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An essay by Edwin Lawrence Godkin

American Home Rule

Title:     American Home Rule
Author: Edwin Lawrence Godkin [More Titles by Godkin]

American experience has been frequently cited, in the course of the controversy now raging in England over the Irish question, both by way of warning and of example. For instance, I have found in the Times as well as in other journals--the Spectator, I think, among the number--very contemptuous dismissals of the plan of offering Ireland a government like that of an American State, on the ground that the Americans are loyal to the central authority, while in Ireland there is a strong feeling of hostility to it, which would probably increase under Home Rule. The Queen's writ, it has been remarked, cannot be said to run in large parts of Ireland, while in every part of the United States the Federal writ is implicitly obeyed, and the ministers of Federal authority find ready aid and sympathy from the people. If I remember rightly, the Duke of Argyll has been very emphatic in pointing out the difference between giving local self-government to a community in which the tendencies of popular feeling are "centrifugal," and giving it to one in which these tendencies are "centripetal." The inference to be drawn was, of course, that as long as Ireland disliked the Imperial government the concession of Home Rule would be unsafe, and would only become safe when the Irish people showed somewhat the same sort of affection for the English connection which the people of the State of New York now feel for the Constitution of the United States.

Among the multitude of those who have taken part in the controversy on one side or the other, no one has, so far as I have observed, pointed out that the state of feeling in America toward the central government with which the state of feeling in Ireland towards the British Government is now compared, did not exist when the American Constitution was set up; that the political tendencies in America at that time were centrifugal, not centripetal, and that the extraordinary love and admiration with which Americans now regard the Federal government are the result of eighty years' experience of its working. The first Confederation was as much as the people could bear in the way of surrendering local powers when the War of Independence came to an end. It was its hopeless failure to provide peace and security which led to the framing of the present Constitution. But even with this experience still fresh, the adoption of the Constitution was no easy matter. I shall not burden this article with historical citations showing the very great difficulty which the framers of the Constitution had in inducing the various States to adopt it, or the magnitude and variety of the fears and suspicions with which, many of the most influential men in all parts of the country regarded it. Any one who wishes to know how numerous and diversified these fears and suspicions were, cannot do better than read the series of papers known as "The Federalist," written mainly by Hamilton and Madison, to commend the new plan to the various States. It was adopted almost as a matter of necessity, that is, as the only way out of the Slough of Despond in which the Confederation had plunged the union of the States; but the objections to it which were felt at the beginning were only removed by actual trial. Hamilton's two colleagues, as delegates from New York, Yates and Lansing, withdrew in disgust from the Convention, as soon as the Constitution was outlined, and did not return. The notion that the Constitution was produced by the craving of the American people for something of that sort to love and revere, and that it was not bestowed on them until they had given ample assurance that they would lavish affection on it, has no foundation whatever in fact. The devotion of Americans to the Union is, indeed, as clear a case of cause and effect as is to be found in political history. They have learned to like the Constitution because the country has prospered under it, and because it has given them all the benefits of national life without interference with local liberties. If they had not set up a central government until the centrifugal sentiment had disappeared from the States, and the feeling of loyalty for a central authority had fully shown itself, they would assuredly never have set it up at all.

Moreover, it has to be borne in mind that the adoption of the Constitution did not involve the surrender of any local franchises, by which the people of the various States set great store. The States preserved fully four-fifths of their autonomy, or in fact nearly all of it which closely concerned the daily lives of individuals. Set aside the post-office, and a citizen of the State of New York, not engaged in foreign trade, might, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, have passed a long and busy life without once coming in contact with a United States official, and without being made aware in any of his doings, by any restriction or regulation, that he was living under any government but that of his own State. If he went abroad he had to apply for a United States passport. If he quarrelled with a foreigner, or with the citizen of another State, he might be sued in the Federal Court. If he imported foreign goods he had to pay duties to the collector of a Federal Custom-house. If he invented something, or wrote a book, he had to apply to the Department of the Interior for a patent or a copyright. But how few there were in the first seventy years of American history who had any of these experiences! No one supposes, or has ever supposed, that had the Federalists demanded any very large sacrifice of local franchises, or attempted to set up even a close approach to a centralized Government, the adoption of the Constitution would have been possible. If, for instance, such a transfer of both administration and legislation to the central authority as took place in Ireland after the Union had been proposed, it would have been rejected with derision. You will get no American to argue with you on this point. If you ask him whether he thinks it likely that a highly centralized government could have been created in 1879--such a one, for example, as Ireland has been under since 1800--or whether if created it would by this time have won the affection of the people, or filled them with centripetal tendencies, he will answer you with a smile.

The truth is that nowhere, any more than in Ireland, do people love their Government from a sense of duty or because they crave an object of political affection, or even because it exalts them in the eyes of foreigners. They love it because they are happy or prosperous under it; because it supplies security in the form best suited to their tastes and habits, or in some manner ministers to their self-love. Loyalty to the king as the Lord's anointed, without any sense either of favours received or expected, has played a great part in European politics, I admit; but, for reasons which I will not here take up space in stating, a political arrangement, whether it be an elected monarch or a constitution, cannot be made, in our day, to reign in men's hearts except as the result of benefits so palpable that common people, as well as political philosophers, can see them and count them.

Many of the opponents of Home Rule, too, point to the vigour with which the United States Government put down the attempt made by the South to break up the Union as an example of the American love of "imperial unity," and of the spirit in which England should now meet the Irish demands for local autonomy. This again is rather surprising, because you will find no one in America who will maintain for one moment that troops could have been raised in 1860 to undertake the conquest of the South for the purpose of setting up a centralized administration, or, in other words, for the purpose of wiping out State lines, or diminishing State authority. No man or party proposed anything of this kind at the outbreak of the war, or would have dared to propose it. The object for which the North rose in arms, and which Lincoln had in view when he called for troops, was the restoration of the Union just as it was when South Carolina seceded, barring the extension of slavery into the territories. During the first year of the war, certainly, the revolted States might at any time have had peace on the status quo basis, that is, without the smallest diminution of their rights and immunities under the Constitution. It was only when it became evident that the war would have to be fought out to a finish, as the pugilists say--that is, that it would have to end in a complete conquest of the Southern territory--that the question, what would become of the States as a political organization after the struggle was over, began to be debated at all. What did become of them? How did Americans deal with Home Rule, after it had been used to set on foot against the central authority what the newspapers used to delight in calling "the greatest rebellion the world ever saw"? The answer to these questions is, it seems to me, a contribution of some value to the discussion of the Irish problem in its present stage, if American precedents can throw any light whatever on it.

There was a Joint Committee of both Houses of Congress appointed in 1866 to consider the condition of the South with reference to the safety or expediency of admitting the States lately in rebellion to their old relations to the Union, including representation in Congress. It contained, besides such fanatical enemies of the South as Thaddeus Stevens, such very conservative men as Mr. Fessenden, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Morrill, and Mr. Conkling. Here is the account they gave of the condition of Southern feeling one year after Lee's surrender:--

"Examining the evidence taken by your committee still further, in connection with facts too notorious to be disputed, it appears that the Southern press, with few exceptions, and those mostly of newspapers recently established by Northern men, abounds with weekly and daily abuse of the institutions and people of the loyal States; defends the men who led, and the principles which incited, the rebellion; denounces and reviles Southern men who adhered to the Union; and strives constantly and unscrupulously, by every means in its power, to keep alive the fire of hate and discord between the sections; calling upon the President to violate his oath of office, overturn the Government by force of arms, and drive the representatives of the people from their seats in Congress. The national banner is openly insulted, and the national airs scoffed at, not only by an ignorant populace, but at public meetings, and once, among other notable instances, at a dinner given in honour of a notorious rebel who had violated his oath and abandoned his flag. The same individual is elected to an important office in the leading city of his State, although an unpardoned rebel, and so offensive that the President refuses to allow him to enter upon his official duties. In another State the leading general of the rebel armies is openly nominated for Governor by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, and the nomination is hailed by the people with shouts of satisfaction, and openly endorsed by the press....

"The evidence of an intense hostility to the Federal Union, and an equally intense love of the late Confederacy, nurtured by the war is decisive. While it appears that nearly all are willing to submit, at least for the time being, to the Federal authority, it is equally clear that the ruling motive is a desire to obtain the advantages which will be derived from a representation in Congress. Officers of the Union army on duty, and Northern men who go south to engage in business, are generally detested and proscribed. Southern men who adhered to the Union are bitterly hated and relentlessly persecuted. In some localities prosecutions have been instituted in State courts against Union officers for acts done in the line of official duty, and similar prosecutions are threatened elsewhere as soon as the United States troops are removed. All such demonstrations show a state of feeling against which it is unmistakably necessary to guard.

"The testimony is conclusive that after the collapse of the Confederacy the feeling of the people of the rebellious States was that of abject submission. Having appealed to the tribunal of arms, they had no hope except that by the magnanimity of their conquerors, their lives, and possibly their property, might be preserved. Unfortunately the general issue of pardons to persons who had been prominent in the rebellion, and the feeling of kindliness and conciliation manifested by the Executive, and very generally indicated through the Northern press, had the effect to render whole communities forgetful of the crime they had committed, defiant towards the Federal Government, and regardless of their duties as citizens. The conciliatory measures of the Government do not seem to have been met even half-way. The bitterness and defiance exhibited towards the United States under such circumstances is without a parallel in the history of the world. In return for our leniency we receive only an insulting denial of our authority. In return for our kind desire for the resumption of fraternal relations we receive only an insolent assumption of rights and privileges long since forfeited. The crime we have punished is paraded as a virtue, and the principles of republican government which we have vindicated at so terrible a cost are denounced as unjust and oppressive.

"If we add to this evidence the fact that, although peace has been declared by the President, he has not, to this day, deemed it safe to restore the writ of habeas corpus, to relieve the insurrectionary States of martial law, nor to withdraw the troops from many localities, and that the commanding general deems an increase of the army indispensable to the preservation of order and the protection of loyal and well-disposed people in the South, the proof of a condition of feeling hostile to the Union and dangerous to the Government throughout the insurrectionary States would seem to be overwhelming."

This Committee recommended a series of coercive measures, the first of which was the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution, which disqualified for all office, either under the United States or under any State, any person who having in any capacity taken an oath of allegiance to the United States afterwards engaged in rebellion or gave aid and comfort to the rebels. This denied the jus honorum to all the leading men at the South who had survived the war. In addition to it, an Act was passed in March, 1867, which put all the rebel States under military rule until a constitution should have been framed by a Convention elected by all males over twenty-one, except such as would be excluded from office by the above-named constitutional amendment if it were adopted, which at that time it had not been. Another Act was passed three weeks later, prescribing, for voters in the States lately in rebellion, what was known as the "ironclad oath," which excluded from the franchise not only all who had borne arms against the United States, but all who, having ever held any office for which the taking an oath of allegiance to the United States was a qualification, had afterwards ever given "aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." This practically disfranchised all the white men of the South over twenty-five years old.

On this legislation there grew up, as all the world now knows, what was called the "carpet-bag" regime. Swarms of Northern adventurers went down to the Southern States, organized the ignorant negro voters, constructed State constitutions to suit themselves, got themselves elected to all the chief offices, plundered the State treasuries, contracted huge State debts, and stole the proceeds in connivance with legislatures composed mainly of negroes, of whom the most intelligent and instructed had been barbers and hotel-waiters. In some of the States, such as South Carolina and Mississippi, in which the negro population were in the majority, the government became a mere caricature. I was in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, in 1872, during the session of the legislature, when you could obtain the passage of almost any measure you pleased by a small payment--at that time seven hundred dollars--to an old negro preacher who controlled the coloured majority. Under the pretence of fitting up committee-rooms, the private lodging-rooms at the boarding-houses of the negro members, in many instances, were extravagantly furnished with Wilton and Brussels carpets, mirrors, and sofas. A thousand dollars were expended for two hundred elegant imported china spittoons. There were only one hundred and twenty-three members in the House of Representatives, but the residue were, perhaps, transferred to the private chambers of the legislators.

Now, how did the Southern whites deal with this state of things? Well, I am sorry to say they manifested their discontent very much in the way in which the Irish have for the last hundred years been manifesting theirs. If, as the English opponents of Home Rule seem to think, readiness to commit outrages, and refusal to sympathize with the victims of outrages, indicate political incapacity, the whites of the South showed, in the period between 1866 and 1876, that they were utterly unfit to be entrusted with the work of self-government. They could not rise openly in revolt because the United States troops were everywhere at the service of the carpet-baggers, for the suppression of armed resistance. They did not send petitions to Congress, or write letters to the Northern newspapers, or hold indignation meetings. They simply formed a huge secret society on the model of the "Molly Maguires" or "Moonlighters," whose special function was to intimidate, flog, mutilate, or murder political opponents in the night time. This society was called the "Ku-Klux Klan." Let me give some account of its operation, and I shall make it as brief as possible. It had become so powerful in 1871 that President Grant in that year, in his message to Congress, declared that "a condition of things existed in some of the States of the Union rendering life and property insecure, and the carrying of the mails and the collecting of the revenue dangerous." A Joint Select Committee of Congress was accordingly appointed, early in 1872, to "inquire into the condition of affairs in the late insurrectionary States, so far as regards the execution of the laws and the safety of the lives and property of the citizens of the United States." Its report now lies before me, and it reads uncommonly like the speech of an Irish Secretary in the House of Commons bringing in a "Suppression of Crime Bill." The Committee say--

"There is a remarkable concurrence of testimony to the effect that, in those of the late rebellious States into whose condition we have examined, the courts and juries administer justice between man and man in all ordinary cases, civil and criminal; and while there is this concurrence on this point, the evidence is equally decisive that redress cannot be obtained against those who commit crimes in disguise and at night. The reasons assigned are that identification is difficult, almost impossible; that, when this is attempted, the combinations and oaths of the order come in and release the culprit by perjury, either upon the witness-stand or in the jury-box; and that the terror inspired by their acts, as well as the public sentiment in their favour in many localities, paralyzes the arm of civil power.

* * * * *

"The murders and outrages which have been perpetrated in many counties of Middle and West Tennessee, during the past few months, have been so numerous, and of such an aggravated character, as almost baffles investigation. In these counties a reign of terror exists which is so absolute in its nature that the best of citizens are unable or unwilling to give free expression to their opinions. The terror inspired by the secret organization known as the Ku-Klux Klan is so great, that the officers of the law are powerless to execute its provisions, to discharge their duties, or to bring the guilty perpetrators of these outrages to the punishment they deserve. Their stealthy movements are generally made under cover of night, and under masks and disguises, which render their identification difficult, if not impossible. To add to the secrecy which envelops their operations, is the fact that no information of their murderous acts can be obtained without the greatest difficulty and danger in the localities where they are committed. No one dares to inform upon them, or take any measures to bring them to punishment, because no one can tell but that he may be the next victim of their hostility or animosity. The members of this organization, with their friends, aiders, and abettors, take especial pains to conceal all their operations.

* * * * *

"Your committee believe that during the past six months, the murders--to say nothing of other outrages--would average one a day, or one for every twenty-four hours; that in the great majority of these cases they have been perpetrated by the Ku-Klux above referred to, and few, if any, have been brought to punishment. A number of the counties of this State (Tennessee) are entirely at the mercy of this organization, and roving bands of nightly marauders bid defiance to the civil authorities, and threaten to drive out every man, white or black, who does not submit to their arbitrary dictation. To add to the general lawlessness of these communities, bad men of every description take advantage of the circumstances surrounding them, and perpetrate acts of violence, from personal or pecuniary motives, under the plea of political necessity."

Here is some of the evidence on which the report was based.

A complaint of outrages committed in Georgia was referred by the general of the army, in June, 1869, to the general of the Department of the South for thorough investigation and report. General Terry, in his report, made August 14, 1869, says[1]--

"In many parts of the State there is practically no government. The worst of crimes are committed, and no attempt is made to punish those who commit them. Murders have been and are frequent; the abuse, in various ways, of the blacks is too common to excite notice. There can be no doubt of the existence of numerous insurrectionary organizations known as 'Ku-Klux Klans,' who, shielded by their disguise, by the secrecy of their movements, and by the terror which they inspire, perpetrate crime with impunity. There is great reason to believe that in some cases local magistrates are in sympathy with the members of these organizations. In many places they are overawed by them and dare not attempt to punish them. To punish such offenders by civil proceedings would be a difficult task, even were magistrates in all cases disposed and had they the courage to do their duty, for the same influences which govern them equally affect juries and witnesses."

Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Merrill, who assumed command (in Louisiana) on the 26th of March, and commenced investigation into the state of affairs, says (p. 1465)--

"From the best information I can get, I estimate the number of cases of whipping, beating, and personal violence of various grades, in this county, since the first of last November, at between three and four hundred, excluding numerous minor cases of threats, intimidation, abuse, and small personal violence, as knocking down with a pistol or gun, etc. The more serious outrages, exclusive of murders and whippings, noted hereafter, have been the following:--"

He then proceeds with the details of sixty-eight cases, giving the names of the parties injured, white and black, and including the tearing up of the railway, on the night before a raid was made by the Ku-Klux on the county treasury building. The rails were taken up, to prevent the arrival of the United States troops, who, it was known, were to come on Sunday morning. The raid was made on that Sunday night while the troops were lying at Chester, twenty-two miles distant, unable to reach Yorkville, because of the rails being torn up.

Another witness said: "To give the details of the whipping of men to compel them to change their mode of voting, the tearing of them away from their families at night, accompanied with insults and outrage, and followed by their murder, would be but repeating what has been described in other States, showing that it is the same organization in all, working by the same means for the same end. Five murders are shown to have been committed in Monroe County, fifteen in Noxubee, one in Lowndes, by the testimony taken in the city of Washington; but the extent to which school-houses were burnt, teachers whipped, and outrages committed in this State, cannot be fully given until the testimony taken by the sub-committee shall have been printed and made ready to report."

There are about eighty, closely printed, large octavo pages of this kind of testimony given by sufferers from the outrages.

Something was done to suppress the Ku-Klux by a Federal Act passed in 1871, which made offences of this kind punishable in the Federal Courts. Considerable numbers of them were arrested, tried, and convicted, and sent to undergo their punishment in the Northern jails. But there was no complete pacification of the South until the carpet-bag governments were refused the support of the Federal troops by President Hayes, on his accession to power in 1876. Then the carpet-bag regime disappeared like a house of cards. The chief carpet-baggers fled, and the government passed at once into the hands of the native whites. I do not propose to defend or explain the way in which they have since then kept it in their hands, by suppressing or controlling the negro vote. This is not necessary to my purpose.

What I seek to show is that the Irish are not peculiar in their manner of expressing their discontent with a government directed or controlled by the public opinion of another indifferent or semi-hostile community which it is impossible to resist in open warfare; that Anglo-Saxons resort to somewhat the same methods under similar circumstances, and that lawlessness and cruelty, considered as expressions of political animosity, do not necessarily argue any incapacity for the conduct of an orderly and efficient government, although I admit freely that they do argue a low state of civilization.

I will add one more illustration which, although more remote than those which I have taken from the Southern States during the reconstruction period, is not too remote for my purpose, and is in some respects stronger than any of them. I do not know a more orderly community in the world, or one which, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, when manufactures began to multiply, and the Irish immigration began to pour in, had a higher average of intelligence than the State of Connecticut. Down to 1818 all voters in that State had to be members of the Congregational Church. It had no large cities, and this, with the aid of its seat of learning, Yale College, preserved in it, I think, in greater purity than even Massachusetts, the old Puritan simplicity of manners, the Puritan spirit of order and thrift, and the business-like view of government which grew out of the practice of town government. A less sentimental community, I do not think, exists anywhere, or one in which the expression of strong feeling on any subject but religion is less cultivated or viewed with less favour. In the matter of managing their own political affairs in peace or war, I do not expect the Irish to equal the Connecticut people for a hundred years to come, no matter how much practice they may have in the interval, and I think that fifty years ago it was only picked bodies of Englishmen who could do so. Yet, in 1833, in the town of Canterbury, one of the most orderly and intelligent in the State, an estimable and much-esteemed lady, Miss Prudence Crandall, was carrying on a girls' school, when something happened to touch her conscience about the condition of the free negroes of the North. She resolved, in a moment of enthusiasm, to undertake the education of negro girls only. What follows forms one of the most famous episodes in the anti-slavery struggle in America, and is possibly familiar to many of the older readers of this article. I shall extract the account of it as given briefly in the lately published life of William Lloyd Garrison, by his sons. Some of the details are much worse than is here described.

"The story of this remarkable case cannot be pursued here except in brief.... It will be enough to say that the struggle between the modest and heroic young Quaker woman and the town lasted for nearly two years; that the school was opened in April; that attempts were immediately made under the law to frighten the pupils away and to fine Miss Crandall for harbouring them; that in May an Act prohibiting private schools for non-resident coloured persons, and providing for the expulsion of the latter, was procured from the legislature, amid the greatest rejoicing in Canterbury (even to the ringing of church bells); that, under this Act, Miss Crandall was in June arrested and temporarily imprisoned in the county jail, twice tried (August and October) and convicted; that her case was carried up to the Supreme Court of Errors, and her persecutors defeated on a technicality (July, 1834), and that pending this litigation the most vindictive and inhuman measures were taken to isolate the school from the countenance and even the physical support of the townspeople. The shops and the meeting-house were closed against teacher and pupils, carriage in the public conveyances was denied them, physicians would not wait upon them, Miss Crandall's own family and friends were forbidden, under penalty of heavy fines, to visit her, the well was filled with manure and water from other sources refused, the house itself was smeared with filth, assailed with rotten eggs and stones, and finally set on fire" (vol. i. p. 321).

Miss Crandall is still living in the West, in extreme old age, and the Connecticut legislature voted her a small pension two years ago, as a slight expiation of the ignominy and injustice from which she had suffered at the hands of a past generation.

The Spectator frequently refers to the ferocious hatred displayed toward the widow of Curtin, the man who was cruelly murdered by moonlighters somewhere in Kerry, as an evidence of barbarism which almost, if not quite, justifies the denial of self-government to a people capable of producing such monsters in one spot and on one occasion. Let me match this from Mississippi with a case which I produce, not because it was singular, but because it was notorious at the North, where it occurred, in 1877. One Chisholm, a native of the State, and a man of good standing and character, became a Republican after the war, and was somewhat active in organizing the negro voters in his district. He was repeatedly warned by some of his neighbours to desist and abandon politics, but continued resolutely on his course. A mob, composed of many of the leading men in the town, then attacked him in his house. He made his escape, with his wife and young daughter and son, a lad of fourteen, to the jail. His assailants broke the jail open, and killed him and his son, and desperately wounded the daughter. The poor lad received such a volley of bullets, that his blood went in one rush to the floor, and traced the outlines of his trunk on the ceiling of the room below, where it remained months afterwards, an eye-witness told me, as an illustration of the callousness of the jailer. The leading murderers were tried. They had no defence. The facts were not disputed. The judge and the bar did their duty, but the jury acquitted the prisoners without leaving their seats. Mrs. Chisholm, the widow, found neither sympathy nor friends at the scene of the tragedy. She had to leave the State, and found refuge in Washington, where she now holds a clerkship in the Treasury department.

Let me cite as another illustration the violent ways in which popular discontent may find expression in communities whose political capacity and general respect for the law and its officers, as well as for the sanctity of contracts, have never been questioned. Large tracts of land were formerly held along the Hudson river in the State of New York, by a few families, of which the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons were the chief, either under grants from the Dutch at the first settlement of the colony, or from the English Crown after the conquest. That known as the "Manor of Rensselaerwick," held by the Van Rensselaers, comprised a tract of country extending twenty-four miles north and south, and forty-eight miles east and west, lying on each side of the Hudson river. It was held by the tenants for perpetual leases. The rents were, on the Van Rensselaer estate, fourteen bushels of wheat for each hundred acres, and four fat hens, and one day's service with a carriage and horses, to each farm of one hundred and sixty acres. Besides this, there was a fine on alienation amounting to about half a year's rent. The Livingston estates were let in much the same way.

In 1839, Stephen Van Rensselaer, the proprietor, or "Patroon" as he was called, died, with $400,000 due to him as arrears from the tenants, for which, being a man of easy temper, he had forborne to press them. But he left the amount in trust by his will for the payment of his debts, and his heirs proceeded to collect it, and persisted in the attempt during the ensuing seven years. What then happened I shall describe in the words of Mr. John Bigelow. Mr. Tilden was a member of the State Legislature in 1846, and was appointed Chairman of a Committee to investigate the rent troubles, and make the report which furnished the basis for the legislation by which they were subsequently settled. Mr. Bigelow, who has edited Mr. Tilden's Public Writings and Speeches, prefaces the report with the following explanatory note:--

"Attempts were made to enforce the collection of these rents. The tenants resisted. They established armed patrols, and, by the adoption of various disguises, were enabled successfully to defy the civil authorities. Eventually it became necessary to call out the military, but the result was only partially satisfactory. These demonstrations of authority provoked the formation of 'anti-rent clubs' throughout the manorial district, with a view of acquiring a controlling influence in the legislature. Small bands, armed and disguised as Indians, were also formed to hold themselves in readiness at all times to resist the officers of the law whenever and wherever they attempted to serve legal process upon the tenants. The principal roads throughout the infected district were guarded by the bands so carefully, and the animosity between the tenants and the civil authorities was so intense, that at last it became dangerous for any one not an anti-renter to be found in these neighbourhoods. It was equally dangerous for the landlords to make any appeal to the law or for the collection of rents or for protection of their persons. When Governor Wright entered upon his duties in Albany in 1845, he found that the anti-rent party had a formidable representation in the legislature, and that the questions involved were assuming an almost national importance."

The sheriff made gallant attempts to enforce the law, but his deputies were killed, and a legal investigation in which two hundred persons were examined, failed to reveal the perpetrators of the crime. The militia were called out, but they were no more successful than the sheriff. In the case of one murder committed in Delaware County in 1845, however, two persons were convicted, but their sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. Various others concerned in the disturbances were convicted of minor offences, but when Governor Young succeeded Governor Seward after an election in which the anti-renters showed considerable voting strength, he pardoned them all on the ground that their crimes were political. The dispute was finally settled by a compromise--that is, the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons both sold their estates, giving quit-claim deeds to the tenants for what they chose to pay, and the granting of agricultural leases for a longer term than twelve years was forbidden by the State Constitution of 1846.

This anti-rent agitation is described by Professor Johnston of Princeton, in the Cyclopaedia of Political Science, as "a reign of terror which for ten years practically suspended the operations of law and the payment of rent throughout the district." Suppose all the land of the State had been held under similar tenures; that the controversy had lasted one hundred years; that the rents had been high; and that the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons had had the aid of the Federal army in enforcing distraints and evictions, and in enabling them to set local opinion at defiance, what do you suppose the state of morals and manners would have been in New York by this time? What would have been the feelings of the people towards the Federal authority had the matter been finally adjusted with the strong hand, in accordance, not with the views of the people of the State, but of the landholders of South Carolina or of the district of Columbia? I am afraid they would have been terribly Irish.

I know very well the risk I run, in citing all these precedents and parallels, of seeming to justify, or at all events to palliate, Irish lawlessness. But I am not doing anything of the kind. I am trying to illustrate a somewhat trite remark which I recently made: "that government is a very practical business, and that those succeed best in it who bring least sentiment or enthusiasm to the conduct of their affairs." The government of Ireland, like the government of all other countries, is a piece of business--a very difficult piece of business, I admit--and therefore horror over Irish doings, and the natural and human desire to "get even with" murderers and moonlighters, by denying the community which produces them something it would like much to possess, should have no influence with those who are charged with Irish government. It is only in nurseries and kindergartens that we can give offenders their exact due and withhold their toffee until they have furnished satisfactory proofs of repentance. Rulers of men have to occupy themselves mainly with the question of drying up the sources of crime, and often, in order to accomplish this, to let much crime and disorder go unwhipped of justice.

With the state of mind which cannot bear to see any concessions made to the Irish Nationalists because they are such wicked men, in which so many excellent Englishmen, whom we used to think genuine political philosophers, are now living, we are very familiar in the United States. It is a state of mind which prevailed in the Republican party with regard to the South, down to the election of 1884, and found constant expression on the stump and in the newspapers in what is described, in political slang, as "waving the bloody shirt." It showed itself after the war in unwillingness to release the South from military rule; then in unwillingness to remove the disfranchisement of the whites or to withdraw from the carpet-bag State governments the military support without which they could not have existed for a day; and, last of all, in dread of the advent of a Democratic Federal Administration in which Southerners or "ex-rebels" would be likely to hold office. At first the whole Republican party was more or less permeated by these ideas; but the number of those who held them gradually diminished, until in 1884 it was at last possible to elect a Democratic President. Nevertheless a great multitude witnessed the entrance into the White House of a President who is indebted for his election mainly to the States formerly in rebellion, with genuine alarm. They feared from it something dreadful, in the shape either of a violation of the rights of the freedmen, or of an assault on the credit and stability of the Federal Government. Nothing but actual experiment would have disabused them.

I am very familiar with the controversy with them, for I have taken some part in it ever since the passage of the reconstruction Acts, and I know very well how they felt, and am sometimes greatly impressed by the similarity between their arguments and those of the opponents of Irish Home Rule. One of their fixed beliefs for many years, though it is now extinct, was that Southerners were so bent on rebelling again, and were generally so prone to rebellion, that the awful consequences of their last attempt in the loss of life and property, had made absolutely no impression on them. The Southerner was, in fact, in their eyes, what Mr. Gladstone says the Irishman is in the eyes of some Englishmen: "A lusus naturae; that justice, common sense, moderation, national prosperity had no meaning for him; that all he could appreciate was strife and perpetual dissension. It was for many years useless to point out to them the severity of the lesson taught by the Civil War as to the physical superiority of the North, or the necessity of peace and quiet to enable the new generation of Southerners to restore their fortunes, or even gain a livelihood. Nor was it easy to impress them with the inconsistency of arguing that it was slavery which made Southerners what they were before they went to war, and maintaining at the same time that the disappearance of slavery would produce no change in their manners, ideas, or opinions. All this they answered by pointing to speeches delivered by some fiery adorer of "the lost cause," to the Ku-Klux outrages, to political murders, like that of Chisholm, to the building of monuments to the Confederate dead, or to some newspaper expression of reverence for Confederate nationality. In fact, for fully ten years after the close of the war the collection of Southern "outrages" and their display before Northern audiences, was the chief work of Republican politicians. In 1876, during the Hayes-Tilden canvass, the opening speech which furnished what is called "the key-note of the campaign" was made by Mr. Wheeler, the Republican candidate for the Vice-Presidency, and his advice to the Vermonters, to whom it was delivered, was "to vote as they shot," that is, to go to the polls with the same feelings and aims as those with which they enlisted in the war.

I need hardly tell English readers how all this has ended. The withdrawal of the Federal troops from the South by President Hayes, and the consequent complete restoration of the State governments to the discontented whites, have fully justified the expectations of those who maintained that it is no less true in politics than in physics, that if you remove what you see to be the cause, the effect will surely disappear. It is true, at least in the Western world, that if you give communities in a reasonable degree the management of their own affairs, the love of material comfort and prosperity which is now so strong among all civilized, and even partially civilized men, is sure in the long run to do the work of creating and maintaining order; or, as Mr. Gladstone has expressed it, in setting up a government, "the best and surest foundation we can find to build on is the foundation afforded by the affections, the convictions, and the will of men."

[Footnote 1: Report of Secretary of War, 1869-70, vol. i. p. 89.]

[The end]
Edwin Lawrence Godkin's essay: American Home Rule