Suggested to Mr. Seward that the best diplomacy was to take possession of Virginia. Doing this, we will find all the cabinets smooth and friendly.
I seldom saw a man with greater facility of labor than Seward. When once he is at work, it runs torrent-like from his pen. His mind is elastic. His principal forte is argument on any given case. But the question is how far he masters the variegated information so necessary in a statesman, and the more now, when the country earnestly has such dangerous questions with European cabinets. He is still cheerful, hopeful, and prophesies a speedy end.
Seward has no Know-Nothingism about him. He is easy, and may have many genuine generous traits in his character, were they not compressed by the habits of the, not lofty, politician. At present, Seward is a moral dictator; he has Lincoln in his hand, and is all in all. Very likely he flatters him and imposes upon his simple mind by his over-bold, dogmatic, but not over-correct and logical, generalizations. Seward's finger is in all the other departments, but above all in the army.
The opposition made to Seward is not courageous, not open, not dignified. Such an opposition betrays the weakness of the opposers, and does not inspire respect. It is darkly surreptitious. These opponents call Seward hard names, but do this in a corner, although most of them have their parliamentary chair wherefrom they can speak. If he is bad and mischievous, then unite your forces and overthrow him; if he is not bad, or if you are not strong enough against him, do not cover yourself with ridicule, making a show of impotent malice. When the Senate confirmed him, every one throughout the land knew his vacillating policy; knew him to be for compromise, for concessions; knew that he disbelieved in the terrible earnestness of the struggle, and always prophesied its very speedy end. The Senate confirmed Seward with open eyes. Perhaps at the start his imagination and his patriotism made him doubt and disbelieve in the enormity of treason—he could not realize that the traitors would go to the bitter end. Seemingly, Seward still hopes that one day or another they may return as forlorn sheep. Under the like impressions, he always believed, and perhaps still believes, he shall be able to patch up the quarrel, and be the savior of the Union. Very probably his imagination, his ardent wishes, carry him away, and confuse that clear insight into events which alone constitutes the statesman.
Suggested to Sumner to demand the reduction of the tariff on certain merchandises, on the plea of fraternity of the working American people with their brethren the operatives all over Europe; by it principally I wished to alleviate the condition of French industry, as I have full confidence in Louis Napoleon, and in the unsophisticated judgment of the genuine French people. The suggestion did not take with the Senate.
When the July telegraph brought the news of the victory at Romney (Western Virginia), it was about midnight. Mr. Seward warmly congratulated the President that "the secession was over." What a far-reaching policy!
When the struggle will be over, England, at least her Tories, aristocrats, and politicians, will find themselves baffled in their ardent wishes for the breaking of the Union. The free States will look tidy and nice, as in the past. But more than one generation will pass before ceases to bleed the wound inflicted by the lies, the taunts, the vituperations, poured in England upon this noble, generous, and high-minded people; upon the sacred cause defended by the freemen.
These freemen of America, up to the present time, incarnate the loftiest principle in the successive, progressive, and historical development of man. Nations, communities, societies, institutions, stand and fall with that principle, whatever it be, whereof they are the incarnation; so teaches us history. Woe to these freemen if they will recede from the principle; if they abandon human rights; if they do not crush human bondage, this sum of all infamies. Certainly the question paramount to all is, to save and preserve pure self-government in principle and in its direct application. But although the question of slavery seems to be incidental and subordinate to the former, virtually the question of slavery is twin to the former. Slavery serves as a basis, as a nurse, for the most infamous and abject aristocracy or oligarchy that was ever built up in history, and any, even the best, the mildest, and the most honest oligarchy or aristocracy kills and destroys man and self-government.
From the purely administrative point of view, the principle whose incarnation is the American people, the principle begins to be perverted. The embodiment of self-government fills dungeons, suppresses personal liberty, opens letters, and in the reckless saturnalias of despotism it rivals many from among the European despots. Europe, which does not see well the causes, shudders at this delirium tremens of despotism in America.
Certainly, treason being in ebullition, the holders of power could not stand by and look. But instead of an energetic action, instead of exercising in full the existing laws, they hesitated, and treason, emboldened, grew over their heads.
The law inflicted the severest capital punishment on the chiefs of the revolt in Baltimore, but all went off unharmed. The administration one day willingly allows the law to slide from its lap, and the next moment grasps at an unnecessary arbitrary power. Had the traitors of Baltimore been tried by court-martial, as the law allowed, and punished, few, if any, traitors would then have raised their heads in the North.
Englishmen forget that even after a secession, the North, to-day twenty millions, as large as the whole Union eight years ago, will in ten years be thirty millions; a population rich, industrious, and hating England with fury.
Seward, having complete hold of the President, weakens Lincoln's mind by using it up in hunting after comparatively paltry expedients. Seward-Scott's influence neutralizes the energetic cry of the country, of the congressmen, and in the Cabinet that of Blair, who is still a trump.
The emancipation of slaves is spoken of as an expedient, but not as a sacred duty, even for the maintenance of the Union. To emancipate through the war power is an offence to reason, logic, and humanity; but better even so than not at all. War power is in its nature violent, transient, established for a day; emancipation is the highest social and economical solution to be given by law and reason, and ought to result from a thorough and mature deliberation. When the Constitution was framed, slavery was ashamed of itself, stood in the corner, had no paws. Now-a-days, slavery has become a traitor, is arrogant, blood-thirsty, worse than a jackal and a hyena; deliberately slavery is a matricide. And they still talk of slavery as sheltered by the Constitution; and many once anti-slavery men like Seward, etc., are ready to preserve it, to compromise with the crime.
The existence of nations oscillates between epochs when the substance and when the form prevails. The formation of America was the epoch when substance prevailed. Afterward, for more than half a century, the form was paramount; the term of substance again begins. The Constitution is substance and form. The substance in it is perennial; but every form is transient, and must be expanded, changed, re-cast.
Few, if any, Americans are aware of the identity of laws ruling the universe with laws ruling and prevailing in the historical development of man. Rarely has an American patience enough to ascend the long chain from effect to cause, until he reaches the first cause, the womb wherein was first generated the subsequent distant effect. So, likewise, they cannot realize that at the start the imperceptible deviation from the aim by and by widens to a bottomless gap until the aim is missed. Then the greatest and the most devoted sacrifices are useless. The legal conductors of the nation, since March 6th, ignore this law.
The foreign ministers here in Washington were astonished at the politeness, when some time ago the Department sent to the foreign ministers a circular announcing to them that armed vessels of the neutrals will be allowed to enter at pleasure the rebel blockaded ports. This favor was not asked, not hoped for, and was not necessary. It was too late when I called the attention of the Department to the fact that such favors were very seldom granted; that they are dangerous, and can occasion complications. I observed that during the war between Mexico and France, in 1838, Count Mole, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Premier of Louis Philippe, instructed the admiral commanding the French navy in the Mexican waters, to oppose, even by force, any attempt made by a neutral man-of-war to enter a blockaded port. And it was not so dangerous then as it may be in this civil war. But the chief clerk adviser of the Department found out that President Polk's administration during the Mexican war granted a similar permission, and, glad to have a precedent, his powerful brains could not find out the difference between then and now.
The internal routine of the ministry, and the manner in which our ministers are treated abroad by the Chief at home, is very strange, humiliating to our agents in the eyes of foreign Cabinets. Cassius Clay was instructed to propose to Russia our accession to the convention of Paris, but was not informed from Washington that our ministers at Paris, London, etc., were to make the same propositions. When Prince Gortschakoff asked Cassius Clay if similar propositions were made to the other cosigners of the Paris convention, our minister was obliged to confess his utter ignorance about the whole proceeding. Prince Gortschakoff good-naturedly inquired about it from his ministers at Paris and London, and enlightened Cassius Clay.
No ministry of foreign affairs in Europe would treat its agents in such a trifling manner, and, if done, a minister would resent it.
This mistake, or recklessness, is to be credited principally to the internal chief, or director of the department, and not to the minister himself. By and by, the chief clerks, these routinists in the former coarse traditions of the Democratic administrations, will learn and acquire better diplomatic and bureaucratic habits.
If one calls the attention of influential Americans to the mismanagement in the organization of the army; to the extraordinary way in which everything, as organization of brigades, and the inner service, the quartermaster's duty, is done, the general and inevitable answer is, "We are not military; we are young people; we have to learn." Granted; but instead of learning from the best, the latest, and most correct authorities, why stick to an obsolete, senile, musty, rotten, mean, and now-a-days impracticable routine, which is all-powerful in all relating to the army and to the war? The Americans may pay dear for thus reversing the rules of common sense.
General Scott directs from his sleeping room the movements of the two armies on the Potomac and in the Shenandoah valley. General Scott has given the order to advance. At least a strange way, to have the command of battle at a distance of thirty and one hundred miles, and stretched on his fauteuil. Marshal de Saxe, although deadly sick, was on the field at Fontenoy. What will be the result of this experimentalization, so contrary to sound reason?
Fighting at Bull Run. One o'clock, P. M. Good news. Gen. Scott says that although we were 40-100 in disadvantage, nevertheless his plans are successful—all goes as he arranged it—all as he foresaw it. Bravo! old man! If so, I make amende honorable of all that I said up to this minute. Two o'clock, P. M. General Scott, satisfied with the justness and success of his strategy and tactics—takes a nap.
Evening.—Battle lost; rout, panic. The army almost disbanded, in full run. So say the forerunners of the accursed news. Malediction! Malediction!
What a horrible night and day! rain and cold; stragglers and disbanded soldiers in every direction, and no order, nobody to gather the soldiers, or to take care of them.
As if there existed not any military or administrative authority in Washington! Under the eyes of the two commanders-in-chief! Oh, senility, imbecility, ignominy! In Europe, a commander of a city, or any other military authority whatever, who should behave in such a way, would be dismissed, nay, expelled, from military service. What I can gather is, that the enemy was in full retreat in the centre and on one flank, when he was reinforced by fresh troops, who outflanked and turned ours. If so, the panic can be explained. Even old veteran troops generally run when they are outflanked.
Johnston, whom Patterson permitted to slip, came to the rescue of Beauregard. So they say. It is en petit Waterloo, with Blucher-Johnston, and Grouchy-Patterson. But had Napoleon's power survived after Waterloo, Grouchy, his chief of the staff, and even Ney, for the fault at Quatre-bras, would have been court-martialed and shot. Here these blind Americans will thank Scott and Patterson.
[Footnote 1: That such would have been the presumed fate of Ney at the hands of Napoleon, I was afterwards assured by the old Duke of Bassano, and by the Duchess Abrantes.]
Others say that a bold charge of cavalry arrived on our rear, and threw in disorder the wagons and the baggage gang. That is nothing new; at the battle of Borodino some Cossacks, pouncing upon the French baggage, created a panic, which for a moment staggered Napoleon, and prevented him in time from reinforcing Ney and Davoust. But McDowell committed a fault in putting his baggage train, the ambulances excepted, on a road between the army and its reserves, which, in such a manner, came not in action. By and by I shall learn more about it.
The Congress has made a worse Bull Run than the soldiers. Not a single manly, heroic word to the nation and the army. As if unsuccess always was dishonor. This body groped its way, and was morally stunned by the blow; the would-be leaders more than the mass.
Suggested to Sumner to make, as the Romans did, a few stirring words on account of the defeat.
Some mean fellows in Congress, who never smelt powder, abused the soldiers. Those fellows would have been the first to run. Others, still worse, to show their abject flunkeyism to Scott, and to humbug the public at large about their intimacy with this fetish, make speeches in his defence. Scott broadly prepared the defeat, and now, through the mouths of flunkeys and spit-lickers, he attempts to throw the fault on the thus called politicians.
[Footnote 2: Foremost among them was the editor of the New York Times, publishing a long article wherein he proved that he had been admitted to General Scott's table, and that the General unfolded to him, the editor, the great anaconda strategy. Exactly the thing to be admired and gulped by a man of such variegated information as that individual.
That little villianish "article" had a second object: it was to filch subscribers from the Tribune, which broke down, not over courageously.]
The President telegraphed for McClellan, who in the West, showed rapidity of movement, the first and most necessary capacity for a commander. Young blood will be infused, and perhaps senility will be thrown overboard, or sent to the Museum of the Smithsonian Institute.
At Bull Run the foreign regiments ran not, but covered the retreat. And Scott, and worse than he, Thomas, this black spot in the War Department, both are averse to, and when they can they humiliate, the foreigners. A member of Congress, in search of a friend, went for several miles up the stream of the fugitive army; great was his astonishment to hear spoken by the fugitives only the unmixed, pure Anglo-Saxon.
My friend, J. Wadsworth, behaved cool, brave, on the field, and was devoted to the wounded. Now, as always, he is the splendid type of a true man of the people.
Poor, unhappy McDowell! During the days when he prepared the army, he was well aware that an eventual success would be altogether attributed to Scott; but that he, McDowell, would be the scapegoat for the defeat. Already, when on Sunday morning the news of the first successes was known, Scott swallowed incense, and took the whole credit of it to himself. Now he accuses the politicians.
Once more. Scott himself prepared the defeat. Subsequent elucidation will justify this assertion. One thing is already certain: one of the reasons of the lost battle is the exhaustion of troops which fought—and the number here in Washington is more than 50,000 men. Only an imbecile would divide the forces in such a way as to throw half of it to attack a superior and entrenched enemy. But Scott wished to shape the great events of the country in accordance with his narrow, ossified brains, and with his peculiar patriotism; and he did the same in the conduct of the war.
I am sure some day or other it will come out that this immense fortification of Manassas is a similar humbug to the masked batteries; and Scott was the first to aggrandize these terrible national nightmares. Already many soldiers say that they did not see any fortifications. Very likely only small earthworks; if so, Scott ought to have known what was the position and the works of an enemy encamped about thirty miles from him. If he, Scott, was ignorant, then it shows his utter imbecility; if he knew that the fortifications were insignificant, and did not tell it to the troops, then he is worse than an incapable chief. Up to the present day, all the military leaders of ancient and modern times told their troops before a battle that the enemy is not much after all, and that the difficulties to overcome are rather insignificant. After the battle was won, everything became aggrandized. Here everybody, beginning with Scott, ardently rivalled how to scare and frighten the volunteers, by stories of the masked batteries of Manassas, with its several tiers of fortifications, the terrible superiority of the Southerners, etc., etc. In Europe such behavior would be called treason.
The administration and the influential men cannot realize that they must give up their old, stupid, musty routine. McClellan ought to be altogether independent of Scott; be untrammelled in his activity; have large powers; have direct action; and not refer to Scott. What is this wheel within a wheel? Instead of it, Scott, as by concession, cuts for McClellan a military department of six square miles. Oh, human stupidity, how difficult thou art to lift!
Scott will paralyze McClellan as he did Lyon and Butler. Scott always pushed on his spit-lickers, or favorites, rotten by old age. But Scott has pushed aside such men as Wool and Col. Smith; refused the services of many brave as Hooker and others, because they never belonged to his flunkeys.
Send to McClellan a plan for the reorganization of the army.
1st. True mastership consists in creating an army with extant elements, and not in clamoring for what is altogether impossible to obtain.
2d. The idea is preposterous to try to have a large thus-called regular army. A small number, fifteen to twenty thousand men, divided among several hundreds of thousands of volunteers, would be as a drop of water in a lake. Besides, this war is to be decided by the great masses of the volunteers, and it is uncivic and unpatriotic to in any way nourish the wickedly-assumed discrimination between regulars and volunteers.
3d. Good non-commissioned officers and corporals constitute the sole, sound, and easy articulations of a regiment. Any one who ever was in action is aware of this truth. With good non-commissioned officers, even ignorant lieutenants do very little harm. The volunteer regiments ought to have as many good sergeants and corporals as possible.
4th. To provide for this want, and for reasons mentioned above, the relics of the regular army ought to be dissolved. Let us have one army, as the enemy has.
5th. All the rank and file of the army ought to be made at once corporals and sergeants, and be distributed as much as possible among the volunteers.
6th. The non-commissioned regulars ought to be made commissioned officers, and with officers of all grades be distributed and merged in the one great army.
For the first time since the armaments, I enjoyed a genuine military view. McClellan, surrounded as a general ought to be, went to see the army. It looks martial. The city, likewise, has a more martial look than it had all the time under Scott. It seems that a young, strong hand holds the ribbons. God grant that McClellan may preserve his western vigor and activity, and may not become softened and dissolved by these Washington evaporations. If he does, if he follows the routine, he will become as impotent as others before him. Young man, beware of Washington's corrupt but flattering influences. To the camp! to the camp! A tent is better for you than a handsome house. The tent, the fumes of bivouacs, inspired the Fredericks, the Napoleons, and Washingtons.
Up to this day they make more history in Secessia than here. Jeff. Davis overshadows Lincoln. Jeff. Davis and his gang of malefactors are pushed into the whirlpool of action by the nature of their crime; here, our leaders dread action, and grope. The rebels have a clear, decisive, almost palpable aim; but here * *
The truth about Bull Run — The press staggers — The Blairs alone firm — Scott's military character — Seward — Mr. Lincoln reads the Herald — The ubiquitous lobbyist — Intervention — Congress adjourns — The administration waits for something to turn up — Wade — Lyon is killed — Russell and his shadow — The Yankees take the loan — Bravo, Yankees! — McClellan works hard — Prince Napoleon — Manassas fortifications a humbug — Mr. Seward Improves — Old Whigism — McClellan's powers enlarged — Jeff. Davis makes history — Fremont emancipates in Missouri — The Cabinet.
The truth about Bull Run will, perhaps, only reach the people when it becomes reduced to an historical use. I gather what I am sure is true.
About three weeks ago General McDowell took upon himself the responsibility to attack the enemy concentrated at Manassas. Deciding upon this step, McDowell showed the determination of a true soldier, and a cool, intelligent courage. According to rumors permeating the whole North; rumors originated by secessionists in and around Washington, and in various parts of the free States; rumors gulped by a part of the press, and never contradicted, but rather nursed, at headquarters, Manassas was a terrible, unknown, mysterious something; a bugbear, between a fortress made by art and a natural fastness, whose approaches were defended for miles by numberless masked batteries, and which was filled by countless thousands of the most ferocious warriors. Such was Manassas in public opinion when McDowell undertook to attack this formidable American Torres Vedras, and this with the scanty and almost unorganized means in men and artillery allotted to him by the senile wisdom of General Scott. General McDowell obtained the promise that Beauregard alone was to be before him. To fulfil this promise, General Scott was to order Patterson to keep Johnston, and a movement was to be made on the James River, so as to prevent troops coming from Richmond to Manassas. As it was already said, Patterson, a special favorite of General Scott, kindly allowed Johnston to save Beauregard, and Jeff. Davis with troops from Richmond likewise was on the spot. McDowell planned his plan very skilfully; no European general would have done better, and I am sure that such will be the verdict hereafter. Some second-rate mistakes in the execution did not virtually endanger its success; but, to say the truth, McDowell and his army were defeated by the imbecility of the supreme military authority. Imbecility stabbed them in the back.
One part of the press, stultified and stupefied, staggered under the blow; the other part showed its utter degradation by fawning on Scott and attacking the Congress, or its best part. The Evening Post staggered not; its editors are genuine, laborious students, and, above all, students of history. The editors of the other papers are politicians; some of them are little, others are big villains. All, intellectually, belong to the class called in America more or less well-read men; information acquired by reading, but which in itself is not much.
The brothers Blair, almost alone, receded not, and put the defeat where it belonged—at the feet of General Scott.
The rudis indigestaque moles, torn away from Scott's hands, already begins to acquire the shape of an army. Thanks to the youth, the vigor, and the activity of McClellan.
General Scott throws the whole disaster on politicians, and abuses them. How ungrateful. His too lofty pedestal is almost exclusively the work of politicians. I heard very, very few military men in America consider Scott a man of transcendent military capacity. Years ago, during the Crimean campaign, I spent some time at West Point in the society of Cols. Robert Lee, Walker, Hardee, then in the service of the United States, and now traitors; not one of them classed Scott much higher above what would be called a respectable capacity; and of which, as they said, there are many, many in every European army.
If one analyzes the Mexican campaign, it will be found that General Scott had, comparatively, more officers than soldiers; the officers young men, full of vigor, and in the first gush of youth, who therefore mightily facilitated the task of the commander. Their names resound to-day in both the camps.
Further, generals from the campaign in Mexico assert that three of the won battles were fought against orders, which signifies that in Mexico youth had the best of cautious senility. It was according to the law of nature, and for it it was crowned with success.
Mr. Seward has a very active intellect, an excellent man for current business, easy and clear-headed for solving any second-rate complications; but as for his initiative, that is another question. Hitherto his initiative does not tell, but rather confuses. Then he sustains Scott, some say, for future political capital. If so it is bad; worse still if Mr. Seward sustains Scott on the ground of high military fitness, as it is impossible to admit that Mr. Seward knows anything about military affairs, or that he ever studied the description of any battle. At least, I so judge from his conversation.
Mr. Lincoln has already the fumes of greatness, and looks down on the press, reads no paper, that dirty traitor the New York Herald excepted. So, at least, it is generally stated.
The enemies of Seward maintain that he, Seward, drilled Lincoln into it, to make himself more necessary.
Early, even before the inauguration, McDowell suggested to General Scott to concentrate in Washington the small army, the depots scattered in Texas and New Mexico. Scott refused, and this is called a general! God preserve any cause, any people who have for a savior a Scott, together with his civil and military partisans.
If it is not direct, naked treason which prevails among the nurses, and the various advisers of the people, imbecility, narrow-mindedness, do the same work. Further, the way in which many leech, phlebotomize, cheat and steal the people's treasury, is even worse than rampant treason. I heard a Boston shipbuilder complain to Sumner that the ubiquitous lobbyist, Thurlow Weed, was in his, the builder's, way concerning some contracts to be made in the Navy Department, etc., etc. Will it turn out that the same men who are to-day at the head of affairs will be the men who shall bring to an end this revolt or revolution? It ought not to be, as it is contrary to logic, and to human events.
Lincoln alone must forcibly remain, he being one of the incarnated formulas of the Constitution, endowed with a specific, four years' lasting existence.
The Americans are nervous about foreign intervention. It is difficult to make them understand that no intervention is to be, and none can be made. Therein the press is as silly as the public at large. Certainly France does not intend any meddling or intervention; of this I am sure. Neither does England seriously.
Next, if these two powers should even thirst for such an injustice, they have no means to do it. If they break our blockades, we make war, and exclude them from the Northern ports, whose commerce is more valuable to them than that of the South. I do not believe the foreign powers to be forgetful of their interest; they know better their interests than the Americans.
The Congress adjourned, abandoning, with a confidence unparalleled in history, the affairs of the country in the hands of the not over far-sighted administration. The majority of the Congress are good, and fully and nobly represent the pure, clear and sure aspirations, instincts, nay, the clear-sightedness of the people. In the Senate, as in the House, are many, very many true men, and men of pure devotion, and of clear insight into the events; men superior to the administration; such are, above all, those senators and representatives who do not attempt or aim to sit on a pedestal before the public, before the people, but wish the thing to be done for the thing itself. But for the formula which chains their hands, feet, and intellect, the Congress contained several men who, if they could act, would finish the secession in a double-quick time. But the whole people move in the treadmill of formulas. It is a pity that they are not inspired by the axiom of the Roman legist, scire leges non est hoc verba earum tenere, sed vim ac potestatem. Congress had positive notions of what ought to be done; the administration, Micawber-like, looks for that something which may turn up, and by expedients patches all from day to day.
What may turn up nobody can foresee; matter alone without mind cannot carry the day. The people have the mind, but the official legal leaders a very small portion of it. Come what will, I shall not break down; I shall not give up the holy principle. If crime, rebellion, sauvagerie, triumph, it will be, not because the people failed, but it will be because mediocrities were at the helm. Concessions, compromises, any patched-up peace, will for a century degrade the name of America. Of course, I cannot prevent it; but events have often broken but not bent me. I may be burned, but I cannot be melted; so if secesh succeeds, I throw in a cesspool my document of naturalization, and shall return to Europe, even if working my passage.
It is maddening to read all this ignoble clap-trap, written by European wiseacres concerning this country. Not one knows the people, not one knows the accidental agencies which neutralize what is grand and devoted in the people.
Some are praised here as statesmen and leaders. A statesman, a leader of such a people as are the Americans, and in such emergencies, must be a man in the fullest and loftiest comprehension. All the noblest criteria of moral and intellectual manhood ought to be vigorously and harmoniously developed in him. He ought to have a deep and lively moral sense, and the moral perception of events and of men around him. He ought to have large brains and a big heart,—an almost all-embracing comprehension of the inside and outside of events,—and when he has those qualities, then only the genius of foresight will dwell on his brow. He ought to forget himself wholly and unconditionally; his reason, his heart, his soul ought to merge in the principles which lifted him to the elevated station. Who around me approaches this ideal? So far as I know, perhaps Senator Wade.
I wait and wait for the eagle which may break out from the White House. Even the burning fire of the national disaster at Bull Run left the egg unhatched. Utinam sim falsus, but it looks as if the slowest brains were to deal with the greatest events of our epoch. Mr. Lincoln is a pure-souled, well-intentioned patriot, and this nobody doubts or contests. But is that all which is needed in these terrible emergencies?
Lyon is killed,—the only man of initiative hitherto generated by events. We have bad luck. I shall put on mourning for at least six weeks. They ought to weep all over the land for the loss of such a man; and he would not have been lost if the administration had put him long ago in command of the West. O General Scott! Lyon's death can be credited to you. Lyon was obnoxious to General Scott, but the General's influence maintains in the service all the doubtful capacities and characters. The War Department, as says Potter, bristles with secessionists, and with them the old, rotten, respectable relics, preserved by General Scott, depress and nip in the bud all the young, patriotic, and genuine capacities.
As the sea corrodes the rocks against which it impinges, so egotism, narrow-mindedness, and immorality corrode the best human institutions. For humanity's sake, Americans, beware!
Always the clouds of harpies around the White House and the Departments,—such a generous ferment in the people, and such impurities coming to the surface!
Patronage is the stumbling stone here to true political action. By patronage the Cabinet keeps in check Congressmen, Senators, etc.
I learn from very good authority that when Russell, with his shadow, Sam. Ward, went South, Mr. Seward told Ward that he, Seward, intends not to force the Union on the Southern people, if it should be positively ascertained that that people does not wish to live in the Union! I am sorry for Seward. Such is not the feeling of the Northern people, and such notions must necessarily confuse and make vacillating Mr. Seward's—that is, Mr. Lincoln's—policy. Seward's patriotism and patriotic wishes and expectations prevent him from seeing things as they are.
The money men of Boston decided the conclusion of the first national loan. Bravo, my beloved Yankees! In finances as in war, as in all, not the financiering capacity of this or that individual, not any special masterly measures, etc., but the stern will of the people to succeed, provides funds and means, prevents bankruptcy, etc. The men who give money send an agent here to ascertain how many traitors are still kept in offices, and what are the prospects of energetic action by the administration.
McClellan is organizing, working hard. It is a pleasure to see him, so devoted and so young. After all, youth is promise. But already adulation begins, and may spoil him. It would be very, very saddening.
Prince Napoleon's visit stirs up all the stupidity of politicians in Europe and here. What a mass of absurdities are written on it in Europe, and even by Americans residing there. All this is more than equalled by the solemn and wise speculations of the Americans at home. Bar-room and coffee-house politicians are the same all over the world, the same, I am sure, in China and Japan. To suppose Prince Napoleon has any appetite whatever for any kind of American crown! Bah! He is brilliant and intelligent, and to suppose him to have such absurd plans is to offend him. But human and American gullibility are bottomless.
The Prince is a noble friend of the American cause, and freely speaks out his predilection. His sentiments are those of a true Frenchman, and not the sickly free-trade pro-slaveryism of Baroche with which he poisoned here the diplomatic atmosphere. Prince Napoleon's example will purify it.
As I was sure of it, the great Manassas fortifications are a humbug. It is scarcely a half-way fortified camp. So say the companions of the Prince, who, with him, visited Beauregard's army. So much for the great Gen. Scott, whom the companions of the Prince call a magnificent ruin.
The Prince spoke with Beauregard, and the Prince's and his companions' opinion is, that McDowell planned well his attack, but failed in the execution; and Beauregard thought the same. The Prince saw McClellan, and does not prize him so high as we do. These foreign officers say that most probably, on both sides, the officers will make most correct plans, as do pupils in military schools, but the execution will depend upon accident.
Mr. Seward shows every day more and more capacity in dispatching the regular, current, diplomatical business affairs. In all such matters he is now at home, as if he had done it for years and years. He is no more spread-eagle in his diplomatic relations; is easy and prompt in all secondary questions relating to secondary interests, and daily emerging from international complications.
Hitherto the war policy of the administration, as inspired and directed by Scott, was rather to receive blows, and then to try to ward them off. I expect young McClellan to deal blows, and thus to upturn the Micawber policy. Perhaps Gen. Scott believed that his name and example would awe the rebels, and that they would come back after having made a little fuss and done some little mischief. But Scott's greatness was principally built up by the Whigs, and his hold on Democrats was not very great. Witness the events of Polk's and Pierce's administrations. His Mississippi-Atlantic strategy is a delirium of a softening brain. Seward's enemies say that he puts up and sustains Scott, because in the case of success Scott will not be in Seward's way for the future Presidency. Mr. Lincoln, an old Whig, has the Whig-worship for Scott; and as Mr. Lincoln, in 1851, stumped for Scott, the candidate for the Presidency, the many eulogies showered by Lincoln upon Scott still more strengthened the worship which, of course, Seward lively entertains in Lincoln's bosom. Thus the relics of Whigism direct now the destinies of the North. Mr. Lincoln, Gen. Scott, Mr. Seward, form a triad, with satellites like Bates and Smith in the Cabinet. But the Whigs have not the reputation of governmental vigor, decision, and promptitude.
The vitiated impulse and direction given by Gen. Scott at the start, still prevails, and it will be very difficult to bring it on the right track—to change the general as well as the war policy from the defensive, as it is now, to the offensive, as it ought to have been from the beginning. The North is five to one in men, and one hundred to one in material resources. Any one with brains and energy could suppress the rebellion in eight weeks from to-day.
Mr. Lincoln in some way has a slender historical resemblance to Louis XVI.—similar goodness, honesty, good intentions; but the size of events seems to be too much for him.
And so now Mr. Lincoln is wholly overshadowed by Seward. If by miracle the revolt may end in a short time, Mr. Seward will have most of the credit for it. In the long run the blame for eventual disasters will be put at Mr. Lincoln's door.
Thank heaven! the area for action and the powers of McClellan are extended and increased. The administration seems to understand the exigencies of the day.
I am told that the patriotic and brave Senator Wade, disgusted with the slowness and inanity of the administration, exclaimed, "I do not wonder that people desert to Jeff. Davis, as he shows brains; I may desert myself." And truly, Jeff. Davis and his gang make history.
Young McClellan seems to falter before the Medusa-ruin Scott, who is again at his tricks, and refuses officers to volunteers. To carry through in Washington any sensible scheme, more boldness is needed than on the bloodiest battle-field.
If Gen. Scott could have disappeared from the stage of events on the sixth of March, his name would have remained surrounded with that halo to which the people was accustomed; but now, when the smoke will blow over, it may turn differently. I am afraid that at some future time will be applied to Scott * * * quia turpe ducunt parere minoribus, et quae imberbi didicere, senes perdenda fateri.
Not self-government is on trial, and not the genuine principle of democracy. It is not the genuine, virtual democracy which conspired against the republic, and which rebels, but an unprincipled, infamous oligarchy, risen in arms to destroy democracy. From Athens down to to-day, true democracies never betrayed any country, never leagued themselves with enemies. From the time of Hellas down to to-day, all over the world, and in all epochs, royalties, oligarchies, aristocracies, conspired against, betrayed, and sold their respective father-lands. (I said this years ago in America and Europe.)
Fremont as initiator; he emancipates the slaves of the disloyal Missourians. Takes the advance, but is justified in it by the slowness, nay, by the stagnancy of the administration.
Gen. Scott opposed to the expedition to Hatteras!
If it be true that Seward and Chase already lay the tracks for the Presidential succession, then I can only admire their short-sightedness, nay, utter and darkest blindness. The terrible events will be a schooling for the people; the future President will not be a schemer already shuffling the cards; most probably it will be a man who serves the country, forgetting himself.
Only two members in the Cabinet drive together, Blair and Welles, and both on the right side, both true men, impatient for action, action. Every day shows on what false principle this Cabinet was constructed, not for the emergency, not in view to suppress the rebellion, but to satisfy various party wranglings. Now the people's cause sticks in the mud.
What will McClellan do? — Fremont disavowed — The Blairs not in fault — Fremont ignorant and a bungler — Conspiracy to destroy him — Seward rather on his side — McClellan's staff — A Marcy will not do! — McClellan publishes a slave-catching order — The people move onward — Mr. Seward again — West Point — The Washington defences — What a Russian officer thought of them — Oh, for battles! — Fremont wishes to attack Memphis; a bold move! — Seward's influence over Lincoln — The people for Fremont — Col. Romanoff's opinion of the generals — McClellan refuses to move — Manoeuvrings — The people uneasy — The staff — The Orleans — Brave boys! — The Potomac closed — Oh, poor nation! — Mexico — McClellan and Scott.
Will McClellan display unity in conception, and vigor in execution? That is the question. He seems very energetic and active in organizing the army; but he ought to take the field very soon. He ought to leave Washington, and have his headquarters in the camp among the soldiers. The life in the tent will inspire him. It alone inspired Frederick II. and Napoleon. Too much organization may become as mischievous as the no organization under Scott. Time, time is everything. The levies will fight well; may only McClellan not be carried away by the notion and the attempt to create what is called a perfect army on European pattern. Such an attempt would be ruinous to the cause. It is altogether impossible to create such an army on the European model, and no necessity exists for it. The rebel army is no European one. Civil wars have altogether different military exigencies, and the great tactics for a civil war are wholly different from the tactics, etc., needed in a regular war. Napoleon differently fought the Vendeans, and differently the Austrians, and the other coalesced armies. May only McClellan not become intoxicated before he puts the cup to his lips.
Fremont disavowed by Lincoln and the administration. This looks bad. I have no considerable confidence in Fremont's high capacities, and believe that his head is turned a little; but in this question he was right in principle, and right in legality. A commander of an army operating separately has the exercise of full powers of war.
The Blairs are not to be accused; I read the letter from F. Blair to his brother. It is the letter of a patriot, but not of an intriguer. Fremont establishes an absurd rule concerning the breach of military discipline, and shows by it his ignorance and narrow-mindedness. So Fremont, and other bungling martinets, assert that nobody has the right to criticise the actions of his commander.
Fremont is ignorant of history, and those around him who put in his head such absurd notions are a pack of mean and servile spit-lickers. An officer ought to obey orders without hesitation, and if he does not he is to be court-martialed and shot. But it is perfectly allowable to criticise them; it is in human nature—it was, is, and will be done in all armies; see in Curtius and other historians of Alexander of Macedon. It was continually done under Napoleon. In Russia, in 1812, the criticism made by almost all the officers forced Alexander I. to leave the army, and to put Kutousoff over Barclay. In the last Italian campaign Austrian officers criticised loudly Giulay, their commander, etc., etc.
Conspiracy to destroy Fremont on account of his slave proclamation. The conspirators are the Missouri slaveholders: Senator Brodhead, old Bates, Scott, McClellan, and their staffs. Some jealousy against him in the Cabinet, but Seward rather on Fremont's side.
McClellan makes his father-in-law, a man of very secondary capacity, the chief of the staff of the army. It seems that McClellan ignores what a highly responsible position it is, and what a special and transcendent capacity must be that of a chief of the staff—the more so when of an army of several hundreds of thousands. I do not look for a Berthier, a Gneisenau, a Diebitsch, or Gortschakoff, but a Marcy will not do.
Colonel Lebedeef, from the staff of the Emperor Alexander II., and professor in the School of the Staff at St. Petersburg, saw here everything, spoke with our generals, and his conclusion is that in military capacity McDowell is by far superior to McClellan. Strange, if true, and foreboding no good.
Mr. Lincoln begins to call a demagogue any one who does not admire all the doings of his administration. Are we already so far?
McClellan under fatal influences of the rampant pro-slavery men, and of partisans of the South, as is a Barlow. All the former associations of McClellan have been of the worst kind—Breckinridgians. But perhaps he will throw them off. He is young, and the elevation of his position, his standing before the civilized world, will inspire and purify him, I hope. Nay, I ardently wish he may go to the camp, to the camp.
McClellan published a slave-catching order. Oh that he may discard those bad men around him!
Struggles with evils, above all with domestic, internal evils, absorb a great part of every nation's life. Such struggles constitute its development, are the landmarks of its progress and decline.
The like struggles deserve more the attention of the observer, the philosopher, than all kinds of external wars. And, besides, most of such external wars result from the internal condition of a nation. At any rate, their success or unsuccess almost wholly depends upon its capacity to overcome internal evils. A nation even under a despotic rule may overcome and repel an invasion, as long as the struggle against the internal evils has not broken the harmony between the ruler and the nation. Here the internal evil has torn a part of the constitutional structure; may only the necessary harmony between this high-minded people and the representative of the transient constitutional formula not be destroyed. The people move onward, the formula vacillates, and seems to fear to make any bold step.
If the cause of the freemen of the North succumbs, then humanity is humiliated. This high-spirited exclamation belongs to Tassara, the Minister from Spain. Not the diplomat, but the nobly inspired man uttered it.
But for the authoritative influence of General Scott, and the absence of any foresight and energy on the part of the administration, the rebels would be almost wholly without military leaders, without naval officers. The Johnsons, Magruders, Tatnalls, Buchanans, ought to have been arrested for treason the moment they announced their intention to resign.
Mr. Seward has many excellent personal qualities, besides his unquestionable eminent capacity for business and argument; but why is he neutralizing so much good in him by the passion to be all in all, to meddle with everything, to play the knowing one in military affairs, he being in all such matters as innocent as a lamb? It is not a field on which Seward's hazarded generalizations can be of any earthly use; but they must confuse all.
Seward is free from that coarse, semi-barbarous know-nothingism which rules paramount, not the genuine people, but the would-be something, the half-civilized gentlemen. Above all, know-nothingism pervades all around Scott, who is himself its grand master, and it nestles there par excellence in more than one way. It is, however, to be seen how far this pure American-Scott military wisdom is something real, transcendent. Up to this day, the pure Americanism, West Point schoolboy's conceit, have not produced much. The defences of Washington, so much clarioned as being the product of a high conception and of engineering skill,—these defences are very questionable when appreciated by a genuine military eye. A Russian officer of the military engineers, one who was in the Crimea and at Sebastopol, after having surveyed these defences here, told me that the Russian soldiers who defended Sebastopol, and who learned what ought to be defences, would prefer to fight outside than inside of the Washington forts, bastions, defences, etc., etc., etc.
Doubtless many foreigners coming to this country are not much, but the greatest number are soldiers who saw service and fire, and could be of some use at the side of Scott's West Point greenness and presumption.
If we are worsted, then the fate of the men of faith in principles will be that of Sisyphus, and the coming generation for half a century will have uphill work.
If not McClellan himself, some intriguers around him already dream, nay, even attempt to form a pure military, that is, a reckless, unprincipled, unpatriotic party. These men foment the irritation between the arrogance of the thus-called regular army, and the pure abnegation of the volunteers. Oh, for battles! Oh, for battles!
Fremont wished at once to attack Fort Pillow and the city of Memphis. It was a bold move, but the concerted civil and military wisdom grouped around the President opposed this truly great military conception.
Mr. Lincoln is pulled in all directions. His intentions are excellent, and he would have made an excellent President for quiet times. But this civil war imperatively demands a man of foresight, of prompt decision, of Jacksonian will and energy. These qualities may be latent in Lincoln, but do not yet come to daylight. Mr. Lincoln has no experience of men and events, and no knowledge of the past. Seward's influence over Lincoln may be explained by the fact that Lincoln considers Seward as the alpha and omega of every kind of knowledge and information.
I still hope, perhaps against hope, that if Lincoln is what the masses believe him to be, a strong mind, then all may come out well. Strong minds, lifted by events into elevated regions, expand more and more; their "mind's eye" pierces through clouds, and even through rocks; they become inspired, and inspiration compensates the deficiency or want of information acquired by studies. Weak minds, when transported into higher regions, become confused and dizzy. Which of the two will be Mr. Lincoln's fate?
The administration hesitates to give to the struggle a character of emancipation; but the people hesitate not, and take Fremont to their heart.
As the concrete humanity, so single nations have epochs of gestation, and epochs of normal activity, of growth, of full life, of manhood. Americans are now in the stage of manhood.
Col. Romanoff, of the Russian military engineer corps, who was in the Crimean war, saw here the men and the army, saw and conversed with the generals. Col. R. is of opinion that McDowell is by far superior to McClellan, and would make a better commander.
It is said that McClellan refuses to move until he has an army of 300,000 men and 600 guns. Has he not studied Napoleon's wars? Napoleon scarcely ever had half such a number in hand; and when at Wagram, where he had about 180,000 men, himself in the centre, Davoust and Massena on the flanks, nevertheless the handling of such a mass was too heavy even for his, Napoleon's, genius.
The country is—to use an Americanism—in a pretty fix, if this McClellan turns out to be a mistake. I hope for the best. 600 guns! But 100 guns in a line cover a mile. What will he do with 600? Lose them in forests, marshes, and bad roads; whence it is unhappily a fact that McClellan read only a little of military history, misunderstood what he read, and now attempts to realize hallucinations, as a boy attempts to imitate the exploits of an Orlando. It is dreadful to think of it. I prefer to trust his assertion that, once organized, he soon, very soon, will deal heavy and quick blows to the rebels.
I saw some manoeuvrings, and am astonished that no artillery is distributed among the regiments of infantry. When the rank and file see the guns on their side, the soldiers consider them as a part of themselves and of the regiment; they fight better in the company of guns; they stand by them and defend them as they defend their colors. Such a distribution of guns would strengthen the body of the volunteers. But it seems that McClellan has no confidence in the volunteers. Were this true, it would denote a small, very small mind. Let us hope it is not so. One of his generals—a martinet of the first class—told me that McClellan waits for the organization of the regulars, to have them for the defence of the guns. If so, it is sheer nonsense. These narrow-minded West Point martinets will become the ruin of McClellan.
McClellan could now take the field. Oh, why has he established his headquarters in the city, among flunkeys, wiseacres, and spit-lickers? Were he among the troops, he would be already in Manassas. The people are uneasy and fretting about this inaction, and the people see what is right and necessary.
Gen. Banks, a true and devoted patriot, is sacrificed by the stupidity of what they call here the staff of the great army, but which collectively, with its chief, is only a mass of conceit and ignorance—few, as General Williams, excepted. Banks is in the face of the enemy, and has no cavalry and no artillery; and here are immense reviews to amuse women and fools.
Mr. Mercier, the French Minister, visited a considerable part of the free States, and his opinions are now more clear and firm; above all, he is very friendly to our side. He is sagacious and good.
Missouri is in great confusion—three parts of it lost. Fremont is not to be accused of all the mischief, but, from effect to cause, the accusation ascends to General Scott.
Gen. Scott insisted to have Gen. Harney appointed to the command of Missouri, and hated Lyon. If, even after Harney's recall, Lyon had been appointed, Lyon would be alive and Missouri safe. But hatred, anxiety of rank, and stupidity, united their efforts, and prevailed. Oh American people! to depend upon such inveterate blunderers!
Were McClellan in the camp, he would have no flatterers, no antechambers filled with flunkeys; but the rebels would not so easily get news of his plans as they did in the affair on Munson's Hill.
The Orleans are here. I warned the government against admitting the Count de Paris, saying that it would be a deliberate breach of good comity towards Louis Napoleon, and towards the Bonapartes, who prove to be our friends; I told that no European government would commit itself in such a manner, not even if connected by ties of blood with the Orleans. At the start, Mr. Seward heeded a little my advice, but finally he could not resist the vanity to display untimely spread-eagleism, and the Orleans are in our service. Brave boys! It is a noble, generous, high-minded, if not an altogether wise, action.
If a mind is not nobly inspired and strong, then the exercise of power makes it crotchety and dissimulative in contact with men. To my disgust, I witness this all around me.
The American people, its institutions, the Union—all have lost their virginity, their political innocence. A revolution in the institutions, in the mode of life, in notions begun—it is going on, will grow and mature, either for good or evil. Civil war, this most terrible but most maturing passion, has put an end to the boyhood and to the youth of the American people. Whatever may be the end, one thing is sure—that the substance and the form will be modified; nay, perhaps, both wholly changed. A new generation of citizens will grow and come out from this smoke of the civil war.
The Potomac closed by the rebels! Mischief and shame! Natural fruits of the dilatory war policy—Scott's fault. Months ago the navy wished to prevent it, to shell out the rebels, to keep our troops in the principal positions. Scott opposed; and still he has almost paramount influence. McClellan complains against Scott, and Lincoln and Seward flatter McClellan, but look up to Scott as to a supernatural military wisdom. Oh, poor nation!
In Europe clouds gather over Mexico. Whatever it eventually may come to, I suggested to Mr. Seward to lay aside the Monroe doctrine, not to meddle for or against Mexico, but to earnestly protest against any eventual European interference in the internal condition of the political institutions of Mexico.
Continual secondary, international complications, naturally growing out from the maritime question; so with the Dutch cheesemongers, with Spain, with England—all easily to be settled; they generate fuss and trouble, but will make no fire.
Gen. Scott's partisans complain that McClellan is very disrespectful in his dealings with Gen. Scott. I wonder not. McClellan is probably hampered by the narrow routine notions of Scott. McClellan feels that Scott prevents energetic and prompt action; that he, McClellan, in every step is obliged to fight Gen. Scott's inertia; and McClellan grows impatient, and shows it to Scott.
Experiments on the people's life-blood — McClellan's uniform — The army fit to move — The rebels treat us like children — We lose time — Everything is defensive — The starvation theory — The anaconda — First interview with McClellan — Impressions of him — His distrust of the volunteers — Not a Napoleon nor a Garibaldi — Mason and Slidell — Seward admonishes Adams — Fremont goes overboard — The pro-slavery party triumph — The collateral missions to Europe — Peace impossible — Every Southern gentleman is a pirate — When will we deal blows? — Inertia! inertia!
As in the mediaeval epoch, and some time thereafter, anatomists and physiologists experimented on the living villeins, that is, on peasantry, serfs, and called this process experientia in anima vili, so this naive administration experiments in civil and in military matters on the people's life-blood.
McClellan, stirred up by the fools and peacocks around him, has sent to the War Department a project of a showy uniform for himself and his staff. It would be to laugh at, if it were not insane. McClellan very likely read not what he signed.
The army is in sufficient rig and organization to take the field; but nevertheless McClellan has not yet made a single movement imperatively prescribed by the simplest tactics, and by the simplest common sense, when the enemy is in front. Not a single serious reconnoissance to ascertain the real force of the enemy, to pierce through the curtain behind which the rebels hide their real forces. It must be conceded to the rebel generals that they show great skill in humbugging us. Whenever we try to make a step we are met by a seemingly strong force (tenfold increased by rumors spread by the secessionists among us, and gulped by our stupidity), which makes us suppose a deep front, and a still deeper body behind. And there is the humbug, I am sure. If, on such an extensive line as the rebels occupy, the main body should correspond to what they show in front, then the rebel force must muster several hundreds of thousands. Such large numbers they have not, and I am sure that four-fifths of their whole force constitutes their vanguard, and behind it the main body is chaff. The rebels treat us as if we were children.
McClellan fortifies Washington; Fremont, St. Louis; Anderson asks for engineers to fortify some spots in Kentucky. This is all a defensive warfare, and not so will the rebel region be conquered. We lose time, and time serves the rebels, as it increases their moral force. Every day of their existence shows their intrinsic vitality.
The theory of starving the rebels out is got up by imbeciles, wholly ignorant of such matters; wholly ignorant of human nature; wholly ignorant of the degree of energy, and of abnegation, which criminals can display when firmly decided upon their purpose. This absurdity comes from the celebrated anaconda Mississippi-Atlantic strategy.
Oh! When in Poland, in 1831, the military chiefs concentrated all the forces in the fortifications of Warsaw, all was gone. Oh for a dashing general, for a dashing purpose, in the councils of the White House! The constitutional advisers are deaf to the voice of the people, who know more about it than do all the departments and the military wiseacres. The people look up to find as big brains and hearts as are theirs, and hitherto the people have looked up in vain. The radical senators, as a King, a Trumbull, a Wade, Wilson, Chandler, Hale, etc., the true Republicans in the last session of Congress—further, men as Wadsworth and the like, are the true exponents of the character, of the clear insight, of the soundness of the people.
McClellan, and even the administration, seem not to realize that pure military considerations cannot fulfil the imperative demands of the political situation.
October 6th.—I met McClellan; had with him a protracted conversation, and could look well into him. I do not attach any value to physiognomies, and consider phrenology, craniology, and their kindred, to be rather humbugs; but, nevertheless, I was struck with the soft, insignificant inexpressiveness of his eyes and features. My enthusiasm for him, my faith, is wholly extinct. All that he said to me and to others present was altogether unmilitary and inexperienced. It made me sick at heart to hear him, and to think that he is to decide over the destinies and the blood of the people. And he already an idol, incensed, worshipped, before he did anything whatever. McClellan may have individual courage, so has almost every animal; but he has not the decision and the courage of a military leader and captain. He has no real confidence in the troops; has scarcely any idea how battles are fought; has no confidence in and no notion of the use of the bayonet. I told him that, notwithstanding his opinion, I would take his worst brigade of infantry, and after a fortnight's drill challenge and whip any of the best rebel brigades.
Some time ago it was reported that McClellan considered this war had become a duel of artillery. Fools wondered and applauded. I then protested against putting such an absurdity in McClellan's mouth; now I must believe it. To be sure, every battle is in part a duel of artillery, but ends or is decided by charges of infantry or cavalry. Cannonading alone never constituted and decided a battle. No position can be taken by cannonading alone, and shells alone do not always force an enemy to abandon a position. Napoleon, an artillerist par excellence, considered campaigns and battles to be something more than duels of artillery. The great battle of Borodino, and all others, were decided when batteries were stormed and taken. Eylau was a battle of charges by cavalry and by infantry, besides a terrible cannonading, etc., etc. McClellan spoke with pride of the fortifications of Washington, and pointed to one of the forts as having a greater profile than had the world-renowned Malakoff. What a confusion of notions, what a misappreciation of relative conditions!
I cannot express my sad, mournful feelings, during this conversation with McClellan. We spoke about the necessity of dividing his large army into corps. McClellan took from the table an Army Almanac, and pointed to the names of generals to whom he intended to give the command of corps. He feels the urgency of the case, and said that Gen. Scott prevented him from doing it; but as soon as he, McClellan, shall be free to act, the division will be made. So General Scott is everywhere to defend senile routine against progress, and the experience of modern times.
The rebels deserve, to the end of time, many curses from outraged humanity. By their treason they forced upon the free institutions of the North the necessity of curtailing personal liberty and other rights; to make use of despotism for the sake of self-defence.
The enemy concentrates and shortens his lines, and McClellan dares not even tread on the enemy's heels. Instead of forcing the enemy to do what we want, and upturn his schemes, McClellan seemingly does the bidding of Beauregard. We advance as much as Beauregard allows us to do. New tactics, to be sure, but at any rate not Napoleonic.
The fighting in the West and some small successes here are obtained by rough levies; and those imbecile, regular martinets surrounding McClellan still nurse his distrust in the volunteers. All the wealth, energy, intellect of the country, is concentrated in the hands of McClellan, and he uses it to throw up entrenchments. The partisans of McClellan point to his highly scientific preparations—his science. He may have some little of it, but half-science is worse than thorough ignorance. Oh! for one dare-devil in the Lyon, or in the old-fashioned Yankee style. McClellan is neither a Napoleon, nor a Cabrera, nor a Garibaldi.
Mason and Slidell escaped to Havana on their way to Europe, as commissioners of the rebels. According to all international definitions, we have the full right to seize them in any neutral vessel, they being political contrabands of war going on a publicly avowed errand hostile to their true government. Mason and Slidell are not common passengers, nor are they political refugees invoking the protection of any neutral flag. They are travelling commissioners of war, of bloodshed and rebellion; and it is all the same in whatever seaport they embark. And if the vessel conveying them goes from America to Europe, or vice versa, Mr. Seward can let them be seized when they have left Havana, provided he finds it expedient.
We lose time, and time is all in favor of the rebels. Every day consolidates their existence—so to speak, crystallizes them. Further—many so-called Union men in the South, who, at the start, opposed secession, by and by will get accustomed to it. Secession daily takes deeper root, and will so by degrees become un fait accompli.
Mr. Adams, in his official relations with the English government, speaks of the rebel pirates as of lawful privateers. Mr. Seward admonished him for it. Bravo!
It is so difficult, not to say impossible, to meet an American who concatenates a long series of effects and causes, or who understands that to explain an isolated fact or phenomenon the chain must be ascended and a general law invoked. Could they do it, various bunglings would be avoided, and much of the people's sacrifices husbanded, instead of being squandered, as it is done now.
Fremont going overboard! His fall will be the triumph of the pro-slavery party, headed by the New York Herald, and supported by military old fogies, by martinets, and by double and triple political and intellectual know-nothings. Pity that Fremont had no brilliant military capacity. Then his fall could not have taken place.
Mr. Seward is too much ruled by his imagination, and too hastily discounts the future. But imagination ruins a statesman. Mr. Seward must lose credit at home and abroad for having prophesied, and having his prophecies end in smoke. When Hatteras was taken (Gen. Scott protested against the expedition), Mr. S. assured me that it was the beginning of the end. A diplomat here made the observation that no minister of a European parliamentary government could remain in power after having been continually contradicted by facts.
Now, Mr. Seward devised these collateral missions to Europe. He very little knows the habit and temper of European cabinets if he believes that such collateral confidential agents can do any good. The European cabinets distrust such irresponsible agents, who, in their turn, weaken the influence and the standing of the genuine diplomatic agents. Mr. S., early in the year, boasted to abolish, even in Europe, the system of passports, and soon afterwards introduced it at home. So his imagination carries him to overhaul the world. He proposes to European powers a united expedition to Japan, and we cannot prevent at home the running of the blockade, and are ourselves blockaded on the Potomac. All such schemes are offsprings of an ambitious imagination. But the worst is, that every such outburst of his imagination Mr. Seward at once transforms into a dogma, and spreads it with all his might. I pity him when I look towards the end of his political career. He writes well, and has put down the insolent English dispatch concerning the habeas corpus and the arrests of dubious, if not treacherous, Englishmen. Perhaps Seward imagines himself to be a Cardinal Richelieu, with Lincoln for Louis XIII. (provided he knows as much history), or may be he has the ambition to be considered a Talleyrand or Metternich of diplomacy. But if any, he has some very, very faint similarity with Alberoni. He easily outwits here men around him; most are politicians as he; but he never can outwit the statesmen of Europe. Besides, diplomacy, above all that of great powers, is conceived largely and carried on a grand scale; the present diplomacy has outgrown what is commonly called (but fallaciously) Talleyrandism and Metternichism.
McClellan and the party which fears to make a bold advance on the enemy make so much fuss about the country being cut up and wooded; it proves only that they have no brains and no fertility of expedients. This country is not more cut up than is the Caucasus, and the woods are no great, endless, primitive forests. They are rather groves. In the Caucasus the Russians continually attack great and dense forests; they fire in them several round shots, then grape, and then storm them with the bayonet; and the Circassians are no worse soldiers than are the Southrons.
European papers talk much of mediation, of a peaceful arrangement, of compromise. By intuition of the future the Northern people know very well the utter impossibility of such an arrangement. A peace could not stand; any such peace will establish the military superiority of the arrogant, reckless, piratical South. The South would teem with hundreds of thousands of men ready for any piratical, fillibustering raid, enterprise, or excursion, of which the free States north and west would become the principal theatres. Such a marauding community as the South would become, in case of success, will be unexampled in history. The Cylician pirates, the Barbary robbers, nay, the Tartars of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, were virtuous and civilized in comparison with what would be an independent, man-stealing, and man-whipping Southern agglomeration of lawless men. The free States could have no security, even if all the thus called gentlemen and men of honor were to sign a treaty or a compromise. The Southern pestilential influence would poison not only the North, but this whole hemisphere. The history of the past has nothing to be compared with organized, legal piracy, as would become the thus-called Southern chivalry on land and on sea; and soon European maritime powers would be obliged to make costly expeditions for the sake of extirpating, crushing, uprooting the nest of pirates, which then will embrace about twelve millions,—every Southern gentleman being a pirate at heart.
This is what the Northern people know by experience and by intuition, and what makes the people so uneasy about the inertia of the administration.
Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Seward, Gen. Scott, and other great men, are soured against the people and public opinion for distrusting, or rather for criticising their little display of statesmanlike activity. How unjust! As a general rule, of all human sentiments, confidence is the most scrutinizing one. If confidence is bestowed, it wants to perfectly know the why. But from the outset of this war the American people gave and give to everybody full, unsuspecting confidence, without asking the why, without even scrutinizing the actions which were to justify the claim.
Up to this day Secesh is the positive pole; the Union is the negative,—it is the blow recipient. When, oh, when will come the opposite? When will we deal blows? Not under McClellan, I suspect.
Ball's Bluff — Whitewashing — "Victoria! Old Scott gone overboard!" — His fatal influence — His conceit — Cameron — Intervention — More reviews — Weed, Everett, Hughes — Gov. Andrew — Boutwell — Mason and Slidell caught — Lincoln frightened by the South Carolina success — Waits unnoticed in McClellan's library — Gen. Thomas — Traitors and pedants — The Virginia campaign — West Point — McClellan's speciality — When will they begin to see through him?
The season is excellent for military operations, such as any Napoleon could wish it. And we, lying not on our oars or arms, but in our beds, as our spes patriae is warmly and cosily established in a large house, receiving there the incense and salutations of all flunkeys. Even cabinet ministers crowd McClellan's antechambers!
The massacre at Ball's Bluff is the work either of treason, or of stupidity, or of cowardice, or most probably of all three united.
No European government and no European nation would thus coolly bear it. Any commander culpable of such stupidity would be forever disgraced, and dismissed from the army. Here the administration, the Cabinet, and all the Scotts, the McClellans, the Thomases, etc., strain their brains and muscles to whitewash themselves or the culprit—to represent this massacre as something very innocent.
Victoria! Victoria! Old Scott, Old Mischief, gone overboard! So vanished one of the two evil genii keeping guard over Mr. Lincoln's brains. But it will not be so easy to redress the evil done by Scott. He nailed the country's cause to such a turnpike that any of his successors will perhaps be unable to undo what Old Mischief has done. Scott might have had certain, even eminent, military capacity; but, all things considered, he had it only on a small scale. Scott never had in his hand large numbers, and hundreds of European generals of divisions would do the same that Scott did, even in Mexico. Any one in Europe, who in some way or other participated in the events of the last forty years, has had occasion to see or participate in one single day in more and better fighting, to hear more firing, and smell more powder, than has General Scott in his whole life.
Scott's fatal influence palsied, stiffened, and poisoned every noble or higher impulse, and every aspiration of the people. Scott diligently sowed the first seeds of antagonism between volunteers and regulars, and diligently nursed them. Around his person in the War Department, and in the army, General Scott kept and maintained officers, who, already before the inauguration, declared, and daily asserted, that if it comes to a war, few officers of the army will unite with the North and remain loyal to the Union.
He never forgot to be a Virginian, and was filled with all a Virginian's conceit. To the last hour he warded off blows aimed at Virginia. To this hour he never believed in a serious war, and now requiescat in pace until the curse of coming generations.
McClellan is invested with all the powers of Scott. McClellan has more on his shoulders than any man—a Napoleon not excepted—can stand; and with his very limited capacity McClellan must necessarily break under it. Now McClellan will be still more idolized. He is already a kind of dictator, as Lincoln, Seward, etc., turn around him.
In a conversation with Cameron, I warned him against bestowing such powers on McClellan. "What shall we do?" was Cameron's answer; "neither the President nor I know anything about military affairs." Well, it is true; but McClellan is scarcely an apprentice.
Again the intermittent fear, or fever, of foreign intervention. How absurd! Americans belittle themselves talking and thinking about it. The European powers will not, and cannot. That is my creed and my answer; but some of our agents, diplomats, and statesmen, try to made capital for themselves from this fever which they evoke to establish before the public that their skill preserves the country from foreign intervention. Bosh!
All the good and useful produced in the life and in the economy of nations, all the just and the right in their institutions, all the ups and downs, misfortunes and disasters befalling them, all this was, is, and forever will be the result of logical deductions from pre-existing dates and facts. And here almost everybody forgets the yesterday.
A revolution imposes obligations. A revolution makes imperative the development and the practical application of those social principles which are its basis.
The American Revolution of 1776 proclaimed self-government, equality before all, happiness of all, etc.; it is therefore the peremptory duty of the American people to uproot domestic oligarchy, based upon living on the labor of an enslaved man; it has to put a stop to the moral, intellectual, and physical servitude of both, of whites and of colored.
Eminent men in America are taunted with the ambition to reach the White House. In itself it is not condemnable; it is a noble or an ignoble ambition, according to the ways and means used to reach that aim. It is great and stirring to see one's name recorded in the list of Presidents of the United States; but there is still a record far shorter, but by far more to be envied—a record venerated by our race—it is the record of truly great men. The actually inscribed runners for the White House do not think of this.
No one around me here seems to understand (and no one is familiar enough with general history) that protracted wars consolidate a nationality. Every day of Southern existence shapes it out more and more into a nation, with all the necessary moral and material conditions of existence.
Seeing these repeated reviews, I cannot get rid of the idea that by such shows and displays McClellan tries to frighten the rebels in the Chinaman fashion.
The collateral missions to England, France, and Spain, are to add force to our cause before the public opinion as well as before the rulers. But what a curious choice of men! It would be called even an unhappy one. Thurlow Weed, with his offhand, apparently sincere, if not polished ways, may not be too repulsive to English refinement, provided he does not buttonhole his interlocutionists, or does not pat them on the shoulder. So Thurlow Weed will be dined, wined, etc. But doubtless the London press will show him up, or some "Secesh" in London will do it. I am sure that Lord Lyons, as it is his paramount duty, has sent to Earl Russell a full and detailed biography of this Seward's alter ego, sent ad latus to Mr. Adams. Thurlow Weed will be considered an agreeable fellow; but he never can acquire much weight and consideration, neither with the statesmen, nor with the members of the government, nor in saloons, nor with the public at large.
Edward Everett begged to be excused from such a false position offered to him in London. Not fish, not flesh. It was rather an offence to proffer it to Everett. The old patriot better knows Europe, its cabinets, and exigencies, than those who attempted to intricate him in this ludicrous position. He is right, and he will do more good here than he could do in London—there on a level with Thurlow Weed!
Archbishop Hughes is to influence Paris and France,—but whom? The public opinion, which is on our side, is anti-Roman, and Hughes is an Ultra Montane—an opinion not over friendly to Louis Napoleon. The French clergy in every way, in culture, wisdom, instruction, theology, manners, deportment, etc., is superior to Hughes in incalculable proportions, and the French clergy are already generally anti-slavery. Hughes to act on Louis Napoleon! Why! the French Emperor can outwit a legion of Hugheses, and do this without the slightest effort. Besides, for more than a century European sovereigns, governments, and cabinets, have generally given up the use of bishops, etc., for political, public, or confidential missions. Mr. Seward stirs up old dust. All the liberal party in Europe or France will look astonished, if not worse, at this absurdity.
All things considered, it looks like one of Seward's personal tricks, and Seward outwitted Chase, took him in by proffering a similar mission to Chase's friend, Bishop McIlvaine. But I pity Dayton. He is a high-toned man, and the mission of Hughes is a humiliation to Dayton.
Whatever may be the objects of these missions, they look like petty expedients, unworthy a minister of a great government.
Mason and Slidell caught. England will roar, but here the people are satisfied. Some of the diplomats make curious faces. Lord Lyons behaves with dignity. The small Bremen flatter right and left, and do it like little lap-dogs.
Governor Andrew of Massachusetts, ex-Governor Boutwell, are tip-top men—men of the people. The Blairs are too heinous, too violent, in their persecution of Fremont. Warned M. Blair not to protect one whom Fremont deservedly expelled. But M. Blair, in his spite against Fremont, took a mean adventurer by the hand, and entangled therein the President.
The vessel and the crew are excellent, and would easily obey the hand of a helmsman, but there is the rub, where to find him? Lincoln is a simple man of the prairie, and his eyes penetrate not the fog, the tempest. They do not perceive the signs of the times—cannot embrace the horizon of the nation. And thus his small intellectual insight is dimmed by those around him. Lincoln begins now already to believe that he is infallible; that he is ahead of the people, and frets that the people may remain behind. Oh simplicity or conceit!