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Radicalism and conservation--the truth of history vindicated online

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FEBRUARY "T, 1865.

The House being in the Committee ot the Whole on the
State of the Uniou, imd haviug under consjdoratiou the
President's message —

Mr. JULIAN said :

Mr. Chairman : Perhaps no task could be
more instructive or profitable, in these culmina-
ting days of the rebellion, than a review of the
shifting phases of thought and policy which
have guided the Administration in its endeavors
to crush it. Such a retrospect will help us to
vindicate the real truth of history, both as to
measures and men. It will bring out, in the
strongest colors, the contrast between radical-
ism and conservatism, as rival political forces,
each maintaining a varying control over the
conduct of the war. It will, at the same time,
point out and emphasize those pregnant lessons
of the struggle which may best supply the
Government with counsel in its further prose-
cution. The faithful performance of this task
demands plainness of speech ; and I shall not
shrink from my accustomed use of it, in the in-
terests of truth and freedom.

At the beginning of this war, Mr. Chairman,
neither of the parties to it comprehended its
character and magnitude. Its actual history
has been an immeasurable surprise to both, and
to the whole civilized world. The rebels evi-
dently expected to make short work of it.
Judging us by our habitual and long-continued
submission to Southern domination, and con-
liding in the multiplied assurances of sympathy
and help which they had received from their
faithful allies in the North, they regarded the
work of dismemberment as neither difficult nor
exp€n8ive. They did not dream of the grand
results which have proceeded from their mad
enterprise. Nor does their delusion seem to
have been at all strange or unnatural. Cer-
tainly, it was not more remarkable than the in-
fatuation of the Administration, and its con-
servative friends. The Government understood

the conflict as little, and misunderstood it as
absolutely, as its foes. This, sir, is one of the
lessons of the war which I think it worth while
to have remembered. This revolt, it was be-
lieved, was simnly a new and enlarged edition
of Southern bluster. The Government did not
realize the inexorable necessity of actual war,
because it lacked the moral vision to perceive
the real nature of the contest. To every sug-
gestion of so dire an event it turned an averted
face and a deaf ear. It hoped to restore order
by making a show of war, without actually call-
ing into play the terrible enginery of war. It
trusted in the form, without the power of war,
just as some people have trusted in the form,
without the power of godliness. It will be re-
membered that just before the battle of Ball's
Bluff General McClellan ordered Colonel Stone
to "make a slight demonstration against the
rebels," which might '* have the effect to drive
them from Leesburg.'' The Government seems
to have pursued a like policy in dealing with
the rebellion itself. "A slight demonstration,"
it was believed, would " have the effect" to ar-
rest the rebels in their madness, and re-estab-
lish order and peace in about " sixty days,"
without allowing them to be seriously hurt, and
without unchaining the tiger of war at all. The
philosophy of General Patterson, who kindly-
advised that the war on our part should be
" conducted on peace principles," was by no
means out of fashion with our rulers, and the
conservative leaders of opinion generally.
Even the Commander-in-Chief of our Army
and Navy scouted tlie idea of putting down the
rebellion by military power. He thought the
country was to be saved by giving up the prin-
ciples it had fairly won by the ballot in the year
18G0, and to the maintenance of which the new
Administration was solemnly pledg(»d. He be-
lieved in " conciliation," in " compromise " —
the meanest word iu the whole vocabulary of

E4 5?

. ;>

our politics, except, perhaps, the word " con-
servative " — and Lad far less faith in the help
of bullets and bajouets iu managing the rebels
than iu the power of our brotherly love to melt
their susceptible hearts, and woo them back,
gently and lovingly, to a sense of their madness
and their crime. Our distinguished Secretary
of State declared that ♦• none but a despotic or
imperial Government would seek to subjugate
thoroughly disaffected sovereignties." The pol-
icy of coercing the revolted States was disa-
vowed by the Tresident himself in bis message
to Congress of July, 1861.

Nor did the legislative department of the
Government, at that time, disagree with the
executive, On the 22d day of July of the same
year — and I say it with sorrow and shame— on
the very morning following the tirst battle qf
Bull Run, the House of Representatives, speak-
ing iu the form of solemn legislative resolves,
as did the Senate two days later, declared that
it was not the purpose of the Government to
" subjugate" the villains who began this work
of organized and inexcusable rapine and mur-
der. Indeed, it was not then the fashion to
call them villains. In the very polite and gin-
gerly phrase of the times they were styled
'■ our misguided fellow-citizens," and " our err-
ing Southern brethren," while the rebel States
themselves were lovingly referred to as " our
wayward sisters." The "truth is, that for about
a year and a halt' of this war the policy of ten-
derness to the rebels so swayed the Administra-
tion that it seemed far less intent upon crush-
ing the rebellion by arms, than upon contriving
•' how 7iot to do it." General McClellan, who I
so long palsied the energies and balked the
l)urpose of the nation, would not allow an un-
kind word to be uttered in his presence against
the rebel leaders. If an officer or soldier was
heard to speak disrespectfully of the great con-
federate chief, he was summarily reprimanded,
while the uurivaled reprobate and grandest of
national cut-throats was pronounced a hifh-
souled gentleman and mau of honor! Not the
spirit of war, but the spirit of peace, seemed to
dictate our princij)lcs of action and measures
of policy toward the men who luxd resolved at
whatever hazard or sacrifice, to break up the
Government by force. This policy, sir, had it
been continued, would have proved the certain
triumph of the rebel cause. With grand ar-
mies in the field, and all the costly machinery
of war in our hands, our opportunities were
Binned away by inactivity and delay, while the
rebels gathered strength from our indecision
and weakness. A major general in our army,
and as brave and patriotic a man as lives, said
to me in the early stages of the war that tlie
grand obstacle to our success was the lack of
resentment on our part toward traitors. He
said we did not adequately hate them ; and he
urged me, if in any degree in my power, to
breathe into the hearts of the people in the
l(jyal States a spirit of righteous indignation
and wrath toward the rebels coniineusurate
with the unmatched enormity of their deeds.

This spirit, Mr. Chairman, was a military ne-
cessity. The absence of it furnishes the best
explanation of our failure during the period
referred to, while its acceptance by the Govern-
ment inaugurated the new policy which baa
ever since been giving us victories.

That this sickly policy of an inoffensive war
has naturally prolonged the struggle, and
greatly augmented its cost in blood and treas-
ure, no one cau doubt. That it belongs, with
its entire legacy of frightful results, exclu-
sively to the conservative element in our poli-
tics, which at first ruled the Government, is
equally certain. The radical men saw at first,
as clearly as they see to-daj-, the character and
spirit of this rebel revolt. The massacre at
Fort Pillow, the starvation of our soldiers at
Richmond, and the whole black catalogue of
rebel atrocities, have only been so many veri-
fied predictions of the men who had studied
the institution of slavery, and who regarded
the rebellion as the natural fruit and culmina-
tion of its Christless career. And hence it
was that in the very beginning of the war,
radical men were in favor of its vigorous prosl
ecution. They knew the foe with whom we
had to wrestle. In language employed on this
floor more than three years ago, they knew that
" sooner than fail in their purpose the rebels
would light up heaven itself with the red glare
of the pit, and convert the earth into a carnival
of devils." They knew that "every weapon
in the armory of war must be grasped, and
every arrow in our quiver sped toward the
heart of a rebel." They knew that "all ten-
derness to such a foe is treason to our cause,
murder to onr people, faithlessness to the grand-
est and holiest trust ever committed to a free
people." They knew that " the war should be
made just as terrific to the rebels as possible,
consistently with the laws of war, not as a
work of vengeance, but of mercy, and the
•surest means of our triumph." They knew
that in struggling with such a foe we were
shut up to one grand and inevitable necessity
and duty, and that was entire and absolute
suhjuijation. All this was avowed and insisted
upon by the earnest men who understood the
nature of the conflict, and as persistently dis-
avowed and repudiated by the Government
and its conservative advisers.

liut a lime came when its lessons had to be
unlearned. In the school of trial it was forced
to admit that war does not mean peace
but exactly the opposite of peace. Slowly,
and step by step, it yielded up its theories
and brought itself face to face with the stern
facts of the crisis. The Government no longer
gets frightened at the word sul jugate, because
of its literal etymology, but is manfully and
successfully endeavoring to place the yoke of
tlie Constitution upon the unbaptised necks of
the scoundrels who have thrown it off. The
war is now recognized as a struggle of numbers,
of desperate physical violence, to be fought
out to the bitter end, without stopping to count
its cost in money or in blood. Both the pec-


pie and our armies, under this ne^ dispensa-
tion, have been learning how lo hate rebels as
Christian patriots ought to have done from the
beginning. They have been learning how to ]
hate rebel sympathizers also, and to brand them
as even meaner than rebels outright. They
regard the open-throated traitor, who stakes
his life, his property, his all, upon the success
of his conspiracy against the Constitution aud
the rights of man, as a more tolerable charac-
ter than the skulking miscreant who in his
heart wishes the rebellion God-speed, while
masquerading in the hypocritical disguise of
loyalty. Had the Government been animated
by a like spirit at the beginning of the out-
break, practically accepting the truth that there
can be no middle ground between treason and
loyalty, rebel sympathizers would have given
the country far less trouble than they have
done. A little wholesome severity, summarily
administered, would have been a most sovereign
panacea. On this point the people were in ad-
vance of the Administration, and they are to-
I day. Their earnestness has not yet found a
I complete and authoritative expression in the
action of the Government. A system of retal-
iation, which would have been a measure of
real mercy, has not yet been adopted. Our
cause is not wholly rescued from the control of
conservative politicians and geaerals. Much
remains to be done ; but far more, certainly,
has already been accomplished. The times of
brotherly love towards rebels in arms have
gone by forever. Such men as McGlellan,
Bueli, and Filz John Poner, are generally out
of the way, and men who believe in iightivij
' rebels are in active command. This revolution
in the war policy of the Government, as already
observed, was absolutely necessary to the sal-
vation of our cause ; and the country will not
soon forget those earnest men who at first com-
prehended the crisis and the duty, and persist-
ently urged a vigorous policy, suited to re-
morseless and revolution:iry violence, till the
Government felt constrained to embrace it.

Bat a vigorous prosecution of the war, 5Ir.
Chairman, was not enough. While this strug-
gle is one of numbers and of violence, it is
likewise, and still more emphatically, a war of
ideas ; a conflict between two forms of civiliza-
tion, each wresting for the mastery of the
country. No one now pretends to dispute this,
I nor is it easy to understand how any one could
ever have failed to perceive it. But the Gov-
' ernment, in the beginning, did not believe it.
It tried, with all its might, not to believe it. and
to persuade the world to disbelieve it. It in-
sisted that the real cause of the war did not
cause it at all. The rebellion was the work of
chance; a stupendous accident, leaping into
life fall-grown, without father or mother, with-
out any discoverable genesis. It was a huge,
black, portentous, national riot, which must be
suppressed, but nobody was to be allowed to
say cne word about the causes which produced
it, or the issues involved in the struggle. Si-
lence was to be our supreme wisdom. Hence

it was that the Government, speaking through
its high functionaries, declared that the slavery
question was not involved in the quarrel, and
that every .slave in bondage would remain in
exactly the same condition after the war as be-
fore. Hence it was that, when a celebrated
proclamation was issued, giving freedom to
slaves of rebels in Missouri, it was revoked by
the Government in order to please the State of
Kentucky, and placate the power that began
the war. Hence, under General H.iUeck's
" Oraer No. 3," which remained in force more
than a year, the swarms of contrabands who
came thronging to our lines, tendering us the
use of their muscles and the secrets of itie rebel
prison-house, were driven away by our com-
manders. Hence it was that our soldiers were
compelled to serve as slave-hounds in chasing
down fugitives and sending them back to rebel
masters, and that General McGlellan, who al-
ways loved slavery more than he loved his
country, and who declared he would put down
slave insurrections •' with an iron hand," was
continued as commander-in-chief of our armies
long months after the country desired to spew
him out. Hence, likewise, so many thousands
of our soldiers were compelled to dig and ditch
in the swamps of the Chickahominy till the
cold sweat of death gathered on the handle of
the spade, while swarms of stalwart negroes,
able to relieve them and eager to do so, were
denied the privilege, lest it should ofl'end the
nostrils of democratic gentility, and give aid
and comfort to the Abolitionists. Hence it
was that the President, instead of striking at
slavery as a military necessity, and while re-
buking that policy in his dealings with Hunter
and Fremont, was at the same time so earnestly
espousing chimerical projects for the coloniza-
tion of negroes, coupled with the policy of
gradual and compensated emancipation, which
should take place some time before the year
1000, if the slaveholders should be willing.
Hence it was that very soon after the Adminis-
tration had been installed in power it bt-gau to
lose sight of the principles on which it hadtri-
umnhed in 1860, allowing four-fifths of the of-
fices of the army and navy to be held by men of
known hostility to those principles, while the
various departments of the Government iu this
city were largely filled by rebel sympathizers.
Hence it was that for nearly two years of this
war the Government, while smiting the rebels
with one hand, was with the other guarding
the slave property and protecting the constitu-
tional rights of the men who had renounced
the Constitution, and ceased lo have any rights
under it save the right to its penalty against
traitors. Hence it was that during the greater
part of this time the Administration stood upon
the platform and urged the policy of "the Con-
stitution as it is and the Union as it was,''
which the nation so overwhelmingly repudiated
in the late presidential contest. Hence it was
finally, that the songs of Whittier could not bo
sung in our armies ; that slavery waa every-
where dealt with by the Goverament as the

dear child of its love ; and that our rulers
seemed, with matchless impiety, to hope for
the ftivor of God without laying hold of the
conscience of our cjuarrel, and by coolly kicking
it out of doors I Sir, I believe it safe to say
that this madness cost the nation the precious
sacrifice of fifty thousand soldiers, who have
gone up to the throne of God as witnesses
against the horrid infatuation that so long
shaped the policy of the Government in resist-
ing this slaveholders' rebellion.

liut here, again, Mr. Chairman, the Govern-
ment had to unlearn its first lessons. Its pur-
pose to crush the rebellion and spare slavery
was found to be utterly suicidal to our cause.
It was a purpose to accomplish a moral impos-
sibility, and was therefore prosecuted, if not.
conceived, in the interest of the rebels. It was
an attempt to marry treason and loyalty ; for
the rebellion is slavery, armed with the powers
of war, organized for wholesale schemes of ag-
gression, and animated by the overflowing full-
ness of its infernal genius. The strength of
our cause lies in its righteousness, and there-
fore no bargain with the devil could possibly
give it aid. Through great sulferiug and sacri-
fice, individual and national, our rulers learned
that there is but " one strong thing here below,
the just thing, the true thing," and that God
would not allow these severed States to be re-
united without the abandonment, forever, of
our great national sin. This was a difficult
lesson, but as it was gradually mastered the
Government " changed its base." It became
disenchanted. Congress took the lead in ush-
ering in the new dispensation. A new Article
of War was enacted, forbidding our armies from
returning fugitive slaves. Slavery was abol-
ished in the District of Columbia, and prohib-
ited in our national Territories, where it had
been i)lanted by the dogma of popular sover-
eignty and the Dred Scott decision. Our Fed-
eral judiciary was so reorganized as to make
sure this anti-slavery legislation of Congress.
The confiscation of slaves was provided for,
and freedom offered to all who would come over
and help us, either as laborers or soldiers, thus
annulling the famous and infmnous order of
General Halleck, already referred to. The fu-
gitive slave law was at first made void as to the
slaves of rebels, and finally repealed altogether,
with the old law of 1793. The coastwise slave
trade, a frightful system of home i)iracy, carried
on by authority of Congress since the year 1807,
was totally abolished. The right of testimony
in our Federal courts, and to sue and be sued,
was conferred upon negroes. Their einploy-
ment as soldiers was at last systematically pro-
vided for, and their j)ay at length maile the
same as that of white soldiers. 'J'ho indepen-
dence of Ilayti and Liberia was recognized, and
new measures taken to put an end to the Afri-
can slave trade. In thus wiping out our code
of national slave laws, acknowledgihgthe man-
Bood of the negro, and recognizing (slavery as
the enemy of our peace, Congress emphatically
rebuked the policy which had sought to ignore

it, and to shield it from the destructive band of
the war instigated by itself; while it opened
the way for further and inevitable measures of
justice, looking to his complete emancipation
from the dominion of Anglo-Saxon prejudice,
the repeal of all special legislation intended for
his injury, and his absolute restoration to equal
rights with the white man as a citizen as well
as a soldier.

Meanwhile, the President bad been giving
the subject his sober second thought, and re-
considering his position at the beginning of the
conflict. Instead of affirming, as at first, that
the question of slavery was not involved in the
struggle, he gradually perceived and finally
admitted that it was at once the cause of the
war and the obstacle to peace. Instead of re-
solving to save the Union with slavery, he finally
resolved to save the Union without it, and by
its destruction. Instead of entertaining the
country with projects of gradual and distant
emancipation, conditioned upon compensation
to the master and the colonization of the freed-
men, he himself finally launched the policy of
immediate and unconditional liberation. In-
stead of recoiling from "radical and extreme
measures," and '"a remorseless revolutionary
conflict," he at last marched up to the full
height of the national emergency, and pro-
claimed " to all whom it may concern," that
slavery must parish. Instead of a constitu-
tional amendment for the purpose of eternizing
the institution in the Republic, indorsed by
him in his inaugural message, he became the
zealous advocate of a constitutional amend-
ment abolishing it forever. Instead of com-
mitting the fortunes of the war to pro-slavery
commanders, whose hearts were not in the
work, he learned how to dispense with their
services, and find the proper substitutes. These
forward movements were not ventured upon
hastily, but after much hesitation and apparent
reluctance. Not suddenly, but following great
deliberation and many misgivings, he issued
his proclamation of freedom. Months after-
ward he doubted its M'isdom ; but it was a
grand step forward, which at once severed his
relations with his old conservative friends, and
linked his fortunes thenceforward to those of
the men of ideas and of progress. Going hand
in hand with Congress in the great advance
measures referred to, or acquiescing in their
adoption, the whole i)olicy of the Administra-
tion has been revolutionized. Abolitionism and
loyalty are now accepted as convertible terms,
and so are treason and slavery. Our covenant
with death is annulled. Our national partner-
ship with Satan hns been dissolved; and just
in proportion as this has been done, and an
alliance sought with divine Providence, has the
cause of our country prospered. In a word,
Radicalism has saved our nation from the
political damnation and ruin to which conser-
vatism would certainly have consigned it;
while the mistakes and failures of the Ad-
ministration stand confessed in its new policy,
which alono can vindicate its wisdom, com-

inand the respect and gratitude of the people,
and save it from humiliation and disgrace.

Mr. Chairman, these lessons of the past sug-
gest the true moral of this great conflict, and
make the way of the future plain. The)' de-
mand a vigorous prosecution of the war by all
the powers of war, and that the last vestige of
slavery shall be scourged out of life. Let the
Administration falter on either of these points
and the people will disown its policy. They
have not chosen the President for another term
through any secondary or merely personal con-
siderations. In the presence of so grand an
issue, men were nothing. They had no faith iu
General McClellan and the party leaders at his
heels. They had little faith in the early policy
of Mr. Lincoln, when Democratic ideas ruled
his Administration, and the power of slavery
held him in its grasp. Had his appeal to the
people been made two years earlier, he would
have been as overwhelmingly repudiated as he
has been gloriously indorsed. The people sus-
tain him now, because of their assured faith
that he will not hesitate to execute their will.
In voting for him for a second term, they voted
for liberating and arming the slavi s of the South
to crush out a slaveholders' rebellion. They
voted that the Republic shall live, and that
whatever is necessary to save its life shall be
done. They voted that slavery shall be eter-
nally doomed, and future rebellions thus made
impossible. They voted, not that Abraham Lin-
coln can save the country, but that they can
save it, with him as their servant. That is what
was decided in the late elections. I have par-
ticipated, somewhat actively, in seven presi-
dential contests, and 1 remember none in which
the element of personal enthusiasm had a
smaller share than that of last November. One
grand and overmastering resolve filled the
hearts and swayed the purposes of the masses
everywhere, and that was the rescue of the
country through the defeat of the Chicago plat-


Online LibraryGeorge Washington JulianRadicalism and conservation--the truth of history vindicated → online text (page 1 of 2)