The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2013, Volume 34
"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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[THE ARMY TO THE PEOPLE.]
Men of the North! ye are true, ye are strong! Give us a Watchword to cheer us along; Write on our banners, in letters of fire, Words that shall hearten, ennoble, inspire; Words that shall strike to the heart of the foe Terror and trembling wherever we go: Give us this Watchword to bear through the fight: "Freedom and Fatherland, God and the Right!"
"Freedom" for all who are weak and oppressed— "Fatherland, God and the Right!" For the rest, Leave that to us! With a Watchword so true, What shall be lacking that brave hearts can do? Soon, from the Gulf to the Border, o'er moat, O'er battlement, fortress, that banner should float, Blazoned all over with letters of light: "Freedom and Fatherland, God and the Right!"
Men of the North! ye are firm, ye are leal! Firmer than granite and truer than steel! Loving and loyal, this only remains: Strike from the bondman his fetters and chains! Then, then shall our Legions go forth to the fray, Invincible, clad in their battle-array; And conquering angels shall lead on the fight For Freedom and Fatherland, God and the Right!
- With one voice, the Union army calls on loyal Northern civilians to use their political power to "Strike from the bondman his fetters and chains!" Mason was not alone in recognizing the army as a force for universal emancipation. (See Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War [New York: Knopf, 2007], 151–53.) In December 1863, after Republicans had triumphed in a clutch of gubernatorial elections with the help of soldiers' votes, Senator Henry Wilson told members of the American Anti-Slavery Society that "[t]he armies are the most potent emancipation societies in America. Our soldiers, in face of rebel legions, are fighting for liberty, speaking for liberty, and voting for liberty" (Proceedings of the American Anti-Slavery Society at Its Third Decade [New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1864], 109). Mason, "speaking for liberty" herself in columns of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, urges civilian citizens to follow the soldiers' example.Mason's address must have been informed by ongoing congressional debates about a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. On February 8, 1864, abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner proposed a radical amendment that helped to galvanize the Senate Judiciary Committee into action. On February 10, just a day after Sumner delivered the first installment of a mammoth emancipation petition from the Women's National League, the Judiciary Committee delivered their proposed amendment (Wendy Hamand Venet, Neither Ballots Nor Bullets: Women Abolitionists and the Civil War [Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991], 120). The House of Representatives rejected the proposed amendment on February 15. It passed the Senate on April 8, 1864.
- The hopes of pro-Union Northerners ran high in the spring of 1864 (James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The American Civil War [London: Penguin, 1991], 718). Lincoln had appointed triumphant General Ulysses S. Grant as commander of all the Union armies in March, and preparations for the summer's first campaign were well underway. Before Grant crossed the Rapidan River in early May, the Union armies seemed poised for significant success. Shocking numbers of casualties and a lack of military success, however, caused Northern morale to collapse over the course of the summer. By mid-August Lincoln expected that ex-general and "War Democrat" George B. McClellan would win the upcoming presidential election.
- Caroline Atherton (Briggs) Mason (1823–1890), poet. Mason's early poems appeared in local newspapers under the name "Caro." In 1852 she moved with her family from Marblehead to Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Utterance; or Private Voices to the Public Heart, the only collection of Mason's poetry to appear in her lifetime, was published in the same year. She married Fitchburg lawyer Charles Mason in 1853. During the 1850s she contributed poetry to Washington's National Era; her choice of publication suggests that she had antislavery and reform sympathies.Throughout the war, Mason contributed poems to a host of newspapers, including the Liberator, the New York Independent, the Christian Inquirer, the Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, the Boston Commonwealth and the National Anti-Slavery Standard. She also tackled more explicitly antislavery subjects at this time (see "Our Promise to the Slave," National Anti-Slavery Standard, May 2, 1863). Her "Sowing in Hope" (National Anti-Slavery Standard, January 30, 1864) suggests that she was a friend of Liberator editor William Lloyd Garrison, who apparently encouraged her to have faith in the moral influence of her words. Although she was primarily known as a poet, Mason also wrote "short stories, essays . . . and frequent letters to the local newspapers" (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, "Briggs Family Papers, 1820–1915: A Finding Aid"). Her husband published a posthumous collection of her verse, The Lost Ring and Other Poems, in 1891.
- This poem appeared in the National Anti-Slavery Standard of March 12, 1864.