By Gary Farrow, Danville Historical Society
Desperation over the war effort continued to be one of main themes in the North Star’s reporting and opinion columns. The paper’s commentary also brings its political stripes into clearer focus.
April 4, 1863 North Star, Government Expenses
The Newburyport Herald says our national expenses since this war commenced have been greater than from the origin of the Government down to 1861, a period of seventy-two years. Our whole nation expenses to the time of the rebellion, including the war with England, the Mexican war, and our many Indian wars, were $1,353,785,000: and were the war to cease now no one imagines that our debt would be less than $2,009,000,000 created in less than two years…
Every day since the war began our expenses have increased. Millions are voted by Congress for emancipation purposes, Pacific Railroads, and anything, and everything, and where the limit might be reached, or what will be the end, Heaven only knows.
This, however, is evident, blind ourselves as we may, no nation can long endure such expenditure as we are now incurring, and if long continued, we must land in hopeless bankruptcy. (NOTE, by the Ed. Staff – And yet, we ought to do all in our power to sustain and not depreciate the National Credit.) Great as the war expenses are, and large as The National debt will be, we must not go into bankruptcy. If we do, we are a fallen, doomed nation, and our history will be that of the Mexican States.
By all means, sustain the Government credit – submit to all reasonable, necessary taxation – but at the same time, condemn waste less expenditure, profligacy and corruption in the public service. The Herald closes by saying: “Necessarily our expenditures must now be large, but, Congress should not vote a dollar where it was not absolutely necessary to sustain the Government and carry on the war. It is now no time for schemes of improvements and reforms. Nor should the Government allow waste ….Speculators should be dealt with as public enemies and traitors to the country, and laws should be passed for their summary punishment by the halter, the bullet, or the headman’s axe, whatever be their position, from the cabinet to the lowest contractor, or from a Major General to the scavengers of the army.
April 4, 1863 North Star, The Draft
We have conflicting statements about the draft, the time when it is to occur, the number of men to be called out etc. We don’t believe much is yet known about it with certainty. The last dispatch says that immediately after the Connecticut election orders will be issued to conscript 300,000. Another report is that those States which have failed to fill their quotas will be first called upon.
April 4 1863 North Star, War News of the Week
In his last epistle, Thurlow Weed says: “But for the teachings of the N.Y. Tribune in utter conflict with itself, and now repudiated our country would have been spared half the horrors of this war.” Thurlow’s own teachings before the war he seems to be utterly oblivious of.
It is thought four negro regiments will be raised in Philadelphia. Two thousand men already enlisted, and the colored people of the city have offered $60,000 toward completing the organization.
The Albany Statesman, excessively loyal and ravingly patriotic assails the Conscript law daily, as oppressive on the poor, favoring the rich, who can readily pay the $300 tax. Saturday it said it was unnecessary as a war time measure, and an immense blunder as a party movement. And yet this Statesman tells stories about schemes arguing the Democrats to defeat the draft in New York and bring the State and National authorities into collision!
Thurlow Weed was the prickly party boss of the Whigs and then Republicans in New York state. Confidant and advisor to Senator Henry Seward (N-Y), Weed managed Seward’s national campaign to win the Republican nomination for President in 1859. The Senator was an outspoken advocate of putting an end to slavery citing a “higher law” than the Constitution. This moral appeal was extremely provocative in its day and the Tweed’s election strategy for Seward was to have him take a more tempered stance without disavowing his previous comments.
Going into the Chicago convention, Seward was heavily favored in the race to capture the nomination; however, when he failed to win on the first ballot, the die for him was cast. He had a long, distinguished high profile career on the national stage as Governor and Senator for his state, but this notoriety was a double-edged sword. Both Tweed and Seward had made a lot of political enemies during the Senator’s career and it came home to roost that night in Chicago.
Although the convention was held in his home state, Senator Abraham Lincoln was a relative unknown candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination. Certainly, Lincoln’s profile was not as great as other contenders such as renowned lawyer Edwin Stanton, Senator Salmon Chase, former Governor and Senator from Ohio, or Edwin Bates, the first attorney general of Missouri. Seward barely lost the nomination on the first ballot. Some speculate that Thurlow Weed’s hard-driving, hard drinking New Yorkers thoroughly alienated other delegates at the Convention and cost Seward the nomination. On the other hand, Lincoln’s strategy going into the convention was to lie in the weeds and be the “second love” of all the delegates, which finally proved successful on the third ballot.
Weed became a strong Lincoln supporter and was seen as a sometimes petulant friend of the President during his administration. In addition to being a party boss, Tweed was also the owner and edited the Albany Evening Journal, which he had used to promote his views regarding issues such slavery and the Union. This brought him into conflict with Horace Greeley, owner and editor of the New York Tribune. Greeley used the Tribune to advocate for the radical abolition of slavery, strongly advocating for it in the years running up to the War.
Once the war started, Greeley pressed the Administration to go “on to Richmond” before the Army was ready. This led to the debacle, known as the First Battle of Manassas, which saw routed Union troops flee back to Washington, some commandeering buckboards from civilians. On the question of slavery, Tweed saw himself as much more pragmatic than Greeley and came out in opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation saying that freedom for slaves was happening much too fast. Tweed’s opinion reflected the views of many Northerners, including the North Star, which opined great skepticism about the wisdom of freeing slaves in rebel states.
The North Star’s shot at staunch Republican Tweed, “Thurlow’s own teachings before the war he seems to be utterly oblivious of” is reflective of its sympathy for the Democratic Party. As is the newspaper’s following lamentation over the firing of Gen. George B McClellan, one of the leading lights of the Democratic Party. There were others in the country, such as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who not only wanted Gen. McClellan sacked, they wanted him hung for treason.
April 11, 1863 North Star, What Progress! – The Difference
It is a well known fact, in the progress of the war, that ever since Gen. McClellan was removed from the Army of Potomac , there has not been a single Federal victory, neither in Virginia, not any other part of the country, of any amount. It is a matter of regret that our arms have met with no success…The winter season is an unfavorable time for military operations …Everything has apparently been at a standstill, although we are all hoping for speedy and signal triumphs, and at this writing, we have to report that our forces have recently taken Charleston. If it is so, it is a great acquisition, and we shall soon have all the particulars….-while we have full faith in their [current crop of Generals] loyalty, their patriotism, and their devotion to the military service – yet who can tell but what grander and far more decisive results would have at this time ensued had Gen. McClellan been at the head and allowed to have his own way, unembarrassed and untrammeled ?…We believe that Gen. McClellan has exhibited more real military genius, and has shown himself more truly, the real “master of the situation” than any other General in the field – and we wish today he was again in the service. ….
We do not speak of him as a man, a citizen, or a politician. We refer to his military tact and skill. The country needs his military services, and ought to have it. … We are fearful however that McClellan is doomed to retirement by the radical politicians who procured his dismissal, and who seem now to have full control over Washington.
…Relative to this whole matter, our contemporary at the Burlington Sentinel, in a brief paragraph, well says, “All through the winter of last year the radical presses of the country were filled with complaints against Gen McClellan and the Army of the Potomac because they did not move against enemy. This year these same papers find no fault with Gen. Hooker and the vast sources under him, though nearly four months have passed away since the battle of Fredericksburg. But instead, for weeks and months past the public has been treated by them to reiterated assurances of the splendid fighting conditions the army is in… the country will not fail to notice the difference in the tone of the radical newspapers, between now and then, and the people will not be slow to their inferences from it.”