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London: Saturday, May 13, 1865

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1314, p. 450.

May 13, 1865

London: Saturday, May 13, 1865.

The American War is over. We are unaware that it has ever been our duty to write five words which we have written with more sincere thankfulness. The task of tracing the history of this hideous conflict has been one which we have sought to discharge faithfully, unwelcome as it was; and at the close of the struggle we may fairly say that, while none of the splendid deeds of the South blinded us to the fact that there was a black spot upon its escutcheon, none of the harsh and unfriendly utterances of the North in regard to England biassed us into doing less than justice to the perseverance and vigour with which the Federals fought for the Union. It may seem a small thing to add that we have always sought to record the exact truth, in reference to the incidents of the war, so far as we could ascertain the truth; but it is not entirely without grounds that it has been laid to the charge of partisans on both sides here that narratives of victory and defeat have not unfrequently been coloured in accordance with party views. Let all these things be forgotten, now that North and South are again joined, and

Fast as the "sword" can make them, they are one.

Johnston's surrender, on the same terms that were accorded to Lee, rapidly followed the repudiation of the more easy terms which Sherman thought himself entitled to offer. There remain, of course, a number of Confederate soldiers in the field; but that number is so reduced that it is hardly to be supposed that they will make a stand. It may be doubtful, indeed, whether their commanders would be justified by military usage in attempting a resistance. They will, of course, be allowed the same terms as the two armies which have capitulated. Should they endeavour to hold out, the overwhelming forces which will rapidly be hurled against them will inevitably crush them. We may venture to hope, therefore, that the last death-shot has been fired. But the war itself is over, whatever may remain to be done.

Now have the new President and his advisers to address themselves to the solution of the grandest problem which has ever been presented to conquerors--the problem of real pacification. Nations in insurrection have been subdued before now, but the conditions have never resembled those in which Mr. Johnson finds the noble provinces which have been regained to the Union by the sword. European despots have fought with insurgents, and won the day; but it was to lay on new chains and stamp out the last embers of hope. England was suddenly defied by a fierce and monstrous revolt in the East; she closed with the rebels, and they were given to the region kites; but, her terrible work done and the lesson read, she had but to leave it to produce its own effect. But in the Southern States the case is entirely different. There is an absolute necessity for placing the Southerns at the earliest moment that prudence permits in the possession of equal rights with the rest of the population, and they must neither be trampled upon nor left alone. They must be regained to the Union, not only in name but in fact, and they must be aided in the reparation of the ravages of war and invited and encouraged to be loyal co-operative citizens. There is more. The operation of the war has deprived them of the unpaid labour by which they were formerly supported. The North should hardly be less generous to a vanquished brother than England was to her own children. We compensated those from whom we took the slave. We do not say that any such compensation is due to men who removed the quarrel from a national tribunal to a field of blood; but the warm and true hearts of the Northern Americans will tell them that some indulgences, be the form what it may, should be proffered to those who have to learn to make bricks without straw. The moment has arrived when the noblest statesmanship is required. The problem for solution is very grand; and it will be seen whether republican institutions have produced men who are competent to deal with such a crisis. Upon the measures of the next six months depends the question whether the Union shall be truly consolidated, or whether a vast and disaffected population shall be left to watch for a new opportunity of severance.

The miserable assassin of the President has perished miserably, as he deserved. If he desired the ├ęclat of a state trial and a solemn execution, to be preceded by a theatrical speech, these things have been denied him. He has not even had the gibbet and the parade which he vaunted in having aided to prepare for John Brown. Injured by some accident--perhaps his fall when he sprang past the wife of the man he foully murdered and dropped on the stage--he was hunted from a swamp into a barn, and he was brought down by a shot from a common soldier's pistol. He escaped the gallows, and has been buried like a dog. Except in connection with the trial of his accomplices, there is no reason why his infamous name should again sully a page.

One thing more, and the greatest. Slavery is extinct in the United States of America. On this record all men--certainly all Englishmen--must look with unmixed satisfaction. In the winter of 1852 the ladies of England signed an address to the ladies of America, and in respectful and affectionate language besought them to consider the best means of making preparation for the abolition of slavery. The document bore the names of nearly a hundred and fifty thousand Englishwomen. Had that kindly prayer been heeded, it may be that the horrors we have been recording for four years would have been spared; but the subject was a large, a complex, and a difficult one, and it was less easy to grapple with it than to bid Englishwomen mind their own business and attend to the beggars in Ireland and in the dens of London. Still, we believe that the appeal sank deep into many hearts in the West, and confirmed many more in their desire for a peaceful settlement of the question. But it was decreed that it should not be settled peaceably; and four years of the most sanguinary warfare have been needed to break chains which we should so gladly have seen quietly unlocked. But the work is done, and the Slave is Free. There is much, very much, of deep and enduring sorrow in the sight which is now to be seen in America; but for this victory of freedom we may all thank God.

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