Harper's Weekly 08/02/1862



There are many who think these are the dark-
est days of the war. Very well; may we never
see any darker. We are as strong as ever, and
the rebellion is no stronger. The change is in our
perception of its magnitude. It is not a riot, as
we half thought—it is a revolution.

There have indeed been plenty of people who
said that it was much more formidable than was
supposed. When the 75,000 men were called for
in April a year ago General Banks, for instance,
said that there should have been a summons for
500,000. He thought so, because he had lived with
the rebel leaders in Washington, and he knew what
manner of men they were. He knew that their
plans were profound, and that their programme at
that time, when the actual temper of the North was
unknown, had a certain promise of success. Fer-
nando Wood thought so, too, when he suggested
that the city of New York should secede from the
State, and when he insisted that arms should be
sent to the South. The 14th of April, 1861, was
the darkest day this country will ever know, for
all that Sunday it groped in doubt whether it was
a country. The consciousness of its own unity and
purpose which the next week revealed was the
grandest of discoveries—it was the rehearsal of
ultimate victory.

Well, neither that consciousness nor that pur-
pose have changed; but the conception of the
means necessary to attain that purpose has been
enlarged. That is all. We thought at first that
the appearance of resolution might do a great deal.
Then that the recapture of forts and navy-yards
would answer. Then that more ships would settle
the matter by blockading the rebels into starvation.
Then, after Bull Run, that we must have more
men. Then that there might be foreign interfer-
ence. Then that there must be a policy which
struck at the very root and secret of the difficulty.
Then came approaches to that policy. The Mes-
sage of the President; the debates upon confisca-
tion and emancipation; the modification of Hunt-
er's order. Then a general conviction that the re-
bellion was waning, and that a vigorous blow at
Corinth and Richmond would virtually end it.
Then came the alarm in the Shenandoah, and at
last the delay at Richmond. And then—what?
Weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth?
Not a bit of it. But a grimmer vow that we would
conquer at any cost, and that if in saving our
country and its Government we happened to do a
great act of justice, we would not cry very bitterly.

If there were any where the least disposition to
yield, except among those who have never had any
serious conviction either of the necessity or the
character of the war, we might truly call the day
dark. And if delay, or disaster even, could fatally
dispirit us, we ought to submit at once to the deg-
radation and national annihilation which attend
compromise and defeat. But if in a war with a
foreign power we could show the great results of
our arms which the last year shows against the re-
bellion, what should we think of him who doubted
or despaired?

The year has revealed a character in the nation
of which it is idle to anticipate any thing but a
steadier purpose and a stronger blow until the
great work is accomplished.


There are a great many friends of the Presi-
dent, and loyal supporters of the Government, who
are and have been exceedingly troubled by what
is called his Border State policy. If the Border
men are loyal, these persons have said, let them
support the Union at any cost; if they are not, the
sooner we are rid of them the better.

The argument is apparently conclusive; but how
if they are not wholly loyal but may be made so?
How if there are loyal men enough in those States
to save them to the Union, provided that the mat-
ter is wisely managed? Are those States not
worth saving; and if so, must there not be some
consideration of their actual position? They are
between the two sections. Their prejudices draw
them one way, their interests another. Their heads
turn Northward, their hearts Southward. Are they
not worth saving?

They have been the battle-ground. Do we pre-
fer to have it moved from Virginia into Pennsyl-
vania, from Kentucky into Ohio, from Missouri
into the Northwest? With the Border States part-
ly with us our hands have been pretty full; how
if they had been unitedly against us? And if we
can hold them fast, not by the arms of our soldiers
but by the will of their own citizens, have we done
nothing toward the final subjugation of the rebel-

“Oh! then you would sacrifice the country and
liberty to the testy whim-whams of the Border
States!” No; perhaps not. To beg a question is
not to argue it. Nor, because a man may be will-
ing to say thank you for an article, does it follow
that he is ready to pay a million of dollars for it.
The question is not whether the country is to be
given over to the Border States, but, simply, on
what honorable common ground can all loyal citi-
zens in all the States stand, and which will secure
the adhesion of those States to the Union. If there
is no such ground—amen; they must do what
seems wisest. If there is, what is wisest for us?

The President thinks there may be such a ground.
He thinks that a system of compensated emanci-
pation is the security of the loyalty of the Border
States; and if those States will assent, there is no
question that the President is right. If Kentucky
so strongly, and Tennessee so lightly, lean to us
now, for what conceivable reason should they lean
to the rebels when their slave system is gone? It
is the social sympathy, and common political ac-
tion, and partial identity of civilization and inter-
est which make them doubtful now. Take those
away, and why should they be doubtful any lon-

If they decline, they know the ground that the
President and the country will take. The Presi-
dent is reported to have said, “You must fish, cut
bait, or go ashore.” He will do for them all that
can fairly be done. If they want more they must
take their chance. And if they call this coercion,
the reply is short and clear: “It is coercion, to
prevent your coercing the country into ruin.” It
is the business of this nation to coerce all opposi-
tion to its unity and existence, just as it is its duty
to subjugate the Davis rebels; and if the Border
States say there are some measures for the main-
tenance of the Union to which, although strictly
military, they will never consent, the war—will
be greatly prolonged.


Congress has adjourned, and every loyal man
ou`ght to be gratified with the work it has done.
It has been a patriotic, faithful, earnest body. The
large exceptions of men and measures we can all
readily make; but the session is to be judged by
its results, and by the general spirit of its deliber-
ations. It has provided for the prosecution of the
war with a wise conviction of the real causes and
objects of the insurrection. It has worked dili-
gently with the President, in whom the country
confides; and with the exception of Mr. Richard-
son's performance toward the close of the session,
and Mr. Mallory's reckless talk, its behavior has
been more dignified than that of any Congress we

Its memorable acts of legislation have been the
Homestead bill, the Pacific Railroad bill, the Tax
bill, the Currency bill, the Prohibition of Slavery
in the Territories, Emancipation in the District of
Columbia, and the Confiscation bill. In all these
measures Congress doubtless had the substantial
approval of the great bulk of citizens in the loyal
States, for they were all essentially patriotic and
not party measures. Many a citizen who, eighteen
months ago, would have shaken his head doubtfully
at them, now frankly and fully concedes their ne-
cessity and importance. Our late history has so
plainly exposed the tendency and character of the
domination of the Slavery interest in our politics,
that men who have had no sympathy with the Re-
publican cause, and still repudiate the Republican
party, recognize that the time has come, in the in-
terest of the country and of peace, to limit legally
the expansion of the Slave power.

The complaints of this Congress come from gen-
tlemen like Mayor Wightman, of Boston, who think
that the business of a physician is not to attack
the disease but to cure the patient. How the cure
is to be effected without combating the disease the
learned magistrate does not inform us. Mr. Val-
landigham, also, and Mr. Benjamin Wood take a
similar view. In their estimation Congress has
winked at the invasion of Constitutional rights,
and has deliberately coerced the liberty of Ameri-
can citizens. They are exceedingly troubled that
the President of the United States had the temerity
to undertake, first the defense, and then the recovery
of the national property. They are of opinion that
if liberty of discussion had long ago been destroyed
in the free States, and a few persons of liberal sen-
timents had been hung as malefactors, we should
have enjoyed the most profound and delightful
peace. They are also inclined to believe that
their worthy friends and co-laborers, Jefferson
Davis and Co., have unhappily made a miscalcu-

These gentlemen think that Congress has woeful-
ly degenerated since the days of the late lamented
Preston Brooks, and the chivalric Pryor, and the
worthy Barksdale, and the manly Wigfall: the
days when the Cabinet could boast of a Floyd, a
Cobb, a Thompson, a Toucey, and a presiding
genius of corresponding virtues in James Buchan-
an. They think that this Congress has been a
nuisance. So does Davis. So do Spratt, Rhett,
Keitt, Cobb, Floyd, etc. But the country has
differed before with the opinions and conduct of
these latter gentry, as well as with those of their
friends, Mr. Vallandigham and Mr. Ben Wood.
The Congress which dissatisfies them will not dis-
please a loyal and united country.


It is late to speak of the meeting of citizens
who believe in an unflinching prosecution of the
war. But the country ought to know that it was
as imposing and influential as the sentiment which
snmmoned it. Of course it has not the wild ex-
citement of the meeting after the fall of Sumter.
No other assemblage of the people could have.
But it represented the real force of New York. It
showed that the feeling which underlies the war is
not only unexhausted, but that it is deepening and
strengthening. The speeches were all in one key.
The Union must and shall be preserved, cost what
it may. And if some of the orators ventured to
specify that probable cost more distinctly than
others, it was not because there was any doubt in
any mind of what that cost might be.

To say that it was a meeting at which General
Frémont and Mr. Spinola both spoke, is to say of
how various elements it was composed. When Dr.
Vinton and Mr. Wallbridge, Mr. William Allen
Butler and Mr. Coddington, Mr. Delafield Smith
and Judge Daly meet and speak upon the same
platform, it is clear enough that there is a central
thought and purpose so absorbing and universal
that all details of difference of method are swal-
lowed up. There was much practical good sense
in Judge Daly's remarks. He said that it was too
late to consider the cause of the war, or to dis-
tribute the responsibility of refusing compromise
when compromise was possible, for we were now
engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle for our life.
Either the rebellion must conquer or the Govern-
ment must, and no right-minded man could hesi-
tate which to choose. He showed that any thing
short of the absolute victory of the Government
would be an abortive result.

But then the orator suddenly said something that
must have made a thoughtful listener wonder.
Why, he asked, shall we not require of the Govern-
ment to leave questions upon which we differ among
ourselves and attend exclusively to saving the
country? He meant why not leave off thinking
of the question. Simply because when you are
considering how to save the nation you can no
more avoid the relation of slavery to the war than
when you are trying to save a burning house you
can help thinking how to throw most water upon
it. The paramount question at this moment is the
national safety. Consequently every method of
securing that safety must be considered. To say
that we will shirk the question of the help or harm
that the system of slavery may do the rebels or the
Government, is as idle as to say that we will shirk
the question of the relative value of different guns.
Every means of weakening the rebels and of sub-
duing the rebellion is the very question of the

The moral of the meeting was that of every thing
that is now seen or heard—namely, that the com-
prehension of the extent of the insurrection is more
accurate than ever before, and the resolution to con-
quer it is universal and unflagging.


There are some who yet say with Mr. Wick-
liffe, of Kentucky, that if twenty millions of loyal
citizens can not conquer six millions of rebels with
their four millions of slaves, they had better re-
linquish at once the effort to save the country.

Many who think so are loyal Union men, but
they have not fully and fairly considered the sub-
ject. For if this question were asked of them,
whether, instead of sacrificing the lives of the
choicest of our youth and spending lavishly in ev-
ery way, it would not be better to suppress this in-
surrection entirely by black soldiers, leaving us in
the loyal States quite unaffected except by the ex-
pense, they would probably allow that it might be

But the argument of numbers is only specious.
If the-six millions are united with a desperate sub-
ordination of every consideration to the success of
the insurrection; if they draft and coerce every
man into some kind of use; if every thing is plant-
ed, and tilled, and manufactured with a sole regard
to the triumph of the rebellion; and every inhab-
itant of the region lives to fight, and feels that he
fights to live; then, unless the twenty millions are
animated by the same absorbing resolution, and
work and fight with the same desperate unanimity,
there is no reason why the smaller number should
not prevail.

But what is a sure sign of that resolution upon
the part of the stronger in numbers? The use of
every lawful means of warfare. And when the
larger number is conscious that the struggle is a
death-grapple, they will not hesitate to use every
means. No man is earnest in a fight so long as he
does not use every lawful advantage.

And what is or can be our object in this war
but the speediest restoration of the supreme author-
ity of the nation? Do we wish to prolong it? Is
there any reason why it would not have been bet-
ter that it has ended ten months or a year ago?
It did not, simply because we had misconceived
the extent and intensity of the conspiracy. But
is there any reason why it should drag on for a
year or two years more? It will not if we truly
comprehend the exigency. Then will any one say
why every means should not at once be employed
that it may be crushed? For the employment of
all means will prove our earnestness, while the
failure to use them will indicate languor of pur-

If a man is fastidious as to the color, or height,
or weight of the soldiers who fight and conquer the
rebels, he is a ludicrous and hopeless patriot. Was
not the exploit of Robert Smalls as heroic as any in-
cident in the war? Would you have sent him and
the steamer back again? Was it humiliating to be
helped by a man who did not belong to the twenty
millions? If there were ten thousand Robert
Smalls, ought we to reject their aid because they
are neither of the pure Saxon nor the pure Celtic
races? These are questions that we must soberly
answer; and our reply will show how true is our
conception of the great contest we are waging.

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