Sunday, October 2, 2016

John L. Motley to Mary Lothrop Motley, September 21, 1862

Vienna, September 21, 1862.

Dearest Little Mary: Your last letters, 1st and 2d September, reached us with promptness, and gave us the same mingled pain and pleasure that your letters always do. You are a dear darling to write to us so faithfully and conscientiously, and we look forward to our weekly budget from “our own correspondent” with great eagerness. You say in your last that Mrs. Lothrop's third son is going to the war. I cannot sufficiently admire their spirit and patriotism and her courage. I had such a nice, interesting, well-written letter from Julius at Newbern. I wish you would ask Mrs. Lothrop when she writes to thank him for it, and to say that I have not yet answered it simply because I have nothing agreeable or interesting to say from this part of the world. One of these days, when affairs are looking less gloomy, I shall take pleasure in sending an answer to his letter. Meanwhile I am delighted to hear of his promotion to a lieutenancy, and wish him every success.

The most amazing part of the whole matter is that people should now go about talking to each other of the “Constitution and the enforcement of the laws” exactly as if we were at peace. We are not in peace. We are in war. And the law of war is perfectly simple. It is to use all and every means necessary for overcoming the resistance of your enemy. Had government issued a proclamation of universal freedom to all men, in the exercise of its unequivocal and unquestioned rights as a belligerent, at about the time when the “Young Napoleon” was burrowing in the Chickahominy swamps, it would have done more toward overcoming the resistance of the enemy by cutting off the great source of their supplies than the whole of that ignominious campaign in the Peninsula, which has brought us, in spite of the unparalleled heroism, endurance, patience, and unflinching courage of our soldiers, back to exactly the same point (to make the best of it) from which we started a year ago. Tell Dr. Holmes that I received his letter of the 4th September yesterday, and that it gave me inexpressible comfort.

I shall write him next week. I agree with every word he says, and it gives me great pleasure to hear him say that the antislavery feeling is on the increase in Boston. Of one thing I feel perfectly certain, although everything else seems obscure as midnight. If Jeff Davis gets half the country, he will get the whole. If we keep half, we shall keep the whole. I mean by “we” the antislavery party of the country.

As to arming the slaves and drilling them as soldiers, I do not care so much about that, except as a means of preventing servile insurrections. Black men, as well as white men, are susceptible of military discipline, and soldiers in the army of whatever color must be shot for massacre and murder. The very reason which always prevented me from being an abolitionist before the war, in spite of my antislavery sentiments and opinions, now forces me to be an emancipationist. I did not wish to see the government destroyed, which was the avowed purpose of the abolitionists. When this became the avowed purpose of the slaveholders, when they made war upon us, the whole case was turned upside down. The antislavery men became the Unionists, the slaveholders the destructionists. This is so plain that no mathematical axiom is plainer. There is no way of contending now with the enemy at our gates but by emancipation.

Poor Fletcher Webster! I saw him on the Common at the head of his regiment; he looked like a man and has died like one. I am beginning to think that they who are dying for their country are happier than those of us who are left. Another old schoolfellow of mine was killed too, Phil Kearny (General Kearny)—the bravest of the brave. Good-by, darling. My love to grandmama and grandpapa and all the family.

Your affectionate

SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 284-6

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