Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Such is the general principle, officially declared. And now, Sir, I shall read the commentary of this same learned publicist on these very Instructions in a private letter which I have received from him this morning. Bear in mind, Sir, that the writer is a student of the Laws of War, that he vindicates their exercise, and that in proper cases he asserts the right of retaliation; and now allow me to present his criticism on the retaliation proposed.

"I am unqualifiedly against the retaliation resolutions concerning prisoners of war. The provision that the Southerners in our hands shall be watched over by national soldiers who have been in Southern pens is unworthy of any great people or high-minded statesman. I am not opposed⚫ to retaliation because it strikes those who are not or may not be guilty of the outrage we wish to put an end to. That is the terrible character of almost all retaliation in war. I abhor this revenge on prisoners of war, because we would sink thereby to the level of the enemy's shame and dishonor. All retaliation has some limit. If we fight with Indians who slowly roast their prisoners, we cannot roast in turn the Indians whom we may capture. And what is more, I defy Congress or Government to make the Northern people treat captured Southerners as our sons are treated by them. God be thanked, you could not do it; and if you could, how it would brutalize our own people! I feel the cruelty as keenly as any one; I grieve most bitterly that people whom we and all the world have taken to possess the common attributes of humanity, and who, after all, are our kin, have sunk so loathsomely low; I feel the hardship of seeing no immediate and direct remedy, except conquering and trampling out the vile Rebellion; but I maintain that the proposed (yet unfeasible) retaliation is not the remedy. Indeed, calmly to maintain our ground would do us in the

end far more good. Revenge is passion, and ought never to enter the sphere of public action. Passion always detracts from power.

"I believe that the ineffable cruelty practised against our men has been equalled in the history of our race by the Spanish treatment of the Indians, and by the Inquisition; but counter cruelty would not mend matters. Those who

can allow such crimes would not be moved by cruelties inflicted upon their soldiers in our hands. These cruelties, therefore, would be simply revenge, not retaliation; for retaliation, as an element of the Law of War, and of Nations in general, implies the idea of thereby stopping a certain evil. But no mortal shall indulge in revenge.

"I am, indeed, against all dainty treatment of the prisoners in our hands; but, for the love of our country and the great destiny of our people, do not sink, even in single cases, to the level of our unhappy, shameless enemy."

I have read this letter, and I quote it as authority, because it is by the very pen which embodied retaliation in the Instructions to the Armies of the United States.

There is another authority which I quote. It is Phillimore, the accomplished publicist, whose elaborate. work on the Law of Nations has a learning second only to that of Grotius in treating the same subject. Recording excesses of war by the French, this Englishman says:

"At the beginning of the wars of the first French Revolution, the French general announced his intention of giving no quarter to English prisoners. The English did not retaliate, and the Laws of War upon this subject were soon restored." 1

1 Commentaries upon International Law, Vol. III. p. 149, Part IX. ch. Ɛ, § 103.

In other words, the Laws of War are essentially humane, and not to be changed by any spasm of barbarism in an enemy.

A debate of several days ensued, in which Mr. Wade and Mr. Howard argued earnestly for the resolution of the Committee, and they were sustained by Mr. Gratz Brown, of Missouri, Mr. Howe, of Wisconsin, Mr. Harlan, of Iowa, Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire, Mr. WTkinson, of Minnesota, Mr. Chandler, of Michigan, and Mr. Lane, of Indiana. On the other side were Mr. Cowan, of Pennsylvania, Mr. Hendricks, of Indiana, Mr. Henderson, of Missouri, Mr. Foster, of Connecticut, Mr. Davis, of Kentucky, Mr. Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland, Mr. Richardson, of Illinois, Mr. McDougall, of California, and Mr. Doolittle, of Wisconsin. Mr. Chandler especially condemned the position of Mr. Sumner. Here he said :

"Sir, the Senator from Massachusetts [Mr SUMNER] has brought in a sublimated specimen of humanitarianism that does not apply to these accursed Rebels at this time. They do not appreciate that kind of humanitarianism. I expected those men who desire that the Rebellion should succeed to oppose retaliation, and to oppose it to the bitter end; but I did not expect the Senator from Massachusetts to come in here and say that it was inexpedient to protect our suffering prisoners."

MR. SUMNER. "I have not said so."

Mr. Wilson, of Massachusetts, moved as a substitute for Mr. Sumner's amendment a simple resolution requiring the President "to appoint two commissioners to confer with the Confederate authorities, with a view of devising some practicable plan for the relief and better treatment of our prisoners of war." Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire, offered still another substitute, to be considered when in order :

"That Congress earnestly calls the attention of the President to the condition and treatment of our prisoners of war in Rebel prisons and camps; and if, for reasons satisfactory to or controlling the Executive, they cannot be exchanged, desires that he should employ every means in his power, embracing retaliation to such a degree as may be proper and effectual, to preveat the continuance and recurrence of such barbarities, and to compel the insurgents to observe the laws of civilized warfare."

Mr. Wade, who was urging the original resolution, also gave notice of an amendment, to strike out all after the word "retaliation," and insert as follows:

"That the executive and military authorities of the United States are hereby directed to retaliate upon the prisoners of the enemy in such manner and kind as shall be effective in deterring him from the perpetration in future of cruel and barbarous treatment of our soldiers."

Mr. Wade recognized the change so far as to say, "Now, if a Senator is for retaliation, if he is for the principle of it, he cannot have it in a milder form than it is there." Mr. Morrill proposed to strike out the words "and kind," and insert, instead, "in conformity to the Laws of Nations," which amendment was accepted by Mr. Wade.

January 28th, in the course of the debate, Mr. Sumner said:—

MR. PRESIDENT,-Listening with interest to this debate, and noting the various propositions to modify the original resolution of the Committee, especially that of the Senator [Mr. WADE] who has urged it so vehemently, and then again the modification even of this modification, I have been reminded of the story told by Byron1 of Mr. Fox, afterwards British minister at Washington, and now sleeping in our Congressional burial-ground, who said of himself, after an illness in Naples, that he was "so changed that his oldest creditors would hardly know him." But no illness could work a greater change than is promised in the resolution of the Committee. In the form it is about to assume, its oldest supporter will hardly know it. The ancient legend of the ship of Theseus is revived. That famous ship, which bore the Athenian hero on his adventurous expedition to Crete, was piously preserved in the arsenal of Athens, where its decaying timbers were renewed, until, in the lapse of time, every part of the original ship had disappeared, and nothing but the name remained. Are we not witnessing a similar process, to end, I trust, in a similar disappearance?

1 Letter to Mr. Murray, Rome, May 9, 1817: Moore's Life of Byron (London, 1847), p. 355.

In its original form, the resolution so earnestly maintained by my friends from Ohio and Michigan called for retaliation in kind,-eye for eye, tooth for tooth, cruelty for cruelty, freezing for freezing, starvation for starvation, death for death. The President was commanded to imitate Rebel barbarism in all respects, point by point. This command I felt it my duty to resist. I said nothing against retaliation according to the laws and usages of civilized nations, for that I know is one of the terrible incidents of war; but I resisted a principle which civilization disowns. The resolutions I offered as a substitute were intended as a sort of "earthwork" in support of this resistance. Perhaps they have already accomplished their purpose, inasmuch as Senators have evacuated their original position.

The question is solemn enough, and yet, as I recall the original resolution, I am reminded of an incident, more comic than serious, which occurred at Paris, while occupied by the conquering Prussians, in 1814. A Prussian soldier was brought before the Governor, charged with unmercifully beating a Frenchman, at whose house he was billeted, for not supplying a bottle of Berlin weissbier, which the Prussian insisted upon drinking. The Governor spoke of unreasonableness in the demand, and declared that he should be obliged to inflict severe punishment, when the Prussian soldier set up the Law of Retaliation. "I was a little boy," said he," when a French dragoon beat my father because he was unable to find a bottle of claret in our whole village, and I then swore, that, if ever I reached France, I would beat a Frenchman for not getting me a bottle of weissbier. Am I not right?" This was retaliation in

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »