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[465]

VI.

This resolution was vigorously defended by Mr. Wade, of Ohio, and Mr. Howard, of Michigan; but Mr. Sumner moved the following, as a substitute:
That retaliation is harsh always, even in the simplest cases, and is permissible only where, in the first place, it may reasonably be expected to effect its object; and where, in the second place, it is consistent with the usages of civilized society; and that, in the absence of these essential conditions, it is a useless barbarism, having no other end than vengeance, which is forbidden alike to nations and to men.

And be it further resolved, That the treatment of our officers and soldiers in rebel prisons is cruel, savage and heart-rending, beyond all precedent; that it is shocking to morals; that it is an offence against human nature itself; that it adds new guilt to the crime of the rebellion, and constitutes an example from which history will turn with sorrow and disgust.

And be it further resolved, That any attempted imitation of rebel [466] barbarism in the treatment of prisoners would be plainly impracticable, on account of its inconsistency with the prevailing sentiments of humanity among us; that it would be injurious at home, for it would barbarize the whole community; that it would be utterly useless, for it could not affect the cruel authors of the revolting conduct which we seek to overcome; that it would be immoral, inasmuch as it proceeded from vengeance alone; that it could have no other result than to degrade the national character and the national name, and to bring down upon our country the reprobation of history; and that being thus impracticable, useless, immoral, and degrading, it must be rejected as a measure of retaliation, precisely as the barbarism of roasting or eating prisoners is always rejected by civilized powers.

And be it further resolved, That the United States, filled with grief and sympathy for the cherished citizens who, as officers and soldiers, have become the victims of Heaven-defying outrage, hereby declare their solemn determination to put an end to this great iniquity by putting an end to the rebellion of which it is the natural fruit; that to secure this humane and righteous consummation, they pledge anew their best energies and all the resources of the whole people; and they call upon all to bear witness that in this necessary warfare with barbarism, they renounce [467] all vengeance and every evil example, and plant themselves firmly on the sacred landmarks of civilization, under the protection of that God who is present with every prisoner, and enables heroic souls to suffer for their country.

In sustaining his Resolutions Mr. Sumner said:—
Now, sir, I believe that the Senate will not undertake in this age of Christian light, under any inducement, under any provocation, to counsel the Executive Government to enter into any such competition with barbarism. Sir, the thing is impossible; it cannot be entertained; we cannot be cruel, or barbarous, or savage, because the rebels, whom we are now meeting in warfare, are cruel, barbarous, and savage. We cannot imitate that detested example. Sir, we find no precedent for it in our own history, nor in the history of other nations. * * The Senator from Michigan, who advocates so eloquently this unprecedented retaliation, attempted a description of the torments of the rebel prisons; but language failed him. After speaking of their “ immeasurable criminality,” and the “ horrors of these scenes,” which he said were “absolutely indescribable,” he proceeded to ask that we should do these same things; that we should take the lives of prisoners, even by freezing and starvation, or turn them into living skeletons—by Act of Congress.

Mr. Sumner's amendment, to the honor of the Senate, was adopted by a large majority, although rejected in the House.

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