Abraham Lincoln as Dictator


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 14, 1863

Welcome to our online collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. We have made this collection available to enable you to develop a more complete understanding of this unique chapter of American History.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)


Negro Soldiers

Abraham Lincoln as Dictator

Capture of the Jacob Bell

Capture of the "Jacob Bell"

General Hunter

General Hunter

Emancipation Meeting

Emancipation Meeting

Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson

Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson

First Colored Troops in Battle

First Colored Troops in Battle

Jackson Bio

Stonewall Jackson Bio

Rebel "Nashville"

Rebel Steamer Nashville

Exeter Hall

Exeter Hall, London

Black Troops

First Black Troops in Combat


Copperheads Cartoon





[MARCH 14, 1863.




GETHER up yure "olive branches!"—git lots ov 'em, es yu may,

Go daoun Saouth, es farst es yu kan go, and drop 'em awl the way;

And then kum back and tell us jest what the rebbels say!

Go, meet the fokes whu fired on aour banner with a grin,

Lick up the dust before thare feet—tell 'em yu hope they'll win,

So the murderers ov loyal men may be yure frends agin.

Tell 'em yu're glad when men like Ellsworth die —thay air awl fire and froth,

Reddy to fite ribbelliun daoun, while yu was awlways lawth—

Ef yu've got to go fur warfare, yu hed ruther fite the North!

Tell 'em yu're awl peece-makers (fur thet there's no denying)—

A tryin' to pull to peeces the hull kuntry with yore lying;

Thet yu're longing fur the time to kum when yu see Freedum dying.

Tell 'em the infurnal reguns air a useless institushun,

Cal'lated tu keep party lines from kummin in kollushun!—

Yu'd ruther Satan shood go loose, and help on the konfushun.

Tell 'em the old Dimmockrassy ain't sich es yu kan prize,

Thet awl Republikans to-day air fools withaout disgise;

And 't takes sich men es yu be to pull wool over thare eyes.

Then stop and reed yure eppataf, awlreddy rit by Fame:

"Here lies the dust ov traitors, who glorid in thare shame;

Thare father's name is Satan, and Legion was there name."





THE Thirty-seventh Congress of the United States has expired, having, in the short session which ended on March 4, passed some of the most momentous measures ever placed upon the statute-book. Those measures, as a whole, are equivalent to the step which, in republican Rome, was taken whenever the state was deemed in imminent danger, and which history calls the appointment of a Dictator. The President of the United States has, in effect, been created Dictator, with almost supreme power over liberty, property, and life—a power nearly as extensive and as irresponsible as that which is wielded by the Emperors of Russia, France, or China. And this is well. To succeed in a struggle such as we are waging a strong central Government is indispensable. One great advantage which the rebels have had over us is the unity of their purposes, and the despotic power of their chief. We are now on a par with them in these respects, and we shall see which is the better cause.

The measures which collectively confer upon Mr. Lincoln dictatorial powers consist, 1st, of the Conscription Act; 2d, of the Finance measures; and, 3d, of the Indemnity Act.

The conscription bill enrolls all the males of the loyal States (including Indians and negroes) between the ages of 20 and 45 into a national militia, and empowers the President to call them into the service of the United States for three years or the war. The only exemptions are the President and Vice-President, and one adult male in each family where there are aged parents or infant children dependent on the labor of their adult relative for support. The entire body of the militia, as thus enrolled, is to be divided into two classes: 1st, persons between 20 and 35, whether married or single, and persons between 35 and 45 if unmarried; and 2d, married men between 35 and 45. It is presumed that the latter class will not be called upon until the former has been exhausted. As according to the census there will remain, in the loyal States, after deducting the army now in the field, some 3,500,000 men liable to enrollment under this Act; and as it is quite certain that under no circumstances can so large a number be required, Congress has wisely empowered the Executive to receive a sum of $300 from any drafted man who prefers paying to serving. This sum, it is believed, will always secure a substitute. Clergymen, professional men, large merchants and manufacturers, and others who are of more use to the country while prosecuting their various peaceful avocations than they would be if forced to carry a musket, will thus be exempted, while the class of men which take their place will receive money enough to keep their families as comfortably as if they had remained at home.

Under the operation of this Act the President will be enabled to recruit our armies to the full

standard when the time of the nine months' men expires, and the hopes of the rebels—which have been re-echoed by the correspondents of disloyal journals—that our armies would melt away in the spring will be thoroughly defeated. Under this Act the President may keep a million of men in the field without difficulty.

No allusion is made in the Act to the enlistment of negroes. Other laws are held to cover the case, and to clothe the President with ample power to enroll and arm negroes in any part of the country. Under these laws General Hunter has a brigade, at least, of negro troops at Port Royal; General Banks has several colored regiments at New Orleans and Baton Rouge; General Grant has quite a considerable negro force at Vicksburg, and General Rosecrans—who appears to arm the negro chiefly with McClellan's favorite and trusty weapon—the spade—has several thousand at or near Murfreesboro. In a word, we have armed and are using all the adult negroes we have got, and shall continue to do so. We presume that before the end of the year we shall have 100,000 of them armed, equipped, and in the field.

The second of the measures which have been passed to increase the power of the President is the Financial Bill. This empowers him to issue $550,000,000 more legal tender paper-money—in addition to the $300,000,000 authorized at the last session of Congress; of which $550,000,000 $150,000,000 are to be ordinary United States notes similar to those now in circulation, and $400,000,000 interest-bearing notes, to be either a legal tender themselves or to be exchangeable for legal tender on presentation. He may furthermore negotiate, at any rate which he deems fair, United States Bonds to run for not less than ten and not more than twenty years, and to bear a rate of interest not over six per cent., said interest payable in specie. The money-market and the purse of the country are thus placed absolutely at the disposal of the Government. If the Secretary of the Treasury can borrow, he has every opportunity of doing so. If he can not borrow, he has the right to manufacture money. It is true that such money—manufactured at the fiat of a Government—invariably depreciates in the ratio of its issues. This is one of the evils which are usually involved by great wars, and which are inseparable from the paper-money system. It must be hoped that we may succeed in crushing the rebellion before the point of absolute depreciation is reached.

Besides this measure, another Act—Mr. Chase's Bank Act—transfers the entire control of the bank currency of the country to the General Government. This Act empowers any individual or corporation to bank on the basis of Government securities, and to issue currency, based on the deposit of such securities, to within ten per cent. of their market value. It is not expected that this Act will go fully into effect during the war, though some banks in the West will probably be organized under it. But the purpose of the measure is to institute such a connection between the public credit and the banking interest as shall, on the one hand, give the President virtual control of all the banks in the country, and, on the other, make every stockholder and banknote-holder in the land an underwriter, so to speak, of the Government bonds. Of course, pending the war, any issues of bank-notes under this Act will merely operate to swell the inflation of paper-money. But, as we said, this inflation is one of the necessary drawbacks of war.

The purse and the sword of the country thus placed unconditionally in the President's hands, it only remained to invest him with power to protect the Government from attacks in the rear from insidious traitors at the North. For this purpose, in accordance with the practice of old Rome, of constitutional England, and of the United States themselves, Congress passed an Act empowering the President to suspend the Act of habeas corpus whenever and wherever he may deem it necessary. That this Act was necessary no one who has watched the treacherous movements of the Northern Copperheads, or reflected upon the mischief they might do if unrestrained, will venture to deny. At this very moment Southern emissaries and their sympathizers in Indiana are manoeuvring to wrest the control of the State troops out of the hands of the constitutional authorities: and individuals in New York and Connecticut are engaged in sending arms and supplies to the rebels, chiefly for the sake of gain, but also, in some degree, from love. It is quite evident that in the face of such a state of things, and when the nation is engaged in a death-grapple of which the issue is very doubtful, the slow and cautious remedies which the law provides for the redress of wrongs in time of peace would be out of place. The country might be ruined while we were empanneling a jury to try a traitor. Inter arma leges silent.

When we undertook the war we tacitly agreed to accept it with all its evils. Prominent among these are a depreciated currency, a temporary deprivation of personal liberty, and a liability to be taken from one's business to carry a musket in the army. These are grave inconveniences. But they are temporary and bearable; whereas the evils which would result from the disruption of the Union are lasting and intolerable. We may suffer, but our children will benefit by our

suffering. Whereas if this country is severed in twain the future which lies before us is plainly depicted in the history of Mexico and Central America: incessant wars, constant subdivisions, a cessation of honest industry and agriculture, a decay of trade, a disappearance of wealth and civilization, and in their stead chronic strife, rapine, bloodshed, and anarchy. To avoid these things we can well afford for a few years to have a strong Government.



WE read a good deal in these days of supporting the Government and opposing the Administration. We are told with great complacency by orators whose speeches are hailed with delight in Richmond and Charleston, that the Administration is not the Government. We are informed by people who profess great indignation if they are charged with lukewarm patriotism, that they will support the war so far as it is Constitutional, but no farther; and they gravely add, that it makes no difference whether the Constitution is defied by Jeff Davis or violated by the President.

Now suppose that a loyal man takes the case, even as thus stated, to be true, what will he do? The Government is threatened by a furious rebellion. The country and its liberties, and civil order itself, are in peril. Practically but two parties are possible—those who attack and those who defend the Government. The Government can have no Constitutional executive existence for two years except in the present Administration. The loyal man, we will suppose, thinks that the Administration assumes doubtful powers. But if he withdraws from its support, and attempts to maintain a political agitation for the purpose of securing another Administration at the end of two years, at the very time when the Government and national unity are so sorely pressed, does he not do all that he can not only to overthrow the Administration but to destroy the Government? At the worst, is not the question he has to answer a very simple one? Is it not plainly this: "Allowing that every measure taken to maintain the Government is not such as I approve, yet which party is most likely to secure the duration of the Government, the unity of the nation, and the supremacy of the Constitution? Is it the party in active rebellion, or the party of the Administration?" In other words, if doubtful powers are assumed, are they not assumed at a most critical moment by a perfectly patriotic and honest executive for the purpose of saving the nation? and is he not, therefore, entitled to the heartiest support of every man of equal patriotism and honesty? Since for two years he is Constitutionally President, and can only be removed by revolution—since (by the supposition) in his patriotic zeal he has transcended his powers, and since delay in active operations is fatal, can the refusal to support him be honorably justified upon any other ground than that the Union, the Constitution, and the Government are in more danger from him than from the rebellion? And is not that idea the very insanity of folly?

The widest departure from Constitutional authority with which the President is charged is the emancipation order. Yet Mr. Van Buren, a leader of the Opposition, says plainly that the army ought to advance, and that the necessary consequence of its advance will be emancipation. The argument, then, is, that the Commander-in-Chief is bound to order an advance which will result in freeing the slaves, but he has no right to declare them free. Is that such a violation of the Constitution that loyal men ought to protest by refusing their support to the Administration?

The other unconstitutional stretch of power is alleged to be the "arbitrary arrests." Kane, of Baltimore, who denies that he was privy to a plot to assassinate the President, but whose telegrams, indicating Baltimore as a rendezvous of massacre, are matters of history, was summarily seized and imprisoned, and others, often mere brawlers, whose arrest was extremely foolish and injurious to the Government, have been likewise imprisoned by executive order. We all know the extent of such arrests. Are they also such violations of the Constitution that loyal men ought to protest by refusing their support to the Administration, thereby securing the victory of a rebellion which, in Texas, declares, exultingly, that the bones of citizens, guilty only of loyalty to their flag and country, "are bleaching in the sun," and "their bodies are suspended by scores from black-jacks!"

Thus, even were it granted that the Administration had in some points acted without Constitutional warrant, the action was taken to secure the Constitution itself, and to maintain the Government. To state the case is to prove it. The opposition made upon such grounds is in the interest of the rebellion.


DURING the earnest political canvass of 1856 there appeared some articles in the Philadelphia North American signed Cecil, which were remarkable for the calmness, the moderation, and the profound sagacity of their view's upon the territorial question, which was the real pivot of the election. The style was not less notable for its clearness, richness, and incisiveness; while the argument was conducted upon no partisan ground whatever. The substance of these articles, amplified and completed, was afterward published in a small volume, which was most highly appreciated by a few thoughtful readers, but which had, probably, no extensive sale, depending, as it did, exclusively upon its merits, and upon no arts of advertising or puffing.

The chief interest of the little book was the fact which it made known that we had an acute, original, and trained political thinker and scholar,

observing and criticising public affairs; but who cared less to publish his name than his thoughts, and who sought to influence his fellow-citizens by reasonable argument rather than by official position. A little pamphlet upon Race followed, in which the author developed his views upon a topic which is for this country of paramount importance. His conclusions were not what is commonly called anti-slavery. The dominant idea of his theory was that civilization is mainly determined by qualities of race; that in this country the Saxon, or superior race, is planted side by side with the African, or inferior race; that the superior must guide the inferior; that it is too late to regret the juxtaposition, but that, the part of wisdom being to deal with facts, the true solution of our problem lies in replacing chattel slavery by some humane form of serfdom. The question was stated with power and clearness, with perfect calmness and sincerity. It was the friendly tone of a thinker who differed from both of the vehement views of the subject which divided the country, and of a man much more anxious to know the truth than to be applauded.

The earnest inquiry of those who value sincere thought in a time of shallow rhetoric presently revealed as the author of these treatises a scholar and gentleman of the neighborhood of Philadelphia, and of a family well known in its history, Sidney George Fisher. Such readers were ready to listen with the profoundest attention to whatever he might have to say upon the absorbing topic of the time, and they consequently turn with an interest which no other author could excite to his recent work upon "The Trial of the Constitution," published in Philadelphia, but so entirely without the usual machinery of publicity that its title even is probably unknown to most of those who read these lines. The work is not large, and is composed of five chapters or essays, with a supplement upon the Proclamation. The titles of the chapters are: A Written Constitution—Union—Executive Power —Slavery—and Democracy.

In such a paragraph as this we have no intention of attempting to state the general view of the Constitution and its working set forth by Mr. Fisher. Our object is to inform the reader of the existence of the work, and to commend it most unreservedly to his attention as one of the most fearless, profound, thorough, and acute criticisms of our system which has ever been written. The courage of the author shrinks from no inquiry, and is dismayed by no result. He has none of the idolatry which is merely intellectual paralysis, and he regards our great charter not as a fetich to be worshiped, but as an instrument to be judged by its operation. His key-note properly is that the Constitution is upon trial; and exactly where and how it is tried he shows with exquisite perception. The style has the same freshness, ease, and lucidity which have been remarked in the former works of the author; but in this volume it is somewhat more diffuse, which will be readily pardoned by the reader, because, in this case, it really helps to fix the impression of the thought.

As the author proceeds the reader inevitably asks, Quis custodiet custodes?—Who shall save the commentators from being commented? For with remorseless logic he pursues every false and fallacious interpretation, and sets forth the necessity of the case. Yet the tone of the treatise is one of inquiry, not of dogmatism. The author's attitude is that of a learner, not of a doctor. And whoever shall be led by these words to listen to Mr. Fisher, and ponder his suggestions, whether he assents to them or not, will confess that he owes something to the Lounger.


IN these columns no unkind word has ever been spoken of General M'Clellan. We have therefore the right to ask him if he seriously believes that the tendency or the intention of the political movements made in his name is the strengthening the hands of the Government for a more vigorous and successful campaign against the rebels? Does he recall the words he addressed to the army on the 4th of July, 1862. "On this, our nation's birthday, we declare to our foes, who are rebels against the best interests of mankind, that this army shall enter the capital of the so-called confederacy; that our National Constitution shall prevail; and that the Union, which can alone insure internal peace and external security to each State, 'must and shall be preserved,' cost what it may in time, treasure, and blood."

Every brave and loyal heart in the land cries Amen! Is McClellan the only man in the country who does not know that the men who surround him, and use his name to paralyze the Government, repudiate those sentiments, and are willing to buy temporary peace with eternal dishonor?

Trading upon his military name and popularity they hope to make him President and use him as their tool. Has he asked himself at what price, and for what purpose?


DEAR MR. LOUNGER,—In looking over the names of the Delmonico Committee for the Diffusion of Copperhead Literature, I observed one which I remember to have seen before. And I take my pen in hand to ask you if, in Professor Brown's lately published Life and Works of Rufus Choate, there is any mention of the famous advocate's remark upon the gentleman who now figures in the enviable light of one who seeks to demoralize the army, and to save his country by destroying the Union? When Mr. Choate was asked why the gentleman in question was so universally unpopular, the caustic jury-lawyer replied: "Some men we dislike for cause—him, peremptorily."

Yours truly,   TRI-MOUNTAIN.

The Lounger is unable to answer his correspondent's question. But Mr. Choate's remark may have a wider application. For it expresses perfectly the feeling of all loyal American citizens toward all Copperheads.




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