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and errors of the past, — was to be won in this way, and no other.
Great populations are liable to great delusions; and some of our sincere friends abroad have considered this conviction of ours to be such. We are not careful to answer them in this matter. We desire them only to take note how sincere, how calm, how universal, the conviction is. The grounds of it we do not expect them to feel as we do. It would not be genuine, if it did not run in the veins, taste of the soil and air, and enter into the substance of the national life, in a way that must make it foreign and strange to them. It claims its place among the great faiths — the great delusions if they will — of history. It may be defeated, it may be betrayed; but without it we should forfeit whatever name and honor we aspire to hold among the nations of the earth. We need not recite the instances of humble heroism so countlessly multiplied and repeated in this war, or tell of that infinite and uncomplaining patience under all suffering, that eagerness to be at the post of duty if kept from it by wounds or sickness, that unhesitating devotion to the objects of the war, that pathetic trust in commanders whose unskilfulness or crime has shed such tides of costly blood, that charity steadily enlarging and deepening with the enormous drafts upon it, most conspicuous in our countrymen in the darkest hours of this struggle. We simply affirm, first, that it rests on an intelligent faith in our republican principles of government, for which no possible cost or sacrifice 'seems to us too dear; and besides, that the integrity of this nation, and the work appointed for it in the Christian civilization of this Western world, are elements in the religious faith we have been taught to cherish. This is our answer to those who have asked us a reason of our hope. With this conviction, it is precisely those most impressed with the dreadfulness of war who most distinctly repudiate the bribe of a false and treacherous peace.
For ourselves, during this long struggle, we liave never for an instant wavered in our conviction as to its result. At times it has seemed just possible that the final issue might be thrown back, - indefinitely perhaps, – and preceded by years of restless throes, of deceitful compromises, of sharper divisions and harder sacrifices; for this would be the only meaning to us of any political arrangement that should not settle, once for all, the points in controversy. But it has seemed more probable that a conflict so long maturing, entered on with such resolute purpose, developing passions and radical hostilities more and more deeply as it went on, must end by sweeping away, in its resistless flood, the one thing that has hitherto stood between us and peace. Hitherto, it has been unhappily true that there has never been a time when peace could have been had, except on terms that would have put this nation at the mercy of the South. Partition of territory would have been accepted by one party only as the last humiliation of utter defeat; would have been consented to by the other only with a boundary line that gave them virtually the control of the entire continent. If the South had been victorious, we should have heard no more of State rights and constitutional secession; then, the alternative to a chaos of warring states and sections would have been found in a military power, a centralized despotism, at deadly enmity with that popular freedom it had succeeded at last in betraying, defeating, and hunting into straitened and uncertain boundaries. Happily, that power was too disdainfully frank as to its designs beforehand. Happily, we knew that it would leave us only such rights as we could defend by force and arms; that our only hope of deliverance and peace was, to fight this fight through. Happily, the courage of the nation rose with its peril, and the popular heart has never lost its absolute assurance of triumph in the end.
Nor, even in the gloomiest period of our public fortunes, four or five months ago, do we think there was any serious abatement of this general confidence. Take it at its worst, what was the condition of things, as compared with a year before? A great army, of nearly half a million, mostly raised and disciplined within the year, one portion of it under the shadow of a serious repulse, and disheartened by strange jealousies and suspicions among its chief officers, yet loyal, fearless, and prompt for service, as soon as the way of service could be shown; witness South Mountain and Antietam within three weeks of Centreville and Chantilly; this, with a second half-million gathering faster than they could be organized or employed or armed. A fleet fast getting ready, with powers of attack and defence never dreamed of by military engineers until the exigencies of this very war had developed the skill to invent them. A public policy announced, which must bear with crushing weight upon the rebellion, in a direction where no retaliation could be attempted. The powerful military positions of Norfolk, Newbern, Port Royal, Pensacola, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, and Columbus, with the entire States of Missouri and Kentucky, and half of Virginia, Louisiana, Florida, and Tennessee, * all wrested from the rebellion within the year; while not a single lost post had been regained to it, or a foot of loyal territory held, except by a fortnight's foray in Maryland and Kentucky. A hundred menacing symptoms, from the Chesapeake to the Gulf, along the Mississippi, and in both Carolinas, showing that the system of slavery, which alone had made the rebellion possible, was a doomed and stricken thing, perishing by the flames it had kindled to consume its enemies, dissolved, as the icefields of the lakes soften to be swept over the cataract in spring. Against these immense advantages, to be set the signal but single failure of the second campaign in East Virginia. This was the account we had to register at that darkest and worst hour, when all those jealous and unfriendly towards us in other countries thought the day of our defeat and dissolution had come. If that was our reckoning in those months of disaster and fear, what wonder that we dreamed, even then, of no peace that should not be honestly earned by turning the tide of triumph the other way?
Besides the disasters of the summer, the elections of the autumn have been a motive to stimulate projects of compromise at home and mediation from abroad. At the risk of trespassing on the field of politics, let us say a word of explanation
* If to these we add the great central and valley States, and the Territories lying east of the Rocky Mountains, the area thus rescued from the anticipated control of the Slave Confederacy – from twelve to fifteen hundred thousand square miles fully justifies the loose rhetorical estimate of "five or six times as great as all Eng. land and France, – as the world goes, no small result to show for a year of war." See London Inquirer of Nov. 20.
here, for the benefit of our European friends. Senator Wilson was right in the main, when he said, roughly, the other day, that the explanation was simply in the fact, that the Republicans, on whom the burden of the war rested, were not quite numerous enough to fight our enemies in the field, and at the same time vote down their political opponents at home. Such estimates as we have seen — if they have been discredited we have not heard of it - would show a clear majority of not far from half a million votes, from citizen soldiers in our armies, in favor of the general policy of the administration, which, duly distributed among the opposition States, would have given them all overwhelming majorities the other way. Our battle-fields are too far off to let our defenders hold a tool in one hand for home use, while they handle a weapon in the other. Or analyze the vote a little differently; strike out the turbulent wards of the Empire City, and the State of New York shows more than twenty thousand majority against the party that had the suspicion of compromise upon them. Or else take the declarations of Western Democrats; and the elections are a demand, not for a new compromise, but for a more vigorous war and a solid peace, - a demand to which the government immediately made answer by changing its commanders and entering on a winter campaign in earnest. These, as far as we can gather, are the real symptoms of the public mind. So far, they give not the least encouragement to the counsel or the hope of those who would stay, with their petty and frail dikes, this Mississippi torrent of the nation's will.
We do not think we have misstated the temper of our people in the present controversy, nor the true lesson to be gathered from late events. A repetition of disasters like that just now at Fredericksburg might possibly cause rage and disgust,
- might possibly raise among us the Roman cry for a six months' dictatorship, NE QUID RESPUBLICA DETRIMENTI CAPIAT; but it would not stem that current of events and passions which seems now strong as destiny. We believe that the general determination rests on a deliberate and full conviction, which circumstances have greatly confirmed instead of weakening, – that the peaceable division of this Republic is not a
possible thing.* And this conviction has nothing to do — as our friends abroad argue — with the thirst for imperial dominion, which would threaten Canada and Mexico by the same claim that resists the secession of the South. A jagged, indented, doubtful boundary, traced by a paper treaty, - cutting across the great highways of trade and emigration, – violating all the national traditions and setting a deadly brand on the national pride, — parting not only two exasperated populations, but two systems of society that have been at open war these two years past, — what manner of “ condition of peace” is that? Did not Jefferson Davis vindicate his conscription law by saying that, after peace should have been won in the “ defensive war,” the army would still be needed for “offensive purposes”; and thereby threaten in advance the doubly imbittered strife sure to follow on the ever-rising sources of
* “Would it be peace after all ? Surely a peace paid for so dearly, obtained at the sacrifice of everything that manly nations hold most precioas, — honor, fame, power, self-respect, the memory of the fathers, and all the traditions of a noble history, - surely it ought to be a real and a stable peace, seeing that it would be all that was left to us. If it is ignominious, it ought at least to be secure. But would it be? No, not for a month. There would be many hundreds of miles of an arbitrary boundary linc, and along that whole line two angry and rival nations would stand facing cach other; we hating them as the most proud and arrogant of nations, - a nation that has humbled us into the dust, and made as the scorn and loathing of mankind and of our own better selves; and they despising us as a thousand times meaner and weaker and more contemptible than they ever called us even in the old days of their truculent boasting and defiance. Would peace continue along such a border? There would be armies scattered along from post to post, on both sides, - great standing armies, almost as costly, and more demoralizing, than actual war. And then collisions must arise continually. The jeers and feuds of a rude soldiery would lead to them. The vexatious intricacies of traffic under a treaty would produce them. The escape and pursuit of slaves over the border would produce them. Everlasting intrigues, on both sides, to detach a disaffected state or country, and bring it over from one of the loose confederacies to the other, would produce them. Preferences given, or supposed to be given, to foreign nations in advantages of trade would produce them. Misunderstandings and mutual vexations about the use of those rivers, and other lines of traffic and trade which must be used in common, would produce them. We cannot number the causes that would be operating every day to produce collisions. And then all the old issues that produced the present conflict would remaim unsettled, and ever ready to break into further wars. A treaty of peace would have to be more complicated than the old Constitution was. It would involve more questions of doubtful interpretation, lead to more misunderstandings and mutual imputations of bad faith. It would be absurd to expect that, if the Constitution could not preserve peace, a mere treaty could do it any better.” – Dr. Putnam's Thanksgiving Sermon.