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 It is worthy of notice that the United States government (though it had previously declined) at this time notified the English and French governments that it was now willing to adhere to all the conditions of the Paris Congress of 1856, provided the clause abolishing privateers might apply to the Confederate States. The offer, with the proviso, was honorably declined by both France and England. In the matter of the exchange of prisoners, which became important in consequence of these retaliatory measures, and the number taken by our troops at Manassas, the people of the Northern states were the victims of incessant mortification and distress through the vacillating and cruel conduct of their government. It based all its immense military movements on the theory that ‘the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed, . . . by combinations too powerful to be suppressed’ by the ordinary methods. Under this theory the United States are assumed to be one nation, and the distinctions among them of states are as little recognized as if they did not exist. This theory, was false, and thereby led its originators into constant blunders. When the leaders of a government aspire to the acquisition of absolute, unlimited power, and the sword is drawn to hew the way, it would be more logical and respectable to declare the laws silent than to attempt to justify unlawful acts by unwarranted legislation. If their theory had been true, then their prisoners of war were insurrectionists and rebels, and guilty of treason, and hanging would have been the legitimate punishment. Why were they not hanged? Not through pity, but because the facts contradicted the theory. The ‘combinations’ spoken of were great and powerful states, and the danger was that the North would be the greater sufferer by our retaliation. There was no humane course but to exchange prisoners according to the laws of war. With this the government of the United States refused to comply, lest it might be construed into an acknowledgment of belligerent rights on our part, which would explode their theory of insurrectionary combinations, tend to restore more correct views of the rights and powers of the states, and expose in its true light their efforts to establish the supreme and unlimited sovereignty of the general government. The reader may observe the tenacity with which the authorities at Washington and, behind them, the Northern states, clung to this theory. Upon its strict maintenance depended the success of their bloody revolution to secure absolute supremacy over the states. Upon its failure the dissolution of the Union would have been established, constitutional liberty would have been vindicated, the hopes of mankind in the modern
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