William Thackeray


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 23, 1864

Welcome to our online archive of Harper's Weekly newspapers. During the Civil War Harper's Weekly was the most popular newspaper in the country. Today, the papers serve as an incredible resource for students and researchers interested in learning more about the war.

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William Thackeray

Railroad Annoyances

Negro Soldiers Liberating Slaves


Leland Stanford

William Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray





Colored Troops










[JANUARY 23, 1864.



"FOUND dead, an unknown man." How trite the phrase!

And yet God knows what volumes may be said

Of bitter suffering or of crime's dark ways,

In that one short epitome—"Found dead!"

When haggard poverty from famine flies

To seek for labor, or to beg for bread,

And in the streets from cold and hunger dies,

Its only epitaph is this—"Found dead!"

Grim murder gripes his victim in the night—

A quick, fierce struggle, desperate and dread—

A quivering soul shrieks out in sudden flight,

Yet all is summed up in two words—"Found dead!"

The wretched suicide, whose broken heart

Its final hope and vital blood has shed

Privation—maddened love—dishonor's smart—

'Tis briefly told—"An unknown man found dead."

"Found dead!" What hopes are blighted—what woes drowned—

What's lost or gained when human life has fled

Who knows or cares? The selfish world goes round:

'Tis but another "unknown man found dead."

O ye whose thoughtless ease brooks not to scan

Death save with loving friends around your bed,

Seek out and aid your unknown fellow-man,

Lest ye to God be "unknown" when "found dead!"




"Christmas is here!

Winds whistle shrill,

Icy and chill,

Little care we;

Little we fear

Weather without,

Sheltered about

The Mahogany Tree.


"Evenings we knew

Happy as this;

Faces we miss

Pleasant to see.

Kind hearts and true,

Gentle and just,

Peace to your dust!

We sing round the tree."

WHILE those who knew and loved him were singing this Christmas carol of Thackeray's, the kind heart and true that first sang the song was lying stilled forever. He has taught us how to speak of him, not only by the simple, tender appreciation with which he spoke of the dead, but by the many works in which his shrewd insight, kind heart, nimble wit, and consuming satire, held the mirror up to nature, and pleaded for humanity and truth. He was a man of heroic simplicity and candor, with the profoundest hate of all kinds of hypocrisy—a hate which became indignation from his consciousness that neither he nor any man could entirely escape the influence of the social atmosphere he was compelled to breathe. "It is in the air, gentlemen," he always seems to say; "we all have the disease more or less. I have no doubt that I should be very glad to be seen walking down Pall Mall with a duke on each arm. It was this impatience of falsity which the more that it was gilded was the more repulsive to him, because more dangerous, that made him often blunt, rough, stern in his manners, although he lived in the most courtly circles. He ranged through British clubs and drawing-rooms, a Bersekir in the mask of Mephistopheles, refusing to accept amiability for fidelity, or politeness for humanity. He was called a cynic by the snobs, and a snob by the cynics. He was in reality a great moralist, preaching trenchant sermons from the most familiar texts; honoring love and truth, full of pity and charity and wisdom; finding the noblest men and women under all conditions, and not afraid to describe the weaknesses and faults of either.

As a pure novelist, or delineator of manners, he is not surpassed. He constantly reproduced certain types of character within the same range of society; but with such incisive skill and completeness of portraiture that they take permanent place among the creations of human genius. He chose deliberately the profession of literature, worked steadily and faithfully in it; honored its illustrious chiefs, and won and wore its laurels. But to him it was a noble profession; and his task in it, at which he labored until the hand that held the pen fell forever, was to make men better by every kind of stern, sweet, witty, wise, sarcastic, or humorous representation of the life and character he saw around him. When Miss Bronte dedicated to him the second edition of "Jane Eyre," she did so in the strongest and most unqualified words of praise; but they express the final and mature verdict upon the character and power of his genius. Not the least of his charms as an author is the sweet, sinewy English of his style, which is nervous, transparent, picturesque, and exquisite.

The death of every great story-teller .is like a personal loss to the world; but the American friends of Thackeray who personally knew him probably were not aware how much they loved

him until they saw that he was dead. It seems as if there were less life in the world now he is gone. He enjoyed so fully; his great, blithe nature came ringing out in song and jest in genial festive hours so exuberantly, yet so tenderly still, that feasts will always be less festal hereafter to the guests who sat with him. His social sympathy, his love of children, his univeral charity, and his constant allusions to the delightful season, especially associated him with Christmas, and he died, a month ago, on the day before it came. Farewell, great, generous soul, kindly teacher, faithful friend, wise, humble, honest man! How sadly and solemnly and fitly now sound your own Christmas words!


"My song save this has little worth;

I lay the weary pen aside,

And wish you health, and love, and mirth,

As fits the solemn Christmas tide.

As fits the holy Christmas birth,

Be this, good friends, our carol still:

Be peace on earth, be peace on earth

To men of gentle will."


GOVERNOR SEYMOUR'S Message has been thoroughly discussed; but, as its main purpose is to express in the most plausible way all the bitter hostility of extreme partisans throughout the country toward the Administration, it is worth considering. If it were possible to forget that Mr. Seymour early declared against the war, and charged its responsibility upon the loyal men of the Free States; that he expressed his willingness to see the Union perish rather than slavery; that he insisted, while the rebels had their hands at our throats, that we should offer them the olive branch; if it could be forgotten that in every way, under pretext of saving the rights and dignity of the State, he has endeavored to embarrass the National Government, always in smooth phrases fiercely denouncing it, while treating the rebellion as the work of honorable men goaded into violence; if it were possible not to remember that he was the warm advocate of Thomas Seymour for Governor of Connecticut, and of Vallandigham for Governor of Ohio, and that of all bitter partisans, under the thinnest veil of candor, Horatio Seymour is the chief—it might also be possible to believe that his criticisms of national affairs are friendly to the country and to the Union, and that he sincerely prefers patriotism to party. But with his record it is simply impossible. His official messages are as unscrupulous party manifestoes as the speeches of Vallandigham or Wood. And there is probably no heartily loyal Union man in the country who does not consider Mr. Seymour just as true a patriot as Mr. Vallandigham, and just as fervent a Unionist as Mr. Wood.

The Governor undertakes to argue the cause of the soldiers against the Government, declaring that "the safety of our country demands that the sympathy between our citizens and our soldiers should be kept alive." There is no doubt of it. But, as the soldiers are our citizens, the Governor need not be alarmed. Does he think it a promising way of maintaining that sympathy to sow entire distrust of the Government in the minds of the soldiers? "The army must not be estranged from our people," he repeats. Very true. Does he think it prevents estrangement to stand in the Academy of Music, while that army is fighting and falling, and "twit" it with the victories it has not won? "We were promised Vicksburg for the 4th of July," sneered the Governor to the "citizens" on that day. The army gave it to us while he was sneering. It gave us Gettysburg also. And when, with the tears of a whole people, that field of heroic death was consecrated as holy national ground, one of the chief newspapers in the interest of Governor Seymour calls the ceremony "a grand national wake." Is this the way to prevent estrangement? So also when it is proposed that the citizen fighting in the field as a soldier for his country shall not be disfranchised, Governor Seymour says that he shall, and interposes his veto. This is his method of keeping alive sympathy between our citizens and our soldiers. If there is any man in the country who has done his little all to estrange the citizen in the field and the citizen at home, it is the author of this Message. We beg every soldier to watch the Governor's action when a bill is again presented to him empowering the soldiers to vote.

In the next place, the Governor also undertakes his own defense in the matter of the July riots. He quotes his proclamation to the people of New York, and celebrates his vigorous efforts to preserve the peace. The whole question lies in a nutshell. Governor Seymour had done his full share in inciting the riots by his speeches; by his vehement denunciation of the Government and the draft; by his appeals to the bitter prejudice against colored citizens; and by his open menace that the national authorities must beware, for a mob could use pretenses as well as a Government. The riot began. Its pretext was opposition to the draft. Mayor Opdyke tells us that the vigorous policy agreed upon before the Governor came was not superseded by him because of the unanimity of the civil and military authorities of the city. But the Governor did all he could, short of refusing to do any thing, to supersede that policy. He deliberately

told the rioters that he had asked the suspension of the law, which they made the pretext of their bloody crimes. Of course he had. It was his plan of treating the rebellion in the South: to excuse it, and do what it commands. The July riots should never be mentioned by the Governor or his friends.

The rest of the Message is an assertion that the policy of the war, which the Governor concedes that the people have approved, is national ruin. The only hope for the country, in his estimation, is returning to the original policy of the war. The reply to this is very simple; and it is that there has been but one policy in the war from the beginning, namely, to restore the authority of the Government, and consequently to overcome every obstacle to that restoration. He quotes the resolution of July, 1861, that the war is not waged to subjugate people or to overthrow institutions. No, and it never has been. Neither has it been waged to take a single life, or destroy a single dollar's worth of property. Yet thousands of lives, millions of dollars' worth of property, and at last Slavery, have fallen and are falling in the process of maintaining the Constitution and restoring the Union. Slavery is destroyed, precisely as supplies, and cities, and lives are, in obedience to military necessity. That a partisan politician chooses to misrepresent the fact does not alter the truth. That he chooses to say that the Union is lost, civil liberty destroyed, and the nation ruined, because the American people, in saving their nationality, overthrow by the way the system of human slavery which has always threatened their existence, and now seeks to destroy it, is but another of the melancholy proofs with which History teems, that the extremest public peril will not extinguish party malignity.


OF all the messages and reports with which the year opens the most simple, direct, and lucid is that of the Metropolitan Police Commission. It should be carefully read and pondered by every citizen as the record of the most diligent and faithful public service, and, in itself, the ample justification of a system which gives a peace and security to the great city hitherto unknown.

It appears that the population of the whole district subject to the care of the Commission is about 1,000,000 in the city of New York and 350,000 in Brooklyn. The authorized number of patrolmen in the former city is 1800; in the latter, 200. This gives to New York one patrolman to every 527 inhabitants; to Brooklyn, one for every 1620. This proportion the report justly represents as injurious, because Brooklyn covers nearly as large a territory as New York, which has nine times as many patrolmen. It recommends that the number in Brooklyn be increased to 500.

In the regular course of their duty the patrolmen pass over every portion of the graded streets of the city every hour of the day and night, and without serious increase of labor they could perform the duties of health wardens, sanitary inspectors, and inspectors of weights and measures. All the work of the City Inspector's Department the police force could do without increase of numbers or pay. In view of Mayor Gunther's statement that the present expenses of the city are larger in proportion than those of any city in the world, this is a very significant suggestion.

The report wisely recommends the establishment of a Morgue, or dead-house, for the identification of bodies found drowned. It also suggests that as auctioneers are public officers, and as the plan of making mock-auctioneers refund their robberies has proved to be futile, the conviction of fraud should operate per se as a revocation of license. The law of 1862 having failed to abate the nuisance of concert saloons—dens of drunkenness and prostitution—the report declares them likely to increase in numbers until the Legislature shall authorize a thorough prosecution in every case. It also recommends that, as thieves and burglars are generally but the servants of receivers of stolen goods, the system of rewards by which the banks have so successfully suppressed counterfeiting shall be adopted, and the Board be authorized to allow rewards not more than $200 for the conviction of receivers of stolen goods. The ease of truant children, growing up in the practice of every crime, should be met, as far as possible, by a truant school.

The report sums up the operations of the Sanitary Company of the Police, under Captain Lord, the object of which is to keep the city clean, and so to prevent disease. 20,942 cases of nuisance have been abated during the year, of which 584 were dangerous. The law should be amended so as to provide collecting the expense of cleaning his premises from the owner when he refuses or neglects to do it.

The successful use of steam fire-engines requires a new organization of the Fire Department. The members should be paid for their services or released from duty, for the voluntary system is unjust, oppressive, and not always trust-worthy. The members are brave and daring, and were formerly exempted from militia service, but as that has ceased the public has no right to demand or enjoy their service without

reward. Only a small skilled force is now required, and it is but just that the Insurance Companies should help bear the burden of supporting a department which is mainly useful to them.

The experience of the July riots has shown the value of a large and trusty police force armed and drilled as a military command, to be used, as an armed force only, under the same circumstances that now authorize the calling out of the militia. A fourth of the police could be so organized at small cost, and often save the expensive measure of summoning the militia.

Finally, in a few calm, moderate, and perfectly truthful words the report depicts the circumstances of the July riots. They had a political motive and direction. They received sympathy and encouragement from influential partisans and papers. The militia were absent. The Police Board had been threatened with summary removal. Many of the force desired the removal, and there were some instances of insubordination. A large part of the force were of the same nationality and of the same political and religious faith as the rioters. There was therefore fear of failure in united action, or of embarrassment from sympathy with the mob. But the apprehension proved to be entirely groundless. The force acted as a unit, with the utmost heroism and success. Neither political, religious, nor national feeling injured their efficiency. Eighty were wounded in the terrible conflict, but three only have died.

Could any statement be simpler, truer, or more manly? Could faithful officers make any other report of facts which are historical and known to all men? Could any thing be juster or more complimentary to the members of the police force? The Commissioners may well say of a system which has produced these results: "The marked fidelity, vigilance, and efficiency of the Police in ordinary occasions is the legitimate fruit of the system. Instead of fearing or despising the Policeman, the public have learned to trust him as the defender and protector of social order. The Policeman's labors, risks, and deprivations are great—he earns and deserves not only public respect but just compensation; and the only reason that, with the enhanced rates of living, increased pay is not recommended, is the hope that there may soon be a return to the former scale of prices, and that the injustice of small pay to the Policeman may not be of long duration."

It is hard to believe that the report of which we have given a faithful abstract was made the excuse for the removal of the Police Commissioners. If every officer in the State were as faithful to their duty, as loyal to the nation, as firm, unhesitating, and heroic as the Metropolitan Police, from the Commissioners to every patrolman engaged during the terrible July days proved themselves to be, it would be well for the State and an imperishable honor to the officers.


THE late Archbishop Hughes was a man of irreproachable character and of acknowledged ability, who had justly earned the highest honors of his profession, and was greatly beloved by the people of his Church. But he was in no other sense a public man than every bishop of every Church and every able and worthy clergyman is. By its resolutions of respect to his memory, passed under the pressure of the previous question, the New York Legislature has established the agreeable precedent of observing with respectful mention the death of all good and eminent citizens. We do not remember that the late Bishop Wainwright's decease was so observed; but unquestionably that of all other distinguished clergymen and men of other professions will be. And if they are passed as these were, by force of the previous question, they will have exactly the same weight as these. The object of the introduction of such resolutions would seem to be to allow opportunity for the expression of respect and admiration from various minds. But the previous question summarily ends debate, and also, as it seems to us, the intended respect.

Mr. Lyon said that he supported the resolutions because of the distinguished services rendered the country by the Prelate. But as he did not mention what they were, and as Archbishop Hughes conspicuously confined himself to his ecclesiastical duties, the public services must be left to conjecture. If Mr. Lyon referred to the Archbishop's visit to Europe, it is for Mr. Lyon to show what public service he did there.

Certainly we do not cavil at any respect shown to the memory of good men. But of the seventy-six members who carried the resolutions, under the previous question, against fourteen, we should like to ask whether they voted for them because of the Archbishop's virtues as a man or eminence as a citizen, or because he was an Irishman and the head of the Romish Church in this State; and whether they mean to honor all virtuous New Yorkers in the same way? for the ecclesiastical office, as Mr. Douglas truly said, has nothing to do with the State.

Good men, distinguished clergymen, able lawyers, skillful physicians, and men noted in every sphere, are constantly departing from us; but we submit that only citizens who have conspicuously (Next Page)




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