« PreviousContinue »
new sanction to the mandate of Public Law. And yet in this terrible case there was retaliation, and the famished victim is revealed as ferociously gnawing the skull of his tormentor. But this was not on earth.
It is when we consider precisely the conduct of the Rebels, as represented, — when we read the stories of their atrocities, when we call to mind the sufferings of our men in their hands, - when we look on the pictures introduced into this discussion, where photographic art has sought to exhibit the living skeletons, — when the whole scene in all its horror is before us, and our souls are filled with unutterable anguish, that we confess how difficult, how absolutely impossible, it is for us to follow this savage example. And just in proportion as this treatment of our soldiers transcends the usages of civilized society must the example be rejected. Such is the law you cannot disobey.
Nor am I to be considered indifferent to the condition of those unhappy prisoners. I do not yield to the Committee, or to any Senator, in ardor or anxiety for their protection. Whatever can be done I am ready to do. But, as Ainerican citizens, they have an interest that we should do nothing by which our country shall forfeit the great place belonging to it in the vanguard of nations. It cannot be best for them that our country should do an unworthy thing. It cannot be best for them that the national destiny should be thus darkened. Duties are in proportion to destinies, and from the very heights of our example I argue again that we cannot allow ourselves, under any passing passion or resentment, to accept a policy which history must condemn. There is not a patriot soldier who would not cry out, “Let me suffer, but save my country.”
Even if you make up your minds to do this thing,
The whole idea is impracticable. The attempt must fail, because human nature is against you. “ Nemo repente turpissimus." A humane and civilized people cannot suddenly become inhuman and uncivilized. Conscience, heart, soul and body, will all rise against you. From every side will be repeated that generous cry which comes to us from the darkest day of French history, when the courageous governor said to the monarch who ordered the massacre of St. Bartholomew, “Sire, I have under me good citizens and brave soldiers, but not a single executioner"; or that other later cry, when the French Convention, under the lead of Barère, decreed that all English prisoners should be shot, -“We will not shoot them,” said a stout-hearted sergeant; "if the Convention takes pleasure in killing prisoners, let members kill them and eat them, like savages as they are.” But the citizens and soldiers of the armies of the United States are not less generous. They, too, would cry out, “Let members of Congress do this work, if it is to be done; but do not impose it upon a fellow-man.”
Mr. President, with pain I differ from valued friends whose friendship is among the treasures of my life. But I cannot help it. I cannot do otherwise. It is long since I first raised my voice in this Chamber against the “ Barbarism of Slavery,” and I have never ceased to denounce it in season and out of season. But the Rebellion is nothing but that very barbarism armed for battle. Plainly it is our duty to overcome it, not to initate it. Here I stand.
January 31st, on motion of Mr. Sumner, it was still further amended so as to read, “in conformity with the laws and usages of war among civilized nations," —Yeas 27, Nays 13. Mr. Sumner then withdrew his substitute, remarking that he did so because the original resolution had undergone such modification as to be in substantial harmony with the resolutions introduced by him. After other amendments, the original resolution was passed by the Senate ; but it was never acted on in the House of Representatives.
This effort against Retaliation attracted attention and sympathy at the time.
Hon. Israel Washburn, formerly a Representative in Congress from Maine, being in Washington, wrote :
"I shall not see you again before leaving the city, but I will not go without thanking you from my heart's heart for the glorious resolutions upon Retaliation which you offered in the Senate yesterday. Our country must live in the atmosphere of those resolutions, or bear no life worth having."
John B. Kettell wrote from Boston:
“I have read in the papers of this morning a telegraphic report of the proceedings of the Senate on the resolution in relation to retaliation upon Rebel prisoners for cruel treatment to Union prisoners, and especially the resolutions offered by you as a substitute for the resolution before the Senate. Although not approving the policy of the Administration, and therefore conscientiously opposed to most of its measures, allow me to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the manly tone and lofty Christian sentiment which pervade the resolutions offered and so ably defended by yourself."
Hon. Daniel W. Alvord wrote from Greenfield, Massachusetts :--
“I wish also to thank you for your resolutions on Retaliation. I am the more impelled to do this because I think it probable that some of our friends in the State will remonstrate with you for having offered them. I have heard retaliation in kind vehemently advocated by good men in Boston. But it seems to me that it would be an indelible blot upon our fame, if, in a war with savages, we should imitate their savage cruelties. I know that retaliation by inflicting death for death may sometimes be necessary in war. But the torture of prisoners nothing can justify. If they may be tortured by hunger or cold, so they may, as well, by fire, or by the rack."
M. T. Johnstone, of the United States Coast Survey, wrote from Washington :
"A copy of your speech on the treatment of prisoners of war has just fallen into my hands. I think the country under deep obligations to you for that speech, and for saving it from either acknowledging or practising the principle of retaliation.”
The following communication from General Robert Anderson, of the Army of the United States, who commanded at Fort Sumter when South Carolina madly fired upon that national stronghold, contains the testimony of a soldier.
"NEW YORK CITY, January 25, 1865. “Hon. CHARLES SUMNER, U. S. Senate.
"HONORED SIR, — The approbation of strangers is sometimes, I know, not unacceptable. I trust, therefore, that you will pardon me for giving vent to the promptings of my heart, in offering you my thanks for the noble, manly, and Christian sentiments which characterize your resolutions introduced in the Senate yesterday, in reference to the subject of Retaliation. No one would go farther than I would, to put down, with a vigorous and resolute hand, this most accursed Rebellion. But, in God's name, Sir, let it be done in such a manner that those who live after us may be able to say, that, in all this time of trial, not one act was sanctioned or permitted by our Government which was not becoming us as a civilized and Christian nation. And God will bless and prosper us only as we do so act. My earnest prayer is, that He will endue our rulers with wisdom, and soon give peace and prosperity and happiness to our bleeding land.
“With the renewal of my thanks for your having so beautifully, so ably, so nobly advocated the cause of humanity, which is the cause of Christ, “I am, Sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,
In a later letter General Anderson returned to the subject :
“The sentiments you express in your speech are such as become a Christian and a patriot. We, as a nation, are not at liberty to follow the example of men who claim to owe allegiance to a Government not recognized among nations, – the self-assumed name of which will, by God's blessing, soon sink into oblivion."
General Donaldson, of the Army of the Cumberland, and of the staff of the distinguished General Thomas, wrote from Nashville :
“Though but slightly acquainted with Mr. Sumner, I trust he will allow me to tender my thanks as an American for his noble resolutions on the subject of Retaliation. They are greater than any speech, and such as a Howard might have written, had he lived in the days of the mighty crime."
Such were some of the voices, not only from citizens, but from the Army.
ADMISSION OF A COLORED LAWYER TO THE BAR
OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.
MOTION IN THE SUPREME Court, FEBRUARY 1, 1865.
John S. Rock, Esq., was a colored lawyer in Boston, who, after studying medicine, accomplished himself in the law, and visited Europe. In the hope of advancing his race and of overturning an obnoxious precedent, he formed the idea of being admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, even during the life of Chief Justice Taney ; but Mr. Sumner, to whom he applied, could not encourage him, while the author of the Dred Scott decision presided over the Court. With Mr. Chase as Chief Justice it was otherwise. Before presenting him, Mr. Sumner communicated with the Chief Justice, who undertook to sound his brethren and smooth the way. After some delay he let Mr. Sumner know that the motion might be made. It seems, that, by usage of the Court, the Chief Justice acted on the admission of counsellors without consulting the rest of the bench, and it was understood that the usage would be recognized in this case.
As only a citizen could be a counsellor of the Supreme Court, and, according to the Dred Scott decision, a colored person was not a citizen, the admission of Mr. Rock was regarded by the country as tantamount to a reversal of that decision.
An informal and intimate correspondence between Mr. Sumner and the Chief Justice belongs to the history of this case.
On the receipt of a letter from Mr. Rock, saying, “We now have a great and good man for our Chief Justice, and with him I think my color will not be a bar to my admission,” Mr. Sumner wrote to the Chief Justice, inclosing the letter.
“SENATE CHAMBER, 21st December, 1864. “MY DEAR CHASE, – Please read the inclosed letter, and let me know what I shall do with regard to it.
“Mr. Rock is an estimable colored lawyer, who, as you will see, is cor