Objects of the War

New York World, April 30, 1861

It is high time that a piece of secession nonsense, to which there are even now loyal men that yield an indolent half-assent, were exploded. It is impossible, it is said, no matter how thoroughly the seceded states may be subdued, ever to govern them again except as subjugated provinces; and the federal government is not fitted to govern provinces. It is hence argued that, whatever may be the fortunes of this war, the Union is finally sundered, and can never be reconstructed. We believe, on the contrary, that the ultimate result of the great rally now made for the defense of the Union will be its complete restoration, with a great addition to the public sense of its stability. The assumption that the South can never be subdued is now pretty nearly given up, and the twin assumptions that we cannot govern those states as subjugated provinces, and that their incurable alienation will not permit us to govern them otherwise, are equally untenable.

It is probable that, before the end of eighteen months (if this war should continue as long), the southern people will be at our feet imploring us to save them from the consequences of their terrible infatuation. The strict blockade of their ports, and the absolute cessation of all commercial intercourse between the belligerent parties which a state of war entails, will commit the South to a fate which fills the imagination with horror. Their inability to dispose of their cotton would alone fill the whole section with distress. They cannot convert bales of cotton into food, nor garments, nor munitions of war. The loss of the two hundred and thirty millions of dollars which they expect from the cotton crop will cripple and beggar them. Their inability to procure their accustomed supplies of food from the Northwest will cause gaunt famine to stalk over the plantations, and the pains of unappeased hunger will raise wide-spread negro insurrections and their attendant atrocities, without any aid from the abolitionists. The mind recoils horror-struck from the terrible picture which it requires no prophetic hand to paint. The lurid smoke from a hundred thousand blazing human habitations, set on fire in the night time, while feverish sleep closed the anxious eyes of their inmates; helpless children butchered by an infuriated and hellish black rabble; half-naked women flying in terror from the lurid light of their own dwellings, panting to escape into the friendly and protecting darkness, and rescue themselves from a fate worse than ten thousand deaths, are scenes which would promptly reconcile the surviving white population to any government that could save them. It may be three months, it may [be] six months, before the South are brought to realize the terrible and revolting probabilities of their not distant future; but a distinct perception of these probabilities, whenever they acquire it, will cause them to prize the protection of the federal government more than a wayward runaway boy ever did the paternal home to which he was permitted to return.

But even if the dangers naturally to be apprehended from the passions of four millions of brutal blacks should be escaped (which would be but little short of a miracle), and the South, after a sharp and exhausting war, should be subdued, as any non-slaveholding people might be subdued by superior numbers and resources, a weakened and sullenly submissive people, such as they would then be, could certainly be governed by the United States till time should put them in a better humor. There may be doubts as to the power of Congress to remand the rebel states into the territorial condition in which some of them once existed, and govern them as territories; but the authority to do this is at least as defensible as that to recognize their independence, which is the other alternative, and which they claim ought to be clone. Reasoning on their premises, the constitutional difficulty could easily be got over. For, if the Confederate States are really an independent nation, we, who are at war with them, may acquire their territory by conquest, as we would that of any other independent nation with whom we might be at war; and the right to govern such territory is a necessary incident of the right to acquire it. We acquired Louisiana by purchase, in the exercise, as President JEFFERSON thought, of doubtful powers; but the great national necessity of having it and possessing the mouths of the Mississippi, overruled the constitutional scruples. The national necessity of retaining it is still greater; and if we cannot rule it otherwise, we can appoint military governors over it until it returns to its allegiance and asks to be readmitted as a state. All political parties in this country have long supported the government in a settled determination that the island of Cuba shall never pass out of the hands of Spain into those of any other European` power. We have considered its possession, in certain contingencies, a national necessity, and have never asked ourselves the question whether we could hold and govern it, if its inhabitants should not choose to come into the Union as a state. It is certain that we should hold it with a firm gripe, whether it chose to be a state in the Union or not, and nobody ever for a moment doubted our competency to govern it either without the consent of its people or with. But as soon as they saw that their destiny was unalterably connected with ours, they would certainly prefer the privileges of a state to the condition of a province. And it is just as certain that all the rebel states, when once convinced of the impossibility of cutting loose, will have the same preference. Even if they should be sulky and obstinate for a while, the ambition of their aspiring men, and the real advantages of enjoying equal privileges with the other states, would soon bring them into the Union on their old footing. If the choice lay between the Union and independence, they might prefer a separate government; but when they are shut up to a choice between military subjection and state privileges, they will get speedily cured of their secession nonsense.

The purpose of this war, therefore, must be the preservation of the Union in its integrity. If we keep a firm grasp on the whole of the national territory, and bar the door effectually against secession, we need borrow no trouble about governing the subdued states afterward.