destitute of patriotism or statesmanship.
But as a clown with a pickaxe can demolish the choicest productions of art, so can the demagogue overthrow the loftiest institutions of wisdom.
Thus has poor, despised, dwarfed, and downtrodden Mexico
been crushed forever, under the iron heel of her own insane despoilers; a memorable but melancholy illustration of a people without a fixed and stable government; the sport of the profligate and designing, the victims of fraud and violence.
Southern States along the free border had felt most seriously all the injury and irritation produced by inharmonious and conflicting relations between them and their brethren of the North
, and yet the people of these States shrunk from the remedy of Secession as from the bottomless pit. They saw in it nothing but swift and hopeless destruction, and believed that the desire for disunion had originated more in ultra-ambitious schemes than in a determination to protect their peculiar system of domestic servitude from encroachment.
But States with which the heresy originated and had been cherished, had long revelled in dreamy theories and vague notions of benefits which would flow to them from a dissevered Union, and madly hastened to destroy the fabric of their fathers before it could be rescued.
The most sordid passions of man, seeking indulgence of their appetites in the promised land of Secession, lent their absorbing stimulants to urge forward the catastrophe.
Avarice clanked her chains for the necessitous and mercenary, and fortunes sprung up unbidden on either hand to greet them, seeking masters and service.
Ports, and harbors, and marts, and entrepots rushed in upon a heated imagination, as they heard in the distance the knell of the Union
tolling; they beckoned, and the contributions of a world's commerce were poured into their lap by direct trade, and universal expansion came over all the votaries of disunion, as if by magic.
“The three-hooped pot had ten hoops,” and what was “Greek Creek
once was Tiber now.”
Mammon erected his court, and they heard the clinking of gold in the world's exchequer, as it accumulated at the counters of their exchange.
Ambition kindled her torch, which, like the bush of Horeb
, burned and was not consumed, and rank, and place, and station, and stars and garters, and the gew-gaw trappings of nobility, were showered in promiscuous profusion; wreaths of laurel adorned the brows of the brave, and the devotees of pleasure danced at the music of secession sackbut and psaltery and harp, “and all went merry as a marriage bell.”
Though sectional feeling had, after many years of profitless conflict, culminated, and the wise and Union-loving were engaged in restoring friendly relations, under circumstances more favorable to success than thirty years of struggles had furnished, and though Congress was organizing the Territories
without restriction upon domestic institutions, yet the time for disunion, so long invoked, had come, and one State, so far as in her power, sundered the bonds that made her a member of the Union
before the result of the Presidential election had been declared by Congress.
They turned their backs upon friends and sympathizers, denounced laggards in the cause, declared their repudiation of the Constitution
, and applied the torch to the temple of free government and the Union
, with as little solemnity as they would have repealed an act of legislation.
The property of the United States
, by sea and by land, was seized, and the Government
was defied and menaced by armed forces and avowed preparation for war; other States followed, in form if not in substance, by the action of politicians if not people — some half willing, others more than half forced-those who should have stood with sleepless zeal upon the ramparts of the Constitution
ingloriously surrendered their posts, and the reign of anarchy was thus inaugurated in our own happy land.
All this increased, and seriously too, the embarrassment which surrounded the question.
But still the spirit of the times, the voice of the people in every section, South as well as North
, demanded peace — that abstractions should be laid aside, that every substantial cause of grievance should be redressed, and that the interests of a great and prosperous nation should not be disturbed, nor the moral sense of the world shocked by a conflict of arms among brethren.
There was yet hope that the cup of intestine war might in mercy be permitted to pass.
The report of the first hostile gun which was discharged, however, proclaimed to the world that all chances of peaceful adjustment were over; that “heaven in anger for a dreadful moment had suffered hell to take the reins” --that Pandora
's box was opened again, and the deadliest plagues known to earth let loose to curse it; but like that repository of evil, hope yet smiled at the bottom.
Argument and opinion were thrust aside for violence and blood with deliberate preparation.
Is it strange that the natural elements sympathized with the occasion, as the intelligence was flashed through the land?
A sheet of cimmerian darkness, near midnight, hung like a death-pall over the earth — the winds moaned heavily, like the wail of spirits lost-doors creaked and windows clattered, driving currents and counter-currents of sleet and rain descended like roaring cataracts; but the hoarse and startling shriek of the New York newsboy rose above all with the appalling cry, “the bombardment of Fort Sumter
Gave signs of woe
That all was lost.
The blood-fiend laughed loud; the evil genius of humanity clapped his hands in triumph; Monarchy “grinned horribly a ghastly smile,” but Liberty, bathed in tears, was bowed in