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ART. VII. -THE FREE SOIL PARTY AND THE
SINCE the publication of our last number the people of the United States have chosen an officer who for the next four years will have more power than any monarch of Europe ; yet three years ago he was scarcely known out of the army in Florida, and even now has appeared only in the character of a successful general. His supporters at the North intend, by means of his election, to change the entire commercial policy of the country, and perhaps, also, its financial policy; they contemplate, or profess to contemplate, a great change. Yet the election has been effected without tumult or noise ; not a soldier has drawn his bayonet; scarcely has a constable needed his official rod to keep order withal. In Europe, at the same time, the beginning of a change in the national dynasty or the national policy is only attempted by violence, by soldiers with arms ready for fight, by battle and murder. One day or another men will be wise enough to see the cause of this difference, and insular statesmen in England, who now sneer at the new government in America, may learn that Democracy has at least one quality — that of respecting Law and Order, and may live to see ours the oldest government in the whole Caucasian race.
Since the election is now over, it is worth while to look a moment at the politics and political parties of the country, that we may gain wisdom for the future, and perhaps hope ; at any rate, may see the actual condition of things. Each political party is based on an Idea, - a Truth, - or an Interest. It commonly happens that the Idea is represented as an Interest, and the Interest as an Idea, before either becomes the foundation of a large party. Now when a new Idea is introduced to any party, or applied to any institution, if it be only auxiliary to the old doctrines incarnated therein, a regular growth and new development take place; but when the new Idea is hostile to the old, the development takes place under the form of a revolution, and that will be greater or less in proportion to the difference between the new Idea and the old doctrine; in proportion to their relative strength and value. As Aristotle said of scditions, a revolution comes on slight occasions, but not of slight causes ;' the Occasion may be obvious and obviously trivial, but the Cause obscure and great. The Occasion of the French Revolution of 1818 was afforded by the attempt of the king to prevent a certain public dinner: he had a legal right to prevent it. The Cause of the Revolution was a little different, but some men in America and Eng. land, at first, scarcely looked beyond the occasion, and, taking that for the cause, thought the Frenchmen fools to make so much ado about a trifle, and that they had better cat their soupe maigre at home, and let their victuals stop their mouths. The Occasion of the American Revolution may be found in the Stamp-Act, or the Sugar-Act, the Writs of Assistance, or the Boston Port-Bill; some men, even now, see no further, and logically conclude the colonists made a mistake, because for a dozen years they were far worse off than before the “ Rebellion," and have never been so lightly taxed since. Such men do not see the Cause of the Revolution, which was not an unwillingness to pay taxes, but a determination to govern them. selves.
At the present day it is plain that a revolution, neither slow nor silent, is taking place in the political parties of America. The occasion thereof is the nomination of a man for the presidency who has no political or civil experience, but who has three qualities that are important in the eyes of the leading men who have supported and pushed him forward:- one is that he is an eminent slave holder, whose interests and accordingly whose ideas are identical with those of the slave-holders; the next, that he is not hostile to the doctrines of northern manufacturers respecting a protective tariff; and the third, that he is an eminent and very successful military commander. The last is an Accidental Quality, and it is not to be supposed that the intelligent and influential men at the North and South who have promoted his election, value him any more on that account, or think that mere military success fits him for his high office, and enables him to settle the complicated difficulties of a modern state. They must know better; but they must have known that many men of little intelligence are so taken with military glory that they will ask for no more in their hero; it was foreseen, also, that honest and intelligent men of all parties would give him their vote because he had never been mixed up with the intrigues of political life. Thus “ far-sighted" politicians of the North and South saw that he might be elected, and then might serve the purposes of the slave-holder, or the manufacturer of the North. The military success of General Taylor, an accidental merit, was only the occasion of his nomination by the Whigs; his Substantial Merit was found in the fact that he was supposed (or known) to be favorable to the “ peculiar institution” of the South and the protective policy of the manufacturers at the North : this was the cause of his formal nomination by the Whig con. vention of Philadelphia, and his real nomination by members of the Whig party at Washington. The men of property at the South wanted an extension of slavery; the men of property at the North, a high protective tariff, and it was thought General Taylor could serve both purposes, and promote the interests of the North and South.
* Γίγνονται μεν ούν οι στάσεις ού περί μικρών αλλ' εκ μικρών, στασιάξουσι δε Tepi meyúlwv. — Aristotle's Polit., Lib. V., Chap. 4, %1.
Such is the occasion of the revolution in political parties : the cause is the introduction of a New Idea into these parties entirely hostile to some of their former doctrines. In the electioneering contest the new Idea was represented by the words “ Free Soil.” For present practice it takes a negative form; “No more Slave States, no more Slave Territory,” is the mot to. But these words and this motto do not adequately represent the Idea, only so much thereof as has been needful in the present crisis.
Before now there has been much in the political history of America to provoke the resentment of the North. England has been ruled by various dynasties; the American chair has been chiefly occupied by the Southern Honse, the Dynasty of Slave-holders: now and then a member of the Northern Ilouse has sat on that seat, but commonly it has been a “ Northern Man with Southern principles,” never a man with Mind to see the great Idea of America, and Will to carry it out in action. Still the Spirit of Liberty has not died out of the North; tho attempt to put an eighth slave-holder in the chair of the model Republic” gave occasion for that spirit to act again.
The new Idea is not hostile to the distinctive doctrine of either political party; - neither to Free Trade nor to Protec tion; so it makes no revolution in respect to them—it is neutral and leaves both as it found them. It is not hostile to the General Theory of the American State, so it makes no revo lution there, this Idea is assumed as self-evident in the Decla ration of Independence. It is not inimical to the theory of the Constitution of the United States as set forth in the preamble thereto, where the design of the Constitution is declared to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”.
There are clauses in the Constitution which are exceptions to its theory, and hostile to the design mentioned above; to such this Idea will one day prove itself utterly at variance, as it is now plainly hostile to one part of the practice of the American government, and that of both the parties.
We have had several political parties since the Revolution : the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, – the latter shading off into Republicans, Democrats, and Locofocos; the former tapering into modern Whigs, in which guise some of their fathers would scarcely recognize the family type. We have had a Protective party and an Anti-Protective party ; once there was a Free-trade party, which no longer appears in politics. There has been a National Bank party, which seems to have gone to the realm of things lost on earth. In the rise and fall of these parties, several dramas, tragic and comic, have been performed on the American boards, where “ one man in his time plays many parts," and stout representatives of the Hartford Convention find themselves on the same side with worshippers of the Gerrymander, and shouting the same cry. It is kindly ordered that memory should be so short and brass so common. None of the old parties is likely to return; the living have buried the dead. “We are all Federalists,” said Mr. Jefferson, “ we are all Democrats,” and truly, so far as old questions are concerned. It is well known that the present representatives of the old Federal party have abjured the commercial theory of their predecessors; and the men who were “ Jacobins ” at the beginning of the century, curse the new French Revolution by their gods. At the presidential election of 1810, there were but two parties in the field — Democrats and Whigs. As they both survive, it is well to see what Interests or what Ideas they represent.
They differ accidentally in the possession and the desire of power; in the fact that the former took the initiative in annexing Texas and in making the Mexican War, while the latter only pretended to oppose either, but zealously and conclusively coöperated in both. Then, again, the Democratic party sustain the Sub-treasury system, insisting that the government shall not interfere with banking, shall keep its own deposits, and give and take only specie in its business with the people. The Whig party, if we understand it, has not of late developed any distinctive doctrine on the subject of money and financial operations, but only complained of the action of the Sub-treasury; yet, as it sustained the late Bank of the United States, and appropriately followed as chief mourner at the funeral thereof, uttering dreadful lamentations and prophecies which Time has not seen fit to accomplish, it still keeps up a show of differing from the Democrats on this matter. These are only Accidental or Historical differences, which do not practically affect the politics of the nation to any great degree.
The Substantial difference between the two is this: the Whigs desire a tariff of duties which shall directly and intentionally protect American Industry, or, as we understand it, shall directly and intentionally protect Manufacturing Industry, while the commercial and agricultural interests are to be protected indirectly, not as if they were valuable in themselves, but were a collateral security to the manufacturing interest : a special protection is desired for the great manufactures, which are usually conducted by large capitalists such as the manufacture of wool, iron, and cotton. On the other hand, the Democrats disclaim all direct protection of any special interest, but, by raising the national revenue from the imports of the nation, actually afford a protection to the articles of domestic origin to the extent of the national revenue, and much more. That is the substantial difference between the two parties —one which has been much insisted on at the late election, especially at the North.
Is this difference of any practical importance at the present moment? There are two methods of raising the revenue of a Country: first, by Direct Taxation, - a direct tax on the person, a direct tax on the property ; second, by Indirect Taxation. To a simple-minded man Direct Taxation seems the only just and equal mode of collecting the public revenue: the rich man pays in proportion to his much, the poor to his little. This is so just and obvious, that it is the only method resorted to, in towns of the North, for raising their revenue. But while it requires very little common-sense and virtue to appreciate this plan in a town, it seems to require a good deal to endure it in a nation. The four direct taxes levied by the