Address to the Soldiers
May 15, 1863 — Business Meeting of the Woman’s Loyal National League, Dr. Cheever’s Lecture-Room, Church of the Puritans, New York City
SOLDIERS OF OUR SECOND REVOLUTION:
BRETHREN: — A thousand of your sisters, in a convention representing the Loyal Women of the Nation, greet you with profound gratitude. Your struggles, sufferings, daring, heroic self-devotion, and sublime achievement, we exult in them all.
To you, especially, whose terms of service have expired, or are soon to expire, we desire to speak of the shifting scenes now acting in the nation’s tragedy. This war of slavery against freedom did not begin with the first shot at Sumter, it did not begin when the slaveocracy broke up the Charleston Convention, in order to secure the election of Mr. Lincoln, and thus palm upon the Southern masses a false pretense for rebellion. It did not begin with nullification in 1832, nor in the Convention that framed the Federal Constitution; nor yet in that which adopted the Articles of Confederation; but it began in 1620, when the Mayflower landed our fathers on Plymouth Rock, and the first slave-ship landed human cargo in Virginia. Then, for the first time, liberty and slavery stood face to face on this continent. From then till now, these antagonisms have struggled in incessant conflict. Two years since, the slaveocracy, true to their instincts of violence, after long and secret plotting, crowned their perfidy by perjury, by piratical seizures of Government property that cost $100,000,000, and then burst into open rebellion.
This war is not, as the South falsely pretends, a war of races, nor of sections, nor of political parties, but a war of Principles; a war upon the working-classes, whether white or black; a war against Man, the world over. In this war, the black man was the first victim; the workingman of whatever color the next; and now all who contend for the rights of labor, of free speech, free schools, free suffrage, and a free government, securing to all life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are driven to do battle in defense of these or to fall with them, victims of the same violence that for two centuries has held the black man a prisoner of war. While the South has waged this war against human rights, the North has stood by holding the garments of those who were stoning liberty to death. It was in vain that a few at the North denounced the system, and called the people to repentance. In vain did they point to the progress of the slave power, and warn the people that their own liberties were being cloven down. The North still went on, throwing sop after sop to the Cerberus of slavery that hounded her through the wilderness of concession and compromise, until the crash of Sumter taught her that with the slaveocracy no rights are sacred. The Government, attached by assassins, was forced to fight for its own life. The progress of the war has proved that slavery is the lifeblood of the rebellion. Hence the necessity of the President’s Proclamation of Freedom to the slaves.
The nation is in a death-struggle. It must either become one vast slaveocracy of petty tyrants, or wholly the land of the free. The traitors boast that they have swept from the national firmament one-third of its stars, but they have only darkened them with clouds, which the sun of liberty will scatter, revealing behind them the eternal pillars of Justice, emblazoned with liberty, equality, fraternity.
Soldiers of this revolution, to your hands is committed the sacred duty of carrying out in these latter days the ideal of our fathers, which was to secure to ALL “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and to every State “a republican form of government.” To break the power of this rebellion, calls for every available force. You know how extensively black men are now being armed. Some regiments are already in the field; twenty more are now under drill. Will you not, in this hour of national peril, gratefully welcome the aid which they so eagerly proffer, to overthrow that slave power which has so long ruled the North, and now, that you spurn its sway, is bent crushing YOU? Will you not abjure that vulgar hate which has conspired with slavery against liberty in our land, and thus roll from the sepulcher, where they have buried it alive, the stone which has so long imprisoned their victim! The army of the North will thus become the angel of deliverance, rescuing the nation from the shifting sands of compromise, and refounding it upon the rock of justice.
Some of you have been mustered out of service; many more are soon to return to your homes. All hail to you! Honor and gratitude for what you have done and suffered! Enough if you have only been fighting for the Union as it was. But is it enough, if the work for which the war is now prosecuted is not accomplished? Your country needs your power of soldierly endurance and accomplishment, your hard-earned experience, your varied tact and trained skill, your practiced eye and hand — in a word, all that makes you veterans, ripe in discipline and educated power. Raw recruits cannot fill your places. Brave men! your mission, though far advanced, is not accomplished. You will not, cannot, abide at home, while your brethren in arms carry victory and liberty down to the Gulf.
With joy and admiration we greet you on your homeward way, while your loved ones await your coming with mingled delight and pride. When, after a brief sojourn, you go back again, convoyed by the grateful acclaim and God-speed of millions, to consummate at Freedom’s call her holy work, the mightiest of all time, and now so near its end, with exultant shouts your brothers in the field will hail your coming to share with them the glory of the final victory. It will be the victory of free government, sacred rights, justice, liberty, and law, over the perfidies, perjuries, lying pretenses, and frantic revelries in innocent blood, of the foulest national crime that ever reeked to heaven — the overthrow of the most atrocious yet the meanest despotism that ever tortured the groaning earth.
In behalf of the Women’s National Loyal League.
Source: Proceedings of The Meeting of the Loyal Women of the Republic Held in New York, May 14, 1863 (New York: Phair & Co, Printers) 1863, pp. 51-53.
Also: History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. II, ed. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage (New York: Fowler & Wells) 1881-1922, pp. 890-891.