Sunday, August 7, 2016

John L. Motley to Anna Lothrop Motley, August 18, 1862

Marien Villa, Vöslau,
August 18, 1862.

My Dearest Mother: It seems to me at times as if I could not sit out this war in exile. I console myself with reflecting that I could be of little use were I at home, and that I may occasionally be of some service abroad. The men whom I most envy are those who are thirty years of age and who were educated at West Point, or rather that portion of them who did not imbibe a love for the noble institution of slavery together with their other requirements at that college.

There is no doubt, I believe, that Louis Napoleon passes most of his time in urging the English government to unite with him in interfering on behalf of the slave-dealing, negro-breeding Confederacy, and that the agents of that concern have offered to go down and worship him in any way he likes, even to the promising of some kind of bogus abolition scheme, to take effect this time next century, in case he will help them cut the throat of the United States government. Thus far the English government have resisted his importunities. But their resistance will not last long. The only thing that saves us as yet from a war with the slaveholders allied with both France and England is the antislavery feeling of a very considerable portion of the British public. Infinite pains are taken by the agents of the slaveholders to convince the world that the North is as much in favor of slavery as the South, but the antislavery acts of the present Congress have given the lie to these assertions. Nevertheless, I am entirely convinced, not as a matter of theory, but as fact, that nothing but a proclamation of emancipation to every negro in the country will save us from war with England and France combined.

I began this note determined not to say a single word on the subject of the war, as if it were possible to detach one's thoughts from it for a moment. I continue to believe in McClellan's military capacity as, on the whole, equal to that of any of his opponents. I do not think that this war has developed any very great military genius as yet. But it is not a military war, if such a contradiction can be used. It is a great political and moral revolution, and we are in the first stage of it. The coming man, whoever he may be, must have military genius united with intense faith in something. In the old civil wars of Holland, France, and England, the men who did the work were the men who either believed intensely in the Pope and the Inquisition, or who intensely hated those institutions; who either believed in the crown or in the people; who either adored or detested civil and religious liberty. And in our war, supposing other nations let us fight it out, which they are not likely to do, the coming man is some tremendous negro-seller with vast military capacity, or some John Brown with ditto. I have an abiding faith in the American people, in its courage, love of duty, and determination to pursue the right when it has made up its mind. So I believe this conspiracy of the slaveholders will yet be squashed, but it will not be till the people has made a longer stride than it has yet made. Pardon me for this effusion. Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh. And these are times when every man not only has a right, but is urged by the most sacred duty, to speak his mind. We are very tranquil externally, speaking here in Vöslau, where we shall remain till the middle of October. God bless you, my dear mother. All send love to you and the governor, and I remain

Most affectionately your son,
J. L. M.

SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 263-5

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