Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races—Part VII
The inhabitants of the United States talk a great deal of their attachment to their country; but I confess that I do not rely upon that calculating patriotism which is founded upon interest, and which a change in the interests at stake may obliterate. Nor do I attach much importance to the language of the Americans, when they manifest, in their daily conversations, the intention of maintaining the federal system adopted by their forefathers. A government retains its sway over a great number of citizens, far less by the voluntary and rational consent of the multitude, than by that instinctive, and to a certain extent involuntary agreement, which results from similarity of feelings and resemblances of opinion. I will never admit that men constitute a social body, simply because they obey the same head and the same laws. Society can only exist when a great number of men consider a great number of things in the same point of view; when they hold the same opinions upon many subjects, and when the same occurrences suggest the same thoughts and impressions to their minds.
The observer who examines the present condition of the United States upon this principle, will readily discover, that although the citizens are divided into twenty-four distinct sovereignties, they nevertheless constitute a single people; and he may perhaps be led to think that the state of the Anglo-American Union is more truly a state of society than that of certain nations of Europe which live under the same legislation and the same prince.
Although the Anglo-Americans have several religious sects, they all regard religion in the same manner. They are not always agreed upon the measures which are most conducive to good government, and they vary upon some of the forms of government which it is expedient to adopt; but they are unanimous upon the general principles which ought to rule human society. From Maine to the Floridas, and from the Missouri to the Atlantic Ocean, the people is held to be the legitimate source of all power. The same notions are entertained respecting liberty and equality, the liberty of the press, the right of association, the jury, and the responsibility of the agents of Government.
If we turn from their political and religious opinions to the moral and philosophical principles which regulate the daily actions of life and govern their conduct, we shall still find the same uniformity. The Anglo-Americans *d acknowledge the absolute moral authority of the reason of the community, as they acknowledge the political authority of the mass of citizens; and they hold that public opinion is the surest arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. The majority of them believe that a man will be led to do what is just and good by following his own interest rightly understood. They hold that every man is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no one has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they admit that what appears to them to be good to-day may be superseded by something better-to-morrow. I do not give all these opinions as true, but I quote them as characteristic of the Americans.
[ It is scarcely necessary for me to observe that by the expression Anglo-Americans, I only mean to designate the great majority of the nation; for a certain number of isolated individuals are of course to be met with holding very different opinions.]
The Anglo-Americans are not only united together by these common opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a common feeling of pride. For the last fifty years no pains have been spared to convince the inhabitants of the United States that they constitute the only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for the present, their own democratic institutions succeed, whilst those of other countries fail; hence they conceive an overweening opinion of their superiority, and they are not very remote from believing themselves to belong to a distinct race of mankind.
The dangers which threaten the American Union do not originate in the diversity of interests or of opinions, but in the various characters and passions of the Americans. The men who inhabit the vast territory of the United States are almost all the issue of a common stock; but the effects of the climate, and more especially of slavery, have gradually introduced very striking differences between the British settler of the Southern States and the British settler of the North. In Europe it is generally believed that slavery has rendered the interests of one part of the Union contrary to those of another part; but I by no means remarked this to be the case: slavery has not created interests in the South contrary to those of the North, but it has modified the character and changed the habits of the natives of the South.
I have already explained the influence which slavery has exercised upon the commercial ability of the Americans in the South; and this same influence equally extends to their manners. The slave is a servant who never remonstrates, and who submits to everything without complaint. He may sometimes assassinate, but he never withstands, his master. In the South there are no families so poor as not to have slaves. The citizen of the Southern States of the Union is invested with a sort of domestic dictatorship, from his earliest years; the first notion he acquires in life is that he is born to command, and the first habit which he contracts is that of being obeyed without resistance. His education tends, then, to give him the character of a supercilious and a hasty man; irascible, violent, and ardent in his desires, impatient of obstacles, but easily discouraged if he cannot succeed upon his first attempt.
The American of the Northern States is surrounded by no slaves in his childhood; he is even unattended by free servants, and is usually obliged to provide for his own wants. No sooner does he enter the world than the idea of necessity assails him on every side: he soon learns to know exactly the natural limit of his authority; he never expects to subdue those who withstand him, by force; and he knows that the surest means of obtaining the support of his fellow-creatures, is to win their favor. He therefore becomes patient, reflecting, tolerant, slow to act, and persevering in his designs.
In the Southern States the more immediate wants of life are always supplied; the inhabitants of those parts are not busied in the material cares of life, which are always provided for by others; and their imagination is diverted to more captivating and less definite objects. The American of the South is fond of grandeur, luxury, and renown, of gayety, of pleasure, and above all of idleness; nothing obliges him to exert himself in order to subsist; and as he has no necessary occupations, he gives way to indolence, and does not even attempt what would be useful.
But the equality of fortunes, and the absence of slavery in the North, plunge the inhabitants in those same cares of daily life which are disdained by the white population of the South. They are taught from infancy to combat want, and to place comfort above all the pleasures of the intellect or the heart. The imagination is extinguished by the trivial details of life, and the ideas become less numerous and less general, but far more practical and more precise. As prosperity is the sole aim of exertion, it is excellently well attained; nature and mankind are turned to the best pecuniary advantage, and society is dexterously made to contribute to the welfare of each of its members, whilst individual egotism is the source of general happiness.
The citizen of the North has not only experience, but knowledge: nevertheless he sets but little value upon the pleasures of knowledge; he esteems it as the means of attaining a certain end, and he is only anxious to seize its more lucrative applications. The citizen of the South is more given to act upon impulse; he is more clever, more frank, more generous, more intellectual, and more brilliant. The former, with a greater degree of activity, of common-sense, of information, and of general aptitude, has the characteristic good and evil qualities of the middle classes. The latter has the tastes, the prejudices, the weaknesses, and the magnanimity of all aristocracies. If two men are united in society, who have the same interests, and to a certain extent the same opinions, but different characters, different acquirements, and a different style of civilization, it is probable that these men will not agree. The same remark is applicable to a society of nations. Slavery, then, does not attack the American Union directly in its interests, but indirectly in its manners.
[ Census of 1790, 3,929,328; 1830, 12,856,165; 1860, 31,443,321; 1870, 38,555,983; 1890, 62,831,900.]
The States which gave their assent to the federal contract in 1790 were thirteen in number; the Union now consists of thirty-four members. The population, which amounted to nearly 4,000,000 in 1790, had more than tripled in the space of forty years; and in 1830 it amounted to nearly 13,000,000. *e Changes of such magnitude cannot take place without some danger.
A society of nations, as well as a society of individuals, derives its principal chances of duration from the wisdom of its members, their individual weakness, and their limited number. The Americans who quit the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to plunge into the western wilderness, are adventurers impatient of restraint, greedy of wealth, and frequently men expelled from the States in which they were born. When they arrive in the deserts they are unknown to each other, and they have neither traditions, family feeling, nor the force of example to check their excesses. The empire of the laws is feeble amongst them; that of morality is still more powerless. The settlers who are constantly peopling the valley of the Mississippi are, then, in every respect very inferior to the Americans who inhabit the older parts of the Union. Nevertheless, they already exercise a great influence in its councils; and they arrive at the government of the commonwealth before they have learnt to govern themselves. *f
[ This indeed is only a temporary danger. I have no doubt that in time society will assume as much stability and regularity in the West as it has already done upon the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.]
The greater the individual weakness of each of the contracting parties, the greater are the chances of the duration of the contract; for their safety is then dependent upon their union. When, in 1790, the most populous of the American republics did not contain 500,000 inhabitants, *g each of them felt its own insignificance as an independent people, and this feeling rendered compliance with the federal authority more easy. But when one of the confederate States reckons, like the State of New York, 2,000,000 of inhabitants, and covers an extent of territory equal in surface to a quarter of France, *h it feels its own strength; and although it may continue to support the Union as advantageous to its prosperity, it no longer regards that body as necessary to its existence, and as it continues to belong to the federal compact, it soon aims at preponderance in the federal assemblies. The probable unanimity of the States is diminished as their number increases. At present the interests of the different parts of the Union are not at variance; but who is able to foresee the multifarious changes of the future, in a country in which towns are founded from day to day, and States almost from year to year?
[ Pennsylvania contained 431,373 inhabitants in 1790 [and 5,258,014 in 1890.]]
[ The area of the State of New York is 49,170 square miles. [See U. S. census report of 1890.]]
Since the first settlement of the British colonies, the number of inhabitants has about doubled every twenty-two years. I perceive no causes which are likely to check this progressive increase of the Anglo-American population for the next hundred years; and before that space of time has elapsed, I believe that the territories and dependencies of the United States will be covered by more than 100,000,000 of inhabitants, and divided into forty States. *i I admit that these 100,000,000 of men have no hostile interests. I suppose, on the contrary, that they are all equally interested in the maintenance of the Union; but I am still of opinion that where there are 100,000,000 of men, and forty distinct nations, unequally strong, the continuance of the Federal Government can only be a fortunate accident.
[ If the population continues to double every twenty-two years, as it has done for the last two hundred years, the number of inhabitants in the United States in 1852 will be twenty millions; in 1874, forty-eight millions; and in 1896, ninety-six millions. This may still be the case even if the lands on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains should be found to be unfit for cultivation. The territory which is already occupied can easily contain this number of inhabitants. One hundred millions of men disseminated over the surface of the twenty-four States, and the three dependencies, which constitute the Union, would only give 762 inhabitants to the square league; this would be far below the mean population of France, which is 1,063 to the square league; or of England, which is 1,457; and it would even be below the population of Switzerland, for that country, notwithstanding its lakes and mountains, contains 783 inhabitants to the square league. See “Malte Brun,” vol. vi. p. 92.
Whatever faith I may have in the perfectibility of man, until human nature is altered, and men wholly transformed, I shall refuse to believe in the duration of a government which is called upon to hold together forty different peoples, disseminated over a territory equal to one-half of Europe in extent; to avoid all rivalry, ambition, and struggles between them, and to direct their independent activity to the accomplishment of the same designs.
But the greatest peril to which the Union is exposed by its increase arises from the continual changes which take place in the position of its internal strength. The distance from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico extends from the 47th to the 30th degree of latitude, a distance of more than 1,200 miles as the bird flies. The frontier of the United States winds along the whole of this immense line, sometimes falling within its limits, but more frequently extending far beyond it, into the waste. It has been calculated that the whites advance every year a mean distance of seventeen miles along the whole of his vast boundary. *j Obstacles, such as an unproductive district, a lake or an Indian nation unexpectedly encountered, are sometimes met with. The advancing column then halts for a while; its two extremities fall back upon themselves, and as soon as they are reunited they proceed onwards. This gradual and continuous progress of the European race towards the Rocky Mountains has the solemnity of a providential event; it is like a deluge of men rising unabatedly, and daily driven onwards by the hand of God.
[ See Legislative Documents, 20th Congress, No. 117, p. 105.]
Within this first line of conquering settlers towns are built, and vast States founded. In 1790 there were only a few thousand pioneers sprinkled along the valleys of the Mississippi; and at the present day these valleys contain as many inhabitants as were to be found in the whole Union in 1790. Their population amounts to nearly 4,000,000. *k The city of Washington was founded in 1800, in the very centre of the Union; but such are the changes which have taken place, that it now stands at one of the extremities; and the delegates of the most remote Western States are already obliged to perform a journey as long as that from Vienna to Paris. *l
[ 3,672,317—Census of 1830.]
[ The distance from Jefferson, the capital of the State of Missouri, to Washington is 1,019 miles. (“American Almanac,” 1831, p. 48.)]
All the States are borne onwards at the same time in the path of fortune, but of course they do not all increase and prosper in the same proportion. To the North of the Union the detached branches of the Alleghany chain, which extend as far as the Atlantic Ocean, form spacious roads and ports, which are constantly accessible to vessels of the greatest burden. But from the Potomac to the mouth of the Mississippi the coast is sandy and flat. In this part of the Union the mouths of almost all the rivers are obstructed; and the few harbors which exist amongst these lagoons afford much shallower water to vessels, and much fewer commercial advantages than those of the North.
This first natural cause of inferiority is united to another cause proceeding from the laws. We have already seen that slavery, which is abolished in the North, still exists in the South; and I have pointed out its fatal consequences upon the prosperity of the planter himself.
The North is therefore superior to the South both in commerce *m and manufacture; the natural consequence of which is the more rapid increase of population and of wealth within its borders. The States situate upon the shores of the Atlantic Ocean are already half-peopled. Most of the land is held by an owner; and these districts cannot therefore receive so many emigrants as the Western States, where a boundless field is still open to their exertions. The valley of the Mississippi is far more fertile than the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This reason, added to all the others, contributes to drive the Europeans westward—a fact which may be rigorously demonstrated by figures. It is found that the sum total of the population of all the United States has about tripled in the course of forty years. But in the recent States adjacent to the Mississippi, the population has increased thirty-one-fold, within the same space of time. *n
[ The following statements will suffice to show the difference which exists between the commerce of the South and that of the North:—
In 1829 the tonnage of all the merchant vessels belonging to Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia (the four great Southern States), amounted to only 5,243 tons. In the same year the tonnage of the vessels of the State of Massachusetts alone amounted to 17,322 tons. (See Legislative Documents, 21st Congress, 2d session, No. 140, p. 244.) Thus the State of Massachusetts had three times as much shipping as the four above-mentioned States. Nevertheless the area of the State of Massachusetts is only 7,335 square miles, and its population amounts to 610,014 inhabitants [2,238,943 in 1890]; whilst the area of the four other States I have quoted is 210,000 square miles, and their population 3,047,767. Thus the area of the State of Massachusetts forms only one-thirtieth part of the area of the four States; and its population is five times smaller than theirs. (See “Darby’s View of the United States.”) Slavery is prejudicial to the commercial prosperity of the South in several different ways; by diminishing the spirit of enterprise amongst the whites, and by preventing them from meeting with as numerous a class of sailors as they require. Sailors are usually taken from the lowest ranks of the population. But in the Southern States these lowest ranks are composed of slaves, and it is very difficult to employ them at sea. They are unable to serve as well as a white crew, and apprehensions would always be entertained of their mutinying in the middle of the ocean, or of their escaping in the foreign countries at which they might touch.]
[ “Darby’s View of the United States,” p. 444.]
The relative position of the central federal power is continually displaced. Forty years ago the majority of the citizens of the Union was established upon the coast of the Atlantic, in the environs of the spot upon which Washington now stands; but the great body of the people is now advancing inland and to the north, so that in twenty years the majority will unquestionably be on the western side of the Alleghanies. If the Union goes on to subsist, the basin of the Mississippi is evidently marked out, by its fertility and its extent, as the future centre of the Federal Government. In thirty or forty years, that tract of country will have assumed the rank which naturally belongs to it. It is easy to calculate that its population, compared to that of the coast of the Atlantic, will be, in round numbers, as 40 to 11. In a few years the States which founded the Union will lose the direction of its policy, and the population of the valley of the Mississippi will preponderate in the federal assemblies.
This constant gravitation of the federal power and influence towards the northwest is shown every ten years, when a general census of the population is made, and the number of delegates which each State sends to Congress is settled afresh. *o In 1790 Virginia had nineteen representatives in Congress. This number continued to increase until the year 1813, when it reached to twenty-three; from that time it began to decrease, and in 1833 Virginia elected only twenty-one representatives. *p During the same period the State of New York progressed in the contrary direction: in 1790 it had ten representatives in Congress; in 1813, twenty-seven; in 1823, thirty-four; and in 1833, forty. The State of Ohio had only one representative in 1803, and in 1833 it had already nineteen.
[ It may be seen that in the course of the last ten years (1820-1830) the population of one district, as, for instance, the State of Delaware, has increased in the proportion of five per cent.; whilst that of another, as the territory of Michigan, has increased 250 per cent. Thus the population of Virginia had augmented thirteen per cent., and that of the border State of Ohio sixty-one per cent., in the same space of time. The general table of these changes, which is given in the “National Calendar,” displays a striking picture of the unequal fortunes of the different States.]
[ It has just been said that in the course of the last term the population of Virginia has increased thirteen per cent.; and it is necessary to explain how the number of representatives for a State may decrease, when the population of that State, far from diminishing, is actually upon the increase. I take the State of Virginia, to which I have already alluded, as my term of comparison. The number of representatives of Virginia in 1823 was proportionate to the total number of the representatives of the Union, and to the relation which the population bore to that of the whole Union: in 1833 the number of representatives of Virginia was likewise proportionate to the total number of the representatives of the Union, and to the relation which its population, augmented in the course of ten years, bore to the augmented population of the Union in the same space of time. The new number of Virginian representatives will then be to the old numver, on the one hand, as the new numver of all the representatives is to the old number; and, on the other hand, as the augmentation of the population of Virginia is to that of the whole population of the country. Thus, if the increase of the population of the lesser country be to that of the greater in an exact inverse ratio of the proportion between the new and the old numbers of all the representatives, the number of the representatives of Virginia will remain stationary; and if the increase of the Virginian population be to that of the whole Union in a feeblerratio than the new number of the representatives of the Union to the old number, the number of the representatives of Virginia must decrease. [Thus, to the 56th Congress in 1899, Virginia and West Virginia send only fourteen representatives.]]