« PreviousContinue »
may do its
I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
“I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my often expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free."
It has been our earnest wish that any measure purely revolutionary may be dispensed with ; that national law may keep within the safe boundaries of constitutional right; that the country may come out from this awful struggle, if it might be so, with all its local privileges and State rights uninvaded, the stars on its banner undimmed as well as undiminished. We trust that the magnificent exhibition of national power which has now been made - a million of men actually in the field, with a million of reserve at home work so soon and thoroughly as to spare us the lingering and accumulating terrors of a revolution such as many have feared may be in store for us. We have given our reasons before for believing that victory in this war, even on the simple and plain issue accepted by our government, is the deathblow to slavery as a political power, and eventually as a social system. Success in the campaign we are actually embarked in is our first duty. The result of that, we could be well content to trust. If we had any doubt before, the explicit policy announced by Congress, and accepted by the Executive, virtually, a very sweeping policy of emancipation, — would set it at rest. The triumph of the national arms cannot be had without the complete defeat and overthrow of the power by which we are now challenged and defied. Merchants, statesmen, soldiers, now echo the conviction which a few months ago was held, in general, by more daring thinkers only, or else by the large mass, of simpler republican instincts, that slavery must fall, or else this nation will die. We do not hope to add anything to the force of this conviction, as it fast overcomes that habit or prejudice of the public mind by which it has been kept back so long. We shall have done something if we have succeeded in showing that the war has opened new questions, graver and deeper, as it went on; that the way is already prepared, by the changes adopted in our public policy, for meeting these new issues frankly and
270 Our War Policy, and how it deals with Slavery. [Sept. courageously, as they should be met; and that our nation is so far committed to the principles involved in the struggle, that neither its dignity, its safety, nor its peace can be secured, except by the destruction of that system which is now its open and deadly foe.
We say this, not only as citizens of this republic, but also as Christians, citizens of the “ City of God.” We do not think it is for passion, or victory, or dominion, that this war was undertaken; or that the great majority of those who sustain it understand it so. It is to restore the authority of law; to maintain the sanctity of an oath; to vindicate the principles which lie at the base of all good government. The struggles we must encounter, the burdens we must undergo, the sacrifices we must make, - we accept them as the price we pay for the honor and privilege of living in a free State, as the duty we owe to civilization, to humanity, and to eternal truth. When Christ spoke of the kingdom of God upon earth, we do not believe he meant merely the sentiment of faith, hope, and love in the breasts of men. That he meant, indeed. But he also meant a condition of human society founded in right and justice. He meant peace, freedom, and mutual respect in the relations of men together. He meant the advance of the political and social state of men towards the realizing of the Divine law, - on earth peace, and good-will toward men. We believe these things are on our side, and not on the side of those who have chosen to call themselves our enemies. Not of them, either, would we speak vindictively, or scornfully. Contemptuously we cannot, with the memory fresh to us of so many a bloody field. We have no doubt that many of them are as fervidly, as passionately sincere in their conviction, as we are confidently in ours. We have felt very deeply -- for we have lived long enough near them and among them
the terror and the dread of the problems the future was sure to force upon them; and very anxiously we have sought to do them fair justice in any discussion or argument about them, to allow for the difficulties that beset the terrible question, — to admit the force of the reasons that seem to have satisfied their conscience and judgment that they were right. But, as between them and us, we have no misgiving,
and never a doubt. We believe that the laws by which the progress of human society is controlled are established and maintained by Almighty God. By the test of human history, of political economy, of Christian morals, — by each, as interpreted by the best representative minds of our own day, - the system of society which they maintain is condemned. They have chosen to stake the verdict on the arbitrament of the sword. Earnestly we have hoped, and reasoned, and prayed that this controversy might not issue in blood. Earnestly we have trusted that the arm of constitutional law might be so powerful, that peace might come, and victory, without a sudden convulsive revolution; that slavery might pass away — as pass away it must — by the steady and mild process of organic social growth. But that is all beyond us now. nearer, sterner duty is forced on us than dreams or theories of what society should be. It is, to defend, by arms and blood, what has been found good in society as it is; and restore, if we may, on this wide continent, the dominion of liberty and law. And our strength is in Him who is able both to deliver us from the power of the adversary that would destroy our soul, and to foil the counsels of the traitor who plots the ruin of the state.
ART. VII. – IRVING'S LIFE AND LETTERS.
Life and Letters of WASHINGTON IRVING. By PIERRE M. IRVING.
Vols. I., II. New York: G. P. Putnam.
The rare good fortune which attended Washington Irving as an author, and which it was his still more rare privilege to enjoy unenvied, has smiled upon his posthumous fame, so far as that is affected by the most authentic tribute to his memory. In confiding to his favorite nephew the task, or rather we should say, the labor of love, involved in editing bis correspondence and writing his life, the same good sense and good taste that guided his pen and his conduct throughout life are apparent. Intent only upon a candid presentation of the facts
of his relative's career and a just exhibition of his character, the biographer has, with remarkable tact and consistency, kept his own individuality, opinions, and even natural partiality, in abeyance. He rarely comments on an incident, or expatiates on a trait; there is scarcely an irrelevant or superfluous observation in the volume. He states carefully, and with sufficient details, the circumstances of Irving's childhood, youth, and manhood; he gives a few significant anecdotes of the boy and the youth ; sketches the family life, the social environment, and the public events, so far as they influence the fortunes, impress the mind, or enlist the feelings of his eminent kinsman; he indulges in no speculations of his own, and, with a refinement akin to that of his subject, avoids all rhetorical artifice. In simplicity and truth he unfolds the personal history, and, after the felicitous method of Lockhart in his Life of Scott, makes Irving, as far as possible, his own biographer, by a chronological and consecutive quotation of his letters and diaries, filling up every gap in the narrative by requisite details, and concealing no weakness, while he exaggerates no virtue. His self-abnegation as a biographer is exceptional, for we can recall no instance where a judicious writer in this difficult and delicate branch of literature has more completely succeeded in making the reader oblivious of his own personality. It is not until we reflect upon his work, that we appreciate its merit; it is not until we gratefully ponder the result, that we are aware of our obligation to his reticence not less than to his revelations. We seem, for the most part, to listen to the story of his experience from the lips of Washington Irving himself; for his letters are like his talk to those who knew and loved him; and they not only describe, often with graphic skill, what he saw and did, but what he felt and thought. They admit us to his domestic life, to his private anxieties, to his foibles and his friendships, his hopes and fears, his delights and his griefs; and yet so naturally as to make the confidence devoid of egotism. Only those who have tried the experiment of collating and arranging into an harmonious whole a mass of letters, notes, and other personal memorabilia, can justly estimate the patient skill thus exhibited ; only those who enjoyed the personal intimacy of Washington
Irving can perceive the intrepid discrimination herein manifest, or thoroughly realize how fortunate the endeared man and the successful author has been in his biographer.
To Irving's New York contemporaries this volume has special interest. It revives the memory of their youth, when the society of Gotham was far more limited, but, on that account, more intimate ; when the Battery was the favorite promenade, and the dwellings round it the fashionable quarter; when the City Hotel was the rendezvous of statesmen and heroes; when Halleck and Drake electrified the town with their “ Croakers”; when an arrival from Europe was comparatively rare, and hospitality was as informal as generous; when the theatre was a centre of intellectual entertainment, and all the choice spirits of the metropolis were familiar with each other; when visits to country-houses in the vicinity were the occasion of memorable reunions, and the wits and belles were neighbors, constantly brought together, instead of being scattered, miles apart, over an immense and cosmopolitan city. Even the incidental billets-doux, epigrams, and criticisms which diversify this memoir indicate a less bustling and heterogeneous society, and agreeably hint a geniality and heartiness impossible now, when distance and variety dispel the less ostentatious and more genuine intercourse which of old made New York so delightful to the stranger, and so dear to the native. Allusions to the prominent members of that local society, to the favorite performers and celebrated beauties, to the eminent professional men and active politicians, excite fond or curious reminiscences among those readers who can look back to the time and place wherein the youth of the author of “ The SketchBook” so pleasantly passed.
The inherited traits and family discipline which we trace in Irving's early life combined the severity and the freedom whence come the best training and triumphs of character, on the one side, the Scotch shrewdness and religious awe which made the paternal sway somewhat solemn and stern, and on the other, a social atmosphere genial with Dutch ease and quaint vivacity. Guarded by domestic precedents of conscientious rectitude, fancy and fellowship the more readily sought and found aliment without and adventurous expression