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Address of honorable R. T. Bennett, late Colonel 13th North Carolina Infantry, C. S. A.

At the Laying of the corner-stone of the Confederate Monument at Raleigh, N. C., May 22, 1894.



Zzzmorale of the Confederate.

In happy phrase Col. Kenan introduced Col. R. T. Bennett, who said:

We ask the prayers of this great company of Christian people while we speak of the men and arms, whose memory the cornerstone just laid is to hold in perpetuity for generations to follow us after some time be past.

The sound of the war, in which the armies of the Confederate States were worn down by repeated blows of superior numbers, has grown faint.

Already, time lends to the events of that struggle, which were the [82] most energetic and tumultuous in their accomplishment, the air of repose. The South, inspired by lofty ideals of duty and stimulated by precious faith, has done well in preserving, amidst poverty and toil, the wholesome truths of that great struggle.

“The fullness of time has come.” The daughters and granddaughters of the regiments that followed the leadership of Lee and Jackson, Branch and Bragg, upon the crested ridge amid the stormy presence of Battle—the women of our State have ‘set up a stone for a pillar,’ to testify to unborn ages our reverence for our dead.

Jacob, who is woven into the text and fibre of the Book of Genesis as a thread of gold may be woven into cloth, set up a stone to commemorate a solemn epoch in his life, and named the place whereon the stone was set up—Bethel.

Verily, ‘there is no new thing under the sun.’ In the vision of John, that sublime and pathetic figure on the Island of Patmos, one of the Cyclades away out in the Aegean Sea, there is promised to him that overcometh ‘a white stone.’ The day and the people have met.

This white day in North Carolina, distinguished as the anniversary of our first and second Declarations of Independence. 'Tis good to be here. Let us administer the sacraments to our hearts.

Standing here, encouraged by the living and hearkening to voices from the tomb, let us baptize ourselves afresh in the name of liberty.

The most perfect oration which has been rescued from the rigor of time is that of Pericles over the dead who perished in the first campaign of Peloponesian war. These men, like our comrades in the great war, fell short of success.

What is it that gave to these countrymen of Pericles their imperishable renown?

The philosophy, the science, the literature and intellect of ancient Greece may be traced in their influence on all after ages of the western world.

But the memory of this dead resists annihilation by the force of a greater power than all these. It is by force of this principle:

‘That bravery never goes out of fashion.’

Margaret, of Richmond, the mother of Henry the Seventh, would often say:

‘That if the Princes of Christendom would combine themselves and march against the common enemy, the Turk, she would most willingly attend them and be their laundress in camp.’

Her chaplain, Fisher, preaching the funeral sermon, said of her, [83] ‘everyone that knew her loved her, and everything she said or did became her.’

A resolution as noble, courage as pathetic, and faculties as beautiful as these, distinguished the women of the South during the long agony of the war.

‘So indispensable is courage in the performance of the ordinary duties of life, that we admire it even in error.’

The Confederate dead—our dead—our precious dead—by their valor, achieved a name which deserves to endure as long as fame itself.

For our dead this name is a ‘second life among men, in which earthiness is purged away, and what is imperishable tarries,’ ‘and for the living, their just inheritance.’

‘Her trumpet sounds no empty strain—'tis the appeal against our baser promptings, the summons to action, the meed of achievement, the celebration on earth of the spirit's triumph over the grave.’

If the courage of these Confederates, who stepped from their homes into the army and were soldiers, was admirable, the principles for which they contended cannot be over stated.

The right of local self-government lay at the very root of the struggle and conflict between the government and the Confederate States.

The natural leaders of the South, trained in correct methods of observation and reasoning, in politics, saw the impending danger and gave the alarm.

Mr. Crawford, of Georgia, advised secession on the part of the South as early as 1820.

There was no doubt then about the right of a State to secede from the Union.

Rawle, the Pennsylvanian, in his book on the Constitution, says:

‘The secession of a State from the Union depends on the will of the people of such State. The States then may wholly withdraw from the Union, but while they continue they must retain the character of representative republics.’

Tucker, of Virginia, is as explicit as Rawle on this point.

President Jefferson Davis wrote me, July 1st, 1886: ‘Rawle on the Constitution, was the text-book at West Point, but when the class of which I was a member entered the graduating year, Kent's Commentaries were introduced as the text-book on the Constitution and international law. Though not so decided on the point of State [84] sovereignty, he was very far in advance of the consolidationists of our time.’

The University of North Carolina, and every other institution in the State, devoted to the education of our youth, which receives the benefit of State endowment, should be required to teach those in their charge the theory of the Constitution which conceded the right of the States of the Union to withdraw therefrom for causes deemed sufficient by the State.

So that the term of reproach, ‘Rebel,’ now imputed to our people, would be shorn of that meaning which causes the average man a tremor of shame.

Happily, our people, as a rule, are not in a hurry to condemn the action of the South in their efforts to found a government more consonant with their rights than the government of the United States.

An occasional philosopher marks his disapproval by a declaration, ‘in forma pauperis,’ and complains that the movement was foredoomed to failure.

A remark as applicable to any other weighty enterprise that ultimately fails, as to this one.

At what stage of the struggle, pray, was the autograph of failure written upon it?

Was the cause of the Colonies in their war with Britain more hopeful of success, at the outset, than our cause?

Is the success or failure of movements, freighted with the fortunes, the hopes, the hearts of millions of Christian men and women, the infallible test of the right or wrong of them?

Does nothing succeed but success? Is the ‘odd man’ God's only faithful servant? ‘We were more cheated than conquered into surrender.’

Most forms of government have effect upon the moral and intellectual qualities of their citizens.

Certain broad declarations in our Constitution of the equality of all men are producing legitimate fruit in the United States.

The tendency of our government to centralize unduly the functions of the government at Washington is the tendency against which the full force of our war was aimed and delivered. That tendency grows greater with every year of our experience as a government.

When time and contemporaneous construction shall completely sanctify these tendencies, we will have all the elements of socialism in our midst.

Morelly's book, ‘The Code of Nature,’ appeared in 1755; you [85] will find in it the political theories which may torment us by and by. Community of property, and the total absorption of the individual in the body politic.

“Nothing,” says the first article of this Code, ‘belongs wholly to any one—property is detestable, and any one who attempts to reestablish it shall be imprisoned for life as a dangerous madman, and an enemy to humanity.’

The second article declares ‘That every citizen shall be kept, and maintained, and supplied with work at the public expense.’

‘All produce shall be gathered into public garners, to be distributed to citizens for their subsistence.’

‘All children shall be taken from their families at five years of age, and educated together on a uniform plan.’

DeTocqueville, the most sincere and philosophic political writer of the last century, says of the principles I have quoted from the Code of Nature:

‘So true it is that centralization and socialism are natives of the same soil—one is the wild herb, the other the garden plant.’

‘Truth is the daughter of time.’

The industrial armies now converging on Washington are but the first of a thunder shower.

The men who followed the fortunes of the Confederacy were descended almost entirely from a common ancestry.

The armies of the Confederate States were distinguished by the same general characteristics.

There were local influences which modified or exalted these characteristics.

The general level, however, was uniform.

Hence it is unjust to say that the soldiers of this State or that State fought best; all did well, and if on any given battle-field of the war, the dead of North Carolina, or Virginia, or any other State, fell nearest the enemy, it was the accident of fortune.

The men devoted themselves to duty even unto death.

If any considerable number of Confederate soldiers had been cut off from their commands, and left without orders, the characteristics of the men would have asserted themselves.

They would have done the best possible in their situation—each a soldier-each a commander.

The North Carolina soldiers were noted for their self-control and [86] their self-discipline; obedience to orders, and patience under restraints.

They could be relied on to withhold their fire, under the most trying exposures, and upon the signal, to fall upon the enemy with most impetuous force.

I have seen them when their work was accomplished with swift, short blows.

Again when the bloody encounter drew out the day, and was furious, away past the midnight watch.

I have heard them when there was nothing left but vast avenues of gloom.

They were never unduly elated by success, nor overborne by ill-fortune.

‘These men were not self-seekers and self-worshippers, but seekers and worshippers of something far better than self.’

Not personal enjoyment was their object, but a high heroic idea of patriotism, in which cause they neither shrunk from suffering, nor called on the earth to witness it as something wonderful, but patiently endured—counting it blessedness enough, so to spend and to be spent.

How shall we acquit ourselves of our duty and responsibility to these dead and these survivors who lift their withered, white hands towards us?

Reverence the dead—cherish the living. Where our dead lie the choicest wild flowers bloom and shine.

These dead were our comrades in the anguish of the struggle; we know why they tarry so long on the homeward march.

The record is made up.

North Carolinians, when they would exalt their fame, are not obliged to turn their eyes away from dishonoring, or equivocal features.

Rest on gentle and heroic spirits,
Heed not thine accusers,
The living South will defend your memories.

Distant ages in their majestic march will pause at your graves, while philosophers and lofty souls will say:

These men had a just cause—they were dutiful sons of indestructible States.

Their actions were worthy of their day, their achievements were worthy of all time.

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