« PreviousContinue »
have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now at the end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new causes to attest and revere the ustice and goodness of God.
Yours, truly, (Signed.)
An impression is quite common that great men, who make their mark upon the progress of events and the world's history, do it by impressing their own opinions upon nations and communities, in, disregard of their sentiments and prejudices. History does not sustain this view of the case.
No man ever moulded the destiny of a nation except by making the sentiment of that nation his ally-by working with it, by shaping his measures and his policy to its successive developments. But little more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was issued, Washington wrote to a friend in England that the idea of separation from Great Britain was not entertained by any considerable number of the inhabitants of the colonies. If independence had then been proclaimed, it would not have been supported by public sentiment; and its proclamation would have excited hostilities and promoted divisions which might have proved fatal to the cause. Time--the development of events,—the ripening conviction of the necessity of such a measure, were indispensable as preliminary conditions of its success. And one of the greatest elements of Washington's strength was the patient sagacity with which he could watch and wait until these conditions were fulfilled. The position and duty of President Lincoln in regard to Slavery have been very similar. If he had taken counsel only of his own abstract opinions and sympathies, and had proclaimed emancipation at the outset of the war, or had sanctioned the action of those department commanders who assumed to do it
themselves, the first effect would have been to throw all the Border Slave States into the bosom of the slaveholding confederacy, and add their formidable force to the armies of the rebellion: the next result would have been to arouse the political opposition of the loyal States to fresh activity by giving them a rallying cry: and the third would have been to divide the great body of those who agreed in defending the Union, but who did not then agree in regard to the abolition of slavery. Candid men, who pay more regard to facts than to theory, and who can estimate with fairness the results of public action, will have no difficulty in seeing that the probable result of these combined influences would have been such a strengthening of the forces of the Confederacy, and such a weakening of our own, as might have overwhelmed the Administration, and given the rebellion a final and a fatal triumph By awaiting the development of public sentiment, President Lincoln secured a support absolutely essential to success; and there are few persons now, whatever may be their private opinions on slavery, who will not concede that his measures in regard to that subject have been adopted with sagacity and crowned with substantial success.
It is too soon, we are aware, to pronounce definitively on the merits of President LINCOLN's administration. Its policy is still in process of development. If it is allowed to go on without interruption, --if the measures which President LINcoln bas inaugurated for quelling the rebellion and restoring the Union, are permitted to work out their natural results, unchecked by popular impatience and sustained by public confidence, we believe they will end in re-establishing the authority of the Constitution, in restoring the integrity of the Union, in abolishing every vestige of slavery, and in perpetuating the principles of democratic government upon this continent and throughout the world.
LIEUT.-GEN. SCOTT AND MAJ.-GEN. MCCLELLAN.
Allusion is made on a previous page to a letter of advice and suggestions addressed by General McClellan to General Scott, which he afterwards withdrew.
The following correspondence relates to that letter and grew out of it:
GEN. SCOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 1861. SIR:- I received yesterday from Major-General McClellan a letter of that date, to which I design this as my only reply.
Had Major-General McClellan presented the same views in person, they would have been fully entertained and discussed. All my military views and opinions had been so presented to him, without eliciting much remark in our fow meetings which I have in vain sought to multiply. He has stood on his guard and now places himserf on record. Let him make the most of his unenvied advantages.
Major-General McClellan has propagated in high quarters the idea expressed in the letter before me, that Washington was not only "insecure,” but in “imminent danger.”
Relying on our numbers, our forts, and the Potomac river, I am confident in the opposite opinion; and considering the stream of new regiments that is pouring in upon us (before the alarm could have reached their homes), I have not the slightest apprehension for the safety of the Government here.
Having now been unable to mount a horse, or to walk more than a few paces at a time, and consequently being unable to review troopsmuch less to direct them in battle: in short, broken down by many
particular hurts, besides the general infirmities of age--I feel that I have become an incumbrance to the army as well as to myself, and that I ought, gvinig way to a younger commander, to seek the palliatives of physical pain and exhaustion.
Accordingly I must beg the President, at the earliest moment, to allow me to be placed on the officers' retired list, and then quietly to lay myself up—probably for ever-somewhere in or about New York. But wherever I may spend my little remainder of life, my frequent and latest prayer will be—“God save the Union !" I have the honor to be, Sir, with high respect, Your obedient servant,
GEN. M'CLELLAN TO THE PRESIDENT.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 1861. The letter addressed by me under date of the 8th inst. to LieutenantGeneral Scott, commanding the United States Army, was designed to be a plain and respectful expression of my views of the measures demanded for the safety of the Government in the imminent peril that besets it at the present hour. Every moment's reflection and every fact transpiring, convinced me of the urgent necessity of the measures there indicated, and I felt it my duty to him and to the country to communicate them frankly. It is therefore with great pain that I have learned from you this morning, that my views do not meet with the approbation of the Lieutenant-General, and that my letter is unfavorably regarded by him. The command with which I am intrusted was not sought by me, and has only been accepted from an earnest and humble desire to serve my country in the moment of the most extreme peril. With these views I am willing to do and suffer whatever may be required for that service. Nothing could be farther from my wishes than to seek any command or urge any measures not required for the exigency of the occasion, and above all, I would abstain from any conduct that could give offence to General Scott or embarrass the President or any Department of the Government.
Influenced by these considerations, I yield to your request and withdraw the letter referred to. The Government and my superior officer being apprised of what I consider to be necessary and proper for the defence of the National Capital, I shall strive faithfully and zealously to employ the means that may be placed in my power for that purpose, dismissing every personal feeling or consideration, and praying only the
blessing of Divine Providence on my efforts. I will only add that. as you requested my authority to withdraw the letter, that authority is hereby given, with the most profound assurance for General Scott and courself.
GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN.
GENERAL SCOTT TO THE PRESIDENT.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 1861. SIR:-On the 10th inst., I was kindly requested by the President to withdraw my letter to you, of the 9th, in reply to one I had received from Major-General McClellan of the day before—the President at the same time showing me a letter to him from Major-General McClellan, in which, at the instance of the President, he offered to withdraw the original letter on which I had animadverted.
While the President was yet with me, on that occasion, a servant handed me a letter, which proved to be an authenticated copy, under a blank cover, of the same letter from General McClellan to the President. This slight was not without its influence on my mind.
The President's visit, however, was for the patriotic purpose of healing differences, and so much did I honor his motive that I deemed it due to him to hold his proposition under consideration for some little time.
I deeply regret that, notwithstanding my respect for the opinions and wishes of the President, I cannot withdraw the letter in question, for these reasons:
1. The original offence given to me by Major-General McClellan (see his letter of 8th inst.) seems to have been the result of deliberation between him and some of the members of the Cabinet, by whom all the greater war questions are to be settled—without resort to or consulta tion with me, the nominal General-in-Chief of the Army. In further proof of this neglect-although it is unofficially known that in the last week (six days) many regiments have arrived and others have changed their position-some to a considerable distance-not one of these movements has been reported to me (or any thing else) by Major-General McClellan; while it is believed, and I may add known, that he is in frequent communication with portions of the Cabinet, and on matters appertaining to me. That freedom of access and consultation have, very naturally, deluded the junior General into a feeling of indifference towards his senior.