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[290] controversy. On the 9th of November, 1859, the Howitzer company was organized. It saw service for the first time in the John Brown raid—the real beginning of the war. It seemed then to George Wythe Randolph, the first captain of this glowing strength, that if his mighty ancestor could speak once more from his lofty eminence, he would shout, ‘to arms!’ For the practical interpretation of the Constitution and the Federal Union which it organized, had come to this: That a peaceful village south of the Potomac might be invaded at midnight for the purpose of midnight murder, and the invader be made by legal execution not a murderer but a martyr, so that the bells of Northern churches tolled his requiem as he expired, and in the words of one of his eulogists, ‘the gallows was made as sacred as the cross.’ The John Brown raid was the vivid revelation of a spirit which left no alternative between a battle for the compact of the Constitution or its unconditional surrender.

The Richmond Howitzers did not organize to surrender without a blow the heritage of their fathers, and at the tap of the drum the company grew to a battalion. Like Gonsalvo when he pointed to Naples, they preferred to die one foot forward than to secure long life by one foot of retreat. We hear much of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ but the two are one. It is only a ‘home of the brave’ which can be a ‘land of the free.’ Only so long as men are brave in the assertion of their rights are they free in the possession of them. The rights which we have now we owe to the fact that we once stood, not languidly, but with clear determination for them—to the respect which is compelled by the courage of conviction.

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George Wythe Randolph (1)
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