Table of Contents:
Nations, as well as individuals, who have seen much of war are very safely disposed to engage in it snow. It is the greatest of all human calamities, and can only be excused in cases of extreme emergency. The people of these Southern States have seen it in all its horrors; and had they their choice in future, we are confident that nothing could ever induce them to engage in it again. It is a calamity, let it result as it may; let it be crowned with victory or marked by defeat. "A great victory," said the Duke of Wellington, "is the most terrible of all calamities except a great defeat." In the same spirit, General Lee is said to have expressed the hope that he should never see any more fighting. "War is only sweet to those who never tried it," says the old beggar in Scott's novel of the Antiquary, who had been a soldier during many years of his life. But to persons of that description it seems to be peculiarly and unnaturally sweet. The people of the South, for example, who have experienced all the horrors that war can bring in its train, pray day and night that they may never again be visited by it. The people of the North, on the other hand, who have but a very dim perception of what it actually is, seem always ready to plunge into it. We speak of the body of the people, not of the military class. Soldiers are always inclined to peace. Civilians are the men who, in nine cases out of ten, bring on war. As soon as it comes they get out of the way and leave the toll and danger to the soldiers, who never have anything to do with producing it, and whose duty is confined to fighting it out. The people of the South, having had war at their doors for the last four years, are extremely desirous to pass the rest of their lives in peace. For that reason, without knowing anything further of the relations existing between France and this country than what can be gathered from the newspapers, they universally cherish the hope that they may be of such a nature as to permit the continuance of peace without a loss of honor. Besides the enormous sacrifice of life entailed upon them by the late war, they are literally ruined in fortune to such an extent that an exception to the general rule can scarcely be found. They wish leisure, to restore their shattered finances and support their beggared families; and they cannot hope for it if we are to have a foreign war so soon after that domestic war which has left them so desolate. Besides all this, there are few families in the South who have not lost some of their members in battle, and they all shudder at the chance of losing those that remain in the same way. The voice of the South, however, can no longer be heard. or, at least, if heard, it can no longer command attention. Unfortunately for us, the voice of that portion of the nation which has the power to order all things according to its will seems to be opposed to the wishes of the South. We judge so from the tone of the Northern papers and of the preachers who figured on Thanksgiving day. The difference of tone in the two sections is easily accounted for on the principle we have laid down. A burnt child dreads the fire; a people who have just been suffering all the horrors of a bloody war cannot be expected to desire its immediate renewal. At least one generation must pass away, and be replaced by another that shall know nothing of what its predecessor suffered, before the South will ever be clamorous for another war. Six years ago, no doubt, it would have been as eager for it as the North appears to be now. But a mighty change has come over the spirit of all its dreams. However, if the alternative of war or national dishonor be clearly presented, there can, of course, be but one choice. In our view of the position of the two parties, the issue can hardly be doubted. The United States are here upon the same continent with Mexico, whose boundary is conterminous with theirs. It has just shown its power to send any number of men into that country that may be required to effect the expulsion of the French. They employed a million of men in the subjugation of the South: they can employ quite as many — nay, twice as many, if necessary — in the war with France. France, on the contrary, lies three thousand miles off, on the eastern side of the Atlantic. She must send here all the men on whom she can rely by means of ships. Now, all the ships of all the navies, military and commercial, cannot transport troops enough to resist one million of men. Her troops will fight gallantly, beyond a doubt--French troops always do — but they cannot resist the pressure of numbers, to say nothing of the possibility that their marine might be destroyed and the sources of supply entirely cut off. It is the idlest of fancies to imagine that France or any other power of Europe can sustain a colony in any part of North America if the Government of the United States do not wish it. England holds Canada, even, by sufferance, and the United States could drive off Russia if it were profitable or desirable. Still we, as Southern men, do not desire to see a war at this time. It would be ruinous to us especially, and we believe it would bring great calamities on the country, let the result be as favorable as it might.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.