Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

NORTH AMERICAN

REVIEW.

No. CCCLXII.

JANUARY, 1887.

THE RENAISSANCE OF NATIONALISM.

[blocks in formation]

One of the most notable features of our recent literature has been the revival of interest in matters connected with the war of rebellion. That such a revival must some time have occurred was a thing inevitable in the nature of events. Immediately upon the conclusion of any great conflict, but more especially of a civil war, there always comes a period when public interest in the causes and incidents of the strife may be said to lag. The soldier is glad to be at home and rest from “war's alarms," and the noncombatant has heard more than enough about the struggle in which he had no part. So when the returning heroes have been fairly welcomed home, their trophies counted, their personal adventures related and their presence become again familiar, the people turn away from the agony of strife and seek relief in lighter themes. The conquerors pall of triumph and the conquered shun whatever reminds them of defeat.

Two forces especially tended to produce this result among the people of the North, who constitute the chief part of our reading public. An almost incredible proportion of its population were opposed to the prosecution of the war—the attempt to coerce the rebellious States. As the period of conflict recedes it seems more and more wonderful that the National cause prevailed. Year by year the fact grows clearer to the observer's eye that the burthen VOL. CXLIV.-NO, 362.

1

5 So 2

63823

the rear.

of war at the front was hardly greater than that of disaffection

The next generation will find it hard to believe that the four men living at the outbreak of the war who had occupii the presidential chair not one tendered his support to the Nation cause, or offered sympathy or patriotic counsel to his overburden successor at the head of the Government. It will be deem almost incredible that during the whole four years of that terrik struggle not one of these men, all of whom were citizens of Nort ern States, made any public utterance intended to strengthen t Union cause or indeed any utterance at all upon the subjet except in one case, when compelled by public clamor to make lame excuse for his own apathy. Already it is hard to realize th when the conflict drew to its close one of these men refused decorate his house in honor of our final tri-victory, or display t emblems of mourning on the death of the great leader whose ma velous tact and unfailing steadfastnesss had brought us throu those years of unmatched peril. Still more difficult will it be posterity to understand that our ex-Presidents were simply tyr of a very large element of our people. These very natura desired the war, its causes and overshadowing glories to be f gotten just as soon as possible. They made haste, therefore, turn the public attention into other channels and to clamor oblivion in regard to the past.

There was another and most peculiar influence tending in tl direction. The political organization then having control of t country had in it two elements which looked with especial d favor on the ascendency within itself of those whose fame rest on military renown.

One of these was what was known as t “Abolition Element." These men regarded themselves as, in sense, the possessors of an exclusive proprietary interest in t Republican party of that day, and thought that the laurels of first administration, both civic and military, ought to relate ba to them as the ultimate cause, rather than rest upon the heads the immediate agents. Such men as Chase, Sumner, Sewa Greeley, and a host of lesser lights, felt deeply aggrieved at bei overshadowed by men like Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, and Stanto and other military leaders whom they regarded, if not as tr passers on their demesne, at least as men who had merely adopt their ideas and reaped advantage from their labors. It hurt th all the more to know that these recipients of popular acclaim w

[graphic]

of war at the front was hardly greater than that of disaffection in the rear. The next generation will find it hard to believe that of the four men living at the outbreak of the war who had occupied the presidential chair not one tendered his support to the National cause, or offered sympathy or patriotic counsel to his overburdened successor at the head of the Government. It will be deemed almost incredible that during the whole four years of that terrible struggle not one of these men, all of whom were citizens of Northern States, made any public utterance intended to strengthen the Union cause or indeed any utterance at all upon the subject, except in one case, when compelled by public clamor to make a lame excuse for his own apathy. Already it is hard to realize that when the conflict drew to its close one of these men refused to decorate his house in honor of our final tri-victory, or display the emblems of mourning on the death of the great leader whose marvelous tact and unfailing steadfastnesss had brought us through those years of unmatched peril. Still more difficult will it be for posterity to understand that our ex-Presidents were simply types of a very large element of our people. These very naturally desired the war, its causes and overshadowing glories to be for gotten just as soon as possible. They made haste, therefore, to turn the public attention into other channels and to clamor for oblivion in regard to the past.

There was another and most peculiar influence tending in this direction. The political organization then having control of the

not inclined, during the combat, to submit to their dictation, nor after its close to attribute to them, as they thought, due credit for the result. They could not understand that there had been a change of base in the great onward march, and that only those who were leaders in the new movement could wear its freshest laurels. These men and their followers, who were many and zealous, joined with the former element to deprecate preferment based on military renown, until it became almost a disadvantage to one having political aspirations at the North to have carried a musket or drawn a sword in defense of the country.

To these influences was added also that of certain party leaders who had gained position and prominence during the war, very largely on account of the absence in the military service of those who wonld otherwise have been their rivals. To perpetuate their power, these men organized their followers and dependents and instructed them to clamor lustily for oblivion for all things connected with the period of war except its political phases. They declared that the struggle was over and all that pertained to it should be forgotten; that soldiers should be remembered with pensious and homes ad libitum, but for the public service, statesmen trained in the schools, gentlemen polished by social experience and millionaires imbued with the knowledge how to make the many subserve the interest of the few, able to subsidize the press, corrupt delegates and purchase votes and influence--that these men were needed both by party and country to steer the ship of state through the breakers that threatened when war was ended. They inculcated the sentiment that patriotism was well enough in war, but trickery was the keynote of political success in peace.

We should not fail to note also as a force which exerted a powerful influence in producing the result we have indicated, that morbid sentimentality which insisted upon ignoring the righteousness of the National cause and the noble simplicity of motive which inspired its supporters, because of a silly fear that the feelings of those who fought on the other side might be injured by the assertion of these facts.

That such a state of public sentiment must some time come to an end, the dullest might easily predict. The fact cannot always be neglected that the Nation was right, and the South and its sympathizers wrong. So, too, the impression cannot always prevail that the men who were victorious were so greatly inferior

country had in it two elements which looked with especial disfavor on the ascendency within itself of those whose fame rested on military renown. One of these was what was known as the "Abolition Element." These men regarded themselves as, in a sense, the possessors of an exclusive proprietary interest in the Republican party of that day, and thought that the laurels of its first administration, both civic and military, ought to relate back to them as the ultimate cause, rather than rest upon the heads of che immediate agents. Such men as Chase, Sumner, Seward, Greeley, and a host of lesser lights, felt deeply aggrieved at being overshadowed by men like Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, and Stanton. ind other military leaders whom they regarded, if not as trespassers on their demesne, at least as men who had merely adopted heir ideas and reaped advantage from their labors. It hurt them ll the more to know that these recipients of popular acclaim were

« PreviousContinue »