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misgiving, is no longer an element of strength, but of disintegration, to the conspiracy. The Rebel leaders can make no concessions; the country is unanimously resolved that the war shall be prosecuted, at whatever cost; and if the war go on, will it leave slavery with any formidable strength in the South ? and without that, need there be any fear of effective opposition in the North?
“While every day was bringing the people nearer to the conclusion which all thinking men saw to be inevitable from the beginning, it was wise in Mr. Lincoln to leave the shaping of his policy to events. In this country, where the rough and ready understanding of the people is sure at last to be the controlling power, a profound common-sense is the best genius for statesmanship. Hitherto the wisdom of the President's measures has been justified by the fact that they have always resulted in more firmly uniting public opinion. It is a curious comment on the sincerity of political professions, that the party calling itself Democratic should have been the last to recognize the real movement and tendency of the popular mind. The same gentlemen who two years ago were introducing resolutions in Congress against coercion, are introducing them now in favor of the war, but against subjugation. Next year they may be in favor of emancipation, but against abolition. It does not seem to have occurred to them that the one point of difference between a civil and a foreign war is, that in the former, one of the parties must by the very nature of the case be put down, and the other left in possession of the government. Unless the country is to be divided, no compromise is possible, and, if one side must yield, shall it be the nation or the conspirators ? A government may make, and any wise government would make, concessions to men who have risen against real grievances; but to make them in favor of a rebellion that had no juster cause than the personal
ambition of a few bad men, would be to abdicate. Southern politicians, however, have always been so dexterous in drawing nice distinctions, that they may find some consolation inappreciable by obtuser minds in being coerced instead of subjugated.
“If Mr. Lincoln continue to act with the firmness and prudence which have hitherto distinguished him, we think he has little to fear from the efforts of the opposition. Men without sincere convictions are hardly likely to have a well-defined and settled policy, and the blunders they havo hitherto committed must make them cautious. If their personal hostility to the President be unabated, we may safely count on their leniency to the opinion of majorities, and the drift of public sentiment is too strong to be mistaken. They have at last discovered that there is such a thing as Country, which has a meaning for men's minds and a hold upon their hearts; they may make the further discovery, that this is a revolution that has been forced on us, and not merely a civil war. In any event, an opposition is a wholesome thing; and we are only sorry that this is not a more wholesome opposition.
“We believe it is the general judgment of the country on the acts of the present administration, that they have been, in the main, judicious and well-timed. The only doubt about some of them seems to be as to their constitutionality. It has been sometimes objected to our form of government, that it was faulty in having a written constitution which could not adapt itself to the needs of the time as they arose. But we think it rather a theoretic than a practical objection; for in point of fact there has been hardly a leading measure of any administration that has not been attacked as unconstitutional, and wbich was not carried nevertheless. Purchase of Louisiana, Embargo, Removal of the De
posits, Annexation of Texas, not to speak of others less important,-on the unconstitutionality of all these, powerful parties have appealed to the country, and invariably the decision has been against them. The will of the people for the time being has always carried it. In the present instance, we purposely refrain from any allusion to the moral aspects of the question. We prefer to leave the issue to experience and common-sense. Has any sane man ever doubted on which side the chances were in this contest? Can any sane man who has watched the steady advances of opinion, forced onward slowly by the immitigable logic of facts, doubt what the decision of the people will be in this matter? The Southern conspirators have played a desperate stake, and, if they had won, would have bent the whole policy of the country to the interests of slavery. Filibustering would have been nationalized, and the slave-trade re-established as the most beneficent form of missionary enterprise. But if they lose ? They have, of their own choice, put the chance into our hands of making this continent the empire of a great homogeneous population, substantially one in race, language, and religion,—the most prosperous and powerful of nations. Is there a doubt what the decision of a victorious people will be ? If we were base enough to decline the great commission which Destiny lays on us, should we not deserve to be ranked with those dastards whom the stern Florentine condemns as hateful alike to God and God's enemies ?
"We would not be understood as speaking lightly of the respect due to constitutional forms, all the more essential under a government like ours and in times like these. But where undue respect for the form will lose us the substance, and where the substance, as in this case, is nothing less than the country itself, to be over-scrupulous would be unwise. Who are most tender in their solicitude that we
keep sacred the letter of the law, in order that its spirit may not keep us alive ? Mr. Jefferson Davis and those who, in the Free States, would have been his associates, but must content themselves with being his political guerilleros. If Davis had succeeded, would he have had any scruples of constitutional delicacy? And if he has not succeeded, is it not mainly owing to measures which his disappointed partisans denounce as unconstitutional ?
“We cannot bring ourselves to think that Mr. Lincoln nas done any thing that would furnish a precedent dangerous to our liberties, or in any way overstepped the just limits of his constitutional discretion. If his course has been unusual, it was because the danger was equally
It cannot be so truly said that he has strained his prerogative, as that the imperious necessity has exercised its own.
Surely the framers of the Constitution never dreamed that they were making a strait waistcoat, in which the nation was to lie helpless while traitors were left free to do their will. In times like these, men seldom settle precisely the principles on which they shall act, but rather adjust those on which they have acted to the lines of precedent as well as they can after the event. This is what the English Parliament did in the Act of Settlement. Congress, after all, will only be called on for the official draft of an enactment, the terms of which have been already decided by agencies beyond their control. Even while they are debating, the current is sweeping them onward toward new relations of policy. At worst, a new precedent is pretty sure of pardon, if it successfully meet a new occasion. It is a harmless pleasantry to call Mr. Lincoln ' Abraham the First,'—we remember when i similar title was applied to President Jackson; and it will not be easy, we suspect, to persuade a people who have more liberty than they know what to do with, that they are the victims of despotic tyranny,
"Mr. Lincoln probably thought it more convenient, to say the least, to have a country left without a constitution, than a constitution without a country. We have no doubt we shall save both; for if we take care of the one, the other will take care of itself. Sensible men, and it is the sensible men in any country who at last shape its policy, will be apt to doubt whether it is true conservatism, after the fire is got under, to insist on keeping up the flaw in the chimney by which it made its way into the house. Radicalism may be a very dangerous thing, and so is calomel, but not when it is the only means of saving the life of the patient. Names are of great influence in ordinary times, when they are backed by the vis inertice of life-long prejudice, but they have little power in comparison with a sense of interest; and though, in peaceful times, it may be highly respectable to be conservative merely for the sake of being so, though without very clear notions of any thing in particular to be conserved, what we want now is the prompt decision that will not hesitate between the bale of silk and the ship when a leak is to be stopped. If we succeed in saving the great landmarks of freedom, there will be no difficulty in settling our constitutional boundaries again. We have no sympathy to spare for the pretended anxieties of men who, only two years gone, were willing that Jefferson Davis should break all the ten commandments together, and would now impeach Mr. Lincoln for a scratch on the surface of the tables where they are engraved."
As soon as the publication was received and read by the President, he sent to the publishers the following letter:
“ EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, January 16th, 1864. Messrs. Crosby & Nichols :
“ GENTLEMEN : The number for this month and year of the North American Review was duly received and for which please accept my thanks. Of course I am not the most impartial