that of the atmosphere around us. Its benefits are so silent and unseen that they are seldom thought of or appreciated.
We seldom think of the single element of oxygen in the air we breathe, and yet let this simple, unseen, and unfelt agent be withdrawn, this life-giving element be taken away from this all-pervading fluid around us, and what instant and appalling changes would take place in all organic creation.
It may be that we are all that we are in “spite of the General Government
,” but it may be that without it we should have been far different from what we are now. It is true there is no equal part of the earth with natural resources superior perhaps to ours.
That portion of this country known as the Southern States
, stretching from the Chesapeake
to the Rio Grande
, is fully equal to the picture drawn by the honorable and eloquent Senator
last night, in all natural capacities.
But how many ages and centuries passed before these capacities were developed to reach this advanced age of civilization?
There these same hills, rich in ore, same rivers, same valleys and plains, are as they have been since they came from the hand of the Creator; uneducated and uncivilized man roamed over them for how long no history informs us.
It was only under our institutions that they could be developed.
Their development is the result of the enterprise of our people under operations of the Government
and institutions under which we have lived.
Even our people without these never would have done it. The organization of society has much to do with the development of the natural resources of any country or any land.
The institutions of a people, political and moral, are the matrix in which the germ of their organic structure quickens into life — takes root and develops in form, nature, and character.
Our institutions constitute the basis, the matrix, from which spring all our characteristics of development and greatness.
Look at Greece
There is the same fertile soil, the same blue sky, the same inlets and harbors, the same Aegean
, the same Olympus
; there is the same land where Homer
sung, where Pericles
spoke; it is in nature the same old Greece
— but it is living Greece
Descendants of the same people inhabit the country; yet what is the reason of this mighty difference?
In the midst of present degradation we see the glorious fragments of ancient works of art — temples with ornaments and inscriptions that excite wonder and admiration — the remains of a once high order of civilization which have outlived the language they spoke — upon them all Ichabod is written — their glory has departed.
Why is this so?
I answer, their institutions have been destroyed.
These were but the fruits of their forms of government, the matrix from which their grand development sprung, and when once the institutions of a people have been destroyed, there is no earthly power that can bring back the Promethean spark to kindle them here again, any more than in that ancient land of eloquence, poetry, and song.
The same may be said of Italy
Where is Rome
, once the mistress of the world?
There are the same seven hills now, the same soil, the same natural resources; nature is the same, but what a ruin of human greatness meets the eye of the traveller throughout the length and breadth of that most down-trodden land!
Why have not the people of that Heaven-favored clime the spirit that animated their fathers?
Why this sad difference?
It is the destruction of her institutions that has caused it; and, my countrymen, if we shall in an evil hour rashly pull down and destroy those institutions which the patriotic band of our fathers labored so long and so hard to build up, and which have done so much for us and the world, who can venture the prediction that similar results will not ensue?
Let us avoid it if we can. I trust the spirit is amongst us that will enable us to do it. Let us not rashly try the experiment, for if it fails as it did in Greece
, and in the South American Republics
, and in every other place, wherever liberty is once destroyed, it may never be restored to us again.
There are defects in our Government, errors in administration, and shortcomings of many kinds, but in spite of these defects and errors, Georgia
has grown to be a great State.
Let us pause here a moment.
In 1850 there was a great crisis, but not so fearful as this, for of all I have ever passed through, this is the most perilous, and requires to be met with the greatest calmness and deliberation.
There were many amongst us in 1850 zealous to go at once out of the Union
, to disrupt every tie that binds us together.
Now do you believe, had that policy been carried out at that time, we would have been the same great people that we are to-day?
It may be that we would, but have you any assurance of that fact?
Would you have made the same advancement, improvement, and progress in all that constitutes material wealth and prosperity that we have?
I notice in the Comptroller-General's report, that the taxable property of Georgia
is $670,000,000 and upwards, an amount not far from double that it was in 1850.
I think I may venture to say that for the last ten years the material wealth of the people of Georgia
has been nearly if not quite doubled.
The same may be said of our advance in education, and every thing that marks our civilization.
Have we any assurance that had we regarded the earnest but misguided patriotic advice, as I think, of some of that day, and disrupted the ties which bind us to the Union
, we would have advanced as we have?
I think not. Well, then, let us be careful now before we attempt any rash experiment of this sort.
I know that there are friends whose patriotism I do not intend to question, who think this Union a curse, and