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The other way.

In medio tutissimus ibis,” --“down the middle,” as they say in the dancing-schools — is a charming maxim when there is any middle to go down. But when some nice representative of the conservative species, who has adjusted his neat legs for a pleasant pirouette through unencumbered spaces of pleasantness and ease, finds his path incontinently blocked up, and discovers that there is no way through which he [330] may glide to measureless content, it is very ridiculous in him to persist in figuring fussily about, no matter how melodious may be the fiddles which call upon him to demonstrate the perfection of his glissando.

Gentlemen who manufacture leading-articles for the London newspapers are much outraged by Mr. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Gentlemen nearer home have also their perturbations. To free the slaves is to be rash and radical, and to follow all precedents and to confiscate that property which is most valuable and upon which we can most readily put the just finger of the law, is to encourage the whole catalogue of crimes, and to awaken under the breastbone of Jefferson Davis, passions which our best blood only can cool. The philosophic mind astutely contemplating these difficulties, and not discovering very clearly that middle course which should be pursued, but which will doubtless charmingly develop itself when two and two make five, seeks for a solution in the other extreme, and wonders if we should please our English critics better by avowing ourselves converts in soul and spirit to the doctrine of the divine right of Man-Owning. Better this than splitting hairs eternally! Better this than to be forever leering with one eye at Self-Interest, and with the other at Duty! Better accept in the full proportions of its gigantic diabolism, the Evangel of Brute Force, than to be always dyspeptically sighing at our troubles and shrinking like children from our medicine!

These modern apologists of treason want a few lessons in manly and muscular wickedness. Now [331] they go bobbing about like the old Duke of Newcastle at a levee, shedding tears, hysterically laughing, asking what they shall do to be saved, following nobody's advice, cursing the Abolitionists heartily, cursing the Rebels just enough to be in the fashion, swearing that something must be done, pitying the North, commiserating the South and fancying that somehow--God only knows how!--if they were in Congress or the President's Cabinet, or at the head of the Army, they would smooth down every hair of this rebellious cat, and coax North and South, in the purple light of love, to fall amorously into each other's arms! Why will not these people see that comfort, convenience, necessity, consistency, all require them to say to the Rebels:

Gentle Patriarchs! Legitimate descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Most worthy and most injured Man-Owners! Salt of the Earth! You wish to own Niggers — Black, Yellow and White Niggers — without hindrance. A very reasonable wish! Believe us it shall be gratified. Not only shall you own them, but, to assist you in owning them, we will eat our own Bibles and Constitutions; we will fight your battles; we will pay your taxes; we will catch the fugacious for you without fee or reward; we will import Sambo for you in our brave ships; and whoever within our borders shall say one word against the equity, or the policy, of your unlimited charter, that man, by due process of law, we will hang, draw and quarter.

Now this it seems to us, is the precise opposite of [332] the Emancipation Proclamation which has proved so acrid to the tender interiors of some Englishmen and of some Northern Democrats. The Rebel asks you to admit that his Slave system is beautiful. Well, then, let us admit it! To be sure we involve ourselves in dreadful responsibilities by doing so — we pile a mountain of corpses upon the Northern conscience — we admit the utter fatuity of the Northern mind — we own an error more monstrous than any people ever before committed — we spit upon the loveliness of civilization, and advertise ourselves atheists, hopeless of human progress, acquiescent in the misery of man, confessing him incapable of advancement, and the sheerest plaything of his own idiotic dreams!

But let the baubles go! Let us throw away our rattles — pity, love, charity, humanity — the baubles of our childhood, and, grimly advancing to confront our bitter destiny, and crying piteously, “Good devil!” seal our Manichaean faith in the blood of the helpless and the despairing! Why should we not? The shuttles of Lancashire will again fly merrily — the great Juggernaut of Printing-House Square will grin approbation at us, with his gaping, bloody mouth — the bulky bales will again fill our ships — the Patriarchs will again adorn and fortify our Legislative halls — dear, delightful internal, not to say infernal, commerce will be resumed — churches will flourish and missions will multiply — of ploughshares and pruning-hooks there will be no end in the land! Talk about conscience! We assert without fear of contradiction from any good Conservative of the [333] Seymour-Brooks-Wood-en order, that no nation can afford to maintain a conscience. Conscience neither sows nor reaps, nor gathers into barns, nor lays up treasure on earth, nor spins nor owns ships. What do they care for conscience in Downing Street? Where would Louis Napoleon have been now, if instead of keeping two or three mistresses, he had been fool enough to keep a conscience? Tormented still by his tailor in a London garret! Of all ridiculous things in this ridiculous old world, thrice the most ridiculous is conscience. It belongs to ecclesiastical establishments — it is something to talk about — it is a handy thing to have in the house — it is an article for which you may have use upon an emergency — but, as for a homely, good, every-day conscience, why you might as well keep an elephant to do odd jobs in the scullery. Bold Britons find conscience a capital thing when they wish to form a Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts — but egad! when you come to Conscience vs. Cotton, John Bull is for the Defendant!

Our little plan we trust will make everything easy. It is simply to give the Rebel Slaveholders all they ask — Slaves, the Presidency, the Congress, the Army, the Navy, the Treasury, the Control of Trade, the Direction of the American Church. Will they kindly consent to take us in hand? Will they intimate to our new government what we must do first? Do we kiss their hands or their feet? Or do we knock our forehead three times upon the ground in token of submission? Must Mr. Lincoln stand at a [334] church-door in a sheet, with a candle in his hand? Give us the etiquette of our formal surrender that we may be preparing for the final ceremony.

January 14, 1863.

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