Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Father and His Youngest Sister, - 1857-78
by Ulysses S. Grant
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You lament the inconceivable disasters "inaugurated by the attack on Sumter." True enough they may have been inaugurated by that act, but their unconcealed cause lies far back of that, as we have shown. That was only a raising of the curtain, or rather a forcing of it to be raised by the Abolitionists—a beginning of the bloody drama. Who caused the attack? What meant those human cargoes that approached so close to its walls the day before the battle? Why did the worthy (?) Lincoln so long deceive the South^rn Commissioners by promise after promise not to make war, but to evacuate the fort, & meet them, as a sensible Pres. would have done, in friendly negotiation for peace? S.C. was right, and acted nobly in the affair, and was as justifiable therein, as was Anderson in occupying the Fort before he had a reason for doing so, declaring by his overt act that the U.S. forces under him were at enmity with S.C. But then you say S.C. should have first tried Lincoln before determining to secede. I think she saw with prophetic vision the end from the beginning. She took Lincoln at his word—that itself was oppression & tyranny sufficient to burst asunder the closest ties of Union that could exist in any Country. You say we sh^d. give everything a fair trial. I disagree. If I saw a serpent in my path & it sh^d. attempt to make battle, or declare its hostility by displaying its horrid fangs, do you think I would coolly stand by & give it a fair trial, & test its friendship? I would be impelled, even had I never seen or heard of such a creature before, to crush it immediately, & so S.C. has sensibly said to the Administration "Serpent, bite a file!" As to your Eulogium on Lincoln I have not much to say. If he pleases you, well enough, you're easily satisfied. I take it that he is a disgrace to the Chair he occupies; and to judge from his conversations, he is devoid of all sense of refinement & etiquette; to look at his executive powers as displayed thus far, he had better be a Bey than helmsman of the "Old Ship"; and what of his efforts at speeches? In the language of Logan, "I appeal to any white man" to say if they would not be a disgrace to many a "Country 'Squire"! And yet such a man elevated to the highest position in the gift of the American people! There was a time when the soundest and most learned men of the land were made Presidents, now a man's capacity for the office seems to depend on the meanness of his intellect & the number of rails he can split in a day. And so great were his "maul & wedge" propensities that he withheld not his hand from splitting the Tree of Liberty. But let us inquire upon which side "humanity" stands in this contest. You complain much of several (local) depredations com^td by South on private boats &c. I ask, in candor, if it was not in retaliation for like outrages com^td by the North. I am certain as to its being so in several cases. The very 1st boat thus ill-treated was one belonging to the South on its way down the Miss. & attacked at Cairo. To retaliate they determined to attack North^en boats coming up the river. And what have your noble Ohioans done lately & repeatedly with our Ka. boats at Gallipolis? Thrice have they overhauled the same boat and twice kept every pound of freight on her timbers. But this is not all; your humane Lincoln has closed the Southern ports, & is daily robbing vessels on their way in & out of the same. During the last week he stole $150,000 worth of Southern Tobacco, & thus the programme continues. Very humane indeed! Again, he is no invader! No indeed! by no means! yet hundreds of Citizens are now fleeing from Wheeling, & other towns invaded, for personal safety. Scarce a day passes but some one stops here who has thus escaped. If they remain on their own soil and round their proper hearthstone the (very) humane doom of a murderer awaits them! The North don't intend to make invasion at all, yet 4000 F^l troops are now in Parkersburg, breaking up printing presses, putting innocent people in jail, and doing other humane acts, "too numerous to mention." According to my letter from Father I understand they don't have the first principles of Civilized warfare—they intend to hang all their prisoners. Oh! humanity! HUMANITY!

And now that we have seen that neither Reason, Justice, nor Humanity is on the side of the North, let us look at the subject in the light of Expediency, admitting, for the sake of argument the while, that it were right or just to wage the war. And viewing it from this standpoint, we ask, what does the North expect to gain by it? Does there live a man so lost to reason & common sense as to imagine that the Union of the seceded States with the N.S. can ever be effected again? And if it could be done by force, how long could a Repub^n Gov. exist as a military despotism? And who would not prefer banishment or death to such a life? What Satisfac^n could the North themselves have in such an event? They would live a life of misery; provoke the sneers of the civilized world; and draw down upon their heads the terrible wrath of an offended God.

But this war will not be permitted thus to terminate, the South can never be conquered. You yourself know their "spirit" too well to believe otherwise. Rather than be subjugated they will die a triple death. Like their mighty Henry they cry, "Give us liberty or give us death!" And still more I don't think they can be exterminated. 8,000,000 of people, armed in the holy cause of self-defence; struggling for their liberties, honor, interests, & lives, with a laudable ambition, & an unyielding perseverance, are invincible by any force the North can raise to send against them. Besides (to continue the sentiments of Henry), the battle is not to the strong alone, it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Especially so when, as I said before, the forces of Lincoln are not composed generally of men of the first rank of Society (except a few Officers desirous of Fame), but the "offscouring" & rabble of the land—men who have nothing at stake, not even their own lives we might say, since they care so little for anything. So that notwithstanding the immense number (and here let me remind you of the disparity of forces, of which you said so much, at Sumter)—"stubborn facts"—of which you speak, the South has nothing to fear. And, moreover, as certainly as I believe there exists a God of Justice & Mercy, so certainly & conscientiously do I believe He will defend the South from the Vandals of the North. Yes, dark as they seem, the clouds of gloom do not shut out the star of hope, and they are beginning to be spanned by a radiant bow of promise; the fall of Ellsworth & the shattered walls of the once presumed impreg^ble Sumter, abundantly testify that God is on their side, and "if the Lord be for them, who can be against them?" So I heartily say "God speed" them—they shall have my prayers.—But let us take one more glance at the expediency of this matter. Are not the North fighting for a Patroclus' grave in this struggle? What matters an abstract banner? especially to the "matter of fact" Yankee? And then behold the inconsistency of the North in another point; they have through their Representatives, for many years, cried "no more slave territory"; and indeed many of them, such as Seward &c., have declared that slavery must be abolished, as both can't exist under the same gov.; yet, now they are fighting to the death to keep or get back slave territory!!! "Oh! consistency!" And, finally, at this point, will it not cost myriads of lives & millions of money to accomplish their infernal designs, even could they do it? And can the North afford this? Even now it is costing Lincoln's Anarchy (for I can't call it gov.) $1,000,000 per day—a matter of record! Suppose then the war sh^d last a year, what then? Union or dis-union? Alas, farther separation. Continue it then two years more. What then? Ditto & ditto it will be should it last as long as the "War of the Roses," for we have no houses of York & Lancaster to unite, sign and settle the dispute by marriage—one or both annihilated!—And now I ask how, in the name of Reason, Justice, or Humanity, can you lift up your voice in defence of the North when they are the cause of all this accumulating misery?—when they have deprived the South of her Consti^tn rights, driven her to the necessity of a separation, and now raise their arm against her as an enemy, declaring either to subjugate her, to overrun her with their vandal hordes, or exterminate from her soil every living creature?—& when, "Oh bloodiest picture in the book of time!" they are ready to repeat with a triple vengeance the untold horrors of the Spanish Inquisition? They are madly, blindly rushing, they know not where. The blame of dissolution rests upon her. And the still more awful responsibility of a civil war will hang as an everlasting incubus upon her shoulders. Then let her beware ere she "cross the Rubicon"—let her "pause long upon its brink." And shall we all perish by her fratricidal hand? Shall the blood, shed by brother in deadly war with brother, flow ignominiously through our rivers to the ocean & be carried by its waves to stain the shores of Nations that for long years have been centring their fond hopes on America as the grand ideal of the gov. they too would some day enjoy? Shall such hopes be blasted as soon as fondly cherished? and now that Italy has trampled upon the tyrannical "Mitre"—torn from her long subdued neck the yoke of Papal bondage—passed from the darkness of superstitious bondage into the light of religious freedom, shall we sink back to what she was, by casting ourselves into the whirlpool of civil war? Shall we not only put out, but shatter, the lamp of liberty, a lamp whose effulgence was beginning to scatter the shades of despotism from off the earth? Shall we extinguish the brightest star in the constellation of human freedom? The united voices of Humanity, Justice, & Reason answer, No! The cries of myriad free men living, & of millions yet unborn, rend the air with a universal negative! and from the vaulted canopy of heaven there swells back the solemn echo, "God forbid!" As if augmented by the mournful strain of 10,000 angels hovering in amazement over the conflicting scene! Oh! then let the North beware!

Mrs. Tompkins says that if you can justify your Bro. Ulysses in drawing his sword against those connected by the ties of blood, and even boast of it, you are at liberty to do so, but she can not. And should one of those kindred be stricken down by his sword the awful judgment of God will be meted out to him, &, if not repented of, the hot thunderbolts of His wrath will blaze round his soul through eternity. On the contrary, if the vice versa should occur, she thinks "those kin" would be justified, because in self-defence. As to Mr. John Marshall's being promoted in the army of Lincoln, she thinks that fact explains itself: he spent much of his time previously seeking, or at least expecting, promotion, & failing in a laudable way,—in defence of his own kindred & the home of his bosom companion!—he resorted to Yankeedom, and sold as it were his birthright for a mess of Abolition pottage. This helps confirm my view, that many take positions in Lincoln's Army with the expectation of military promotion, & the hope of an easy conquest of the South. Oh, how deluded! But as for many of them, "God forgive them, for they know not what they do."

But I must bring these desultory remarks to a break-off. So, begging pardon once more for transgressing the limits of formality, and hoping you may live to see the verification of many of my remarks, I have the pleasure of signing myself


P.S. If you sh^d write again, please use white paper; it almost gives me the "blues" to read your letter.

[Footnote 3: Representatives.]

[Footnote 4: Publications.]

[Footnote 5: Population.]


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