect that the United States could not permit any European power to contest its mastery in this hemisphere. "The United States," said the Secretary, "is practically sovereign on this continent and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.... Its infinite resources, combined with its isolated position, render it master of the situation and practically invulnerable against any or all other powers."
The reply evoked from the British government by this strong statement was firm and clear. The Monroe Doctrine, it said, even if not so widely stretched by interpretation, was not binding in international law; the dispute with Venezuela was a matter of interest merely to the parties involved; and arbitration of the question was impossible. This response called forth President Cleveland's startling message of 1895. He asked Congress to create a commission authorized to ascertain by researches the true boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana. He added that it would be the duty of this country "to resist by every means in its power, as a willful aggression upon its rights and interests, the appropriation by Great Britain of any lands or the exercise of governmental jurisdiction over any territory which, after investigation, we have determined of right belongs to Venezuela." The serious character of this statement he thoroughly understood. He declared that he was conscious of his responsibilities, intimating that war, much as it was to be deplored, was not comparable to "a supine submission to wrong and injustice and the consequent loss of national self-respect and honor."
The note of defiance which ran through this message, greeted by shrill cries of enthusiasm in many circles, was viewed in other quarters as a portent of war. Responsible newspapers in both countries spoke of an armed settlement of the dispute as inevitable. Congress created the commission and appropriated money for the investigation; a body of learned men was appointed to determine the merits of the conflicting boundary claims. The British government, deaf to the clamor of the bellicose section of the London press, deplored the incident, courteously replied in the affirmative to a request for assistance in the search for evidence, and finally agreed to the proposition that the issue be submitted to arbitration. The outcome of this somewhat perilous dispute contributed not a little to Cleveland's reputation as "a sterling representative of the true American spirit." This was not diminished when the tribunal of arbitration found that Great Britain was on the whole right in her territorial claims against Venezuela.
The Annexation of Hawaii.—While engaged in the dangerous Venezuela controversy, President Cleveland was compelled by a strange turn in events to consider the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands in the mid-Pacific. For more than half a century American missionaries had been active in converting the natives to the Christian faith and enterprising American business men had been developing the fertile sugar plantations. Both the Department of State and the Navy Department were fully conscious of the strategic relation of the islands to the growth of sea power and watched with anxiety any developments likely to bring them under some other Dominion.
The country at large was indifferent, however, until 1893, when a revolution, headed by Americans, broke out, ending in the overthrow of the native government, the abolition of the primitive monarchy, and the retirement of Queen Liliuokalani to private life. This crisis, a repetition of the Texas affair in a small theater, was immediately followed by a demand from the new Hawaiian government for annexation to the United States. President Harrison looked with favor on the proposal, negotiated the treaty of annexation, and laid it before the Senate for approval. There it still rested when his term of office was brought to a close.
Harrison's successor, Cleveland, it was well known, had doubts about the propriety of American action in Hawaii. For the purpose of making an inquiry into the matter, he sent a special commissioner to the islands. On the basis of the report of his agent, Cleveland came to the conclusion that "the revolution in the island kingdom had been accomplished by the improper use of the armed forces of the United States and that the wrong should be righted by a restoration of the queen to her throne." Such being his matured conviction, though the facts upon which he rested it were warmly controverted, he could do nothing but withdraw the treaty from the Senate and close the incident.
To the Republicans this sharp and cavalier disposal of their plans, carried out in a way that impugned the motives of a Republican President, was nothing less than "a betrayal of American interests." In their platform of 1896 they made clear their position: "Our foreign policy should be at all times firm, vigorous, and dignified and all our interests in the Western hemisphere carefully watched and guarded. The Hawaiian Islands should be controlled by the United States and no foreign power should be permitted to interfere with them." There was no mistaking this view of the issue. As the vote in the election gave popular sanction to Republican policies, Congress by a joint resolution, passed on July 6, 1898, annexed the islands to the United States and later conferred upon them the ordinary territorial form of government.
Cuba and the Spanish WarEarly American Relations with Cuba.—The year that brought Hawaii finally under the American flag likewise drew to a conclusion another long controversy over a similar outpost in the Atlantic, one of the last remnants of the once glorious Spanish empire—the island of Cuba.
For a century the Department of State had kept an anxious eye upon this base of power, knowing full well that both France and England, already well established in the West Indies, had their attention also fixed upon Cuba. In the administration of President Fillmore they had united in proposing to the United States a tripartite treaty guaranteeing Spain in her none too certain ownership. This proposal, squarely rejected, furnished the occasion for a statement of American policy which stood the test of all the years that followed; namely, that the affair was one between Spain and the United States alone.
Revolutions in Cuba.—For nearly twenty years afterwards the Cuban question rested. Then it was revived in another form during President Grant's administrations, when the natives became engaged in a destructive revolt against Spanish officials. For ten years—1868-78—a guerrilla warfare raged in the island. American citizens, by virtue of their ancient traditions of democracy, naturally sympathized with a war for independence and self-government. Expeditions to help the insurgents were fitted out secretly in American ports. Arms and supplies were smuggled into Cuba. American soldiers of fortune joined their ranks. The enforcement of neutrality against the friends of Cuban independence, no pleasing task for a sympathetic President, the protection of American lives and property in the revolutionary area, and similar matters kept our government busy with Cuba for a whole decade.
A brief lull in Cuban disorders was followed in 1895 by a renewal of the revolutionary movement. The contest between the rebels and the Spanish troops, marked by extreme cruelty and a total disregard for life and property, exceeded all bounds of decency, and once more raised the old questions that had tormented Grant's administration. Gomez, the leader of the revolt, intent upon provoking American interference, laid waste the land with fire and sword. By a proclamation of November 6, 1895, he ordered the destruction of sugar plantations and railway connections and the closure of all sugar factories. The work of ruin was completed by the ruthless Spanish general, Weyler, who concentrated the inhabitants from rural regions into military camps, where they died by the hundreds of disease and starvation. Stories of the atrocities, bad enough in simple form, became lurid when transmuted into American news and deeply moved the sympathies of the American people. Sermons were preached about Spanish misdeeds; orators demanded that the Cubans be sustained "in their heroic struggle for independence"; newspapers, scouting the ordinary forms of diplomatic negotiation, spurned mediation and demanded intervention and war if necessary.
President Cleveland's Policy.—Cleveland chose the way of peace. He ordered the observance of the rule of neutrality. He declined to act on a resolution of Congress in favor of giving to the Cubans the rights of belligerents. Anxious to bring order to the distracted island, he tendered to Spain the good offices of the United States as mediator in the contest—a tender rejected by the Spanish government with the broad hint that President Cleveland might be more vigorous in putting a stop to the unlawful aid in money, arms, and supplies, afforded to the insurgents by American sympathizers. Thereupon the President returned to the course he had marked out for himself, leaving "the public nuisance" to his successor, President McKinley.
Republican Policies.—The Republicans in 1897 found themselves in a position to employ that "firm, vigorous, and dignified" foreign policy which they had approved in their platform. They had declared: "The government of Spain having lost control of Cuba and being unable to protect the property or lives of resident American citizens or to comply with its treaty obligations, we believe that the government of the United States should actively use its influence and good offices to restore peace and give independence to the island." The American property in Cuba to which the Republicans referred in their platform amounted by this time to more than fifty million dollars; the commerce with the island reached more than one hundred millions annually; and the claims of American citizens against Spain for property destroyed totaled sixteen millions. To the pleas of humanity which made such an effective appeal to the hearts of the American people, there were thus added practical considerations of great weight.
President McKinley Negotiates.—In the face of the swelling tide of popular opinion in favor of quick, drastic, and positive action, McKinley chose first the way of diplomacy. A short time after his inauguration he lodged with the Spanish government a dignified protest against its policies in Cuba, thus opening a game of thrust and parry with the suave ministers at Madrid. The results of the exchange of notes were the recall of the obnoxious General Weyler, the appointment of a governor-general less bloodthirsty in his methods, a change in the policy of concentrating civilians in military camps, and finally a promise of "home rule" for Cuba. There is no doubt that the Spanish government was eager to avoid a war that could have but one outcome. The American minister at Madrid, General Woodford, was convinced that firm and patient pressure would have resulted in the final surrender of Cuba by the Spanish government.
The De Lome and the Maine Incidents.—Such a policy was defeated by events. In February, 1898, a private letter written by Señor de Lome, the Spanish ambassador at Washington, expressing contempt for the President of the United States, was filched from the mails and passed into the hands of a journalist, William R. Hearst, who published it to the world. In the excited state of American opinion, few gave heed to the grave breach of diplomatic courtesy committed by breaking open private correspondence. The Spanish government was compelled to recall De Lome, thus officially condemning his conduct.
At this point a far more serious crisis put the pacific relations of the two negotiating countries in dire peril. On February 15, the battleship Maine, riding in the harbor of Havana, was blown up and sunk, carrying to death two officers and two hundred and fifty-eight members of the crew. This tragedy, ascribed by the American public to the malevolence of Spanish officials, profoundly stirred an already furious nation. When, on March 21, a commission of inquiry reported that the ill-fated ship had been blown up by a submarine mine which had in turn set off some of the ship's magazines, the worst suspicions seemed confirmed. If any one was inclined to be indifferent to the Cuban war for independence, he was now met by the vehement cry: "Remember the Maine!"
Spanish Concessions.—Still the State Department, under McKinley's steady hand, pursued the path of negotiation, Spain proving more pliable and more ready with promises of reform in the island. Early in April, however, there came a decided change in the tenor of American diplomacy. On the 4th, McKinley, evidently convinced that promises did not mean performances, instructed our minister at Madrid to warn the Spanish government that as no effective armistice had been offered to the Cubans, he would lay the whole matter before Congress. This decision, every one knew, from the temper of Congress, meant war—a prospect which excited all the European powers. The Pope took an active interest in the crisis. France and Germany, foreseeing from long experience in world politics an increase of American power and prestige through war, sought to prevent it. Spain, hopeless and conscious of her weakness, at last dispatched to the President a note promising to suspend hostilities, to call a Cuban parliament, and to grant all the autonomy that could be reasonably asked.
President McKinley Calls for War.—For reasons of his own—reasons which have never yet been fully explained—McKinley ignored the final program of concessions presented by Spain. At the very moment when his patient negotiations seemed to bear full fruit, he veered sharply from his course and launched the country into the war by sending to Congress his militant message of April 11, 1898. Without making public the last note he had received from Spain, he declared that he was brought to the end of his effort and the cause was in the hands of Congress. Humanity, the protection of American citizens and property, the injuries to American commerce and business, the inability of Spain to bring about permanent peace in the island—these were the grounds for action that induced him to ask for authority to employ military and naval forces in establishing a stable government in Cuba. They were sufficient for a public already straining at the leash.
The Resolution of Congress.—There was no doubt of the outcome when the issue was withdrawn from diplomacy and placed in charge of Congress. Resolutions were soon introduced into the House of Representatives authorizing the President to employ armed force in securing peace and order in the island and "establishing by the free action of the people thereof a stable and independent government of their own." To the form and spirit of this proposal the Democrats and Populists took exception. In the Senate, where they were stronger, their position had to be reckoned with by the narrow Republican majority. As the resolution finally read, the independence of Cuba was recognized; Spain was called upon to relinquish her authority and withdraw from the island; and the President was empowered to use force to the extent necessary to carry the resolutions into effect. Furthermore the United States disclaimed "any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for the pacification thereof." Final action was taken by Congress on April 19, 1898, and approved by the President on the following day.
War and Victory.—Startling events then followed in swift succession. The navy, as a result in no small measure of the alertness of Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Department, was ready for the trial by battle. On May 1, Commodore Dewey at Manila Bay shattered the Spanish fleet, marking the doom of Spanish dominion in the Philippines. On July 3, the Spanish fleet under Admiral Cervera, in attempting to escape from Havana, was utterly destroyed by American forces under Commodore Schley. On July 17, Santiago, invested by American troops under General Shafter and shelled by the American ships, gave up the struggle. On July 25 General Miles landed in Porto Rico. On August 13, General Merritt and Admiral Dewey carried Manila by storm. The war was over.
The Peace Protocol.—Spain had already taken cognizance of stern facts. As early as July 26, 1898, acting through the French ambassador, M. Cambon, the Madrid government approached President McKinley for a statement of the terms on which hostilities could be brought to a close. After some skirmishing Spain yielded reluctantly to the ultimatum. On August 12, the preliminary peace protocol was signed, stipulating that Cuba should be free, Porto Rico ceded to the United States, and Manila occupied by American troops pending the formal treaty of peace. On October 1, the commissioners of the two countries met at Paris to bring about the final settlement.
Peace Negotiations.—When the day for the first session of the conference arrived, the government at Washington apparently had not made up its mind on the final disposition of the Philippines. Perhaps, before the battle of Manila Bay, not ten thousand people in the United States knew or cared where the Philippines were. Certainly there was in the autumn of 1898 no decided opinion as to what should be done with the fruits of Dewey's victory. President McKinley doubtless voiced the sentiment of the people when he stated to the peace commissioners on the eve of their departure that there had originally been no thought of conquest in the Pacific.
The march of events, he added, had imposed new duties on the country. "Incidental to our tenure in the Philippines," he said, "is the commercial opportunity to which American statesmanship cannot be indifferent. It is just to use every legitimate means for the enlargement of American trade." On this ground he directed the commissioners to accept not less than the cession of the island of Luzon, the chief of the Philippine group, with its harbor of Manila. It was not until the latter part of October that he definitely instructed them to demand the entire archipelago, on the theory that the occupation of Luzon alone could not be justified "on political, commercial, or humanitarian grounds." This departure from the letter of the peace protocol was bitterly resented by the Spanish agents. It was with heaviness of heart that they surrendered the last sign of Spain's ancient dominion in the far Pacific.
The Final Terms of Peace.—The treaty of peace, as finally agreed upon, embraced the following terms: the independence of Cuba; the cession of Porto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States; the settlement of claims filed by the citizens of both countries; the payment of twenty million dollars to Spain by the United States for the Philippines; and the determination of the status of the inhabitants of the ceded territories by Congress. The great decision had been made. Its issue was in the hands of the Senate where the Democrats and the Populists held the balance of power under the requirement of the two-thirds vote for ratification.
The Contest in America over the Treaty of Peace.—The publication of the treaty committing the United States to the administration of distant colonies directed the shifting tides of public opinion into two distinct channels: support of the policy and opposition to it. The trend in Republican leadership, long in the direction marked out by the treaty, now came into the open. Perhaps a majority of the men highest in the councils of that party had undergone the change of heart reflected in the letters of John Hay, Secretary of State. In August of 1898 he had hinted, in a friendly letter to Andrew Carnegie, that he sympathized with the latter's opposition to "imperialism"; but he had added quickly: "The only question in my mind is how far it is now possible for us to withdraw from the Philippines." In November of the same year he wrote to Whitelaw Reid, one of the peace commissioners at Paris: "There is a wild and frantic attack now going on in the press against the whole Philippine transaction. Andrew Carnegie really seems to be off his head.... But all this confusion of tongues will go its way. The country will applaud the resolution that has been reached and you will return in the rôle of conquering heroes with your 'brows bound with oak.'"
Senator Beveridge of Indiana and Senator Platt of Connecticut, accepting the verdict of history as the proof of manifest destiny, called for unquestioning support of the administration in its final step. "Every expansion of our territory," said the latter, "has been in accordance with the irresistible law of growth. We could no more resist the successive expansions by which we have grown to be the strongest nation on earth than a tree can resist its growth. The history of territorial expansion is the history of our nation's progress and glory. It is a matter to be proud of, not to lament. We should rejoice that Providence has given us the opportunity to extend our influence, our institutions, and our civilization into regions hitherto closed to us, rather than contrive how we can thwart its designs."
This doctrine was savagely attacked by opponents of McKinley's policy, many a stanch Republican joining with the majority of Democrats in denouncing the treaty as a departure from the ideals of the republic. Senator Vest introduced in the Senate a resolution that "under the Constitution of the United States, no power is given to the federal Government to acquire territory to be held and governed permanently as colonies." Senator Hoar, of Massachusetts, whose long and honorable career gave weight to his lightest words, inveighed against the whole procedure and to the end of his days believed that the new drift into rivalry with European nations as a colonial power was fraught with genuine danger. "Our imperialistic friends," he said, "seem to have forgotten the use of the vocabulary of liberty. They talk about giving good government. 'We shall give them such a government as we think they are fitted for.' 'We shall give them a better government than they had before.' Why, Mr. President, that one phrase conveys to a free man and a free people the most stinging of insults. In that little phrase, as in a seed, is contained the germ of all despotism and of all tyranny. Government is not a gift. Free government is not to be given by all the blended powers of earth and heaven. It is a birthright. It belongs, as our fathers said, and as their children said, as Jefferson said, and as President McKinley said, to human nature itself."
The Senate, more conservative on the question of annexation than the House of Representatives composed of men freshly elected in the stirring campaign of 1896, was deliberate about ratification of the treaty. The Democrats and Populists were especially recalcitrant. Mr. Bryan hurried to Washington and brought his personal influence to bear in favor of speedy action. Patriotism required ratification, it was said in one quarter. The country desires peace and the Senate ought not to delay, it was urged in another. Finally, on February 6, 1899, the requisite majority of two-thirds was mustered, many a Senator who voted for the treaty, however, sharing the misgivings of Senator Hoar as to the "dangers of imperialism." Indeed at the time, the Senators passed a resolution declaring that the policy to be adopted in the Philippines was still an open question, leaving to the future, in this way, the possibility of retracing their steps.
The Attitude of England.—The Spanish war, while accomplishing the simple objects of those who launched the nation on that course, like all other wars, produced results wholly unforeseen. In the first place, it exercised a profound influence on the drift of opinion among European powers. In England, sympathy with the United States was from the first positive and outspoken. "The state of feeling here," wrote Mr. Hay, then ambassador in London, "is the best I have ever known. From every quarter the evidences of it come to me. The royal family by habit and tradition are most careful not to break the rules of strict neutrality, but even among them I find nothing but hearty kindness and—so far as is consistent with propriety—sympathy. Among the political leaders on both sides I find not only sympathy but a somewhat eager desire that 'the other fellows' shall not seem more friendly."
Joseph Chamberlain, the distinguished Liberal statesman, thinking no doubt of the continental situation, said in a political address at the very opening of the war that the next duty of Englishmen "is to establish and maintain bonds of permanent unity with our kinsmen across the Atlantic.... I even go so far as to say that, terrible as war may be, even war would be cheaply purchased if, in a great and noble cause, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack should wave together over an Anglo-Saxon alliance." To the American ambassador he added significantly that he did not "care a hang what they say about it on the continent," which was another way of expressing the hope that the warning to Germany and France was sufficient. This friendly English opinion, so useful to the United States when a combination of powers to support Spain was more than possible, removed all fears as to the consequences of the war. Henry Adams, recalling days of humiliation in London during the Civil War, when his father was the American ambassador, coolly remarked that it was "the sudden appearance of Germany as the grizzly terror" that "frightened England into America's arms"; but the net result in keeping the field free for an easy triumph of American arms was none the less appreciated in Washington where, despite outward calm, fears of European complications were never absent.
American Policies in the Philippines and the Orient
The Filipino Revolt against American Rule.—In the sphere of domestic politics, as well as in the field of foreign relations, the outcome of the Spanish war exercised a marked influence. It introduced at once problems of colonial administration and difficulties in adjusting trade relations with the outlying dominions. These were furthermore complicated in the very beginning by the outbreak of an insurrection against American sovereignty in the Philippines. The leader of the revolt, Aguinaldo, had been invited to join the American forces in overthrowing Spanish dominion, and he had assumed, apparently without warrant, that independence would be the result of the joint operations. When the news reached him that the American flag had been substituted for the Spanish flag, his resentment was keen. In February, 1899, there occurred a slight collision between his men and some American soldiers. The conflict thus begun was followed by serious fighting which finally dwindled into a vexatious guerrilla warfare lasting three years and costing heavily in men and money. Atrocities were committed by the native insurrectionists and, sad to relate, they were repaid in kind; it was argued in defense of the army that the ordinary rules of warfare were without terror to men accustomed to fighting like savages. In vain did McKinley assure the Filipinos that the institutions and laws established in the islands would be designed "not for our satisfaction or for the expression of our theoretical views, but for the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the people of the Philippine Islands." Nothing short of military pressure could bring the warring revolutionists to terms.
Attacks on Republican "Imperialism."—The Filipino insurrection, following so quickly upon the ratification of the treaty with Spain, moved the American opponents of McKinley's colonial policies to redouble their denunciation of what they were pleased to call "imperialism." Senator Hoar was more than usually caustic in his indictment of the new course. The revolt against American rule did but convince him of the folly hidden in the first fateful measures. Everywhere he saw a conspiracy of silence and injustice. "I have failed to discover in the speeches, public or private, of the advocates of this war," he contended in the Senate, "or in the press which supports it and them, a single expression anywhere of a desire to do justice to the people of the Philippine Islands, or of a desire to make known to the people of the United States the truth of the case.... The catchwords, the cries, the pithy and pregnant phrases of which their speech is full, all mean dominion. They mean perpetual dominion.... There is not one of these gentlemen who will rise in his place and affirm that if he were a Filipino he would not do exactly as the Filipinos are doing; that he would not despise them if they were to do otherwise. So much at least they owe of respect to the dead and buried history—the dead and buried history so far as they can slay and bury it—of their country." In the way of practical suggestions, the Senator offered as a solution of the problem: the recognition of independence, assistance in establishing self-government, and an invitation to all powers to join in a guarantee of freedom to the islands.
The Republican Answer.—To McKinley and his supporters, engaged in a sanguinary struggle to maintain American supremacy, such talk was more than quixotic; it was scarcely short of treasonable. They pointed out the practical obstacles in the way of uniform self-government for a collection of seven million people ranging in civilization from the most ignorant hill men to the highly cultivated inhabitants of Manila. The incidents of the revolt and its repression, they admitted, were painful enough; but still nothing as compared with the chaos that would follow the attempt of a people who had never had experience in such matters to set up and sustain democratic institutions. They preferred rather the gradual process of fitting the inhabitants of the islands for self-government. This course, in their eyes, though less poetic, was more in harmony with the ideals of humanity. Having set out upon it, they pursued it steadfastly to the end. First, they applied force without stint to the suppression of the revolt. Then they devoted such genius for colonial administration as they could command to the development of civil government, commerce, and industry.
The Boxer Rebellion in China.—For a nation with a world-wide trade, steadily growing, as the progress of home industries redoubled the zeal for new markets, isolation was obviously impossible. Never was this clearer than in 1900 when a native revolt against foreigners in China, known as the Boxer uprising, compelled the United States to join with the powers of Europe in a military expedition and a diplomatic settlement. The Boxers, a Chinese association, had for some time carried on a campaign of hatred against all aliens in the Celestial empire, calling upon the natives to rise in patriotic wrath and drive out the foreigners who, they said, "were lacerating China like tigers." In the summer of 1900 the revolt flamed up in deeds of cruelty. Missionaries and traders were murdered in the provinces; foreign legations were stoned; the German ambassador, one of the most cordially despised foreigners, was killed in the streets of Peking; and to all appearances a frightful war of extermination had begun. In the month of June nearly five hundred men, women, and children, representing all nations, were besieged in the British quarters in Peking under constant fire of Chinese guns and in peril of a terrible death.
Intervention in China.—Nothing but the arrival of armed forces, made up of Japanese, Russian, British, American, French, and German soldiers and marines, prevented the destruction of the beleaguered aliens. When once the foreign troops were in possession of the Chinese capital, diplomatic questions of the most delicate character arose. For more than half a century, the imperial powers of Europe had been carving up the Chinese empire, taking to themselves territory, railway concessions, mining rights, ports, and commercial privileges at the expense of the huge but helpless victim. The United States alone among the great nations, while as zealous as any in the pursuit of peaceful trade, had refrained from seizing Chinese territory or ports. Moreover, the Department of State had been urging European countries to treat China with fairness, to respect her territorial integrity, and to give her equal trading privileges with all nations.
The American Policy of the "Open Door."—In the autumn of 1899, Secretary Hay had addressed to London, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg his famous note on the "open door" policy in China. In this document he proposed that existing treaty ports and vested interests of the several foreign countries should be respected; that the Chinese government should be permitted to extend its tariffs to all ports held by alien powers except the few free ports; and that there should be no discrimination in railway and port charges among the citizens of foreign countries operating in the empire. To these principles the governments addressed by Mr. Hay, finally acceded with evident reluctance.
On this basis he then proposed the settlement that had to follow the Boxer uprising. "The policy of the Government of the United States," he said to the great powers, in the summer of 1900, "is to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, preserve Chinese territorial and administrative entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly powers by treaty and international law, and safeguard for the world the principle of equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese empire." This was a friendly warning to the world that the United States would not join in a scramble to punish the Chinese by carving out more territory. "The moment we acted," said Mr. Hay, "the rest of the world paused and finally came over to our ground; and the German government, which is generally brutal but seldom silly, recovered its senses, and climbed down off its perch."
In taking this position, the Secretary of State did but reflect the common sense of America. "We are, of course," he explained, "opposed to the dismemberment of that empire and we do not think that the public opinion of the United States would justify this government in taking part in the great game of spoliation now going on." Heavy damages were collected by the European powers from China for the injuries inflicted upon their citizens by the Boxers; but the United States, finding the sum awarded in excess of the legitimate claims, returned the balance in the form of a fund to be applied to the education of Chinese students in American universities. "I would rather be, I think," said Mr. Hay, "the dupe of China than the chum of the Kaiser." By pursuing a liberal policy, he strengthened the hold of the United States upon the affections of the Chinese people and, in the long run, as he remarked himself, safeguarded "our great commercial interests in that Empire."
Imperialism in the Presidential Campaign of 1900.—It is not strange that the policy pursued by the Republican administration in disposing of the questions raised by the Spanish War became one of the first issues in the presidential campaign of 1900. Anticipating attacks from every quarter, the Republicans, in renominating McKinley, set forth their position in clear and ringing phrases: "In accepting by the treaty of Paris the just responsibility of our victories in the Spanish War the President and Senate won the undoubted approval of the American people. No other course was possible than to destroy Spain's sovereignty throughout the West Indies and in the Philippine Islands. That course created our responsibility, before the world and with the unorganized population whom our intervention had freed from Spain, to provide for the maintenance of law and order, and for the establishment of good government and for the performance of international obligations. Our authority could not be less than our responsibility, and wherever sovereign rights were extended it became the high duty of the government to maintain its authority, to put down armed insurrection, and to confer the blessings of liberty and civilization upon all the rescued peoples. The largest measure of self-government consistent with their welfare and our duties shall be secured to them by law." To give more strength to their ticket, the Republican convention, in a whirlwind of enthusiasm, nominated for the vice presidency, against his protest, Theodore Roosevelt, the governor of New York and the hero of the Rough Riders, so popular on account of their Cuban campaign.
The Democrats, as expected, picked up the gauntlet thrown down with such defiance by the Republicans. Mr. Bryan, whom they selected as their candidate, still clung to the currency issue; but the main emphasis, both of the platform and the appeal for votes, was on the "imperialistic program" of the Republican administration. The Democrats denounced the treatment of Cuba and Porto Rico and condemned the Philippine policy in sharp and vigorous terms. "As we are not willing," ran the platform, "to surrender our civilization or to convert the Republic into an empire, we favor an immediate declaration of the Nation's purpose to give to the Filipinos, first, a stable form of government; second, independence; third, protection from outside interference.... The greedy commercialism which dictated the Philippine policy of the Republican administration attempts to justify it with the plea that it will pay, but even this sordid and unworthy plea fails when brought to the test of facts. The war of 'criminal aggression' against the Filipinos entailing an annual expense of many millions has already cost more than any possible profit that could accrue from the entire Philippine trade for years to come.... We oppose militarism. It means conquest abroad and intimidation and oppression at home. It means the strong arm which has ever been fatal to free institutions. It is what millions of our citizens have fled from in Europe. It will impose upon our peace-loving people a large standing army, an unnecessary burden of taxation, and would be a constant menace to their liberties." Such was the tenor of their appeal to the voters.
With the issues clearly joined, the country rejected the Democratic candidate even more positively than four years before. The popular vote cast for McKinley was larger and that cast for Bryan smaller than in the silver election. Thus vindicated at the polls, McKinley turned with renewed confidence to the development of the policies he had so far advanced. But fate cut short his designs. In the September following his second inauguration, he was shot by an anarchist while attending the Buffalo exposition. "What a strange and tragic fate it has been of mine," wrote the Secretary of State, John Hay, on the day of the President's death, "to stand by the bier of three of my dearest friends, Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, three of the gentlest of men, all risen to the head of the state and all done to death by assassins." On September 14, 1901, the Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, took up the lines of power that had fallen from the hands of his distinguished chief, promising to continue "absolutely unbroken" the policies he had inherited.
Summary of National Growth and World PoliticsThe economic aspects of the period between 1865 and 1900 may be readily summed up: the recovery of the South from the ruin of the Civil War, the extension of the railways, the development of the Great West, and the triumph of industry and business enterprise. In the South many of the great plantations were broken up and sold in small farms, crops were diversified, the small farming class was raised in the scale of social importance, the cotton industry was launched, and the coal, iron, timber, and other resources were brought into use. In the West the free arable land was practically exhausted by 1890 under the terms of the Homestead Act; gold, silver, copper, coal and other minerals were discovered in abundance; numerous rail connections were formed with the Atlantic seaboard; the cowboy and the Indian were swept away before a standardized civilization of electric lights and bathtubs. By the end of the century the American frontier had disappeared. The wild, primitive life so long associated with America was gone. The unity of the nation was established.
In the field of business enterprise, progress was most marked. The industrial system, which had risen and flourished before the Civil War, grew into immense proportions and the industrial area was extended from the Northeast into all parts of the country. Small business concerns were transformed into huge corporations. Individual plants were merged under the management of gigantic trusts. Short railway lines were consolidated into national systems. The industrial population of wage-earners rose into the tens of millions. The immigration of aliens increased by leaps and bounds. The cities overshadowed the country. The nation that had once depended upon Europe for most of its manufactured goods became a competitor of Europe in the markets of the earth.
In the sphere of politics, the period witnessed the recovery of white supremacy in the South; the continued discussion of the old questions, such as the currency, the tariff, and national banking; and the injection of new issues like the trusts and labor problems. As of old, foreign affairs were kept well at the front. Alaska was purchased from Russia; attempts were made to extend American influence in the Caribbean region; a Samoan island was brought under the flag; and the Hawaiian islands were annexed. The Monroe Doctrine was applied with vigor in the dispute between Venezuela and Great Britain.
Assistance was given to the Cubans in their revolutionary struggle against Spain and thus there was precipitated a war which ended in the annexation of Porto Rico and the Philippines. American influence in the Pacific and the Orient was so enlarged as to be a factor of great weight in world affairs. Thus questions connected with foreign and "imperial" policies were united with domestic issues to make up the warp and woof of politics. In the direction of affairs, the Republicans took the leadership, for they held the presidency during all the years, except eight, between 1865 and 1900.
ReferencesJ.W. Foster, A Century of American Diplomacy; American Diplomacy in the Orient.
W.F. Reddaway, The Monroe Doctrine.
J.H. Latané, The United States and Spanish America.
A.C. Coolidge, United States as a World Power.
A.T. Mahan, Interest of the United States in the Sea Power.
F.E. Chadwick, Spanish-American War.
D.C. Worcester, The Philippine Islands and Their People.
M.M. Kalaw, Self-Government in the Philippines.
L.S. Rowe, The United States and Porto Rico.
F.E. Chadwick, The Relations of the United States and Spain.
W.R. Shepherd, Latin America; Central and South America.
Questions1. Tell the story of the international crisis that developed soon after the Civil War with regard to Mexico.
2. Give the essential facts relating to the purchase of Alaska.
3. Review the early history of our interest in the Caribbean.
4. Amid what circumstances was the Monroe Doctrine applied in Cleveland's administration?
5. Give the causes that led to the war with Spain.
6. Tell the leading events in that war.
7. What was the outcome as far as Cuba was concerned? The outcome for the United States?
8. Discuss the attitude of the Filipinos toward American sovereignty in the islands.
9. Describe McKinley's colonial policy.
10. How was the Spanish War viewed in England? On the Continent?
11. Was there a unified American opinion on American expansion?
12. Was this expansion a departure from our traditions?
13. What events led to foreign intervention in China?
14. Explain the policy of the "open door."
Research TopicsHawaii and Venezuela.—Dewey, National Problems (American Nation Series), pp. 279-313; Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 600-602; Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 612-616.
Intervention in Cuba.—Latané, America as a World Power (American Nation Series), pp. 3-28; Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 597-598; Roosevelt, Autobiography, pp. 223-277; Haworth, The United States in Our Own Time, pp. 232-256; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 573-578.
The War with Spain.—Elson, History of the United States, pp. 889-896.
Terms of Peace with Spain.—Latané, pp. 63-81; Macdonald, pp. 602-608; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 588-590.
The Philippine Insurrection.—Latané, pp. 82-99.
Imperialism as a Campaign Issue.—Latané, pp. 120-132; Haworth, pp. 257-277; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 604-611.
Biographical Studies.—William McKinley, M.A. Hanna, John Hay; Admirals, George Dewey, W.T. Sampson, and W.S. Schley; and Generals, W.R. Shafter, Joseph Wheeler, and H.W. Lawton.
General Analysis of American Expansion.—Syllabus in History (New York State, 1920), pp. 142-147.
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