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It has been said, and is often repeated, that the United States of America are trying a great social experiment, upon the result of which hangs the future fate not of America only, but to a certain extent, of all mankind.
The consequences likely to flow from the success or failure of this experiment, are doubtless exaggerated; for those universal laws which regulate the feelings and the actions of men, will ultimately produce their necessary effects, in spite of narrow systems of policy and morals, founded upon the success or failure of any single experiment.
But whatever we may think of its probable consequences, however fancy may magnify, or reason may diminish them, the experiment itself is a great one. It is in fact far more complicated and more critical, and therefore greater and more interesting, than it is commonly represented.
The American experiment is usually described, as purely an experiment of democracy; an attempt to establish a perfect equality of political rights; an essay towards the equal distribution among all the members of the community, of freedom, property, knowledge, social advantages, and those other good things which make up the mass of human happiness. And this experiment-as we are assured by every writer, native, or foreign, who has touched upon the subject, owing to the peculiar circumstances of the country, is carried on to the greatest possible advan
tage, not being compelled to encounter a multitude of hostile influences, by which such an undertaking, any where else, would be most vigorously opposed.
This is not a true representation of the case. If in certain parts of the American Union, the experiment of Democracy be steadily and quietly pursued, and with an influence and a feeling in its favor which have at length become predominant, in certain other parts of the country it is quite overshadowed, and is reduced to creep pale and sickly on the ground, by another experiment, less talked about, less celebrated, but not the less real or important, to wit, the experiment of Despotism.
The Northern States of the Union are unquestionable Democracies, and every day they are verging nearer and nearer towards the simple idea and theoretic perfection of that form of government. The Southern States of the Union, though certain democratic principles are to be found in their constitutions and their laws, are in no modern sense of the word entitled to the appellation of Democracies: They are Aristocracies; and aristocracies of the sternest and most odious kind. Property, and all the rights, advantages and enjoyments which the laws bestow, are limited to certain families and their descendants. Certain other families and their offspring, to the latest generation, are not only deprived of all political privileges and social advantages, but they are the hereditary subjects, servants, bondsmen of the privileged class. Every man of the privileged order who is possessed of any property at all, is apt to own at least one slave; if he is rich, he may own a thousand; but whether one or a thousand, of those he does own, the laws create him with but a single slight, and in fact merely nominal exception, the absolute master, lord and despot. In their relation towards each other, the members of the privileged class are nominally equal; and in that aspect, it may happen that the lord of a plantation and five hundred slaves, shall be a great stickler for liberty and equality. But the liberty and