no one will pretend that, for the purpose of philosophical discussion, personal recrimination is of any value.
“You are another,” proves nothing but bad temper, and a worse cause.
From this point of view Gen. Butler
's retorts upon his transatlantic censors seem to be simply amusing.
They remind us, as we read, of Satan, with a savor of his normal brimstone exuding, from every pore, creeping, tail and all, into some empty pulpit, and exhorting the congregation to abandon its sins.
When lechers preach continence, when misers advocate liberality, when bullies set up for Chesterfields, when prize-fighters put on Quaker
coats, when liars tender their corporal oath, it is the way of the world, a very wicked and uncharitable world, no doubt, to snicker and to sneer.
It cannot be helped.
It is only a simple resort to our natural defence against presumption and hypocrisy.
It is no palliation, indeed, of our own wrongdoing, but it is a fair assertion of our right to be rebuked by honest lips, and to be smitten by clean hands.
By recrimination the woman taken in adultery escaped not only a cruel but a legal death; and the consciousness that we are none of us without sin, saves society from perpetual collisions and an eternal wrangle.
But when Gen. Butler
, placed as he was in a most difficult and delicate position, found it necessary to resort to certain punishments, some of them extreme indeed, but most of them of a mild and municipal character — punishments which fifty years ago were as familiar to Europe
as the bulletins of Napoleon
— then every scribbler for the London
newspapers felt it to be his duty to elevate his whine, and to represent the General
as a blood-thirsty ogre, only deterred from dining upon Rebels by the extreme leanness of their corporeity.
There was never a sillier slander.
Imagine a commander in military possession of a captured town, who allows his soldiers to be insulted, his authority to be questioned, his Government to be derided in the newspapers; who invites his own assassination by his fear of hanging professional bravos, and who runs a daily risk of ignominious expulsion, because he cannot make up his gentle mind to abandon the suaviter
for a time, and resort, in his emergency, to the fortier
! Of course, under such circumstances, if he does his duty, he will be denounced by those whom it would be criminal to conciliate.
It's the rogue trussed up and haltered, with his ill opinion of the law, over again!
Particularly would the satisfaction under such circumstances be lively, in a city like New Orleans — a city in which, in the most peaceful times, the civil and judicial authorities have
been notoriously corrupt and inefficient — a city in which mobs have always abounded, and human life has ever been unsafe — a city which has been a constant reservoir of Slaveholding rascality, and the refuge of lawlessness and violence.
To the ruffianhood of New Orleans, the vigor, the promptness, the precision and the inexorability of Gen. Butler
must have been, of necessity, astonishing and uncomfortable.
But, upon a review of his proceedings, this much-berated Major-General
, so far from finding anything to regret, appears to regard the moderation of his course with no little complacency; and the sang-froid
with which he reminds his English assailants of the little he had done, and the deal which, following established precedents, he might have done, is really entertaining.
He has dealt lightly enough, he thinks, with men who, fifty times over, have forfeited their lives.
He has n't smoked them to death, as the soldiers of Claverhouse
did the Covenanters; he has n't roasted them as the French
did the Algerines; he has n't scalped them, and tomahawked wives and mothers, as the Indians under British colors did at Wyoming
; he has n't “looted” private property after the fashion of the English
; he has n't blown his prisoners from his guns, as Bull
did at Delhi
; he has resorted to extreme penalties only when the law demanded them, and the commonest punishment which he has inflicted has been banishment to an island, where, only a little while ago, his own soldiers were quartered.
It seems to us, after the fullest consideration, that
a retort like this is perfectly fair.
may well urge in his own defence that England
, with all her immense resources, has never found the work of arresting a rebellion a mere holiday task.
He might have gone further, if he had seen fit to do so. He might have pointed to the atrocities of the English
soldiery in Ireland
— to that chapter of history which can never be recited without awaking the indignation of mankind — to cabins burned, to men and women indiscriminately murdered, to tortures mercilessly inflicted — to that whole catalogue of crimes which Lord Cornwallis, then the Lord-Lieutenant
, in vain endeavored to arrest, by the most pathetic remonstrance addressed to the English
ministers in London
It would have been no inequitable rejoinder, to have said something of the British Themis
, advancing into the hovels of Ireland
with a halter in one hand and a bag of guineas in the other, buying men's lives as drovers purchase cattle, and attended by a train of nine-times perjured sycophants, spies, and informers!
Something, too, might have been said of Capt. Hodson
's summary execution, with his own hand, of the two sons and the grandson of the King
— an act, the propriety and necessity of which we do not mean to question — but still an act of boldness and severity, in comparison with which anything done by Gen. Butler
during his government of New Orleans, has been the milk of mercy itself!
But if the perils of the Rebellion
were such as to drive an excellent and amiable officer to the extreme
of severity — if Capt. Hodson
himself shot his prisoners, while it is n't pretended that Gen. Butler
played Jack Ketch upon any occasion — why are we to be denounced for simply securing the safety of a city fairly captured by our forces?
We are not fighting for entertainment.
We are not engaged in mere pastime.
Unless, indeed, we are in grim earnest in this contest; unless we are determined, before we throw by the sword, to re-establish the Federal
authority whereever it has been assailed; unless we mean war with all its incidents and consequents, we are verily guilty of blood carelessly and causelessly spilt, and must answer to God for incalculable suffering.
But in view of the great and patriotic work before us, the little matters at New Orleans, which have furnished the London
journals with themes for whole symphonies of sarcasm and wrath, dwindle into insignificance.
has acted precisely as any English or French General would have acted; or perhaps it would be fairer to say, that he has displayed a moderation which, in an English or French officer, we should have looked for in vain.
Without any particular admiration for his character, we feel that to say this is only to do him simple justice.
January 12, 1863,