Then and Now.
When Fort Sumter was fired upon, and armed rebellion began to threaten the nation's life; when the president called for volunteers to maintain the constitution, enforce the laws, preserve the Union, and to hold, occupy and possess the forts and other property of the United States; when he and the national congress distinctly and definitely denied any right or purpose to interfere or subvert the institutions of the rebellious states, the nation, with an unanimity rarely witnessed in history, rushed to the support of the government, and took arms in defense of the flag. True, the war was to be against our fellow citizens — our brothers; it was to be American against American, and many good and wise statesmen thought it might have been avoided without any sacrifice of honor or dignity on the part of the administration, had it evinced a desire for conciliation instead of blood-letting, without which it was said the "Union would not be worth a rush;" but when the crisis came, and the country was actually plunged into strife, it was no reluctant, halfhearted support yielded by the people to the government.
The New York Times, whose fidelity to republican principles will hardly be questioned, draws the following picture of the "gathering of the clans":
"The masses of all parties responded electrically to the president's call. If there was, in fact, any difference in the vehemence with which this was done, it was in favor of the democrats, or, at least, the larger portion of them. The very fact that they had borne the deceptions and impositions of the enemies of the Union so long, made the rebound all the more signal when it came. There was not only patriotic, but party and personal resentment to impel them, for party and person had been betrayed as well as country. Had not the democratic party thus responded — had the antagonism between the 1,792,000 anti-Lincoln voters, in 1860, in the present loyal states, and the 1,857,000 Lincoln voters, continued — the rebel flag would long ere this have been floating from the dome of our national capital, and the absolute conquest of the north by the slave power would have been inevitable."
Then, the sole object of the war was to preserve the Union. There were no emancipation proclamations, no confiscation laws, no illegal dividing of sovereign states. No draft was dreamed of, even as a possibility in the dim future, then.
But the radical anti-slavery men were not satisfied. They wanted no "unconditional Union" — no Union as it was. They thought their golden moment had come, when they should leap, at one stride, to the realization of their ideas, and employ the whole force of the nation to free the southern slaves. Step after step was taken in the accomplishment of their scheme. Orators and presses prepared the way for its full development. Cassius M. Clay expressed his disgust with the legitimate and constitutional war the nation was waging, as follows:
"Better recognize the southern confederacy at once, and stop this effusion of blood, than to continue in this ruinous policy or have even a restoration of the Union."
The Chicago Tribune caught the echo, and rang the change upon its brazen, blatant trumpet:
"The Union as it will never bless the vision of any pro-slavery fanatic or secession sympathizer, and it never ought to. It is a thing of the past, hated of every patriot and destined never to curse an honest people, or blot the pages of history again."
The president listened, he wavered, he yielded. He sacrificed, at one stroke of his pen, the moral and material support of the entire conservative strength of the country. But he was told by Greeley that nine hundred thousand men were sure to come as a consequence of the abolition edict; by Gov. Andrew, that the "highways and by-ways from Boston to Washington would swarm with armed men;" by Gov. Yates, that "armies would be stamped out of the earth, and Illinois would leap, like a flaming giant, into the fight." How those predictions were fulfilled, history has all too sadly shown. It has shown wherein the strength of the nation lay, by the immediate and almost entire suspension of enlistments from the date of that fatal document. If the anti-slavery men were the class that are filling the ranks of the armies, why did they so suddenly cease to volunteer?
The issue the administration presents to democrats is a most painful one. Having no voice in dictating the policies of the war, if they fight at all, it must be on terms of the administration's choosing. Those terms are abolition and extermination. If they are reluctant to take up arms in such a contest, they are called "disloyal," and "enemies of their country." How cheerfully and gladly they would fight for the Union, disentangled of all outside and obnoxious issues, was shown by the heartiness with which they went into the war at the outset. But they are still called upon to fill the ranks of the armies, while the loyal leaguers, to whom these war policies are peculiarly acceptable, stood by, and instead of enlisting themselves, denounce democrats, who, from the bottom of their hearts, detest and abominate such policies, as disloyal, because they do not volunteer.