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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 20, 1864

Harper's Weekly newspaper was the most popular illustrated newspaper of the Civil War years. These newspapers were read by millions of Americans across the country during the war, and today are viewed as an invaluable resource for researchers seeking a deeper understanding of the war.

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Petersburg

Before Petersburg

Peace Platform

Mobile Bay

Mobile Bay Battle

Christian Commission

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Ruins of Chambersburg

Explosion

Petersburg Explosion

Cartoon

Copperhead Cartoon

 

Parrot

Parrot Guns

Wounded

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Cemetery Hill

Cemetery Hill Assault and Explosion

Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan

 

 

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[AUGUST 20, 1864.

530

(Previous Page) twelve or fourteen feet of earth separated you from the rebels in the earth-works overhead—an effect heightened by the sounds of the rebel workmen countermining, whose blows in faint thuds reached the ear.

A SOLDIER'S LAMENT FOR
McPHERSON.

WHAT mean these wailing strains That come like summer rains Through the air;

Their solemn breathings play Upon the tranquil day,

The voices of despair.

Let all the woods around, With music's saddest sound,

Tell that M'Pherson's dead; Clouds shed your heavy tears, For in the prime of years

Low lies the honored head.

0 comrades in the fight,

How his eye's inspiring light Led us on !

When battle-trumpets blew, How grandly he dashed through, And was gone !

Can we forget the form

That passed us 'mid the storm

Of hissing shot and shell? 'Mid our cheering, wave on wave, We knew what the look he gave

Was meant to tell.

Ah, giants we became,

When through the battle flame We saw our hero fall;

We forced the foe to yield

His body on the field,

That our breasts might be its pall.

A mother's tears like rain,

A young bride's passionate pain, O'er his dear face shall pour; For in the fiercest fight,

Or bivouac's flickering light, It shines no more !

But far beyond the tears, Above the mists of years,

The peaceful bow of heaven Arches in tranquil light

Their fame, who for the right Their lives have gladly given.

And on our history's page

Shall gleam through many an age

The name we love to tell ;

Our children's children shall repeat it o'er,

" The grand old-name of gentleman" he bore, And bore it well.

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 1864.

THE WADE AND DAVIS
MANIFEST.

WE have read with pain the manifesto of Messrs. WADE and WINTER DAVIS; not because of its envenomed hostility to the President, but because of its ill-tempered spirit, which proves conclusively the unfitness of either of the gentlemen for grave counselors in a time of national peril. The President may be wrong, but no such distempered critics of his course can be right. These gentlemen seem not to understand that to lose their self-command to the degree of assisting the enemies of the Government is as unpatriotic as it is unmanly, and, while it tends to destroy public confidence in the Administration, forfeits public respect for themselves.

The President may constitutionally veto a bill, or he may allow it to lie, after adjournment, without his signature. In both cases the bill for the time fails to become a law. Now, in the particular case involved in the manifesto of Messrs. WADE and DAVIS, the President received the bill at the last moment, and did not approve it. He might have left it there but, with his usual frankness of dealing with the country, in which his official conduct may well become a model for his successors, after maturely reflecting upon the principle of the bill, he announced that while he did not approve it as a whole, and consequently could not make it a law by giving it his signature, yet that he did approve some suggestions in it, and in his executive action would be governed by them. Nothing could be simpler, fairer, or further from " despotism." It was his constitutional right to let the bill drop and say nothing about it. But he chose to say that while he could not approve, and consequently obey it as a law, yet that he would follow it within the unquestioned domain of his own action so far as it seemed to him wise. In other words, he accepted parts of the bill as suggestions to guide him in his executive conduct. Messrs. WADE and DAVIS complain that he did not accept the bid altogether or reject it entirely. As a law, he did reject it but, like a wise man, he embraced the sound principles he found in it and will act upon them.

To declare, as Messrs. WADE and DAVIS indignantly do, that such a notification is unprec

edented, is true, but not in the injurious sense they intend. It is in accordance with the perfect confidence in the people which the President always manifests, and which endears him so closely to the popular heart. The Chief Magistrate is certainly not forbidden to announce the general principles which will govern his action, whether he do it without special occasion or in his annual or a special message, or in the form of a proclamation explaining why he has not signed a bill. To charge him, because he does so, with extraordinary and dangerous assumptions of power, is childish. Mr. LINCOLN is a candidate for re-election by the people. Is he likely to take a step which there is no necessity for his taking at all, and which, if it so plainly lead to absolute despotism and the preference of his arbitrary will to every other consideration, then leads, as he perfectly well knows, straight to his own political annihilation?

The insinuation of Messrs. WADE and Davis that the President refuses his assent to their bill from motives of personal ambition is entirely unworthy of them. It is part of the desperate struggle of those who are hostile to the Administration to represent him as destroying all our liberties, and mismanaging the war only to secure his own re-election. Messrs. BENJAMIN F. WADE and HENRY WINTER DAVIS condescend to pander to this effort. But against such assaults, whether proceeding from masked friend or open foe, the personal character of the President, as revealed in the fierce light of the war, must be his sufficient defense. From the day when covert rebellion lay in wait to assassinate him in Baltimore, through all the mad ribaldry of the rebel press down to the last malignant sneer of Copperhead Conservatism, the popular confidence in the unswerving fidelity and purity of purpose of the President has smiled the storm to scorn. We hear occasionally of Secretary SEWARD'S little bell, whose tinkle by the President's permission sends any citizen unheard to a dungeon. But nobody knows, and nobody wishes to know more than the President and the Secretary that twenty million pairs of eyes watch that little bell, and its tinkle is effective only because the people who look with those eyes see that the bell is rung to save their liberties, not to secure their slavery. It is simply impossible to make the American people believe that the President is a wily despot or a political gambler. His views may be erroneous, his public policy is open to discussion, but that he loves the Union less, or is less faithful to the Constitution than the bitterest of his enemies, we are sure no loyal man honestly believes.

Nor is the censure of the manifest of Messrs. WADE and DAVIS a party matter. There is no party consideration in the case. The Union men of the country have nominated Mr. LINCOLN upon the strength of the general course of his administration and of his personal patriotism. They do not profess to approve every act, or to agree with every measure of that administration but under all the circumstances of the time and country, and his unswerving fidelity to the cardinal principles which the rebellion attacks, they think it best for the country that he should be re-elected. Whatever, therefore, tends to defeat him helps to throw the country into the hands of its enemies. And while no sensible man can be asked or expected to stultify himself for any purpose whatever, surely every patriotic citizen will take care that his conduct shall be governed by the actual state of things, so that he may not hopelessly injure the very cause to which he is devoted.

If the Chicago Convention nominates General McCLELLAN, our friends who are hostile to Mr. LINCOLN must either vote for him, or for General McCLELLAN, or stay at home, or call a new convention before the election. That they will vote for McCLELLAN either directly at the polls or indirectly by staying away we do not believe. To call a new convention and make another nomination could not detach from Mr. LINCOLN the body of his friends, but might secure the election of the Chicago candidate. It would be a division in face of the enemy. But if the faults of the Administration are so fatal as to justify a course they would justify a direct vote for the Chicago nominee without the machinery of a third nomination.

These are very obvious considerations, but some of our friends seem to forget them. To criticise the Administration and to censure, upon occasion, is not only pardonable—it patriotic. But there is the censure of a friend and of an enemy. There is a criticism which, free from the least suspicion of private or personal motive, strengthens the Government by friendly suggestion. There is another criticism which, by incessant and irritating carping at the details and by omission of the general scope and result of an administration, disheartens the desponding, paralyzes the timid, delights the foe, saddens the friend, and helps the hostile triumph. But if there be any ground of doubt of the patriotic purity of motive in the censor, he not only gives the victory to the enemy, but he loses the confidence that was reposed in himself.

We attribute no unfair motive whatever to Messrs. WADE and Davis. Their fidelity to the good cause is unquestioned. But is it not a significant sign to them that they have chosen a method to display their friendship which the bitterest enemies of that cause applaud?

A PEACE ADMINISTRATION.

WE have already said that the adoption of the extremest peace measures would not give us peace. Let us look a moment and see why this is.

If the peace party should come into power the leaders must at once take some practical steps to secure the object for which they had been elected. They must, of course, first of all, proclaim a cessation of hostilities, and proceed to negotiate with the rebel chiefs. Now there are but three conceivable solutions of the question outside of war. Either the peace administration and the rebels must agree to a convention by whose decision they will abide or they must of themselves arrange some terms of reconstruction, or they must consent to some kind of separation. The peace party, if it obtains power, must adopt some one of these three measures.

The first of them, a convention, except for the express purpose of arranging the terms of dissolution, is plainly impracticable. For the rebels would of course refuse to abide by any deliberations which might result in declaring the indissolubility of the Union. Why should they not, when the very fact of our offering a convention would show that we were irresolute and tired ? If we agreed that the convention should virtually let them have their way, the rebels would naturally accept it. But upon any other conditions does any reasonable man suppose they would accept the action of a convention ? Would not the very fact that the peace party had come into power prove to the rebels that they were already substantially successful, and prevent their putting that success in peril? The election of peace candidates would be an advertisement that the people were ready to stop the war, and that is done always upon terms dictated to and not by the party that asks for peace.

But if the peace administration should undertake to arrange reconstruction we know already the conditions. They would be substantially such terms as the rebels might propose. The Constitution would be vitally changed so as to secure the ascendency in the government of the influence known as " the South." The grounds of the action would be that slavery is best for the negro, and that the productions of the South are the most important and valuable to the country.

If, however, there should be any ineradicable suspicion or conviction upon the part of the rebels that their safety lay in total separation, our peace administration must devise some method of securing a dissolution of the Union. How can that be done ? It is a very easy cry, " Let them go, and have peace." But how are they to go? The very first practical point is the settlement of a line. Where shall it be ? There is no natural boundary—no river or desert or lake or mountain range—between the rebel section and the rest of the country. It must then be an arbitrary line. But upon what principle shall it be determined? Obviously by the slave system. The rebellion is to save slavery. When it is victorious it will properly claim all the Slave States. It must have Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, equally with Georgia and Alabama. Shall they be set off to the new Confederacy by the peace administration ? If they are, the Union citizens of those States are. abandoned more shamefully than ever men were before; and they will certainly refuse to submit. If they are not set off; the question must be left to the popular vote. But could it be so left, with such tremendous issues pending, without civil war and anarchy in those States?

Or let us suppose that such Border States assented to the separation—then what? Then the adjoining Free States at once border upon a victorious foreign slave empire which has proved its power to destroy the nation of which those States were parts. The inevitable consequence would be that the question would be forced upon every such State whether it would try to form a new alliance with the other States of the late Union, or join its fortunes to the triumphant Confederacy. This question would develop at once two embittered parties ; nor is there any possibility whatever that it could be peaceably determined.

For it must be borne in mind that the Union is no stronger than its weakest link. When it is broken any where it falls every where. The bond that holds Vermont to New York is precisely the same as that which connects New York with South Carolina. When one State or ten States by force of arms compel the united government to consent to their withdrawal, the united government must thenceforth allow the secession of any other State at will, and becomes consequently of the exact weight of a single State. This was all practically proved eighty years ago under the Confederation. Now as union is really an instinct among the people of the States—for they are truly a nation—immediately upon the dissolution of the present Union by any stronger Union of some of its States, the remainder would instantly gravitate toward that. But they could join it only upon such terms as it proposed, and those terms would certainly be so vitally repugnant to an immense party in each of those States as to lead once more to war and chaos.

If, therefore, the most obsequious peace party were brought at once into power, it is impossi-

ble to conceive any policy which they could adopt that would avoid war. Their most flattering promises must fail. They could save neither blood nor money, while they would transfer the seat of war from the South to the North, and plunge every part of the land into mere anarchy. Ought it not, indeed, to be enough to name the names and contemplate the characters and careers of the men who are the most vociferous and acknowledged champions of the peace policy? Think of them, think of the most eminent among them, and then ask whether such leaders can honorably save any nation under any circumstances what-ever. When men who are universally respected declare that peace is possible with honor, the people will cry Amen ! But while those who command respect neither by character nor ability incessantly vituperate the Government and clamor for peace upon rebel terms, the people will continue to cry " Pooh !"

SHOULD McCLELLAN BE RECALLED?

SEVERAL weeks since we recounted the reasons why it would be unwise to recall General McCLELLAN into active service. It was not because of any conscious collusion upon his part with the rebels, nor because of his melancholy military records, but because of his total want of sympathy with the convictions and policy of the Administration. The views then expressed we have certainly seen no occasion to modify. At a late meeting in Hempstead General McCLELLAN is reported to have said that he supposed his flattering reception was offered not to him, but to the cause which he represented. He vaguely explained by saying that the cause was the country but how he represents the country more than any other citizen not in rebellion—than General BUELL or General FREMONT, for instance—it is not easy to see. Yet there is a cause which he does represent, and it is precisely because of that fact that it seems to us unwise to recall him.

In view of all our history, and of the developments of the war, there is yet a party which holds that the rebellion, if not justified, was at least palliated by the discussion of slavery ; which insists that the free and legitimate exercise of the most fundamental right of any popular government was censurable, if not almost treasonable; which believes that the Southern system of slavery—notwithstanding the facts of thirty years and of human nature—is perfectly consonant with a republic like ours ; which maintains that, in waging the war against this rebellion, it is impolitic and unconstitutional to do any thing about slavery except to return the slaves who escape to our lines to their masters. It is a party which thinks that slavery is good for negroes, that the President is a weak trickster, that the principles and policy of the Administration are fundamentally false, and which steadily flouts and insults the great American doctrine of equal rights as "Niggerism."

This is the cause and the party which General McCLELLAN represents ; and because he represents it, he is not, and can not be considered merely a soldier. We might agree that he was personally a brave man and a good officer, but that would not affect the question of his recall. The moment the Administration summons him to its aid it surrenders its own convictions and policy, not to General McCLELLAN, but to the party and its leaders of whom he is merely the figure-head. He would be but the entering wedge. If every thing went well, we should hear a shout all along the line of his party that it was because of the extraordinary genius of this great chieftain, who must be made President by acclamation. If things went ill, we should hear from the same authorities that it was because of the outrageous jealousy and interference of the President and the "Washington Directory." If they went very ill, even through McCLELLAN'S own incompetency, that cry would swell as it did when he was before in command, into a shout that it was his duty to turn out the imbeciles at Washington and install himself Dictator in their place. Thus, were McCLELLAN recalled, the tactics of " the cause and party" which he represents would constantly tend to the same end, namely, their return to political power by any means whatever.

It is to secure the chance of this result that his recall is so strenuously urged at this moment by those of his friends who doubt whether he is sure of the Chicago nomination. But General McCLELLAN has chosen to paralyze his power of serving the country in this war as a soldier by accepting the leadership of the political party which rancorously reviles and opposes the Government, and he has therefore no right to complain that the President declines to undertake to blend a policy which he approves with one that he does not. If, however, the President should yield, he may be very sure that in case of any disaster under McCLELLAN, the same papers which now so smoothly urge his recall merely as a soldier, would then most loudly insist upon his deposing the Government as a Dictator.

General McCLELLAN, it must be remembered, is only a figure-head. Since the war began he has said nothing and done nothing which showed (Next Page)


 

 

  

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