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[168]

Bella Mollita — soft war.

when Osric, the water-fly, called upon Hamlet to arrange the tilt with Laertes, he did not forget to speak in high terms of the latter as “an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent differences, of very soft society and great showing — the card or calendar of gentry.” There are some men, and some of them are journalists, who, having all their lives been accustomed to speak of slaveholders and slaveholding in their mealy-mouthed way, cannot now, in the very tempest of the national danger, change to something like a masculine tone. The Northern corpses upon the fields of Virginia appeal to them in vain. Men and women driven from their Southern homes because of their Northern birth and blood, appeal to them in vain. They shut their eyes to things vulgarly dishonest — to ignoble repudiations and gratuitous bank-ruptcies, and to an official treachery almost without a precedent in history. “Fight!” they say to our noble volunteers--“but fight with foils! Fire! but fire with blank cartridges! Lay on, Macduff! but lay on softly!” How many times already have we been reminded that the rebel Southerners are our brethren! This may be, according to certain codes, a reason for not fighting with them at all; but a contest once undertaken, we respectfully submit that they have ceased to be brethren, and have become simply enemies. Brothers who dispatch the wounded and mutilate the slain are not of that intensely fraternal pattern which is worthy of the highest reverence. [169] They are entitled to whatever consideration the laws of war permit — not one jot or tittle more.

But there is one particular of tender solicitude which we confess we do not well understand; and that is the hot haste in. which some of our generals return fugitive slaves. Why is this species of property to be given up more than munitions of war? A black man who can dig, cook and assist in general camp-work, is certainly quite as valuable to keep for one's self and from one's enemy as a gun, a cask of powder or a horse. Slaves in all ages have always been among the spoils of war; and if we can obtain them without fighting for them, in fact, by their running to us, so much the better. If, by the fortune of war, Virginian rebel has, his house burned, is it the intention of Congress to soothe his grief by building him another domici? Why not, if you are also bound to restore to him his runaway negroes? There may be a difference, but we do not see it.

The truth is, the flippant gentlemen who undertake to assure the South that this war at its honorable conclusion will leave slave property in statu quo, exceed their commissions. They are promising utter impossibilities. Under any circumstances — the Southern Confederacy established or overthrown — the strength of the institution of Slavery can never be what it has been. The South. is utterly bankrupt now; but in what a condition will it be when it has lost the advantage of perhaps half-a-dozen crops; and is crushed under an enormous public debt, which must be paid by taxes on negroes or not paid at all! On the other [170] hand, admitting the States which have seceded to have been reduced to wholesome obedience to the Constitution, Slavery can never again be an autocratic, domineering and impudent power. On the contrary, it will understand — for this is the lesson which reverses will teach — it will understand, that it holds its very existence by the tenure of good behavior. In one of these ways or the other, Slavery may be affected by the war.

And why not? Why should a war about Slavery be begun, continued and ended, leaving Slavery just where it was? If the free States are to have no protection in the future from the aggressions of Slavery — if all the weary work of, the last thirty years is to be done over again, with its agitations, excitements, mobs and lynchings — with its corruption of the souls of public men — with its quadrennial struggle and with its Congressional conflicts, peace will be no peace, and treaties misnomers. The Republican party in a great majority in all the States in which it has an existence at all, has always claimed that slaveholders were unreasonable in their demands. Will peace bring no change? If so, peace will bring either disunion or dishonor.

At any rate it does not seem to us that this is a time in which to crook the hinges of the knee. For the present the seceding States must be regarded. exactly as they are — as forsworn and mutinous members of the Union, and as such entitled to no more consideration than it may be politic to show them. A considerable portion of the white population of these States [171] has forfeited its life. The returning supremacy of the laws in any other land would be followed by wholesale judicial executions, which by law written and by law common would be justified here. We are not aware that these criminals, after causing an amount of suffering which the agonized mind refuses to compute, are entitled to a sort of Jack Sheppard sympathy, though it come from no higher source than The Day Book newspaper. You may be reasonably sure, when you hear a man bewailing the wrongs of South Carolina, that he has no particular affection. for New York, though it may, by courtesy, call him a citizen.

The time for soothing promises and carminative compromises was when such negotiation was possible. The patchers — up of peace had full swing-and what did they do? They talked morning and evening, in season and out of season, well and badly — but what did they accomplish? They filled an immense number of pages in The Congressional Globe, but they “took nothing.” It was then proposed to fight — and fight away! say we, in God's name, and may He help the right. Whatever may be the distresses and inconveniences of fighting, we should have thought of them before beginning.

How uncertain The fortune of a war is, children know.

But about the cause in which we are engaged, there is no uncertainty. The Government of the country is pitted against the government of the plantation — Freedom [172] against Slavery — Simple Right against Complex Wrong; and it is better to perish with the Government, with Freedom and with Right, than to yield for a single day to a coarse and arrogant domination.

July 31, 1861.

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