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Estimates vary. However, when we draw the average of the various estimates it appears that the Southern States furnished to the army about one million men, or approximately 20 per cent. of the white population.
The war entailed colossal losses in men and money. According to the accounts furnished in the Official Record the war losses of the Northern Army were as follows:
These figures are considered by many authorities to be an under-statement. Some estimate that the Northern States lost approximately 500,000 lives through the war. Through death the Northern Armies lost about 20 per cent. of their men, and the losses come to about 2 per cent. of the whole population. The war losses of the Southern States were approximately as great as those of the North. Apparently about one-half of the Southern Army died, and the deaths caused by the war equal almost 10 per cent. of the white population of the South. Altogether the American States combined lost between 700,000 and 1,000,000 lives in four years' warfare.
The economic losses caused by the war were enormous. Estimates vary, but the most reliable one gives the figure of 10,000,000,000 dollars, or £2,000,000,000. The war-bill of the United States continues, mounting up through the payment of pensions which entail at present an expenditure of about £30,000,000 a year. The Civil War crippled the North financially for many years, but it ruined the South. Between 1860 and 1870 the taxable wealth of Virginia decreased from 793,249,681 dollars to 327,670,503 dollars; that of South Carolina from 548,138,754 dollars to 166,517,591 dollars; that of Georgia from 645,895,237 dollars to 214,535,366 dollars, &c.
Let us consider now the principal lessons of the Civil War.
If the American statesmen had exercised merely reasonable caution and foresight, the war would probably never have occurred. The principal towns of the South lie near the sea border in spacious bays or up-river. They were protected against an attack from the sea by strong forts. By adequately garrisoning these forts in time, as General Scott, the Head of the Army, had advised President Buchanan, the American Government could have dominated the rebellious towns, and could have cut their connection with the sea, as had been done with the best success at the time of the nullification troubles of 1832. Unfortunately, President Buchanan paid no attention to the views of his military experts.
Washington said in his fifth Annual Address: 'If we desire to avoid insult we must be able to repel it. If we desire to secure peace, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.' He and many of the founders of the Republic had pointed out in The Federalist and elsewhere that it was dangerous for the country to rely merely on an untrained militia, and had urged the necessity of maintaining an adequate standing army. Unfortunately their warnings were not heeded by the short-sighted and unscrupulous politicians. Had the United States possessed a small
standing army ready for war the Southern States would scarcely have dared to rise, and had they done so their power could easily have been broken. In the opinion of many American military experts a standing army of 50,000 men would have sufficed to end the war in a few months. The disregard of the views of the military experts, and the criminal levity and recklessness of self-seeking politicians cost the United States approximately a million lives and £2,000,000,000. They paid dearly for their previous improvidence and their neglect of military preparations.
When the bombardment of Fort Sumter began, when the army, navy, and the whole administrative and judicial apparatus broke down, the dissolution of the Great Republic seemed inevitable. The Union was saved by a man of sterling character but of merely moderate ability, by a great citizen, but scarcely a statesman of the very first rank. Abraham Lincoln was animated by an unwavering faith in the Union and in the righteousness of its cause. Undismayed by disaster, he rallied the waverers, encouraged the downhearted, and created harmony among the quarrelling parties. When matters seemed desperate, he mobilised the country, raised a huge army, and saved the State by his exertions. Had a Buchanan or a Johnson been in power the Union would undoubtedly have been lost. He did not hesitate to exceed his constitutional powers and to act as a Dictator when the fate of his country was at stake. In Lord Bryce's words, Abraham Lincoln wielded more authority than any single Englishman has done since Oliver Cromwell.' One-man rule undoubtedly saved the United States.
A democratic Government which at any moment may be overturned by a hostile majority lives precariously by popularity, by votes. Popularity is therefore indispensable to the politicians in power. It is more necessary and more precious to them than national security and administrative efficiency. The result is that a Government which is dependent from hour to hour for its life on the popular
will and the popular whim must be guided by the momentary moods and impulses of the ill-informed masses. It must pursue a hand-to-mouth policy. Fearing to endanger its position by taking the initiative, it will, as a rule, wait for a popular demand for action. It will often refuse to act with foresight and even with common sense, but will readily obey the clamour of the noisiest but least wellinformed section of the Press and the public. Hence a democratic Cabinet cannot act with foresight. It cannot unite on necessary, wise, and far-sighted action. On the other hand, the disunited ministers, who are merely waiting for a popular lead, will readily agree on some useless, foolish, or even mischievous measure, provided it is popular, provided it is demanded with sufficient clamour and insistence by the prejudiced, and by those who live by pandering to the short-sightedness and to the momentary moods and emotions of the masses and act as their spokesmen.
The founders of the American Commonwealth, like all great statesmen, recognised that a Government can act with energy, sagacity, foresight, secrecy, and despatchqualities which are indispensable in critical times, and especially in war-only if there is absolute unity of purpose, if the executive is in the hands of a single man who is assisted by eminent experts. In Great Britain a Cabinet composed of twenty-two personages was supreme. Of these only one man, Lord Kitchener, was a military expert. As, according to tradition, the Cabinet forms its decisions unanimously, it is clear that that unwieldy and inexpert body could act neither with energy nor with secrecy, neither with despatch nor with foresight. It could scarcely act with wisdom or with common sense. It is difficult to secure agreement among twenty-two men. As an energetic and provident policy will probably be opposed by the timorous, or the short-sighted, a compromise between action and inaction, between wisdom and folly, becomes necessary, for otherwise the Cabinet will split. Hence a safe commonplace policy, a weak and dilatory, shilly-shally policy, a
policy of vacillation, of make-believe, and of drift, was likely to be adopted. Foresight became impossible. At best half-measures were taken, and urgently necessary energetic action was delayed until it was too late, until disasters, which could no longer be explained away, had occurred and had demonstrated even to the dullest and to the most obstinate members of the Cabinet the folly of their opposition.
Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Nelson, Moltke, indeed all great generals and admirals whose views are known, have stated that war is a one-man business, that in war the worst possible direction is that of a military council. It is true that great commanders have often called councils of war, but they have done so only for advice, not for direction. If, according to the greatest leaders, it is dangerous to entrust the direction of military or naval operations to a council of war composed of great experts, how much more dangerous then will it be to entrust it to a council of politicians unacquainted with war! Apparently the twenty-two men who formed the late Cabinet had the supreme direction not only of the country's domestic and administrative policy, but that of its armies and fleets as well. Herein lay the reason that more than once during the war we have seen inadequacy, vacillation, hesitation, improvidence, and incompetence; that belated half-measures and quartermeasures have sometimes been taken when immediate and energetic action was imperatively called for. Unanimity, energy, foresight, secrecy, and despatch, in one word, efficiency, is difficult enough in business jointly transacted by twenty-two men belonging to one party. Will it be easier to obtain unanimity in Cabinet decision, will the Government act with greater wisdom, foresight, energy, and rapidity when there is a Coalition Cabinet, when one half the Ministers belong to one party and the other half to the late Opposition?
It is, of course, highly desirable that in a time of crisis the country should possess a strong national Government,