Page images
PDF
EPUB

• the States retained their independent existence, or an in

corporating Union, in which the independent existence of the States was merged, was a question left by the framers to settle itself, and which was settled by the sword.'

Thus, though slavery was the root and cause of the war, the immediate issue did not turn directly on slavery. The South took its stand on the right which, it alleged, each State possessed to withdraw from the Union. The North rested its case on the paramount necessity of maintaining the Union. And it was this issue which affected the decisions of men on either side in the terrible struggle which was beginning. Buchanan, the ex-President, and Douglas, who had been a candidate for the Presidency, were both men who sympathised with the South on the slavery question; but both threw in their lot with the North, and decided on following the flag. Lee, on the contrary, whose achievements as a general were to make his name a household word, thought slavery a positive evil, and the Union a glorious result of Washington's labours. But he considered that his first allegiance was due to his own State, and, when Virginia seceded from the Union, resigned his commission in the United States Army, which he might otherwise have commanded. Thus, as sometimes happens in affairs, each of the parties to the quarrel ignored the cause which had brought matters to an extremity, and rested his case on other ground. The South hesitated to estrange European and English opinion by ostensibly proclaiming that it was fighting for slavery. The North equally refrained from alle ing that it was attacking an institution on whose continuance opinion was divided, and asserted its intention to maintain the Union, on which opinion in the North was unanimous.

We have neither the space nor the wish in this article to describe the events of the terrible struggle which virtually commenced in April 1861, and which was not concluded till April 1865. Perhaps no other event in the history of the world has accumulated so much misery in so short a period.

It is reckoned that, between battle and disease, a million of men lost their lives or were crippled in the war. The expenditure which it occasioned, the destruction to which it led, exceeded anything that had previously been recorded in the same period of time.

In the course and progress of the struggle reputations on either side were won and lost. Sherman, Sheridan, Farragut, on the side of the North, Stonewall Jackson and Johnston on the side of the South, displayed the rare qualities which fit men for command. But the four men whose names will be permanently associated with the struggle are Jefferson Davis and Lee, Grant and Lincoln.

Of the Southern leaders Jefferson Davis will always be recollected as the man who placed himself at the head of a few seceding States, and who, in spite of inferior numbers and the disadvantages of isolation, organised victory. Perhaps, too, it may ultimately be forgotten that the cause for which he was fighting was a bad cause; and that if slavery be--as most people think-an unmitigated evil, he was the man who had deliberately proclaimed, Evil ! be

thou my good. It is true that, in words which Milton might have put into the mouth of Moloch, he asserted, . We are not fighting for slavery: we are fighting for inde

pendence; and that, or extermination, we will have.' But the question of independence would not have been raised in 1860 if slavery, to maintain which independence was desired, had not been in peril.

But if admiration of Jefferson Davis's great qualities is tempered with regret at his opinions, no such qualification need stint our praise of Lee. To him, at any rate, slavery was a moral and political evil; the Union a glorious bond, whose flag he was proud to follow. But the Union which he loved was a Union founded on compact, and not one preserved by force. If, however, Lee drew his sword with a reluctance which others did not share, he wielded it with a skill which no other American has displayed. With inferior forces at his command, with his inferiority increasing as the years rolled by, he proved again and again his superiority in the field, for he brought to the campaign not merely the wasting armies which the South could alone recruit, but the genius which triumphed over difficulty and plucked success out of danger. .

In all that constitutes generalship Grant was inferior to Lee. His greatest achievements—the capture of Fort Donnelson and Vicksburg—were won against inferior commanders; and, though he wore down Lee in the end by the process of attrition, he never showed himself his equal in a single portion of the campaign. He was a man of blood and iron, whose will could not be shaken by the temptations arising from previous indulgence, or by the bloodshed which would have staggered other men. He set himself his task, knowing the cost that it would entail, perhaps conscious—for it is his best excuse—that concentrated slaughter is, on the whole, less wasteful of life than protracted warfare.

The traveller who visits the United States and sees at New York the splendid tomb which has been accorded to Grant, or reads the account of its inauguration, may possibly conclude that the American of to-day has placed Grant on a pinnacle above Lincoln, and that he pays too much honour to the memory of the soldier, and renders too scant homage to that of the statesman. Yet perhaps, of all the men born to the Anglo-Saxon race in the nineteenth century, Lincoln deserves the highest place in history. No man ever rose more quickly to the dignity of a great position. No man ever displayed more moderation in counsel or more resolution in administration, or held a calmer or steadier course through the channel of difficulty or danger.

While he was in office men frequently found fault with his conduct. They condemned his policy, they criticised his manners, they thought the quaint stories with which he turned a difficult conversation were unworthy of his position, and that his somewhat ungainly figure and his illfitting clothes were unsuited to the atmosphere of courtly culture with which his predecessor had enveloped the White House. In Lincoln's case, however, the apparel did not proclaim the man. Beneath that uncouth appearance, those neglected clothes, there beat one of the truest and boldest hearts that ever warmed the blood of man or woman. His quaint stories, at any rate, served to show that the President could retain his humour in the hour of danger; and in his public utterances he rose to a force of argument, and, as in his Gettysburg speech, to a dignity of language, which few of the great speakers on either side of the Atlantic have equalled, and perhaps none have surpassed.

Amidst all the difficulties and disasters of the Civil War his resolution was never shaken, his courage never quailed. From first to last he was determined to fight on till the Union was preserved; and the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy was much more due to his persistence than to the strategy of Sherman or the sword of Grant. Bold in execution, however, he was moderate in counsel; and this country should recollect with gratitude that while other American citizens were crowning Captain Wilkes with honour, the President of the United States was almost alone in regretting the high-handed proceedings which had led to the arrest of the Confederate envoys from the 'Trent,' and which

[ocr errors]

brought the two great English-speaking countries of the world to the verge of war.

If Lincoln was great in his life, he was, in one sense, fortunate in his death. For the assassination of the President followed closely on the surrender of Lee, and the same week saw the virtual conclusion of the war and the death of the ruler under whose auspices the end had come. History hardly affords a parallel to the circumstance. It is the lot of most public men to survive their reputation, and few are they who have had the fortune-like Lincoln-to be struck down in the hour of their victory.

ale refords a para to survived like

Art. II.-1. Landscape in Poetry. By F. T. PALGRAVE.

London: Macmillan & Co. 1897. 2. Maîtres d'Autrefois. Par E. FROMENTIN. Paris. 3. L'Art du XVIII Siècle. Par EDMOND et JULES DE GON

COURT. 3 vols. Paris. 1881, 1882. The history of the many and various phases through which

1 the mind of man has passed in its relationship to nature, the history of the differing standpoints from which differing ages and races have regarded and represented in literature and art, sky, sea, and land, has been outlined by Mr. Ruskin in his chapters upon classical, medieval, and modern art.* He there sketches, in pages that suggest even more than they contain, the stamp left upon successive schools of painting by such mental attitudes. Starting from those earliest stages when all natural forms were mainly utilised as a storehouse of religious symbol and ornament, he has pursued his analysis through the periods when symbolic, mythical, and allegorical art became more and more pictorial in quality and character. He has traced the later developements when nature, viewed more especially in the light of a mere background, decorative or scenic, to human life and human action, was treated in arbitrary accordance with the central object of interest-man, his inventions, his emotions, his ideals. Finally, the change of thought is indicated when, with fluctuating and intermittent effort, modern art germinated stealthily below the surface of painting and literature, until, gathering strength with years, it declared itself openly, pronounced new principles, substituted imitation for symbolism, and established a permanent tradition. He has left us face to face with yet newer schools whose initial endeavour is to see nature with wholly unbiassed perceptions; to portray leaf, flower, tree, mountain, river, and wave divested of all emblematical significance and emancipated from all conventionalism of description or representation; to view things of nature solely as they are in themselves and in relation to each other, with no admixture of reflected human sentiment; whose aim is to gather from outward semblances an impression disconnected from all preconceptions of form, colour, or vitality, and to translate that impression into art so that it should suggest no thought save what the actual subject might

* Modern Painters, vol. iii,

« PreviousContinue »