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London: Saturday, December 24, 1864

The Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1293, p. 627.

December 24, 1864

London: Saturday, December 24, 1864.

Divided into thirty-nine articles, the Message of the newly re-elected President of the Federal States is presented for our consideration this Christmas. The document does not contain much which will interest the English reader; but there are numerous details, which, though unexciting to us, are obviously of local importance, and will probably be the text for many rough sermons in the districts to which they refer. The first mention of this country is of a complimentary kind, and recognises the good will and support which the Government of Great Britain extends to the American project for an overland telegraph by way of Behring's [sic] Strait and Asiatic Russia. There is also a hopeful reference to the revival of the scheme for the Atlantic telegraph. The two great nations, having once spoken to each other across the sea, seem bound in honour not to be silenced, and we may yet hope that Christmas greetings may be flashed and returned by the marvellous wire. The next allusion to ourselves is of a graver kind. Both nations disarmed upon the Lakes; but the American Government alleges that the assaults and depredations committed in the region adjacent to the Canadian border by inimical and desperate persons who are harboured there make it necessary to increase the Federal armament upon those waters; and England is to receive the six months' notice necessary before that can be effected. The President, however, does us the justice to disavow any idea that the Colonial Government is intentionally unjust or unfriendly. We are not otherwise alluded to, except in the general mention that most of the European States manifest a liberal disposition towards the American policy of inviting immigrants, in regard to whom Mr. Lincoln is desirous that it should be fully manifest that he neither needs, nor designs to impose, involuntary military service.

We may say, but in no disrespectful way, that the greater part of the Message is an exemplification of that "cracking-up" which our Transatlantic brethren like. We do the same kind of thing here at times, but it is in a mild and modest way. Everybody likes to be praised, and those who succeed most in life are usually found to be those who have always a good word for everybody. The Message, as regards the Federals, is all good words. The finances are successful; the public debt, though large, is not oppressive, and the citizens owe it "to themselves;" and in connection with it is to be formed a system for creating funded property to be exempt from taxation and from seizure for debts. The national banks work admirably. The navy consists of 671 vessels, carrying 4610 guns. National growth and improvement have scarcely been checked by the war; a new State--that of Nevada--has been added to the Union, and the territories are rapidly prospering. The Atlantic and Pacific States are to be joined by railways and telegraphs; the mines have produced at least a million of dollars; agriculture is advancing, and citizens in Arkansas and Louisiana have organised loyal State Governments. The President adds, exultingly, that Maryland is secure to liberty and the Union for ever, and so the spirited Confederate hymn, which has become a Southern national song may cease-

She wakes, she stirs, she is not dumb.
Hurra! she spurns the Northern scum;
She breathes, she burns, she'll come, she'll come,
Maryland, my Maryland!

The recital of American endurance and achievement must be admitted by the most unfavourable critic to contain much which challenges the admiration of the world. Nowhere better than in England is understood the reliance which a true statesman reposes in the "elasticity" of a great people, and that quality is marvellously manifested in the Federal States. Si sic omnia. But the rest of the Message is bellicose in the extreme. Mr. Lincoln, like Cacus, breathes nothing but flames. He refers proudly to the popular election which placed him once more at the head of the nation, with a fierce war-cry, and he proclaims his resolve to execute the vengeance of the North. There can be no use in negotiation. The "insurgent leader" has no views of peace. He must be "beaten." The rebels can have peace at any moment by laying down their arms and submitting, as many have done, and the door is still open to all. Even the excepted classes know that they may count upon special mercy. But the time may come, and probably will, when that door must be closed, and more rigorous measures be adopted. Mr. Lincoln retracts nothing that he has said as to slavery; he will never retract or modify the emancipation proclamation; he will never return to slavery anyone who has been freed thereby, or by any act of Congress; and if the people should ever wish such re-enslavement, they must find some other person than himself to carry it out.

So, as we come to our Christmas altars and hearths, our brethren again raise the shout of war; and their grand topic of the day is the fierce rush of Sherman through towns which he leaves in flames; the grand hope of the day that he will force his way to the sea and suddenly descend in thunder upon one of the great cities of the South. May we have a far different record for our next Christmas Number! "Give peace in our time" will not be the least earnest of the Christmas prayers in England.

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