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[629] to have our country involved in still another great war, by a refusal, on the part of our Government, to surrender Mason and Slidell. Not even Vallandigham was more belligerent in that direction. Constitutional timidity and irresolution — an overwhelming sense of responsibility and inadequacy to so stupendous a trust — were probably not without their influence in the premises. But, beyond and above all these, there was doubtless a slowly awakened consciousness that Slavery was the real assailant of our National existence, and that to put down the Rebellion by a positive, determined exertion of force, was to seal the doom of its inciting cause, which had so recently transformed into downright traitors so many high officers who once honored and loved our Union and its flag. It was hard for one who had long been arguing and voting that, in our current politics, Slavery was not the aggressor, but the innocent victim, to unlearn this gross error in a year; and Gen. McClellan is essentially slow. But, in the high position to which he had been so suddenly exalted, it was hard also not to see that, in order to save both Slavery and the Union, there must be little fighting and a speedy compromise — that fighting must be postponed, and put off, and avoided, in the hope that financial embarrassment, a foreign war, or some other complication, would compel the mutual adoption of some sort of Crittenden Compromise, or kindred “adjustment,” whereby the Slave Power would graciously condescend to take the Union afresh into its keeping, and consent to a reunion, which would be, in effect, an extension of the empire of Jefferson Davis to the Canada frontier, and a perpetual interdict of all Anti-Slavery discussion and effort throughout the Republic. On this hypothesis, and on this alone, Gen. McClellan's course while in high command, but especially during that long Autumn and Winter, becomes coherent and comprehensible.

The Rebels, so vastly outnumbered and overmatched in every thing but leadership, were, of course, too glad to be allowed to maintain a virtual siege of Washington, with all but one of its lines of communication with the loyal States obstructed, to make any offensive movement; and the only assault made that Winter upon our General-in-Chief's main position, was repelled with prompt, decided energy. The circumstances were as follows:

A portion of the melodious Hutchinson family, having been attracted to Washington by the novelty of finding the public halls of that city no longer barricaded against the utterance of humane and generous sentiments, had there solicited of the Secretary of War permission to visit the camps across the Potomac, in order to break the monotony and cheer the ruggedness of Winter with the spontaneous, unbought carol of some of their simple, heartfelt songs. Gen. Cameron gave their project not merely his cordial assent, but his emphatic commendation; and, thus endorsed, they received Gen. McClellan's gracious permission. So they passed over to the camps, and were singing to delighted crowds of soldiers, when an officer's quick ear caught the drift of what sounded like Abolition! Forthwith, there were commotion, and effervescence, and indignation, rising from circle to circle of the military aristocracy, until they reached the

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