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The Southern Nation and the Northern Union

The Illustrated London News, vol.41, no.1167, p.357.

October 4, 1862

The Southern Nation and The
Northern Union.

Do the Southern States of America form a nation? If identity of origin and language; if community of thought, sentiment, feeling, passion, and interest; if pertinacity of purpose, through good and through evil fortune; if heroism, unsurpassed in any age, exhibited amid privations, difficulties, and dangers, of a magnitude of which the history of the world affords few examples, and all devoted to the one great end of national independence, constitute a claim to the title, the South is indeed a nation,--one, homogeneous, and indivisible.

Are the Northern States, which deny and resist the claims of the South, themselves to be considered a nation? They are not of one blood and race. The original Anglo-Saxon element by which they were pervaded two centuries ago has been so largely diluted by a Celtic and Teutonic admixture that the English language remains the only natural bond of union between them. Nor is this bond so powerful as it may appear. The Germans in all the great cities of the north and west constitute a class apart, and imbibe few, if any, ideas from English and American literature and modes of thought. A daily newspaper published in the German language in the city of New York has a circulation of forty thousand. In many parts of the great State of Pennsylvania it is necessary that all public and official announcements should be made both in English and in German, in order that they may be fairly brought within the cognisance of the people. The same necessity exists in Ohio, where German newspapers, theatres, churches, and schools rival those of the Anglo-Saxon population in numbers, importance, and wealth. The Irish Roman Catholics form in all the Northern and Western States an imperium in imperio, voting together, under ecclesiastical guidance, for objects different from those which actuate the Protestant and Puritanic sections of the people. In addition to these divergences which time is more likely to aggravate and extend than to diminish in the case of the Irish, there is no community of sentiment or interest between the several States, or between the parties in each State that struggle for the management of affairs. On the great question of slavery, on which the South is a unit, the North is divided into irreconcilable factions. The Eastern States are bigots for protection to native industry; the Western States either care nothing for native industry or look upon it as an evil that prevents the due expansion of the corn trade with Great Britain, their best friend and customer. Truly considered, the North is no more a nation than Switzerland or Austria. It is simply a Government and a federation, and holds together for convenience, as Switzerland does, or by military power, as Austria, and not from sympathy or community of political or social sentiment.

There is no example in history of any united, homogeneous, and determined nation that was ever conquered by a disunited, heterogeneous, and irresolute opponent, however greatly the latter may have surpassed it in wealth and numbers. All experience proves that the sentiment of nationality is the strongest and most enduring of the many forces that urge men to war, and impel them to persist in it, in face of danger, discouragement, and temporary defeat, until the nationality becomes triumphant. In addition to this, it must be remembered that the so-called rebellion of the South is consistent with American principles and history, and that the attempt to subdue that "rebellion" on the part of the North is illogical and inconsistent with the Constitution on which the North itself takes its stand as an independent country. If the North is logically right in the war it is waging against the South it is at this moment rightfully a portion of the British dominions, and all its Presidents, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, have been rebels against legal authority. It is nothing but physical force, illegal in its origin, which has decided the question the other way; and it is to force not illegal in its origin


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that the South has appealed, failing all other means to secure a separation. And the South, with this argument to support its invincible determination, must ultimately succeed, or human nature in America is not the same as it has proved everywhere else in every age of the world.

This inherent weakness of the Northern cause has long been palpable to all European observers of the war, but is stubbornly ignored by Mr. Lincoln and the composite people whom it is his sad privilege to govern. The North might obtain a glimpse of the truth if it would seriously study one aspect of the military question which affects both itself and the South. The Southern Government has but to declare that the "nation" is in danger, and to demand the aid of all the able-bodied population between certain ages to confront and overcome that danger, and it obtains without money to pay them all the men it requires--men who cheerfully forsake their wives and families, their business and their estates, at the call of duty, and fight without hope of other reward than the consciousness of patriotism. When the North is in the same difficulty, and appeals to its people in the same fashion, the results are lamentably different. Though it offers the common soldier a rate of payment higher than that of a Lieutenant in the Austrian service, though it gladly accepts foreigners fresh from the emigrant-ship, though it piles bounty upon bounty, and offers in some districts as much as 500 dols., or £100 sterling, per man as an inducement to serve even for nine months, it fails to get together the armies for which it calls. And, worse than all, these armies, even if obtained, would be insufficient to conquer the South if they were thrice as numerous. The North refuses to look at this ugly symptom of its case, and vainly hopes that by higher and still higher offers of demoralising bounty-money i[t] may bribe a sufficient number of mercenary adventurers to fight the great battle--which such adventurers are as certain to lose as the love of country is a stronger incentive to earnest warfare than the love of dollars.

Every day that passes proves more and more forcibly that the North is in a dilemma. The pride of the people is so great and the authority of the Government so small that it cannot make the first offer of concession. According to all present appearances the war may last for a quarter of a century--blazing up fiercely at one place and smouldering in another; transferred from the cities to the mountains and from the coast to the interior, but still alive, as long as a Southern man or woman is in existence to perpetuate its animosities. It is possible that the South, by a some crushing victory, such as the capture of Washington, might be able to dictate a peace; or, if its leaders were so foolish as to wish to re-establish the Union, that they might restore it for awhile, with the South as master, and Mr. Jefferson Davis as President in the place of Mr. Lincoln, dispossessed by common consent for incapacity; but in default of such a consummation, which is neither probable nor desirable, the war threatens to outlast the present generation. If it inflicted no evils but on the unhappy combatants themselves, shedding their best blood, wasting their substance, devastating their fields and cities, destroying their well-won liberties, and leaving them a century in arrear of the world's progress, other nations might look on with wonder, with sympathy, or with disgust, as their culture or taste might direct; but if, in its lingering but bitter course, it is to derange the commerce and paralyse the industry of others, and to reduce to pauperism the thrifty and hard-working millions of people in Europe who have done neither of the belligerents any harm, the question must arise, in the interest of civilisation, whether it shall not be stopped by other hands than their own. The time seems to be fast approaching for that solution of the difficulty. The South has merited the recognition of the world, and has a right to claim it, as a de facto Government, able to hold its own against all enemies. If its indomitable energy, its dauntless perseverance, its countless sacrifices, and a heroism that even its Northern enemies are generous enough to admire in the lulls and pauses of the struggle, are not sufficient to secure for it a recognition into the family of nations, it has a colder, but perhaps a stronger, claim in the fact that it is not the practice of modern times or civilised nations, neither of England, nor of France, nor of the United States themselves, when they were one Government, to deny recognition to any de facto Government that has successfully maintained its position for a reasonable length of time. The Southern nation has that right at the least, and all mere questions de jure fall as completely to the ground in its presence as they did in the case of the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and of the assumption of Imperial power by Napoleon III, and a hundred others that i[t] is needless to recapitulate.

Were there a faint prospect that the North might yet prevail a timid European Power might hesitate even now to do scanty justice to the South; but there is no such prospect to justify even a second or third rate Power from withholding its recognition, much less France and England, that are strong enough to do justice and to care not whom they offend by it. The fear that war with the North would result from such action is both groundless and unworthy. In the first place, there would be no casus belli by the law of nations; in the second, the Northern States would have too much to do to remodel their own Union and pay the expenses of their separation from the South to have time or heart for a war in which the whole world would be against them; and, in the third place, there is a large and influential party in the United States who, instead of deprecating such friendly intervention on the part of Europe, would look upon its refusal as the greatest calamity that could befall the North, and the unkindest possible policy that Europe could pursue towards it. Southern independence is no longer a dream, but a fact; and, in justice to all parties, it ought to be acknowledged, as much for the sake of the North as for that of the South, and as much for the sake of the suffering industry of Great Britain and France as for that of both of the combatants.

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