Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 44, June, 1861
Part 5 out of 5
defensive and recuperative energies; woe to theirs, if that vaunted
corner-stone which they believe patient and enduring as marble should
begin to writhe with intelligent life!
We have no doubt of the issue. We believe that the strongest battalions
are always on the side of God. The Southern army will be fighting for
Jefferson Davis, or at most for the liberty of self-misgovernment, while
we go forth for the defence of principles which alone make government
august and civil society possible. It is the very life of the nation
that is at stake. There is no question here of dynasties, races,
religions,--but simply whether we will consent to include in our Bill of
Rights--not merely as of equal validity with all other rights, whether
natural or acquired, but by its very nature transcending and abrogating
them all--the Right of Anarchy. We must convince men that treason
against the ballot-box is as dangerous as treason against a throne, and
that, if they play so desperate a game, they must stake their lives on
the hazard. The one lesson that remained for us to teach the political
theorists of the Old World was, that we are as strong to suppress
intestine disorder as foreign aggression, and we must teach it
decisively and thoroughly. The economy of war is to be tested by the
value of the object to be gained by it. A ten years' war would be cheap
that gave us a country to be proud of and a flag that should command the
respect of the world because it was the symbol of the enthusiastic unity
of a great nation.
The Government, however slow it may have been to accept the war which
Mr. Buchanan's supineness left them, is acting now with all energy and
determination. What they have a right to claim is the confidence of the
people, and that depends in good measure on the discretion of the
press. Only let us have no more weakness under the plausible name of
Conciliation. We need not discuss the probabilities of an acknowledgment
of the Confederated States by England and France; we have only to
say, "Acknowledge them at your peril." But there is no chance of the
recognition of the Confederacy by any foreign governments, so long as it
is without the confidence of the brokers. There is no question on which
side the strength lies. The whole tone of the Southern journals, so far
as we are able to judge, shows the inherent folly and weakness of the
Secession movement. Men who feel strong in the justice of their cause,
or confident in their powers, do not waste breath in childish boasts of
their own superiority and querulous depreciation of their antagonists.
They are weak, and they know it. And not only are they weak in
comparison with the Free States, but we believe they are without the
moral support of whatever deserves the name of public opinion at home.
If not, why does their Congress, as they call it, hold council always
with closed doors, like a knot of conspirators? The first tap of the
Northern drum dispelled many illusions, and we need no better proof of
which ship is sinking than that Mr. Caleb Gushing should have made such
haste to come over to the old Constitution with the stars and stripes at
We cannot think that the war we are entering on can end without some
radical change in the system of African slavery. Whether it be doomed
to a sudden extinction, or to a gradual abolition through economical
causes, this war will not leave it where it was before. As a power in
the State, its reign is already over. The fiery tongues of the batteries
in Charleston harbor accomplished in one day a conversion which the
constancy of Garrison and the eloquence of Phillips had failed to bring
about in thirty years. And whatever other result this war is destined to
produce, it has already won for us a blessing worth everything to us as
a nation in emancipating the public opinion of the North.
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