Nathan Sidney Smith Beman.

Our civil war: the principles involved, its causes and cure, being a discourse delivered on Thanksgiving day, Nov. 27, 1862 online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryNathan Sidney Smith BemanOur civil war: the principles involved, its causes and cure, being a discourse delivered on Thanksgiving day, Nov. 27, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

£ 458

Copy 1

Jr. Neman's Cljanlisgifamg German.


\ix ®ivll fFiir





NOV. 27, 1862.


TROY, N. Y.:


18 6 3.







Psalm 83 : 4.
" They have said, come and let us cut them off from being a Nation, —
that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance."

Isaiah 8: 11-13.
"For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me,
that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, saj' ye not A con-
federacy, to all them to whom this peoj^e sfiall say A confederacy ; neither
fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and
let liim be your fear, and let him be your dread."

I shall make no apolog-y to this audience, for
occupying- the present hour in giving- you what is
commonly called a political sermon. The crisis
in our history imposes a duty upon all good citi-
zens which the loyal in heart cannot well resist.
And this duty rests with no less weight upon the
minister at the altar, than upon any other member
of the community. Indeed, the special oath of
God is upon him, and he should be careful to
maintain a good conscience before his fellow-
countrymen and the world, as well as before high

heaven. He has no right, in any circumstances,
or under any pretext, to ignore, or repudiate, or
shoulder aside, those obhgations which bind him
to the social structure of which he is an individual
element, or a constituent part.

The popular prejudice which exists in our day
and in our country, against an occasional discus-
sion in the pulpit, and especially on a week day,
of some great subject wliich relates to the policy
of the government and the good of the people as
a social body, is a problem which philogophy has
not yet fully solved. The old prophets were in
the habit of instructing, and even reproving,
rulers, when occasion required, — and warning the
people touching national measures ; and no one
thought it out of place. The preachers of the
Revolution were among the most out-spoken and
zealous patriots, and delivered sermons, not only
on special occasions, but often on the Sabbath,
exhorting the half-discouraged people to stand by
their country, in the dark day of her calamities ;
and nobody complained, but the tories. The
Southern clergymen, who, next to the politicians,
have done more than any other men to kindle the
fires of rebellion, and fan them into the intensest
flame, have preached and publislied the most in-
flammatory discourses against our blessed Union ;
and their broad and in ispaiing denunciations have

been advertised and read at the North, and praised
by the disloyal among- us ; and not a stain of evil
has been detected in their pages, by such mur-
murers about political preaching.

And after all, who is it, that is most deeply
grieved, by such discussions in the pulpit, in our
day, and among us \ There may be, and no
doubt is, here and there a good man — a truly
pious man — who conscientiously thinks, that the
pulpit should never admit any thing else than the
naked law of God and the pure gospel of Jesus
Christ — and tliat, too, in the most literal sense : —
that the government of the country, and the civil
and political rights of the people, should never be
discussed or hinted at there, because the place is
too holy for such themes. But the number to
which I now refer, is very small. The great mass
of those who shudder at political sermons as pro-
fane, are those who care not a fig for religion.
They are too often men who are found' in the pre-
cincts of the grog-shop, and breathe its pestiferous
air, and derive their religious inspiration and zeal
from its predominant and pervading element. And
I may add, in our day, they are those whose loy-
alty is doubtful, and who might say, under such
a sermon, as one said in behalf of his whole class
or profession, under a discourse of the great


preacher. — " ^NTaster, thus saying tliou reproachest
us also."

The two passages I have placed at the head of
this discourse, as a sort of suggestive text, relate to
two distinct historical events, but of the same polit-
ical character. The passage from the 83d Psalm,
written by a descendant of the celebrated singer
and poet, Asoph, relates to a formidable conspiracy
against the throne of David, in the reign of
Jehoshaphat King of Judah. Israel rebelled, and
Judah was loyal. The traitors formed a motley
crew, composed of Apostate Hebrews, and asso-
ciated Heathen, and half-breeds. They were
crafty in counsel and tumultuous in their vain
boastings. They said, " Come, and let us cut
them off from being a nation,— that the name of
Israel may be no more in remembrance." Certain
political and moral reformations inaugurated by
Jehoshaphat, had contributed to stir up and intens-
ify this special enmity at that time. These " con-
federates " could not bear that such a nation should
exist and prosper, or its memorial leave a vestige
on the page of history. They had become des-

The passage from Isaiah relates to a combina-
tion of the apostate house of Israel with certain
foreign powers, against the Kingdom of Judah,
and the house of David. It was a rebellion against

a government formed and established by God him-
self, — and occurred in the days of Sennacherib,
some 150 years subsequent to the insurrection of
" the confederates " already referred to. It is
strongly intimated in this divine record, that there
was a large party in Judah who sympathized with
the enemies of the government, through fear or
some other unworthy motive ; but the prophet
was warned against fellowship with such. " For
the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand,
and instructed me, that I should not walk in the
way of this people, saying, say ye not A confeder-
acy to all them to whom this people shall say A
confederacy ; neither fear ye their fear nor be
afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself ; and
let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."
It is much better, and much safer to fear God,
than the .rebels. They are antagonistic powers,
and God is stronger than men.

There is a voice uttered in the context, which
seems to have been spoken prophetically for the
men of our day, both here upon our own soil and
abroad among foreign nations. " Associate your-
selves, ye people, and ye shall be broken in
pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries : gird
yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces ; gird
yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught ;


speak the word, and it shall not stand, for God is
with us."

It is worthy of note, that the term " Confeder-
acy," now in political and popular use, occurs but
three times in the Scriptures — twice in my text
from Isaiah and once in Obadiah — and always in
a bad and odious sense. It is only another name
for a wicked conspiracy against a legitimate and
heaven-established government. " Confederate,"
which stands in the context of the passage from
the Psalms, likewise is used but three times in the
Bible, once in a good sense, for powers bound in
treaty stipulations for mutual defence, and twice,
for base conspirato?-s against the divine institution
of civil government. The Southern rebels seem
to have been divinely directed, in one thing, — in
selecting a descriptive name for themselves and
their government. They are " Confederates," or
conspirators, and their government a " Confeder-
acy," or conspiracy ! We may say of this wonder-
ful adaptedness of names to the things indicated,
as the magicians once said to Pharaoli, — " This is
the finger of God." He lias secretly and mysteri-
ously led them to write unwittingly their own
history, and delineate graphically their own char-
acter. There is a directing providence in the
affairs of men ; and God lives in human history.
And he will Hve there, through the ages. "There


is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hugh
them as we will."

The picture of our country, at this day, in con-
trast with what we have seen it from our earliest
years, is truly affecting. Tf it were not for sterner
duties which urge us to more manly deeds, we
might well sit down here, and weep patriot tears
over the changes which have passed, and are pass-
ing- around us. A brilliant skv was once over our
heads, but the stars by night are now dimmed, and
the sun by day is suffering a disastrous eclipse.
A preternatural midnight, in the early evening,
has settled down upon all that just now smiled in
beauty and loveliness around us. And the picture
has warm blood-drops upon it. Death breathed
upon it, and it withered, — touched it with his
finger, and defaced and marred it. The grave-
digger, with his spade on his shoulder, is stealing-
through the mysterious darkness, having opened,
and then filled, two hundred thousand graves with
friends and foes — with murdered citizens and dead
traitors. With all our manhood we might well
weep like women, over these desolations which
have fallen upon our country. The silent sleepers
beneath our feet, have here and tliere a memento
to tell us who they are, but most of them lie in
solitary, or in promiscuous, or mingled oblivion —

" alike unknowing and unknown."


The treasures wasted in tliis national conflict, are
untold. One thousand million, at least, have gone
down into the deep ocean, to come up no more.
It might occur to your minds as a fact, affording
some relief, that nearly one half of this sum was a
lictitious rebel currency — worth nothing at the
beginning, and no better now, and not likely to
improve in time to come. And yet the loss has
fallen on wmehody. Material good has been sacri-
ficed, and the means of life and happiness anni-
hilated. They are gone for ever.

And look at this beautiful earth which God has
spread beneath our feet, — smiling in youthful
promise, and teeming with uncounted wealth.
Yesterday, it was so, — to-day, how marred, and
scorched, and cursed. Here fields are imreaped
and harvests trodden down, — and there, of equal
native fertility, they lie uncultivated and fallow.
Fine old forests are felled to the earth to obstruct
the march of invading armies, and all is martial
pomp and array. Tents wliiten the hill tops and
the valleys, batteries are planted every where,
cities and towns are surrounded with intrench-
ments and walled bv strong fortifications, and
fields that once welcomed the plow-share with a
smiling promise, become battle grounds where
death rules the hour I The clash of arms and the
thunder of artillorv rend the air. the death strujrs'le


ensues, strong men are stricken down, and the
earth smokes, and the rivers are purpled with
human blood. Some of the fairest portions of our
land have become a desolation. Bat the half has
not been told you. I would not attempt to tell
you. My powers could not compass the magni-
tude of the evils, or my tongue utter a tithe of
their horrors.

But who, or what, has done all this I What
fiend, exiled from light and heaven, has visited us,
and left his cloven foot-prints upon the fairest land
that ever smiled in the ftice of the opening skies?
Surely a great foe has been here, and done this
fearful deed. It is a devil baptized " Secession."
He has done all this, and he intends to do more.
This embodiment of all political evils, claims the
right of Ijreaking up the government formed by
our fathers, by going out of the Union by States.
If one man should do such a deed, he would be
hanged, If a voluntary combination of individu-
als, should attempt the same, a like fate would
overtake them. But if a State does the foul deed,
the panoply of " State Rights " is an ample protec-
tion in the opinion of some. Mr. Buchanan stood
amazed, and looked at this fiend, till liis heart,
which was never known to have any other fiber
in it, than that of ambition, actually began to soften,
and he almost fell in love with it. It seemed all


l»iit "an ang-el of lig'ht," — and it became more
beautiful, the longer he gazed. It was so near
faultless, that it would be unconstitutional and un-
kind to resort to the use of any " coercion " in
dealing with it. Treason must be coaxed, and not
coerced, out of its villiany. This tame policy has
well nig-h made ship- wreck of this republic. It
would have done it, if God had not brought in
new agencies to the rescue. And some men feel
quite grieved and angry that the old part}^ in
power had not continued to direct the destinies of
the nation, till the ruin was fully consummated,
and our fate sealed beyond redemption.

The right of " secession," either by individuals,
or combinations of men, or organized State author-
ities — is a bald absurdity. In speaking to sensi-
ble men, it would be a waste of time and words
to construct a grave and formal argument to prove
this fact. Admit the principle and claims of se-
cession, and you blot out iUl law. Its soul, or
essence, which is penalty, is annihilated ; the letter
is nailed to the gibbet ; and if it retains the sem-
blance of an organic existence, it is a dead letter.
" It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast
out, and trodden under foot of men." Compacts
and Constitutions, ratified with solemn delibera-
tion, and consecrated with prayer, and cemented
with pure, patriot bhjod, become foot-balls for


wiley demag-og-ues, and are impelled to and fro,
as mere playtbing-s. We hav^e seen so much of
this in our day, that we have come to an utter
loathing of such political hypocrisy. The men
who framed and adopted our Constitution were
honest men ; and they took it for granted, that
their descendants would possess both the intelli-
gence and integrity to carry out its letter and
spirit. But they placed, I fear, too high an esti-
mate upon both. The modern doctrine of " States'
Rights" — investing these rights with supremacy —
and arming them with a power to override the
general government, destroys at once the very ex-
istence of a nation. The Union, is a compact at
will. Any member can retire at his option : and
if one may, all ma}', and the powers of the gov-
ernment, and solemn stipulations, and foreign alli-
ances, and the signs and symbols which indicate
an organic nationality, are swept away at a blow.
This is the political .heresy which has infatuated
some otherwise sane minds, and endangered our
God-given institutions, and cursed our once bless-,
ed land. This imp of darkness has brought forth
those " wayward sisters" and then educated them
thoroughly in her own school, whose charms have
so smitten some of our modern politicians, that
they long to go down to Richmond, and have a
fraternal interview, and then " bid tliem depart in


peace." The man who holds the doctrine, and
practices upon it — that any State ma}^ at her op-
tion, retire from the compact — ratified by the Con-
stitution, and leave the Union a shattered frag-
ment — is a traitor and a rebel ; and he is no less a
traitor and a rebel, who denies this doctrine of
state rights, and would, at the same time, suffer
any member of the compact to retire from its po-
sition without the use of coercion and force to
prevent it. The united powers of government
and loyalty are pledged to prevent such a move-
ment. That government which does not call into
requisition all the material and means which heav-
en and earth may furnish to accomplish this end,
deserves to be rent in atoms ; and that professed
lo3'alty which does not cordially unite in this
work, and cry amen to every inch of its progress,
and is not prepared to sing paeons of glorj^ over
its final triumph, is do^^•nrigh,t hypocrisy. It is
empty profession, and nothing else.

The Author of tliat doctrine which paved the
wav to this rebellion, has damaged this g'overn-
ment more than any other man who has ever en-
joyed in a preeminent degree, its honors and emol-
uments. John C. Caliioux was a man by him-
self He stood alone. lie was the inventor of
the iuel(ti)hysic.s of Politics, — a cool and subtle rea-
soner, and his conclusions logical, if his postulates


had not often been too bold and extravagant to be
true, and sometimes so numerous as to shake our
confidence in the strength of his argument. Ad-
mit his premises, and his inference follows. Many
have adopted the inference without examining the
premises with sufficient acumen to discover that
they are assumed truths — without any reasons —
which amount, as the logicians say, to " a begging
of the question." He had but one idol, chattel
slavery — and this he worshiped with all the devo-
tion and tenacity of a native-born pagan. Iron
man, as he was, he bent the knee to this power,
and to this alone, and his youthful admirers, over
whom he had great influence, bowed in company
with him, and the clergy of the South, and espe-
cially the Old School Presbyterian brethren, came
to the Jubilee ; and Diana of the Ephesians was
never hailed with louder acclamations, than, this
great god of cotton : and now and then has been
heard a distinct and loud and joyous response
from the working men — the democratic masses, of
the North.

The latter half of Mr. Calhoun's life was de-
voted to one grand purpose. For this every thing
else must stand aside. Every opposing agency
must bend or break. This object was, the exten-
sion and perpetuation of slavery. Whatever other
interest may suffer, " this institution must be lion-


ored." This lanouaoe was once uttered by him-
self. His genius and tact gave us Texas ; and his
doctrines finally broke up the "Missouri Com-
promise," and inaugurated the bloody scenes of
Kansas. AYithout slavery we should never have
had a Calhoun, as position and circumstances final-
ly developed him ; and without both — Calhoun
and slavery — we should never have been visited
by this afflictive civil war. Originally a radical
democrat of the Jeff"ersonian school, he taxed all
his talents and all his logic to reconcile his former
sentiments with his new political and social theo-
ries. "The Declaration of Independence" which
stared him in the face, he disposed of by a short
process. Once — when I first knew him, it was the
inspiration of his loftiest eloquence ; now it was
a work of the imagination, and utterly false in its
positions and principles, or at least only poetically
true. As to tJie unalienahle rights of man — " life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," they must be
interpreted with proper restrictions — first settling
the question, that the black man is a mere outsider
of the human race. Such a being was created for
bondage, and not for freedom. God made him
for this very purpose, and it would be profane to
mar the workmanship of Almighty God. As Mr.
Calhoun's heart was not all iron, he defended this
divine arrangement on the ground of beuevo-


leiice, — that servitude was the happiest possible
condition for the colored race, and that some must
be SLAVES, or none could be truly free. This is
now the prevailing Southern doctrine, that slavery
must exist in order to ffive the hio-liest zest to free-
dom, and, at the same time, insure its permanency
and triumph. And as Mr. Calhoun, was, by an
early Presbyterian education, a believer in the
divine purposes, he cherished the pious hope, that
American man-stealing might not only bring many
of these poor heathen across the Atlantic to this
good land, but, after having given them some of
the foretastes of heaven, in the earthly Paradise
of Slavery, might carry them safely over Jordan
to the better land of Canaan above.

The contest in which we are now engaged, is
one of the most eventful that human passion has
ever stirred up, or human arms, fiercely waged on
earth. The democratic principle of self-govern-
ment, is now on trial. Crowned brows, and starred
shoulders, and mitered heads — the holy alliance
of tyranny — are empanneled in the jury-box,
and the world is now all attention to the argu-
ments of cannon and musketry, in open court,
and waiting anxiously for the verdict. Freedom,
or oppression, will be jubilant at its rendering.
Our experiment of self-government, has l)een tried
under more auspicious circumstances, than any


previous one, since tlie world began. Our fathers
had intellig-ence and virtue. — thev formed a o^ood
constitution — not perfect, nothing human is, — they
were firmly iniited together by the strong bonds
which a death-struggle "v^itli a foreign foe, had
created, — and God had given us a magnificent soil
on which to plant our institutions, and begin our
novel work. If this fails, where shall the attempt
be made again, — and who shall commence it 1 If
this star of hope to the nations, be extinguished,
will the hand of God that once lighted it up for
us — ever re-kindle it, in the darkened heavens 1
I tremble as I attempt to peer into the thick clouds
which hang over the future. God alone can com-
prehend the great results. We may, however
anticipate some of them with a probability which
may not be likely to mislead us.

And among these we cannot fail to see, that, if
the rebels prevail, and our Union is shattered, and
our government broken up, the arm of the despot
will be greatly strengthened by these calamities.
That arm will be as heavy and rigid as iron. The
cry has alread}^ been lifted up all over Europe,
that (he democratic principle lias been tried, and found
wanting. Man cannot govern himself Combi-
nations of men cannot govern themselves. Free
institutions formed by the people for their own
■ government, cannot stand. And the final effect of


all this will be, " the divine right of kings " will
strike its roots more deeply in every soil, and
" human rights " will be more wantonly disregard-
ed by all hereditary powers. It would be argu-
ment enough to point the slow-moving finger of
scorn at the fragments of our republic,, as they
float down the stream of national ruin, and say,
" There learn the end of all free ins"titutions ! "
This has been said already — prematurely, I be-
lieve, — and tyrants have " grinned a ghastly smile,"
as they have said it.

And this is not all. If secession should prevail
in any degree — either according to its own large
expectations, or in a more limited sense, a great
nation, which was fast coming up to take her seat
by the side of the most powerful of the earth^-is
ruined. Her name which has waved triumphant-
ly upon a Banner more beautiful than any other
that floats o'er the land — or gleams on the sea, is
blotted out. A star gone — and the constella-
tion is marred and dimmed. This hemisphere
grows dark, and prophesies of dissolution. The
long future which we have anticipated with so
much hope in God, and so much hope for man, is
covered with a dark, thick pall that no eye can
penetrate. If imagination might speak, she would
whisper, " Death lies beneath that portentious
symbol." One State out of the Union by permis-'


sioii of the g'overnment, jiiid miotlier follows, and
another, till the once seamless garment is rent in
twain. Disintegration once begun, the process
may never be stayed in its course, till the United
States may be known only in history and chanted
only in song. This is secession made perfect.

The influence of this country upon all the in-
stitutions of the old world, for the last twenty -five
years, has been such as to reflect credit upon our-
selves, and to create alarm in many other quarters.
AVliile there has been too much self-gratulation on
our part, yet there is no merit in voluntary or
affected ignorance on this subject. All the move-
ments in behalf of freedom and the rights of man,
in European governments, had their birth-place
and education in the United States. The pagan
world has felt the power of our free Christianity ;
and many converts on the other side of the glode,
having been cheered by our light, now join with
us in prayer to God, that this light may never be
dimmed, or extinguished. The Foreign Mission-
aries tell us, that the native christians take a deep
interest in this our present national crisis. Should
our government be prostrated and our country
trodden under foot of rebels, there is not an inter-
est of benevolence on our glol)e but would feel
the shock, and be retard(Ml. The missionary
abroad would lind his heart de])ressed and his

1 3

Online LibraryNathan Sidney Smith BemanOur civil war: the principles involved, its causes and cure, being a discourse delivered on Thanksgiving day, Nov. 27, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 3)