1864 Election Editorial

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 5, 1864

This site features Harper's Weekly Civil War newspapers. These papers allow you to read important information on the war not available elsewhere. They contain incredible illustrations created by eye-witnesses to the historic events depicted. This is a valuable resource for serious students and researchers.

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Libey Prison

Libey Prison Escape

1864 Election Editorial

Florida Campaign

Schleswig

Libey Prison Escape

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Sanitary Commission

Sanitary Commission

Brooklyn Fair

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HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[MARCH 5, 1864.

146

THE BEAUTY THAT ENDURES.

I HAVE loved you, Laura dearest,

And it is not for your eyes,

Though on me they shone like stars in every storm:

And I will not call you fairest,

For I know you little prize

The perfections of the perishable form.

But your spirit, fresh and kindly

As the hedge-rose peeping forth

In the dews and dewy blushes of the dawn,

I have worshiped, and not blindly,

For on balancing your worth

With your foibles, they, like feathers, were updrawn.

Like a fountain never failing

From the only disk of sward

Palm-shaded in the desert, flinging rain—

In your ear the voice of wailing

Ever strikes an answering chord,

And you sympathize with pleasure as with pain.

There's a cheerfulness about you,

Making every labor light,

And your modest household duties you adorn: Life were cold and dark without you,

As to journey through a night

Unrelieved by any promise of a morn.

When the war-blast in shrill tremor

First announced the rebel foe,

Though you trembled, yet your words were clear and grand;

And although your eyes grew dimmer

As you counseled me to go,

You ne'er faltered in your duty to the land.

When I said, "My hopes all cluster

In a vision, Laura fair,

That, some time hence returning, we shall meet no more to part;"

In your eyes there flashed a lustre

That bid me not despair

And now for my lost arm I ask the guerdon of your heart.   H.

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

SATURDAY, MARCH 5, 1864.

THE PRESIDENT.

THE pamphlet entitled "The next Presidential Election," which is being widely distributed under Congressional franks, announces that the political campaign of 1864 has opened. And now that it has begun, it is desirable, in every view, that it be ended as soon as possible by the nomination. The Union men of the country will naturally wish to know at the earliest moment who is to carry their standard, that they may be able to devote all their time and force to the prosecution of the war and the restoration of the Union, instead of wasting them in personal squabbles among themselves.

Obviously in the midst of a war which, begun amidst the sneers and skepticism of foreign governments, and the sad doubt and fear of true men at home, has yet advanced to a near prospect of final victory, it would be a great moral advantage to retain, before all the world, the same general front; to say, on the one hand, to the rebels that the terrible experience of the three years past will be the experience of the four or five to come, if they do not yield, and to the world at large that the people of the United States are steadily bent upon the original purpose of the war, and by every legitimate means whatever, inflexibly mean to restore the Union and maintain the Government. If, indeed, the condition of public affairs were different; if our military lines were marked by disasters; if the rebellion had evidently strengthened itself; if there were a reasonable expectation that the Government might be overthrown; if trade were prostrated or industry paralyzed; if we had been overtaken by crushing financial calamity; if there were no fair prospect of recruiting our armies with veterans and the best of new men; if the measures of the Government at home had been such as to create a powerful and threatening opposition, or had been unfaithful to human liberty; in a word, if there were not a general conviction deep down in the heart of the people that, allowing for all faults and mistakes, and weaknesses, from which no men and no administration can be free; yet, under all the circumstances, military, social, and political, public affairs have been upon the whole, and certainly so far as the President is concerned, sagaciously and honestly conducted, then a change in the head of the Government would be not only wise, but it would be inevitable.

That the conduct of the war has been upon the whole satisfactory is evident from the fact that the political struggle is not really between the Administration and the Opposition, but among the Union men themselves. No loyal Union man proposes a serious change in the present policy, and therefore a change of President is advocated upon theoretical grounds. But is this a time for personal preferences and theories? The pamphlet of which we spoke in the beginning of this article argues warmly, for instance, although not very ably, against a second Presidential term, and fortifies its position by the advice of Washington and Jackson, each of whom were twice elected. But why were they so? Simply because the people preferred them to any other candidates. So in many of the States the same Governor has been re-elected for many consecutive years, because of the popular satisfaction with the man and his services. Is not that liberty of choice of the very essence of a free government? Is it not, as a rule, better that a

representative, who really represents the feelings of his constituency, should be sent for many terms to Congress than that an inexperienced person should be sent every two years? The biennial election may be, and often justly is, the declaration of entire satisfaction with the service of the representative. It would certainly be a remarkable exception in the practice of a popular system if the representative must, of necessity, be displaced. The doctrine of rotation in office is the result of a misapprehension of a popular government. No State, or city, or nation, or village would be necessarily better ordered, because the authorities were changed every month or every year. It is the regular frequency of elections which is the characteristic safeguard of our system. The object of the election is to allow the people to choose the man who best pleases them. But to make him ineligible after one term is to defeat that object, and compel them to adopt one who is not their preference. It is in effect to say either that a man who has been proved by experience to be fit for his office shall not continue to hold it, which is absurd; or else that he can not safely be intrusted with it for more than one term, which is to assert that men are not honest enough to make our system practicable. Rotation in office is the doctrine of politicians who wish to have the best places, not of the people who wish to have the best magistrates.

The pamphlet in question urges its plea upon the ground that if a President be eligible for more than one term he will use the enormous patronage of his office to secure another nomination. But it is very clear that to limit the term is not to prevent his corrupt use of patronage. He will, in that case, if inclined to abuse his power, merely turn his energies to securing the succession to the favorite of his party. And the objection lies against vesting patronage in any office whatever, because, if a President may use his patronage to secure a renomination, a Secretary may use his to defeat the President. Take, for instance, the case of two conspicuous public men at this moment, upon the honorable character of each of whom no aspersion had been cast, even by implication, before the appearance of this pamphlet—we mean Mr. Lincoln, the President, and Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury. Each of them wields enormous patronage. The President, according to the pamphlet, should not be eligible for two terms lest he should misuse his patronage. Very well. And the Secretary of the Treasury—? If the reasoning be sound, he should not be eligible at all lest he should misuse his. Is it proposed that no officer who commands patronage shall be eligible to the Presidency?

As a fact, however, the President is eligible for two terms; and this pamphlet—wisely anonymous—therefore suggests that, if Mr. Lincoln can so wield his patronage at this time as to secure his re-election, it will be much easier for him, with half a million of soldiers and enormous treasures at his command, to have himself re-elected from term to term through his natural life! The author has spared us the necessity of the reductio ad absurdum. For he is speaking of Mr. Lincoln; and unless we have entirely misapprehended the impression he has made upon the people, it would be as easy to persuade them to elect Mr. Vallandigham President as to believe Mr. Lincoln to be a new Aaron Burr.

The other argument against the renomination of the President is not theoretical, but practical; it is, that the people are mortified, humbled, and disappointed by the duration of the war, for which, says the pamphlet, nothing but the vacillating policy of the President is responsible. Yet, whoever will deliberately picture to himself the condition of the country and of the public mind at the beginning of the war; the utter lack of general belief that there was to be a war; the want of an army and a navy; the indifference and doubt of the great Democratic opposition at the North; the want of a sentiment of nationality; the question as to the coercive power of the Government; the political and social sympathy with the rebels; the hatred of abolitionism, and the careful excuse of men who said that they were willing to maintain the Union but not to touch slavery; the empty treasury; the universal scorn and jealousy of the Western European Powers; the long demoralization of the public mind, which had been carefully wrought by Calhoun and his political school, which had so long controlled the Government, and so successfully that some men now in high office were willing to let the South go—whoever will recall all this will probably agree that the President had before him a task which required infinite sagacity, patience, and moderation. His success would depend upon his ability to interpret the real popular sentiment, and to distinguish between enthusiasm and conviction. If he lagged, or went too fast, he would equally fail. Every step he took must seem wise to the great public mind, whether it pleased or displeased the ardent van of thinkers and talkers, who are the educators, but not the representatives, of public opinion. Elected as a Republican, known as the author of the saying in reference to slavery and freedom in this country, "A house divided against itself can not stand," supposed (as he was supposed at that time) to be ruled by the Secretary of State,

who had declared the existence of the irrepressible conflict, Mr. Lincoln knew that whatever might be the love of the Union—and even that was to be proved—the hate of abolitionism was practically universal. His object was, it must have been, to have a party to sustain the Government, and that party must be, so far as practicable, the undivided North. Senator Yulee, of Florida, had openly said in Washington what every body feared: "The North will have enough to do to take care of itself." Franklin Pierce had written to Jefferson Davis that the war would be at the North. Had the President made a mistake, Yulee and Pierce would have been true prophets. Had the President said on the 15th April, 1861, "Slavery has attacked the Union, slavery is abolished," the suspicious jealousy of the Opposition would have burst into full cry: "There! we knew it. He takes advantage of a riot in South Carolina to overthrow the Union and plunge us into civil war." But the President, equal to his great office in the most solemn crisis of our history, said, simply, "The Union and Government must be maintained by force;" and the country, with its party-spirit paralyzed, cried, "Amen!"

The President knew, what every thinking man knew, that the terrible light of war would illuminate the whole question of its origin and scope. He knew that every gun and rifle and pistol was a more persuasive anti-slavery orator than had ever been heard; that every drop of the blood of sons and brothers and friends would wash clear a thousand eyes that had been blinded, and that before long public opinion would justify and demand measures which some men then saw to be inevitable, but for which the country was not yet ready. Therefore, when General Fremont, one of those men, issued his order, the President said, "No, not yet. The policy must be general when it is adopted, and I must be the judge of the time and the way." So to General Hunter he said in substance: "I do not deny that it play become necessary to do what you have done, but I am the person to order it." There were many faithful men who, when they heard his words, said, sadly, "He does not understand the case, and we are lost." There were many faithless men who thought, "The rebellion is sure of success." If you say that he ought to have trusted the popular enthusiasm, which would have supported the extremest measures, at least you confess that it is only a question of relative sagacity between you and the President. You think the people were ready. He thought they were not. And observe that now, more than two years afterward, the Senate of the United States, almost purged of secessionists, can not make up its mind to pay colored soldiers, who have most bravely fought for the flag, the wages which the Government expressly agreed to pay them. Do you suppose they would debate the point a quarter of au hour if these soldiers were white? The President can not rightfully do what he honestly thinks the people ought to wish, but what he honestly thinks they do wish, because only what they do wish will stand. There were men enough who said, when General Fremont's order came, "Certainly; arm the slaves, and they will make short work of rebels." But within six months these same men were sighing for well-stocked plantations. The sagacity which distinguishes between the furious but evanescent gust of excitement and enthusiasm and the steady trade-wind of principle is the very quality to be desired in a chief magistrate at this time; and among all the prominent men in our history from the beginning none have ever shown the power of understanding the popular mind so accurately as Mr. Lincoln. Nothing is more natural and more common than that an ardent man should in one breath declare that the people wish this or that course to be pursued, and in the next sneer at the President because he yields only to a pressure of the people. What should he yield to? And did Mr. Lincoln ever resist it? Did he ever lag behind it? The President can not treat the nation as a general does an army, and make it subject to his arbitrary will; and although the Constitution wisely intrusts during war the most important powers to his discretion, that discretion consists in his wise estimate of the conviction and desire of the public mind as to their exercise.

From the beginning of his term the President has evidently been persuaded that this was a people's war: that, if the people were wise and brave enough, they would save the Union and the Government; and if they were not, then that no leader could or ought to save them. Twenty months ago he was without a party. The Copperheads hated him; the "Conservative Republicans" thought him too fast; the "Radical Republicans" thought him too slow; the War Democrats were looking for the chance of a return to political power. He held steadily upon his way. As he thought the country ready he took each advancing step. He issued the preparatory proclamation. He followed it with the New Year's decree. He wrote the Greeley letter, the Vallandigham letter, the Springfield letter, simple, plain, direct; letters which the heart of every man in the land interpreted, and, unlike any other instance in our political annals, every letter he wrote, every speech he made, brought him nearer to the popular heart; so that now it is a little too late to call him "well-meaning," "incompetent,"

"a mere joker," because it is the general conviction that he is no man's puppet; that he listens respectfully to his Cabinet and then acts from his own convictions; that by his calm and cheerful temperament, by his shrewd insight, his practical sagacity, his undaunted patience, his profound faith in the people and their cause, he is peculiarly fitted for his solemn and responsible office. Nor is it likely that the people who elected him when he was comparatively unknown will discard him because, in the fierce light of war which tries every quality and exposes every defect, he has steadily grown in popular love and confidence.

OUR DUTY TO LOYAL SOUTHERNERS.

A PARTY of loyal Texans, attempting to escape to our lines, were lately almost entirely destroyed in the Kenosha Valley, and all the roads are reported to be securely guarded to prevent escaping. On the other hand, our prisoners who broke away from Richmond report that eighteen men were confined at Castle Thunder for attempting the life of Jefferson Davis. These facts show how deadly and complete the terror of the South is, and indicate that there is but one way to release the people, which is the absolute occupation of the country. However deluded the people of the Slave States may have been, however intense their hatred of the Yankees and the "Lincoln despotism," they have long since seen that the rebellion is a ghastly failure. It has not kept one of its promises. It has succeeded in nothing but the entire ruin of the whole country in which it rages. Its utter futility and bold folly are now evident to the dullest devotee of slavery, and its acts will henceforth be those of ferocity and desperation.

Meanwhile the fate of the hapless Union men within the area of the rebellion is one of the great tragedies of history. Marked, insulted, outraged, murdered, their country is a hell to them, and their only hope of salvation lies in the stalwart arms and strong hearts of their fellow-citizens at the North. It is in this view that the conduct of certain members of Congress and newspapers in the loyal States is not only contemptible but virtually criminal. When, for instance, a man says that there is a tendency to place us at the North under a similar terror to that of the South, and that between a Davis despotism and a Lincoln despotism there is very little to choose, he says and implies what he knows to be false. He deliberately mocks the bitter agony of the loyal men at the South, and by doing what he can to destroy popular support of the Government of the United States he conspires with Toombs, Benjamin, Cobb, Wigfall, and the rest of the wretched rebel crew, to shed the innocent blood of faithful citizens. At this moment to be a Copperhead is to be infamous. It is to sustain the men who in the Kenosha Valley and elsewhere murder escaping loyal Texans. It is to encourage the soldiers of Lee, and Longstreet, and Johnston to hold out. It is to say to the doubting, hoping, fearing slaves, "Your chains shall be riveted again." It is to befriend treason, to foster anarchy, to betray liberty.

If these truths were borne constantly in mind the Copperheads would be made to feel the weight of social obloquy more heavily than hitherto. The plea of an honest difference of opinion is inadmissible. If a man be honestly a rebel, let him take that position. If he be unconditionally for the country and Government, let him stand earnestly by them. If he vociferate that he is for them, and by all he says and does incessantly cheers the rebels and disheartens loyal men, let him expect and receive the consideration due to the basest falsehood.

GUROWSKI'S DIARY.

COUNT GUROWSKI'S book must not be dismissed with a smile or sneer. It is the criticism of an inflexible, unreasonable, brave, fanatical, sincere European republican and revolutionaire upon the conduct of a constitutional Government. The book rages and troths with fury. Every man who does not succeed is a dolt, a craven, or a traitor. The lantern is the only argument to be tolerated. The President is a fool; the Secretary of State is a knave; the Secretary of the Treasury is a block-head; General Halleck is a personage for whom no language furnishes a sufficiently contemptuous epithet. In fact, a tornado of abuse whirls through the work from the first page to the last, overwhelming every one except a few arbitrary favorites of the author.

And yet the book, like the one published last year, is only an extravagant expression of opinions frequently expressed in many circles. Their value may be more readily apprehended when they are thus gravely set forth in print. If the tone of the work were just, what hope would there be for the country or the world? If the popular system ended in nothing but the exaltation of boobies, dastards, and traitors, who would not wish the rebellion to succeed? The Count, with evident sincerity, offers his homage to the people. But who could help despising a people who would be so duped by transparent charlatans, and who could help distrusting their judgment wherever and however expressed? Count Gurowski, it seems to us, even after his long residence and faithful study, does not understand America or the American people. When he exclaims, after the sad day of Fredericksburg, that in (Next Page)


 

 

  

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