The War Spirit
New York Journal of Commerce, April 10, 1861
There is great danger that the war spirit will become so much aroused, both North and South, that it cannot be repressed. The feelings of the people have long been gravitating in that direction,—and although a few months ago the idea of a general war between the North and the South would not have been for a moment entertained, there was being engendered a spirit of prejudice, hatred and distrust, which only needed the events that have since occurred, to bring those who ought to be friends into an attitude of open hostility to each other.
A few days ago there were glimmerings of peace. But they were only glimmerings, to be succeeded by the threatenings of war. Our readers need not be told that since the commencement of the secession movement we have seen but faint hopes of an amicable adjustment of our national difficulties. Occasionally our intense desire and wish for a peaceful solution has mastered our judgment, founded on the condition of the country and the true aspect of affairs, so far that we have indulged in flattering visions of fraternal relations re-established,—of a Union restored; but these illusions have been quickly dispelled by the hard logic of facts.
Upon what has this apprehension of war and carnage rested? Why have the friends of peace found so little to encourage and cheer them, in these days of national calamity? Simply because of the existence of a hostile spirit among the people. Continued union can only be maintained as the fruit of kindness and fraternal relations; and it ought not, therefore, to surprise any body, that secession and alienation and war, follow as the legitimate issues of a bitter and malignant spirit between the two sections.
It is not our purpose to charge this wrong, exclusively upon any class of people, or upon any section of country. That is a task never coveted by us, and perhaps agreeable to none. But what we desire to show at this time is, the tendency of that animosity between the sections, to culminate in an appeal to arms.
It is painful to witness the war spirit now rife throughout the country. It is at its highest pitch at the South, and is fast rising to fever heat in the North. At the rate things go on, the country in less than thirty days, will be ripe for a bloody contest; so that whatever President Lincoln or President Davis may think or wish, war will be inevitable. We are fast becoming a nation of haters; and now that we have no national antipathies towards foreigners, we indulge in the very reprehensible conduct of hating our own brethren and kinsmen.
It is time for the people to pause, and ask themselves whither are we drifting? What will be the consequence of this spirit of animosity towards our fellow-countrymen? Is it not possible for us to differ decently and like men, without indulging in a spirit of malignity? Cannot men be in favor of slavery or opposed to slavery, without rushing at each other like wild beasts, as if they would devour those who differ with them in opinion?
We ask these questions because we are convinced that the present unhappy complications, which threaten to destroy our nationality, have their origin in, and draw their sustenance from, that unchristian spirit which denounces all men as sinful and wrong, who do not conform, in morals, in politics, and in religion, to the standard set up by self-righteous men, who can brook no dissent, nor forgive an independent judgment. If there be any one thing now needed more than any other in human judgment, it is charity. Were there more of this, and less of denunciation against those who do not see according to a given standard, we should have greater hope of a safe deliverance.
Something must be done to arrest the prevailing war spirit, or the country will speedily enter upon a course which, whatever may be the physical superiority of one or the other section, can produce only disaster and distress. Individual citizens may not consider their limited influence of great account, and yet it is of these that the aggregate sentiment of the country is composed. It will be seen, therefore, what is the duty of every man who would avert impending evils. It is, to resist and discourage the war feeling so industriously cultivated by fanatics, and to inculcate a spirit of moderation and peace. Let each individual do this, and a radical change in the tone of the officials at Washington will speedily manifest itself.