previous next
[23] and he would not therefore utter, even in a whisper, one word which might tend to bring down the impending avalanche upon the quiet homes of the people. He would at the same time speak as a Southern man, identified with all the interests of the South. He would speak as a Western Virginian, and as the custodian of those who were not old enough to know the perils to which they were exposed, by those who were now riding on the crest of the popular wave, but who were, nevertheless, destined to sink into the very trough of the sea to a depth so unfathomable that not a bubble would ever rise, to mark the spot where they went so ignominiously down. Well might those who had inaugurated the revolution which was now stalking over the land, cry out with uplifted hands for peace, and deprecate the effusion of blood. It was the inventor of the guillotine who was its first victim, and the day was not far off when they would find among their own people, those who would have to rely upon the magnanimity of that population, whom they had most cruelly outraged and deceived. He had not the heart to enter into a detail of the arguments, or to express the indignant emotions, which rose to his lips for utterance. But before God, and in his inmost conscience he believed that Slavery would be crucified, should this unhappy controversy end in a dismenmbermelt of the Union. If not crucified, it would carry the death-rattle in its throat. It remained to be seen whether treason could be carried out with the same facility with which it has been plotted. There was a holy courage among the minority of every State that might be for the time overwhelmed. Lazarus was not dead, but slept; and ere long the stone would be rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, and they would witness all the glories of a resurrection. It would not be forgotten, that among the clans of Scotland, beacon fires used to be lit by concerted signals from crag to crag, in living volumes of flame, yet expiring even in its own fierceness, and sinking into ashes as the fagots which fed them were consumed. To such a picture as that might be likened a rebellion such as political leaders sometimes excite for a brief hour; but the fires of rebellion burnt out with the fagots, and all was cold and dark again. There was a striking contrast between such a movement, between such a rebellion as he alluded to, and the uprising of the masses of the people in vindication of violated rights. As great a difference as there was between Snug, the joiner, and Bottom, the weaver, who “could roar you as fierce as a lion, or coo you as gently as a sucking-dove.” One was the stage-trick of a political harlequin, the other was a living reality — the one was a livid and fitful flame, the other was a prairie on fire, finding in every step of its progress food for its all-ravening maw. In the present emergency, before this political conspiracy, it might be that he would stand alone with his colleague, (Mr. Wilson.) Let it be so. He sought no office. His political race was very nearly voluntarily run. History would record the proceeding of this turbulent period, and time — the gentle but infallible arbiter of all things earthly — would decide the truth. Upon that he would take his stand. They lived in an age of political paradoxes. Broad, expansive love of country had become a diseased sentimentality. Patriotism had become a starveling birdling, clinging with unfledged wings around the nest of twigs where it was born. A statesman must now not only narrow his mind and give up to party what was meant for mankind, but he must recede as submissively as a blind horse in a bark mill to every perverted opinion which sits, whip in hand, on the revolving shaft, at the end of which he is harnessed. To be a diamond of the first water, he must stand in the Senate House of his country, and in the face of a forbearing people, glory in being a traitor and a rebel. He must solemnly proclaim the death of the nation to which he had sworn allegiance, and with the grave stolidity of an undertaker, invite its citizens to their own funeral. Ife must dwarf and provincialize his patriotism to the State on whose local passion he thrives, to the country where he practises court, or to the city where he flaunts in all the meretricious dignity of a Doge of Venice. He can take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, but he can enter with honor into a conspiracy to overthrow it. He can, under the sanctity of the same oath, advise the seizure of forts and arsenals, dockyards and ships, and money belonging to the Union, whose officer he is, and find a most loyal and convenient retreat in State authority and State allegiance. He was ready to laugh in their faces if they only told him that, before the time when he was “muling and puking in his nurse's armss” there lived a very obscure person named George Washington, who, before he died, became eminent by perpetrating the immortal joke of advising the people of the United States, that it was of infinite moment, that they should properly estimate the immense value of their national Union--that they should cherish a cordial, habitual and inmmovable attachment to it — that they should watch itsprcservation with jealous anxiety, discountenance whatever might suggest a suspicion that it could in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frown down the first dawning attempt to alienate any portion of the country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which linked together its various parts. Washington saw into the future, and discovered that disastrous period in our history against which le warned his countrymen when he told them to “beware of geographical parties.” These extreme parties, North and South, had at last met. Their differences had been created and carried on by systematic perversions of each other's aims and objects. In the North it had been represented that the South desired and intended to monopolize with slave territory all the public lands, and to drive there — from free labor, to convert every free State into common ground for the recapture of colored persons as slaves who were free, and to put the Federal Government in all its departments under the control of a slave oligarchy. These and all other stratagems that could be resorted to aroused antagonistic feeling, which were welded with turbulent passions. As they planted so they reaped. Now that victory had been won by the Republican party, and the Government must be administered upon national policy; the fissures in the ground occupied by them became apparent, and hence there would necessarily be a large defection in its ranks among the more ultra of its adherents, who were, as a general thing, ideal, speculative, and not practical men. Out of actual power, a party was apt to be radical. Vest it with power, and it became conservative. This was the ordeal through which the Republican, like all other parties, was now passing, and he hoped for the peace of the country, and the triumph of practical, rather than ideal policy and measures. Herein consisted the

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Venice (Italy) (1)
United States (United States) (1)
Scotland (United Kingdom) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
W. S. Wilson (1)
George Washington (1)
Lazarus (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: