Worth All It Costs
Albany Evening Journal, June 1, 1861
War is an expensive luxury. However humanely and discreetly waged, it is a serious drain upon the life of a nation. We shall come out of the present struggle impoverished in many ways. With the best success, we shall expend hundreds of millions of treasures and sacrifice thousands of lives. We shall feel the bruises of the conflict for years after the rebellion has been crushed and peace has been restored. Thousands of fortunes will be wrecked—thousands of homes will be made desolate—thousands of bright careers will be arrested. The mourners will go about the streets. There will be sorrow and anguish—there will be despair that no human sympathy can assuage—in many a gentle bosom. The wrecks will lie thick around us—the charred and battered ruins of high hopes and sublime endeavors—will attest how severe has been the trial through which the country has passed.
Will it pay the cost? Yes—a hundred—a thousand fold—if we come out of the struggle conquorers! If we succeed in crushing out this miserable rebellion—if we exterminate the fatal heresy of Secession—if we shall be able to teach Treason such a lesson as History will never weary of rehearsing—if we shall succeed in convincing the world that we have a Government, strong enough, vigorous enough, determined enough, to overcome all combinations and attacks, whether from conspiracies within or invasions from without; if we shall be able to impress Christendom with the conviction that our Western Empire is built upon a rock, which no convulsion can shake, and no tempests undermine;—if we shall be able to do this, and do it effectively, the war, no matter how long or how desperately waged, will be the cheapest enterprise upon which the nation ever embarked. Every drop of blood that has been shed—every dollar that has been expended—every purpose that has been baulked and hope that has been crushed—will fructify into future blessings. We shall emerge from the conflict stronger in all that goes to make up the life of a great People. We shall resume the calm pursuits of peace, chastened by the trial through which we have passed—purified by the affliction with which we have been visited. We shall find ourselves elevated to a higher moral plane, and quickened by nobler impulses to the performance of nobler deeds. We shall find ourselves purer, more self-reliant, more self-poised, more able to grapple with future issues, and avoid future dangers. We shall find ourselves less bound up in selfishness, less the slaves of toil and business, less grovelling in our tastes, less earthy in our aspirations.
The successful termination of the war will be the dawn of a new era in the history of the country. The Republic will enter upon a new stage of its career. The public heart will throb with more generous pulsations. Broader, higher, nobler issues will engage the attention of statesmen. A loftier standard of public morality will prevail. A better class of public teachers will come upon the stage. Purer aims and more exalted conceptions of Truth and justice will animate the People. The sterling metal of our Western life purified as it were by fire—abstracted from the dross that has so long tarnished its lustre,—will shine out as it has never shone before.