Is This Treason?
Milwaukee Daily Press and News, April 18, 1861
There was a book published some little time before the American revolution, very full of sound philosophy and good, wholesome morality, and was much used as a guide by those who fought against Great Britain. It is not out of print at present, but newer philosophy, more fashionable morality, and a certain newly discovered principle called philanthropy confine it to the studies of the old fashioned.—Extracts from it may occasionally be found, but they are mostly merely quotations of words not of the spirit of the work.
We remember a lesson read in it that used to be enforced by grave and excellent men, though it now seems to be forgotten. A distinguished ruler was asked, "how many times shall I forgive my brother? Seven times?" and the answer was, "not seven times, but seventy times seven." But this is not now the rule of philanthropy. That rule now is, bear with the insults of the stranger from a foreign land, but never forgive a brother. Be hospitable to the foeman, but drive the latter from your father's house, despoil his inheritance, and lay him if possible in a rath grave.
It would be easy indeed for any one to go into the excitement of the moment to urge on a war of extermination, to throw the destinies of a great nation into the hands of the rashest men in the country, to show southern disunionists that we can be as rash, as wild, as foolish, as wicked as they have been, but the great question is cui bono? What good will all this do?
We believe in preparation for the contest if it must come. We believe in ample preparation, but we believe coolness in the emergency will be both more profitable and more creditable than enthusiastic rashness or vain boasting. We admire those Union men in the border slave states who cling firmly to the hope of Union, while they admit that they cannot in the event of an intestine war abandon those who are nearest and dearest to them; and we, too, say that while democrats ought to cling to the Union while a hope is left, that when all hope is gone, they ought to be, where they ever have been, where they ever will be, foremost in the defense of their country, foremost to save all they can.
In the war of 1812 they were foremost in the field, while their opponents were plotting treason in New England. In the war with Mexico they were foremost in the field, while their opponents were applauding men who bade the Mexicans "welcome them with bloody hands to hospitable graves." In that war the first shot was fired by Mexicans, but the men who can never forgive a brother for an assault could plead for the stranger "a military necessity."
We are not apologising for the fire-eaters of the South, for we hold them exactly as we do, the disunionists of the North, untrue to the Union, unfaithful to their trusts. When the South was invaded by a lawless horde of abolitionists who fired the first shot in this war, we did not applaud their gallantry in murder, or prophesy their act to be the commencement of a ceaseless contest among brethren. When they suffered the penalty of their crimes, we did not toll bells in honor of them, and out of sorrow for their merited fate, as did some of those who now pretend to be so attached to this Union, that nothing but its immediate and unconditional dissolution will gratify them.
Our treason is fidelity to that Union our fathers left us. Our remedy for wrongs, amending that constitution according to the mode prescribed by them. Failing in this remedy, having tried those means prescribed to us by the instrument we are all morally sworn to support, and having tried them without success, having exhausted the remedies for wrongs bequeathed to us by our fathers, we are prepared to follow their example, and even then with reluctance, as they did, but with deep determination and a clear conscience, to divide the common inheritance of our fathers, or in open and honorable war to decide those points which cannot be otherwise decided.
Such was the course of the founders of this Republic. They bore many wrongs with patience, declaring with truth that England had no more loyal colonies in all its vast possessions than those of America, urging a measure of justice, willing to make sacrifices to the last, but when all efforts proved unavailing, girding on their armor with coolness, but without vain boasting, and never turning back after once planting their feet upon the field of battle.
Such a course we advise our democratic friends to pursue; such a course we advise all to make their own, and we feel that when the hour of battle comes, if come it must, none will show more proudly in front of the line, none will bear themselves more bravely, none will meet death more cheerfully than those who, having made every effort to secure an honorable peace, will fight with untroubled conscience to secure the victory by arms that they would rather have secured by more peaceful means.