Page images
PDF
EPUB

about nothing else than to put it down. We are not so strong and so entirely certain of success that we can afford to be divided amongst ourselves by premature issues. Moreover, we shall not know what will be our duty to the conquered South until we shall have conquered her, and seen in what temper the conquest leaves her. As we advance into the enemy's territory, let it be subjected to a military or other temporary government; and when, if ever, the whole territory shall be ours, then let the terms of a Treaty of Peace, and not a mere Proclamation, say whether the governments and constitutions of that territory shall be as they were before, or shall be so modified as to meet any reasonable demands for their modification. That the Treaty of Peace will have no right to modify them is absurd. That the Constitution will stand in the way of it is ridiculous. When half a nation arms itself against the other half, and throws off the common Constitution, it is for that other half, if victorious, to choose whether it will or will not treat the conquered rebels according to the Constitution. It may, at its own option, treat them as rebels, or as it would foreign enemies. In such circumstances it is bound by no code nor Constitution. It is a law unto itself; and in the light of that law it is to decide what the national welfare calls for. I am free to say that I would have the Treaty revive all the conquered States, and all those rights to which they were formerly entitled under the Constitution. I say it, because I would that they might be found worthy of it. But to repose such confidence in those States, were they still impenitent and revengeful, and waiting and longing for another opportunity to strike at the heart of the nation, would be madness; and would be an immeasurable wrong as well toward the conquered as toward the conquerors. The conquered States will be entitled to nothing in virtue of their rights under their former relations. What they have done to break up these relations, (the North is entirely innocent of any thing to this end,) has worked the forfeiture of all those rights. In the name, however, of wisdom as well as humanity, let the Treaty accord to them all that it would be safe for them and for us to have accorded. Let it restore to them gladly and lovingly, all the rights of sister States, provided only that, in a sound view of the circumstances, prudence shall not forbid so entire a restoration.

I expressed my preference for a Treaty of Peace. It was proper that Washington should proclaim on what terms a local insurrection in Pennsylvania might be pacified and ended. But I would not leave it even to a Washington to decide on what terms the two halves of a mighty nation should make peace with each other.

The Proclamations! Our President is both a strong and an honest man. Moreover, his patriotic heart is firmly set on subduing the Rebellion. Nevertheless, even he, as well as other men, may fall into errors. I do not complain that his Proclamation of Free. dom did not cover all the slaves. It covered as many as in his convictions the exigencies of war allowed him to declare free; and he

5

certainly had no moral right to extend his Proclamation beyond these convictions. In his civil capacity he could not liberate a single slave; and in his military capacity he could liberate only so many as there was a military necessity for liberating. What I do complain of is his recognition of the right of the Supreme Court to pass upon that Proclamation. This Court has not the right to say whether it is or is not valid and operative; and I would that Congress might protest unanimously and most solemnly against the President's l'ecognition of it. Let this Court, if it please, take into its hands whatever Proclamations the President may make in his civil capacity. But in regard to all those which he puts forth as Head of the Army, I would say to it : “Hands off!" It is true that it is the Constitution, of which this Court is the acknowledged interpreter, which makes the President the Head of the Army. But it is also true that it is the LAW OF WAR and not the Constitution, which tells him what he may do in that capacity. What if among his military orders should be one to poison the springs and wells and food in the enemy's territory !- would our country submit to it, in case the Supreme Court should sanction it ? None the less because of that sanction would our whole country along with the whole civilized world rise up against the barbarous order. Surely, surely this Court necds no encouragement to enlarge its powers. The Dred Scott case is of itself sufficient to prove that its tendency is to set no limits to those powers.

Hundreds of thousands are petitioning Congress to abolish what remains of American Slavery. The "Confiscation and Emancipation Bill” left comparatively little of it; and then came the President's Proclamation to make even that little less. I hope Congress will grant the petition. There are some persons who hold that Congress can, as a civil measure, enact the abolition of Slaveryand this, too, without providing any indemnity. There are also some who hold that there can be no legal Slavery under a Constitution which requires "a republican form of government” in all the States, and also requires that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” And there are some persons of such extreme views as to hold that Slavery, being the matchless crime against God and man, can no more than murder itself, be legalized by any Constitution, or embodied in any real law. But I could wish that Congress might avoid all these questions and abolish Slavery as a war measure, and accompany the abolition with a suitable indemnity to loyal slaveholders.

I notice that the plans for military canals are already coming before Congress, and that an objection to building the canal around Niagara Falls is much urged. It is a taking one, inasmuch as it appeals to local interests.and individual selfishness. This objection is, that Western produce, when once afloat on Lake Ontario, will descend the St. Lawrence, and thus be lost to our cities. And is this an objection? Most certainly, the race of bad logicians is not

In the first place, the Government does not propose to build these canals for commerce, but for military protection and advantage. And in the next place, if the Niagara Canal shall give to the immense agricultural West a better market on the St. Lawrence than it can have in Boston, New-York, or Philadelphia, then ought the whole nation to rejoice in the prospect of the building of that Canal. To get better prices for its produce is of infinitely greater importance to our country than to keep undiminished a few branches of trade in a few of its cities. Because I have some land in your Oswego, I naturally desire to have a share of the vessels laden with Western produce turn into that city, and so benefit her as well as Boston and New-York. But it would be very selfish and mean in me to desire this if the produce can find a better market on the St. Lawrence. Rather should I say, let Oswego be deserted; and let Montreal outgrow New-York, if she can do so by attracting the produce and increasing the wealth of our farmers. But I apprehend that the great West will be sadly disappointed, if she expects by means of the Niagara Canal to have a better market on the St. Lawrence, which for half the year is closed with ice, than she can have elsewhere. If this is her expectation from that Canal, then so far she is unwise in calling for the building of it. The Canal will be an important military work; but it will bring comparatively little to the markets of Canada.

yet extinct.

And I also notice, that there is a movement in Congress to terminate the Reciprocity Treaty--that Treaty which, you remember, I worked so hard for when I was a Member of Congress. I hope that my country will not be guilty of the illiberality and unsound political economy of refusing to exchange natural productions with any country. The complaint is, that Canada sells too much to us. But if she is profited by selling to us, so are we by buying of her. If the lumberman in Maine can not get as much for his lumber under the “Reciprocity Treaty," there is nevertheless a fill equivalent in the fact that the builder in Ohio buys his Canada lumber far cheaper because of that Treaty. If it is a gain to sell dear, so it is also a gain to buy cheap. We have now free access to the vast and rich forests of Canada. What a folly to cut ourselves off from this advantage for the miserable reason that Canada enjoys a corresponding advantage !-- that whilst we reap the profit of buying her lumber, she reaps the profit of selling it to us! But it is held that the price of our wheat, as well as of our lumber, is reduced by this Canada competition. Can it, however, make any material difference to our farmers, whether the Canada wheat goes to Liverpool by the St. Lawrence or by New-York and Boston ? Both our country and Canada grow a surplus of wheat; and hence, in the case of both, the price is regulated by the foreign market. Canada wheat will come into competition with ours, whether we do or do not continue to enjoy the advantage of transporting it across our country. Why then should we surrender This advantage? And it is also held that free Canada coal cheap ens the price of ours. The more the better, declare reason and

humanity! And in response to this declaration, all the people, including especially the shivering poor, cry: “Amen!”

I close with inquiring who they are that clamor for Tariffs and the termination of the "Reciprocity Treaty”? They are few else than the comparative handful, who desire higher prices for what they have to sell

. The masses, and especially the poor who make up so large a share of the masses, desire low prices. In, then, their name and behalf let us favor, not the policy which makes dear, but that which makes cheap, the necessaries of life!

Your friend, GERRIT SMITII.

LETTER TO HON. PRESTON KING.

ernment.

PETERBORO, January 29th, 1864., Hon. PRESTON KING :

DEAR Sı: It was your and my privilege to meet, a day or two Since, with a number of intelligent gentlemen, and to exchange views with them. It was gratifying to find them all so faithful to the Constitution, the Union, and the country, and therefore so intent on crushing the Rebellion.

I was, however, not a little surprised and sorry to find that they were, generally, very sensitive in regard to criticisms on the Gov

For instance, although they were ready to say that it is our right to prosecute the war as well under the Law of War as under the Constitution, they, nevertheless, shrunk from saying that nothing in the Constitution on attainder, or on any thing else, should be plead in mitigation of the penalties incurred by the rebels. Why did they shrink from it? Simply because the President, whose

few mistakes are as nothing compared with his good and grand deeds, had put in such a plea, and Congress had accepted it. But it never should have been put in nor accepted. How false, even ludicrously false, our position in consequence of this misstep of the Government! We take away his property from the armed rebel. We want to shoot him. But if we do shoot him, the property passes away from us! And thus have we tempted ourselves to spare him! The simple truth is, that we have not only all, but more than all, the rights of war against the rebels that we have against a foreign enemy. For the Constitution, which the rebels have flung away, but which we still hold over them, arms us with punishments beyond those provided for by the International Code of War.

Still more did these gentlemen shrink from saying that it is hazardous to the welfare of the masses, and fearfully violative of the great and sacred majority principle, on which rests Republican Government, to authorize a comparative handful to mould, and impose upon a State, a permanent form of government. The President, however, had authorized it, and hence, in the esteem of those gentlemen, the measure was put beyond criticism. I say nothing against providing, in whatever way, a temporary government, to meet the exigencies of war. But peace alone can afford the composure and advantages which are necessary to devise and mature a permanent form of government. Let me here add, that the Constitution, with its every line and letter, should be dear to us all. But the majority principle is its very soul; and hence, to violate it is to strike at the existence of the Constitution. One effect of authorizing this little minority to construct a permanent form

« PreviousContinue »