Grant on the Civil War


I have never liked Presidents’ Day.  Why celebrate all presidents when only a select few of them, like Washington and Lincoln, deserve to be celebrated?   Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday, which actually won’t occur until February 22.  However, I will keep up my tradition of writing about presidents on this day.  Today we will look at the musings of General Grant on the causes of the Civil War.  Grant was not a great president, far from it, but he was a great  general and, as this passage from his memoirs indicates. a fairly acute observer of the passing scene:



THE CAUSE of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that “A state half slave and half free cannot exist.” All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.


Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for its security wherever it existed; and in a country like ours where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent upon keeping control of the general government to secure the perpetuation of their favorite restitution. They were enabled to maintain this control long after the States where slavery existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout the Northern States. They saw their power waning, and this led them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a Southern man. Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution.


This was a degradation which the North would not permit any longer than until they could get the power to expunge such laws from the statute books. Prior to the time of these encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution.


In the early days of the country, before we had railroads, telegraphs and steamboats—in a word, rapid transit of any sort—the States were each almost a separate nationality. At that time the subject of slavery caused but little or no disturbance to the public mind. But the country grew, rapid transit was established, and trade and commerce between the States got to be so much greater than before, that the power of the National government became more felt and recognized and, therefore, had to be enlisted in the cause of this institution.


It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are better off now than we would have been without it, and have made more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made. The civilized nations of Europe have been stimulated into unusual activity, so that commerce, trade, travel, and thorough acquaintance among people of different nationalities, has become common; whereas, before, it was but the few who had ever had the privilege of going beyond the limits of their own country or who knew anything about other people. Then, too, our republican institutions were regarded as experiments up to the breaking out of the rebellion, and monarchical Europe generally believed that our republic was a rope of sand that would part the moment the slightest strain was brought upon it. Now it has shown itself capable of dealing with one of the greatest wars that was ever made, and our people have proven themselves to be the most formidable in war of any nationality.


But this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the necessity of avoiding wars in the future.


Published in: on February 18, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Grant on the Civil War  
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Book Haul



My bride and I took advantage of a 20% off sale to make a trip to a Half Price Book in Naperville.  Here are the books that I purchased:

  1. Four Queens, Nancy Goldstone, (2007)-An audio book of the lives of four daughters of a Count of Provence who ended up as Queens of England, France, Germany and Sicily.  A breezy look at the way in which 13th century politics was always a family affair.
  2. The Rise and Fall of the Habsburg Monarchy, Victor-L. Taipe, (1971)-Ah the ramshackle Austrian Empire.  To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, the marvel was not that it flew apart, but how long it held together.
  3. When Montezuma met Cortes, Matthew Restall, (2018)-I will be interested to read the author’s take on the Conquest of Mexico, one of the more misunderstood and misinterpreted events of the last 500 years.
  4. Case Red:  The Collapse of France, Robert Forczyk (2017)-I have always found it striking that many Allied Generals of World War I are still regularly reviled, while Allied Generals of World War II largely escape censure.  The gross military incompetence that led to the Fall of France tended to persist among most British and American Generals until 1944.  With the sole exception of El Alamein, the British had little success against the Axis unless the Axis consisted of Italian troops, until well into the War.  The North African campaign was a tragedy of errors, saved only by the overwhelming force of the Allies.  On Sicily the Allies, with complete control of the sea and air, managed, somehow, to allow the German forces to escape.  The Italian campaign seemed to be where competent generalship on the Allied side was notable by its almost complete absence.  This is startling when one takes note of how many of the Allied generals were combat veterans of World War I.  The Fall of France was simply the greatest disaster produced by a very low standard of Allied generalship.  One wonders if the generalship actually improved in 1944 or whether, as the Russians have often noted, overwhelming quantity has a quality all its own.
  5. Cromwell Hath the Honour but…Major-General Lambert’s Campaigns in the North, 1648, P.R. Hill and .M. Watkinson, (2012)-The English Civil War is a colorful topic, but good operational studies of individual campaigns tend to be rare.  I am looking forward to reading this study of Lambert’s actions during the Second Civil War.
  6. Under Another Sky, Charlotte Higgins, (2013)-A modern look at the remains of Roman Britain.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, no portion of the Empire had the existence of the Empire more obliterated by the barbarian invaders than Roman Britain.  Our knowledge of the fall of the Empire and its aftermath in Britain is slight, and in the place of knowledge myths have grown up, most centered around “King” Arthur.   Myth, the spackle of gaps in History.
  7. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Bernard Lewis, (1961)-What the late Professor Lewis didn’t know about the history of the Middle East probably wasn’t worth knowing.
  8. Robert Blake: General-at-Sea, J.R. Powell, (1972)-The first scholarly biography of the Cromwellian General who laid the foundations for English sea power.
  9. Peter the Great, Derek Wilson, (2009)-Yet another biography of the Tsar who dragged Russia, kicking and screaming, into the modern world while displaying the worst features of the autocratic rule of the Tsars.
  10. Russia’s Path Toward Enlightenment 1500-1801, G.M. Hamburg, (2016)-A look at Russian political writing over three centuries, with the author grasping that in Russia, and in its Muscovy predecessor state, political theory was always dependent upon the Orthodox faith of the Russians, the fundamental key to understanding all Russian political movements, including that of the Russian Communists.

Published in: on February 17, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Book Haul  
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The Liberty Song


Something for the weekend.  The Liberty Song sung by Bobby Horton.

Written by Founding Father John Dickinson in 1768, the song was sung by patriots in America to the tune of Heart of OakThe video below is the most hilarious scene from the John Adams mini-series where a completely fish out of water John Adams gets donations for the American cause from French aristocrats as they sing the Liberty Song, led by Ben Franklin who is obviously immensely enjoying himself.  It is a good song for Americans to recall, and perhaps especially so in this year of grace, 2019.



Published in: on February 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Liberty Song  
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Hoover on Wilson


On February 15, 1919 President Wilson left the Paris Peace Conference and sailed for Washington for a whirlwind visit back to the States.  He would return to the Paris Peace Conference on March 24, 1919.  On the whole Wilson believed that things were going well at the conference.  However future President Herbert Hoover, in his book The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, writes that this view was largely an illusion:


In the sixty days of the President’s first visit to Europe, he had received stupendous acclaim from the European people. He had established the major principles of the League and had secured agreement for its inclusion in the Treaty with Germany by the unanimous vote of the Conference. He had formed the organization of Relief and Reconstruction, under American direction and on a nonpolitical basis, against the solid opposition of the Allies. He had defined American opposition to the tight blockade on Europe, with its economic degeneration, and had paved the way for some relaxation of it as to food. With the esteem of all Europe and warm good wishes for his return, it seemed at the time of his departure for New York that he had only to come back for a few weeks to this friendly atmosphere and complete a few remaining items to reach his final triumph.

One suggestion of the dissension to come marred the picture. Mrs. Wilson states that, before he left for the United States on February 14, Mr. Wilson had considered asking for Secretary of State Lansing’s resignation because of his lack of enthusiasm for the League. He did not do so but appointed Colonel House as the effective head of the American Delegation.

But while the President was in Washington, his troubles began. There were the Senate demands for amendments to the Covenant.

Even more disturbing, during his absence from Paris, the Allied Prime Ministers began to develop new attitudes about which the American Delegation in Paris kept him informed. By cable he was told of the French demands for the creation of an independent Republic of the Rhineland, their demands for Syria, the British demand for most of the other Arab States, and the Italian demands for all the possessions promised in the secret Pact of London. …

Hoover thought highly of Wilson, having served as the head of the US Food Administration during the War and then as head of the American Relief Administration after the War, which provided lifesaving food to millions starving in Europe.   However, he was not blind to his flaws.  Perhaps the prime flaw of Wilson is a common one for intellectuals:  an inability to understand that other people might disagree with his ideas for reasons other than base motives.  American needed a pragmatic deal maker at the head of the country at this time, but instead we had a stubborn theorist who specialized in building castles in the sky.

Published in: on February 15, 2019 at 7:14 am  Comments Off on Hoover on Wilson  
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February 14, 1919: League of Nations


Of all his Fourteen Points, the nearest to the heart of President Wilson was the League of Nations, the mechanism, he hoped, that would avoid wars in the future.  Ironically, Wilson would succeed in creating the League, and the US Senate would reject US  membership in it.  Here is the speech he gave on February 14, 1919, the day before he temporarily left the Paris Peace Conference for a whirlwind visit back to the United States:

Mr. Chairman:

I have the honor and as I esteem it the very great privilege of reporting in the name of the commission constituted by this conference on the formulation of a plan for the league of nations. I am happy to say that it is a unanimous report, a unanimous report from the representatives of 14 nations—the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czecho-Slovak, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, and Serbia. I think it will be serviceable and interesting if I, with your permission read the document as the only report we have to make.



In order to promote international co-operation and to secure international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among governments, and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another, the Powers signatory to this Covenant adopt this constitution of the League of Nations.


The action of the High Contracting Parties under the terms of this Covenant shall be effected through the instrumentality of meetings of a Body of Delegates representing the High Contracting Parties, of meetings at more frequent intervals of an Executive Council, and of a permanent international Secretariat to be established at the Seat of the League.


Meetings of the Body of Delegates shall be held at stated intervals and from time to time as occasion may require for the purpose of dealing with matters within the sphere of action of the League. Meetings of the Body of Delegates shall be held at the Seat of the League or at such other place as may be found convenient and shall consist of representatives of the High Contracting Parties. Each of the High Contracting Parties shall have one vote but may have not more than three representatives.


The Executive Council shall consist of representatives of the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan, together with representatives of four other States, members of the League. The selection of these four States shall be made by the Body of Delegates on such principles and in such manner as they think fit. Pending the appointment of these representatives of the other States, representatives of shall be members of the Executive Council.

Meetings of the Council shall be held from time to time as occasion may require and at least once a year at whatever place may be decided on, or failing any such decision, at the Seat of the League, and any matter within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world may be dealt with at such meetings.

Invitations shall be sent to any Power to attend a meeting of the Council at which matters directly affecting its interests are to be discussed and no decision taken at any meeting will be binding on such Power unless so invited.


All matters of procedure at meetings of the Body of Delegates or the Executive Council including the appointment of Committees to investigate particular matters shall be regulated by the Body of Delegates or the Executive Council and may be decided by a majority of the States represented at the meeting.

The first meeting of the Body of Delegates and of the Executive Council shall be summoned by the President of the United States of America.


The permanent Secretariat of the League shall be established at which shall constitute the Seat of the League. The Secretariat shall comprise such secretaries and staff as may be required, under the general direction and control of a Secretary-General of the League, who shall be chosen by the Executive Council; the Secretariat shall be appointed by the Secretary-General subject to confirmation by the Executive Council.

The Secretary-General shall act in that capacity at all meetings of the Body of Delegates or of the Executive Council.

The expenses of the Secretariat shall be borne by the States members of the League in accordance with the apportionment of the expenses of the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union.


Representatives of the High Contracting Parties and officials of the League when engaged on the business of the League shall enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities, and the buildings occupied by the League or its officials or by representatives attending its meetings shall enjoy the benefits of extraterritoriality.


Admission to the League of States not signatories to the Covenant and not named in the Protocol hereto as States to be invited to adhere to the Covenant requires the assent of not less than two-thirds of the States represented in the Body of Delegates, and shall be limited to fully self-governing countries including Dominions and Colonies.

No State shall be admitted to the League unless it is able to give effective guarantees of its sincere intention to observe its international obligations, and unless it shall conform to such principles as may be prescribed by the League in regard to its naval and military forces and armaments.


The High Contracting Parties recognize the principle that the maintenance of peace will require the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations, having special regard to the geographical situation and circumstances of each State; and the Executive Council shall formulate plans for effecting such reduction. The Executive Council shall also determine for the consideration and action of the several governments what military equipment and armament is fair and reasonable in proportion to the scale of forces laid down in the programme of disarmament; and these limits, when adopted, shall not be exceeded without the permission of the Executive Council.

The High Contracting Parties agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war lends itself to grave objections, and direct the Executive Council to advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those countries which are not able to manufacture for themselves the munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety.

The High Contracting Parties undertake in no way to conceal from each other the condition of such of their industries as are capable of being adapted to war-like purposes or the scale of their armaments, and agree that there shall be full and frank interchange of information as to their military and naval programmes.


A permanent Commission shall by< constituted to advise the League on the execution of the provisions of Article VIII and on military and naval questions generally.


The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all States members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Executive Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.


Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the High Contracting Parties or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the League, and the High Contracting Parties reserve the right to take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations.

It is hereby also declared and agreed to be the friendly right of each of the High Contracting Parties to draw the attention of the Body of Delegates or of the Executive Council to any circumstances affecting international intercourse which threaten to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends.


The High Contracting Parties agree that should disputes arise between them which cannot be adjusted by the ordinary processes of diplomacy, they will in no case resort to war without previously submitting the questions and matters involved either to arbitration or to inquiry by the Executive Council and until three months after the award by the arbitrators or a recommendation by the Executive Council; and that they will not even then resort to war as against a member of the League which complies with the award of the arbitrators or the recommendations of the Executive Council. In any case under this Article, the award of the arbitrators shall be made within a reasonable time, and the recommendation of the Executive Council shall be made within six months after the submission of the dispute.

The High Contracting Parties agree that whenever any dispute, or difficulty shall arise between them which they recognize to be suitable for submission to arbitration and which cannot be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy, they will submit the whole subject matter to arbitration. For this purpose the Court of arbitration to which the case is referred shall be the court agreed on by the parties or stipulated in any Convention existing between them. The High Contracting Parties agree that they will carry out in full good faith any award that may be rendered. In the event of any failure to carry out the award, the Executive Council shall propose what steps can best be taken to give effect thereto.


The Executive Council shall formulate plans for the establishment of a Permanent Court of International Justice and this Court shall, when established, be competent to hear and determine any matter which the parties recognize as suitable for submission to it for arbitration under the foregoing Article.


If there should arise between States members of the League any dispute likely to lead to a rupture, which is not submitted to arbitration as above, the High Contracting Parties agree that they will refer the matter to the Executive Council; either party to the dispute may give notice of the existence of the dispute to the Secretary-General, who will make all necessary arrangements for a full investigation and consideration thereof. For this purpose the parties agree to communicate to the Secretary-General, as promptly as possible, statements of their case with all the relevant facts and papers, and the Executive Council may forthwith direct the publication thereof.

Where the efforts of the Council lead to the settlement of the dispute, a statement shall be published indicating the nature of the dispute and the terms of settlement, together with such explanations as may be appropriate. If the dispute has not been settled, a report by the Council shall be published, setting forth with all necessary facts and explanations the recommendation which the Council think just and proper for the settlement of the dispute. If the report is unanimously agreed to by the members of the Council other than the parties to the dispute, the High Contracting Parties agree that they will not go to war with any party which complies with the recommendation and that, if any party shall refuse so to comply, the Council shall propose the measures necessary to give effect to the recommendation. If no such unanimous report can be made, it shall be the duty of the majority and the privilege of the minority to issue statements indicating what they believe to be the facts and containing the recommendations which they consider to be just and proper.

I pause to point out that a misconception might arise in connection with one of the sentences I have just read— “If any party shall refuse so to comply, the council shall propose the measures necessary to give effect to the recommendation.” A case in point, a purely hypothetical case, is this: Suppose that there is in the possession of a particular power a piece of territory or some other substantial thing in dispute to which it is claimed that it is not entitled. Suppose that the matter is submitted to the executive council for a recommendation as to the settlement of the dispute, diplomacy having failed; and suppose that the decision is in favor of the party which claims the subject matter of dispute as against the party which has the subject matter in dispute. Then, if the party in possession of the subject matter in dispute merely sits still and does nothing, it has accepted the decision of the council in the sense that it makes no resistance; but something must be done to see that it surrenders the subject matter in dispute. In such a case, the only case contemplated, it is provided that the executive council may then consider what steps may be necessary to oblige the party against whom judgment has gone to comply with the decisions of the council.

The Executive Council may in any case under this Article refer the dispute to the Body of Delegates. The dispute shall be so referred at the request of either party to the dispute, provided that such request must be made within fourteen days after the submission of the dispute. In any case referred to the Body of Delegates all the provisions of this Article and of Article XII relating to the action and powers of the Executive Council shall apply to the action and powers of the Body of Delegates.


Should any of the High Contracting Parties break or disregard its covenants under Article XII, it shall thereby ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all the other members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial, or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a member of the League or not.

It shall be the duty of the Executive Council in such case to recommend what effective military or naval force the members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League.

The High Contracting Parties agree, further, that they will mutually support one another in the financial and economic measures which are taken under this Article, in order to minimize the loss and inconvenience resulting from the above measures, and that they will mutually support one another in resisting any special measures aimed at one of their number by the covenant-breaking State, and that they will afford passage through their territory to the forces of any of the High Contracting Parties who are co-operating to protect the covenants of the League.


In the event of disputes between one State member of the League and another State which is not a member of the League, or between States not members of the League, the High Contracting Parties agree that the State or States not members of the League shall be invited to accept the obligations of membership in the League for the purposes of such dispute, upon such conditions as the Executive Council may deem just and upon acceptance of any such invitation, the above provisions shall be applied with such modifications as may be deemed necessary by the League.

Upon such invitation being given the Executive Council shall immediately institute, an inquiry into the circumstances and merits of the dispute and recommend such action as may seem best and most effectual in the circumstances.

In the event of a Power so invited refusing to accept the obligations of membership in the League for the purposes of such dispute, and taking any action against a State member of the League which in the case of a State member of the League would constitute a breach of Article XII, the provisions of Article XVI shall be applicable as against the State taking such action.

If both parties to the dispute when so invited refuse to accept the obligations of membership in the League for the purposes of such dispute, the Executive Council may take such action and make such recommendations as will prevent hostilities and will result in the settlement of the dispute.


The High Contracting Parties agree that the League shall be entrusted with the general supervision of the trade in arms and ammunition with the countries in which the control of this traffic is necessary in the common interest.

Let me say before reading article 19, that before being embodied in this document it was the subject matter of a very careful discussion by representatives of the five greater parties, and that their unanimous conclusion in the matter is embodied in this article.


To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the wellbeing and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in the constitution of the League.

The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position, can best undertake this responsibility, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as mandataries on behalf of the League.

The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory power until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the mandatory power.

Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the mandatary must be responsible for the administration of the territory subject to conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience or religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defense of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other members of the League.

There are territories, such as South-west Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centers of civilization, or their geographical contiguity to the mandatory state, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the mandatory state as integral portions thereof, subject to the safeguards above- mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.

In every case of mandate, the mandatory state shall render to the League an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.

The degree of authority, control, or administration to be exercised by the mandatory State shall if not previously agreed upon by the High Contracting Parties in each case be explicitly defined by the Executive Council in a special Act or Charter.

The High Contracting Parties further agree to establish at the seat of the League a Mandatory Commission to receive and examine the annual reports of the Mandatory Powers, and to assist the League in ensuring the observance of the terms of all Mandates.

The High Contracting Parties will endeavor to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labor for men, women and children both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend; and to that end agree to establish as part of the organization of the League a permanent Bureau of Labor.


The High Contracting Parties agree that provision shall be made through the instrumentality of the League to secure and maintain freedom of transit and equitable treatment for the commerce of all States members of the League, having in mind, among other things, special arrangements with regard to the necessities of the regions devastated during the war of 1914-1918.


The High Contracting Parties agree to place under the control of the League all international bureaux already established by general treaties if the parties to such treaties consent. Furthermore, they agree that all such international bureaux to be constituted in future shall be placed under the control of the League.


The High Contracting Parties agree that every treaty or international engagement entered into hereafter by any State member of the League, shall be forthwith registered with the Secretary-General and as soon as possible published by him, and that no such treaty or international engagement shall be binding until so registered.


It shall be the right of the Body of Delegates from time to time to advise the reconsideration by States members of the League, of treaties which have become inapplicable, and of international conditions, of which the continuance may endanger the peace of the world.


The High Contracting Parties severally agree that the present Covenant is accepted as abrogating all obligations inter se which are inconsistent with the terms thereof, and solemnly engage that they will not hereafter enter into any engagements inconsistent with the terms thereof.

In case of the Powers signatory hereto or subsequently admitted to the League shall, before becoming a party to this Covenant, have undertaken any obligations which are inconsistent with the terms of this Covenant, it shall be the duty of such Power to take immediate steps to procure its release from such obligations.


Amendments to this Covenant will take effect when ratified by the States whose representatives compose the Executive Council and by three-fourths of the States whose representatives compose the Body of Delegates.

It gives me pleasure to add to this formal reading of the result of our labors that the character of the discussion which occurred at the sittings of the commission was not only of the most constructive but of the most encouraging sort. It was obvious throughout our discussions that, although there were subjects upon which there were individual differences of judgment, with regard to the method by which our objects should be obtained, there was practically at no point any serious difference of opinion or motive as to the objects which we were seeking. Indeed, while these debates were not made the opportunity for the expression of enthusiasms and sentiments, I think the other members of the commission will agree with me that there was an undertone of high resolve and of enthusiasm for the thing we were trying to do, which was heartening throughout every meeting; because we felt that in a way this conference had entrusted to us the expression of one of its highest and most important purposes, to see to it that the concord of the world in the future with regard to the objects of justice should not be subject to doubt or uncertainty; that the cooperation of the great body of nations should be assured from the first in the maintenance of peace upon the terms of honor and of the strict regard for international obligation. The compulsion of that task was constantly upon us, and at no point was there shown the slightest desire to do anything but suggest the best means to accomplish that great object. There is very great significance, therefore, in the fact that the result was reached unanimously. Fourteen nations were represented, among them all of those powers which for convenience we have called the great powers, and among the rest a representation of the greatest variety of circumstance and interest. So that I think we are justified in saying that it was a representative group of the members of this great conference. The significance of the result, therefore, has that deepest of all meanings, the union of wills in a common purpose, a union of wills which can not be resisted, and which I dare say no nation will run the risk of attempting to resist.

Now, as to the character of the document. While it has consumed some time to read this document, I think you will see at once that it is, after all, very simple, and in nothing so simple as in the structure which it suggests for the league of nations—a body of delegates, an executive council, and a permanent secretariat. When it came to the question of determining the character of the representation in the body of delegates, we were all aware of a feeling which is current throughout the world. Inasmuch as I am stating it in the presence of official representatives of the various Governments here present, including myself, I may say that there is a universal feeling that the world can not rest satisfied with merely official guidance. There reached us through many channels the feeling that if the deliberative body of the league was merely to be a body of officials representing the various Governments, the peoples of the world would not be sure that some of the mistakes which preoccupied officials had admittedly made might not be repeated. It was impossible to conceive a method or an assembly so large and various as to be really representative of the great body of the peoples of the world, because, as I roughly reckon it, we represent as we sit around this table more than twelve hundred million people. You can not have a representative assembly of twelve hundred million people, but if you leave it to each Government to have, if it pleases, one or two or three representatives, though only a single vote, it may vary its representation from time to time, not only but it may originate the choice of its several representatives, if it should have several, in different ways. Therefore, we thought that this was a proper and a very prudent concession to the practically universal opinion of plain men everywhere that they wanted the door left open to a variety of representation instead of being confined to a single official body with which they might or might not find themselves in sympathy.

And you will notice that this body has unlimited rights of discussion—I mean of discussion of anything that falls within the field of international relationship—and that it is specially agreed that war or international misunderstandings or anything that may lead to friction and trouble is everybody’s business, because it may affect the peace of the world. And in order to safeguard the popular power so far as we could of this representative body it is provided, you will notice, that when a subject is submitted, not to arbitration, but to discussion by the executive council, it can upon the initiative of either one of the parties to the dispute be drawn out of the executive council onto the larger forum of the general body of delegates, because throughout this instrument we are depending primarily and chiefly upon one great force, and that is the moral force of the public opinion of the world—the cleansing and clarifying and compelling influences of publicity—so that intrigues can no longer have their coverts, so that designs that are sinister can at any time be drawn into the open, so that those things that are destroyed by the light may be properly destroyed by the overwhelming light of the universal expression of the condemnation of the world.

Armed force is in the background in this program, but it is in the background, and if the moral force of the world will not suffice, the physical force of the world shall. But that is the last resort, because this is intended as a constitution of peace, not as a league of war.

The simplicity of the document seems to me to be one of its chief virtues, because, speaking for myself, I was unable to foresee the variety of circumstances with which this league would have to deal. I was unable, therefore, to plan all the machinery that might be necessary to meet differing and unexpected contingencies. Therefore, I should say of this document that it is not a strait jacket, but a vehicle of life. A living thing is born, and we must see to it that the clothes we put upon it do not hamper it—a vehicle of power, but a vehicle in which power may be varied at the discretion of those who exercise it and in accordance with the changing circumstances of the time. And yet, while it is elastic, while it is general in its terms, it is definite in the one thing that we were called upon to make definite. It is a definite guarantee of peace. It is a definite guarantee by word against aggression. It is a definite guarantee against the things which have just come near bringing the whole structure of civilization into ruin. Its purposes do not for a moment lie vague. Its purposes are declared and its powers made unmistakable.

It is not in contemplation that this should be merely a league to secure the peace of the world. It is a league which can be used for cooperation in any international matter. That is the significance of the provision introduced concerning labor. There are many ameliorations of labor conditions which can be affected by conference and discussion. I anticipate that there will be a very great usefulness in the bureau of labor which it is contemplated shall be set up by the league. While men and women and children who work have been in the background through long ages, and sometimes seemed to be forgotten, while Governments have had their watchful and suspicious eyes upon the maneuvers of one another, while the thought of statesmen has been about structural action and the large transactions of commerce and of finance, now, if I may believe the picture which I see, there comes into the foreground the great body of the laboring people of the world, the men and women and children upon whom the great burden of sustaining the world must from day to day fall, whether we wish it to do so or not; people who go to bed tired and wake up without the stimulation of lively hope. These people will be drawn into the field of international consultation and help, and will be among the wards of the combined Governments of the world. There is, I take leave to say, a very great step in advance in the mere conception of that.

Then, as you will notice, there is an imperative article concerning the publicity of all international agreements. Henceforth no member of the league can claim any agreement valid which it has not registered with the secretary general, in whose office, of course, it will be subject to the examination of anybody representing a member of the league. And the duty is laid upon the secretary general to publish every document of that sort at the earliest possible time. I suppose most persons who have not been conversant with the business of foreign offices do not realize how many hundreds of these agreements are made in a single year, and how difficult it might be to publish the more unimportant of them immediately— how uninteresting it would be to most of the world to publish them immediately—but even they must be published just so soon as ibis possible for the secretary general to publish them.

Then there is a feature about this covenant which to my mind is one of the greatest and most satisfactory advances that have been made. We are done with annexations of helpless people, meant in some instances by some powers to he used merely for exploitation. We recognize in the most solemn manner that the helpless and undeveloped peoples of the world, being in that condition, put an obligation upon us to look after their interests primarily before we use them for our interest; and that in all cases of this sort hereafter it shall be the duty of the league to see that the nations who are assigned as the tutors and advisers and directors of those peoples shall look to their interest and to their development before they look to the interests and material desires of the mandatory nation itself. There has been no greater advance than this, gentlemen. If you look back upon the history of the world you will see how helpless peoples have too often been a prey to powers that had no conscience in the matter. It has been one of the many distressing revelations of recent years that the great power which has just been happily defeated put intolerable burdens and injustices upon the helpless people of some of the colonies which it annexed to itself; that its interest was rather their extermination than their development; that the desire was to possess their land for European purposes, and not to enjoy their confidence in order that mankind might be lifted in those places to the next higher level. Now, the world, expressing its conscience in law, says there is an end of that. Our consciences shall be applied to this thing. States will be picked out which have already shown that they can exercise a conscience in this matter, and under their tutelage the helpless peoples of the world will come into a new light and into a new hope.

So I think I can say of this document that it is at one and the same time a practical document and a humane document. There is a pulse of sympathy in it. There is a compulsion of conscience throughout it. It is practical, and yet it is intended to purify, to rectify, to elevate. And I want to say that, so far as my observation instructs me, this is in one sense a belated document. I believe that the conscience of the world has long been prepared to express itself in some such way. We are not just now discovering our sympathy for these people and our interest in them. We are simply expressing it, for it has long been felt, and in the administration of the affairs of more than one of the great States represented here—so far as I know, of all the great States that are represented here—that humane impulse has already expressed itself in their dealings with their colonies whose peoples were yet at a low stage of civilization. We have had many instances of colonics lifted into the sphere of complete self-government. This is not the discovery of a principle. It is the universal application of a principle. It is the agreement of the great nations which have tried to live by these standards in their separate administrations to unite in seeing that their common force and their common thought and intelligence are lent to this great and humane enterprise. I think it is an occasion, therefore, for the most profound satisfaction that this humane decision should have been reached in a matter for which the world has long been waiting and until a very recent period thought that it was still too early to hope.

Many terrible things have come out of this war, gentlemen, but some very beautiful things have come out of it. Wrong has been defeated, but the rest of the world has been more conscious than it ever was before of the majesty of right. People that were suspicious of one another can now live as friends and comrades in a single family, and desire to do so. The miasma of distrust, of intrigue, is cleared away. Men are looking eye to eye and saying, “We are brothers and have a common purpose. We did not realize it before, but now we do realize it, and this is our covenant of fraternity and of friendship.”

Published in: on February 14, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 14, 1919: League of Nations  
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Winfield Scott and the Irish Pows

colonel winfield-scott

Winfield Scott, the most notable American general between the American Revolution and the Civil War, began his climb to becoming a general at 27 by the heroism he displayed as a Lieutenant Colonel at the battle of Queenston Heights on October 11, 1812.  An American defeat, Scott was among the 955 Americans captured.

The British at this time did not recognize the right of any British subject to change his nationality.  Such a subject, captured fighting in a foreign army, was considered by the British to be a traitor and liable to summary execution, sometimes being given the opportunity to avoid death by enlisting in the British Army.

At first the American captives were treated rather well.  Scott was even invited to dinner by British General Roger Sheaffe, who also protected the Americans from the Indian allies of the British.  Shipped to Quebec, the Americans were paroled and were due to leave via ship for Boston on November 20, 1812.  The day before a commission of British officers boarded the ship where Scott and his men were waiting to sail.  The British began questioning the American enlisted men.  If they detected an Irish brogue, the man was arrested as a traitor to the Crown.  Hearing the commotion this was causing, Scott rushed from below deck.  Defying an order from the British to go below, he ordered the men who had not been interrogated not to say another word.  To the 23 men who had been arrested, he promised the United States would protect them.  The men obeyed Scott and all refused to say a word.  The British eventually gave up and took the 23 men off the ship.  Scott and the remainder sailed for Boston on November 20.  Of the 23 men arrested by the British, 13 were executed. (more…)

Published in: on February 13, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Winfield Scott and the Irish Pows  
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Two-Hundred and Ten Years

Today is the 210th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  It is a state holiday in Illinois and the courts are closed.  However, I would have my law firm closed today even if were not a state holiday.  Abraham Lincoln deeply resonates with me and is one of my personal heroes.  That which was best in Lincoln is amply demonstrated in his Second Inaugural Address.

It is short, to the point and powerful.  It is also the most important theological document written by any American President.  Here is the text:


“Fellow Countrymen:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

The address is brief, only 703 words.  This was unusual in Lincoln’s time when one hour speeches were not uncommon, and the style of oratory was very ornate.  However, throughout his life Lincoln had a talent for packing a great deal of thought in very few words, and that talent is on full display here.

“Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.”

Like the good lawyer that he was, Lincoln got to the nub of the question, the war.  For Lincoln the immediate cause of the war was due to the success of the secession movement in the South and the unwillingness of the Unionists in the North to let the secessionists leave the Union.

“All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. “

However, while secession was the spark that led to the conflagration, slavery was the issue that led to the war.

“Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.”

Indeed.  Both sides were convinced at the onset that the other side really didn’t have their hearts in the war, and that the war would be brief if there was any fighting at all.  A. W. Venable of North Carolina expressed a common sentiment when he offered to “wipe up every drop of blood shed in the war with this handkerchief of mine”.  Shelby Foote, one of the finest historians of the war, wondered how many railroad boxcars full of handkerchiefs it would have taken to wipe up all the blood spilled in the war.

” Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. “

Theology enters in.  Each side has attempted to enlist God in support of their cause.  Battle Hymn of the Republic meet God Save the South.

“The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.”

That the prayers of the Confederates had not been answered by this stage of the war, with the Confederacy on the verge of overwhelming defeat, would have been obvious to all who heard Lincoln’s speech.  However, what did Lincoln mean by stating that the Union’s prayers had not been fully answered?  Perhaps he was thinking of the dreadful cost in blood and treasure to obtain the victory that was dawning.

“The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Something that many of our great saints have  told us, but which we have a hard time accepting or understanding.  Lincoln pondered this in September of 1862 in a writing which has come down to us as Lincoln’s Meditation on Divine Will.  This was a private note written by Lincoln for his own reflection.

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and againstthe same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party — and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true — that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’

Matthew 18:7.  Most of the much more biblically literate population of Lincoln’s time would have recognized the quotation immediately.

“If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? “

The Civil War as God’s punishment to both North and South for slavery.  Imagine the reaction of the public today if, after leading the country through a terrible war, a president stated that the war was God’s punishment and that Americans were just as guilty in the eyes of God as their adversaries.

This sounds strange to most modern ears, and not just to those who are atheists or agnostics.  Even many believers in God are more apt than in Lincoln’s day to see such calamities as slavery or war caused by merely human action.  Traditionally Catholics and other Christians have been much more likely than we to see the hand of God guiding the course of history.

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.”

This is a truly remarkable passage.  The citizens of the Union were sick of war, and desperately yearning for victory and peace.  Yet here is Lincoln telling them that if it is God’s will that the war continue until an additional terrible penance has been paid for the evil of slavery, that the judgment of God was true and righteous.  By definition for Lincoln, whatever God willed was right, as demonstrated in this famous quotation of Lincoln:

“‘I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.'”

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

With malice towards none, and with charity for all is a good summation of how Lincoln intended to treat the defeated Southern states.  He wanted them to assume their pre-war place in the Union as soon as possible.  No doubt there would have been a battle royal if Lincoln had lived between him and radical Republicans in Congress who wished to punish the South.

Note the phrase “as God gives us to see the right”.  Once again Lincoln is aware that what might seem right to humans may not be right to God, and hence the tentative nature of this phrase.

It is interesting that when Lincoln states: ” to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” Lincoln does not limit this solicitude to Union veterans.  If the federal government had extended such care to crippled Confederate veterans, and the widows and orphans of dead Confederate soldiers and sailors, the binding up of the nation’s wounds would have been much easier.

“to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”



Published in: on February 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Two-Hundred and Ten Years  
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February 11, 1812: Alexander Stephens is Born


Sometimes it is contended that the Civil War was not fought because of slavery.  That is a completely erroneous view.  The secession statements made by the Confederate states as they left the Union made clear that the defense of the Peculiar Institution was why they were leaving the Union.  Confederate leaders made innumberable speeches at the time citing slavery as the cause of the War.  It is only in retrospect that some partisans of the Confederacy attempted to claim that slavery was not the root cause of the conflict.

Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, was quite forthright in regard to slavery as the cause of the conflict between the North and the South, as he made clear in his Cornerstone Speech of March 21, 1861.  In reviewing his speech from a 21rst Century perspective, it would be easy to write him off as simply a racist monster.  Such was not the case.  As an attorney he volunteered to represent a black woman accused of murder and successfully defended her.  Known for his charity, he paid for the education of over a hundred students from poor families, black and white, male and female.  By the time of his death, Stephens had spent all of his funds on charity and died virtually penniless.  A friend of Abraham Lincoln prior to the War, he had argued against secession until he realized that it was inevitable.  No, the Cornerstone speech was not the work of someone who hated blacks, but of someone who looked upon slavery as part of the fabric of Southern life, and could literally not imagine how the South could exist without it.  The passage of the Cornerstone speech that is most striking on the Civil War as caused by slavery is as follows:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.

As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced by Galileo it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner” the real “corner-stone” in our new edifice. I have been asked, what of the future? It has been apprehended by some that we would have arrayed against us the civilized world. I care not who or how many they may be against us, when we stand upon the eternal principles of truth, if we are true to ourselves and the principles for which we contend, we are obliged to, and must triumph.

Thousands of people who begin to understand these truths are not yet completely out of the shell; they do not see them in their length and breadth. We hear much of the civilization and Christianization of the barbarous tribes of Africa. In my judgment, those ends will never be attained, but by first teaching them the lesson taught to Adam, that “in the sweat of his brow he should eat his bread,” and teaching them to work, and feed, and clothe themselves.

The full text of the speech may be read here.  After the War, Stephens attempted to back-pedal on his speech here.  I will leave to the readers of this post as to whether Stephens is convincing in the attempt.

Published in: on February 11, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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February 10, 1865: Lincoln Reports to the House

Thaddeus Stevens

On February 10, 1865, pursuant to a House of Representatives Resolution drafted by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Lincoln sent a report to the House which basically consisted of a timeline of the events that led up to the Hampton Roads Conference.  Radical Republicans were furious when they first learned of the Hampton Roads Conference, afraid that Lincoln was trying an end run around them by ending the War on terms generous to the Confederates.  After the report was read in the House, tension ebbed when it was clear that the Hampton Roads Conference had ended without any agreement being reached, or any further meetings planned.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s report:

February 10, 1865.

To the Honorable the House of Representatives:

        In response to your resolution of the 8th instant, requesting information in relation to a conference recently held in Hampton Roads, I have the honor to state that on the day of the date I gave Francis P. Blair, sr., a card, written on as follows, to wit:

DECEMBER 28, 1864.

Allow the bearer; F. P. Blair, sr., to pass our lines, go South, and return.


        That at the time I was informed that Mr. Blair sought the card as a means of getting to Richmond, Va.; but he was given no authority to speak or act for the Government, nor was I informed of anything he would say or do on his own account or otherwise. Afterward Mr. Blair told me that he had been to Richmond, and had seen Mr. Jefferson Davis; and he (Mr. B.) at the same time left with me a manuscript letter as follows, to wit:

RICHMOND, VA., January 12, 1865.

F. P. BLAIR, Esq.:

        SIR: I have deemed it proper, and probably desirable to you, to give you in this form the substance of remarks made by me, to be repeated by you to President Lincoln, &c.
I have no disposition to find obstacles in forms, and am willing, now as heretofore, to enter into negotiations for the restoration of peace; and am ready to send a commission, whenever I have reason to suppose it will be received, or to receive a commission, if the United States Government shall choose to send one. That notwithstanding the rejection of our former offers, I would, if you could promise that a commissioner, minister, or other agent would be received, appoint one immediately, and renew the effort to enter into conference, with a view to secure peace to the two countries.

Yours, &c.,

Afterward, and with the view that it should be shown to Mr. Davis, I wrote and delivered to Mr. Blair a letter, as follows, to wit:

WASHINGTON, January 18, 1865.

F. P. BLAIR, Esq.:

        SIR: Your having shown me Mr. Davis’ letter to you of the 12th instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he, or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.

Yours, &c.

Afterward Mr. Blair dictated for and authorized me to make an entry on the back of my retained copy of the letter last above recited, which entry is as follows:

JANUARY 28, 1865.

        To-day Mr. Blair tells me that on the 21st instant he delivered to Mr. Davis the original, of which the within is a copy, and left it with him; that at the time of delivering it Mr. Davis read it over twice in Mr. Blair’s presence, at the close of which he (Mr. Blair) remarked that the part about “our one common country” related to the part of Mr. Davis’ letter about “the two countries,” to which Mr. Davis replied that he so understood it.


Afterward the Secretary of War placed in my hands the following telegram, indorsed by him as appears:


The following telegram received at Washington, January 29, 1865, from headquarters Army of the James, 6.30 p.m. January 29, 1865:

“Secretary of War:”

The following dispatch just received from Major-General Parke, who refers it to me for my action. I refer it to you in Lieutenant-General Grant’s absence.

“E. O. C. ORD,
“Major-General, Commanding.”

January 29, 1865–4 p.m.

Maj. Gen. E. O. C. ORD,
Headquarters Army of the James:

        ‘The following dispatch is forwarded to you for your action. Since I have no knowledge of General Grant’s having had any understanding of this kind, I refer the matter to you as the ranking officer present in the two armies.

‘ Major-General, Commanding.’


‘ Maj. Gen. JOHN O. PARKE,
‘ Headquarters Army of the Potomac:

‘Alex. H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and J. A. Campbell desire to cross my lines, in accordance with an understanding claimed to exist with Lieutenant-General Grant, on their way to Washington as peace commissioners. Shall they be admitted? They desire an early answer, to come through immediately. Would like to reach City Point to-night, if they can. If they cannot do this, they would like to come through at 10 a.m. to-morrow morning.

‘ Major-General, Commanding Ninth Corps.’

“JANUARY 29—.8.30 p.m.

“Respectfully referred to the President for such instructions as he may be pleased to give.

“Secretary of War.”

        It appears that about the time of placing the foregoing telegram in my hands, the Secretary of War dispatched General Ord as follows, to wit:

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City,
January 29, 1865–10 p.m.
(Sent 2 a.m. 30th.)

Major-General ORD:

SIR: This Department has no knowledge of any understanding by General Grant to allow any person to come within his lines as commissioner of any sort. You will therefore allow no one to come into your lines under such character or profession until you receive the President’s instructions, to whom your telegram will be submitted for his directions.

Secretary of War.

        Afterward, by my direction, the Secretary of War telegraphed General Ord as follows, to wit:

Washington, D.C., January 30, 1865—10.30 a.m.

Maj. Gen. E. O. C. ORD,
Headquarters Army of the James:

SIR: By direction of the President, you are instructed to inform the three gentle-men-Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell–that a messenger will be dispatched to them at or near where they now are, without unnecessary delay.

Secretary of War.

Afterward I prepared and put into the hands of Maj. Thomas T. Eckert the following instructions and message:

Washington, January 30, 1865.

Maj. T. T. ECKERT:

SIR: You will proceed with the documents placed in your hands, and on reaching General Ord will deliver him the letter addressed to him by the Secretary of War; then, by General Ord’s assistance, procure an interview with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, or any of them. Deliver to him or them the paper on which your own letter is written. Note on the copy which you retain the time of delivery, and to whom delivered. Receive their answer in writing, waiting a reasonable time for it, and which, if it contain their decision to come through, without further condition, will be your warrant to ask General Ord to pass them through, as directed in the letter of the Secretary of War to him. If, by their answer, they decline to come, or propose other terms, do not have them passed through. And this being your whole duty, return and report to me.

Yours, truly,

February 1, 1865.


        GENTLEMEN: I am instructed by the President of the United States to place this paper in your hands, with the information that, if you pass through the United States military lines, it will be understood that you do so for the purpose of an informal conference, on the basis of the letter, a copy of which is on the reverse side of this sheet, and that, if you choose to pass on such understanding, and so notify me in writing, I will procure the commanding general to pass you through the lines and to Fortress Monroe, under such military precautions as he may deem prudent, and at which place you will be met in due time by some person, or persons, for the purpose of such informal conference; and, further, that you shall have protection, safe conduct, and safe return in all events.

Major and Aide-de-Camp.

January 18, 1865.

F. P. BLAIR, Esq.:

        SIR: Your having shown me Mr. Davis’ letter to you of the 12th instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue ready to receive any agent whom he, or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.

Yours, &c.,

Afterward, but before Major Eckert had departed, the following dispatch was received from General Grant:


The following telegram received at Washington, January 31, 1865, from City Point, Va., 10.30 a.m. January 30, 1865:

“His Excellency ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
“President of the United States:

“The following communication was received here last evening:

January 30, 1865.

‘Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT,
‘Commanding Armies of the United States:

        ‘SIR: We desire to pass your lines under safe conduct, and to proceed to Washington to hold a conference with President Lincoln upon the subject of the existing war, and with a view of ascertaining upon what terms it may be terminated, in pursuance of the course indicated by him in his letter to Mr. Blair of January 18, 1865, of which we presume you have a copy; and if not, we wish to see you in person, if convenient, and to confer with you upon the subject.

‘Very respectfully, yours,

“I have sent directions to receive these gentlemen, and expect to have them at my quarters this evening awaiting your instructions.

Commanding Armies of the United States.”

        This, it will be perceived, transferred General Ord’s agency in the matter to General Grant. I resolved, however, to send Major Eckert forward with his message, and accordingly telegraphed General Grant as follows, to wit:

Washington, January 31, 1865.
(Sent 1.30 p.m.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
City Point, Va.:

        A messenger is coming to you on the business contained in your dispatch. Detain the gentlemen in comfortable quarters until he arrives, and then act upon the message he brings as far as applicable, it having been made up to pass through General Ord’s hands, and when the gentlemen were supposed to be beyond our lines.


        When Major Eckert departed he bore with him a letter of the Secretary of War to General Grant as follows, to wit:

Washington, D.C., January 30, 1865.

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
Commanding, &c. :

        GENERAL: The President desires that you will please procure for the bearer, Maj. Thomas T. Eckert, an interview with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell, and if, on his return to you, he request it, pass them through our lines to Fortress Monroe, by such route and under such military precautions as you may deem prudent, giving them protection and comfortable quarters while there, and that you let none of this have any effect upon your movements or plans.

By order of the President:
Secretary of War.

        Supposing the proper point to be then reached, I dispatched the Secretary of State with the following instructions, Major Eckert, however, going ahead of him:

Washington, January 31, 1865.

Secretary of State:

        You will proceed to Fortress Monroe, Va., there to meet and informally confer with Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell on the basis of my letter to F. P. Blair, esq., of January 18, l865, a copy of which you have.
You will make known to them that three things are indispensable, to wit:

1st. The restoration of the national authority throughout all the States.
2d. No receding, by the Executive of the United States, on the slavery question, from the position assumed thereon in the late annual message to Congress and in preceding documents.
3d. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the Government.

        You will inform them that all propositions of theirs, not inconsistent with the above, will be considered and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality. You will hear all they may choose to say, and report it to me.
You will not assume to definitely consummate anything.

Yours, &c.,

        On the day of its date the following telegram was sent to General Grant:

Washington, D.C., February 1, 1865.
(Sent 9.30 a.m.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
City Point, Va.:

        Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.


Afterward the following dispatch was received from General Grant:


The following telegram received at Washington, 2.30 p.m. February 1, 1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 12.30 p.m., 1865:

“His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United States:

        Your dispatch received. There will be no armistice in consequence of the presence of Mr Stephens and others within our lines The troops are kept in readiness to move at the shortest notice, if occasion should justify it.


        To notify Major Eckert that the Secretary of State would be at Fortress Monroe, and to put them in communication, the following dispatch was sent:

Washington, D.C., February 1, 1865.

Maj. T. T. ECKERT:
(Care of General Grant, City Point, va.)

        Call at Fortress Monroe, and put yourself under direction of Mr. S[eward], whom you will find there.


On the morning of the 2d instant the following telegrams were received by me, respectively, from the Secretary of State and Major Eckert:

February 1, 1865–11.30 p.m.


        Arrived at 10 this evening. Richmond party not here. I remain here.


February 1, 1865–10 p.m.

His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United States:

     I have the honor to report the delivery of your communication and my letter at 4.15 this afternoon, to which I received a reply at 6 p.m., but not satisfactory.
At 8 p.m. the following note addressed to General Grant was received:

February 1, 1865.

“Lieutenant-General GRANT:

        SIR: We desire to go to Washington City to confer informally with the President personally, in reference to the matters mentioned in his letter to Mr. Blair of the 18th of January ultimo, without any personal compromise on any question in the letter. We have the permission to do so from the authorities in Richmond.

“Very respectfully, yours,

        At 9.30 p.m. I notified them that they could not proceed further unless they complied with the terms expressed in my letter. The point of meeting designated in the above note would not, in my opinion, be insisted upon. Think Fort Monroe would be acceptable. Having complied with my instructions I will return to Washington to-morrow unless otherwise ordered.

Major, &c.

        On reading this dispatch of Major Eckert, I was about to recall him and the Secretary of State, when the following telegram of General Grant to the Secretary of War was shown me:


        The following telegram received at Washington, 4.35 a.m. February 2, 1865, from City Point, Va., February 1, 10.30 p.m., 1865:

“Secretary of War:

“Now that the interview between Major Eckert, under his written instructions, and Mr. Stephens and party has ended, I will state confidentially, but not officially to become a matter of record, that I am convinced, upon conversation with Messrs. Stephens and Hunter, that their intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore peace and union. I have not felt myself at liberty to express even views of my own or to account for my reticency. This has placed me in an awkward position, which I could have avoided by not seeing them in the first instance. I fear now their going back without any expression from any one in authority will have a bad influence. At the same time I recognize the difficulties in the way of receiving these informal commissioners at this time, and do not know what to recommend. I am sorry, however, that Mr. Lincoln cannot have an interview with the two named in this dispatch, if not all three now within our lines. Their letter to me was all that the President’s instructions contemplated, to secure their safe conduct, if they had used the same language to Major Eckert.


        This dispatch of General Grant changed my purpose; and accordingly I telegraphed him and the Secretary of State, respectively, as follows:

Washington, D.C., February 2, 1865. (Sent 9 a.m.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,
City Point, Va.:

Say to the gentlemen I will meet them personally at Fortress Monroe as soon as I can get there.


Washington, D.C., February 2, 1865,
(Sent 9 a.m.)

Fortress Monroe, Va.:

        Induced by a dispatch from General Grant, I join you at Fort Monroe as soon as I can come.


        Before starting the following dispatch was shown me; I proceeded, nevertheless:


        The following telegram received at Washington, February 2, 1865, from City Point, Va., 9 a.m. February 2, 1865:

“Secretary of State, Fort Monroe:

        “The gentlemen here have accepted the proposed terms, and will leave for Fort Monroe at 9.30 a.m.


(Copy to Itoh. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington )

        On the night of the 2d I reached Hampton Roads, found the Secretary of State and Major Eckert on a steamer, anchored offshore, and learned of them that the Richmond gentlemen were on another steamer, also anchored offshore, in the Roads, and that the Secretary of State had not yet seen or communicated with them. I ascertained that Major Eckert had literally complied with his instructions, and I saw, for the first time, the answer of the Richmond gentlemen to him, which, in his dispatch to me of the 1st, he characterizes as “not satisfactory.”

That answer is as follows, to wit:

Va., February 1, 1865.


        MAJOR: Your note, delivered by yourself this day, has been considered. In reply, we have to say that we were furnished with a copy of the letter of President Lincoln to Francis P. Blair, esq., of the 18th of January ultimo, another copy of which is appended to your note.
Our instructions are contained in a letter, of which the following is a copy:

” RICHMOND, January 28, 1865.

“In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing is a copy, you are to proceed to Washington City for informal conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.

“With great respect, your obedient servant,

        The substantial object to be obtained by the informal conference is to ascertain upon what terms the existing war can be terminated honorably.
Our instructions contemplate a personal interview between President Lincoln and ourselves at Washington City, but with this explanation we are ready to meet any person or persons that President Lincoln may appoint, at such place as he may designate.
Our earnest desire is that a just and honorable peace may be agreed upon, and we are prepared to receive or to submit propositions which may possibly lead to the attainment of that end.

Very respectfully, yours,

        A note of these gentlemen, subsequently addressed to General Grant, has already been given in Major Eckert’s dispatch of the 1st instant.
I also here saw, for the first time, the following note, addressed by the Richmond gentlemen to Major Eckert:

VA., February 2, 1865.


        MAJOR: In reply to your verbal statement that your instructions did not allow you to alter the conditions upon which a passport could be given to us, we say that we are willing to proceed to Fortress Monroe, and there to have an informed conference, with any person or persons that President Lincoln may appoint, on the basis of his letter to Francis P. Blair of the 18th of January ultimo, or upon any other terms or conditions that he may hereafter propose, not inconsistent with the essential principles of self-government and popular rights, upon which our institutions are founded.
It is our earnest wish to ascertain, after a free interchange of ideas and information, upon what principles and terms, if any, a just and honorable peace can be established without the further effusion of blood, and to contribute our utmost efforts to accomplish such a result.
We think it better to add, that in accepting your passport we are not to be understood as committing ourselves to anything, but to carry to this informal conference the views and feelings above expressed.

Very respectfully, yours, &c.,

NOTE.–The above communication was delivered to me at Fort Monroe, at 4.30 p.m. February 2, by Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock, of General Grant’s staff.

Major and Aide-de-Camp.

        On the morning of the 3d the three gentlemen–Messrs. Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell–came aboard of our steamer and had an interview with the Secretary of State and myself of several hours’ duration. No question of preliminaries to the meeting was then and there made or mentioned; no other person was present; no papers were exchanged or produced; and it was, in advance, agreed that the conversation was to be informal and verbal merely. On our part, the whole substance of the instructions to the Secretary of State, hereinbefore recited, was stated and insisted upon, and nothing was said inconsistent therewith; while, by the other party, it was not said that in any event or on any condition they ever would consent to reunion, and yet they equally omitted to declare that they never would so consent. They seemed to desire a postponement of that question, and the adoption of some other course first, which, as some of them seemed to argue, might or might not lead to reunion, but which course, we thought, would amount to an indefinite postponement. The conference ended without result.
The foregoing, containing, as is believed, all the information sought, is respectfully submitted.


Published in: on February 10, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 10, 1865: Lincoln Reports to the House  
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John Brown’s Body

Something for weekend.  A favorite marching song of the Union troops in the early months of the Civil War, before the tune became attached to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  That this song was sung in the Civil War that John Brown did so much to ignite, I am sure pleased his grim spirit to no end.


Our history has its share of odd characters, but surely none odder than John Brown.  An Old Testament prophet somehow marooned in Nineteenth Century America, John Brown preached the wrath of God against slave holders and considered himself the bloody sword of the Almighty.  It is tempting to write off John Brown as a murderous fanatic, and he was certainly that, but he was also something more.

The American political process was simply unable to resolve the question of slavery.  Each year the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces battered at each other with no head way made.  Bleeding Kansas was the result of Stephen A. Douglas’ plan to simply let the people of the territory resolve the issue.  Where ballots cannot, or will not, resolve a question of the first magnitude in a democracy, ultimately bullets will.   A man like Brown, totally dedicated to the anti-slavery cause, was only too willing to see violence resolve an issue that the politicians would not.

Brown attacked a great evil, American slavery, but he was also  a murderer, as the five pro-slavery men he had dragged from their houses at night and hacked to death at Pottawotamie in Kansas with home made swords would surely attest.   His raid on Harper’s Ferry was a crack-brained expedition that had absolutely no chance of success, and yet his raid helped bring about the huge war that would ultimately end slavery.

After his mad and futile attempt to start a slave insurrection at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, Brown was tried and hung for treason against the state of Virginia.  He considered his trial and treatment quite fair and thanked the Court.  Brown impressed quite a few Southerners with the courage with which he met his death, including Thomas Jackson, the future Stonewall, who observed his execution.

Brown of course lit the fuse for the Civil War.  He convinced many moderate Southerners that there were forces in the North all too ready to incite, in the name of abolition, a race war in the South.  The guns fired at Harper’s Ferry were actually the first shots of the Civil War.

Brown, as he stepped forward to the gallows, had a paper and pen thrust into his hand by a woman.  Assuming for the last time the role of a prophet, Brown wrote out, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Abraham Lincoln commented on Brown at his Cooper’s Union  speech on February 27, 1860 and took pains to separate the Republican Party from Brown: (more…)

Published in: on February 9, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Brown’s Body  
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