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SATURDAY, JANUARY 9, 1864.
THE NEW YEAR.
WE have the right to wish our
friends a HAPPY
NEW YEAR, for a year never opened more full of promise for the
country and the cause, dear to all faithful hearts. No man who truly
comprehended the magnitude of our war, or who has thoughtfully studied its
development, could have expected that we should stand at this time with so firm
a hold upon the future as we have. Forced to learn to fight while we were
fighting, we have patiently learned our lesson, amidst the doubts of friends and
sneers of foes, until at last the fidelity, tenacity, and courage of the people
begin to tell against their enemies, and the great experiment of free popular
government, victorious in domestic as it has always been in foreign war, was
never surer of its triumphant vindication than on New-year's Day eighteen
hundred and sixty-four.
This confession is extorted from
the bitter lips of our steadiest enemies at home and abroad. Directly, by its
words, the British aristocratic jealousy of a republic concedes that, without
foreign intervention, we shall prevail in the contest; and, indirectly, by their
acts the rebels allow the desperation of their cause. The late law of the rebel
Congress compelling every private soldier, non-commissioned officer, and
musician to serve for the war, regardless of the conditions of enlistment; the
law forcing those who have supplied substitutes to take place in the ranks by
their side, the demand that the rebel currency shall be reduced by force, the
terrible revelations of Memminger's report, with the wild rancor of abuse in the
message of that "accomplished statesman," Jefferson Davis, and the resolutions
offered by Foote in the rebel Congress—all these are signs that the greater
resources and unquailing energy of the American people directed in the interest
of humanity, civilization, and law, against a colossal conspiracy of crime and
anarchy, begin already to be successful.
Surely the year may be hailed as
happy that opens upon such a prospect—happy though a thousand hearts ache, and
America, like Rachel, weeps for her children, who shall return no more. But
dead, they yet speak, and shall speak forever. Unseen they hold as fast in love
and honor to the holy cause for which they fell. The young, the brave, the true,
who by night and day, through summer and winter, on land and sea, have died that
we may live, have consecrated us all to their own heroic fidelity. The land
mourns—it is full of
graves; but what the President so simply and solemnly said
Gettysburg is true also of the country: "The world will not note nor long
remember what we say here, but will never forget what they did here."
The year that begins brings us
nearer to the end of great military operations, and to the settlement of the
war. Standing upon its threshold, with hearts saddened for those who are gone,
and hopeful for those who are to come, let us take are through this year and
through all years, to stand as fast for the victory our brothers in the field
have won as they stood firm in winning it.
THE late speech of Mr. Wendell
Phillips has naturally provoked a great deal of censure. His sharp and direct
criticisms upon men and measures can not fail to exasperate the friends of both,
and his sarcasms, while they sparkle, sting. We do not agree with Mr. Phillips
in his estimate of the President, of
Mr. Seward, or of
Mr. Chase; and we
certainly do not acknowledge the justice of a criticism of the public action of
public men which takes no account of circumstances. Statesmanship is no more the
doing, or the attempt to do, what the statesman may individually think to be
abstractly right, without regard to the conditions that surround him, than
seamanship is laying a course and persisting in it, spite of the wind. In fact,
the wind will control the ship, and public opinion the statesman.
Probably no man in the country
would more heartily assent to this than Mr. Phillips; and the apparent injustice
of his criticism of public men arises from the fact that he always regards the
man instead of the officer. If the attainment of the end desired depended solely
upon the will of the man, the work would always be easy enough. But when the
cardinal condition of success is the consent of other men, the work is plainly
difficult and gradual. If Mr. Phillips made the point clearer, not that the
President ought to do this or that, but that the people ought to wish him to do
it, and insist upon his doing it, he would be juster to what we suppose to be
his real view.
For it should be borne in mind
always, that there is but one key to all the discourses of this eloquent orator.
Democrat, with the fullest faith in the people, even in "the pavement,"
as he expresses it, his constant purpose is to stimulate, enlighten, and elevate
public opinion, in order that its servants, the magistrates,
may obey it.
Mr, Lincoln, he
says, is a good man; he will do what the people wish; therefore the people must
be made to wish the best thing. That is certainly fair enough. But when he adds
that the President is a growing man, because we, the people, constantly water
him, then, as it seems to us, the orator misapprehends the case. It is not the
convictions of Mr. Lincoln, but the executive action of the President, that we
water. A few years since Mr. Phillips called Mr. Lincoln the slave-hound of
Illinois, and yet, three years before, this slave-hound had made the plainest
statement of the vital and radical conflict between slavery and liberty in this
country. Mr. Lincoln has learned upon that point nothing new. His convictions
about slavery are substantially now what they have always been. So his view of
his military power over it was exactly the same when he nullified the orders of
Hunter that it was when he issued the final order of
1863. But his convictions as a man, and his power as a magistrate to
fulfill them, are entirely different. He had no doubt, as appears from his
letters to Generals Fremont and Hunter, that he had the right to emancipate
slaves as a military measure, and he certainly had no doubt that slavery was the
root of the rebellion. But he did not, for that reason, think it wise to begin
the war by
emancipation. For he was acting not upon his own convictions as to
slavery and its relation to the war, but upon his conviction of what was wisest
to be done under all the circumstances. Had he acted otherwise he might have
been a very good man, but he would certainly have been a very poor officer.
It is not, therefore, the
President who is growing, but the popular conviction upon the subject of
slavery. And we certainly know no man who has more faithfully and copiously
watered that than Mr. Phillips. His work in arousing the public mind to the real
issue of our times is already as historic as that of James Otis at an earlier
day. Like him he has been, of course, hated and defamed by the interest he
attacks, and also, like him, has often outrun the sympathy and tried the
patience of many friends of the cause he serves. But in censuring him his
critics should understand exactly his position. It is that of a man who will not
be content with any thing done so long as any thing remains to do; who believes
that selfishness is always alert, and that the only way for men and nations not
to go backward is to go forward. But to go forward they must be incessantly
urged, and the urging must often be sharp and stern. While, therefore, he is
glad of every step gained, he leaves to others the part of sitting down and
congratulation. For himself he steps forward and asks, What next?
Now this is the spirit which
saves society. It is not genial, however sweet and friendly the man inspired by
it may be. It must be always in the minority; for the moment the path is
accepted and popular the pioneer is already far out of sight, demolishing new
impediments. It seems often rough and unfeeling; for sleepers can not be always
or wisely roused by gentle taps and soothing tones. The office of this spirit,
of which the career of Mr. Phillips is our most complete illustration, is to
discover in good things how they may be made better; how men may become more
manly, and America more American. The President, for instance, can supply
reasons enough for what he has done. Mr. Phillips would supply public opinion
with reasons for asking him to do more. These reasons may be good or bad; but a
man whose purity of life and nobility of character, no less than his genius
consecrated to human progress, class him among the truest Americans, is not to
be disposed of as a scold or a professional caviler. For it is precisely such
men as he who have kept the sacred fire of liberty burning in this country,
while other men sneered and slept.
FIRST IN THE FIELD.
General McClellan is
first in the field. More unfortunate in his friends than in his enemies, he has
nominated for the Presidency by a knot of gentlemen in
Philadelphia, of whom—to make an intelligible bull—the only one who is publicly
known has been long ago forgotten. For the Hon. Amos Kendall is only remembered
with scornful pity as the Postmaster-General of the United States, who tampered
with the mails at the bidding of the master of the men who are now rebels. That
he should preside at a meeting to nominate or to ratify the nomination of a
candidate for the Presidency who, since his letter to Judge Woodward, must be
considered a Copperhead of the clearest type, shows that he is of the same mind
still, and that his age worships the dreary old idol of his youth.
Alas! when we think of two years
ago, when, amidst universal acclamation, General McClellan was called to the
head of our armies, with the hope and faith of a nation lavished upon him in
advance, with thousands and thousands of our best and bravest soldiers committed
joyfully to his charge, with the President, his only superior officer, resolved
to give him every chance, with the national determination that he was a great
soldier because a great soldier was a national necessity—when we think of all
that fond and
persistent blindness in which we
shared, and of all that has followed since down to the letter urging the
election of Judge Woodward—it is hard not to hang the head with sorrow for the
soldier and shame for the nation. But when from that letter we descend, although
logically, to this nomination, the tragedy becomes farce, and it is impossible
not to explode with laughter.
For granting that he is a very
great man, is this the body of politicians who have ever shown any true
perception of the public sentiment? Did this not of gentlemen, by whatever name
they choose to call themselves, ever do more than make themselves politically
ridiculous? When they nominated Mr. Fillmore in 1856, and Mr. Bell in 1860, they
intended to help the slave-holders as they do now. They were in the political
market, but they never pretended, as now, to lay hands upon the prize beef and
spoil it by handling. They offered their flabby little veal chops, and knew that
the great beef dealers would buy them up. But this time they put their label
upon the prime sirloin, upon the baron itself. Do they seriously expect the
Copperhead Convention to take a candidate from them?
General McClellan will perhaps
thank Mr. Amos Kendall and his friends for this expression of their good-will,
but will await a more emphatic indication of the public desire. Or he may delay,
and give time for that outburst of popular enthusiasm which we have been
constantly assured was to follow the presentation of his name to the country.
Or, again, he may accept the nomination upon the platform of his Woodward
letter. Or he may let the whole matter go by default. But it is useless to
consider what he may do with this nomination, when we remember, as every man
will, that all the friends of Vallandigham, all the apologists of the rebellion,
all the Copperheads in the country will ratify it. And can any man, or any
course, which the Copperheads approve save the honor of the nation, the
integrity of the Union, and republican government? You may be a loyal citizen,
and may think that justice has not been done to General McClellan; but you can
not evade that searching question, and you can give it but one answer.
THAT the rebels give the best
food they can to our prisoners in their hands may be true, but the best food is
neither plenty enough nor of the right kind to support life. We know of a letter
of late date from General Neal Dow, at the
Libey Prison in Richmond, in which he
says that his fare is a little flour mixed with a little water—in other words,
flour paste. Of course the fate of the private soldiers is worse than his; and
an eye-witness of the return of our starved prisoners to Annapolis describes to
us their suffering condition as incredible.
This, then, is the way in which
the rebels make good their threat of the black flag. They do not massacre their
prisoners outright, but drag them away to starve in loathsome dungeons. For, as
we have before said, it is no excuse that there is no better fare to give them.
If the rebels can not treat prisoners honorably they have no right to take them.
If, taking them, they persist in such inhuman conduct, it is manifestly the duty
of the Government to set aside prisoners for retaliation—not in kind, of course,
but by punishment. When it shall be clearly proved that our captive soldiers
have been put to death by torture, by
starvation and exposure, the retribution
upon rebel captives should be swift and sure. Terrible as it is to retaliate,
when the safety of our own men can be secured in no other way, it is one of the
most imperative necessities of a state of war.
Do not let us become callous to
the tales of horror which come wailing up from Richmond merely because they are
incessant. Let the hapless prisoners who are there, and the soldiers in the
field who have that possible fate before them, understand that the people hear
their sighs and comprehend their fears, and will insist that in this matter the
rebels shall be held to the sternest account.
Now that, in obedience to the
demands of national common-sense,
colored men are enrolled as soldiers, every
citizen ought to insist that they shall have exactly the same treatment, chance,
and pay as other soldiers. Hitherto they have been paid, under a general law
regulating the labor of
contrabands, ten dollars a month. This sum was offered
to the freemen of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth, the first colored regiment
raised in the Free States, and they declined it. The State of Massachusetts then
resolved to pay the soldiers the difference, and Major Sturgis was sent with the
money to Morris Island. But they declined that. Was this unreasonable upon their
part? Let us see.
These men, free citizens of the
United States, were enlisted in Massachusetts under the express written
guarantee of the Secretary of War to the Governor of Massachusetts that they
were to stand exactly upon the same footing with all other soldiers. Every body
who knows the feelings of the Secretary of War in this matter knows that such
was his wish. With that solemn
assurance the men were mustered
in, and have proved themselves as heroic and docile and patient as soldiers can
be. And they simply decline any thing less than bare justice. They do not
mutiny. They make no trouble whatever. They say simply that the United States
Government pledged its honor, and they will wait the fulfillment of the pledge.
Is this unreasonable? Would any
white regiment do otherwise? And have we a right to require of men, whom we are
so ready to call less than men, more than our own average manhood?
The remedy is immediate and
thorough. Instead of wasting time in abusing men who merely claim what we all
confess that we owe, let us urge upon Congress the passage of a law to pay these
soldiers of the Union army exactly what other soldiers are paid. For if we
reproach those who ask the same wages that others get for the same service, what
shall we say of ourselves who hesitate for a moment in agreeing to the demand?
The Secretary of War has recommended the passage of the necessary law. Is it
unreasonable in the soldiers concerned quietly to await its passage?
NOBLE PUBLIC INTEREST.
THERE has been another
illustration of the generous manly art of self-defense. The London papers give
copious details. The news is transmitted across the sea as an affair of public
interest. The story has large headings in our own papers. But what is it? Simply
that one man has tried to squeeze the breath out of another and failed, while
the other pommeled the squeezer to a jelly. There are several columns of the
story. There are editorials in the Times, in the Saturday Review, in almost all
of the great papers. It is very fine, it is very noble, it is very manly, and
full of the heroic art of self-defense; but there was a much more remarkable
occurrence in London a few weeks ago, which has most lamentably failed of that
universal popular interest which waits upon the reduction of a big man to a
A man in London called a cab at a
railway station just after dark. He and his wife and two children stepped in and
the driver drove as directed. On the way the cabman is told to stop at a public
house for some porter. It is drunk by the passengers and the pot handed out.
By-and-by the gentleman calls to the driver to let him out, but to drop the lady
and children at a certain point. The gentleman moves off; the cab drives away,
and when it reaches the point and cabby alights and opens the door he sees the
woman and children dead; murdered in a cab quietly driving in the evening
through London streets. Here is a matter infinitely more remarkable and
important than the beating a man to a jelly; but alas! it has had no large
headings, and doubtless many a reader now knows it for the first time.
If two men should train
themselves to lift heavy weights, and then strike each other with
sledge-hammers, it would be much the same thing as hardening their muscle to
iron and then fighting with their fists. But why is it manly? Why is it any
thing but a melancholy dehumanizing of men? Why should any body feel a livelier
or more elevated interest in it than in the butting and goring of prize bulls?
Of course we do not deny that there is the profoundest interest. But why is that
particular form of brutality, and utter want of every distinctive manly trait,
so fascinating that it must be elaborately reported, and telegraphed, and
commented upon? The persons who congregate to see the show are bullies,
blacklegs, sharpers, the dregs of human society. Their haunts are the dens of
ignorance, bestiality, and infamy. The encounter is an outrage upon the law and
common decency. Why, then, should respectable papers do more than chronicle the
fact, as they do all other events painful or pleasing, elevating or disgusting?
Would there be the public interest which they plead in justification if they did
not pander to it?
THE rebels resolved some time
since that all our colored troops taken in war should be handed over to the
State authorities and their officers hung. Since then we have heard of the
hanging of such officers and men in Arkansas, and we know of the probable
capture of others. How true is the Arkansas story, and what is the fate of such
prisoners? The President promptly and righteously declared that he should
retaliate for any ill-usage they might receive. But is care taken to ascertain
their precise condition? We have already a colored army. The examinations for
commissions in it are properly careful and strict. The officers are men of
character and conviction, as well as of military skill and personal courage.
They are among the best and noblest in the land, and they face peculiar perils.
Does the Government know at this moment how many such officers, with their men,
are prisoners, and what their treatment is? If not, is it not especially bound
to ascertain? When it invites young men to peculiar peril, does it mean to
surround them with less than ordinary care?
We ask the questions not
supposing that there is neglect, but because of the singular mystery which
overhangs the whole subject. Of every officer, for instance, who fell or was
captured at the assault upon Fort Wagner we have accounts, except of