Free America

 

This Site:

Civil War

Civil War Overview

Civil War 1861

Civil War 1862

Civil War 1863

Civil War 1864

Civil War 1865

Civil War Battles

Confederate Generals

Union Generals

Confederate History

Robert E. Lee

Civil War Medicine

Lincoln Assassination

Slavery

Site Search

Civil War Links

 

Revolutionary War

Mexican War

Republic of Texas

Indians

Winslow Homer

Thomas Nast

Mathew Brady

Western Art

Civil War Gifts

Robert E. Lee Portrait


Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 18, 1865

 

 

Thirteenth Amendment

Thirteenth Amendment

Free America

Free America

Savannah Fire

Savannah Fire

Peace Commission

Peace Commission

Valentines Day

Valentines Day

General Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Deserter

Execution of Deserter

Lincoln Cartoon

Lincoln Cartoon

Treasury

Treasury Department

Charleston Prison

Charleston Prison

 

 

 

 

 

 

HARPER'S WEEKLY

[FEBRUARY 18, 1865.

98

FREE AMERICA.

A SHOUT of joy is ringing through the land,

And men long bowed and broken rise and stand, As if uplifted by God's bared right hand

Our country shall be free !

The great decree enfolds the final deed; No doubtful future closes round our need; The blessed fruit hangs ripe within the seed

Our country now is free!

Our mighty sacrifice has wafted sweet Prevailing incense to God's judgment-seat; Our martyrs sitting by the angels' feet

Know their earth-home is free.

God said, "Let Freedom be," as erst "Let Light," And burst a new creation on our sight,

Created in our hearts, and named aright

America the Free!

By this we pass from pain to realms of balm, Striking our lessening tumult through with calm, Harmonious, holy, happy, with the psalm

Our native land is free.

O'er life's warm heights within the luminous sky, Through death's cold vales where endless shadows lie, Ring forth the psalm to all who live and die

Our land our land is free!

Almighty God ! we swear by Thy high throne, Though pain, blood, peril in our path be sown, This glorious land we now may call our own

Shall be forever free !

HARPER' WEEKLY.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1865.

THE CONFERENCE IN HAMPTON
ROADS.

THE Conference of Tilsit ended in a breach of faith upon the part of ALEXANDER of Russia with his allies and his acceptance of NAPOLEON'S terms. That is to say, NAPOLEON having conquered ALEXANDER in battle, informed him upon what terms he might have peace. This is the natural and historical end of every war. When two parties appeal to the sword, the sword inevitably and alone decides. It may be ingeniously masked, but it is there, and its edge is the true arbitrator.

This is as true in our war as it has ever been in any. Indeed it is peculiarly true in ours, as we endeavored to show last week, because the point at issue is so vital and so simple. The indefatigable reporters at Washington and elsewhere, and the extraordinary editors, who print upon one page the most harrowing accounts of the atrocious barbarism of rebels toward loyal soldiers, and upon another speak of the rebel chiefs as " eminent Confederates," have produced a very unnecessary confusion in the public mind by talking of "terms," and " negotiations," and " treaties," and " concessions."

For our own part we have constantly attempted to show, and it is constantly necessary to repeat, that, despite the duration and scope and infinite sorrow of the war, the question is not only very simple, but its solution is perfectly plain. The authority of the Government of the United States is attacked. That authority will be maintained or lost. It can not be partly maintained and partly lost, for the same reason that a man's honor or a woman's virtue can not be ; for the same reason that twice two can not sometimes make four and sometimes three ; for the same reason that white can not be partly black, and good partly bad, The just authority of the Government is supreme, or it is not. It is not supreme if it yields any just authority to force ; and it does yield to force if the force does not utterly fail.

To suppose that the President or Secretary SEWARD could propose any thing but unconditional submission, first of all, was to suppose that they were hopeless of subduing the rebellion or that they were traitors. The latter supposition was ludicrous. The former was impossible, because the President had already said in his Message that peace was always to be had upon submission; and the Secretary had said at the meeting of the Christian Commission, only three days before he went to Fortress Monroe, that it only remained for a party vanquished in the field to offer its submission. The conference in Hampton Roads was thus, not only by the necessities of the case which they understood, but by their own expressed and natural intelligence of the situation, reduced to one simple question and answer : "Do you submit ?" If the answer was Yes, there would be peace. If the answer was No, there would be war.

As to what the answer was likely to be no man competent to form an opinion could differ. The gentlemen who mysteriously hinted that peace was much nearer than was generally supposed, who did not wish to excite public expectation but if the public expectation was great, it would probably not be disappointed seem to us simply to have forgotten the history of the last thirty years which some of them are engaged in nobly writing.

The rebel agents, or " eminent Confederates," were the representatives of the men who will fight to the last moment, and then retreat upon the provision they have made in Europe. Rebels like DAVIS and BENJAMIN do not wish, and do not mean, to become once more loyal citizens of the United States. They mean to hurl every man they can against the bayonets of United

States soldiers, and when they see they can hurl no more, then to save themselves. And this they will do just so long as they can control the military despotism which " eminent Confederates" call " the Confederate Government." To suppose that such men would send agents to offer their submission, is to betray a credulity and an ignorance of the workings of human nature, and of the lessons of universal history almost beyond belief.

The question of "dignity" in the course of the President does not, we confess, seem to us very distressing. The facts are at this writing not known beyond the single one of his repairing to Fortress Monroe. The reasons of his going there rather than remaining in Washington may be many ; but there is one which may have weighed heavily with him, and that is, the absolute freedom from interlopers which was secured by going there, to which may be added the presence of Lieutenant-General GRANT if wanted. If the Commissioners were to be received and heard at all, and probably no one will deny that they were, then it was mainly a question of convenience in what spot they should be received. That the President went part way to meet them shows how earnest and hearty is his wish to satisfy the most skeptical that he does all he can do to attain peace. If the rebel agents had really come to offer unconditional submission, should we have been profoundly troubled that the President went to Old Point ? And even if, upon a knowledge of the facts, we should think that it would have been better to receive the agents at Washington, we should certainly consider it a very venial offense in the President to hold another view.

The result of the interview will, we hope, satisfy every man and editor that our business is not to suppose, nor to lead others to suppose, that every time an enthusiastic youth or a veteran politician believes himself called to be the medium of peace, it is worth while to speculate in double leads about any of the possible consequences. If the visit of Mr. BLAIR to Richmond produced the rebel embassy, the truth still remained unchanged, that, if they did not come to propose unconditional submission, we were no nearer peace than we were before. The rebels who figured as peace apostles at Niagara Falls last summer are alleged to be the chief engineers of the diabolical plot to burn the cities of the North, and of the murderous raids along the border. They too are " eminent Confederates," we suppose ; but fine words butter no parsnips.

A body of unscrupulous chiefs are waging war upon the Government. They control a population which has been trained for more than a generation in the bitterest hostility to that Government and to their fellow citizens at the North. This population is ignorant and brave, The contest, waged for four years, has shown the inability of the chief conspirators to overthrow the Government. But until their armies are thoroughly beaten, or until the imminence of universal disaster produces a reaction which disposes of the chiefs, the rebellion will continue, and the dream of Peace is folly.

THE AMENDMENT.

IT can not be said that the Yankees do not learn. When the war began, General BUTLER offered his soldiers to repress movements of the slaves. Generals HALLECK and McCLELLAN made themselves disagreeably notorious in repelling the best sources of information ; and from one end of the country to the other it was agreed that it was a war for the Union only. So it was ; so it has been ; so it will be to the end. But that the Union and Slavery were henceforth incompatible, and that the country must choose the one or the other, was by no means a general popular conviction.

At the opening of the fifth year of the war, the country having thought the matter over, has now seen what some men have always seen, that Slavery in a Union like ours has been, and always must be, the root of civil war. Congress, therefore, recommends the constitutional abolition of Slavery, and the country cries Amen ! This result has been so inevitable since the war began that the only surprise now is the agreeable one that the present Congress has done the work.

As for the fifty-six members who voted against the proposition it is difficult to speak with sufficient condemnation or contempt. A system opposed to every divine law and humane instinct obtains, under the conviction that it is rapidly perishing, a foothold in the Union. Suddenly it renews its life ; swells into towering importance; debauches and demoralizes the nation ; controls legislation by open threats ; and finally loses its absolute and universal ascendency in every department of the Government. Thereupon it organizes a fierce conspiracy, and for four years tries to destroy the nation. At last the nation decides to remove it, and fifty-six representatives resist upon the incredible ground that it is an inopportune time; that the public mind is excited; and that the rebels themselves do not share in the legislation for its extinction, According to this extraordinary theory, when a patient lies in mortal peril from a fever contracted in the fetid air of his chamber, it is better to wait until he is cured before the room is venti

lated, The absurdity would be irresistible if the folly were not criminal.

A body of fifty-six Charles Firsts of England, or as many Charles Tenths of France, is the only parallel we can imagine for this ludicrous group of American citizens. Neither the French nor the English Charles would ever believe that the people were in earnest. Neither the Bourbon nor the Stuart could learn any thing from arguments or from blows, And this faction in the free States, which moribund Slavery leads by the nose, is at once the Jacobin and Jacobite element in our polities ; Jacobin in its appeals to all that is most dastardly in human nature, and Jacobite in its tenacious clutch upon whatever denies the original rights of men.

For the last twenty years events have been trying the public men of this country until the very dregs at last appear. It is the most terrible record of the century. An honorable man hereafter would a thousandfold rather say that his ancestor voted against separation from Great Britain than that he voted against giving a lawful, peaceful chance of freedom to the slaves in America. The fortunes made in the slave trade is popularly held to be tainted ; but what shall be said of the reputation made by solemnly voting against the legal removal of the inhuman atrocities of Slavery ?

CROWS.

THERE are crows that fly " in heaven's sweetest air," and we have been always inclined to rank among them the lugubrious Greek who would count no man happy until he died. But certainly we include in this doleful company the croakers who continually sigh that nothing is done while any thing remains to do. If the sun is to rise at seven o'clock, they tell you at half past six that nothing has happened yet. If they were sailing to India, and had passed the Cape of Good Hope, they would still insist that, as they had not arrived, there was plainly no chance of arriving.

These are the gentlemen who are always sure that the rebellion can not be suppressed. It is in vain that SHERIDAN scatters EARLY in the Shenandoah ; in vain that THOMAS routs HOOD in Tennessee ; in vain that SHERMAN sweeps resistless through Georgia ; in vain that Fort Fisher falls before PORTER and TERRY; in vain that GRANT holds Richmond in his unrelaxing grasp. They hear they admit ; they smile a sickly smile, and wish they could see it as other people do but really they can not.

Of course we are speaking of the genuine growlers, not of those who affect to doubt the success of the Government that they may do their little all to prevent it. The smiling gentry who say, jauntily, " Oh, you can't put the rebels down !" or, sneeringly, " The rebels won't surrender !" speak partly from party rancor, partly from malice, and partly from dullness. They are worthy of the same attention as the fiercest Richmond papers, but no more.

But those of whom we speak are truly patriotic, truly anxious for the national success. Indeed it may be the very ardor of their wishes, acting upon a morbid temperament, that makes them petulant of believing in victory. But we assure them there is yet ground of hope for the national cause. Affairs are not yet utterly desperate for the Union. There is still reason to believe that GRANT, SHERMAN, THOMAS, FARRAGUT, PORTER, SHERIDAN, and TERRY will not suddenly prove to be dolts, and their seamen and soldiers cowards. Be cheerful, gentlemen! Try to understand that if you are walking a mile you need not despair at the end of two thousand yards.

Remember in what condition this country was when Great Bethel and Bull Run were fought, not only of military but of mental preparation. Remember how long and long we were preparing to strike, and how disastrously for ourselves the blow was at last delivered. Remember how we rallied from the Peninsula and BUELL; how the great debate went on, enlightening the public mind as to the real significance of the war, until at length we stand where we do today, the policy of the war confirmed by the most prodigious popular approval, the cause of the war constitutionally removed, and the ablest generals and admirals developed by the greatest victories.

Or look at the situation in detail. THOMAS is encamped upon the Tennessee, and there is no rebel force of any importance in the Southwest to resist him. SHERMAN is moving in Carolina ; SHERIDAN holds the Shenandoah;. the only port of foreign intercourse and blockade running is closed ; and GRANT sits waiting before Richmond. Now this may be a very desperate war, but still it is war. The rebels may be very determined men, but still they are men. War has its inexorable conditions, and human nature its laws. After incessant and disastrous defeats, after the constant loss of men, material, and territory, war ends; and after being baffled, conquered, humiliated on every side, human nature succumbs. Cannon balls may not persuade a party that it is wrong, but they will presently persuade it that it can no longer advantageously fight. Why should not SHERMAN advance northward to join GRANT? and, once united with him, what will LEE do ? Can he hope to give battle in, the open field? Can he

stay in Richmond ? If he goes, can be expect to do more than prolong the death struggle of the military rebellion ?

These are a few of the considerations which we submit to our dismal friends. They need not feed upon apprehensions nor fatten upon doubts. If, in contemplating the public situation, they will use the same common sense as in viewing their private affairs, they will soon reach the conclusion that universal laws are as sure in the one as in the other.

SPAIN AT THE CONFESSIONAL.

THE most remarkable point in the proposition of NARVAEZ, the Spanish Prime Minister, to relinquish the war in San Domingo and to renounce all claim to the island is the reason he alleges for his action. Spain had supposed, he said, that the people of San Domingo wished to be reincorporated with the Spanish nation ; and the right inherent in the unanimous wish of a people is, says the Prime Minister of Spain, a right not disputed. When protests appeared it was still the duty of the Government, he thinks, to ascertain whether they proceeded from the people or from a discontented few. The Government has, in his opinion, satisfied that duty. San Domingo is virtually in arms against annexation, and Spain yields to the indisputable popular wish, and retires.

This is precisely the colonial policy urged upon Great Britain by the wisest of her liberal party. When the mother country, they say perceives that the colonies are self supporting and wish to stand alone, let her not repeat the tragical experiment of GEORGE III., but bless them and let them go. Then she becomes truly the mother of noble nations, whose institutions she has inspired, and whose sympathies will be always hers.

Spain, in the case of San Domingo, has doubt, less made a merit of necessity. The truth is, she has found she can not scourge the ancient colony back, and so says, loftily, " Depart, my son, and take my blessing." The renunciation may be a little amusing in itself, but the principle which is relied upon to justify it is really nothing less than that of our own revolution, the right of the people to settle their own government. The principle goes further than NARVAEZ or any Spanish minister would like to follow it, for it justifies the Spanish Revolution of 1812 and of 1823. The proposition of NARVAEZ declares, in direct opposition to the doctrine of the Holy Alliance, that governments are founded upon public opinion, and not upon the divine right of kings.

This is another indication of the new political epoch of the world. The wars of the Holy Alliance in Europe, and the rebellion of Slavery in this country, are the last desperate struggles of the ancient system which founded government upon the concessions of a privileged class, and not upon the natural rights of men from which flows the doctrine of the consent of the governed. " We are essentially aristocratic," said JOHN C. CALHOUN. "We seceded to rid ourselves of the rule of the majority," said JEFFERSON DAVIS. Both of these sentiments are in harmony with the late protest of the Pope against modern times, and the laws of human development. They are both worthy of TILMER or of JOSEPH LE MAISTRE.

In his friendly eulogy upon EDWARD EVERETT, the historian BANCROFT in his clear, nervous style, says that his friend would have failed in writing history, because he was not sufficiently accustomed to consider events as subordinate to law. Government is an experimental science, but some of its laws are as clear and computable as those of astronomy. And those in this country who have been in the habit of seriously supposing that the Southern politicians were really statesmen, may see, on the one hand, in the total ruin of all CALHHOUN'S theories, and, on the other, in the proposal of NARVAEZ, the difference between a disregard and perception of one of the fundamental laws of the science of government. If men who do not see events in subordination to law can not be historians, they can certainly not be statesmen.

OUR PRISONERS IN REBEL
HANDS.

MR. RICHARDSON is a witness risen from the dead. His testimony concerning the treatment of our prisoners by the rebels is so graphic, so harrowing, and so solemn that it should be universally known. He says plainly that the rebels, or the " eminent Confederates," are deliberately killing our robust young men by hunger and cold ; and when he escaped they were dying at the rate of thirteen per cent. per month a mortality which, as he truly says, would in forty-eight hours send the population of any city flying from it as from a pestilence ; for a fearful pestilence it would be. Now we have an excess of prisoners by at least fifteen or twenty thousand. " If we will not exchange," he asks, " why don't we retaliate ? and if we will not retaliate, why don't we exchange ?"

A very small part of the supplies sent to our prisoners from home ever reach them. They are stolen. We know also of instances in which Union officers from West Point have been robbed of cloaks, watches, and boots by their old class- (Next Page)


 

 

  

Site Copyright 2003-2014 Son of the South.  For Questions or comments about this collection, contact paul@sonofthesouth.net

Privacy Policy

Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.