17 JANUARY 1863, Page 8


ON the 2nd of January Mr. Abraham Lincoln, President of the -United States, proclaimed all slaves in the great territory south of lat. 38 free forever. On the 2nd of December Mr. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, de- clared that all slaves who should avail themselves of the forth- coming proclamation should be handed over to the States to which they belonged, i.e., put to death, and that all officers commanding them or executing the proclamation should share their fate. The two documents seem to us to indicate pre- cisely the relation of the two Powers to modern civilization. Mr. Lincoln, as might be expected, performs his great task ungracefully, incompletely, and with as little reference to principle as an occasion, whiehin its magnitude essentially tran- scends all formulas, would allow. Had he had the courage to rise above the bonds of the constitution, and appeal at once to the higher law ; had he ventured to declare Slavery at variance with Christianity and the Declaration of Independ- ence, and, therefore, with the bases upon which that consti- tution is founded ; had he, in short, appealed to God and not to his party tenets, he might have roused a fanaticism before which that of the South is weakness, and possibly by giving his armies an idea, have given them also victory. Instead of this, he adheres, as he has consistently done, to his constitu- tional obligations, emancipates as a war measure exclusively, leaves loyal States to emerge from the slough the best way they can, and even excepts the disloyal districts in which his armies are encamped, and which are, therefore, presumably within the range of constitutional law. He has strictly kept his word, which was to emancipate all slaves in States disloyal on 1st of January, and has even interpreted that promise to his enemies' advantage; but he has not risen to the height of his unique opportunity, or declared Slavery a crime against God with which no terms could be kept by man. He expresses, even in his moderate measure, the wish of a party rather than of a nation; he has failed to secure the European sympathy which would have followed a bold appeal to principle; and he has left it doubtful whether, after all, the race for whom he has risked so much will ever hear of the benefit he offers to their acceptance. But, admitting all these drawbacks and all that Democrats can urge in addition, his action is still for good, his tendency is towards principles higher than those by which he has hitherto been guided. No man is responsible except for his will; and so far as his will ban operate, the Northern President has cleansed the North of her stain, and carried out the great principles upon which his nation was founded. So far as his order extends, three millions of persons, heretofore bound, are henceforward free, to be recog- nized as freemen by all officials of the -Union, to enjoy all non- political rights, to be admissible into the national service, to rise, in short, from chattels transmissible like dogs or horses, into men. Every part of his act, rude- and imperfect as its conception may be, tends to raise human beings in the scale of humanity, to increase their capacity of happiness, to carry one step farther the ideas for which we English profess to stand ready to risk our lives.

In excellent English, possessed of a certain character of stateliness, of which Mr. Lincoln is wholly devoid, Mr. Jeffer- son Davis announces that whole classes of prisoners shall, when captured, be massacred in cold blood. He makes no mistakes, imposes no geographical limitation, professes no restrictions from constitutional law ; wherever the man com- manding black troops is found, he shall be handed over to men who, as the Index allows, will inevitably send him to the gal- lows. There is no weakness in his order, and no blundering; but there is a thorough contempt at once for law and for humanity. Every section of it is intended to rivet the chains of the slave, or to add a new horror to the inevitable horrors of a fratricidal campaign. No cause was ever served by suppres- sions, and we are bound to admit that, as respects the blacks, Mr. Davis is within his technical right, and therefore unim- peachable before the world. He has no power over them bypublic law as slaves, but he has as subjects, and subjects bearing arms against their own government, however tyrannical, are by every law known to Europe liable to suffer death. But he has no such right over the whites. No law makes it treason for any public enemy to avail himself of any aid offered by the population of an invaded State and in virtually decreeing death for such anoffence Mr. Davis proclaims a war of extermination. His enemy has no option, except to execute two for one or refuse the quarter Mr. Davis has pledged himself before the offence not to grant to invaders. Not content with slaying the slave for simply striving for freedom, the very act his master boasts that he himself is performing, Mr. Davis threatens to slay prisoners. in cold blood for executing orders known to be within the rights of war, and which they may be shot by their own Government for not obeying. In view of such an outrage, the first part of the Southern edict denouncing General Butler, and sentencing his subordinates to death, becomes a mere ebullition of spite. All the officers of a division are doomed. to the gallows because their general is a tyrant, but Mr. Davis,. we do him the justice to say, was aware when he issued it that General Butler had been removed, and that his terrible edict, terrible enough to satisfy the imagination of slaveholders, was a mere form of words. The second half, however, is a reality.. Whether executed or not, it is an attempt to punish political. hostility with death—a permission to Southern politicians to slay after battle, prisoners who have done nothing except accept voluntary recruits from among an invaded popu- lation. The worst effect Mr. Lincoln desires from his order is that three millions of blacks may insist on receiving wages for work. The best effect Mr. Davis can hope for is, that ten thousand whites may shrink back from the task of restraining emancipated slaves by military law. We put it to Mr. Charles Buxton which of these two men—bad. English apart—is the statesman of a civilized state.

The proclamations will possibly resemble each other more in their result than their drift. Mr. Lincoln's may, and Mr_ Davis's certainly will, not succeed. Decrees refusing quarter,. and that is the gist of the Southern edict, have always had. one result. Their victims fight to the death. If a slave is to be executed because he takes arms he will not be taken prisoner;. if the officer is to be hanged be will prefer a bullet. No better device could have been suggested for making American sepoys- desperate than this furious order; no better temptation to sepoy officers to keep themselves well in front. Had Mr. Davis been the statesman we had half believed him to be, he would. have emancipated every slave who served five years in his own. ranks, and so enlisted all the brave and ambitious on his ownr side, and promised to every captured black immunity, to every white officer his parole. As it is, he has given to both classes new reasons for meeting a death which no decree can_ make other than an honourable one. Mr. Lincoln's proclama- tion, on the other hand, may pulverize the power of the- South. The slaves have only to fold their hands, and culti- vation and means of transport alike cease to exist. But no- race, except the Hindoo, under an organized caste pressure,. has ever succeeded in enduring the misery of passive re- sistance, and in most of the States the masters will be as. powerful as before. The proclamation will only clear the Northern generals of complicity in Slavery, tempt the slaves. on the border land to fly, and enable the North, perhaps, to. raise a sepoy army. That is not a grand result, but there is another yet. No compromise is henceforward possible, if based on the maintenance of human bondage. These are political acts which no ruler can recall, which no Court can annul, no legislature erase, and this pro- clamation, with all its defect.s, may be accepted as. one. No slaveowner can ever again trust the North, or believe in a fugitive slave law, or forget that the faith has been pledged to his beasts of burden.. Reunion, if it arrives, must be a reunion among the free, and the future of North America is on this one point decided... Herproletariat may be black, and as wretched as a despised labouring class is but too apt to become, her laws may still keep up distinctions utterly irrational if slaves indeed be men, her social tone may still be Unpaired by the worst form of oligarchical assumption. But her official power, the aggregate force of the great race now spreading from the Potomac to Vancouver's Island, must be exerted to favour freedom, and the dream of a grand slave empire unfettered by stronger free organizations is at an end for ever. Separa, tion or conquest are now the only alternatives, and either,. if they do not abolish Slavery, will finally restrict its area, and permanently menace its principle.