The Constitution — not Conquest.
it is extremely unfortunate that an old gentleman like Lord Brougham, who, in the course of nature, cannot talk much longer in this world, should show such an inclination to talk about things which he does not understand.
There may have been a time, before his present period of senility, when he may
have comprehended the real political character of the American Union; but if so, that time has certainly gone by; and his Lordship babbled the other day at Scarborough
in a way which would have been thought ridiculous in the most callous of Tories.
He came, indeed, at last to the sensible conclusion that England
have no right to interfere in American affairs; but in arriving at this point, he uttered the following extraordinary language: “We find one part of the States fighting for separation and independence, and the other part struggling for conquest.”
The first clause of this proposition is undoubtedly true.
The rebels, unquestionably, are fighting for “independence,” but it by no means follows, that they are entitled to it. We shall show, before we conclude, that they are not; but here we would merely suggest, that if Ireland
should at present break into open revolt, why then Ireland
would be fighting for “independence.”
Would the charming features of Lord Brougham beam benevolently upon such an enterprise?
Would he be found in his place in Parliament making soft speeches in behalf of a Provisional Government established in Dublin
, and voting against all bills for putting down an Irish insurrection?
And yet Ireland
is no more an integral part of the British Empire
than South Carolina
is an integral part of the American Union.
Nay, if we. look at the matter, and institute a somewhat closer comparison, we find that the connection of Ireland
with the English
throne, originating in one of those “conquests” which Lord Brougham so much deprecates, and since sustained
by cruelties which no honest writer can extenuate, does afford a ground for rebellion; while the “Confederate States
” in their present revolt are without the shadow of an excuse.
It is not enough to say that jealousies existed.
It is not enough to say that fierce discussions had arisen between the North
and the South
There can be no apology for this insurrection, except in actual, unmistakable and tangible wrongs endured; and even these would be insufficient morally and politically, unless it could also be shown that the sufferers had exhausted all possible means of redress, either by legislative or judicial processes.
We wish that Englishmen when they undertake to criticise American affairs, would, if only now and then, abandon their safe and convenient generalizations, and dwell a little upon the facts.
We have repeatedly called attention to the pregnant circumstance that the rebels have, to this hour, never presented to the world the smallest manifest of their injuries.
In the chancery of civilized nations, they have never filed the most meagre bill of particulars.
There has been good cause for this; the world would have listened but coldly to the record of splenetic dissatisfaction, of eccentric prejudices, and of selfish discontent — of ambition ungratified, of hatred balked by the majesty of the law, and of an unreasoning violence which chafed at the smallest restraint.
It is because the rebel States have really and morally no cause to sustain and no injuries to redress that they have been so reticent of rational speech, and so voluble in the utterance of old catch-words,
moldy slogans and stale commonplaces.
It is odd that a man of Lord Brougham's reputation should be deceived by them.
It is strange that he, who is considered to be quite a universal scholar, should know a bit of law, a little chemistry, a morsel of philosophy, something of political economy, more or less of metaphysics, and should know absolutely nothing of the American
Constitution-so little, indeed, as to be unaware of the fact that it is the fundamental law of the land, and that in no possible sense can a war in its defense be called a war of Conquest “Tipstaves who catch rogues are not conquerors” The constable who carries a pick-pocket to Bridewell
is not a “conqueror.”
The thief who breaks jail certainly asserts his “independence,” and is in pursuit of his “liberty.”
But we do not believe his aspirations would appear to be remarkably sublime, even to Lord Brougham's catholic mind, if the thief had been in custody for picking his Lordship's pocket, or stealing his Lordship's plate.
There seems to be a notion prevalent in English society, that the American Union was originally a limited co-partnership, from which any member has a right for any whimsical reason to withdraw, upon its own mere motion, and without the slightest regard for the wishes or interests of its associates.
But the least reference to the history of the formation of the Union
will utterly explode this feeble hypothesis.
The question was argued, and it was settled before the present Southern belligerent expounders were
The men who established the Union
may be reasonably supposed to have understood what they were about — to have known what they desired to effect and to have been capable of effecting it. The identical question of the right of a State to withdraw from the compact, was debated and decided at the very time when the compact was adopted.
We quote only Alexander Hamilton
, who said: “A law, by the very meaning of the term, includes supremacy.
It is a rule which those to whom it is prescribed are bound to preserve.
This results from every political association.
If individuals enter into a state of society, the laws of that society must be the supreme regulator of their conduct.
If a number of political societies enter into a larger political society, the laws which the latter may enact, pursuant to the powers intrusted to it by the Constitution
, must necessarily be supreme over those societies, and the individuals of whom they are composed.
It would otherwise be a mere treaty, dependent on the good faith of the parties, and not a Government; which is only another word for political power and supremacy
We have nothing of our own to add to this lucid exposition of the nature of the Union
from the pen of one of the most celebrated of its founders.
It is not a co-partnership.
It does not exist by virtue of a Treaty, but by virtue of a law. By what authority, then, does Lord Brougham, or any other lord, pretend that the United States
are waging war for “conquest?”
To assert this, is to be guilty of a gross perversion of the record and of language.
Supremacy of the General Government
is the Supremacy of Law. An attempt to overthrow that Supremacy is a felony; and fine words about “Independence” do not change the nature of the crime.
Let Lord Brougham understand this, or make no more speeches upon American affairs.
September 24, 1862.