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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

The Abolitionists were disliked in the North


the North the effect of the new propaganda was different, but there also it tended to increase the antagonism of the sections. The actual Abolitionists of the school of Garrison were neither numerous nor popular. Even in Boston, where they were strongest, they were often mobbed and their meetings broken up. In Illinois, a Northern State, one of them, Lovejoy, was murdered by the crowd. Such exhibitions of popular anger were not, of course, due to any love of Slavery. The Abolitionists were disliked in the North, not as enemies of Slavery but as enemies of the Union and the Constitution, which they avowedly were. But while the extreme doctrine of Garrison and his friends met with little acceptance, the renewed agitation of the question did bring into prominence the unquestionable fact that the great mass of sober Northern opinion thought Slavery a wrong, and in any controversy between master and slave was inclined to sympathize with the slave. This feeling was probably somewhat strengthened by the publication in 1852 and the subsequent huge international sale of Mrs. Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The practical effect of this book on history is generally exaggerated, partially in consequence of the false view which would make of the Civil War a crusade against Slavery. But a certain effect it undoubtedly had. To such natural sympathy in the main, and not, as the South believed, to sectional jealousy and deliberate bad faith, must be attributed those "Personal Liberty Laws" by which
in many Northern States the provision of the Constitution guaranteeing the return of fugitive slaves was virtually nullified. For some of the provisions of those laws an arguable constitutional case might be made, particularly for the provision which assured a jury trial to the escaped slave. The Negro, it was urged, was either a citizen or a piece of property. If he were a citizen, the Constitution expressly safeguarded him against imprisonment without such a trial. If, on the other hand, he were property, then he was property of the value of more than $50, and in cases where property of that value was concerned, a jury was also legally required. If two masters laid claim to the same Negro the dispute between them would have to be settled by a jury. Why should it not be so where a master claimed to own a Negro and the Negro claimed to own himself? Nevertheless, the effect, and to a great extent the intention, of these laws was to defeat the claim of _bona fide_ owners to fugitive slaves, and as such they violated at least the spirit of the constitutional compact. They therefore afforded a justification for Clay's proposal to transfer the power of recovering fugitive slaves to the Federal authorities. But they also afforded an even stronger justification for Lincoln's doubt as to whether the American Commonwealth could exist permanently half slave and half free.

Finally, among the causes which made a sectional struggle the more inevitable must be counted one to which allusion has already been made in connection with the Presidential Election of 1848--the increasingly patent unreality of the existing party system. I have already said that a party system can endure only if it becomes unreal, and it may be well here to make clear how this is so.

Fundamental debates in a Commonwealth must be _settled_, or the Commonwealth dies. How, for instance, could England have endured if, throughout the eighteenth century, the Stuarts had alternately

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