Contrary to a very general impression, Gen. McClellan
was among the first not only to perceive, but to assert, that the Rebellion
was essentially a slaveholders' enterprise, and that it might be effectively assailed through Slavery.
Thus, in his Memorandum privately addressed to the President
, Aug. 4th, 1861, when lie had but just taken command of the Army of the Potomac, he says:
In this contest, it has become necessary to crush a population sufficiently numerous, intelligent, and warlike, to constitute a nation.
We have not only to defeat their armed and organized forces in the field, but to display such an overwhelming strength as will convince all our antagonists, especially those of the governing aristocratic class, of the utter impossibility of resistance.
Our late reverses make this course imperative, Had we been successful in the recent battle [first Bull Run], it is possible that we might have been spared the labor and expense of a great effort; now, we have no alternative.
Their success will enable the political leaders of the Rebels to convince the mass of their people that we are inferior to them in force and courage, and to command all their resources.
The contest began with a class; now it is with a people; our military success can alone restore the former issue.
After suggesting various military movements, including one down the Mississippi
, as required to constitute a general advance upon the strongholds of the Rebellion
, he proceeds:
There is another independent movement which has often been suggested, and which has always recommended itself to my judgment.
I refer to a movement from Kansas and Nebraska, through the Indian Territory, upon Red river and western Texas, for the purpose of protecting and developing the latent Union and Free-State sentiment, well known to predominate in western Texas; and which, like a similar sentiment in Western Virginia, will, if protected, ultimately organize that section into a Free State.
In view of these sensible and pertinent suggestions, it is impossible not to feel that Gen. McClellan
's naturally fair though not brilliant mind was subjected, during his long sojourn thereafter in Washington
, to sinister political influences and the whispered appeals and tempting suggestions of a selfish and sordid ambition.
During that Fall
, his house was thronged with partisans of the extreme “Peace” wing of the Democratic party, who must have held out to him the golden lure of the Presidency as the reward of a forbearing, temporizing, procrastinating policy, which would exhaust the resources and chill the ardor of the