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The case of the South against the North.
[from New Orleans Picayune, December 30th, 1900.]

by B. F. Grady.

A review by William Walker.

The importance of the study of history is universally recognized. It is especially obvious when one's own country is concerned. In practical acknowledgment of this fact, the history of the United States has been made a part of the curriculum of the common schools in the several States, which, together, constitute the Federal Union. It is to be regretted, however, that so far as they deal with the political development of this country, the text-books placed in the hands of American boys and girls are not only superficial, but, in too many instances, incorrect and misleading. This is not surprising, when it is remembered that school books are usually mere abridgements, and that so many of the larger works dealing professedly with the political history of the United States have been written from a sectional and partisan point of view. Mr. B. F. Grady declares in the preface to his book, ‘The Case of The South Against The North,’ that his primary object has been the removal from the public mind of some of the wrong impressions which have been made during the last thirty-seven years.

Mr. Grady is a man of mature age, wide reading and practical experience as a public man. He has been a soldier, a college professor and a member of Congress. No one who reads ‘The Case of The South. Against The North’ will doubt that this work is the result of prolonged research and serious thought. If it be charged that he, too, has written from a sectional and partisan point of view, it may be replied that his statements and arguments are based upon official records and other authentic sources of information. If he is anywhere in error, he can be very easily corrected, because he has been extremely careful in the citation of his authorities. Moreover, his book is an answer. Though the South has submitted to the arbitrament of arms, it has yet a right to be heard before the august tribunal of history. It is true that the South has been defended with great ability by jurists and publicists of the learning, forcefulness [157] and acuteness of A. T. Bledsoe and B. J. Sage; but these writers deal almost exclusively with questions of constitutional law. Mr. Grady, while he goes over the ground already traversed by them, is at pains to follow the actual course of Federal legislation, insofar as it appears to have a sectional significance. The general effect of his presentation of the case is to show that from the beginning of the history of the Federal Government, the Southern States have been compelled to occupy a defensive attitude. The British colonies in North America had entered into several temporary unions, so to speak, for mutual defense, before the war of the revolution.

After the close of the war with France (1764), England revived and amended an old law levying duties on sugar and molasses, on the ground that the colonies should contribute to the payment of her large war debt, which was in part contracted in their defense. This act created considerable excitement in Boston; but there was manifestation of serious discontent outside of Massachusetts. The stamp act, in 1765, however, raised a storm of opposition in all the colonies, and, at the request of Massachusetts, a Congress assembled in New York, composed of delegates from them all except Canada, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. This Congress adopted a declaration of rights, and sent an address to the king and a petition to the parliament, asserting the right of the colonies to be ‘exempted from all taxes not imposed by their consent.’ The obnoxious act was repealed the next year, but another was passed imposing taxes on glass, paper, painters' colors and tea, on their importation into the colonies. This latter act was approved by the king in June, 1767, and in February, 1768, the Legislature of Massachusetts invited the co-operation of the other colonies in an effort to secure a redress of grievances. The circular in which this invitation was conveyed was very offensive to the British government, and a demand was made for its rescission, but Massachusetts refused to rescind, reaffirming its position in still stronger language. A body of troops was then sent over to suppress ‘the rebels,’ and finally, on the 5th of March, 1770, a number of the citizens of Boston, led by a negro named Crispus Attucks, attacked a military guard ‘with clubs, sticks and snow-balls covering stones.’ Dared to fire by the mob, six of the soldiers discharged their muskets, killing three of the crowd and wounding five others. The captain and eight men were tried for murder and all were acquitted, except two, who were convicted of manslaughter. About this time parliament repealed all the taxes imposed by the act of 1767, except that on tea. Another [158] act, passed in 773, permitted the East India Company to carry their tea into the colonies and undersell the smugglers of Dutch tea. Mr. Grady asserts, on the authority of ‘Montgomery's American History,’ that nine-tenths of all they imported was smuggled from Holland. There remained only a duty of three pence per pound to be paid in the port of entry; but the importation was resisted in the principal importing cities, ‘notably in Boston, where the smugglers organized a band of ‘Mohawk Indians’ and dumped into the sea about $100,000 worth of tea.’ Parliament thereupon passed several retaliatory and repressive acts, by the first of which the harbor of Boston was declared closed until a compensation should be made to the India Company for their tea, and 'till the inhabitants should discover an inclination to submit to the revenue laws. The effect of the second act was to take away the charter of the Massachusetts Bay, leaving the council to be appointed by the king, as in the southern provinces, and making town meetings unlawful, except for the purpose of elections.

When the people of Boston heard of the passage of the first of these acts they called a meeting and voted to make application to the other colonies to refuse all ‘importations from Great Britain and withhold all commercial intercourse with her, as the best mode to secure a repeal of the oppressive law.’ The other colonies showed themselves by no means unsympathetic at this juncture. The assembly of Virginia appointed a day of ‘fasting, humiliation and prayer,’ and the royal governor having at once dissolved the House of Burgesses, ‘the members resolved themselves into a committee,’ adopted resolutions declaring, in substance, that ‘the cause of Boston was the cause of all,’ and took steps to induce the other colonies to appoint delegates to the general Congress proposed by Boston. North Carolina's legislative assembly also denounced the Boston port bill, and approved the plan for a general Congress. At last, on the 5th of September, 1774, the first Continental Congress was organized in Philadelphia, all the colonies being represented except Canada and Georgia. The first act of this Congress was to agree that each colony should have one vote, and this equality, says Mr. Grady, was preserved by subsequent congresses, by the States under the articles of confederation, and, in the Senate, under the constitution. ‘Without it co-operation and union would have been impossible.’ This Congress declared what it deemed to be the inalienable rights of English freemen, pointed out the dangers which threatened those rights, and besought the people [159] of the colonies to renounce commerce with Great Britain, and advised all the colonies to send delegates to a general Congress, to be assembled in the same place in May of the next year. Meanwhile an act of parliament restrained ‘the trade and commerce of the provinces of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire and the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in North America, to Great Britain, Ireland and the British Islands in the West Indies,’ and prohibited ‘such provinces and colonies from carrying on any fishery on the banks of Newfoundland or other places therein mentioned, under certain conditions and limitations.’ This act diminished the food supplies of the poor in Boston, and great distress would have followed but for contributions from other colonies. But, stimulated rather than deterred by this last act of aggression, the colonies, as advised, appointed delegates to another general Congress, all being represented except Canada and Georgia, as before, on its assemblage in May, 1775. Georgia was also represented some two months later. Hostilities had broken out between Great Britain and Massachusetts before this Congress met. The battle of Lexington had been fought, and volunteers from Connecticut and Vermont, under Colonel Ethan Allen, had seized upon the military posts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. ‘New England,’ says Mr. Grady, ‘had now crossed the Rubicon; a step had been taken which imposed on the other colonies the necessity of choosing whether they would stand aloof and permit her to be crushed by Great Britain, or go to her relief with men and money. They choose the latter; the “cause of Boston” had become, in a new and fearful sense, “the cause of all.” ’

In reciting the causes which brought about the Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, and the adoption of the articles of confederation, Mr. Grady shows the relations existing between the different colonies before they assumed the prerogative of sovereign States, and brings out the fact that the struggle with the mother country was begun mainly for the relief of New England, and especially of Massachusetts, from oppressive British legislation. This fact is contrasted with the persistent effort of New England States to take advantage of their federal relations, secured by the adoption of the constitution of the United States, to enhance their wealth at the expense of the other States. This policy seems to have acquired a secular vitality. Begun in the eighteenth century, it has been maintained almost uninterruptedly to the closing year of the nineteenth, and nothing is more certain than its continued enforcement [160] through at least the opening years of the twentieth. Mr. Grady remarks that having brought the record of events up to the formation of the new government, ‘we need to be somewhat familiar with the different interests of the different sections of the Union, which could be benefitted or injured by congressional legislation. We begin with New England's shipping interests, because they were among the first to ask for special favors, and to sow the seeds of that sectional conflict which produced the war between the northern and southern States.’ Shipbuilding had, at an early date, become the leading industry of the seaboard towns of New England, and the numerous vessels belonging to Massachusetts placed her, in relation to commerce, at the head of the colonies. For about a century and a half New England enjoyed almost a monopoly of the carrying trade of the colonies. This business was disturbed by the Revolution; but after the war was over, commerce resumed its importance, and, stimulated by preferences accorded to them because of bitter memories of British aggressions, New England's shipping interests enjoyed, it would not be far from the truth to declare, almost as many monopolistic privileges as were afterwards conferred on them by acts of Congress. But, however that may be, the builders and owners of ships in New England were unwilling to trust entirely to a mere sentimental protection. They desired that their privileges should have the sanction of federal law, and their desire was gratified. Upon the application of their representatives, ‘an absolute monopoly of the coastwise trade was conferred on ships built in the United States, with the privilege of adjusting freight and passenger rates to suit the owners; a discriminating tonnage tax was imposed on all foreign ships engaged in carrying goods to or from these States; a discriminating tariff tax was imposed on all articles imported into these States in foreign ships; ship builders in the United States were granted an absolute monopoly of the “home market” for ships, and New England's cod fishermen were quartered on the taxpayers of all the States.’ Largely in consequence of these protective measures, the shippers of the United States, as far back as 1810, controlled a greater part of the world's carrying trade than either Holland or England; but already the victims of paternalism had begun to ask what had become of the justice promised in the constitution. At the time of the adoption of the constitution, and for several decades afterwards, agriculture was the employment of the great majority of the people of this country, and diversification of industry was confined almost exclusively to the north. In the northern States [161] the surplus crops of the farmers were consumed by those engaged in other occupations, while southern farmers had to seek a market in foreign lands. Mr. Grady, therefore, contends that under these circumstances the South was subjected to two wrongs by the operation of federal laws: ‘First, foreign prices had to be accepted for her crops whether sold abroad or in the United States, and tariff laws compelled her to purchase her supplies of manufactured articles at prices considerably above those charged in foreign markets, and, second, every act of Congress designed to counteract hostile commercial legislation by any foreign government—most of the tariff acts included—led to further restrictions on exports from the United States, of which the South furnished from 80 to 90 per cent.’

In successive chapters Mr. Grady undertakes to show how the northern States secured special and undue advantages from fishing bounties, the assumption by the general government of the war debts of the several States, the establishment of the Bank of the United States, the disproportionate distribution of pensions for service in the Revolution, and the unjust and the unconstitutional disposal of the public lands; but these separate charges, all embraced in the statement of the case against the South, must be dismissed with a bare mention in this brief review. It may be remarked, however, that nearly all the laws enacted by Congress for the special benefit of the North have been defended by loose constructions of the constitution. The disposition to enlarge the power of Congress by evading the limitations which a strict construction of that instrument would impose was the vice of the old federalist party as it is of its legitimate successor, the Republican party of to-day. Justin Winsor, in the Narrative and Critical History of America, edited by him, compares written and unwritten constitution. Prof. Diman, in the New Englander, May, 1878, and Woodrow Wilson in his Congressional Government, ‘have not failed,’ he says, ‘to show that the difference of form of the written and unwritten constitutions is reduced to a small divergence through the elasticity and adaptibility secured in the American document from its elementary character.’ Von Holst, a German publicist, whose writings upon the political history of this country seem to be much admired in certain quarters, seems to regard it as unfortunate that the discussion of important measures in Congress should be so much occupied with the question of constitutionality. There seems, indeed, to be growing into vogue a theory of historical development in the interpretation of organic law, and it has even been intimated that the country has outgrown [162] a constitution made to meet the demands of a comparatively primitive era. Unmeasured danger lurks in these suggestions. The maintenance of the constitutional limits of federal power and the preservation of the reserved rights of the several States are not the demands simply of a traditional local sentiment, but are essential to the security of personal rights and individual liberty.

Tariff legislation in the United States has been fruitful of much sectional bitterness, mainly because of its protective features. Men may honestly differ as to the constitutionality of any measure of protection; but even were the validity of taxation for protection universally admitted in principle, it would still be impossible to claim, with any approach to plausibility, that the general government can justly foster particular interests by the imposition of oppressive burdens upon the interests no less legitimate and important. And certainly it cannot be maintained that any section of the country should be made to pay a disproportionate part of the cost of supporting the general government. But this is the gravamen of the charge in The Case of the South Against the North. The other questions that. have divided the sections have in reality become grave political issues mainly because of their incidental relation to this one. The system of territorial expansion, beginning with the Louisiana purchase, the extension of slavery beyond the limits of the original slave States, the right of nullification and the right of secession, each in turn excited opposition at the north because in one way or another, it seemed to menace the continuance of the undue profits derived by that section from the operation of the taxing power of the Federal Government. The famous resolutions of 1798 asserted the right of the States to interpose their authority in arrest of unwarranted action on the part of the Federal government. In regard to the acquisition of Louisiana, Alexander Johnston says: ‘The Federalists felt, as Quincy expressed it afterwards, that “this is not so much a question concerning sovereignty, as it is who shall be sovereign.” ’ The Federalists were favorable to the scheme of a strong central government, but the Federalists at the north desired to control that government in the interest of their own section. Mr. Jefferson, however, did not negotiate the purchase of Louisiana with a view to the extension of slavery, a consummation which he would not have regarded as desirable. He, in fact, had not contemplated the cession of the whole of the Louisiana territory; that proposal came from Napoleon himself. In regard to the general effect of the preponderant influence of the protected interests, Mr. Grady quotes [163] the view presented by Mr. Benton in his Thirty Years in the United States Senate. Referring in general terms to the causes of southern discontent, Mr. Benton says that the complaint of the South against the North existed when he came into the Senate (1821), and had commenced in the first years of the Federal Government, at the time of the assumption of the State debts, the incorporation of the first national bank and the adoption of the funding system, all of which drew capital from the South to the North: ‘It continued to increase, and, at the period (1838) to which this chapter relates, it had reached the stage of an organized sectional expression in a voluntary convention of the Southern States. * * * The changed relative condition of the two sections of the country, before and since the union, was shown in the general relative depression or prosperity since that event, and especially in the reversed condition of their respective foreign trade. * * * The convention referred the effect to a course of federal legislation unwarranted by the grants of the constitution and the objects of the union, which subtracted capital from one section and accumulated it in the other; protective tariff, internal improvements, pensions, national debt, two national banks, the funding system and the paper system, the multiplication of offices, the conversion of a limited into an almost unlimited government, and the substitution of power and splendor for what was intended to be a simple and economical administration of that part of their affairs which required a general head. What has been published in the South and adverted to in this view goes to show that an incompatibility of interest between the two sections, though not inherent, has been produced by the working of the government—not its fair and legitimate, but its perverted and unequal working.’

Mr. Benton was an authority on the statistics of Federal taxation, and Mr. Grady pronounces him an undoubtedly impartial writer. In the passage just quoted from his Thirty Years in the United States Senate, he describes this relative condition of the two sections of the country in 1838. Ten years before that date, discussing the ‘bill of abominations,’ he said: ‘Wealth has fled from the South and settled in the regions north of the Potomac, and this in the midst of the fact that the south in four staples alone, in cotton, tobacco, rice and indigo (while indigo was one of its staples), has exported produce since the revolution to the value of $800,000,000, and the north has exported comparatively nothing.’ And truly, adds Mr. Grady, did the South Carolina delegation say, in their address to their [164] constituents, after the passage of the tariff act of 1832: ‘That in this manner the burden of supporting the government was thrown exclusively on the Southern States, and the other states gained more than they lost by the operations of the revenue system.’ The nullification proceedings in South Carolina ensued upon the passage of the act of 1832. The discussion of the doctrine, or theory, of nullification, was begun by some southern members of Congress, notably by Senator Hayne, of South Carolina, in January, 1830. Senator Hayne asserted the right of a state ‘to interpose and arrest the execution of any federal measure oppressive to its citizens and violative of the Constitution, and as a last resort to retire from the union.’ Mr. Grady observes that ‘this was an unfortunate move, aside from any merit in it; it united against those who held Mr. Hayne's opinions many of the honest and sincere friends of the union and all those who were, or hoped to be, beneficiaries of Federal legislation. Naturally, a champion of the union was sought for; and he was found in Daniel Webster, whose reply to Hayne added very much to his fame, was regarded as a coup de grace to States' rights, and became as familiar as Mother Goose's Melodies in every section of the union.’ Mr. Webster delivered two speeches in the course of the debate, one on January 25th, and the other two days after, as a rejoinder. Mr. Grady considers the two together and summarizes them as follows:

First—He (Webster) asserts that the power of Congress is unlimited in granting public lands for roads, canals, education, etc., in Ohio and other western States, without regard to the conditions on which Virginia and other States ceded the lands to the United States; and he finds his authority in the “ common good,” it being, he declares, “fairly embraced in its objects and terms.”

Second—Of the government he says: “It is not the creature of State legislatures; nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established it and have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose, among others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sovereignties.”

Third—Having not lived to see the ‘reconstruction measures’ thrown out of court as not coming under its jurisdiction, he asserts that all questions involving the rights of States and the powers of Congress being for decision to the United States courts.

Fourth—Of the government, again, he says:

So far from saying that it is established by the governments of [165] the several States, it (the constitution) does not even say that it (the general government) is established by the people of the several States: but it pronounces that it is established by the people of the United States in the aggregate. * * * So they declare, and words cannot be plainer than the words used. * * * They ordained such a government, they gave it the name of a constitution, and therein they established a distribution of powers between this, their general government, and their several State governments.

Of course, the constitution does not anywhere declare that it has been established ‘by the people of the United States in the aggregate.’ Referring to that matter in another chapter, Mr. Grady explains why the different States were not severally mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and remarks that it was for the very reason which caused their names to be stricken out of the constitution after ‘we, the people.’ That reason was that it was not known to the committee appointed to draft the declaration whether all the colonies would approve it. In the same chapter Mr. Grady calls attention to the answer to Mr. Webster by Mr. Calhoun, and to ‘the complete overthrow of his (Webster's) political doctrines, by quoting his own former utterances (always scrupulously ignored and excluded by northern compilers of school readers, speakers, union text-books, etc.),’ and adds a quotation from an address delivered long after this debate at Capon Springs, Va. There, in June, 1851, Mr. Webster said: ‘I have not hesitated to say, and I repeat, that, if the northern States refuse, willfully and deliberately, to carry into effect that part of the constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provide no remedy, the South would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain cannot be broken on one side, and still bind the other side.’ Here Mr. Webster seems to recognize very clearly the fact that the several States are distinct political entities, and the further that the constitution is the written and formal embodiment of the compact, or ‘bargain,’ which they—not ‘the people of the United States in the aggregate,’ made with each other in order to enter into ‘a more perfect union.’ He also admits, in plain terms, that a State may withdraw from the union when the constitution has been violated. He might have said with equal propriety that the uniform abuse of a power, conferred upon the general government by the constitution to the detriment of any of the States is in itself a violation of the whole spirit, the intention, of the federal compact.

It was not the purpose of this brief review to follow Mr. Grady [166] through his whole sketch of the tariff agitation and his masterly examination of constitutional questions. It was intended simply to indicate the general outlines of his work, and to furnish a few striking illustrations of his method. His statement of ‘The Case of the South Against the North’ should be very carefully read by all students of the political history of this country.

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