Slavery not the real issue.
The issue between the North
and the South
was not so much an issue between freedom and slavery as the issue whether those who had formed a Federal compact with slave-holding States upon an
agreement not to interfere with their slaves had any greater right to do so than they had in the case of Cuba
, with whom they had no such compact.
The supreme issue was whether the government of the United States
was one of such unlimited authority that it could do what it pleased by giving fine names to usurpation, as when the guest at a hotel complains that the brand he wants has not been brought, the waiter, before his eyes, rubs off the undesired label and puts on the desired one.
The real issue was whether, under the fine name of ‘general welfare,’ the whole power of the government could be perverted to private welfare; and whether, in keeping with the Federal
compact, under the fine name of freedom, Commonwealths could be extinguished.
So far as slavery was concerned, a century hence history will chiefly discover a race betwen the very lightly and very heavily encumbered, and the great self-applause of the former that they were the first to reach the goal.
It is not so exact to say that slavery in the South
was the cause of the war, as to say that it afforded the opportunity for the war. It is proper to bear in mind the abrupt revolution of society which was demanded by those who would be themselves unaffected by the revolution.
The first book of Justinian, which gives us our definition of justice— Juslitia est constans et perpetua voluntas jus suum cuique tribuendi
— gives also the derivation of slavery: Servi antem ex eoappellati sunt
, quod imperatores captivas vendere, aeperhoe servare non occidere solent; qui etiam mancipia dicti suni, quod abhostibus manu cafiuntur
. A strong man has his antagonist at his mercy, is able to take the life of him; rather than suffer him to live antagonist will do so. In humanity's great internecine war, wherein survival is conquered by exterminating hostility, root and branch, the conqueror leads back the captive of his spear.
Their relations are those of victor and victim.