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Harper's Weekly 05/17/1862



There can be no more pregnant and instructive
contrast than the tone of the Southern newspapers
a year ago and to-day. The wild yell of defiance,
rage, contempt, and execration which burst from
them then has significantly changed.

“The North has no officers to command or drill
the cowardly, motley crew of starving foreigners
and operatives that it proposes to send South to fill
ditches and as food for cannon, because it has no
room in its penitentiaries and poor-houses to receive
or sustain them.”“Our people can take it (Wash-
ington), they will take it, and Scott, the arch-trai-
tor, and Lincoln, the beast, combined, can not pre-
vent it. The just indignation of an outraged and
deeply-injured people will teach the Illinois Ape to
repent his course and retrace his journey across the
borders of the free negro States still more rapidly
than he came; and Scott, the traitor, will be given
an opportunity at the same time to try the differ-
ence between `Scott's Tactics' and the Shanghai
drill for quick movements.”“It is not to be en-
dured that this flight of Abolition harpies shall
come down from the black North for their roosts
in the heart of the South, to defile and brutalize the
land.”“They never did fight, and never will fight,
except for pay, for pillage, and plunder. Once
satisfy them that no money is to be made, no plun-
der to be gotten by invading the South, and no
power on earth can lash and kick them south of
Mason and Dixon's line.”

All these things the Richmond Examiner said.
A year has passed, and it says: “The destiny of
the Confederacy is trembling on the result of York-
town. If successful, it will give us six months
for carrying out the conscription act, arming and
equipping a large army, and launching a fleet of
Merrimacs; but if unsuccessful, Virginia is lost.”

“The action of these church-burning, flour-plun-
dering, swinish groundlings has no terrors for any
but their Northern masters,” said the Richmond
Dispatch last year. Last week it says: “We may
expect to hear of disasters wherever the enemy's
gun-boats can be brought to bear on all the points
still in our possession…. Having made himself
master of the river and sea-board towns, the enemy,
if he wish to conquer us, must come into the inte-
rior. There he will have to beat our armies with-
out the aid of his iron-clad boats, before he can
boast of having subdued the country.”

“But these mercenary hirelings, these Arnolds,
are influenced alone by the thirty pieces of silver,
and are not possessed of a sentiment half so sublime
as that which the Devil placed in the bosom of
Judas.” This is the Norfolk Day Book last year.
This year it says: “We have faith in our ultimate
success; but should this prove fallacious we can
remember the example of Samson—remember and
emulate it.”

“Come on, Abraham! You are wanted,” said the
Newbern Progress, last spring. This spring the
Newbern Progress appears under the auspices of
General Burnside.

The Memphis Avalanche was a prophet last
April: “We predict that Jeff Davis will be on the
banks of the Hudson within thirty days; that Mr.
Lincoln will fly, with what little may be scraped
together from a bankrupt treasury, from Washing-
ton, and that General Scott will bear him com-
pany; that nothing will be left, a month hence,
of the old Union except possibly New England;
and that the special session of Congress called for
the Fourth of July will not meet nearer Washing-
ton than Portland, Maine, if it ever meets at all!”
This April the Avalanche says that the Southern
people are fast losing all confidence in their river
defenses, and it is generally admitted that the
Union army can be no longer successfully resisted.
It also intimates a lack of confidence in the stabil-
ity of the Southern Confederacy, by advising its
patrons to invest whatever money they have in
real estate, while purchases can be made with the
money now in circulation, which is principally
rebel treasury notes.

These extracts carry their own moral. The
newspapers express the extremest public senti-
ment; and what consciousness of ghastly failure
betrays itself in every word of the expiring gas-
conade of this infamous rebellion!


The Report of the Committee to ascertain the
treatment of our prisoners and dead by the rebels
is one of the most melancholy documents in histo-
ry. It is not surprising, however, for no one who
has thoughtfully read the many records of the as-
pects and characteristics of a society based upon
slavery was unconscious of its essential and neces-
sary barbarism. You may like slavery or dislike
it; you may think it a great benefit to the people
whom it utterly outrages and degrades, or not;
but you can not, with our own history and the
daily newspaper in your hands, deny that it im-
brutes the masters. Is there any nominally Chris-
tian people in the world that could show themselves
so absolutely destitute of human instinct as the
Southern rebels?

It is in vain to say that there are gentle and
accomplished women in Charleston, Savannah,
and New Orleans; that there are frank and gener-
ous men at the South; for nobody who has a right
to an opinion for a moment denies it. But these
are the extremely exceptional persons, and even
these are tainted by the absolute tyranny they ex-
ercise. Those gentle and accomplished people say,
and evidently sincerely believe, things at which
the heart stands still with horror and incredulity.
Humanity, honor, justice, are all partially para-
lyzed in their minds. Their civilization is a mer-
maid—lovely and languid above, but ending in
bestial deformity.

This again is not surprising, for they are human
beings, and absolute power turns the brain. We
are not strong enough for it. And even if it were
to be allowed that the enslaved race were benefited
by servitude, the enslavers have been, and must al-
ways be, ruined by it. “Nor can a more probable
reason be assigned,” says Hume, “for the severe,
I might say barbarous manners of ancient times
than the practice of domestic slavery.” It is a
wrong so monstrous that it carries its own per-
petual Nemesis. Foolish people find something
picturesque in the system. The silent, dusky serv-
ant, by descent perhaps a barbaric king—the con-
trast of complexion and constant lazy labor with
absolute luxury of repose, are discovered to be
touching and romantic. The groups of slaves
dancing in the warm twilight, such as Humboldt
describes in San Domingo, and Edwards and Beck-
ford and the writers of seventy years ago in Ja-
maica—how pleasing a picture! how charming a
peasant life! what careless happiness!

But Edwards, while he contended that slavery
must be maintained, was too honest not to say, as
he does in the opening of his third volume—the
history of San Domingo—“In countries where slav-
ery is established the leading principle on which
government is supported is fear, or a sense of that
absolute coercive necessity, which, leaving no
choice of action, supersedes all question of right.
It is in vain to deny that such actually is, and nec-
essarily must be, the case in all countries where
slavery is allowed.” Fear begets force and requires
ignorance. These are the conditions of slavery
and of barbarism, but they destroy civilization.
Consequently, in our slave States the ignorance of
the mass of the people is appalling. Could they
have known either the nature of the Government,
the history of the nation, or the character of the
people at the North, they would not have rebelled.
The Southern masses have been brought to the
field by the power of a great lie; but they could
not have been juggled by a lie except for the ig-
norance, passion, cruelty, and prejudice which
slavery occasions and requires.

Impatient of natural decay, they boil the dead
flesh of our soldiers to get the bones more speedily.
The bones are cut and carved into trinkets, into
caskets, into drinking-cups; and the women of the
region, equally ignorant and cruel, wear them and
gloat over them with glee. In the Shenandoah
Valley the people suppose us to have horns; be-
lieve that we gore the wounded, and can not taste
blood enough. The extravagance, the idiocy of
ignorance, in every quarter that our troops have
entered, is appalling. But it is not strange. Slav-
ery can not exist without it. It must have igno-
rance at any price. Knowledge is light, and in
the light it withers.

Let the “white trash,” as the poor whites of the
South are called, once clearly see that in sustain-
ing slavery they are maintaining the riches and
ease of a few slaveholders at the expense to them-
selves of every thing decent and valuable in life,
and they will soon square accounts with the four
or five hundred thousand who own slaves.

Can the Union ever be safe or peaceful so long
as the social system of a large section absolutely
requires that the population shall be utterly igno-
rant of their more distant fellow-citizens? And
will not the actual practical contact of the men of
the North with those of the South inspire the lat-
ter with the hope of becoming civilized, intelligent,
and prosperous?


At the Charleston Convention of 1860 the seced-
ers, under the lead of Yancey, were perfectly con-
fident that it would not be difficult to “precipitate
the Cotton States into revolution,” and to secure
and maintain the independence of “the South,”
because the North must have cotton, and the rest
of the world must have cotton, and the necessities
of trade would control politics, and commerce would
be stronger than patriotism. “Cotton is King!”
cried the infatuated leaders. “The commerce of
the world hangs by a thread,” said Dickens. En-
gland feeds five millions of mouths with the wages
of cotton-spinning, and takes eighty-five per cent.
from this country, she will raise the blockade if
you try to establish one, shouted “the South,” ex-
ultant. Cotton is King, and while it is so the re-
bellion is safe, quoth the wise Wigfall.

“Yes,” sighed Yancey, a month ago in New Or-
leans; “but it is a mistake to suppose that Cotton
is King. It is not.” The Norfolk Day Book ech-
oes the dreary confession. “We confess that we,
in common with wiser men, were deluded into the
general belief in the supremacy of cotton….The
truth of this declaration (Dickens's) may yet be-
come manifest, but cotton as a political agent is
done for. None so poor to do it reverence as a
blockade raiser….Hog and hominy are far more
important than cotton or tobacco.”

Thus the whole vision of “Southern” supremacy
based upon cotton fades away. The success which
was a demonstration of political economy disap-
pears. The entire fallacy of Southern political
shrewdness is exposed. This is, of itself, a pro-
foundly instructive fact. It illustrates the char-
acter and consequence of a civilization based upon
monstrous injustice. Men who consent to live
by the ruin of a race, can not believe that other
men will be influenced by any other motive than
the grossest selfishness. Consequently they looked
no farther than the fact that the demand for cotton
was incessant and enormous. That the interested
nations might look elsewhere for it; that to raise
a blockade forcibly implied war; that the rebell-
ion showed the essential uncertainty of a supply
which depended upon slave labor; in short, all the
considerations that must modify and control the
simple selfishness they had not meditated.

The first shot that “the venerable Edmund Ruf-
fin, of Virginia,” fired from Beauregard's batteries
at Fort Sumter killed the cotton monopoly and
slavery together.


Another of the ridiculous humors of this
waning rebellion is the project of “John M. Ver-
non, Esq., of New Orleans,” who probably left that
city about the middle of April for up country, for
a Confederate decimal system for the currency of
“the South.”

“We are,” says Mr. Vernon, “a separate and
distinct people, influenced by different interests
and sentiments from the Vandals who would sub-
jugate us. Our manners and customs are differ-
ent, our tastes and talents are different, our geo-
graphical position is different, and—in conformity
with natural laws, nature, and instinct—our cur-
rency, weights, and measures should be different.”
He then suggests the following table:
“10 Centimes
10 Tropics
10 Stars

John M. Vernon, Esq., then adds three reasons
why it should be adopted; but the second is so
singularly pertinent to the condition of “The Con-
federacy” to-day, that it is quite sufficient: “Sec-
They are emblems of cheerfulness, honor, hon-
esty of purpose, solidity, and stability.”

Rabelais and Swift combined could not surpass
that biting sarcasm.


The fall of New Orleans is evidently felt by the
rebels to be the direst wound they have yet re-
ceived. “This is a heavy blow,” says the Rich-
mond Dispatch; “it is useless to deny it.” But
toward the end of the article the paper waxes more
hopeful, and it concludes with the cheerful remark
that “thus far his (the national) success is scarcely
a disadvantage to us.” The Petersburg Express
declares that “the ways of God are mysterious,
and He directs the affairs of men so as often to
lead them to consider an event calamitous which
afterward proves the happiest that could have oc-
curred for their welfare.” The Atlanta Intelligencer
says, “Memphis, we apprehend, will share the fate
of New Orleans. To delude ourselves with any
other hope is now a folly.” They all agree that
our gun-boats are irresistible; that wherever they
can be used the Government will restore its sway;
that the case of rebels is unpromising, but yellow
fever may do something to help them against us;
and that at last they must take to the bush and
carry on a guerrilla warfare.

That will be the natural course of the more des-
perate—and for them General Frémont's method
of treatment in Western Virginia will be the surest.
Two men taken in the act of such warfare have
been sentenced to death, and he has approved the


While the Merrimac is still a vague terror, and
the wonder and regret that we had not known
more of her are still alive, the reader may remem-
ber that in this paper for November 2, 1861, an
admirable, and as it proved, quite accurate cut of
the monster was published, with a description of
her construction and armament which is very faith-
ful. The account was derived from a workman
who professed to have been employed upon the
Merrimac, and the result justifies his word. It
shows that it is possible to know something of the
interior policy and economy of the enemy, and to
be ready to meet him. Forewarned is forearmed.

Some day, doubtless, it will appear why the
Norfolk Navy-yard was not saved to us; why the
Merrimac was not anticipated; and why Norfolk
was not sooner taken. And when that day comes,
we equally believe that it will be seen that, as in
the general military conduct of the war, all was
done that could be wisely done.


A friend in Baltimore writes to know why the
battle at Pittsburg Landing, on the 7th April, was
called “The Waterloo of America.” Certainly
such a title has no meaning; but if it had been
called the Waterloo of Rebellion the reason would
have been that, as Blucher came up to the support
of Wellington, and secured the rout of the French,
so the coming up of Buell to the support of Grant
secured the defeat of the rebels; and as Napoleon
never recovered from the battle of Waterloo, so the
Rebellion will never recover from its defeat at
Pittsburg Landing.

—The two great battles of the Italian-French
campaign in Lombardy three years ago were Ma-
genta and Solferino.

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