Page images

they deserve some weight with those who have assumed the responsibility of directing our public policy, amidst these formidable possibilities.

There is one other consideration, which time will perhaps show to be the most important of all. It is, the radical and fundamental nature of the principles at issue in the present contest. Essentially, it is an “irrepressible conflict” of two hostile civilizations or forms of human society and government, which have got footing on our continent. And as the conflict goes on, the irreconcilable nature of it will develop itself more and more. Already the passions are kindled of a strife infinitely more bitter and desperate than most persons deemed possible a year ago. And every step that is taken in it, every change in policy which circumstances compel, makes it more difficult either to retreat from it, or to compose any terms of peace. The opposition of polity is full as radical as the moral antagonism. Feudality is dispersive, aristocratic, imperious, full of local pride ; democracy is centralizing, lerelling, proud of the greatness and power that come of wide territory, and readily submissive to that law which is the voice of the universal will. The difference is one of instinct and habit, full as much as in the ethical principles involved. We have no doubt that just as genuine a horror is felt in the South at those arbitrary acts which our government has done when circumstances compelled, - like the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, which was eagerly assented to by all good citizens, and the military conscription, which was not announced until the popular voice imperatively demanded it,as we feel here at those acts which for the past year and a half have made the Southern rule an unmitigated tyranny, but are regarded there as the necessary policy of defence. One rests on the universal habit of deference to law and constituted authorities, which everybody is free to criticise, and nobody to disobey. The other rests on the despotic temper of a class of men to whom defeat at the polls is the signal of armed resistance; who seized the reins of power by sheer usurpation, and swept their States into rebellion, one after another, by an undisguised coup d'état. It is as distinctly a war of hostile polities as the civil war of England, or that

between Richelieu and the provincial nobility of France.

No other equal antagonist is found to feudal pride, excepting democratic liberty. The great passions which make the strength of each are more and more developed in the conflict. The great principles which underlie them are brought into clearer relief. Any compromise between them becomes more difficult with every blow that is struck in the obstinate fight. Underneath the “war of politicians,” which this struggle in its phases hitherto has been called, smoulder the fires which burn outward from the hot core, and must soon flame up in a war of principles. Feudal despotism on one side, democratic freedom on the other; one assuming for its basis the slavery of the working class, the other adopting as its watchword the equal liberty of all.

It is not for us to doubt the issue of the conflict. The triumph of either principle can be had only by the conquest and extermination of the other, as a sovereign power on this continent. Such, we believe, is the conviction that is coming fast to be entertained by all who have the intellectual courage to look the whole matter in the face. Terms of compromise and intervals of truce may come before the final decision. A quick and overwhelming victory won by the forces already in the field may adjourn the final phases of the struggle, and grant some years of treacherous alliance between the prevailing and the declining power. But even that seems hardly likely now. The passion and pride of our adversaries have chosen to set everything at stake in this tremendous game, played for the dominion of a continent. Everything so ventured can be covered by a larger stake, taken from the incomparably vaster resources at command of our government. And the longer the game goes on, the less likely either party seems to quit the field. Whatever the South can command of money and men, of calculating sympathy abroad and fanatical partisanship at home, of military strength or naval skill, of wealth in production or art in manufacture, is pledged, fiercely and unhesitatingly, for the chances of victory. It scorns the half-triumph there might be in consenting to any terms but such as concede all its haughtiest claims. The purpose with which it began this war was that it should be the 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. II.



imperial power of this continent, without peer or rival.* And it will condescend to accept nothing less than that, as the measure of the victory it claims.

Slowly, through the lingering fortunes and late kindling passions of a year and a half of war, it has roused an adversary of equal obstinacy and pride, of material resources incomparably greater, and of intelligence and skill, if not superior, at least far more largely diffused. The great landmarks which Nature has traced upon this continent are such that there can be no partition of territory between the hostile forces. Our mountain ranges and our river valleys lie from north to south. The pride and the invincible determination of the Northern population have resolved that they shall not be crossed by national boundaries, or controlled by a hostile power. As the price of union, it has offered equal participation in the glories and liberties of the nation, equal protection in whatever local rights and social institutions the South may choose to keep. The offer, urgently pressed through twenty years of compromise, - still carried in the left hand to win, while the right hand held the sword to compel, – has been disdainfully rejected. Submission will be yielded only on absolute exhaustion or extinction. The terrific vitality of the insurrection, after a succession of blows that seemed inevitably mortal, — the ruinous blockade, the loss of every national fort but three, the opening of the Western rivers and absolute control of the Gulf commerce by the North, to say nothing of the losses and desolations of the war, - gives emphasis to the boast so often made, that the last man should perish, and the last hand able to wield a sword should be stricken down, before surrender could be thought of. And our government, which in reluctant sincerity undertook the task of restoring order, peace, and law, that had been assailed by a few conspirators, may yet find itself confronted with the appalling necessity of waging a war of extermination over

* "The process of disintegration in the old Union may be expected to go on with almost absolute certainty. We are now the nucleus of a growing power, which, if we are true to ourselves, our destiny, and our high mission, will become the controlling power on this continent.— Speech of A. H. Stephens at Savannah, March 21, 1861. In the same speech he says of slavery: “ This stone, which was rejected by the first builders, is become the chief stone of the corner in our new edifice."

half a continent, or else of retreating, baffled and humbled, not by the superior power of its enemies, but by the mere horror of the task.

How large a “Union element may still be left in the seceded States, it is of course impossible for us to say. Recent testimony, from the most respectable source,* assures us that multitudes of loyal citizens are still waiting there for assurance that the government will have the power and the will to protect them. Meanwhile, the “ Confederacy” seems to have both the power and the will to sacrifice them utterly to its implacable ambition.. It seems impossible that the entire structure of society in the South so far as it rests on class dominion and the ownership of slaves — should not be crushed in the collision of two such powers as those now engaged. Such, at least, is the terror freely expressed in Virginia, where the effects of the war are plainest to see and most keenly felt. While in Kentucky, where the issue has been most frankly and bravely accepted, emancipation is admitted, even urged, as an alternative to the monstrous calamity that would follow the triumph of Disunion.

It is as a relief to the fearful looking forward to despotism, anarchy, and perpetual war, that our government is now called to accept distinctly the policy of universal emancipation. By what particular measures it is to be carried out, we do not affect to prescribe. The necessary thing to see is, that the power of the United States is to be enlisted, openly and without disguise, on the side of liberty, - is to consent hereafter to no terms which look to a continuance of that system which has attempted, and had so nearly effected, its destruc

* See the Washington National Intelligencer of August 1.

† The following paragraph is taken from the Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian Banner :-“In our humble opinion, if this rebellion continues twelve months longer, the horrible scenes which will be acted out will be without a parallel in the history of the world. The whole colored population of Virginia is becoming alarmingly demoralized, the spirit of insubordination and rebellion against the authority of their masters is constantly demonstrated. The future is a picture terrible to contemplate, to avert which every sensible man and woman in the whole country should exert his or her undivided and untiring influence. The half has neither been seen, felt, nor heard, if this rebellion continues twelve months longer. Remember, fellow-citizens, what we say, and may the Lord grant us wisdom and understanding before it is finally too late.”

tion. The bold initial step in this policy has been already taken by Congress, in declaring the absolute liberation of the slaves of all masters implicated in rebellion. To retreat from this position would be a pitiful weakness, of which we cannot for a moment suppose our nation will be guilty. To carry it thoroughly into effect will be to sweep the system of slavery utterly away, excepting such feeble remnants of it as will easily be dealt with by the forces at our command. As to the seceded States, they have renounced all constitutional defences and guaranties. Should the war continue another half-year, and the Border States still not act upon the President's proposition of compensated emancipation, we apprehend that the country will be quite prepared to cut this Gordian knot by decreeing that measure in those States, - of course, with compensation of loyal owners. Some way must be found of extrication from this terrible coil. That way would be revolutionary, no doubt; but a struggle so obstinate involves a revolution, - which, on the whole, could not come in any other form so mild as that. Salus populi, suprema lex. Already it is the test of loyalty in Missouri and Maryland not to shrink before that issue, or be terrified at the name of Abolition. A large and courageous statesmanship, such as the time demands, will not hesitate to go beyond the precedents laid down for other times than these, and assert that right of “eminent domain" by which the privilege of a section is made to yield before the honor, the destiny, and the imperious claim of the sovereign republic. As the last authentic declaration of the government, we copy these sentences from the President's letter to Horace Greeley, of August 22:

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

“ What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it will help to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.

« PreviousContinue »