Xxxi. The forces in conflict.
- Davis's first Message -- relative strength of the North and the South -- European opinion -- Slavery -- Cotton -- military training -- army officers -- Northern sympathy with “the South” -- the heart of the people for the old flag and their whole country.
Mr. Jefferson Davis, in his Special Message to his Congress,1 wherein he asserts that war has been declared against the Confederacy by President Lincoln's Proclamation of April 15th, heretofore given, with more plausibility asserts that the Democratic party of the Free States stands publicly committed to the principles which justify the secession and confederation of the States owning his sway, by its reiterated affirmation and adoption of “the Resolutions of ‘98 and ‘99,” 2 and that the whole country had ratified this committal by large majorities, in the reelection as President of Mr. Jefferson, in the first election of Mr. Madison, and in the election of Gen. Pierce. Assuming this as a basis, Mr. Davis had no difficulty in convincing those whom he more immediately addressed, that, for his confederates to surprise, capture, or otherwise obtain, through the treachery of their custodians, the forts, arsenals, armories, custom-houses, mints, sub-treasuries, etc., etc., of the Union, in their respective States--even (as in the case of North Carolina and Arkansas) those which had not seceded — was a peaceful, regular, legitimate, legal procedure; while to resist such spoliation and maintain the right of the Union to possess and control the property it had created and hitherto enjoyed, was unjustifiable aggression and unprovoked war. Mr. Lincoln (said Mr. Davis) had no constitutional right to issue “the declaration of war against this Confederacy which has prompted me to convoke you.” It was his duty to have quietly let the Confederates help themselves, by virtue of shot and shell, to such portions of the property of the Union as they should see fit to touch and take. In fact, this whole Message, like several which succeeded it, evinces the consciousness of its author that lie had no longer to square his assertions by what was regarded, out of the Confederacy, as historic truth, or his deductions by what the civilized world had established  as the dictates of human reason. Thus, he does not hesitate to assert that
In the Inaugural Address delivered by President Lincoln, in March last, he asserts a maxim, which he plainly deems to be undeniable, that the theory of the Constitution requires, in all cases, that the majority shall govern. * * * * The climate and soil of the Northern States soon proved unpropitious to the continuance of Slave Labor; while, the reverse being the case at the South, * * * the Northern States consulted their own interests by selling their Slaves to the South and prohibiting Slavery within their limits.Now, not one-fifth of the slaves held in the Northern States, just before or at the time they respectively abolished Slavery, were sold to the South--as hundreds of them, still living, can bear witness; nor is it true that Slavery was ever proved unsuited to or unprofitable in the North, in the judgment of her slaveholders. Had the slaveholding caste been as omnipotent here as in the South, controlling parties, politics, and the press, Slavery would have continued to this day. It was by the non-slaveholding possessors of influence and power, here as everywhere else, that Slavery was assailed, exposed, reprobated, and ultimately overthrown. No class ever yet discovered that aught which ministered so directly and powerfully to its own luxury, sensuality, indolence, and pride, as Slavery does to those of the slaveholders, was either unjust, pernicious, or unprofitable. With greater truth and plausibility, Mr. Davis assured his Congress that
There is every reason to believe that, at no distant day, other States, identical in political principles and community of interest with those which you represent, will join this Confederacy.This expectation was, in good part, fulfilled. When Mr. Davis was next3 called to address his Congress — which had meantime adjourned from Montgomery to Richmond — in announcing the transfer of the Executive departments likewise to the new capital, he said:
Gentlemen of the Congress of the Confederate States of America: My Message addressed to you at the commencement of the last session contained such full information of the state of the Confederacy as to render it unnecessary that I should now do more than call your attention to such important facts as have occurred during the recess, and the matters connected with the public defense. I have again to congratulate you on the accession of new members to our Confederation of free and equally sovereign States. Our beloved and honored brethren of North Carolina and Tennessee have consummated the action foreseen and provided for at your last session; and I have had the gratification of announcing by Proclamation, in conformity with the law, that these States were admitted into the Confederacy. The people of Virginia also, by a majority previously unknown in our history, have ratified the action of her Convention uniting her fortunes with ours. The States of Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia, have likewise adopted the permanent Constitution of the Confederate States; and no doubt is entertained of its adoption by Tennessee, at the election to be held early in next month.The Confederacy having thus attained its full proportions prior to any serious collision between its armies and those of the Union, we may now properly consider and compare the relative strength of the opposing parties about to grapple in mortal combat. I. The total population of the United States, as returned by the Census of 1860, somewhat exceeded Thirty-one Millions,4 whereof the Free States, with all the territories, contained Nineteen,5 and the Slave States, including the District of Columbia, over Twelve6 Millions. As the Free States all adhered  to the Union, while, of the Slave States, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri7 did not unite with the Confederacy, the preponderance of population in the adhering over that of the seceded States was somewhat more than two to one. The disparity in wealth between the contending parties was at least equal to this; so that there was plausibility in the claim of the Confederates to that sympathy which the generous usually extend to the weaker party in a life-and-death struggle. In Manufactures, Commerce, Shipping, etc., the preponderance was immensely on the side of the Union. II. The prestige of regularity, of legitimacy, and of whatever the Old World implies by the comprehensive term “Order,” was likewise on the side of the Union. The Confederacy appeared as a disturber of preexisting arrangements, and thus of the general peace. Its fundamental theories of State Sovereignty, Right of Secession, etc., were utter novelties to the mass of mankind, and were at war with the instincts and prepossessions of nearly all who could understand them. The greatness and security, wealth and power, of England were based on the supersedure of the Heptarchy by the Realm, and on the conversion of Scotland and Ireland, respectively, from jealous and hostile neighbors into integral portions of the British commonwealth. France, feeble and distracted while divided into great feudatories, became strong and commanding from the hour that these were absorbed into the power and influence of the monarchy, and Burgundy, Picardy, Anjou, etc., became mere geographical designations of portions of the nation “one and indivisible.” Italy, through her at length half-realized aspirations of so many weary centuries — Germany, still in fragments, in defiance of her ardent hopes and wishes, the imposing and venerable anarchy that Voltaire pronounced her, four generations back — Poland, through her lamentable partition — and nearly every great calamity which modern history had taught mankind to deplore — protested against such disintegrations as the Confederacy had initiated, and not less against the principles on which they were justified. And especially did the Democracy of Europe — the party of Progress and Reform of whatever country — instinctively revolt against doctrines and practices which tended unmistakably backward to the ages alike of national and of individual impotence, wherein peoples were weak, though castes were strong; to the ages of barbarism and of feudalism, wherein nobles and chieftains were mighty, but laws and magistrates of small account. The Democracy of Europe were never for one moment misled or confused by the Confederates' pretensions as to reserved rights and constitutional liberty. Their instinct at once recognized their deadly foe through all his specious disguises. Men who had, as conspirators and revolutionists, been tenanting by turns the dungeons and dodging the gibbets of “Divine right” from boyhood, repudiated with loathing any affiliation with this rebellion; and no word of cheer ever reached the ears of its master-spirits from Kossuth, Mazzini,  Victor Hugo, Ledru Rollin, Louis Blanc, Garibaldi, or any other of those who, defying the vengeance of despots, have consecrated their lives and sacrificed personal enjoyment to the championship of the Rights of Man. III. The Confederates had vastly the advantage in the familiarity of their people with the use of arms,8 and in their addiction to and genius for the art of war. The Northern youth of 1860 were not nearly so familiar with the use of the hunter's rifle or fowling-piece as were their ancestors of 1770. The density of our population had expelled desirable game almost entirely from all the New-England States but Maine; in the prairie States, it rapidly disappears before the advancing wave of civilized settlement and cultivation. Our Indian wars of the present century have nearly all been fought on our western and south-western borders; our last war with Great Britain was condemned as unwise and unnecessary by a large proportion of the Northern people; so was the war upon Mexico: so that it may be fairly said that, while the South and South-West had been repeatedly accustomed to hostilities during the present century, the North and East had known very little9 of war but by hearsay since the peace which secured our independence, eighty years ago. IV. The Rebels had a decided advantage in the fact that, on the main question underlying the great issue they had made up — the question of upholding, strengthening, extending, and perpetuating Slavery, or (on the other hand) restricting, confining, weakening it, with a view to its ultimate extinction — they had the active sympathy of a decided majority of the American people. The vote for President in 186010 had shown that scarcely more than two-fifths of the American People were even so far hostile to Slavery to wish its farther diffusion arrested. Had political action been free in the Slave States, they would probably have swelled Mr. Lincoln's poll to fully Two Millions; but, on the other hand, the hopeless distraction and discouragement of the pro-Slavery forces so paralyzed effort on that side, by demonstrating its futility, as seriously to diminish the anti-Lincoln vote. Had there been but one instead of three pro-Slavery tickets in the field, its vote in Maine, New Hampshire,  Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and (in fact) nearly every Free State, would have been far heavier than that actually returned; so it will be but fair to estimate the pro-Slavery voters of the entire Union as preponderating in just about the proportion of Three Millions to Two. In other words, three-fifths of the entire American People (the Blacks being then of little more account, politically, than so many cattle) sympathized with the Rebellion in so far as its animating purpose was the fortification, diffusion, and aggrandizement of Slavery. And this explains that exaggeration of the importance as well as of the beneficence of human chattelhood which is seen to pervade all the earlier harangues, manifestoes, and State papers, circulated or uttered in the interest of Disunion. He would underrate the sagacity of the conspirators, and impute to them a blind fanaticism which they never felt, who should fail to take into account the state of antecedent opinion where — on these were designed to operate. Let him but consider that, throughout thirteen of the fifteen Slave States, no journal of any note or influence had for many years been issued which was not an ardent champion and eulogist of Slavery — that no man could be chosen to Congress from any district in those thirteen States, and none from more than two districts of the entire fifteen, who was not a facile and eager instrument of the Slave Power, even though (as in West Virginia) their inhabitants well understood that Slavery was to them a blight and a curse — that every prominent and powerful religious organization throughout the South was sternly pro-Slavery, its preachers making more account in their prelections of Ham and Onesimus than of Isaiah and John the Baptist — and he will be certain to render a judgment less hasty and more just. There were probably not a hundred white churches south of the Potomac and Ohio which would have received an avowed Abolitionist into their communion, though he had been a Jonathan Edwards in Orthodoxy, a Wesley in piety, or a Bunyan in religious zeal. The Industry, Commerce, and Politics of the South were not more squarely based on Slavery than was its Religion. Every great national religious organization had either been rendered pliant and subservient to the behests of Slavery or had been shivered by its resistance thereto. And no sooner had Secession been inaugurated in the South than the great Protestant denominations which had not already broken their connection with the North proceeded unanimously and with emphasis to do so — the Protestant Episcopalians, who had never received a word of reproof for slaveholding from their Northern brethren, unanimously taking the lead, followed by the still more numerous Baptists. And even the Southern Press, incendiary and violent as it was, was outstripped by the Southern pulpit in the unanimity and vehemence of its fulminations in behalf of Secession.11  And not in the South only, but in the North also, had the temples and organizations of religion been gradually molded and manipulated into a more guarded but not less effective subserviency to the Slave Power. Of the many periodicals edited and issued in the interest of the Roman Catholic faith and polity, hardly one had ever indicated even a wish that Slavery should fall; while a large majority were among its most vehement, unshrinking champions. The case was scarcely better with those sustained by the Protestant Episcopalians; while, among the organs of the other great denominations, Slavery had about as many apologists as assailants. The godless ruffianism and rowdy lawlessness of the North were, of course, as thoroughly pro-Slavery as those of the South--conscious baseness and ill-deserving always requiring somewhat to look down upon and to trample underfoot; and he who has nothing else to boast of always seeking to make the most of the [constructive] whiteness of his skin. It thus chanced that, in this, as in some other controversies, the sleek sanctity and the rough rascality at the respective extremities of the social scale were found acting in concert, as when the Jewish hierarchy were aided in compassing the death of Jesus by the rabble cry of “Crucify him!” alternated with clamors for the release of Barabbas the robber. V. The Rebellion had, at the outset of the struggle, the immense advantage always enjoyed by tile belligerent who alone has a positive creed, a definite purpose, and is moving directly, consistently, toward his proclaimed goal. It said, “I stand for Slavery — strike for Slavery — put all at risk for Slavery — and I demand the sympathy and succor of all who concur with me in regarding Slavery as just and beneficent.” And what it thus boldly and reasonably demanded it naturally and generally secured. There were slaveholders of the Revolutionary school — relics of the era or inheritors of the faith of Washington and Jefferson — who repudiated  Secession and clung to the Union; but there was not an earnest devotee of human chattelhood — whether in the South or in the North--whether in America or in Europe — whether a Tory aristocrat, scorning and fearing the unwashed multitude, or an Irish hod-carrier, of the latest importation, hating “nay-gurs,” and wishing them all “sint back to Africa, where they belong” --whose heart did not throb in open or secret sympathy with the Slaveholders' Rebellion. Many did this whose judgments told them that Secession was a mistake — a rash, headlong staking of momentous interests on the doubtful chances of a mortal strife that might easily and safely have been avoided; but, after all, the truth remained, that whoever really loved Slavery did not and could not regard the Rebellion otherwise than with tenderness, with forbearance, with that “fellow feeling” that “makes wondrous kind,” and insists that the mistakes it sees and admits shall be regarded and treated with generous allowance. There were thousands in the Free States, never really for bondage, whom party ties and party necessities had held in silent, passive complicity with the Slave Power through years, whose bonds were snapped like glass by the concussion of the first cannon-shot of the war; but whoever was really pro-Slavery was at heart an apologist for if not an active partisan of the Slaveholders' Rebellion — not merely at first, but so long as his affections were unweaned from the grim and gory idol of their early love. On the other hand, the Unionists were fettered, their unity threatened, their enthusiasm chilled, their efficiency impaired, by the complication of the struggle with the problem of Slavery. They stood for Law, Order, and Established Right; all which were confidently, plausibly claimed as guarantors of Slavery. They were struggling to preserve the Union; yet their efforts, even in their own despite, tended to unsettle and endanger that which, in the conception of many, was the Union's chief end and function. Even the loyal Millions were not ripe, at the outset — though they might, by a heroic leader, have been surely and rapidly ripened — for stern dealing with the source of all our woes. Hence, the proffer of new concessions, new guarantees to Slavery, backed by vehement protestations of devotion to its chartered rights, which marked the initial stages of the struggle. The reflecting few remembered how kindred professions — doubtless sincere — of unshaken, invincible loyalty to the British Crown, were constantly reiterated by our fathers in all tile earlier stages of their Revolutionary struggle; and how like protestations of loyalty to the throne and person of Louis XVI. were persisted in by the leaders of the French in their great convulsion, down to within a short period of the abolition of the monarchy, closely followed by the execution of the monarch. So history repeats its great lessons, and must, so long as the nature of Man remains essentially unchanged. The Republicans of 1860 purposed no more than the Secessionists a speedy and violent overthrow of Slavery. Each were but instruments in the hands of that benign, inscrutable Power which “shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will;” but, in their common blindness, the  advantage was with those who seemed to be struggling more directly, logically, fearlessly toward their avowed end. VI. The strong reliance of the Rebels on their Cotton, as so vitally necessary to the maritime Powers of Europe that it would compel them speedily to recognize the independence of the Confederacy, and even to aid in its achievement, by forcibly raising the foreseen blockade of their ports, was not justified by the event. Communities, like individuals, are apt to magnify their own consequence, and to fancy the rest of mankind subsisting by their favor, if not on their bounty. ( “Soldiers!” said a General, going into battle, “remember that you are Portuguese!” ) The Southrons, in their impetuosity and conceit, seem not to have duly considered that their dependence on others was in the direct ratio of the dependence of others on them, and that Europe could dispense with their Cotton with (at least) as little inconvenience as they could forego the receipt of whatsoever its proceeds might purchase. Yet it is manifest that a region which produced for sale only a few great staples, which western Europe could not produce and must largely buy, and which bought freely of whatever Europe most desired to sell, would be regarded with partiality by her manufacturing and trading classes, when contrasted with an adversary who largely bought Cotton and Tobacco, and made Wares and Fabrics to sell. It is but stating the most obvious truth to assert that — regarding the Southrons as generous, lavish customers, and the Yankees as sharp, close-fisted, tricky, dangerous rivals, the responsible authors of the American tariffs, whereby their exports to the New World were restricted and their profits seriously curtailed — the fabricating, trading, banking classes across the Atlantic were, for the most part, early and ardent partisans of Disunion. VII. That the ingrain Tories, Aristocrats, and Reactionists of the Old World should be our instinctive, implacable foes, was inevitable. For eighty years, this Republic had been not only a standing but a growing refutation of their most cherished theories, their vital dogmas. A New England town meeting, wherein the shoemaker moves that $6,000 be this year raised by it for the support of common schools, and is seconded by the blacksmith — neither of them worth, perhaps, the shop wherein by daily labor he earns his daily bread — the wagon-maker moving to amend by raising the sum to $8,000, and the doctor making a five-minutes' speech to show why this should or should not prevail — when the question is taken, first on the amendment, then on the main proposition — either of them standing or falling as a majority of those present shall decide — such is a spectacle calculated to strike more terror to the soul of Kingcraft than would the apparition of a score of speculating Rousseaus or fighting Garibaldis; and its testimony to the safety and beneficence of intelligent democracy increases in weight with every year of its peaceful and prosperous endurance. When it has quietly braved unharmed the shocks and mutations of three-quarters of a century, assertions of its utter insecurity and baselessness — solemn assurances that it cannot possibly stand, and must inevitably topple at the first serious trial — sound very much like  fresh predictions of a repeatedly postponed, but still confidently expected, “end of the world.” Carlyle once remarked that the British people, having considered and condemned all the arguments for retaining the Corn-Laws that could be expressed in language, were still waiting to see whether there might not be some reasons therefor quite unutterable. So the people of Europe, having endured the burdens and fetters of Aristocracy and Privilege throughout three generations, on the strength of assurances that all democracies were necessarily violent, unstable, regardless of the rights of Property, inimical to Social Order, and incompatible with tranquillity and thrift, had begun very generally to direct the attention of their self-appointed guides and rulers to the actual condition of the Model Republic, and to ask them how they reconciled their theories with that. The question was an ugly one, to which not even a plausible answer could be given, until Jefferson Davis supplied one. Hope and gratitude on the one hand, apprehension and dread on the other, made the hereditary masters and chief priests of the Old World the natural, instinctive allies of the Slaveholders' Rebellion. Hence, of all the British military or naval officers, the high-born functionaries, who visited our country during the struggle, few even affected neutrality or reserve, while the great majority were the open, ardent partisans of the Rebel cause. VIII. The vastness of the territory occupied by the belligerents, the rugged topography of much of the country over which the contest was fought, the general badness of American roads, with the extraordinary facilities newly afforded to military operations by the Railroad and the Electric Telegraph, secured enormous advantages to the party standing generally on the defensive. The Confederate President, sitting in his cabinet at Montgomery or Richmond, could thence dispatch a message to his lieutenant in Florida or on the Rio Grande, and receive a response the next day — perhaps the next hour — while our President or General-in-Chief could not hear of operations at Pensacola or New Orleans for a week or more, and so could not give seasonably the orders required to repair a disaster or improve a victory. The recovery of New Orleans was first learned in Washington through Richmond journals; and so of many other signal Union triumphs. A corps could be sent from Virginia to Tennessee or Mississippi, by the Confederates, in half the time that was required to countervail the movement on our side. If they chose to menace Newbern, N. C., or our forces on the Sea Islands of South Carolina, they could do so with troops drawn from Richmond or Chattanooga before we could learn that any had started. True, as the war wore on, and their railroads wore out — more especially after their territory was cut in two by the opening of the Mississippi — this advantage was materially lessened; but the ruggedness of the country remained; while the badness of American, especially of Southern, roads, afforded undiminished, and, to a European, inconceivably, great advantages to the party acting on the defensive. IX. The Confederates had a superiority from the first in this, that their leaders and officers were  thoroughly in earnest. Their chief had been educated at West Point, had fought through the Mexican War, had been four years at the head of the War Department, and been succeeded therein by Floyd, a man after his own heart, who left the service, at the close of 1860, in precisely that state which was deemed most favorable to their great design. One, if not both, of them knew personally almost every officer in our service; knew the military value of each; knew that he was pliant or otherwise to the behests of slave-holding treason. They knew whom to call away to help organize and lead their own forces, and who, even if loyal, would serve them better in our armies than he could do in their own. The immense advantages they thus secured can never be overestimated. Their Generals exposed their lives in leading or repelling charges with a reckless courage which made promotions rapid in their ranks ; and, where the troops on both sides are raw and undisciplined, the bravest and most determined officers, if capable, are seldom beaten. In the course of the war, eminent courage and conspicuous cowardice were often displayed on either side; but the Rebels were seldom beaten through the pusillanimity, never through the treachery, of their leaders. On the other hand, President Lincoln, without military education or experience, found himself suddenly plunged into a gigantic and, to him, most unexpected war, with no single member of his Cabinet even pretending to military genius or experience, and with the offices of his army filled to his hand by those who were now the chiefs of the Rebellion. His officers were all strangers to him; many of them superannuated and utterly inefficient, yet bearing names associated with remembered heroism, and not to be shelved without invoking popular as well as personal reprobation. How should an Illinois lawyer, fresh from comparative obscurity, and who never witnessed the firing of a platoon or read a page of Vauban, presume to say, even had he dared to think, that the illustrious Lieutenant-General at the head of our armies, covered all over with the deep scars of wounds received in glorious conflicts nearly half a century ago, no longer possessed the mental vigor requisite to the planning of campaigns or the direction of military movements? The bare suggestion, on Mr. Lincoln's part, would have been generally scouted as the acme of ignorant conceit and fool-hardy presumption. But not merely was it true that, while Jefferson Davis was not only able to place every man in his service exactly in the position he deemed him fitted for, while Abraham Lincoln had neither the requisite knowledge12 nor the legal authority to do likewise with our officers, the fact that every one who went over to the Confederates thereby proved that his heart was in their cause, gave that side a just confidence in their military  leaders which was wanting in ours. The bitter distich--
Heaven takes the good, too good on earth to stay,has a qualified application to this case. Of the army officers — some two hundred in number — who went over to the Rebellion, not one fancied that he was consulting his own ease or physical comfort in so doing. Say they were ambitious, “sectional,” traitorous, forsworn, or whatever you will: it is barely possible that some of them shared the prevalent Southern delusion that the North would not fight; but it is not probable that their error on this point at all approached that of their stay-at-home compatriots,who supposed the North13 a small patch of country mainly devoted to the production of schoolmasters, counter-jumpers, peddlers, and keepers of watering-place hotels, all keen at a bargain, but never to be driven into a fight. Perhaps no other class of the Southern people were so free from the prevalent delusion on this head as were their relatively educated, widely-traveled, observant army officers, who, abandoning the service of their whole country, proffered their swords and their lives to the cause of Human Slavery. On the other hand, the indolent, the stolid, the consciously inefficient, who aspired to light work and easy living, naturally clung to a service wherein they had found what they most desired. The Confederacy might fail; the Union, even though defeated and curtailed, could not well absolutely go down. Many thus remained whose hearts inclined to the other side, but who did not believe the overthrow or disruption of the Union would prove a light undertaking. X. The more flagrant instances of official cowardice or imbecility which these pages must often record, will sometimes prompt the question--“Were these men downright traitors?” And the general answer must be: Consciously, purposely, according to their own conceptions, they were not. They did not desire, nor seek to compass, tile division of the republic. Many of them were not even bewildered by the fatal delusion of State omnipotence. They hoped for and sought such an issue from our perilous complications as would leave our country undivided, and stronger, more powerful, greater than before. But they had undoubtingly imbibed that one-sided, narrow, false conception of the genius and history of our political fabric which identifies Slavery with the Constitution, making the protection and conservation of the former the chief end of our National existence — not a local and sectional. excrescence, alien and hostile to the true nature and paramount ends of our system, to be borne with patience and restrained from diffusing its virus until opportunity should be presented for its safe eradication. To this large and influential class of our officers, the Rebellion seemed a sad mistake, impelled and excused by the factious, malignant, unjustifiable refusal of the Republicans to give “the South” her ‘rights’ in the territories; and they controllingly desired that there should be the least possible  fighting until cool reflection and the enormous cost of the struggle should calm or overbear the rage of extremists on both sides, and induce reunion on the basis, substantially, of the Crittenden Compromise. Whoever keeps this explanation in mind will be enabled by it to comprehend movements, delays, vacillations, obstinate torpors, and even whole abortive campaigns, which must otherwise seem utterly unaccountable. XI. The Rebellion had, moreover, a decided advantage in the respect that all its partisans, civil as well as military, were thoroughly in earnest, and ready to prove their faith by their works. “You are a Unionist,” said a Baltimorean to a New York friend--“I don't doubt it. But are you ready fight for the Union? I am a Secessionist, and am going to fight for Secession.” There were few real Secessionists who shrank from this test of their sincerity. On the side of the Union were the calm calculations of interest, the clear suggestions of duty, the inspirations of a broad, benignant patriotism; but these were tame and feeble impulses when contrasted with the vengeful hate, the quivering, absorbing rage, the stormy wrath, which possessed the great body of the Secessionists, transforming even women into fiends. These impulses were sedulously cultivated and stimulated by the engineers of Disunion, through the uncontradicted diffusion by their journals of the most atrocious forgeries14 and the most shameless inventions.15 The North was habitually represented to the ignorant masses of the South as thirsting for their blood and bent on their extermination — as sending forth her armies instructed to ravish, kill, lay waste, and destroy; and the pulpit was not far behind the press in disseminating these atrocious falsehoods. Hence, the Southern militia, and even conscripts, were impelled by a hate or horror of their adversaries which rendered them valiant in their own despite, making them sometimes victors where the memories of their grandfathers at Charleston and at Guilford, and of their fathers at Bladensburg, had led their foes to greatly undervalue their prowess and their efficiency. XII. Whether Slavery should prove an element of strength or of weakness to the Rebellion necessarily depended on the manner in which it should be  treated by the defenders of the Union. It was a nettle, which, handled timidly, tenderly, was certain to sting the hand that thus toyed with it; the only safety lay in clutching it resolutely and firmly. Slavery had made the Rebellion; Slavery coerced the South into a silence that counterfeited unanimity by howling “ Abolitionist!” on the track of every one who refused to seem a traitor to his country, and sending its bloodhounds and Thugs to throttle or knife him. An aristocracy of three hundred thousand families, haughty, high-spirited, trained to arms, and accustomed to rule all who approached them, wielding all the resources and governing the conduct not only of Four Millions of Slaves, but of nearly twice that number of free persons, who served the woolly man-owners as merchants, factors, lawyers, doctors, priests, overseers, navigators, mechanics, slave-hunters, etc., etc., never dreaming that they could cherish any opinions but such as the planting aristocracy prescribed, was no contemptible foe. So long as their slaves should remain obedient to their orders and docile to their will, knowing nothing but what they were told, and hoping for nothing beyond their daily rations of corn and pork, a community of Twelve Millions, holding an area of nearly One Million square miles — the governing caste conscripting the Poor Whites to fill its armies, and using the labor of the slaves to feed and clothe them — presented to its foes on every side a front of steel and flame. Only by penetrating and disintegrating their phalanx, so that its parts should no longer support each other, but their enforced cohesion give place to their natural antagonism, could its power be broken and its persistence overborne. And here it may be instructive to note that the paramount loyalty to his State, vaunted by the Southron as the keystone of his political arch, always resolved itself, on a searching analysis, into devotion to Slavery. Thus, when Virginia seceded, we have seen Alex. H. H. Stuart, with other eminent “conservatives,” who had, up to this point, resisted Disunion, now take ground in its favor; while Magoffin, C. F. Jackson, etc., always insisted that it was to his State that each citizen owed his first and highest duty. A favored officer in our regular army transmitted his resignation, to be tendered in case his State seceded, and was not cashiered therefor, as he should have been promptly and finally. All over the South, men said, “This Secession is madness — it will ruin all concerned — I have resisted it to the best of my ability — but my State has seceded nevertheless, and I must go with my State.” But, on the other hand, Sterling Price, Humphrey Marshall, James B. Clay, Richard Hawes, Simon B. Buckner, William Preston, Charles S. Morehead, and scores like them — in good part old Whigs, who could not help knowing better — never seemed to imagine that the refusal of their respective States to secede laid them under the smallest obligation to restrain their traitorous propensities. “ State Sovereignty” was potent only to authorize and excuse treason to the Union--never to restrain or prevent it. XIII. The Southern leaders entered upon their great struggle with the Union under the impression — which, with the more sanguine, amounted  to undoubting confidence — that they were to be largely aided by cooperation and diversion on the part of their Northern friends and allies. They did not, for a moment, suppose that the Free States were to be, even in appearance, a unit against their efforts.16 Doubtless, there was disappointment on both sides — the North believing that there could never fail to be an open and active Union party at the South; while the South counted on like aid from the North; but there was this material difference between the two cases: The Southern leaders had received innumerable assurances, through a series of years, of Northern sympathy and aid in the anticipated struggle for their “rights;” while probably no single Republican had received a letter or message from any Southron of note, urging that no concession be made, but that the Disunionists be crowded to the wall, and compelled to back square out or fight. On the contrary, almost every Southern plea for the Union had assumed as its basis that the North could, would, and should, be induced to recede from its position of resistance to Slavery Extension, or else-------. The alternative was not always plainly expressed; but the inference was irresistible, that Southern Unionism differed from Secessionism in that it proposed allowing the North a month or two longer wherein to back out of its chosen position before visiting its perverseness with the retribution of fire land sword. “Wait a little longer,” was the burden of Southern appeals for persistence in Unionism: “the North is preparing to recede: she will presently agree, rather than fight, to give us, at least, the Crittenden Compromise.” But suppose she should not--what then? This question was sometimes answered, sometimes not; but the logical inference was inevitable: “Then we will unite with you in a struggle for Disunion.” Here were the toils in which Virginia Unionism had immeshed itself before the bombardment of Sumter, and which foredoomed it to suicide directly thereafter. The more earnest and resolute Southerners had been talking of their ‘rights’ and their “wrongs,” for a number of years, in such a definite, decisive way that they felt that no one could justifiably fail to comprehend them. Some of them were Disunionists outright — regarded separation as at all events desirable for the South, and certain to enhance her prosperity, wealth, and power. Others preferred to remain in the Union, if they could shape its policy and mold it to their will; but the  former class, though few at first, had been steadily gaining from the latter. Each of these were constantly, openly saying, “Give us our rights in the Union, or we will secure them by going out of the Union.” When, therefore, they received messages of sympathy and cheer from their Northern compatriots in many arduous struggles, they could not but understand their assurances of continued and thorough accord as meaning what was implied by like assurances from Southern sources. Among the captures by Gen. Grant's army, during his glorious Mississippi campaign of 1863, were several boxes of the letters and private papers of Jefferson Davis, found in an out-house on a plantation between Jackson and Vicksburg. Several of these letters were given to the public by their captors, many of them bearing the signatures of Northern men of note, who have never denied their authenticity. These letters throw a clear light on the state of Southern opinion which induced the Secession movement of 1860-61, and are therefore essential contributions to the history of that period. As such, a portion of them will here be given. So early as 1850, James Buchanan (not yet President) wrote to Mr. Davis, complaining that “the South ” was disposed to be too easily satisfied, with regard to her ‘rights’ in the territories. In this “private and confidential” letter, dated Wheatland, March 16th, he says:
And leaves the bad, too bad to take away,
So far from having in any degree recoiled from the Missouri Compromise, I have prepared a letter to sustain it, written with all the little ability of which I am master. You may ask, why has it not been published? The answer is very easy. From a careful examination of the proceedings in Congress, it is clear that Non-Intervention is all that will be required by the South. Webster's speech is to be the base of the compromise — it is lauded to the echo by distinguished Southern men — and what is it? Non-intervention; and Non-Intervention simply because the Wilmot Proviso is not required to prevent the curse of Slavery from being inflicted on the Territories. Under these circumstances, it would be madness in me to publish my letter, and take higher ground for the South than they have taken for themselves. This would be to out-Herod Herod, and to be more Southern than the South. It could do no good, but might do much mischief. The truth is, the South have got themselves into a condition on this question from which it appears to me now they cannot extricate themselves. My proposition of the Missouri Compromise was at once abandoned by them, and the cry was Non-Intervention. They fought the battle at the last Presidential election with this device upon their banners. The Democracy of Pennsylvania are now everywhere rallying to Non-Intervention. They suppose in doing this they are standing by the South in the manner most acceptable to their Southern brethren. Our Democratic journals are praising the speech of Webster,17 because all the appearances are that it is satisfactory to the South. It is now too late to change front with any hope of success. You may retreat with honor upon the principle that you can carry your slaves to California, and hold them there under the Constitution, and refer the question to the Supreme Court of the United States. I am sorry, both for your sakes and my own, that such is the condition in which you are placed. I say for my own sake, because I can never yield the position which I have deliberately taken in favor of the Missouri Compromise; and I shall be assailed by fanatics and free-soilers as long as I live, for having gone further in support of the rights of the South than Southern Senators and Representatives. I am committed for the Missouri Compromise, and that committal shall stand. Should there be any unexpected change in the aspect of affairs at Washington which would hold out the hope that the publication of my Missouri Compromise letter would do any good, it shall yet be published.In this spirit, Northern aspirants and office-seekers had for years been  egging on the leaders of Southern opinion to take higher ground in opposition to Northern “fanaticism” and in assertion of “ Southern rights.” Gen. John A. Quitman, of Mississippi--an able and worthy disciple of Mr. Calhoun--in a letter written shortly before his death, stated that Senator Douglas, just prior to the Cincinnati Convention of 1856, made complaints to him of the disposition of Southern men to be too easily satisfied, substantially like those of Mr. Buchanan, just quoted. He suggested that they should boldly demand all their rights, and accept nothing less. In this spirit, the following letter from a leading Democrat of Illinois, formerly Governor of that State, was written after the secession of South Carolina:
Prof. Charles W. Hackley, of Columbia College, New York, writing two days earlier to Mr. Davis, to suggest a moderate and reasonable mean between the Northern and the Southern positions respecting the territories, commences: “My sympathies are entirely with ‘the South’ ” --an averment which doubtless meant much more to the receiver than was intended by the writer. Yet it is probable that nine out of every ten letters written from the North to the South during that boding Winter, if they touched on public affairs at all, were more exceptionable and misleading than was this one. Ex-President Pierce wrote, almost a year previously, and in prospect of the Presidential nomination for 1860, as follows:
Such are specimens of the Northern letters wherewith Southern states-men were misled into the belief that the North would be divided into hostile camps whenever the South should strike boldly for her “rights.” It proved a grievous mistake; but it was countenanced by the habitual tone of “conservative” speakers and journals throughout the canvass of 1860, and thence down to the collision at Sumter. Even then, the spirit which impelled these assurances of Northern sympathy with, and readiness to do and dare for, “the South,” was not extinguished, though its more obvious manifestations were in good part sup, pressed for a season. A very few persons — hardly a score in all — of the most uncontrollable Southern sympathies, left the North to enter the Confederate armies; but many thousands remained behind, awaiting the opportunity, which disappointment and disaster were soon to present, wherein they might take ground against the prosecution of the “Abolition War,” and in favor of a “compromise” that was not to be had — at all events and on any terms, of “Peace.” There is, or has been, a quite general impression, backed by constant and confident assertions, that the people of the Free States were united in support of the War until an anti-Slavery aspect was given to it by the Administration. Yet that is very far from the truth. There was no moment wherein a large portion of the Northern Democracy were not at least passively hostile to any form or shade of “coercion;” while many openly condemned and stigmatized it as atrocious, unjustifiable aggression. And this opposition, even when least vociferous, sensibly subtracted from the power and diminished the efficiency of the North. XIV. Whether there was greater unanimity at the South or at the North in sustaining the Union or the Confederacy in the prosecution of their struggle, will, perhaps, never be conclusively determined. There were moments during its progress when the South appeared almost a unit for Secession, while the disheartened North seemed ready to give up the contest for the Union; as there were crises wherein the Rebellion seemed to reel on the brink  of speedy dissolution: but neither of these can justly be taken as an accurate test of the average popular sentiment of the respective sections. Yet we have seen that a majority of the Southern people could never, until frenzied by the capture of Fort Sumter, and by official assurances (undenied in their hearing) that Lincoln had declared unprovoked and utterly unjustifiable war upon them, be induced to lift hostile hands against their country; and that Secession was only forced down the throats of those who accepted it by violence, outrage, and terror. A few additional facts on this head, out of thousands that might be cited, will here be given: Rev. John I. Aughey, a Presbyterian clergyman of Northern birth, but settled in Northern Mississippi for some years prior to the outbreak of the Rebellion, in his “Iron furnace,” 18 gives a synopsis of a Secession speech to which he listened in Atala county, Miss., just after President Lincoln's election, running thus:
The halter is the only argument that should be used against the submissionists; and I predict that it will soon, very soon, be in force. We have glorious news from Tallahatchie. Seven tory submissionists were hanged there in one day; and the so-called Union candidates, having the wholesome dread of hemp before their eyes, are not canvassing the county, etc., etc.When the election was held for delegates to the Convention which assumed the power to take Mississippi out of the Union, Mr. Aughey attended it, and says:
Approaching the polls, I asked for a Union ticket, and was informed that none had been printed, and that it would be advisable to vote the Secession ticket. I thought otherwise; and, going to a desk, made out a Union ticket, and voted it, amidst the frowns and suppressed murmurs of the judges and bystanders; and, as the result proved, I had the honor of depositing the only vote in favor of the Union which was polled in that precinct. I knew of many who were in favor of the Union, but who were intimidated by threats, and by the odium attending it, from voting at all.Such was the case at thousands of polls throughout the South, or wherever the Confederates were strong enough to act as their hearts prompted. Mr. Clingman's boast, in the Senate, that ‘free debaters’ were ‘hanging on trees’ down his way, was uttered, it should be noted, in December, 1860. And thus it was that several Counties in Tennessee19 gave not a single vote against Secession, while Shelby (including Memphis) gave 7,132 for Secession to five against it, and a dozen others gave respectively 3, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20, 23, and 28 votes for the Union to many thousands for Secession. There was only the semblance of an election. “If you vote the Union ticket, you must prepare to leave the State,” said Senator Mason; and the more reckless and less responsible Secessionists readily translated such words into deeds. Where Slavery had undivided sway, a voter had just the same liberty to be a Unionist as he had to be an Abolitionist — that is, none at all. But there were many communities, and even entire counties, throughout the South, wherein Slavery had but a nominal or limited existence; as in Texas, thirty-four counties — some of them having each a considerable free population — were returned, in 1860, as containing each less than a hundred slaves. Some of these could be,  and were, controlled by their managing politicians, holding offices and earning perquisites by the grace of the Slave Power enthroned at the State capital; others were incorrigible, and were managed in this way: In Grayson county (having 8,187 inhabitants, of whom 1,291 were slaves), when Secession was proposed, a county meeting was held, to consider the project; by which, after discussion, it was decided to negative the movement, and hold no election for delegates to the proposed State Convention. This gave the Secessionists the opportunity they wanted. They proceeded to hold an election, and to choose delegates, who helped vote the State out of the Union. And this was one case like many others. Gen. Edward W. Gantt, who had, in August, 1860, been chosen to Congress as an independent Democrat, from the Southern district of Arkansas, and who was an early and ardent Secessionist, testifies, since his reclamation to Unionism, that the poor farmers and other industrious nonslaveholders of his region were never Secessionists — that, where he had always been able to induce three-fourths of them to vote with him as a Democrat, he could not persuade half of them to sustain him as a Secessionist — that their hearts were never in the cause; and that those who could be persuaded to vote for it did so reluctantly, and as though it went against the grain. No rational doubt can exist that, had time been afforded for consideration, and both sides been generally heard, a free and fair vote would have shown an immense majority, even in the Slave States, against Secession. For the Union was strong — immensely strong — in the traditions, the affections, the instincts, and the aspirations, of the great majority of the American People. Its preservation was inseparably entwined with their glories, their interests, and their hopes. In the North, no one had, for forty years, desired its dissolution, unless on account of Slavery; at the South, the case was essentially the same. No calculations, however imposing and elaborate, had ever convinced any hundred persons, on whichever side of the slave line, that Disunion could be really advantageous to either section. No line could be drawn betwixt “the South” and “the North” which would not leave one or the other exposed to attack — none which six plain citizens, fairly chosen from either section, could be induced to adopt as final. Multitudes who supported Secession did so only as the most efficacious means of inducing the North to repudiate the ‘Black Republicans’ and agree to the Crittenden or some kindred Compromise — in short, to bully the North into giving the South her ‘rights’--never imagining, at the outset, that this could be refused, or that Disunion would or could be really, conclusively effected. Thousands died fighting under the flag of treason whose hearts yearned toward the old banner, and whose aspiration for an “ ocean-bound republic” --one which should be felt and respected as first among nations — could not be quenched even in their own life-blood. And, on the other hand, the flag rendered illustrious by the triumphs of Gates and Greene and Washington — of Harrison, Brown, Scott, Macomb, and Jackson — of Truxtun, Decatur, Hull, Perry, Porter, and McDonough — was throughout  “a tower of strength” to the Unionists. In the hours darkened by shameful defeat and needless disaster, when the Republic seemed rocking and reeling on the very brink of destruction — when Europe almost unanimously pronounced the Union irretrievably lost, and condemned the infatuation that demanded persistence in an utterly hopeless contest — the heart of the loyal Millions never faltered, nor was their faith shaken that, in spite of present reverses, the flag of their fathers would float once more over Richmond and Charleston and Montgomery, over Raleigh, Atlanta, and Houston, the symbol of National authority and power, accepted, beloved, and rejoiced in, by a great, free, happy people.