Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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hatreds and animosities possessed us; ere,
in the third generation, the all-comprehen-
sive patriotbm of the Fathers had died out,
and given place to the passionate emotions
of narrow and aggressive sectionalism. ♦ • *
OlorioDS, sublime above all that history re-
cords of national greatness, was the specta-
cle which the Union exhibited to the world,
80 long as the true spirit of the Constitution
lived in the hearts of the people, and the
government was a government of men recip-
rocally respecting one another^s rights, and
of States, each moving, planet-like, in the
orbit of its proper place in the firmament of
the Union, Then we were the model repub-
lic of the world, honored, loved, or feared
where we were not loved, respected abroad,
peaceful and happy at home. No Ameri-
can citizen was then subject to be driven
int^exile for opinion's sake, or arbitrarily
arrested and incarcerated in military bastiles
—even as he may now be — not for acts or
words of imputed treason, but if he do but
mourn in silent sorrow over the desolation
of his country ; no embattled hosts of Ameri-
cans were then wasting their lives and re-
sources in sanguinary civil strife ; no suicidal
and parricidal civil war then swept like a ra-
ging tempest of death over the stricken home-
steads and wailing cities of the Union. Oh,
that such a change should have oome over
oor country, in a day, as it were — as if all
^ VOL. n. - 82

men in every State of the Union, North and
South, East and West, were suddenly smi^
ten with homicidal madness, and * the cus-
tom of fell deeds ' rendered as familiar as
if it were a part of our inborn nature ; as
if an' avenging angel had been suffered by
Providence to wave a sword of flaming fire
above oar heads, to convert so many mil-
lions of good men, living together in broth-
erly love, into insensate beings, savagely
bent on the destruction of themselves and
of each other, and leaving but a smoulder-
ing ruin of conflagration and of blood in the
place of our once bless^ Union. I endeavor
sometimes to close my ears to the sounds
and my eyes to the sights of woe, and to ask
my^lf whether all this can be - -to inquire
which is true, whether the past happmess
and prosperity of my country are bat the
flattering vision of a happy sleep, or its pros*
ent misery and desolation haply the delusion
of some disturbed dream. One or the other
seems incredible and impossible: but, alas I
the stern truth can not thus be dispelled from
our minds. Can you forget, ought I espe^
cially to be expected to forget, those not re-
mote days in the history of our country,
when its greatness and glory shed the
reflection at least of their rays upon all
our lives, and thus enabled us to read the
lessoifs of the fathers, and of their. Constitu-
tion, in the light of their principles and their
deeds ? Then war was conducted only against
the foreign enemy, and not in the spirit and
purpose of persecuting non-combatant pop-
ulations, nor of burning undefended towns or
private dwellings, and wasting the fields of
the husbandmen, or the workshops of the
artisan, but of subduing ^rmed hosts in the
field. * * ♦ How is all this changed I And
why? Do we not all know that the cause
of our calamities is the vicious intermed-
dling of too many of the citizens of the
Northern States with the constitutional
rights of the Southern States, cooperating
with the discontents of the people of those
States f Do we not know that the disregard
of the Constitution, and of the security it
affords to the rights of States and of individ-
uals, has been the cause of the calamity
which our country is called to undergo!
And now, war I war, in its direst shape —
war, such as it makes the blood run cold to
read of in the history of other nations and
of other times — war, on a scale of a million
of men in arms — war, horrid as that of bar-
baric ages, rages in several of the States of
the Union, as its more immediate field, and
casts the lurid shadow of its death and lam-
entation athwart the whole expanse, and
into every nook and comer of our vast do-
main. Nor is that all ; for in those of th«
States which are exempt from the actual
ravages of war, ia which the roar of the.

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cannon, and the rattle of the mosketrj, and
the groans of the djing, are heard but as a
faint echo of terror from other lands, even
here in the loyal States^ the mailed hand of
militarj usurpation strikes down the liber-
ties of the people, and its foot tramples on
a deseoratea Oonstitution. Ay, in this land
of free thought, free speech, and free wri-
ting—in this republic of free suffrage, with
liberty of thoi^^ht and expression as the
very essence of republican institutions—^
even here, in these free States, it is made
criminal ♦ ♦ ♦ for that noble martyr of flree
speech, Mr. YaUandigham, to discuss public
affairs in Ohio— ay, even here, the temi)o-
rary agents of the sovereign people, the
transitory administrators of the govemmJht,
tell us that in time of war the mere arbitrary
will of the President takes the place of the
Constitution, and the President himself an-
nounces to us that it is treasonable to speak
or to write otherwise than as he may pre-
scribe ; nay, that it is treasonable even to
be silent, though we be struck dumb by
the shock of the calamities with which evil
counsels, incompetency,and oorruption, have
overwhelmed our country."

Oonsidering that Qen. Lee, at
the head of a formidable Sontl^em
army, composed in good part of the
Virginians like himself, was on the
soil of the Free States when this ad-
dress was written, intent on compel-
ling them, by force of arms, to sub-
mit to a dissolution of the Union, the
following passage can hardly be sur-

'* I trust it may be profitable on this oeca-
Bion, as the call of your meeting suggests, to
revive the memories of that heroic epoch of
the republic, even though they come laden
with regrets, and hold up that period of our
history in contrast with the present — ^though
they come to remind us of what were our
relations during the Revolution, and in later
years, prior to 1861, to that great common-
wealth which we were accustomed to refer
to by the name of ' the Mother of Statesmen
and of States;' and of what those relations
now are. Oan it be that we are never to
think again of the land where the dust of
Washington and Patrick Henry, of Jefferson
and Madison, repose, with emotions of grati-
tude, admiration, and filial regard ? Is hate
for all that Virginia has taught, all that Vir-
ginia has done, all that Virginia now is, to
take the place of sentiments which we have
cherished all our lives? Other men may be
•skedtodothia; bat it ia in vain to appeal to

me. So far aa my heart is concerned, it !•
not a subject or volition. While there may
be those in whose breasts such sentiments
as these awaken no responsive feeling, I feel
assured, as I look over this vast assemblage,
that the grateful emotions which have ^
nalized this anniversary in all our past hte-
tory are not less yours than they are mine
to-day. Let us be thankful, at least, tiiat
we have ever enjoyed them ; that nothteg
can take from us the pride and exultation
we have felt as we saw the old flag unfold
over us, and realized its glorious accretion
of stars frx)m the original thirteen to thir^-
four ; that we say much, when we say, ia
the language of New Hampshire's greatest
son, if we oan with assurance say no more :
* The paM at least is secure.' "

Mr. Pierce closed his oration with
a deprecation of civil war and aa
appeal for peace on the basis of the
Union and Oonstitution, which — con-
sidering by whom and for what the
War was initiated — seems to this
writer to evince an amazing defiance
of the assumption that Man is a ra-
tional being. It is as follows :

" My friends, you have had, most of you
have had, great sorrows, overwhelming per-
sonal sorrows, it may be; but none like
these, none like these, which come welling
up, day by day, from the great fountain
of national disaster, red with the best and
bravest blood of the country. North and
South — ^red with the blood of those in botk
sections of the Union whose fathers foudit
the common battle of Independence. Nor
have these sorrows brought with them any
compensation, whether of national pride or
of victorious arms. For is it not vain to
appeal to you to raise a shout of joy because
the men from the land of Washington, Mari-
ou, and Sumter, are baring their breasts to
the steel of the men from the land of War-
ren, Stark, and Stockton ; or because, if this
war is to continue to be waged, one or the
other must go to the wall — must be con-
signed to humiliating subjugation? %iM
fearful, fruitless, fatal civil war has exhib-
ited our amazing resources and vast militarf
power. It has shown that, united, even in
carrying out, in its widest' interpretation,
the Monroe doctrine, on this continent, we
could, with such protection as the broad
ocean which flows between ourselves and
European powers affords, have stood again^
the world in arms. I speak of the war as
fruitiess; for it is clear that, prosecuted
upon the basis of the proclamations of Sep-
tember 22d and September 24th, 1863, pros-

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eented, as I mast nnderstand those procla-
mations, to saj nothing of the kindred brood
which has followed, upon the theory of
emancipation, devastation, subjugation, it
can not fail to be fruitless in every thing ex-
cept the harvest of woe which it is ripening
for what was once the peerless republic

" Now, fellow citizens, after having said
thus much, it is right that you should ask me,
What would you do in tJiis fearfhl extremi-
ty? I reply. From the beginning of this
struggle to the present moment, my hope
has been in moral power. There it reposes
atill. When, in the Spring of 1861, I had
occasion to address my fellow citizens of
this city, from the balcony of the hotel be-
fore us, I then said I had not believed, and
did not then believe, aggression by arms was
either a suitable or possible remedy for ex-
isting evils. All that has occurred since
then has but strengthened and confirmed
my convictions in this regard. I repeat,
then, my Judgment impels me to rely upon
moral force, and not upon any of the cder-
cive instrumentalities of military nower.
We have seen,*in the experience of tne last
two years, how futile are all our efforts to
maintain the Union by force of arms ; but,
even had war been carried on by us suc-
cessfully, the ruinous result would exhibit
its utter impracticability for the attainment
of th'e desired end. Through peaceful agen-
des, and through such agencies alone, can
we hope to * form a more perfect Union, es-
tablish justice, insure domestic tranquillity,
provide for the common defense, promote
the general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity:'
the g^eat objects for which, and for which
alone, the Constitution was formed. If you
turn round and ask me, What if these agen-
cies fail? what if the passionate anger of
both sections forbids? what if the bidlot-box
is sealed ? Then, all efforts, whether of war
or peace, having failed, my reply is, You will
take care of yourselves; with or without
arms, with or without leaders, we will, at
least, in the effort to defend our rights as a
free people, build up a ^reat mausoleum of
hearts, to which men who yearn for liberty
will, in after years, with bowed heads and
reverently, resort, as Christian pilgrims to
the sacred shrines of the Holy Land."

It can nol, surely, be needftil to de-
monstrate that the anther of this ora-
tion did not regard the Eebel powet
as his enemy, nor that of the conntry.

Gov. Seymour, who addressed a
large gathering in the New York

Academy of Music, in language care-
fully weighed beforehand and tem-
pered by the obvious requirements of
his official position, was (ar more
measured and cautious in his assaults
and imputations than were the great
majority of his compatriots. Yet he
opened with this aUusion to the Na-
tion's imminent perils and the disap-
pointed hopes, the blighted expecta-
tions, of those who, whether in coun-
cil or OH the field, were charged with
the high responsibility of upholding
its authority and enforcing its laws :
** When I accepted the invitation to speak,
with others, at this meeting, we were pro-
mised the downfall of Yicksbarg, the open-
ing of the Mississippi, the probable capture
of the Confederate capital, and the exhaus-
tion of the Rebellion. By common con*
sent, all parties had fixed upon this day
when the results of the campaign should be
known, to mark out that line of policy which
they felt that our country should pursue*
But,*in the moment of expected victory, there
came the midnight cry for help from Penn-
sylvania to save its despoiled fields from
the invading foe ; and, almost within sight
of this great commercial metropolis, the
ships of your merchants were burned to the
water's edge."

Having completed his portrayal of
the National calamities and perils, he

^^ A few years ago, we stood before this
community to warn them of the dangers of
sectional strife ; but our fears were laughed
at. At a later day, when the clouds of war
overhung our country, we implored those
in authority to compromise that difficulty :
for we had been told by that great orator
and statesman, Burke, that there never yet
was a revolution that might not have been
prievented by a compromise opportunely
and graciously made. [Great applause.]
Our prayers were unheeded. Again, when
the contest was opened, we invoked those
who had the conduct of affairs not to un-
derrate the power of the adversary — ^not to
underrate the courage, and resources, and
endurance, of our own sister States. ♦ This
warning was treated as sympathy with
treason. You have the results of these un-
heeded warnings and unheeded prayers;
they have stained our soil with blood ; they
have carried mourning into thousands of
homes ; and to-day they have brought our

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country to the very verge of destraotion.
Once more, I come before you, to oflfer again
an earnest prayer, and beg you to listen to
a warning. Oar country is not only at this
time torn by one of the bloodiest wai^s that
has ever ravaged the face of the earth ; but,
-^ if we turn our faces to our own loyal States,
how is it there? You find the community
divided into political parties, strongly ar-
rayed, and using with regard to each other
terms of reproach and defiance. It is said
by those who support more particularly the
Administration, that we, who differ honestly,
patriotically, sincerely, from them with re-
gard to the line of duty, are men of treason-
able purposes and enemies to our country.
[* Hear, hear.'] On the other hand, the De-
mocratic organization look upon this Admin-
istration as hostOe to their rights and lib-
erties ; they look upon their opponents as
men who would do them wrong in regard
to their most sacred franchises. I need not
call your attention to the tone of the prjBss,
or to the tone of public feeling, to show you
how, at this moment, parties are tlius exas-
perated, and stand in defiant attitudes to
each other. A few years ago, we were told
that sectional strife, waged in words like
these, would do no harm to our country ;
but you have seen the sad and bloody re-
sults. Let us be admonished now in time,
and take care that this irritation, this feel-
ing which is growing up in our midst, shall
not also ripen into civil troubles that shall
carry the evils of war into our own homes.
*' Upon one point, all are agreed, and that
is this: Until we have aunited North, we can
have no successfbl war. Until we have a
united, harmonious North, we can have no
beneficent peace. How shall we gain har-
mony ? How shall the unity of afi be ob-
tained? Is it to be cderced? I appeal to
you, my Republican friends, when you say
to us that the nation's life and existence
hang upon harmony and concord here, if
you yourselves, in your serious moments,
believe that this is to be produced by seizing
our persons, by infringing upon our rights,
by insulting our homes, and by depriving
us of those cherished principles for which
our fathers fought, and to which we have
always sworn allec^ance." [Great applause.]

After some variations on this

theme, he continues his appeal to

Bepublicans in these words :

** We only ask that you shall give to us
that which you claim for yourselves, and
that which every freeman, and every man
who respects himself, will have, freedom of
speech, the right to exercise all the fran-
ooises conferred by the Constitution upon
Amerioan citizens. [Great applause.] Oan

you safely deny us these? Will yon not
trample upon your own rights ii you refuse
to listen? Bo you not create revolution
when you say that our persons may be
rightfully seized, our property confiscated,
our homes entered ? Are you not exposing
yourselves, your own interests, to as great
a peril as that with which you threaten us?
Remember this, that the bloody, and trea-
sonable, and revolutionary, doctrine of pub-
lic necessity oan be proclaimed by a mob as
^ell as by a government. [Applause.] * * *
"To-day, the great masses of conserva-
tives who still battle for time-honored prin-
ciples of government, amid denunoiationy
contumely, and abuse, are the only barriers
that stand between this Government and
its own destruction. If we should acquiesce
in the doctrine that, in times of war. Consti-
tutions are suspended, and laws have lost
their force, then we should accept a doc-
trine that the very right by which this (Go-
vernment administers its power has lost
its virtue, and we would be brought down
to the level of rebellion itself Laving an ex-
istence only by virtue of material power.
When men accept despotism, they may
have a choice as to who the despot shall be.
The struggle then wiU not be, Shall we have
constitutional liberty ? But, having accept-
ed the doctrine that the Constitution has lost
its force, every instinct of personal ambition,
every instinct of personal security, will lead
men to put themselves under the protection
t)f that power which they suppose most
competent to guard their persons."

Near the close of his address, the

Governor says :

"We stand to-day amid new-made
graves, in a land filled with mourning; up-
on a soil saturated with the blood of the
fiercest conflict of which history gives us an
account. We can, if we will, avert all
these cala^iities, and evoke a blessing. If
we will do what? Hold that Constitution,
and liberties, and laws, are suspended?—
shrink back from the assertion of right?
Will that restore them ? Or shall we do as
our fathers did, under circumstances of like
trial, when they combated against the
powers of a crown ? They did not say that
liberty was suspended; that men might bo
deprived of the right of trial by jury; that
they might be torn from their homes by
midnight intruders? [Tremendous and
continued applause.] If you would save
your country, and your liberties, begin
right ; begin at the hearth-stones, which are
ever meant to be the foundations of Ameri-
can institutions; begin in your famUy
circle ; declare that your privilegee shall be
held sacred; and, having once proclaimed

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yonr own rights, take care that you do not
invade those of your neighbor." [Applause.]

These orationB are mild and cau-
tious compared with the great mass of
Democratic harangues on this occa-
sion. The allusions to Mr. Vallandig-
ham's arrest as a lawless outrage,
and to the States as guardians of the,
rights of their citizens (with direct
reference to the impending draft,
which Gov. Seymour, with ^e great
mass of his party, was known to re-
gard as unconstitutional), and all kin-
dred indications of a purpose to resist
the Federal Executive, even unto
blood, in case his ^^ usurpations " and
"outrages'* should be repeated and
persisted in, were everywhere re-
ceived with frenzied shouts of con-
currence and approbation: and a
proposition to organize at once to
march on Washington, and hurl from
power the tyrant enthroned in the
White House, would have elicited
even more frimtic manifestations of
delight and approval.

The first Draft in the city of New
York for conscripts under the Enroll-
ment Act was advertised to com-
mence at the several enrollment of-
fices soon afterward ;" and, as a prepa-
ration therefor, the several Demo-
cratic journals of that city seemed to
vie with each other — especially in
their issues of the eventful morning —
in efibrts to inflame the passions of
those who at best detested the idea
of braving peril, privation, suffering,
and death, in the prosecution of an
* Abolition war.* That the enroll-
ment here was excessive, and the
quota required of the city was too
high, were vehemently asserted; that
there would be unfairness in the

drawing of names from the wheel
was broadly insinuated ; but that the
Draft itself— any Draft— was uncon-
stitutional, needless, and an outrage
on individual liberty and State rights,
was more emphatically insisted on.

Said The Journal of Commerce:

"It is a melancholy fact that war, sad
and terrible as it is, becomes oftentimes the
tool of evil-minded men to accomplish their
ends. The horrors of its continuance are
nothing to their view. The blood shed
counts as of no value in their measurement.
The mourning it causes produces no impres-
sion on their sensibilities. Such men lose
all consciousness of personal responsibility
for the war, and only look to seltish desires
to be realized. What right has any man,
or any class of men, to use this war for any
purpose beyond its original object? K they^
indeed, have diverted it from that, if they
have prolonged it one day, added one drop
of blood to its sacrifice, by their efforts to
use it for other ends than its original design,
then they are responsible before God and
man for the blood and cost There is no
evading that responsibility.

" Some men say, ' Now that the war has
commenced, it must not be stopped till
slaveholding is abolished.' Such men are
neither more nor less than murderers. The
name seems severe : it is nevertheless cor-
rect. Would it have been justifiable for the
Northern States to commence a war on the
Sonthem States for the sole purpose of
abolishing Slavery in them ? No ! it would
have been murder to commence such a war.
By what reasoning, then, does it become
less murder to divert a war, commenced for
other purposes, to that object? How can it
be any less criminal to prolong a war, com-
menced for the assertion of governmental
power, into a war for the suppression of
Slavery, which, it is agreed, would have
been unjustifiable and sinful if begun for
that purpose?*'


" Whether the weak and reckless men who
temporarily admihister the Federal Gov-
ernment are aware of the fact or not, it is
undeniably a fact that the very existence of
^e Government they administer is quite as
seriously involved, in the execution of the
conscription which they are now putting
in force, as it has been in any other measure
or event of the war. The act itself, which
should never have been framed, except with
the most absolute deference to the Oonsti-

* Monday, July 13.

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tation ftnd on the broadest attainable basis
of representatiye support, was fairly forced
to its passage throagh the Constitution and
over the restraints and decencies of Senato-
rial debate. Such were the circumstances
which attended its final passage, that one
might almost have supposed the National
legislature to be an oligarchic conspiracy
plotting a vast scheme of military servitude,
rather than the council of a great people
giving form to its independent determina-
tion and organizing its force for the asser-
tion of its fraiedom. The idea of a military
conscription being in itself profoundly re-
pugnant to the American mind, it might
nave been supposed that unusual steps
would have been taken by the friends of
lAiat resort to present it with the utmost
possible frankness, and in the light best
adapted to dissipate the popular hostility.

*' Nothing of the sort was done. A meas-

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 71 of 113)