« PreviousContinue »
lief. But the substitutes that are procurable and that are being accepted are most of a very different sort from this. They are Canadians, or aliens just from the other side of the Atlantic. They have no intelligent appreciation of our struggle or our institutions. They come only for money. They would serve just as readily, many of them more readily, on the side of the rebels; and they will desert at the first opportunity, or, guarded against that, are, at least, very likely to prove faithless in battle.
[Since the above words were spoken, we have had a practical proof in this city of their truth. I ask you, young men, and brother-conscripts,-you who mean to be true sons of your country and do your whole duty to her and answer honorably her call for help,- Is it such creatures as fled the other night from Pierian Hall that you are willing to send in your stead to the defence of your mother, the country? Can you, without a blush of honest shame, call such men- swindlers, perjurers, runaways- your substitutes? Are you ready to have your patriotism measured by their character, and to own that men who can only be kept for the service by being guarded in jail can do your work in this holy cause?]
There are some reasons of feeling, which, with many persons, are conclusive against a substitute. in their own case; but these, since they are reasons of feeling, and therefore not of general application, I do not here consider. But this point which I
have considered — the danger there is of putting into our armies, through the practice of procuring substitutes, a large class of men who have no zeal nor faith in our cause presents to every drafted man, and to the whole community, an argument that should receive the most weighty and serious attention. Besides, leaving out of view the danger of bad faith on the part of the substitutes that are generally procurable, there ought, I think, to be some patriotic pride in this matter. Is it possible that, with the large population there is in the loyal States of the requisite age, still untouched, the country cannot raise another army of its own citizens to go to its defence? Are we so degenerate that we cannot close this war, and save our country and its cherished principles without calling in to our aid an army of foreign mercenaries?
But let me conclude by giving briefly the three positive considerations which, in addition to the more personal reasons I have expressed, have outweighed all objections in my own case, and brought me to the decision that I have made; and they are considerations which, in my opinion, should have general regard. First, the value of the moral element in an army is to be considered, and alongside of this the moral effect of men leaving positions of usefulness and comfort and honor to enter the army. If our cause is the just and sacred cause that most of us believe it to be, then no man among us is too good or stands in too high a position to give himself to it, or for it, in what
ever way the country may call for his services. And the better and more enlightened the men are who go to make up the army, the purer and higher becomes the cause, and the more it becomes linked with the truest and holiest interests of the country, and the more elevated and earnest becomes the patriotism of the country. Moreover, this war has proved, if it was not proved before, that it is not bad men, or rough men, or always men of the stoutest bodies, that make the best soldiers, but that character, earnestess, faith, serve in an army as everywhere else. Not the low population of our cities, brought up to fighting, but youths delicately nurtured in wealthy and refined homes, and polished with the culture of colleges, have done some of the best service as soldiers in this war. Other things being equal, the truer a man is in character, the better soldier will he make. And, when other things are not equal, solidity of character and a heart in the cause will often more than make up for deficiency of bodily strength.
Secondly, men who might choose the alternative of staying at home ought to consider their duties toward those who, on account of their circumstances, must accept the alternative of going. The great complaint against the draft has been that the rich and cultivated those who can easily command three hundred dollars would remain at home, while the poorer class would be obliged to go. Now every one, if possible, ought to act so that there shall be left no show of justice in this
complaint. Every drafted man who is not kept at home by very important considerations, every one who might stay at home, but can go, ought to go for this reason, if no other, the encouragement and support of those who must go. Let it be seen that this draft is a fair thing, and that we mean to abide by it fairly, and that it is a democratic thing, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the man who labors with his hands and the man who labors with his brains, as they all have an equal interest in the country's preservation, so all standing side by side and shoulder to shoulder in its defence.
Thirdly and finally, and in some respects the most important consideration of all, what is most needed now for putting an effectual end to this rebellion, with all its causes and consequences, is a general uprising of the people to the support of the government, to the support of it against not only rebellion in the South, but against secret treason and open violence at home. Let the people of all classes not merely show submission, but respond with cheerful alacrity to this draft, each one going to his place in the army as to a post of solemn duty, and not only would the war soon come to an end, but the stability of republican institutions would be insured forever. The spectacle of a great people, including all classes, thus rising cheerfully and harmoniously together to meet the demands of a draft, saying to one another, "Our sons and brothers who could volunteer in this holy cause
have gone, and we have now cast lots to see who shall go to stand by their sides or to defend their graves; and we, to whom the lots have fallen, now come ready in hand and heart for the service to which our country calls us," such a spectacle would be a grander exhibition than was that first. uprising of the people at the outset of the war; and an army so formed would be nobler in its invincible determination than even an army of volunteers. God grant that I may be one in such an army! God grant, and the patriotic hearts of this community grant, that there may be many to stand with me! Could such an army spring up, I doubt if it would even have to march out of the loyal States, for it would be recognized as the army of the invincible fates, as the hosts of Heaven's retributive justice; and rebellion, violence, treason, oppression, lawless rage, and every foul wrong of war that now devastates our land, would shrink from before it into the darkness of annihilation, and law, liberty, and peace would be established in triumph and forever over a reunited country.