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natural condition into which society should be divided for the preservation of liberty,
I have thus sketched the doctrines promulgated by the leaders of thought at a time just preceding the breaking out of the late
As I have said before, this conflict of opinion-this battle between intellectual giants-was no ordinary one. The decision of the question was submitted to the people in 1860, which resulted in the elevation of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency, and thereby the announcement of the carrying out of the principles enunciated by him-the non-extension of slavery into the free territories, so far as the executive could prevent it, was a settled fact. The decree of the people had been registered. A division of sentiment and thought on that question had taken place. It was a permanent division; there could be no further compromise with slavery; and the decree seemed unalterable that thereafter slavery should be confined within the territorial limits of the states where, by their local laws, it was protected. The opinion of the Southern people had been voted down. There was in the future no hope for them. Their peculiar institution was confined within limits as well defined as the geography of state lines; beyond those limits they could not pass. There was nothing in the future for them or their institution but a steady decline. The people at the ballot-box of 1860 had marked the furthest limits of the extension of slavery. The slave power for the future was broken; their power in the national halls of legislation was on the decline. By a long system of education and training, they had come to believe that it was their right to be the potent influence in the government of this country. As Mr. Webster had pointed out, they had control of the three departments of the government almost entirely for fifty years. The question was a serious one for them. It involved the slow but final eradication of slavery. It was the death-knell of their domination of the affairs of state. It meant the acquisition of no more slave territory. It meant that from thence forward freedom was the rule and slavery the exception. No longer was the North ready to succumb to Southern domination by being threatened with secession and a disruption of the Union. Opinion had crystalized. The great contending parties had taken their stand; and, like gladiators, they stood confronting each other, ready to accept the gage of battle, whether
on the hustings, in the national halls of legislation, or upon the battle-field.
In this strained condition of affairs, the leaders of Southern sentiment were not long in concluding what steps were to be taken to maintain their opinion, as promulgated by them in the preceding campaign. Jefferson Davis, Robert Toombs and J udah P. Benjamin were the three ablest expounders of the Southern doctrine. In taking their leave of the Senate of the United States, and giving in their adherence to the right of secession, they each placed their action upon the right of the state to repudiate the compact by which it became one of the states in the Union, and dissolve at its pleasure the compact entered into with the other states. Mr. Davis went so far as to distinguish between the doctrine of nullification and secession. He declared the nullification of the laws of the United States by a state could not be justified; that nullification meant an extraordinary remedy within the Union, while secession meant the right of nullification of all laws outside of the Union. Upon this specious doctrine, together with the duty which he claimed to owe his state, and which he claimed was above the duty which he owed the United States, he took his departure from the Senate, and launched with his confreres into the open sea of secession.
There are two thoughts which I desire to record at this juncture, and which are fair deductions from the discussion that has preceded, and they are:
When the recent war actually began, Mr. Lincoln and his advisors had no notion of the emancipation of the slaves; and,
That in the conflict of opposing forces which preceded the war, the question at issue was the extension of slavery into our free territories on the one hand, and the non-extension into such territories on the other hand.
These two thoughts mark the extreme limit of public opinion and the decision thereon up to the time when the attempted secession of some of the Southern states took place.
It is a mistaken popular opinion that the war was fought for the extermination of slavery. The Southern states seceded because they saw that in the future their peculiar institution was to be shut up and confined within the limits of the states where it then existed. The Northern states had registered a decree by the election of Mr. Lincoln, that slavery should extend no farther
into the free territories of the United States, and it was at this juncture of affairs that the late war was precipitated upon the country. The first year of the war, as you will all bear me out, was carried on under this theory strictly. Many of us who were in the war during the first year saw the return of fugitives from service to their masters, which was then the prevailing policy of the administration of Mr. Lincoln. The idea of Mr. Lincoln and his administration was to maintain the union of the states upon the basis of the Constitution, with slavery unimpaired in the states where it existed; but that there er there should be no slave state carved out of the common territories of the United States. For this purpose he revoked the order of General Fremont, who, in 1861, had declared that no fugitives would be returned by the army or any officer thereof, where it appeared that the claimant of such fugitive was disloyal to the government.
It was not until September, 1862, that Mr. Lincoln was convinced that to maintain the Union and fight the war to a successful termination, slavery would have to go. And even at this time he was much in advance of the conservative element of his own party, and certainly in direct and open conflict with a large body of his fellow citizens in the North who did not belong to the political party with which he was connected.
It is too early at this time to discuss, even at a meeting like this, the merits and demerits of the conflict of opinion brought about by Mr. Lincoln's policy in carrying on the late war. Inasmuch as this ground is deemed dangerous at other places and to other assemblies, I will not attempt to discuss it here. It is enough to say that whatever controversies then existed among the people of the North as to the conduct of the war, its final success under that management silenced all opposition and was proof conclusive that Mr. Lincoln was right and that his opposers were wrong.
Here I draw the curtain and cease my discussion. When we have passed away, our posterity will freely discuss in all places the questions which we at this place must refrain from discussing.
One thing, however, I may say without offense: I congratulate you, my comrades, that it was your good fortune to live in an heroic age; to have been a part and parcel of the great conflict which ended so successfully and re-established so firmly the principles of our government. The work which you and your comrades' arms accomplished will grow brighter and brighter as
recede from us. Our work will never be appreciated until its actors have passed away. Our place in history is secure. What we wrought by the valor of our arms will, in the future, be properly characterized by the impartial pen of the historian. Some lover of liberty in the sweet bye and bye will be enabled to de. scribe Sherman's march to the sea, his conquest of the Carolinas, his march to the seat of government, and the disbandment of the old Army of the Tennessee, in language equal or superior to that employed in the description of the celebrated charge of the six hundred at Balaklava. It cannot overstate the heroism, valor and bravery of the old Army of the Tennessee; for it was that army which gave back to the government the waters of the Mississippi untrammeled by a hostile gun or a frowning fort. It was that army, under our President, that fought its way to Atlanta and from thence to Savannah, and during the entire period of its history it never lowered its flag to the enemy or suffered defeat at the hands of its adversaries. Its battle record is unstained, and wherever it planted its eagles, history will record its glorious victories.
The President:-Gentlemen, that is the last of the series of papers which I have requested to be read during this, our Detroit, meeting. I think in two or three years, when you younger men come to study up and prepare your speeches, they will help you very much. Indeed, General Poe and Colonel Calkins have spent much time and labor in condensing their matter into as few words as possible. What is the pleasure of our Society as to the last
General Fisk:-I move in grateful recognition of the great service rendered by Colonel Calkins, the Society spread the paper upon its records.
General Leggett:-I do not know that it is necessary to make any motion, but I hope our President will follow the same course next year in securing papers.
The President:-I shall do so.
Colonel Brush:-I do not wish to be considered impatient as to a decision of the report of the committee as to the paper which I had the temerity to present yesterday to the Society, but I wish to say one word. I am getting somewhat past the meridien of
life and probably will not be at many more meetings of this Society, as I have reached the age of seventy-five years. I wish to say this, however, that there is no man living that can do simple justice to the old 18th Illinois that I had the honor to command a short time during the war and during the severe engagements of Donelson and Shiloh. It was suggested yesterday that the expense of spreading these papers on the record was too much for the Society, and I wish to say that I shall have to be a great deal older than I am to-day before the question of money stands between my regiment and such questions. If, therefore, the Society are willing to adopt it, let the bill of expense be made out and sent to me and I will
it. The President:—The Society took occasion yesterday to refer that paper to a committee of three, of which the President is one, and if that committee finds the matter treated of one of general interest and worthy of a place in our record, we are empowered to so order. Now, you please name a member to whom to refer your paper.
Colonel Brush:-Elect anybody; General Force, General Hickenlooper, or any one else.
The President:-I merely suggest that the receiving of papers without reading them, as they have been, may commit the Society as it was committed in General Schofield's case, as you may, perhaps, recollect, as endorsing the paper. Now, General Force, if you will take that paper and read it, submit it to General Hickenlooper, whom I will name as member of that committee, and then send it to me I will read it.
Colonel Brush:-The reason that I wrote this paper is that I was there and had command of that regiment, was wounded at both those battles, the command devolving upon a captain, who knew very little about it, and in the hurry of the time they did not tell half they knew, and that was not very much credit to a regiment that lost two hundred at Donelson and seventy-five at the battle of Shiloh, which went in there nearly four hundred strong, and I think the fact should be properly represented. The reports made and sent to Washington amount to nothing. They were not submitted to me. I had no opportunity to know any. thing about them until recently, and then it was thrown up to me that the 18th Illinois had performed but a poor part, and then they