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George W. Cable in the Century Magazine.

A Review by Rev. R. L. Dabney, D. D., Ll.D.
[Not a few of us have been heartily disgusted with the cringing, crawling, dirt-eating spirit shown by Mr. Cable and some of his satellites, and we feel sure that the following review from the trenchant pen of Stonewall Jackson's old Adjutant-General will be keenly enjoyed and heartily endorsed by our Southern people generally:]

Mr. McKay justly reminds Mr. Cable that it is not true all ‘we of the South’ went to war in 1861 without justly knowing what we did it for, for which we thank Mr. McKay. We wish to add, that if Mr. Cable chooses thus to condemn himself, we beg to be excused from sharing his confession. We are very sure that, unlike him, we did know what we were about. In a later number of the Century Magazine he replies to Mr. McKay, and his reply makes matters infinitely worse. He thinks the reserved rights of the States were a ‘quibble,’ and even if for argument's sake, we concede that there was a right of protecting them, in the last resort, by secession, the main question, because the moral one, lies behind, for what the pretended right was exercised? Mr. Cable thinks it was really for slavery, which he now thinks, like all the rest of mankind, altogether wicked and abominable; so that, even if we had a right, we were [149] making a wicked use of that right. And here he advises us all not to venture on the folly of asserting the right of secession again, unless we wish all the smart people to think us as near to senility as Mr. Jefferson Davis. And every time he says his prayers he thanks God for not letting us succeed, although we were rescued from the crowning woe of success at the cost of the blood and anguish of hundreds and thousands of our noblest and best, because our Confederacy, when independent, would have been so miserable a failure. Our success would have been our ruin. So, Mr. Cable like a good child, thanks our conquerors for whipping the folly and naughtiness out of him, although with whips dipped in hell-fire. Still, after this, he can be as proud of having been a staunch Confederate as the rest of us.

Now, all this is as astonishing for its misapprehension of facts as for its confusion of reasoning. It was with peculiar pain that we saw a Southern man go out of his way to offer a gibe against Mr. Davis, a patriot, now in misfortune for having striven to defend our rights, a constitutional lawyer and statesman of masterly ability, whose history, if read, convinces every one capable of dispassionate understanding of his argument. Had Mr. Cable studied that history, with that capacity, he would have learned that the right he called a ‘quibble’ was regarded as the grand bulwark of the people's liberty by the fathers of the country as much in the North as the South; was unquestionably left in possession of the States by their intent in Constitution, and has been asserted most seriously by every section and every school of politics in turn, as by Secession New England in 1814.

Mr. Cable is the first Southern man we have ever met with who seems not to have grasped the plain distinction between the occasion of an effect and its cause. He is the only Southern man we ever heard of who thought slavery was the cause of our resistance, all the rest, from the peasant up to the statesman, knew that slavery was but the circumstance of the attack, which furnished the incidental occasion of our resistance, while its moving cause was the desire to preserve a vital right to equality, and liberty for ourselves and our children. As we read Mr. Cable's astounding mistake, we wished that he had witnessed the clear definition of this plain distinction, which we saw given in the first public meeting we ever attended in the Confederacy, by a poor peasant youth little above a lout in intelligence. A captain of volunteers was asking for recruits—one and another of the country youth were going forward to enroll themselves—when [150] on a bench near us we saw this by-play. The young man, blushing and trembling with embarrassment, was half rising to go forward. A coarse, sensual old man, known for his slavery to the bottle, sitting beside him, was pulling him down by the skirt of his coat, saying, with an oath, ‘Don't be a fool; sit still; you have got no niggers to fight for.’ The young man at last firmly pushing his hands away, rose and said, ‘I know that, but I have got to fight to keep the Yankees from making a nigger of me.’ He saw clearly what it seems our author has never seen. So all the way up, to the other extreme of the social scale, the Southern judgment was equally clear. General R. E. Lee saw the same thing, when he, the owner of hundreds of bondsmen, said he would cheerfully surrender every one to preserve peace, were that the real issue to be settled.

Let us endeavor, for the thousandth time, to make the real cause of Southern resistance clear to Mr. Cable. As soon as the North was sure of a numerical majority it had taken this determined ground—Southern States shall not have equal franchises in the federation, and the reason why they shall not is, that they are comparatively unworthy of them alongside of us. They shall not have equal franchises because they are debased by a sin.

Now could any one, except a predestined slave and born dolt, fail to see that acquiescence in such inequality on such a ground must mean despotism and slavery for us and our children? Would not oppression inevitably follow the contempt? We had but to listen to such satanic libels as Mr. Sumner's ‘Barbarism of Slavery,’ to know what such bonds of federation as that meant. But when the Southern States, applying the most moderate and the minimum means of defence possible in their case, calmly said: ‘Well, then, if we are unworthy to federate with you as equals, let us freely surrender the contested franchises and quietly retire, so as to save our liberty, if we must lose these rights.’ The imperious answer was, ‘No. Neither shall you be equals in the copartnership, nor shall you retire; you shall stay in as inferiors, to be vilified, slandered, and of course oppressed, and else we will murder you.’ Lives there a man in the North base enough to hold a pretended union on such terms? Mr. Cable knows there is none. That was the cause of Southern resistance. The issue might have been raised, had circumstances varied, about our right to our mules instead of our servants; for no Northern man's right to his live stock is more fully guaranteed than was ours to our servants by law, both Federal and State. [151]

But Mr. Cable says: Everybody now knows slavery was a wicked thing! In this he is but imposing on himself, by weakly echoing the interested slanders of the enemies of his own people. True, the calculated libel was shouted by our assailants so pertinaciously that the prejudiced, the fanatical and the ignorant (who are many) caught up the word, and echoed it; and this insensate echo, Mr. Cable mistakes for the universal conviction! He should remember, that no established school of philosophy or theology ever held that dogma, until it was invented for a purpose; that no learned expositor of Scripture, even in antislavery lands, finds it in God's word; that the soberest mind of the civilized world still disclaims it. He may be sure, that the South had examined the question too seriously and honestly, to be unsettled in its convictions by this vulgar clamor of a conquering faction.

What entitles him to be so sure that the Confederacy would have been a sorry and ruinous failure, had it won independence? His facts, we suppose, are such as these: That the same Southern statesmanship and experience, in the hands of the same living men, which had guided the United States to power and glory, from 1800 to 1860, would have blighted the Confederacy. (For it was the constant grief and complaint of Mr. Cable's present friends, that Southern principles and men were dominant in the federation). That the same principles of government, which had so blessed the United States, would blight the Confederate States. For, if Mr. Cable regards the actual history of his country as any more authentic than ‘Dr. Sevier,’ he must be aware that the States' rights theory came into power with Mr. Jefferson, at the beginning of the century, and guided the platform of every administration (except the second Adams' and Fillmore's), until Mr. Buchanan's. That for many years, of the most splendid growth, the Virginia Resolutions and Report of Mr. Madison were regularly incorporated into the party creed of the party which made the country great. Or, is it his creed, that the same Southern people, who made the South great, glorious and rich, while groaning under legislative inequalities, must have made their country base and poor, when freed from the incubus? This is evidently Mr. Cable's logic: That like causes always produce opposite effects!

The most curious part of this subject presents itself when we recall the sort of government whose present methods and blessings cause him so to felicitate himself upon a result, which cost the heart's blood and the broken hearts of so many myriads of his own people. That surely, must be an almost heavenly state of good, which a good [152] man thinks so well bought at so frightful a price to those he loves. We look at it, and we find these to be the only distinctive features of this felicitous blessing: 1. The falsification of all the solemn pledges given by the conquering government to the conquered, to their own citizens, to the civilized world, and to God, when they were initiating the war. 2. The wreck of the Constitution. 3. Carpetbagism and scalawagism, 4. The malignant oppressions and disgraces of ‘reconstruction.’ 5. Universal negro suffrage, with its bottomless political corruptions. 6. The reopening of civil war in Columbia, South Carolina, and in the author's own city, by oppressions so ruthless as to incense even the crushed worms. 7. Crushing loads of debt on the conquered States. 8. The putrescence of Federal politics, and the infamies of the ‘gift-taking’ administrations. 9. A tariff system the most monstrous ever known in America. 10. The steady descent of the old property holders, with their innocent families, into the doleful abyss of insolvency, destitution and misery, under which as many hearts have been broken by sorrow as were pierced on the battlefield, dying deaths of slow torture, compared with which the murders of their sons and brothers were mercies. But the government Mr. Cable so admires has restored peace? Yes; the peace of subjugation; not of liberty. Some Southerners are retrieving their losses? Yes, thanks to their own sturdy right arms, those right arms which would have made a free Confederacy bloom like a garden! But it has been done in spite of every pressure of unequal taxation and hostile legislation.

The only rationale of Mr. Cable's hallucination of which we can think, is this: That in the enjoyment of the liberal recompense, his patrons and masters at the North pay him for amusing them with his fictions and flatteries, and for depreciating the people they contemn, he simply forgets where the people of the South that was, now are, and what they are enduring. He may be assured they are tasting none of the fatness of his luck. With their wealth transferred by confiscations and legislative juggleries to the coffers of Northern capitalists, their homesteads dropping into decay, their farms lapsing into barren thickets, their gallant sons reduced to a laboring peasantry, they sit under the grim shadow of an unjust poverty, and they sink into obscure graves, whence their misery does not reach Mr. Cable's exceptional prosperity or disturb his good luck.

His conclusion is as illogical as his reasonings. He assures us that he is still as proud as ever of being a Confederate, although he now sees he was wrong, so wrong as to make him thankful for this [153] terrific correcting. But if he knows that he was so wrong, then he should be ashamed, and not proud. He should know that men are responsible to God and their fellows for errors so gigantic. The only attitude for him should be contrition, deep humility, confession, and tearful entreaties for pardon. Of one thing we are sure, if we had committed so enormous a blunder and crime as Mr. Cable now says he committed in 1861, and that, after being so positive we were right, if we had persisted in our error four years, and sealed it with human blood falsely shed, when at last we found out our delusion, we should have hidden our heads and laid our hands on our mouths for the rest of our natural lives, and we should have never again presumed to teach a fellow-citizen his civic duties. That is the only attitude for so fatal a blunderer.

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