Black Laws in Illinois


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 11, 1865

You are viewing a page from the original February 11, 1865 edition of Harper's Weekly. These old newspapers allow you to read the news of the war, and learn new insights from these first edition reports. The papers are full of interesting news articles, and wood cut illustrations. This material is from our private collection, which we are posting to the internet.

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Confederate Ironclads

Confederate Ironclads

Black Laws

Abolish Slavery

Congress Votes to Abolish Slavery

General Garrard

General Kenner Garrard

General Hazen

General Hazen


Smithsonian Fire

Oil Speculators

Oil Speculation


Smithsonian Institure Fire

Fire at the Smithsonian Institute

Sherman in Savannah

General Sherman in Savannah Georgia


Civil War Scout






[FEBRUARY 11, 1865.


(Previous Page) aground, but escaped at high tide. The land batteries prevented the success of this raid, the most prominent among them being the Curtis House Battery.


Boom! boom! boom!

'Twas the sullen signal-gun;

And through the early morning gloom

It pealed like the trump of a dreadful doom; And the tired sleeper woke with a start, And wondered what should be his part In the tragedy that must soon begin; Whether the Right should lose or win,

And where he should be when the day was done.

But his reverie could not last:

"Fall in! fall in!" was the cry;

And with one thought of the happy past, One glance that was suddenly, lovingly cast At a picture that nestled close to his heart, A glance that made the warm tears start, One breathing of prayer, one cheery word

To the mustering ranks, he grasped his sword And sprung to the front to do or die.

Then a hundred cannon roared,

And a hundred bugles blared,

And over the ramparts the heroes poured

With bayonet fixed and flashing sword;

And across the plain, where the storm of death Came sweeping down with its fiery breath,

And up the hill, where the surly foe

Like an ambushed lion was crouching low,

They marched, tho' they knew it was death they dared.

His voice was steady and clear,

His heart was cheerful and strong;

In his face there lingered no line of fear, The fire in his eye had dried the tear, And cheerily rung his word of command As he shouted back to his gallant band. They were falling fast, but he did not quail, And steadily up, through the leaden hail, He led his confident braves along.

Right up to the rampart grim

Where the rebel flag was floating;

Right up to the awful crater's rim

The sturdy veterans followed him.

"Forward! boys, forward!" they heard him cry; Then a blast of death went howling by,

And when it had passed he was lying still, And his braves were staggering down the hill, And the air was rent with the rebel shouting.

Oh, who can tell the rest?

Is he lying silently now

With the frozen clods above his breast? Alas! God knoweth what is best;

But better, far better, our poor hearts say, To pour out his life in the fiery fray Than slowly to die in the loathsome cell Of a terrible Southern prison hell:

God knoweth the best—to His will we bow.



THE gentlemen who find comfort in the visits of Mr. BLAIR or of any one else to JEFFERSON DAVIS or any other rebel, must not suppose that they monopolize the wish for peace, nor that those who estimate such visits at their exact value are an extreme war party. Neither need they delude themselves with the fancy that it is a profitable thing to send secret agents to sound the intentions of the rebel chiefs because Lord NORTH sent commissioners to ascertain the views of the Continental Congress. The effort to assimilate this rebellion to the American revolution, in whatever manner it may be made, must inevitably fail. The rebels do not appeal to the right of revolution to redress wrongs otherwise without remedy ; they plead the right of secession to be exercised at their discretion.

If this truth is borne steadily in mind it will be seen that the difficulty is one that does not admit of compromise or terms of surrender. It is a defiance of national sovereignty, based upon a different interpretation of the fundamental law. There can be but two parties : the party of the national sovereignty at all hazards, and the party of its enemies. A third party is impossible, because there can be no compromise of supreme sovereignty. It may be sacrificed, it may be reduced, but then it becomes another thing. It has ceased to be supreme. In our case it is a contest of powers. Is the nation supreme ? Is the State supreme? Supreme and sovereignty are both words with a distinct meaning; and there can be no difficulty in seeing that one must yield to the other, and in the nature of things the yielding must be entire. The State must surrender absolutely the essential powers known as sovereign, or the nation must. There is no compromise between life and death. While the body is living in the least there is no death. The attribute of supreme sovereignty is indivisible.

Now it is easy to see that all DAVIS or any rebel can say is one of two things. He may say that he will acknowledge the national supremacy, or he may promise that he will do so provided the Government will accede to some condition he may name. He must say one of these things, or he must fight on without saying any thing. But if he says the last, he can not be listened to, and if he agrees to the first he will do so without being asked. What then is gained by incessantly knocking at his door and politely inquiring whether he has made up his mind?

If there are those who believe that the Government is bent upon war without reason and without end, they are not to be persuaded. In their view, whatever the Government does is

wrong. They are like children in the sulks. If you try to pacify them by the most contrary expedients it is equally useless. If you walk or sit, if you talk or are silent, it is all the same. It is the essence of discontent to be discontented ; and human ingenuity was never yet without a plausible excuse for the wildest contradictions and absurdities. An old Cavalier would as soon have named his son Praise God or Zealin-the-land as an opponent of the war be appeased or satisfied with any act of the Government.

But those who see this, and who knew from the beginning what the issue of all such peace embassies must be, are not to be lightly called an extreme war party because they understand the matter better than the dabblers in hopeless projects of peace.

The words, " extreme war party," are used as a term of contempt or censure. But how are they contemptible who insist upon maintaining civil order against causeless rebellion ? and why should they be censured who demand an unconditional surrender of armed rebels? If by " extreme war party" is meant those who wish for vengeance, then the term describes a very few people so few, that most men do not know of their existence.

For there is no wish of vengeance, but only of peace that shall endure. We have very little doubt that when the rebels have acknowledged the authority of the Government, and have assented either to emancipation or to a peaceful and legal trial of the question, they will find that the people do not favor a wholesale confiscation; that they do not clamor for the blood of the rebel leaders, who have caused more precious blood to flow than they could atone for if they bled until the end of the world ; that they ask two things only, but ask them with a power not to be denied Reunion and Liberty, without which there can be no Peace.


THE bitter denunciation of JEFFERSON DAVIS by some of the rebel newspapers is merely a fierce cry for a scape-goat. In their extremity it is a relief to cast the responsibility of disaster upon some conspicuous person, and as DAVIS from his position must have many enemies who will immediately echo the cry, he is selected. There is no indication of any able leader among them. Indeed not one of the rebel civil chiefs has shown the least genius for affairs. Their Congress is an assembly of such commonplace talent that no member is more prominent than another. Compared with other revolutionary assemblages, the Long Parliament, the Continental Congress, the French Convention, it is ludicrously weak and unimportant. On the one hand, it registers DAVIS'S orders; and on the other, it does not dare to expel Mr. FOOTE. It has displayed neither sagacity, eloquence, nor vigor, and will be remembered only to be despised.

Indeed, the glamour of the rebellion has faded away. There was a tune when it was a kind of fashion to ascribe to its leaders superior intellectual and statesmanlike qualities ; but the time is rapidly approaching when it will be seen that men who arbitrarily swayed others by appeals to ignorance and prejudice are no more entitled to be called statesmen than those who live by the unpaid labor of others and buy and sell human beings like cattle are entitled to be called gentlemen. JEFFERSON DAVIS, especially, was contrasted as a statesman and a gentleman with ABRAHAM LINCOLN. But when the historian comes to record the patient benignity and cheerful sincerity of private manner of the President, his lofty, humane faith in man, liberty, and the republic, his wise prudence and sagacious perception of the course of public sentiment and of the possibilities of action, and compares them with the cold reserve of DAVIS'S personal intercourse, the specious falsehood and base hostility to human rights of his official papers, and the mad scurrility of his tirades in public speech, the historian will see and declare that, in an age and country of Christian civilization, the tricks and quibbles of a desperate effort to outwit the human instincts are as unworthy the name of statesmanship as the abject terror of Mumbo Jumbo is unworthy the name of religion. Survey the field of the rebellion, hear and read all that it has said and written, and then answer whether civilization has gained one hope or the human race a single inspiration from all its words and deeds. The world struggling forward toward a higher well being feels its heart cheered and stimulated by the mere effort of Greece against Persia, of the cities against the barons, of the field of Magna Charta, of the great English, French, and American revolutions. But what generous word or thought or aim can literature cherish or art immortalize in this dreary attempt to destroy a mild and equal Government in order to confirm and perpetuate a revolting injustice?

The exclamation against DAVIS is only a cry of despair. The call for LEE means no more. General LEE is a weak man and a good soldier. He is not a great or remarkable general. He gave but half a heart to the cause he fights for. He will doubtless fight for it to the end; and when the end appears he would probably wish at least to fall upon the field.

But the rebellion would be no more hopeful if he were made absolute Dictator. The Rebel Congress have passed an act requiring the President to appoint a General-in-Chief. But DAVIS, of course, does not forget that whoever may be General-in-Chief he is the constitutional Commander of the General ; and he reminds his faithful lieges that LEE has already been in command of all the rebel armies, and would not undertake to command in the field also. He adds, that whenever it is practicable for General LEE to assume the entire command, without leaving the army in the field, he will cheerfully appoint him.

But undoubtedly these two men have hitherto acted in concert. If they have not, DAVIS is not the man to be set aside. Whenever they differ he will control LEE or there will be trouble. It matters little. Trouble enough there must be in any case. Neither thanksgivings, nor fastings, nor generalissimos can prevent it.


THE last incident in the French conquest of Mexico will suggest to every thoughtful American that we are drifting insensibly and inevitably into new political complications. We do not say drifting in any offensive sense, nor to insinuate that we could change the course of events. While we are straining all our power to restore domestic peace, it can not be expected that we should escape the danger of foreign movements which would not be attempted except for our disturbed condition. And those who have complained that we did not prevent the advance of France in Mexico show that their pride is greater than their wisdom, and betray a curious ignorance of the actual situation. We were not in a condition to interfere, and therefore we did wisely not to remonstrate. We stated to France our traditional policy on the question, but we did not bluster or threaten. Those who complained that we did not can now decide, upon calm reflection, whether the resolution of Mr. HENRY WINTER DAVIS would have been a dignified or self respecting foreign dispatch from the State Department. The Senate, by declining to adopt it, has saved the true honor of the country.

The Monroe doctrine, although it was merely what Mr. EVERETT called " an executive declaration," and although it never received any official sanction from Congress, yet has been universally adopted as the absolutely indisputable policy of this Government toward all European governments which should endeavor to establish a foothold upon this continent. As it is popularly understood, the Monroe doctrine declares that the United Stales will drive every European power from our neighborhood. But if it really means that we deny to independent governments upon this continent the right to ask the assistance or even the presence of Europeans within their domain, then it is an absolute contradiction of our own fundamental principle of the right of the people to govern themselves.

The truth is, it does no such thing. In view of the probable design of the Holy Alliance in Europe to compel the return to Spain of some of her American colonies which had declared and maintained their independence, and had been recognized by the United States, President MONROE, in December, 1823, said that "we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power, in any other light than as a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." This can not be thought to contemplate opposition to a friendly request of assistance unless we intended to disregard international honor. In another part of the same message the President said that the American continents " are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European government."

That the cession to France of certain provinces of Mexico by the viceroy whom France maintains in that country must be considered a case of such colonization is clear. Mexican provinces regulated by French armies are virtually French colonies. But what the duty of the United States may be under the circumstances is not so evident. The situation demands the utmost sagacity and not the least swagger. There is nothing in the world easier than to strike an attitude and cry hands off. But before defying any of the Great Powers to mortal combat upon such a point it is well to calculate every chance. When OLIVER CROMWELL had thoroughly pacified England he turned his eyes abroad. But while the fields of Dunbar and Worcester were yet to fight his eyes and soul were centred there.


ILLINOIS has repealed her black laws, and indeed she could hardly help wiping the stain from her face when her neighbor Missouri was lifting her whole body out of the slough. The black laws of Illinois, although Illinois is a free State, were as much a part of the code of slavery as any slave law of Arkansas or Mississippi ; for they were the work of what was called the Democratic party, and that party was the minister of slavery. In Illinois, for instance, all col

ored persons were presumed to be slaves unless they could prove themselves to be free ; in other words, were held to be guilty until they proved their innocence : thus directly reversing the first humane maxim of the common law. By another act, if any negro or mulatto came into the State and staid ten days, he was to be fined fifty dollars, and sold indefinitely to pay the fine.

We read such things incredulously, in the light of today. The wicked folly of selecting for outrage a special class of the population, and that class the most innocent and defenseless, is so like a caprice of Ashantee society, or a measure of Patagonian statesmanship, that it is quite impossible to believe that it was tolerated in the great, prosperous, and enlightened State of Illinois. It explains the curiously inhuman and heartless tone of Mr. DOUGLAS in speaking of the colored race. He lived in the midst of this senseless and fierce prejudice, and he rose by pandering to it.

The black laws of Illinois were another proof of the fearful demoralization which slavery had wrought in this country, and upon which it counted for easy success in its rebellion. When slavery saw that PIERCE and BUCHANAN, two successive Presidents, were its most abject tools ; when it saw every Northern city ready to take by the throat any man who fiercely denounced it ; when it saw even in Boston a rich merchant and noted citizen named FAY, with the Mayor of the city, turning a meeting for condemnation of slavery into the street; when it read such laws as these of Illinois; when it saw the city of New York cringing beneath its frown and fawning upon its contemptuous smile, how could it help believing that FRANKLIN PIERCE wrote the truth to JEFFERSON DAVIS when he said that , the blood would flow this side of Mason and Dixon's line rather than the other, and suppose, with ROBERT TOOMBS, that any man could drink all the blood that would be shed in the war.

Now that Illinois has repealed her black laws, is it too much to hope that New York will do the same thing? The Constitution of the State allows colored citizens to vote, provided that they have lived twice as long in the State and county, and paid twice as much tax as any other voter. The other voters may be ignorant and brutal sots, who are nuisances and pests in any country, and these may he intelligent, industrious, thrifty, valuable citizens ; but the Constitution of New York, enslaved by the same mean and inhuman prejudice which dictated the black laws of Illinois, declares that ignorance and brutality are politically preferable to intelligence and thrift.

If intelligence is to be the condition of active citizenship, it is a test which every body can understand, and which most people will approve. But to make it dependent upon complexion is as wise as to rest it upon the color of the hair or the breadth of the shoulders. The monstrous subjection of this country to the prejudice against color is not, as many who are under its influence suppose, "a natural instinct;" it is only the natural result of a system which arbitrarily and forcibly makes color the sign of hopeless servitude. If red haired men or men over six feet in height were enslaved and imbruted for centuries, there would be exactly the some "natural aversion" to them which is gravely alleged by many otherwise sensible people against the colored race.

Missouri has emancipated herself; Illinois has thrown off her black laws. Suppose that sensible men and women now emancipate themselves from the black law of a most cruel and senseless prejudice.


THE Message of the Governor-General of Canada, the debate in the Canadian Parliament, and the extradition of BURLEY, the Lake Erie raider, show that the Canadian authorities mean to enforce neutrality. It is only the truth to say that the conduct of the Canadian Government is much more friendly than that of the British. It reveals the same disposition to maintain the spirit of a true neutrality which WASHINGTON showed in 1793, and the United States Government in the case of the alleged Russian privateer in the Crimean war. If the British Government had shown the same alacrity in respecting honest obligations; if it had stopped the rams before Mr. ADAMS virtually threatened to demand his passports; if it had refused to harbor the rebel privateers after they had escaped ; or if it had honorably tried to prevent their escaping; if it had not quibbled and strained every point against us, that Government would not have forfeited the respect of every honorable American.

The attitude of our neighbors upon occasion of the first serious violation of neutrality from their soil, at once mollifies the jealous suspicion with which they have been regarded as virtual abettors of the rebels. Now that we see that they are not abettors, we can tolerate their sympathy, which is the result of ignorance of the merits of the case. The Canadians, like most foreigners, remember the ancient tone of the Government of the United States ; but they forget that that tone was given to it by the very faction now in rebellion. That tone was the expression of a spirit essentially anti-American, made up of ignorance on the one hand and of slave driving insolence upon the other. And it (Next Page)




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