The War Method of Peace (1863)

by Ezra H. Heywood (1829-1893)


[note by William Lloyd Garrison]
At the request of our friend, Mr. Heywood, we give in full, on our last page, his address on “The War Method of Peace,” – a somewhat paradoxical title, – delivered before the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society, at the Melodeon, on Sunday, June 14th. Of course, he alone is responsible for the views he presents; and, certainly, he is to be respected and commended for his conscientious fidelity to his convictions. But we cannot regard his treatment of the subject, in its relation to the present state of the country, as peculiarly felicitous; and we think he renders himself liable to be greatly misapprehended in certain particulars. In our judgment, believing that there is “a time to keep silent,” as well as “a time to speak,” [Online editor’s note: Ecclesiastes 3:7. – RTL] and that, while the whirlwind, the earthquake, and the fire of civil war are in full operation, it is not possible for “the still, small voice” [Online editor’s note: 1 Kings 19:11-12. – RTL] of non-resistance to be heard, we deem it wise not to enter into a discussion of the question for the time being.


BOSTON, SUNDAY, JUNE 14th, 1863.

WMP.2 Mr. Heywood said that, waiving their usual selections from the Bible, he would read some later scriptures, which he deemed of great significance in this crisis: –
Extracts from the Declaration of Sentiments of the American Anti-Slavery Society, in 1833.
“We have met together for the achievement of an enterprise, without which that of our fathers is incomplete; and which for its magnitude, its solemnity, and probable results upon the destiny of the world, as far transcends theirs as moral truth does physical force. ... Their principles led them to wage war against their oppressors, and to spill human blood like water, in order to be free. Ours forbid the doing of evil that good may come, and lead us to reject, and to entreat the oppressed to reject, the use of all carnal weapons for deliverance from bondage; relying solely on those which are spiritual, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds. [Online editor’s note: 2 Corinthians 10:4. – RTL] Their measures were physical resistance, the marshalling in arms, the mortal encounter. Ours shall be such only as the opposition of moral purity to moral corruption – the destruction of error by the potency of truth – the overthrow of prejudice by the power of love – and the abolition of slavery by the spirit of repentance. ... Our trust for victory is solely in God. We may be personally defeated, but our principles never. ... Submitting this Declaration to the candid examination of the people of this country, and of the friends of liberty throughout the world, we hereby affix our signatures to it, pledging ourselves, under the guidance and by the help of Almighty God, to overthrow the most execrable system of slavery that has ever been witnessed upon the earth. ... Come what may to our persons, our interests, or our reputation – whether we live to witness the triumph of Liberty, Justice, and Humanity, or perish ultimately as martyrs in this great benevolent and holy cause.”
Extracts from the Declaration of Sentiments of the New England Non-Resistants, in 1833.
“We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government; neither can we oppose any such government by a resort to physical force. We recognize but one King and Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of mankind. We are bound by the laws of a kingdom which is not of this world; [Online editor’s note: John 18:36. – RTL] the subjects of which are forbidden to fight; in which Mercy and Truth are met together, and Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other; which has no state lines, no geographical boundaries; in which there is no distinction of rank, caste or sex; the officers of which are Peace, its exactors Righteousness, its walls Salvation, and its gates Praise; [Online editor’s note: Isaiah 60:17-18. – RTL] and which is destined to break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms. Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands. The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the while human race. Hence, we can allow no appeal to patriotism, to revenge any national insult or injury. The Prince of Peace, under whose stainless banner we rally, came not to destroy, but to save, [Online editor’s note: Luke 9:56. – RTL] even the worst of enemies. ‘God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ [Online editor’s note: Romans 5:8. – RTL] ... We register our testimony not only against all wars, whether offensive or defensive, but all preparations for war; against all appropriations for the defence of a nation by force and arms, on the part of any legislative body; against every edict of government requiring of its subjects military service. Hence, we deem it unlawul to bear arms, or to hold a military office. ... We believe that the penal code of the old covenant, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, has been abrogated by Jesus Christ; and that under the new covenant, the forgiveness, instead of the punishment of enemies has been enjoined upon all his disciples, in all cases whatsoever. [Online editor’s note: Matthew 5:38-44. – RTL] ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.’ [Online editor’s note: Romans 12:19. – RTL] The history of mankind is crowded with evidences, proving that physical coercion is not adapted to moral regeneration; that the sinful disposition of man can be subdued only by love; that evil can be exterminated from the earth only by goodness. ... Hence, as a measure of sound policy, of safety to property, life and liberty, of public quietude and private enjoyment, as well as on the ground of allegiance to him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, [Online editor’s note: Revelation 19:16. – RTL] we cordially adopt the non-resistance principle; being confident that it provides for all possible consequences, will ensure all things needful to us, is armed with omnipotent power, and must ultimately triumph over every assailing force. ... In entering upon the great work before us, we are not unmindful that, in its prosecution, we may be called to test our sincerity, even as in a fiery ordeal. It may subject us to insult, outrage, suffering, yea, even death itself. .... But we commend these sentiments to the reason and conscience of mankind, giving ourselves no anxiety as to what may befal us, and resolving in the strength of the Lord God calmly and meekly to abide the issue.”
WMP.7 These Declarations, both written by Mr. Garrison, will stand in history with that of American Independence; and higher – for, while Jefferson is revered as the father of our national freedom, from a single brain here comes the germ of two revolutions – one of which is to establish impartial liberty for all races on this continent; the other will subvert the war system, and ensure peace and good will to men [Online editor’s note: Luke 2:14. – RTL] throughout the world.

WMP.8 In the various discourses, which, during the last two years, I have had the honor to address to this society, I have frequently, as a non-resistant, taken the liberty to question the war method of restoring the Union, or to abolish slavery, as immoral, impolitic, and unnecessary. But my brief acquaintance with political studies of any kind; an unwillingness to embarrass any experiment against slavery, even by the expression of opinions of trivial importance in themselves; and chiefly, my profound reverence for distinguished Abolitionists, from whom to differ on this point is grave cause for distrusting one’s own decisions, have prevented me from making any formal analysis or discussion of this crisis from the stand-point of the Peace principle. Now, however, when many are coming to question the right to discuss this war, pro and con; when “unconditional loyalty” is made to mean loyalty to partisan views, rather than loyalty to truth and the time-honored guarantees of freedom; and there is a general inclination to merge duty in necessity, and degrade all moral principles to the base level of unscrupulous policy; it may be well for us to tell ourselves, at least, what events think of this war, as well as what speculators and politicians think of it; on what methods and risks we are embarking, and whither they will float us. Availing myself, therefore, of the large toleration which is the chief celebrity of this desk, and of the especial indulgence of your Committee, who have always told me to bring true rather than pleasant things, I would like your attention, for an hour or so, to some things respecting the war method of peace.
WMP.9 There is nothing in human society stronger than truth, and a manly and consistent example of it. Appealing from expediency and tradition to the inner facts of nature, from governments to justice, from men to man, it sinks what is partial, relative, temporary, in the universal, the absolute, the eternal. Those who teach and example less, [Online editor’s note: Should this be “teach more and example less”? – RTL] Democrats booted and spurred to ride the weaker classes, Christians who confess Jesus at the loaves and fishes, and not at the cross, Abolitionists where there is no slavery, and Non-Resistants who believe in peace except when there is war, – such have small faith in a beneficent Providence, or the honesty of man’s soul; suspect a malignant agency prevails; distrust ideas, and confer with flesh and blood; think the laws of nature are repealed by this crisis, and the Court of Heaven has ceased its jurisdiction in these quarters. Nevertheless, even among “rising sinners and falling stars,” the laws ruling the universe are identical with those which now bring redemption through retribution to the American people.“Interest is the bride of Duty,” and though policy may succeed against policy, it is impotent against truth and sincerity. Much which the world calls success is merely factious interest drifting the general welfare into heaps here, at the expense of bare ground elsewhere. If your advantage is partial and relative, unless “the immediate motive of your will may become a universal rule for all intelligent beings” – unless you are right – you have not succeeded.
WMP.10 The broad ethics of the New Testament, the pure reason of Greece and Rome, the hot enthusiasm of French progress and Anglo-Saxon common sense, first reaching a national expression in the Declaration of Independence, reveal in mankind an expansion of the unit man; that all nations are made of one blood, and the doctrine of human brotherhood is the taproot of human nature. The progress of civilization, the native justice of man’s heart efflorescing in Luther, Magna Charta, Puritanism, Democracy, Negro Emancipation, Non-Resistance, is the progress of mankind towards unity and fair play. To force Protestantism into the old Romish strait-jacket of uniformity, to build the liberty of whites on the slavery of blacks, to kill aliens and enemies in defence of citizens and friends – all this impairs growth, destroys unity, is retrogressive, disintegrating, anarchical. Hence those who truly believe in men’s equality, before God and fraternity, with each other, will discern in war a murderous foe of our race which intelligent reformers cannot tolerate, much less invoke as an agent of progress. A resort to war to put down slavery is a resort to lying to put down falsehood, a resort to stealing to put down theft. Indeed, slavery is an advance on war, since its victims, first prisoners of war, were formerly killed at once, afterwards held to service as an act of humanity.
WMP.11 Then war is wrong – wrong yesterday, wrong today, wrong forever; not an evil merely, but a sin and a crime. To Christians, the character of Jesus should be decisive on this point. Was he right in going to Calvary, or should he have marched against Pilate as a Major-General? It was the Cross that made him the moral lawgiver of his race, and has affixed his name to the highest civilization of history. I saw Orthodox epaulettes, wealth and fashion, in a soft attire and shining equipage, rolling in gorgeous splendor to church, in the name of the Prince of Peace, who went barefoot! Yet this going to luxurious pews in “Christian” epaulettes is the homage which vice pays to virtue; since, because it was noble for men to be saints in Jerusalem, it is fashionable for sinners to be hypocrites in Boston. Men will worship Love, though they work blood – will preach Jesus, though, as a “necessary evil,” they practise Joshua. Lying is one of the “fine arts” of war; they call its “strategy;” that is, falsehood in military boots. Yorktown in the Revolution was won by a lie, and Washington told it. John Brown went to Harper’s Ferry under a false name, – but because he was an Abolition saint, we did not say much about it! Murder is the gravest crime man commits; yet war is murder multiplied by the majority. By what ethics, then, is the man a criminal, and the mass heroes? Can we “serve God individually, and the devil collectively”? If the whole is greater than a part, to kill a man is a greater sin than to enslave him; for life bases and includes all other human rights. Self-defence is right; but how much of yourself will you save? Self is composed of soul and body; to save your life by sin, you lose your soul; to lose your lie for truth, you save your soul. I go for the soul. You would not do wrong, would not life, would not steal, to save your life; will you commit the gravest sin to live? To argue that animal instinct prevail; that when the lion and the lamb lie down together, [Online editor’s note: Isaiah 11:6. – RTL] “the lamb must be inside the lion,” and hence men are under the dominion of brutish instincts, and cannot resist them, is practical atheism; makes free agency a fiction. The claim that war comes in society as earthquakes come in nature is equally irrelevant. If earthquakes are free moral agents, if earthquakes vote and join the church, that argument is in point – otherwise, it is impertinent and absurd.
WMP.12 According to reason, as in Christian ethics, it is a greater sin to kill an enemy than it is to kill a friend, as it is more cruel to strike a sick man than a well man. Because your enemy – unless you are the rascal and he is the saint, which is quite likely – your enemy is morally sick, depraved by vicious circumstances. The North and South to-day are not enemies, they are “opposites” – the natural outgrowth of this antagonism of ideas we called a Union. Are they blameful? The scraggy oak on the crest of Wachusett does not want to be scraggy, but it is the best thing the acorn can do under the adverse circumstances of thin soil and bleak winds; planted in the deep loam of the plains, or the rich mud of the intervale, it would have been as robust and respectable as yourselves. So take a “Copperhead” – I think these vile nicknames unworthy the lips of reformers – take a Mozart Hall Democrat; analyze him. The first layer is Fernando Wood; under that, the New York Observer; under that, Jefferson Davis; under that – the devil? – no, a germ of manhood fighting up against a corrupt trade, a debauched politics, and depraved religion. Arrest him? Rather arrest the circumstances that made him such.
WMP.13 Patriotism involves much truth and heroism – as when Dutch shopkeepers opened their dykes and buried all Holland beneath the sea to save it from the clutch of Louis XIV. – as when the women of Fredericksburg, on bended knees, besought Gen. Lee to burn their city, rather than surrender it to the North – as when these Yankees, who hold their dollar so near the eye that it hides the universe, on the battle-field open their veins by their own vitality to reanimate the drooping State. While, compared with the courage of truth, the courage of principle, the cour[a]ge of force is a kind of spaniel cowardice – which goes on four legs or a smaller number – not until the real manhood there is in war is transferred to the cause of peace will the reign of principles subvert the reign of the sword. But patriotism, in its final application, is altogether narrow and selfish; dwarfs the man into an American or Frenchman; makes him a satellite of the government – with two or three facts you may calculate his orbit; of a party or sect; or a satellite of the town-pump; rarely sets the discordant notes of partisan strife to the sphere harmony of justice and impartial liberty. Like the villeins of feudal times, men belong to the soil, are bought and sold with it; adhere to the government in order to adhere to themselves. Each community, state, nation, standing on its own selfish interests, there is no concord, no cosmopolitan feeling. As Sidney Smith said of two housewives scolding from their opposite tenements – they will never agree, because they argue from different premises. Nationality is a minus quantity; the more American, the more Englishman, the less man. The charm of Shakspeare is, that he was a man, not an Englishman, merely; an ocean bathing every shore of human nature. Jesus is Jesus because he loved everybody, especially aliens and enemies.
WMP.14 Government is only a scaffolding to build man; a temporary convenience, to secure order and justice, to vanish as we ascend into unison with ideas; the garment society wears to be refitted for larger life, or left behind for the next arrival in the cradle. The elements of growth and original sovereignty forever inhere in the people, and no government can be perpetual, any more than a coat can be perpetual. Lord Brougham says, England survives, because she knows when to bend, to yield to the expanding life of the nation. So American government, of the people, by the people, for the people, [Online editor’s note: Heywood is not quoting the Gettysburg Address, which this predates. – RTL] resides in moral power, is founded on the consent of the governed. Hence, peaceful revolution as the result of growth, peaceful secession is a moral right. The only authority of a government is in its justice; rebellion began not in 1861, but in 1789, when these States framed iniquity into a law. The logic of the Abolitionists was the logic of events; emancipation as a duty; that refused, disunion in behalf of justice and liberty. There was no union of ideas, of interests, or of sympathy; we were two nations; a revolution was accomplished long before it announced itself at Fort Sumter; revolution, the silent truth of many years, now thundered from the iron lips of war. The opinions of the best heads of America in the opening scenes of this crisis; of Phillips and Seward, of Sumner and Cushing, of Chase and Seymour, of Greeley and Emerson, that it would be better to let the South go out; the serious judgment of the nation in a thoughtful moment was the statesmanship of the hour, and has more weight with me than anything since uttered under the threats of a rampant war-spirit. Since the firing upon Sumter, the people have viewed the thing through passion, not reason. The clear light of truth is refracted and discolored in traversing an atmosphere thick with the blood and curses of martial strife.
WMP.15 The laws of natural growth, material interests, and the moral welfare of society, will ultimately decree the separation of these States. The opinions of thoughtful men in unbiased moments, of Mr. Parker, Mr. Phillips, and others, that the Federal Union would eventually effloresce into a cluster of republics; one on the Pacific, one on the Gulf, one on the Lakes, and one on the Hudson and Connecticut; the judgment of our most clear-sighted European critics – “foreigners are the contemporary posterity” – are prophetic of the road civilization will travel here. The same law of growth which radiates South America into diverse States which makes Europe a mosaic of Nationalities; which severed these colonies from Great Britain, and will sever Canada, India and Australia, will assert its supremacy here. Editors may storm, orators declaim, and armies rage, to the contrary, notwithstanding. But it is not anarchy, nor disintegration, any more than a country boy, too large for his coat, growing out of his clothes in all directions, is disintegration. These variegated, picturesque forms of political development are the regular and natural progress of society towards the mutual safety of persons and property, and the impartial revelation of justice; and the statesmanship which does not recognize and provide for them is unworthy the name. The fact that the South seceded to secure and extend slavery does not affect this argument or our duty. Not the Abolitionists, merely, but the enlightened conscience of the North, had revolted against the slave clauses of the Constitution, because the Federal Government was not founded on the Declaration of Independence, but on an unholy and wicked agreement with oppression. [Online editor’s note: Garrison, paraphrasing Isaiah 28:15-18, had called the Constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell” because of the fugitive slave clause. – RTL] Having repudiated your part of the pro-slavery compact, where is your right to hold the South obedient to theirs? There should be honor among thieves, even. As the prophetic vision of Mr. Pillsbury long ago announced, “The South may deserve all they are suffering, but they do not deserve it at our hands; nor is this slaughter of our fellow-sinners any atonement for the joint iniquity of seventy years’ oppression.” Need I add, that the attempt to coerce or control the South, by the immoral and despotic methods of the sword, or in the remotest degree to sanction a war to restore the Union or abolish slavery, is utterly inconsistent with peace principles? True, the South were the aggressors; but shall I fight a duel, or go into the ring, because I am challenged? Shall I steal and lie because I am opposed with theft and falsehood? Rather let me adhere to my principles, be the more honest and truthful, knowing that if slaveholders are right, the sword cannot defeat them – that if they are wrong, God cannot save them.
WMP.16 As yet, barbarism inspires the methods, and is the leading star of civilization. We have not ascended to the realm of ideas; in the fifth day of creation the world awaits man. The new canary bird in our lady’s cage is a foreigner, to whip or be whipped as a certificate of citizenship. So the feathered warriors quarrel in order to live peaceably. When the farmer brings home a strange ox, there is a general fight to know which beats. The result of the battle is the basis of a new social order. The canaries and cattle reason well; for victory is a certain presumptive of peace, order, and stability. The human being, also, is an animal on his way to be man, and has a right to come up on all fours as far as is convenient. But shall we always wear hoofs, never ascending into the heavenward-looking posture of perfect men? As yet, cattle give laws to man; and there is sad truth in the joke of the English wit, that he went to the Sayers and Heenan fight to see the ruling class of the race. “Statesmen” believe in the fist, not in the soul; not in the gospel according to St. John, but in the gospel according to Sayers and Heenan; make nations mere fighting-cocks, to crow lustily for “honor,” and claw out each other’s eyes and hearts for “glory.” We talk of “first class powers,” aglow with visions of mere material supremacy, of commerce whitening every sea, of navies

          — “bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals;”
[Online editor’s note: Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” (1818). – RTL]
of armies whose embattled tread shakes the globe; we forget that truth alone is the first class power; Palestine for its religion, Greece for its knowledge, Rome for its Justice, Germany for its insight; such are the only first class powers. Mr. Lincoln said in his last message, that “nations are composed of three elements; their people, their laws, and their territory; and the last alone is permanent.” Oh, no, Mr. President, do we ask how many acres Judea had, Greece had, Rome had? We ask ether they believed in truth and the example of it; we ask whether there was a spot large enough to erect a cross, and a martyr to hang upon it! It is not the great nations, Persia, Assyria, Macedon, which most serve the race. In Palestine, Greece, mediæval Italy, sea-girt England, not the empire whose morning drum-beat circles the globe; in States “so small that, in a day or two, on horseback, you could ride through two or three of them; in such has humanity been glorified.”
WMP.17 This savagery of materialism, the scent of blood rousing ferocious instincts, obtrudes the age of the brute into the age of man. Democratic freedom has not yet cuts its wisdom teeth; puts constitutional chains on negroes, and ignores the right of woman. Yet true democracy goes an arrow’s flight beyond equality of race and sect even. “Building for eternity,” it builds on absolute ideas, on unfettered reason, on the eternal moral sense; makes the sword a barbarism, a government of force a nuisance. No doubt, such opinions appear to you wild, youthful, visionary, “veally”; but let me reinforce them with one or two names which are powers in the land. Mr. Garrison said – “A bloody war to maintain nationality is incompatible with moral greatness and Christian love, and for an object which is low and selfish. ... There will be no real freedom on earth until men beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, and learn war no more. [Online editor’s note: Isaiah 2:4. – RTL] A nation which has adopted that principle cannot be enslaved, any more than the angels of God ... Wherein does this war differ from any other animated by the spirit of hatred and revenge, and prosecuted by a resort to murderous weapons? Is not human blood flowing like water? Are not the wounded, dying and dead multiplying like the withered leaves of autumn? Are not homes made desolate, firesides voiceless, and fields barren? Our weapons of defence are the same with which we are assailed – the weapons of tyranny in all ages. I groan in spirit that a good cause is defended by the same weapons with which a bad cause is upheld. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, is not the way to redeem or bless our race. Sword against sword, cannon against cannon, army against army – is it thus that love and good-will are diffused through the world, or that right conquers wrong? ... It is our duty to remember the fate of all who are involved in this war, whether they are on the rigt or on the wring side; for they are all brothers by creation, children of the same great human family, and under the most sacred obligations to love and do good to each other.”
WMP.18 These inspired sentiments, addressed to Hungary when, fighting in pure self-defence, and for both freedom and nationality, she was overwhelmed by the combined armies of Austria and Russia, I should cease to reverence, did I not think them as true of America to-day.
WMP.19 Let me climb to the head, to the bright consummate flower of American literature, and pluck a leaf with which to adorn my discourse. Mr. Emerson wrote – it was before he accepted an office at West Point! – “War to sane men begins to look like an epidemic insanity, breaking out here and there like the cholera or influenza, infecting men’s brains instead of their bowels. A universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism, of liberal governments over feudal forms. ... If you have a nation of men who have risen to that height of moral cultivation that they will not declare war or carry arms, for they have not so much madness left in their brains, you have a nation of lovers, of benefactors, of true, great, and able men. ... Non-resistance is the right future if democracy, the American idea. As God liveth, it is the only gun which does not need a gun; the law of love and justice, which alone can effect a clean revolution. ... We make by distrust the thief, the burglar, and the incendiary, and by our court and jail we keep him so. ... An acceptance of the sentiment of love throughout Christendom for a season would bring the felon and the outcast to our side with tears, with the devotion of his faculties to our service. ... Love would put a new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies too long. It would warm the heart to see how fast the vain diplomacy of statesmen, the impotency of armies and navies and lines of defence, would be superseded by this unarmed child. This great, overgrown, dead Christendom of ours at least keeps alive the name of a lover of mankind; but one day all men will be lovers, and every calamity will be dissolved in the moral sunshine.” [Online editor’s note: Quoted (not always accurately) from “War” (1838), “Man the Reformer” (1841), and “Stonehenge” (1856). – RTL]
WMP.20 In claiming, therefore, that non-resistance is the true theory of democracy, the to-morrow of free institutions, I merely entrench myself behind the largest heart and clearest brain which America has given the world – behind the Declaration of Independence and Plymouth Rock – behind Hampden and Magna Charta – behind human nature and the throne of Infinite Truth! There is a democracy higher, purer, more powerful and enduring than that which is nourished in the blood of enemies; it is the democracy that suffers wrong rather than inflict it; the democracy which, speaking from the ashes of Smithfield, the hemlock of Socrates, and – I say it reverently – the cross of Jesus, conquers every foe, and wins the applause and the reverence of all nations, all races all ages. But the opposite, the deadly foe of all this – the normal school of vice, ignorance and superstition – absolute, unmitigated despotism, inspiring a rapid ascendency of brute force with the most ferocious and vindictive of human passions; the spirit of destruction incarnate, immoral, irresponsible, atheistic – a spirit which, unrestricted, would annihilate society, unpeople the planet, and “make the universe a mob of worlds” – however others may postpone their principles, for myself, I owe to democracy and civilization, I owe to humanity and religion, the abhorrence with which the war system inspires me!

“This world is full of beauty
     As other worlds above,
And if we did our duty
     It might be full of love.”
[Online editor’s note: Gerald Massey (1828-1907), “The World Is Full Of Beauty.” – RTL]
WMP.21 But I was not to argue the abstract question of peace, at length, this morning. Few here, I presume, accept these views; indeed, they would not be true views were they generally accepted; for principles, to be correct now, must involve the condemnation of the American people. I should be alarmed to be endorsed in a period when he is the most honorable and Christian who kills the most enemies. Not particularly anxious myself to be understood, certainly not desirous of hewing to the line when my chips fly in all faces, I yet deem it fit in time of war to preach peace; fit time to assert a truth when it is denied – especially by those reputed to accept it, and who once revered this the gravest moral issue that has engaged the attention of men since Calvary. Waiving, however, the immortality of war, as a political expedient the sword rarely promotes the interests of government, or the cause of freedom. In the long run, a government of force is dangerous only to itself; the offspring of fear and partial interests, it is powerful as the exponent of popular passions, but impotent to combat or control them. The despair of ideas, distrust in the heart, it is war in the hand; a mustard seed of hatred, it springs up into a forest of bayonets. “Of all enemies of public freedom,” said Madison, “war is perhaps the most to be dreaded; it is the parent of armies, debts, taxes; and armies, debts, taxes, are the known instruments for bringing the many under the dominion of the few. No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continued warfare.” Jefferson said, “War is an instrument wholly uncertain in its operations, and frequently, if not generally, occasions more evils than it cures or prevents.” “The army, says Sir James Mackintosh, “is the last resource of power; a tremendous weapon, which, if it did not sometimes happily recoil on those who wield it, would rob all the slaves in the world of hope, and all the freemen of safety.”
WMP.22 I am unable to see that this war has advanced us so far on the road of national redemption as many predict. With England, slavery stood on a few distant islands, a mere wart upon the body politic, yet it took half a century to abolish it. In France, the problem was alike insignificant compared with ours; and in 1793, in the fervor of a revolutionary moment, emancipation was proclaimed as an act of justice throughout the French dominions. Yet the act was reversed under Napoleon in 1802, and it was not until 1848 that what was decreed as justice in 1793, became a fact in French law. With us, slavery covers an area equal to one fourth of all Europe; its roots run back beneath the strata of centuries; enwoven with every fibre, it has diffused its poison through every member of the body politic; in armed revolt against the Federal life, the President yet apologizes for emancipation as a “military necessity,” assuring posterity that under no circumstances will we be guilty of a generous motive; he hates the negro more than he hates slavery, and, with all his contempt for the guarantees of freedom, there is one law he always respects and enforces – even to handing the manacled fugitive back to bondage from the marble steps of the capital – the Fugitive Slave Law. Yet, in all his pro-slavery leanings, Mr. Lincoln represents the people too well. Now you may gather figs of thistles, or extract sunbeams from cucumbers; [Online editor’s note: Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. – RTL] but how you will extract justice from such a people before they are converted is not apparent. The French Assembly said, “The republic would doubt itself could it hesitate for an instant to suppress slavery.” But emancipation at Washington has not yet reached the dignity of a moral question. Slavery is the positive pole, freedom the negative; Anti-Slavery takes its method from the South, and drifts in the wake of Jefferson Davis and Mr. Seward. To allow your enemy to choose the field of battle is bad generalship; so in morals, if you follow the devil, you will bring up in hell. The present Anti-Slavery method attempts to cast out Beelzebub by Beelzebub; it stands in a tub trying to lift itself by the ears; it is plus into minus, which always produces minus. The Government yet holds slaves wherever it has the power to do it; and most that has been accomplished for the negro by the Republican party – the border States would have been driven to emancipate by disunion – is incidental to and dependent upon the final adjustment of this question under the Constitution “as it is,” by an unregenerate people, and a court of which Dred Scott Taney [Online editor’s note: i.e., Roger B. Taney of the Dred Scott decision. – RTL] is Chief Justice. The distinguished trance medium, Mrs. Hatch, speaking by the inspiration of Theodore Parker – and, as I am not a Spiritualist, I may say that the internal evidence of her discourse was the best argument for the theory of spirit-communication it has been my good fortune to meet – represented him as saying that were he in the body now, he should fight for liberty and justice, but he was not quite certain on which side he should fight to secure liberty and justice! If we are to be saved by our losses, as Mr. Phillips argues, why should not Mr. Parker fight with Jefferson Davis awhile? Unionists pray for the success of the stars and stripes; Confederates pray for the success of the stars and bars; but I don’t think the Deity frets himself much about it, either way. God is with every desolate heart, every darkened home, on both sides; but He has instituted moral laws which these States have infringed, and, to be saved, they must answer their own prayers.
WMP.23 That war “educates” us up to freedom, that you may illuminate men’s minds by letting daylight through their bodies, is questionable. Rather, in passing from a commercial to a military democracy, from the reign of gold to the reign of iron, we lose sight of the principles of liberty, which, in English history, hinged upon money oftener than upon the sword. This war power invoked in the service of emancipation is slavery in epaulettes, the old their under a new alias. The arbitrary suspension of the guarantees of freedom in time of war – as if they were not then most needed; as if inter arma silent leges [Online editor’s note: “in time of war (literally, amidst arms) the laws are silent.” – RTL] was the growth of civilization, not a relic of barbarism; this idea, that because there is much darkness you must put out all the lights; the doctrine of constructive treason, unknown to American law, and in England since Erskine, resuscitated; reformers advocating tyrannical measures, who were supposed to believe in liberty as a principle; resorting to questionable means to carry a cause heretofore rested on its inherent goodness; a despair of the people that they cannot be trusted with their own affairs, – these do not evidence an increased knowledge of freedom. And all to save the government; but free speech is the government, free press is the government, right of association is the government, personal liberty is the government; all else is a herd of contractors, a gang of rogues afraid to have their plots looked into! Such a policy would kill the government to save its life. It is not flinging over the cargo to save the ship, it is scuttling the ship to save the cargo! The negro will cover a multitude of sins, but he has not enough virtue for that. Surely, if it is constitutional for Abolitionists to preach disunion and burn the Constitution, as it certainly is, it is constitutional for Democrats to answer their arguments. If it is right to speak for the war, it is right to speak against it. This doctrine, that the military is above the civil authority, puts the republic on the basis of despotism; on the path traversed by your “man on horseback,” your Napoleon, your Alexander, your Cæsar,

“Who seeks to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shuts the gates of mercy on mankind”;
[Online editor’s note: Thomas Gray, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.” – RTL.]
it would erect another slab in the graveyard of empires – “America died of its own bayonets.”
WMP.24 This war is essentially an armed caucus, “petrifying ballots into bullets;” it is a scheme of political proselysim in quest of “union sentiment,” North and South; one party proposing to abolish slavery, the other to abolish anti-slavery. The tendency of such an experiment – as Judge Conway shows in his late speech, which is the high-water mark of statesmanship in this crisis – is to undo by the sword what has been done by the tongue, to demoralize the free elements of the North, and hand us over to a new compromise with the despotic elements of the South. The English Commonwealth (an utter failure) is quoted for our imitation; but Cromwell’s soldiers, of the best blood of Europe, the most moral and religious that ever took the field, were so demoralized by the military regime, that they threw down every right for which they had fought, at the feet of Charles II; and, as Macaulay paints it, the period which followed the Commonwealth was “the darkest and most disgraceful in English annals – days never to be recalled without a blush – days of servitude without loyalty – of sensuality without love – of dwarfish talents and gigantic vices – the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds – the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave.” The French Revolution of ’93 planted its standard in one half the capitals of Europe, to end in Waterloo and Louis Napoleon. Are our soldiers more incorruptible than Puritans – braver than Frenchmen? That the Tribune would barter the liberties of three million negroes in the insurgent States “to save the Union”; that Dr. Brownson, who spoke with applause on the platform of the Emancipation League, would depose Mr. Lincoln and take Jefferson Davis as President, “to save the Union”; that Gerrit Smith would risk increased power for slavery, “to save the Union,” – such facts show how far this people are already “educated” to restore slavery to a controlling place in the Government, should the rebels lay down their arms.
WMP.25 As to the radical scheme, supposing you succeed in the field; supposing Vicksburg falls, Lee is beaten, and Richmond and Charleston surrender; supposing emancipation triumphs under the shadow of swords, and Federal dragoons wash their horses’ hoofs in the Gulf; what then? The old questions are upon you; we are two nations still. Where are the means to administer free institutions at the South? The elements of rebellion are there intensified, sullen, defiant, ready to spring to arms any moment. To kill off the insurgent whites, were it possible, is simply barbarous. Already we have slaughtered a thousand human sacrifices for a political object, where the king of Dahomey offers one for a political object. Is there a man here who would make a Poland or a Hungary of the South if he could? (“Yes, yes.”) But, my dear sir, would you be Austria to do it? For I asked for a man, not an Austrian! Gasparan, our friendliest French critic, says, “As in the end, modern governments rest on the consent of the governed, it will certainly be necessary to let those go who could no longer be held, except by armed occupation and the lasting use of force. Free institutions would perish in the attempt. Accepting temporary separation, the North would for the first time be itself. Hitherto the baleful influences of the South have corrupted everything: now the United States would reappear, and are about to know the greatness of liberty and justice.” Professor Cairnes, the able coadjutor of Stuart Mill in our behalf, says, “The armed occupation would eventually imperil the cause of popular institutions in North America; and the loss of popular government would be a heavy price to pay for the subjugation of the South, even though that subjugation involved the overthrow of the slave power.” [Online editor’s note: John Elliot Cairnes, The Slave Power (1862). – RTL]
WMP.26 My friends, among radicals you must allow me to be a little conservative. The principles of the Anti-Slavery Society, which I have read to you, plainly forbid the use of the sword as an agent of emancipation; – rapine and havoc set loose. States desolated, cities sacked, whole populations driven forth to squalor and starvation, beneath skies lurid with the glare of their burning homes, a million Americans still urged to mutual and unrelenting slaughter – no principles I have endorsed necessitate such barbarous measures! For I aspire to be a man as well as an Abolitionist, and slaveholders are my brothers not less than slaves. I know the grand purpose that inspires freemen in this tremendous conflict, – that this red evening cloud may announce a fair dawn to America; that, through the wall of sorrow and desolation, we may hear the music of breaking choirs, the joy of a race restored from slaves to men! But I would not do evil that good may come; I scout the horrid doctrine, that the end justifies the means; therefore, I do not believe in this war. The Abolitionists initiated the true policy, the only policy which liberty has had in this struggle, – the policy of principle. Justice as the duty of the master, and the right of the slave, which would have quietly removed the whole cause of disturbance; for immense as is this darkening cloud of war, all its bolts would have dropped harmless into the earth at the heaven-tipped virtue of emancipation. That refused, then separation as a moral duty, repudiating oppressors as the criminals they are, and erecting the North into a nationality on the basis of “No union with slaveholders”; putting the opposite systems each on its own merits, and letting the laws of nature which are all anti-slavery, and God who was always an Abolitionist, take care of the consequences. Thus to wash our hands of the guilt of slavery, and strangle forever the very thought of compromise with it.
WMP.27 That was the readiest, wisest, bravest method of treating this thing. “But, ah! would it be safe?” Where’s your faith in your principles? “But would it ensure us cotton from Carolina, and sugar from Louisiana?” Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and cotton and sugar shall be added unto you! [Online editor&146;s note: Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31. – RTL] If the Union were dissolved, would the Mississippi river run uphill? Would not the sun shine, rain fall, corn grow, and flowers bloom as before? As to the river being under the control of two powers, how is it with the St. Lawrence, how with the Danube, how with the Rhine, mirroring several nationalities in its bosom? Commerce clears its own channel. “But slavery would flow abroad!” Rather, girdled with the free sentiment of the world as a ring of fire, the scorpion would sting itself to death. “It would come North!” As well hold slaves in heaven as in Massachusetts. “We must return fugitives!” When Edward Everett says “no,” what Abolitionist shall hesitate? “But the territories!” In Kansas, backed by the whole Federal power, slavery was met by the Yankees, and John Brown went to heaven to announce the triumph of freedom.
WMP.28 Victor Hugo says, “A cannon ball makes two thousand miles an hour; light makes two hundred thousand miles a second – such is the difference between Jesus Christ and Napoleon!” [Online editor’s note: Les Misérables (1862). – RTL] It is the simple method of truth that has enabled the Anti-Slavery Society, a handful of “fanatics,” at an expense of less than a million dollars – less than what your war costs each twelve hours – to revolutionize twenty States; which has ploughed the name of Garrison deeper into the world than any other since Luther. Sumner, the Tribune, the Republican party, the Federal army, they were all born of the Liberator! In that truth and its impartial enforcement, I believe to-day – a truth which has gone through England, through France, Holland, Turkey, Russia – a truth which has scaled and captured every throne of Europe, and before which, in America, majorities, States, Unions, armies, are alike ephemeral – conquering at once in peace and war, by victory, defeat, in prosperity and adversity – co-operating with the world’s eternal tendencies, it will advance through ignorance and superstition, through cowardice and fanaticism, to law, system, empire –

“For I doubt not, through the ages, one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns;
Not in vain the distance beacons – forward, forward, let us range;
Let the great globe spin forever down the ringing grooves of change.
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging through the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbs no longer, and the battle-flags are furled
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world;
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.”
[Online editor’s note: Tennyson, “Locksley Hall” (1842). – RTL]

The Liberator, 17 January 1863.

Back to online library