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from San Francisco to Europe six and a quarter millions of gold, whilst during the same time from the same port there had arrived in New York only two hundred and fifty thousand dollars of the precious metal. In view of such results, it would be difficult to over-estimate the effects, if we had had a 'hundred of private armed vessels, and especially if we could have secured from neutral Europe the means of disposing of such prizes as we might make of the commerce of the enemy. CHAPTER IX.
An Extraordinary Lull in the War... An Affair with the Enemy on the Blackwater...Raids in the West...Van Dorn's Captures...The Meeting Op Congress...Character of This Body...Its Dullness and Servility...Mr. Foote and the Cabinet...Two Popular Themes of Confidence...Party Contention in the North...Successes of the Democrats There...Analysis of the Pa*rty Politics of the North...The Interest of New England in the War...How the War Affected the Northwestern Portions of the United States ...Mr. Foote's Resolutions Respecting the Northwestern States...How They W'fere Received by the Southern Public...New War Measures at Washington...Lincoln a Dictator...Prospect of Foreign Interference...Action of the Emperor Napoleon... Suffering of the Working Classes in England...The Delusions of an Early Peace...The Tasks Bef)re Congress...Prostrate Condition of the Confederate Finances...President Davis' Blunder...The Errours of Our Financial System... The Wealth of the South...The Impressment Law of Congress...Scarcity of Supplies...Inflated Prices...Speculation and Extortion in the Confederacy... Three Remarks About These...The Verdict of History.
The battle of Murfreesboro' was followed by an extraordinary lull of the movements of the war. For months the great armies in Tennessee and Virginia were to stand agaze of each other. The events of this period are slight and easily recounted.
While the lines of the Rappahannock remained undisturbed, our forces on the Blackwater had an engagement of outposts on the 31st of January, which was unduly magnified into a battle. The success of the affair was not wholly unimportant, as a loss of some hundreds was inflicted upon the enemy before our forces fell back to Carrsville, which they were compelled to do in the face of superiour numbers.
In Tennessee there was a series of exploits of our cavalry, the details of which it is impossible now to recount. The most remarkable of these successes was probably that of Van Dorn, who, on the first day of March, at Thompson's Station, between Columbia and Franklin, captured five regiments of the enemy's infantry, comprising twenty-two hundred officers and men.
THE MEETING OF CONGRESS.
The reader will be interested in turning from the unimportant military events of this period to notice the re-assembling of the Confederate Congress and its proceedings in the early months of 1863. It is not to be disguised that this body fell below the spirit and virtue of the people, and was remarkable for its destitution of talents and ability. Not a single speech that has yet been made in it will live. It is true that the regular Congress elected by the people was an improvement, upon the ignorant and unsavory body known as the Provisional Congress, which was the creature of conventions, and which was disgraced in the character of some of its members; among whom were conspicuous corrupt and senile politicians from Virginia, who had done all they could to sacrifice and degrade their State, who had "toadied" in society, as well as in politics, to notabilities of New England, and who had taken a prominent part in emasculating, and, in fact, annulling, the Sequestration Law, in order to save the property of relatives who had sided with the North against the land that had borne them and honoured their fathers.
But the regular Congress, although it had no taint of disloyalty or Yankee toadyism in it, was a weak body. It had made no mark in the history of the government; it was destitute of originality; its measures were, generally, those which were recommended by the Executive or suggested by the newspapers; it had produced no great financial measure; it made not one stroke of statesmanship; it uttered not a single fiery appeal to the popular heart such as is customary in revolutions. It afforded, perhaps, a proof of the frequent assertion that out democratic system did not produce great men. The. most of the little ability it had was occupied with servility to the* Executive and demagogical displays.
It is difficult, indeed, for a legislative body to preserve its
independence, and to resist the tendency of the Executive to absorb power in time of war, and this fact was well illustrated by the Confederate Congress. One of the greatest political scholars of America, Mr. Madison, noticed this danger in the political constitution of the country. He said :—" War is in fact the true nurse of Executive aggrandizement. In war a physical force is to be created, and it is the Executive will which is to direct it. In war the public treasures are to be unlocked, and it is the Executive hand which is to dispense them. In war the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied, and it is the Executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the Executive brow they are to encircle."
There was but little opposition in Congress to President Davis; but there was some which took a direction to his cabinet, and this opposition was represented by Mr. Foote of Tennessee—a man of acknowledged ability and many virtues of character, who had re-entered upon the political stage after a public life, which, however it lacked in the cheap merit of partisan consistency, had been adorned by displays of wonderful intellect and great political genius. Mr. Foote was not a man to be deterred from speaking the truth; his quickness to resentment and his chivalry, which, though somewhat Quixotic, was founded in the most noble and delicate sense of honour, made those who would have bullied or silenced a weaker person, stand in awe of him. A man of such temper was not likely to stint words in assailing an opponent; and his sharp declamations in Congress, his searching comments, and his great powers of sarcasm, used upon such men as Mallory, Benjamin and Northrop were the only relief of the dulness of the Congress, and the only historical features of its debates.
Mr. Foote was of a temperament that easily indulged the prospects of peace which so generally existed when Congress resumed its session in the opening of the new year. At an early period of the session resolutions were introduced by him inviting the Northwestern States to abstention from the war, and expressing a lively and friendly confidence in the negotiation which the Emperor of the French had just undertaken for a qualified mediation in the war in America. Of these two popular themes of confidence some explanation is due.
Since the commencement of the war, there had been some few people in the North who had opposed its prosecution, and many more who were averse to its policy and measures. The removal of McClellan added a bitter feud to animosities already existing, and the enunciation at Washington of the policy of emancipation contributed to the party divisions in the North. The result of the Northern elections in the fall of 1862 was apparently an emphatic and impressive popular verdict against the Abolition party which had ruled the government at Washington. In the face of a majority of 107,000 against them in 1860, the Democrats had carried the State of New York. The metropolis of New York was carried by a Democratic majority of 31,000—a change of 48,000 votes in twelve months. Within the great States of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, the results of the popular elections were a more or less emphatic avowal of opposition to the schemes of those who were using the power of the government to advance and fasten upon the country their political vagaries, regardless of right and written constitutions. These six States contained a majority of the free State population. They furnished the majority of the troops in the field against us. They had two-thirds of the wrealth of the North. It was clear that the Washington government needed men and money to carry on the war, and to have a united North the Democratic States must furnish more than half of either.
Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the people of the South should have convinced themselves that an important re&etion was taking place in public sentiment in the North, and that it naturally tended to a negotiation for peace. But in one-half of this opinion they were mistaken. There was a reaction in the North; but it had scarcely any thing