Backward and Forward.
Every civilized nation we belive, recognizes the doctrine that a traitor resigns all the rights he enjoyed under his government, and forfeits not only his life as a penalty for his crime, but forfeits his property as a remuneration in part to his government for the trouble, expense and danger caused by his disloyalty. But whether it be written law or not it is good sense, and if not yet fully recognized by our government it is because the seductive influences of slavery have gone farther to corrupt public virtue, and to blind our rulers to its true nature, than is yet dreamed by the most anxious lover of true freedom.
This administration contemplated no raid on the rights of the slaveholders. They were all to be respected; but because these slave holders could no longer rule the nation, fill its offices, shape its policy and pocket the salaries they resolved upon its ruin. Whether in their rebellion it was a primary object to perpetuate and extend slavery, or to use it as a means to found a new government of which themselves should be the rulers, it amounts to the same thing — slavery is the cause of the war, and the government would have been justifiable in the outset, or as soon as the true nature and extent of the treason was ascertained, to have aimed its blows directly at the cause and forever removed it from the nation. We only say justifiable — not that it would have been expedient, as many things are right which are not expedient. It was not deemed expedient then because it was supposed the rebellion could be put down without resorting to such an extreme measure — one which would change the whole aspect of Southern society. None but the avowed abolitionists urged it, and indeed some of them — the Garrisonian school — sustained the principle of secession, as by it they expect to be released from all moral responsibility for, and connection with slavery.
At the called session of Congress its members had learned that the rebellion was far more formidable that had been supposed, and that slavery was playing a vitally important part in the war, hence Congress decreed the confiscation of all slaves actually employed by their masters in insurrectionary purposes. This was a step so far in advance that the President, who by some strange fatuity seems no longer to share the impulses of the people, signed the bill with great reluctance. And yet so just was it — so wise as a military measure — that it aroused scarcely any opposition. Then a month after, with Missouri open to a barbarous warfare, came Fremont's proclamation freeing all the slaves of rebel masters, which in view of the necessity that impelled it — the anarchy which reigned in Missouri and the necessity for some bold measure to check the tide of treason — drew only plaudits from all parties. Not a professedly loyal paper in all the North, so far as we know, ventured to assail it. Rumors soon came from Washington that its author would be removed, but they were not credited or confirmed, and the public mind cheerfully settled down to the conviction that at last boldness had usurped the place of timidity among our rulers, and that the cause of treason was now to be recognized and dealt with as a rational physician would do who attempted to effect a permant cure for his patient.
The primal object of the war, we grant, is the disarming of treason. When a squad of policemen are sent to arrest a thief, they do not batter down the door of his house if it be unbolted, but do it, if at all, only as a means to an end. We aim simply to restore the Union, and, bad as it is under all circumstances, would not batter down slavery were it not that treason is entrenched behind it. We are willing to see it die a slower death, and one which will not involve its devotees in ruin, still, when it dies, whether slowly or suddenly, there is a consolation in knowing that the future peace of the republic is secure.
There is a most striking absurdity in the President's order. He assents to martial law, yet wants it to conform to civil law. Martial law is the law of war, the law of force, the privilege, as defined by the Duke of Wellington, "to do as a General pleases in an enemy's country," and is eminently uncivil in its nature. Besides, the distinction it makes favors nobody but traitors. While Fremont takes all their property and condemns them to death, the President says that part of their loyalty — the moving cause of the rebellion — must be spared to them, or at least to their heirs! He says too, in effect, that raising "hog and hominy" for the rebels to sustain them while fighting to overthrow the government is a perfectly proper business — there is no "aid and comfort" to treason in it. Why, then, under this ruling, he does not allow Northern citizens to send South their surplus provisions and manufacturers, is more than we can understand.
Who was afraid of Fremont's proclamation? None but traitors. Who are delighted at the President's order? Only traitors and their sympathizers. The President has struck a blow for treason — unintentionally of course — but none the less effective. Every Confederate rejoices, not only at the immunity it gives him, but at the want of sagacity displayed of adapting means to ends. They will go into battle with renewed vigor, and over the loyal North there falls a sadness scarcely less than that caused by the terrible Bull Run disaster.
However, our faith in the success of the Union cause is still strong. This unwise act will do something to check enthusiasm and enlistments, and to some extent will dispirit our soldiers, as men always fight best when they have faith in the [unknown]acity of their leaders. The war will ta[unknown] drag on, but the result will hardly be [unknown]less certain. Love for the Union, and sc[unknown] of incapacity, timidity and half-way measures will finally overthrow the present p[unknown] and then, terrible as may be the immediate effect — speaking our opinion only, not ou[unknown] — a blow will be struck that will send [unknown]ry to an early grave. The nation will eme[unknown]om such a contest wounded, weak and [unknown]ing; but with the new atmosphere tha[unknown] pervade it, it will rise to a health and s[unknown] as yet unknown in the annals of repub[unknown].
Fremont's policy w[unknown] have sent thousands of traitors back to loya[unknown] and have ended the war with far less of "a[unknown]ition" and bloodshed than will now be the result. The President's act will increase the chances for total emancipation, and that too in its most violent form next to insurrection, and even that may come! None but the rankest abolitionists, shortsighted, timid men and bigots, can approve of the step he has taken, for though ultimate good may result, the same end would be reached with less risk, danger and bloodshed, by the more gradual policy Republicans have ever had in view.