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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 27, 1864

Harper's Weekly newspapers served as the primary information source for people during the Civil War. We have posted our extensive collection of these old papers to this WEB site to allow people to access this important resource. We hope you enjoy browsing these original documents.

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HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[FEBRUARY 27, 1864.

130

HARPER'S WEEKLY.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1864.

QUAKER EXEMPTION.

THE petition to exempt Quakers from military service, on the ground of conscientious scruples against war, has excited a great deal of thoughtful sympathy. The statement made in it of the undaunted moral heroism and suffering of some Quakers, among the rebels, who had been drafted and who declined to serve is very touching and impressive. In one case a man was tortured and barely escaped with his life. In another, one was ordered to be shot, and when the file of soldiers who were to execute the sentence saw the victim and heard him calmly praying that they might be forgiven for their involuntary crime, they refused to fire. These are incidents which recall the testimony of the early Quakers. They show that the old spirit is not extinct, and that George Fox and James Naylor still survive under other names.

And yet the principle of exempting men from their share of any common public burden merely upon their assertion of conscientious objection to bearing it, is not and can not be admissible. For the evidence of this truth we need look no further than the late proposition in Congress to exempt from service all who were sincerely opposed to the prosecution of the war. That is simply a proposition to submit to the overthrow of the Government, and with it, to the destruction of all the securities of civil and religious liberty. If the principle be allowed that the assertion of conscientious objection to war in general shall exempt a citizen, the same objection to a particular war upon any ground whatever must equally exempt him. But government of any kind, whether proceeding from the popular will or from the will of one man, is based upon force; it is the agreement that we will do, or, failing the will, that we shall be compelled to do, what the public good requires. If A steals B's money, or coat, or bread, is he to be excused from punishment upon the ground that he is conscientiously opposed to the holding of private property?

Of course we are not saying that a man must submit his conscience to the law, nor denying that very bad and very wicked laws may be often made. An honorable man, for instance, would as willingly obey a law to strike his mother, or a law to kill his child under two years of age, as a law to return an innocent man to slavery from which he was escaping. Every human instinct, every noble and just feeling protests against such a law. If you could find a people who would quietly submit to perpetrate such a crime under the pretense that it was law, you would find a people so morally torpid and corrupt that it would be a relief to the world to sweep them out of it.

What, then, is the alternative? It is very plain. It is to acknowledge the necessity of government or of authority, while you refuse obedience to the special claim; and that you do by yielding to the penalty if it shall be enforced. In this country, for instance, the best citizens were conscientiously opposed to Mason's infamous Fugitive Slave Law. The result was that it was constantly evaded, and when occasionally executed it was with great pomp of force. It is not yet formally repealed, but it is practically obsolete, because the universal conscience of the American people repudiates it. Yet, in the days when its enforcement was attempted, it was wiser for those who rejected it to bear the penalty and go to prison rather than resist it by arms; because, when the people see the best men sent to jail for not obeying a law, they can not help asking what kind of a law is it which the purest and most peaceful people repudiate, while by suffering the penalty they acquiese in necessary authority. If that people is not debauched, they will soon have the law changed or inoperative. If they are debauched, then a free government has failed.

If, then, the Quakers are conscientiously opposed to war, at a time when it seems to the people that their rights can be secured in no other way, it is a hard case for both sides. The prosecution of the war requires the draft. If there were any conceivable way of determining whether conscientious scruples really exist, the release from service ought to be willingly granted wherever they were established; because if the mass of the people were sincerely opposed to maintaining their liberties by fighting, they would be sincerely in favor of submitting to the rebellion, and the war would end in the destruction of the Government, the ruin of the nation, and the overthrow of all hope of civil and religious liberty—and this by consent of the people. But there can be no way devised of ascertaining the sincerity of such scruples. It is therefore plainly impossible that the mere assertion of them should he sufficient. And it seems to us that every honest and patriotic Quaker will a thousand times more willingly acknowledge the authority of the Government which he wishes to see maintained, by paying the penalty of disobedience to its law, rather than by asking for legal release from obedience upon grounds which can never be satisfactorily established.

DELENDA EST CARTHAGO.

THERE are signs of the most extraordinary political freshet ever known. Four years ago it was dangerous even in many Northern cities to allude warmly to slavery. Public opinion was opposed to the discussion of the subject. Men spoke upon it at some peril to their lives. And now it seems that slavery is about to be swept away by a torrent of universal public reprobation. Whoever listens closely can plainly hear the heart of the country saying, "It is the public enemy; let it die the death."

Of course this is not the evidence of an entire moral national regeneration. It is the proof only that the hour has arrived, which always arrives in the progress of civilization, and without which, indeed, there would he no progressive civilization whatever, when it is clearly seen that what is true and good is also politic. It is in vain that this is abstractly shown. But when it is practically perceived a great forward step in civilization is taken. When it is generally felt that morality lightens the taxes a community becomes moral. In this country the slave despotism held us bound so long and so hopelessly, because we were so prosperous and the evil was to us at the North so theoretical, that our sympathies and human instincts pleaded in vain against our apparent interests. The argument against Mr. Lincoln, as against every man whom the slave-lords did not support, was, that if he succeeded grass would grow in the streets and blood run in the gutters. What was called the "Union" party of the North before the insurrection of slavery was simply an organization of timidity, whose argument was, that it was better to let the Southern policy rule the country, because it would otherwise try to ruin it. That was the final philosophy of all such movements as the Castle Garden meeting, and none more than those concerned will freely confess it. It was a question of policy, and it seemed to them to be best to pat and pacify, "Perhaps I compromised too long," frankly says Mr. Everett, in a recent address.

Now a great many persons who supported this policy really hated slavery, and saw the ghastly wounds it was constantly inflicting upon the country, but thought that they had no right to say any thing about it. They were ready enough to send an army of missionaries, under the protection of a huge society, to preach against the religion and convert the natives of Cochin China and Thibet—if they could get there; but they were unwilling to say that the industrial system of their neighbors was wrong. Others declined to hear or say any thing about it, under the conviction that they had no constitutional right to think or say that it was wrong to imbrute a man, or to sell your own daughter, or whip a woman to death because she pined when her child was stolen from her. Still others, and the larger number, cared nothing about the matter, except heartily to denounce the Abolitionists as incendiaries, and fraternize with "the gentlemanly and high-toned Southerners"—meaning slaveholders. The general feeling was that nothing could be done, even if it were a bad thing, and therefore it was fast becoming the fashion to declare that it was a good thing.

The Kansas troubles opened the eyes of the great mass of the people to the fact that the system was the direct rival of every free settler in the country. The question added a material argument to its moral appeal, and from that moment the overthrow of slavery was fixed. But under the Union its extinction would be peaceful. Consequently, as a last desperate resource, its chiefs tried war, counting upon the timidity of trade and the party-organization of the free States friendly to slavery. Both failed them. Every day, from the 12th of April, 1861, it has been clearer to the American people that slavery is the enemy of their industry, of their trade, of their peace, and of their Union. Every day we have been moving nearer and nearer to unanimity in opposition to it, however we might differ about the method of ending it. The most unprincipled newspapers and politicians see the inevitable and irresistible current of events. Even James Spence, the rebel agent in England, does not dare to face civilization and plead the cause for which the rebels are fighting their fellow-citizens, and massacring the noblest youth. The war is the fierce death-struggle of the monster, and whoever would end the war will strike at the serpent. Men of all parties, of all policies, of all convictions upon other subjects, repeat the cry which long and long ago pealed majestically from despised lips: "It is the common enemy. Let it die the death!"

FRANCE AND THE UNITED
STATES.

THE speeches of Thiers and Jules Favres in the French Chambers are the most menacing sounds that Louis Napoleon has ever heard. The criticisms of Thiers especially, upon the imperial policy, are the censure of the common sense of France upon its government. In his last discourse the historian strips the facts of the Mexican expedition of all their glamour, and shows that a French army and fleet are engaged in an enterprise which is costly without profit, and perilous without honor. A year ago the Emperor put forth a resonant programme, and sent

an army to fulfill the destiny of the Latin race, and now the terrible orator of the Opposition declares that all that can be hoped is that France may be able to retire from the imperial programme without disgrace. In fact now, for the first time, Louis Napoleon tolerates a critic, and he will inevitably find that Thiers must be silenced, or that the empire is in danger.

Thiers does not fear an immediate interference upon our part. But he thinks that when our war is over our soldiers will pass into Mexico, and that consequences which he intimates rather than describes will follow. Maximilian must then be supported by French bayonets against American immigrants and the Mexican people; for Thiers says that he does not see that the Mexicans are favorable to France. Indeed, it is very clear that the shrewd old politician, whose political reputation is that of sagacity rather than of principle, is of the opinion of Richard Cobden, that Louis Napoleon has made the great mistake of his life.

Meanwhile we can do nothing but observe. If France, or any other power, directly interferes in our war, she will be called to account, as England was in the matter of the rams. But for the operations of other powers in other parts of the world, however we may consider ourselves indirectly threatened, we can have but an attentive eye. Mr. M'Dougall's proposition in the Senate, to declare ourselves dissatisfied with the attitude of France, and to menace her, compels the inquiry what we mean to do if France replies that she does not hold herself responsible to us for her foreign policy in other countries than our own. Does the Senator propose that we shall make war upon France? If so, will he indicate the army, or the fleet, or the necessary millions of dollars, with which the war is to be waged? Our present contest is perhaps enough for the moment. The vindication of other people's honor may be wisely left until it is finally settled that we have maintained our own. Nor ought patriots of the M'Dougall school to forget that while Thiers is the most dangerous enemy of Louis Napoleon invading and conquering Mexico, Thiers would be the most able and unwavering leader of France in a war with the United States. It is in this view that the caution of the Secretary of State appears to he the truest political wisdom.

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

WHEN Mr. Douglas appeared at the last inauguration ball as the next friend of Mrs. Lincoln, he took symbolically the position which his party ought to have assumed, if it hoped to retain any hold upon the American people. He said in effect, "I am for the Union and the Government unconditionally." He died, and left no successor. No leader of even tolerable capacity has taken his place; and the party of which he was easily the head has dwindled and dwindled until it has now virtually disappeared. There are, in Congress and elsewhere, many faithful men who cling to the names Democrat and Democratic; but the disloyal men there and elsewhere assume the same name, and it is a question which will finally secure it.

Had Mr. Douglas lived he would have been the dictator of his party. His futile pretense of squatter sovereignty as a solution of our troubles was but the transparent confession that the old platform of his party, the protection of slavery, was untenable. He saw that the only hope of his party for the future was in the extreme anti-slavery ground. How to get it there was a tremendous, an impossible task at that time. He was frantic. He tried to ride two horses, each running furiously in opposite directions. His fall was inevitable; and, like Webster, he fell and died. Yet could he have survived, the war would have shown him the way to future power, and he would have dared to take it. He would have done from policy what Mr. Sumner in the Senate, and Mr. Arnold in the House, have done from principle, and have called for an amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery.

The true men of his party are coming to that position. They see that henceforth emancipation is as much a fixed fact in this country as independence was after the Revolution. They know that hereafter such gentlemen as Senator Saulsbury of Delaware, Bishop Hopkins of Vermont, Mr. Thomas H. Seymour of Connecticut, and Mr. Vallandigham of Ohio, are as impossible leaders of any great popular party as Aaron Burr was after the failure of his conspiracy. For such persons as these comprehend neither men nor principles, neither policy nor history. They are the dry froth left upon the sides of a vessel from which the foaming wine has been poured away.

The terrible logic of events has brought all loyal citizens to the same platform. The attempt to perpetuate old names and lines has resulted in the distinct division of the late Democratic party into two wings, one of which practically sustains the rebellion, and the other the Union. Whoever studies carefully the votes in Congress will observe that such representatives as Mallory, Cox, Chanler, and the Woods, work steadily against the Union and the National Government; while such as Odell and Griswold, with their friends, support the Government, while they try to maintain an appearance

of party unity with the first-named, under the pretense, as we said last week, of a "Constitutional opposition."

Why do these gentlemen pursue this course? Why do they not see that their true policy is the public repudiation of all such fellowship? They know that the self-imposed mission of Mr. Fernando Wood is the destruction of the party with which he professes to act; and the method he takes is the proposition of measures which he knows will disgust the country. So long as he is permitted to use the party name, so long the party name shares the odium of his measures and of the support of his faction. Upon his ground the restoration of the party is impossible. In his hands the infamy of the Democratic name is sure. The only hope of its honorable salvation is in the cordial co-operation of those who value it with the predominant sentiment of the country in the hearty, open support of the emancipation policy and of the President who has adopted it. The President is the representative of all in the country who believe that the question is simply Slavery or No-slavery; the destruction of the Government or its salvation.

ABOUT FLOWERS.

THE story lately told and widely repeated that Mrs. Lincoln had sent flowers to a notorious apostle of "peace," to decorate his house for a ball, is a good illustration of the inaccuracy and injustice of the reports upon which we form our opinions of public persons and measures. The facts are merely these: There is a conservatory attached to the White House, which supplies flowers for the Presidential parties and for such friends as the President or his wife may choose. The wife of the person in question wrote a note asking for flowers. A reply was sent that there were no more than the mistress of the White House required for her own purposes, and with the reply a bouquet was sent, that the wife of the President might not seem churlish in refusing.

Such a story is not worth attention, except as an illustration of the persistent hostility of criticism which has pursued the wife of the President from the beginning of the war, and as falsely as in this instance. There was a time when it was openly insinuated that she furnished information to the rebels, and was the enemy of her husband and the country. That time is long passed, but the venomous tongue of gossip still darts at its victim. There was a time, also. when it was the fashion to sneer at the President as an incompetent officer and trivial joker. But of all living men in the country at this moment whose name is likely to be most illustrious in history?

PROFANITY.

UNCLE TOBY tells us that our army swore dreadfully in Flanders. He spoke of the British army; but evidently they did not use up all the profanity in the world. For our army swears awfully in the cars and elsewhere. Why should they? Why should you, dear brethren and gentlemen? What is the use or beauty of saying, "Apple-boy ! G— d— your soul to h—! Don't try to shove off your G— d— rotten old apples on me, G— d— you!" Is it manly? Is it brave? Is it any thing but a silly swagger? To talk loud, to swear, to whistle, to shout, to sing in a quiet car with quiet people, merely brings you and the whole army into contempt.

It is easy enough to see that it is generally the sheerest affectation. Of course if you get drunk, if you make yourselves beasts, dear brethren, before you get into the cars, you will infallibly behave bestially when you are there. But to hear such hearty, intelligent, sound, and manly fellows as any traveler may now meet upon any train, roaring out the most odious oaths about nothing whatever is pitiful. Of all tricks it is the poorest and meanest. If you get drunk you may steal and be jugged; or you may murder and be hanged. If you lie you may fall into awful scrapes, after which you will never be believed again. There is some risk in these things, and where there is risk there is a certain kind of courage in braving it. But to swear foully, to damn every body and every thing, to be a nasty nuisance with your indecent tongue—this is as honorable, as manly, as soldierly as to insult a woman who has nobody to defend her.

Our army swore dreadfully in Flanders, quoth my Uncle Toby, but he did not say that they fought more bravely for it.

DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE.

CONGRESS.

SENATE.—February 10. Mr. Trumbull, from the Judiciary Committee, reported adversely to the joint resolution for amending the Constitution just proposed by Mr. Sumner, which reads, "Every where within the limits of the United States and each State and Territory thereof all persons are equal before the law, so that no person can hold another as a slave." Some time before Mr. Henderson, of Missouri, had offered a joint resolution to a similar purport. In lieu of this the Committee presented the following joint resolution for amending the Constitution: "Article 13, Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall, exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." This article, if two-thirds of both Houses of Congress concur, is to be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, and when ratified by three-fourths of these, to be valid as a part of the Coustitution.—Mr. Clark offered a resolution ratifying the President's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, and giving it the force of a stattute: referred.—Mr. Brown offered amendments to the Enlistment bill, confirming the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery, and subjecting (next page)


 

 

  

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