These are grave questions; and, in the case of Lee
, their consideration brings us at the threshold face to face with issues which have perplexed and divided the country since the day the United States
became a country.
They perplex and divide historians now. Legally, technically—the moral and humanitarian aspects of the issue wholly apart—which side had the best of the argument as to the rights and the wrongs of the case in the great debate which led up to the Civil War
Before entering, however, on this well-worn—I might say, this threadbare—theme, as I find myself compelled in briefest way to do, there is one preliminary very essential to be gone through with—a species of moral purgation.
Bearing in mind Dr. Johnson
's advice to Boswell
, on a certain memorable occasion, we should at least try to clear our minds of cant.
Many years ago, but only shortly before his death, Richard Cobden
said in one of his truth-telling deliverances to his Rochdale
constituents—‘I really believe I might be Prime Minister.
If I would get up and say you are the greatest, the wisest, the best, the happiest people in the world, and keep on repeating that, I don't doubt but what I might be Prime Minister.
I have seen Prime Minister's made in my experience precisely by that process.’
The same great apostle of homely sense, on another occasion bluntly remarked in a similar spirit to the House of Commons
—‘We generally sympathise with everybody's rebels but our own.’
In both these respects I submit we Americans
are true descendants from the Anglo-Saxon
stock; and nowhere is this more unpleasantly apparent than in any discussion which may arise of the motives which actuated those of our countrymen who did not at the time see the issues involved in our Civil War as we saw them.
Like those whom Cobden
addressed, we like to glorify our ancestors and ourselves, and we do not particularly care to give ear to what we are pleased to term unpatriotic, and, at times, even treasonable talk.
In other words, and in plain, unpalatable English
, our minds are saturated with cant.
Only in the case of others do we see things as they really are. Ceasing to be individually interested, we then at once become nothing unless critical.
So, when it comes to rebellions, we, like Cobden
's Englishmen, are wont almost invariably to sympathize with everybody's rebels but our own.
Our souls spontaneously go forth to Celt, Pole, Hungarian, Boer, and Hindoo; but, when we are concerned, language quite fails us in which adequately to depict the moral turpitude which must actuate Confederate or Filipino who rises in resistance against what we are