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And for a period, miraculous even as it may appear, they are supposed to be infallible judges of military subjects, to be men whom nature has made chosen objects of her favor, imparting to them the faculty of mastering military science without either study or practice, although in all other respects they are seen to be placed low in the scale of human capacity. It is consequently possible that to some extent these pretenders may have given to the sentence of the Court some little sanction. This furnishes a farther reason for the vindication of Porter, and to these several reasons, perhaps, is to be added yet another. It is not to be disguised that in the conduct of this sad war different views of policy have been entertained in the army as well as in Congress. The resolution adopted in 1861, with so much unanimity by that body, declaring what the object of the Government in the war was, was approved with almost the same unanimity by the army, men as well as officers, and by the people. That policy, then so generally approved, has been since departed from, whether wisely or not it is not the writer's present design to enquire. The chief authors of the change have from the first charged almost every military disaster and the failure of a complete triumph over the rebellion to the want of concurrence in the wisdom and propriety of the change in a portion of our military leaders, and have literally clamored for their removal. To this class Porter was supposed to belong. Whether he did or not the writer has no certain knowledge, though he thinks it probable, as by nature and intelligent patriotism he is conservative and national. But to suspect him of not changing his individual opinion as Congress changed its own, in the estimate of the men alluded to, was fault enough. In their view every officer whose opinions were supposed to be the same on certain subjects as those of McClellan and Porter, and who has failed to abandon them at party bidding, has been continuously assailed with the same bitterness. Even the present Commander-in-Chief is constantly subjected to its fury. Assaults are made upon him from day to day, and with ever increasing violence. His removal is demanded under the pretext of the public good, but really to gratify party purposes. His capacity is denied—his patriotism questioned, and the Presidential ear literally dinned with the ignorant and false clamor. Thus far, however, it has been without avail. His having abandoned his distant home on the Pacific, where every comfort surrounded him, and no peril threatened or could come, purely from a sense of patriotic duty to serve the country in the present crisis, and his having subsequently on the field and in the closet giving his days and nights to her assistance, all avail nothing. These voracious hawkers after objects of party sacrifice seem literally to gloat, and with no concealed delight, over any officer, (the higher he stands in the public esteem the greater the pleasure,) who they think they can make a victim to their thirst for victims to promote party success.
Porter, too, was known to be a personal friend and admirer of McClellan. He had every means of judging of McClellan's capacity, of witnessing his love of country—his constant efforts to serve her, and his military skill and genius, and the result was that he highly appreciated him as a citizen and an officer. And this, in the view of the men referred to, seemed to be almost if not fully as great an offence as treason. He became therefore at once an object of vituperation, and no efforts were spared to shake the confidence that the President had so conspicuously placed in him. When Pope's disgraceful failure was evidently stirring the public mind to the folly and injustice of taking from McClellan the command of the army of the Potomac, and arresting his plan of further campaign, it became apparently vital to party success that some safety valve should be found for the harmless escape of the impending indignation. And it was thought that it would be found by ascribing that failure to treasonable conduct on the part of Porter, and this was done.
A willing instrument for the purpose, Pope was supposed to be, (it is but justice to that officer to say, that when he discovered it, he declined the degrading task.) The charges at first were said to be his-he promptly disavowed them. That occurring, an informer was found in Roberts. The result is the dismissal of Porter from the service, whose fame he had so signally enhanced, and its being bailed with delight by the class referred to. Had Porter pursued a different course; bad he, with the readiness of a mere party politician, regardless of his former opinions, adopted with instant and proclaimed zeal, those which Congress, forgetting their former opinions, afterwards adopted; and especially, had he, oblivious of the teachings of his life, of his good name and honor, and of the opinion of the enlightened and patriotic, proved himself an inordinate braggart, boasted of his own merits, detracted from McClellan's, and stated that he, commanding the army, Richmond would long since have been ours-he, too, would doubtless now not only be in the service, but be the favorite and boast of the very men who have denounced him, and probably have been placed at its head. The rank ignorance of such men, their lofty pretensions, and supercilious arrogance, from its very extravagance, is in a measure captivating. Sublimity is at times found in the excess of the ridiculous. “An avenue of colossal toads might become sublime."
With these remarks, pertinent as the writer thinks to his purpose, he proceeds to answer the Judge Advocate, and with all the brevity consistent with necessary fullness and perspicuity.
Evidently sensible of the insufficiency of the evidence considered by itself, and perhaps more sensible, that the President would so view it, to effect the accused in the matters charged against him, the Judge Advocate devotes four pages of the thirty of his review to discover what had been the ANIMUS of the accused. To quote his language, “as the animus of
the accused towards his Commanding General in pursuing the line of conduct alleged against him, must largely affect the question of his criminality, and may furnish a safe and valuable light for your guidance, (he is addressing the President, not the Court) " in determining points, otherwise left doubtful by the evidence, it is proper that it should be ascertained before entering at large upon the review of the case, which you have instructed me to make.”
What an exordium to a paper designed to induce a sanction of a judgment, dishonoring an officer whose life had been passed in faithfully discharging his duty to his country-whose loyalty and efficiency after the rebellion broke out, had been manifested in part under the orders of the reviewer himself, when he was at the head of the War Department, and to his entire satisfaction, and conspicuously displayed in the midst of great difficulties and peril, and whose conduct in the many battles in which he had been engaged, had excited the public admiration, and received the signal approval of the President.
The evidence alone, says the reviewer, is not sufficient to convict the accused, or to use his own words, his guilt is “left doubtful by the evidence."
His animus however, “may furnish a safe and reliable light,” by which to discover his guilt. It may enable the President to determine what is otherwise doubtful. You must in this way supply, he tells the President, the defficiency in the proof. You must probe the mind of the accused. That may remove the darkness-furnish the light-explain the doubt. And to this, and with an earnestness that evinces a burning desire of success, he addresses himself with poetic license—with a beautiful, though somewhat extravagant fancy, which however it may please the ear, in the judgment of the wise, is a very unsafe guide to truth.
Not content with the asserted tendency of the telegrams, which he had offered in evidence to establish the somuch wished for ANIMUS, “ Lieut. Colonel Thomas C. H. Smith, an Aid-de-Camp in the staff of General Pope,” is resorted to for the charitable purpose.
His power to see into the very hearts of men at a single and first interview of a few minutes duration only, preceded by no prior acquaintance whatever, is, and with a confidence which under other circumstances, would by a plain judgment be considered simply ridiculous, seriously relied upon. The defence had characterized what this witness had said in regard to it, (and as the impartial and intelligent reader will think jastly,) as "ravings, wild fantacies, rubbish, which should not have been suffered to encumber the Record.”
How unjust this is, says the Judge Advocate. “The witness, (he says) endeavored to lay bare the foundations on which his belief of the accused's meditated treachery rested.” He said that the manner of the accused, "was sneering throughout, whenever allusion was made to matters con:
nected with General Pope, and quoting his words, "his look was that of a man having a crime on his mind.” But the Judge Advocate admits, that the task, (discovering with the only opportunity which he had, the state of Porter's mind,)“ was a difficult one, and may not have been entirely successful."
In other words, he admits, that in this, Smith may have failed, and done the accused injustice. He adds that "it was physically impossible for the witness to reproduce the manner, the tone of voice, and the expression of the eye, and the play of the features, which may have so much influenced his judgment. Yet these often afford a language more to be relied on than that of the lips. He could not hold up before the Court, for its inspection and appreciation, the sneer of which he spoke. And yet we know that a sneer is as palpable to the mental, as a smile is to the natural vision. It is a life-long experience that souls read each other, and that there are inter-communings of spirits through instrumentalities which, while defying all human analysis, nevertheless completely command the homage of human faith. Great crimes, too, like great virtues, often reveal themselves to a close observer of character and conduct, as unmistakably as a flower garden announces its presence by the odors it breathes upon the air.” From these quotations, the reader will see how vital, in the judgment of the Judge Advocate, to the success of his palpable purpose to have the sentence approved, it was that the alleged criminal animus of Porter should be made out. Nor can he also fail to discover that, even with the reviewer's evident desire to discover it—his belief in spiritual "inter-communings”—his tendency to be led into error by his own imagination_his doctrine that the face often speaks the mind as unmistakably as the presence of a flower garden is announced "by the odors it breathes upon the air"-he admits that in this instance the professor of the art, his lauded Lieutenant Colonel, “may not have been entirely successful.”
He concedes that he may have misconceived "the look ;" although, if the treachery "was then contemplated, it must be admitted as altogether probable, that the shadow of such a crime struggling into being, would have made itself manifest."
It is evident that the Judge Advocate is not satisfied with the result of his search, so far, for the much wished criminal animus of the accused. A philosophic poet has said that there are occasions when,
“Tbought meets thought ere from the lips it part,
But to this, common feelings and a reciprocal nature are necessary.
Who that knows Porter, and has seen Lieut. Colonel Smith, could for a moment believe that such was their relative condition. Well might the reviewer then fear that his effort to establish, by such proof,
the intended treachery of the accused, had failed. Well might he be sensible that such a task was even beyond his great powers, displayed either in imagination, spiritualism or argument. All exerted together for such an end, could not list folly to respectability--make absurdity reason—a ridiculous pretence, plausible, or for a moment with a considerate, honest and unprejudiced judgment, injuriously affect a soldier, who, with fearless intrepidity and consummate and applauded skill, had so faithfully served his country, at a period when so many had proved faithless. In addition to the strong impediment which was thus interposed to the success of the Judge Advocate's purpose, there was another. The witness himself, in addition to the nonsense already referred to, proved that he was not in this particular, at least, to be relied upon. He was so bewildered with his own conceited flummery, that if he is to be believed, it was near making him the greatest of criminals. He told the Court what the Judge Advocate omits to inform the President, that on his return to his chief, after his ten minutes interview with Porter, he stated to the former, “I was so certain that Fitz John Porter was a traitor, that I would shoot him that night, so far as any crime before God was concerned, if the law would allow me to do it.” What an avowal, almost a boast. That the laws of man alone restrained him, not the laws of God from committing murder. And yet, this witness with this horrible avowal fresh in his mind, the Judge Advocate tells the President is, "a man of fine intelligence,” “that his conscientiousness rendered him careful, and guarded in his statements, and that he evinced a depth and solemnity of conviction, rarely paralleled in judicial proceedings."
What mind, but one so blinded by prejudice, that its light was for a time extinguished, would not, on the contrary, at once and with indignation, have rejected the testiniony of such a witness, even if its transparent doltishness was less conspicuous. But prejudice, jaundices the finest as well as the weakest intellect, and makes everything appear of its own color. To immaterial facts and idle fancies, it attaches, substance and reality. It affects the very warp and woof of the mind, engenders suspicion, and gives to idle and trivial circumstances, the weight of unanswerable proofs. He who read through all hearts, and knew and discribed man in his loftiest exhibition of virtue-his grandest of crime, and his lowest of weaknesses, says jealonsy, (and in this it resembles prejudice,) is one of his frailties. " Trifles light as air, are to the jealous, confirmation strong as proofs of holy writ," and "shapes faults that are not."
These observations are not made in any unkind spirit towards the Judge Advocate. His talents are admired, and his public services and patriotic virtue in this epoch of our history, have given him an honored place in the grateful heart of the nation. But this renders it the more important, when his great authority is used to justify the sentence against Porter, a soldier to whom the country is yet more indebted, that that authority