« PreviousContinue »
that the fiery Lannes was but a dyer and a volunteer; that Massena, Moreau, Junot, Soult, Augereau, Bernadotte, Hoche, Mortier, and others of the grande armée, all rose from the ranks; all were volunteers, and none had any military education. Bessières was a hairdresser, and St. Cyr a drawing-master; and both were volunteers and common soldiers. Yet it will not be disputed that they were at last good officers. The list could be considerably enlarged, but it will suffice. If a dyer and hairdresser could do such deeds, surely a butcher may, after he has had experience. Men are born great generals as they are born poets — training is undoubtedly necessary, but training is not all.
As for our soldiers, they have learned hard lessons, and profited by them. The defeat at Bull's Run was certainly unfortunate in one sense- -it exposed us to a fire of criticism not always in the best taste. But let us take those criticisms quietly: much of them was deserved; though it is not taken into account that, despite the sad spectacle of that day's panic, there was a great deal of hard fighting on that field, most honourable to untried and undisciplined troops. At Leesburg, at Springfield, the soldiers fought like veterans; and it will yet be seen that they are capable of heroic endurance and terrible energy. Had the battle of Bull's Run been a victory instead of a defeat, it might have ended the war, perhaps; but the great cause of freedom would not have been gained. The North would have compromised; if a peace had been patched up, it could only have been temporary. The South and the North have more lessons to learn; and no peace which does not tear up the very roots of the rebellion will ever be permanent. I am one of those who believe that God does not mean us to conquer, until dire experience has brought us sternly to face the real facts. If we do not now settle absolutely the question of slavery, we have much to answer for to the future. A great trust will have been betrayed; and this settlement must be made, not in a spirit of revenge, but of justice.
Meanwhile, the action of the South has been such as by no means to recommend its cause. The States have repudiated their just debts; refused to pay to merchants of the North the
money due to them for goods honestly supplied; have driven out well-disposed and quiet persons who refuse the oath of allegiance to their treasonable conspiracy; and have been guilty of acts of ferocity which even passion cannot excuse. On the field of battle they have murdered wounded and defenceless men; fired into ambulances; wreaked their barbarism on dead bodies; and shot down, in cold blood, peaceable men who differed from them. Of these facts there is but too much proof. I know that much is to be forgiven to passion; but there is a limit; and feel assured that few Southern men would wish to justify such barbarities, but rather would indignantly deny them. Yet listen to the Richmond Examiner, the direct organ of the Confederate Government.
The Editor is speaking of the Unionists of a portion of Western Virginia, and says:-" The most of them have packed up, ready to leave for Yankeedom at the shortest possible notice. In Braxton County every Tory has been shot by his neighbour; and in several other counties the citizens devoted to the Confederate cause are doing good service in the same
The following extract from Colonel Geary's official report of the recent skirmish at Bolivar Heights, on the Potomac, has stood for at least ten days uncontradicted, says the New York Tribune:-"One of the Union soldiers taken by the enemy was Corporal Third Wisconsin Regiment, who was wounded in the action. The other corporal, Benaiah Pratt, of Company A, Twenty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, was accidentally taken by a few of the enemy, whom he mistook for Massachusetts men; their uniforms corresponding in all respects to that of the latter. The four men who were killed were afterwards charged upon by the cavalry, and stabbed through the body: stripped of all their clothing, not excepting shoes and stockings, and left in perfect nudity. One was laid out in the form of crucifixion, with his hands spread, and cut through the palms with a dull knife. This inhuman treatment incensed our troops exceedingly; and I fear its consequences may be shown in retaliating acts hereafter."
In the North and West the absence of violence of tone
against the South is remarkable. Even while sons, and brothers, and fathers are shedding their blood to maintain the cause of freedom, justice, and popular rights, against States in revolution against the Federal power, she apologises for the South. She believes that they are misled. She would gladly make up the breach and pardon the revolted States. But she does not intend to flinch from her duty-nor, I hope, to compromise and betray the future. Every day strengthens her in her resolution, and believing her cause to be just, she will fight the good fight and conquer in the end.
Whether or not particular men have been disunionists and preached disunion, is, it seems to me, little to the purpose. Far behind this lies the great question, Whether under the constitution disunion is possible? If not, then these doctrines are simply revolutionary. They do not shake the constitution. Though Ireland defame and assault the constitution of Great Britain, though the Chartists threaten it, and Smith O'Brien organise an armed rebellion, that constitution still stands; and it would be preposterous to argue that the doctrines thus propounded, even though they were a thousand-fold more widely and fiercely expressed, afforded any just interpretation of the constitution of Great Britain.
As for a division into various confederacies, which is regarded in England as the most proper and satisfactory end of this conflict, I think the country will never submit to that till chaos comes, for it would be chaos to America. The example of conflicting States in Europe standing in mutual dread of each other, constantly on the brink of war, keeping up an artificial scheme of balance of power, dreading the might, now of France, now of Austria, exhausting the resources of the nations in great armies and navies, merely to guard against contingencies and sudden outbreaks of war, is not a cheerful one. Europe is a failure. It cannot be offered as an example to follow, but to avoid. A division of America into confederacies would be fatal. On the borders, so long as slavery exists, there would be constant inflammation and irritation. Standing armies would be necessary to prevent irruptions. Constant conflicts would occur as to the navigation of great rivers. The
South would gain no advantage as to her fugitive slaves, but utter loss. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine any advantage to be gained by any one of the States, though the disadvantages are large and manifest. Such a consummation is devoutly to be prayed against.
The future of America is in the hands of God. I cannot believe that here is to be an end of the great Republic. The Union must be preserved, and, by the blessing of God, it will be. A tremendous strain upon its weak part has for a time broken it asunder; but the country is in earnest, and it again will be established-not united by the poor solder of compromise, but with the stern matter of justice and right. These are the only means by which States ever can be consolidated. The rotten part of the great structure of the American Republic was slavery, and slavery cannot be welded together with liberty without slowly disintegrating it. We began as a republic, and we had become an oligarchy, domineered over by the slave power with which our fathers had compromised. Let us not again make the same fatal mistake. Repeated compromises have brought America to the verge of ruin. We must now insist on justice and right in reconstructing our Union-not for the sake of the North alone, but for the sake of all-north, south, east, and west-and for the sake of humanity. The crisis is a great one. America must expect to suffer for a time. She is not worthy of her great trust if she cannot endure the trial, and come out of it stronger than ever. If she must learn her lesson by defeat, let her not be disheartened. If she have courage and persistency for right, all will end well. The soft clay which goes into the furnace is made hard and durable only by fire. Republican institutions are on their trial. They must not fail. That would be a loss to civilisation and the world.
W. W. S.
Rome, Dec. 1.
London:-STRANGEWAYS & WALLEN, Printers, 28 Castle St. Leester Sq.