The Hour and the Man
THE Twenty-Second of September, 1862, bids fair to become as remarkable a date in American history as the Fourth of July, 1776 ; for on that day the President of the United States, availing himself of the full powers of his position, declared this country free from that slaveholding oligarchy which had so long governed it in peace, and the influence of which was so potently felt for more than a year after it had broken up the Union, and made war upon the Federal Government. Be the event what it may, — and the incidents of the war have taught us not to be too sanguine as to the results of any given movement, — President Lincoln has placed the American nation in a proper attitude with respect to that institution the existence of which had so long been the scandal and the disgrace of a people claiming to be the freest on earth, but whose powers had been systematically used and abused for the maintenance and the extension of slave-labor.
It was our misfortune, and in some sense it was also our fault, that we were bound to uphold the worst system of slavery that ever was known among men ; for we must judge of every wrong that is perpetrated by the circumstances that are connected with it, and our oppression of the African race was peculiarly offensive, inasmuch as it was a proceeding in flagrant violation of our constantly avowed principles, was continued in face of the opinions of the founders of the nation, was frankly upheld on the unmanly ground that the intellectual weakness of the slaves rendered it safe to oppress them, and was not excused by that general ignorance of right which has so often been brought forward in palliation of wrong, — as slavery had come under the ban of Christendom years before Americans could be found boldly bad enough to claim for it a divine origin, and to avow that it was a proper, and even the best, foundation for civil society. Our offence was of the rankest, and its peculiar character rendered us odious in the eyes of the nations, who would not admit the force of our plea as to the great difficulties that lay in the way of the removal of the evil, as they had seen it condemned by most communities, and abolished by some of their number.
The very circumstance upon which Americans have relied for the justification of their form of slavery, namely, that it was confined to one race, and that race widely separated from all other races by the existence of peculiar characteristics, has been regarded as an aggravation of their misconduct by all humane and disinterested persons. The Greek system of slavery, which was based on the idea that Greeks were noblemen of Heaven’s own creating, and that they therefore were justified in treating all other men as inferiors, and making the same use of them as they made of horses; the Roman system, which was based on the will of society, and therefore made no exceptions on the score of color, but saw in all strangers only creatures of chase; the Mussulman system, brought out so strongly by the action of the States of Barbary, and which was colored by the character of the long quarrel between Mahometans and Christians, and under which Northern Africa was filled with myriads of slaves from Southern Europe, among whom were men of the highest intellect, — Cervantes, for example ; — all these systems of servitude, and others that might be adduced, were respectable in comparison with our system, which proceeded upon the blasphemous assumption that God had created and set apart one race that should forever dwell in the house of bondage. If, in some respects, our system has been more humane than that of other peoples in other times, the fact is owing to that general improvement which has taken place the earth over during the present century. The world has gone forward, and even American slaveholders have been compelled to go with it, whether they would or not.
It was a distinctive feature of slavery, as here known, that it tended to debauch the mind of Christendom. So long as all men were liable to be enslaved, and even Shakspeare and Milton were in some danger of sharing the fate of Cervantes, — and the Barbary corsairs did actually carry off men from the British Islands in the times of Milton and Shakspeare,—there could not fail to grow up a general hostility to slavery, and the institution was booked for destruction. But when slavery came to be considered as the appropriate condition of one race, and the members of that race so highly qualified to engage in the production of cotton and sugar, tobacco and rice, the danger was, not only that slavery would once more come into favor, but that the African slave-trade would be replaced in the list of legitimate commercial pursuits, and become more extensive than it was in those days when it was defended by bishops and kings’ sons in the British House of Lords. That this is not an unfounded opinion will be admitted by those who recollect that the London “ Times,” that representative of the average English mind, but recently published articles that could mean nothing less than a desire to revive the old system of slavery, with all that should be necessary to maintain it in force ; that Mr. Carlyle is an advocate of the oppression of negroes; and that the French Government at one time seemed disposed to have resort to a course that must, if adopted, have converted Africa into a storehouse of slaves.
Our slaveholders were not blind to this altered state of the European mind, of which they availed themselves, and of which, in a certain sense, they had the best of all rights to avail themselves, for it was largely their own work. At the same time that England abolished slavery in her dominions, the chief Nullifiers, who were the fathers of the Secession Rebellion, assumed the position that negro slavery was good in itself, and that it was the duty of white men to uphold and to extend it. This was done by Governor McDuffie, of South Carolina, in 1834, and it was warmly approved by many Southern men, as well out of South Carolina as in that most fanatical of States, but generally condemned by the Democrats of that time, though now it is not uncommon to find men in the North who accept all that the old Nullifier put forward as a new truth eight-and-twenty years ago. Earnestly and zealously, and with no small amount ol talent, the friends of slavery labored to impose their views upon the entire Southern mind, —and that not so much because they loved slavery for itself as because they knew, that, if the slaveholding interest could be placed in opposition to the Federal Union, that Union might be destroyed. They were fanatics in their attachment to slavery, but even their fanaticism was secondary to their hatred of that power which, as represented by Andrew Jackson, had trampled down Nullification, and compelled Carolina and Calhoun to retreat from cannon and the gallows. Mr. Rhett, then Mr. Barnwell Smith, said, in the debates in the Convention on the proposition to accept the Tariff Compromise of 1833, that he hated the star-spangled banner; and unquestionably he expressed the feelings of many of his contemporaries, who deemed submission prudent, but who were consoled by the reflection that slavery would afford them a far better means for breaking np the Union than it was possible to get through the existence of any tariff, no matter how protective it might be. All the great leaders of the first Secession school had passed away from the earth, when Rhett “still lived” to see the flag he hated pulled down before the fire that was poured upon Fort Sumter from Carolina’s batteries worked by the hands of Carolinians. Calhoun, Hamilton, McDuffie, Hayne, Trumbull, Cooper, Harper, Preston, and others, men of the first intellectual rank in America, had departed ; but Rhett survived to see what they had labored to effect, and what they would have effected, had they not encountered one of those iron spirits to whom is sometimes intrusted the government of nations, and who are of more value to nations than gold and fleets and armies. All that we have lately seen done, and more, would have been done thirty years since, had any other man than Andrew Jackson been at that time President of the United States. There was much cant in those days about “ the one-man power,” because President Jackson saw fit to make use of the Constitutional qualified veto-power to express his opposition to certain measures adopted by Congress ; but the best exhibition of “ the one-man power” that the country ever saw, then or before or since, was when the same magistrate crushed Nullification, maintained the Union, and secured the nation’s peace for more than a quarter of a century. We never knew what a great man Jackson was, until the country was cursed by Buchanan’s occupation of the same chair that Jackson had filled, — a chair that he was unworthy to dust, — and by his cowardice and treachery which made civil war inevitable. One man, at the close of 1800, could have done more than has yet been accomplished by the million of men who have been called to amis because no such man was then in the nation’s service. The “ one hour of Dundee” was not more wanting to the Stuarts than the one month of Jackson was wanting to us but two years ago.
The powerful teaching of the Nuliifiers was successful. The South, which assumed to be the exclusive seat of American nationality, while the North was declared given up to sectionalism, with no other lights on its path than “ blue lights,” became the South so devoted to slavery that it could see nothing else in the country. Old Union men of 1832 became Secessionists, though Nullification, the milder thing of the two, had been too much for them to endure. They not only endured the more hideous evil, but they embraced it. Between 1832 and 1860 a change had been wrought such as twice that time could not have accomplished at any earlier period of human history. The old Southern ideas respecting slavery had disappeared, and that institution had become an object of idolatry, so that any criticisms to which it was subjected kindled the same sort of flame, that is excited in a pious community when objects of devotion are assailed and destroyed by the hands of unbelievers. The astonishing material prosperity that accompanied the system of slave-labor had, no doubt, much to do with the regard that was bestowed upon the system itself. That was the time when Cotton became King, — at least, in the opinion of its worshippers. The Democratic party of the North passed from that position of radicalism to which the name of Locofocoism was given, to the position of supporters of the extremest Southern doctrines, so that for some years it appeared to exist for no other purpose than to do garrison-duty in the Free States, the cost of its maintenance being supplied by the Federal revenues. Abroad the same change began to be noted, the demand for cotton prevailing over the power of conscience. Everything worked as well for evil as it could work, and as if Satan himself had condescended to accept the post of stage-manager for the disturbers of America’s peace.
To take advantage of the change that had been brought about was the purpose of the whole political population of the South. But though that section was united in its determination to support the supremacy of slavery, it was far from being united in its opinions as to the best mode of accomplishing its object. There were three parties in the South in the last days of the old Union. The first, and the largest, of these parties answered very nearly to the Southern portion of the Democratic party, and contained whatever ot sense and force belonged to the South, It was made up of men who were firmly resolved upon one thing, namely, that they would ruin the Union, if they should forever lose the power to rule it; but they had the sagacity to see that the ends which they had in view could be more easily achieved in the Union than out of it. They were not disunionists per se, but were quite ready to become disunionists, if the Union was to be governed otherwise than in the direct and immediate interest of slavery. Slavery was the basis of their political system, and they knew that it could be better served by the American Union’s continued existence than by the construction of a Southern Confederacy, provided the former should do all that slaveholders might require it to do.
The second Southern party, and the smallest of them all, was composed of the minions of the Nullifiers, and of their immediate followers, men whose especial object it was to destroy the Union, and who hated the subservient portion of the Northern people far more bitterly than they hated Republicans, or even Abolitionists. They would have preferred abolition and disunion to the triumph of slavery and the preservation of the Union. It was not that they loved slavery less, but that they hated the Union more. Even if the country should submit to the South, the leaders of this faction knew that they would not be the Southrons to whom should be intrusted the powers and the business of government. Few of them were of much account even in their own States, and generally they could have been set down as chiefs of the opposition to everything that was reasonable. A remarkable proof of the little hold which this class of men had on even the most mad of the Southern States, when at the height of their fury, was afforded by the refusal of South Carolina to elect Mr. Rhett Governor, her Legislature conferring that post on Mr. Pickens, a moderate man when compared with Mr. lihctt, and who, there is reason for believing, would have prevented a resort to Secession altogether, could he have done so without sacrificing what he held to be his honor.
The third Southern party consisted of men who desired the continuance of the Union, but who wished that some “ concessions ” should he made, or “ compromises” effected, in order to satisfy men, one portion of whom were resolved upon having everything, while the other portion were resolute in their purpose to destroy everything that then existed of a national character. This third party was mostly composed of those timid men whose votes count for much at ordinary periods, but who in extraordinary times are worse than worthless, being in fact incumbrances on bolder men. They loved the Union, because they loved peace, and were opposed to violence of all kinds; but their Unionism was much like Bailie Macwheeble’s conscience, which was described as never doing him any harm. What they would have done, had Government been able to send a strong force to their assistance at the beginning of the war, we cannot undertake to say ; but they have done little to aid the Federal cause in the field, while their influence in the Federal councils has been more prejudicial to the country than the open exertions of the Secessionists to effect the nation’s destruction.
Of these parties, the first had every reason to believe that it could soon regain possession of Congress, and that in 1864 it would be able to elect its candidate to the Presidency. Hence it had no wish to dissolve the Union ; and if its leaders could have had their way, the Union would have been spared. But the second party, making up for its deficiency in numbers by the intensity of its zeal, and laboring untiringly, was too much for the moderates. Hate is a stronger feeling than love of any kind, stronger even than love of spoils; and the men who followed Rhett and Yancey, Pryor and Spratt, hated the Union with a perfect hatred. They got ahead of the men who followed Davis and Stephens, and the rest of those. Southern chiefs who would have been content with the complete triumph of Southern principles in the Republic as it stood in 1860. As they broke up the Democratic party in order to render the election of the Republican candidate certain, so that they might found on his election the cri de guerre of a “ sectional triumph ” over the South, so they “ coerced ” the Southern people into the adoption of a war-policy. We have more than once heard Mr. Lincoln blamed for “precipitating matters” in April, 1861. He should have temporized, it has been said, and so have preserved peace ; but when he called for seventy-five thousand volunteers, he made war unavoidable. The truth is, that Mr. Lincoln did not begin the war. It was begun by the South. His call for volunteers was the consequence of war being made on the nation, and not the cause of war being made either on the South or by the South. The enemy fired upon and took Fort Sumter before the first call for volunteers was issued ; and that proceeding must be admitted to have been an act of war, unless we are prepared to admit that there is a right of Secession. And Fort Sumter was fired upon and taken through the influence of the violent party at the South, who were resolved that there should be war. They knew that it was beyond the power of the Federal Government to send supplies to the doomed fort, and that in a few days it would pass into the hands of the Confederates; and this they determined to prevent, because they knew also that the mere surrender of the garrison, when it had eaten its last rations, would not suffice to “ fire the Northern heart.” They carried their point, and hence it was that war was begun the middle of April, 1861. But for the triumph of the violent Southern party, the contest might have been postponed, and even a peace patched up for the time, and the inevitable struggle put off to a future day. As it was, Government had no choice, and was compelled to fight; and it would have been compelled to fight, had it been composed entirely of Quakers.
War being unavoidable, and it being clear that slavery was the cause of it as well as its occasion, and that it would be the main support of our enemy, it ought to have followed that our first blow should be directed against that institution. Nothing of the kind happened. Whatever Government may have thought on the subject, it did nothing to injure slavery. But for this forbearance, which now appears so astonishing, we are not disposed to blame the President. He acted as the representative of the country, which was not then prepared to act vigorously against the root of the evil that afflicted it. A moral blindness prevailed, which proved most injurious to the Union cause, and from the effect of which it may never recover. It was supposed that it was yet possible to “ conciliate ” the South, and that that section could be induced to “come back” into the Union, provided nothing should be done to hurt its feelings or injure its interests! Looking back to the summer of 1861, it is with difficulty that we can believe that men were then in possession of their senses, so inconsistent was their conduct. The Rebels were at least as sensitive on the subject of their military character as they were on that of slavery; and yet, while we could not be sufficiently servile on the latter subject, we acted most offensively on the former. We asserted, in every form and variety" of language, our ability to “put them down”; and but for the circumstance that not the slightest atom of ability marked the management of our military affairs, we should have made our boasting good. Men who could not say enough to satisfy themselves on the point of the right of the chivalrous Southrons to create, breed, work, and sell slaves, were equally loudmouthed in their expressed purpose to “put down ” the said Southrons because they had rebelled, and rebelled only because they were slaveholders, and for the purpose of placing slavery beyond the reach of wordy assault in the country of which it should be the governing power. There has been much complaint that foreigners have not understood the nature of our quarrel, and that the general European hostility to the American national cause is owing to their ignorance of American affairs. How that may be we shall not stop to inquire ; but it is beyond dispute that no European community has ever displayed a more glaring ignorance of the character of the contest here waged than was exhibited by most Americans in the early months of that contest, and down to a recent period. The war was treated by" nearly the whole people as if slavery had no possible connection with it, and as if all mention of slavery in matters pertaining to the war were necessarily an impertinence, a foreign subject lugged into a domestic discussion. Three-fourths of the people were disposed querulously to ask why Abolitionists could n’t let slavery alone in war-time. It was a bad thing, was Abolitionism, in time of peace ; but its badness was vastly increased when we had war upon our hands. Half the other fourth of the citizens were disposed to agree with the majority", but very shame kept them silent. It was only the few who had a proper conception of the state ofthings, and they had little influence with the people, and, consequently, none with Government. Had they said much, or attempted to do anything, probably they would have found Federal arms directed against themselves with much more of force and effectiveness in their use than were manifested when they were directed against the Rebels. When a Union general could announce that he would make use of the Northern soldiers under his command to destroy slaves who should be so audacious as to rebel against Rebels, and the announcement was received with rapturous approval at the North, it was enough to convince every intelligent and reflecting man that no just idea of the struggle we were engaged in was common, and that a blind people were following blind leaders into the ditch,—even into that “ last ditch” to which the Secessionists have so often been doomed, but in which they so obstinately continue to refuse to find their own and their cause’s grave.
That Government was not much ahead of the people in 1861, and through most of the present year, respecting the position of slavery, is very evident to all who know what it did, and what it refused to do, with regard to that institution. With a hardiness that would have been strongly" offensive, if it had not been singularly ridiculous, Mr. Seward told the astonished world of Europe that the fate of slavery did not depend upon the event of our contest,—which was as much as to say that we should not injure it, happen what might; and no one then supposed that the Confederates would willingly strike a blow at it, either to conciliate foreign nations or to obtain black soldiers. The words of the Secretary of State did us harm in England, with the religious portion of whose people it is something like an article of faith that slavery is an addition to the list of deadly sins. They injured us, too, with the members of the various schools of liberal politicians over all Europe; and they furnished to our enemies abroad the argument that there really was no dilference between the North and the South on the slavery question, and that therefore the sympathies of all generous minds should be with the Southrons, who were the weaker party. Our cause was irreparably damaged in Europe through the indiscretion of the Honorable Secretary, who cannot be accused of any love for slavery, but who was then, as he appears to be up to the present hour, ignorant of the nature and the extent of the contest of which his country is the scene. Other members of the Administration had sounder ideas, but their weight in it was not equal to that of the Secretary of State.
It is but fair to the President to say, that his conduct was such that it was obvious that he did not favor slavery because he had any respect for it. He pulled so hard upon the chains that bound him, that his desire to throw them off was clear to the world ; but they were too strong, and too well fastened, to be got rid of easily. He feared that all the Unionists of the Border States would be lost, if he should adopt the views of the Emancipationists; and the fear was natural, though in poiut of fact his course had no good effect in those States, beyond that of conciliating a portion of the Kentuckians. North Carolina, under the old system the most moderate of the Slave States, was as far gone in Secession as South Carolina, and furnished far more men to the Southern armies than her neighbor. The Virginians and Missourians who went with us would have pursued the same course, had the President's opinions on slavery been as radical and pronounced as those of Mr. Garrison. Maryland was kept from wheeling into the Secession line only by the presence on her soil, and in her vicinity, of strong Federal armies. In Tennessee, at a later period of the war, as in North Carolina, Federal power extended as far as Federal guns could throw Federal shot, though Tennessee had not been renowned for her extreme attachment to slavery. But the heavy weight on the Presidential mind came from the Free States, in which the ProSlavery party was so powerful, and the nature of the war was so little understood, that it was impossible for Government to strike an effective blow at the source of the enemy’s strength. Before that could be done, it would be necessary that the Northern mind should be trained to justice in the school of adversity. The position of the President in 1861 was not unlike to that which the Prince of Orange held in 1687. Had William made his attempt on England in 168 7, the end would have been failure as complete as that of Monmouth in 1685. It was necessary that the English mind should he educated up to the point of throwing aside some cherished doctrines, the maintenance of which stood in the way of England’s safety, prosperity, and greatness. William allowed the fruit he sought to ripen, and in 1688 he was able to do with ease that which no human power could have done in 1687. So was it with Mr. Lincoln, and here. Had the Proclamation lately put forth been issuedin 1861, either it would have fallen dead, or it would have met with such opposition in the North as would have rendered it impossible to prosecute the war with any hope of success. There would probably have been pronunciamientos from some of our armies, and the Union might have been shivered to pieces without the enemy's lifting their hands further against it. We do not say that such would have been the course of events, had the Proclamation then appeared, but it might have taken that turn ; and the President had to allow for possibilities that perhaps it never occurred to private individuals to think of, — men who had no sense of responsibility either to the country, to the national cause, or to the tribunal of history. He would not move as he was advised to move by good men who had not taken into consideration all the circumstances of the case, and who could not feel as he was forced to feel because he was President of the United States. Probably, if he had been a private citizen, he would have been the foremost man of the Emancipation party; but the place he holds is so high that he must look over the whole land, and necessarily he sees much that others can never behold. He saw that one of two things would happen in a few months after the beginning of active warfare, toward the close of last winter: either the Rebels would be beaten in the field, in which event there would be reasonable hope of the Union’s reconstruction, and the people could then take charge of slavery, and settle its future condition as to them should seem best, — or our armies would be beaten, and the people would be made to understand that slavery could no longer be allowed to exist for the support of an enemy who had announced from the beginning of their war-movement that their choice was fixed upon conquest, or, failing that, annihilation.
It was written that we should fail in the field. We sought to take Richmond, with an army of force that appeared to be adequate to the work. We were beaten ; and after some months of severe warfare, the country had the supreme felicity of celebrating the eighty-sixth anniversary of its Independence by thanking Heaven that its principal army had escaped capture by falling back to the fever-laden banks of a river on which lay a naval force so strong as to prevent the further advance of the victorious Southrons. The exertions that were made to remove that army from a place that threatened its total destruction through pestilence led to another series of actions, in which we were again beaten, and the Secession armies found themselves hard by the very station which they had so long held after their victory at Bull Run. Had their numbers been half as large as we estimated them by way of accounting for our defeats, they could have marched into Washington, and the American Union would have been at an end, while the Southern Confederacy would have taken the place which the United States had possessed among the nations. Fortunately, the enemy were not strong enough to hazard everything upon one daring stroke. General Lee was as prudent, or as timid, after his victories over General Pope, as, according to some authorities, Hannibal was alter winning “ the field of blood” at Cannæ. What he did, however, was sufficient to show how serious was the danger that threatened us. If he could not take Washington, which stood for Rome, he might take Baltimore, which should be Capua. He entered Maryland, and his movements struck dismay into Pennsylvania. Harrisburg was marked for seizure, and the archives of the second State of the Union were sent to New York ; and Philadelphia was considered so unsafe as to cause men to remove articles of value thence to her ancient rival’s protection. That the enemy meant to invade the North cannot well be doubted ; but the resistance they encountered, leading to their defeat at South Mountain and Antietam, forced them to retreat. Had they won at Antietam, not only would Washington have been cut off from land-communication with the North, but Pennsylvania would have been invaded, and the Southrons would have fattened on the produce of her rich fields. While these things were taking place in Virginia and Maryland, Fortune had proved equally unfavorable to us in the South and the Southwest. We had been defeated near Charleston, and most of our troops at Port Royal had been transferred to Virginia. Charleston and Mobile saw ships constantly entering their harbors, bringing supplies to the Secession forces. Wilmington and Savannah were less liable to attack than some Northern towns. An attack on Vicksburg had ended in Federal failure. By the aid of gunboats we had prevented the enemy from taking Baton Rouge, and destroyed their iron-clad Arkansas ; but our soldiers had to abandon that town, and leave it to be watched by ships, while they hastened to the defence of New Orleans, a city which they could not have held half an hour, had the protecting naval force been withdrawn. The Southwest was mostly abandoned by our troops, and the tide of war had rolled back to the banks of the Ohio. Nashville was looked upon as lost, Louisville was in great danger of being taken, and for some days there was a perfect panic throughout the country respecting the fate of Cincinnati, the prevailing opinion being that the enemy had as good a chance of getting possession of that town as we had of maintaining possession of it. There was hardly a quarter to which a Unionist could look without encountering something that filled his mind with vexation, disappointment, shame, and gloom. All that the most hopeful of loyal men could say was, that the enemy had been made to evacuate Maryland, and that they had not proceeded beyond threats against any Northern State : and that was a fine theme for congratulations, after seventeen months of warfare, in which the Rebels were to have been beaten and the Union restored!
Such was the state of affairs, when, six days after the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issued his Proclamation against slavery. Some persons were pleased to be much astonished when it appeared. They said they had been deceived. They were right. They were self-deceived. They had deceived themselves. The President had received their pledge of support, which they, with an egotism which is not uncommon with politicians, had construed into a pledge from him to support slavery at all hazards, under all circumstances, and against all comers. He had given no pledge either to them or to their opponents. Plainly as man could speak, he had said that his object was the nation’s safety, either with slavery or without it, the fate of slavery being with him a secondary matter. If any construction was to be put upon his words to Mr. Greeley beyond their plainest possible meaning, it was that he preferred the destruction of slavery to its conservation, for it was known that he had been an anti-slavery man for years, and he had been made President by a party which was charged by its foes with being so fanatically opposed to slavery that it was ready to destroy the Constitution in order to gain a place from which it could hope to effect its extermination. But Mr. Lincoln meant neither more nor less than what be said, his sole object being the overthrow of the Rebels. He has done no more than any President would have been compelled to do who should have sought to do his duty. Mr. Douglas could have done no less, had he been chosen President, and had rebellion followed his election, as we believe, would have been the fact. The Proclamation is not an “ Abolition ” state-paper. Not one line of it is of such matter as any Abolitionist would have penned, though all Abolitionists may be glad that it has appeared, because its promulgation is a step in the right direction,—a step sure to be taken, unless the first Federal efforts should also have been the last, because leading to the defeat of the Rebels, and the return of peace. The President nowhere says that he seeks the abolition of slavery. The blow be has dealt is directed against slavery in the dominions of the Confederacy. That Confederacy claims to be a nation, and some of our acts amount to a virtual recognition of the claim, which it makes. Now, if we were at war with an old nation of which slavery was one of the institutions, it could not be said that we had not the right to offer freedom to its slaves. Objection might be made to the proclamation of an offer of the kind, but it would he based on expediency. England would not accept a plan that was formed half a century ago for the partition of the United States, and which had for its leading idea the proclamation of freedom to American slaves; but her refusal was owing to the circumstance that she was herself a great slaveholding power, and she had no thought of eslablishing a precedent that might soon have been used with fatal effect against herself. She did not close her ears to the proposition because she had any doubt as to her right to avail herself of an offer of freedom to slaves, or because she supposed that to make such an offer would be to act immorally, but because it was inexpedient for her to proceed to extremities with us, due regard being had to her own interests. Had slavery been abolished in her dominions twenty years earlier, she would have acted against American slavery in 1812-15, and probably with entire success. President Lincoln does not purpose going so far as England could have gone with perfect propriety. She could have proclaimed freedom to American slaves without limitation. He has regard to the character of the war that exists, and so his Proclamation is not a threat, but a warning. In substance, he tells the Rebels, that, if they shall persist in their rebellion after a certain date, their slaves shall be made free, if it shall be in his power to liberate them. He gives them exactly one hundred days in which to make their election between submission and slavery and resistance and ruin ; and these hundred days may become as noted in history as those Hundred Days which formed the second reign of Napoleon I., as well through the consequences of the action that shall mark their course as through the gravity of that action itself.
Objections have been made to the time of issuing the Proclamation. Why, it has been asked, spring it so suddenly upon the country? Why publish it just as the tide of war was turning in our favor ? Why not wait, and see what the effect would he on the Southern mind of the victories won in Maryland ? — We have no knowledge of the immediate reasons that moved the President to select the twenty-second of September for the date of his Proclamation; but we can see three reasons why that day was a good one for the deed which thereon was done. The President may have argued, (1,) that the American mind had been brought up to the point of emancipation under certain well-defined conditions, and that, if he should not avail himself of the state of opinion, the opportunity afforded him might pass away, never to return with equal force ; (2,) that foreign nations might base acknowledgment of the Confederacy on the defeats experienced by our armies in the last days of August, on the danger of Washington, and on the advance of Rebel armies to the Ohio, and he was determined that they should, it admitting the Confederacy to national rank, place themselves in the position of supporters of slavery ; and, (3,) that the successes won by our army in Maryland, considering the disgraceful business at Harper’s Ferry, were not of that pronounced character which entitles us to assert any supremacy over the enemy as soldiers. Something like this would seem to be the process through which President Lincoln arrived at tiie sound conclusion that the hour had come to strike a heavy blow at the enemy, and that he was the man for the hour.
Thus much for the Proclamation itself, the appearance of which indicates the beginning of a new period in the Secession contest, and shows that the American people are capable of conquering their prejudices, provided their schooling shall be sufficiently severe and costly. But the Proclamation itself, and without any change in our military policy, cannot be expected to accomplish anything for the Federal cause. Its doctrines must be enforced, if there is to be any practical effect from the change of position taken by the country and the President. If the same want of capacity that has hitherto characterized the war on our part is to be exhibited hereafter, the Proclamation might as well have been levelled against the evils of intemperance as against the evils of slavery. Never, since war began, has there been such imbecility displayed in waging it as we have contrived to display in our attacks on the enemies of the Union. It used to be supposed that Austria was the slowest and the most stupid of military countries ; but America has got ahead of Austria in the art of doing nothing — or worse than nothing — with myriads of men and millions of money. We stand before the world a people to whom military success seems seldom possible, and, when possible, rarely useful. If we win a victory, we spend weeks in contemplating its beauties, and never think of improving it. Had one. of our generals won the Battle of Jena, he would have rested for six weeks, and permitted the Prussian army to reorganize, instead of following it with that swiftness which alone can prevent brave men from speedily rallying after a lost battle. Had one of them won Waterloo, he would not have dreamed of entering France, but would have liberally given to Napoleon all the time that should have been necessary for his recovery from so terrible a defeat. They have nothing in them of the qualities even of old Blücher, who never was counted a first-class commander. Forbearance has never ceased to be a virtue with them. Whether their slackness is of native growth, or is the consequence of instructions from Government, it is plain that adherence to it can never lead to the conquest of the Southrons. There is now a particular reason why it should give way to something of a very different character. The Proclamation has changed the conditions of the contest, and to be defeated now, driven out of the field for good and all, would be a far more mortifying termination of the war than it could have been, if we had already failed utterly. We have committed the unpardonable sin against slavery, and to fail now would be to place ourselves in the same position that is held by the commander of a ship of war who nails his colors to the mast, and yet has to get them down in order to prevent his conqueror from annihilating him. The action of the Confederate Congress with reference to the Proclamation, so far as we have accounts of it, shows that the President’s action has intensified the character of the conflict, and that the enemy are preparing to fight under the banner of the pirate, declaring that they will show no quarter, because they look upon the Proclamation as declaring that there shall be no quarter extended to them. The President of the United States, they say, has avowed it to be his purpose to inaugurate a servile war in their country, and they call fiercely for retaliation. They mean, by using the words “ servile war,” to convey the impression that there is to be a general slaying and ravishing throughout the South, on and after the first of next January, under the special patronage of the American President, who has ordered his soldiers and his sailors, his ships and his corps, to be employed in protecting black ravishers of white women and black murderers of white children. All they say is mere cant, and is intended for the European market, which they now supply as liberally with lies as once they did with cotton. Our foolish foes in England accept every falsehood that is sent them from Richmond, and hence the torrent of misrepresentation that flows from that city to London. Let it continue to flow. It can do us no harm, if our action shall be in correspondence with our cause and our means. If we succeed, falsehood cannot injure us ; if we fail, we shall have something of more importance than libels to think of. We should bear in mind that our armies are not to succeed because the slaves shall rise, but that tire slaves are to be freed as a consequence of the success of our armies. That our armies may succeed, there must be more energy displayed both by their commanders and by Government. The Proclamation must be enforced, or it will come to nought. There is nothing self-enforcing about it. Its mere publication will no more put an end to the Rebellion than President Lincoln’s first proclamation, calling upon the Rebels to cease their evil-doings and disperse, could put an end to it. Its future value, like that of all papers that deal with the leading interests of mankind, must depend altogether upon the future action of the men from whom it emanates, and that of their constituents. It stands to-dav where the Declaration of Independence stood for tlie five years that followed its promulgation, waiting for its place in human annals to be prepared for it by its supporters. Of what worth would the Declaration of Independence be now, had it not been for Trenton and Princeton, Saratoga and Yorktown ? Of no worth at all; and its authors would be looked upon as a band of sentimental political babblers, who could enunciate truths which neither they nor their countrymen had the capacity to uphold and practically to demonstrate. But the Declaration of Independence is one of the most immortal of papers because it proved a grand success; and it was successful because the men who put it forth were fully competent to the grand work with the performance of which they were charged. It is for Mr. Lincoln himself to say whether the Proclamation of September 22, 1861, shall take rank with the Declaration of July 4, 1776, or with those evidences of flagrant failure that have become so common since 1789,—with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, and Mexican Constitutions. That it is the people's duty to support the President is said by almost all men ; but is it not equally the duty of the President to support the people ? And have they not supported him,— supported him with men, with money, with the surrender of the enjoyment of some of their dearest rights, with their full confidence, with good wishes and bettor deeds, and with all the rest of the numerous moral and material means of waging war vigorously and triumphantly ? And if they have done and are doing all this, who will be to blame, if the enemy shall accomplish their purpose?
The President and his immediate associates are placed so high by their talents and their positions that they must be supposed open to the love of fame, and to desire honorable mention in their country's annals, especially as they have to do with matters of such transcendent importance, greater even than those that absorbed the attention of Washington and Hamilton, of Jefferson and Madison, of Jackson and Livingston. It is for themselves to decide what shall be said of them hereafter, and through all future time, — whether they shall be blessed or banned, cursed or canonized. The judgment that shall be passed upon them and their work will be given according to the result, and from it there can be no appeal. The Portuguese have a well-known proverb, that “ the way to hell is paved with good intentions”; but it is not the laborers on that broad and crowded highway who gain honorable immortality. The decisions of posterity are not made with reference to men’s motives and intentions, but upon their deeds. With posterity, success is the proper proof of merit, when nothing necessary to its winning is denied to the players in the world’s great games. Richmond is worshipped, and Richard detested, not because the former was good and great, and the latter wicked and weak, for Richard was the better and the abler man, but for the reason that the decision was in Richmond’s favor on Bosworth Field. The only difference between Catiline and Cæsar, according to an eminent statesman and scholar, is this : Catiline was crushed by his foes, and Cæsar’s foes were crushed by him. This may seem harsh, but we fear that it is only too true,— that it is in accordance with that irreversible law of the world which makes success the test of worth in the management of human affairs. If Mr. Lincoln and his confidential officers would have the highest American places in after-days as well as to-day, let them win those places by winning the nation’s battle. They can have them on no other terms. That is one of the conditions of the part they accepted when they took upon themselves their present posts at the beginning of a period of civil convulsion. If they fail, they will be doomed to profound contempt. In the words of the foremost man of all this modern world, uttered at the very crisis of his own fortunes, — Napoleon I., in the summer of 1813, — “To be judged by the event is the inexorable law of history.”