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.”