Action and reaction.
It is perhape an inevitable, while it is a very painful characteristic of American politics in the present times, that differences of opinion beget violent personal animosities.
Hitherto there has been no time when Americans
, differing from each other however remotely, could not peacefully and quietly discuss the most radical questions; and now there is no trouble in talking freely one's opinion of direct taxation or the tariff; but when any line of policy relating to the war is brought up as a subject of discussion, the excited state of men's minds become manifest, and if there be any great difference of opinion, the result is apt to be a pretty severe use of words, if not actually a resort to blows.
Only a few weeks ago, the newspapers abounded in accounts of men being knocked down in the street for what was styled ‘ "treasonable sympathies;"’ and some of the newspapers endeavored to fan the flame by heading such statements with ‘"served him right,"’ or something similar.
This state of affairs is fortunately past; but men's minds are still strongly influenced by their feelings, and too many are impatient of any voice that speaks of peace.
The newspaper press has been greatly to blame in this matter.
Some weeks ago the word ‘ "treason"’ has acquired a new and broad signification in the columns of the Republican
It was bandied about with a freedom that was appalling.
The ‘"liberty of the press,"’ which here means the right to call any man a scoundrel, a thief, or a traitor, that you dare take the liberty with--this
liberty of the press has had the freest exercise.
The rule has been, ‘"If any man differs from you as to the property of war, call him a traitor; if any man thinks the South
not starving, call him a traitor; if any man says there is a Christian south of Virginia
, call him a traitor; it any man does anything to calm the public excitement, call him a traitor; if any man says this war is an anti-slavery war, call him a traitor; if any man says this war is not a war for extermination of slavery, call him a traitor."’
In short, whatever is said, whatever is proposed, whatever is advocated that does not meet the views of the war newspapers, is treason.
There are exceptions, it is true.
It depends very much on who says the thing.--Thus, for a republican editor to propose to ‘"supersede the President
,"’ is not treason.--For a man of the same sort to say that Gen. Scott
is too old and too slow, and that we want John C. Fremont
, or some such man in his place, and that we want the Pennsylvanians to march on Harper's Ferry
, without waiting for Washington
orders — this is not objectionable.
For an out and out abolition shoot to print daily in its head-line that ‘"the Constitution of the United States
is a covenant with hell,"’ is not treason.
For the republican papers to argue that in war times the letter of the Constitution
is to be disregarded, and the President
of the United States
ought to assume and exercise the powers of a dictator, is not treason.
We might extend the Illustrations, but these are sufficient.
Instead of the former frank and hearty style of discussion, if perchance a peace loving newspaper treads on the toes of those warlike editors, the vocabulary of epithets is exhausted in the present style of reply.
We counted the word ‘"liar,"’ repeated some ten times in the editorials of one paper a few days since.
We are not censors of the press or people, but we record with hopefulness the change that is coming over our people in this respect, and the disgust which good men everywhere are beginning to feel at the amount of vituperation which has been made use of. One of the New York papers a few days since devoted an editorial to rousing the North
to vengeance, even to wiping out in blood the insults of the Southern
newspapers in calling us bad names, utterly forgetful that it had been for years steadily calling slavery ‘"the sum of all villainies,"’ and charging every slaveholder with being guilty of a violation of every command in the decalogue!. Thus its own call to vengeance seemed a quasi justification of the rebellion.
But with time comes reason.
Time conquers all things.
The most bitter vengeance will finally fall.
The strongest passions sleep calmly after a little.
The more terrible the side or the flood, the more swift is the ebb. Already, though violent men continue to call names and abuse men's reputations, already the effect
is past, and the argument that a good cause requires no such assistance is beginning to be felt.
Let not the reaction be too strong.
Coming, as it is now, very rapidly, the danger which experience teaches is, that in reactions men too frequently lose all sense of right, and only remember their own wrong.
The inventor of the guillotine is said to have suffered by it. The promoters of the maddest republicanism in France
went in hordes to the block.
But we trust that the American
mind will reach its old balance-point without those great reactions which ordinarily occur in such cases.
Three months ago the immense majority of Americans
in the North
believed and advocated the idea that the peaceable acknowledgment of the Southern Confederacy was preferable to war. The leading Republican newspapers in this city even pronounced the right of the Southern States
to establish their own form of government to be as clear as that of the American Colonies
to revolt from England
The same paper declared that Fort Sumter
was only built for the protection of Charleston
, and not for offensive purposes against that city, and advocated the evacuation of the Fort
The universal American mind was averse to the idea of war.
Even among men who favored a war against the Cotton States
, it was common to hear conversation like this: ‘"If Virginia
secedes, are you in favor of war?"’ ‘"Virginia
will never secede; you cannot kick her out."’‘"But if she does, and North Carolina
with her, what then?"’‘"Why, I am not a fool; if so large a portion of the Union
as that secede, then I think we may as well give it up and acknowledge them." ’ This was the accepted doctrine of the entire Democratic party, and large numbers of Republicans openly advocated it — Truths are omnipotent.
That is truth to-day which was truth a month or three months ago to-day.
What process will men's minds have to go through after the late convulsions?
How many oscillations shall we see, before they settle back upon the truth they believed in their former calm and sober moments?--N. Y. Journal of Commerce.