« ZurückWeiter »
depend on the nature and extent of the controlling incompetency, or of the general dissatisfaction — relatively to the national force that could be relied on, and to the rebel force that could be brought into the field and managed well. Both the controlling incompetency and the national dissatisfaction that might exist, has direct and causal relation to whatever foreign intervention might occur: and whatever national dissatisfaction might exist, might have relation, more or less serious, to whatever incompetency might be supposed to exist on the part of the Administration, and the various officers, civil, mil. itary and naval, appointed under it. We use the word income petency, in its widest sense - and with relation to the vast work set before the country. And we use the word dissatisfaction as applied to the people, with reference - not to the justice or propriety - but to the reality and the danger of such a state of mind on their part — and more especially on the part of the army. If these three things exist together
-incompetency on the part of those to whose guidance our affairs are committed — serious dissatisfaction with them on the part of very large portions of the people—and foreign intervention by powerful nations ; it is hardly conceivable that the nation could be extricated from the necessity of a ruinous and dishonorable peace, unless by means that, for the time, and perhaps for a very long time, if not in perpetuity, would subvert the existing institutions of the country ; for example - a military revolt and dictatorship. The President may rest assured that his own fame, as well as his most pressing and immediate duty, demand the earnest consideration of these things by him. If there is in this nation competent talent, skill, and integrity to carry the nation triumphantly through its perils, he is entitled to its use, and it behooves him to secure it, in every department of the public service. Moreover, the great office he fills can not, under any circumstances, be successfully executed, otherwise than in accordance with the actual public sentiment of the nation itself; and least of all can that be done at a period of infinite public danger, and intense public excitement. He must lay his account, not only with the absolute necessity of having the real force of the nation, as to intellect, skill, and integrity, actually in its service ; but with the absolute necessity, also, of satisfying the public mind, that the fact shall be so. The nation is not satisfied; and its discontent would be respected and removed by a wise President-such as we trust in God Mr. Lincoln may prove himself to be. We do not speak of the discontent of traitors in the loyal States; they are bent on mischief- and so little sense have they, that their own destruction will probably be the first fruits of their success. Nor do we speak of discontent with any particular act of the Administration. But everywhere something is complained of, and every one has some exception to make, some regret to express, some apprehension to whisper. The nation needs to be reassured ; and this reassurance needs to come from the center of affairs — from the hight of the Government itself. As to failure-failure is destruction. The nation will not endure it. The army will not endure it; we mean the real army-not the countless deserters - not the cowardly or worthless officers absent without leave, and useless everywhere--not the tens of thousands of sharks, with and without commissions, who plunder the people and the Government alike – blaspheming thieves! Half a million of American soldiers, veterans under arms, constitute a power greater than that of the greatest existing empire. It is possible for them to be destroyed in detail, by incompetent handling; it is possible for them to be prevented from doing anything—where folly, cowardice, or treachery, is intrusted with the control of them; but it is not conceivable that they will ever accept, and divide among them, the ignominy of having taken up arms to save their country, and then laid those arms aside by reason of a disgraceful peace, at a moment when they knew that if they were well commanded there was nothing under the sun that could stand before them. We will say no more, therefore, at present, about the first and second way in which we might fail in our endeavors to save our country. The powers which have been conferred on the President by acts of the last Congress, added to those he possessed before, put him in a position to wield the whole physical power, and the whole pecuniary resources of this great nation. We are not of the number of those who would grudge him any power he may constitutionally exercise, or cavil at any constitutional use of it; nor do we call in question his patriotic intentions, in the use he will make of it. We trust in God the nation will be saved from the first class of perils we have indicated as arising from any serious incompetence, anywhere, in the use of these vast powers; and we earnestly hope the President will dispel the second, by dealing with the public discontent, on the one hand, in the way of vigorous repression of all criminal acts, and on the other hand in the way of wise and patriotic regard to public opinion. Thus, under his lead, by means of a triumphant national demonstration, our internal dangers may disappear; and our foreign relations might settle at once, into safe peace, or open war. Whether peace with all foreign nations, or war with one or more of the most powerful of them, is in our immediate future, is a question which depends on the Federal Administration, in part-upon the choice of foreign nations, in part—and mainly, perhaps, upon the course of events which neither our own, nor any other government, can either completely control, or even foresee. It may, however, be accepted as violently probable, that we shall be obliged to fight either Great Britain or France, or both of them, before our internal difficulties are settled —unless we are able to convince both of those powers that war with the United States is far more dangerous than promising to them. To this extent only, therefore, the Federal Administration can be held responsible for any foreign war that may occur— namely, that it probably would not have occurred if the country had been placed and kept in a condition of complete readiness for it. In connection with what we have further to say, we refer to the views we expressed a year and a half since, when the country seemed to be on the point of war with England.*
We knew a case in which property was devised in trust as a charity for the benefit of the poor white orphans of an Episcopal parish in one of our principal cities. The will was contested upon the ground of its uncertainty-seeing, as was alleged, that every term was vague; who is poor, who is white, and who is an orphan, being unsettled, in the intention of the testator. We leave our readers to determine for themselves what the courts should have decided. Martinus Scrib
* Danville Review, Vol. I., No. 4, pp. 666-672, December, 1861.
lerus has given a case, with the pleadings and the result. Devised to A all the white and black horses of the testator; there proved to be six black, six white, and six black and white; the devisee A set up a claim to the whole eighteen. Terrible pending, proving, arguing, deciding; the devisee A finally lost all, upon the ground that the whole eighteen were mares. The devisees in the great cases of Girard of Philadelphia, and Macdonough of New Orleans, were in some respects about as uncertain, in themselves, and as troublesome, to the devisees, the lawyers, and the courts, as the real charity case, or the probably fictitious horse case above alluded to. And we have chosen to illustrate the practical nature of the Law of Nations, which concerns us so deeply to appreciate aright-by the practical administration of the Statutes of Wills ; because the principles of interpretation in the two kinds of law, are the most similar. A will is professedly interpreted according to the intention of the testator; the Law of Nations is interpreted, as to matters at sea and along the sea coasts, according to the intention of him who is strongest in fleets-and as to matters clearly on land, according to the intention of him who is strongest in armies; for example, the great Napoleon and Mr. John Bull. It is with the latter gentleman, in person, with the case of Mason and Slidell already ruled against us in a way that riled most of us terribly, that we are to settle the sea Law of Nations, as he shall please—or fight; and it is with the successor of Napoleon, under his open and insulting avowal that his business in Mexico is to restrain our race, and that his policy requires our dismemberment, that we must settle the land Law of Nations, as will please him, or fight. Of course, we will fight them both if they insist on it. And it seems in the highest degree probable, at present, that they will both insist on it, unless we either disgrace ourselves by submitting to terms at once infamous and ruinous--or unless they get to understand that fighting us is neither safe nor profitable-or unless the course of events in the old world may render it particularly inconvenient for them to embark in a great war with the United States.
The attempt to reduce into a code the principles and rules by which civilized nations should regulate their treatment of each other, in peace and in war, is altogether modern. Some very able and enlightened men have spent great labor in these inquiries, and in earnest endeavors to settle, according to true reason, and the law of nature, the numerous and often doubtful problems which they involve. But this code which professes to define the rights and duties of nations with respect to each other, besides that which natural reason lays down among all men, and which the Roman Civil Law declared was the true law of nations; is modified by the imprescriptable customs of the particular nations, and by the innumerable treaties, alliances, compacts, leagues, and agreements which they have made with each other, the principles of which survive and may be pleaded as a precedent, for a good end or a bad one, long after the instruments themselves have ceased to be binding. Moreover, just as the decrees of the Roman Pro-Consuls and Prætors entered into the life of nations throughout that mighty empire; so also the dispatches of great civil and military officers constitute a kind of perpetual commentary on this law that has no tribunal ; and the decisions of the greatest judicial tribunals of modern times have interpreted many of these rights and duties of nations, in the light of their own municipal laws. In the daily life of the freest and most civilized people, all manner of devices are necessary, and are resorted to, in order to administer their own written laws, in such a manner as to satisfy the public conscience. As we have seen, wills are interpreted on a peculiar principle; deeds are interpreted upon another peculiar principle (always against the grantor); criminal laws are interpreted strictly; other laws according to their obvious meaning; and then a special jurisdiction is created (chancery) in part to supply the defects, and in part to rectify the evil of mere legal right. And, after all, in the administration of municipal law, with its plain written statutes and its impartial tribunals, and its able counsel, and its eager suitors; what we reach, in every litigated case, is a judgment founded on opposite and conflicting analogies, often so obscure and so subtle, that the most enlightened bystander is wholly uncertain what the judgment ought to be. Never was a nobler or wiser sentiment put into the mouth of a great nation, by one of its greatest heroes and patriots, than this: We will demand of other nations nothing but what is right, and we will put up with nothing that is wrong. Let us