Gerrit Smith on the Situation

March 28, 1867


Gerrit Smith addresses his discomfort with the actions of the North and the South, saying if they do not resolve issues and settle disputes of the past only more pointless quarrels will continue.


Gerrit Smith, under date "Peterboro', March 20, 1867," to William Lloyd Garrison gives his views on the situation. His motto is " universal suffrage " and "no punishment" for the South. This is the sum and substance of his epistle to Garrison, which has a great deal of amiable and humane sentiment in it. He contends that if Congress proceeds further with its interference with the domestic affairs of the South, "State governments will soon have disappeared." Mr. Smith needn't look so far ahead. He blames both the North and the South for the war. With regard to slavery, he charges that the North was as intent "as was the South to make every variety of gain from slavery especially political and ecclesiastical. Of commercial gains from it she had more than the South. In this respect, it is emphatically true that the South held the cow and the North milked her." With regard to the charge of treason against the South, the venerable Gerritt has this to say : "There is not one enlightened friend of human rights not one real democrat in all Europe, who would have the crime of Treason recognized in a war which divides a Nation into two great parts. A proper deference to the vast numbers engaged on each side, and to their conscious, and more or less, real rectitude, forbids such recognition. Sympathy with the human brotherhood forbids it. Respect for man forbids it." He is decidedly opposed to the longer imprisonment of Mr. Davis. He most naively inquires: "Does the North feel "that, in the continued imprisonment of Mr. Davis, or in some no less significant way, she must maintain a monument of her abhorrence of the war? then why does she not, in order to make the monument more faithful to history, confine along with Mr. Davis some representative of the guilty North--say some old pro-slavery Democrat like General Butler or Thomas H. Seymour?"
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“Gerrit Smith on the Situation,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 20, 2022,