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A Letter from the Country (13)
Harper's Weekly, November 8, 1862

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Synopsis

1862

A fictional New England woman, Charity Grimes, writes a letter to the editor of Harper’s Weekly in which she describes an argument with a neighbor woman. First, Mrs. Grimes gives the neighbor woman’s political background. Her father was a Methodist who "turned dimmycrat" (Democrat). After joining the Odd Fellows, the father dyed his whiskers, for which he was expelled from the Methodist church. Since the war began, he has become a Quaker, as he quakes every time he hears mention of the draft. Besides her political interest, the neighbor woman also plays at cards, and once foretold the death of a man who choked on flap-jacks. While Mrs. Grimes is ironing, the neighbor woman bursts into the house, incensed over the news of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Though the neighbor woman wants the North to win the war, she begins to pray that Lincoln leaves the Southerners’ slaves alone. Mrs. Grimes immediately begins to pray in support of Lincoln. This causes the neighbor woman to attack Mrs. Grimes with a flat iron, while Mrs. Grimes retaliates with some tongs. Both women end up bruised, while Mrs. Grimes retaliates her final revenge by writing a "sarkastical poim" about her position on Lincoln’s new proclamation.

Harper's Text

"A Letter From the Country"
November 8, 1862, page 715 (3-4)

History

"Slavery Practically Abolished"
October 4, 1862, page 626 (1-2)

Military Background

"The Abolition of Slavery: A Proclamation"
October 4, 1862, page 627 (2-3)

Illustrations


"Lincoln’s Last Warning"
October 11, 1862, page 656 (1-2)


"Sensation Among ‘Our Colored Brethren’"
December 20, 1862, page 816 (1-4)


"The Emancipation of the Negroes, January, 1863"
January 24, 1863, pages 56 (1) – 57 (4)

Commentary

"The President and Slavery" September 6, 1862, page 562 (1)

The President has taken advantage of a rather impertinent and very injudicious letter addressed to him by Mr. Horace Greeley, to state to the public his position on the slavery question. We publish his letter in another column. While distinctly avowing his personal wish that "all men every where could be free," the President declares that his sole exclusive aim is to restore the Union, without reference to slavery; and that while he would not hesitate to proclaim emancipation if he were satisfied that that would restore the Union, neither would he scruple to save the Union with slavery. He thus takes issue on the one hand with the pro-slavery half-and-half Union men of the Border States who object to the restoration of the Union at the cost of their peculiar institution, and, on the other, with the fanatical ultraists of the North who object to the restoration of the Union unless slavery be destroyed.

In this position Mr. Lincoln will undoubtedly find himself supported by the bulk of the people of the country. What we all want, first, it to put down the rebellion. When that is done, we can deal with slavery and its antecedents as our necessities may dictate.

Nothing can be falser than to assume, as some of the followers of Mr. Wendell Phillips do, that if we restore the Union without destroying slavery, our work will be only half accomplished, and it will be left to another generation to complete it. Whatever be the issue of the war, slavery has already received a death-blow from which it can never recover. There is no State in the Union in which it can ever be again a thriving or even a safe institution. That iron despotism of the master class, and that rigid system of municipal law, which alone could render it safe for white men and women to inhabit vast plantations surrounded by negro slaves, have been utterly shattered by the events of the war. Even where the black has not had courage, or sense, or opportunity to escape to the Union lines, and claim the privilege of freedom offered him by our laws, he has been utterly demoralized, and rendered forever unfit to resume the patient toil of past years.

It is known, probably, to nine out of ten slaves in the South that every Slave State now contains a safe refuge whither fugitives can fly for emancipation, and where no overseer or blood-hound can follow them. That these fugitives thus far have come into our lines by hundreds instead of tens of thousands is mainly due to the fact that the entire white population of the South is armed, and all general movements of the negroes are at once repressed by wholesale massacres. But neither the rifle nor the stake can expel from the mind of the slave the knowledge that freedom is near him, and that he can obtain it when he chooses to make the effort; and with this thought in his brain, he is worse than valueless as property.

This great fact is ever present to Mr. Lincoln’s mind. In conversation with a leading banker of this city, who is also a prominent member of the Republican Party, he lately observed, that in his opinion, it was "much wiser to do a thing than to talk about it." Frémont and Hunter talked—in proclamations. The President, or rather the war—for he is merely the instrument of events—is "doing the thing:" sapping the foundation of slavery; rendering it unprofitable and unsafe; exploding one by one all the delusions which induce the people of the South to cling to it; and slowly but surely, without noisy proclamations or windy words, clearing the way for a general emancipation of all the slaves on this continent.

How and when these systematic and regular approaches may be succeeded by the final assault it is yet impossible to say. But the President has by his acts won a indisputable claim to confidence in his honesty, and all those among us who have no other aim in view than the good of the country will be content to leave the subject in his hands.

 

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