Text: Upshaw (???), Literary Reviews, Southern Literary Messenger, vol. III, no. 1, January 1837, 3:73-89


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THE PARTISAN LEADER.*

The Partisan Leader. A Tale of the Future. By Edward William Sydney. Washington City: James Caxton.

This is a Virginian story, affording strong internal evidence that it is written by a Virginian. That state has perhaps contributed less than its fair proportion to the current literature of the day: a fact, which, if we may judge from the work before us, is not attributable to any want of the requisite talent. The truth is, that most of the works of imagination, with which the press has teemed, of late years, have not been calculated to add much to the literary character of the country. They seem, with a few very distinguished exceptions, to have been designed only for the amusement of the passing hour, and destined to be forgotten as soon as read. The work before us, however, is of a very different sort. The author, whatever be his real name, is no novice in writing, and no sophomore in scholarship. This book, although well calculated to amuse our lighter hours, is also filled with the traces of deep thought upon grave subjects. It is calculated to excite attention in more than the mere readers of novels; it presents subjects for serious reflection to the politician of every party, and the patriot of every place, in our country. It demands a different sort of criticism from that which we should think it necessary to apply to most of the romances of the day.

The scene is laid in Virginia, near the close of the year 1849. By a long series of encroachments by the federal government on the rights and powers of the states, our federative system is supposed to be destroyed, and a consolidated government, with the forms of a republic and the powers of a monarchy, to be established on its ruins. The various steps, by which this great change has been effected, are pointed out, partly in actual detail, and partly by inference from the incidents narrated. Mr. Van Buren is supposed to be at the end of his third presidential term, to have, been just elected for the fourth time, and to have guarded himself, not only by active and submissive tools at his court at Washington, and in all the offices in the country, but also by a strong army devoted to his service. The southern states, with the exception of Virginia, have seceded from the Union, and formed a confederacy among themselves. Virginia however has theretofore been kept in subjection, chiefly by the artful management of certain small politicians, to whom accidental circumstances have given influence, and the means of deceiving the people. Yet even Virginia, at the date of the story, has shaken off her lethargy, and become sensible of the necessity of uniting herself with her sister states of the south. She is, of course, an object of peculiar interest and attention at Washington. Although sound policy forbids the employment of direct force against her, yet every art is used to break down [column 2:] the spirit of her people. Armed troops are stationed in various parts of her territory, to over-awe, and, if necessary, to coerce them. They have, on their part, made the necessary arrangements, although not yet openly avowed, for the defence of their rights and independence. Such is the political condition of the country, when the dramatis personæ are brought upon the stage. Among these, the greater part are purely imaginative. The President alone is given by name, and the rest are politicians who now figure conspicuously on the political stage, and who are easily known by the parts they respectively play in the drama. The author’s portraiture is so true to the life, that the originals cannot possibly be mistaken. In the progress of the narrative, we have a very vivid description of the various modes in which the political revolution already commenced is to be carried out. The people kept poor in order that they may be without then means of resistance; the forms of suffrage preserved, while its freedom is overawed by the presence of armed troops; a standing army under the pretense of guarding the southern frontier, but in fact to sustain the government in all its usurpations; a court of high commission at Washington for the trial of offences committed within the state; corrupt judges ready to do their master’s will, in defiance of the law and the constitution; and finally, a people driven to desperation by these oppressions, and struggling to shake them off, by means of that irregular partisan war, which is the only resource of an oppressed people against the organized power of their own government. The action of these various causes is shown, in a way perfectly natural, and without the least extravagance. The ultimate result, however, is not given. In this respect the author does great violence to the excited feelings and deep interest of the reader, but it is precisely here that he displays the greatest tact, and the most consummate art. The influences which he has called into play are all perfectly natural, and their modes of action, and their tendencies, such as every one can readily comprehend. So far, therefore, the credulity of the reader is not over-tasked; there is nothing to produce a re-action in his feelings, by shocking his ideas of probability. Having seen the causes at work, and having witnessed some of their first and most natural effects, it is wisely left to his own imagination to supply the rest. In this way his interest is kept up, and the deep and serious reflections which it was the author’s chief object to inspire, are sustained by the very obscurity through which a glimpse of the future is but dimly seen. The reader rises from the perusal of the book with solemn impressions of the probable truth of all the writer’s speculations; and he naturally asks himself, by what means the evils he has seen depicted may be prevented. His patriotic emotions are not suffered to waste themselves, in witnessing the triumph of liberty, nor to sink in despondency under the thought that the despot’s power is confirmed, and that freedom struggles against it in vain. The ultimate success of the struggle is incidentally intimated, and that is all.

Apart from the political character of the work, there is an agreeable under-play of love and domestic life, which cannot fail to interest the reader. The author is peculiarly happy in this part of his book. His female characters are all his own. There is not a heroine of [page 74:] romance among them, yet there are some superior to any heroine of romance that ever was described. They are the ladies of real life, decked with no tawdry qualities of character or person, but possessing all those higher virtues of the sex, which are so commonly found in the better circles of the southern states, and particularly in country life. Their manners have not been learned in the boarding school, and therefore naturally display all that genuine and true refinement which proceeds from amiable feelings, and which cannot proceed from any thing else. Few gentlemen of Virginia, who have seen their fortieth year, will fail to recognize some of their own female acquaintances in the portraits of our author’s gallery. We fear they will be less apt to recognize their male acquaintances in the same place, for, although the Virginia gentleman of the old school is no where more accurately drawn, yet such is our degeneracy, that comparatively few of us have had the good fortune to see the original of the picture. Among the most interesting and striking parts of the book, is the representation which it gives of the institution of domestic slavery. We recommend this view of the subject, in an especial manner, to all abolitionists; not to those only who are so professedly, but to those also whose principles lead to that result. They will probably find in it some reason to doubt their success, however they may fail to be convinced that their principles are unsound.

It is not however merely as an interesting story, told agreeably, that this book is likely to attract public attention. If the author his succeeded in amusing the reader, it is only by a condescension from the dignity of the principal design. He went to his task with the feelings of the politician and the patriot. He desired to interest his leader, because he desired to make him reflect. Deeply impressed with the portentous character of recent publics events, and anxious to impart the same impressions to others, he has written strongly, because he felt strongly. His opinions are certainly not peculiar, but they are not yet so generally entertained, even by his own school of politics, as to be received without deep interest, when presented in a form so imposing. We think it altogether probable that he has exposed himself to misconstruction, and that the chances are that he will not escape the charge of disaffection to the Union. There are those in our country, and in all parts of our country, who are prompt to raise that cry, whenever a question arises between the states and the federal government. On more than one occasion the glories and blessings of our Union have been invoked to sanction the usurpations of federal power, by repressing the spirit of resistance, in the people, and withdrawing their attention from the boldest attacks on the sovereignty of the states. The manœuvre is not without precedent. In England, the attachment of the people to the protestant religion has often been used with similar designs, and very rarely without effect. There the most lawless exercises of power, and the most grinding oppressions of the people have been sanctioned by a supposed necessity to guard the protestant religion against attacks which were never meditated: here the people have, as often, been induced to overlook or pardon the most glaring and dangerous violations of the constitution, by persuading them that every effort of resistance on the part of the states [column 2:] would bring the Union into danger. This indeed has now become the watch-cry of party, and, for that reason, if for no other, should be listened to with distrust and caution by all temperate thinkers. It is quite clear that the author before us had a political design in writing the present work, but there is nothing in the work itself to warrant the belief that it is a blow aimed at the integrity of the Union. Such a supposition would be as rash as it would be to accuse our best friend of hostility merely because he admonished us of our faults, and warned us of the danger to which they might subject us. That this is the light in which the author ought to be regarded, is sufficiently plain from the whole scope and manner of his work. His mind has evidently been long engaged in the study of the politics of his country. He has thought profoundly and with deep interest on the remarkable public events of the last few years; has understood their true character and tendencies, and has formed his own conclusions in regard to their probable effects on our future destiny. What these conclusions are he plainly tells us; but whether they are right or wrong, the future alone can determine. But that he feels no desire to precipitate the events which he has imagined and portrayed, is sufficiently apparent from the tone of solemn feeling, the lofty patriotism, and filial devotion to Virginia which appear in every part of the work.

A love of the Union is the strongest feeling of the people of the United States. This is but the natural consequence of their relation to each other. Descended from a common stock, and exiles from a common country, they were bound together by the strongest ties of sympathy, even while in a colonial state. Their resistance to the mother country was caused by oppression which operated on all of them alike, and drove them to a still closer union of interest and feeling. In the war of the revolution they encountered the same dangers, suffered the same hardships, fought in the same ranks, and triumphed in the same glorious success. The unexampled prosperity which ensued on this event; agriculture untaxed, and yielding a superfluity of all the necessaries and luxuries of life; commerce free as air, and bringing its rich returns from every quarter of the world; every branch of industry successful beyond all precedent; the perfect freedom of opinion on all subjects; the perfect security of all the rights of life, of liberty, and of property, and the general happiness diffused over the land by these causes, attested the wisdom of that unity of purpose and concert in action, which led to our first confederation. The constitution of the United States only drew closer the same ties, and gave them additional strength and sacredness. To all this must be added the impressive advice of the father of his country; advice which could not have been heard without a deep impression, under any circumstances, but which fell with double effect upon hearts already convinced of its truth and wisdom. Causes such as these, all co-operating together to the same end, could scarcely fail of their effect. it is not surprising then, that the present generations in the United States should have grown up with a love of Union impressed upon their minds, with a strength little short of that of religious veneration. It is the first political lesson inculcated on the infant mind; it is the chief topic of praise, congratulations, and thanks, [page 75:] in anniversary orations: candidates for popular favor, dwell on it as the great and only security of public liberty; on all occasions the love of the Union is regarded as the chief test of patriotism, and the necessity of preserving it is inculcated as the highest maxim of political wisdom. Even the young men of the present day remember the time, (if indeed the time has yet passed by) when any suggestion against the necessity and sacredness of Union would have been received with indignation and abhorrence, as little short of absolute treason.

And why should it not be so? A confederation of independent states, such as ours was designed to be, affords better securities for civil liberty than any other form of government which was ever devised. It admits of stronger checks and more accurate balances, while in its very nature it encourages a feeling of independence and a spirit of liberty. The very love of that liberty is in itself sufficient reason for preferring such a form of government. But if we look also to the other advantages and blessings which good government is calculated to confer on the people, we shall find our own system best adapted to the circumstances of our own states. Our territory embraces every variety of soil, climate and pursuit. To the superficial observer this would probably appear to be a strong cause of difference and alienation in political feeling; but rightly understood it presents the most obvious of motive to close and perfect union. So long as the wants of a country are not limited to its own productions, its most natural ally will he found in that country which can supply its deficiencies. Mutual wants create mutual dependence, and mutual dependence is the strongest bond of union. Applying this truth to our own condition, we find that the southern states are, almost of necessity, a purely agricultural people, while the northern states are, from a necessity equally strong, a commercial and manufacturing people. All that the south produces and wishes to sell, the north does not produce and wishes to buy; all that the north imports from abroad or manufactures at home finds a ready market at the south. From this single fact spring innumerable relations of interest which would be sufficient to bind together in inseparable alliance any two sovereign states of the world. As between the states of our Union, this tie can scarcely be made stronger, although it is certainly rendered more sacred, by that express compact by which they have bound themselves to one another as friends. Left at large by the constitution as to all their peculiar municipal concerns, retaining their sovereignty in all things, and agreeing to exercise a portion of that sovereignty through a common agent, and strictly for the common benefit, there cannot be any real cause of disagreement between them. So long as they preserve inviolate the faith which they pledged to one another in the constitution, their Union will be strong enough to resist every attack; and the attachment of the people to it will be sanctified by its object, and approved in the blessings which it will confer upon them.

With such motives to love our political union, is our attachment to it, so long the cherished habit of the American mind, weaker at this day than formerly? Is there any political or sectional party in the United States, who entertain designs against, or feel hostility to the Union, as established by the constitution? We [column 2:] confess that to us it appears deplorably manifest that there is such a party; but it cannot be found in the south.

It would be a work not less interesting than curious, to trace the rise, progress, and various phases of political parties in the United States. It is sufficient for our present purpose to remark, that from the adoption of the constitution to the great political revolution of 1801, their contests with each other were strictly those of principle. That revolution established a construction of the constitution which has been so generally adopted by the people, that every political aspirant, from that day to this, has found it necessary to profess his approbation of it. From Mr. Jefferson to the present incumbent, every President has come into power upon the strength of the principles which were then established; and it may safely be affirmed that no President could have come into power professing any other principles. Even at this day they are known to be so strongly held by the great body of the people, that the very measures which prostrate and destroy them, are carried in their name!! These principles assert that ours is a federative system, and not a consolidation; that the states which formed that system were, and still are, sovereign states; that the federal government is their creature, to whom they have granted no portion of their sovereignty, although they have appointed it, as their agent, to exercise a portion of that sovereignty; that this portion, and all the powers that it confers, are granted by the constitution alone, and consequently that no power can be properly exercised by that government, except such as are expressly granted by the constitution, and such as may be necessary to give effect to the granted powers; that the states, as the constituents, necessarily hold in their own hands a check upon the conduct of their agent — that is, that they have a right to resist any unauthorized exercise of power by the federal government; that public offices belong to the people, were created for their benefit, and should be filled only by those who are faithful to them; that public officers are merely trustees of power for limited periods, and for strictly limited purposes. The same party which established these principles, established also the following doctrines as their necessary consequences. That the federal government being a government of strictly limited powers, should scrupulously decline the exercise of every doubtful power; that as that government was established for the common benefit of all the states, it cannot properly use any of its powers for the benefit of a part, to the prejudice of the rest; that it is in its constitution, and ought to be in its practice, a cheap and economical government, calling on the people for no contribution, direct or indirect, beyond its natural necessities; that public officers abuse their trusts, transcend their own offices, and violate the rights of the people, whenever they bring the authority or the influence of their public stations to bear on the freedom of popular elections; and finally, as public virtue is the only true basis of republican government, that it is impossible for ours to last without scrupulous integrity of motive, and perfect purity of conduct in those who administer it. That these are the true doctrines of the constitution, no man who calls himself a republican will venture to deny. They have been uniformly held, with great unanimity, but all the people of the south, and by the southern states, as such, without a single exception. [page 76:] That they have not, in some recent instances, been rightly observed in practice, is true, and “pity ‘tis ‘tis true.” But as General Jackson is himself an anomaly, and can afford no rule for any other man, we may reasonably hope that the feeling which led some of the southern states to vindicate his monstrous violations of their own principles, sprung from no settled convictions, but was the mere madness of the hour — the outpourings of an extravagant personal devotion. This at least we know, that in no instance in which that peculiar man has laid his death-grasp upon the constitution, has he failed to do it in the name of the people, and professedly in vindication of the very principles which he was in the act of violating. The people, therefore, may correctly be said to have held those principles “uniformly,” however they may occasionally have been deceived in regard to certain public measures which violated and overthrew them. And they hold the same principles still. If then the constitution of the United States be such as is here supposed, the southern states can scarcely be said to hold principles unfriendly to the Union, since all their principles tend to support that very constitution from which the Union derives its being. And if we look to their conduct as states, or to the conduct of their people, they will be found, under all circumstances, true to their country, abounding in proofs of steady loyalty to the constitution. If a patient endurance of wrongs, if a long toleration of abuses which strike at their highest interests, are proofs of disaffection to the Union, the south are fairly amenable to the charge. These are the only proofs they have ever given that the charge is true.

We are aware that the measures adopted by South Carolina, on a the memorable occasion, are considered by a certain party among us, not only as an open breach of the constitution in themselves, but as evidence of a fixed design to overthrow it. We have no purpose, at present, to enter into an examination of that question. It has not yet, for the last time, engaged public attention, nor has public opinion yet fixed the true character of those measures. Their efficacy is soliciently proved by their results; and whether it was prudent or imprudent to adopt them on the particular occasion, is a question which does not enter into our judgment of their constitutionality. Even if we conclude, for the sake of argument, (the concession cannot be made for any other purpose) that the occasion did not warrant the application of the principles asserted, the principles themselves may not, for that reason, be the less true. That they are true is easily shown, not only by the general reasoning which belongs to the subject, but by the fact that at least six of the sovereign states of this Union have solemnly asserted them. The time is not distant when, throughout the southern states at least, this bold and manly act of South Carolina will be universally regarded as a triumphant vindication of the constitution, offering a wise lesson and a fit example to all other states which are not disposed to surrender all their rights at the feet of the federal government.

Tested by the constitution in its most approved and well settled construction, the principles of the south have been always found to vindicate and sustain it. How stand the principles of the north when brought to the same test? It is remarkable that in all the [column 2:] changes of political opinion which the last thirty years have witnessed, (and they have been almost without number,) there never has been more than an inconsiderable party at the north who held the doctrines established by the republicans in 1798. From the adoption of the constitution to the present time, that entire portion of the country has held the opinion that the constitution of the United States was adopted by the people of all the states, as one great political community, and not by the people of the several states, in their character of sovereign states. As a consequence of this doctrine, they have denied the sovereignty of the states; denied that they held, as states, any check upon the usurpations of the federal government; have asserted for that government the exclusive right to judge of the constitutionality of its own measures; thus giving it, in effect, all power, whether granted by the constitution or not. Some of the ablest men have devoted themselves to the establishment of these extraordinary doctrines by long and labored treatises. It was not enough that Mr. Jay denied that the states ever were sovereign, and that others, of scarcely less standing and influence, fell into the same strange historical mistake. In more recent times, two of their ablest jurists, Judges Story and Kent, have published learned commentaries upon the constitution, to establish the same monarchical doctrines. In the Congress of the United States they are constantly asserted, and so popular have they become north of a certain parallel of latitude, that Mr. Webster, their great champion in the Senate, has acquired, by his efforts in sustaining them, the title of “Defender of the Constitution!!” These gentlemen seem to forget that Consolidation is not Union. The Union is the creature of the constitution. It exists according to the constitution, or else it does not exist at all. It is a great mistake to suppose that the Union can be preserved, merely by keeping the states together under the same government, whatever the powers of that government may be. This is indeed Union in a certain sense — the making of one thing by melting up many other things together. But the constitution recognizes no such political chemistry as this. If the Union may be destroyed by opposing the federal government, and actually severing the states, it may be as effectually destroyed by giving to that government powers unknown to the constitution, and destroying the separate and sovereign character of the states. If ours be a Union at all, it is a federal compact: if a compact at all, it was made by parties competent to make it; and that competency implies, in this case, sovereign power, and nothing, short of it. What then becomes of the Union, when the very elements of which it is composed are destroyed? He who denies that the states are sovereign, denies the validity of that compact which exists only by the exercise of that sovereignty. The states might exist together under a monarchy in form, as well as in substance? Would this be Union? Yes; it is the very Union for which the northern states have ever contended. Their principles tend directly towards it, and it will presently appear that their measures have already gone a great way to establish it. They seem to think, with Mr. Hugh Trevor, in the work before us, that “Union upon any terms is better than disunion under any circumstances.” But in this opinion the people of the south have not yet concurred, nor will [page 77:] they concur in it, until they lose that proud feeling of independence, and that ardent love of liberty and of their country, by which they have heretofore been distinguished.

The results of these consolidation doctrines have already been realized in some of the leading measures of the present administration. In the earlier periods of our political history, attacks upon the constitution were generally made indirectly, and under plausible pretences. The public mind was not then prepared to see that instrument openly defied. The alien and sedition laws did indeed violate it plainly enough, and those laws cost the administration which passed them their places. The power of the people displayed itself effectually on that occasion, and established principles which promised to secure the states and the people against any similar attack upon their constitutional rights for ages to come. It required that generations should pass away before the exploded doctrines of 1798 could be again openly brought into the administration of the government. In the meantime, however, those doctrines were still cherished at the north, and were secretly and treacherously working their way, step by step, into power. Their progress may be easily traced, for it was not so secret as to be unobserved. At every stage they were boldly met by the south, and in every contest they triumphed. Nothing was wanting but a fit occasion to bring them again before the public, as the avowed doctrines of the government; and unhappily, that occasion was soon presented. It was reserved for the uncalculating hardihood of General Jackson to aim the first blow at the Union, through the heart of state sovereignty. The proclamation asserted every principle necessary to make ours a consolidated government, and not a federative union of independent states. It is true that this blow was struck by a southern hand; but that hand, it is notorious, was guided by northern influence. It cost the administration its ablest friends at the south, whilst at the north it was hailed with one general acclaim of approbation and praise. Instantly, and as if actuated by one irresistible impulse, those who had been the most firm in their support of the preceding administration, and he boasted that the principles which fell with the elder Adams should rise again with the younger, rushed to the support of General Jackson, and became his warmest and most approved friends. In this they were perfectly consistent. In supporting the proclamation they did but support their own cherished principles, long openly denounced by all administrations, and now again brought into power with fresh éclat and redoubled strength. The force bill was the natural and necessary consequence of the principles asserted in the proclamation. From the moment that bill passed, the wisest and most devoted patriots at the south considered tile constitution as virtually destroyed. They were willing to struggle yet a little longer (and they have struggled) for the restoration of the true principles of the government; but hitherto they have struggled in vain, so far as its actual administration is concerned. With as little success they have invoked the aid of the northern states. The doctrines of the proclamation are still their doctrines, and the force bill still dishonors the statute book. Nay, the south has not forgotten that that bill was regarded as the peculiar and distinguishing triumph of Northern [column 2:] principles. Notwithstanding the perilous position in which it placed the country; notwithstanding the absolute certainty that, if carried out in practice, it would produce civil war, and thus at once dissolve the Union notwithstanding the countless evils which that event, occurring under such circumstances, must have brought in its train, the detestable measure was urged with a zeal and perseverance wholly uncalled for by the occasion. Indeed, Mr. Webster, the great leader of the triumphant party at the north, did not hesitate to place the propriety and necessity of the measure upon his own peculiar ground. The south heard him, with astonishment, declare that the occasion was a fit one, and ought for that reason to be embraced, to test the powers of the federal government! Such an appeal could scarcely be heard with indifference by those who had been endeavoring, ever since the adoption of the constitution, to enlarge the powers of that government. Accordingly, the northern members of Congress, almost without a dissenting voice, voted for the force bill, and their constituents approved and sustained them.

The principles thus established, denying the sovereignty of the states, and subjecting them to military coercion whenever they should presume to resist the usurpations of the federal government, necessarily declared that government to be supreme and irresponsible. All that has since followed has been but the natural course of events, and therefore should not excite any surprise whatever. All experience proves that the distribution of the powers of government between the three separate and co-ordinate branches, the legislative, executive, and judiciary, affords no substantial security to the people. The independence of those departments is merely nominal. It is the natural tendency of all power to increase; and it is not in human wisdom to contrive any balance so accurate as to prevent it. The check must be extraneous of the government itself, or else it cannot be found any where. Of all the departments of government, the executive has the strongest temptation to enlarge its own powers. The other departments are composed of many persons, to whom in the aggregate their powers belong, and who cannot individually exert ally considerable portion of them. On the other hand, the executive is one, and the powers of his office rest in him alone. It requires more virtue than we usually find in public rulers, to distinguish between the personal rights and powers of such an executive, and those which belong to his public station. Every addition to the powers of his office soon comes to be considered an addition to his own; and thus he is under the strongest personal temptation to make them as great as possible. Thus invited to encroach upon the other departments, his very position enables him to do so. Even in England, where a free House of Commons and an independent Judiciary now exert a salutary check upon the powers of the crown, the encroachments of the king have cost the country more than one revolution. So far as our own executive is concerned, we have ample evidence, in the experience of the last few years, that he possesses abundant means to subject all the other powers of the government to his own. To declare, therefore that the federal government is supreme, is in effect to declare that this President is supreme. Why, then, should we be surprised that Congress and the Judiciary are his creatures; that all [page 78:] the offices of the country are held at his will and for his pleasure; that the entire legislation of the country is under his control; that he has seized upon the public treasure in spite of Congress, who are directed by the constitution to keep and manage it; that he controls the legislation of the states, and appoints his own successor!!

Many of those who rejoiced in the proclamation, and triumphed in the force bill, are now foremost to cry out against these enormities. Some of those measures effect their peculiar interests rather too closely to be patiently endured. Their complaints are without justice. They have no right to murmur at the necessary consequences of their own principles — principles which they even now will not abandon, with all these disastrous results before them. They have themselves laid the train, and they ought not to complain if they suffer in the explosion.

It ought not, perhaps, to surprise us, that the people of the north have, with such remarkable unanimity, adopted principles such as these. Destructive as they are of the constitution, and at war with the very being of our federal Union, those people believe that no other principles can so well advance their own peculiar interests. And if the existence of free government is nothing — if the preservation of the rights of the states and of the people is nothing — if it is more important to grow rich than to be independent and free, they are right. Their principles have indeed advanced their own interests with giant strides; and precisely in the same degree they have repressed and destroyed those of the south. In all countries the measures of government necessarily exert a material influence upon private interests. Hence, when those interests are distinctly marked, it becomes an object of importance to each one to obtain the possession and control of the government. The numerical majority of the people is at the north; and of course they have the government in their own hands, whomever they establish the doctrine that ours is a government of the people of the United States, and not of the people of the several states. In that case, the majority, to whom the right to govern is conceded, is a majority of all the people that is, of their representatives in Congress, whence New York speaks as forty, and Delaware as one. A government thus constituted, and relieved of all the checks imposed upon it by state sovereignty, possesses all the power which is necessary for any purpose. It becomes a most convenient and effective machine in the hands of a majority holding an interest peculiar to themselves — an interest which flourishes precisely as those of the minority are repressed. Here is reason enough for the principles of the north. The truth is, they are not so much attached to the union as to the unity of these states. The Union would be worthless to them with the check and balance left in the state governments by the constitution. They find their interests in a strong federal government. It is not the Union which they have, but the strong chain (and the stronger it is the more they love it) which holds together the states indissolubly, under the same government, or under any government, which, gives to their own numerical majority free scope, in speculating on the rights and interests of the minority.

That this is the true source of their principles, [column 2:] they have afforded, in their own conduct, abundant reason to believe. When the embargo laws pressed heavily on their commercial interests, they denied the constitutional power of Congress to pass them. Congress were not then the rightful judges of the constitutionality of their own measures, for the north was not then in possession of the government. The tariff of 1816 was a reduction of the war duties. That tariff was supposed to operate unfavorably on the commercial interests of the north, and accordingly it was complained of as too hi, and vehemently op-posed. It was in vain to tell then that a debt of two hundred millions of dollars, brought upon the country by the war, rendered such a measure absolutely necessary. The “Defender of the Constitution” affected to believe, that it was, at least, very doubtful, whether that instrument did not forbid Congress to enact any tariff, beyond the current demands of the government. Where were those scruples in 1828? At that time the capital of the north had taken a direction towards manufactures. Indeed that had already become the predominant interest. From that time no northern man was heard to urge a doubt of the power of Congress to impose any rate of duties whatever. The tariff built up their manufactories, and gave them a monopoly of the southern market, both to buy and to sell. Every year they clamored for more protection, until every species of their manufactures, from a button to a piece of broad cloth, was made the subject of special legislation. In the meantime the public debt had been annually reduced, until there was no longer the least pretext for high duties in reference to that. Still the odious system was pressed upon the south, with none the less force, because every pretext of public necessity which had originally suggested it, had ceased to exist. The whole series of measures upon this subject, is a history of gross oppression on the one part, and patient suffering on the other. They afford it happy illustration of that patriotism which values the government, only as it enables the strongest or the most cunning to oppress the weak; a striking proof of that “love of the Union,” which does not hesitate to bring all the institutions of the country into jeopardy, rather than surrender one farthing of extorted gain — that love of the Union, which is measured only by the advantages to be derived from the exercise of powers not properly belonging to it, can scarcely claim the respect of any sincere friend of the constitution. We freely admit that this picture appears somewhat harsh in some of its features, but the history of the country proves, that it is nowise unfaithful to the truth. It appears to us that they whose principles strike at the very nature of our federal government, and introduce the worst abuses into the administration of it, demand too much when they claim to be considered the exclusive friends of the Union. The south makes no boast of its patriotism. It is the singular fate of that people to be suspected of disaffection to the Union, precisely in proportion as they uphold its true principles. But, in their view of the subject, the federal government is not the Union. If they be charged with disaffection to that government, as now expounded by northern politicians, and understood by almost the entire body of northern men, they not only acknowledge, but proclaim it. Believing that he alone can claim to be the friend of the Union, who but only holds its theoretical principles, [page 79:] but promptly and boldly resists every practical violation of them, it is not possible for them to love a government which saps those principles by insidious measures, or brings them into jeopardy by open violence.

No man who remembers the tone of public sentiment in regard to the principles and practices of the government, only eight years ago, could possibly realize the present condition of things, if he had not seen it. To those who carry their recollections still farther back, to the eras of Jefferson and Madison, the picture now exhibited must be still more strange and appalling. The history of the world exhibits no instance of so rapid a declension in government from the purity of its first principles. Here, the spirit of corruption has, within a few short years, effected changes, such as have never been witnessed in other countries, except by the same means, acting through many generations, or by violence and revolution. The President of the United States, adding to great personal popularity the influence acquired by a profligate abuse of the public patronage, has asserted principles absolutely at war with free government, and has carried measures, by his own mere will, which would have brought any limited monarch in Europe to the block. He has effectually overthrown all the co-ordinate branches of the government. It was not enough to assert, that every power of every office connected with the executive, was in him; that he was the chief of every bureau, and that all the nominal heads were his officers, bound to do his will. He has also denied to the senate the power expressly granted in the constitution, of controlling his appointments to office. It is true, he has not ventured to do this in terms, but he has done it in effect, by refusing to nominate any other than his own creatures, even after the senate has pronounced those same creatures unworthy of confidence. In this way some of the most important trusts of the country have been left untilled, and some of its most important interests neglected for years together. He has assumed upon himself the faculty of exclusive legislation, by a capricious and tyrannical use of the veto power. He has denied to the judiciary its legitimate function of interpreting the laws, we that interpretation interfered with his own views. He has seized, by violence, upon the public treasure, and has asserted, in a deliberate official communication, that the custody of that treasure belonged only to him, and that the representatives of the people in Congress could not constitutionally take it away! The constitution gave him the sword of the country, and the force bill assured him that he would encounter but few checks in the use of it. Nothing more was necessary than this lawless grasp at the treasury, to clothe him with absolute power. Having thus possessed himself of the public money, he has wasted millions upon millions without any known public object, until the expenses of the government have become three fold greater than at any former period. He has deposited the public moneys with political favorites, and encouraged the use of them for the purpose of gaining partisans by corrupting the people. He has issued capricious and unnecessary orders from the treasury, by which the currency of the country has been deranged, and its business disastrously hindered and embarrassed. He has countenanced the worst disorders, the most profligate corruption, and the boldest, [column 2:] violations of law in the heads of departments and has insulted the country by appointing public defaulters and men of dissolute habits and blasted fame, to places of great trust and profit. He has notoriously lent himself to the fraudulent purposes of speculators in the public lands. And to crown the climax of abuses, he has openly interfered in state elections; has tampered with state legislatures, and employed himself, with shameless indelicacy and treasonable hardihood, in prostrating the last bulwark of public liberty, by imposing upon the people a President of his choosing, as his own successor. To effect all these things, it was absolutely necessary to corrupt in an extreme degree, the great body of the people, or to impose upon their confidence and credulity by practices unknown in the purer days of the republic. Whatever be the means by which he has worked, the result is before the country. The will of the President, under this administration at least, is the law of the land.

If it should be said that these objections apply only to the present incumbent of office, and not to the federal government as such, we reply, that they are founded on no temporary causes. It is not at all surprising that General Jackson has been sustained in all his measures of fraud, violence and usurpation, nor that be now exerts an influence far beyond that of his most accomplished predecessor. The proclamation drew to him, not only the entire remains of the old and honest federal party, but also that whole section of country which saw, in the principles of that document, an assurance of profit to themselves. Add to these an hundred thousand office holders, who depend on the will of the President for bread, and thrice that number of hungry expectants, who look for their reward only in consulting and obeying that will; and thrice that number again, whose personal interests are connected by a thousand ramifications, either with the incumbents or the expectants of office; add to these the still more numerous herd who live upon the treasury in consideration of partizan services, and we see at once the entire source of General Jackson’s remarkable success. There is no mystery in his popularity. Any other President who shall use, the same means will be equally popular and equally successful; and unhappily there is too much danger that the example will be followed. The fault is not ill the government, but in its abuses; in the introduction of principles unknown to the constitution, and of practices which such principles alone could tolerate.

This view of the federal government in its present theory and actual practice, presents a strong appeal to all the people of the United States indiscriminately. It ought, we think, to excite alarm every where; but we dare not hope that it will awaken the people of the north to that impartial examination of the character and tendencies of their own principles, which would induce them to co-operate heartily in the establishment of the constitution upon its true foundations. But the south have other and peculiar causes of complaint. The pertinacity with which the tariff system was adhered to; the air of triumph with which its most extreme measures were carried; the contumelious indifference with which the complaints of the south were heard, and the long suffering of the south under it, have done more to disgust those people and to alienate them from the federal government than all other causes [page 80:] combined. It appeared quite clear to them, that it was not within the legitimate province of the government, to foster the industry of one part of the country, at the expense of that of the other. It was not enough to tell them that the tariff laws were general in their operation, and that they might become manufacturers as well as the people of the north. They felt this to be a mere mockery, since from the very nature of their country and its institutions, no such change in their habits and pursuits was practicable. Neither could they be satisfied with specious arguments designed to convince them that the system was in fact the very best for their own agricultural interests. As they alone felt the chain, they claimed the exclusive right to say whether it galled them or not. They believed that the tariff laws were unconstitutional; and they knew, that whether constitutional or not, they were oppressive and odious to them. Conscious that the wealth and prosperity of the country depended mainly upon their industry; that the very manufactures which this system established could not exist without the products of their labor; they felt that something was due even to their honest errors of opinion, if errors they were. It is to be borne in mind, that the questions growing out of the tariff system, very soon became altogether sectional in their character. North of a certain meridian, all were tariff men; south of that meridian, all were opposed to it. The north perceived that it was growing daily richer and richer, by means of that system; while the south perceived, that although it produced almost the whole material of the national wealth, it daily grew poorer and poorer. Looking around them for the cause of this extraordinary state of things, they saw, or thought they saw it in the tariff laws. During ten whole years, they labored to prove those laws unconstitutional, unwise and impolitic. Year after year they entreated, remonstrated, and threatened, in order to obtain at least some mitigation of these intolerable evils. Then was the time for a liberal and enlightened spirit of patriotism in the north, to display itself; then was the time for that love of the Union, which they so loudly boast, to step in and appease these dangerous dissensions. A reasonable concession to the deep and settled convictions of the south upon this subject, would have gone far to conciliate them, and might have secured the Union for ages to come, against all danger of disaffection at the south. Instead of this, however, their complaints were heard with open contumely; the advocates of their rights were derided as the “administrators de bonis non, of deceased principles.” Every year witnessed some new effort to extend the odious system, or to render its provisions more and more intolerable to the south. A combination among all the manufacturing interests of the north, secured the success of every measure, for the protection of each of them, until at length the system was so infinitely extended and ramified, that the most obscure manufacturer, in the most obscure place, drew its share of the spoils of the south. At length, when the power of longer endurance was utterly worn out; when patience was exhausted and hope destroyed, one southern state was bold enough to place itself in an attitude of resistance, not by arms, but by the peaceful action of its judiciary power. Instantly the federal sword was drawn, aid the “defenders of the constitution!” one and all were seen harking on [column 2:] the federal executive to make war on one of their own confederated states!!

This is an elegant commentary on their principles. Those who saw a system of laws as odious as the tariff, and of doubtful constitutionality at least, ready to be enforced at the point of the sword, could not doubt the power of the government to enforce by the same means any and every other law, constitutional or not, by which their own peculiar interests might lie advanced!

But the just complaints of the south do not stop here. For years past, they have seen the people of the north organizing themselves for a systematic attack upon the most important of their institutions. It is not enough to plunder us indirectly, through the agency of federal laws; but we are now boldly told, that we have no right to the property which we have inherited from our fathers, or acquired by our own industry. So long as the abolitionists confined themselves to their own personal exertions, they afforded the south no just ground of complaint against the federal government. We looked on them indeed as our worst enemies, as the most heartless and atrocious conspirators against our peace and our lives. We considered their conduct also as the most conclusive proof of the temper of the people among whom they originated, and by whose countenance and support they have multiplied to a most formidable extent. Still, however, they were but individuals, and did but show in this as in other things, that there can be no true affinity between the Roundhead and the Cavalier. The south has long perceived that any progress which a mere private association could hope to make in overthrowing all the social institutions of an entire country, must be altogether too slow for the impatient ardor of the fanatic. Besides, there is an obvious political reason why slavery at the south should be obnoxious to northern feelings. A portion of that population is now represented in Congress. Destroy slavery, and you diminish the weight of the south, and thus increase the numerical majority which is so favorable to the views and interests of the north. The south therefore were prepared to expect, though they hoped for better things, that the power of the federal government would be invoked to carry out the designs of the abolitionists. But they were not prepared to witness, at least in so short a time, the firm lodgement which that party has acquired in Congress. It is already the settled doctrine of that body, that they have a perfect right to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. What more can they desire? The same constitution which guards the rights of property in the states, guards them also in the District of Columbia. That instrument gives Congress no authority to invade those rights any here. It is easy to perceive therefore, that this claim of power over the District of Columbia is but a pretence for the claim of the same power over the states. The fit occasion has not yet arrived, nor is the power of the federal government yet so firmly consolidated as to promise success to so bold an undertaking. But if the principles which have been so actively at work for the last twenty years, should continue much longer unrebuked, the abolition of slavery at the south, by an act of Congress, will not be the most striking violation of the constitution which we shall witness in the usurpations of federal power.

Every candid mind must admit that these things [page 81:] afford a just ground of uneasiness to the people of the south. It is altogether natural that they should not look with filial fondness to a government which protects them against all the rest of the world, only that they may be the more secure prey to their own fellow citizens. Accordingly, a feeling of disaffection to that government is rapidly extending among them. No fair criterion of its extent or strength can be found in popular elections. Many a man like Mr. Hugh Trevor in the book before us, yet supports the government from an undefined fear of worse evils from opposing it, and perhaps also, from a lingering hope that it will ere long come back again to the purity of its original principles. But the subject is deeply considered by more than have yet chosen to avow it; and the true bearings of the question are better and better understood every day. We have long since “calculated the value of the Union,” and we have found it above price. But the Union which we love is the union of independent, sovereign states, upon equal footing, and possessing in each of these states a legitimate check upon the usurpations of their common agent. We recognize no union which consolidates all power in the federal head, and degrades the sovereign states into petty municipal corporations.

We sincerely hope that the future history of the country may falsify all these speculations. If, however, a change in our institutions should take place, as there is much reason to fear, we have in the book ore us, a striking views of the course which events will probably take. The south, although the most patient people on earth, of the abuses of government, cannot bear every thing. When they see the President of the United States appointing his successor, and that successor or as a matter of course his own son; when they see our representative democracy thus gliding into hereditary monarchy; when they see their own institutions crushed, their own industry paralized, and themselves virtually the bondsmen of the north; a confederacy among themselves for common protection, will be the necessary result. Then follows of course the strife of arms; the contests of mercenary troops on the hand, with bold spirits determined to be free, on the other; the irregular and partisan war of which the author has given us so lively a picture, and it is to be hoped, the ultimate triumph of the oppressed over the oppressor.

It did not escape the sagacity of the author, that one of the first measures which a southern confederacy would adopt, would be the formation of advantageous foreign alliances. This view of the subject has not been sufficiently attended to by those who have been accustomed to think that the south cannot stand alone. Unconnected with the north, she would hold precisely that position which would invite the nations of Europe to the closest alliance with her. She would then hold to them the same relation which she now holds to the north. Producing every thing which they wish to buy, and nothing which thy wish to sell, each would be the best customer to the other. The north, on the other hand, would be their rivals and competitor in every thing. England cannot send her manufactures to any market of the world without meeting American manufactures of the same sort. The same thing is true of all the more considerable nations of Europe. What motive, then, could they have to form alliances with the northern states, their rivals in every thing, to the prejudice [column 2:] of their best customers in the south? Those who are urging, with such intemperate zeal, measures, which to say the least of them, may lead to a separation of the states, would do well to view the subject coolly in this light. To the south it presents much material for reflection, and in the present posture of our affairs, it is not unworthy to engage the serious attention of the politicians of Europe.

As a mere literary production, we consider this a work of very high order. The style is unusually flowing, easy, and chaste. It is evident the writer has taken no pains to polish his language, simply because his language is habitually polished and classical. He writes as he would speak, as every author must do, who would acquire a natural and graceful style. His dialogue is animated, natural and easy, and his delineation of character distinguished for accuracy and nice discrimination. We would gladly present to the reader some specimens of his power in this way, but it would be difficult to do this without making longer extracts from the work than our limits would allow. Although our author frequently indicates the individual alluded to, by presenting some single, yet striking feature, he rarely descends to particular description; and it is only by contemplating his personages in the various situations in which he has chosen to place them, that their whole characters are to be understood. Thus it is impossible to mistake Judge Baker, when we find him teaching his son “a certain sort of chopt logic, elaborately employed in proving what no one ever pretended to deny. Condescending to prove, by elaborate argument, the profound maxim that two and two make four;” and “establishing as unquestionable the premises from which other men begin to reason.” But his full character is only to be collected from his conduct in a variety of trying scenes, in which his own unsteady and yielding principles have placed him. The eager humility of his manner to the President; his timidity and irresolution in circumstances of danger and difficulty; the struggle produced by his clear perception of the constitution, between his sense of duty, and his desire to conform to the wishes of the “dispenser of honor and emolument,” and the final triumph of ambition and selfishness over the better feelings of his nature. These are all so perfectly characteristic, that no man acquainted with the political events of the last five years can possibly misapply them. In like manner the Prime Minister — the Oliver le Diable of modern times, and the President himself, are described with irresistible force and truth, by the characteristics which they display in a variety of interesting scenes and situations. It would be difficult even for the self-love of those individuals to render them insensible to the truth of their own portraits. However this may be, at least one half the country, who have never regarded them with an eye of particular favor, will readily acknowledge that our author fully understands and justly appreciates them.

We have no room for as manly extracts as we desire to present as specimens of the general character and style of the work. Indeed it would be difficult to select any one passage more worthy of such distinction than others; for there is no falling off in any part of the book. Besides, a work of this sort could not be justly appreciated from such extracts as the critic would feel authorized to make. Its true character can only be [page 82:] understood by him who reads the whole work, and reads it with a disposition to judge impartially of its design and object, as well as of its execution.

We commence our extracts with a passage of some length, at the beginning of the work, exhibiting a picturesque view of a state of things, the bare possibility of which startles the reader into a thrilling interest, which is never permitted to subside.

Toward the latter end of the month, of October, 1849, about the hour of noon, a horseman was seen ascending a narrow valley at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge. His road nearly followed the course of a small stream, which, issuing from a deep gorge of the mountain, winds its way between lofty hills, and terminates its brief and brawling course in one of the larger tributaries of the Dan. A glance of the eye took in the whole of the little settlement that lined its banks, and measured the resources of its inhabitants. The different tenements were so near to each other as to allow but a small patch of arable land to each Of manufactures there was no appearance, save only a rude shed at the entrance of the valley, on the door of which the oft repeated brand of the horse-shoe gave token of a smithy. There too the rivulet, increased by the innumerable springs which afforded to every habitation the unappreciated, but inappreciable luxury of water, cold, clear, and sparkling, had gathered strength enough to turn a tiny mill. Of trade there could be none. The bleak and rugged barrier, which closed the scene on the “west, and the narrow road, fading to a foot-path, gave assurance to the traveller that he had here reached the ne plus ultra of social life in that direction.’

Indeed, the appearance of discomfort and poverty in every dwelling well accorded with the scanty territory belonging to each. The walls and chimneys of unhewn logs, the roofs of loose boards laid on long rib-poles, that projected from the gables, and held down by similar poles placed above them, together with the smoked and sooty appearance of the whole, betokened an abundance of timber, but a dearth of everything else. Contiguous to each was a sort of rude garden, denominated, in the ruder language of the country, a “truck-patch.” Beyond this lay a small field, a part of which had produced a crop of oats, while on the remainder the Indian corn still hung on the stalk, waiting to be gathered. Add to this a small meadow, and the reader will have an outline equally descriptive of each of the little farms which, for the distance of three miles, bordered the stream.

But, though the valley thus bore the marks of a crowded population, a deep stillness pervaded it. The visible signs of life were few. Of sounds there were none. A solitary youngster, male or female, alone was seen loitering about every door. These, as the traveller passed along, would skulk from observation, and then steal out, and, mounting a fence, indulge their curiosity, at safe distances, by looking after him.

At length he heard a sound of voices, and then a shrill whistle, and all was still. Immediately, some, half a dozen men, leaping a fence, ranged themselves across the road and faced him. He observed that each, as he touched the ground, laid hold of a rifle that leaned against the enclosure, and this circumstance drew his attention to twenty or more: these formidable weapons, ranged along in the same position. The first impulse of the traveller was to draw a pistol; but seeing that the men, as they posted themselves, rested their guns upon the ground and leaned upon them, he quietly withdrew his hand from his holster. It was plain that no violence; was intended, and that this movement was nothing but a measure of precaution, such as the unsettled condition of the country required. He therefore advanced steadily but slowly, and, on reaching the party, reined in his horse, and silently invited the intended parley.

The men, though somewhat variously attired, were all chiefly clad in half-dressed buck-skin. They seemed to have been engaged in gathering corn in the adjoining field. Their companions, who still continued the same occupation, seemed numerous enough (including women and boys, of both of which there was a full proportion,) to have secured the little crop in a few hours. Indeed, it would seem that the whole working population of the neighborhood, both male and female, was assembled there.

As the traveller drew up his horse, one of the men, speaking in a low and quiet tone, said, “We want a word with you, stranger, before you go any farther.” [column 2:]

“As many as you please,” replied the other, “for I am tired and hungry, and so is my horse; and I am glad to find some one, at last, of whom I may hope to purchase something for both of us to eat.

That you can have quite handy,” said the countryman, “for we have been gathering corn, and were just going to our dinner. If you will only just ‘light, sir, one of the boys can feed your horse, and you can take such as we have got to give you.”

The invitation was accepted; the horse was taken in charge by a long-legged lad of fifteen, without hat or shoes; and the whole party crossed the fence together.

At the moment, a man was seen advancing toward them, who, observing their approach, fell back a few steps, and threw himself on the ground at the foot of a large old apple-tree. Around this were clustered a motley group of men, women, and boys, who opened and made way for the stranger. He advanced, and, Rowing gracefully, took off his forage cap, from beneath which a quantity of soft curling flaxen hair fell over his brow and cheeks. Every eye was now fixed on him, with an expression rather of interest than mere curiosity. Every countenance was serious and composed, and all wore an air of business, except that a slight titter was heard among the girls, who, hovering behind the backs of their mothers, peeped through the crowd, to get a look at the handsome stranger.

He was indeed a handsome youth, about twenty years of age, whose fair complexion and regular features made him seem yet younger. He was tall, slightly, but elegantly formed, with a countenance in which softness and spirit were happily blended. His dress was plain and cheap, though not unfashionable. A short grey coat, waistcoat, and pantaloons, that neatly fitted and set off his handsome person, showed by the quality of the cloth that his means were limited; or that he had too much sense to waste, in foppery, that which might be better expended in the service of his suffering country. But, even in this plain dress, he was apparelled like a king in comparison with the rustics that surrounded him; and his whole air would have passed him for a gentleman, in any dress and any company, where the constituents of that character are rightly understood.

In the present assembly there seemed to be none, indeed, who could be supposed to have had much experience in that line. But dignity is felt, and courtesy appreciated by all, and the expression of frankness and truth is everywhere understood.

As the youth approached, the man at the foot of the tree arose, and returned the salutation, which seemed unheeded by the rest. He advanced a step or two, and invited the stranger to be seated. This action, and the looks turned toward him by the others, showed that he was in authority of some sort among them. With him, therefore, our traveller concluded that the proposed conference was to be held. There was nothing in his appearance which would have led & acareless observer to assign him any pre-eminence. But a second glance might have discovered something intellectual in his countenance, with less of boorishness in his air and manner than the rest of the company displayed. In all, indeed, there was the negative courtesy of that quiet and serious demeanor which solemn occasions impart to the rudest and most frivolous. It was plain to see that they had a common purpose, and that neither ferocity nor rapacity entered into their feeling toward the newcomer. Whether he was to be treated as a friend or an enemy, obviously depended on some high consideration, not yet disclosed.

He was at length asked whence he came, and answered from the neighborhood of Richmond. From which side of the river? — From the north side. Did he know anything of Van Courtlandt? — His camp was at Bacon’s branch, just above the town. What force had he?

“I cannot say, certainly,” he replied, “but common fame made his numbers about four thousand.”

“Is that all, on both sides of the river?” said his interrogator.

“O, no! Col. Loyal’s regiment is at Petersburg, and Col. Cole’s at Manchester’; each about five hundred strong; and there is a piquet on the Bridge island.”

“Did you cross there?”

“I did not.”

“Where then?” he was asked. “I can hardly tell you,” he replied, “it was at a private ford, several miles above Cartersville.”

“Was not that mightily out of the way? What made you come so far around?”

“It was safer travelling on that side of the river.” [page 83:]

“Then the people on that side of the river are your friends?”

“No. They are not. But, as they are all of a color there, they would let me pass, and ask no questions, as long as I travelled due west. On this side, if you are one man’s friend, you are the next man’s enemy; and I had no mind to answer questions.”

“You seem to answer them now mighty freely.”

“That is true. I am like a letter that tells all it knows as soon as it gets to the right hand; but it does not want to be opened before that.”

“And how do you know that you have got to the right hand now?”

“Because I know where I am.”

“And where are you?”

“Just at the foot of the Devil’s Back-bone,” implied the youth.

“Were you ever here before?”

“Never in my life.”

“How do you know then where you are?” asked the mountaineer.

“Because the right way to avoid questions” to ask none. So I took care to know all about the road, and the country, and the place, before I left home.”

“And who told you all about it?”

“Suppose I should tell you,” answered the young man, “that Van Courtlandt had a map of the country made, and gave it to me.”

“I should say, you were a traitor to him, or a spy upon us,” was the stern reply.

At the same moment, a startled hum was heard from the crowd, and the press moved and swayed-for an instant, as if a sort of spasm had pervaded the whole mass.

“You are a good hand at questioning,” said the youth, with a smile, “but, without asking a single question, I have found out all I wanted to know.”

And what was that?” asked the other.

“Whether you were friends to the Yorkers and Yankees, or to poor old Virginia.”

“And which are we for?” added the laconic mountaineer.

“For old Virginia forever,” replied the youth, in a tone in which exultation rung through a deeper emotion, that half stifled his voice.

It reached the hearts of1 his auditors, and was echoed in a shout! that pealed along the mountain sides their proud war-cry of “old Virginia Forever.” The leader looked around in silence, but with a countenance that spoke all that the voices of his comrades had uttered.

“Quiet, boys,” said he, “never shout till the war is ended — unless it be when you see the enemy.” Then turning again to the traveller, he said, “And how did you know we were for old Virginia?”

“I knew it by the place where I find you. I heard it in your voice; I saw it in their eyes; and I felt it in my heart” said the young man, extending his hand.

His inquisitor returned the cordial pressure with an iron grasp, strong, but not convulsive, and went on: “You are a sharp youth,” said he, “and if you are of the right metal that will hold an edge, you will make somebody feel it. But I don’t know rightly yet who that is to be, only just I will say, that if you are not ready to live and die by old Virginia, your heart and face are not of the same color, that’s all.”

He then resumed his steady look and quiet tone, and added, “You must not make me forget what I am about. How did you learn the way here?”

“I can answer that now” said the youth. “I learned it from Captain Douglas.”

“Captain Douglas!” exclaimed the other. “If you were never here before, you have never seen him since he knew it himself.”

“True enough;” was the reply. “But I have heard from him.”

“I should like to see his letter.”

“I have no letter.”

“How then?”

“Go with me to my horse, and I will show you.”

The youth, accompanied by his interrogator, now returned toward the fence. Many of the crowd were about to follow; but the chief (for such he seemed) waved them back with a silent motion of his hand, while a glance of meaning at two of the company invited them to proceed. As soon as the stranger reached his horse, he drew out, from between the padding and seat of his saddle, a paper closely folded. On opening this, it was found to be a map of his route from Richmond to a point in the mountains, a few miles west of the spot where they stood. On this were traced the roads and streams, with the names of a few places, written in a hand which was known to the leader of the mountaineers to be that of Captain Douglas. A red line marked the devious route the traveller had been directed to pursue.

He said that, after crossing the river, between Lynchburg and Cartersville, to avoid the parties of the enemy stationed at both places, he had lain by, until dark, at the house of a true Virginian. Then, turning south, and riding hard all night, he had crossed the Appomattox above Farmville, (which he avoided for a like reason,) and, before day, had left behind him all the hostile posts and scouting parties. He soon reached the Staunton river, and, having passed it, resumed his westward course in comparative safety.

“You know this hand,” said he to the chief, “and now, I suppose, you are satisfied.”

“I am satisfied,” replied the other, “and glad to see you. I have not a doubt about yon, young man, and you are heartily welcome among us — to all we can give you — and that an’t much — and all we can do for you; and that will depend upon whether stout hearts, and willing minds, and good rifles can help you. But you said you were hungry; so, I dare say, you’ll be glad enough of a part of our sorry dinner.”

Returning to the party which they had left, they found the women in the act of placing their meal before them, under the apple-tree. There was a patch of grass there, but no shade; nor was any needed in that lofty region; the frost had already done its work by stripping the trees of their leaves, and letting in the welcome rays of the sun through the naked branches. The meal consisted of fresh pork and venison, roasted or broiled on the coals, which looked tempting enough, though served up in wooden trays. There were no knives but such as each hunter carries in his belt. Our traveller’s dirk supplied the place of one to him. Their plates were truly classical, consisting of cakes of Indian corn, baked in the ashes, so that, like the soldiers of Æneas, each man ate up his platter before his hunger was appeased.

Our traveller, though sharp-set, could not help perceiving a woful insipidity in his food, for which his entertainer apologized. “We ha’nt got no salt to give you, stranger,” said he. “The little that’s made on the waters of Holston is all used there; and what comes by way of the sound is too dear for the like of us, that fight one half the year, and work the other half, and then with our rifles in our hands. As long as we let the Yankees hold James river, we must make up our minds to eat our hogs when they are fat, and to do without salt to our bread. But it is not worth grumbling about; and bread without salt is more than men deserve that will give up their country without fighting for it.”

When the meal was finished, our traveller, expressing a due sense of the courtesy of his entertainers, asked what was to pay, and proposed to continue his journey.

“As to what you are to pay, my friend,” said the spokesman of the party, in the same cold, quiet tone, “that is just nothing. If you come here by Captain Douglas’s invitation, you are one of us; and if you do not, we are bound to find you as long as we keep you. But, as to your going just yet, it is quite against our rules.”

“How is that?” asked the traveller, with some expression of impatience.

“That is what I cannot tell you,” replied the other.

“But what right,” exclaimed the youth — then checking himself, he added: “But I see you mean nothing but what is right and prudent; and you must take your own way to find out all you wish to know about me. But I thought you said you did not doubt me.”

“No more I do,” replied the other; “but that is not the thing. May be, our rules are not satisfied, though I am.”

“And what are your rules?”

“It is against rule to tell them,” said the mountaineer, dryly.

“But make yourself easy, stranger. We mean you no harm, and I will see and have every thing laid straight before sun-rise. You are heartily welcome. Such as we’ve got we give you; and that is better than you will find where you are going. For our parts, except it be for salt, we are about as well off here as common; because there is little else we use that comes from foreign parts. I dare say, it will go hard with you for awhile, sir; but, [page 84:] if your heart’s right, you will not mind it, and’ you will soon get used to it.”

“It would be a great shame,” said the youth, “if I cannot bear for a while what you have borne for life.”

“Yes,” said the other, “that is the way people talk. But (axing your pardon, sir,) there an’t no sense in it. Because the longer a man bears a thing, the less he minds it; and after a while, it an’t no hardship at all. And that’s the way with the poor negroes that the Yankees pretend to be so sorry for, and tried to get them to rise against their masters. There’s few of them, stranger, but what’s happier than I am; but I should be mighty unhappy, if you were to catch me now, in my old days, and make a slave of me. So when the Yankees want to set the negroes free, and to make me a slave, they want to put us both to what we are not fit for. And so it will be with you for a while, among these mountains, sleeping on the ground, and eating your meat without salt, or bread either, may be. But after a while you will not mind it. But as to whether it is to be long or short, young man, you must not think about, that. You have no business here, if you have not made up your mind to stand the like of that for life; and may be that not so mighty long neither.”

Our next extract exhibits the attitude of Virginia at the beginning of Mr. Van Buren’s fourth term, when the action of the piece commences. It is prefaced by a sketch of character which every reader who is so fortunate as to be acquainted with a single individual of high talents and distinguished probity in the ranks of the administration, will be sure to think is drawn from that individual, whoever he may be.

Arthur Trevor was the youngest son of a gentleman who resided in the neighborhood of Richmond. He was a man in affluent circumstances, and had long and honorably filled various important and dignified stations in the service of his native State. Endowed with handsome talents, an amiable disposition, and all the accomplishments that can adorn a gentleman, he added to these the most exemplary virtues. His influence in society had, of course, been great, and though now, at the age of seventy, withdrawn from public life, his opinions were inquired of, and his counsel sought, by all who had access to him. Through life he had been remarkable for firmness, and yet more for prudence. The steadiness of his principles could never be questioned, but, it was thought, he had sometimes deemed it wise to compromise, when men of less cautious temper would have found safety in prudent boldness.

To this temperament had been attributed his conduct in regard to the politics of the last twenty years. Bred up in the school of State rights, and thoroughly imbued with its doctrines, he had, even before that time, been accustomed to hole, with a jealous eye, on the progressive usurpations of the Federal Government. In the hope of arresting these, he had exerted more than his usual activity in aiding to put down the younger Adams, and to elevate his successor. Though no candidate for the spoils of victory, no man rejoiced more sincerely in the result of that contest; and, until the emanation of the proclamation of December, 1832, he had given his hearty approbation, and steady, though quiet support, to the administration of Andrew Jackson.

From that moment he seemed to look with fearful bodings on the affairs of his country. His disapprobation of that instrument was expressed with as much freedom and force as was consistent with his habitual reserve and moderation. He was, indeed, alarmed into a degree of excitement unusual with him, and might have gone farther than he did, had he not found that others were disposed to go, as he thought, too far. He had entirely disapproved the nullifying ordinance of South Carolina; and, though he recognized the right of secession, he deprecated all thought of resorting to that remedy. He was aware that many of his best friends, thinking that its necessity would be eventually felt by all, feared that that conviction might come too late. They remarked the steady tendency of Federal measures to weaken the malcontent States in the South, and to increase the resources of their northern oppressors and those of the General Government. Hence they feared, that whenever Virginia, or any other of the slave-holding States, should find itself driven to secession, the other party, in the confidence of superior strength, might be tempted forcibly to resist the exercise of the right. They thus [column 2:] arrived at the conclusion that separation (which they deemed inevitable) to be peaceable, must be prompt.

These ideas had been laid before Mr. Trevor, and, in proportion to the urgency with which they were pressed, was his alarm and his disposition to adhere to the Union. He, at last, had brought himself to believe union, on any terms, better than disunion, under any circumstances. As the lesser evil, therefore, he determined to forget the proclamation, and, striving to reconcile himself to all the acts of the administration, he regarded every attempt to unite the South, in support of a southern president, as a prelude to the formation of a southern confederacy . . . By consequence, he became a partisan of Martin Van Buren; and united with Ritchie, and others of the same kidney, in endeavoring to subdue the spirit, and tame down the State pride of Virginia. These endeavors, aided by the lavish use of federal patronage in the State, were so far successful, that when, at the end of Van Buren’s second term, he demanded a third election, she alone, in the South, supported his pretensions.

By the steady employment of the same pernicious influences, the elections throughout the State had been so regulated, as to produce returns of a majority of members devoted to the views of the usurper This had continued until the spring of 1848, at which time the results of the elections were essentially the same which had taken place since the memorable 1836; when Virginia, at one stroke of the pen, expunged her name from the chronicles of honor, expunged the history of all her glories, expunged herself. From that time the land of Washington, and Henry, and Mason, of Jefferson, Madison, and Randolph, sunk to the rank of a province, administered and managed by the Eiveses and Ritchies, the Barbours and Stevensons, the Watkinses and Wilsons, whose chance to be remembered in history depends, like that of Erostratus, on the glories of that temple of liberty which they first desecrated and then destroyed.

“Where once the Cæsars dwelt, “There dwelt, tuneless, the birds of night.”

From some cause, not understood at the time, an unexpected reaction had taken place between the spring elections and the recurrence of that form of presidential election in the fall, the observance of which was still deemed necessary to display, and, by displaying, to perpetuate the usurper’s power. This reaction appeared to show itself chiefly in those counties heretofore most distinguished for their loyalty.

It would have seemed as if the spirit of John Randolph had risen from the sleep of death, and walked abroad through the scenes where his youthful shoulders had received the mantle of his eloquence from the hand of Henry. For the first time, in twelve years, the vote of Virginia was recorded against the re-election of Martin Van Buren to the presidential throne.

But not the less subservient were the proceedings of the Legislature elected for his use, the spring before. Yet enough had been done to justify the hope that the ancient spirit of old Virginia would yet show itself in the descendants of the men who had defied Cromwell, in the plenitude of his power, and had cast off the yoke of George the Third, without waiting for the co-operation of the other colonies. At the same time, the power and the will of a fixed majority in the North, to give a master to the South, had been made manifest. It was clearly seen, too, that he had determined to use the power thus obtained, and to administer the government solely with a view to the interest of that sectional faction, by which he had been supported. “Væ victis!” “Woe to the vanquished!” was the word. It had gone forth; and northern cupidity and northern fanaticism were seen to march, hand in hand, to the plunder and desolation of the South.

Under these circumstances, the Southern States had been, at length, forced to see that the day for decisive action had arrived. They therefore determined no longer to abide the obligations of a constitution, the form of which alone remained, and having, by a movement nearly simultaneous, seceded from the Union, they had immediately formed a Southern Confederacy. The suddenness of these measures was less remarkable than the prudence with which they had been conducted. The two together left little doubt that there had been a preconcert among the leading men of the several States, arranging provisionally what should be done, whenever circumstances should throw power into the hands of those whom, at the bidding of the usurper, the people had once driven from their councils. It is now known that there was such concert. Nor was it confined to the seceding States alone. In Virginia, also, there were men who entered into [page 85:] the same views. But while the President believed that no decisive step would be taken by the more Southern States without her co-operation, he had devoted all his power, direct and indirect, to control and influence her elections. Of tumultuary insurrection he had no fear. The organized operation of the State Government was what he dreaded. By this alone could the measure of secession be effected; and this was effectually prevented by operating on the elections of members of the Legislature of Virginia. From the November vote on the Presidential election, less evil had been apprehended, and less pains had been taken to control it. In consequence of this, something more of the real sentiments of the people had been allowed to appear on that occasion; and, from this manifestation, the more Southern States were encouraged to hope for the ultimate accession of Virginia to their Confederacy. They had therefore determined to wait for her no longer, but to proceed to the execution of their plan, leaving her to follow.

The disposition of the usurper, at first, was to treat them as revolted provinces; and to take measures for putting down, by force, their resistance to his authority. But circumstances, to be mentioned hereafter, made it impolitic to resort to this measure. But these did not operate to prevent him from using the most efficacious means to prevent Virginia from following their example. Though restrained from attacking them, nothing prevented him from affecting to fear an attack from them. This gave a pretext for raising troops; and the position of Virginia, as the frontier State, afforded an excuse for stationing them within her borders. Under these pretences, small corps were established in many of the disaffected counties. Should the presence of these be ineffectual to secure the return of delegates devoted to the crown, an ultimate security was taken against the action of the Legislature. Richmond, the seat of government, became the head-quarters of the army of observation, as it was called, and, surrounded by this, the mock deliberations of the General Assembly were to be held.

The money thus thrown into the country seduced the corrupt, while terror subdued the timid. On Mr. Trevor, who was neither, these things had a contrary effect. He now, when it was too late, saw and lamented the error of his former overcaution. He now began to suspect that they had been right who had urged him, eighteen years before, to lend his aid in the work of arousing the people to a sense of their danger, and preparing them to meet it M one man.

The worthy gentleman spoken of in the foregoing extract is the father of the hero of the work, a young man brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and awakened to a sense of duty to Virginia, by being made a witness of scenes hardly less startling than the light from heaven that shone around St. Paul. The character of this youth is only to be collected from the whole work. But he has an elder brother, a personage of some consequence in the story, who is yet in the camp of the Philistines. He is thus introduced:

It happened unfortunately, that, about the time of Mr. Van Buren’s accession to the presidency, his eldest son had just reached the time of life when it is necessary to choose a profession. Without any particular purpose of devoting him to the army, he had been educated at West Point. The favor of President Jackson had offered this advantage, which, by the father of so large a family, was not to be declined. But the young man acquired a taste for military life, and there was no man in Virginia whom the new President was more desirous to bind to his service than Mr. Hugh Trevor; his wishes had been ascertained, and the ready advancement of his son was the consequence. The promotion of Owen Trevor had accordingly been hastened by all means consistent with the rules of the service. Even these were sometimes violated in his favor. In one instance, he had been elevated over the head of a senior officer of acknowledged merit. The impatience of this gentleman, which had tempted him to offer his resignation, had been soothed by a staff appointment, accompanied by an understanding that he should not, unnecessarily, be placed under the immediate command of young Trevor. The latter, at the date of which we speak, had risen to the command of a regiment, which was now encamped in the neighborhood of Washington, in daily expectation of being ordered on active duty. [column 2:]

Colonel Owen Trevor had received his first impressions, on political subjects, at a time when circumstances made his father anxious to establish in his mind a conviction that union was the one thing needful. To the maintenance of this he had taught him to devote himself, and, overlooking his allegiance to his native State, to consider himself as the sworn soldier of the Federal Government. It was certainly not His wish of Mr. Trevor to teach his son to regard Virginia merely as a municipal division of a great consolidated empire. But while he taught him to act on precepts which seemed drawn from such premises, it was natural that the young man should adopt them.

He did adopt them. He had learned to deride the idea of State sovereignty; and his long residence in the North had given him a disgust at all that is peculiar in the manners, habits, institutions, and character of Virginia. Among his boon companions he had been accustomed to express these sentiments; and, being repeated at court, they had made him a favorite there. He had been treated by the President with distinguished attention. He seemed honored,’ too, with the personal friendship of that favorite son, whom he had elevated to the chief command of the army. Him he had consecrated to the purple; proposing to cast on him the mantle of his authority, so as to unite, in the person of his chosen successor, the whole military and civil power of the empire.

It was impossible that a young man, like Col. Trevor, should fail to feel himself flattered by such notice. He had been thought, when a boy, to be warm-hearted and generous, and his devotion to his patrons, which was unbounded, was placed to the account of gratitude by his friends. The President, on his part, was anxiously watching for an opportunity to reward this personal zeal, which is so strong a recommendation to the favor of the great. It was intimated to Col. Trevor that nothing was wanting to ensure him speedy promotion to the rank of brigadier, but some act of service which might be magnified, by a pensioned press, into a pretext for advancing him beyond his equals in rank. Apprised of this, he burned for active employment, and earnestly begged to be marched to the theatre of war.

This theatre was Virginia. But he had long since ceased to attribute any political personality to the State, and it was a matter of no consequence to him that the enemies, against whom he was to act, had been born or resided there. Personally they were strangers to him; and he only knew them as men denying the supremacy of the Federal Government, and hostile to the President and his intended successor.

We have already spoken of the slight sketch of Judge Baker. That of the modern “Oliver Diable” is given in two soliloquies of his master.

Having thus possessed himself of his master’s will, this modern Sejanus withdrew to give necessary orders for effecting it.

“The only truly wise man that I know in the world,” said the President, looking after him. “The only one who knows man as he is; who takes no account of human virtue, but as one form of human weakness. In his enemies, it gives him a power over them which he always knows how to use. In his instruments, he desires none of it. Why cannot I profit more by his instruction and example? Fool that I am! I will try to practise a lesson.”

* * * *

The instrument of the royal pleasure again withdrew. Again the President looked after him, and said, musingly: “Were I not myself, I would be that man. I should even owe him a higher compliment could one be devised, for, but for him, I had never been what I am. What then? Is he the creator, and am I his creature? No. I am wrong. Could he have made himself what I am, he would have done so. He has but fulfilled my destiny, and I his. He has made me what I alone was capable of becoming, and I, in turn, have made him all that he ever can be. I owe him nothing, therefore; and should he ever be guilty of any thing like virtue, there is nothing to hinder me from lopping off any such superfluous excrescence, even if his head should go with it. But he is in no danger on that score. If he held his life by no other tenure, his immortality would be sure.”

Resistance to military coercion at an election, is made the foundation of a charge of treason against our hero and his uncle, who had been the successful candidate on the side of the opposition. A warrant, backed by a military guard, under the command of a subaltern, is [page 86:] sent to take them before Judge Baker’s court at Washington. The attempt is defeated, by means shown in the following extract:

They, meantime, quietly awaited the return of their officer at the great gate, a quarter of a mile from the house. Rather as a point of military etiquette than from an idea that any precaution was necessary, they had stacked their arms in form before the gate, and stationed a sentinel, who, with head erect and military step, walked his post in front of them. They had not long been there, before they heard a negro’s voice, who, as he approached from the house, sung merrily a song, of which only the following lines could be distinguished:

“Peep froo de winder; see break o’ day;

Run down to riber; canoe gone away.

Put foot in water; water mighty cold;

Hear O’sur call me; hear Missis scold.

O dear! my dear I what shall I do?

My Massa whip me, cause I love you.”

The song ceased, and cuffee advanced in silence, but with a heavy swinging step, that rung audibly on the hard ground. As soon as his dusky figure began to be distinguishable, which was not until he was quite near, he was arrested by the sharp challenge of the sentry.

“High!” exclaimed the negro, in a tone of amazement and alarm: “Law-Gorramighty! what dis?”

“Advance!” said the sentinel, mechanically, “and give the countersign.”

“What dat, Massa? I never see such a ting in my life.”

“Advance!” repeated the sentry, bringing his piece down with a rattling sound against his right side.

The metal glimmered in the light from the windows. The negro caught the gleam, and, falling flat on his face, roared lustily for mercy.

The Sergeant now went to him, raised him up, calmed his fears, and, as soon as he could he made to understand anything, asked if Lieutenant Whiting was at the house.

“I hear ‘em say, sir, one mighty grand gentleman went there while ago. Old Tom say, he Mass Douglas’ old crony, and Massa and Mass Douglas, and all, mighty glad to see him.”

“The devil they are!” said the Sergeant. “Well, I hope they’ll be mighty glad to see us, too. I do not care how soon, for this night air is something of the sharpest; and I have drawn better rations than we had at that damned tavern. I say, darkee; the old man keeps good liquor, and plenty of belly-timber, don’t he?”

“Ah, Lord! Yes, Massa, I reckon he does. But it an’t much I knows about it. Old Massa mighty hard man, sir. Poor negur don’t see much o’ he good ting.”

“But, I suppose, he gives his friends a plenty?”

“Oh, to be sure, sir! Massa mighty proud. Great gentleman come see him, he an’t got nothing too good for him. But poor white folks and poor negur I — pshaw!”

“A bad look-out for us, Eogers,” said the Sergeant to one of his men. “Damn the old hunks, I hope he don’t mean to leave us to bivouack here all night. Well, we must wait our hour, as the Lieutenant told us, and then he’ll come back to us, or we have to march to the house. Damn it! I shall be pretty sharp-set by that time, and if it comes to that the old gentleman’s kitchen and wine-cellar may look out for a storm.”

“You talk like you hungry, Massa,” said the negro, in a tone of sympathy. “I mighty sorry I an’t got nothing to give you.”

“But could not you get something, cuffee? Is there no key to your master’s cellar and smoke-house besides the one he keeps? Don’t you think, now, you could get us some of his old apple-brandy? I hear he has it of all ages.”

“Ah, Lord, Massa; dat you may be sure of. I hear old Tom say brandy dare older an he; and he most a hundred. ‘Spose I bring you some o’ dat, Massa, what you gwine give me?”

“Will a quarter do for a bottle of it?”

“Law, Massa! Why he same like gold. Half a dolla, Massa!”

“Well, bring us a bottle of the right old stuff, mind! — and you shall have halt a dollar. And see, darkee; cannot you bring us a little cold bread and meat?”

“I don’t know, Massa, what de cook say. I try her.”

“Well, go; and, while your hand is in, help yourself well. If the liquor is good, maybe we’ll take two or three bottles.”

“Well, Massa, I try old Tom. He keep de key. Ah, Lord! Old Massa tink Tom mighty desperate honest; and he tink Tom [column 2:] love him so — better an he own self. He better mind; one o’ dese days Tom show him how dat is.”

“I don’t think you love him much yourself, Sambo.”

Who? — I, Massa? My name Jack, sir. Lord, no sir! What I love him for? Hard work and little bread, and no meat? No, Massa, I love soldier; cause I hear ‘em say soldier come after a while, set poor nigur free.”

“That is true enough. I hope it will not be long before we set you all free from these damned man-stealers. How would you like to go with us?”

“Lord, Massa, you joking. Go wid you? I reckon the old man find it right hard to get somebody to saddle his horse if all our folks was here.”

“Well, cuffee, the old man’s in hockley by this time; and when we march him off in the morning, you will have nobody to stop you. But bring us the brandy, and then we’ll talk about it.”

“Ees, Massa! tank ye, Massa! But, Massa, I got two boys big as me, and my brother, and my wife, and all; I don’t want to leave them. And, Massa, my boys got some apples. You want some, sir?”

“To be sure I do. Bring them along; but mind and bring the brandy, at all events.”

The negro disappeared, and the soldiers occupied themselves in discussing the means of making a profitable speculation on their disposition to leave their master. They were still on this topic when they heard Jack returning, with several more. One brought a chunk of fire; another a basket of apples, another one of eggs; a fourth came provided with some cold provisions; Jack himself brandished a couple of bottles of brandy; and one of his boys brought a pail of water and a tin cup. The liquor was tasted, approved, paid for, and eagerly swallowed. A torch of light wood being kindled, a chaffering commenced, interrupted by occasional allusions to the interesting subjects of slavery, hard masters, and emancipation. The brandy, however, chiefly engaged the attention of the soldiers. The sentry, whose duty was but formal, was permitted to join, as the guns were but a few feet off”, just without the gate, which stood open. The light of the torch glittered strongly on the arms, and seemed to make all things distinct, while in fact its unsteady flickering did little more than dazzle their eyes. The negro held it aloft, and, as if to brighten the flame, occasionally waved it to and fro. Suddenly it dropped from his hand into the pail of water, and in an instant the blackness of impenetrable darkness shrouded every eye.

At the same moment, a heavy trampling, as from a rush of many feet, was heard without the gate, and a shivering clash from the stack of arms, as if it had fallen down. The soldiers groped their way towards it, feeling where they supposed it to be. They felt in vain. They winked hard, as if to free their eyes from the blinding impression left by the flaring light, then opened them, and looked about. Judge their astonishment, when, as they began to recover their sight, they found themselves surrounded by a dusky ring, from which issued a voice, not unlike that of their friend Jack, which informed them, in good English, that they were prisoners. The prick of a bayonet on one or two who endeavored to pass through the circle, convinced them that such was the fact; and, after a short parley, they permitted themselves to be marched off, and safely stowed away in a strong outhouse.

The following conversation in the bar-room of a village tavern in North Carolina, throws some light on the causes of the charge of public sentiment on the south side of James river:

“I cannot say I like it altogether, Squire,” said the planter. “It may suit my neighbor Jones, here, well enough to have one of them high-headed Roanoke planters to come here with his family, and spend his money. I dare say he will make a pretty good spec out of them; but, for my part, I would rather they would stay at home, and live under their own laws. I ha’nt got no notion, after they saddled that damned rascal Van Buren upon us so long, that now, the minute we have shook him off and made a good government, and good treaties, and all, they should be wanting to have a sop in our pan. If that’s what they are after, in rebelling against their government, I don’t want to give them no countenance. What we have done, we have done for ourselves, and we have a right to all the good of it. They have fixed their market to their liking, and let it stand so. If we can get thirty dollars for our tobacco, and they cannot get ten, I reckon [page 87:] we ha’nt got nobody to thank for it but ourselves. I dare say, now they see how the thing works, they would be glad enough to share with us, but I see plain enough that all they would get by joining us, we would lose, and may be more too.”

“You are right there, Mr. Hobson,” said the merchant; “and that is not all. There’s an advantage in buying as well as selling. Now as to this Mr. Trevor, or whatever his name is, coming over here, and buying things cheaper than he could get them at home — why that he is welcome to. Though you may be sure, neighbor, I don’t let him have them as cheap as I sell to you. But as to letting in the Norfolk merchants to all the advantage of our treaty with England, that is another matter. For though, when we deepen the bar at Ocracock, I have no doubt our town down there will be another sort of a place to what Norfolk ever was, yet if Virginia was to join us now, right away, the most of the trade would go to Norfolk again, and they would get their goods there as cheap as we get them here, and may be a little cheaper. So you see it is against my interest as well as yours; and I don’t like the thoughts of putting in a crop, and letting another man gather it, any more than you do.”

“It would be harder upon me than any of you,” said the wagoner; “for if that was the case, that d —— d railroad would break up my business, stock and fluke. As it is, there never was such a time for wagoning before. Instead of just hauling the little tobacco that is made here to the end of the railroad, now I have the hauling of the Virginia tobacco, and all, down to Commerce.’‘*

It is hard to say whether surprise or disgust most prevailed in the mind of Douglas at hearing these remarks. The idea of the advantages lost to Virginia, by her connexion with the North, had never entered his mind; but still less had he conceived it possible that a sordid desire to monopolize these advantages, could stifle, in the minds of the North Carolinians, every feeling of sympathy with the oppressed and persecuted assertors of the rights of Virginia. The reply of Mr. Hobson to the remark of the wagoner gave him a yet deeper insight into that dark and foul corner of the human heart, where self predominates over all the better affections.

“I don’t think that’s right fair in you wagoners,” said he. “You haul the Virginian tobacco down to Commerce, and when it gets there it is all the same as mine. Now, if it was not for that, I am not so mighty sure but I’d get forty dollars instead of thirty; and I don’t like to lose ten dollars to give you a chance to get one.”

“It is all one to me,” said the wagoner. “You may just pay me the same for not hauling that they pay me for hauling, or only half as much, and I will not haul another hogshead.”

“But if you won’t, another will,” said Hobson.

“Like enough,” replied the wagoner; “for all trades must live; and if them poor devils get a chance to sell a hogshead or two, instead of leaving it all to rot, you ought not to grudge them that.”

“Certainly not,” said the merchant, “for I guess that whatever they get, they take care to lay it all out in goods on this side of the line. So the money stays with us after all, and friend Stubbs’s hauling does good to more besides him.”

“I see,” said Hobson, “how it does good to you, but none to me.”

“But that an’t all, Mr. Hobson,” said the landlord, who had entered while this conversation was going on. “Them hot-headed fellows over the line there, like this old Squire Trevor, will be getting themselves into hot water every now and then; and when they run away and come to us, if they did not bring no money, we’d have to feed them free gratis for nothing. Now Stubbs hauls Squire Trevor’s tobacco to Commerce, and he gets a good price; and then he gets into trouble, and comes over here to stay with me, and so he is able to pay me a good price; and here it is,” added he, showing a roll of notes.

“Still,” said Hobson, “I don’t see how that does me any good. If they were to come here begging, d — n the mouthful I’d give them.”

“Then you would leave the whole burden on the poor tavern-keepers,” said the landlord. [column 2:]

“No — I would not. I would not let them come; or, if they did, just give them up to their own government. If they had not a chance to be running over here, as soon as they got into trouble, they would keep quiet, and never get a chance to separate, and so ruin our business, whether they joined us or no.”

“Old Rip is wide awake at last,” said a voice from behind; “but it is to his interest only.”

Douglas turned to the voice of the speaker, the tone of which expressed a scorn and derision most acceptable to his feelings. He was a tall and fine-looking man, powerfully made, and inclined to be fat, but not at all unwieldy. The half laughing expression of his large, blue eye, and the protrusion of his under lip, spoke his careless contempt of those whose conversation had called forth his sarcasm. The attention of the whole company was drawn to him at the same moment; all looking as if they wished to say something, without knowing what. At length the wagoner spoke, on the well understood principle that, when men talk of what they understand imperfectly, he who knows least should be always first to show his ignorance.

“I cannot say I understand rightly what you mean, stranger,” said he; “but I guess, by the cut of your jib, that you are one of them high dons from South Carolina, that always have money to throw away, and think a body ought never to care any more for himself than another. But this business don’t consarn you, no how, because these people don’t interfere with your cotton crop.”

“Yes, but they do, though,” said Hobson; “for if they drive me from tobacco, I shall make cotton. But, if I can keep them out of the tobacco market, I shall be willing to give up the making of cotton to South Carolina.”

“Why, that is true,” said the stranger, with a sudden change of his countenance, from which he discharged, in a moment, every appearance of intelligence, but that which seemed to reflect the superior wisdom of Mr. Hobson. “That is true,” said he, looking as if making a stupid attempt to think; “I had not thought of that before.”

As he said this, he sunk slowly and thoughtfully into a chair, his knees falling far asunder, his arms dropping across his thighs, his body bent forward, and his face turned up toward Mr. Hobson, with the look of one who desires and expects to receive important information. The whole action spoke so eloquently to Mr. Hobson ‘s self-esteem, that he went on, with an air of the most gracious complacency.

“You see, stranger, just shutting only a part of the Virginian tobacco out of the market, makes a difference of ten dollars, at the very least, in the price of mine. Now, we used to make a heap of cotton in this country, but we are all going to give it up quite entirely, and then, you see, it stands to reason it will make a difference of five cents a pound, or may be ten, in your cotton.”

This interesting proposition was received by the stranger with a sluggish start of dull surprise, from which he sunk again into the same appearance of stolid musing. “To think what a fool I have been,” said he, after a long pause. Then, scratching his head, and twisting in his chair, he added: “You are right. You are right; and the only way to manage the matter is to get your Legislature to pass a law, as you say, to make those fellows stay at home.”

“To be sure it would,” said the gratified Hobson; “but then there are so many conceited fellows in the Legislature, with a fool’s notion in their heads about taking sides with them that cannot help themselves, that there is no getting anything done.”

“Well,” said the stranger, “this gentleman guessed right when he said I was from South Carolina. So I don’t know any thing about your laws here. But I suppose you have no law to hurt a man for taking up one that runs away from the law in Virginia, and carrying him back. I expect old Yan would pay well for them.”

Hobson looked hard at the stranger, and only answered with that compound motion of the head, which, partaking at once of a shake and a nod, expresses both assent and caution.

The landlord and merchant both exclaimed against this suggestion, the one illustrating his argument by the freedom with which his guest had ordered wine from the bar; the other, by his former experience of his liberality as a purchaser of goods, while he kept a store in Mr. Trevor’s neighborhood, which he had withdrawn since the revolution. Among the bystanders there was no expression of opinion, but that sort of silence which betokens an idea that what has been said is well worth considering. [page 88:]

The views presented in the following extract are familiar to many, but, being strikingly displayed here, they may help to attract attention to a subject on which too much thought cannot be bestowed:

“You must be sensible,” said B — , “that the southern States, including Virginia, are properly and almost exclusively agricultural. The quality of their soil and climate, and the peculiar character of their laboring population, concur to make agriculture the most profitable employment among them. Apart from the influence of artificial causes, it is not certain that any labor can be judiciously taken from the soil to be applied to any other object whatever. When Lord Chatham said that America ought not to manufacture a hob-nail for herself, he spoke as a true and judicious friend of the colonies. The labor necessary to make a hob-nail, if applied to the cultivation of the earth, might produce that for which the British manufacturer would gladly give two hobnails. By coming between the manufacturer and the farmer, and interrupting this interchange by perverse legislation, the Government broke the tie which bound the colonies to the mother country.

“When that tie was severed and peace established, it was the interest of both parties that this interchange should be restored, and put upon such a footing as to enable each, reciprocally, to obtain for the products of his own labor as much as possible of the products of the labor of the other.

“Why was not this done? Because laws are not made for the benefit of the people, but for that of their rulers. The monopolizing spirit of the landed aristocracy in England led to the exclusion of our bread-stuffs, and the necessities of the British treasury tempted to the levying of enormous revenue from our other agricultural products. The interchange between the farmer and manufacturer was thus interrupted. In part it was absolutely prevented; the profit being swallowed up by the impost, the inducement was taken away.

“What did the American Government under these circumstances? Did they say to Great Britain, ‘relax your corn-laws; reduce your duties on tobacco; make no discrimination between our cotton and that from the East Indies; and we will refrain from laying a high duty on your manufactures. You will thus enrich your own people, and it is by no means sure that their increased prosperity may not give you, through the excise and other channels of revenue, more than an equivalent for the taxes we propose to you to withdraw.’

“Did we say this? No. And why? Because, in the northern States, there was a manufacturing interest to be advanced by the very course of legislation most fatal to the South. With a dense population, occupying a small extent of barren country, with mountain streams tumbling into deep tide-water, and bringing commerce to the aid of manufactures, they wanted nothing but a monopoly of the southern market to enable them to enrich themselves. The alternative was before us. To invite the great European manufacturer to reciprocate the benefits of free trade, whereby the South might enjoy all the advantages of its fertile soil and fine climate, or to transfer these advantages to the North, by meeting Great Britain on the ground of prohibition and exaction. The latter was preferred, because to the interest of that section, which, having the local majority, had the power.

“Under this system, Great Britain has never wanted a pretext for her corn-laws, and her high duties on all our products. Thus we sell all we make, subject to these deductions, which, in many instances, leave much less to us than what goes into the British treasury.

“Here, too, is the pretext to the Government of the United States for their exactions in return. The misfortune is, that the southern planter had to bear both burthens. One half the price of his products is seized by the British Government, and half the value of what he gets for the other half is seized by the Government of the United States.

“This they called retaliation and indemnification. It was indemnifying an interest which had not been, injured, by the farther injury of one which had been, injured. It was impoverishing the South for the benefit of the North, to requite the South for having been already impoverished for the benefit of Great Britain. Still it was ‘indemnifying ourselves.’ Much virtue in that word, ‘ourselves.’ It is the language used by the giant to the dwarf in the fable; the language of the brazen pot to the earthen pot; the language of all dangerous or interested friendship. [column 2:]

“I remember seeing an illustration of this sort of indemnity in the case of a woman who was whipt by her husband. She went complaining to her father, who whipped her again, and sent her back. ‘Tell your husband,’ said he, ‘ that as often as he whips my daughter, I will whip his wife.’”

“But what remedy has been proposed for these things?” asked Douglas.

“A remedy has been proposed and applied,” replied B —. ‘The remedy of legislation for the benefit, not of the rulers, but of the ruled.”

“But in what sense will you say that our legislation has been for the benefit of the rulers alone? Are we not all our own rulers?”

“Yes,” replied B — , “if you again have recourse to the use of that comprehensive word ‘we,’ which identifies things most dissimilar, and binds up, in the same bundle, things most discordant. If the South and North are one; if the Yankee and the Virginian are one; if light and darkness, heat and cold, life and death, can all be identified; then we are our own rulers. Just so, if the State will consent to be identified with the Church, then we pay tithes with one hand, and receive them with the other. “While the Commons identify themselves with the Crown, ‘we’ do but pay taxes to ourselves. And if Virginians can be fooled into identifying themselves with the Yankees — a fixed tax-paying minority, with a fixed tax-receiving majority — it will still be the same thing; and they will continue to hold a distinguished place among the innumerable wes that have been gulled into their own ruin ever since the world began. It is owing to this sort of deception, played off on the unthinking multitude, that in the two freest countries in the world, the most important interests are taxed for the benefit of lesser interests. In England, a country of manufacturers, they have been starved that agriculture may thrive. In this, a country of farmers and planters, they have been taxed that manufacturers may thrive. Now I will requite Lord Chatham’s well-intentioned declaration, by saying that England ought not to make a barrel of flour for herself. I say, too, that if her rulers, and the rulers of the people of America, were true to their trust, both sayings would be fulfilled. She would be the work-house, and here would be the granary of the world. What would become of the Yankees? As I don’t call them we, I leave them to find the answer to that question.”

The impression made on Douglas by these observations was so strong and so obvious, that his friend paused and left him to meditate upon them. Some minutes elapsed before he made any reply. When he did speak, he acknowledged the existence and magnitude of the grievance, and again inquired, with increased solicitude, what remedy had been found.

“You heard what passed in the bar-room, just now,” said the stranger.

“I did,” replied Douglas; “and I was as much surprised at the facts hinted at, as disgusted at the sentiments of the speakers.”

“Then your surprise must have been extreme,” said the other; “for I hardly know which amused me most: their unblushing display of selfish meanness, or the glow of indignation in your countenance, which showed how little you know of this world of philanthropy and benevolence that we live in. But had you no suspicion of the cause of these enviable advantages which these sons of Mammon are so anxious to monopolize?”

“Not at all, and hence my surprise; for I had supposed heretofore, that, between the two States, all the advantage lay on the side of Virginia.”

“You judge rightly,” replied the other. “In the way of commerce, nature has done nothing for the one, and everything for the other. But the conversation you have heard is a proof that the sand which chokes the waters of the Sound is a trivial obstacle, in comparison with the legislative barriers which have shut out prosperity from the noble Chesapeake. Look at your rivers and bay, and you will see that “Virginia ought to be the most prosperous country in the world. Look at the ruins which strew the face of your lower country, the remains of churches and the fragments of tombstones, and you will see that she once was so. Ask for the descendants of the men whose names are sculptured on those monuments, and their present condition will tell you that her prosperity has passed away. Then ask all history. Go to the finest countries in the world — to Asia Minor, to Greece, to Italy; ask what has laid them desolate, and you will receive but one answer, ‘misgovernment.’”

“But may not the fault be in the people themselves?” asked Douglas. [page 89:]

“The fault of submitting to be misgoverned, certainly. But no more than that. Let the country enjoy its natural advantages, and they who are too ignorant or too slothful to use them will soon give place to others of a different character. What has there been to prevent the Yankee from selling his barren hills at high prices and coming South, where he might buy the fertile shores of the Chesapeake for a song? No local attachment, certainly; for his home is everywhere. What is there now to prevent the planter of this neighborhood from exchanging his thirsty fields for the rich and long coveted low grounds of James River, or Roanoke, in Virginia? Are these people wiser, better, more energetic and industrious than they were twelve months ago, that their lands have multiplied in value five fold? Is it your uncle’s fault, that, were he now at home the tame slave of power, he could hardly give away his fine estate? The difference is, that this country now enjoys its natural advantages, while Virginia remains under the crushing weight of a system’ devised for the benefit of her oppressors.”

“I see the effect,” said Douglas. “But tell me, I beseech you, the cause of this change in your condition here.”

“The cause is free trade.”

“And how has that been obtained?”

“I will answer that,” said B — ; “because my friend’s modesty might restrain him from giving the true answer. It has been obtained by intelligence, manly frankness, and fair dealing. It has been obtained by offering to other nations terms most favorable to their peculiar and distinctive interests, in consideration of receiving the like advantage. Instead of nursing artificial interests to rival the iron and cotton fabrics, and the shipping of England, the wine of France, the silk and oil of Italy, and enviously snatching at whatever benefit nature may have vouchsafed to other parts of the world, this people only ask to exchange for these things their own peculiar productions. A trade perfectly free, totally discharged from all duties, would certainly be best for all. But revenue must be had, and the impost is the best source of revenue. No state can be expected to give that up. But it has been found practicable so to regulate that matter as to reduce the charges which have heretofore incumbered exchanges to a mere trifle.”

“How has that been effected?” asked Douglas.

“If that question were to be answered in detail,” said B — , “I should leave the answer to him by whom the details have been arranged. I will give you the outline in a few words. These States were first driven to think of separation by a tariff of protection. Their federal constitution guards against it by express prohibition, and by requiring that the impost, like the tax laws of Virginia, should be annual.

“They have felt the danger to liberty from excessive revenue. Their constitution requires that the estimates of the expense of the current year shall be made the measure of revenue to be raised for that year. The imports of the preceding year are taken as a basis of calculation, and credit being given for any surplus in the treasury, a tariff is laid which, on that basis, would produce the sum required.”

“Then there never can be any surplus for an emergency,” said Douglas.

“Always,” replied B — ; “in the right place, and the only safe place — the pockets of a prosperous people. There is no place in the treasury to keep money. The till of the treasury has a hole in the bottom, and the money always finds its way into the pockets of sharpers, parasites, man-worshippers, and pseudo-patriots. But let that pass. You see that a small revenue alone will probably be wanting, and being raised annually, the tariff can be annually adjusted.

“Now, what says justice, as to the revenue to be raised by two nations on the trade between the two, seeing that it is equally levied on the citizens of both?”

“On that hypothesis each should receive an equal share of it,” said Douglas.

“Precisely so,” answered B — ; “and let these terms be held out to all nations, and if one will not accept them another will On this principle a system of commercial arrangements has been set on foot which, by restoring to these States the benefit of their natural advantages, is at once producing an effect which explains their former prosperity. It places in stronger relief the evils of the opposite system to Virginia, and really leaves her, while she retains her present connexion with the North, without any resource. Tobacco she cannot sell at all. Invita natura, she will have to raise cotton to supply the beggared manufactories of the [column 2:] North, from which she will not receive in return the third part as much of the manufactured article as the Carolina planter will get for his. This is her fate. She sees it, and would throw off the yoke. But her northern masters see it too. She is all that remains to them of their southern dependencies, which, though not their colonies, they have so long governed as colonies. Take her away, and they are in the condition of the wolf when there are no sheep left. Wolf eat wolf, and Yankee cheat Yankee. This they will guard against by all means lawful and unlawful, for Virginia alone mitigates the ruin that their insatiate rapacity has brought upon them. They will hold on to her with the gripe of death; and she must and will struggle to free herself, as from death.

“And now, how say you? Are you prepared to do your part in furtherance of this object?”

“I am,” replied Douglas promptly; “and I now eagerly ask you to show me the means by which I can advance it.”

“You asked for men,” said B — , “and you shall have them. They are already provided, and want but a leader.”

“But what authority can I have to be recognised as such?”

“You have heard your uncle, aunt, or cousins, speak of Jacob Schwartz.”

“I believe I have; but what can such a fellow have to do with such affairs as we now speak of. Is he not an ignorant clown?”

“He is all that,” said B —. “But he writes as good a hand as Marshal Saxe, and has probably read as many books as Cincinnatus. But to speak seriously, he is no common clown.

The author has connected together the incidents of this story with much dramatic skill, and has rendered them exceedingly interesting, as a mere narrative of events, notwithstanding their political character. It required no small powers to manage such a plan as this with success. When the writer of fiction lays his scene in past times, there is no great difficulty in persuading the reader that the events narrated have actually occurred. Indeed every reader of a novel goes to it with a wish to be deceived; for it is necessary to the interest of the subject that he should throw an illusion over his own mind and feelings. It is not easy to do this, however, when the scene is laid in time yet to come. In this case the reader’s mind is apt to struggle in vain against the consciousness that, as it is impossible for any thing to have happened in time which has not yet arrived, all that he reads must necessarily be purely imaginary. It requires, therefore, more than moderate powers, and a great confidence in those powers, to attempt a work of fiction upon such a plan. Our author has done no more than justice to himself in this respect. It is impossible to read his book, without imagining that the scenes he describes are actually passing before us. The incidents are all so probable, and follow each other so regularly and naturally, that we are forced to forget that we are not in the very career of the revolution which he imagines. Apart from the political lesson which it conveys, the interest of the work, considered only as an agreeable story, will amply repay the reader.

Upon the whole, we recommend this book as worthy, in a high degree, of public attention. The author is not a light thinker on any subject, and it is evident he has thought, with deep and anxious interest, on the subject of this book. It ought to be read in the north, as well as in the south. To the north it presents a lesson of solemn warning, and to the south it inculcates the necessity of vigilance and caution. As a mere political speculation, it is but too probably correct. We trust that a benign providence will so order events, as that it may not also prove a POLITICAL PROPHECY.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - SLM, 1837] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - SLM Literary Reviews (May 1837)