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Full text of "Speeches and letters of Gerrit Smith ... on the rebellion .."

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V 




m. 





SPEECHES AND LETTERS 



GERRIT SMITH 



{WT101S3L JAJSnJJLRY, 1864, TO JA.N'U-A.RY, 1865) 



REBELLION. 



VOLUME II. 



AMEniCAlSr NEA\^S COMPANY, 



121 NASSAU STREET. 



1865. 



e^<. 



oi:^ THE co]^stitutio:k. 



War goes beyond Constituiional Restrictions. 

Down with the Rebellion at Whatever Cost to the Constitution. 

"The Body is more than Raiment!" The Country is more than the Constitution. 

Time now for nothing but to Crush the Rebellion. 



To My Neighbors : 

" Damn the Constitution !" said one in the hearing of myself 
and several others. I had always disliked profanity : and I had 
always honored the Constitution — welcoming every part of it. 
Nevertheless this exclamation was music in my ears. Why was 
it ? It was because of the connection and spirit in which it burst 
from the speaker. He was arguing with rapid and fervid elo- 
quence that the Government should ply every possible means for 
the speediest crushing of the rebellion — when a listening Conserva- 
tive threw in the qualification : " But all according to the Con- 
stitution !" No wonder that the speaker could not brook this 
interruption. No wonder that an oath should leap forth to attest 
the indignation of his patriotic soul. It was not contempt for the 
Constitution, but displeasure at the thrusting of it in his way, 
which prompted the profanity. Had it been the Bible itself, that 
was thus impertinently cited, an oath might still have been the 
consequence. 

In a past century a New-England Puritan, in order to reconcile 
his black boy to the periodical whippings he gave him, said: "I 
whip you for the good of your soul." To which the sufterer very 
naturally replied: "I wish I had n't a soul !" Often during this 
War has the excessively tender and untimely care for the Consti- 
tution tempted rae to wish that we had n't a Constitution. Thus 
was I tempted when, July 22, 1861, the House of Kepresentatives, 
instead of manfully resolving that the War was for putting down 
the Rebellion and for nothing else, meanly resolved tliat it was 
for maintaining the supremacy of the Constitution. Thus was I 
tempted when Congress, a year or two ago, was ridiculously em- 
ployed in looking into the Constitution to learn how far it might 
confiscate the possessions of the millions who were striking at 
the life of the nation. I notice that, now again. Congress is, in 
this same connection, twattling about the Constitution. Thus was 



4 GEREIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION. 

I tempted when the President left it to the Judges, or, in other 
words, to the Constitution, to say whetlier Proclamations, which 
he had issued as Head of the Army, sliould be allowed to stand. 
Unhappiest and most contemptible of all nations are we, if whilst 
every other nation can carry on war with all the latitude of the 
law of war — of the law of necessity and of self-preservation, we 
are to be "cabined, cribbed, confined " by a mere paper. Infinitely 
better that we liad no Constitution than that we should have one, 
which is allowed to fetter our freedom and restrict our choice of 
means in time of war. 

By the Avay, the most cheei'ing instance of resistance to this 
practice of supplanting the law of war witli the Constitution is 
the recent disclaimer of the Supreme Court, in Vallandigham's 
case, of authority to review the proceedings of a military -com- 
mission. 

Never yet have we carried on an unconditional and square fight 
with the rebels : and never can we until we shall have the politi- 
cal and moral courage to resent and rise above the endeavors of 
demagogues and sympathizers with the rebels to embarrass our 
conduct of the war by these impertinent constitutional questions. 
But these questions are not the only hinderance in the way of the 
only proper mode of warfare. Another and not less serious hin- 
derance has sprung up in the untimely agitation of the question : 
" Who shall be the next President ?" It is fearful to think how 
mighty are the electioneering influences, which will now be set at 
work by office-holders, office-seekers, army contractors, and many 
other classes. It is fearful to think how wide-spread and deep a con- 
cern there will be to conduct the War, not so as to end the rebel- 
lion and save the country, but so as to promote party and individ- 
ual interests. It is fearful to think of the possible extent and char- 
acter of the divisions that may now be wrought amongst oui'selves 
— divisions that may do more than the enemy can do to destroy our 
beloved country. Who shall be the next President, should not have 
been si)oken of before midsummer. The New- York Independent 
says it sliould only have been thought of. But it should not even 
have been thought of before that time. In the judgment of this 
journal, to be thinking from this early day of the Presidential 
Election — "to be prudently considering it" — to "iDonder"it — 
would be the people's best preparation for acting wisely in it. 
But their unsj^eakably better preparation would be to forget the 
whole subject for tlie coming four or five months, and to be during 
all tliat time united as one man in wiping out the last reinains of 
the accursed Rebellion. Such a perfect union for such a right- 
eous end would be their best possible education for selecting none 
but a fit man for the Presidency. 

Quite a natural fruit of this premature agitation of the Presi- 
dential question is it, that there are already on the one hand Union 
men who arc slandering and vilifying Abraham Lincoln, and on 
the other hand Union men who will not tolerate even the most 
generous and friendly criticism on any of his views and measures. 



GEREIT SMITH OX THE REBELLION. 5 

And still another hindernncc has been thrown in our way. The 
proposition to amend the Constitution tends to produce divisions 
amon!j;st ourselves, and to divert us from that one work which 
should absorb us — the "svork of crushing tlie Kebellion. It is said 
that for the safety of posterity and to prevent the recurrence of 
the Rebellion we must have a constitutional prohibition of Slave- 
ry. I reply that we can not afford to attend to posterity now — 
that our own case needs all our present attention. It will be time 
enough to amend the Constitution after we shall have ended the 
Rebellion. The leisure Avhich peace affords, is necessary to devise 
and adopt amendments of that precious paper. I do not object 
to the abolishing of Slavery. No sooner had slavery tired at 
Sumter, than emancipation should have fired at slavery. And 
this, too. Constitution or no Constitution for it. It was our right, 
because our necessity, to kill that which aimed to kill the nation. 
At no time since the War began should Congress have delayed to 
abolish by force of its war power every remnant o-f slavery : — 
dealing generously at the same time with loyal slaveholders. 

Moreover, as to guarding posterity from slavery, and therefore 
from a war for slavery, I would say, that the land once cleared of 
it, slavery will never again be set up in it. Slavery is an abomina- 
tion which the people, who have once got rid of it, are never dis- 
posed to recall. It is a disease, which no people take a second 
time. The French learned this lesson in their mad attempt to re- 
enslave the Ilaytiens. When, a few years ago, Spain grasped San 
Domingo, she promised the Dominicans not to introduce slavery. 
The promise was superfluous. The Dominicans will take care 
to protect themselves from slavery and from Spain also. Consti- 
tiitional provisions against slavery will not avail to keep out slav- 
ery from the Southern States : but the freedom and the arms we 
are giving to their slaves will. Where a people want slavery, 
they will have it, whatever the Constitution. Our Constitution is 
against slavery. But the people wanted slavery. To say the 
least, they felt interested in consenting to it. Hence they fell in 
with the pro-slavery interpretation of the Constitution. Good 
men fell in with it because it was the prevailing interpretation. I 
said that our Constitution is against slavery. Certainly it is : — 
for it says, " No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or prop- 
erty without due process of law :" and " No State shall pass any 
bill of attainder." But slavery is the most emphatic and abomin- 
able attainder. And it says too : " The United States shall guar- 
antee to every State in the Union a Republican form of govern- 
ment." Has South-Carolina, where a handful of tyrants own 
three fifths of all the people, a Re^niblican form of government ? 
Surely we can not admit it wathout being ashamed that our nation 
has a Republican name. 

I close with the remark, that now is not the time either to im- 
prove the Constitution or to be solicitous to save it ; that now is 
not the time, much as they are needed, to be building roads to the 
Pacific, or indeed to be making any expenditures or embarking in 



6 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

any projects, whose results will not be early enough to help us 
in this War ; and that not only now is not the time for President- 
making but not the time to maintain the Democratic i:)arty, nor 
to revive the Republican party and seek thereby to harness to a 
platform built four years ago and in far other circumstances a 
nation which is solving, through seas of tears and blood, the ques- 
tion of her life or death. I thought that the Republican party 
was disbanded. The assurances that it was — were they mistaken 
or deceitful ? Tens of thousands of men, not Republicans, have 
worked with Republicans to put down the Rebellion. But they 
can not turn away from that work to any other : — nor can they 
consent to couple with it the building up of the Republican or 
any other party. 

Pjkterboko, February 24, 1864. 



m THE FORT PILLOW AND PLYMOUTH MASSACRES. 



The Immediaie Criminals noi always fhe only Criminals. 

The Creators of a Wicked Public Sentiment responsible for its Fruits, 

Patriotism, and not Party Politics, our Present Need. 

No Taxes too heavy, if needed to Put Down the Rebellion, 



The whole civilized world will be startled and horrified by this 
slaughter of probably not less than five or six hundred persons. 
The excuse in the case of a part of the slaughtered is, that they 
were traitorous citizens of the Confederacy : in the case of another 
part, that they were whites fighting by the side of blacks : in the 
case of the remainder, including women and even children, that 
they were blacks. That these were blacks, was cause enough why, 
though numbering three or four hundred, they should be murder- 
ed — murdered in utter contempt of all the sacred rights of pri- 
soners of war. It is of the crime against these, I would now speak. 

Who are to be held amenable for this crime '? The rebels. Yes, 
but not the rebels only. The authorship of this crime, so match- 
less in its worst features, is very comprehensive. The responsibili- 
ty for it is wider than our nation. England shares in the author- 
ship and responsibility, because it was she who planted slavery in 
America, and because it is slavery out of which this crime has 
come. Our own nation, however, is the far guiltier one. The guilt 
of this crime is uj^on all her people who have contributed to that 
public sentiment, which releases white men from respecting the 
rights of black men. Our liighest Court says that this satanic sen- 
timent prevailed in the early existence of our nation. Certain it 
is, that it has prevailed in all the later periods of that existence. 
Who are they who have contributed to generate it ? All who have 
held that blacks are unfit to sit by the side of whites in the church, 
the school, the car and at the table. All who have been in favor 
of making his complexion shut out a black man from the ballot- 
box. All who have been for making a man's title to any of the 
rights of manhood turn on the color of the skin in which his 
Maker has chosen to wrap hmi. All, in short, who have hated or 
despised the black man. 

Even President Lincoln, whom God now blesses and will yet more 
bless for the much he has done for his black brethren, is not entire- 



8 GERRIT SMITH OK THE REBELLION. 

ly innnoccnt of the Fort Pillow and Plymouth massacres. Had 
his plan of " Reconstruction" recognized the right of the black 
men to vote, it would thereby have contributed to lift them up 
above oiitrage, instead of contributing, as it now does, to invite 
outrage upon them. By the way, it is a pity that he undertook 
" Reconstruction." It was entirely beyond his civil capacity to do 
so : and it was entirely beyond his military capacity to have a part 
in setting up any other than a military or provisional government. 
Moreover, this is the only kind of government which it is proper 
to set up in the midst of war. The leisure and advantages of 
peace are necessary in the great and difficult work of establishing 
a permanent government. In this connection let me advert for a 
moment to the doctrine, "Once a State always a State" — a doc- 
trine so frequently wielded against " Reconstruction " on any 
terras. Where is the authority for this doctrine ? In the Consti- 
tution, it is said. But nowhere does the Constitution say that a 
State may plunge into war, secure at all hazards from some of the 
penalties of war. But amongst the penalties of war is whatever 
change the conqueror may choose to impose upon the conquered 
territory, I admit that it is very desirable to have all the revolt- 
ing States reestablished — reinstated. But that there is any law by 
which this becomes inevitable is absurd. Nowhere does the Con- 
stitution say that a State is to be exempt from the operation of 
the law of war. Nowhere does it undertake to override the law 
of war. How clear is it, then, that by this paramount law these 
revolted States will, when conquered, lie at the will of the con- 
queror ! And how clear is it, that it will then turn not at all 
upon the Constitution, bxit upon this will of the conqueror, 
backed by this paramount laAV of war, whether the old statehood 
of these States shall be revived, or whether they shall be re- 
manded to a territorial condition, and put upon their good be- 
havior ! 

There is another instance in which the President has contribut- 
ed to that cruel j^ublic sentiment, which leaves the black race un- 
protected. I refer to his so strangely long delay in promising pro- 
tection to the black soldier, and to the even longer and not yet 
ended delay in aftbrding it. The President is a humane as well 
as an honest man ; and the only explanation I can find for his de- 
lay to protect the black soldier and to put an end, so far as in him 
lies, to the various, innumerable, incessant outrages upon the freed- 
men is in the continuance of his cliildish and cowardly desire to 
conciliate his native Kentucky and the Democratic party. 

I argued that even President Lincoln is responsible in some de- 
gree for that public sentiment, which invites outrage upon the black 
man and leaves hini a prey to the wicked. Those Members of Con- 
gress, who are opposing the reasonable measure of letting the black 
man vote in the Territories, are also guilty of favoring that public 
sentiment which broke out in the crime at Fort Pillow and Ply- 
mouth. Similarly guilty are those members who would make the 
pay of a black soldier less than that of a white one. And so are 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 9 

those members who consent to leave a fugitive slave statute in 
existence. In a woi-d, all should tax their consciences with the sin 
of this public sentiment and witli the resulting crime at Fort Pil- 
low and Plymouth, whose influence, by either word or deed, has 
been to keep up in tliis heathen land the caste-spirit — that pre- 
eminent characteristic of heathenism. I call this a heathen hind. 
To the Christ-Religion — that simple religion of equal riglits and 
of doing as you would be done by — there can be no greater insult 
than to call a nation in which, as in this, tlie most cruel and mur- 
derous caste-spirit prevails, a Christian nation. 

Both on the right hand and on the left, I hear that our nation is 
to be saved. But my fears that it will not, often become very 
strong. That the Rebellion is to be crushed, I deeply believe. Often 
in the course of Providence a wicked people, which is itself to be 
afterward destroyed, is previously to be used in destroying another 
and generally more wicked people. There are striking illustrations 
of this in the Bible. The duty of abolitionists and anti-abolition- 
ists. Democrats and Republicans, to work imitedly, incessantly, 
and im conditionally for the overthrow of the Rebellion I have not 
only never doubted, but ever urged. I hold it to be unpatriotic 
and even traitorous for the Abolitionists to make any conditions in 
behalf of their specialty, and to propose, as some of them do, to 
go against the Rebellion only so far as going against it will be 
going against slavery. So too are those Democrats unpatriotic and 
even traitorous who can favor the War, only under the stipulation 
that it be so conducted as to harm neither the Democratic party 
nor the Constitution. To put down the Rebellion is an object im- 
measurably higher than to save a party or to save the Constitution, 
or even to save the country. No man is right-minded, who woxdd 
not have it put down, even though it be at the expense of the last 
man and the last dollar. 

If any thing makes me doubt that the Rebellion will be crushed 
it is the omission of Congress to abolish slavery, now Avhen it is 
so clearly seen that the abolition of slavery is an indispensable 
means to the abolition of the Rebellion. The proposed Amend- 
ment to the Constitution I take no interest in. One reason why I 
do not, is, that it is not a proposition to abolish slavery note. An- 
other is, that war is not the time to be tinkering at constitutions. 
I see it denied that Congress has the power, even as a war meas- 
ure, to abolish slavery. Amazing delusion ! There is in every 
nation an absolute power for carrying on war. The nation that 
disclaims it may as Avell give up being a nation. In our own, this 
power is vested in Congress. Congress is to declare war: and 
Congress is " to make all laws necessary and pi'oper (itself of course 
the sole judge of the necessity and propriety) for carrying into 
execution" the declaration. Is it the institution of apprenticeship, 
which it finds to be in the way of the successful prosecution of the 
war? — then is it to sweep it out of the Avay. Is it the abomina- 
tion of slavery ? — then is it to strike at that. 

There is, however, one thing more which sometimes, tliough not 



10 GEERIT SMITH ON" THE EEBELLION". 

often, raises a doubt in me whether the Rebellion av ill be cnished. 
It is the premature agitation of the Presidential question. When 
the Rebellion broke out, I assumed that it would be put down in a 
few months — for I assumed that this greatest crime against nation- 
ality and humanity would arouse and unite the whole North. How 
greatly was I mistaken ! Very soon the Democratic party was 
seen to prefer itself to the country. The Republican party stood 
by the country. But at the present time there is no little danger 
that the country may be sacrificed in a strife betw^een the mem- 
bers of the Republican party. For, taking advantage of this 
strife, the Democratic party may succeed in getting the reini of 
Government into the hands of one of its pro-slavery peacemakers. 
But I may be asked — will not the rebels be conquered and the 
country saved before the next Election ? I still hope so — and until 
the last few months I believed so. But is there not some reason 
to fear that the North will be wrought up to a greater interest in 
this year's Presidential than in this year's military campaign ? 
In other words, is there not some reason to fear that, for the 
coming six months, j^olitics instead of patriotism will be in the 
ascendant ? 

I still say, as through the past winter I have frequently said, 
written, and printed — that the Presidential question should not 
have been talked of, no, nor so much as thought of, until midsum- 
mer. The first of September is quite early enough to make the 
nomination ; and in the mean time, undistracted by this so dis- 
tracting subject, we should be working as one man for the one ob- 
ject of ending the Rebellion — and of ending it before reaching 
the perils of a presidential election. And such working would 
best educate us to make the best choice of a candidate. More- 
over, it is the condition the country will be in three or four 
months hence, rather than the condition it is now in, that should 
be allowed to indicate the choice. Great and rapidly successive 
are the changes in the circumstances of a country in time of war. 
To nominate a President in time of peace, six months earlier than 
is necessary, all would admit to be great folly. But greater folly 
would it be to nominate him in time of war even a single month 
earlier than is necessary. The Baltimore Convention is imder- 
stood to be a movement for renominating President Lincoln, and 
the Cleveland Convention one for nominating General Fremont. 
Would that both Conventions were dropped ! Would indeed 
that the whole subject were dropped until July or August ! — and 
would too that it were dropped with the understanding, that it 
should then be taken up, not by the politicians, but by the 
people ! 

The people Avould present a loyal and an able candidate : and 
whether it were Lincoln or Fremont, Chase or Butler, Dickinson 
or Dix, the country would be safe. 

I recall at this moment the large and respectable meeting for 
consultation held in Albany last January. What a pity that the 
meeting took fright at the temi:)crate and timely resolutions re- 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 11 _ 

ported to it ! What a pity that the meeting saw in them danger 
to the country, or perhaps, more properly speaking, to a party ! 
One of these resolutions and its advocates urged the importance 
of postponing until the latest possible day the whole subject of a 
Presidential nomination : and, had it been adopted and published, 
it Avould not xuilikely have exerted sufficient influence to bring 
about such postponement. Time has proved the wisdom of the 
other resolutions also. I wish I could, without seeming egotism, 
say that slavery, and slavery alone, having brought this war upon 
us, they, who have given but little thought to slavery, should be 
too modest to toss aside indignantly and snceringly the sugges- 
tions of those who have made it their life-long study. Were 
these resolutions now published, almost every man who opposed 
them, would wonder tliat he had so little foresight as to oppose 
them. 

And there is still another thing which should pei'haps be allow- 
ed to suggest a doubt whether the rebellion will be crushed. It 
is, that we are so reluctant to pay the cost of crushing it. Our 
brave soldiers and sailors give their lives to this end. But we 
who stay at home shrink from the money tax which is, and which 
should be far more largely put upon us. Our nation is imperiled 
by the incessant outflow of a big stream of gold. Wise and pat- 
riotic as he is, our Secretary of the Treasury will nevertheless 
labor in vain to diminish this stream unless importations shall be 
taxed far more heavily. Deeply disgraceful are these import- 
ations when it is by all that is precious in the very life of our 
nation that they are forbidden. Surely it is no time now to 
be indulging in foreign luxuries : and as to necessaries, our own 
country can furnish them all. Luxuries, whether foreign or do- 
mestic, should all come now with great cost to the consumer. 
And only a small return for protecting their estates from the reb- 
els would it be for the rich to pay over to Government one fourth, 
and the veiy rich one half of their incomes. Let me add in 
this connection that tlie State Banks should be so patriotic, as to 
rejoice in the national advantage of an exclusively National cur- 
rency. 

I expressed my belief that the rebellion will be crushed — but 
my doubt whether the nation will be saved. A guilty nation, like 
a guilty individual, can be saved through repentance only. But 
where are the proofs that this nation has so much as begun to re- 
pent of the great sin, which has brought the great calamity upon 
her? She has, it is true, done much to prove that she regards sla- 
very as a political and economical evil, and a source of great peril 
to the nation : but she has done exceedingly little toward proving 
that she has a penitent sense of her sin in fastening the yoke of 
slavery on ten to twenty millions of this and former generations- 
It is only here and there — at wide intervals both of time and 
space — that has been heard the penitent exclamation, " We are 
verily guilty concerning our brother ;" — only at these wide inter- 
vals that has been seen any relaxation of the national hatred and 



12 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

scorn for the black man. " Abolitionist," which, when the nation 
shall be saved, will be the most popular name in it, is still the 
most odious and contemptible name in it. That the fugitive slave 
statute is still suffered to exist, is ample proof that this nation has 
still a devil's heart toward the black man. How sad that even 
now, when because of the sin of slaveholding, God is making 
blood flow like water in this land, there should be found mem- 
bers of Congress, who claim tliis infernal statute to be one of the 
rights of slaveholding ! As if slaveholding had rights ! As if 
any th4+ig else than punishment were due to it ! — punishment ade- 
quate to its immingled, unutterable, and blasphemous wrongs ! 

I shall, howevei", be told that slavery will soon be abolished 
by an Amendment of the Constitution. And what will such an 
Amenduient say ? Why, nothing more than that slavery ought 
not to be — must not be — when it shall no longer be constitutional. 
What, however, the American people need to say, is, that be it con- 
stitutional or unconstitutional, slavery shall not be. So they are 
always prepared to say regarding murder. But slavery is worse 
than murder. Every right-minded man had far rather his child 
were murdered than enslaved. Why, then, do they not affirm that, 
in no event, will they tolerate slavery any more than murder ? The 
one answer is — because it is the black man, and the black man 
only, on whom slavery falls. Were white Americans to be en- 
slaved in a Barbary State, or anywhere else, our nation would re- 
spect no pleadings of statutes or even of constitutions for their 
enslavement. In defiance of whatever jDleas or whatever re- 
straints, she would release them if she could. The most stupen- 
dous hypocrisy of which America has been guilty, is first profess- 
ing that there is law for slavery — law for that which all law pro- 
claims an outlaw — laAV for that in which there is not one element 
of law, but every element of which is an outrage upon law ; and 
second, in professing it, not because she has a particle of belief in 
it — but simply because blacks instead of whites are the victims of 
her slavery. America declared that John Brown was " rightly 
lumg." How hypocritical Avas the declaration, may be inferred 
from the fact that had they been white instead of black slaves 
whom he flung away his life to rescue, she Avould have honored 
him as perhaps man has never been honored. And she would 
have made his honors none the less, but heaped them up all the 
more, if, in prosecuting his heroic and inerciful M'ork, he had tossed 
aside statutes and broken through sacred constitutions. Oh ! if 
this nation shall ever be truly saved, it will no longer regard John 
Brown as worthy of the fate of a felon ; but it will build the 
whitest monuments to his memory, and cherish it as the memory 
of the sublimest and most Christlike man the nation lias ever pro- 
duced ! Some of the judgments of John Brown — especially such 
as led him to Harper's Ferry — were imsound and visionary. 
Nevertheless, even when committing his mistakes, he stood, by 
force of the disinterestedness and greatness of his soul, above all 
his countrymen. 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 13 

Would Congress contribute most effectively to put clown the 
rebellion, and to save the nation by the great salvations of peni- 
tence and justice — the only real salvations? Would it do this? — 
then let it pass, solemnly and unanimously, a resolution that there 
never was and never can be, eitlier inside or outside of statutes or 
constitutions, law for slavery; and then another resolution that 
whoever shall attempt to put the yoke of slavery on however 
humble a neck, black or white, deserves to be put to death. 

A word further in regard to the proposed Amendment. Were 
the impudent and monstrous claim of its being law set up for 
murder, no one would propose an amendment of the Constitution 
forbidding murder. The only step in that case Avoxild be to make 
the penalty for the crime more sure and if possible more severe. 
Such an amendment would be strenuously objected to, in that it 
would stain the Constitution with the im2:)lication that murder 
had been constitutional. And now, if we shall have a Constitu- 
tional Amendment, which, in terms, forbids slavery, (it is already 
forbidden by the spirit, principles, and even provisions of the Con- 
stitution,) shall we Jiot be virtually admitting to the world and to 
posterity that this nation had been guilty of tolerating, if not 
indeed of positively authorizing, in its Constitution the highest 
crime of earth ? God save us from an admission, which shall 
serve both to stamp us with infamy and to perpetuate the infamy ! 

Petekboko, April 26, 1864. 



LETTEE TO MRS. STANTON 
ON" THE PEESIDENTIAL QUESTION 



Peteeboro, June 6, 1864. 
Mrs. E. Cadt Stanton, New-York : 

My Dear Cousin : I have your letter. It would be too great 
labor to answer all, Avho seek to know ray choice amongst the 
presidential candidates. But I must answer you. 

I have no choice. The first of September will be time enough 
for me and for every other person to have one. Intermediate 
events and changes will be indispensable lessons in our learning 
who should be the preferred candidate. To commit ourselves in 
time of war to a candidate one month before it is necessary, is 
worse than would be a whole year of such prematureness in time 
of i^eace. Then there is the absorbing, not to say frenzying, 
interest, which attends our important elections. That it is fren- 
zying is manifest from the scornful rejjroach and wild invective, 
which the press is already heaping up on Lincoln and Fremont — 
both of them honest and able men, and both of them intent on 
saving the country. How unwise, nay how insane, to let this ab- 
sorbing and frenzying interest come needlessly early into rivalry 
with our interest in the one great work of crushing the rebellion! 
For more than half a year have I frequently and faithfully, both 
with lips and pen, deprecated the premature agitation of the 
question who should be the chosen candidate. If, therefore, the 
Cleveland and Baltimore Conventions shall have the effect to 
divide the loyal voters so fir as to let a pro-slavery and sham 
Democrat slip into the Presidency through their divisions, I, at 
least, shall not be responsible for the ruin that may come of it. 

My concern whether it shall be Lincoln or Fremont or Chase or 
Butler or Grant who shall reach the presidential chair is compar- 
atively very slight. But my concern to keep out of it a man, 
who would make any other terms with the rebels than their abso- 
lute submission is overwhelming. For any other terms would not 
only destroy our nation, but lessen the sacredness of nationality 
everywhere, and sadly damage the most precious interests of all 
mankind. 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 15 

Since the Rebellion broke out, I have been notliing but an anti- 
rebellion man. So unconditionally have I gone for patting it 
down unconditionally, as to make no stipulations in behalf of my 
most cherished objects and dearest interests. And so shall I 
continue to go. I love the anti-slavery cause. Nevertheless, I 
would have the rebellion put down at whatever necessary ex- 
pense to that cause. I love the Constitution ; and deprecate the 
making of any even the slightest change in it. Nevertheless, I 
make infinitely less account of saving it than of destroying the 
rebellion, I love my country. But sooner than see her compro- 
mise with the rebels, I would see her exhaust herself and perish 
in her endeavors to defeat their crime — that greatest crime of 
all the ages and all the world. I do not forget that many of my 
old fellow abolitionists accuse me of having been unfxithful to the 
anti-slavery cause during the rebellion. My first answer to 
them is — that to help suppress the rebellion is the duty which 
stands nearest to me : and my second answer — that in no way so 
well as in suppressing it can the anti-slavery cause or any other 
good cause be promoted. There is not a good cause on the earth 
that has not an enemy in the unmixed and mighty wickedness of 
this rebellion. 

You will rightly infer from what I have said, that my vote will 
be cast just where I shall judge it will be like to go farthest in 
keeping a disloyal man out of the Presidency. My definition of 
a disloyal man includes every one who would consent to obtain 
peace by concessions to the rebels — concessions however slight. 
Should the rebellion be disposed of before the election, I might 
possibly refuse to vote for any of the present candidates. When 
voting in time of war, and especially such a fearful war as the 
present, for a Governor or President, I vote for a leader in the 
war rather than for a civil ruler. Where circumstances leave me 
free to vote for a man with reference mainly to his qualifications 
as a civil ruler, I am, as my voting for thirty years proves, very 
particular how I vote. In 1856, Fremont was in nomination for 
the Chief Magistracy. I honored him — but I did not vote for him. 
In 1860, Lincoln Avas nominated for it. I had read his Debate 
with Senator Douglas, and I thought well of him. But neither 
for him did I vote. To-day, however, I could cheerfully vote for 
either to be the constitutional head of the army and navy. I 
go further, and say, that to save the Presidential office from going 
into the hands of one who would compromise with the rebels, I 
would vote for a candidate far more unsound on slavery than the 
severest abolition critic might judge either Lincoln or Fremont to 
be. But were there no such danger, I would sternly refuse to vote 
for any man who recognizes, either in or out of the Constitution, 
a law for slavery, or who would graduate any human rights, nat- 
ural or political, by the color of the skin. 

This disposition to meddle with things before their time is one 
that has manifested itself, and worked badly, all the way through 
the war. The wretched attempts at " Reconstruction " are an in- 



16 GEREIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 

Stance of it. " Reconstruction " should not so much as have been 
spoken of before the rebellion was subdued. I liojie that by 
that time all loyal men, the various doctrines and crotchets to the 
contrary notwithstanding, will be able to see that the seceded 
States did, practically as well as theoretically, get themselves out 
of the Union and Nation — as eflectually out as if they had never 
been in. Our war with Mexico ended in a treaty of peace with 
her. Doubtless our war with the South Avill end in like manner. 
If we are the conqueror, the treaty will, I assume, be based on 
the unconditional surrender of the South. And then the South, 
having again become a portion of our nation. Congress will be 
left as free to ordain the political divisions of her territory, as it 
was to ordain those of the territory we conquered from Mexico. 
ISText in order. Congress will very soon, as I have little doubt, see 
it to be safe and wise to revive our old State lines. Nevertheless, 
I trust, that such revival would never be allowed until Congress 
should see it to be clearly safe and wise. We hear much of the 
remaining constitutional rights of the loyal men in the seceded 
States. But they, no more than their rebellious neighbors, have 
such rights. It is true that the rebellion is their misfortune 
instead of their crime. Nevertheless, it severed every political 
cord as well between the nation and themselves as between the 
nation and those rebellious neighbors. The seceded States em- 
barked in a revolution, which swept away all the political rela- 
tions of all their people, loyal as Avell as disloyal. Such is the 
hazard, which no man, however good, can escape from. If the 
major part or supreme power of his State carries it to destruction, 
he is carried along with it. A vigilant, informed, active, influen- 
tial member of his body politic does it therefore behoove every 
good man to be. 

In his haste for "Reconstruction," the President went forward 
in it — whereas he is entitled to not the least part in it, until Con- 
gress has first acted in it. In the setting up of military or pro- 
visional governments, as we proceed in our conquests, his is the 
controlling A'oice — for he is the military head of the nation. 
But in regard to the setting up of civil governments in the wake 
of those conquests, he is entitled to no voice at all until after Con- 
gress has spoken. 

Another instance of meddling with things before their time is 
tliis slapping of the face of France with the " Monroe Doctrine." 
I was about to say that doing so serves but to provoke the enmity 
of France. There is, however, one thing more which it j^rovokes — 
and that is the ridicule of the world. For us, whilst the rebels 
are still at the throat of our nation, and may even be at her 
funeral, to be resolving that we will protect the whole Western 
Continent from the designs of the whole Eastern Continent, is 
as ludicrous a piece of impotent bravado as ever the world 
laughed at. 

And still another instance of our foolish prematureness is the 
big words in which we threaten to punish the leaders of the 



GEREIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION. 17 

rebellion. It would be time enough foi* these big words M'hcn 
we had subdued the rebellion and captured the leaders. In the 
mean time there should be only big blows. Moreover, if Ave shall 
succeed in getting these leaders into our hands, it will be a ques- 
tion for the gravest consideration Avhether we should not beg 
their pardon instead of punishing them. What Avas it that 
stirred up the rebellion ? The spirit of slavery. That alone is 
the spirit by means of which Soutliern treason can build up a fire 
in the Soutliern heart Avhose flames shall burst out in rebellion. 
Slavery gone from the South, and there Avill never more be re- 
bellions there to disturb the peace and prosperity in which North 
and South will ever after dwell together. Which was the guiltier 
party in feeding and inflaming that spirit ? The pro-slavery and 
preponderant North. The guiltier North it Avas, that had the 
more responsible part in moulding the leaders of the rebellion. 
Does it then become this guiltier North to be \-engeful tOAvard 
these her oAvn creations — her OAvn children ? — and, Avhat is more, 
vengeful toAvard them for the bad spirit Avhich she herself had so 
large a share in breathing into them ? — for the Satanic character 
which she herself did so much to produce in them ? But I shall 
be told that the North has repented of her part in upholding 
slavery, and thereby furnishing the cause of the rebellion ; and 
that the South should have followed her example. But if her 
rei^entance did not come until after the rebellion broke out, then 
surely it came too late to save her from responsibility for the 
rebellion. Has it, hoAVCA^er, come CA^en yet? I see no proof of 
it. I can see none so long as the American^ people contimxe to 
trample upon the black man. God can see none. Nor Avill he 
stay his desolating judgments so long as the American Congress, 
instead of Avipiug out penitently and indignantly all fugitive slave 
statutes, is infatuated enough to be still talking of " the rights 
of slaveholders," and of this being " a nation for Avhite men." 
Assured let us be, that God Avill never cease from his controversy 
with this guilty nation until it shall have ceased from its base 
and blasphemous policy of proscribing, degrading, and outraging 
portions of his one family. The insult to him in the persons of 
his red and black children, of Avhich Congress Avas guilty in its 
ordinance for the Territory of Montana, Avill yet be punished in 
blood, if it be not previously Avashed out in the tears of peni- 
tence. And this insult, too, Avhilst the nation is under God's 
blows for like insults ! What a silly as Avell as wicked Congress ! 
And then that such a Congress should continue the policy of pro- 
viding chaplains for the army ! Perhaps, hoAvever, it might be- 
regai'ded as particularly fit for such a Congress to do this. Chap- 
lains to pray for our country's success whilst our country contin- 
ues to perpetrate the most flagrant and diabolical forms of injust- 
ice ! As if the doing of justice Avere not the indispensable Avay 
of praying to the God of Justice! It is idle to imagine that God 
is on the side of this nation. He can not be Avith us. For Avhilst 
he is everyAvhere Avith justice, he is noAvhere Avith injustice. I 
2 



18 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

admit that he is not on the side of the rebellion. From nothing 
in all his universe can his soul be further removed than from this 
most abominable of all abominations. If we succeed in putting 
it down, our success, so far as God is concerned, will be only 
because he hates the rebellion even more than he hates our 
wickedness. To expect help from him in any other ^^oint of view 
than this, is absurd. Aside from this, our sole reliance must be, 
as was the elder Napoleon's, on having "the strongest battal- 
ions." I believe we shall succeed — but that it will be only for the 
reasons I have mentioned — only because we are the stronger party 
and that God is even more against the rebels than he is against 
us. How needful, however, that we guai'd ourseh^es from con- 
founding success against the rebellion with the salvation of the 
nation ! Whether the nation shall be saved is another question 
than whether the rebellion shall be suppressed. In the provi- 
dence of God, even a very wicked nation may be allowed to 
become a conqueror — may be used to punish another wicked 
nation before the coming of its own turn to be conquered and 
punished. But a nation, like an individual, can be saved only by 
penitence and justice. 



LETTER TO MESSRS. AVADE AND DAVIS. 



Peterboro, August 8, 1864. 
Hon. B. F. Wade, 
Hon. H. Winter Davis : 

Gentlemen: I have read your Protest. It is a strongly reas- 
oned and instructive paper. Nevertheless, I regret its ap})earance. 
For it will serve to reduce the public good-will towards Mr. Lin- 
coln ; and that is what, just at this time, the public interest can 
not afford. It may turn out that Mr. Lincoln is the man for 
whom it will be vital to the national existence to cast the largest 
possible vote. Personally he may not be more worthy of it than 
Mr. Fremont or Mr. Cliase, or some other man, who may be nom- 
inated. But, if as the election draws near, it shall be seen that 
he will jorobably get a larger vote than any other candidate of 
the uncompromising opponents of the rebellion, then it will be 
the absolute duty of every one of them to vote for him. The 
election of a man who would consent to any thing short of the un- 
conditional surrender of those, who, Avithout even the slightest 
cause of complaint, have made war upon us, would not only be 
the ruin of our nation, but it would be also the base betrayal of 
that sacred cause of nationality, which they of one nation owe it to 
those of every other nation, the earth over, to cherish and main- 
tain. But no such consequence, nor any other fatal consequence, 
would there be, should a loyal man of whatever fiults be elect- 
ed — a man who, because he is loyal, would in no event fail to in- 
sist on the absolute submission of those who had causelessly re- 
belled against their country. Plence, though it may be at the ex- 
pense of passing by our favorite candidate, we should neverthe- 
less all feel ourselves urged by the strongest possible motives to 
cast our votes just where they will be like to contribute most to 
defeat the conpromising or sham peace candidate. 

Mr. Lincoln, although an able, honest, patriotic man, lias fallen 
into grave errors. But who, in his perplexing circumstances, 
would have been exempt from them? He has depended too large- 
ly on the policy of conciliation. He has made too much accoimt 
of pleasing Border States and Peace Democrats. But in all this 
he has sought not his own advantage, but the safety of his coun 



20 GEREIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

try from tlie harm with whicli Border States and Peace Dem- 
ocrats (same thing as Pro-Shivery Democrats) threatened her. 

Nor has Mr. Lincohi always kept himself within the sphere of 
his office. I do not mean that he went out of it in imprisoning a 
few treasonable men. He should have imprisoned more. Nor 
do I refer to his suppression of a few treasonable newspapers. He 
should have suppressed many more. In almost any other nation 
with rebels at its throat, the printing of " the forged Proclama- 
tion " would have been visited Avith the severest penalties. The 
plea that the offense was committed where war was not actual, 
would have been scouted. Nay, the presumption to offer it would 
have been lacking. By the Avay, the city of New-York is em- 
phatically a theater of the war. Tliousands there with worse 
than Southern hearts — for Northern rebels are worse than South- 
ern rebels — are constantly plotting war against their country. 
Occasionally their war comes to the surfoce. It did so when, a 
little more than a year ago, it broke out in plunders and murders 
meaner and more malignant than the world had ever before seen. 
It will break out again as soon as some other conjunction of cir- 
cumstances shall promise success. New-York not a theater of the 
war ! Why, we have immeasurably more to fear from the ever- 
warring disloyalty of New- York and Philadelphia, than from the 
swords and giins of Richmond and Atlanta. But what if there 
be not actual war, has been none, and will probably be none in 
the locality where the press utters treason ? — may not the war 
power lay its suppressing hand on that press ? If it may not, 
then the country may be lost. For, in the first place, civil pro- 
ceedings may be too slow to save it ; and, in the second place, 
the locality may be too disloyal to favor even civil proceedings. 
New-York has not favored them. She has not punished her trea- 
sonable newspapers ; and that she has not is strong proof that she 
Avill not, and is of itself amjile reason why the war power should. 
Moreover, however loyal might be the locality, it Avould not be 
right in all cases for the war power to depend upon her motions. 
In a matter, which is vital to the nation, the nation itself must 
act. Her life must not be left to hinge upon the will or conduct 
of any locality, liowever loyal. 

I have virtually said that a treasonable press is capable of Avork- 
ino- ruin to a country. " The forged Proclamation," for instance, 
Avas a blow at the credit and at the very life of the nation. But for 
the intervention of the military arm it would have done much evil, 
and other disloyal presses Avoiild have been emboldened to do more. 
I add that if it Avere left alone to the civil authority to Avatch the 
pi-esses in the North, a A^cry considerable share of them Avould quick- 
ly be teeming Avith treason. If, then, the Avar poAvcr is as limited as 
last Saturday's 0|)inion of the Court in the case of The People 
against General Dix makes it, and if also that poAver shall submit 
to that limitation, then of necessity Avill the Avork of debauching 
tlie Northern mind by a disloyal Northern press go on tOAvard 
its fatal resuU even more rapidly than ever. 



I 

GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 21 

The jurisdiction of General Dix is called in question. It is as 
ample and absolute as that of Sherman before Atlanta or Grant 
before Richmond. Were citizens of New-York to strike Govern- 
ment troops in that city, he clearly would have as much right to 
strike back as have Sherman and Grant in such a case ; and as 
clearly he would no more than tliey be under ol)ligation to wait 
for redress at the hands of the civil authorities. I>ut the right of 
the military commander to strike back, when newspapers strike 
at the existence of the nation, is even more vital. A single col- 
umn of newspaper treason might imperil the nation more than 
could many columns of armed foes. Is it said that so great power 
in an individual is very dangerous ? I grant it. And therefore 
we must as far as possible keep out of war — for in war there 
must be such jiower in a single hand. 

I do not fear that General Dix will abuse his office. lie is both a 
wise and a just man : and that he, who has borne himself so beau- 
tifully in our war, shoi\ld be degraded to a culprit in our courts — 
and this too in return for a service he did his country — makes us 
blush for that country. It was he who in his Order, at the very 
beginning of the "War, to shoot down the man loho should strike doion 
the flag, sounded the very key-note of that patriotic spirit in which 
it was our duty to conduct the "War. In that Order he virtually 
bade us all stand unconditionally by our country against what- 
ever rebels or rascals. 

I honor the good intentions of President Lincoln. But I 
would that he had the nerve to meet, as General Jackson would 
have met, these traitorous men amongst us, who, Avlien the state 
of the country is such as to make its salvation turn on a liberal in- 
terpretation of the powers of the Executive, study the reduction 
and belittling of those powers. Valuable as are the virtues of 
forbearance and forgiveness, we have had quite too much of them 
fof our safety. Stern justice, whilst always a no less excellent 
virtue, is, in the time of stern war, a far more timely and neces- 
sary one. Would that the President might mingle a little more of 
it with his kind and patient spirit ! 

I said that the President has not always kept himself Avithin 
his official limits. His Amnesty Proclamation is one of the in- 
stances in which he has exceeded them. In his military capacity 
he had nothing to do with the reconstruction of civil govern- 
ments ; and in no other capacity had he any thing to do with it 
until Congress had acted upon it. It was for him to set up mili- 
tary governments in the wake of our advancing armies, But it 
Avas not for him to concern himself about the permanent or civil 
governments, that would come to take the place of these tempo- 
rary proAdsions. • 

By many the President is condemned for his sloAvness. Per- 
haps he is too slow in some things. There are others, hoAvever, in 
Avhich he is too fast. But in this latter fault the great mass of 
the loyal men both in and out of Congress are Avith him. I agree 
with you that the President's plan of settlement is a wrong one. 



22 GERRIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION. 

But your Congressional plan, like his, is premature. How much 
precious time was wasted over the premature question of the 
confiscation of real estate ! Not a foot of it should have been 
sold before the close of the war. Nothing should have been 
done with it but to lease the vacant portions of it — and that only 
from year to year. No great inconvenience could ensue fi'oni such 
a postponement of the sale of Southern soil, nor from such a post- 
ponement of the setting up of civil government upon it. War 
and especially such a war as this — is no time for unnecessary 
Avork. It will not be well done. Moreover, the doing of it will 
leave necessary work ill-done. 

Then there is the unseasonable work of altering the Constitu- 
tion. Not one moment should have been wasted in that worse 
than useless direction. If nothing in the Constitution hinders the 
most effectual prosecution of the war, then surely there is no 
excuse for embarrassing ourselves in time of war with attempts to 
alter it. If, on the other hand, any thing in it stands in the way of 
such prosecution, Congress can virtually overcome it. For the 
Constitution does itself accord to Congress the power to make 
whatever laws it thinks " necessary and proper " for carrying on 
the war, be it even laws for taking into military service every 
slave and every apprentice or every schoolhouse and every church 
in the land. A nation is no nation — certainly it could not long 
be one — that does not recognize such absolute power. 

Then there is the undue haste to come to the terms of peace — a 
haste with which the President is no more chargeable than thou- 
sands of loyal men. When they who without the least jjrovocation 
took up arms to dismember our beloved country, shall lay them down, 
then and not till then are we to be for peace, or for any thing but 
war. Then and not till then, are we to talk or even to think of 
the terms of peace. The war ended, and then will be the time 
for our concessions to our deluded brethren. Just and generous 
may these concessions be ! There are many good people who, in 
their great desire for peace, would have the war ended on any 
terms. They would even come to the ever-insisted-on terras of 
the rebels, and accept of disunion. But these good people are 
foolish people. There can be no peace in disunion. A truce, 
and a very brief one, is the best there could be. War Avould break 
out every few years. Besides that we can get a peace only by 
conquering it, it can abide only on the condition of retinion. 

And then these premature Presidential nominations, which for 
six months I was so earnestly deprecating. God grant that they 
may not fatally divide us ! God grant that they may not fatally 
divert our interest from the prosecution of the war! But the 
blame of these nominations rests not on the Pre'sident, but on the 
mass of his party. 

' The putting down of the rebellion — that is our one present 
work. Our absoi'ption in it should be so entire, as to leave us no 
time and no heart for any thing which is mmecessary, or for any 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 23 

tiling wliich is necessary until the very day, nay the very hour, 
when it has become necessary. 

I scarcely need add that in giving ourselves to the work of 
overthrowing the rebellion Ave ai'e to make no conditions. I 
scarcely need add that those Democrats are to be condemned, who 
insist-on stipulating for the safety of slavery ere they can embark 
inthis work ; nor that those abolitionists are also to be condemned 
Avho put the abolition of slavery before the suppression of the re- 
bellion. This suppression is the duty which must be discharged, 
come what will of its discharge to the Democratic or the aboli- 
tion party. For it is the nearest duty. Moreover, let the aboli- 
tionist magnify the crime of slavery as he will, the crime of the 
rebellion remains tlie far greater one. For the rebellion super- 
adds to all that is bad in slavery, parricidal blows at the life of 
the country and contempt of the sacredness of nationality. I have 
myself been a somewhat earnest advocate of abolition. But at 
no time during the rebellion have I felt at liberty to inquire of 
abolition whether, or how, I should work toward putting down 
the rebellion. I add that, as the sole legitimate object of the 
war we are prosecuting is to put down the rebellion, therefore 
none have the right to embarrass or pervert the war by their 
schemes to harm or their schemes to help slavery. We do not 
say that the abolitionist is to cease working against or the anti- 
abolitionist is to cease working for slavery. But we do say that 
the putting down of the rebellion is the common work of aboli- 
tionists and anti-abolitionists. Democrats and Republicans : and 
that, differ as they may in other respects, they are to be one in the 
prosecution of this common work. A traitor to his country is he 
who, when traitors have fallen upon her, allows himself under the 
counsels of any party, however dear, any interest, however cher- 
ished, or any cause, however sacred, to withhold his help from her. 
Such party, such interest, such cause notwithstanding, he is to be 
"arm and soul" against the traitors. 

I repeat that I regret your Protest — or rather, I should say, the 
tmseasonable publication of it. There is a great deal of truth in 
it — and generally a very forcible presentation of that truth. But 
the country can not now afford to have the hold of Mr. Lincoln on 
the popular confidence weakened. Pardon me for saying that the 
eve of the Presidential Election is not the time to be making an 
issue with Mr. Lincoln in regard to either liis real or supposed 
errors. For, from present indications, it is highly probable that 
we shall need to concentrate ^ipon him the votes of all the loyal 
voters in order to defeat the disloyal candidate. Issues Avith the 
Southern rebels and their Northern friends are the only ones avc 
can afford to make before the election. Let Lincoln get all the 
loyal votes, let Fremont get them, let Chase get them, let any 
other loyal man get them, if this shall be necessary to prevent the 
election of one Avho is in the interest of the rebellion and of a 
spurious peace. I doubt not from your ardent patriotism and your 
strong sense, that you entirely agree with me at this point ; and 



24 GEKEIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION". 

that they altogether misjudge you, who suppose that you will in no 
event vote for Mr. Lincoln. The election of no loyal man, how- 
ever faulty he may be, can destroy the nation. But the election 
of wliatever disloyal man will. Strong as is your dislike of some 
of Mr. Lincoln's measures, you will not sufler it to stand in the 
way of your voting to save the country, nor in the way of your 
entreating others to do so. 



01 McCLELLAN'S NOMIMTION AND ACCEPTANCE. 



I WRITE these pages for the candid. Partisans would not hear 
me. They follow party. Those only will hear me who follow 
truth ; and who Avill still follow it at whatever expense to party. 

The North is divided — fearfully divided. One portion holds 
that the North, and the other that the South is the guilty party in 
this war. Which of them is right, is the great, nay the only 
question to be answered at the coming Election. If the North is 
the guilty party, then McClellan should be j^referred. If the 
South, then Lincoln. I name them because every day makes it 
more evident that all our votes will finally be concentrated on 
them. McClellan is the candidate of those who hold the North 
to be the guilty party, and therefore Avhatever exceptions some of 
them take to him, all will feel constrained to vote for him. So, 
too, all who hold that the South is the guilty party, will feel it 
to be their duty to vote for Lincoln. Many of them would prefer 
to vote for Fremont, if they could thereby vote as effectively to 
defeat the candidate whose sympathies are with the South. But 
this they now see they can not do. It is in this Avise that Fremont 
and Cochrane will themselves, notwithstanding their dislike of 
some of his measures, A^ote for Lincoln. They are too magnani- 
mous to let personal considerations hinder them from voting for 
him ; and they are too patriotic to Avithhold a vote, which they 
think the salvation of the country calls for. Nay, they will has- 
ten to inspire their friends Avith the like magnanimity and jiatriot- 
ism. So, too, the great influence of Wendell •Phillips will be 
brought to the side of Lincoln, as soon as he shall see that the 
man to be elected must be either Lincoln or a servant of the 
South. Strong as is his preference for Fremont, he Avill not let it 
Avork to the destruction of his country. 

We need not go back of the Convention, Avhich nominated Lin- 
coln, to learn that the Union party lays all the blame of the Avar 
upon the South. Nor need Ave go back of the Convention, Avhich 
nominated McClellan, to learn that the Democratic party lays all 
the blame of it on the North. The proceedings of the Cliicago 
Convention afford conclusive evidence that the Democratic party 
is identified Avith the rebellion ; is at peace Avith the enemies m- 



26 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

Stead of tlio friends of the nation — at peace with the South, and 
at war with the North, Nevertheless, it is not to be condemned, 
but rather to be honored for this, provided tlie North is the guilty 
party in the war. I am not of those whose motto is : " Our 
country, right or wrong." It is only when she is right, that I am 
with her. I can be loyal to the North so far only as she is loyal 
to justice. Nor, if I would, could I help her wherein she breaks 
with justice. A nation, like an individual, puts herself beyond 
the reach of help in j^roportion as she defies the claims of truth 
and righteousness. 

Let me here say that McClellan, no more than any other mem- 
ber of the Democratic party, is necessarily worthy of condemna- 
tion for opposing the cause in which his country is embarked. 
Nay, if it is an uni-ighteous cause, then it is proper in him to 
stand forth against it — to stand forth as distinctly and emphati- 
cally as he does by accepting his nomination at the hands of the 
enemies of that cause. 

I repeat, the question to be passed upon at the coming election 
is — which is the guilty party in this war — the North or the 
South ? It is admitted that the South took up arms to dismember 
our nation : and that she robbed it of moneys, forts, guns, and 
portions of our little standing array. It is admitted, too, that it 
was only in reply to these outrages, that we armed onrseh'es. 
Hence whilst tiie war on her part is oftensive, on ours it is but 
defensive. Notwithstanding all this, the North may not be the 
innocent party. For she may have oppressed and provoked the 
South beyond endurance. I am slow to admit that any rebellion 
in a land where there is free access to the ballot-box can be justi- 
fied. Nevertheless, if it can be shown that it was because she 
was made to suffer intolerable oppressions that she flew to 
arms, I will not condemn her. Had she such oppressions to 
complain of ? 

It is said, more in Europe, however, than in America, that our 
high -tariff was a burden upon the South. Never, however, had 
we a tariff so nearly approaching free-trade, as when her States 
began to secede. Moreover, the South could have had it as much 
lower as she pleased. What, however, if our tariff were not a 
proper one ? — that surely would not be enough to justify rebel- 
lion. 

Had the South any right to call herself oppressed by the elec- 
tion of Lincoln ? None at all. He was elected constitutionally. 
But he was against slavery ! It is true that he was — only mod- 
erately so, however. Several of the Presidents immediately pre- 
ceding him were thoroughly ^/br slavery. And yet the North did 
not claim that she was oppressed by their election. Least of all, 
did she (ilaim that their election furnished ground for rebellion. 

Was the South at liberty to regard herself oppressed because 
so much was said at the North against slavery ? Certainly not. 
The Constitution provides for free speech. Moreover, the South 
spoke as freely against our systems of labor, as we did against 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 27 

lier slavciy. She sueei'ed at om- " small-fisted farmers " and our 
" greasy mechanics." She stigmatized our noble laborers as "the 
mudsills of society." Then, too, the South helps send missiona- 
ries over the earth to argue against idolatries and otlier abomina- 
tions ; and thus is she estopped by her own acts from forbidding 
others to seai-ch and criticise lierself. 

Was the South oppressed by Northern legislation against slav- 
ery ? Never. The North Avas always willing to have the 
Supreme Court of the United States pass upon such legislation. 
When, however, the North sent Commissioners to the Soutli, to 
induce her to consent to have tlie constitutionality of those laws 
under which she Avas casting Northern freemen into the pit of 
slavery, passed upon by that Court, those Commissioners had to 
fly for their lives before the murderous onset made upon them. 

But John Brown, and at other times, other Northern men, 
went into the Southern States to help persons escape from slav- 
ery ! The North, however, was not responsible for this. She 
ever stood by slavery, and lielped the South tighten the chains of 
the slaves. Little right has the South to complain of the sympa- 
thy of John Brown and others with her slaves. Where tliese 
delivered one slaA^e, her kidnappers made slaves of ten Northern 
freemen. But there Avas rejoicing at the North over the escape 
of Southern slaves ! I admit it. So Avas there rejoicing at the 
South OA^er the escape of Southern men from Algerine slavery. 
Such rejoicings can not be stopped. And all attempts of the 
South to stop them, Avill be A'ain attempts to change human na- 
ture. 

Was the South oppressed by the refusal of the Northern peo- 
ple to accede to a proposition of the Southern people to have an 
amicable separation of the States, and an amicable division of the 
territories, and other national property ? There Avas no propo- 
sition from the Southern people to the Nortliern })eople. There 
was a proposition from Southern individuals, imauthorized by the 
Southern people ; and it was made not to oiu* people, but to our 
Government — to a Government Avhich, instead of being author- 
ized to dismember our nation, is SAVorn to preserve it, and Avhich, 
instead of being authorized to throAV aAvay the Constitution, is 
SAVorn to keep it sacred and unbroken. The people of the North 
Avere ready to meet the people of the South in a Convention of 
Delegates. Tliey Avere ready to make large concessions, in order 
to save from disru])tion the nation so dear to them. Entirely 
ready they Avere, I am sorry to believe, to indorse and consum- 
mate the remarkable action of Congress in favor of altering the 
Constitution to the advantage of slaA'ery. In fine, they would 
have consented to almost any demand of the South sliort of the 
sundering of the nation. This they would not consent to : and, 
because she knew they Avould not, the South Avould not have the 
National Convention. The sundering of the nation Avas the one 
thing she Avas intent on ; and nothing else, nor all things else, 
would she accept in lieu of it. Hence to get this one thing, 



28 GERRIT SMITH OIST THE REBELLION. 

which she could not hope to get otherwise, she resorted to arms. 
Herein and herein only, is the explanation of the outbreak of the 
rebellion. Could she but have been brought to recede from her 
determination to set up a nation for herself and by herself, all 
other difficulties with the South might have been adjusted. It is 
in no degree necessary to my argument, to explain why she then 
insisted, has ever since insisted, and never more strenuously than 
now, on this national independence. Nevertheless, as some, under 
whose eye this paper may fall, might like to meet with the explan- 
ation, I will give it. The whole explanation of this pertinacity 
on the jjart of the South, is to be found in the fact that she is 
determined to maintain slavery, and that she despairs of main- 
taining it, unless she shall erect herself into a nation, independent 
of every other nation. The South saw slavery cast out of all 
•Europe, and all American slavery except her own to be tottering. 
She saw too, that the North was every day becoming more en- 
lightened in regard to slavery, and therefore more hostile to it. 
Hence the great and absorbing question with her was — what she 
should do most effectually to insulate herself, and shut out those 
ever-swelling floods of anti-slavery sentiment, and anti-slavery 
influence, which were constantly pouring in upon her. Pier nat- 
ural decision was to build up about herself the high and, as she 
hoped, impervious walls of a new nationality. The North she 
regarded as already abolitionized. To remain, therefore, in con- 
nection with her, was to allow herself, also, to be abolitionized. 
Hence she broke off from the North. For what else would she 
have consented to break off" from it, and to lose the incalculable 
advantage of being a part of this great nation ? 

In all this, which I have now referred to, and I know not that 
there is any thing more of this bearing to refer to, has the South 
sufiered intolerable oppressions ? Nay, has she suffered any op- 
pression ? None whatever. In our national afflurs, she was gen- 
erally allowed to have her own way. I admit that Ave wronged 
her : but never, even in the slightest degree, did Av^e oppress hei*. 
And the only way in Avhicli she was ever Avronged by us, Avas our 
shameful indulgence of both her tyrannous spirit, and her greed 
of place and poAver. Surely, surely, then, the North is not to be 
accused of provoking the rebellion. Surely, surely, then, the 
South is the guilty, and the only guilty party in the rebellion. 
And surely, surely, then, the North can not, without making her- 
self very criminal, and very base, A^ote for the candidate of those, 
Avho hold the Nortli, and not the South, to be the guilty party. 
But it may be said that their candidate (General McClellan) does 
not hold in this respect, as they do Avho nominated him. If he 
does not, then is he A^ery unfortunate in being misrepresented by 
his friends, Avho put him forth as the representative of themselves, 
and Avho, it is fair to suppose, kncAV him thoroughly Avhen they 
did so. Since the Northern men, Avho espouse the cause of the 
South, single out McClellan for their standard-bearer, it Avonld be 
madness in us, Avho cleave to the cause of the North, to believe 



GEERIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 29 

him to be witli us and to vote for liim. If he is indeed a Nortli- 
side man, nevertlieless, since llioy, who know liim, liave set liim 
fortli as a South-side one, he can not coinphiin of us for not voting 
for him. He can comphxin but of his friends, who liave misrepre- 
sented liim, and whose misrepresentations justify us in M'ithliold- 
ing our votes from him. But we are cited to McCIellan's letter 
of acceptance. That it is a letter of acceptunce, is of itself suffi- 
cient to disentitle him to the vote of every loyal man. That he 
is the candidate of a Convention composed of the open enemies 
of that cause for which his country is pouring out her treasure 
and her blood — composed of those whose war is upon the North 
only — is surely reason enough why no hitelligent friend of that 
cause can give him his vote. But we will look further into this 
letter. I said that the North is divided between those who hold 
the North, and those who hold the South to be the guilty party. 
On Avhich side does McCIellan's letter place him? It spai-es the 
South, but it abounds in inculpations of the North. The indirect 
and unmanly way in which he makes, or rather insinuates his 
charges against the Government, was doubtless intended to ren- 
der them more effective. It will, however, serve but to denote 
the lack of an open, brave, and manly spirit in their author. He 
has nothing to say of the barbarity with which the South con- 
ducts the Avar — murdering fresh captives — or, if sparing them, 
sparing thousands to be tortured in spirit and body, thousands 
to be starved to death, and (worst fote of all !) thousands to be 
sunk in slavery. Nothing of all this does he say. But, in his 
characteristic, cowardly, roundabout way, he accuses the North 
of the high crime of perverting the Avar. I grant that there have 
been a few instances in Avhich anti-slaA'ery zealots haA-e shown 
their disposition to perA^ert it, and innumerable instances in Avhich 
pro-slaA'ery zealots have shoAvn the like. Just here let me say, 
that miserable men are all they Avho, Avhen monsters are striking 
jjarricidal blows at the country, are incapable of making a single 
and square issue Avith those monsters, and are intent on mixing 
up Avith the one question of putting down these monsters condi- 
tions in behalf of or against SlaAX'ry, Habeas Corpus, or something 
else. " DoAvn Avith the rebellion, come Avhat Avill of it to any of 
our schemes, or theoi'ies, or interests," is the A'oice of Avisdom. 
Moreover, if slavery or anti-slavery, this or that political party, 
this or that church, shall be found to stand in the Avay of putting 
it down, let them all be swept out of the Avay. Nothing is Avorth 
])reserving, that stands in the Avay of putting doAvn so unmitigat- 
ed and imparalleled a wickedness as the rebellion. When it 
shall have been put doAvn, Avill be time to decide (and not till 
then Avill it be time so much as to consider it) Avhether the safety 
of the nation shall call for the weakening or strengthening of 
slavery, for its utter annihilation, or for overspreading the Avliole 
land Avith it. In the mean time, use slavery, or apprenticesliij-), 
or any thing else in Avhatever Avay you can use it most eftectually 
to the crushing of the rebellion : and let all heads, all hearts, 



30 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

and all hands find their one thought, one feeling, and one work to 
that end. 

I admitted that there were instances of a disposition to per- 
vert the war. But by far the most signal of all the instances of 
the actual perverting of the war, and of perverting it even to the 
direct help of the rebels, is that of McClellan himself He it was, 
who began his mediating military career — his half-one-way and 
half-the-other way generalship — with a proclamation of safety to 
the foe at that very point where the foe was most vulnerable and 
most alarmed. He it was, who assured the slaveholders, that he 
would guard their homes, their wives and children, from servile 
insurrection, and who thereby left Ihem free to go forth to swell 
rebellion's battling hosts. And now for him whose duty, instead 
of ministering peace and security to the enemy, was to leave him 
appalled and paralyzed with every possible terror — and now for 
him, I say, to thro'W out in his cowardly way his utterly false 
charge that the Government has perverted the war, is enough to 
make the soul of every honest man boil over with indignation. 
Very far am I from saying that McClellan should have favored 
servile insurrection. But I do say that he should have left the 
slaveholders to all their fears from their slaves, and to all that 
occujiation of their thoughts and time Avdiich those fears called 
for, I add that his relieving them of those fears and of that oc- 
cupation, Avas treason to his country — was even literal treason — 
for it was " adhering to her enemies, giving them aid and com- 
fort." 

McClellan professes great love of the Constitution and the 
Union. I love them. The costliest gift whereby I might contri- 
bute to preserve them I have not withheld. Both in peace, and 
in war, abundantly with both lips and pen, I have opposed even 
the slightest alteration in the Constitution. But whilst McClellan 
sees our Government making war upon the Union and the Consti- 
tution, I see no other war upon them than that which his own 
party and its Southern allies are waging. 

I said that I love the Constitution. But I love my country 
more. I would use the Constitution to save the country. But 
the Democrats juggle with it to destroy tlie country. Instance 
their incessant knavish talk about the constitutional rights and 
the reserved rights of the seceded States. Whereas the plain 
fact is, that those States did, in seceding, forfeit every right but 
the right to be punished. France, were England to conquer her, 
would have no rhjlit to the present j^olitical subdivisions of her 
soil : and the South, being a rebel, and the guiltiest of all rebels, 
Avill, if conquered, be more emphatically destitute of all right to 
hers, I would hope that her old State lines might be recognized: 
but this would be for her conqueror alone to determine. The 
theory so industriously and injuriously and traitorously inculcat- 
ed by the Democrats — that -what were rights before the rebel- 
lion, must be rights after it, ay, and all the way through it — is 
the veriest nonsense. I have instanced the talk of the Democrats 



GERRIT SMITU ON THE REBELLION. 31 

at one point. Instance, too, their incessant knavisli talk about 
canying on the Avar according to the Constitution. They know 
that the nation, which should try to carry on war according to a 
Constitution, would certainly perish : and hence, indeed is it that 
they arc continually urging the Administration to make this alto- 
gether unprecedented experiment. Our Constitution does not at- 
tempt the lolly of prescribing the way in which we shall carry on 
war. The simple truth in this matter, (and they arc either silly 
or disingenuous who deny it,) is that war m\ist ever be a law 
unto itself, and that no other law can meet its exigencies. 

I said that I love the Union. My whole heart is set on its res- 
toration : and therefore have I done all I could to compel the 
South to return to it. I say compel^ because I believe she must 
be compelled. During all the years of the rebellion McClellan 
and his party have constantly held that the South would return to 
the Union, if the North would prepare the way. But the South 
has as constantly held to the contrary. For the reasons I have 
already given, the South will not consent to return. She has set 
up her new nation with slavery for its boasted corner-stone ; and 
she will not, but upon compulsion, belong again to a nation of 
another kind. There is, I admit, one way in whieh the South 
might possibly be induced to return to the Union. That way 
McClellan .and his party know ; and that way I have not the 
slightest doubt they are willing, and no small share of tliem eager, 
to prepare. Should the North consent to set up slavery within 
all her borders and to put, as slavery requires, the claim of prop- 
erty in man on the same footing with the claim of property in 
horses and hogs, the South might possibly consent to return to 
the Union. The Democratic party knows that this is the only 
way in which she would consent to re'turn, and this way the 
Democratic party would open to her. 

The pernicious cry that our sole legitimate object in 2:)rosecut- 
ing the Avar is to save the Constitution and the Union, is, of 
course, abundantly echoed in McClellan's letter. The declarations 
both in and out of Congress in the early stages of the AA'ar that 
our one Avork Avas to restore the Constitution and the Union, I 
am not disposed to criticise. But A'ery mnvise was it to repeat 
such declarations, after the rebellion had taken on its Avide dimen- 
sions, and Avas putting forth its gigantic and appalling efforts. 
Then our one Avork Avas to put down the rebellion ; and, if need 
be, at Avhatever expense to Constitution or Union. The forms of 
the Constitution and the terms of the Union had then become of 
comparatively little account. Nay, the rebellion, greatest of all 
the crimes earth ever kncAV, must go doAvn, though all do go 
doAvn Avith it. Alas ! how unreasonable and insane for the enemies 
of the rebellion at such a time as this, Avhcn the common Avork 
of putting it down claims the hands of all, and all the interest of 
all, to be making issues betAVcen themselves about the character 
of the Constitution, or the conditions of the Union ! Put down 
the rebellion ! Put it doAvn now, and unconditionally ! Matters 



82 GEKKIT SMITH ON" THE EEBELLION. 

about the Constitution and the Union can be adjusted afterward. 
This Democratic sliouting for the Constitution and the Union, is 
but to call us off' from crushing the rebellion. 

I notice McClellan's pathetic appeal for the votes of the soldiers 
and sailors. What an impudent affectation in him to profess re- 
gard for these brave and devoted men, whilst he worms his way 
up to the 2:)latform, in wliich the cause they are battling, bleeding, 
and dying for, is condemned, and its abandonment called for ! I 
say its ahandomncnt — for such is the only possible meaning of the 
immediate armistice or " cessation of hostilities," which the plat- 
form demands. If, as President Lincoln's favorite story says, it 
is " no time to swap horses when crossing the stream," so it is no 
time to stop horses when crossing it. To stop at that critical mo- 
ment is to expose all to go down-stream. For us to stop the war 
at this time, is to abandon the Avar, and to make vain all we have 
sacrificed in prosecuting it. Moreover, it is to abandon it when 
we are on the very eve of accomplishing its one object — the over- 
throw of the rebellion. I said it was an impudent affectation 
in McClellan, whilst indorsing the platform which insults the 
brave men who are fighting our battles, to be professing regard 
for them. So is it for him to be professing that regard whilst he 
places himself on that platform by the side of a Vice-Presidential 
candidate, whose sympathies with the South are as open as his 
own are sly ! This candidate, for whom also is necessarily every 
vote cast for McClellan, and who, if elected, becomes in no very 
improbable event, the President of the United States, is the 
George H. Pendleton, who is a member of Congress, and who in 
that capacity steadily votes against supplies of men and moneys 
and taxes for carrying on the war. He is the same Pendleton, 
who with but nineteen others voted against censuring Harris for 
using treasonable language on the floor of Congress, and who 
■with but fifteen others voted against the resolution, which de- 
clares the duty of crushing the rebellion. Greatly mistaken is 
McClellan if, with his unenviable military reputation and his base 
and guilty political connections, he hojjes to catch our discerning 
soldiers and sailors with such chaff" as his heartless praises of tliem. 
They read him " like a book." They Avill turn their backs upon 
him; and will give their approving faces and their approving 
votes to the honest Lincoln, who deals in no twattle about the 
Constitution and Union, and wdio speaks what he means ; to the 
patriotic and earnest Lincoln, who believes in the cause for which 
our soldiers and sailors are contending, who does his utmost to rein- 
force them, and who scouts as spurious any peace with the rebels, 
which shall precede their unconditional surrender. This attempt 
of McClellan to get tlie votes of the armed defenders of the 
country, reminds us of the similar attempt of the Convention that 
nominated him. Li one of its resolutions, the Democratic party 
is made to promise to take " care " of " the soldiery." Impu- 
dent and insulting promise! LTndoubtcdly " the soldiery " will, 
in turn, take care of the Democratic party. It will take care of 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 33 

it at the approaching election : and when the war is over at the 
South, aud the day of reckoning for Northern rascality shall have 
come, it will again take care of the Northern traitors whose sym- 
pathies have made strong the hands of Southern traitors, and 
who have in this wise greatly prolonged the war, and greatly 
swollen the sum of the sufferings of our army, 

I spoke of ]\IcClellan's worming his way up to the platform, 
which the Convention prepared for him and his fellow peace man 
to stand on. lie did not mount it like a bad bold man, but crawl- 
ed upon it like a bad timid one. His timidity, however, was in 
no wise because of a disagreement between the platform and his 
own views — for he virtually says that there is no disagreement 
between them when he says : " Believing that the views here ex- 

?ressed are those of the Convention and the people you represent, 
accept the nomination." He believes that the Convention and 
its constituents agree with him for the sufficient reason that, hav- 
ing read their platform, he linds himself agreeing with them. It 
is well that the traitorous and infamous platform is so outspoken, 
since in this wise, inasmuch as McClellan does himself believe that 
he and its framers mean the same thing, we are enabled to put 
confident interpretations upon the double-meaning phraseologies 
in his cunning and cowardly letter. Oh no ! McClellan's shyness 
of the platform was in no degree because he dissented from it — 
for he did not dissent from it. It was solely because he feared 
that his open, plump indorsement of a peace platform Avould leave 
hira no votes but those of the Peace Democrats. 

I have not failed to notice the patriotic, brave, and warlike words 
with which McClellan has sprinkled his letter. Inasmuch, how- 
ever, as they are at entire variance with other parts of it and with- 
the obvious spirit and aim of the whole ; and inasmuch, also, as 
they are repugnant to both the entire body and soul of tliat plat- 
form which by his acceptance of his nomination, as well as 
otherwise, he expresses his approval of; and inasmuch, moreover, 
as these cunningly flung-in words are out of all harmony with the 
words and deeds of that other George who stands beside him, and 
of the unprincipled party which nominated them — inasmuch as all 
this is so, I make no account of them. I cast the affected words 
aside, declaring them to be, as the lawyers Avould say, void for 
inconsistency. I could Avisli that these words might cost 
McClellan the loss of the votes of some Peace Democrats. But T 
have no idea that they will. These Peace Democrats know their 
man, and they are as sure of their one George as of the other. 
Hence, whilst nothing McClellan can say in favor of a war policy, 
can shake their confidence in his purpose for a Southern aiid pro- 
slavery peace, the more he shall say in favor of such ])olicy the 
more will he rise in their esteem — all that he so says passing to the 
credit of his cunning in catching the votes of War Democrats. 

I am not ignorant that the Da ibj Neios and Metropolitan Rec- 
ord^ Vallandigham and other such, have come out against McClel- 
lan. But they will be for him when election comes. Why 
3 



34 GERRIT SMITH ON" THE REBELLION. 

should they not be ? Why should they not trust him ? Like 
them he slanders the Government and the North. Like them, in- 
stead of ever saying so much as one word against slavery, he is con- 
stantly proving that his great concern is to save it. It is true 
that their treason is more open and noisy than his, but his is nev- 
ertheless as real and earnest as theirs. The coming out of Peace 
Democrats against McClellan is most likely but part of the game. 
Their showing a want of confidence in him is expected to increase 
the confidence of War Democrats in him. But even if there are 
a few Peace Democrats, who, because of the warlike words in his 
letter, do not like to vote for him, they nevertheless will vote for 
him. Such fellows are always either coaxed or whipped in. Let not 
the friends of the country flatter themselves that McClellan, who 
is in heart just Avhat the Peace Democrats could wish him to be, 
will lose so much as one of their votes. 

I pass on to inquire why it is, since the South is so obviously 
the guilty party in this war, so large a share of the Northern peo- 
ple goes with her. It is because of the power of party. It was 
long ago that the Democratic party came into alliance with slav- 
ery. I do not believe that it was, as a prominent politician in ef- 
fect declared it to be, a " natural " alliance. In the early days of 
the Republic the parties, morally considered, were not essentially 
different. But its espousal of the pro-slavery policy wrought a 
sad change in the Democratic party. Its good men saw it and 
lamented it ; and from time to time many of them quit it. When 
at length slavery, having failed to accomplish its ends by politi- 
cal, conmiercial, and ecclesiastical agencies, burst forth in rebellion, 
(for the rebellion is neither more nor less than slavery in arms,) 
then, as was to be expected, there was a great exodus from the 
Democratic party. Thousands of that party, who had been guil- 
ty of falling in with its concessions to slavery, hoping thereby not 
only to help their party but to preserve the quiet and promote 
the prosperity of the country, could no longer remain in their pro- 
slavery ]»arty after slavery had undertaken the violent dismem- 
berment of tlie nation. Nevertheless, the Democratic party did not 
become weak. As is natural, those who clung to it, became more 
than ever devoted to slavery : and the more pro-slavery the par- 
ty became, the more attractive was it to the aristocratic element 
in our population. For aristocracy, not in England only, but the 
world over, must ever be in sympathy with slaveholding. Con- 
tempt of the toiling poor, black or Avhite, bond or free, is common 
to both. Moreover, as the Democratic party increased in devo- 
tion to slavery, it grew in ftxvor with those ignorant and debased 
multitudes, who love slavery because they love to have a stratum 
of humanity still lower than their own. Again, these multitudes 
go for slavery because they are taught by the demagogues, who 
get their votes, that the colored people not in slavery are their 
rivals for the humble forms of labor. 

The Democratic party, now so openly and shamelessly the ser- 
vant of the slave-power as to be at work either to break up the 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 35 

nation or to bring all parts of it equally under the reign of slav- 
ery, has long been tlie servant of that power. Instance its innu- 
merable mobs to prevent or break up the diseussion of slavery. 
To embarrass the Government and help the rebels, it has become 
the champion of the right of free speech. Nevertlieless, its 
Amos Kendall, who is now so conspicuously on the side of free 
speech, went so far the other way as to let slavery stalk into the 
Post-Office Department, and wield its mighty machinery against 
free speech. Even our bland and gentle Governor Seymour, who is 
now so distressfully concerned for the safety of free speech, was, 
but little more than three years ago, planning in conclave with kin- 
dred spirits the forcible prevention of a speech against slavery. 

That the Democratic party should, even now, Avhen all Christen- 
dom is giving up slavery, still cling to it, is not unaccountable. 
Its whole life has come to be in slavery: and it knows that when 
slavery dies it must itself die. Hence to expect the Democratic 
party to give up slavery, is to expect it to give up itself: and the 
political party has not yet been which will consent to give up it- 
self. 

The Democratic party is, in short, neither more nor less than the 
Northern wing of the rebellion : and the same spirit of opposition 
to universal freedom and to the lifting up of oppressed and de- 
graded humanity, which imbues the Southern rebels, imbues the 
Northern rebels also. That such a party should do what it can 
to hinder the putting down of the rebellion is only what might 
be expected. But that even so guilty a party should taunt us 
with incompetence to carry on the war and with lack of success 
in it is a meanness and hypocrisy, which it surely did not need to 
add to its stupendous Avickedness. How multiplied are its hin- 
derances to our successful prosecution of the war ! It discourages 
enlistments. It opposes drafts, and goes so far as to make them 
occasions for plundering and murderous riots. It impeaches the 
national credit, and does all it can to shake confidence and pre- 
vent investments in Government bonds. It slanders and vilifies 
our upright and able President and his upright and able Cabinet. 
Whilst sullen over the victories achieved by our army, it exagger- 
ates and rejoices in its defeats. I need specify no further. 
Enough is it to add that its crimes and character are summed up 
in the crowning infamy of a Convention, which built that traitor- 
ous and hypocritical platform, and put upon it the two Georges, 
who are precisely suited to it and to each other. How sad that 
the men, who are doing these things, are even too depraved and 
too intatuated to pause and consider what a heritage of shame 
they are preparing for their children. 

The friends of the country must not allow themselves to be dis- 
couraged by all that its Northern and therefore its worst enemies 
have done and are still doing to discourage them. They must 
continue to believe that a cause, so good as is their cause, will 
not fail. They must still have faith in God, and still believe that 
He will not suffer the hard-earned treasure and righteous blood. 



36 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLIOjS". 

which Ave have poured out in the war to be but waste. They 
must still believe that our brave and dear soldiers and sailors, 
who have died or been crippled in this war, have not died nor been 
crippled in vain. They must still believe that the sorrows of our 
scores of thousands of bereaved fiimilies will find their soothing 
and recompense in a nation of all its former boundaries and of far 
more than all its former justice, freedom, and prosperity. 

This nation will live. It has given ample proof that it can 
withstand both foreign and domestic foes, both Northern and 
Southern rebels. This nation will live to see herself and the 
whole continent free from oppressors — not from slaveholders 
only but from imperial despots also. The Democratic party will 
not much longer, by weakening and disgracing us, encourage the 
designs of the Napoleons and Maximilians. For the Democratic 
party will soon die. As life is the law of righteousness, so death 
is the law of wickedness ; and the w^ickedness of the Democratic 
party is fast nearing that extreme limit where wickedness, all 
ripe and rotten, dies of itself. 

Let us be of good cheer. Atlanta is already ours. So also is 
the bay of Mobile. Very soon we shall have conquered two or 
three other imj^ortant points ; and then but a brief, feeble, flicker- 
ing life will remain to the rebellion. What is scarcely less import- 
ant, the election will also be ours. And then, thanks to God, the 
Democratic party, that ugliest of all the enemies of human rights 
and human happiness, will be dead. The name may survive ; but 
the party that shall wear it will be as unlike to the present Dem- 
ocratic party, as day is to darkness. 

Peterboko, September 14, 1864. 



LETTER TO MR KIREXAND. 



Peterboro, September 24, 1864. 
Charles P. Kiekland, Esq., New- York: 

My Friend and College-Mate: I have read your Address 
on the " Destiny of our Country," and I thank you for sending it 
to me. Parts of it I like, and parts of it I dislike. 

1st. I like your clear and forcible view of the cause of the re- 
bellion. Entirely do I agree with you that the one cause of it is 
slavery, and the anti-democratic, ambitious, aristocratic spirit 
which it produces. 

2d. Your flings at the abolitionists I do not like. Your grand- 
children will not like them. For in their day when the land shall 
be redeemed from the debauchment of slavery, and " abolitionist " 
shall have become the most honored and popular of all the names 
in it, there will be deep regret that beloved ancestors, who should 
themselves have been zealous abolitionists, kncAV no better than to 
despise abolitionists. It has ever been so, that the prophets are 
not recognized by their generation. Those were not, who warned 
the Jews of the coming ruin. Nor were those, who foretold the 
Bufferings and sorroAvs, that would surely befall this nation, should 
she persist in oppression. Alas ! not even now, when their abun- 
dant prophecies are being so abundantly and so horridly fulfilled, 
have you, my old friend, a heart to do them honor, or even to 
spare them from derision and reprobation ! You denounce their 
fanaticism and couple it with the Satanic fanaticism of the rebels. 
You make fun of their fewness ; and tell that their candidate for 
Governor of this State got but live thousand votes. He and his 
associates labored for many years to induce the people of the 
North to withhold their votes from slaveholders and jjro-slavery 
men. Oh ! had they but succeeded ! There would have been no 
rebellion then ! It was the jiro-slavery voters of the North that 
encouraged the South in her pro-slavery schemes : and but for 
her reliance on those voters, she would not have ventured on re- 
bellion. Let but our infamously pro-slavery and traitorous Dem- 
ocratic party desert her, and she would quickly desert her then 
hopeless cause. Nay, but for her hope (vain hope !) of McCIel- 
ian's election, she would regard her present straits as desperate, 
and think it time to give up the contest. 



38 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

By the way, your great contempt of the abolitionists has kept 
you quite ignorant of their history. For instance, you suppose 
that those live thousand were all opponents of the Constitution. 
Probably not one of them was. Their candidate had never writ- 
ten nor spoken a word against the Constitution : and few persons 
had written or spoken so much for it. Improbable, is it, therefore, 
that any of them would have voted for him had they not, like him, 
been for the Constitution — for the Constitution just as it is. I 
admit that there are abolitionists who dislike the Constitution. 
William Lloyd Gai-rison and Wendell Phillips are such : and 
where shall we look for men more intellectual or pure than Mr. 
Garrison and Mr. Phillips ? 

3d. I like your saying that our first work " is to crush the re- 
bellion." But what men have engaged in this work more earn- 
estly than the abolitionists ? Nay, is it not true that the negroes 
and the abolitionists North and South, are the only classes whose 
zeal against the rebellion is never called in question ? No time 
then is this for a patriot (and you are a patriot) to be holding up 
the abolitionists to hatred and ridicule. On the contrary, we 
should stand by all those who, in this hour of her peril stand by 
the country. 

4th. I dislike your looking beyond this work of crushing the 
rebellion. All the true friends of the country are fellow-laborers 
in this work. But beyond it are things about which they will dis- 
agree — or at least about Avhich they would now disagree. These 
things should therefore be left until we come to them. To bring 
them up now, is to impair our indispensable unity. Moreover, we 
are too fully occupied with the cares of the present to be justified 
in adding to them what is in the future, and what we shall best 
understand when, in the order of events, we shall have reached it. 
As you now feel, the preserving of the entire letter of the Constitu- 
tion Avould be your first care after the rebellion had been put 
down. But another man might think that his first care after it, 
would be the setting up of new securities against further rebel- 
lious outbreaks. The salvation of a country rather than the sal- 
vation of a paper would be his paramount concern. Again, you 
would, as you now think, hold that the conquered rebels must 
still be in the Union. But another person would hold that it 
would be for their conqueror to decide the point — to recognize 
them as in the Union if he pleased, or out of it if that were his 
preference. Again, you probably believe that, on their professed 
re-submission to the Constitution, the rebel States would, of ne- 
cessity, return to the enjoyment of all constitutional rights. But 
another believes that, when they rebelled, they forfeited entirely 
and forever every constitutional right : and that, if we conquer 
them, they will be as absolutely at our disposal as if they had 
never been under the Constitution — nay, as absolutely as if they 
had been a part of Canada or Mexico, instead of our own country. 
To bring forward one more illustration. You would allow such 
acts of the President in this war as were performed in the ca- 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 39 

pacity of Head of the Army and Navy to be submitted to the Su- 
premo Court of the United States. But another would differ from 
you — and this, too, notwithstanding botli the President and Sec- 
retary of State are with you at that point. lie might admit that 
a local insurrection, aifecting a county, or even so serious as to 
spread its disturbing influence over a State, could and therefore 
should be met by constitutional law only — by tliat law of which 
that Court is the acknowledged interpreter. But he would not 
admit the sufficiency of that law, nor therefore the jurisdiction of 
that Court, in all that arises in such a war as this, Avhich is upon 
our hands — a war in which our foe is a people of territory and 
resources enough to make them a mighty nation — a war which 
was scarcely begun ere several nations accorded belligerent rights 
to that foe, and which, very soon after, we ourselves could not 
withhold. The conduct of such a war he Avould bring under the 
broad principles of international law. Or rather, he would say 
that no written law can provide for the exigencies of such a war — 
and that the war must be a law unto itself. Moreover, he might 
put some perplexing questions to you. He might ask you — why, 
if the President's military acts can be reviewed by the Supreme 
Court, General Grant's and General Sherman's can not also. He 
might ask you whether you hold it to be competent for tliat Court 
to entertain the complaints of this and that man for being com- 
pelled to give up their houses and barns to soldiers and soldiers' 
horses. Observe that I do not say Avhich of you is right. Per- 
haps, both of you, when our nation shall, in her present perilous 
journey, h.ave reached these questions, will find your present 
views of them somewhat modified. Do not, dear Kirkland, be 
impatient to commit the people to your views of these questions. 
Leave it to that traitorous band, who at Chicago made their ti'ai- 
torous platform, and put upon it their traitorous candidates, to 
embarrass the Administration, and distract the people and hinder 
tlieir undivided and effective prosecution of the war by the pre- 
mature discussion of these questions. 

Trusting that your heart is set on the election of the honest and 
able patriot, Mr. Lincoln ; and that neither McClellan, nor any 
other candidate who belongs to the Northern wing of the rebel- 
lion, finds any favor in your sight, 

I remain your friend, 

Gereit Smith. 



TO THE RANK AND FILE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. 



Peterboro, October 20, 1864. 
To THE Masses of the Democratic Party: 

I HAVE faith that you will hear me — first, because I am an old 
man, and past being suspected of seeking personal political advan- 
tage ; second, because, being no partisan, and having never be- 
longed to the Democratic, Whig, nor Republican party, I am not 
liable to the charge of seeking party objects. 

You, like all multitudes of men, love justice and love your coun- 
try. Nevertheless, this does not assure me that, in the approach- 
ing election, you will be faithful to either. For, trained as you 
are to implicit confidence in the leaders of your jjarty, there is but 
too much reason to fear that you will follow them even now, when 
to follow them is to be their instruments in outraging righteous- 
ness and ruining your country. 

In the breasts of politicians where ambition, the greed of gain 
and the lust of place and power have usually so much play, justice 
and patriotism are apt to become Aveak. But in the breasts of 
your political leaders these virtues seem to have become abso- 
lutely extinct. Step by step they have gone on courting and con- 
ceding to the slave power, until at last they are so debauclied as 
to be no longer capable of withholding any thing from its claims. 
When the South at the instigation of that power broke out in this 
ri'bellion against a nation, which had done her no harm, save the 
harm of weakly and wickedly indulging her and succumbing to 
her, these leaders were as yet able to make, or at least to seem to 
make, some resistance. But now they have got so far along in 
the way of evil, as distinctly to take the side of the rebellion ; 
as openly and shamelessly to join the rebels, and employ every art 
to induce you also to join them. 

For proof that your leaders have gone over to the enemy, I 
refer not to the obvious fiict that they are at work with him to 
deflime, embarrass, and destroy our Government ; to the obvious 
fact that the spirit of the Democratic press in Pliiladelphia, New- 
York, Boston, and elsewhere, is one with the spirit of the Southern 
press ; to the obvious fact that your leaders rejoice with the South 
in her successes, and sorrow Avith her in her defeats ; to the ob- 
vious fact that, whilst the South shoots and starves our soldiers, 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 41 

your leaders, in denouncing the drafts and in various other ways, 
hinder the replenishing of our -wasted armies; and, by impeaching 
the credit and cheapening the bonds of the Government, enfeeble 
its prosecution of the war ; nor to the obvious fact that they are 
equally intent with the South on upholding slavery, which is the 
one cause of the rebellion. Nor have I reference to the obvious 
fact that the South identifies the cause of the Democratic party 
with her own cause, and that whilst she looks to our coming elec- 
tion as fraught with triumph or ruin to her rebellion, she also 
regards her own fortune as decisive of the fate of that party. 
Says the Charleston Courier: " Our success in battle insures the 
success of McClellan. Our failure will inevitably lead to his 
defeat." 

But there is evidence far more conclusive than any or .all of this 
which I have cited that the leaders of your party have identified 
themselves with the rebellion. God grant that they may not suc- 
ceed in identifying you also with it ! Go with me to the Chicago 
Convention. Look at the platform which it built, or rather Avhich 
it adopted — for it was probably mainly built on the ]>ritish side 
of the Niagara, if not indeed in Richmond. It says nothing 
against the South. It abounds in complaints of the North. It is 
at peace with the South, and at war with the North. It pro- 
nounces the war on our part a failure — and this, too, when the 
South is reduced to far less than half the territory she began the 
rebellion wdth, and our final success seems so near at hand. It calls 
for the stopping of the war. But a poorer time is it to stoj^ than 
"to swap horses, when crossing the stream." More is the danger 
that they will be swept down-stream. To stop the war now, is to 
forego the object of the Avar — the deliverance of the nation from 
threatened death. To stop it now, is to lose all the blood and 
treasure it has cost. To stop it now, is to make vain and to leave 
unrecompensed the bereavements and desolations, Avhich tens of 
thousands of our families have suffered from it. And for what 
end could the war be stopped now, but to abandon it and to leave 
the rebellion to triumph ? Is it said, that opportunity will thus be 
afibrded for the calm and wise consideration of the questions 
between the North and South ? But there are no questions between 
them, and there can be none until the South has laid down her 
arms. Until then, she has no right to be heard, and we have no 
right to hear her. Until then, neither party has the right to pro- 
pose conditions of peace. The South took up arms without cause. 
She must lay them down without conditions. Until then, any nego- 
tiations with her — even such quasi negotiations, as our excellent 
President has in the weakness of his goodness countenanced — 
would be at the expense of dishonoring justice and com]n-omising 
the dignity and sacredness of nationality. General McClellan 
thinks "Ave should exhaust all the resources of statesmanship to 
secure peace." But until peace there is nothing for statesmanship 
to act on. Until then, it must be generalship instead of etates- 
manship,/^A^m<7 instead of negotiation. AfterAvard many ques- 



42 GEIIEIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

tions will arise in the province of statesmanship : and I trust that 
onr Government will be disposed to treat them all justly and, 
where need be, generously also. 

It will held by some that there is one question between the 
North and the South, even while they are at war with each other. 
It is that of exchanging prisoners. But I do not see that even 
here there is room for a question. By the laws of war neither 
party to the war can be required to consent to an exchange of 
prisoners. Each may retain all its j^risoners to the end of the 
war. If the South does, for any reasons, value her black prison- 
ers too highly to consent to exchange them for her white men in 
our hands, so be it, and we have no right to complain. If she con- 
sents to however limited an exchange of prisoners, black or white, 
we are to thank hei*, and for humanity's sake to rejoice. The 
wrong treatment of prisoners is another subject, and one with 
which this should not be complicated, nor on which it should in 
the slightest degree be made to depend. If the South shall abuse 
any of her prisoners — if, for instance, she shall starve or kill, or 
what is worse, sink them in slavery, it is for us and us only to de- 
cide what shall be the return or retaliation for the outrage. All 
this, however, has nothing to do with the exchange of prisoners. 

But to return from this digression. We were speaking of the 
Chicago Platform. One of tlie things, which the Convention did 
after adopting it, was to put George II. Pendleton upon it. Pre- 
eminently fitted to it is he. Vallandigham himself could not be 
more so. From the first, Pendleton has been openly on the side 
of the rebels. On the floor of Congress in January, 1861, when 
several States had already seceded, he denied our right to compel 
the return of a seceding State. In harmony with this denial his 
subsequent votes have been against condemning the rebellion and 
against providing means for carrying on the war to suppress it. 
This is the rebel, whom your leaders would have you try to make 
Vice-President. Can you try it without becoming rebels your- 
selves ? He is the exponent of the Chicago Platform. In the 
light of his speeches and votes, whatever is obscure or doubtful 
in that platform becomes clear and certain. Can you consent to 
commit the Democratic party to a platform so entirely in tlie in- 
terest of the rebellion ? 

You perhaps wonder that I have omitted to mention the nom- 
ination of McClellan. But I was describing and illustrating the 
Chicago Platform : and his nomination has nothing to do with 
that peace platform. His name was chosen, not to represent 
the platform, but as the bait for catching the votes of War Dem- 
ocrats. It was a trick — as mere a trick as the Baltimore Conven- 
tion would have been guilty of, had it baited for peace votes by 
putting a non-resistant Quaker on its thorough war platform. I 
grant that the nomination of McClellan was a very cunning trick. 
For whilst, on the one hand, his having liad a part in the w\ar 
would commend hira to the votes of War Democrats, that part, 
on the other hand, was so equivocal, so tender, and advantageous 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 43 

to the enemy, as not to deter Peace Democrats from voting for 
him. 

And noAV, what are the arguments, which the leaders of the Dem- 
ocratic party, its orators and presses, employ to bring you to aban- 
don the cause of your country and to identify yourselves witli the 
rebels ? Only two which they greatly rely on, or wliicli it is 
worth while for me to notice. The first is the perversion of the 
war from the putting down of the rebellion to the putting down 
of slavery. The second is the cost of carrying on the war — the 
cost in money and the cost in life. 

First. I do not deny that one-idea abolitionists desired the per- 
version. But I do deny that their desire was gratified. From 
first to last, the Government has withstood all the clamor and ail 
the influence for the perversion. 

The leading doctrine of that admirable letter of August twenty- 
second, 1862, from President Lincoln to Horace Greeley, in which 
he shows his clear nnderstanding of the limitations npon his mil- 
itary power is, that he would emancipate slaves no farther than he 
sees it to be a necessity for saving his country. Surely, this doc- 
trine does not justify the charge of perverting the war. 

The President's Proclamation of September twenty-second, 
1862, sets out the declaration "that hereafter as heretofore the 
war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the 
constitutional relation," etc. No perversion of the war in this 
declaration. But this Proclamation contains a threat of Emanci- 
pation ! Yes, but the threat is to be fulfilled only in case the 
rebels refuse to lay down their arms. Does such a threat pervert 
the war ? So far from it, it is in the very line of the original and 
legitimate war. His Proclamation of January first, 1863, does, 
so far as it can, fulfill this threat. Did the fulfilhnent pervert the 
war ? Oh ! no. It weakened the foe and strengthened ourselves. 
It gave us new means for carrying on the war against him, and, 
like all our previous means for carrying it on, they have been foith- 
fuUy used to that one end. 

But your leaders tell you that the war has been perverted by 
bringing black men into the army, I doubt not that many of 
these black men are inspired with the hope that the putting down 
of the rebellion will be the putting down of slavery. All the 
fiercer, therefore, will they fight to put down the rebellion. Hence 
no perversion of the war need be feared at their hands : and so 
far from encouraging the cry of perversion, we should be tliankful 
that scores of thousands of these brave and stalwart black men 
are found willing to help us release our country from the bloody 
grasp of rebels. Thankful should we be to these defenders of our 
homes that they save ns from the necessity of defending them 
ourselves. A hundred thousand black soldiers save fifty thousand 
Unionists and fifty thousand Democrats from being soldiers. _ I 
do not deny that it is a great trial to the Southern chivalry, with 
whom your leaders so tenderly sympathize, to have to fight Avith 
negroes. I do not deny that it must be very humiliating and ex- 



4A: GEREIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

asperating to Southern gentlemen to find themselves confronted 
on the battle-field by their former slaves. But before taking up 
arms to destroy the best form of government the world ever saw 
and to dismember a nation that had never done them the least 
harm, they should have foreseen that, sooner than consent to per- 
ish under their parricidal blows, we would summon to our aid red 
and black as well as white men. Much and basely as we had, in 
the past, studied to please the slaveholders, they should have 
foreseen that wdien the alternative before us was to save their 
pride or save our country, we could not long hesitate which to 
choose. 

Second. Tlie other argument of your leaders why you should 
abandon the war and join the rebels is, as I have said, the cost of 
carrying on the war. I admit the cost is great. Still is it not 
better for us to go through with the war, and to reach final vic- 
tory as Ave can do in a few months, and as a united North, un- 
cursed with disloyal demagogues and disloyal generals, could 
have done moi-e than two years ago ? In that case we should 
have but our own debt to pay; and no small share of that we 
should be enabled to pay from confiscation of the estates of the 
wealthy men involved in the rebellion. The possessions of the 
poor we Avould be too pitiful and generous to molest. But in the 
event of the success of the Democratic party at the coming elec- 
tion and of the consequent immediate stopping of the war, or in 
other words of the abandonment of the Avar, or in still other 
words, of the success of the rebellion, the doctrines of State soa'- 
ereignty and State secession Avould be triumphant. Then the 
whole Democratic party Avould declare Avith George H. Pendleton 
that our Government has no right to coerce seceded States ; and 
then it Avould also declare that we are equitably bound to pay 
those States all the expense we have put them to in resisting our 
unconstitutional coercion. Thus, by giving up the Avar Ave should, 
instead of staying the increase of our debt, double it; and instead 
of our getting remuneration from the South, she Avould get re- 
muneration from the North. 

As to life — Ave Avould, it is true, stay the loss of it by stopping 
the Avar. But the Avar stopped now, or at any time before the 
rebellion is subdued, Avould speedily break out afresh, and lead to 
a sacrifice of life many fold greater than Avould be necessary to 
prosecute it to a decisive result from our present vantage-ground. 

I am not, hoAvever, Avilling to argue this point on this low 
ground only. I hold that we must, at Avhatever cost, carry on the 
war to final victory or final defeat. It is a case Avhere Ave have 
no option, and no right to stop to count the cost. We must per- 
severe until Ave have subdued the rebellion, or been subdued by 
it. If need be, Ave must persevere until men and money and credit 
shall all fail us. Infinitely honorable Avould it be for our na- 
tion to exhaust herself and perish in her struggle to crush this 
most infernal of all rebellions. But infamous to the last degree, 
and forever Avould she be, Avere she to consent to prolong her life 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 45 

by a compromise with tlie guiltiest of rebels and by recognizing 
their nationality alongside of her own. Our nation can attbrd to 
die an honorable death — but she can not aflbrd to live a dishonor- 
able life. 

Your leaders say we can not pay our present debt. The min- 
eral wealth of the country is sufficient to pay it in thirty years. 
Our gold and silver mines will yield the present year more than 
a hundred millions of dollars. By the time Ave shall have reached 
the fourth or fifth year of peace, they will yield double this sum. 
Scarcely less will be the yield of our iron, copper, lead, tin, quick- 
silver, salt, and coal. 

Your leaders seek to alarm you by telling you that rich England 
groans under a debt scarcely twice as large as our own. How 
idle to compare England's productiveness with our own ! — little 
England with this nation, which stretches from sea to sea — little 
England that half a century hence will not have one third of the 
population we shall then have. Of course, I am not taking into 
the account her colonies. These gratify her pride and ambition ; 
but they do little toward helping her pay debts. Is her trade Avith 
them lucrative ? So would it be, Avere they not her colonies. 

And, to make our prospect the more gloomy and despairing, your 
leaders dwell on our tOAvn and county bounty-money burdens. But 
so far from regarding as burdens the bounties Ave give those Avho 
arm themselves for our defense, Ave should rejoice in their Avealth- 
distributing and Avealth-equalizing office. They take from those 
Avho haA'e, to give to those Avho have not, and to those too, Avhose 
patriotic and perilous services can not be overpaid. What right- 
minded person does not rejoice Avhen seeing those bounty-moneys 
procure homes for families Avho never before had homes ? — and 
when seeing these families lifted up for the first time to a comfort- 
able grade of living ? Your leaders speak of the aggregate of 
those bounty-moneys as so much that the nation has parted Avith 
and lost. But it is still in the nation to help pay her debts Avith — 
and Avhat is more, it is in hands Avhere it does far greater good 
than it did before. In this connection let me add that a very con- 
siderable share of the great debt, Avhich the Government OAves, is 
for profits, Avhich have been realized in the contracts made Avith 
it and in the purchase of its bonds. These profits, like the bounty- 
moneys, are still in the nation, and, like them, Avill help the 
nation pay its debt. Moreover, it is these profits, Avhich have, 
during the war, so stimulated the industry of the nation, and 
given such unprecedented prosperity to all its branches. 

But Avhat, you Avill inquire, can be the motive of the Democratic 
leaders in bringing their party to the side of the rebellion ? I 
ansAver, that it is the same Avith that which prompted the rebel- 
lion — in other words, that the motive is to save slavenj. The 
authors of the rebellion — of the greatest crime of all the nations 
and all the ages — saw that the progressive civilization of Christen- 
dom boded d'estruction to slavery. They saAV that it Avas cast out 
of Europe ; that it Avas nearly extinct in her colonies ; that it was 



46 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 

tottering in Brazil ; and becoming more hateful in our Nortliern 
States. Hence they resolved to insulate themselves and their 
slavery. In order to keep fast, forever fost, the chains upon a 
race as innocent as hapless, they undertook to build up around 
both slaves and masters the walls of a new nationality — walls so 
high that the outside and growing anti-slavery sentiment could 
not leap over — walls so impervious that it could not pass through. 
Herein and herein alone is the explanation of the rebellion. 

Now, as the slaveholders have their life — the life of their ease 
and luxury, and ambition, and tyranny — the life of all their 
habits — in slavery, so also the Democratic party had, from its 
long-continued alliance with slaveholders and long-continued 
dependence upon them, come to have its life in slavery. Hence 
the leaders of that party, though, at the first, quite generally 
opposed to the rebellion, came to sympathize with it as soon as 
they saw that its downfall involved the downfall of slavery. For, 
they well knew that wlien slavery should die, the Democratic 
party would also die. Blessed be God that slavery is to die ! 
Blessed be God that it is to die, if it be only that the most 
demoralizing and devilish of all the political parties, which ever 
cursed mankind, is to die with it ! The approaching election will 
cast into a common grave, and that grave too deep to allow of a 
resurrection, Slavery, Rebellion, and the Democratic pai'ty. 
Doubtless there will still be a Democratic party. But it will not 
be the devil which this one is — for it will be dissevered from 
slavery. 

I frequently see in the Democratic newspapers extracts from 
the speeches and writings of such men as Daniel S. Dickinson, 
Benjamin F. Butler, and Lyman Tremain. These extracts are to 
prove that they were once as pro-slavery as are the remaining 
leaders of the Democratic party. But this is as unreasonable and 
shameless as for remaining drunkards to reproach reformed 
drunkards Avith their former history and habits. For one, I honor 
and love such men as Dickinson and Butler and Tremain, and 
should be glad to see them advanced to higher and higher places 
of trust and power. For, notwithstanding they were, in common 
with the other leaders of their party, victims of the most abomin- 
able political education, they had conscience enough left to stand 
aghast at the culminating wickedness of their party, and to quit 
their party ; — or, if you prefer, involving them in iDcrsonal as well 
as party guilt, conscience enough left to stand aghast at their 
own wickedness, and to repent of it and forsake it. Alas ! this 
pride of consistency ; this pride in never changing ! How vulgar 
and vicious and vile it is ! When will it be seen, that the duty 
of all of us — of even the best of us — is to be ever and ever 
changing, be it only toward the right ! When will it be seen, 
that man is among his best and sublimest employments, when 
writing with his own finger condemnation upon his own erring 
and guilty past ! Dickinson and Butler and Tremain had the 
courage to change. They stepped upward, and saved themselves, 



GEKRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 47 

and became saviours of their country. To remain where they 
were, would have been to remain destroyers of themselves and 
their country. 

I stated the arguments with which your leaders ply you, and 
by force of which they hope to bring you to the side of the 
rebels. The first one appeals to those prejudices against tb.e black 
man, Avhich they have so industriously and, alas ! so successfully 
cultivated in you. They hope that, xmder the sway of those 
strong prejudices, you would rather that the rebellion should 
triumph, than that the slave should go free. But have you not 
hated him long enough ? He is denied all right to learning and 
honors and child and wife and himself and his earnings. And 
yet his desj^ised black skin covers a heart as warm to all tl>€se 
relations and interests as does your own proud Avhite one. Tell 
your leaders, I beseech you — your tempters and seducers — that 
their appeal to your hatred of the negro will be vain. Tell them 
that he has suffered long enough ; that you have hated and 
wronged him long enough ; and that you are more disposed to 
repent of your part in crushing him than to persist in it. Tell 
them, in a word, that you have come to believe more in your 
obligation to honor* God and all the varieties of the human fimily 
than in your obligation to serve ambitious and greedy demagogues. 

The other argument which, I said, your leaders employ to bring 
you to join the rebels, is the cost of carrying on the war. Their 
hope of success at this point is in your selfishness and lack of 
patriotism. They flatter themselves that you had rather lose the 
country than have your property taxed to save it : and that, rather 
than let your sons go, or go yourselves into the hardships and 
perils of war, you would let the rebellion and slavery sweep over 
and blast the whole land. Disappoint them here also, I entreat 
you. Tell them that of all the claims, which earth can make uj)on 
your property, that, which your imperiled country makes upon it, 
is paramount. Tell them that to be poor and yet have a country, 
is to be rich — whilst to be rich and yet to be stripped of country, 
is to be poor. Tell them, too, that you have laid your sons and 
yourselves upon the altar of your country, and that you count 
death in her service not as dreadful, but as blessed. 

How elevating and ennobling is this war to all who have a 
heart to go forth to its unselfish, patriotic, and sublime duties! 
But how sinking and shriveling is it to all tliose who shrink from 
these duties, and prefer to cower in their cowardice, and to shut 
themselves in the shell of their selfishness ! 



EXTRACT FROM A DISCOURSE M PETERBORO, 



NOVEJNdCBEE, SO, 1864. 



"I NEED say no more to shoAV liow necessary to true religion 
and to tlie best type of manhood is unwavering fidelity to the 
claims of nature. Were I called on for the most striking and 
melancholy instance of trampling on these claims, I would cite 
the late Democratic party. I say late^ for it is dead : and slav- 
ery and the rebellion, instead of being able to raise their ally 
to life again, will soon be in the same grave with it. I do not 
say that there will never again be a Democratic party amongst us. 
There will be. It will not, however, be like the old one. For 
slavery, the soul of the old one, will not be alive to animate the 
new one. Nor will it be the party which was j^roposed in the 
War Democratic Meeting held in New- York a iQ\^ days before 
the recent election. For that would be a party, if not too cow- 
ardly, nevertheless, too j)rudent, to speak of slavery. Most em- 
phatically would that party furnish an instance of the playing of 
Hamlet with the part of Hamlet left out. The saying that never 
more can a man who spells ' negro ' with two ' g's ' become 
President, is a very true one. As true, however, is it that no 
party, which, Avhilst slavery lasts, flivors or ignores it, will ever 
again be in the ascendant. No, the Democratic party which 
shall succeed the deceased one, will be impartial toward all the 
varieties of the human family, and be based on equal justice to- 
ward all men. The original Democratic party, that of Jefferson's 
day, and, in no small degree, of his making, was worthy of honor. 
The late Democratic party had no title whatever to its ])restige 
or traditions. It was a thief. But, unlike most thieves, (for 
they take what is most valuable and leave Avhat is least so,) it 
took the name and left the principles of the original Democratic 
party ; the flag, and left all it symbolized. That with this name 
and flag it was able to juggle so successfully and to accomplish 
so much evil, is, to say the least, very discreditable to the 
popular intelligence. I have praised the original Democratic 
party: but the Democratic party which is to come will be a far 
better one. 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION, 49 

"We return from tliis digression, and proceed in shoAving how 
frightfully :it war with nature was the late Democratic party ; 
in other words, how frightfully umiatural it was. Slavery not 
only robs its victim of every right, but with unapproachable 
blasphemy it attempts a ■ change — an entire change — in his 
essential, God-given being. It drags him down from the glo- 
rious heights of humanity to class him with brutes and things. 
It reduces immortality to merchandise. Such is the hideous, 
the stupendous crime against nature of wliich the slaveholder is 
guilty. There is only one other on earth that is more hideous, 
more stupendous. This one other is, when a great political 
party indorses and espouses slavery, and makes its perpetuation 
and indefinite extension its chief and vital policy. Of this 
greater crime against nature the late Democratic party was 
guilty. More than thirty years ago it began its alliance with 
slavery; and ere long that alliance had ripened into indissoluble- 
ness. AVhen the rebellion broke out — when, in other Avords. 
slavery took up arms — the party, bad as it was, Avas somewhat 
shocked. Many, including of course its best men, quit it. The 
party did not — certainly not to a great extent — immediately and 
openly f.xvor the rebellion. But, soon after, it came to see that 
the downtall of the rebellion would of necessity involve the 
downfall of slavery, and therefore its own doAvnfall, its own life 
being bound up in the life of slavery. And then it delayed not 
to take open steps toward the side of the rebellion. At Chicago 
it formally and shamelessly identified itself with it. It adopted 
a rebellion platform — a platform at peace with the South and at 
war with the North. It left no material difference between itself 
and the Southern rebels, save the geographical one. Those Avere 
the Southern and it Avas the Northern Aving of the rebellion. 

" As proof hoAV clearly the late Democratic party saAv itself to be 
living in the life of slavery, and as i)roof, too, that its members 
are trained to make its interest their supreme interest, there Avas 
probably, AAdien that party entered upon the recent election, not 
one man in it who Avas in iavor of abolishuig slavery, that greatest 
crime against God and man. 

"Not a few of the Southern presses of the Democratic party 
held that slavery is the appropriate condition of all manual labor- 
ers. But so deep and revolting a crime against nature is slavery, 
that it Avas not easy to spread the conviction at the North that 
slavery is right. Nevertheless, the negroes must be continued in 
slavery. This was vital in the policy of the Democratic party. 
Hence Avith ceaseless industry did that party inculcate hatred of 
the race on Avlioni slavery had fastened. For it knew that the 
more men hated this innocent and hapless race the more they 
Avould be reconciled to its enslavement, and the less they Avould 
speak of and pity its Avrongs. The first and last and never-ceas- 
ing lesson A\-hich that party taught Irish immigrants Avas hatred, 
murderous hatred, of the negro.^ Nothing Avent so far to inflame 
it as that party's incessant lie that the negro, released from slav- 
4 



50 GEREIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION. 

cry, would come North and take away the Irishman's labor. 
This hatred became the ruling passion of those immigrants. Under 
its sway they denied the right of the negro to eat or sit, or even 
fight for his country, by the side of a white man. Moreover, 
imder its SAvay seven eighths of them voted with the Democratic 
party. The reason commonly assigned why these immigrants 
increase so slowly in knowledge and rise so slowly in character, 
is that they are Irish. I deny that this is the true reason. My 
respect for the memory of a grandparent born in Cork denies 
it. The obvious truth in the case denies it. Why these immi- 
grants are so backward in knowledge and character is chiefly be- 
cause they were made into Democrats and drank in the Demo- 
cratic hatred of the negro. Need any one be told that hatred 
is shriveling to the soul which harbors it? Need any one be told 
that, had these immigrants been taught love, instead of hatred, 
they would have expanded into a wisdom and morality Avidely 
contrasting with their present intellectual and moral darkness ? 

" It is not because these immigrants are Ii-ish that, so soon after 
landing upon our shores, they show themselves to be the deadly 
ojjpressors of our harmless and helpless colored people. It is 
because they are scarcely landed ere they are, as I said before, 
made into Democrats. AVould that it were into real Democrats ! 
But, alas, it is into the Satanic style of Democrats ! The people 
of Ireland are taught to hate oppression by their own suttering 
of it. They hate it when they come to us. But very soon, 
imder Democratic ajiplianccs, they are made ready to practice it. 

" Chief-Justice Taney was much censured for favoring the senti- 
ment that black men have no rights Avhich white men are bound 
to respect. But he was pushed up to it by the Democratic 
party. This sentiment had long been the sentiment of that party. 
A practice corresponding witli it had long been the practice of 
that party. Within a few Aveeks the Chief-Justice has left our 
world. There is a world (and may be he has gone to it) Avhere to 
■condemn a man for his skin is held to be a mistake ; and Avhere 
those few words of dear Robert Burns, " A man's a man for a' 
that," infinitely outweigh all the nonsense and blasphemy Avhich 
pro-slavery courts and pro-slaA'ery parties and pro-slavery churches 
have uttered to the contrary. 

" It is held tliat the Catholic priests help the Democratic party 
to the Irish A'ote. I am not prepared to believe it. Like the 
ministers of the Ejtiscopal Church, they stand aloof from ])olitics. 
I Avould myself that all preachers preached politics — the politics 
of Avisdom, justice, and humanity. For to me, it is as plain that 
pure i)olitics are a part of religion as that the theologies are not. 
Deeply do I rejoice that most of the ministers of most of the 
sects 'iiave of late years come to preach politics. God bless them 
for their good service in this Avise in the last election ! Great and 
blessed is this change! Only tAvenly years ago, and they av ere 
strenuously opposed to bringing politics into the pulpit ; and if a 
layman ventured to attempt to supply their delinquency, he lost 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 51 

all favor with them. Our ministers are making religion more 
practical ; and the more they do so, the more will their interest 
in the tlieologies decline. Compared with his interest in practical 
righteousness — in other phrase, with his interest in religion — how 
little does Henry Ward Beecher care for the theologies I AVliat 
a contrast between the dry, dogmatic, useless sermons of the 
last century and the juicy and tit-for-use sermons of the present 
<^lay! 

" That a party, which has its life in slavery, should furnish tens 
of thousands of men to those secret, oath-bound, bloody Associa- 
tions that are cooperating with Southern rebels ; and that, under 
its educating influences, there should come forth men base and 
villainous enough to attempt the ruin of their country by forgeries 
upon soldiers and frauds upon the ballot-box, is but what might 
have been expected. So, too, it was but a matter of course that 
such a party should be exceedingly attractive to the vicious and 
ignorant. Of the drunkards and of the men who can not read 
and write, Avho voted at the late election, probably seven eighths 
voted Democratic tickets. Those localities in our great cities 
which are sinks of vice have generally given their almost entire 
vote to the Democratic party. Cunning and corruption com- 
bined with ignorance, and ceaselessly playhig upon it — these were 
so largely the elements in the Democratic party, that one might 
almost say they made up the party. And these were the ele- 
ments that made it both numerous and strong. But happily the 
strength, Avhich comes of such sources, is short-lived, whilst tliat 
which is founded in virtue and intelligence, is permanent. 

" Am I asked whether there were no good men in the Democratic 
party? I answer that there were tens of thousands. Many of 
them Avere blind to its bad character. Many of them continued 
in it sim2>ly from the force of habit. They had always been in 
the Democratic party ; and though the change Avhich had taken 
place iu it was as great as from day to night, they must neverthe- 
less continue in it. That the ship was rotten and sinking, did not 
arrest their attention. That it carried the same name and flag, 
as that which had gone triumphantly through so many tempests, 
Avas enough to assure them of safety and keep them from desert- 
ing it. 

" And how do I explain the foct that thoixsands of intelligent, 
high-minded, cultivated gentlemen, Avho, though Avell knowing 
what the Democratic party AVas, ncA^ertheless consented to belong 
to it ? I answer that it wns because they knew Avhat it Avas, 
that they belonged to it. They had so far smothered their nature 
with their conventionalisms as to become unnatural enough to 
feel at home in so unnatural a party. They had draAvn a broad 
line of demarkation betAveen themselves and the masses — especial- 
ly betAveen themselves and the poor, most of all, the negroes, Avho 
are the poorest of the poor. In a Avord, they Avere aristocrats, 
and therefore could not fail of a strong aftinity for the most 
aristocratic party in the Avorld. They had that contempt of the 



52 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

poor -wliich is the leading element in aristocracy ; and so strong 
was it in that party, as to make increasingly popular in it the 
doctrine that the rich should own the poor and capital own labor. 
Not strange was it, then, that the aristocrats of America should 
attach themselves to that party, nor strange was it that the aristo- 
crats of Europe should sympathize with it. Nor was it strange 
that both should wish success to the rebellion, since they saw it 
so clear that the rebellion and negro slavery and the Democratic 
party must all succeed together or lail together ; and since, too, 
they saw it so clear that aristocracy would gain much by the suc- 
cess or lose much by the failure. 

"I need say no more to justify my citing the deceased Demo- 
cratic party as a preeminent instance of outrages on the princi- 
ples and rights of human nature, and therefore as a striking speci- 
men of the exceedingly and monstrously iinnatural. Let this 
party, whose malignant and untiring industry on the side of the 
rebellion threatened ruin to our country ; let this party, so furi- 
ously at war with the claims of nature, and therefore with the 
claims of religion ; let its career and its close effectually admon- 
ish us to be true to humanity, and to stand by its rights in the 
persons of men of whatever clime, complexion, or condition. So 
shall we stand by God also ; and so will He in turn stand by us. 
Natitre or religion (which in this connection is a Avord of the 
same import) succeeded at the late election. The suppression of 
the rebellion and the freedom of all the slaves, highly probable 
before, are made certain by this success. But whether our nation 
shall be saved will turn upon the question, whether we shall be so 
true to the claims of nature — to the claims of religion — as to 
enthrone justice in our governments, our churches, our hearts — a 
justice so impartial as to accord equal rights to all, born wherever 
they may have been or with whatever complexion. A nation can 
be saved only by righteousness. It is only in a low sense that as 
yet any of the nations have been saved. When all of them shall 
recognize and protect all the natural rights of all men, then all 
of them will be saved. Then there Avill no longer be war, not 
slavery, nor land-monopoly, nor licensed dram-shop, nor denial 
to woman of civil and political equality with man. Then, indeed, 
will have come the " Millennium ;" not because it was foretold, 
but because it was earned. It will come not as the beginning, 
l)ut as the fruit of righteousness ; not to last for only a thousand 
years, but so long as justice shall reign amongst men, and so long 
as the religion of nature and reason and Jesus — the religion of 
doing as we would be done by — shall be their religion." 



tETTER TO SENATOR SUMNER. 



[Justice to the Constitution, and to the Honest Masses who Voted for it! 



Peterboro, December 5, 1864. 
PIox. Charles Sibixer : 

My Dear Sir : I do not forget that to he singular is to be 
regarded as both eccentric and egotistical ; and tliat to be re- 
garded as either, is much in the way of one's usefulness. Never- 
theless, I must confess that at one point in our national affairs I 
have never been able to fall in with the friends of freedom. I 
refer to their eagerness during the present year to have the Con- 
stitution amended. Allow me to call your attention to some of 
the reasons why I have no sympatliy with this eagerness. If 
there is no force in them, the mention of them can do no harm. 
If there is, it may do good. 

First. The excitement and distraction attendant on war render 
it an unfavorable time for the responsible and solemn work of 
altering the organic law of the land. For no work can the calm- 
ness, composure, and leisure Avhich peace brings, be more neces- 
sary. 

Second. During all this entirely unprovoked, this Avantonly and 
sui'passingly wicked rebellion, the duty ever nearest to us, nay, 
our one duty, has been to suppress it. "We must not be diverted 
from it. We must be absorbed in it. 

Of course, I admit the rightfulness, nay, the absolute obligation, 
of doing whatever the most faithful discharge of this duty calls 
for. If it calls for the total abolition of slavery, and if the power 
with which he is invested as head of the army does not authorize 
the President to respond, nevertheless Congress is abundantly 
authorized to make the response. The constitutional right of 
Congress to declare war is, of course, attended by the constitu- 
tional right to carry on "war, and to carry it on Ijy means of its 
own selection and by enacting laws, which itself shall judge to be 
" necessary and proper." To deny to Congress unlimited dis- 
cretion in carrying on war, unlimited discretion over both men 
and property — and this too, if need be, to the extent of abolish- 
ing both slavery and apprenticeship, or even of shutting up both 
schools and churches — is virtually to admit that we are not a 
nation. Absolute power in conducting war is vital to nationality. 



54 GEREIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION. 

If our spirit of democracy, or, in other Avords, our jealousy and 
impatience of power, can not abide tliis absoluteness, then we had 
better exchange it for a sjjirit that can ; or frankly advertise the 
nations, that we shall hold ourselves an easy prey to whichever 
of them shall choose to make war upon us. 

I do not say that, on the return of 2:)eace, slavery and 
apprenticeship could not be reestablished, and the schools and 
churches reopened. I speak of the power of Congress during 
war. 

The only justification for changing the Constitution in a time 
so un23ro2Ditious as that of war, is that it is needful to success in 
the war. But it never can be needful so long as the power of 
Congress in carrying on war remains absolute. If, for instance, it 
is slavery that stands in the way of such success, then there can 
be congressional statutes, whicli will operate more speedily, and, 
for the present, more eft'ectively to remove it than can any at- 
tempted constitutional changes. Is it said that tlie South Avonld 
be more disheartened by a constitutional or permanent abolition 
of slavery than by a congressional or temporary abolition of it? 
I answer that the South is in such straits as leave her no concern 
but to get out of them ; that her present success is her present 
and so absorbing concern, as to make her indifferent to what lies 
beyond the rebellion. 

Third. A seriously disturbing question might hereafter arise as 
to the constitutionality of the amendment, provided it was not 
assented to by three fourths of all the States, loyal and disloyal, 
and this too, without counting in the tliree fourths West- Virginia 
or any of the reconstructed seceded States. 

Fourth. But the chief reason why I am clear of this impatience 
for the jiroposed constitutional Amendment is my strong appre- 
hension that it will not be couched in suitable words. 

An Amendment, im2)lying that without it the Constitution 
would authorize or even tolerate slavery, would do great injustice 
to those Avho adopted the Constitution. It would be wickedly 
blotting their memory. So much stress has been laid on the 
history of the Constitution, it may well be said that tliere are two 
constitutions, the one the historical and the other the literal. 
The former is that Avhich has ruled the country. Terrible, all the 
way, has been its rule. Tlie cry of many millions to an avenging 
God has come of it. The soaking of our land with blood has also 
come of it. That the "liistory of the Constitution has so cursed us 
is because it is so almost universally lield to be a pro-slavery 
history. In other words, that this historical Constitution has so 
cursed us is because of the ever-urged and almost universally 
accepted claim that the literal Constitution was made in the 
interest of slavery. Alas for the people, to whom the angel of 
the Apocalypse cried, " wo, wo, wo !" if they suffered more than 
America has suffered from this historical Constitution ! That 
there is much for slavery in the history of the Constitution, I 
admit. But that there is also much in it against slavery, I affirm. 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 55 

Pro-slavery interests, however, have succeeded in keeping tlie 
latter out of sight. The i-ejection in the Convention, which 
framed the Constitution, of the motion to require " fugitiA«^ 
slaves " to be delivered up, and the unanimous adoption, the next 
day, of the motion to deliver \ip, not " fugitive slaves," hut 
persons from Avhom labor or service is due^ is a historical fact 
against slavery. So, too, is Mr. Madison's unopposed declaration 
in the Convention that it would be " wrong to admit in the 
Constitution the idea tliat there could be property in man." And 
so also is that Convention's unanimous substitution of tlie word 
" service," for " servitude " for the avowed reason, that servitude 
expresses the condition of slaves and service that of freemen. 
Nothing, however, of all this did I need to say. AVhat tliis thing 
is, wliich is called the history of the Constitution — wliat is this 
historical Constitution, as I have termed that histor}^ — is really of 
no moment. What it is in the light of the records of the Con- 
vention referred to, or of the records of the " Virginia Conven- 
tion " or any other Convention ; or what it is on the pages of the 
Federalist^ or of any other book, or of any newspaper, should not 
be made the least account of. The aggregate of all those, whose 
words contributed to make up this historical Constitution, is but 
a comparative handful. The one question is — what is the literal 
Constitution ? For it is that, and that only, which the ]ieople 
adopted, and which is therefore the Constitution. They did not 
adopt the discussions of the Convention which framed it. These 
were secret. They did not adopt what the newspapers said of the 
Constitution. Newspapers in that day were emphatically " few 
and far between." But even had they been familiar Avith the 
newspapers and with the discussions, their one duty would never- 
theless have been to pass upon the simple letter of the Constitu- 
tion. As Judge Story so well says : " Nothing but the text itself 
was adopted by the people." And I add that what the people 
intended by the Constitution is to be gathered solely from its 
text ; and that what the people intended by it and not what its 
fraraers or the commentators upon it intended, is the Constitution. 
So we will take up the text of the Constitution to learn wliat and 
what alone is the Constitution. Its very Preamble tells us that it 
is made to " secure the blessings of liberty." Thus, even in the 
porch of her temple doth Liberty deign to meet us. Strange, 
indeed, would it be were she to desert us in its apartments! She 
does not. In our progress tlirough the Constitution we find it 
]»ledging the power of the whole nation to maintain in every 
State "a republican form of government." Pro-slavery men tell 
us that this was no more than a republican government of the 
aristocratic Greek and Roman type ; and that, therefore, men can 
consistently be bought and sold under it. But Avhen the fathers 
gave us the Constitution, the political heavens were all ablaze 
with a new light — tlie light of the truth "that all men are created 
equal," and that the great end of government is to maintain that 
equality. Ere we get through the Constitution — ere Liberty has 



56 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

led us nil tlic Avay through her temple — "we meetwitli the slavery- 
forbidding declaration that: "No person shall be deprived of life, 
liberty, or property without due process of law." 

I do not overlook the fact that the literal Constitution also is 
claimed to be on the side of slavery. The last clause which I 
quoted from it is claimed to be at least negatively so — for it is 
claimed to apply to the general Government only. But it is not 
the literal Constitution which says the apj^lication is to be 
restricted to the general Government. It is only this historical 
Constitution which says it. And, by the way, the history of the 
Constitution says the opposite also. The failure of Mr. Partridge's 
motion shows that it was not meant to have all the amendments 
apply to the general Government only ; and that it was meant 
that the State governments should be restrained by some of them. 
The apportionment clause is held to recognize slavery. Biit it 
does not. Who then are the " three fifths of all other persons " it 
speaks of? They are aliens. Why do I say so ? Because, using 
the word " free " in this clause in the sense authorized for ages 
by English law and usage, these three fifths are persons other 
than native and naturalized citizens — that is, aliens. (The argu- 
ment of Lysander Spooner at this point in his admirable volume 
on the Unconstitutioncdity of Slavery is especially valuable.) 
Moreover, I say that they are aliens — because in this Avise the 
clause is relieved of guilt. So, too, the migration and importation 
clause is held to recognize slavery. But it does not. Nothing is 
in the way of applying it to passengers and travelers. Whereas 
to apply it to ^aves is to make it guilty of tolerating the slave- 
trade. And the clause respecting fugitives, Avho are " held to 
service or labor," is claimed to refer to slaves. But it should be 
applied to apprentices and hired laborers because, in its terms, it 
is entirely applicable to them. To aj)ply it to slaves is to violate 
the accepted meaning of words. It is to go out of the way to 
make the Constitution infamous. 

Let me here say, that, strictly speaking, I Avas Avrong in taking 
the ground I did for vindicating my interpretation of the clauses 
just referred to. That ground Avas to save them from a guilty 
interpretation. But in legal contemplation they are incapable of 
a guilty interpretation. For, if there be in them the injustice 
generally attributed to them, nevertheless, as it is not clearly 
expressed, it is, legally speaking, unexpressed and unexisting. 
And hoAV entirely reasonable is this legal view ! For, it is not 
probable — to say the least, it is not certain, (and unless certain it 
is of no account,) that the people would have adopted the Consti- 
tution, had it said in plain terms that men should be rcAvarded 
for being slaveholders by a large addition to their political ])0wer 
and to their representation in the national councils ; and that the 
horrid African slave-trade should continue for at least tAventy 
years; and that our country should be sunk into a hunting-grovnid 
for human prey. Noav it may be, as it is claimed it Avas, that it 
was attempted to get all this into the Constitution. But if the 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 57 

phraseologies were such that an honest, nnsuspecting people 
would not see the guilty intention concealed in them, then what 
was intended became no part of the Constitution. All I have 
here said, and though, too, it had been far more strongly said, is 
justified by the rule which the Supreme Court of the United 
States laid down in the case against Fisher and others, 2d Cranch, 
390 : " Wliere rights are infringed, where fundamental principles 
are overthrown, where the general system of the laws is departed 
from, the legislative intention must be expressed with irresistible 
olearness to induce a court of justice to supi)ose a design to effect 
such objects." I add, (what is obvious in the light of what has 
just been said,) that if the innocent interpretation, Avhich 1 have 
given to the Clauses in question, is not tenable, nevertheless in no 
event are the clauses susceptible of guilty interpretations. 

Certain is it, then, that they who adopted the literal Constitu- 
tion, did not adopt a pro-slavery one. Its words show they did 
not : and the fact that they had just then emerged from a bloody 
contest for human rights argues strongly that they would not. 
Whence then came our pro-slavery Constitution — our only re- 
cognized or actual Constitution during the last seventy years? It 
came from the cunning and wicked substitution by pro-slavery 
politicians of a pro-slavery historical Constitution for the anti- 
slavery literal one. For us, then, to agree upon an anti-slavery 
amendment of such terms, as would im])ly its necessity from the 
intrinsic character of the literal Constit\ition rather than from the 
pro-slavery character which we and our predecessors have foisted 
upon it ; for us thus to confound the anti-slavery literal Constitu- 
tion with the pro-slavery historical one, which, in no small part 
through our own agency, has o^'ei'ridden it ; for us to confound 
the innocence of those Avho adopted the literal Constitution with 
our guilt in supplanting it with a pro-shiA'ery one — would be a 
piece of wickedness and meanness from M'hich may God save us ! 
May we be manly enough to consent to bear tlie burden of our 
own shame, instead of rolling it back upon onr innocent ancestors ! 

Let me not be understood as finding fault with those brave 
sentinels of freedom, those faithful defenders of human rights — 
who, for twenty years, have been denouncing the Constitution. 
For it was only the pro-slaxery historical Constitution, which 
they denounced. It was that, and that only, which they called a 
" covenant with death and agreement with hell ; " and richly did 
it deserve to be so called. It ■was only that one, which Mr. 
Garrison publicly burned ; and I admit that the fire of hell itself 
is not too hot for it to be cast into. True, it is that, on the 
occasion I refer to, he burnt the literal Constitution. Nevertheless 
in burning it he burnt not that, but only the pro-slavery interpre- 
tations of it — only its guilty misrepresentations. It was only 
these that he delivered" " unto Satan." The Constitution was 
" saved." 

I referred to our duty to the memory of the honest masses, 
whose votes c:ave us the Constitution. Nor should Ave forget our 



''>8 GERRIT SMITH OX THE REBELLION. 

duty to tliose who will come after us. If we are so debaucheJ 
by slavery as not to blush over our aduiission that the organic 
law of our nation is on the side of slavery, nevertheless, that our 
descendants will hang their heads over it, should restrain us from 
making it. If we, so flu* as our own sensibilities are concerned, 
can consent to have it go over the earth and down the ages that 
our fathers, in laying the foundations . of our national existence, 
were moved by a spirit as wicked as that of the Thugs ; and that 
'' in order to form a more perfect union," they resolved to cement 
it with the blood of the slave ; nevertheless let us remember that 
to our successors such a tradition will be a heritage of shame and 
sorrow. For slavery, having then passed away, they Avill not be 
corrupted by it, nor blinded'to its character. It will in their eyes 
be the blackest of all crimes — blacker than even murder : and 
they will rather that the Constitution had been charged with 
sanctioning any other. 

Dropping the figure of a historical Constitution, I aui free to 
admit that the literal Constitution has been so long and so 
generally misrepresented and perverted, especially by pro-slavery 
courts and pro-slavery legislatures, that an amendment is desir- 
able. As to whether it shall be made during the war or after the 
war, I would not be strenuous, nor add to what I have said on 
that point. Only let the amendment be in words that violate 
neither truth nor a sacred regard for the memory of the ])lain and 
honest men whose votes gave us the Constitution, and I will be 
content. It would be no more than is due to their memory ; and 
no more than would be eagerly rendered to outraged justice and 
freedom, had it been white instead of black men Avho are the victims 
of the misinterpretation of the Constitution in regard to slavery — 
should tiie amendment admit in plain terras thaTt it is a misinter- 
pretation. But if this admission can not be obtained, is it too much 
to ask that the Amendment be a declaration, that the Constitution 
shall never be so interpreted as to legalize or permit the legaliza- 
tion of slavery, but shall ever be so interpreted as to prohibit slav- 
ery in every part of the nation ? The usual words regarding in- 
voluntary servitude could be added. What an argument it is in 
favor of the anti-slavery character of the Constitution, that not so 
much as one line, no, nor one word of it, need be changed in order 
to bring it into perfect harmony with the most radical and sweep- 
ing anti-slavery Amendment ! And how strongly is this character 
argued from the fact that were constitutional phrases, as innocent 
and inap})licable as these which are relied on to rob the noblest black 
man of his liberty, to be made the ground for robbing the meanest 
white man of his, or even the meanest white man of his meanest 
dog, such use of them would ])e instantly and indignantly scouted 
by all ! And how strongly is it also argued from the fact, that a 
stranger to America and to her practice of making Church and 
State and all things minister to slavery, could see absolutely 
nothing, could suspect absolutely nothing in the Constitution, 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 59 

Avhicli might be seized on to turn that also to the foul and 
diaholicnl service ! 

But why should Ave stop Avitli an anti-slavery amendment ? 
Immeasurably more needed is an amendment to tlie eft'ect that 
race or oi"igin shall not work a forfeiture of any civil or political 
rights. Even an anti-slavery amendment may not be permanent. 
A race, Avhilst deprived of rights, which other races enjoy, can 
have no reasonable assurance that it will be j)rotected against 
even slavery. But make it equal with them in rights, and it will 
be able to 2:)rotect itself. It is said that to pour oxit upon the 
ballot-boxes the multitudinous and illiterate blacks of the slave 
States would be absurd. I do myself think so. I do myself 
think that in a State where a large share of the people can not 
read and write, reading and writing should be made conditions 
of voting. 

I know not that the nation is prepared for such an amendment 
as I here suggest : and therefore I know not that it is prepared to 
escape destruction. God, in his awful controvei-sy with us, 
demands entire justice for the race we have tram])led on : and he 
will not be api)eased by partial justice. Pharaoh, under the 
pressure of God's judgments, made concessions from time to time 
to the Israelites. Nevertheless he perished ; and left a memory, 
which still lives to warn both nations and individuals not to trust 
in a temporizing policy and in j^artial responses to justice. 

And why, when Congress is submitting amendments, should it 
not submit one in favor of purging the Constitution of the 
aristocratic and people-distrusting Electoral Colleges, and of 
supplying their place Avith the right of the people to cast direct 
A'otes for President and Vice-President? And Avhy not one 
against polygamy ? And hoAV beautifully seasonable it Avould be, 
if, noAV Avhen Ave are sutfering because Ave denied God's authority 
in national concerns, and blasphemously held slave-laAV to be 
paramount to the " higher laAV," Ave should penitently and ador- 
ingly insert between " do " and " ordain " in the Preamble of the 
Constitution : " Avhilst recognizing the supreme authority of God 
over nations as Avell as individuals ! " 

But it is objected that the anti-slavery amendment Avould bo an 
encroachment on " State sovereignty," and the like objection 
Avould doubtless be made to these other amendments. Neverthe- 
less, this proud " State sovereignty " can not help itself. Its 
exposure to be i*educed to a very humble minimum of power Avill 
last as long as the right to amend the Constitution shall last. 

By the Avay, this right of amendment is the most valuable of 
all our constitutional rights. Without it, a State miglit set up and 
keep up systems that Avould pour their corrupting and destroying 
influences over the whole nation. With it, the intellectually and 
morally advanced States, if they number three fourths of all, are 
able to drag up to their oAvn liigher plane of civilization the other 
and lagging fourth. In the |)rogress of knoAvledge and truth and 
justice three fourths of the States may ere long be ashamed of a 



60 GEERIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

nation in -which woman is treated as an inferior, and political 
power witliheld from her : and so, too, they may ere long be 
ashamed of a nation in Avhich Government, Avhose sole legitimate 
province is to protect person and property, does more than all 
else to endanger person and j^rojjerty by permitting and author- 
izing the alcoholic manufacture of maniacs : and ere long they 
may also be ashamed of a nation, which, setting no limits to 
individual acquisition of land, allows millions to be landless, 
whose right to the soil is as natural, perfect, and sacred as the 
right to light or air. I say ere long — for in our present school of 
suffering we shall be like to grow fast both in the knowledge and 
acknowledgment of human rights. Nothing, so much as affliction, 
is promotive of wisdom and goodness. " The Captain of salva- 
tion was inade perfect through suffering." But whether it be 
sooner or later that as many as three fourths of the States shall 
desire the reformation of the nation in these respects, happy, 
thrice happy, will it be that, by means of their power to amend 
the Constitution, this desire can be gratified. I do not forget 
that this power can be wielded for a retrograde as well as for a 
forward movement. But our nation is suffering so much for her 
sins, and especially for her sin of placing the Constitution on the 
side of wickedness; and she is, moreover, learning so much from 
her sufferings, that I have little fear she will ever again be dis- 
posed to place it on that side. She placed it there by misinter- 
preting it on the question of slavery ; and sorely has she suffered 
from doing so. She will not consent to amendments of the Con- 
stitution, which will again make it the servant of wickedness. 



THE CONSTITUTIOI(, RECONSTRUCTION, AND] THE PROCLAMATIOxX. 

SPEECH AT COOPER IXSTITUTE, NEW-YORK. 



January- -4.-, 18GS. 



It is proposed to liavo tlie Constitution so amended that hence- 
forth shivery shall not be law in any part of the land. But has 
it ever been ? If so, what made it law ? By not being forbidden 
in the Constitution, is one answer to the question. But it is for- 
bidden in it — directly as well as indirectly, by its letter as well as 
by its spirit, by itself as avcH as by its preamble. 

It is held that the States made the Constitiition. If they did, 
they nevertheless made it, as the preamble shows, in the name of 
the people. Moreover, as they made it in the name not of this 
nor that sort of people ; and made it " to secure the blessings 
of liberty " not to this nor that sort of people, so it is to be inter- 
preted as having been made in the name of the whole people and 
for the whole people, and as forbidding the enslavement of any 
portion or any variety of the people. That this doctrine that the 
States made the Constitution has obtained so long and so widely, 
is not strange. There are thousands of doctrines, and this is one 
of them, which are upheld not by their soundness, for they are ut- 
terly iinsound, but by tlie interest Avhich men have to ui)hold 
them. There is but one fact of any moment which favors this 
doctrine that the States made the Constitution : and even this but 
seeems to fovor it. The tact I refer to is, that the people voted 
by States upon the Constitution. They did so, in the first place, 
for the sake of convenience. But in the second place, from neces- 
sity — the people of each State having to say for themselves and 
by themselves whether they would consent to such a modifying 
and curtailing of the rights and ])Owers of their State as the 
erection of the proposed Government called for. Clearly, the 
people of Virginia and the ])eople of New-Yoi'k could not act 
either for each other or together in this matter. 

But to return to my declaration that slavery is forbidden hi the 
Constitution. I will mention a few of the instances in which it is 
forbidden. The right of the people, Avithout any exception, to 
keep and bear arms, and the right of Congress to make contracts 
with whom it will without exception, to serve in the army and 



62 GEERIT SMITH ON THE EEBELLION. 

navy, are rights which imply that all the people are free. The re- 
quirement of " a republican form of government " in every State 
is a virtual prohibition of slavery. For we must bear in mind 
that our fathers did not mean by " republican form of govern- 
ment " oue of the Greek or Uoman aristocratic type. They had 
just said in the Declaration of Independence " that all men are 
created equal." Their choice of a government, therefore, would 
be one to defend this equality — would be one whose subjects 
would be equal before the law. But the strongest and most 
direct prohibition of slavery in the Constitution is its declaration 
that, " No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property 
without due process of law " — that is, without a trial and convic- 
tion according to the course of the common law. 

It is, however, said that, inasmuch as there are clauses in the Con- 
stitution which permit slavery, those in it which appear to forbid it 
are not to be construed as forbidding it. But which are those that 
permit it ? The answer is, the apportionment clause, and the mi- 
gration and importation clause, and the fugitive-servant clause. 
Certainly, not on their face do they permit it. You must go out- 
side of the text of the Constitution for help to give them this con- 
struction ; and that you have no right to do. To give an innocent 
construction to the uncertain words of a law you may go outside 
of the law. But where a guilty construction is your aim, you are 
shut up to the text : and the text fails you, unless it is with " irre- 
sistible clearness " on the side of the guilty construction. Says 
the Supreme Court of the United States, 2 Cranch, 390 : " Wliere 
rights are infringed, wdiere fundamental principles are over- 
thrown, where the general system of the laws is departed from, 
the legislative intention must be expressed with irresistible clear- 
ness to induce a court of justice to suppose a design to effect such 
objects." 

I may be asked, to Avhom, then, do these clauses refer, if they 
do not refer to slaves ? I am not bound to answer. I will, how- 
ever, say that, without the least violence to its Innguage, the ap- 
portionment clause might be applied to aliens, aliens being desti- 
tute of tliose rights and privileges the possessors of which the 
English law had for so many ages called "free." And I would 
say that the language of the importation and migration clause 
permits its application to travelers and passengers. And, also, 
that the fugitive-servant clause does, under its simplest construc- 
tion, apply to apprentices and hired laborers. But whetlier these 
clauses are or are not capable of these applications, it is enough 
for our present pui-pose that the canon of legal interpretation 
forbids their application to slaves. 

It is said that the framers of the Constitution intended to put 
it on the side of slavery. Probably some of them did. For there 
is historical evidence, as well that some of them Avere pro-slavery 
as that others were anti-slavery. But may we not argue that the 
pro-slaverj' spirit was repented of when we see that, four days 
before they closed their Convention, the framers unanimously 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 63 

struck OTit "servitude" from the Constitution and supplied its 
place with "service," for the avowed reason that "servitude" 
cxjiresscs the condition of slaves, and "service" that of freemen ? 

What, however, the framers intended the Constitution to be, is 
of little more consequence than what the scrivener who writes it 
intends by the deed of the land. What the grantor and grantco 
intend, is the question in the one case ; and Avhat the adopters of the 
Constitution intended, is the question in the other. What the 
adopters intended, is to be gathered solely from its text. For it waa 
not the discussions nor intentions of the framcrs, nor the histories 
of the making and objects of the Constitution which were adopted. 
It was the text oiily : and, as we have seen, the text admits of no 
guilty construction, because it expresses no guilty intention. I 
add that if the framers intended to put the Constitution on the 
side of slavery, they should, in terms of "irresistible clearness," 
have apprised the people of the guilty intention. Did they wish 
the people to encourage and reward slaveholding by a special and 
large representation in our national councils V Did tlicy wish 
them to sanction the abominations of the slave-trade ? Did they 
wish them to convert the whole nation into a hunting-ground for 
human prey ? — then they should have asked, for all this in plain 
terms and in Avords of umnistakable meaning. Had they, how- 
ever, done so, the people would have scouted the insolence. But 
in no other terms and words could they ask the people to make 
themselves guilty of such stupendous wickedness — the laws of 
legal interpretation making it impossible to ask it in other terms 
and Avords. 

How immeasurably absurd it is to call the Constitution pro- 
slavery is seen in the fact, that it needs not the slightest alteration 
in line or letter to be entirely harmonious with the most thorough 
anti-slavery amendment ; and in the further fact, that a stranger 
to the history of America would not so much as suspect that there 
is slavery in her Constitution ; and in the still further fact, that 
to apply to the enslavement of a white man clauses Avhich no 
more point and express themselves to this end than do the clauses 
in question to the end of enslaving the black man, would be held 
by all to be ridiculous, insulting, and infamous to the last degree. 

But although slavery is repeatedly forbidden in the Constitu- 
tion, and noAvliere in it permitted, nevertheless I would not only not 
oppose but T would fivor such an amendment of it as would in 
plain and literal terms forbid slavery. A sufficient reason for 
such an amendment is, that the Constitution has been so contin- 
uously and thoroughly perverted to the upholding of slavery. 
War, however, with all its excitements and distractions, is not the 
best time for altering the organic law of a nation. That solemn 
work needs all the leisure, calmness, and composure which peace 
brings. Then, too, we need to Ije absorbed in the one purpose — 
and one Avork of succeeding in the Avar. Is it said that slavery is 
in the Avay of such success ? I ansAver that Ave need not amend 
the Constitution in order to put it out of the Avay. That can bo 



64 GERRIT SMITH OiT THE REBELLION". 

done quicker than by amending the Constitution. Nevertheless* 
I Avould Avaive all question in regard to the time for amending the 
Constitution, and be concerned only about the terms of the amend- 
ment. To have it in such terms as would imply that without it 
the Constitution is for slavery, Avould be to wrong and blot the mem- 
ory of the honest, unsuspecting masses who adopted tlie Constitu- 
tion ; to disgrace our nation in the eyes of other nations ; and to 
make our posterity ashamed of both ancestry and nation. If the 
amendment shall not be such, as to say in plain terms that the 
Constitution is against slavery, it should at least be such as to im- 
ply it. If the amendment shall not go so flir as to say that the 
interjjretation of the Constitution for slavery is a misinterpreta- 
tion, nevertheless it should at least imply that it is ; and this it 
Avould imj^ly if it should declare that the Constitution shall never 
be so interpreted as to legalize or permit the legalization of slav- 
ery, but shall ever be so interpreted as to forbid both. 

I said that slavery can be put oiit of the way quicker than by 
amending the Constitution. The constitutional right of Congress 
to declare Avar carries Avith it the constitutional right to conduct 
Avar. MoreoA'er, the Constitution expressly empowers Congress 
"to make all laAVS Avhich shall be necessary and proper" to this 
end. Congress alone is to decide upon the necessity and propri- 
ety. If in its judgment the successful prosecution of the Avar 
calls for the abolition of slavery, then it is to abolish it ; if for 
the abolition of apprenticship, tlien it is to abolisli apj^renticeship 
also. I go further, and say that, if, in time of Avar, the preaching 
and teaching in all the churches and school-houses become dis- 
loyal, it may shut up all the churches and school-houses. A dem- 
ocratic people are Avont to be jealous of absolute pOAver ; and this 
may account for the injurious hesitation of Congress during this 
Avar to assert sucli poAver, notAvithstanding it is, in respect to Avar, 
so clearly clothed Avith it. For a nation to disclaim absolute 
power for carrying on war is to acknoAvledge her incompetence 
to carry on Avar, and to apprise her sister nations that whichever 
of them is looking for an easy prey can look toAvard her. 

I said tliat Congress has the constitutional right to conduct 
Avar. But, as I shall say more fully hereafter, such a Avar as that 
Ave are now iuA^olved in is to be conducted, not according to tlie 
Constitution, but according to the laAV of Avar. 

To return to my subject — we are under a strong temptation to 
liold that the Constitution is for slavery. For if it is, then the 
f ithers, Avho gave it to us, must, of course, share very largely in 
the guilt of ten to twenty millions being born in slavery, and in 
tlie guilt of this rebellion, Avhich has come of slavery, and Avhich 
is soaking our land Avitli our best blood. But if it is not in itself 
on the side of slavery, then they, including ourselves, Avho liave put 
it there, are the party responsible for these seA'enty-six years of slav- 
ery, for all its wickedness and all its Avoes. We have seen, how- 
ever, that tlie Constitution is not for slaA^ery. And now Avill Ave, 
in order to lighten the shame and reduce the criminality of our 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 65 

pro-slavery practice under it, declare tliat the Constitution is for 
slavery ? This is the question. Let us answer it in a way honor- 
able to the fathers, and honorable, also, to our penitent selves, by 
so framing the amendment that it shall take the blame from them 
and put it on their successors. I do not like to say that this 
would be magnanimity. It would be but simple justice. 

Let me here say, that there is another amendment to the Con- 
stitution, which is more needed than one against slavery. It is 
one which shall save men from losing civil or political rights be- 
cause of their race or origin. Such an amendment would not 
only banish slavery, but it woidd aftbrd an effectual protection 
against its return. Accord to men the full measure of their civil 
and political rights, and they can defend themselves against slav- 
er)^ Their freedom will then stand not in the uncertain Avill and 
shifting policy of others ; but where alone it should stand, in their 
own strength. This nation wants peace with man. But more 
does it need peace with God. And yet how can it ever have 
peace with God so long as it continues to quarrel with Ilim for 
having divided the human fimily into races, and to punish Him 
for the division by denying to some of these races the rights of 
manhood ! 

By the way, this power to amend the Constitution is its most 
important power. By means of it we can put an end to slavery in 
one State and to polygamy in another, and to other abominations in 
other States. In a word, we can, by means of it, make all the 
States alike in respect to their chief systems and policies, and, 
therefore, all the people homogeneous and so far happy. 

I will, in this connection, say something on the Ileconstruction 
of the Rebel States. Throughout the war I have regarded any Re- 
construction of them before the war shall be ended as premature. 
In other words, I have held that the provisional governments, which 
we set up in the wake of our conquering armies, should not be 
supplanted Avith permanent ones until the rebellion is subdued. 
I have held this, because, in the first place, we should be too 
much occupied with the war to be building permanent govern- 
ments ; and because, in the second place, of my fear — a fear just- 
ified by the present — that Reconstruction, if it should precede the 
complete crushing of the rebellion, would have in it as fatally un- 
sound materials as had the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar. But 
as the policy of a present Reconstruction has prevailed, all we can 
do is to contribute to give the right shape to the Reconstruction. 

And here let me say, that the same state of mind which has led 
me to oppose Reconstruction, has led me to oppose all negotia- 
tions for peace. Fatally derogatory is it to our national dignity, 
utterly at war is it with every just consideration, to treat with 
armed rebels, and especially such rebels. They took up arms 
Avithout cause. Therefore, they must lay them doAvn Avithout 
conditions. 

The plan of Reconstruction before Congress has many excellent 
features. Particularly Avelcome are its provisions against allowing 
5 



66 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 

disloyalists of the higher civil and military ranks to vote for 
members of the legislature or for governor, and against allow- 
ing slavery to exist, and against allowing the Reconstructed 
States to be charged with any part of the rebel debt. But 
deeply do I regret that a provision, more important than any 
or all of these, should have been omitted. I mean a provision 
against allowing race or origin to work a forfeiture of civil or 
political rights. This omission may prove as fatal to the stand- 
mg of the Reconstruction as did the clay in its feet to the 
standing of Nebuchadnezzar's image. 

But it IS said that suifrage is a matter for State regulation. I 
admit it, as a general proposition. I admit that, but for the war, 
no one would have thouglit of taking the regulation of it out of 
the hands of the State. But the war has made national action at 
this point not only proper, but imperative. The question now is, 
not what Avould have been due to the rebel States had they not re- 
belled, but what restrictions is it necessary to put upon them, now 
that they have rebelled ? The question now is, not what would 
have been due to them had they remained our friends, but what 
securities shall we provide, now that they have become our ibes ? 
In a word, the question now is, what concessions the conqueror 
can wisely and safely make to the conquered ? I say the con- 
queror, for Reconstruction assumes that Ave are sure and soon to 
be the conqueror. 

Then, again, this plan of Reconstruction provides that certain 
persons shall not be allowed to vote. And is not this as great 
and as humiliating a restriction upon State powers, as would be a 
provision that certain persons shall be allowed to vote ? 

All through this war the delusion has obtained extensively, that 
the States which tlung away the Constitution have still their 
former rights under it. But they lost them all when they re- 
belled. 

Tlie word " Avhite " being in the plan, the blacks will, of course, 
be shut out from all part in making the organic law of a Recon- 
structed State. But even were this word not in, nevertheless, as 
the plan does not require suffrage for the blacks, there is not the 
least probability that they would get it. Numerous, and conclu- 
sive as numerous, are the reasons why the plan should require it. 

1st. Though before the war we had not the right to demand 
suffrage for them, we have it now. We have paid for the right 
in much treasure and blood. 

2d. We owe them suffrage because it is vital to them to have 
it; because, without it, they will be exposed to every wrong and 
every oppression : and we owe it to them because they are our 
saviours. But for their sympathy with our cause, our nation 
would have perished. 

3d. We owe them suffi-age for the sake of the South. It is 
her contempt of human rights that has barbarized her — that 
has demonized her. For demons must they have become, vrho 
can treat prisoners of war as they treat them. She must be 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION". 67 

recovered from her barbarism and demonism, and contempt of 
man ; and this cannot be done so long as the ballot is withlield 
from her blacks. 

4th. We must se(;ure suffrage to them, in order to save the 
loyal whites of the South. Black voters can be the only effectual 
breakwater against the fury of disloyal Southrons toward loyal 
Southrons. 

5th. For the nation's sake, we must insist on suffrage for the 
blacks. To leave the political power of the South exclusively in 
the hands of her whites, would be to leave her to repeat her 
crimes and savagery, not only upon her blacks, but upon the 
nation. 

6th. The whole woi-ld Avill loathe and abhor us, if now, when 
the negroes have saved us, we shall leave them helpless in the 
hands of their enemies — enemies, too, who, because they have 
saved us, will hate them more than ever. 

Vth. God's controversy with us will still remain, if we shall still 
persist in refusing rights to those whom He has chosen to wrap 
in black skins. Can we afford the continuance of a controversy, 
which has already cost us so much treasure and blood ? 

But it is said that we are inconsistent in requiring the Govern- 
ment to exact suffrage for the Southern blacks, whilst the North- 
ern blacks are generally deprived of it. No, we are not. Though 
euch deprivation is unreasonable and wicked, the Government has 
not the power to forbid it. Moreover, lack of suffrage does not 
expose Northern blacks to such wrongs as it does Southern 
blacks ; nor does it so peril our nation in the one case as it does 
in the other. 

It is also said that we are inconsistent in making so much 
account of having the Southern black men vote, whilst the 
Northern Avomen are denied suffrage. I admit the utter injustice 
of this denial. But it must be remembered that they Avho vote 
for women are their friends — their husbands, fathers, brothers, 
sons ; Avhilst they who vote for the Southern blacks are their 
despisers and haters. So, too, it must be remembered that the 
denial of suffrage in the one case is not fraught with the peril that 
it is in the other. 

I may be asked whether I would have entirely illiterate persons 
allowed to vote. I answer, that where they are but a small por- 
tion of the people, I would ; but that, Avhere they are a large 
one, I Avould not, unless there be some special reason demanding 
it. If the disloyal Avhites of the South shall be denied a vote, 
(and even the humblest of them should in this respect be put 
upon a probation of at least a dozen years,) then let it be required 
of the blacks, in common Avith the Avhites, that they shall be able 
to read and Avrite before being allowed to vote. ]5ut if the dis- 
loyal whites of the South shall be allowed to vote forthwith, then, 
by all that is reasonable and righteous, by all that Ave owe to the 
loyal blacks, and by all that our national safety calls for, those 



68 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

loyal blacks should also be allowed to vote forthwith. Surely, 
surely, this is but a very moderate claim. 

I own it is bad to have ignorance vote. But infinitely worse is 
it to have disloyalty vote. Welcome, loyal ignorance : but no 
patience with disloyal intelligence. 

Many say that the abolition of slavery should content us for the 
present, and that we should wait jiatiently for further instalments 
of justice to the black man. But if now, under all the force and 
freshness of his claims upon our gratitude, we can be so base as to 
withhold any of his essential rights, very little has he to hope from 
us in the future. 

It is but too plain that if the Eeconsti'uction Bill noAV before 
Congress shall become a law, the blacks of the rebel States will 
be denied suffrage, and their whites alone Avill have it ; the loyal 
element in their population will be denied it, and the disloyal ele- 
ment will have it ; in still other words, our friends in those States 
will have no political power, and our enemies in them have all. 
Not to speak of the deep injustice and cruel ingratitude of thus 
treating those who have saved us, what folly, what madness is it, 
to trifle in this wise with the future of our nation ! Horrid as is 
the present war, it has not sufficed to bring the nation to repent- 
ance. A more horrid one may be necessary. Were I not an 
abolitionist, I would, if this Bill succeed, predict a war of races 
at the South. But I remember that abolition prophets are 
treated as Cassandras — as unworthy of the least belief. For 
twenty years they were foretelling (even on the floor of Con- 
gress it was foretold) that slavery, unless put away peaceably, 
would soon and surely go out in blood. But their jjredictions 
were only laughed at. 

Louisiana, considering the circumstances, made a very creditable 
approach to justice. Her Constitution, fiir better at this point than 
that of our own State, permits her Legislature to make voters of 
her black men : and in such circumstances a permission falls little 
short of a command. LCad the plan before Congress prohibited 
the forfeiture of civil or political rights, by reason of race or 
origin, I should, notwithstanding her Constitution falls short of such 
prohibition, have been reluctant to oppose the reentrance of Louis- 
iana into the sisterhood of States. The other Reconstructed 
States, being right .at this vital point, she would soon have been 
also. But they being wrong, she will be far more likely to sink 
to their level than to lift up her advanced Constitution into the 
full recognition of tlie equal rights of all men. 

Speaking of Louisiana, brings to ray mind the censures cast by 
some of the radical abolitionists upon General Banks. I trust that 
these censures are entirely undeser\'ed. I regard him not only as 
a brave, patriotic, and able man, but as a sincere friend of the 
colored race. I thanked and loved him, Mdien I read of his hav- 
ing the little black girl lifted up on the cannon. He might not 
have meant by it all that it symbolized. But, to me, it was the lift- 
ing up of the representative of her race from feebleness to strength. 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 99 

To me, this child's riding on the cannon foreshadowed the tri- 
umphant progress of that race. And I am informed that the lib- 
eral feature in the Constitution of Louisiana, to which I have re- 
ferred, is due preeminently to General Banks, 

Her Constitution puts an end to slavery in Louisiana. There 
are some restraints, notwithstanding, upon those who were so 
recently its victims. I trust that they are no more and no greater 
than the perils and exigencies of war call for ; and that they will 
all be withdrawn upon the return of peace. I confess, however, 
that there is no certainty that justice, at any point, will be done to 
the black man in any rebel or, indeed, in any anti-rebel State in 
which the right of suffrage is denied him. 

But, to return from this digression, I trust I made it plain 
that the Constitution does in various clauses forbid slavery. 
Plain, too, I might have made it, that in its whole spirit and 
tenor it forbids it. But what if it did not, would slavery, 
therefore, be law ? Must piracy and murder be forbidden by 
the Constitution in order that they be not law ? Much less 
need slavery, a worse crime than either, be forbidden by it 
in order that it be not law. I trust, too, that I made it plain 
that those clauses of the Constitution, which are relied on to 
prove that it permits slavery, do not permit it. Let me now 
add that even if the Constitution did permit slavery, slavery 
would not be law. All will admit that no words, however strong 
or ingeniously chosen and arranged, could suffice to make piracy 
law. How emphatic, then, must be the incapacity of slavery to 
be law ! For, amongst all the piracies of earth, slavery is the 
superlative piracy. Indeed, what other piracy is not reduced to 
a mere peccadillo, when brought into comparison Avith the over- 
shadowing slaveholding piracy! So, too, all will admit that no 
words can make murder law. But the crime of murder, like that 
of piracy, is outdone by the crime of slavery. Every wise parent 
had far rather his child were murdered than enslaved. The mur- 
dered is killed but once. The slave is " killed all the day long." 
The murdered is robbed but of life. The slave, robbed of all ex- 
cept life, is cursed with remaining life instead of being relieved 
by death. Murder kills but the body. Slavery the soul. Mur- 
der does not degrade the manhood of the murdered. Slavery 
makes merchandise of manhood. Murder denies not that its vic- 
tim was placed by God upon the heights of immortality. But 
slavery drags down its victiiu from those glorious heights to the 
category of brutes and things. Murder kills but a few, and spares 
the masses to unfold their powers and reach after every enjoy- 
ment. But slavery allows a few to tyrannize over the masses, and 
worse than murder them by working and Avhijiping them worse 
than brutes ai-e worked and Avhipped ; by robbing them of their 
right to letters and wages and marriage ; and by leaving them no 
rights whatever whereby to protect themselves from the storm of 
wrongs and outrages which sweeps incessantly over their lot. 

I have argued that nothing can make slavery law. I go farther, 



'70 GEERIT SMITH ON THfi REBELLION. 

and say that law can not be made. And here I have reached a 
point Avhere more than at any other, the world needs to be rev- 
olutionized. This making of law, of civil, theological, and other 
law, has made up the greater part of human sorrows. Law-mak- 
ers there never should have been — only law-declarers : and these 
should have declared nothing to be law but what is natural. Na- 
ture alone is our law, and only so far as we let her, and her alone, 
be law unto us, do we or can we honor the God of nature. An 
enactment that wood is iron or iron wood would be void, because 
at war with nature. For the same reason an enactment to en- 
slave a man, that is to transmute him into a chattel, is void. The 
legislature is to leave wood to be wood, iron to be iron, and man 
to be man. Advancing wisdom and civilization will yet bring 
the courts to this ground. They Avill yet hold that whatever 
tramples upon or ignores nature is not law. I do not mean they 
will hold that to be no law, which simply goes beyond or falls 
short of the demands of nature. For instance, interest or the 
use of money is reasonable, and, therefore, agreeable to nature. 
The legislature, in regulating the rates, may go too high or too 
low. Nevertheless, as the subject-matter does not confront na- 
tm'e, the courts will not confront the legislature. So, too, where 
the legislature is regulating the punishment due to crimes, the sub- 
ject-matter is one not in conflict but in harmony Avith nature ; and, 
therefore, though in one instance the prescribed punishment may 
be excessive and in another deficient, the courts, nevertheless, Avill 
feel themselves bound by the will of the legislature. But Avhere, 
as in the case of enslaA'ing or chattelizing men, the subject-matter 
is itself foreign to nature and an outrage upon nature, there the 
courts Avill hold that there is no laAv to interpret, and that the 
action of the legislature is \'oid. In other Avords, AA'here the sub- 
ject-matter of the legislation sets aside nature, the courts Avill set 
aside the legislation. 

Will the Supreme Court of the United States ever rise up to 
this level of reason and nature ? Will this Court, hitherto guilty 
of so much unreasonableness and nnnaturalness, at last yield itself 
to these high claims of reason and nature ? Will this Court, so 
long a bulwark of slavery, become a bulwark of freedom ? It 
will Avhen it shall pronounce the truth that slavery, containing in 
itself nothing of right, nor reason, nor nature, is therefore destitute 
of all the elements of laAA^, and is no laAv : and that, containing in 
itself the grossest and guiltiest A'iolations of right, and reason, 
and nature, it is to be pursued as the most execrable outlaw. So 
preeminently instructive have been the lessons of the last fcAV 
years, that possibly several members of this Court are already 
educated up to the necessary preparation for prononncing this 
conclusive truth against all the pretensions of slavery. There is a 
man in this land — he is emphatically a man — Avhom I have long 
known, and as long admired and loved. He Avas once in a A'cry 
small minority, and as poor in the public favor as were Ave, Avho 
were his fellow-laborers, and Avere identified with him in both 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 71 

cause and party. But so swift of late years lias been the wheel 
of revolution in this country, that he is now one of the members 
of that Court. I trust that I shall not be regarded as violating 
the sacredness of private correspondence, when I say that as long 
as nine years ago this noble man, in speaking of slavery, declared: 
"I shall rejoice to witness such progress in society, that courts 
will regard the total denial of rights as so contrary to the law of 
nature, that no legislative enactment can entitle it to recognition," 
And again, a few weeks after : " With you, I am for freedom 
everywhere and for slavery nowhere ; for freedom for all, and 
slavery for none. Most heartily will I rejoice when the ])eople 
and their judges shall be educated up to the point of regarding 
slavery as so great a wrong that it can not be legalized." Mark 
his words : "and their judges" ! And now, behold, he is himself 
one of their judges ! ay, and their chief judge ! Then, eight years 
ago, he said: "If youcan find me judges,who will decide that slavery 
is so clearly and palpably repugnant to reason and natural justice, 
that it can be sustained nowhere and by no law, I shall be the 
last man to object to the decision." Again, mark his words : " If 
you can find me judges" ! And lo, he finds himself one of their 
judges ! ay, and at such a time as this ! a time when Providence 
has ^o wondrously prepared the way for the Supreme Court of 
the United States to render signal service to humanity. Well 
might we apostrophize our new Chief Justice in the words of 
Mordecai to Esther : " And who knoweth whether thou art come 
to the kingdom for such a time as this ?" 

I am sure that my friend Avill pardon me for the liberty I have 
taken with his letters. It honors him to make public the wise 
words I have quoted from them. That it docs mankind good, 
will, however, go farther to gain me his forgiveness. Precioiw 
words Avere these to me when I received them! Precious words 
to one who, through many years of reproach and discouragement, 
had been invoking such utterances from leading minds ! 

Let me here say that, in adverting to those great duties with 
which great passing events are charging the Supreme Court, I 
had no'reference to the Proclamations of Freedom. I assume 
that this Court will recognize the validity of those papers and 
rejoice in their operation. "An insurrection, involving but a County, 
or even one involving a whole State, may very properly be met 
by Constitutional law only— by that law of which that Court is 
the interpreter. But the war which many millions are waging 
against us — so many that the nations, including even our own, 
have been constrained to accord belligerent rights to them— 
is one not to be conducted by the provisions of the Consti- 
tution. A war of such magnitude is to be conducted in accord- 
ance with International Law. I confess that I see no rea- 
son why the President's military acts in this Avar, any more 
than Grant's or Farragut's, should be questioned by the Supreme 
Court. These Proclamations and their Orders are alike amenable 
to the law of war, and to that law only. Both the Proclamations 



72 GEERIT SMITH OX THE REBELLION. 

and the Orders may often come incidentally before this Coiirt : 
but so long as it sees them to be in accordance Avith the law of 
war, it Avill not stand in their way. 

Just here I might be asked whether I hold that such of the 
slaves within the scope of the President's Proclamation of first 
January, 1863, as shall be still in the hands of the enemy at the 
close of the war, will be entitled to freedom by virtue of that 
Proclamation. My answer would be that I do. I go farther, 
and say that the Avar should never be closed, nay, can never be 
closed, until they are free. 

And now some of you are ready to quote Vattel and Grotius, 
and other publicists, to prove that the property of our enemy in 
war is not ours until we have reduced it to actual possession. 
My reply is, that slaves are not property, but men ; and that in all 
our reasoning in the case we shall, provided we are ourselves men, 
treat them as men. 

The Proclamation on its face set the slaves Avithin its purview 
unconditionally free. Its friends hold that it did set them uncon- 
ditionally free. I am amongst its friends. Nevertheless, I hold 
that it did not. It proiFered them freedom on a condition — a con- 
dition none the less real because imexpressed. This condition 
was the proper response of the slaves to the Proclamation. Had 
they flouted it, refused its boon, and preferred working and fight- 
ing for our enemy, would any thing have been due them by 
virtue of the Proclamation? Certainly not. The Proclamation 
Avas made to Avin them to us ; and they had no right to profit by 
it, if they refused to be won to us. So far as they have not ful- 
filled this implied conditfon in the Proclamation, Ave OAve them 
nothing by reason of the Proclamation. So far as they have, Ave 
are their debtors. 

And now the Avay is prepared to inquire wdiat classes and por- 
tions of the slaves in question it Avould be right for us to leave in 
slavery. 

First. Shall the wives and children of those Avho have escaped 
to lis, and have fought for us, be left in slavery ? Shall the Avives 
and children of those Avho have recently come to us, and of those 
who shall come to us, be left in slavery ? Shall, for instance, the 
mothers, Avives and children, Avho begged and Avept to be allowed 
to come along with Sherman's army, and Avith their sons, husbands 
and fathers, who had joined it, be left in slavery ? To all these 
questions you Avill return an emphatic " No." 

Second. Shall the families of the slaves, avIio Avere detected 
in their attempt to get Avithin our lines, and Avere flogged to 
death, or otherwise put to death, be left in slavery ? Or shall 
they Avho survived their punishment for such offense, or shall 
their families, be left in slavery? Here again you are quick to 
say, " No." 

Third. Shall the slaA^es too aged and infirm to do more than 
advise and encourage the young and strong to peril all to get to 
us and help us, and too poor to do more than make up for each 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 73 

that little bundle of rags that is the sura total of the worldly 
goods with which the slave sets out in his adventure, and who 
with their whole heart do all this — shall they be left in slavery? 
Not with your consent. 

Fourth. Shall those old slave saints, to whose glowing prayers 
in behalf of our cause God loves to listen, and whose bodily feeble- 
ness disables them from doing more for i;s than pray — shall they 
be left in slavery ? You protest against it. 

Fifth. Shall any of these millions, whose hearts are with us, 
and who hove done for us what they could, though they have not 
been able to get to us — shall they be left in shivery ? By no 
means, is your answer. 

Sixth. Shall any, who have suifered from the Proclamation by 
reason of being brought under a stricter surveillance, and of being 
made the objects of increased jealousy and hatred, and this especial- 
ly because of their attempts, or discovered desires, to avail them- 
selves of the Proclamation — shall any of these be left in slav- 
ery ? Earnestly would you oppose it. 

And noAv, after all these exceptions, Avhat classes or portions 
of the slaves within the scope of the Proclamation would there 
be to be left in slavery ? I know of none. If there be amongst 
all these slaves an individual, who out of his wicked heart chooses 
the side of the enemy, I admit that the Proclamation owes him 
nothing, though I do not admit that even he deserves to be a 
slave. No man is bad enough to deserve that. 

I proceed to say that the implied contract in the Proclamation 
between the nation and the slaves, has been faithfully fulfilled on 
their part ; that, under the invitations and promises of the Proc- 
lamation, they have done what they could for us ; and that now it 
remains for the nation to fulfill on its part. For her not to do so 
would be to disgrace herself with the most signal instance of perfidy 
toward the helpless and worthy poor which the world has ever 
seen. Many fear that the President will shuffle oft' his res])onsi- 
bilities in this case upon the Supreme Court. I do not. lie is 
an eminently wise and good man ; and he can not fail to see that 
it is for him to fulfill, on the part of the nation, her contract with 
the slaves. He will not leave their freedom to any contingency. 
Have no fear that he Avill overshadow his well-earned fame with 
eternal infamy. A simple parallel, and I will pass on froni the 
Proclamation to other topics. Suppose Sherman, believing it to 
be vital to his sixccess to secure the friendship and help of a certain 
village or city in his way through Georgia, had proposed to stand 
by it if it would stand' by hini — to allow it to take hold of the 
strength of his army and his nation if it would consent to give 
up its hold upon the Confederacy. And then suppose that the 
proposition, having been accepted and faithfully lived up to by the 
village or city, Sherman should shirk his responsibilities and leave 
it to some one else to say what should be done on his part. The 
curses of the world would fall upon him so thick and so hot, as to 
wither up the last feather in the proud plumes of his military 



74 GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 

glory. And now for the parallel. The President, who, like 
Sherman, is also a military commander, and who acted in the 
case solely as snch — for he had no right to act in it in any other 
capacity — the President, I say, seeing the straits to which our 
nation was reduced, and that it was on the brink of ruin, proposed 
to save it by obtaining the friendship and help of the slaves. To 
this end he promised them, provided they would cast in their lot 
with us, their freedom, and to maintain it by the whole power of the 
nation, and to honor such as were " of suitable condition" Avith 
places in " the armed service of the United States." Moreover, 
he invoked "the considerate judgment of mankind and the gra- 
cious favor of Almighty God " upon the promise. 

Time has verified the wisdom of this great measure of the Pres- 
ident. The measure has brought salvation to our country. God 
forbid that Ave should throw away the salvation, as to no small 
extent we shall, if the Reconstruction policy shall be such as to 
leave a vestige of slavery, or even such as to leave the loyal element 
of the Southern population politically disabled, and therefore an 
easy prey to the disloyal element ! 

I said that the Proclamation had brought salvation to our 
country. The slaves fulfilled on their part the implied contract 
in the Proclamation, and thus became our saviours. Those of 
them who could, came to ns ; and those who could not come to 
us, nevertheless Avorked for us, as far as they could. Fear not 
that the President Avill requite this devotion to our cause Avith the 
leaving of a portion of these saviours in slavery. The bargain he 
made Avith them he Avill not break. Better that the nation perish 
than that such a bargain be broken ! 

But to return to the line of argument which I Avas pursuing 
before I struck ofi" upon the Proclamation. I had argued that 
where tlie subject-matter of the legislation, such as the enslaving 
or chatteliziug of men, is at war Avith nature, there can be no law. 
I now add that nothing is laAV Avhich can not be administered in 
the spirit of honesty. Every judge, every commissioner, Avho 
remanded his poor trembling brother into slavery, kncAV^ that he 
Avas dishonest in doing so — kncAV that he Avas not doing as he 
Avould be done by. For he knew that, Avere he a slave, he Avould 
not recognize slavery to be laAV, and therefore obligatory upon his 
conscience. For he knew that, Avere he a slave, he would escape 
if he could ; that he Avould mount his master's fleetest horse if he 
could ; that he Avould shoot his pursuing master if he could. 

This is indeed a horrid Avar through which Ave are passing. 
We are Avorking out, in treasure and tears and blood incomput- 
able, the heavy penalty of our crimes against Freedom and Justice. 
God pity the tens of thousands Avhom this Avar has maimed and 
disabled for life ! God pity the ten thousand families Avhom it 
has bereaved and desolated ! God pity the countless poor under 
its crusliing burdens ! And yet great good is to come of this 
war. The greatest of all tlie good Avill be the higher appreciation 
of man. Tliis Avar is a judgment upon us for our disparagement 



GERRIT SMITH ON THE REBELLION. 75 

and contempt of man. Its terrible leasons are teaching us to dis- 
parage and contemn him no longer. Am I told that we did hold 
him in esteem ? I answer that it was his accidents rather than 
his essence. For instance, he was esteemed who was white, or 
wealthy, or wise, polished or promoted. ]5ut he who had but 
mere manhood to commend him, was made little account of. 
Constitutions and creeds Avere held sacred and inviolable. But 
man, "the one sole sacred thing beneath the cope of heaven,' 
alas, how cheap ! Surely, no right-minded man can say of this 
war, "To what purpose is this waste?" even if he look no farther 
than to the fact that the highest judicial place, so recently occu- 
pied by one who could not associate the rights of manhood with 
a black skin, is now occupied by one who holds, not only that " a 
man's a man for a' that," but that, under whatever misfortune of 
calamities, nay, under whatever guilt of crimes, the rights oi 
manhood remain indestructible. 

I said that man will be more appreciated in consequence of 
this war. I add that this new appreciation will give us new and 
better laws and new and better judicial interpretations of them. 
Legislatures and courts sink or rise as the regard for man sinks 
or rises. The one legitimate end of law upon earth is the pro- 
tection of human rights. Nevertheless, the earth over, man has 
been held in so low esteem, that, the earth over, legislatures and 
courts have done scarcely less for the destruction than for the 
protection of human rights. I said that law on earth is solely for 
the protection of human rights. Many add — and of divine rights 
also. I do not. I hold tiiat God is wise and strong enough to 
take care of His own rights ; and that He bids us take care of 
ours, and leave Him to'take care of His. AVe best honor God's 
rights in upholding man's. Under this accursed plea of look- 
ing after God's rights, humanity has, in all ages, suffered its 
heaviest woes. From this has come the worst type of bigotry, 
intolerance, persecution. From this have come, not only the 
Inquisition, but numberless forms of torture for both the body 
and the soul. Even so intelligent a man as Alexander II. Ste- 
phens falls back for his justification of slavery on this fanatical 
regard for God's rights. For, like most others, he interprets 
the belchings of drunken ISToah into a curse of God — a curse, it is 
true, on Canaan : but, by one of those frequent ecclesiastical ac- 
commodations, on poor Africa also. ^ 

But I must close. It is not better laws only that we need. 'V^ e 
need a better religion also. Our laws have been on the side ol 
oppression. Our i-eligion has gone to the polls and voted lor the 
buyers and sellers of men. How shall we get better laws and a, 
better religion ? Only by getting juster and higher conceptions ol 
the dignity, and grandeur, and sacredness of man. Our laws and our 
religion will conform precisely to those conceptions. Contemptible 
wall be the laws and religion of every people who think contempt- 
uously of man. But beautiful and blessed will be the laws and the 
religion which reverence human nature, even when in its lowest 



76 GERRIT SMITH ON" THE REBELLION, 

condition — even when in ignorance, and rags, and chains. This 
is the religion which Jesus taught. He lived, and labored, and 
died, not for this nor that sort of men, but for all men ; not for men 
of these or those characteristics, these or those surroundings, these 
or those accidents, but for men of whatever type, or condition, or 
character. He identified himself with all men, simjily because 
they were men. 

I am old, and shall not live to see it : and you, who are young, 
may not. But the day is coming — it is hastening on — when, all 
over this broad and beautiful land, nature, so dear to all who 
give themselves up to the study of her, so sure in her guidance, 
so full of instructions, so full of God, shall inspire and mould both 
laws and religion. Come, blessed day ! Come quickly ! And 
then the natural rights of men shall no more be invaded in the 
name of law, nor in the name of religion. Then Civil Govern- 
ment, no more their oppressor, will be the strength of the weak 
and the shield of the defenseless. Then the Church, no longer 
the betrayer of the j^oor, and no longer leaguing itself with and 
voting with the enemies of the poor, will be their peaceful haven 
from the storms that pelt them wdthout ; their resting-place 
from persecutions ; their inviting bosom of pity and love. 



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