The Fruits of Victory.
It is semi-officially announced that the terrible "draft" is to be put into operation, and 300,000 new troops called out immediately and put in the field. The enrollment is nearly completed in most of the states, and the number required might doubtless be raised by the first of August, and be sent to the field by the close of the month.
This administration, with which the people are more grievously burdened than ever was Sinbad with the Old Man of the Sea, has had a very singular knack of always doing a wrong thing at the wrong time. The people of the United States find it difficult to comprehend why a draft should be neglected when we had so pressing a need of more soldiers, and that it should be resorted to now when our armies are everywhere victorious, and the time has clearly arrived for statesmanship to take the place of generalship. It is evident to every one that now is our golden opportunity to settle this difficulty, terminate the war and restore the Union. And if the administration sincerely desire this; if it were the good of the country only that it consulted, not the interests of a contemptible partisanship, formal offers of peace on the basis of an amnesty to the masses in the rebellious states upon return to their allegiance, would now be proffered. This is the way, and the only way, to make a wise and generous use of our victories.
The natural and legitimate effect of such decisive victories as those won by Gens. Grant and Meade is not, perhaps, necessarily to bring a population of several millions of determined people upon their knees at once, in the attitude of beggars for peace and forgiveness. It is not in human nature to come down so abjectly and so suddenly. But we may reasonably expect that disasters like these will terribly dishearten immense numbers of the people in the southern states — especially of those who were originally opposed to secession — render them incredulous as to their ultimate success in the struggle, more vividly sensible of the horrors which must attend a further prosecution of the war, and therefore prepared to look favorably on openings for an honorable negotiation. It is only through this natural effect upon-public sentiment in civilized nations that victories are ever rendered decisive.
Were we Visigoths or Huns, or a tribe of savage Africans, no victory would be decisive except it paralyzed or completely exterminated one or the other party in the fight. The capture of Sebastopol was by no means a destructive victory — the Russian power was far from annihilation — it had only suffered the reduction of a single fortress, and yet that capture was made the instrument of a final and honorable peace. We take it that the object of all wars must be peace, after securing the results for which arms were originally taken up. To enlightened and christian statesmanship, then, a victory is merely an opportunity for policy. To understand its uses and to put them to profit is the highest of duties; ignorantly and perversely to overlook them is the saddest of blunders; wilfully to despise them is the highest of crimes.
Our national pride, our righteous indignation, and our individual self-respect may have justly inclined us to refuse the proposal of conditions while a confident and daring rebel foe insolently flaunted its banners on the soil of the north. But with that army — almost the last hope of the rebellion — defeated and utterly discomfited, its prestige and its power departed; with the fall of its western stronghold, christianity, wisdom and patriotism demand that at least one effort should be made to stay the red tide of war. We are gazing upon the graves of hundreds of thousands of American citizens, slain by each other's hands; we behold wasted fields, ruined agriculture and plundered cities; we look upon the wreck of energy and of industry, upon paralyzed commerce, upon blackened grain-fields, and upon the destruction of a prosperity unexampled in history and the admiration of mankind. The voice of christianity, of humanity, of justice and of the national constitution, each tells us that the bloody hand should be stayed if possible. Let us extend the olive-branch from our station of victory. It may be rejected, but we shall have done our duty as a powerful, a generous and a christian nation should do it, and will have enlisted more strongly the sympathies of the world in our behalf.
Were we fighting a foreign power, there would be no apology for not seizing upon our present glorious opportunity for attempting the re-establishment of peace. And how much more imperative that duty now, when we are fighting men of our own race, and people of the same great family of states with ourselves! Sooner or later terms must be offered. That criminal and devilish sentiment, which raves of complete and perfect subjugation on our part, and complete and perfect submission and degradation on the part of the rebellious states, is condemned alike by our interests, our religion, our humanity and our honor. The nation does not share these sentiments. They are the dream of fanatics, who masquerade their insanity in the garments of patriotism. These men must be cast down from their high places by an outraged, an oppressed and an indignant people.
But we entertain grave fears that the administration is incapable of rising to this level of christianity and patriotism. The threatened draft does not indicate it. The tone of the administration press does not indicate it. Talk like the following, from the New York Times, the principal and most powerful organ of the administration, does not lead us to hope for such a result:
"The question is, which of two systems of government, differing as regards the position they assign to the people and the value they attach to manhood, and as to the great ideas of society, of government, and of human progress, which they recognize, wide as the poles asunder, shall prevail over a continent which in fifty years will contain a population of one hundred million. No one who keeps this in mind is likely to look upon Meade's victory as anything but one step more toward the annihilation of the confederate organization. So it must be vigorously followed up on southern soil."
We shall endeavor to do our duty in this crisis. We can only utter the voice and sentiment of the people, in urging upon the administration a wise and human use of the advantages gained by its armies. We can only tell them that the people are supporting a war for the restoration of the Union; they are desirous only to "hold, occupy and possess" the property of the nation, seized by rebels; they are not wielding the sword to execute the insane and wicked conceptions of abolition fanatics. We shall not at once relinquish the hope that the hearts of our rulers are not utterly dead to the more sublime instincts of power, and that they may rise to a just conception of the glorious results within our power to achieve.