The Election and the War

New York Times editorial

November 05, 1862

The heaviest load which the friends of the Government have been compelled to carry through this canvass has been the inactivity and inefficiency of the Administration. We speak from a knowledge of public sentiment in every section of the State, when we say that the failure of the Government to prosecute the war with the vigor, energy and success which the vast resources at its command war-ranted the country in expecting at its hands, has weighed like an incubus upon the public heart. With every disposition to sustain the Government—with the most profound conviction that the only hope of the country lies in giving it a cordial and effective support—its friends have been unable to give a satisfactory answer to the questions that have come up from every side: Why has the war made so little progress? Why have our splendid armies achieved such slight successes? Why have they lain idle so long, and why have the victories they have won been so utterly barren of decisive results? The war has dragged on for a year and a half. The country has given the Government over a million of men, and all the money they could possibly use; yet we have made scarcely any progress toward crushing the rebellion. The rebel armies still menace the capital. Their privateers defy our navy, and spread increasing terror among our peaceful traders on the seas. What is the use of trying to sustain an Administration which lags so far behind the country, and seems so indifferent and incompetent to the dreadful task committed to its hands?

It has been impossible to lift the public heart out of the terrible despondency which such reflections, fortified by the inexorable logic of facts, have brought upon it. The people of this State are thoroughly loyal to the Union and the Constitution. They desire and demand that this rebellion shall be crushed. They desire no half-way measures—they will tolerate no base and degrading compromise—they will never consent to any peace which involves the disruption of the Union and the overthrow of the Constitution. They demand a vigorous prosecution of the war; and the fact that they have not had it, and that they have seen no fair prospect of getting it, has bred in them a degree of discouragement and despair which has left them an easy prey to the demagogues who are always ready to profit by the calamities of their country. If the Government had given them victories–if it had even shown any just appreciation of the need of victories, and had taken the most ordinary means of exacting them at the hands of its Generals in the field, the people would have rallied as one man to its support. They would have spurned with indignation the base attempts of demagogues to sap their faith in the Administration, and to array them in hostility against it.

…The vote in this State, as in Pennsylvania and the West, indicates a profound dissatisfaction with the method of the Administration in carrying on this war,–and a peremptory demand for the adoption of one better adapted to the awful emergencies of the case. The President must not hesitate an hour to respond to this demand. Whatever may have been the results of these elections, all the powers of the Government are still in his hands–all the fearful responsibilities of the crisis still rest upon his shoulders. He must not suffer them to depress his courage or enfeeble his energies;–he must the rather meet them with fresh vigor and redoubled resolution. Let the popular verdict just pronounced dispel whatever of hesitation or of timidity may have hampered his movements. He must have more self-confidence,–more of that reliance upon his own strength and resources which, though it might be reckless audacity in a private individual, is only a necessary and becoming courage in the ruler of a mighty nation, in a great and terrible crisis of its fate.

President Lincoln has now in his hands everything which he can possibly require for the completion of the great work that devolves upon him. He has a more powerful army under his command than any monarch of Europe. The finances of the country are on a safe basis, and he has all the money he will require. He has a navy adequate to any service that may be demanded of it. With these abundant and overflowing resources at his command–sustained and stimulated to the most vigorous efforts by the fervid patriotism of the people, and by every motive which can animate a loyal heart, he can make no excuse to his conscience or his country if he fails to push this war to a speedy and successful end. He must instantly put in motion every arm of the National power. There must be an end of excuses, of apologies and of delays. The country will not longer tolerate half-hearted counsels in the Cabinet, or half-hearted leadership in the field. The fate of the nation must no longer be committed to Generals who, like Essex in the English Revolution, “next to a great defeat, dread a great victory.” The Government must no longer be content with defending itself against a rebellion. It must act upon the offensive–and act with the vigor and determination that insure a victory. If the recent elections shall inspire the Administration with this spirit, and prompt it to such action, they will be of more service than results which might have betrayed it into a delusive and fatal confidence in the fruitless policy it has hitherto pursued.

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