George Barton Ide.

Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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piers of the weak have no place. Disasters have
befallen you ; ruin threatens you. In the immi-
nence of your peril, you ask to come back under
the protection which you renounced. This can be


granted only on the condition that you henceforth
forbear to prey upon the helpless. In justice, and
in justice alone, can you find deliverance. This
accomplished, your reinstatement will be, to both
lands, a permanent security. " And in mercy shall
the throne be established; and" Judah's ruler
your ruler once more " shall sit upon it in truth,
in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking
judgment, and hasting righteousness."

How suggestive is this fact, which Scripture has
brought to us from the dim centuries ! What a
striking parallel does it bear to events which are
occurring in our own time and country ! And how
clear the light it sheds on the way in which God
would have us deal with those events !

The war of the Great Rebellion is ended. Strong
hands and bold hearts have upheld the unity of the
nation, vindicated its majesty, and swept from its
domain the fell Despotism, which shot up, like
some Stygian exhalation, to pollute and scare the
world. The States which threw off their alle-
giance, and, hi their mad purpose of overturning
the Government, drenched the whole laud with
blood, discomfited and subjugated, are now sup-
pliantly waiting at the doors of Congress, to be in-
vested anew with their forfeited franchises. What
answer shall be given them ? On what conditions
shall they be permitted to resume the rights which


they have so enormously misused, and to stand
again in the places which they have so frightfully
desecrated ?

This question should be approached in no re-
vengeful spirit. To measure out to the South the
full penalty of its treason, and repay it for all the
loss and woe which that treason has cost us, would
consign to a felon's death well-nigh its entire pop-
ulation, already decimated by want and carnage.
This we cannot do ; this we ought not to do, even
if we could. Invincible, victorious, honored before
the world, raised to the highest point of national
greatness by the stupendous energies which the
struggle has developed, we can afford to lay aside
vindictiveness, and leave retribution to Him who is
sovereign alike over communities and individuals,
and from whose sentence none can escape. Ven-
geance is His ; and in His own time and way He
will dispense to the guilty the appointed punish-
ment. It is ours to manifest forbearance, clemency,

Yet, along with the exercise of these qualities, it
is of the utmost importance that impregnable bar-
riers should be erected against the dangers which
remain. _ While we demand not retaliation, we
must demand security. The method of the Di-
vine government indicates to us our true line of
action. The All-Kuler pardons transgressors, and


restores them to the favor which they have lost.
But He does it only on grounds that sustain the
sacredness of His law, and the happiness of His
moral empire. The principles on which He acts
should be our guide. In dealing with the con-
quered rebels, we must so blend mercy with firm-
ness, as not to ignore their criminality, and encour-
age its repetition. The process of rehabilitation
must be accompanied and guarded by every precau-
tion requisite to insure the public faith and the
public safety. And it must be put forever out of
their power to plunge the nation again into civil
war, or to embarrass it in the noble career of free-
dom and equality on which it has entered.

How, then, can this be done ? In what circum-
stances, under what safeguards, may the insurgent
Commonwealths, that tore themselves away from
the Union with intent to destroy it, be installed in
their former position, without imperilling the wel-
fare of the country, and sapping the foundations of
liberty and justice? Here is the great problem
which the people of this laud have to solve ; a prob-
lem so intricate, so complex, so many-sided, that
the profouudest statesmanship stands baffled before
it ; and yet a problem so grave and momentous as
to involve the very life of the Republic, and the
destinies of unborn generations.

We cannot hope to bring to this vexed subject


any elucidation that will fully remove the doubt
and uncertainty which have gathered round it.
Where senators long versed in political affairs are
at fault, and men, equal in wisdom and in patriot-
ism, entertain views widely divergent, we may well
hesitate to propound our conclusions. Neverthe-
less, we are thoroughly persuaded that, vast as the
difficulty is, and environed as it is with manifold
antagonisms, it may be met and overcome, by with-
drawing it from the realm of theory and preposses-
sion, and applying to it the simple test of common
sense and experience. Putting aside, therefore, the
various conflicting hypotheses in reference to the
status of the communities lately in rebellion
pausing not to inquire whether secession took them
out of the Union, or whether they were still held
in it by a bond which they could not break we
come to the real, actual fact that, with regard to all
the practical workings of government, they were
and are out of the Union. Thus, by a single step,
we reach the naked, vital question, In what manner,
and by what provisions, can they be safely brought
back into the Union? And the same plain, straight-
forward course of reasoning will give the answer.

Every thoughtful mind must perceive that the
wound which treason has inflicted on the nation,
is too deep to be healed by any superficial treat-
ment. The remedy must be radical and funda-


mental. To pardon and restore the traitors, while
they profess no repentance, while their disloyalty is
as pronounced as ever, and while they accept the
proffered amnesty only because their means of re-
sistance are exhausted, is an expedient as vain as it
is dangerous. Nothing can be gained, everything
is hazarded, by concession and compromise. The
disease, checked for a time, will break out afresh,
in a new form it may be, but with all its old viru-
lence. No bridge of half measures can span the
gulf between the free North and the oligarchic
South. That gulf must be filled up. The only
reconstruction that will be sound and permanent,
must rest on the grand basis of Equal Rights for
all. If we would not have our work crumble into
fragments, we must build here here, on the broad
platform of the Constitution here, on the Rock
of Eternal Justice. But, on such a foundation, the
subjugated States are no more prepared to build
with us now, than they were in the palmiest days
of their pride and power. Even the dread school-
ing of defeat and humiliation has failed to teach
them the first lesson in the lore of freedom. It is,
therefore, indispensable that they should be kept in
a state of abeyance and probation, till, by the logic
of events, and the discipline of delay, they are edu-
cated into harmony with the spirit of republican
institutions, and the great ideas of humanity, civ-


ilLzation and progress. If we would eradicate Dis-
union so utterly that it shall never show a sprout or
leaf again, we must expel from the soil the poison
seeds from which it sprung, and the poison roots
which ministered to its' growth.

One of the principal causes of the unrest and re-
pulsion which finally culminated in civil war, was
the doctrine of State Rights. It was a ground prin-
ciple in the political creed of the South, that the
States were complete sovereignties within them-
selves ; that to them supreme allegiance was due ;
that the Union was a mere League of independent
Commonwealths ; and that the General Government
was but the Deputy of the States, having no au-
thority beyond the limits which they prescribed.
This fatal heresy, long a prolific source of discord
and strife, obstructing every national measure, and
crippling every national interest, occupied a con-
spicuous place in the Dance of Devils that ushered
in the Rebellion. And when the Rebellion was
put down, we thought it dead, crushed, with Slav-
ery and the whole sisterhood of Furies, under the
trampling feet of our triumphant armies. But re-
cent indications have undeceived us. It is not
dead. Though weakened and shattered, it still
lives, and lives for mischief. A demon's spell has
recalled breath into its nostrils, and vigor into its
limbs. It is struggling up from its fall, and shak-


ing itself for fresh combats. It swaggers in the
haughty port of impenitent rebels. It blares in
Executive Vetoes. It is arrogant, defiant. No
other relic of the Southern past is so full of dan-
ger. Its malign influence is at this moment a chief
obstacle to any just and comprehensive settlement
of our difficulties. It taints the fountain-head of
the Federal Administration, and thus prevents the
consummation of laws for the succor of the op-
pressed, on the plea that such laws are an interfer-
ence with the prerogatives of the States. It is a
centrifugal force, pregnant with the elements of
disintegration ; and so long as it exists, it will con-
tinue to be the foe of order, and a standing menace
to the perpetuity of the Union. While the South
clings to this destructive dogma, no confidence can
be reposed in her loyalty. However she may ac-
cept for the time what she cannot resist, her sub-
mission will be insincere, her homage false; and
whenever opportunity shall be ripe, she will again
abjure her allegiance, and renew the horrors of
fratricidal war. How evident, then, is it that every
dictate of prudence, every law of safety, all the
lessons of the past, all the omens of the present,
combine to forbid her return, till the firebrand of
State Supremacy be hurled into the abyss of for-
getfulness, and quenched forever in its unrestoring
waters !


The Right of Secession is another evil root that
must be extirpated. As the branches of the ban-
yan tree, drooping to the ground, throw out radi-
cles, and become themselves trees ; so from the as-
sumed sovereignty of the States grew the belief,
that to each state belonged the power of lawfully
separating itself from the Union, and breaking up
the glorious fabric cemented with the blood of
heroes. And if once the premise is admitted, the
inference logically follows. Let it be conceded, as
the South even now asserts, that the authority of a
State is paramount, and that her people owe obe-
dience to the Union only at her command, and the
conclusion is impregnable that rebellion, sanctioned
by her behest, is no treason. The noxious sucker
springs naturally from the noxious stem. True it
is that the trunk and limbs of this deadly offshoot
have been shivered and laid prostrate by the levin-
bolts of battle. But its stock remains in the earth,
and will be sure to reproduce the same baleful
growth, unless it be dug up, even to its minutest
fibres, committed to the flames, and its very ashes
scattered to the winds of heaven. Ought we
not, then, to insist that the people of the South,
before resuming their share in the Government,
should proclaim secession, past or future, a nullity
and a lie, and renounce it for all time?

A perilous influence exists, alsj, in the spirit of


Caste by which Southern society is pervaded.
This is the child of Slavery. The mother, having
crowned a long career of crimes and ignominies by
the attempted murder of a nation, has perished
under the curse of God, and the vengeance of man.
But its vile progeny survives, in pride of race, col-
or-exclusiveness, and the self-assertion of the domi-
nant few. Southern communities have been bred
up in the idea, that both Nature and Providence in-
tended one class to enjoy a monopoly of political
and social power, and to live in ease and luxury ;
while all other classes were designed to obey theii
will and serve their pleasure. And it was with the
view of more fully realizing this idea, of reducing it
more completely to practice, and of guarding it
more securely from the invasion of whatever might
be in conflict with it, that they undertook to dis-
solve the Union, and to found an Oligarchy, in
which the lordly race were to rule over an empire
of serfs. They failed ; but the tone of thought and
feeling which begot the infamous endeavor, is as
potent now as in the days of the Confederacy. In
some respects, it appears to have been even intensi-
fied by the disappointment it has suffered. The
impoverished planter, clothed in rags, and depend-
ent for bread on the bounty of the Government he
sought to overthrow, still regards himself as belong-
ing to a privileged order, and looks with as haughty


a scorn on all whom he deems beneath him, as when
he feasted in marble halls, and rolled in wealth
coined from the tears and blood of his slaves. He
looks upon labor as a degradation, and despises the
working man, whether white or black. And to
these aristocratic prejudices is now added a bitter
hatred of the class lately in bondage, and of the
power which has freed them. Such a state of
public sentiment with few exceptions, universal
wherever slavery existed not only tends to dis-
courage industry and enterprise, and thus to hinder
the material renovation of the South, but impedes
also its political and moral recovery, by disqualify-
ing its people for the new issues and the new rela-
tions which the result of the war has necessitated.
Their whole history is alien to the principles on
which alone the Union can be securely re-estab-
lished. The Constitution guarantees a republican
form of government to all the States ; and this vital
provision, imperfectly carried out in the past, must
henceforth be rigidly maintained. But not one of
the Southern States ever had a republican form of
government, and not one is prepared to adopt such
a government now. In all the movements which
those States have inaugurated for re-organizing their
civil institutions, the same narrow policy is every-
where apparent. Class distinctions and class inter-
ests govern throughout. Predominance of race is


the beginning and the end. There is no recognition
of the equality of all men before the law ; of their
common brotherhood as the children of one Father ;
nor of the sameness of rights with which that broth-
erhood invests them. And, until the South receives
and comprehends these great truths, her presence in
the councils of the nation cannot but be incongruous
and belligerent.

The ^nost formidable difficulty, however, in the
way of reconstruction, arises from its bearing on the
present and future condition of the millions just
emerged from slavery. Of a similar nature was the
obstacle to which Isaiah referred, as opposing the
alliance of Moab with Judah ; and the command of
the Almighty respecting it is not less pertinent to
our own circumstances. We are in like peril of
setting aside the claims of justice ; of neglecting to
"hide the outcasts " ; and of so consummating na-
tional unity as to " bewray ", with broken or deceit-
fully kept promises, the fugitives from oppression.

The organic law of the land now inhibits forever
the ownership of man by man. Slavery, therefore,
can never be restored in name and in form. But con-
ditions may exist, under which it will be possible to
revive many of its most odious features, and to ren-
der emancipation comparatively a worthless boon.
When once the States which seceded, have been
recognized as full members of the Union by the ad-


mission of their representatives to Congress, milita-
ry supervision must be withdrawn, and the internal
affairs of each left to its own management. They
will then have it in their power to pass such laws,
and to impose on the freedmen such disabilities, as
to take from them nearly all that is valuable in their
liberty, and subject them to a state of serfdom and
civil inferiority little less cruel than the chattelhood
from which they have escaped. And who believes
that they will not use this power? Already, in
many of the States, "Black Codes" have been
enacted, based on the same principles, and instinct
with the same spirit, that pervaded the old Slave-
Laws. And the general feeling of hostility, which
has given birth to this legislation, shows itself in
acts of personal violence and outrage, often more
shocking and barbarous than any with which the
darkest annals of slavery were stained. For the
slave as property, there was some love, and some
care. For the slave transformed into a free man,
there is neither. We say not that all thus dislike
and abuse him. Doubtless, many of the old mas-
ters honestly "accept the situation", and are dis-
posed to deal fairly with their former vassals. But
the number of such, not small perhaps in itself, is
small in comparison with the multitudes whose tem-
per and conduct are widely different. It is to be
feared, that equity and forbearance are the excep-


tion; wrong aiid cruelty the rule. And if this is
so, while the Federal Government still holds them
under military control, and the pressure of its au-
thority checks and restrains them, what will it be
when that control is relinquished, and they are lords
again in their own domain ? What is there in their
past history, what in their present attitude, which
will warrant the confidence that they will treat with
kindness, or even justice, the helpless ones whom
they once enslaved ? The abolition of bondage was
not effected by their co-operation, nor with their
consent. They look upon it as an evil, wantonly
inflicted on them by their conquerors an evil to
which they submit on compulsion, and under pro-
test. They regard the negroes as property of which
they have been unrighteously despoiled; believe
that capital should own labor ; that God meant the
blacks to work without compensation, and created
the whites for the express purpose of making them
do it ; and that any other relation between the races
must be injurious to both. Can we expect them to
bring forward any measures, or to put forth any ef-
forts, the success of which will prove the falseness
of their own theories ? No, they have no faith in
the freedom of the negro ; they deem it a bane and
a delusion ; and will do all they can to render it so.
They will surround him with oppressive restrictions,
hedge up his path with special statutes and prohibi-


tions and penalties, and strive, in all possible ways,
to prevent his raising himself* to a higher social and
intellectual level. If they cannot fasten the chain
on him again, they will keep him in a state of igno-
rance, helplessness and debasement. t ''*"*

Humanity and justice, therefore, alike require
that men, entertaining such views, and cherishing
such malign intentions, should not be restored to
their place in the Union, until they have given the
most satisfactory evidence of their readiness to fulfil
to the freedmen all the pledges of the nation. This
should be, in every case, an indispensable prerequi-
site to their return. And for this Congress should
provide by adequate legislation. Such a course is
demanded of us by all the claims of public faith and
honor, and by all the sanctions of everlasting Right-
eousness. We have abrogated slavery, and pro-
claimed its death to the world. We have invited
the emancipated slaves to aid us in putting down
the Rebellion, under a promise, expressed or im-
plied, that their liberty should be assured, and their
race elevated to citizenship in the redeemed Repub-
lic. Two hundred thousand of them have fought
valiantly by the side of our sons and brothers, and
eighty thousand have died for a country, which yet
treats them as outcasts. On many a bloody field,
in many a desperate charge, they have proved their
courage, their manhood, their loyalty, their fitness


for civil enfranchisement. And if we now abandon
them to the power of their old oppressors, and give
them, in place of solid, real freedom, a base coun-
terfeit shadow for substance, stones for bread
of what shameful ingratitude and treachery shall we
be guilty ? This is the very sin which the prophet
denounced. " Bewray not him that waudereth."
Left to the mercy of reconstructed rebels, the poor
freedmen will be indeed "bewrayed" exposed
naked and defenceless to their adversaries de-
frauded, by an empty semblance, of the reward for
which they have toiled and suffered. What a stig-
ma will rest on the American name ! And how
will the friends of Humanity mourn, and despots
exult, over our perfidy !

But this is not all. In proving false to the men
who have trusted us and bled for us, we prove false
to ourselves. We cannot sacrifice their liberties
without sacrificing our own. A brief experience of
the true nature and scope of the Rebellion, revealed
to us the fact, that its animus, its impulse, its
strength was Slavery ; and that, to save the nation,
we must destroy Slavery. But we killed only its
body. Its soul migrated underwent a sort of
metempsychosis took another form. Nor has it
yet gone to its own place. It is still "marching
on." It is still among us, like the cast-out demon
of whom Christ spoke, "walking through dry places,


seeking rest, and finding none." If we deny the
claims of the freedmen, we give it rest. It will re-
turn to its old place of power, in a new shape, and
with a new name. It will go back to the Chamber
of Southern Brass and Northern Copper, whence it
came out, but will not find it "swept and gar-
nished." We shall have the same meanness, the
same truckling to wrong, the same betrayal of the
right, the same insolence and domination, the same
corruption, and time-serving, and falsehood, which,
before the war, made the land a Babel, and our in-
stitutions a by-word. All the substantial fruits of
victory will be wrested from us. The great prize
for which we strove a recovered, purified Union
will turn to ashes in our hands ; and those glori-
ous children of Freedom's Battle Equal Rights,
Equal Justice, National Righteousness will be
strangled in the hour of their birth. With the
South, not with the North, will be the final triumph.
And shall this be ? Shall the struggle, and the woe,
and the agony have been in vain ? Shall those ter-
rible years leave us no harvest? Have our billions
of treasure been cast into the sea ? Is the precious
blood, poured out like water all over the Southern
soil, only seed sown upon a desert? Forbid it,
shades of the noble dead that fell on a thousand
gory fields ! Forbid it, ye myriad martyrs, immo-
lated in rebel prisons ! Forbid it, ye countless


homes, whose loved ones will return no more ! For-
bid it, Truth, Honor, Patriotism ! Forbid it, Mer-
cy ! Forbicl it, Christianity ! Forbid it, all-ruling
Heaven !

There is more than this. No people can afford to
be unjust. In the Divine administration, nations
are regarded as entities, having moral existence and
responsibility. Their judgment-hour, however, is
in tune. And retribution follows their sins in this
world as certainly as it follows the sins of individ-
uals in the next. Can we doubt this ? After the
dread outstretchings of Jehovah's arm which we
have witnessed, is it any longer a question with us
whether He visits collective bodies for their collect-
ive guilt? From cotton-field and rice-swamp, from
the auction block and the slave-pen, from under the
whip and the branding-iron, the cry of our fettered
brother long went up into the ear of the all-avenging
One. The skies gave no response. Generations,
centuries, rolled away, and still the earth was green,
and heaven was silent. But when the iniquity was
ripe, and wrath was full, down thundered the answer,
and shook the globe. Oh ! yes we have seen, we
have felt that the Almighty can punish. The bat-
tle's shock, the cannon's roar, the ensanguined land,
the million graves, the mourners in every street,
have attested that the Almighty can punish. And
dare we again brave His displeasure ? If we repeat


the wrong, will He not repeat the punishment?
And will not that punishment be more severe, be-
cause of the greater hardihood that coulcfr venture to

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 15 of 19)