the seeds of virtue and awakened the sleeping lion of justice, uprightness, and national honor, which shall act as healthful counterbalances to all the evil, and supplant the monsters of destructive error.
For in the γνωθι σεαυτον of the Greek philosopher lies the secret of all reform. To know one's faults is already one half the battle to correct them. He who becomes conscious that health of body and mind are steadily yielding to the inroads of an insidious foe, is worse than a fool if he do not at once apply the knife to the seat of disease, however painful may be the operation. And though to-day we hear but little of reform, and all parties seem striving which shall display the most devotion to the cause of the past, the most affection for the unchanged and unchangeable status quo ante bellum in all things, yet is the popular mind not the less earnestly though silently working. To-day we have a task which occupies all our attention, absorbs all our powers and resources, and there is no time for reform: the all-absorbing and vital question being the establishing of things upon the old footing. But, peace restored, and the deathblow given to treason, the work of reform will commence. Then will become manifest the workings of the great mind of the nation during all this trying and bloody war. To acknowledge our defects and miscomings now, is but to give a handle to the enemies of our cause: but, this danger removed, the axe will at once be laid at the root of those evils which have come nigh to working our destruction; all the unsightly excrescences which have for years been accumulating upon the trunk of our goodly tree will be carefully pruned away, and the result will be a healthier and more abundant fruit in the days to come. And these reforms will be brought about quietly, yet with a firm and vigorous hand, and in a manner that will show to the world our determination henceforth to leave no loophole for the entrance of the destroyer.
No race of thinkers can ever be enslaved. Hitherto we have been too unreflecting, too much governed by momentary impulses, too much carried away by party cries and unhealthy enthusiasm, and hence completely beneath the sway of designing demagogues. We have left the politicians to do our thinking for us, and accepted too unhesitatingly their interested dicta as our rules of political action. The press has hitherto led the people, and so mighty an engine of political power has been eagerly seized and controlled by party leaders as a means of accomplishing their ends. All this will be done away with. We shall do our thinking for ourselves, and those who shall hereafter be put forward as the prominent actors upon the great stage of politics will become, what they have never before been save in name, the servants of the people. The press of America, like that of England, must hereafter follow, not lead, the sentiments of the nation. And while true 'freedom of the press' will be religiously conserved, that unrestrained license which has always too much characterized it will be restrained and brought within its true limits, not by statutes or brute force, but by the much more powerful agency of public opinion—by the danger of tampering with the cherished and elevated sentiments of the reading masses.
And as a result of this newborn faculty of thought, we shall see the disappearance of extreme views and the birth of charity in our midst. Men will give due weight to the opinions and respect more the natural prejudices of their fellows. While ultra conservatism is the rust which eats away the nation's life, radicalism is the oxygen in which it consumes itself too rapidly away. Or perhaps, a better simile would be found in the components of atmospheric air—nitrogen and oxygen; the one a non-supporter of combustion, the other giving it a too dazzling brilliancy at the expense of the material upon which it feeds; yet both, properly combined, so as in a measure to neutralize each other, supporting the steady and enduring flame which gives forth a mild and cheering light and heat, neither dazzling nor scorching. So conservatism and radicalism, properly intermingled and exercising a restraining influence upon each other, are the very life of a great and free people. And never, in the history of the world, have these principles been more thoroughly demonstrated, more clearly manifested to the eyes of even the unlearned and humble, than in the present war, in which one or the other of these two great mental phases has been the originator of every great movement, to make no mention of the palpable effect, now appearing upon the face of society, of their action in the past. And hence, in the future, we shall see in a noble, far-reaching, broadly spreading, heaven-aspiring conservative radicalism the prevailing characteristic of American life and progress.
Hitherto the very prime principle of self-government, an intelligent cognizance of public affairs and a reflective insight into the fundamental principles of liberty, has been totally neglected in our land. And if the events of these years shall really teach our people to think—I care not how erroneously at first, for the very exercise of the God-given faculty will soon teach us to discriminate between true and false deductions, and restore Thought to her native empire,—then the blood and treasure we have so lavishly poured out, the trembling and the mourning, the trials, the toils, and the privations we have suffered, even the mighty shock which the society of the whole civilized world has received, will be but a small price to pay for the blessing we shall have gained, and our future prosperity will have been easily purchased even at so tremendous a cost. God grant it may be so.
There is no land on earth where treason may work with such impunity as in our own. And this is owing as well to the greater latitude conceded to political speculations by the very nature of our system, as to the fact that our ancestors, having, as they thought, effectually destroyed all those incentives to treason which exist in more despotic lands, and little anticipating the new motives which might with changing men and times spring up in our midst, neglected to ordain the preventives and remedies for a disease which they imagined could never flourish in our healthy atmosphere. And while they imposed an inadequate penalty, they at the same time made so difficult the proof of this the greatest of crimes, that when at last the monster reared its head and stalked boldly through the land, there was no power to check or destroy it. It will be ours to see, in the future, that this impunity is taken away from this worse than parricide, and that, while a more awful penalty is affixed to the crime, the plotter shall be as amenable to the law and as easy to be convicted as he who takes the murderous weapon in his hands.
And for the accomplishment of this and similar ends, doubtless greater power will be conceded by the States to the Federal Government. The day has gone by when the people were frightened at the bare idea of giving to the central Government the necessary power to maintain its own integrity. The pernicious doctrine of State sovereignty as paramount to the national, has in this war received its deathblow at the hands of those who have always been its most zealous supporters. The South, starting out upon the very basis of this greatest political heresy of our age, had no sooner taken the initiatory step in severing completely all the ties and bonds which held them to the Union, than they discarded the very doctrine which had been their strongest weapon in forcing their people to revolt: well knowing that no government founded upon such a basis could stand for a single year; that the upholding of such a principle was neither more nor less than political suicide. And though at the commencement of our struggle there were many at the North in whose minds the dogma had taken deep root, few