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 It has been reached through the only means that were possible to men who have any self-respect, the manly recognition of the fact that the war was not on either side a crime. Criminals, whether pardoned or punished to the satisfaction of the law, cannot “dwell together in unity” and as brethren with those who are virtuous and good. When the people unite with those who are denounced as criminals and traitors, it proves either that the good have become demoralized or that they do not believe the accusation. The latter is the true proposition. The people reject a denunciation that they feel to be unjust, and will some day expunge it from the laws. The war of 1861 was not on either side a crime. It was the necessary result of a conflict of interests and convictions which were too deep-seated and too important to be yielded to anything but overpowering force. What nation or race of people has ever become great without struggles and bloodshed? It has been so frequently necessary that it has almost become a rule of national progress and elevation to use the sword in cutting loose from the clogs and incumbrances that gather in the form of influence, wealth, and prejudice around effete institutions. This fact has had a great influence in reconciling the South to the fate of slavery. Whether it was right or wrong, it had passed under condemnation. The sword was necessary, and would have been necessary under any circumstances to execute the sentence of the enlightened nations, as we esteem them, against African slavery in the South. The South would never have tolerated slavery as a means of darkening the barbarism of the African. They believed, and still believe, that they have done more for his civilization and enlightenment than he can ever do for himself in this country or in his native land, with all the assistance of all the nations of the earth. The “sin of slavery” they never felt. If this is moral obliquity, they are still blind. But whether they were right or wrong in these opinions and sentiments, they were not criminal in defending with arms a right which had the express sanction and protection of the Constitution. This was their only remedy, or else the whole North was criminal in boasting of their purpose to abolish slavery by any means that might be found necessary. Our great doubt was as to the honesty of this declaration; but those who revile us as rebels and traitors cannot now deprive us of the defense that we believed that their declarations were the true expression of their designs. When thirty millions of people of the same blood, having the same government, go to war for opinion's sake, for principle, for personal and
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