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The Southern cause. [from the Petersburg, Va., Index-appeal, February 24, 1903.]

Happily and logically Pleaded in a touching address before R. E. Lee Camp, Confederate veterans, Richmond, Va., on the evening of February 20th, 1903, by Hon. William Evelyn Cameron, Ex-Governor of Virginia, in presenting to the Camp a portrait of Governor James Lawson Kemper, Major-General Confederate States Army.

Ex-Governor William E. Cameron presented a magnificent portrait of General James Lawson Kemper, Confederate States Army, and ex-Governor of Virginia, to R. E. Lee Camp on the night of the 20th. The gathering was the most attractive and the most distinguished held by this organization in years. It was a reunion of the living Governors of the old Commonwealth in honor of one of its chief executives, who is dead. Governor Charles T. O'Ferrall accepted the portrait in behalf of the Camp. Both speeches were made to a great gathering of the most representative men of the Confederacy now living, and the spirit as felt by them cannot be described. The speeches were full of patriotism as well as defence of the lost cause.

Cameron's history of the causes leading up to the war was complete, his reference to Lee's statue in Statuary Hall at Washington is a matchless piece of oratory, and his tribute to Kemper in touching affection and in good taste. It was approached by O'Ferrall's beautiful acceptance of the picture. General Fitzhugh Lee and Ex-Governor J. Hoge Tyler were also happy in their remarks, and Governor A. J. Montague, the only one of the distinguished quintette not a Confederate veteran, was not a whit behind in the enthusiasm of his tribute. [361]

General Eppa Hunton also spoke impressively.

The following is a full text of Governor Cameron's address:

For nearly half a century the moons in Heaven have waxed and waned, and the tides of ocean, obedient to their sway, have flowed and ebbed, since you, my comrades, were giving the devotion and service of warm young hearts to a country which has no place among the nations now—which has no name, except in history—and which has been blotted out from the atlas of the world.

So far remote from us, in time, that country is; but further still from the carking cares and selfish ambitions of our present lives.

But so embalmed in the inmost caskets of our souls, with the most precious spices from memory's storehouse, is all that we hoped for, joyed in, wept over and suffered there—that often still, an idle word, the odor of some simple woodland flower drifted to us on the fitful wind a passing strain of martial music-or, as to-night, the pathetic suggestion from eloquent canvass of eyes which were once our guiding stars in battle—will strike from our minds the shackles of the present and real; and lo! we stand again in Dixie's land—and the war is young—and touching elbow with us in the full ranks are those dear comrades we long had mourned as dead, and the flag is flying high on land and sea—and faith is steadfast and hope is radiant; for in the mercy of God, the smoke of initial victories yet hangs as a veil between our vision and the wrath that is to come!

That was a country of stately homes, well-guarded firesides—of smiling fields, of generous harvests. It was a country where manly and womanly virtue walked hand in hand with cultured minds and social graces. Where hospitality was the instinct and the law in mansion and in cottage; where wealth shed bounty as the skies drop dew; where unobtrusive piety was the guide of gentle lives; where justice dealt with even scales; where the standards of public life were lofty and office was reserved for the wise and the honest; where faction and fanatacism found no congenial soil or atmosphere; where a happy people obeyed the laws, meddled not with the concerns of other folks, cultivated gentle manners and kindly feelings, did their duty in that state to which God had pleased to call them, and lived in peace and love with one another.

It was a country to be proud of. It was a blessed country to live in. It was a country worth dying for!

The ancestry of the men and women of that country were the pioneers of Christianity and civilization in the new world. At a later era 'twas they who inspired, formulated and achieved American [362] independence, and they were the architects of the American Union and the authors of the chart of its powers and limitations.

Their descendants inherited from these sages and statesmen a genius for government; an instinctive apprehension of those fundamental principles which constitute at once the sanction of all ruling authority and the boundaries of its power. They inherited a love for lawful liberty—a reverence for constitutional obligations—a fearless impatience of oppression—a jealous regard for the rights of the States--a positive credence in the doctrine that ‘all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’—and a readiness to do and suffer all things in maintenance of a principle.

To such a race, so sired, so reared—so competent to know their rights, so trained in political perception, so loving peace and yet so brave, there came a crisis which forced them to a choice between two imperative evils.

If they waived their claim to constitutional protection of their property and domestic institutions, allowed the executive and legislative departments of the United States to nullify constitutional guarantees, and submitted that legislatures of Northern States should treat as empty words the decisions of the Supreme Court, they would but abandon their natural fortress for the open country and be thereafter dependent upon the caprice of a sectional majority.

Experience has taught them that every concession made to fanaticism but whetted the appetite of that raving beast for further aggression. Within ten years the cry of the ruling faction has changed from ‘compromise’ to ‘surrender.’ The ultimate fate of the weaker section, if a policy of submission should be accepted, was plain as the handwriting on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar. Not slavery alone was involved, but the sanctity of the constitutional compact and all the rights of the States which that involved, and under a government, controlled and administered by the experiments of a ‘higher law,’ the only measure of forbearance in denial of their rights, antagonism to their interests, confiscation of their property, would be the unselfish mercy and elastic conscience of a party which had cannonized John Brown, pilloried Chief-Justice Taney for deciding the law according to the law, and had denounced the constitution as ‘a league with Satan and a covenant with hell.’ On that road lay no safety; but, on the contrary, self-stultification, treason to their convictions, humiliation and ultimate ruin.

The alternative was to revert to the theory and practice of their revolutionary sires, to insist that the consent of the governed was [363] an essential to the legitimacy of arty establishment, to reaffirm the doctrine of Franklin and Adams and Jay of the inherent right of a people to abolish and withdraw from a government which had ceased for them to subserve the purposes for which formed; to commit no aggressions, to make no demands outside of their own territory, but to assert and exercise the reserved rights of every party to a violated contract, the right to cease membership in a union which was no longer administered by the letter or spirit of the Constitution which created and defined its powers, and to erect within their own borders a structure adapted to their needs, consistent with their political views, and preservation of their domestic rights and institutions.

Thus, one by one, with deliberation and dignity, the States of that vanished country decided. They proclaimed their decrees of separation in solemn form, declared their pacific purposes, justified their action in almost the very language which the colonies addressed to Great Britain in 1776; and then assembled at Montgomery to launch a new ship of state upon the sea of experiment.

The answer (for the episode of Fort Sumter has no significance in determining the question of overt aggression), was the calm of a right and the announcement of a purpose to coerce by force of arms the submission of the seceding States to the bonds of union and the authority of the government at Washington.

So the issue was joined! And so there came a time in that far-off country (our time my comrades), when the god of battle was involved against usurpation and armed invasion; and when all the blossom of youth and flower of manhood in that fair land, rallied to a flag which stood for constitutional liberty as the fathers of the republic had asserted and defined—and against despotic rule and coercion by the bayonet as George the Third had exercised.

Then came the splendor of heroic deeds, the dedication of an entire people, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, upon the altar of sacrifice. The glory of fleeting victory, snatched from the very jaws of opposing fate! The pathetic spectacle of transcendent genius and almost superhuman valor fighting like Sisera, against the stars in their courses! The tender beauty of woman's ministrations and the brave, sweet faces which masked their aching hearts! The uplifting of souls to self-oblivion! The delirium of the headlong charge! The superb record of constancy, loyalty and endurance, which lent a rainbow's lustre to those bloody annals! The [364] flickering brilliance—the sunset of the Confederacy—of the last essays of desperate courage to avert the inevitable;

And then, —the darkness fell!

Exhausted by the very persistence and success with which they had protracted an unequal contest, those skeleton battalions, still standing grimly by their colors, had nothing left of all that makes up the efficiency of armies except the invincible spirit which trial only tempers and that courage which rises with the demands upon it, in mercy and in justice to these incomparable veterans, the order for surrender was given. But they had already won laurels not always placed upon the victor's brow. And there was little room for triumph to the hosts that stood by in countless numbers and saw the thin procession of emaciated forms and worn faces, ‘in ragged jackets but bearing bright muskets,’ march out under the April sky to give a last salute to the leaders they had followed so well and the flag they had worshipped.

When that was furled, the last seal had been set upon the tragedy of the ages.

In place of the once magnificent armies were a few thousands of haggard, footsore and heartsore men, wending their painful ways towards ruined homes and desolated plains. They had been first worshippers at the birth, they were the last mourners at the grave of the vanished nation.

Dear country of the soldier's dreams. Hail and farewell! The night falls upon a land of shrines and altars, peopled by ghosts and by memories.

Comrades,—To others than ourselves, and our own people, we cannot explain, and we would not make apology, that the four years we spent as soldiers of the Confederacy, despite the trials and losses that attended and the unspeakable disaster that crowned them, are treasured in and sanctified to our heart of hearts as the best and proudest and dearest experiences of our life.

We could not forget them, if we would.
We would not forget them, if we could.

Nay, remembering and realizing all that struggle cost us—the priceless lives, the desolated firesides, the rapine, the pillage, the devastation, the impoverishment of war, and the political and social evils that caused the period of reconstruction—recalling all the agony of impotent heroism, of unavailing prayers, of unfruitful sacrifice, [365] of undeserved oppression, of political persecution, and of social outrage—still I declare—and know that I speak for you in declaring—: That we would not turn back the tide of time, and have expunged the record of that heroic fight for fireside and for freedom, not if all we have endured could be undone, not if all that was wasted could be restored, not even could our dead be given back to us and all be as it were in the olden times.

We have long ago accepted the new destiny, as loyally as we battled to avert it. We are pledged without reserve to the duties of the present, and out of the wrecks of our ancient fortunes and systems we have builded a new industrial and political South. We have confronted rude fortune with a courage no less than that the Confederate soldier displayed upon the field. There is no stain upon the faith we plighted when the hard tutelage of reconstruction was ended and we renewed allegiance to the United States Government. Our representatives are in Congress, striving with fidelity to legislate for the good of the whole country. Once and again in recent years our sons have answered the drum beat of the Union and rallied to the flag which Washington made illustrious at Yorktown, and Scott at Lundy's Lane, and Davis at Buena Vista, and Lee at Chapultepec. And but now, in supremest evidence that we hold the new bond of union to be one of fellowship, Virginia has tendered, for a place in the capital at Washington, a statue of her best beloved son, the flower of Southern chivalry, the lion of the ConfederacyRobert Lee.

Ah, little they knew us who deem that we would offer up his noble effigy as the pledge of a half-hearted allegiance! And as little those who think that we would have him there on subtle legal plea—or on reluctantant sufferance—or on any other terms than those of grateful welcome to the American Hall of Fame to the great captain and Christian gentleman whose name is the synonym of genius, valor and virtue throughout the wide, wide world.

But, notwithstanding the truth of all that I have said; nay, rather because of its truth—for, were we recreated to our past, of little worth would be our plighted faith for the time that is and is to be—just as true it is that, still, our souls are haunted, as the faithful shell by the murmur of its mother sea, by the proud and tender recollections of the days that were and are not. To have borne a part in them—no matter how humble, if faithful—is to us a badge of honor such as no earthly prince or potentate could confer. [366]

And anchored in our souls, along with the creeds which entitle us to hope for Heaven, and to meet our loved ones there, is the faith that history will mete out justice to the Confederate soldier and his cause, and will reverse that verdict which, in the face of righteous plea and earthly precedent has yielded to the influence of ‘the heaviest battalions.’

To ensure and hasten such a verdict, is the holy and patriotic task over which you, my comrades of Lee Camp, have labored so wisely and so well.

By preserving in yonder gallery the forms and faces, and in your archives a record of the deeds and characters of men both great and good, you have entered a perpetual and cogent appeal against that adverse judgment of their cause which rests solely upon our arbitrament of the sword.

Such men are not of the spawn that foul and designing treason breeds. Not of such stuff are traitors made. Not from the thistle do we gather grapes, nor thorns from fig-trees.

And you are handing down to future generations, in the most vivid and appealing form, the incitement to revere and to emulate the heroic virtues and the strong, pure lives, which speak from the grave with testimony strong as the tongues of angels. Thus shall your reward be two-fold; not alone in vindication of our past, but in perpetuation to our children's children of a legacy of magnificent example. A statue of the ancient days bore this inscription: ‘Not to Aristides but to the Aristides, the Just.’ So we make idols, not of our leaders but of their genius, and without such idols a people is also without ideals. Without ideals no people can survive above the level of the beasts that perish. A race, a nation, a civilization, may be fairly judged, and its destiny fairly predicted, by the moral dimensions of its ideals and the veneration it accords them.

Look there, and there, and there. My countrymen! And how shall we despair in the time that is, or that which is to come, of the land we love.

And now, comrades of Lee Camp, it is my privilege to tender to your pious custody, the counterfeit presentment of a real presence well worthy to join yonder goodly company of patriotic warriors.

He was a man in whose character and career the highest attributes of true manhood were illustrated. As a soldier, he was brave as the bravest, loyal to the core, faithful to the end. [367]

A Virginian, he loved his State with all the force of an ardent and earnest nature. He came of Swedish stock — a sturdy, martial breed of Norseman which has preserved its national identity against Moslem, Muscovite and Gaul, through centuries of bloody battle.

When war came, he did not belie his lineage, but responded to the first call of the State upon her sons, in full conviction of her sovereign claim upon him and of the justice of her cause.

He was a graduate of that school at Lexington which a Federal general styled ‘The Military Nursery of the South,’ and he had served as captain of volunteers in Taylor's column in Mexico.

He entered the Confederate service as Colonel of the Seventh Virginia Infantry, but early in 1862 was given command of the brigade formerly A. P. Hill's, and was commended for gallantry and efficiency at Seven Pines, in the seven days campaign around Richmond, at Second Manassas, at Sharpsburg. In 1863 his brigade was assigned to the division of Pickett, and was in the front line of the memorable assault at Gettysburg. Leading his men against the belching batteries on Cemetery Hill, he shared the glory of that brilliant charge with Armistead, Garnett and Hunton. Felled by a shot on the crest of that wave of heroism which has been called ‘The High Tide of the Confederacy,’ his life was long despaired of, and he was never able to take the field again.

His career subsequent to the war was honorable and useful. His positive character and robust intellect earned speedy recognition of his capacity for leadership in the civic arena.

In the consolidation of the conservative political and social elements, which became essential to the safety of the State as a result of negro suffrage and other revolutionary features of reconstruction, he became prominently before the public as a man of firm convictions, inflexible purpose, strong in debate and wise in council. Nor was it long ere Virginia honored him with a position of trust commensurate with his talents and deserts. He entered the Governor's office in 1894 and administered its duties with a fidelity and ability which sustained the best traditions of the Commonwealth and earned for him the respect of every class of his constituents.

Thereafter he never left the shades of private life. He survived to see his beloved State well started on a new era of prosperity and happiness, and he died in 1895 leaving a name as free from stain as the skies that bend in Indian Summer above his native mountains.

Such, in pregnant brevity, is the life record of the gallant officer, [368] honest gentleman, patriotic citizen, whose memory we are here tonight to honor and perpetuate.

His epitaph might be written as of one ‘Who never shirked a duty, evaded an obligation, paltried with the truth, quailed before a danger, nor betrayed a trust.’

Commander, through you, I now give to the guardianship of Lee Camp the portrait of General James L. Kemper.

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