George Andrew Reisner.

An appeal to the friends of peace online

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There are always periods in the history of a country when every citizen,
however far removed from the strife and tumult of party, is bound by the
highest obligations of patriotism and duty, to assume an active part in the di-
rection of public affairs. That period we have now reached, if the cry of
popular discontent, which everywhere fills the land be not strangely decep-
tive. Our Government, if past experience teaches anything, has for all practi-
cal purposes, become almost intolerable to those who bear its burdens. Under
the form of free institutions, we have within a few years made rapid strides
towards a despotism, and unless the downward tendency of things be speedily
arrested, it is impossible to estimate the evils to which we may be subjected.
The will of the people has been crushed again and again by a dangerous
abuse of the Executive veto, and the plainest requirements of the Constitu-
tion prostituted to subserve the ends of reckless and misguided partisans.
The nation has been plunged into a useless and extravagant war merely to
o-ralify Presideniial schemes of glory and empire, by the conquest and an-
nexation of foreign territory. And, to crown all, this war, which was to " con-
quer a peace," has ended, after an enormous sacrifice of blood and treasure,
in territorial acquisitions, tlie chief use of which seems to be to alienate the
people and weaken t!ie bonds of the Union.

Such, briefly told, is our present condition ; and such is likely to be the
reward of patient forbearance in the fntnre, if we longer hesitate to rid our-
selves of those who have produced such unmitigated cause of complaint.
The remedy is at hand, and no excuse, so far as we can judge, will palliate,
much less justify its neglect. It is in revolution through the ballot-box — ■
revolution which will preserve the Constitution from the assaults of its ene-
mies, and restore to the Government that character for simplicity and purity
with which it was originally impressed. To insure this, there must be per-
fect harmony and concert of action among those who desire a change of men
and measures. Armed with the omnipotent ballot, all, whatever their minor
differences on queslions of expediency, must stand fast by their faith and guard
the interest of the Republic. The right of suffrage is, perhaps, the proudest
■privilege of a freeman ; and whoever fails to exercise it properly now, will
be for so much responsible for whatever disasters may befall us hereafter.
The Presidential election in November will decide the gravest issues which
have ever been submitted to a free people. It will decide whether war is, of
rio-ht, to be r.iade as the caprice or passion of the President may suggest ;
whether conquest and carnage be the legitimate pursnit of an enlightened
nation ; and last, though not least, whether the One-man Power is to over-
shadow and control all the functions of legislation, and reduce the represen-
lives of the People to the degrading level of Executive subordinates and
menials. These have been the practical workings of that corrupt system, of
which the present Administration claims the paternity, and in behalf of which
it invokes the popular judgment. Of this system with all it calamities, we
have in the candidate of the destructives, Gen. Cass, a faithful embodi-
ment while in Gen. Taylor we behold its antagonist. Between them a
choice for the Presidency is soon to be made, for one or the other is morally
certain to be the successor of Mr. Polk. The formation of third parties on a
sino^le idea however much in consonance with the inclination of many well-
meaning personj can in no contingency prevent this result. Every Vote
Towers, printer, Washington, /

2 ^Vl-'

thrown against Gen. Ta3'lor, wheiher given to Gen. Cass or not, will streng'th-
en his chance of success. A liiird party may, perhaps, be made formidable
enough to work incalcnlable mischief, by aiding in the elevation of the man
its fgimation was designed specially to defeat. It certainly cannot do more.
The only question for consideration, therefore, is, who of these two shall be
chosen? And this leads usio inquire into their respective claims to the confi-
dence and support of the Friends of Peace.

The only objection anywhere urged against Gen. Taylor is, his connec-
tion with the army ; and the. inference drawn from this, mistakenly, as we
shall presently show, that he is unfit for civil station. It is true, that his

i military achievements have won for him a world-wide renown, but there are
points in his character which have done more to endear him to his country-
inen, than the iame of allhis battles. His honesty and singleness of purpose,
his rigid sense of justice, his unpretending modesty, and, above all, his hu-
manity, present a character which shrinks from no test, and challenges gene-
.iiral admiration. And it is to such a character, as rare as it is beautiful, that

.he is mainly indebted for his present position. As a soldier he is faithful
to his duty ; but much as he has been engaged in war, liis fondest wishes
have always been for the preservation of the peace of the country. He is,
indeed, in all respects a man of peace ; and there are few, whatever their pre-
judices, who have more openly rebuked the war spirit which has of late ta-
ken such deep hold of the public mind. At a dinner given him by the city
authorities of Lafayette, in his own State, he declared, in response to a com-
plin^.entary toast, that —

"The joy and exultation of the greatest victories were always, after the heat and excitement of
the l>attle, succeeded by feelings of poignant sorrow and pain ,• and that war, after all, was a.
GKKAT CALAMi'rr, «??(/ Ms the greatest glory who could tcj-nmiatt it."

And alluding to tlie war, from which he had then recently returned, he
£urther remarked :

«' The iibject nearest to his heart had been to bring the tvur to a speedy termination — to restore
peace and amity bcliveen two neighboring Republics, which had every motive to cultivate mutual
good will, and which he wmld ?iucii pklfeii ta sec vicing luith each other in the arts (f peace than
contending on the field of battle." — JS'ilts Register, vol. 73, p. 337.

A;zain : In a letter to the Hon. Truman Smith, of the House of Represen-
tatives, dated Baton llouge, March 4ih, 1S4S, he said :

" I need hardly reply to your concluding inquiry, that I am a peace mak, and that I deem a state
of peace to be absolutely necessary to the proper and healthful action of our republican institu-

The sentiment here so admirably expressed, is in perfect harmony with his
letter of April 22, to Capt. J. S. Allison, of New Orleans, wherein he wrote :

"My life has been devoted to arms, yet I look upon war, at all times and under all circum-
stances, AS A NATIONAL CALAMITY, to be avoided if compatible with national honor."

Such are Gen. Taylor's opinions on war ; and they are such, it strikes
us, as rnust satisfy every reasonable man. He is equally averse to territorial
acquisition by conquest. In his letter to Gen. Gaines, dated Monterey, No-
vember 9di, 1S4G, he said :

" If we are (i-n the language of Mr. Polk and Gen. Scott) under the necessity of " conquering a
peace," and that hj taking the capital of the country, we must go to Vera Cruz, take that place,
and then march on to the city of Mexico. To do so in any other direction I consider out of the
qucBlipn., But, admitting that w« c»nquer a peace by doing so— say at the end of the next twelve
moiilhs— will the amount of, blood and treasure which must be expended in doing so be coinpen-
dfttcd by 'the same; T think not— e^xeially if the country we subdue is te ie given up,- and I
imatnne thtrcai-a hul fen iiidividuMli in our country ioh» think of a.v.vexino Mexico to the Uni-
ted Wojka."— M/mV Regitter, Tul. 70, ;;, 342.

It was this manly avowal of sentiments so opposite to the will and pur-
pose of the Administration, that induced the reprimand which he received
ihiough the Secretary of War, Mr. Marcy. It was <' this disclosure of his

views," that the Cabinet at Washingfon condemned, as likely to " disincline
the enemy to enter into eegotialions for peace," and which ihey revived an
old "order," the very existence of which was ahnost unknown, to character-
ize as " michievons in design and disgraceful to the army !"* His reply was
worthy of the man, the cause, and the age. He reiterated every word he
had written, and boldly told the Depariment, that, although he regretted its
determination to place him "in an attitude antagonisiical to the Govern-
ment," he should " ask no favor and shrink from no respomibUihj.^^ His
letter to Mr. Truman Smiili, from which we have already quoted, in refer-
ence to this subject, says :

" On this impbrtanl! question I freely confess myself to be the Mnqnalified advocate of tlie prinei-' •'
pies so otten laid down by the Father of hjs coinilry, and so urgently recommended by him in hisif
Farewell Address to the American people. Indeed, I think I may, safely say thai n9,{t;ianmn mt)
a more implicit faith than T do in the wisdom of his, advice when he urged wpon us tie- propriety ,
of always standing vpon our ' own soil.'" '"' ''■ '

And in the letter to Capt. Allison he tells us that—

.'•' The principles of our Government, as well as its true policy, are opposed to the suhjuzation of
other nations, and the dismemberment of other countries by conquest."

If these declarations of Gen. Taylor be sincere, and he is more than rash
whoAvill question them, (here is no room to doubt that his election to the"
Presidency will forever banish from our national councils that lust of con-t!'
quest and dominion, which the evil spirits of the land have siffully aimed'to

inculcate amono- the people. But how stands the case with Gen! Cass?

Have the friends of peace any thing to expect of a man whose history, a.9
a,Sena;or, has been signalized by the sternest advocacy of the war policy of
the Administration ? On the Oregon riuesiion, he was the most ultra of those
ultraists who planted themselves on the declaration of " 54° 40' or fight." He
was against all negotiation and all compromise, and for preparing The hearts
of the people for war— v/ar against England, and, if need be, the world ! So
fai', indeed, did he push these views, ihat he held out to the last against the ■
treaty by which the dispute was amicably adjusted. His course as to the
Mexican war was not less remarkable. He defended it tlrroughout, and
the greater the outrage on public justice and popular rights, tlie higher it ;
seemed to rise in his favor. He was for " vigorous prosecution" always, that
we: might conquer a peace and secure " indemnity for the pastaiid security for
the future," by seizing Mexiean provinces and by dismembering the Mexican!'
Republic. Elevate him to the Presidency, audit is not unlikeliy that the 'i
man who thought "rye might swallow the whol'^ of Mexico wiTH'- 12.
OUT BEING HURT BY IT," wiU speedily open new paths to his ambition in'!
the line of conquest, dismemberment, and annexation. If true to the party
"platform" to which he has subscribed, he will be bound by honor and of
necessity, to involve us in a war with England for Canada or Jamaica; or at
all events to "swallow" Yucatan or Cuba, under the shallow pretence, that
British dominion must be checked in its progress.

As a humane man, Gen. Taylor has {q\y equals. His heart isiilled with!j|
the tenderest sympathies, and prompts him always to comfort nnd console thej
suffering and sorrowful. Faithful to all the duties of his position, there isnou
duty which more cheerfully engages him than attention to the wounded','''
whether of his own men or those "of the enemy^ It was this spirit of liii-
manitjr — a desire to spare he] piess women and children, and stop the effusion-
of blood, that induced him in a great degree, to grant terms less rigorous thad^

•Marcy's letter tp Gen. Taylor, January 28, 1847, Executive doc, No. 60, 1st sesd. 3{lth Cdng.,y-, I
p. 391.

were first demanded at the capitulation of Monterey. In reference to that
measure, in liis letter to Gen. Gaines, of Koven^ber 9th, 1846, he said :

" Had we been put to the alternative of taking the place by storm, (which there is no doubt we
should have succeeded in doing,) we should in all probability have lost fifty or a hundred men in kill-
ed, besides the wounded, which I wished to avoid, as there appeared to be a prospect of peace,
even if a distant one. I also wished to avoid the destruction of women and children, winch must
have been very great had the storming process been resorted to."

He held the same language in a letter to the Secretary of War. And yet)
it was for this exhibition of feeling honorable alike to his country and him-
self, that Gen. Cass voted to censure him ! Yes, to censure him ; for what
else than censure could be intended by a qualified vote of thanks ; what else
could it convey, tlian a disposition to wound, and humble, and mortify ? Let
us note the facts. On the 30th of January, 1847, a resolution of thanks to
Gen. Taylor, " and, through him, to the brave officers and soldiers under
his command, for their courage, skill, fortitude, and good conduct, in storm-
ing the city of Monterey," was taken up in the House of Representatives. It
was amended, on the motion of a friend of the Administration, as follows :

" Provided, That nothing herein contained, shall be construed into an approbation of the terms
of the capitulation of Monterey."

In this form it went to the Senate, where Mr. Speight, a Democratic Sena-
tor, who said, " he was not the man to thank with one hand and censure with
the other," pronounced it "a direct vote of censure" on Gen. Taylor,* and
moved, on the 3d of February, to strike it out of the resolution. The mo-
tion was carried by a majority of more than two to one, but Lewis Cass
voted in the negative. The following is the negative vote :

Messrs. Allen, Ashley, Atchison, Alherton, Bagby, Breese, Bright, CASS, Dix, Hanneaan, Niles,
Sevier, Sturgeon, Turney, and Yulee — 15." — Senate Journal, '2d sess. 29tA Cong., p. I(i3.

Thus it seems, considerations of humanity, " a wish to avoid the destruc-
tion of women and children, and spare the sacrifice of life," which out-
weighed, in the mind of the honest old soldier, all the temporary advantages
to be gained by sacking a ciiy, had no influence with Gen. Cass and his
fourteen associates.

Gen. Taylor is also strictly moral and temperate in his habits. He is not
profane, nor does he swear or gamble ; in fact, in all the relations of life, wher-
ever placed, and under every ciicumstance, he is a model of a man. He is
neither bigoted nor intolerant in his opinions, and pays the highest respect to
the rights of conscience. His is the reliw'ion of charily, benevolence, and
tolerance, a religion broad enough to embrace all his fellow-men without re-
gard to their creed or form of worship. To show that we indulge in no idle
picture to suit the occasion, we subjoin the following testimonial :

General Taylor's character, as drawn hy the Beterend Mr. Lamb, one of his chaplains.
" At the conference of the Congregational and Presbyterian ministers of Hillsboro' county, N. H.,
assembled on the 14th of June, the Rev. Mr. Lamb, who was formerly a chaplain in the army un-
der General Taylor, at Fort Jcsup, said that the opening far him to do good in the army was through
General 'I'aylor, and through the General's influence a temperance society was formed, by means
of which GUU drunkards were reformed ; that the Cnueral told him that it was all a shain for a
man to pretend he could not stand the damps and hcnts of the South without spirituous liquors.
General Taylor was a total abstinence man, and the only commanding officer wIiq did not drill his
troops on the Sabbath. Mr. Lamb also stated that General Taylor attended his church regularly,
and used no profane language."

This is from a minister of the Protestant persuasion ; let us hear now from
a Catholic chaplain, who was near him through his most trying scenes in
Mexico. Father McEhoj'-, who is confessedly among the most enlightened
and devoted philanthropists of the day, in a recent conversation with Thur-
low Weed, Esq., of the " Albany Evening Journal," says Gen. Taylor is

»NileB' Register, vol. 71., p. 357.

truly " a great and good ma7i." " Courage, guided bij prudence, and jus-
tice, tempered with humanily, are his prominent cliaracieristics. Temperance
and simph'city of habit and manner, mark his intercourse with society. In-
tegrity and patriotism stand out boldly in all his official acts. In a word, Fa-
ther McEhoy expresses his conviction that in the elements that form his char-
acter, and the motives and objects which prompt and guide him, he bears a
strong and marked resemblance to Wasliinjiton."

His honesty and rectitude are as lofty, too, as his sense of justice is scrupu-
lous and exact. He scorns everything that is not fair and upright, and no man,
says the distinguished Gen. Persifer F. Smith, (who is politically opposed co
■him,) " however corrupt or base himself, could, after tive minutes conversa-
tion witli him, dare to propose, or even hint at anything dishonest or mean."
As President, he will lose nothing of these invaluable prerequisites to a proper
administration of the Government. He will be what he has always been
from his earliest boyhood, plain, direct, and honest. His views are in all
things eminently conservative and practical, and lie will bear himself in his
high office, not as a partisan seeking to build up and perpetuate power by
rewardng parasites and flatterers, and by securing the triumph of selfish
schemes and sectional measures, but as an American patriot, determined to be
the President of the People, to consult their wishes and bow to their will.
Hi? principles are the principles of Wasliington, and his Administration will
be fashioned after that of the earlier Presidents of the Republic. He has no
sectional prejudices, and nothing could induce him to attempt to foster or
strengthen one portion of the country to the injury or sacrifice of another.
He will know no Noith and no South, but stand by the glorious Union of a
free people, cemented by ties of a common kindred, a common interest, and
conuTion duty. The rights of the whole people will be strictly regarded,
and the interests of the whole Union, however conflicting, harmonized and

The objection to General Taylor, that he has no fitness for civil
station, is entirely without force. He has all the intellect and all the learn-
ing necessary to grace the highest. His whole military life gives evidenceof
this. No man, if he had not mind, and mind too of the first order, could
have produced such splendid results. He has that within him, strong com-
mon sense united with sound judgment, which alone is valuable in practical
life. He has proved, wherever put, equal to any emergency, and never in
the course of his long and eventful career has he made a mistake, or commit-
ted a blunder. All his public duties have been rigidly fulfilled, and whatever
has been required of him has been done not only to the satisfaction of the
country, but done as no one else could do it. Examine the history of his
undertakings and achievements as you will — view them as a combination or
in detail, and they evince far-reaching sagacity and the greatest ability.
Whoever comes in contact with him is in a moment impressed with this con-
viction. Gen. Persifer F. Smith, who knows him well, writing to a friend
under dale of Mexico, April 8, 1S4S, pays the following compliment to his
character :

•' General Taylor's military exploits (said he) are not the causes of his popularity ; they are only
the occasion for the display of his sound judgment, energy of character, lofty and pure sense of
justice, and incorruptible honesty. He ha.5 as much reputation for what he has written as for what
he has done, because even where the composition is not his own, the sentiments, motives, and
feelings are ; and everything he says, as everything hs does, is marked by the purity and loftiness
of his own character. « * * I remember your asking me, at the time he was put in command
at Corpus Christi, whether he was equal to the circumstan»es. I told you of his sound judgment
and inexhaustible energy, as I had learned them in Florida, but I did not then estimate properly
the other and higher points of his character. In the campaign on the Rio Grande, I saw him tried
under all circumstances, and he always came out pure gold."

But, it is said, " he acknowledges his awn iinfitiSess' for|the Presider^tJy^ i
and this of itself should present an impassable barrier to his election. He
knows the responsibilities of the Executive office, and feels how much is
expected and should be accomplished in its wise and j.ust administration, He "
therefore distrusts his powers, fearin;^ that an honest zeal for the public wet-
fare may fall short of the public expectation. Aild in this he has a notable
example — Washingtox himself. That great man, in reply to Mr. Thonip-
son,wh.o bore him the intelligence of his first election, said : '" " '"^

" While I realize the arduous nature of the task which is imposed upon me, and feel my ow;u ,.
INABILITY to perform it, I wish that there maj' b$ no reason for regretting the choice ; for indeed'
all I can promise i&binly to accomplish that vdiich can be done by an hbriest'^eil."— 10th volume
Sparks, p. 4G0. ,; ; ->,• ! i ■ .S :

A month later, writing to General Schuyler, he repeated the sentiment:

" It is only from the assurances of support wh'ch I have- received from the respectable and wor-
thy characters in every part of tlie Union, that I am able t9 overcome the difBdence which I have .
IN 3IT OWN abilities' to executc mj' great and important trust to the best interest of our country;. -
An honest zenl and an unremitting attention to the interests of the United States, are all I dsire '
promise." — lOih vol. Sparks, p. 2. — where will also be found a similar letter to General Wayne.

Tlii? is precisely what General Taylor says, and were he to say less hp
would lose much of the general esteem he enjoys; for no man who would
approach such a high calling in any other than a spirit of humility and diffi-
dence should be honored with it, because he would be least likely (o adorn it.

Far be it from us, to reflect on the honOr or honesty of General Cass, be-
tween whom and General Taylor, as we have elsewhere remarked, thd deci-
sion is to be made. But we are frank to confess, that we distrust him. He-
is too much of a partisan, is too ultra in his views, has too many friends td
reward and too mnny enemies to punish, and is too far pledged to particu-
lar and sectional interests, to bid us. hope for anything wise or good froiW-
his election. He has not the firmness nor the fortitude for the times. Hei-' '
is surrounded by courtiers, and must be governed by cliques and cabals. Afe- 1
a private citizen he^ may, perhaps, have no superiors ; biit as'a celebrated Eng-
lish writer, who had a clear conception of the human mind and 'its besetting'
passions, has well said, ^' men are geneially more honest in (heir private thafi' -
in their public capacity." Honoris a great check upon luankind ; but where'-
a man Ijecomes a pariisnn, this check is in a great meastu'e removed,'since ia' ■■
man is sure to be approved of by his own pai'ly, for what promotes their iti'-"'-
terest ; and he soon learns to despise the clatuors of adversaries. Such is'-'
General Gass. He could iiot, nay, he dare not if lie would, so strong are fh6''
influences that control him, look lo the clamors of his adversarie^-^He^^drfe '
not consult the public good. Party, parly, and its interest -would' rtll6'4!l''i'
his actions and guide the destin-y, evil though it be, of the Reptiblfcl . '''i""' '

There is. however, what should be with every friend of peace an in=upe'i*'>" =


Online LibraryGeorge Andrew ReisnerAn appeal to the friends of peace → online text (page 1 of 2)