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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 8, 1865

This site features our online version of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These papers have a wealth of incredible details on the conflict, including news reports and illustrations created by eye-witnesses to the historic events depicted. We hope you enjoy browsing this online resource.

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Columbia

Columbia, South Carolina

Amnesty

Amnesty

Fort Steadman

Battle of Fort Steadman

General Barnum

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Navy Yard

Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard

Freshets

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HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[APRIL 8, 1865.

210

(Previous Page) vestment is the work assigned to JOHNSTON. But it is a work to which his force is inadequate. Indeed how can LEE expect JOHNSTON to defeat SHERMAN while he must confess himself unable to defeat GRANT. As SHERMAN pushes forward, flanking JOHNSTON out of Raleigh and completing the siege of Richmond, the choice is given to LEE either to fight against terrible odds or to capitulate.

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 1865.

OUR RELATIONS WITH ENGLAND.

IT is a very instructive recreation to compare

the late debate upon the American question in the British House of Commons and that upon the Laird privateers in the same body two years ago. At that time Lord RUSSELL and Sir ROUNDELL PALMER announced that although privateers were constantly equipping and escaping from English ports, yet the Government had done all that the law required, while Lord PALMERSTON, with jaunty insolence, said that the Government had no thought whatever of asking a change in the law. The British Government thought the United States were in extremity, and politely sneered. It was very exasperating to us ; yet we have no reason to sup-pose that had England been in extremity we should have done very differently.

The radically different tone of the recent debate is the result of success. It was the sincere opinion of Mr. GLADSTONE, Chancellor of the Exchequer, that no government in existence was strong enough to subdue so enormous a rebellion as that of the slave interest against the Union. He was confident that England could not do it, that France could not do it. He was sure that the United States could not do it. He and his colleagues spoke from that conviction. But when, after four years, they see that it is being done when they reflect upon the triumphant army and navy which this Government has organized, and remember how unfriendly their official action has been, they naturally ask what are the chances of war with the United States; and the pliant PALMERSTON hastens to agree gingerly with JOHN BRIGHT, and to say that he is satisfied England will not give to America any just cause of complaint.

There is evidently much more apprehension of war in England than in this country. We are very sure that except for serious and stringent cause, which does not now exist, there will be no difficulty. That public opinion in this country considers the British Government to have made unfriendly haste in granting the rebels belligerent rights that the British ministers have spoken very offensively of this Government and the war that a large part of the English press has constantly and meanly maligned us all this is true. It will be remembered, but neither nation will go to war about it. A great deal of what Lord RUSSELL and Mr. GLADSTONE said was due to their profound ignorance of the character of our Government and of the spirit of the people a great deal also was to be justified by the statements made by Mr. DALLAS, the retiring minister under the BUCHANAN administration, and by the general tendency of opinion in American commercial circles. A great deal also was to be explained by the natural delight of every civilized power at seeing the country, whose foreign ministers had gravely proposed to rob other countries in the Ostend circular, suddenly convulsed by civil war. Nor will the historian forget that part of the political stock in trade of the party so long dominant in this country was an appeal to prejudices against England. A very slight acquaintance with our political annals will show him that, if England has not been especially friendly to the United States, the United States have not been impracticably charitable toward England. Mean while no honest Englishman will be disposed to deny that we have observed the obligations of neutrality during the wars in which England has recently been engaged more faithfully than England has observed them during the rebellion.

That Lord RUSSELL should gravely put forth a pain in Sir Somebody Something's stomach, as an explanation of a rebel privateer escaping from an English port, is as laughable as General SCOTT'S hasty plate of soup. In plain words, that the English Government were as anxious to prevent the sailing of the Alabama three years ago as they would be now nobody will pretend. Such a ship would, under no circumstances, now be allowed to leave an English port. But it was as possible to prevent it then as now : and the honorable obligation of neutrality was not less binding upon England in our dark day than it is in the sunshine of national success. England resorts to a technical defense of her neutral conduct. But had she believed from the beginning that we were sure to conquer, she would not have been satisfied with technicalities.

One of the firmest and most intelligent friends of the United States in England writes : "I can not altogether concur in your admiration of Mr. SEWARD'S dispatch in the Bahia affair : the legal positions in which I think he will find it difficult to sustain. I am most anxious that both the rights and duties of neutrals should be

enlarged, but we ought to be careful of confounding between what the law is, and what we wish it to be. I have seen no warrant, either in the works of any publicist or in the decision of any prize court, for regarding the Alabama and her companions as 'pirates.' I should be very glad to see such produced. Nor do I think there is any valid ground for the complaints of your Government on the score of our conceding maritime belligerence to the Confederates   .....How ever, I can not believe that there is any thing between us which may not and will not be ultimately settled   if in the mean time the two
nations can contrive to keep their tempers."

This is written in the most excellent and friendly spirit, and that which we believe will control the settlement of all differences with England. The objections the letter suggests are surely not destitute of reason. A pirate, for instance, is an ocean robber, stealing and destroying without a legal commission. But when an insurgent is recognized as a belligerent his right to wage war is acknowledged; and if he have a long sea coast, it is not easy to refuse him recognition as a maritime belligerent. It is for the recognizing power to decide whether it will take the risk of mortal offense to the government against which the insurrection is directed. But when it has done so, and has taken its part as a neutral, while it is bound by every means and with sleepless care to prevent the equipping of privateers in its ports, if, notwithstanding, a privateer escapes, and roves the sea under a commission of one of the acknowledged belligerents, it is certainly a question whether she is properly and technically a pirate.

This is but one illustration of the arguments which may be urged for the conduct of the British Government during the war. Yet with the openly confessed sympathies of the majority of Parliament, and the tone of the speeches of the British Ministers, it is hardly possible that when the authorities were so favorable to the evasion of the law the law should have been vigilantly enforced. British action may indeed be saved by the letter, but it has flagrantly violated the spirit.

The change in British opinion wrought by the development of the war is natural and will be seen with pleasure, although, of course, with a little contempt, by all faithful American citizens. Washington long ago told us in his Farewell Address : "There There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." We were shocked by the British official action, as we should have been by the coldness of a friend in our adversity. We forgot that our relation was one of interest merely. But whenever we are conscious that we have been to any nation truly and uniformly a friend, then, and then only, may we rightfully expect from her the conduct of a friend, and not of a trader or a selfish ally.

AMNESTY.

THE mischief which is done by the well meaning but foolish clamor that the President shall offer fresh terms of peace is incalculable. That the malignant Copperhead opposition should seek to embarrass the situation by representing him as averse to peace is natural; but that loyal papers should persistently poison the public mind with the impression that the President is reluctant or obtuse in the matter is most unfortunate. To destroy public confidence in the chief executive by incessant complaint that he does not act wisely to insinuate that peace is at every moment possible if only the President chose; to declare that the rebels are merely waiting for a kind word from him before laying down their arms, is to be guilty of the greatest injustice to him and the gravest injury to the country.

The President has already several times declared to the rebels and the world all that he has the authority to say upon the subject of peace. On the 8th of December, 1863, under the act of Congress which authorized him to promise pardon and amnesty to rebels with such exceptions and conditions as he chose, the President issued his amnesty proclamation. By this act he pardoned all rebels who should solemnly take and faithfully keep the oath of allegiance to the Government, restoring all rights of property except as to slaves, and excepting from the pardon certain classes of persons who have held civil or military positions, and who had treated our colored soldiers, seamen, laborers, and officers otherwise than as prisoners of war. Last summer he repeated the substance of this offer in saying to whom it might concern that submission to the laws and emancipation were the conditions of peace. On the 6th of December, 1864, the President in his Message renewed the offer of amnesty of the previous year, announcing, however, that the time might come when public duty would demand that the door of grace should be closed. On the 3d of February, at Hampton Roads, he repeated the conditions plainly : the restoration of the national authority, no modification of his position upon the slavery question, and no cessation of hostilities without a final disbanding of the insurgent armies.

What more can or ought the President to

do? " What we desire of the President," says one man, "is that he clear it [the subject] of all ambiguities, by publicly setting forth precisely what the Southern people hitherto in revolt against the Federal authority are to gain or save by promptly throwing down the weapons of rebellion and returning to loyalty and peace." This is exactly what the President has done, and repeated, and reiterated. It is just as well known today to every man who cares to know it as it could be if it were announced twice a week. His amnesty is addressed to the rank and file of the rebel army, to the deluded people of the South. It could not be clearer or more complete. More than he offers he ought not to offer, nor would public opinion justify. As a citizen of the United States he may believe, as we do, that there is no desire of blood or revenge in the hearts of loyal men. But as President he certainly ought not to say that DAVIS, HUNTER, & Co. shall not be indicted, tried, and punished for treason. The pardoning power is not a dispensing power.

There is no conceivable good end to be accomplished by insisting that with every step of General SHERMAN the President ought to say to the rebels, " There ! will you give it up now? Do, please." The rank and file of the rebel armies and the citizens of the Southern States know perfectly well that when they take the oath of allegiance in good faith they are not molested, and are in no danger of a trial for treason. If they do not know it, after four distinct proclamations of the fact, a fifth will not help them. To say that our armies open a way to reach the people with the fifth is idle, because as fast and as far as they go the amnesty goes with them. When the President is ready to offer other conditions and exceptions he will say so. Until then humanity and national dignity require him to do exactly what he is doing.

NEW YORK LEGISLATION.

IT is customary to revile the Legislature of New York as the most venal body in the country. At the Chicago Convention of 1860, which nominated Mr. LINCOLN, the most serious opposition to the nomination of Mr. SEWARD sprang from the fear which extended from Maine to Iowa that his election would transfer Albany to Washington. The whole country reads the New York papers, and New York politics are consequently universally familiar.

The bad reputation of Albany, as a political centre, dates from the days of the ancient " regency" of the Democratic party, in which VAN BUREN, MARCY, and CROSWELL were " eminent confederates." They ruled the State with severity. Their system was STAFFORD'S " thorough." Its most fatal result was the demoralization of some of their political opponents who, when they came into power, having seen the method and results of the regency, continued them under another name, so that it seemed doubtful whether public morality were really to be the gainer by the change. But no party could possibly be so corrupt as that which was tainted by the long and loathsome embrace of Slavery. The Metropolitan Police bill was one of the fruits of improving legislation. The Voting Registry law was another. Meanwhile the venality of the Legislature was still loudly affirmed, but the Lobby was less confident ; and the defeat of the bill to increase the rates of the Central Railroad must be regarded as a victory of the majority of the Legislature over the most specious and seductive power in the State. It shows that the Union Legislature is emancipated from the absolute control of the Lobby ; and the fact is significant that the members who vote and talk against every measure looking to Constitutional emancipation, who decry the Government and sympathize with the rebellion, throw their votes for monopoly and jobbery as for slavery and aristocracy : "Consistent," as THACKERAY said of GEORGE I., " in their preference for every kind of corruption."

We do not presume to fathom the mysteries of legislation, nor to suppose that because a good thing is done virtue is suddenly enthroned upon Capitol Hill. What is to become of the myriad city railroad bills no man is wise enough to foresee, although many may be foolish enough to foretell. The complication of interests and motives; the understanding that Tom shall be tickled if he will tickle Bill ; that I will vote for yours if you will vote for mine ; with the unhesitating bribery of which every man knows who knows any thing all these prevent implicit faith that truth is the only end the legislators have in view, and justice their only desire. In all that, however, we thank any Legislature for doing a good thing.

There are two other bills which we hope may become laws. The Metropolitan Sanitary bill is of primary importance. It is the beginning of the only municipal reform which is truly radical. While the work proposed by it remains undone, all other effort for the reduction of taxes and the cleansing of the city government is useless. No argument can enforce the facts presented in the address of Dr. SMITH, to which we alluded last week. Intelligence is impossible while men are imbruted, and without intelligence there is no political improvement.

The other bill is that creating a Paid Fire Department. Whatever the advantages of the

present method, and however great the merit of many volunteer firemen, the system is not wise or safe. It has been abundantly tried and found wanting. It is not credible that good men who now serve as volunteers would not serve if they were paid honest wages for honest work ; and that public morality, order, and industry would be the losers if " bunking" disappeared, they may believe who will.

The Senate has appointed a committee to investigate the condition of the city administration. The character of its members is the certificate of its earnestness and ability. All these measures show that there is a disposition in the Legislature to deal honorably and effectively with the public interests. But the Assembly, annually elected, is less truly responsible than the people. Every honest man in the State is interested that honest and capable men go to Albany. It is an enormous sacrifice for any man to leave his home and business and sit in the Assembly ; but in every district in the State there are some men in easy circumstances, and of character universally respected, and from them the sacrifice should be demanded.

A SOUTH CAROLINA HERO.

"THERE was a man in Charleston," says a private letter from South Carolina NELSON MITCHELL byname, who died about eight months ago, leaving, I believe, a wife and two children poor and uncared for   From the beginning he
has reasoned with the people, and that openly, about the whole matter. Twice he was sentenced to be hung by a secret Military Commission, but the authorities never could find a man to do the work. A lawyer by profession, and an antislavery man by education, he undertook a task which ought ever to make his memory honored by the negroes and those interested in their condition. After the unsuccessful assault upon Wagner in July, 1863, a military court was convened to try the black prisoners captured from the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts regiment. It was decided after some delay that military courts had no jurisdiction in the case, and that the matter should be handed over to the State. MITCHELL volunteered as counsel for the men, and after five months' trial he gained his point and convinced a South Carolina jury that these men were free. To do this you can imagine how fearlessly this brave soul must have worked. An intelligent quadroon told me that he was present during the last ten or twelve sessions, and that MITCHELL'S eloquence was perfectly startling; at any rate, it had the effect of awakening the jury so much to the importance of the decision that I suppose they were really frightened into a favorable verdict.

" He has never been publicly mentioned at Charleston since then, except in very doubtful terms; they did not dare to touch him because he seemed to be so thoroughly in earnest, and he died from the effect of poverty and want   
Every night before going to bed NELSON MITCHELL took his wife and children to his room, and, after having locked the door and shut the blinds, hung an American flag out over his mantle and sat there by it in conversation with his family. The evening that he died his house was struck by one of our shells from Cummings Point, and his family thus left more destitute than ever. They are being very well looked after now, and I don't think will be allowed to suffer much

hereafter   For all this service he had the displeasure of the authorities and the coldness of the people ; but the way in which the negroes talk about him is very tender."

Nothing can be added to this simple narrative. Among all South Carolinians we have ever heard of, NELSON MITCHELL alone seems truly chivalric. Through all the intolerable gasconade and inhuman sophistry of the absurd State, his plea for the black prisoners is the sole ennobling sound. Is it to CALHOUN, and to the fine gentlemen and ladies his followers, or to NELSON MITCHELL, that the great Master speaks: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me?"

A FULL EXPLANATION.

THE Richmond Whig solemnly says that the slaves should be organized into military companies as soon as possible. " The act of Congress," urges this wise counselor, "and any State legislation bearing on the subject should be fully explained to them."

That will be very easily done. The act is very short, and the last section provides that the soldiers shall remain slaves unless their masters emancipate then. There will be no difficulty whatever in making them comprehend the case. They are to be organized, drilled, sent into the camp, the trenches, and the field. They are to fight the Yankees who have declared they shall be free, and as a reward for fighting them they are to remain slaves, and their children's children after them, forever. If this programme, when "fully explained," does not make efficient soldiers of them, what will ?

The universal testimony of all our officers in the field, and of those who have traveled through the interior of the South as they escaped from rebel prisons, is that the slaves are the truest friends of the Union, and know the Yankees to be their friends. The name of Massa Linkum is the name of their deliverer; and there is not a Yankee who, finding (Next Page)


 

 

  

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