Democratic Opposition to the War

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 20, 1864

This site features an online collection of Harper's Weekly, the most popular illustrated newspaper of the Civil War years. These papers were read by millions of Americans during the war. Today they serve as an incredible resource for students and researchers.

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Grant Crossing Cumberland Mountains

Grant Crossing Cumberland Mountains

Democratic Opposition

Democratic Opposition to the War

Slavery Debate

Slavery Debate

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Military Ball

Negro Soldier

Negro Soldier

Flag Poem

Flag Poem

Libey Prison

Libey Prison

Columbia

Columbia, South Carolina

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HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[FEBRUARY 20, 1864.

114

GOD BLESS YOU, SOLDIER!

GOD bless you, soldier!—when our sky

Was heavy with impending woes, When traitors raised the battle-cry, When fear met fear in every eye,

You rushed to meet our foes.

God bless you, soldier!—when our light

Of hope grew dim and courage waned, When freedom veiled her face from sight,

Your valor dashed away the night,

And morning clear remained.

 

God bless you, soldier!—scarred and worn,

Wearied with marchings, watchings, pain,

All battle-stained and battle-torn,

Bravely have all your tasks been borne,

You have not fought in vain.

God bless you, soldier!—think not we

Alone revere and bless your name,

For millions now and yet to be,

Millions your arm has rendered free,

Shall sing your deeds and fame.

God bless you, soldier!—when the air

Grows heavy with the battle's roar, Sheltered beneath His love and care,

May Victory with her garlands rare

Adorn you evermore.

God bless you, soldier!—when the dove

Of peace the Eagle's nest shall share,

With home and hearts made warm with love, With joys below—with joys above,

God bless you here and there!

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

SATURDAY. FEBRUARY 20, 1864.

CONSTITUTIONAL OPPOSITION.

THERE are several members of Congress who please themselves by asserting that they constitute a healthy constitutional opposition to the Government, and who insist that it is wrong to call them unpatriotic, merely because they do not approve the method and policy of the Administration in conducting the war. They protest that the Administration is not the Government, and that they may censure all its acts without being justly liable to be called traitors.

The reply to this specious strain is very simple. The Government of the United States is defending its existence against an able and desperate rebellion. The Constitution confers upon that Government every power whatever which is necessary to its maintenance. It may, in the last extremity, wage war, and whatever is lawful in war is lawful for that Government. That extremity is now reached, and we are at war; consequently no measure of legitimate warfare can be censured as unconstitutional. It can not, for instance, be urged that, as the Constitution declares that no man shall lose life or property without due course of law, therefore no rebel shall be shot and no rebel's stores seized. The only point of debate is the practical wisdom of certain measures for prosecuting the war. Is it good policy? that is the question not, is it constitutional? For what rights have traitors under the Constitution? The life of every one of them is constitutionally forfeited.

Now to oppose the war, under whatever pretext, is to favor the rebellion, and compass the overthrow of the Government. Is, then, encouragement to the rebellion a legitimate constitutional opposition? We do not speak of the honesty of men who take this course, we are considering the excuse by which they justify it. Their course leads of necessity, if they can persuade the country that the war is wrong, to a counter-revolution and the success of rebellion. Do they suppose that to be a sound and healthy opposition to the conduct of the war?

Of course we know that they claim to be as good war men as any body. They are, first, in favor of the war; and, second, they are opposed to prosecuting it. Try the quality of their war feeling by their record. Suppose the Government to-day intrusted to the hands of this party in Congress. Would they continue the war or attempt to negotiate? Look at the leaders, who supply its arguments and philosophy, and direct its action. They are such men as Vallandigham, William B. Reed, Horatio Seymour, George W. Woodward, and Fernando Wood. Other than the party which votes in accordance with the views of these leaders, there is no serious opposition to the Government. And what these leaders believe is known to the whole country. They are of opinion that the difficulty should be settled by negotiation and compromise. That is to say, they do not oppose the method and policy of the Government in waging the war, but they are opposed to the war itself. Wood says that there is no such thing as a War Democrat. Their opposition, therefore, is neither Constitutional nor legitimate. For they propose to treat with citizens who refuse by force to obey the laws, and their demand is simply that the absolute authority of the Government shall be overthrown. This is practically the ground of the whole opposition in Congress. They voted at the very outset for Wood's proposition to send

Commissioners to Richmond, by not voting to lay it upon the table. Failing to carry the destruction of the Government by a direct vote, they struggle in every way to thwart and perplex its movements. They are aiming to retard the prosecution of the war, and so they play into the hands of the rebels, who hope by prolonging it to weary the loyal States and create a reaction. That these men are in a hopeless and futile minority in Congress, as they are in the country, does not lessen the shame of their conduct nor the scorn in which history will hold them. They will not be recorded as a legitimate opposition who saved civil liberty. They will be known as political parricides to whom power, not malice, was wanting.

A SHORT SERMON UPON A
RECENT TEXT.

WHETHER political differences should affect social intercourse is an old question which is asked and pondered much in these days. But that they always have done so, is not a question. The history of the old Federalists and Democrats suffices to answer it in this country.

But however foolish and unnecessary it may seem for a free-trader to refuse to dine with a protectionist, or the friend of a bank to decline to dance at the ball of its enemy, we can not forget that at the present time civil war rages, and the proper amenities of peace are not to be expected. President Washington was a Federalist and Jefferson a Democrat; and it would have been very foolish for his Excellency upon that ground to decline to invite Jefferson to his house. But would General Washington have invited Benedict Arnold to his table, or any man whom he knew to sympathize with Arnold, or indirectly to help him?

The case is not different now. Here, for instance, is a man who gives his fortune and his wisdom to the country, and whose sons are killed by traitors in battle. And next door to him lives a man who virtually excuses the treason, and thwarts the efforts of the Government to subdue the traitors. Can the first man see in the second any thing else than an accessory to the murder of his children? Can the second man justly complain of political intolerance and fanaticism upon the part of the first? Is not the avoidance of the second by the first a simple instinct? He need not assault him, he need not insult him; but can he possibly hobnob with him upon the ground that they honestly dissent and must agree to differ?

Mr. Webster and Mr. Hayne might have retired from the Capitol to dine together after the one had utterly demolished the other in a political debate. But is civil war a political debate? If Mr. Hayne had left the Senate Chamber, raised the flag of revolt, and shot Mr. Webster's son to the heart, is it a great pity that Mr. Webster should have carried political differences so far as to be unwilling to request the honor of Mr. Hayne's company to supper? In a civil war men must be judged and treated according to the colors they show. If they choose the enemy's color they must expect, and they ought to receive, the treatment of an enemy. If you would shake hands with Judah Benjamin you will not recoil from Judah Benjamin's abettors. But if you think that Jefferson Davis is justly responsible for the blood that desolates the land, how can you affect indifference toward those who virtually befriend him?

Clearly, when political differences have ended in civil war, no earnest, devoted man, upon one side or the other, will wish to associate familiarly either with those who are so shallow as not to feel the terrible reality of the condition, or those whose sympathies belong to the party which he opposes with arms.

MASKS AND FACES.

MR. PRUYN, representative from the Albany District of this State, in his maiden speech in Congress, said that his party had a right to require that the Administration should be faithful to the Constitution of the United States. But he might justly have claimed more. He might have truly declared that every citizen of the United States had the same right, and ought to insist that the Constitution be respected. And then he might fairly have gone a step further, and announced that if the President, as the chief executive officer of the Government, transcended his constitutional powers, he ought to be impeached and punished.

But, on the other hand, neither Mr. Pruyn, nor any citizen or party, has the right to hold that every law of Congress and act of the Administration shall be considered unconstitutional until some court has declared otherwise. The policy of the party with which Mr. Pruyn allies himself proceeds upon the ground that Congress and the Administration are to be held guilty until they prove their innocence. The whole burden of the speeches which inflamed the mob and led to the riots of last summer—apart from their mean appeals to ignorance and passion—was that the draft was unconstitutional. What followed, what was intended to follow, in an ignorant mind? That the law might be justly resisted. "We think the law unconstitutional," said Governor Seymour. "Is it unreasonable

that we should wish to have a decision upon that point?" Not at all; if you will make your case and bring it to a court of sufficient authority. Any man in the land has the right to question the Constitutionality of any law, and to bring it to the test of a decision, but he has no right meanwhile to disobey the law or to encourage others to disobey it. Still less has he the right to assume that every act of an Administration which he does not like is unconstitutional. For if this were so, it would be the manifest duty of Congress and of the Executive to submit every act and law to the dictum of the court before it could be considered valid; in which case "the co-ordinate powers" of the Government disappear, and Congress and the President become mere functionaries of a court.

The object, as every intelligent citizen will see, of this incessant effort to delay and thwart the operations of the Government, is to prolong the war, weary public patience, create popular disgust, and thereby open the chance for return to political power of the remains of the party which administered the Government while the conspiracy was ripening that has now burst into deadly war. Nor will it be forgotten that these remains of the party, which are now, under the old party name, seeking for restoration, were the very part of that party which most steadfastly and insultingly palliated and excused the rebels, and counted upon the success of the conspiracy. These gentlemen have kept bad company too long. The louder they cry "Constitution" the more clearly the people of the country remember that under the same cry they connived at the overthrow of the Government, and winked at infamy. They will live to learn that the Constitution is perfectly competent to save the Government and take care of its enemies.

GENERAL GRANT.

IT is understood that the Congressional caucus of the opponents of the Administration is considering the policy of ascertaining if General Grant will consent to stand as a candidate for the Presidency against Mr. Lincoln. The fact, of itself, shows their conscious desperation, for General Grant is about as good a representative of their views and sympathies as Mr. Lincoln himself. He is a man unreservedly devoted to the war—brave, simple, successful—but should he unfortunately consent to allow his name to be used at this time, we shall have practically lost the services of our most conspicuous General; for from that moment he will be fighting for the Presidency and not for the country. And what fighting for the Presidency is we have seen in the career of General McClellan.

Besides, General Grant is not likely to forget what every body else remembers—that the military chieftains who have been raised to the Presidency have been elected long after their campaigns were ended. Taylor and Jackson and Harrison had long sheathed the sword when they were summoned to the White House. But General Grant is still engaged in an unfinished war, and Shakespeare long ago sang:

"The mighty warrior famoused for fight,

After a thousand victories once foiled,

Is from the lists of honor razed quite,

And all the rest forgot for which he toiled."

Should any great disaster befall the army of the West before the election, what would be the political chances of its General? And is it not reasonable to suppose that he would avoid such danger to himself by saving his army from the risk? If any thing could prevent Grant's moving upon the enemy's works it would be his nomination at this time for the Presidency.

Probably there is no man in the country who has so clear a conviction of this truth as General Grant himself. And if we should hear that the nomination had been offered him and accepted, we are very sure that the regret of the country would be equal to its surprise—not that a thoroughly loyal supporter of the policy of the war was nominated for the Presidency, but that the great army of the West with its Captain had been paralyzed.

THE SOLDIERS' VOTE.

THE other day in the House of Representatives Mr. Myers, of Pennsylvania, said that Judge Woodward, of that State, late candidate for Governor, was opposed to the soldiers voting. Mr. Stiles, of the same State, rose to correct him, saying that Judge Woodward was willing that the soldiers should vote if they came home! Generous man! He was willing that the whole Pennsylvania force should be withdrawn from the army; and as the Ohio and other Western elections occurred at the same time, he was willing that the forces of those States also should be withdrawn for the same purpose. That is to say, the kind man and loyal patriot was perfectly willing the soldiers should vote, provided that the method of voting should be so arranged as to help the rebels.

The reader will remember that just at the time of the Pennsylvania election Lee was advancing and threatening Meade. The rebel newspapers had openly wished for the success of Judge Woodward's friends as an assistance to the rebellion. His election would have been hailed by all the enemies of the Government as a sign of the yielding spirit of the people, and the bells of Richmond would have rung for joy. Suppose his plan had been adopted, and the soldiers called home to vote. They might have defeated him even more signally than he was defeated; but if, by the consequent weakening of the army, Lee had won a victory in Virginia, the rebel joy would have been the same.

To insist that the soldiers shall vote only upon condition of their coming home is to propose that

the army be virtually disbanded from time to time. That is a proposition which it seems hardly possible that any faithful friend of the Government should support; and yet it was in favor of its author that General McClellan wrote a letter upon the eve of the election. Is it surprising that Mr. Cox, of Ohio, the next friend of Vallandigham, when he was prophesying the election of that noble patriot as Governor of the State, declared that two hundred thousand Ohioans would escort him from the frontier, and that in 1864, "with Seymour or McClellan" as President, all would be sure? What would be sure? Merely that the bells of Richmond would ring for joy.

The Union soldiers are merely citizens of the United States fighting for their country, and its Government: shall their patriotism and self-sacrifice disfranchise them? Shall every loyal man who volunteers and marches to battle understand that his going has practically strengthened the friends of the enemy behind him? Suppose that the loyal voters enlist, and the disloyal and their friends stay at home and elect a State Government which requires the soldiers to return. Is it not a question whether they have not done more harm than good by going? And do Judge Woodward and his friends suppose that the soldiers do not see and understand it?

A RULE THAT WORKS ONE WAY
ONLY.

MR. CALHOUN'S famous dogma of sovereign State rights was adopted and defended with a view to the contingency of disunion. It was an adroit appeal to pride which has proved as strong as Calhoun hoped. It was the argument of the rebels for secession, and of their Northern allies for letting them go. In the South it declared that the Constitution was a treaty among equal sovereign States, and that any one might withdraw at its option. In the North it asserted that the national Government had no right "to coerce States," and could not prevent its own destruction. In both it did the work it was designed to do—it connived at the helpless ruin of the Government.

But of our pleasant vices the gods make whips to scourge us. State sovereignty was an admirable doctrine for the purpose of destroying the Union; but when it threatens the Confederacy its own friends howl. Sauce for the goose, it seems, is not sauce for the gander. North Carolina, according to the State-rights doctors, had a perfect right to secede from the Union; but to mention secession from the Confederacy is in their opinion infamy itself. The Wilmington Journal, one of the most virulent State-rights papers, exclaims: "The man who would strike down the Confederacy, while at the same time professing extravagant and exclusive veneration for and devotion to North Carolina, deceives, and deceives for a purpose. The thing ought to mark its own reprobation, and this reprobation ought farther to be stamped so plainly by public opinion that the hypocritical cant would for very shame's sake—if shame be left with such men—be silenced forever."

If the word Confederacy be changed to Union there is no more wholesome doctrine than this. But it was just as true before North Carolina plunged into the pit as it is now, and its condemnation is just as applicable to Copperheads at the North now as it always was to secessionists at the South.

COMMON SENSE.

MR. THOMAS BARNES, a member of the British Parliament, lately made a speech to his constituents, in which he said a great many sensible things. One of them is peculiarly applicable to us at this time. In December, 1862, he bought two hundred acres of land in Jamaica and confided it to an agent who believed in freedom for the cultivation of cotton. He paid cash wages, and the first week fifty negroes applied for work, next week fifty more, and then two hundred and thirty. They worked most willingly, so much so that frequently a hundred applicants were turned away; and in one year they had cleared, fenced, and planted two hundred and ten acres of cotton, of which Mr. Barnes laid samples upon the table before him.

"This," says the London Spectator, "is practical sense; but it is odd that such an illustration should be necessary to convince an English audience that a negro, like every body else, works hard whenever it is made worth his while. Nobody ever saw an Englishman working until that point had been settled."

A SIGN OF THE TIMES.

A vasty remarkable sermon was preached on the last Thanksgiving-day in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia, by the pastor, the Rev. Phillips Brooks, and was immediately requested for publication by more than sixty gentlemen who represent the most substantial and truly conservative sentiment of that city. The sermon is remarkable because Philadelphia is a city which trade and social ties had peculiarly bound to the South; and because the Episcopal Church has been very slow as a body to discuss any social or political question whatever. But in this discourse there is a glowing exaltation of feeling, a fervent plainness of speech, which is a natural and beautiful tribute to the cause, and a touching illustration of the character of the preacher.

It is a sermon upon the mercies of Reoccupation. Its controlling thought is that the Divine mercies are always "of the character of a reoccupation of some province of mercy which has been inhabited before, but only partially realized and enjoyed." Thus the race begins in Paradise; is not fit for it; falls out, and must struggle back. The child starts with unrealized purity of character, goes astray, and must finally, if he would be happy, become as a little child again. The preacher then pursues his idea into the national blessings of reoccupation: first, that of territory; second, that of the principles and (Next Page)


 

 

  

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