« AnteriorContinuar »
Therefore, we seek to make ourselves great, not by vast additions to the breadth of our soil or the number of our population, but in the true elements of national power and greatness. Could the Federal States reanimate the spirits of their mighty founders, they would be a hundredfold greater, standing in their might as a free people severed from slavery and the South, than as a huge Union of many States, with conflicting interests and institutions, agreed only in one thing—to struggle which should rule and pillage the central government for its private benefit. If those spirits of “men, high-minded men,” could be evoked to direct the affairs of the nation as in the golden days of the Republic, all the sufferings even of this disastrous civil war might be counted lighter than nothing, compared with the high hopes of the future which would beam bright over the Federal States.
Besides this repugnance to renounce the insane dream of universal empire, more material interests have a share in the reluctance of the Northern States to accept secession, and allow the Slave States to go their own way. It is foreseen that the South would evade the payment of their share of the public debts incurred for the benefit of the whole Union, and might so regulate their commerce as not to contribute, as heretofore, to the wealth and prosperity of the Federal States. But surely the shrewd good sense of the Americans,that national acuteness on which, with some justice, they pride themselves,—cannot long be blind to the fact that they are letting, like the dog in the fable, all their meat slip whilst snatching at the
shadow. What terse and witty proverbs and apophthegms would not their own great Franklin give them as to this matter could he be called to life to expose their folly! The national burdens swell monthly during this war at a rate far exceeding the share of the South in the entire national debt when the struggle commenced; and the loss to the North of really sound trade, property, and prosperity has already far exceeded all she could gain in a quarter of a century by retaining the South. Let not the people be deceived by the bubble wealth of the jobbers and contractors who prey upon their country. The sad truth will be but too plain whenever the black day of reckoning comes.
Next, amongst the most uncompromising advocates of war to the death, come the sincere and thorough-going abolitionists; respectable in their numbers, and almost irresistible in their devotion to what they embrace as the cause of Heaven. For the aims and motives of these benevolent, honest men our country has unqualified respect and unbounded sympathy. But in the blindness of their zeal they are fatally mistaken as to their power of commanding the issues of this war, and as to what the result would be (even if they could command these issues) to the holy object of their exertions. In concluding these pages we shall entreat their reflection on what is submitted to them by their warm friends and well-wishers in the mother country, removed by distance from party delusions; but not, because so removed, less true in adherence to the cause of right and freedom.
The several classes of citizens above noticed
urge on the war for motives which, though widely diverse in weight and influence, agree in each representing some strong principle or feeling. But the party unhappily in possession of the situation, and which, to a great extent, commands all the rest, using them for its own vile purpose, callous to the ruin inflicted upon their country, is wholly destitute of principles or feelings; caring solely for the dishonourable gains to be acquired in the present disturbed state of things by plundering the Commonwealth.
These are the jobbers, contractors, office-hunters, &c., who, as we have before remarked, have for some time organized a regular machinery for so working the oppositions of political parties as to make all elections depend upon wholesale bribery, and to corrupt the entire machinery of government. Aided by a newspaper press too often a disgrace to the country, and well skilled in bearing down all worth and intelligence by monster mob meetings and mob speechifiers, these men may perhaps succeed in preventing any return to the counsels of peace until they, too, are reached by the ruinous effects of the contest, and begin to fear that the continuance of the war will involve them in the general destruction. Many of these men are investing their ill-gotten gains in fixed property
houses, lands, &c., dreading the coming of a day when paper wealth and Government securities will be worthless. But let them reflect that this precaution will afford them no safety when the time of reckoning shall arrive. The nation, when its eyes are once opened, will never permit the robbers to sit down secure with their hoarded
gains amidst the universal distress they have occasioned. If things are allowed to go far enough, property will be re-distributed—a restitution will be enforced like those following the bursting of the South Sea bubble in England and the failure of the Mississippi scheme in France; and they will be fortunate if, by being stripped of all they possess, they can escape personal punishment. Let them look to it in time, and rise from the table whilst the play is good.
In the whole conduct of the war, raised and kept alive by these several parties, some prominent features mark all the proceedings of the Federal States as strongly as the stern determination to fight to the death for Secession, and rather suffer extermination than re-annexation, pervades the Confederates. In their fixed adherence to two leading ideas rather than principles, the Federals have thrown aside all the experience of ages in warlike and financial affairs, as if by the mere exercise of will they could reverse all the laws by which prosperity and success are regulated. Every successive failure or misfortune, so far from teaching them wisdom, appears only to rouse them to mightier convulsive efforts in the same direction as before. And it seems at present as if they meant to continue this course, until sheer exhaustion renders impossible any further action.
Their fatal error in war is the delusion that vast numbers constitute the strength of armies, instead of being too frequently the real causes of weakness and defeat. In finance they repeat exactly the ruinous courses of the worst governments in the worst times of Europe. Their fallacy, as to size
and bulk being synonymous with might and power, lies at the root of the universal-empire madness above noticed, which has long so fatally misled their politicians. But that a nation, so acute and prosperous in commerce, should thus obstinately violate all the first and best known principles of political economy, and rush with closed eyes into the gulf of general ruin and national insolvency, is indeed most unaccountable.
Let us pause for a moment to trace some of the effects of these errors. The fixed idea, that the -war could be shortly and successfully concluded only by overwhelming the enemy with immense masses of men, has led the Federal States, in their anxiety to raise troops, to sweep together undisciplined hordes and fancy that they were armies. As nothing approaching to the numbers wanted could by any means be induced to enter the regular army and submit to the discipline which alone can make real soldiers, volunteer enlistments have been almost exclusively resorted to. These enlistments are, in many instances, for short periods—stimulated by extravagant bounties, and by the temptations held out to men whose vanity or greed aspired to the command of regiments or divisions, on condition of raising the required numbers of recruits to fill their ranks. Exactly the results have followed which were to be expected from the insubordination and incompetency of such troops and leaders. Armies and divisions of armies have melted away by desertion and sickness in the camps; or after spasmodic efforts to attack some unassailable position, and being defeated with immense slaughter, have been cooped up in positions