Ben. E. (Benjamin Edwards) Green.

The irrepressible conflict between labor and capital: online

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By the translator.


FOR several years prior to the Civil War in America, the
late Stephen Colwell, of Philadelphia, withdrawinfj
from active business, had shut himself up in his library, devot-
ing himself principally to the study of Political Economy, on
which subject his work on " The Ways and Means of Pay-
ment " is, perhaps, one of the ablest ever given to the public.
Absorbed in this study from his own personal standpoint,
that of a retired merchant and manufacturer, he gave little
attention to matters of general politics occurring around him.

The news of the " Gt^ii Rebellion " reached him in the
privacy of his library, and he again emerged into active lite.
lielieving, like many other able and good men at the North,
that the war was a " slaveholders' rebellion." and that every-
thing should be sacrificed to the preservation of the Union,
lie took an active part in su.staining the Government. By
degrees he became, under the excitements of the war, a thor-
ough-going Abolitionist. He took great interest, and was
one of the most active agents and liberal contributors, in
sending teachers South to instruct the negroes.

When the war was over, he went to Paris, and again shut
himself up in the libraries of that city. There he found De
Cassagnac's " History of the Laboring and Burgher Classes."
Struck with the great erudition of the work, and its peculiar
views, he went to a book-dealer, and gave orders for the pur-
chase of every copy that could be found for sale in Paris. It
was out of print, and he could only secure three copies.


I met him in Philadelphia in 1868. In a brief interview, i^^
which I gave him my views of the causes and results of the
war, he paid me the compliment of saying that I had studied
and understood the subject better than any one whom he
had met ; that he had brought this book from Paris to have
it translated and published in the United States ; that he was
too old to do it himself, and had been looking for some one
qualified for the task. He urged me to do it, and gave me
the book. •

Perhaps it is due to myself, and to my old preceptors
of Georgetown College and the University of Virginia, to
whose thorough training I am indebted for whatever merit
there may be in the translation, that I should disarm the
critics in advance, by an apology for any errors. Most of
this work has been done hurriedly, under the pressure of
much business and many cares, of my own and of others, at
my home in Georgia, without access to dictionaries or books
of reference, to compensate for twenty years' disuse of the
Latin and Greek, and fifteen years' disuse of the French lan-
guage ; and I have sought always to give the author's exact
meaning, sometimes perhaps sacrificing classic English to the
exigencies of a close translation from the French.

This History was published in Paris in 1838, and is now for
the first time offered to the American public. Heretofore it
has been accessible to a very few only of the very few Amer-
ican readers of this class of French works. But through these
few, some of the author's ideas, very soon after their publica-
tion in Paris, began to permeate into the American mind, and
in course of time they became part of the political creed of a
great party in the United States, resulting in the greatest and
bloodiest civil war of recorded time.

De Cassagnac starts out with the declaration that his book
is one of history, and not of politics. Evidently he was a
student; poring over musty tomes ; delighting in books, old
and new ; absorbed in the solution of the facts and philosophy

translator's preface. ix

of history. Certainly, so far as depends on ancient and mod-
ern law, history, and literature, he has in his seven years of
preparatory study treated his subject exhaustively, and, as an
historian, faithfully. But he probably little dreamed that in
less than a quarter of a century, and on another continent,
his ideas would take a new form of expression in the dogma
that " free labor is cheaper than slave labor," and drench that
continent in blood.

De Cassagnac dedicates his work to M. Guizot. Guizot
M^as not a mere closet student. He was a statesman, intent
on giving to the facts of history a gloss to suit the political
purposes of the royal master, whose throne he sought to
establish. He was the trusted minister of King Louis Phi-
lippe, whose every thought was directed to the perpetuation
of his dynasty, and the repression of the "fierce democracie"
of France. A translation of Guizot's Lectures on the History
of Civilization was published in this country in 1838, about
the time that De Cassagnac's book appeared in Paris. Those
lectures were prepared for a special purpose : to strengthen
the throne of Louis Philippe, by presenting to PVance cen-
tralization and monarchy, as represented by the Orleans dyn-
asty, in their most attractive lights and colors. Guizot taxed
his great abilities to the utmost to prove that " zvJicncvcr the
reflection or the imagination of men has especially turned toward
the contemplation or study of legitimate sovereignty, and of its
essential qualities, it has inclined tozvard monarchy" and that
" republicanism, tmder the most favorable circumstances, does not
contain the principles of progress, duration, and extension."

Perhaps for the reason that the Americans are a more
book-reading people than the French, it is probable that M.
Guizot had more readers — and it is not going too far to say,
more converts — in the United States than in France; and
what was written with special reference to a political effect
in France, exerted a potent influence in bringing about the
civil war in America. M. Guizot has lived to see a great


party in the United States, under the name of that repub-
licanism which he sought to disparage in France, preparing
the way for that centralization, which, to use his language,
" naturally and as if by instinct," inclines the minds of men
to monarchy. Lest any of my readers should be startled at
this assertion, and a prejudice be thereby aroused to hinder
a dispassionate reception of what more I have to say, I ask,
have they ever heard Mr. Sumner's lecture on "Are we a
Nation?" and read M. Guizot's Lecture XL, on the " Central-
ization of Nations and Governments ? "

Lest any of my readers may have fought under Grant or
Sherman, and should throw down this book in disgust at the
bare intimation that they carried fire and sword and famine
into the South, in the interests of centralization and mon-
archy, let me here quote briefly from M. Guizot's eleventh
lecture :

" Europe, however, was then (at the close of the fourteenth
century) very far from understanding her own state, such as
I have now endeavored to explain it to you. She did not
know distinctly what she required, or what she was in search
of, yet .set about endeavoring to supply her wants as if she
knew perfectly what they were. When the fourteenth cen-
tury had expired, after the failure of every attempt at political
organization, Europe entered, naturally and as if by instinct,
into the path of centralization. It is the characteristic of the
fifteenth century that it constantly tended to this result ; that
it endeavored to create general interests and general ideas ;
to raise the minds of men to more enlarged views; and to
create, in short, what had not, till then, existed on a great
scale — nations and governments.

"The actual accomplishment of this change belongs to the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though it was in the fif-
teenth that it was prepared. It is this preparation, this silent
and hidden process of centralization, both in the social rela-
tions and in the opinions of men — a process accomplished,

translator's preface. xi

without premeditation or design, by the natural course of
events — that we have now to make the subject of our inquiry.

" It is thus that man advances in the execution of a plan
which he has not conceived, and of which he is not even
aware. He is the free, intelligent artificer of a work, which is
not his own. He does not perceive or comprehend it till it
manifests itself by external appearances and real results; and
even then he comprehends it very imperfectly. It is through
his means, however, and by the development of his intelli-
gence and freedom, that it is accomplished. Conceive a
great machine, the design of which is centred in a single
mind, though its various parts are intrusted to different work-
men, separated from and strangers to each other. No one of
them understands the work as a whole, nor the general re-
sults, which he concurs in producing; but every one executes,
with intelligence and freedom, by rational and voluntary acts,
the particular task assigned to him. It is thus that by the
hand of man the designs of Providence are wrought out in
the government of the world. It is thus that the two great
facts, which are apparent in the history of civilization, come
to co-exist; on the one hand, those portions of it, which mar
be considered as fated, or which happen without the control
of human knowledge or will ; on the other hand, the part
played in it by the freedom and intelligence of man, and what
he contributes to it by means of his own judgment and will."

When the true history of yet recent events shall have been
written, many, who have been accustomed to believe that
President Lincoln was the author and father of emancipation.
will be surprised to learn that to the very last he was averse
to it, and anxious to prevent the adoption of the Thirteenth
Amendment to the Constitution, which was carried, not only
without the concurrence of, but in direct opposition to, his
judgment and will. When he visited Richmond, immediately
after the evacuation in 1865, a message from my father.
General Duff Green, asking an inter\-icw, reached him after


he had re-embarked and the command had already been
given to go ahead on the return to Washington. He imme-
diately stopped the steamer, and waited for my father to come
aboard. When they met, Mr. Lincoln said, " My dear old
friend, how are you, and what can I do for you ? " My father
replied : " Mr. President, I went to see you at Springfield in
December, i860, at the instance of Mr. Buchanah, and with
the concurrence of Mr. (Jefferson) Davis, to ask what you were
willing to do to avert the war. {a) I come now on my own ac-
count, to ask on what terms you are willing to grant us peace."
To this Mr. Lincoln said : " If the South want peace, all they
have to do is to lay down their arms and acknowledge the
authority of the Government of the United States. I cannot
recall my Emancipation Proclamations, but I am perfectly will-
ing that the Supreme Court shall decide them to have been
unconstitutional, null, and void. If the South do not wish to
give up their slaves, .let them call their Legislatures together,
and vote down the Thirteenth Amendment." The result of
this interview between my father and Mr. Lincoln, followed
up by another, in which Judge Campbell participated, was
that General Weitzel was authorized to call the Virginia
Legislature together, for the twofold purpose — first, of repeal-
ing the Act of Secession and recognizing the authority of
the General Government ; and, secondly, of voting down the
Thirteenth Amendment. On Mr. Lincoln's return to Wash-
ington, a pressure was brought to bear on him, that forced
him very reluctantly to cancel the authority given to Gen-
eral Weitzel to convene the Legislature. It is well known to
many that Mr. Lincoln was with great difficulty induced to
-tign the Emancipation Proclamations. Perhaps no disputed
fact in history is susceptible of clearer proof But few know
the historical fact that he was avowedly willing, and secretly
desired, that the Thirteenth Amendment should be defeated.

{a) See .iccount of General Dufif Green's visit to Mr. Lincoln, in the New York
Herald, of 8tli January, 1861.

translator's preface. xiii

Much has been already, and ably, written on the causes
that led to the late civil v/ar. The ablest, who have written
on the subject, are probably the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens,
and Judge Nicholas, of Kentucky, whose views were con-
densed in a correspondence between them, published in the
National Intelligencer, in the summer of 1868. Mr. Stephens
said :

" Slavery so called, or that legal subordination of the black
race to the white, which existed in all but one of the States
when the Union was formed, and in fifteen of them when the
war began, was unquestionably the occasion of the war, the
main exciting proximate cause on both sides. But it was not
the real cause, the causa causans, of it.

"The war grew out of different and directly opposite views
as to the nature of the Government of the United States, and
where, under our system, ultimate sovereign power, or para-
mount authority, properly resides."

"The truth is well established that the seceding States
did not desire war. Very few of the public men in these
States even expected war."

The gist of Judge Nicholas's rejoinder was that the ques-
tion of the right of secession was the real cause of the war ;
that even a distinct recognition of rights in the Constitution
could never be used for any available purpose ; because, if at
any time attempted to be exercised by a weaker portion of
the country, the only result would be giving the Government
the trouble of declaring war against and conquering it ; that,
as a remedy, the right of secession proved unavailable, and
had to be abandoned ; and that, therefore, expediency and
policy required that the South should, by a total abnegation,
deny that there was ever any legitimacy in their assertion of
that right.

Mr. Stephens is, and Judge Nicholas was, a man of great
force and ability. The former writes always in the spirit of
a great constitutional lawyer and statesman. The argument


of the latter on this occasion amounts simply to an assertion
of the utter worthlessness of all constitutional guarantees ;
that might makes right; and that the weaker party, to avoid
worse punishment, should always submit to whatever condi-
tions the stronger thought proper to impose. On this occa-
sion he sank far below himself; for on others he was unques-
tionably able. But with all deference to such authority, it
must be said that neither have gone far enough back to dis-
cover the real causes of the war. Both agree that secession
was adopted as a peaceful remedy — as a bloodless solution
of pre-existing questions, involving the alternatives of civil
war on the one hand, or submission to, what the weaker
party believed to be, intolerable wrong on the other. How
then can that be said to have been .the real cause of the war,
which was only resorted to as a peaceful remedy to prevent

We do not understand Mr. Stephens to mean that so many
valuable lives were sacrificed, such heavy burdens imposed
on both sections, merely to decide an abstract question of
constitutional law ; but only that the war would not have
taken place when it did, if the North, under the lead of Mas-
sachusetts, had acquiesced //^tv/ in the doctrine of State rights,
including the right of secession, which Massachusetts asserted
in the war of 1812, and on the acquisition of Louisiana.

The real causes of the war existed long before the right of
secession was thought of in the South ; long before it was
asserted by Massachusetts ; long before the Constitution or
the Union was formed ; long before New England began to
grow rich by the importation and sale of negro slaves ; and
they still exist in full force, now that slavery has been abol-
ished and the right of secession suppressed. They were —

1st. The irrepressible conflict between monarchy and de-

2d. The irrepressible desire of capital to cheapen labor.

From the beginning, the New England mind inclined to

translator's preface. XV

monarchy, with established orders of nobility. Shortly be-
fore the adoption of the Constitution, John Adams, their
greatest and favorite leader, with as much ability, with more
zeal, and with less disguise than M. Guizot, published a de-
fence of the New England ideas of government, from which
the following are extracts :

" The people in all nations are naturally divided into two
sorts, the gentlemen and the simple men, a word which is
here chosen to signify the common people. By the common
people we mean laborers, mechanics, husbandmen, and mer-
chants in general, who pursue their occupations and industry
without any knowledge in liberal arts and sciences, or in any-
thing but their own trades and pursuits." (See John Adams's
Defence of the Constitution, vol. iii., p. 458.)

"The distinctions. of poor and rich afe as necessary in
states of considerable extent (such as the United States) as
labor and good government : the poor are destined to labor,
and the rich, by the advantages of education, independence,
and leisure, are qualified for superior stations." (Ibid., p. 360.)

" A nobility must and will exist. . . . Descent from certain
parents and inheritance of certain houses, lands, and other
visible objects (titles) will eternally have such an influence
over the affections and imaginations of the people, as no arts
and institutions will control. Time zvill come, if it is not mnu,
that these circumstances will have more influence over great
numbers of minds than any considerations of virtue and tal-
ents." (Vol. iii., p. 377.)

" The whole history of Rome shows that corruption began
with the people sooner than the Senate." (Vol. iii., p. 327.)

" Powerful and crafty underminers have nowhere such rare
sport as in a simple democracy, or single popular assembly.
Nowhere, not in the completest despotism, does human na-
ture show itself so completely depraved, so nearly approach-
ing an equal mixture of brutality and devilishism, as in the


last stages of such a democracy, and in the beginning of des-
potism, which always succeeds it." (Ibid., vol. ii., p. 329.)

" It is the true policy of the common people to place the
whole executive power in the hands of one man." (Vol. iii.,
p. 460.)

" By kings and kingly power is meant the executive power
in a single person." (Vol. iii., p. 461.)

" There is not in the whole Roman history so happy a
period as this under their kings ; ... in short, Rome was
never so well governed or so happy." (Vol. iii., p. 305.)

" I only contend that the English Constitution is, in theory,
the most stupendous fabric of human invention. ... In future
ages, if the present States become a great nation, their own
feelings and good sense will dictate to them what to do ; they
may make transitit^s to a nearer resemblance of the British
Constitution." (Vol. i., pp. 70, 71.)

" It (the aristocracy) is a body of men which contains the
greatest collection of virtue and character in a free govern-
ment; is the brightest ornament and glory of the nation, and
may always be made the greatest blessing of society, if it be
judiciously managed in the Constitution." (Vol. iii., p. 1 16.)

" Mankind have universally discovered that chance was
preferable to a corrupt choice, and have trusted Providence
rather than themselves. First magistrates and senators had
better be made hereditary at once, than that the people should
be universally debauched and bribed." (Vol. iii., p. 283.)

Such were the ideas to which the reflection and imagina-
tion of the leading men of New England inclined them at the
time of the adoption of that democratic form of government,
the denunciation of which as " a league with death and cove-
nant with hell," has been in vogue in New England down to
the time when that trausition period, anticipated by their great
leader, commenced by amending the Constitution.

That these ideas have not lost ground in New England,
but have been spreading to the Middle and Western States,

translator's preface. xvii

appears by the following extract from the Monthly Gossip of
Lippincott's Magazine for February, 1868:

" The Revue de Quinzame, of October last, has a paper on
Harvard University and Yale College, which shows a con-
siderable knowledge of the subject. The writer says, that
while the system and the division of studies are, in the main,
the same as those of the English universities, yet important
improvements have been introduced from time to time ; and
he truly remarks that, while Harvard has a certain aristo-
cratic tone, in Yale the forms and the prevailing ideas are
democratic, [a]

" The proposition recently made in Congress to tax the use
of armorial bearings on carriages and household furniture is
an eminently proper one, though it may perhaps cause some
amusement at our expense in monarchical countries. If
enacted into a law, the impost ought to yield a handsome
return from New England, if one may judge from the fact
that the Heraldic Journal, published by Wiggin & Lunt. Bos-
ton, has completed its third volume. A similar periodical in
England, the Herald and Genealogist, edited by John Gough
NichoUs, has also just completed its third volume, in the
course of which there are five articles on ' Anglo-American
genealogy and coat-armor.' The New England Historical and
Genealogical Register has just issued its twenty-first volume,
having started in 1847 ; and it is a curious fact that the New
England Historic-Genealogical Society is the first one, par-
ticularly devoted to the pedigrees of families, ever formed.
The interest which Americans take in this subject is also
evinced by the increasing number of family histories which
are issuing from the press. Heretofore these works were

{a) The truth of this statement, as to Harvard, is unquestionable ; but if it be
true that any democratic ideas prevail at Yale, the explanation of that phenome-
non is to be found in the fact that, until recently, Yale has been mainly supported
by students from the South and West, while Han-ard was altogether sustained
by New England.


mainly confined to New England and New York, which were
settled before Pennsylvania and the Western States ; but they
are now appearing in other parts of the Union. Histories of
the Sharpless, Darlington, Levering, Du Bois, Cope, Mont-
gomery, Shippen, Wolfe, Coleman, and Hill families have
been printed in this State, and those of the Buchanan and
Sill families in Ohio. We hear that the pedigree of the Went-
worth family is about to be published in Chicago ; and that
Mr. D. Williams Patterson, of Pittston, Pennsylvania, has in
preparation the genealogy of the Grant family, which will
include the pedigree of General Ulysses S. Grant. It appears
that his ancestor was Matthew Grant, whose name first occurs
on the town records of Dorchester, Massachusetts, April 3,
1633. Noah, the grandfather of the General, born in Con-
necticut, June 20, 1748, and the sixth generation in descent
from the Dorchester emigrant, came from Coventry, Connec-

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Online LibraryBen. E. (Benjamin Edwards) GreenThe irrepressible conflict between labor and capital: → online text (page 1 of 8)