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They perceived and asserted that truth; they fought
for it, and died or lived for it, as the case might be. So they
constructed this great Republic, grounding it firmly upon a deep
and wide democracy. Its frame-work was essentially democratic,
but there were a few great beams and joists, and plenty of paint
and mortar used, which were as purely aristocratic.

We, here at the North, have been accustomed to look at the
strength of the foundations, and of the consistent massive
frame-work; they, at the South, admired the incongruous ornaments
and decorations, and they did not forget any of the exceptional
timbers. We were shocked when the great structure seemed ready to
tumble about our ears; they expected it all the time, and were
working for it, ready to perish in the general downfall, if that
were inevitable. I have seen a drop of water spread over a small
orifice in a layer of melting ice, which was brilliant red in
color to me, but it was the intensest blue to my friend, who was
standing at my side. The moral vision is quite as largely
dependent upon the angle at which it receives its rays of
reflected light. North and South represent the extremes of the
moral spectrum. The equalizing of labor and capital, which is a
beautiful violet to us, is a very angry red to them; and the
soft-toned hues of their system of servitude are crimson with
blood-guiltiness to ourselves. If we stood where the perfect and
undivided sunbeams could fall upon us, we should see all men
under the common radiance of that pure white light, of which
Providence has an unlimited supply.

No more unanimity of sentiment or principle existed among our own
people in the war of the Revolution, than in this. Democracy,
asserting its rights, brought on the conflict then, though
aristocracy, goaded by the instinct of self-preservation and
self-interest, joined hands and aided it to its consummation.
Patriotism grew in the hearts of each, and held us together as a
nation for about eighty years; but the subordinate antagonism,
tortured by its unnatural alliance during all those years, now in
turn strikes also for independence. Predominance, precedence,
pre-eminence, might have satisfied it for a time; but, from the
nature of our institutions, that was impossible. It encroached at
every point, and was generally rewarded for its self-assertion;
but it was inherently and constitutionally subordinate, and must
have remained so forever in the federation of the United States.
It struck for independence, and it did well! It did all it could
do, if it would not die inanely. One must always admire that
instinct of the grub which leads it to weave its own
winding-sheet, and lie down fearlessly in its sepulcher,
preparatory to its resurrection as a butterfly; but immeasurably
more to be admired is the calculating courage of men who are
ready to stake their all upon any issue--even upon one so
mistaken, so false, so partial to one class and so unjust to
another, as the cause of the slave-holders. Every earnest purpose
must have its own baptism of blessings.

We, the inheritors of a sublime truth, have been grievously
wanting in faith in our heritage!--wanting in aim and purpose to
maintain its integrity! No wonder the land is still washed with
tears of the widowed and fatherless, and that stricken mothers
refuse to be comforted. Give us a living principle to die for.
"Make this a war for emancipation!" cries anti-slavery England,
"and our sympathies will be with you!" They demand much; but,
that demand granted, it yet falls infinitely below the real point
at issue. It is immeasurably short of the great conflict which we
are actually waging. It is one phase of it,--the most acute
phase, undoubtedly; but not, therefore, the broadest and most
momentous one. Slavery was the peculiar institution of the South;
but we, as a nation, have an incomparably greater peculiar
institution of our own. The one is only peculiarly exceptional to
our general policy; the other is essentially and organically at
war with it. It is the only thing which pointedly distinguishes
us from a dozen other nations. The consent of the governed is the
sole, legitimate authority of any government! This is the
essential, peculiar creed of our republic. That principle is on
one side of this war; and the old doctrine of might makes right,
the necessary ground-work of all monarchies, is on the other. It
is a life-and-death conflict between all those grand, universal,
man-respecting principles, which we call by the comprehensive
term democracy, and all those partial, person-respecting,
class-favoring elements which we group together under that
silver-slippered word aristocracy. If this war does not mean
that, it means nothing.

Slavery is malignantly aristocratic, and seems therefore to
absorb all other manifestations of the principle into itself. It
is Pharaoh's lean kine, which devour all the others of their
species, and yet are no better favored than before. But if
slavery were dead to-day, aristocracy might still grind our
republic to powder. Men may cease to be slaves, and yet not be
enfranchised. Although they are no longer bondmen, yet they may
be governed without their own consent. But when you deny the
universal enfranchisement of our people, you deny the one
distinctive principle of our Government, and the only essential,
fore-ordained fact in the future of our national institutions. We
do not at all comprehend this.

There was one who builded wiser than he knew, Emerson says, and I
think that result is not uncommon. The little Indian boy in the
pleasant fable, who ran on eagerly in advance of his migrating
tribe, to plant his single, three-cornered beech-nut in the
center of a great prairie, scarcely foresaw the many acres of
heavy timber which was to confront the white pioneer hundreds of
years afterward, as the outgrowth of his childish deed. Many
soldiers are fighting our battles upon a basis broader than they
know. There are men who believe that they are solely engaged in
putting down the rebellion; others are maintaining the disputed
courage and honor of the "mudsills"; some are fighting to uphold
our present Northern civilization and its institutions; and a
handful have set out definitely to carry these into the South, to
give them to the slave, and to the master also, in spite of
himself. All love the Union, and are ready to fight, perhaps to
die, for it. Aye! but what does that mean? Something as
antagonistic in the interpretation thereof as the decisions
touching an ancient oracle, a disputed biblical text, or a knotty
passage from our own venerated Constitution.

If victory should come just as she is summoned by each class of
our patriotic and brave Union volunteers, would she most favor
the rebels or the Government? Look at some of her conflicting
purposed achievements:

1. To preserve slavery unharmed, without so much as the smell of
fire upon its garments, when it shall emerge from the ordeal of
war.

2. To gratuitously establish slavery forever, by solemn and
unchanging guarantees.

3. To leave slavery to perish slowly and ingloriously, as it must
when unprotected.

4. To cripple and destroy slavery by a long guerrilla warfare
against its special manifestations.

5. To kill slavery at a blow, by right of an imperious and
undoubted military necessity.

6. To exterminate slavery without compromise or weighing of
consequences, because it is a gross moral wrong.

These are a few of the many platforms upon which husbands,
brothers and sons are fighting to-day. No two opposing armies
ever wearied heaven with asking more impossible cross-purposes
than does this fraternal, Union army of ours. The bread and fish
of these, are stones and scorpions to those. We are a practical
people, but we are fighting for practical paradoxes. Do we expect
any massive concentration of results? Our wavering, anaconda
system of warfare is typical of our moral status as a people. It
is the spontaneous and legitimate exponent of our aims and
motives. Many or decisive victories I despair of, till we are
better educated in the early lesson of the fathers. But from the
President--God bless him that he seems to be more teachable than
many others--down to the youngest drummer-boy of the army, the
severe discipline of this war is schooling us into a better
appreciation of our heritage as a peculiar people.

All governments, said the fathers, are subordinate to the people,
not the people to their governments. The distinct enunciation of
that principle was the net result of the war of the Revolution.
Born of the long-suffering and anguish of bleeding nations, its
worth is yet incomparably greater than the cost, for it is the
sublimest principle which has ever entered into the governmental
relations of men. It must turn and overturn till, as rightful
sovereign it is placed securely upon the throne of all nations,
for, from the inherent nature of things, it is destined to become
the mightiest revolutionist of the ages. The reinstating of that
principle in the chair of our Republic will be the net result of
this war of the Rebellion!

When the statesmen of '76 sought to embody this principle in the
complicated machinery of a vast government, there they partially
failed--there they designedly failed. The minority seceded from
it in that day as in this, and then they compromised.



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