The First International released three statements on the U.S. Civil War. The first two, addressed to Lincoln and the American people on his reelection in 1864, and to President Johnson and the American people on the occasion of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, are relatively widely known. The third, and most profound, is virtually unknown. The Council held a grand ball in London at St. Martins Hall to celebrate the Union victory on September 28, 1865 where this was presented and passed by acclamation as the evening’s centerpiece. In it Marx, the writer of all the statements, places Black social and political equality at the center of the country’s tasks following the victory in the Civil War, ending with this warning: ‘As injustice to a section of your people has produced such direful results, let that cease. Let your citizens of to-day be declared free and equal, without reserve. If you fail to give them citizens’ rights, while you demand citizens’ duties, there will yet remain a struggle for the future which may again stain your country with your people’s blood.’
‘Address of the General Council of the International Workingmen’s Association to the People of the United States’ by Karl Marx (September 25, 1865) from Marx and the Civil War by Hermann Schlüter. Appeal to Reason Publishing. Girard, Kansas, 1921.
Citizens of the Great Republic!
Again we take the liberty of addressing you. Not this time in sympathy and sadness, but in words of congratulation.
Had we not deeply sympathised with you in your hours of sorrow, when enemies, both at home and abroad, were earnestly seeking the overthrow of your Government, and those principles of universal justice upon which it is based, we should not now have dared to congratulate you upon your success.
But we have never swerved in our fidelity to your cause, which also is the cause of our common humanity; nor did we fear its ultimate triumph, even in the darkest shadow of its adversity.
Firmly attached to, and believing in those principles of equality and common brotherhood for which you drew the sword, so did we believe that when the battle should have ended, and the victory have been won, that it would again be returned to its scabbard, peace restored to your borders, and rejoicing to the whole of your people.
Our anticipations have been justified, by the results. Your struggle is the only example on record in which the Government fought for the people’s liberty, against a section of its own citizens.
We have first to congratulate you that the war is ended, and the Union preserved. The stars and stripes once rudely torn down by your own sons, again flutter in the breeze, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, never again, we hope, to be insulted by your own children, or again to wave over fields of carnage, either by civil commotion or foreign war.
And may those misguided citizens who have displayed courage on the battle-field for an unhallowed cause, show equal avidity to aid in healing the breaches they have made, and in restoring peace to their common country.
We have next to congratulate you that the cause of these years of suffering is now removed — Slavery is no more. That dark spot on your otherwise fair escutcheon is blotted out for ever. No more shall the salesman’s hammer barter human flesh and blood in your market places, causing humanity to shudder at its cold barbarity.
Your noblest blood has been shed to wipe out these stains; desolation has spread its black pall over your land in atonement for its past history.
To-day you are free, purified by past suffering. A brighter future dawns upon your glorious Republic, teaching this lesson to the old world — That a Government of the People and by the People, is for the People; and not for a privileged few.
Since we have had the honour of expressing sympathy with your sufferings, a word of encouragement for your efforts, and of congratulation for the results, permit us also to add a word of counsel for the future.
‘As injustice to a section of your people has produced such direful results, let that cease. Let your citizens of to-day be declared free and equal, without reserve.
If you fail to give them citizens’ rights, while you demand citizens’ duties, there will yet remain a struggle for the future which may again stain your country with your people’s blood.
The eyes of Europe and of the world are fixed upon your efforts at re-construction, and enemies are ever ready to sound the knell of the downfall of republican institutions when the slightest chance is given.
We warn you then, as brothers in the common cause, to remove every shackle from freedom’s limb, and your victory will be complete.
General Council of the IMWA. September, 1865.
Marx and the Civil War by Hermann Schlüter. Appeal to Reason Publishing. Girard, Kansas, 1921.
Hermann Schlüter takes a brief, early look at the work of Marx and the First International on the US Civil War by presenting Marx’s Address of the General Council to Abraham Lincoln (November 29, 1864), Lincoln’s response through his Secretary (January 28, 1865), Address of the General Council of the International Workingmen’s Association to President Andrew Johnson (May 13, 1865) after Lincoln’s assassination, and the much less well-known, but in many ways most profound, Address of the General Council to the People of the United States (September 25, 1865). As with many ‘Appeal to Reason’ publication, the second half is filled with ads for books and and two entirely unrelated pieces by freethinker H.M. Tichenor.
Marxist historian Hermann Schlüter (1851-1919) was born in Schleswig-Holstein and joined the left wing of German Social Democracy as a teen and helped publish newspapers and magazines of the SPD. A decades-long correspondent of Engels both in Germany and later when Schlüter emigrated to the US in 1889 where he joined the editorial board of the New Yorker Volkszeitung, he was close personal friends with Friedrich Adolph Sorge. At first he was a member of the the Socialist Labor Party, later he joined the Socialist Party, which he represented at the Amsterdam Congress of the Second International in 1904. An anti-opportunist and anti-revisionist, he contributed to the debate in Marxism in both Germany and the US. At the end of his life, he served on the editorial board of Louis Fraina’s Class Struggle and worked with Ludwig Lore (and even met Trotsky during his brief US sojourn). However, it is Schlüter’s historical works, mainly of the proletarian movement in the US and England, that are his lasting legacy.
PDF of book: https://archive.org/download/karlmarxcivilwar00schl/karlmarxcivilwar00schl.pdf