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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 8, No. 50, December, 1861
Author: Various
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We believe the immediate cause of the Southern Rebellion to be something far deeper than any social prejudice or political theory on the part of slaveholders, or any general apprehension of danger to their peculiar property. That cause is a moral one, and is to be found in the recklessness, the conceit, the sophistry, the selfishness, which are necessarily engendered by Slavery itself. A generation of men educated to justify a crime against the Law of Nature because it is profitable, will hardly be restrained long by any merely political obligation, when they have been persuaded to see their advantage in the breach of it. Why not, then, at once lay the axe to the root of the mischief? Why did not England attack Irish Catholicism in 1848? Why does not Louis Napoleon settle the Papal Question with a stroke of his pen? Because the action of a constitutional government is limited by constitutional obligations. Because every government, even if despotic, must be guided by policy rather than abstract right or reason. Because, in our own case, so much pains have been taken to persuade the people of some peculiar sanctity in human property, and to teach them the duty of yielding their moral instincts to their duty as citizens, that even the Free States are by no means ripe for a crusade. The single and simple duty of the Government is to put down resistance to its legitimate authority; it meddles, and can meddle, with no claim of right except the monstrous one of rebellion. An absolute ruler in advance of his people has been more than once obliged to abandon his reforms to save his throne; a popular government which should put itself in the same position might endanger not only its own hold upon power, (a minor consideration,) but, in such a crisis as ours, the very frame of society itself. We must admit that the administration of Mr. Lincoln has sometimes seemed to us over-cautious; that, while it has not scrupled, and wisely has not scrupled, to go behind the letter of the law to its spirit, in dealing with open abettors of treason in the Free States, because they were perverting private right to public wrong, it has been as scrupulous of meddling with a rebel's legal right in man, though that man were being used for a weapon or a tool against itself, as if to touch it were anathema. The divinity, which is only a hedge about a king, becomes a wall of triple brass about a slaveholder.

But while we should prefer a more daring, or at least a more definite policy on the part of the Government, we do not think the time has come for turning the war into a crusade. The example of saints, martyrs, and heroes, who could disregard consequences because the consequences concerned only themselves and their own life, is for the private man, and not for the statesman who is responsible for the complex life of the commonwealth. To carry on a war we must have money, to get money we must have the confidence of the money-holders, who would not advance a dollar on a pledge of the finest sentiments in the world. There is something instructive in the fate of that mob of enthusiasts who followed the banner of Walter the Penniless, a name of evil omen. It saves trouble to say that we must fight the Devil with fire; though, when the Devil is incarnate in human beings, that policy has never been very successful at Smithfield or elsewhere. But in trying the fiery cure of a servile insurrection, we should run the risk of converting the whole white population of the South into devils of the most desperate sort, with whom any kind of reconciliation, even truce, would be impossible.

We hope and believe that the end of this war will see the snake of Slavery scotched, if not killed. Events move,—slowly, to be sure, but they move,—and the thought of the people moves with them unconsciously to fulfil the purposes of God. Government can do little, perhaps, in controlling them; but it has no right to the power it holds, if it has not the insight and the courage to make use of them at the right moment. If the supreme question should arise of submitting to rebellion or of crushing it in a common ruin with the wrong that engendered it, we believe neither the Government nor the people would falter. The time for answering that question may be nearer than we dream; but meanwhile we would not hasten what would at best be a terrible necessity, and justifiable only as such. We believe this war is to prepare the way for the extinction of Slavery by the action of economical causes, and we should prefer that solution to one of fire and blood. Already the system has received a death-blow in Maryland and Missouri. In Western Virginia it is practically extinct. If the war is carried on with vigor, it may become so before long in East Tennessee. Texas should be taken possession of and held at any cost, and a territory capable of supplying the world with cotton to any conceivable amount thrown open to free labor.

However regarded, this war into which we have been driven is, in fact, a war against Slavery. But emancipation is not and could not be the object of the war. It will be time enough to consider the question as one of military necessity when our armies advance. To proclaim freedom from the banks of the Potomac to an unarmed, subject, and dispirited race, when the whole white population is in arms, would be as futile as impolitic. Till we can equip our own army, it is idle to talk of arming the slaves; and to incite them to insurrection without arms, and without the certainty of support at first and protection afterward, would be merely sacrificing them to no good end. It is true, the war may lack the ardent stimulus that would for a time be imparted to it by a direct and obvious moral purpose. But we doubt whether the impulse thus gained would hold out long against the immense practical obstacles with which it would be confronted and the chill of disappointment which is sure to follow an attempt to realize ideal good by material means. Nor would our gain in this respect more than compensate for the strength which would be added to the rebels by despair. It is a question we have hardly the heart to discuss, where our wishes, our hopes, almost our faith in God, are on one side, our understanding and experience on the other.

Nor are we among those who would censure the Government for undue leniency. If democracy has made us a good-natured people, it is a strong argument in its favor, and we need have no fear that the evil passions of men will ever be buried beyond hope of resurrection. We would not have this war end without signal and bitter retribution, and especially for all who have been guilty of deliberate treachery; for that is a kind of baseness that should be extirpated at any cost. If, in moments of impatience, we have wished for something like the rough kingship of Jackson, cooler judgment has convinced us that the strength of democratic institutions will be more triumphantly vindicated by success under an honest Chief Magistrate of average capacity than under a man exceptional, whether by force of character or contempt of precedent.

Is this, then, to be a commonplace war, a prosaic and peddling quarrel about Cotton? Shall there be nothing to enlist enthusiasm or kindle fanaticism? Are we to have no Cause like that for which our English republican ancestors died so gladly on the field, with such dignity on the scaffold?—no Cause that shall give us a hero, who knows but a Cromwell? To our minds, though it may be obscure to Englishmen who look on Lancashire as the centre of the universe, no army was ever enlisted for a nobler service than ours. Not only is it national life and a foremost place among nations that is at stake, but the vital principle of Law itself, the august foundation on which the very possibility of government, above all of self-government, rests as in the hollow of God's own hand. If democracy shall prove itself capable of having raised twenty millions of people to a level of thought where they can appreciate this cardinal truth, and can believe no sacrifice too great for its defence and establishment, then democracy will have vindicated itself beyond all chance of future cavil. Here, we think, is a Cause the experience of whose vicissitudes and the grandeur of whose triumph will be able to give us heroes and statesmen. The Slave-Power must be humbled, must be punished,—so humbled and so punished as to be a warning forever; but Slavery is an evil transient in its cause and its consequences, compared with those which would result from unsettling the faith of a nation in its own manhood, and setting a whole generation of men hopelessly adrift in the formless void of anarchy.



REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.

The Armies of Europe: Comprising Descriptions in Detail of the Military Systems of England, France, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sardinia, adapting their Advantages to all Arms of the United States Service; and embodying the Report of Observations in Europe during the Crimean War, as Military Commissioner from the United Stales Government in 1855-56. By GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Major-General U.S. Army. Originally published under the Direction of the War Department, by Order of Congress. Illustrated with a Fine Steel Portrait and Several Hundred Engravings. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co. 8vo.

It is an interesting study to examine into the causes or motives which have produced military books of the higher order; for we are thus vouchsafed an insight into the writer's genius, and an intelligence of the circumstances amidst which he wrote, and of which he was often an important controller. The Archduke Charles wrote his "Grundsaetze der Strategie," etc., as a vindication of his splendid movements in 1796, against the French armies of the Rhine and the Sambre-et-Meuse; and it has remained at once a monument to his achievements and a standard text-book in military science. Marmont, the Marshal Duke of Ragusa, collecting the principles of the art of war from "long and frequent conversations with Napoleon, twenty campaigns, and more than half a century of experience," has given us, in his "Esprit des Institutions Militaires," a condensed view of his own military life, as complete, if not as pleasantly diffuse, as his large volumes of "Memoires." Jomini, from an extended experience, and a study of the genius of Napoleon, which his Russian position could never induce him to undervalue, has produced those standard works which must always remain the treasure-houses of military knowledge. We admire veracity, but let no soldier confess that he has not read the "Vie Politique et Militaire," and the "Precis de l'Art de la Guerre." But, in all these cases, the litera scripta has been but the closing act,—the signing of the name to History's bead-roll of passing greatness,—the testamentum of the old soldier whose personalty is worth bequeathing to the world.

The work before us, although of great value and present importance, is of a very different character; as a glance at the circumstances which produced it will show. It has, however, we would fondly hope, anticipated for its youthful author a greater success.

In 1855, Mr. Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War, sent a military commission to Europe, composed of Major Delafield of the Engineers, Major Mordecai of the Ordnance, and Captain McClellan, just promoted from a Lieutenancy of Engineers to a Captaincy in the Cavalry. Major Delafield was charged with the special subject of Engineering; Major Mordecai with Ordnance and Gunnery; and to Captain McClellan was assigned the duty of a general report upon the Organization of Armies, with a special hearing upon the formation of Infantry and Cavalry. Each of these gentlemen has written a book, and that of McClellan, originally published as a Report to the Secretary of War,—in unmanageable quarto, and at a more unmanageable price,—is now issued, in the volume before us, with the very appropriate title, "The Armies of Europe," and in a convenient form for the eye and the purse.

Whatever of technical value the other reports may have,—and they are, we doubt not, excellent,—McClellan's is the only one of popular interest, the only one of rounded proportions and general importance; and if it also contain much addressed to the professional soldier, it must be remembered that the country is now being educated up to the intelligent perusal of such books.

Travelling in all the principal countries of Europe,—Montesquieu's assertion is now verified, that "only great nations can have large armies,"—the commission met everywhere proper facilities for observation. McClellan made full notes upon the spot, procured all the books of Tactics, Regulations, Military Laws, etc., and provided himself with such models of arms, equipments, saddles, bridles, tents, etc., as were easily transported. Operations of a difficult and laborious character, such as carrying horses on shipboard, are fully demonstrated with diagrams. Marches, manoeuvres, detachments, battles, are fully disclosed. Such investigations, when the French, Italian, or German language was the medium, were comparatively easy; but in order to give a proper comparative view, he was obliged also to study Russian, which he did successfully; by this means he has given us a masterly summary of the Russian system, with its immense battalions, its thousands of military schools, and its Cossack skirmishers, of wonderful endurance and formidable fierceness.

The volume is a complete description in detail of the principal armies, and of wider scope than would be expected; for, while the author has been very full upon the special topics assigned him, which did not include the duties of Engineers and Engineer Troops, it is easy to see everywhere that these latter would intrude themselves with the siren charms of a first love, and nothing but the record could dissolve the spell. Indeed, he urgently recommends to the Government the organization of Engineer troops, specifying their equipments, points of instruction, and duties. In this department, his description of Military Bridges is of great value. Incident to the faithful descriptions contained in the Report, and by far the most valuable feature of the work, we would specify his comments upon all that he saw. They are manly and bold, but raisonnes and just. They give token of that originality of thought which we call genius. The opening chapter on the Crimean War is the only fair critique of that gallant, but mismanaged campaign we remember to have seen. The author's object is to exhibit the movements of both Allies and Russians

"As truth will paint them, and as bards will not."

When MeClellan's work first appeared, the "Athenaeum" took up spear and shield; but, selon conseil, McClellan declined to reply, and the champion fought the air, without injuring the record.

A prime interest attaches to this work, because, unconsciously, the author has given us, in advance, his repertory of instruments and principles. From the written word we may anticipate the brilliant achievement, while in every case the action may be tested by a reference to the recorded principle.

The retirement of Scott places McClellan in a position where he will have neither partner nor censor in his plans and movements. The graceful and appropriate manner in which the old veteran leaves the field, which age and infirmity will no longer allow him to command, is but a fitting prelude to the military rule of one upon whose brow the dew of youth still rests, and who brings to his responsible task the highest qualities, combined with a veneration for the noble virtues and an emulation of the magnanimous career of his predecessor, at once honorable and inspiring.

Spare Hours. By JOHN BROWN, M.D., Author of "Rab and his Friends." Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 16mo.

It has not yet been satisfactorily explained why doctors are such shrewd and genial men, and, when they appear in the literary field, such charming writers. This is one of the curious problems of the day, and undoubtedly holds its own answer in solution, but has not yet seen fit to make an observable precipitate. Perhaps this is because the times are stirring, and the facts cannot settle. A delightful exhibition is made of something extremely good to take, which we swallow unscrupulously: in other words, we can only guess how many scruples, and of what, this blessed medicine for the mind contains. As it is eminently fit for every American to have an hypothesis upon every subject, we might now, with proper recklessness, rush into print with a few unhesitating suggestions upon this singular phenomenon of doctors gifted and graceful with the pen.

We observe, at any rate, that it is something independent of climate and locality, and not at all endemic. Otherwise it might be true that the restless and inquisitive climate of the Atlantic coast, which wears the ordinary Yankee to leanness, and "establishes a raw" upon the nervous system, does soften to acuteness, mobility, and racy corrugation in the breast of its natural ally, the Doctor. For autocratic tempers are bland towards each other, and murderous characteristics can mutually impart something homologous to the refining interchange of beautiful souls. Therefore we do not yet know how much our climate is indebted to our doctors. It may be suspected that they understand each other, as the quack and the fool do, whose interests are identical.

But this will not account for the literary talent of the doctors. For they write books in England and Scotland, in France and temperate Germany, in every latitude and with a good deal; they are, however, defective in longitude, which is remarkable, when we consider how they will protract their cases. With their pens they are prompt, clean, humane in the matter of ink, their first intention almost always successful, their thought expelled by natural cerebral contraction without stimulus, (we speak of ergot, but of "old rye" we know nothing,) their passion running to its crisis in the minimum of time, and their affections altogether pleasanter than anything of the kind they accuse us of having, as well as less lingering. But with their pills—well, we all know how our ills are nursed by medicine. Is it a relief that their precept is less tedious than their practice? It is good policy for us, perhaps, if our minds are to be under treatment from their books,—and it grows plainer every day that no person of mind can well escape from them,—that our bodies should continue subject to their boluses. Thus we may die daily, but our incorporeal part is better acclimated in the invisible world of truths and realities.

No,—the doctors owe nothing to climate or race. The intelligent ones are everywhere broad, acute, tender, and religious. They uniformly see what is natural and what is morbid, what is fact and what is fancy, what is cutaneous and what is vital, in men and women. They stand on unreal, conventional terms with nothing. They know healthy from inflamed tissues, and run down, grab, and give one dexterous fatal shake to a tissue of lies. One of Dr. Brown's terriers is not more swift, exact, and uncompromising after vermin. This excellent sense for unvarnished realities has been attributed by some to their habit of visiting so many interiors—of men and of their houses—whose swell-fronts are pervious to the sincerity of pain. We never see a doctor's chaise anchored at a door but we imagine the doctor taking in freight up-stairs. In these days he is beginning to receive more than he gives. Let no sarcastic person allude to doctors' fees. We mean that the physician, whose humanity and intelligence are broad diplomas, on presenting which the doors of hearts and houses open with a welcome, enters into the choicest field of his education and research, where his tender observation walks the wards of thought, feeling, and motive, to amass the facts of health and suffering, to be refined at the true drama of pathos, to be ennobled by the spectacle of fair and lofty spiritual traits, to be advised of the weaknesses which he learns to touch lightly with his caustic, while his knowing and friendly look deprecates all excess of pain. It is a school of shrewdness, gentleness, and faith.

But a rich subject is here, altogether too wide for a book-notice, and worthy of deliberate, but enthusiastic treatment. Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh has consulted his own interior, and frequented those of his diocese, to some purpose. The pieces in this volume, which the publishers have selected from the two volumes of "Horae Subsecivae," omitting the more professional papers, are full of humor, tenderness, and common sense. They betray only occasionally, in a technical way, that the author is a disciple, as well as admirer, of Sydenham, and his own countryman, Cullen. But they overflow with the best specifics of the healing art, shrewdness, independence, nice observation; they have a woman's kindness and a man's sturdiness. They honor human nature not the less because the writer knows how to manage it, to raise a smile at its absurdities, to rally, pique, and guide it into health and good-humor. He is very clever with the edge-tools in his surgeon's-case; he whips you out an excrescence before you are quite aware that he meditated an operation, and you find that he had chloroformed you with a shrewd writer's best anaesthetic, a humorous and genial temper.

There is a great deal of nice writing here. Happy words come at a call and occupy their inevitable places. Now and then a Scotch word, with a real terrier phiz and the best qualities of "black and tan," gives the page a local flavor which we should not like to miss. But the writing is not provincial. There is Scotch character everywhere: the keenness, intensity, reverence, shaggy humor, sly fun, and just a touch of the intolerance. The somewhat literal regard for Scripture, the awe, and the unquestioning, childlike way of being religious, with the independence of Kirk and Sessions and National Establishments, all belong to the best intelligence of Edinburgh. But the literary felicity, the scholarship, the various reading, the cultivated appreciation of books, men, and systems, while they make us admire—as a good many bright volumes printed in Edinburgh have done before—the mental power and refinement which that most picturesque of Northern cities nourishes, do still belong to the great commonwealth of letters, remind us not of wynds and closes, and run away from the littleness of time and place.

If the reader would understand the difference between the sentimental and the pathetic treatment of a subject, let him see in "Rab and his Friends" how the pen of Dr. Brown follows the essential lines of that most pure and tender of all stories. In doing so he has given us a new creation in Ailie Noble. Not a line can be effectively added to that ideal narrative of a true history, not a word can be pushed from its place. The whole treatment is at once delicate, incisive, tender, reserved, and dramatic. And after reading it,—with or without tears, according to your capacity for dogged resistance to a distended lachrymal duct,—you will be conscious of bearing away a sweet and subduing impression, like that which a rare friend can sometimes give, which lingers many days.

Let nobody omit to read the "Letter to John Cairns, D.D.," because he does not care for J.C. or know who he is. It contains some reminiscences by Dr. Brown of his father, a noted clergyman, of whose life and character Dr. Cairns had prepared a memoir. In this, and in the Essay upon Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Brown shows his capacity to observe and portray human moods and characteristics. There are his usual literary excellences, brought to the service of a keen and faithfully reporting eye, and his fine humane qualities, his tenderness, reverence, and humor.

This volume is one of the best ventures of the literary year.

Cecil Dreeme. By THEODORE WINTHROP. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 16mo.

In the death of Major Winthrop, at the promising commencement of his military career, the nation lost one of its purest, noblest, and most capable spirits. His industry, sagacity, and intrepidity all rested on a firm basis of fixed principle and deep enthusiasm; and had he lived, we have little doubt that both his moral and practical power would have been felt among the palpable forces of the country. In the articles he contributed to this magazine, describing his brief military experience, every reader must have recognized the singular brightness of his mind and the singular joyousness of his courage. Powers which, in meditation, worked at the bidding of pensive or melancholy sentiments, seemed to be braced by action into unwonted healthiness and hilarity; and had he survived the experience of the present war, there can be little doubt that his intellect and imagination would, by contact with events, have been developed to their full capacity, and found expression in literary works of remarkable power.

"Cecil Dreeme" is one of several novels he wrote before the war broke out, and it conveys a striking impression of his genius and disposition. The utmost sensitiveness and delicacy of moral sense were combined in him with a rough delight in all the manifestations of manly strength; and these two tendencies of his nature are fitly embodied and exquisitely harmonized in the characters of Cecil Dreeme and Robert Byng. They are opposites which by their very nature are necessarily attracted to each other. The obstacle to their mental and moral union is found in a third person, Densdeth, in whom manly strength and genius have been corrupted by selfishness and sensuality into the worst form of spiritual evil. This person is simply abhorred by Cecil, while Byng finds in him something which tempts appetite, piques curiosity, develops sensuous feeling, and provokes pride, as well as something which excites moral disgust and loathing. Byng's distrustful love for Emma Denman admirably represents this stage of his moral experience.

Densdeth is undoubtedly the central character of the book. It proves its creator to be a true spiritual as well as physical descendant of President Edwards; and not even his ancestor has shown more vividly the "exceeding sinfulness of sin." Densdeth is one of those evil natures in whom delight in evil pleasures has subsided into a delight in evil itself, and a desire to communicate it to others. He has the diabolical power of calling out the latent evil in all natures with whom his own comes in contact, and he corrupts, not so much by example, as by a direct communication of the corrupt spiritual life of his individual being. He is an accomplished devil, wearing the guise of a New-York man of fashion and fortune,—a devil such as tempts every person thrown into the vortex of our daily commonplace life. Every pure sentiment, noble aspiration, and manly instinct, every natural affection, gentle feeling, and religious principle, is tainted by his contaminating companionship. He infuses a subtle skepticism of the reality of goodness by the mere magnetism of his evil presence. Persons who have been guarded against the usual contrivances by which the conventional Devil works his wonders find themselves impotent before the fascinations of Densdeth. They follow while they detest him, and are at once his victims and his accomplices. In those whose goodness, like that of Cecil Dreeme, is founded on purity of sentiment and strength of principle, he excites unmitigated abhorrence and strenuous opposition; but on all those whose excellence is "respectable" rather than vital, who are good by the felicity of their circumstances rather than the force of their conscience, he exercises a fascination almost irresistible. To everybody, indeed, who has in him any latent evil not overbalanced by the habitual performance of positive duties, Densdeth's companionship is morally blighting. The character, fearful in its way as the Mephistopheles of Goethe, is represented with considerable artistic skill.

Though the most really prominent person in the drama, he is, in the representation, kept in the background,—a cynical, sneering, brilliant demi-devil, who appears only when some plot against innocence is beginning its wiles or approaching its consummation.

The incidents of the novel occur in some of the best-known localities of New York. Nobody can mistake Chuzzlewit Hotel and Chrysalis College. Every traveller has put up at the first and visited some literary or artistic friend at the second. Indeed, Winthrop seems to have deliberately chosen the localities of his story with the special purpose of showing that passions almost as terrible as those which are celebrated in the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles may rage in the ordinary lodging-houses of New York. He has succeeded in throwing an atmosphere of mystery over places which are essentially commonplace; and he has done it by the intensity with which he has conceived and represented the internal thoughts, struggles, and emotions of the men and women by whom these edifices of brick and stone are inhabited.

Though a clear narrator, when the story required clear narration, Winthrop perfectly understood the art of narrating by implication and allusion. He paints distinctly and minutely, not omitting a single detail, when the occasion demands such faithful representation of real facts and localities; but he has also the power of flashing his meaning by suggestive hints which the most labored description and explication could not make more effective. He makes the mind of the reader work sympathetically with his own in building up the idea he seeks to convey. Crimes which are nameless are mutually understood by this refined communion between author and reader. The mystery of the plot is not directly explained, but each party seems to bring, as in private conversation, his individual sagacity to bear upon the right interpretation.

The style of the book is admirable. It is brief almost to abruptness. The words are few, and are crammed with all the meaning they can hold. There is not a page which does not show that the writer is an economist of expression, and desirous of conveying his matter with the slightest possible expenditure of ink. Charles Reade himself does not condense with a more fretful impatience of all circumlocution and a profounder reliance on the absolute import of single words.

We might easily refer to particular scenes from this book, illustrative of the author's descriptive and representative powers. Among many which might be noticed, we will allude to only two,—that in which Cecil is revived from his "sleep of death," and that in the opera-house, where Byng is apprised of the guilt of Emma Denman. Nobody can read either without feeling that in the disastrous fight of Great Bethel we lost a great novelist as well as a chivalrous soldier and a noble man.

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The Armies of Europe: Comprising Descriptions in Detail of the Military Systems of England, France, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sardinia, adapting their Advantages to all Arms of the United States Service; and embodying the Report of Observations in Europe during the Crimean War, as Military Commissioner from the United States Government in 1835-56. By George B. McClellan, Major-General United States Army. Originally published under the Direction of the War Department, by Order of Congress. Illustrated with Several Hundred Engravings. Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co. 8vo. pp. 499. $3.00.

Tales of a Grandfather. History of Scotland. By Sir Walter Scott, Bart. With Notes. In Six Volumes. Boston. Ticknor & Fields. 16mo. Vols. I. and II. pp. xii., 301; vi., 301. per vol. 75 cts.

The Okavango River. A Narrative of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure. By Charles John Andersson. With Maps and Illustrations. New York. Harper & Brothers. 8vo. pp. 414. $2.00.

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