Ezra Mundy] 1830-1894 [Hunt.

About the war; (Volume 1) online

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ABOUT THE WAR.




•' So long as .you remain united,'' said the old man, (poiutinp the attention
of his boys to the bundle of sticks.) " you are a match for all your enemies
but separate, and you are umjosk.'



PLAIN WORDS TO PLAIN PEOPLE



BY A



PLAIN MAN



UNION LEAGUE IN PHILADELPHIA.
1863.



ABOUT THE WAR.




" So long as you remain united, said the old man, (pointing the attention
of his boys to the bundle of sticks.) " you are a match for all your enemies ;
but separate, and you are undone."



PLAIN WORDS TO PLAIN PEOPLE



BY A



PLAIN MAN.



UNION LEAGUE IN PHILADELPHIA.

1863.






9883

r, sober industrious .people of the cit, and
^To the harden * «>** of rfal and ,-P— ^
counts, -ho want to see the ret ^ ^ ^

— "* ^ I " . £■ - ^ - - - " mmd
vain it is to expect their retu

.Udonepurpose-.BOOTTBSW. -




HENBVB. ASHMEAD, FBI

So.. 1102 and U04 Sansom Street.



A FEW PLAIN WORDS, ETC.



If there is any one thing about which everybody thinks and
everybody talks, in these days, it is the war. How many feel
right about it, it is not so easy to tell. One way to feel right
about it is to understand the cause and consequences of it, and
in trying to show these we need not use any harsh or unkind
words.

We all know how our country began. A few families came
across the sea and settled on the James River, at the South,
and were followed in five or six years by another party that
settled on the shores of Cape Cod, at the North. The new-
comers suffered a great many hardships, but after a while
things became settled. The colonies (as they were called)
were under the English government, as the Canadas are now,
and for nearly one hundred and fifty years they were pros-
perous. They had a good understanding among themselves,
and also with the British government. The farmers and
fishermen of New England worked hard, and made a comfort-
able living. They were sober, industrious, and resolute ;
thought a good deal of churches and schools, and meddled very
little with anybody's business but their own.

The people of the colonies of New York and Pennsylvania
had much the same interests with those of the more northern
colonies. Iron and coal were then lying undisturbed in their
mountains, while agriculture and commerce were their chief
pursuits.

Farther south were Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia,
and the Carolinas. » Their interests, then, were not materially
different from the rest of the country. The people were from
a different European stock, to be sure, and had different ways
and manners from those of the North, and perhaps the climate
and soil had some influence in making them less hardy and
enterprising ; but friendship and good neighbourhood prevailed



4

all around. The vast regions of the continent now possessed
by the Western and Northwestern States were then an almost
unexplored wilderness. If you will take the map which your
child brings home from school, and cover up the space occu-
pied by Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indi-
ana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio,
Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, and
the territories of Utah, Washington, Nebraska, &c, &c, the
part left uncovered will show you how narrow were the bounds'
of our country in its colonial state.

Matters went on smoothly enough till the English Govern-
ment showed a disposition to exact from us what seemed
unjust. For a while this treatment was borne patiently.
Humble remonstrances and petitions were sent to London,
but they did not avail much ; and at last our people deter-
mined to bear the yoke no longer. It took a good while (as
it always does) to work the popular spirit up to the point of
resistance. A body of British soldiers were posted in Boston
to enforce the offensive laws, and in March, 1770, a collision
occurred between a portion of this force and the populace.
On the fifth day of that month, in the principal street of that-
city, the first drop of American blood was drawn by a British
bullet, and it kindled a spirit which has stayed on our soil from
that hour to this. The perpetrators of the deed were tried,
but the evidence being conclusive that the assault was provoked
by the taunts and insults of the people, they were acquitted.
Nevertheless, the citizens determined to rid themselves of the
presence of an armed hostile force, and it was but a few days
before every British soldier was withdrawn from. that city.

Three years after this a cargo of tea was sunk in Boston
harbour, to avoid paying the duties which the British Govern-
ment imposed on it. The people were determined not to sub-
mit to what they deemed oppressive and tyrannical laws. To
resist was a bold step for the feeble colonists to take. They
would cut off their chief resource for a comfortable subsistence.
They had no manufactures — had made but little progress in
the mechanic arts — had few commercial privileges beyond
those which the mother country furnished or controlled — and
by this step they would involve themselves in a war with one



of the most powerful nations in the world, and that, too, the
nation from which they sprang, and with which they had the
closest ties. Who was there to give them succour or to pity
them, if they should fail in accomplishing their deliverance ?

Two years more passed before the separating blow was
struck, and the Colonies — one and all — declared themselves
forever free from British dominion. For seven long; and
gloomy years was the battle fought. Under the great and
good Washington, whose trust in the overruling providence of
God was as firm as the Alleghanies, an army was maintained
at sacrifices almost incredible and in the face of difficulties
almost unconquerable. In spite of disasters and defeats ; with
many open and secret enemies and plotters of mischief in the
army and in the national councils, Washington kept the confi-
dence of the great body of the people until a complete victory
was obtained, and in 1783 an honorable treaty of peace was
formed, recognizftig the United States of America as a free,
sovereign and independent nation. This glorious heritage,
secured at such pains and sacrifices, and enhanced in value by
the fruits of industry and enterprise which have accumulated
during the intervening period of eighty years, we are, to-day,
in danger of losing by the most insane folly !

In the grand struggle which ended in our freedom and in the
organization of the new government, the North and the South
were one, but there was, of course, much diversity of opinion
as to the powers which should be relinquished by each member
of the Confederacy (as it was called) to the central or general
government, and it turned out upon trial that they did not re-
linquish enough to give it the requisite energy for accomplishing
its purpose. When the people became convinced that a differ-
ent government was necessary for the prosperity and safety of
the country, a full and fair expression of the popular will
resulted in the adoption of the Constitution, in the main as we
now have it. It received the sanction of New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Penn-
sylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South
Carolina and Georgia. All the States admitted since have
acknowledged this Constitution to be the supreme law, as a
condition of admission.



General Washington was the first called to fill the office of
President, and at the end of his second term, John Adams
succeeded him.

Even at this early period of our national history causes of
dissension and controversy were apprehended ; and in his fare-
well address to the people, Washington fore-warned them that
"the point in the political fortress against which the batteries
of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and
actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed will be
the National Union" — "the unity of government which consti-
tutes us one people." And he enjoins it upon them " to dis-
countenance whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can,
in any event, be abandoned, and indignantly to frown upon the
first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our
country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now
link together the various parts."

Thomas Jefferson succeeded Mr. Adams, and thenceforth a
more definite shape was given to politics and parties — not by
geographical lines so much as by different views of the powers
and prerogatives of the general government. The leaders and
supporters of the opposite creeds, known as Federalism and
Democracy, were found indiscriminately at the South and at
the North.

From 1787 to 1824, (with the exception of the one term of
Mr. Adams,) Virginia furnished all our Presidents, viz :
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. In 1825 there
was no election by the people, and the House of Representa-
tives placed John Q. Adams in the Executive chair. Then
came Andrew Jackson, from Tennessee, and served eight
years. Thus for twenty-eight of the first thirty-six years of
our history, Virginia and Tennessee furnished the Presidents,
and no complaint or resistance was manifested. No double
term has been served by any President since Jackson. There
had been already introduced into the political machinery the
mischievous principle, that a political party, upon coming into
power, is justified in using the patronage of the government for
the benefit of its party friends and supporters ; so that upon
the accession of each new incumbent the successful party ex-
pects, as a matter of right, a division of the emoluments of office



among its leaders and friends. The effects of such a principle
could not be otherwise than injurious to public virtue. It is
nothing more nor less than a system of bribery administered
under the forms of law. This mischievous doctrine keeps fche
political arena supplied with combatants. No sooner arc the
victors in possession of the spoils than the defeated party
begin the struggle for their recovery. And the wisest and
most beneficent administration would, in all probability, make
enemies enough, in disappointed office-seekers alone, to ensure
its overthrow after two terms, if not sooner. The extent of
this obnoxious influence is all but boundless. Once in four
years it exhibits itself on a more extended scale, but it is in
daily and hourly force through all the grades of public service.
A change in the political councils of Philadelphia settles and
unsettles the present livelihood of many thousands of men.
Who can shut his eyes to the tendency of a principle which
makes the continuance of two thousand labourers in the service
of the gas works of that city to depend upon their political
opinions being in harmony with those of the dominant party !
How far this dangerous ingredient in our political compound
has engendered a lust for power and its concomitants, and so
involved us in the present disasters, it is not easy to say.

The contest for the Presidency for the term of 1857-1861
was sharp, Mr. Buchanan and General Fremont being the
rival candidates. The former received 174 out of 296 votes.
Eleven States were greatly disappointed at this result, but they
did not revolt, nor attempt to block the wheels of government.
When the time came to select candidates to succeed Mr. Bu-
chanan, the Democratic party divided, as did also their oppo-
nents, so that there were four steeds upon the course — viz :
Breckinridge, Douglas, Lincoln and Bell. There was un-
usual animation in the preparatory proceedings, but all things
were conducted under the same forms and with the same guards
that had attended every previous election. There was no pre-
tence of fraud or violence or unconstitutionality in a single
step of the process, and Abraham Lincoln was found to be the
choice of the people. From that moment he represented in
his person the sovereign power of the United States of America,
subject only to the ceremonies of inauguration.



8

But before his accession to office the most open and positive
determination was expressed in the Southern section of the
country to renounce their allegiance to the constitutional
government of the country ; and, unfortunately, there were
connected with the chief administrative bureaus at Washington,
and also with the army and navy, persons who did not disdain
to avail themselves of their official positions to favour the op-
posers of the President elect, and to supply them beforehand
with the means and facilities for making the contemplated
resistance.

Since every constitutional provision had been as strictly ob-
served in the election of Mr. Lincoln as in the election of
Washington, Madison, and Jackson, there was of course no-
thing to be done but to proceed in the organization of the
government. To execute the will of a majority of the electors
was simply to comply with the plain provisions of the Con-
stitution.

In the meanwhile the insurgents violently seized and held
forts, arsenals, custom-houses, post-offices, and other property
of the United States ; declared themselves absolved from all
allegiance to the government which they had covenanted to
support and obey ; formed themselves into an independent
nation, with a new title and flag, and demanded recognition as
such at home and abroad !

There could be no mistake as to the position of the two
communities. If there ever was a legitimate government of
the United States entitled to the obedience and support of the
citizens, and the respect of foreign nations, the government
inaugurated March 4, 1861, was such. Abraham Lincoln was
placed in the Executive chair by the deliberate voice of a
majority of the free citizens of the United States, uttered in
accordance with the forms prescribed by the Constitution.
Any State or any number of States might as lawfully and as
reasonably have refused to acknowledge Jefferson or Jackson
to be the Chief Executive officer of the government as the
States of South Carolina, Virginia, or Georgia refuse to submit
to the administration of Mr. Lincoln.

Of course the simple question for the rest of the country was,
Shall we abandon the government or suppress the insurrection ?



Shall we give up the ship or shall Ave sink the piratical craft
that crosses her bows and attempts to interrupt her voyage ?
There could be but one answer in thoughtful minds and
from patriotic lips, and history will record it to the credit of a
loyal people.

It needed no angel nor prophet to instruct intelligent
Americans as to their duty in such an emergency. They knew
full well that the doctrine of " State sovereignty' ' when " stripped
of the sophistical argument in which it is habited," means the
subversion of the Federal Government. It is the arm that is
stretched out between " rebellion and the halter, to rescue the
traitor from the gibbet. The citizen of the nullifying State
becomes a traitor to his country by obedience to the laws of
the State, and a traitor to the State by obedience to the laws
of his country. The scaffold and the battle-field stream al-
ternately with the blood of their victims." To avoid such a
frightful chaos, the only course was for the loyal States to
present an unbroken front to the insurgents, and sternly and
steadfastly insist on submission to the constituted authorities
of the land, as the only condition on which hostilities can ever
cease.

If it is asked upon what pretence the States in rebellion
assumed that attitude, there can still be but one answer, and
that, too, will history record to the shame of all disloyalists.
It was because a majority of the free people of the country
differed from them in the choice of a ruler for the term of four
years ! It was a repudiation of the principle which every
American ploughboy understands as the very essence of a re-
publican government, viz : that the majority shall govern.

But the inquiry still forces itself upon us, on what act of
the general government could the insurgents put their finger
by which the plain provisions .of the Federal Constitution were
violated ? What privileges or protection did any of the States
enjoy to which other States had equal claim and were refused?
What obligations had the general government assumed which
were neglected, or in what had it transcended the reservations
of the several States ? Could not Mr. Jefferson Davis enjoy
in Massachusetts all the privileges of a citizen of the United
States which Mr. Lincoln could have enjoyed in South Caro-



10

lina? Did the government accord mail facilities, harbour de-
fences, aid to public improvements, or freedom of speech and
of the press to the North, and deny them to the South ? Was
any Southern Senator ever struck down in the Senate chamber
of the United States, unarmed and oft' his guard, by a Northern
member of Congress ? Was any Southern citizen ever denied
a hearing in our Northern courts of law, and threatened with
personal violence while seeking, in a peaceful and legitimate
way to obtain a decision upon a legal question of public
interest ?

Nay, farther, who among the people of the States in rebel-
lion even now complain that, in every substantial particular, the
general government has not most honestly and faithfully ful-
filled its obligations, or that a fair influence has been denied
them in the councils and legislation of the country?

Did the farmers and mechanics of the insurgent States
murmur at taxes imposed upon them by the Federal govern-
ment, or at restrictions upon their liberty to go where and do
what they would ? Let the laws of the revolted section of the
country, and the laws of the general government, be examined,
and see which interfered most with the inalienable right to
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Whence, then, it is asked again, this unnatural strife ? Why
is it that a country which but three years ago was at peace
within itself and with all the world, and in the enjoyment of
almost unprecedented prosperity, has suddenly become the
theatre of a ferocious, bloody, devastating civil war ?

The answer is at hand. It is the fruit of an insatiable
lust for poiver. The great mass of the quiet, industrious,
thrifty people of the land are drawn into a vortex which a few
unprincipled demagogues have produced. Our vast foreign
population — with habits, principles, and views not always in
accordance with those which our American-born people love to
cherish — have been made, in a large measure, subservient to the
schemes of artful politicians. New interests have sprung up in
different parts of the country, for which protection has been and
is sought, and a system of "log-rolling"' has been introduced
into most of our legislative bodies, eminently favourable to the
schemes of wily and corrupt men. The extension of the boun-



11

*

claries of the Union, the admission of new States, and the
organization of new Territories, must of necessity have their
influence in shaping the policy of the government, and test the
elasticity of the Constitution to adapt itself to this new order
of things, and in no important respect has it yet proved in-
adequate to the exigencies of the country. It is now encoun-
tering the sternest ordeal that any human government was
ever called to pass. God grant it a safe deliverance !

There seems to have been but one interest that has suffered
irreparably by the growth and prosperity of our country, and
that is African slavery. It has asked and demanded a pro-
tection which the Constitution, neither in its letter nor spirit,
could extend to it or allow it to receive. It asked liberty (or
rather claimed the right) to extend itself into free territory,
and the voice of the people, uttered in a constitutional form,
said, emphatically, No ! The political leaders in the slave
States, seeing but too clearly that if this liberty were denied,
and the institution to which they are wedded were restricted
to its present limits, its extinction becomes a mere question of
time, resolved upon the desperate alternative of rebellion; and
inasmuch as many persons who had been conspicuous in the
anti-slavery ranks favoured and acted with the party that
nominated Mr. Lincoln, and as the time of the outgoing of one
administration and the incoming of another is usually attended
with some excitement and confusion, that was seized as a
fitting juncture for a demonstration.

It is one of the notable tokens of the desperation which
marks their course, that it should not have occurred to the sece-
ders to consider what would be the position of their " peculiar
institution" when the barriers with which the Federal govern-
ment protected it, were removed. An eminent statesman
once said, that " if Southern leaders would interpret the ten-
dency of abolition doctrines wisely, they would see the value
of the Union as the only thing which can preserve slavery
from annihilation."

After the nucleus of a new confederacy was formed, by the
separation of South Carolina from the body politic, it was not
difficult to persuade those who had a common interest with her
in preserving slavery, to join her fortunes ; but it is confidently



12

believed that history — impartial history — will show, that in
not one solitary case have the people of either of the States
in rebellion, by a fair, deliberate vote, sanctioned the violation
of the Union compact.

But the step once taken must be maintained, and the muster-
ing and equipment of armies, the building of forts and ships of
war, and the shock of battle soon proclaimed, with horrid em-
phasis, that brothers Avere in deadly strife.

And what can honest and true-hearted citizens now do but
defend the national authority ? Whatever of peace and pros-
perity and renown we have attained, were attained under this
insulted government. Our national wealth and influence have
grown up to their present position under the stars and stripes.
Can we hope for a better government if we abandon the one we
have ? Can we trust those to govern us who themselves refuse
to obey ? We have a constitutional President, a constitutional
legislature, and a constitutional judiciary. They may not be
all or altogether such as we like, but who will guaranty some-
thing better in their place ? Even if it were wise to organize
our political system anew, who would rule while we are doing
the work ? Or who would select such a time as this for such a
purpose ?

If a feud should occur in a family, and two out of six chil-
dren should rebel against parental authority, while the other
four are disposed to think their father and mother about
as good care-takers as they could expect under any change, it
would clearly be the part of wisdom in the dutiful children to
adhere to the old folks, rather than break up the family and
see what would come out of the ruin.

Now the only true way for us to do in our present emer-
gency is to make everything yield to the support of the govern-
ment AS IT is. Whatever mistakes, or neglects, or wrongs we
see, or think we see, let them pass for the moment, consider-
ing that, at the worst, it is a better government than none.
As soon as we are well out of this deadly struggle, we shall
know with what elements we have to deal, and we can then
punish, correct, and prevent as the case may demand. But
now the watchword must be "Unity for the sake of the Union."

" There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence," and



13

this is a time for those who cannot uphold our government to
keep silence. They must consent for the time being to endure
what they may not approve, and to hold their peace, though
they cannot endorse the policy of the administration. There was
no mincing of matters with such persons in the great struggle
of 1776, when there were far more plausible excuses for neu-
trality or for open opposition on the part of sympathisers
with the British, than can be pleaded for present sympathy
with the Southern insurgents, for many sagacious men held it
to be very problematical whether the colonies would better
their condition even if they succeeded in the contest. But no
reflecting man (certainly no loyal man) can doubt that upon
the complete and speedy suppression of this revolt depends —
not only the prosperity and dignity, but the very existence of


1

Online LibraryEzra Mundy] 1830-1894 [HuntAbout the war; (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)