Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

. (page 45 of 76)
Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 45 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

gru was mortally wounded. General ble conflict. It was a saying of the Duke
Meade, in further pursuit of the rebels, of Wellington that, next to a defeat, thfc
crossed the Potomac at Berlin. Thus saddest thing is a victory. The horrors of
again covering the approaches to Wash- the battle-field after the contest is over,
ington, he compelled the enemy to pass the sights and sounds of woe let me
the Blue Ridge at one of the upper gaps; throw a pall over the scene, which no
and in about six weeks from the com- words can adequately depict to those who
mencement of the campaign General Lee have not witnessed it, and on which
found himself again on the south side of no one who has a heart in his bosom
the Rappahannock, with the probable loss can bear to dwell. One drop of balm
of about a third part of his army. alone, one drop of heavenly, life-giving
Such, most inadequately recounted, is balm, mingles in this bitter cup of misery,
the history of the ever-memorable three Scarcely had the cannon ceased to roar
days, and of the events immediately pre- when the brethren and sisters of Chris-
ceding and following. It has been pre- tian benevolence, ministers of compas-
tended, in order to diminish the magni- sion, angels of pity, hasten to the field
tude of this disaster to the rebel cause, and the hospital to moisten the parched
that it was merely the repulse of an at- tongue, to bind the ghastly wounds, to
tack on a strongly defended position. The soothe the parting agony alike of friend
tremendous losses on both sides are a and foe, and to catch the last whispered
sufficient answer to this misrepresenta- messages of love from dying lips. " Carry
tion, and attest the courage and obstinacy this miniature back to my dear wife, but
with which, in three days, battle was do not take it from my bosom till I am
waged. Few of the great conflicts of gone." " Tell my little sister not to grieve
modern times have cost victors and van- for me; I am willing to die for my coun-
quished so great a sacrifice. On the try." "Oh that my mother were here!"
Union side there fell, in the whole cam- When, since Aaron stood between the liv-
paign, of generals killed, Reynolds, Weed, ing and the dead, were there ever so gra-
and Zook, and wounded, Barlow, Barnes, cious a ministry as this ? It has been said
Butterfield, Doubleday, Gibbon, Graham, that it is characteristic of Americans to
Hancock, Sickles, and Warren; while of treat women with a deference not paid to
officers below the rank of general, and them in any other country. I will not un-
men, there were 2,834 killed, 13,709 dertake to say whether this is so; but I
wounded, and 6,643 missing. On the Con- will say that, since this terrible war has
federate side there were killed on the been waged, the women of the loyal States,
field, or mortally wounded, Generals if never before, have entitled themselves
Armistead, Barksdale, Garnett, Pender, to our highest admiration and gratitude.
Petigru, and Semmes, and wounded, And now, friends, fellow-citizens, as we
Heth, Hood, Johnson, Kemper, Kimball, stand among these honored graves, the
and Trimble. Of officers below the rank momentous question presents itself, which
of general, and men, there were taken of the two parties to the war is respon-
prisoners, including the wounded, 13,621, sible for all this suffering, for the dread-
a number ascertained officially. Of the ful sacrifice of life the lawful and con-
wounded in a condition to be removed, of stituted government of the United States,
the killed, and of the missing, the enemy or the ambitious men who have rebelled
has made no return. They were esti- against it ? I say " rebelled " against it>
rmited, from the best data which the ^though Earl Russell, the British secre-

28 H


tary of state for foreign affairs, in his re-
cent temperate and conciliatory speech in
Scotland, seems to intimate that no prej-
udice ought to attach to that word, in-
asmuch as our English forefathers re-
belled against Charles I. and James II.,
and our American fathers rebelled against
George III. These certainly are vener-
able precepts, but they prove only that it
is just and proper to rebel against op-
pressive governments. They do not prove
that it was just and proper for the son
of James II. to rebel against George I. ;
or his grandson, Charles Edward, to rebel
against George II. ; nor, as it seems to me,
ought these dynastic struggles, little bet-
ter than family quarrels, to be compared
Avith this monstrous conspiracy against
the American Union. These precedents do
not prove that it was just and proper for
the " disappointed great men " of the
cotton-growing States to rebel against " the
most beneficent government of which his-
lory gives us any account," as the Vice-
President of the Confederacy, in Novem-
ber, 1860, charged them with doing. They
do not create a presumption even in favor
of the disloyal slave-holders of the South,
who, living under a government of which
Mr. Jefferson Davis, in the session of
1860-61, said that it was "the best gov-
ernment ever instituted by man, unex-
ceptionally administered, and under which
the people have been prosperous beyond
comparison with any other people whose
career has been recorded in history," re-
belled against it because their aspiring
politicians, himself among the rest, were
in danger of losing their monopoly of its
offices. What would have been thought
by an impartial posterity of the Ameri-
can rebellion against George III. if the
colonists had at all times been more than
equally represented in Parliament, and
James Otis and Patrick Henry and Wash-
ington and Franklin and the Adamses
and Hancock and Jefferson, and men of
their stamp, had for two generations en-
joyed the confidence of the sovereign and
administered the government of the em-
pire? What would have been thought of
the rebellion against Charles I. if Crom-
well and the men of his school had been
the responsible advisers of that prince
from his accession to the throne, and then,
on account of a partial change in the

ministry, had brought his head to the
block and involved the country in a
desolating war for the sake of dismember-
ing it and establishing a new government
south of the Trent? What would have
been thought of the Whigs of 1688 if
they had themselves composed the cabinet
of James II., and been the advisers of the
measures and the promoters of the policy
which drove him into exile? The Puri-
tans of 1640 i;nd the Whigs of 1688 re-
belled against arbitrary power in order to
establish constitutional liberty. If they
had risen against Charles and James be-
cause those monarchs favored equal rights,
arid in order themselves " for the first time
in the history of the world " to establish
an oligarchy " founded on the corner-
stone of slavery," they would truly have
furnished a precedent for the rebels
of the South, but their cause would not
have been sustained by the eloquence of
Pym or of Somers, nor sealed with the
blood of Hampden or Russell.

I call the war which the Confederates
are waging against the Union a " re
bellion," because it is one, and in grave
matters it is best to call things by their
right names. I speak of it as a crime,
because the Constitution of the United
States so regards it, and puts "rebellion"
on a par with " invasion." The constitu-
tion and law, not only of England, but
of every civilized country, regards them
in the same light; or, rather, they con-
sider the rebel in arms as far worse than
the alien enemy. To levy war against
the United States is the constitutional
definition of treason, and that crime is
by every civilized government regarded as
the highest which citizen or subject can
commit. Not content with the sanction
of human justice, of all the crimes
against the law of the land it is singled
out for the denunciation of religion. The
litanies of every church in Christendom
whose ritual embraces that office, as far
as I am aware, from the metropolitan
cathedrals of Europe to the humblest mis-
sion chapels in the islands of the sea,
concur with the Church of England in
imploring the Sovereign of the universe,
by the most awful adjurations which the
heart of man can conceive or his tongue
utter, to " deliver us from sedition, privy
conspiracy, and rebellion." And reason




good; for while a rebellion against
tyranny a rebellion designed, after
prostrating arbitrary power, to establish
free government on the basis of justice
and truth is an enterprise on which
good men and angels may look with com
placency, an unprovoked rebellion of am
bitious men against a beneficial govern
ment, for the purpose the avowed pur
pose of establishing, extending, and per
petuating any form of injustice and
wrong, is an imitation on earth of that
foul revolt of " the infernal serpent "
against which the Supreme Majesty of
heaven sent forth the armed myriads of
His angels, and clothed the right arm of
His Son with the three-bolted thunders of

Lord Bacon, in the " true marshalling
of the sovereign decrees of honor," assigns
the first place to the conditores impe-
riorum founders of states and common
wealths; and, truly, to build up from
the discordant elements of our nature
the passions, the interests, and the opin
ions of the individual man, the rivalries
of family, clan, and tribe, the influence of
climate and geographical position, the ac
cidents of peace and war accumulated for
ages to build up from these oftentimes
warring elements a well-compacted, pros
perous, and powerful state, if it were to
be accomplished by one effort or in one
generation would require a more than
mortal skill. To contribute in some nota
ble degree to this, the greatest work of
man, by wise and patriotic counsel in
peace and loyal heroism in war, is as high
as human merit can well rise; and far
more than to any of those to whom Bacon
assigns this highest place of honor, whose
names can hardly be repeated without
a wondering smile Romulus, Cyrus,
Csesar, Gothman, Tsmael it is due to our
Washington as the founder of the Ameri
can Union. But if to achieve, or help to
achieve, this greatest work of man s wis
dom and virtue gives title to a place
among the chief benefactors, rightful heirs
of the benedictions of mankind, by equal
reason shall the bold, bad men who seek
to undo the noble work eversores imperi-
orum, destroyers of states, who for base
and selfish ends rebel against beneficent
governments, seek to overturn wise con
stitutions, to lay powerful republican

unions at the foot of foreign thrones, to
bring on civil and foreign war, anarchy
at home, dictation abroad, desolation,
ruin by equal reason, I say yes, a thou
sand-fold stronger shall they inherit the
execrations of the ages.

But to hide the deformity of the crime
under the cloak of that sophistry which
strives to make the worse appear the bet
ter reason, we are told by the leaders of
the rebellion that in our complex system
of government the separate States are
"sovereign," and that the central power
is only an " agency " established by those
sovereigns to manage certain little af
fairs, such, forsooth, as peace, war, army,
navy, finance, territory, and relations
with the native tribes, which they could
not so conveniently administer themselves.
It happens, unfortunately for this theory,
that the federal Constitution (which has
been adopted by the people of every State
of the Union as much as their own State
constitutions have been adopted, and is
declared to be paramount to them) no
where recognizes the States as " sover
eigns " in fact, that by their names it
does not recognize them at all; while the
authority established by that instrument
is recognized, in its text, not as an
" agency," but as " the government of the
United States." By that Constitution,
moreover, which purports in its preamble
to be ordained and established by " the
people of the United States," it is ex
pressly provided that "the members of
the State legislatures, and all executive
and judicial officers, shall be bound by
oath or affirmation to support the Con
stitution." Now it is a common thing,
under all governments, for an agent to be
bound by oath to be faithful to his sover
eign; but I never heard before of sover
eigns being bound by oath to be faithful
to their agency.

Certainly I do not deny that the sepa
rate States are clothed with sovereign
powers for the administration of local
affairs; it in one of the most beautiful
features of our mixed system of govern
ment. But it is equally true that, in
adopting the federal Constitution, the
States abdicated by express renunciation
all the most important functions of na
tional sovereignty, and, by one compre
hensive, self-denying clause, gave up all



right to contravene the Constitution of the States in forming the Constitution
the United States. Specifically, and by delegated to the United States, and pro-
enumeration, they renounced all the most hibited to themselves, the power of declar-
important prerogatives of independent ing war, there was by implication reserved
States for peace and for war the right to each State the right of seceding and
to keep troops or ships - of - war in time of then declaring war; that, though they ex-
peace, or to engage in war unless actu- pressly prohibited to the States and dele-
ally invaded; to enter into compact with gated to the United States the entire
another State or a foreign power; to lay treaty-making power, they reserved by im-
any duty on tonnage or any impost on ex- plication (for an express reservation is
ports or imports without the consent of not pretended) to the individual States
Congress; to enter into any treaty, alii- to Florida, for instance the right to se
ance, or confederation, to grant letters of cede, and then to make a treaty with
marque or reprisal, and to emit bills of Spain retroceding that Spanish colony, and
credit; while all these powers and many thus surrendering to a foreign power the
others are expressly vested in .the general key to the Gulf of Mexico to maintain
government. To ascribe to political com- propositions like these, with whatever af-
munities, thus limited in their jurisdic- fected seriousness it is done, appears to
tion, who cannot even establish a post- me egregious trifling.

office on their own soil, the character of Pardon me, my friends, for dwelling on

independent sovereignty, and to reduce a these wretched sophistries. But it is these

national organization, clothed with all which conducted the armed hosts of re-

the transcendent powers of government, bellion to your doors on the terrible and

to the name and condition of an " agency " glorious days of July, and which have

of the States, proves nothing but that brought upon the whole land the scourge

the logic of secession is on a par with its of an aggressive and wicked war a war

loyalty and patriotism. which can have no other termination com-

Oh, but the " reserved rights " ! And patible with the permanent safety and

what of the reserved rights? The Tenth welfare of the country but the complete

Amendment of the Constitution, supposed destruction of the military power of the

to provide for " reserved rights," is con- enemy. I have, on other occasions, at-

stantly misquoted. By that amendment tempted to show that to yield to his de-

" the powers not delegated to the United mands and acknowledge his independence,

States by the Constitution, nor prohibited thus resolving the Union at once into two

by it to the States, are reserved to the hostile governments, with a certainty of

States respectively, or to the people." The further disintegration, would annihilate

" powers " reserved must of course be such the strength and the influence of the coun-

as could have been, but were not, delegated try as a member of the family of nations;

to the United States could have been, but afford to foreign powers the opportunity

were not, prohibited to the States; but to and the temptation for humiliating and

speak of the right of an individual State disastrous interference in our affairs;

to secede, as a power that could have been, wrest from the Middle and Western States

though it was not, delegated to the Unit- some of their great natural outlets to the

ed States, is simply nonsense. sea and of their most important lines of

But, waiving this obvious absurdity, can internal communication ; deprive the corn-
it need a serious argument to prove that merce and navigation of the country of
there can be no State right to enter into two-thirds of our sea-coast and of the
a new confederation reserved under a con- fortresses which protect it; not only so,
stitution which expressly prohibits a State but would enable each individual State
to " enter into any treaty, alliance, or con- some of them with a white population
federation," or any "agreement or com- equal to a good-sized northern county; or
pact with another State or a foreign rather the dominant party in each State,
power"? To say that the State may, by to cede its territory, its ha-rbors, its fort-
enacting the preliminary farce of secession, resses, the mouths of its rivers, to any
acquire the right to do the prohibited foreign power. It cannot be that the peo-
things to *y, for instance, that though pie of the loyal States that 22,000,000 of



brave and prosperous freemen will, for Gadsdens, the Rutledges, and the Cotes-

the temptations of a brief truce in an worth Pinckneys, of the Revolutionary

eternal border war, consent to this hideous and constitutional age, to follow the agi-

national suicide. tators of the present day.

Do not think that I exaggerate the Nor must we be deterred from the
consequences of yielding to the demands vigorous prosecution of the war by the
of the leaders of the rebellion. I under- suggestion continually thrown out by the
state them. They require of us, not only rebels, and those who sympathize with
all the sacrifices I have named, not only them, that, however it might have been
the cession to them, a foreign and hostile at an earlier stage, there has been en-
power, of all the territory of the United gendered by the operations of the war a
States at present occupied by the rebel slate of exasperation and bitterness
forces, but the abandonment to them which, independent of all reference to the
of the vast regions we have rescued from original nature of the matters in con-
their grasp of Maryland, of a part of troversy, will forever prevent the restora-
eastern Virginia, and the whole of west- tion of the Union and the return of har
em Virginia; the sea-coast of North and mony between the two great sections of
South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida; the country. This opinion I take to be
Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri; Ar- entirely without foundation,
kansas and the larger portion of Mis- No man can deplore more than I do
sissippi, Louisiana, and Texas in most the miseries of every kind unavoidably in-
of which, with the exception of lawless cident to the war. Who could stand on
guerillas, there is not a rebel in arms; this spot and call to mind the scenes of
in all of which the great majority of the the first days of July without any feeling?
people are loyal to the Union. A sad foreboding of what would ensue, if

We must give back, too, the helpless war should break out between North and

colored population, thousands of whom South, has haunted me through life, and

are perilling their lives in the ranks of led me, perhaps too long, to tread in the

our armies, to a bondage rendered tenfold path of hopeless compromise, in the fond

more bitter by the momentary enjoyment endeavor to conciliate those who were pre-

of freedom. Finally, we must surren- determined not to be conciliated,

der every man in the southern country, But it is not true, as it is pretended by

white or black, who has moved a finger the rebels and their sympathizers, that

or spoken a word for the restoration of the war has been carried on by the

the Union, to a reign of terror as re- United States without entire regard to

morseless as that of Robespierre, which those temperaments which are enjoyed by

has been the chief instrument by which the law of nations, by our modern civ-

the rebellion has been organized and sus- ilization, and by the spirit of Christianity,

tained, and which has already filled the It would be quite easy to point out, in the

prisons of the South with noble men, recent military history of the leading

whose only crime is that they are not European powers, acts of violence and

the worst of criminals. The South is cruelty in the prosecution of their wars

full of such men. to which no parallel can be found among

I do not believe there has been a day us. In fact, when we consider the pecul-
since the election of President Lincoln iar bitterness with which civil wars are
when, if an ordinance of secession could almost invariably waged, we must justly
have been fairly submitted, after a free boast of the manner in which the United
discussion, to the mass of the people in States have carried on the contest,
any single Southern State, a majority of It is, of course, impossible to prevent
ballots would have been given in its favor, the lawless acts of stragglers and desert-
No; not in South Carolina. It is not ers, or the occasional unwarrantable pro-
possible that the majority of the people, ceedings of subordinates on distant st-a-
even of that State, if permitted, without tions; but I do not believe there is in all
fear or favor, to give a ballot on the ques- history the record of a civil war of such
tion, would have abandoned a leader like gigantic dimensions where so little has
Petigru, and all the memories of the been done in the spirit of vindictiveness



as in this war, by the government and ring with his neighbor. But it is not so;

commanders of the United States; and all history teaches a different lesson,

this notwithstanding the provocation given The Wars of the Roses in England lasted

by the rebel government by assum- an entire generation, from the battle of

ing the responsibility of wretches like St. Albans, in 1455, to that of Bosworth

Quantrell, refusing quarter to colored Field, in 1485. Speaking of the former,

troops, and scourging and selling into Hume says: "This was the first blood

slavery free colored men from the North spilt in that fatal quarrel, which was not

who fell into their hands, by covering the finished in less than a course of thirty

sea with pirates, refusing a just exchange years; which was signalized by twelve

of prisoners, while they crowded their, pitched battles; which opened a scene of

armies with paroled prisoners not ex- extraordinary fierceness and cruelty; is

changed, and starving prisoners of war to computed to have cost the lives of eighty

death. princes of the blood; and almost entirely

In the next place, if there are any pres- annihilated the ancient nobility of Eng-

ent who believe that, in addition to the land. The strong attachments which, at

effect of the military operations of the that time, men of the same kindred bore

war, the confiscation acts and emanci- to each other, and the vindictive spirit

pation proclamations have embittered the which was considered a point of honor,

rebel beyond the possibility of reconcilia- rendered the great families implacable in

tion, I would request them to reflect that their resentments, and widened every mo-

the tone of the rebel leaders and rebel ment of the breach between the parties."

press was just as bitter in the first Such was the state of things in England

months of the war, nay, before a gun was under which an entire generation grew

fired, as it is now. There were speeches up: but when Henry VII., in whom the

made in Congress, in the very last session titles of the two houses were united, went

before the outbreak of the rebellion, so up to London after the battle of Bosworth

ferocious as to show that their authors Field, to mount the throne, he was every-

were under the influence of a real frenzy, where received with joyous acclamations,

At the present day, if there is any dis- " as one ordained and sent from heaven
crimination made by the Confederate press to put an end to the dissensions " which
in the affected scorn, hatred, and contume- had so long afflicted the country,
ly with which every shade of opinion and The great rebellion in England of the
sentiment in the loyal States is treated, seventeenth century, after long and angry

Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 45 of 76)