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The purpose of the writer of this work is to present a Con . stitutional view of the late War between the States of the Union,” known as the “United States of America."
The view is intended to embrace a consideration of the causes, the character, conduct and results of this War, in relation to the nature and character of the joint Government of these States; and of its effects upon the nature and character of this Govern. ment, as well as of its effects upon the separate Governments, Constitutions and general internal Institutions of the States themselves. The subject is one that does not fall clearly within the domain of History, in the usual acceptation of that word. The design is rather to deal with the materials of History than to supply them. It is not so much to present any portion of American History, as it is, by Historical analysis, to show what are the principles embodied in those systems of Government established, by the Anglo-Saxons, on this Continent, and to illustrate their singularly happy adaptation, so long as adhered to, to the situation and character of the North American States.
The chief usefulness of all History consists in the lessons it teaches, in properly estimating the compound result of the action of the principles of any system of Government upon human conduct, and the counter-action of human conduct upon these principles, in effecting those moral and political changes which mark the type, as well as progress, of civilization, at all times, and in all countries. Mankind cannot live without Society or Association. Organized communities, with Governments of some sort, are no more universal than essential to the existence of the Genus Homo, with all its Species and Varieties, in every age and clime. The organic laws, which enter into the
Structure of any such Association, Society. Community, Commonwealth, State, or Nation, by whatever name it may be designated, form what may be styled the Constitution of that particular Organism. These are the elementary principles, from which spring the vital functions of the Political Being, thus brought into existence, and upon which depend, mainly, the future development of the Organism, and the character, as well as standard, of its civilization. But, while these Structural laws act upon Society, in its embryo state, as well as in shaping its subsequent development, Society is also constantly acting back upon them. As individual life, in all its forms and stages, is said to be the result of a war between opposing agencies, so it is with the political life or existence of every body politic.
Between the primary laws, from which Society first springs, and takes its first form and shape, and the internal movements of Society itself, in its progress, there are continued action and counter-action, producing endless changes, from slight innovations or alternations to entire Revolutions. With these come, either for better or worse, entire changes of the type, as well as standard, of civilization.* History, for the most part, has con
*“The Institutions of a people, political and moral, are the matrix, in which the germ of their organic structure quickens into life, takes root, develops in form, nature and character. Our Institutions constitute the basis—the matrixfrom which spring all our characteristics of development and greatness. Look at Greece! There is the same fertile soil; the same blue sky; the same inlets and harbors; the same Ægean; the game Olympus ;—there is the same land, where Homer sung; where Pericles spoke ;-it is, in nature, the same old Greece; but it is living Greece no more!'
“Descendants of the same people inhabit the country; yet, what is the reason of this mighty difference? In the midst of present degradation, we see the glorious fragments of ancient works of art-temples, with ornaments and inscriptions that excite wonder and admiration—the remains of a once high order of civilization, which have outlived the language they spoke! Upon them all, Ichabod is written—their glory has departed! Why is this so? I answer this, their Institutions have been destroyed! These were but the fruits of their forms of Government—the matrix from which their grand development sprung. And when once the Institutions of our people shall have been destrɔyed, there is no earthly power that can bring back the Promethean spark, to kindle them here again, any more than in that ancient land of eloquence, poetry and song !"-Author's Union Speech, 14 November, 1860.