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of the South." That was the precise point. War was wanted by the people, that their cherished desire for the disruption of the Republic might be fulfilled; and they were disappointed when they found that even an impertinent ultimatum could not bring it.
If British statesmen sympathized with these views and feelings, and some of them did,-it showed how poorly informed they were; for there was never anything in the difficulty, from the first, to give either government alarm. The British people found that there was a government at Washington,— calm, dignified and intelligent, not under the control of the mob at all, and showing, in the cool independence of its action, its entire freedom from the misdirected passions of the people. Only in the early approval of the Secretary of the Navy and of the lower House of Congress, awarded to Captain Wilkes, was there anything to give the British government cause of alarm, or ground of serious complaint; and the news of these ill-advised indorsements reached England after the tempest of passion had been spent.
On the twenty-sixth of December Mr. Seward addressed a note to Lord Lyons, in which he elaborately discussed all the questions growing out of the case. The paper was one of great moderation, and consummate ability-indeed, one of the finest to which he ever gave utterance. It was a profound lesson in the law of nations, which could not be read without benefit by statesmen everywhere. By it the British government learned that there were two sides to the case, and that there was something to be said upon the side of Captain Wilkes; for in it he argued most ingeniously, if not in all instances decisively, that Messrs. Mason and Slidell and their dispatches were contraband of war, that Captain Wilkes might lawfully stop and search the Trent for contraband persons and dispatches, and that he had the right to capture the persons presumed to have contraband dispatches. He did not, however, exercise the right of capture in the manner allowed and recognized by the laws of nations, as understood and practically entertained by the American government. "If I decide this
case in favor of my own government," said Mr. Seward, "I must disavow its most cherished principles, and reverse and forever abandon its essential policy. If I maintain those principles and adhere to that policy, I must surrender the case itself." He therefore declared that the persons held in military custody in Fort Warren would be "cheerfully liberated." Mr. Seward could not forbear to say that, if the safety of the Union required their detention, they would have been detained; to draw a contrast between the action of our government and that of Great Britain under similar circumstances; and to indulge in the irony that "the claim of the British government is not made in a discourteous manner."
Earl Russell was satisfied with the "reparation." The prisoners were released, peace between the two nations was kept, the war feeling subsided, disunion sympathizers all over Europe were disgusted with Mr. Seward's pusillanimity, and at the South there was no attempt to disguise the disappointment felt at the result. The hopes excited in the South by the difficulty are well expressed in the language of Pollard's "History of the First Year of the War," which says: "Providence was declared to be in our favor; the incident of the Trent was looked upon almost as a special dispensation; and it was said in fond imagination that on its deck and in the trough of the weltering Atlantic the key of the blockade had at last been lost." The same author continues: "The surrender was an exhibition of meanness and cowardice unparalleled in the political history of the civilized world." Patriots may well be content with a decision which brought grief to their enemies everywhere, and raised the whole nation in the respect of Christendom.
On the second day of December, Congress met in regular session, and on the following day Mr. Lincoln sent in his annual message. The message opened with an allusion to the attitude of foreign governments, and a statement of the fact that, should those governments be controlled only by material considerations, they would find that the quickest and best way out of the embarrassments of commerce consequent upon the
American difficulties, would be rather through the maintenance, than the destruction, of the Union. It was undoubtedly with reference to the excitement then existing concerning the Trent affair that he penned the sentence: "Since, however, it is apparent that here, as in every other state, foreign dangers necessarily attend domestic difficulties, I recommend that adequate and ample measures be adopted for maintaining the public defenses on every side."
The message announced the financial measures of the government to have been very successful; recommended a re-organization of the Supreme Court, the machinery of which the country had outgrown; suggested a codification or digest of the statutes of Congress, so as to reduce the six thousand pages upon which they were printed to the measure of a volume; indicated his wish that the Court of Claims should have power to make its decisions final, with only the right of appeal on questions of law to the Supreme Court; asked for increased attention on the part of Congress to the interests of agriculture; expressed his gratification with the success of efforts for the suppression of the African slave trade; and broached a plan for colonizing such slaves as had been freed by the operation of the confiscation act, passed on the previous sixth of August, on territory to be acquired. The progress made by the federal armies, and by his own careful and moderate management of affairs in the border states, is shown in the following passage:
"The last ray of hope for preserving the Union peaceably, expired at the assault upon Fort Sumter; and a general review of what has occurred since may not be unprofitable. What was painfully uncertain then, is much better defined and more distinct now; and the progress of events is plainly in the right direction. The insurgents confidently claimed a strong support from north of Mason and Dixon's line; and the friends of the Union were not free from apprehension on the point. This, however, was soon settled definitely, and on the right side. South of the line, noble little Delaware led off right from the first. Maryland was made to seem against the Union. Our soldiers were assaulted, bridges were burned, and railroads torn up within her limits; and we were many days, at one time, without the ability to bring a single regi
inent over her soil to the capital. Now her bridges and railroads are repaired and open to the Government; she already gives seven regiments to the cause of the Union, and none to the enemy; and her people, at a regular election, have sustained the Union by a larger majority and a larger aggregate vote than they ever before gave to any candidate or any question. Kentucky, too, for some time in doubt, is now decidedly and, I think, unchangeably ranged on the side of the Union. Missouri is comparatively quiet, and, I believe, can not again be overrun by the insurrectionists. These three states of Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, neither of which would promise a single soldier at first, have now an aggregate of not less than forty thousand in the field for the Union; while of their citizens, certainly not more than a third of that number, and they of doubtful whereabouts and doubtful existence, are in arms against it. After a somewhat bloody struggle of months, winter closes on the Union people of Western Virginia, leaving them masters of their own country.
“An insurgent force of about fifteen hundred, for months dominating the narrow peninsular region constituting the counties of Accomac and Northampton, and known as the Eastern Shore of Virginia, together with some contiguous parts of Maryland, have laid down their arms; and the people there have renewed their allegiance to, and accepted the protection of the old flag. This leaves no armed insurrectionist north of the Potomac, or east of the Chesapeake.
“Also, we have obtained a footing at each of the isolated points on the southern coast, of Hatteras, Port Royal, Tybee Island near Savannah, and Ship Island; and we likewise have some general accounts of popular movements in behalf of the Union in North Carolina and Ten
"These things demonstrate that the cause of the Union is advancing steadily and certainly southward."
In the development of the insurrection, Mr. Lincoln detected a growing enmity to the first principle of popular government-the rights of the people. In the grave and well considered public documents of the rebels he found labored arguments to prove that "large control of the people in, government is the source of all political evil. Monarchy itself," he adds, "is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people." Proceeding from this, Mr. Lincoln said:
"It is not needed, nor fitting here, that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief
attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of the government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fixed in that condition for life.
"Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.
"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of the community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and those few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for thein. A large majority belong to neither class-neither work for others, nor have others working for them. In most of the southern states, a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters; while in the northern, a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families-wives, sons, and daughters-—work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital-that is, they labor with their own hands, and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.
Again: as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these states, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system, which opens the way to all, gives