previous next

Davis a Despot.

the Southern Confederacy has met with a dread-fully damaging blow in the hey-day of its existence. It lapsed into a bloody treason to save itself from intolerable tyranny; and the poor fish, if we may credit The Charleston Mercury, has only tumbled from a comparatively comfortable frying-pan into a most uncomfortable fire. It is the old story of Aesop over again; for some of the most notable frogs in the puddle are beginning to croak that King Jefferson I. is no better than a Domitian or a Nero. Our authority is the aforesaid Mercury, which ought certainly to be considered a good witness in the case. Its first grievance is that the Confederate Congress, in clear violation of the Confederate Constitution, has furnished King Jefferson Davis with a palace ready furnished, at an expense of Seven Thousand Dollars--a most shameful imitation of the rascally doings at Washington under the old detestable rule. It further complains, that all the doings of the Congress which should restore the Revolters to supreme political freedom, are kept profound secrets from the Southern people — debates, decisions, and all! It is only known that the Emperor — we beg pardon — the President Davis “vetoed more bills of the Provisional Congress than all the Presidents of the United States from George Washington to Andrew Jackson included.” He is, therefore, very properly styled “a Despot.” So the Southern Confederacy, in its enthusiastic pursuit of liberty, has secured, by the confession of The [280] Mercury, a Congress which merely registers the Edicts of a Tyrant! Pray, was this worth the crime of which the Rebels have been guilty, and the sufferings to which they have been subjected? Poor little fishes! why don't yon come back to the old frying-pan?

Then there is another trouble, which is, that as soon as the Confederacy has provided even the semblance of a Navy, it is straightway blown up and annihilated, and all through the inexcusable negligence of a blockhead--Secretary Mallory--who may reasonably be supposed to act under the orders of Davis the Despot.

Upon this point The Richmond Examiner dwells with a deep pathos. From other quarters come most portentous growls; so that, although the Southern people are not now just in a position to depose King Davis, and to tar and feather his Cabinet, they would unquestionably do both, if it were not for the army. We do not mean to say that they would come penitently back at once to the Union which they have so insanely deserted. They would probably upset Davis only to set up King Somebody Else the First, but the inevitable anarchy would make their reduction to sanity comparatively easy. We may see something of this kind before the war is over. Davis is n't safe from the tar-pot yet, poor man! He should have thought, before he raised this busy devil of revolt, what means and appliances would be at his disposal should it be necessary to lay it. It is a ticklish, experiment, as all history proves, to over-throw [281] an existing Government “for light and transient causes.” Unless the injuries of a people are substantial — unless they exist otherwise than in the ambitious views of political schemers — it is the most dangerous thing in the world to stimulate popular passions, and to seduce communities from their allegiance to the laws and to fixed Constitutions. The engineers usually get the first hoist from their own petards. What became of the men who excited the first French Revolution? Does Davis ever think of their fate with prudent apprehension? And how long can he be sure of his army? Its number is stated in Rebel newspapers at 300,000 men; but how many of these are Slaveholders? How many of these have a stake in the contest? How many, not being Slaveholders, have a direct interest in stopping the war? Everybody knows that, in raising the Rebel forces, there has been a continual resort to terrorism and coercion; and how long can these go on without a counter-revolution? Look at the case calmly and philosophically. Suppose that a Southern soldier owns no negroes, and does not hope to own any; what has he to gain from the independence of the Confederacy — what of office, of emolument, of personal consideration? Nothing whatever! If the new Government were firmly established to-morrow, it would leave him the same Poor White Man that he was before. He would be cut off, as before, from the rewards of industry, and even from the opportunity of respectable labor. We understand, in a measure, why the Man-Owners are fighting — it is for caste, [282] aristocracy, political power — but why are the Poor Whites fighting? It puzzles our comprehension, and it will soon begin to puzzle theirs. When it does, then let Jefferson Davis look out for himself. If his army be small, as The Richmond Examiner complains, Mr. Davis may heartily wish it much smaller. Poor whites, trained to the use of arms, may prove a most uncomfortable population.

But just at present it is n't from these that this usurper has the most to fear. He is the President of an Oligarchy unaccustomed to personal restraint. He has been raised to a bad prominence in these affairs by men who are themselves the petty tyrants of the plantations; who, in all their intercourse with those about them, have substantially possessed a power over life and limb as great as that of the Russian nobility over their serfs in the days of Peter the Great. Now, the plantation is not by any means a good school in which to acquire a habit of personal obedience, at least on the part of the master. What does a Slaveowner, upon an isolated plantation in Arkansas, care for the authority of a parcel of talking fellows in Richmond? He may fight for Jefferson Davis, if he pleases, but then it is no violent presumption that he may please to fight against Jefferson, and in favor of another man. South Carolina, according to her own favorite political theories, is a member of the Southern Confederacy only during the time of her sovereign will and pleasure. She comes in under protest, and when she sees fit she has, upon her own absurd principles, as good a right to bolt [283] from the government of Davis as from that of Lincoln. Why should n't she? Here is one of her principal newspapers denouncing Davis as a Despot! By what worse name did this Mercury ever speak of President Lincoln? If this Mercury be right, it is already time for South Carolina to bolt again! Will she do it? How do we know? How can any man foretell what she will do? And should she declare once more her independence, by what authority will Jefferson Davis proceed to coerce her to her duty? He has made waste paper of all precedents. He has abolished all law in his dominions. He holds office not by the will of a majority of the States which he professes to govern, but by the will of South Carolina alone. If she sustains him now, it is only because he permits her to reserve the right to deal at him the deadliest of blows at any moment when it may gratify her whim or suit her convenience. He may be sure that she has well learned the lesson which he has assisted to teach her.

Thus it is that men involve themselves in palpable absurdities, when for light and transient causes they attempt the overthrow of long-established governments. Thus it is that men incur a thousand perils, when they permit their passions to hurry them into treason. We do not, in all history, remember a revolution undertaken for the gratification of personal ambition which has been permanently successful; and we do not believe that the Slaveholders' Rebellion is destined to furnish an exception to the rule. We see something like safety for its projectors in [284] their defeat; but in their success we see nothing for themselves, and the States which they have misled, but ultimate ruin, and the final extinguishment of every vestige of the ancient liberty of their white population.

August 27, 1862.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Jefferson Davis (11)
Abraham Lincoln (2)
George Washington (1)
French Revolution (1)
Mallory (1)
Thomas Jefferson (1)
Andrew Jackson (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
August 27th, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: