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furd, Secchi, Donati, and other astronomers, have, with their prisms and telescopes, raised the roof of the analytical chemist's laboratory high enough to include the stars ; it is also the last to which we shall refer on the present occasion, but we shall not fail to return to the subject.
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ART VIII.—The President's Message, and other Public Documents. December, 1864.
We do not take up the President's Message for the purpose of making any unfriendly remarks. There is no reason why we should entertain any such feeling towards Mr. Lincoln. We are not politicians ; we have never voted for any one. We have never advocated the claims of any party as such, and probably never will. To us, Republicans and Democrats are all the same, except so far as we think, from time to time, that the former pursue a more statesman-like course than the latter, and vice versa. Of republicans in general we entertain a higher opinion than we do of democrats, because we think they advocate a higher civilization. Did we vote for any candidate, we would, therefore, do so for a republican, provided we thought him qualified for the position which he sought. Personally we know nothing of Mr. Lincoln. We have never had the honor of speaking a word to him; never written him a line ; never made any application to him, directly or indirectly. Why, then, should we have any dislike towards the man, that would cause us to speak harshly of him ?
It were different, indeed, were Mr. Lincoln's principal Secretary our subject; although our feelings towards the latter, high as is his present position, is much more one of contempt than dislike ; and we think that his own letters in our possession, considered in connection with the circumstances to which they relate, would satisfy any unprejudiced person that he should not be made the object of any higher feeling, except scorn can be regarded in that light. Yet we trust that when we come to examine the conduct even of the Secretary of State, we can do so in the language of justice and moderation, and without transcending in any manner the bounds of legitimate criticism.
We were never in favor of Mr. Lincoln's election to the presidency, simply because we did not consider him qualified
for that high position. That he honestly meant to do his best we have never doubted, because such has been the almost universal verdict. But the best intentions and highest integrity, excellent qualities though they are, require the aid of certain faculties which Mr. Lincoln does not possess. Yet we have not opposed his re-election in any way. Not that our estimate of his abilities had undergone any material change ; but we thought it would be injudicious to put any untried man in his place until the war is over, lest he might do still worse than Mr. Lincoln. And this has been the feeling of the most intelligent republicans with whom we have conversed on the subject, in different parts of the country. Their general remark before the late election was: “We know too well that Mr. Lincoln is not qualified for the position he holds at the present crisis ; it requires far more energy, resolution, and statesman-like ability than he possesses ; but who would suit better just now ?” Others would say : “ There are vastly better qualified men-men who would do us some credit at home and abroad; but they are not available. There would be no use in nominating such; the people would not elect one of them.” These are undoubtedly the arguments which re-elected Mr. Lincoln, and it cannot be denied that they are founded in reason and truth. Were it even otherwise, it would be the duty of every citizen who is in favor of preserving the country from dismemberment to give his administration a cordial support, at least in any measure or course of policy the design and tendency of which are to suppress the rebellion, or restore the integrity of the nation.
We have never uttered a word in favor of secession, but have always spoken against it, because we hold that it is as much the natural right of a nation to protect itself from dismemberment as it is that of an individual to protect the members of his body from mutilation. In one case as well as in the other, if we are overpowered and exhausted, reason and common sense require us to submit; but we hold that under no other circumstances is it honorable to do so. But the Federal States are in no danger of being either overpowered or exhausted as long as no great foreign powers intervene, and, therefore, should not submit to dismemberment. The question is not, whether the North would be as well without the Southern States as with them, but what would the principle of forcible separation lead to if once conceded ? How many republics, all inimical to each other,
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might we not have in a few years? Is it not better to have one effectual war, gigantic though it be, and lasting even for seven years, than to run the risk of half a dozen wars at once, some of which would be likely to be interminable ?
At the same time, we should not forget that our present enemies were our former friends; that they are in fact our own flesh and blood. In any case bitter or abusive language gains no victories. The horrors of war are bad enough by themselves without aggravating them by taunts and insults. This remark applies with ten-fold force in our case, since the object of the war is to compel the insurgents to resume their duties as our fellow-citizens. Who would induce his former partner in business to unite his fortunes with him again by abuse? Would not any such attempt be absurd ? It would not be more so, however, or more unnatural, than to pursue a similar course towards those who have rebelled against us, but whom we are squandering our money and our blood like water to bring back to their allegiance.
We do not mean that the North errs in this respect more than the South, nor even as much; and we also bear in mind that it was not the North that began the war. But the strongest side should be the more generous, and the less disposed to play the woman by making injudicious use of the tongue in the moment of anger. If the rebels will abuse us, let them do so; it will hurt themselves and their cause more than us. We claim to have a higher civilization; then why not speak, as well as act, accordingly? It would be much wiser as well as more respectable to give our enemies full credit for their good natural qualities, in spite of their being such. There is no good reason, for example, why we should deny that, whatever the faults of the Southerners are, they are hospitable and generous at their own homes in time of peace. We believe that none who have travelled amongst them, and treated them courteously, have failed to see evidences enough of these qualities. If they would not treat us hospitably now even as private individuals, or noncombatants, they are not peculiar in this respect. The English, the French, the Spaniards, or any other people, however generous or courteous, would not treat the inhabitants of a country at which they are at war, as they would those of a country whose relations with them are entirely friendly.
It can hardly be inferred from these introductory remarks that we are in the least degree hostile either to Mr. Lincoln, or the party to which he belongs ; or that we have
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any other interest to subserve than that of truth and the public good in taking up his Message. An additional proof of this may, we think, be found in our forbearing to make such criticisms on the style of that document, as its glaring violations, at almost every paragraph, of the principles of the English language, would naturally elicit. We prefer to express our regret in general terms, that the President of the United States should put forth a document whose syntax throughout is so much like that of a school-boy making his earlier efforts in “composition," rather than make remarks having a tendency to turn the dialect of our chiefmagistrate into ridicule.
It is otherwise, however, with the manner in which that document is arranged, or rather disarranged. A more confused, or incoherent state paper we have never read in any language; although the information which it gives is multifarious, and in general of a satisfactory nature. It is a fundamental principle in statesmanship and diplomacy, that in all documents the most important subjects should receive most prominence; the only exception to this is that presented by the Machiavellian policy, according to which the most important topic is introduced at the close, like the postscript to a lady's letter. Even in this case, the fact that it is the most important is concealed; the object being to deceive the party to whom the document is addressed. We entirely acquit Mr. Lincoln of all intention of this kind; although one of his chief advisers has all the tortuous, crooked ways of Machiavelli without one-twentieth the abilities of that unscrupulous politician.
But let us look at the Message as it stands. Mr. Lincoln only writes two sentences before he informs us that “ Mexico continues to be a theatre of civil war, while our relations with that country have undergone no change. We have at the same time maintained neutrality between the belligerents." We receive information in the next paragraph in relation to certain “difficulties" with the states of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which are now happily adjusted. A still more important fact, if possible, is stated in the fourth paragraph, namely, that “The new liberal constitution of Nevada having gone into effect with the universal acquiescence of the people, the government under it has been recognised, and diplomatic intercourse with it has arisen in a cordial and friendly spirit.”
Passing over another paragraph or two of a similar charVOL. X.—NO. XIX.
acter, we come to the following remark : " During the past year no difference of any kind has arisen with any of these republics, and, on the other hand, they sympathize with the United States, and are constantly expressing cordiality and earnestness.” The fact that those states are thus " constantly expressing" themselves about our affairs may, perhaps, account for the somewhat confused condition of their own. Further on we are told that “ civil war continues in the Spanish part of San Domingo, apparently without prospect of an early close.” All this time our own war is not as much as mentioned. We skip another paragraph or two, and come to the following important announcement : “ Official correspondence has been freely opened with Liberia, and it gives us a pleasing view of social and political progress in that republic. * * I solicit your authority to furnish to the republic a gunboat, at moderate cost, to be reimbursed to the United States by instalments.”
We do not object to this sort of thing, because the people of Liberia are negroes, or because we have any sympathy with the advocates of slavery at home. We are believers now, as we always have been, in the sentiment of Sterne, “ Disguise it as thou wilt, still, Slavery, thou art a bitter draught." There is nothing Mr. Lincoln has tried to accomplish for which we give him more credit than for his efforts in favor of the total abolition of slavery. It has ever been our wish to see this blot removed, but never without respecting vested rights. Those who rebel and try to overthrow the government have no such rights—they remain in force only with those who continue loyal. The former should lose their slaves, but the latter should be compensated to the full extent for theirs, since it was not they who introduced the system.
It will be seen, then, that it is not on the ground of color or race that we object to the introduction of the long paragraph on the subject of Liberia, before one word has been said on the subject of the gigantic rebellion in which we are ourselves engaged. But were we in the enjoyment of the most profound peace, there would still be other topics which would claim precedence, in a document like that before us, of the Republic of Liberia. The first allusion from which any one would infer from the President's Message that we are at war, occurs at the close of the eleventh paragraph, as follows:' " Thus, it is hoped that with the return of domestic peace the country will be able to resume with energy