American Institutions and Their Influence
Alexis de Tocqueville et al

Part 9 out of 11

It is important to make an accurate distinction between slavery itself
and its consequences. The immediate evils which are produced by slavery
were very nearly the same in antiquity as they are among the moderns;
but the consequences of these evils were different. The slave, among the
ancients, belonged to the same race as his master, and he was often the
superior of the two in education[237] and instruction. Freedom was the
only distinction between them; and when freedom was conferred, they were
easily confounded together. The ancients, then, had a very simple means
of avoiding slavery and its evil consequences, which was that of
enfranchisement; and they succeeded as soon as they adopted this measure
generally. Not but, in ancient states, the vestiges of servitude
subsisted for some time after servitude was abolished. There is a
natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their
inferior, long after he has become their equal; and the real inequality
which is produced by fortune or by law, is always succeeded by an
imaginary inequality which is implanted in the manners of the people.
Nevertheless, this secondary consequence of slavery was limited to a
certain term among the ancients; for the freedman bore so entire a
resemblance to those born free, that it soon became impossible to
distinguish him from among them.

The greatest difficulty in antiquity was that of altering the law; among
the moderns it is of altering the manners; and, as far as we are
concerned, the real obstacles begin where those of the ancients left
off. This arises from the circumstance that, among the moderns, the
abstract and transient fact of slavery is fatally united to the physical
and permanent fact of color. The tradition of slavery dishonors the
race, and the peculiarity of the race perpetuates the tradition of
slavery. No African has ever voluntarily emigrated to the shores of the
New World; whence it must be inferred, that all the blacks who are now
to be found in that hemisphere are either slaves or freedmen. Thus the
negro transmits the eternal mark of his ignominy to all his descendants;
and although the law may abolish slavery, God alone can obliterate the
traces of its existence.

The modern slave differs from his master not only in his condition, but
in his origin. You may set the negro free, but you cannot make him
otherwise than an alien to the European. Nor is this all; we scarcely
acknowledge the common features of mankind in this child of debasement
whom slavery has brought among us. His physiognomy is to our eyes
hideous, his understanding weak, his tastes low; and we are almost
inclined to look upon him as a being intermediate between man and the
brutes.[238] The moderns, then, after they have abolished slavery, have
three prejudices to contend against, which are less easy to attack, and
far less easy to conquer, than the mere fact of servitude: the prejudice
of the master, the prejudice of the race, and the prejudice of color.

It is difficult for us, who have had the good fortune to be born among
men like ourselves by nature, and equal to ourselves by law, to conceive
the irreconcilable differences which separate the negro from the
European in America. But we may derive some faint notion of them from
analogy. France was formerly a country in which numerous distinctions of
rank existed, that had been created by the legislation. Nothing can be
more fictitious than a purely legal inferiority; nothing more contrary
to the instinct of mankind than these permanent divisions which had been
established between beings evidently similar. Nevertheless these
divisions subsisted for ages; they still subsist in many places; and on
all sides they have left imaginary vestiges, which time alone can
efface. If it be so difficult to root out an inequality which solely
originates in the law, how are those distinctions to be destroyed which
seem to be founded upon the immutable laws of nature herself? When I
remember the extreme difficulty with which aristocratic bodies, of
whatever nature they may be, are commingled with the mass of the people;
and the exceeding care which they take to preserve the ideal boundaries
of their caste inviolate, I despair of seeing an aristocracy disappear
which is founded upon visible and indelible signs. Those who hope that
the Europeans will ever mix with the negroes, appear to me to delude
themselves; and I am not led to any such conclusion by my own reason, or
by the evidence of facts.

Hitherto, wherever the whites have been the most powerful, they have
maintained the blacks in a subordinate or a servile position; wherever
the negroes have been strongest, they have destroyed the whites; such
has been the only course of events which has ever taken place between
the two races.

I see that in a certain portion of the territory of the United States at
the present day, the legal barrier which separated the two races is
tending to fall away, but not that which exists in the manners of the
country; slavery recedes, but the prejudice to which it has given birth
remains stationary. Whosoever has inhabited the United States, must have
perceived, that in those parts of the Union in which the negroes are no
longer slaves, they have in nowise drawn nearer to the whites. On the
contrary, the prejudice of the race appears to be stronger in the states
which have abolished slavery, than in those where it still exists; and
nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never
been known.

It is true, that in the north of the Union, marriages may be legally
contracted between negroes and whites, but public opinion would
stigmatize a man who should connect himself with a negress as infamous,
and it would be difficult to meet with a single instance of such a
union. The electoral franchise has been conferred upon the negroes in
almost all the States in which slavery has been abolished; but if they
come forward to vote, their lives are in danger. If oppressed, they may
bring an action at law, but they will find none but whites among their
judges; and although they may legally serve as jurors, prejudice
repulses them from that office. The same schools do not receive the
child of the black and of the European. In the theatres, gold cannot
procure a seat for the servile race beside their former masters; in the
hospitals they lie apart; and although they are allowed to invoke the
same Divinity as the whites, it must be at a different altar, and in
their own churches, with their own clergy. The gates of heaven are not
closed against these unhappy beings; but their inferiority is continued
to the very confines of the other world. When the negro is defunct, his
bones are cast aside, and the distinction of condition prevails even in
the equality of death. The negro is free, but he can share neither the
rights, nor the pleasure, nor the labor, nor the afflictions, nor the
tomb of him whose equal he has been declared to be; and he cannot meet
him upon fair terms in life or in death.

In the south, where slavery still exists, the negroes are less carefully
kept apart; they sometimes share the labor and the recreations of the
whites; the whites consent to intermix with them to a certain extent,
and although the legislation treats them more harshly, the habits of the
people are more tolerant and compassionate. In the south the master is
not afraid to raise his slave to his own standing, because he knows that
he can in a moment reduce him to the dust at pleasure. In the north, the
white no longer distinctly perceives the barrier which separates him
from the degraded race, and he shuns the negro with the more
pertinacity, because he fears lest they should be some day confounded

Among the Americans of the south, nature sometimes reasserts her rights,
and restores a transient equality between the blacks and the whites; but
in the north, pride restrains the most imperious of human passions. The
American of the northern states would perhaps allow the negress to share
his licentious pleasures, if the laws of his country did not declare
that she may aspire to be the legitimate partner of his bed; but he
recoils with horror from her who might become his wife.

Thus it is, in the United States, that the prejudice which repels the
negroes seems to increase in proportion as they are emancipated, and
inequality is sanctioned by the manners while it is effaced from the
laws of the country. But if the relative position of the two races which
inhabit the United States, is such as I have described, it may be asked
why the Americans have abolished slavery in the north of the Union, why
they maintain it in the south, and why they aggravate its hardships
there? The answer is easily given. It is not for the good of the
negroes, but for that of the whites, that measures are taken to abolish
slavery in the United States.

The first negroes were imported into Virginia about the year 1621.[239]
In America, therefore, as well as in the rest of the globe, slavery
originated in the south. Thence it spread from one settlement to
another; but the number of slaves diminished toward the northern states,
and the negro population was always very limited in New England.[240]

A century had scarcely elapsed since the foundation of the colonies,
when the attention of the planters was struck by the extraordinary fact,
that the provinces which were comparatively destitute of slaves,
increased in population, in wealth, and in prosperity, more rapidly than
those which contained the greatest number of negroes. In the former,
however, the inhabitants were obliged to cultivate the soil themselves,
or by hired laborers; in the latter, they were furnished with hands for
which they paid no wages; yet, although labor and expense were on the
one side, and ease with economy on the other, the former were in
possession of the most advantageous system. This consequence seemed to
be the more difficult to explain, since the settlers, who all belonged
to the same European race, had the same habits, the same civilisation,
the same laws, and their shades of difference were extremely slight.

Time, however, continued to advance; and the Anglo Americans, spreading
beyond the coasts of the Atlantic ocean, penetrated farther and farther
into the solitudes of the west; they met with a new soil and an unwonted
climate; the obstacles which opposed them were of the most various
character; their races intermingled, the inhabitants of the south went
up toward the north, those of the north descended to the south; but in
the midst of all these causes, the same result recurred at every step;
and in general, the colonies in which there were no slaves became more
populous and more rich than those in which slavery flourished. The more
progress was made, the more was it shown that slavery, which is so cruel
to the slave, is prejudicial to the master.

But this truth was most satisfactorily demonstrated when civilisation
reached the banks of the Ohio. The stream which the Indians had
distinguished by the name of Ohio, or Beautiful river, waters one of the
most magnificent valleys which have ever been made the abode of man.
Undulating lands extend upon both shores of the Ohio, whose soil affords
inexhaustible treasures to the laborer; on either bank the air is
wholesome and the climate mild; and each of them forms the extreme
frontier of a vast state: that which follows the numerous windings of
the Ohio upon the left is called Kentucky; that upon the right bears the
name of the river. These two states only differ in a single respect;
Kentucky has admitted slavery, but the state of Ohio has prohibited the
existence of slaves within its borders.[241]

Thus the traveller who floats down the current of the Ohio, to the spot
where that river falls into the Mississippi, may be said to sail between
liberty and servitude; and a transient inspection of the surrounding
objects will convince him which of the two is most favorable to mankind.

Upon the left bank of the stream the population is rare; from time to
time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-desert fields;
the primeval forest recurs at every turn; society seems to be asleep,
man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and of life.

From the right bank, on the contrary, a confused hum is heard, which
proclaims the presence of industry; the fields are covered with abundant
harvests; the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and activity
of the laborer; and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that wealth
and contentment which are the reward of labor.[242]

The state of Kentucky was founded in 1775, the state of Ohio only twelve
years later; but twelve years are more in America than half a century in
Europe, and, at the present day, the population of Ohio exceeds that of
Kentucky by 250,000 souls.[243] These opposite consequences of slavery
and freedom may readily be understood; and they suffice to explain many
of the differences which we remark between the civilisation of antiquity
and that of our own time.

Upon the left bank of the Ohio labor is confounded with the idea of
slavery, upon the right bank it is identified with that of prosperity
and improvement; on the one side it is degraded, on the other it is
honored; on the former territory no white laborers can be found, for
they would be afraid of assimilating themselves to the negroes; on the
latter no one is idle, for the white population extends its activity and
its intelligence to every kind of employment. Thus the men whose task it
is to cultivate the rich soil of Kentucky are ignorant and lukewarm;
while those who are active and enlightened either do nothing, or pass
over into the state of Ohio, where they may work without dishonor.

It is true that in Kentucky the planters are not obliged to pay wages to
the slaves whom they employ; but they derive small profits from their
labor, while the wages paid to free workmen would be returned with
interest in the value of their services. The free workman is paid, but
he does his work quicker than the slave; and rapidity of execution is
one of the great elements of economy. The white sells his services, but
they are only purchased at the times at which they may be useful; the
black can claim no remuneration for his toil, but the expense of his
maintenance is perpetual; he must be supported in his old age as well as
in the prime of manhood, in his profitless infancy as well as in the
productive years of youth. Payment must equally be made in order to
obtain the services of either class of men; the free workman receives
his wages in money; the slave in education, in food, in care, and in
clothing. The money which a master spends in the maintenance of his
slaves, goes gradually and in detail, so that it is scarcely perceived;
the salary of the free workman is paid in a round sum, which appears
only to enrich the individual who receives it; but in the end the slave
has cost more than the free servant, and his labor is less

The influence of slavery extends still farther; it affects the character
of the master, and imparts a peculiar tendency to his ideas and his
tastes. Upon both banks of the Ohio, the character of the inhabitants is
enterprising and energetic; but this vigor is very differently exercised
in the two states. The white inhabitant of Ohio, who is obliged to
subsist by his own exertions, regards temporal prosperity as the
principal aim of his existence; and as the country which he occupies
presents inexhaustible resources to his industry, and ever-varying lures
to his activity, his acquisitive ardor surpasses the ordinary limits of
human cupidity: he is tormented by the desire of wealth, and he boldly
enters upon every path which fortune opens to him; he becomes a sailor,
pioneer, an artisan, or a laborer, with the same indifference, and he
supports, with equal constancy, the fatigues and the dangers incidental
to these various professions; the resources of his intelligence are
astonishing, and his avidity in the pursuit of gain amounts to a species
of heroism.

But the Kentuckian scorns not only labor, but all the undertakings which
labor promotes; as he lives in an idle independence, his tastes are
those of an idle man; money loses a portion of its value in his eyes; he
covets wealth much less than pleasure and excitement; and the energy
which his neighbor devotes to gain, turns with him to a passionate love
of field sports and military exercises; he delights in violent bodily
exertion, he is familiar with the use of arms, and is accustomed from a
very early age to expose his life in single combat. Thus slavery not
only prevents the whites from becoming opulent, but even from desiring
to become so.

As the same causes have been continually producing opposite effects for
the last two centuries in the British colonies of North America, they
have established a very striking difference between the commercial
capacity of the inhabitants of the south and that of the north. At the
present day, it is only the northern states which are in possession of
shipping, manufactures, railroads, and canals. This difference is
perceptible not only in comparing the north with the south, but in
comparing the several southern states. Almost all the individuals who
carry on commercial operations, or who endeavor to turn slave-labor to
account in the most southern districts of the Union, have emigrated from
the north. The natives of the northern states are constantly spreading
over that portion of the American territory, where they have less to
fear from competition; they discover resources there, which escaped the
notice of the inhabitants; and, as they comply with a system which they
do not approve, they succeed in turning it to better advantage than
those who first founded, and who still maintain it.

Were I inclined to continue this parallel, I could easily prove that
almost all the differences, which may be remarked between the characters
of the Americans in the southern and in the northern states, have
originated in slavery; but this would divert me from my subject, and my
present intention is not to point out all the consequences of servitude,
but those effects which it has produced upon the prosperity of the
countries which have admitted it.

The influence of slavery upon the production of wealth must have been
very imperfectly known in antiquity, as slavery then obtained throughout
the civilized world, and the nations which were unacquainted with it
were barbarous. And indeed Christianity only abolished slavery by
advocating the claims of the slave; at the present time it may be
attacked in the name of the master; and, upon this point, interest is
reconciled with morality.

As these truths became apparent in the United States, slavery receded
before the progress of experience. Servitude had begun in the south, and
had thence spread toward the north; but it now retires again. Freedom,
which started from the north, now descends uninterruptedly toward the
south. Among the great states, Pennsylvania now constitutes the extreme
limit of slavery to the north; but even within those limits the
slave-system is shaken; Maryland, which is immediately below
Pennsylvania, is preparing for its abolition; and Virginia, which comes
next to Maryland, is already discussing its utility and its

No great change takes place in human institutions, without involving
among its causes the law of inheritance. When the law of primogeniture
obtained in the south, each family was represented by a wealthy
individual, who was neither compelled nor induced to labor; and he was
surrounded, as by parasitic plants, by the other members of his family,
who were then excluded by law from sharing the common inheritance, and
who led the same kind of life as himself. The very same thing then
occurred in all the families of the south that still happens in the
wealthy families of some countries in Europe, namely, that the younger
sons remain in the same state of idleness as their elder brother,
without being as rich as he is. This identical result seems to be
produced in Europe and in America by wholly analogous causes. In the
south of the United States, the whole race of whites formed an
aristocratic body, which was headed by a certain number of privileged
individuals, whose wealth was permanent, and whose leisure was
hereditary. These leaders of the American nobility kept alive the
traditional prejudices of the white race in the body of which they were
the representatives, and maintained the honor of inactive life. This
aristocracy contained many who were poor, but none who would work; its
members preferred want to labor; consequently no competition was set on
foot against negro laborers and slaves, and whatever opinion might be
entertained as to the utility of their efforts, it was indispensable to
employ them, since there was no one else to work.

No sooner was the law of primogeniture abolished than fortunes began to
diminish, and all the families of the country were simultaneously
reduced to a state in which labor became necessary to procure the means
of subsistence: several of them have since entirely disappeared; and all
of them learned to look forward to the time at which it would be
necessary for every one to provide for his own wants. Wealthy
individuals are still to be met with, but they no longer constitute a
compact and hereditary body, nor have they been able to adopt a line of
conduct in which they could persevere, and which they could infuse into
all ranks of society. The prejudice which stigmatized labor was in the
first place abandoned by common consent; the number of needy men was
increased, and the needy were allowed to gain a laborious subsistence
without blushing for their exertions. Thus one of the most immediate
consequences of the partible quality of estates has been to create a
class of free laborers. As soon as a competition was set on foot between
the free laborer and the slave, the inferiority of the latter became
manifest, and slavery was attacked in its fundamental principles, which
is, the interest of the master.

As slavery recedes, the black population follows its retrograde course,
and returns with it to those tropical regions from which it originally
came. However singular this fact may at first appear to be, it may
readily be explained. Although the Americans abolish the principle of
slavery, they do not set their slaves free. To illustrate this remark I
will quote the example of the state of New York. In 1788, the state of
New York prohibited the sale of slaves within its limits; which was an
indirect method of prohibiting the importation of blacks. Thenceforward
the number of negroes could only increase according to the ratio of the
natural increase of population. But eight years later a more decisive
measure was taken, and it was enacted that all children born of slave
parents after the 4th of July, 1799, should be free. No increase could
then take place, and although slaves still existed, slavery might be
said to be abolished.

From the time at which a northern state prohibited the importation of
slaves, no slaves were brought from the south to be sold in its markets.
On the other hand, as the sale of slaves was forbidden in that state, an
owner was no longer able to get rid of his slaves (who thus became a
burdensome possession) otherwise than by transporting him to the south.
But when a northern state declared that the son of the slave should be
born free, the slave lost a large portion of his market value, since his
posterity was no longer included in the bargain, and the owner had then
a strong interest in transporting him to the south. Thus the same law
prevents the slaves of the south from coming to the northern states, and
drives those of the north to the south.

The want of free hands is felt in a state in proportion as the number of
slaves decreases. But in proportion as labor is performed by free hands,
slave-labor becomes less productive; and the slave is then a useless or
an onerous possession, whom it is important to export to those southern
states where the same competition is not to be feared. Thus the
abolition of slavery does not set the slave free, but it merely
transfers him from one master to another, and from the north to the

The emancipated negroes, and those born after the abolition of slavery,
do not, indeed, migrate from the north to the south; but their situation
with regard to the Europeans is not unlike that of the aborigines of
America; they remain half civilized, and deprived of their rights in the
midst of a population which is far superior to them in wealth and in
knowledge; where they are exposed to the tyranny of the laws,[246] and
the intolerance of the people. On some accounts they are still more to
be pitied than the Indians, since they are haunted by the reminiscence
of slavery, and they cannot claim possession of a single portion of the
soil: many of them perish miserably,[247] and the rest congregate in the
great towns, where they perform the meanest offices, and lead a wretched
and precarious existence.

But even if the number of negroes continued to increase as rapidly as
when they were still in a state of slavery, as the number of whites
augments with twofold rapidity since the abolition of slavery, the
blacks would soon be, as it were, lost in the midst of a strange

A district which is cultivated by slaves is in general more scantily
peopled than a district cultivated by free labor: moreover, America is
still a new country, and a state is therefore not half peopled at the
time when it abolished slavery. No sooner is an end put to slavery, than
the want of free labor is felt, and a crowd of enterprising adventurers
immediately arrive from all parts of the country, who hasten to profit
by the fresh resources which are then opened to industry. The soil is
soon divided among them, and a family of white settlers takes possession
of each tract of country. Besides which, European emigration is
exclusively directed to the free states; for what would be the fate of a
poor emigrant who crosses the Atlantic in search of ease and happiness,
if he were to land in a country where labor is stigmatized as degrading?

Thus the white population grows by its natural increase, and at the same
time by the immense influx of emigrants; while the black population
receives no emigrants, and is upon its decline. The proportion which
existed between the two races is soon inverted. The negroes constitute a
scanty remnant, a poor tribe of vagrants, which is lost in the midst of
an immense people in full possession of the land; and the presence of
the blacks is only marked by the injustice and the hardships of which
they are the unhappy victims.

In several of the western states the negro race never made its
appearance; and in all the northern states it is rapidly declining. Thus
the great question of its future condition is confined within a narrow
circle, where it becomes less formidable, though not more easy of

The more we descend toward the south, the more difficult does it become
to abolish slavery with advantage: and this arises from several physical
causes, which it is important to point out.

The first of these causes is the climate: it is well known that in
proportion as Europeans approach the tropics, they suffer more from
labor. Many of the Americans even assert, that within a certain latitude
the exertions which a negro can make without danger are fatal to
them;[248] but I do not think that this opinion, which is so favorable
to the indolence of the inhabitants of southern regions, is confirmed by
experience. The southern parts of the Union are not hotter than the
south of Italy and of Spain;[249] and it may be asked why the European
cannot work as well there as in the two latter countries. If slavery has
been abolished in Italy and in Spain without causing the destruction of
the masters, why should not the same thing take place in the Union? I
cannot believe that Nature has prohibited the Europeans in Georgia and
the Floridas, under pain of death, from raising the means of subsistence
from the soil; but their labor would unquestionably be more irksome and
less productive[250] to them than the inhabitants of New England. As the
free workman thus loses a portion of his superiority over the slave in
the southern states, there are fewer inducements to abolish slavery.

All the plants of Europe grow in the northern parts of the Union; the
south has special productions of its own. It has been observed that
slave labor is a very expensive method of cultivating corn. The farmer
of corn-land in a country where slavery is unknown, habitually retains a
small number of laborers in his service, and at seed-time and harvest he
hires several additional hands, who only live at his cost for a short
period. But the agriculturist in a slave state is obliged to keep a
large number of slaves the whole year round, in order to sow his fields
and to gather in his crops, although their services are only required
for a few weeks; but slaves are unable to wait till they are hired, and
to subsist by their own labor in the meantime like free laborers; in
order to have their services, they must be bought. Slavery,
independently of its general disadvantages, is therefore still more
inapplicable to countries in which corn is cultivated than to those
which produce crops of a different kind.

The cultivation of tobacco, of cotton, and especially of the sugar-cane,
demands, on the other hand, unremitting attention: and women and
children are employed in it, whose services are of but little use in the
cultivation of wheat. Thus slavery is naturally more fitted to the
countries from which these productions are derived.

Tobacco, cotton, and the sugar-cane, are exclusively grown in the south,
and they form one of the principal sources of the wealth of those
states. If slavery were abolished, the inhabitants of the south would be
constrained to adopt one of two alternatives: they must either change
their system of cultivation, and then they would come into competition
with the more active and more experienced inhabitants of the north; or,
if they continued to cultivate the same produce without slave labor,
they would have to support the competition of the other states of the
south, which might still retain their slaves. Thus, peculiar reasons for
maintaining slavery exist in the south which do not operate in the

But there is yet another motive which is more cogent than all the
others; the south might indeed, rigorously speaking, abolish slavery,
but how should it rid its territory of the black population? Slaves and
slavery are driven from the north by the same law, but this twofold
result cannot be hoped for in the south.

The arguments which I have adduced to show that slavery is more natural
and more advantageous in the south than in the north, sufficiently prove
that the number of slaves must be far greater in the former districts.
It was to the southern settlements that the first Africans were brought,
and it is there that the greatest number of them have always been
imported. As we advance toward the south, the prejudice which sanctions
idleness increases in power. In the states nearest to the tropics there
is not a single white laborer; the negroes are consequently much more
numerous in the south than in the north. And, as I have already
observed, this disproportion increases daily, since the negroes are
transferred to one part of the Union as soon as slavery is abolished in
the other. Thus the black population augments in the south, not only by
its natural fecundity, but by the compulsory emigration of the negroes
from the north; and the African race has causes of increase in the south
very analogous to those which so powerfully accelerate the growth of the
European race in the north.

In the state of Maine there is one negro in three hundred inhabitants;
in Massachusetts, one in one hundred; in New York, two in one hundred;
in Pennsylvania, three in the same number; in Maryland, thirty-four; in
Virginia, forty-two; and lastly, in South Carolina, fifty-five per
cent.[251] Such was the proportion of the black population to the whites
in the year 1830. But this proportion is perpetually changing, as it
constantly decreases in the north and augments in the south.

It is evident that the most southern states of the Union cannot abolish
slavery without incurring very great dangers, which the north had no
reason to apprehend when it emancipated its black population. We have
already shown the system by which the northern states secure the
transition from slavery to freedom, by keeping the present generation in
chains, and setting their descendants free; by this means the negroes
are gradually introduced into society; and while the men who might abuse
their freedom are kept in a state of servitude, those who are
emancipated may learn the art of being free before they become their own
masters. But it would be difficult to apply this method in the south. To
declare that all the negroes born after a certain period shall be free,
is to introduce the principle and the notion of liberty into the heart
of slavery; the blacks, whom the law thus maintains in a state of
slavery from which their children are delivered, are astonished at so
unequal a fate, and their astonishment is only the prelude to their
impatience and irritation. Thenceforward slavery loses in their eyes
that kind of moral power which it derived from time and habit; it is
reduced to a mere palpable abuse of force. The northern states had
nothing to fear from the contrast, because in them the blacks were few
in number, and the white population was very considerable. But if this
faint dawn of freedom were to show two millions of men their true
position, the oppressors would have reason to tremble. After having
enfranchised the children of their slaves, the Europeans of the southern
states would very shortly be obliged to extend the same benefit to the
whole black population.

In the north, as I have already remarked, a two-fold migration ensues
upon the abolition of slavery, or even precedes that event when
circumstances have rendered it probable; the slaves quit the country to
be transported southward; and the whites of the northern states as well
as the emigrants from Europe hasten to fill up their place. But these
two causes cannot operate in the same manner in the southern states. On
the one hand, the mass of slaves is too great for any expectation of
their ever being removed from the country to be entertained; and on the
other hand, the Europeans and the Anglo-Americans of the north are
afraid to come to inhabit a country, in which labor has not yet been
reinstated in its rightful honors. Besides, they very justly look upon
the states in which the proportion of the negroes equals or exceeds that
of the whites, as exposed to very great dangers; and they refrain from
turning their activity in that direction.

Thus the inhabitants if the south would not be able, like their northern
countrymen, to initiate the slaves gradually into a state of freedom, by
abolishing slavery; they have no means of perceptibly diminishing the
black population, and they would remain unsupported to repress its
excesses. So that in the course of a few years, a great people of free
negroes would exist in the heart of a white nation of equal size.

The same abuses of power which still maintain slavery, would then become
the source of the most alarming perils, which the white population of
the south might have to apprehend. At the present time the descendants
of the Europeans are the sole owners of the land; the absolute masters
of all labor; and the only persons who are possessed of wealth,
knowledge, and arms. The black is destitute of all these advantages, but
he subsists without them because he is a slave. If he were free, and
obliged to provide for his own subsistence, would it be possible for him
to remain without these things and to support life? Or would not the
very instruments of the present superiority of the white, while slavery
exists, expose him to a thousand dangers if it were abolished?

As long as the negro remains a slave, he may be kept in a condition not
very far removed from that of the brutes; but, with his liberty, he
cannot but acquire a degree of instruction which will enable him to
appreciate his misfortunes, and to discern a remedy for them. Moreover,
there exists a singular principle of relative justice which is very
firmly implanted in the human heart. Men are much more forcibly struck
by those inequalities which exist within the circles of the same class,
than with those which may be remarked between different classes. It is
more easy for them to admit slavery, than to allow several millions of
citizens to exist under a load of eternal infamy and hereditary
wretchedness. In the north, the population of freed negroes feels these
hardships and resents these indignities; but its members and its powers
are small, while in the south it would be numerous and strong.

As soon as it is admitted that the whites and the emancipated blacks are
placed upon the same territory in the situation of two alien
communities, it will readily be understood that there are but two
alternatives for the future; the negroes and the whites must either
wholly part or wholly mingle. I have already expressed the conviction
which I entertain as to the latter event.[252] I do not imagine that the
white and the black races will ever live in any country upon an equal
footing. But I believe the difficulty to be still greater in the United
States than elsewhere. An isolated individual may surmount the
prejudices of religion, of his country, or of his race, and if this
individual is a king he may effect surprising changes in society; but a
whole people cannot rise, as it were, above itself. A despot who should
subject the Americans and their former slaves to the same yoke, might
perhaps succeed in commingling their races; but as long as the American
democracy remains at the head of affairs, no one will undertake so
difficult a task; and it may be foreseen that the freer the white
population of the United States becomes, the more isolated will it

I have previously observed that the mixed race is the true bond of union
between the Europeans and the Indians; just so the mulattoes are the
true means of transition between the white and the negro; so that
wherever mulattoes abound, the intermixture of the two races is not
impossible. In some parts of America the European and the negro races
are so crossed by one another, that it is rare to meet with a man who is
entirely black or entirely white: when they are arrived at this point,
the two races may really be said to be combined; or rather to have been
absorbed in a third race, which is connected with both, without being
identical with either.

Of all the Europeans the English are those who have mixed least with the
negroes. More mulattoes are to be seen in the south of the Union than in
the north, but still they are infinitely more scarce than in any other
European colony: Mulattoes are by no means numerous in the United
States; they have no force peculiar to themselves, and when quarrels
originating in differences of color take place, they generally side with
the whites, just as the lacqueys of the great in Europe assume the
contemptuous airs of nobility to the lower orders.

The pride of origin, which is natural to the English, is singularly
augmented by the personal pride which democratic liberty fosters among
the Americans: the white citizen of the United States is proud of his
race, and proud of himself. But if the whites and the negroes do not
intermingle in the north of the Union, how should they mix in the south?
Can it be supposed for an instant, that an American of the southern
states, placed, as he must for ever be, between the white man with all
his physical and moral superiority, and the negro, will ever think of
preferring the latter? The Americans of the southern states have two
powerful passions, which will always keep them aloof; the first is the
fear of being assimilated to the negroes, their former slaves; and the
second, the dread of sinking below the whites, their neighbors.

If I were called upon to predict what will probably occur at some future
time, I should say, that the abolition of slavery in the south, will, in
the common course of things, increase the repugnance of the white
population for the men of color. I found this opinion upon the analogous
observation which I already had occasion to make in the north. I there
remarked, that the white inhabitants of the north avoid the negroes with
increasing care, in proportion as the legal barriers of separation are
removed by the legislature; and why should not the same result take
place in the south? In the north, the whites are deterred from
intermingling with the blacks by the fear of an imaginary danger; in the
south, where the danger would be real, I cannot imagine that the fear
would be less general.

If, on the one hand, it be admitted (and the fact is unquestionable),
that the colored population perpetually accumulates in the extreme
south, and that it increases more rapidly than that of the whites; and
if, on the other hand, it be allowed that it is impossible to foresee a
time at which the whites and the blacks will be so intermingled as to
derive the same benefits from society; must it not be inferred, that the
blacks and the whites will, sooner or later, come to open strife in the
southern states of the Union? But if it be asked what the issue of the
struggle is likely to be, it will readily be understood, that we are
here left to form a very vague surmise of the truth. The human mind may
succeed in tracing a wide circle, as it were, which includes the course
of future events; but within that circle a thousand various chances and
circumstances may direct it in as many different ways; and in every
picture of the future there is a dim spot, which the eye of the
understanding cannot penetrate. It appears, however, to be extremely
probable, that, in the West India islands the white race is destined to
be subdued, and the black population to share the same fate upon the

In the West India islands the white planters are surrounded by an
immense black population; on the continent, the blacks are placed
between the ocean and an innumerable people, which already extends over
them in a dense mass from the icy confines of Canada to the frontiers of
Virginia, and from the banks of the Missouri to the shores of the
Atlantic. If the white citizens of North America remain united, it
cannot be supposed that the negroes will escape the destruction with
which they are menaced; they must be subdued by want or by the sword.
But the black population which is accumulating along the coast of the
gulf of Mexico, has a chance of success, if the American Union is
dissolved when the struggle between the two races begins. If the federal
tie were broken, the citizens of the south would be wrong to rely upon
any lasting succor from their northern countrymen. The latter are well
aware that the danger can never reach them; and unless they are
constrained to march to the assistance of the south by a positive
obligation, it may be foreseen that the sympathy of color will be
insufficient to stimulate their exertions.

Yet, at whatever period the strife may break out, the whites of the
south, even if they are abandoned to their own resources, will enter the
lists with an immense superiority of knowledge and of the means of
warfare: but the blacks will have numerical strength and the energy of
despair upon their side; and these are powerful resources to men who
have taken up arms. The fate of the white population of the southern
states will, perhaps, be similar to that of the Moors in Spain. After
having occupied the land for centuries, it will perhaps be forced to
retire to the country whence its ancestors came, and to abandon to the
negroes the possession of a territory, which Providence seems to have
more peculiarly destined for them, since they can subsist and labor in
it more easily than the whites.

The danger of a conflict between the white and the black inhabitants of
the southern states of the Union--a danger which, however remote it may
be, is inevitable--perpetually haunts the imagination of the Americans.
The inhabitants of the north make it a common topic of conversation,
although they have no direct injury to fear from the struggle; but they
vainly endeavor to devise some means of obviating the misfortunes which
they foresee. In the southern states the subject is not discussed: the
planter does not allude to the future in conversing with strangers; the
citizen does not communicate his apprehensions to his friends: he seeks
to conceal them from himself: but there is something more alarming in
the tacit forebodings of the south, than in the clamorous fears of the
northern states.

This all-pervading disquietude has given birth to an undertaking which
is but little known, but which may have the effect of changing the fate
of a portion of the human race. From apprehension of the dangers which I
have just been describing, a certain number of American citizens have
formed a society for the purpose of exporting to the coast of Guinea, at
their own expense, such free negroes as may be willing to escape from
the oppression to which they are subject.[254] In 1820, the society to
which I allude formed a settlement in Africa, upon the 7th degree of
north latitude, which bears the name of Liberia. The most recent
intelligence informs us that two thousand five hundred negroes are
collected there; they have introduced the democratic institutions of
America into the country of their forefathers; and Liberia has a
representative system of government, negro-jurymen, negro-magistrates,
and negro-priests; churches have been built, newspapers established,
and, by a singular change in the vicissitudes of the world, white men
are prohibited from sojourning within the settlement.[255]

This is indeed a strange caprice of fortune. Two hundred years have now
elapsed since the inhabitants of Europe undertook to tear the negro from
his family and his home, in order to transport him to the shores of
North America; at the present day, the European settlers are engaged in
sending back the descendants of those very negroes to the continent from
which they were originally taken; and the barbarous Africans have been
brought into contact with civilisation in the midst of bondage, and have
become acquainted with free political institutions in slavery. Up to the
present time Africa has been closed against the arts and sciences of the
whites; but the inventions of Europe will perhaps penetrate into those
regions, now that they are introduced by Africans themselves. The
settlement of Liberia is founded upon a lofty and a most fruitful idea;
but whatever may be its results with regard to the continent of Africa,
it can afford no remedy to the New World.

In twelve years the Colonization society has transported two thousand
five hundred negroes to Africa; in the same space of time about seven
hundred thousand blacks were born in the United States. If the colony of
Liberia were so situated as to be able to receive thousands of new
inhabitants every year, and if the negroes were in a state to be sent
thither with advantage; if the Union were to supply the society with
annual subsidies,[256] and to transport the negroes to Liberia, there is
little chance that the negro population of the United States would

In the South, however, this leaves two choices: either for the whites to
remain in communities with the negroes, and to intermingle with them;
or, remaining isolated from them, to keep them in a state of slavery as
long as possible. All intermediate measures seem to me likely to
terminate, and that shortly, in the most horrible of civil wars, and
perhaps in the extirpation of one or other of the two races. Such is the
view which the Americans of the south take of the question, and they act
consistently with it. As they are determined not to mingle with the
negroes, they refuse to emancipate them.

Not that the inhabitants of the south regard slavery as necessary to the
wealth of the planter; for on this point many of them agree with their
northern countrymen in freely admitting that slavery is prejudicial to
their interests; but they are convinced that, however prejudicial it may
be, they hold their lives upon no other tenure. The instruction which is
now diffused in the south has convinced the inhabitants that slavery is
injurious to the slave-owner, but it has also shown them, more clearly
than before, that no means exist of getting rid of its bad consequences.
Hence arises a singular contrast; the more the utility of slavery is
contested, the more firmly is it established in the laws; and while the
principle of servitude is gradually abolished in the north, that
self-same principle gives rise to more and more rigorous consequences in
the south.

The legislation of the southern states, with regard to slaves, presents
at the present day such unparalleled atrocities, as suffice to show how
radically the laws of humanity have been perverted, and to betray the
desperate position of the community in which that legislation has been
promulgated. The Americans of this portion of the Union have not,
indeed, augmented the hardships of slavery; they have, on the contrary,
bettered the physical condition of the slaves. The only means by which
the ancients maintained slavery were fetters and death; the Americans of
the south of the Union have discovered more intellectual securities for
the duration of their power. They have employed their despotism and
their violence against the human mind. In antiquity, precautions were
taken to prevent the slave from breaking his chains; at the present day
measures are adopted to deprive him even of the desire of freedom. The
ancients kept the bodies of their slaves in bondage, but they placed no
restraint upon the mind and no check upon education; and they acted
consistently with their established principle, since a natural
termination of slavery then existed, and one day or other the slave
might be set free, and become the equal of his master. But the Americans
of the south, who do not admit that the negroes can ever be commingled
with themselves, have forbidden them to be taught to read or to write,
under severe penalties; and as they will not raise them to their own
level, they sink them as nearly as possible to that of the brutes.

The hope of liberty had always been allowed to the slave to cheer the
hardships of his condition. But the Americans of the south are well
aware that emancipation cannot but be dangerous, when the freed man can
never be assimilated to his former master. To give a man his freedom,
and to leave him in wretchedness and ignominy, is nothing less than to
prepare a future chief for a revolt of the slaves. Moreover, it has long
been remarked, that the presence of a free negro vaguely agitates the
minds of his less fortunate brethren, and conveys to them a dim notion
of their rights. The Americans of the south have consequently taken
measures to prevent slave-owners from emancipating their slaves in most
cases; not indeed by a positive prohibition, but by subjecting that step
to various forms which it is difficult to comply with.

I happened to meet with an old man, in the south of the Union, who had
lived in illicit intercourse with one of his negresses, and had had
several children by her, who were born the slaves of their father. He
had indeed frequently thought of bequeathing to them at least their
liberty; but years had elapsed without his being able to surmount the
legal obstacles to their emancipation, and in the meanwhile his old age
was come, and he was about to die. He pictured to himself his sons
dragged from market to market, and passing from the authority of a
parent to the rod of the stranger, until these horrid anticipations
worked his expiring imagination into phrensy. When I saw him he was a
prey to all the anguish of despair, and he made me feel how awful is the
retribution of Nature upon those who have broken her laws.

These evils are unquestionably great; but they are the necessary and
foreseen consequences of the very principle of modern slavery. When the
Europeans chose their slaves from a race differing from their own, which
many of them considered as inferior to the other races of mankind, and
which they all repelled with horror from any notion of intimate
connexion, they must have believed that slavery would last for ever;
since there is no intermediate state which can be durable, between the
excessive inequality produced by servitude, and the complete equality
which originates in independence. The Europeans did imperfectly feel
this truth, but without acknowledging it even to themselves. Whenever
they have had to do with negroes, their conduct has either been dictated
by their interest and their pride, or by their compassion. They first
violated every right of humanity by their treatment of the negro; and
they afterward informed him that those rights were precious and
inviolable. They affected to open their ranks to the slave, but the
negroes who attempted to penetrate into the community were driven back
with scorn; and they have incautiously and involuntarily been led to
admit of freedom instead of slavery, without having the courage to be
wholly iniquitous, or wholly just.[257]

If it be impossible to anticipate a period at which the Americans of the
south will mingle their blood with that of the negroes, can they allow
their slaves to become free without compromising their own security? And
if they are obliged to keep that race in bondage, in order to save their
own families, may they not be excused for availing themselves of the
means best adapted to that end? The events which are taking place in the
southern states of the Union, appear to be at once the most horrible and
the most natural results of slavery. When I see the order of nature
overthrown, and when I hear the cry of humanity in its vain struggle
against the laws, my indignation does not light upon the men of our own
time who were the instruments of these outrages; but I reserve my
execration for those who, after a thousand years of freedom, brought
back slavery into the world once more.

Whatever may be the efforts of the Americans of the south to maintain
slavery, they will not always succeed. Slavery, which is now confined to
a single tract of the civilized earth, which is attacked by Christianity
as unjust, and by political economy as prejudicial, and which is now
contrasted with democratic liberties and the information of our age,
cannot survive. By the choice of the master or the will of the slave, it
will cease; and in either case great calamities may be expected to
ensue. If liberty be refused to the negroes of the south, they will in
the end seize it for themselves by force; if it be given, they will
abuse it ere long.

* * * * *


Reasons why the preponderating Force lies in the States rather than in
the Union.--The Union will only last as long as all the States choose to
belong to it.--Causes which tend to keep them united.--Utility of the
Union to resist foreign Enemies, and to prevent the Existence of
Foreigners in America.--No natural Barriers between the several
States.--No conflicting Interests to divide them.--Reciprocal Interests
of the Northern, Southern, and Western States.--Intellectual ties of
Union.--Uniformity of Opinions.--Dangers of the Union resulting from the
different Characters and the Passions of its Citizens.--Character of the
Citizens in the South and in the North.--The rapid growth of the Union
one of its greatest Dangers.--Progress of the Population to the
Northwest.--Power gravitates in the same Direction.--Passions
originating from sudden turns of Fortune.--Whether the existing
Government of the Union tends to gain strength, or to lose it.--Various
signs of its Decrease.--Internal Improvement.--Waste Lands.--
Indians.--The Bank.--The Tariff.--General Jackson.

The maintenance of the existing institutions of the several states
depends in some measure upon the maintenance of the Union itself. It is
therefore important in the first instance to inquire into the probable
fate of the Union. One point may indeed be assumed at once; if the
present confederation were dissolved, it appears to me to be
incontestable that the states of which it is now composed would not
return to their original isolated condition; but that several Unions
would then be formed in the place of one. It is not my intention to
inquire into the principles upon which these new Unions would probably
be established, but merely to show what the causes are which may effect
the dismemberment of the existing confederation.

With this object I shall be obliged to retrace some of the steps which I
have already taken, and to revert to topics which I have before
discussed. I am aware that the reader may accuse me of repetition, but
the importance of the matter which still remains to be treated is my
excuse; I had rather say too much, than say too little to be thoroughly
understood, and I prefer injuring the author to slighting the subject.

The legislators who formed the constitution of 1789 endeavored to confer
a distinct and preponderating authority upon the federal power. But they
were confined by the conditions of the task which they had undertaken to
perform. They were not appointed to constitute the government of a
single people, but to regulate the association of several states; and,
whatever their inclinations might be, they could not but divide the
exercise of sovereignty in the end.

In order to understand the consequences of this division, it is
necessary to make a short distinction between the affairs of government.
There are some objects which are national by their very nature, that is
to say, which affect the nation as a body, and can only be intrusted to
the man or the assembly of men who most completely represent the entire
nation. Among these may be reckoned war and diplomacy. There are other
objects which are provincial by their very nature, that is to say, which
only affect certain localities, and which can only be properly treated
in that locality. Such, for instance, is the budget of municipality.
Lastly, there are certain objects of a mixed nature, which are national
inasmuch as they affect all the citizens who compose the nation, and
which are provincial inasmuch as it is not necessary that the nation
itself should provide for them all. Such are the rights which regulate
the civil and political condition of the citizens. No society can exist
without civil and political rights. These rights therefore interest all
the citizens alike; but it is not always necessary to the existence and
the prosperity of the nation that these rights should be uniform, nor
consequently, that they should be regulated by the central authority.

There are, then, two distinct categories of objects which are submitted
to the direction of the sovereign power; and these categories occur in
all well-constituted communities, whatever the basis of the political
constitution may otherwise be. Between these two extremes, the objects
which I have termed mixed may be considered to lie. As these objects are
neither exclusively national nor entirely provincial, they may be
attained by a national or a provincial government, according to the
agreement of the contracting parties, without in any way impairing the
contract of association.

The sovereign power is usually formed by the union of separate
individuals, who compose a people; and individual powers or collective
forces, each representing a very small portion of the sovereign
authority, are the sole elements which are subjected to the general
government of their choice. In this case the general government is more
naturally called upon to regulate, not only those affairs which are of
essential national importance, but those which are of a more local
interest; and the local governments are reduced to that small share of
sovereign authority which is indispensable to their prosperity.

But sometimes the sovereign authority is composed of preorganized
political bodies, by virtue of circumstances anterior to their union;
and in this case the provincial governments assume the control, not only
of those affairs which more peculiarly belong to their province, but of
all, or of a part of the mixed affairs to which allusion has been made.
For the confederate nations which were independent sovereign states
before their Union, and which still represent a very considerable share
of the sovereign power, have only consented to cede to the general
government the exercise of those rights which are indispensable to the

When the national government, independently of the prerogative inherent
in its nature, is invested with the right of regulating the affairs
which relate partly to the general and partly to the local interest, it
possesses a preponderating influence. Not only are its own rights
extensive, but all the rights which it does not possess exist by its
sufferance, and it may be apprehended that the provincial governments
may be deprived of their natural and necessary prerogatives by its

When, on the other hand, the provincial governments are invested with
the power of regulating those same affairs of mixed interest, an
opposite tendency prevails in society. The preponderating force resides
in the province, not in the nation; and it may be apprehended that the
national government may in the end be stripped of the privileges which
are necessary to its existence.

Independent nations have therefore a natural tendency to centralization,
and confederations to dismemberment.

It now only remains for us to apply these general principles to the
American Union. The several states were necessarily possessed of the
right of regulating all exclusively provincial affairs. Moreover these
same states retained the right of determining the civil and political
competency of the citizens, of regulating the reciprocal relations of
the members of the community, and of dispensing justice; rights which
are of a general nature, but which do not necessarily appertain to the
national government. We have shown that the government of the Union is
invested with the power of acting in the name of the whole nation, in
those cases in which the nation has to appear as a single and undivided
power; as, for instance, in foreign relations, and in offering a common
resistance to a common enemy; in short, in conducting those affairs
which I have styled exclusively national.

In this division of the rights of sovereignty, the share of the Union
seems at first sight to be more considerable than that of the states;
but a more attentive investigation shows it to be less so. The
undertakings of the government of the Union are more vast, but their
influence is more rarely felt. Those of the provincial government are
comparatively small, but they are incessant, and they serve to keep
alive the authority which they represent. The government of the Union
watches the general interests of the country; but the general interests
of a people have a very questionable influence upon individual
happiness; while provincial interests produce a most immediate effect
upon the welfare of the inhabitants. The Union secures the independence
and the greatness of the nation, which do not immediately affect private
citizens; but the several states maintain the liberty, regulate the
rights, protect the fortune, and secure the life and the whole future
prosperity of every citizen.

The federal government is very far removed from its subjects, while the
provincial governments are within the reach of them all, and are ready
to attend to the smallest appeal. The central government has upon its
side the passions of a few superior men who aspire to conduct it; but
upon the side of the provincial governments are the interests of all
those second-rate individuals who can only hope to obtain power within
their own state, and who nevertheless exercise the largest share of
authority over the people because they are placed nearest to its level.

The Americans have therefore much more to hope and to fear from the
states than from the Union; and, in conformity with the natural tendency
of the human mind, they are more likely to attach themselves to the
former than to the latter. In this respect their habits and feelings
harmonize with their interests.

When a compact nation divides its sovereignty, and adopts a confederate
form of government, the traditions, the customs, and the manners of the
people are for a long time at variance with their legislation; and the
former tend to give a degree of influence to the central government
which the latter forbids. When a number of confederate states unite to
form a single nation, the same causes operate in an opposite direction.
I have no doubt that if France were to become a confederate republic
like that of the United States, the government would at first display
more energy than that of the Union; and if the Union were to alter its
constitution to a monarchy like that of France, I think that the
American government would be a long time in acquiring the force which
now rules the latter nation. When the national existence of the
Anglo-Americans began, their provincial existence was already of long
standing; necessary relations were established between the townships and
the individual citizens of the same states; and they were accustomed to
consider some objects as common to them all, and to conduct other
affairs as exclusively relating to their own special interests.

The Union is a vast body, which presents no definite object to patriotic
feeling. The forms and limits of the state are distinct and
circumscribed, since it represents a certain number of objects which are
familiar to the citizens and beloved by all. It is identified with the
very soil, with the right of property and the domestic affections, with
the recollections of the past, the labors of the present, and the hopes
of the future. Patriotism, then, which is frequently a mere extension of
individual egotism, is still directed to the state, and is not excited
by the Union. Thus the tendency of the interests, the habits, and the
feelings of the people, is to centre political activity in the states,
in preference to the Union.

It is easy to estimate the different forces of the two governments, by
remarking the manner in which they fulfil their respective functions.
Whenever the government of a state has occasion to address an
individual, or an assembly of individuals, its language is clear and
imperative; and such is also the tone of the federal government in its
intercourse with individuals, but no sooner has it anything to do with a
state, than it begins to parley, to explain its motives, and to justify
its conduct, to argue, to advise, and in short, anything but to command.
If doubts are raised as to the limits of the constitutional powers of
each government, the provincial government prefers its claims with
boldness, and takes prompt and energetic steps to support it. In the
meanwhile the government of the Union reasons, it appeals to the
interests, to the good sense, to the glory of the nation; it temporizes,
it negotiates, and does not consent to act until it is reduced to the
last extremity. At first sight it might readily be imagined that it is
the provincial government which is armed with the authority of the
nation, and that congress represents a single state.

The federal government is, therefore, notwithstanding the precautions of
those who founded it, naturally so weak, that it more peculiarly
requires the free consent of the governed to enable it to subsist. It is
easy to perceive that its object is to enable the states to realize with
facility their determination of remaining united; and, as long as this
preliminary consideration exists, its authority is great, temperate, and
effective. The constitution fits the government to control individuals,
and easily to surmount such obstacles as they may be inclined to offer,
but it was by no means established with a view to the possible
separation of one or more of the states from the Union.

If the sovereignty of the Union were to engage in a struggle with that
of the states at the present day, its defeat may be confidently
predicted; and it is not probable that such a struggle would be
seriously undertaken. As often as steady resistance is offered to the
federal government, it will be found to yield. Experience has hitherto
shown that whenever a state has demanded anything with perseverance and
resolution, it has invariably succeeded; and that if a separate
government has distinctly refused to act, it was left to do as it
thought fit.[258]

But even if the government of the Union had any strength inherent in
itself, the physical situation of the country would render the exercise
of that strength very difficult.[259] The United States cover an immense
territory; they are separated from each other by great distances; and
the population is disseminated over the surface of a country which is
still half a wilderness. If the Union were to undertake to enforce the
allegiance of the confederate states by military means, it would be in a
position very analogous to that of England at the time of the war of

However strong a government may be, it cannot easily escape from the
consequences of a principle which it has once admitted as the foundation
of its constitution. The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of
the states; and, in uniting together, they have not forfeited their
nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the
same people. If one of the states chose to withdraw its name from the
compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so; and
the federal government would have no means of maintaining its claims
directly, either by force or by right. In order to enable the federal
government easily to conquer the resistance which may be offered to it
by any one of its subjects, it would be necessary that one or more of
them should be especially interested in the existence of the Union, as
has frequently been the case in the history of confederations.

If it be supposed that among the states which are united by the federal
tie, there are some which exclusively enjoy the principal advantages of
union, or whose prosperity depends on the duration of that union, it is
unquestionable that they will always be ready to support the central
government in enforcing the obedience of the others. But the government
would then be exerting a force not derived from itself, but from a
principle contrary to its nature. States form confederations in order to
derive equal advantages from their union; and in the case just alluded
to, the federal government would derive its power from the unequal
distribution of those benefits among the states.

If one of the confederated states have acquired a preponderance
sufficiently great to enable it to take exclusive possession of the
central authority, it will consider the other states as subject
provinces, and will cause its own supremacy to be respected under the
borrowed name of the sovereignty of the Union. Great things may then be
done in the name of the federal government, but in reality that
government will have ceased to exist.[260] In both these cases, the
power which acts in the name of the confederation becomes stronger, the
more it abandons the natural state and the acknowledged principles of

In America the existing Union is advantageous to all the states, but it
is not indispensable to any one of them. Several of them might break the
federal tie without compromising the welfare of the others, although
their own prosperity would be lessened. As the existence and the
happiness of none of the states are wholly dependent on the present
constitution, they would none of them be disposed to make great personal
sacrifices to maintain it. On the other hand, there is no state which
seems, hitherto, to have its ambition much interested in the maintenance
of the existing Union. They certainly do not all exercise the same
influence in the federal councils, but no one of them can hope to
domineer over the rest, or to treat them as its inferiors or as its

It appears to me unquestionable, that if any portion of the Union
seriously desired to separate itself from the other states, they would
not be able, nor indeed would they attempt, to prevent it; and that the
present Union will only last as long as the states which compose it
choose to continue members of the confederation. If this point be
admitted, the question becomes less difficult; and our object is not to
inquire whether the states of the existing Union are capable of
separating, but whether they will choose to remain united.

[The remarks respecting the inability of the federal government to
retain within the Union any state that may choose "to withdraw its name
from the contract," ought not to pass through an American edition of
this work, without the expression of a dissent by the editor from the
opinion of the author. The laws of the United States must remain in
force in a revolted state, until repealed by congress; the customs and
postages must be collected; the courts of the United States must sit,
and must decide the causes submitted to them; as has been very happily
explained by the author, the courts act upon individuals. If their
judgments are resisted, the executive arm must interpose, and if the
state authorities aid in the resistance, the military power of the whole
Union must be invoked to overcome it. So long as the laws affecting the
citizens of such a state remain, and so long as there remain any
officers of a general government to enforce them, these results must
follow not only theoretically but actually. The author probably formed
the opinions which are the subject of these remarks, at the commencement
of the controversy with South Carolina respecting the tariff. And when
they were written and published, he had not learned the result of that
controversy, in which the supremacy of the Union and its laws was
triumphant. There was doubtless great reluctance in adopting the
necessary measures to collect the customs, and to bring every legal
question that could possibly arise out of the controversy, before the
judiciary of the United States, but they were finally adopted, and were
not the less successful for being the result of deliberation and of
necessity. Out of that controversy have arisen some advantages of a
permanent character, produced by the legislation which it required.
There were defects in the laws regulating the manner of bringing from
the state courts into those of the United States, a cause involving the
constitutionality of acts of congress or of the states, through which
the federal authority might be evaded. Those defects were remedied by
the legislation referred to; and it is now more emphatically and
universally true, than when the author wrote, that the acts of the
general government operate through the judiciary, upon individual
citizens, and not upon the states.--_American Editor._]

Among the various reasons which tend to render the existing Union useful
to the Americans, two principal causes are peculiarly evident to the
observer. Although the Americans are, as it were, alone upon their
continent, their commerce makes them the neighbors of all the nations
with which they trade. Notwithstanding their apparent isolation, the
Americans require a certain degree of strength, which they cannot retain
otherwise than by remaining united to each other. If the states were to
split, they would not only diminish the strength which they are now able
to display toward foreign nations, but they would soon create foreign
powers upon their own territory. A system of inland custom-houses would
then be established; the valleys would be divided by imaginary boundary
lines; the courses of the rivers would be confined by territorial
distinctions and a multitude of hindrances would prevent the Americans
from exploring the whole of that vast continent which Providence has
allotted to them for a dominion. At present they have no invasion to
fear, and consequently no standing armies to maintain, no taxes to levy.
If the Union were dissolved, all these burdensome measures might ere
long be required. The Americans are then very powerfully interested in
the maintenance of their Union. On the other hand, it is almost
impossible to discover any sort of material interest which might at
present tempt a portion of the Union to separate from the other states.

When we cast our eyes upon the map of the United States, we perceive the
chain of the Allegany mountains, running from the northeast to the
southwest, and crossing nearly one thousand miles of country; and we are
led to imagine that the design of Providence was to raise, between the
valley of the Mississippi and the coasts of the Atlantic ocean, one of
those natural barriers which break the mutual intercourse of men, and
form the necessary limits of different states. But the average height of
the Alleganies does not exceed 2,500 feet; their greatest elevation is
not above 4,000 feet; their rounded summits, and the spacious valleys
which they conceal within their passes, are of easy access from several
sides. Beside which, the principal rivers that fall into the Atlantic
ocean, the Hudson, the Susquehannah, and the Potomac, take their rise
beyond the Alleganies, in an open district, which borders upon the
valley of the Mississippi. These streams quit this tract of
country,[261] make their way through the barrier which would seem to
turn them westward, and as they wind through the mountains, they open an
easy and natural passage to man.

No natural barrier exists in the regions which are now inhabited by the
Anglo-Americans; the Alleganies are so far from serving as a boundary to
separate nations, that they do not even serve as a frontier to the
states. New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, comprise them within their
borders and extend as much to the west as to the east of the line.

The territory now occupied by the twenty-four states of the Union, and
the three great districts which have not yet acquired the rank of
states, although they already contain inhabitants, covers a surface of
1,002,600 square miles,[262] which is about equal to five times the
extent of France. Within these limits the qualities of the soil, the
temperature, and the produce of the country, are extremely various. The
vast extent of territory occupied by the Anglo-American republics has
given rise to doubts as to the maintenance of the Union. Here a
distinction must be made; contrary interests sometimes arise in the
different provinces of a vast empire, which often terminate in open
dissensions; and the extent of the country is then most prejudicial to
the power of the state. But if the inhabitants of these vast regions are
not divided by contrary interests, the extent of the territory may be
favorable to their prosperity; for the unity of the government promotes
the interchange of the different productions of the soil, and increases
their value by facilitating their consumption.

It is indeed easy to discover different interests in the different parts
of the Union, but I am unacquainted with any which are hostile to each
other. The southern states are almost exclusively agricultural; the
northern states are more peculiarly commercial and manufacturing; the
states of the west are at the same time agricultural and manufacturing.
In the south the crops consist of tobacco, of rice, of cotton, and of
sugar; in the north and the west, of wheat and maize; these are
different sources of wealth; but union is the means by which these
sources are opened to all, and rendered equally advantageous to the
several districts.

The north, which ships the produce of the Anglo-Americans to all parts
of the world, and brings back the produce of the globe to the Union, is
evidently interested in maintaining the confederation in its present
condition, in order that the number of American producers and consumers
may remain as large as possible. The north is the most natural agent of
communication between the south and the west of the Union on the one
hand, and the rest of the world upon the other; the north is therefore
interested in the union and prosperity of the south and the west, in
order that they may continue to furnish raw materials for its
manufactures, and cargoes for its shipping.

The south and the west, on their side, are still more directly
interested in the preservation of the Union, and the prosperity of the
north. The produce of the south is for the most part exported beyond
seas; the south and the west consequently stand in need of the
commercial resources of the north. They are likewise interested in the
maintenance of a powerful fleet by the Union, to protect them
efficaciously. The south and the west have no vessels, but they cannot
refuse a willing subsidy to defray the expenses of the navy; for if the
fleets of Europe were to blockade the ports of the south and the delta
of the Mississippi, what would become of the rice of the Carolinas, the
tobacco of Virginia, and the sugar and cotton which grow in the valley
of the Mississippi? Every portion of the federal budget does therefore
contribute to the maintenance of material interests which are common to
all the confederate states.

Independently of this commercial utility, the south and the west of the
Union derive great political advantages from their connexion with the
north. The south contains an enormous slave population; a population
which is already alarming, and still more formidable for the future. The
states of the west lie in the remoter part of a single valley; and all
the rivers which intersect their territory rise in the Rocky mountains
or in the Alleganies, and fall into the Mississippi, which bears them
onward to the gulf of Mexico. The western states are consequently
entirely cut off, by their position, from the traditions of Europe and
the civilisation of the Old World. The inhabitants of the south, then,
are induced to support the Union in order to avail themselves of its
protection against the blacks; and the inhabitants of the west, in order
not to be excluded from a free communication with the rest of the globe,
and shut up in the wilds of central America. The north cannot but desire
the maintenance of the Union, in order to remain, as it now is, the
connecting link between that vast body and the other parts of the world.

The temporal interests of all the several parts of the Union are, then,
intimately connected; and the same assertion holds true respecting those
opinions and sentiments which may be termed the immaterial interests of

The inhabitants of the United States talk a great deal of their
attachment to their country; but I confess that I do not rely upon that
calculating patriotism which is founded upon interest, and which a
change in the interest at stake may obliterate. Nor do I attach much
importance to the language of the Americans, when they manifest in their
daily conversation, the intention of maintaining the federal system
adopted by their forefathers. A government retains its sway over a great
number of citizens, far less by the voluntary and rational consent of
the multitude, than by that instinctive and, to a certain extent,
involuntary agreement, which results from similarity of feelings and
resemblances of opinion. I will never admit that men constitute a social
body, simply because they obey the same head and the same laws. Society
can only exist when a great number of men consider a great number of
things in the same point of view; when they hold the same opinions upon
many subjects, and when the same occurrences suggest the same thoughts
and impressions to their minds.

The observer who examines the present condition of the United States
upon this principle, will readily discover, that although the citizens
are divided into twenty-four distinct sovereignties, they nevertheless
constitute a single people; and he may perhaps be led to think that the
state of the Anglo-American Union is more truly a state of society, than
that of certain nations of Europe which live under the same legislation
and the same prince.

Although the Anglo-Americans have several religious sects, they all
regard religion in the same manner. They are not always agreed upon the
measures which are most conducive to good government, and they vary upon
some of the forms of government which it is expedient to adopt; but they
are unanimous upon the general principles which ought to rule human
society. From Maine to the Floridas, and from Missouri to the Atlantic
ocean, the people is held to be the legitimate source of all power. The
same notions are entertained respecting liberty and equality, the
liberty of the press, the right of association, the jury, and the
responsibility of the agents of government.

If we turn from their political and religious opinions to the moral and
philosophical principles which regulate the daily actions of life, and
govern their conduct, we shall still find the same uniformity. The
Anglo-Americans[263] acknowledge the absolute moral authority of the
reason of the community, as they acknowledge the political authority of
the mass of citizens; and they hold that public opinion is the surest
arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. The majority of
them believe that a man will be led to do what is just and good by
following his own interests, rightly understood. They hold that every
man is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no
one has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They
have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of
opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily
be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all
consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a
changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they
admit that what appears to them to be good to-day may be superseded by
something better to-morrow. I do not give all these opinions as true,
but I quote them as characteristic of the Americans.

The Anglo-Americans are not only united together by those common
opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a common
feeling of pride. For the last fifty years, no pains have been spared to
convince the inhabitants of the United States that they constitute the
only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for
the present, their own democratic institutions succeed, while those of
other countries fail; hence they conceive an overweening opinion of
their superiority, and they are not very remote from believing
themselves to belong to a distinct race of mankind.

The dangers which threaten the American Union do not originate in the
diversity of interests or opinions; but in the various characters and
passions of the Americans. The men who inhabit the vast territory of the
United States are almost all the issue of a common stock; but the
effects of the climate, and more especially of slavery, have gradually
introduced very striking differences between the British settler of the
southern states, and the British settler of the north. In Europe it is
generally believed that slavery has rendered the interests of one part
of the Union contrary to those of another part; but I by no means
remarked this to be the case; slavery has not created interests in the
south contrary to those of the north, but it has modified the character
and changed the habits of the natives of the south.

I have already explained the influence which slavery has exerted upon
the commercial ability of the Americans in the south; and this same
influence equally extends to their manners. The slave is a servant who
never remonstrates, and who submits to everything without complaint. He
may sometimes assassinate, but he never withstands, his master. In the
south there are no families so poor as not to have slaves. The citizen
of the southern states of the Union is invested with a sort of domestic
dictatorship from his earliest years; the first notion he acquires in
life is, that he is born to command, and the first habit he contracts is
that of being obeyed without resistance. His education tends, then, to
give him the character of a supercilious and a hasty man; irascible,
violent, and ardent in his desires, impatient of obstacles, but easily
discouraged if he cannot succeed upon his first attempt.

The American of the northern states is surrounded by no slaves in his
childhood; he is even unattended by free servants; and is usually
obliged to provide for his own wants. No sooner does he enter the world
than the idea of necessity assails him on every side; he soon learns to
know exactly the natural limits of his authority; he never expects to
subdue those who withstand him, by force; and he knows that the surest
means of obtaining the support of his fellow-creatures, is to win their
favor. He therefore becomes patient, reflecting, tolerant, slow to act,
and persevering in his designs.

In the southern states the more immediate wants of life are always
supplied; the inhabitants of those parts are not busied in the material
cares of life, which are always provided for by others; and their
imagination is diverted to more captivating and less definite objects.
The American of the south is fond of grandeur, luxury, and renown, of
gaiety, of pleasure, and above all, of idleness; nothing obliges him to
exert himself in order to subsist; and as he has no necessary
occupations, he gives way to indolence, and does not even attempt what
would be useful.

But the equality of fortunes, and the absence of slavery in the north,
plunge the inhabitants in those same cares of daily life which are
disdained by the white population of the south. They are taught from
infancy to combat want, and to place comfort above all the pleasures of
the intellect or the heart. The imagination is extinguished by the
trivial details of life; and the ideas become less numerous and less
general, but far more practical and more precise. As prosperity is the
sole aim of exertion, it is excellently well attained; nature and
mankind are turned to the best pecuniary advantage; and society is
dexterously made to contribute to the welfare of each of its members,
while individual egotism is the source of general happiness.

The citizen of the north has not only experience, but knowledge:
nevertheless, he sets but little value upon the pleasures of knowledge;
he esteems it as the means of obtaining a certain end, and he is only
anxious to seize its more lucrative applications. The citizen of the
south is more given to act upon impulse; he is more clever, more frank,
more generous, more intellectual, and more brilliant. The former, with a
greater degree of activity, of common sense, of information, and of
general aptitude, has the characteristic good and evil qualities of the
middle classes. The latter has the tastes, the prejudices, the
weaknesses, and the magnanimity of all aristocracies.

If two men are united in society, who have the same interests, and to a
certain extent the same opinions, but different characters, different
acquirements, and a different style of civilisation, it is probable that
these men will not agree. The same remark is applicable to a society of

Slavery then does not attack the American Union directly in its
interests, but indirectly in its manners.

The states which gave their assent to the federal contract in 1790 were
thirteen in number; the Union now consists of twenty-four members. The
population which amounted to nearly four millions in 1790, had more than
tripled in the space of forty years; and in 1830 it amounted to nearly
thirteen millions.[264] Changes of such magnitude cannot take place
without some danger.

A society of nations, as well as a society of individuals, derive its
principal chances of duration from the wisdom of its members, their
individual weakness, and their limited number. The Americans who quit
the coasts of the Atlantic ocean to plunge into the western wilderness,
are adventurers impatient of restraint, greedy of wealth, and frequently
men expelled from the states in which they were born. When they arrive
in the deserts, they are unknown to each other; and they have neither
traditions, family feeling, nor the force of example to check their
excesses. The empire of the laws is feeble among them; that of morality
is still more powerless. The settlers who are constantly peopling the
valley of the Mississippi are, then, in every respect inferior to the
Americans who inhabit the older parts of the Union. Nevertheless, they
already exercise a great influence in its councils; and they arrive at
the government of the commonwealth before they have learned to govern

The greater the individual weakness of each of the contracting parties,
the greater are the chances of the duration of the contract; for their
safety is then dependant upon their union. When, in 1790, the most
populous of the American republics did not contain 500,000
inhabitants,[266] each of them felt its own insignificance as an
independent people, and this feeling rendered compliance with the
federal authority more easy. But when one of the confederate states
reckons, like the State of New York, two millions of inhabitants, and
covers an extent of territory equal in surface to a quarter of
France,[267] it feels its own strength; and although it may continue to
support the Union as advantageous to its prosperity, it no longer
regards that body as necessary to its existence; and, as it continues to
belong to the federal compact, it soon aims at preponderance in the
federal assemblies. The probable unanimity of the states is diminished
as their number increases. At present the interests of the different
parts of the Union are not at variance; but who is able to foresee the
multifarious changes of the future, in a country in which towns are
founded from day to day, and states almost from year to year?

Since the first settlement of the British colonies, the number of
inhabitants has about doubled every twenty-two years. I perceive no
causes which are likely to check this progressive increase of the
Anglo-American population for the next hundred years; and before that
space of time has elapsed, I believe that the territories and
dependencies of the United States will be covered by more than a hundred
millions of inhabitants, and divided into forty states.[268] I admit
that these hundred millions of men have no hostile interests; I suppose,
on the contrary, that they are all equally interested in the maintenance
of the Union; but I am still of opinion, that where there are a hundred
millions of men, and forty distinct nations unequally strong, the
continuance of the federal government can only be a fortunate accident.

Whatever faith I may have in the perfectibility of man until human
nature is altered, and men wholly transformed, I shall refuse to believe
in the duration of a government which is called upon to hold together
forty different peoples, disseminated over a territory equal to one-half
of Europe in extent; to avoid all rivalry, ambition, and struggles,
between them; and to direct their independent activity to the
accomplishment of the same designs.

But the greatest peril to which the Union is exposed by its increase,
arises from the continual changes which take place in the position of
its internal strength. The distance from Lake Superior to the gulf of
Mexico extends from the 47th to the 30th degree of latitude, a distance
of more than twelve hundred miles, as the bird flies. The frontier of
the United States winds along the whole of this immense line; sometimes
falling within its limits, but more frequently extending far beyond it,
into the waste. It has been calculated that the whites advance a mean
distance of seventeen miles along the whole of this vast boundary.[269]
Obstacles, such as an unproductive district, a lake, or an Indian nation
unexpectedly encountered, are sometimes met with. The advancing column
then halts for a while; its two extremities fall back upon themselves,
and as soon as they are reunited they proceed onward. This gradual and
continuous progress of the European race toward the Rocky mountains, has
the solemnity of a providential event; it is like a deluge of men rising
unabatedly, and daily driven onward by the hand of God.

Within this first line of conquering settlers, towns are built, and vast
states founded. In 1790 there were only a few thousand pioneers
sprinkled along the valleys of the Mississippi; and at the present day
these valleys contain as many inhabitants as were to be found in the
whole Union in 1790. Their population amounts to nearly four
millions.[270] The city of Washington was founded in 1800, in the very
centre of the Union; but such are the changes which have taken place,
that it now stands at one of the extremities; and the delegates of the
most remote western states are already obliged to perform a journey as
long as that from Vienna to Paris.[271]

All the states are borne onward at the same time in the path of fortune,
but of course they do not all increase and prosper in the same
proportion. In the north of the Union detached branches of the Allegany
chain, extending as far as the Atlantic ocean, form spacious roads and
ports, which are constantly accessible to vessels of the greatest
burden. But from the Potomac to the mouth of the Mississippi, the coast
is sandy and flat. In this part of the Union the mouths of almost all
the rivers are obstructed; and the few harbors which exist among these
lagunes, afford much shallower water to vessels, and much fewer
commercial advantages than those of the north.

This first natural cause of inferiority is united to another cause
proceeding from the laws. We have already seen that slavery, which is
abolished in the north, still exists in the south; and I have pointed
out its fatal consequences upon the prosperity of the planter himself.

The north is therefore superior to the south both in commerce[272] and
manufacture; the natural consequence of which is the more rapid increase
of population and of wealth within its borders. The states situated upon
the shores of the Atlantic ocean are already half-peopled. Most of the
land is held by an owner; and these districts cannot therefore receive
so many emigrants as the western states, where a boundless field is
still open to their exertions. The valley of the Mississippi is far more
fertile than the coast of the Atlantic ocean. This reason, added to all
the others, contributes to drive the Europeans westward--a fact which
may be rigorously demonstrated by figures. It is found that the sum
total of the population of all the United States has about tripled in
the course of forty years. But in the recent states adjacent to the
Mississippi, the population has increased thirty-one fold within the
same space of time.[273]

The relative position of the central federal power is continually
displaced. Forty years ago the majority of the citizens of the Union was
established upon the coast of the Atlantic, in the environs of the spot
upon which Washington now stands; but the great body of the people is
now advancing inland and to the north, so that in twenty years the
majority will unquestionably be on the western side of the Alleganies.
If the Union goes on to subsist, the basin of the Mississippi is
evidently marked out, by its fertility and its extent, as the future
centre of the federal government. In thirty or forty years, that tract
of country will have assumed the rank which naturally belongs to it. It
is easy to calculate that its population, compared to that of the coast
of the Atlantic, will be, in round numbers, as 40 to 11. In a few years
the states which founded the Union will lose the direction of its
policy, and the population of the valleys of the Mississippi will
preponderate in the federal assemblies.

This constant gravitation of the federal power and influence toward the
northwest, is shown every ten years, when a general census of the
population is made, and the number of delegates which each state sends
to congress is settled afresh.[274] In 1790 Virginia had nineteen
representatives in congress. This number continued to increase until the
year 1813, when it reached to twenty-three: from that time it began to
decrease, and in 1833, Virginia elected only twenty-one
representatives.[275] During the same period the state of New York
advanced in the contrary direction; in 1790, it had ten representatives
in congress; in 1813, twenty-seven; in 1823, thirty-four; and in 1833,
forty. The state of Ohio had only one representative in 1803, and in
1833, it had already nineteen.

It is difficult to imagine a durable union of a people which is rich and
strong, with one which is poor and weak, and if it were proved that the
strength and wealth of the one are not the causes of the weakness and
poverty of the other. But union is still move difficult to maintain at a
time at which one party is losing strength, and the other is gaining it.
This rapid and disproportionate increase of certain states threatens the
independence of the others. New York might, perhaps, succeed with its
two millions of inhabitants and its forty representatives, in dictating
to the other states in congress. But even if the more powerful states
make no attempt to bear down the lesser ones, the danger still exists;
for there is almost as much in the possibility of the act as in the act
itself. The weak generally mistrusts the justice and the reason of the
strong. The states which increase less rapidily than the others, look
upon those which are more favored by fortune, with envy and suspicion.
Hence arise the deep-seated uneasiness and ill-defined agitation which
are observable in the south, and which form so striking a contrast to
the confidence and prosperity which are common to other parts of the
Union. I am inclined to think that the hostile measures taken by the
southern provinces upon a recent occasion, are attributable to no other
cause. The inhabitants of the southern states are, of all the Americans,
those who are most interested in the maintenance of the Union; they
would assuredly suffer most from being left to themselves; and yet they
are the only citizens who threaten to break the tie of confederation.
But it is easy to perceive that the south, which has given four
presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, to the Union;
which perceives that it is losing its federal influence, and that the
number of its representatives in congress is diminishing from year to
year while those of the northern and western states are increasing; the
south, which is peopled with ardent and irascible beings, is becoming
more and more irritated and alarmed. The citizens reflect upon their
present position and remember their past influence, with the melancholy
uneasiness of men who suspect oppression: if they discover a law of the
Union which is not unequivocally favorable to their interests, they
protest against it as an abuse of force; and if their ardent
remonstrances are not listened to, they threaten to quit an association
which loads them with burdens while it deprives them of their due
profits. "The tariff," said the inhabitants of Carolina in 1832,
"enriches the north, and ruins the south; for if this were not the case,
to what can we attribute the continually increasing power and wealth of
the north, with its inclement skies and arid soil; while the south,
which may be styled the garden of America, is rapidly declining."[276]
If the changes which I have described were gradual, so that each
generation at least might have time to disappear with the order of
things under which it had lived, the danger would be less: but the
progress of society in America is precipitate, and almost revolutionary.
The same citizen may have lived to see his state take the lead in the
Union, and afterward become powerless in the federal assemblies; and an
Anglo-American republic has been known to grow as rapidly as a man,
passing from birth and infancy to maturity in the course of thirty
years. It must not be imagined, however, that the states which lose
their preponderance, also lose their population or their riches; no stop
is put to their prosperity, and they even go on to increase more rapidly
than any kingdom in Europe.[277] But they believe themselves to be
impoverished because their wealth does not augment as rapidly as that of
their neighbors; and they think that their power is lost, because they
suddenly come into collision with a power greater than their own.[278]
Thus they are more hurt in their feelings and their passions, than in
their interests. But this is amply sufficient to endanger the
maintenance of the Union. If kings and peoples had only had their true
interests in view, ever since the beginning of the world, the name of
war would scarcely be known among mankind.

Thus the prosperity of the United States is the source of the most
serious dangers that threaten them, since it tends to create in some of
the confederate states that over-excitement which accompanies a rapid
increase of fortune; and to awaken in others those feelings of envy,
mistrust, and regret, which usually attend upon the loss of it. The
Americans contemplate this extraordinary and hasty progress with
exultation; but they would be wiser to consider it with sorrow and
alarm. The Americans of the United States must inevitably become one of
the greatest nations in the world; their offset will cover almost the
whole of North America; the continent which they inhabit is their
dominion, and it cannot escape them. What urges them to take possession
of it so soon? Riches, power, and renown, cannot fail to be theirs at
some future time; but they rush upon their fortune as if but a moment
remained for them to make it their own.

I think I have demonstrated, that the existence of the present
confederation depends entirely on the continued assent of all the
confederates; and, starting from this principle, I have inquired into
the causes which may induce any of the states to separate from the
others. The Union may, however, perish in two different ways: one of the
confederate states may choose to retire from the compact, and so
forcibly sever the federal tie; and it is to this supposition that most
of the remarks which I have made apply: or the authority of the federal
government may be progressively intrenched on by the simultaneous
tendency of the united republics to resume their independence. The
central power, successively stripped of all its prerogatives, and
reduced to impotence by tacit consent, would become incompetent to
fulfil its purpose; and the second Union would perish, like the first,
by a sort of senile inaptitude. The gradual weakening of the federal
tie, which may finally lead to the dissolution of the Union, is a
distinct circumstance, that may produce a variety of minor consequences
before it operates so violent a change. The confederation might still
subsist, although its government were reduced to such a degree of
inanition as to paralyze the nation, to cause internal anarchy, and to
check the general prosperity of the country.

After having investigated the causes which may induce the
Anglo-Americans to disunite, it is important to inquire whether, if the
Union continues to subsist, their government will extend or contract its
sphere of action, and whether it will become more energetic or more

The Americans are evidently disposed to look upon their future condition
with alarm. They perceive that in most of the nations of the world, the
exercise of the rights of sovereignty tends to fall under the control of
a few individuals, and they are dismayed by the idea that such will also
be the case in their own country. Even the statesmen feel, or affect to
feel, these fears; for, in America, centralization is by no means
popular, and there is no surer means of courting the majority, than by
inveighing against the encroachments of the central power. The Americans
do not perceive that the countries in which this alarming tendency to
centralization exists, are inhabited by a single people; while the fact
of the Union being composed of different confederate communities, is
sufficient to baffle all the inferences which might be drawn from
analogous circumstances. I confess that I am inclined to consider the
fears of a great number of Americans as purely imaginary; and far from
participating in their dread of the consolidation of power in the hands
of the Union, I think that the federal government is visibly losing

To prove this assertion I shall not have recourse to any remote
occurrences, but to circumstances which I have myself observed, and
which belong to our own time.

An attentive examination of what is going on in the United States, will
easily convince us that two opposite tendencies exist in that country,
like two distinct currents flowing in contrary directions in the same
channel. The Union has now existed for forty-five years, and in the
course of that time a vast number of provincial prejudices, which were
at first hostile to its power, have died away. The patriotic feeling
which attached each of the Americans to his own native state is become
less exclusive; and the different parts of the Union have become more
intimately connected the better they have become acquainted with each
other. The post,[279] that great instrument of intellectual intercourse,
now reaches into the backwoods; and steamboats have established daily
means of communication between the different points of the coast. An
inland navigation of unexampled rapidity conveys commodities up and down
the rivers of the country.[280] And to these facilities of nature and
art may be added those restless cravings, that busymindedness, and love
of self, which are constantly urging the American into active life, and
bringing him into contact with his fellow-citizens. He crosses the
country in every direction; he visits all the various populations of the
land; and there is not a province in France, in which the natives are so
well known to each other as the thirteen millions of men who cover the
territory of the United States.

But while the Americans intermingle, they grow in resemblance of each
other; the differences resulting from their climate, their origin, and
their institutions diminish; and they all draw nearer and nearer to the
common type. Every year, thousands of men leave the north to settle in
different parts of the Union; they bring with them their faith, their
opinions, and their manners; and as they are more enlightened than the
men among whom they are about to dwell, they soon rise to the head of
affairs and they adapt society to their own advantage. This continual
emigration of the north to the south is peculiarly favorable to the
fusion of all the different provincial characters into one national
character. The civilisation of the north appears to be the common
standard, to which the whole nation will one day be assimilated.

The commercial ties which unite the confederate states are strengthened
by the increasing manufactures of the Americans; and the union which
began to exist in their opinions, gradually forms a part of their
habits: the course of time has swept away the bugbear thoughts which
haunted the imaginations of the citizens in 1789. The federal power is
not become oppressive; it has not destroyed the independence of the
states; it has not subjected the confederates to monarchical
institutions; and the Union has not rendered the lesser states dependant
upon the larger ones; but the confederation has continued to increase in
population, in wealth, and in power. I am therefore convinced that the
natural obstacles to the continuance of the American Union are not so
powerful at the present time as they were in 1789; and that the enemies
of the Union are not so numerous.

Nevertheless, a careful examination of the history of the United States
for the last forty-five years, will readily convince us that the federal
power is declining; nor is it difficult to explain the causes of this
phenomenon. When the constitution of 1789 was promulgated, the nation
was a prey to anarchy; the Union, which succeeded this confusion,
excited much dread and much animosity; but it was warmly supported
because it satisfied an imperious want. Thus, although it was more
attacked than it is now, the federal power soon reached the maximum of
its authority, as is usually the case with a government which triumphs
after having braced its strength by the struggle. At that time the
interpretation of the constitution seemed to extend rather than to
repress, the federal sovereignty; and the Union offered, in several
respects, the appearance of a single and undivided people, directed in
its foreign and internal policy by a single government. But to attain
this point the people had risen, to a certain extent, above itself.

The constitution had not destroyed the distinct sovereignty of the
states; and all communities, of whatever nature they may be, are
impelled by a secret propensity to assert their independence. This
propensity is still more decided in a country like America, in which
every village forms a sort of republic accustomed to conduct its own
affairs. It therefore cost the states an effort to submit to the federal
supremacy; and all efforts, however successful they may be, necessarily
subside with the causes in which they originated.

As the federal government consolidated its authority, America resumed
its rank among the nations, peace returned to its frontiers, and public
credit was restored; confusion was succeeded by a fixed state of things
which was favorable to the full and free exercise of industrious
enterprise. It was this very prosperity which made the Americans forget
the cause to which it was attributable; and when once the danger was
passed, the energy and the patriotism which had enabled them to brave
it, disappeared from among them. No sooner were they delivered from the
cares which oppressed them, than they easily returned to their ordinary
habits, and gave themselves up without resistance to their natural
inclinations. When a powerful government no longer appeared to be
necessary, they once more began to think it irksome. The Union
encouraged a general prosperity, and the states were not inclined to
abandon the Union; but they desired to render the action of the power
which represented that body as light as possible. The general principle
of union was adopted, but in every minor detail there was an actual
tendency to independence. The principle of confederation was every day
more easily admitted and more rarely applied; so that the federal
government brought about its own decline, while it was creating order
and peace.

As soon as this tendency of public opinion began to be manifested
externally, the leaders of parties, who live by the passions of the
people, began to work it to their own advantage. The position of the
federal government then became exceedingly critical. Its enemies were in
possession of the popular favor; and they obtained the right of
conducting its policy by pledging themselves to lessen its influence.
From that time forward, the government of the Union has invariably been
obliged to recede, as often as it has attempted to enter the lists with
the government of the states. And whenever an interpretation of the
terms of the federal constitution has been called for, that
interpretation has most frequently been opposed to the Union, and
favorable to the states.

The constitution invested the federal government with the right of
providing for the interests of the nation; and it has been held that no
other authority was so fit to superintend the "internal improvements"
which affected the prosperity of the whole Union; such, for instance, as
the cutting of canals. But the states were alarmed at a power, distinct
from their own, which could thus dispose of a portion of their
territory, and they were afraid that the central government would, by
this means, acquire a formidable extent of patronage within their own
confines, and exercise a degree of influence which they intended to
reserve exclusively to their own agents. The democratic party, which has
constantly been opposed to the increase of the federal authority, then
accused the congress of usurpation, and the chief magistrate of
ambition. The central government was intimidated by the opposition; and
it soon acknowledged its error, promising exactly to confine its
influence, for the future, within the circle which was prescribed to it.

The constitution confers upon the Union the right of treating with
foreign nations. The Indian tribes, which border upon the frontiers of
the United States, have usually been regarded in this light. As long as
these savages consented to retire before the civilized settlers, the
federal right was not contested; but as soon as an Indian tribe
attempted to fix its dwelling upon a given spot, the adjacent states
claimed possession of the lands and the rights of sovereignty over the
natives. The central government soon recognized both these claims; and
after it had concluded treaties with the Indians as independent nations,
it gave them up as subjects to the legislative tyranny of the

Some of the states which had been founded upon the coast of the
Atlantic, extended indefinitely to the west, into wild regions, where no
European had ever penetrated. The states whose confines were irrevocably
fixed, looked with a jealous eye upon the unbounded regions which the
future would enable their neighbors to explore. The latter then agreed,
with a view to conciliate the others, and to facilitate the act of
union, to lay down their own boundaries, and to abandon all the
territory which lay beyond those limits to the confederation at
large.[282] Thenceforward the federal government became the owner of all
the uncultivated lands which lie beyond the borders of the thirteen
states first confederated. It was invested with the right of parcelling
and selling them, and the sums derived from this source were exclusively
reserved to the public treasury of the Union, in order to furnish
supplies for purchasing tracts of country from the Indians, for opening
roads to the remote settlements, and for accelerating the increase of
civilisation as much as possible. New states have, however, been formed
in the course of time, in the midst of those wilds which were formerly
ceded by the inhabitants of the shores of the Atlantic. Congress has
gone on to sell, for the profit of the nation at large, the uncultivated
lands which those new states contained. But the latter at length
asserted that, as they were now fully constituted, they ought to enjoy
the exclusive right of converting the produce of these sales to their
own use. As their remonstrances became more and more threatening,
congress thought fit to deprive the Union of a portion of the privileges
which it had hitherto enjoyed; and at the end of 1832 it passed a law by
which the greatest part of the revenue derived from the sale of lands
was made over to the new western republics, although the lands
themselves were not ceded to them.[283]

[The remark of the author, that "whenever an interpretation of the terms
of the federal constitution has been called for, that interpretation has
most frequently been opposed to the Union, and favorable to the states"
requires considerable qualification. The instances which the author
cites, are those of _legislative_ interpretations, not those made by the
judiciary. It may be questioned whether any of those cited by him are
fair instances of _interpretation_. Although the then president and many
of his friends doubted or denied the power of congress over many of the
subjects mentioned by the author, yet the omission to exercise the power
thus questioned, did not proceed wholly from doubts of the
constitutional authority. It must be remembered that all these questions
affected local interests of the states or districts represented in
congress, and the author has elsewhere shown the tendency of the local
feeling to overcome all regard for the abstract interest of the Union.
Hence many members have voted on these questions without reference to
the constitutional question, and indeed without entertaining any doubt
of their power. These instances may afford proof that the federal power
is declining, as the author contends, but they do not prove any actual
interpretation of the constitution. And so numerous and various are the
circumstances to influence the decision of a legislative body like the
congress of the United States, that the people do not regard them as
sound and authoritative expositions of the true sense of the
constitution, except perhaps in those very few cases, where there has
been a constant and uninterrupted practice from the organization of the
government. The judiciary is looked to as the only authentic expounder
of the constitution, and until a law of congress has passed that ordeal,
its constitutionality is open to question: of which our history
furnishes many examples ... There are errors in some of the instances
given by our author, which would materially mislead, if not corrected.
That in relation to the Indians proceeds upon the assumption that the
United States claimed some rights over Indians or the territory occupied
by them, inconsistent with the claims of the states. But this is a
mistake. As to their lands, the United States never pretended to any
right in them, except such as was granted by the cessions of the states.
The principle universally acknowledged in the courts of the United
States and of the several states, is, that by the treaty with Great
Britain in which the independence of the colonies was acknowledged, the
states became severally and individually independent, and as such
succeeded to the rights of the crown of England to and over the lands
within the boundaries of the respective states. The right of the crown
in these lands was the absolute ownership, subject only to the rights of
occupancy by the Indians so long as they remained a tribe. This right
devolved to each state by the treaty which established their
independence, and the United States have never questioned it. See 6th
Cranch, 87; 8th Wheaton, 502, 884; 17th Johnson's Reports, 231. On the
other hand, the right of holding treaties with the Indians has
universally been conceded to the United States. The right of a state to
the lands occupied by the Indians, within the boundaries of such state,
does not in the least conflict with the right of holding treaties on
national subjects by the United States with those Indians. With respect
to Indians residing in any territory _without_ the boundaries of any
state, or on lands ceded to the United States, the case is different;
the United States are in such cases the proprietors of the soil, subject
to the Indian right of occupancy, and when that right is extinguished
the proprietorship becomes absolute. It will be seen, then, that in
relation to the Indians and their lands, no question could arise
respecting the interpretation of the constitution. The observation that
"as soon as an Indian tribe attempted to fix its dwelling upon a given
spot, the adjacent states claimed possession of the lands, and the
rights of sovereignty over the natives"--is a strange compound of error
and of truth. As above remarked, the Indian right of occupancy has ever
been recognized by the states, with the exception of the case referred
to by the author, in which Georgia claimed the right to possess certain
lands occupied by the Cherokees. This was anomalous, and grew out of
treaties and cessions, the details of which are too numerous and
complicated for the limits of a note. But in no other cases have the
states ever claimed the possession of lands occupied by Indians, without


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