The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.
Garrison, Webster, and Douglas.  The Western Democrat, and indeed the average American, thought of democratic liberty chiefly as individual freedom from legal discrimination and state interference in doing some kind of a business.  The Abolitionist was even more exclusively preoccupied with the liberty which the Constitution denied to the negro.  The Southerners thought only of the Constitutional rights, which the Abolitionists wished to abolish, and the Republicans to restrict.  Each of the contending parties had some justification in dwelling exclusively upon the legal or natural rights, in which they were most interested, because the system of traditional American ideas provided no positive principle, in relation to which these conflicting liberties could be classified and valued.  It is in the nature of liberties and rights, abstractly considered, to be insubordinate and to conflict both one with another and, perhaps, with the common weal.  If the chief purpose of a democratic political system is merely the preservation of such rights, democracy becomes an invitation to local, factional, and individual ambitions and purposes.  On the other hand, if these Constitutional and natural rights are considered a temporary philosophical or legal machinery, whereby a democratic society is to reach a higher moral and social consummation, and if the national organization is considered merely as an effective method of keeping the legal and moral machinery adjusted to the higher democratic purpose, then no individual or faction or section could claim the benefit of a democratic halo for its distracting purposes and ambitions.  Instead of subordinating these conflicting rights and liberties to the national idea, and erecting the national organization into an effective instrument thereof, the national idea and organization was subordinated to individual local and factional ideas and interests.  No one could or would recognize the constructive relation between the democratic purpose and the process of national organization and development.  The men who would rend the national body in order to protect their property in negro slaves could pretend to be as good democrats as the men who would rend in order to give the negro his liberty.  And if either of these hostile factions had obtained its way, the same disastrous result would have been accomplished.  American national integrity would have been destroyed, and slavery on American soil, in a form necessarily hostile to democracy, would have been perpetuated.

II

SLAVERY AS A DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTION

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.