Editorial on Slavery


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 13, 1864

This site features our extensive collection of Harper's Weekly newspaper. It took us over 20 years to compile collection, and we are proud to make it available online. These old newspapers will enable you to develop a more complete understanding of the Civil War.

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General McPherson


Slavery Editorial

Petersburg Mine

Petersburg Explosion


Second Pennsylvania

General McPherson

General McPherson

General Howard

General Howard

Sherman Marietta Georgia

Sherman's March into Marietta


Dutch Farmer Cartoon


Siege of Petersburg

Sherman Georgia

Sherman's March Through Georgia








[AUGUST 13, 1864.





THE most specious argument of the enemies of American nationality and progress is, that as Slavery is a State institution the nation has no right to meddle with it; or as one of them lately expresses it: "If they [the Slave States] abolished Slavery, well ; if not, the bond of federation [by which phrase the Constitution of the United States is described] did not make us any more responsible in the eye of Heaven for Slavery in Virginia than our commercial treaties with Brazil do for its existence there."

This view of the Union as a Confederacy, and of the Constitution as a treaty, we do not here discuss. But the entire and willful fallacy of the implication concerning national interference with Slavery is very easily exposed. The whole truth lies in this nutshell, that when Slavery found it could not be nationalized it tried to destroy the nation. It was always prating, as its lackeys are now, that it was a State institution. But it was constantly appealing to Congress for protection and countenance, and when the people of the country said to it : " Stay at home, then, where you say you belong," it hissed defiance and sprang to arms. For it would not and could not stay at home. Slavery as a mere State institution was doomed, and therefore it insisted upon nationalization. The facts can be readily recalled, and in recalling them it will appear that it was not until the State system of Slavery destroyed the peace and struck at the life of the Union or nation that the people of the country determined, as they unquestionably have, that Slavery shall die the death.

We say that it was not content to be a State institution. If it had been it would have been untouched by all but moral influences. But it would push into the common territories without the national permission, as in Kansas, for which purpose the Missouri Compromise was repealed, upon the motion of a Northern man, indeed, but to secure Southern support. It would rob the national mails, as it was authorized to do by AMOS KENDALL, the political sponsor of General McCLELLAN. It would shape the national policy, as Mr. CALHOUN confessed at the time of annexing Texas ; and as became evident in the Ostend Manifesto, in which Messrs. BUCHANAN, SOULE, and MASON announced that we would steal what we could not buy. It would destroy the national rights of citizens of the United States; imprisoning, shooting, hanging, and burning them, because of their color or for the exercise of privileges secured by the national Constitution, as when Mr. HOAR, of Massachusetts, a venerable and eminent lawyer, went down by official appointment to Charleston to discuss in the courts the question whether one State could arbitrarily, without crime alleged, and without legal process, imprison and sell the citizens of another ; for which he and his daughter who accompanied him were mobbed out of that city, with the connivance of the better classes. While thus it was refusing to remain a State institution, Slavery was steadily threatening to dissolve the Union if its national demands were not granted. The fame, the honor, the consistency, the character, not of the States but of the nation, were constantly crumbling before its insolent audacity, until this State institution deliberately declared by the mouths of senators and representatives and stump orators and newspapers, that if its Presidential candidate—not a candidate for Governor of State—were defeated, it would try to destroy the Government. That candidate was defeated, and it kept its word.

Now if Slavery, of whose national aggressions we have mentioned two or three instances, had been content to be what it claimed to be—a State system—it would have been tolerated, even with all the vital crimes committed by it within the State against the Nation. The moral sympathy of the prosperous people of the free States for a race held in slavery in other States, whose sufferings they never saw, and with whose condition they were taught that they were constitutionally forbidden to interfere, would have protested, but feebly and ineffectively. When, however, the State system spurned State limitations, and, by seeking to nationalize itself, threatened the political rights and the material prosperity of the free States, as it did by claiming that the owner of twenty blacksmiths should enter the common territory as the rival of twenty blacksmith's who owned themselves—and when this attempt was accompanied by the threat of national ruin if it were resisted—then the long-slumbering common sense of the American people accepted the struggle, for four years has gloriously maintained it, and will end it and its author together.

Thus the war is the direct armed aggression of Slavery upon the Government, because it had learned that it could not subvert it peacefully. That the Government had ever passed an oppressive law, such as might justify revolution, was never pretended. The complaint of Personal Liberty bills as an act of State bad faith is long since abandoned. For what were those

bills? They were laws to secure the liberty of the people of certain States. Could such laws be properly offensive to any well-disposed citizen? If the law enforcing slavery upon part of the people of Virginia were a State right not to be lawfully changed from without, was a law maintaining the freedom of all the innocent people of Wisconsin less a State right not to be externally molested ? If South Carolina were to have the right to come into Vermont and seize a man as a slave, was Vermont not to have the right to take care that none of her citizens were seized under false pretenses ? Senator IVERSON, of Georgia, and the chief rebel leaders at the South, made no such feeble plea as that. They left that to a class of people at the North properly called doughfaces. The leaders said, frankly, It is not your personal liberty bills, it is not the forcible rescue of fugitive slaves; it is the public opinion of the North which is the difficulty.

Moreover, neither President LINCOLN nor the party which elected him had the remotest intention of touching Slavery in the States. Believing it to be ultimately fatal to any State, and consequently to the Nation, they were yet sure that if it could be made what it forever claimed to be, a State concern, the good sense of the slave States, as ROGER SHERMAN said in the Constitutional Convention of '87, would finally extinguish it. They said only—and upon that saying the people brought them into power—" We oppose the nationalization of Slavery." " Then I will fight," said Slavery. " We hope not," said the President ; " we beg you to pause and reflect." "I will fight !" cried the State institution, which, within its State lines, was entirely unmenaced, except by the universal heart of man and the indignant, conscience of civilization. It fired the shot at the Star of the West and at Fort Sumter. Slavery attacked the nation with the sword. For three years it has shed the blood of the noblest and the most precious in the land. The sword has revealed both the essential character and political purpose of Slavery. By God's grace, that sword shall not be sheathed except in its heart.


THE Secretary of the Treasury—or rather the People of the United States acting through Mr. FESSENDEN—asks for a loan of Two Hundred Millions of Dollars upon these terms : The Government, that is the People, gives its notes for three years with interest at the rate of seven and three-tenths per cent., payable half-yearly. These notes are drawn for amounts varying from $50 to $5000, so that any man who has fifty dollars to invest can lend it to the People of the United States at a rate of interest higher than he can receive from any other safe investment.

The Security is absolute. Every dime of the wealth of the People, worth in gold at this moment not less than twenty thousand millions of dollars, and in spite of the waste of war constantly increasing, is pledged for its payment. The man who holds fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand dollars in these notes, holds a first mortgage upon every dollar of the whole wealth of the People.

This loan is the most convertable investment possible. If one lends money upon bond and mortgage, or invests it in railroad, banking, manufacturing, or mining stock, he can never be sure that at the moment he wishes to realize he can find a purchaser. The value of such investments changes from day to day. Now the Bulls have it, then the Bears. Between them the investor is likely to get only one shell of the oyster, the meat of which has been sucked out by Wall Street operators. But notes really drawn and indorsed by the People of the United States must always have a permanent and nearly uniform value. The holder of one can know almost to a dollar how much it will bring in the market. The lender, moreover, has the choice of making his investment temporary or permanent. At the end of three years he can, at option, receive back his loan, interest already paid, or can exchange it for a Government bond payable in from five to twenty years. This loan is thus the best Savings Bank.

The Interest is larger than can be gained from any other sate investment. Savings Banks pay five per cent. Money can hardly be safely placed on bond and mortgage at six per cent. The People in this loan offer almost seven and a half.

The Interest is easily collectable. The lender has not to hunt about for his debtor. To each note, great or small, are attached " coupons," or interest tickets. These, when due every six months, may be cut off and presented for payment at any Government Agency. They will be the best money, for any merchant or banker will be glad to receive them. The rate of interest. is not arbitrarily fixed. It amounts to exactly two cents a day for every hundred dollars loaned. Thus the man who lends the People a thousand dollars receives every day from them twenty cents, or $73 a year. If he deposited the same money in a Savings Bank he would receive $50 a year, with precisely the same security, since these institutions must invest their deposits in the best manner possible ; and no investment is so safe as a loan to the People.

In every point of view this Government loan —even apart from the patriotic motive of maintaining the cause to which every man not a traitor has pledged his means, life, and honor—is the best and safest investment possible.


IT seems to us a great error to represent the call for five hundred thousand men as chilling the national heart ; and equally erroneous to regret that it was not rhetorically made, or to suppose that a word from General GRANT or SHERMAN would fill the ranks which the President's word might fail to recruit.

Upon the subject of an increase of the army nothing is juster than the position taken by the Evening Post, that now is the very time when we can not have too many men--a position directly antagonistic to the idea that the call for these men, whether for one, two, or three years, would chill the national ardor. But to summon them for a month or a hundred days is idle. Let them be called for one, two, or three years, and if they are not needed more than twenty days so much the better.

As for the " red tape" of the call, it is surely much more dignified that a summons of the President should be calm, brief, and direct. Nothing is gained by what is called rhetoric in State papers ; no statement the President might make of the situation could deepen the general feeling in regard to it ; and no impassioned appeal could be more persuasive than the simple call.

But the suggestion that if SHERMAN and GRANT need help they should call directly upon the nation is more serious. SHERMAN and GRANT are Lieutenants of the Commander-in-Chief. When he calls, they call. The man must have a strange conception of public affairs who imagines that the call for men is made without concert with General GRANT. He must have a still stranger conception of the duty of Generals to their Chief who supposes that the summons of the subordinates would be more persuasive. In what condition would this country be, if it responded to a call from General SHERMAN which it disregarded from the President ? Either the General and the President are in perfect accord, or they are not. If they are, General SHERMAN already calls for more men. If they are not, and we are likely to obey his call when it comes, meanwhile neglecting the President, then General SHERMAN is in the most dangerous position possible for the country. In that case he has that hold upon the popular heart to the exclusion of the President, which the false friends of McCLELLAN tried to create for him, with the intention, under certain circumstances, of enabling him to do what some of his newspaper supporters openly called upon him, and afterward upon General GRANT to do, namely, to overthrow the Government and install himself as dictator.

There could be no surer sign of approaching anarchy than a call for more men proceeding directly from any General in the service. The men in the field are citizen-soldiers, and the President is their Commander-in-Chief. Through him, with the knowledge and approbation of his Generals, the summons ought to come, as it has come, not despondingly or doubtfully, but gravely, calmly, and confidently.


THE attentive observer of the times will not fail to remark that the phrases and arguments of the opponents of the war plainly indicate their position.. They plant themselves upon State Rights, upon State Sovereignty. They reproduce CALHOUN'S elaborate sophism as the true theory of our Government, and assert that condition still to exist which ALEXANDER HAMILTON and JAMES MADISON, in the Federalist, declared that the Union was expressly formed to destroy. In a late speech of Governor SEYMOUR'S he described the Union as a Confederacy. That has been often done by the most faithful citizens before the war. But since the war began the word Confederacy has had so peculiar a significance that it is not carelessly used by any speaker of authority. So in the passage elsewhere quoted the Union is called a Confederacy, the Constitution of the United States—that bond of intimate fusion in whose fervent heat all State sovereignty was melted—is called " the bond of federation," and its obligations are compared to those of a commercial treaty with Brazil.

The rebel position is now, as that of nullification was formerly, that the Constitution is a treaty or compact between States, not an instrument establishing a Government adopted by the people. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. But among the powers which the people have conferred upon the National Government are all the great attributes of sovereignty. That is exactly what the rebels deny. The Copperheads virtually support them in their denial. When Governor SEYMOUR said that the United States had no power to coerce a State he showed exactly in

what school he had been trained. From that moment it was clear that he could never heartily support the war.

But even if the Constitution were solely the compact or treaty that the rebels and Copperheads claim it to be, it is plain that every party to a compact or treaty repudiates it at his peril. South Carolina has no right to destroy the interests and safety of Iowa or Michigan in seeking her own. The argument is as old as the sophism. WEBSTER comprised it in his reply to HAYNE. But WEBSTER wrought his statue in marble quarried from the Federalist. The people of this country will never forget that they are as primarily citizens of the Union or nation as of any State. In one sense, indeed, they are more so. For in almost every one of the large, active, controlling States a multitude of the citizens were born elsewhere. In the great Northwestern States this is true of much of the adult population. If a conflicting inter-State question should arise they would be distracted between the State of birth and that of residence. But a national question finds them every where equally at home. The States are the fields, from one to another of which they pass at will. But in every field they are still upon the old family estate.

No man so early saw the necessity of this National Union and State subordination as ALEXANDER HAMILTON ; and no one more trenchantly exposed the subterfuge of State Sovereignty and the true nature of the Union. In the twenty-second number of the Federalist he says: "It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the existing federal system [the old Confederation] that it never had a ratification by the people. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the several Legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate questions concerning the validity of its powers, and has in some instances given birth to the enormous doctrine of a right of legislative appeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State, it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to maintain that a party to a compact has a right to revoke that compact, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of laying the foundations of our National Government deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure original fountain of all legitimate authority."

Where that empire ought to rest it does rest ; and the jealousy of national power which could not prevent the formation of the Union is not likely to destroy it, now that its indispensability for individual welfare and the general prosperity has been revealed to every citizen. What HENRY CLAY said in the Senate in 1850 is the simple expression of the thought of every loyal American : " If Kentucky tomorrow unfurls the banner of resistance I never will fight under that banner. I owe a paramount allegiance to the whole Union---a subordinate one to my own State."


THE coincidence of the presence of rebel agents upon the frontier and the invasion of Maryland, during the last month, is not with out significance. Like desperate gamblers, those gentlemen would try, as occasion served, either to sweep all the stakes into their hungry pockets, or, as actually happened, beg pitifully for a penny. When Washington was severed from communication with the North, the reader may remember the published denial of reports that the President was in New York. Now, if the same reader had any Copperhead sources of information, he knew what the report meant, and what was expected.

Washington was to be taken. The President and Cabinet would escape to Canada ; and thereupon the rebel agents would announce to the people of the States that all the Confederacy wanted was the independence which it had shown its ability to maintain, and a favorable treaty. In the vacancy of the Chief Magistracy a Dictator would be inevitable. He would command the armies. There might be some demur--yes, some, possibly—but then the war would break out every where, and its horrors would compel negotiation and peace, and secure the triumph of the rebellion.

Here was a pretty dish to set before a nation ! Yet it was supposed by many to be very nearly cooked. There are men in time city of New York, for instance, who sneer at the idea of "conquering time South," but who seriously suppose that " the North" is a great sheep, and they believed that this programme was to be carried out ! Doubtless there are many who would like to see it fulfilled, and who would help to fulfill it. But they should reflect that war, which was so inexpressibly awful a word to the people of this country four years ago, has become sadly familiar. They should not forget that we have now the habit of anticipating that insecurity which civil war produces. They should always remember that the cause for which " the North" has given so much of every (Next Page)




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