"A Mission of Humanity"

New York Journal of Commerce, April 12, 1861

This is the term applied by the friends of war, to the attempt to furnish Fort Sumter with supplies. It is, they say, a mission of humanity; an attempt to relieve a band of men from the dangers of starvation. Very well. We agree that Major Anderson and his command should not be starved to death in that fortress, where they remain by order of the government, doing their duty as faithful soldiers, acting under the command of their superiors. But is this the only mode in which humanity can reach them? And does not humanity demand also, that the terrible sacrifice of human life which will attend a war between the North and the South, shall be avoided? Humanity indeed!! That is a singular order of humanity which is shocked at the prospective hunger of an hundred men in a strong fortress, but demands the sacrifice of an hundred thousand on the battle field.

We express no opinion whether the effort to provision and reinforce Fort Sumter, will prove successful. That is a point upon which military men differ, and we await the result of the experiment, if it must be made, with feelings of the most intense anxiety, not alone on account of the few men who are there, but for the higher and overshadowing reason, that the opening of the contest there, must, according to all human expectation, be the signal for a general war between the North and the South. That we deprecate, as the worst of all calamities; and we doubt whether it is an act of humanity to persist in a policy which shall produce such a conflict.

We are aware that opinions differ as to the responsibility for such a result; that in one section of the country it will be charged upon the seceders, and in another upon the Administration. If any good result could come of using force against the seceded States, there might be a plausible reason for its exercise. As it is, the most cogent argument we have heard is, that we shall thus determine “whether we have a government.” With all respect for those who feel solicitude on that point, we suggest that one thing is likely to be demonstrated, viz., that we have not, and in the event of the subjugation of the Southern States, are not likely to have, such a government, as the Constitution contemplates, or such as our fathers understood to be instituted, when the Union was formed. The Government then established, was a Government of equals, in which all the States would perform willing parts. The one which our warlike friends, represented (it seems) by the Lincoln Administration, would prove to exist, is a government of force, where a majority of States, or of the Representatives, as the case may be, shall hold the minority in subjection to their will. If it is to demonstrate this fact, that war is to be precipitated upon the country, then we doubt whether the motive is one of humanity—much less of right.