Lieut. Craven, commanding the United States steamer Mohawk, which arrived at New York February 7, 1861, from Key West, published the following letter, addressed to the officers of the navy:
Basely unprincipled incendiaries have scattered throughout our land doctrines of a revolutionary character–doctrines calculated to inflame the minds of the excitable and thoughtless multitude–calculated to mislead the weak and wavering, and to lead on and incite to frenzy the needy adventurers–those wolves of the human race who rejoice in that anarchy and disorder which loosen the restraints of law, and afford them occasion for indulgence in license and rapine.
Sad indeed in the history of the world will be the day which witnesses the dismemberment of this Confederation–disastrous to the march of human freedom and civilization, the event which blots from the page of history our great and glorious nation of self-ruled men.
The oppressed of the earth, with hopeful hearts, have long regarded us as the exponents of “liberty, fraternity, equality.” God avert from us the abasing acknowledgment that man is not cable of self-government. What a humiliating reflection, that man, in his passions, can be ruled only by the bayonet, by force–despotic force; his reasoning faculties gone, he sinks to the level of the brute; with no principle to guide him, he yields only to force.
Officers of the navy, be, as ever, loyal, brave, and true; our beloved country in convulsed with distracting troubles; our country is in danger; the great temple of liberty, founded by our fathers, and dedicated to the use of the human race, now reels and totters to its base; destruction threatens it; the machinations of designing men have brought it to the verge of ruin.
Officers of the navy, our country is in peril, and it behooves us, my friends, to consider well and earnestly what are our duties to the nation which has given us honored places among her sons; has enrolled us among her defenders; has “reposed special trust and confidence in our valor, patriotism, and fidelity.”
There is no one among us, my friends, however humble his station, who has not, with laudable pride, enjoyed the honor of being a servant of his country; one of her defenders on the seas; one of the fostered sons of the favored arm of national defence. There can be no feeling more ennobling than that of him who bears arms in his country’s defence; let us be slow to throw aside that armor; slow to abjure all allegiance, and never betray the trust reposed in us.
We have in a marked manner been the honored and cherished sons of our country; our countrymen have with exalted estimate valued the exploits of our heroic men, whose deeds have shed such lustre on our flag, and carried it in triumph and honor to all parts of the world; recollect, my friends, that each one of us is a sharer in all the glories won by naval valor; our great men have passed away, but they have left the honor of the navy, the honor of the flag, in our keeping. Some among us have had the fortune to do battle against our country’s foes; all of us have had each our individual role in the great machinery by which the whole is moved; the fame of our flag belongs to us, and our duty is to rally to its support.
We must not forget that our initiation into the service of our country was by taking a solemn oath “to support the Constitution of the United States.” That vow, my friends, is recorded on high; that vow was heard by Him who has said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” We must beware how we lightly treat so solemn an oath; it cannot be thrown off; we cannot ignore the claims of our country; we may, it is true, cease to serve, but we cannot, dare not, offend the Most High by turning our arms against those laws which we have sworn to sustain; nor can we be too guarded, lest by any act of ours a single stain is brought upon our bright escutcheon.
Let us not be deceived by the vain and idle sophistries of those deluded men who would tell us that the United States are only bound together by a weak alliance, to be shaken off at pleasure by any one, without even so much notice of the abrogation as common decency has established as customary among the civilized nations of the earth. Let us discard from our minds the illusions of those who would in fact persuade us that we never had any nationality. If their arguments are correctly based, we have never indeed been one nation. We are mere pretenders, who have, without shadow of right, adopted a national style and law by which to impose upon mankind.
Let us not listen to the reasoning of those who would seduce us from our allegiance by special pleading and abstract questions of State sovereignty. “Remember your oath” –“Remember!” What have we to do with States? What indeed have you to do with States, those of you who, by virtue of your national office, are disfranchised by the laws of the States in which you reside?
The Union is our country; the Union is our State; the Constitution is our law. A great trust devolves on us. Let not the poisonous bane of revolution have any spread among our ranks. Let us show ourselves ever worthy of the confidence of our countrymen. We are not partisans. We must not listen to treason in any shape or form. We cannot abjure our duties without being guilty of treason; and by no train of reasoning can acts against the Government be styled by any other name than treason.
The fame of our proudly-waving flag belongs to us, and what ever be the fate of that honored emblem of our country,–that honored badge of our power,–whatever be its fate, my friends, let us beware that it suffer no stain through the navy.
T. AUGS. CRAVEN,
Lieutenant commanding U. S. steamer “Mohawk.”
Originally posted 2008-03-10 13:29:58.