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Governor of North Carolina.

On the 7th of July, 1861, John W. Ellis, Governor of North Carolina, died at the Red Sulphur Springs in what is now West Virginia, of consumption of the lungs. He had been in delicate health for several months previously, and had gone to that resort but a few days before his death, hoping to obtain relief, but his overwhelming duties had undermined his feeble frame. He lived to see the victory at Bethel, in June, 1861, won principally by troops organized and equipped by his untiring efforts. His death was hastened by the arduous labors and heavy responsibilities of his high office, and he died as much a martyr to the cause in which his warmest sympathies and most earnest work were enlisted, as any soldier who fell on the field of battle. Peace to his ashes! He was succeeded in office by Hon. Henry F. Clark, of Edgecombe county, who, as speaker of the State Senate, as it was then constituted, became Governor ex officio for the remainder of the term.

Time will not admit of further recitation of the events that followed the passage of the Ordinance of Secession. In what has been said I have endeavored to comply with the request of the Memorial Association to narrate briefly events that happened just previously and subsequently to that ordinance, chiefly those that occurred in North Carolina. But little attempt has been made to argue the question upon its merits, as it was believed that a simple [292] narration was all that was desired. But I pray you to hear for me a little while still, if I attempt some slight tribute to the Confederate soldier, a theme so near the hearts of us all, but to which no one is equal.

And first, in these days of centennial memories and observance, it may be profitable to study the men, their motives and deeds, of our first revolution, and to seek to learn, by comparison, wherein, if at all, we in our later revolution, differed from them in act, or departed from their teaching.

For what they believed to be good and sufficient cause, our forefathers of the Revolution resolved to sever their connection with the mother country, and to establish for themselves and their posterity a government of their own, free and independent, founded wholly on the consent of the governed. Right nobly did they carry out this resolve. Undismayed by the magnitude of their undertakings, they rose superior to hardships and trials, painfully overcame all obstacles, cheerfully faced all dangers and mastered all opposition, until, at last, they attained their end, and we have inherited the fruits of their labors. But, mark you, it has never been said, or thought, that those men intended, or wished, to injure or compass the destruction of the government from which they had separated. Such superlative nonsense was reserved for the wiseacres of to-day in their flippant denunciations of our acts and intentions, in separating ourselves from the government of the United States. It would be quite as correct and true to allege that our ancestors in the Declaration of Independence desired and intended the overthrow of the government of Great Britain, as that we, as is so often alleged, intended, or could have effected, if we could have so wished, the destruction of the United States government in withdrawing from it. In both cases it was only intended to establish a separate government, leaving the old one intact and undisturbed, to be enjoyed by all who remained under its provisioners. Much stress has been aid in this connection upon the well-known expression of Mr. Lincoln in his speech at Gettysburg: ‘A government of the people, by the people, for the people,’ so often and so gushingly quoted—the inference implied being the success of the Confederate cause would prove the downfall of the government. Most lame and impotent conclusion, for nothing can be more true than that was the very kind of government that the Confederates so earnestly strove to maintain, and to establish separately, for themselves. The expression, [293] by the by, was not original with Mr. Lincoln, but had been used by speakers and writers since 1794.

We should, as we do, render to those men of the olden time love and thanks. We recall their actions, cherish their memories, but above all it is most incumbent upon us to preserve intact their priceless legacy. We should ever bear in mind that this inestimable inheritance of selfgovernment is not wholly our own. It is not to be bartered away, or for any reason to be parted with. In it we have but a life estate, and hold it in trust for those who are to follow us, solemnly pledged to transmit it to them in no whit shorn of its fair proportions, but rather, if so it may be, with its blood-bought privileges enlarged and extended. But if the men of King's Mountain, of Eutaw, and of Yorktown, had toiled in vain, if their heroism had ended in disaster and crushing defeat, would it be right or necessary to villify them for the gallant struggle they made, or to withhold admiration for their brave efforts in behalf of what they believed to be their right? I trow not! No voice is raised in their condemnation, no one insinuates a doubt of the purity of their intentions. Why should it have been otherwise if the issue had been different? Now, if beliefs and actions of Southern people in our own times were similar to those of our ancestors of our first revolution, will it be any more than just to draw the same conclusions, and to render like judgment in the one case as in the other? What was right and meritorious in the Continental statesman and soldier cannot have been wrong and blameworthy in the Confederate. What was honorable and patriotic in Richard Caswell and Cornelius Harnett, in George Washington and Francis Nash, can hardly have been despicable and traitorous in Jefferson Davis or John W. Ellis, in Robert E. Lee, Charles F. Fisher, William Pender, L. O'B. Branch, or in the men who followed them.

It was sad indeed that disagreements politically between countrymen could not be adjusted without an appeal to the sword. Their divisions were political only and had their origin in what was honestly held to be right by both parties, and most conducive to the welfare of each. They were, says an eminent writer, ‘the expression of political principles concerning which parties and sections had long been divided, and which separated the best and wisest of our land long before their antagonism’ culminated in warfare.

Both parties in the late war between the States were equally honest in their belief of the right of their respective causes, and neither [294] should now question the sincerity of the other. They who fought with Jackson, or followed the feather of Stuart, and all who sympathized with them, must abide the arbitrament to which final appeal was made. To quote again the same distinguished writer-they are bound ‘to accept defeat and its legitimate consequences in as good faith as they would have accepted victory; they are bound to obey the laws, to fulfill to the letter every call of patriotic obligation.’ All these we have done, and will continue to do. But we are not bound to desecrate the memories of our dead, nor to submit without protest to misrepresentation. It is possible, of course, that we may have erred. Our acts may have been injudicious. We have no infallible oracle to decide such points. They are fair matters of opinion and argument upon which, in the future, history, impartially written, will inevitably pass judgment. With that tribunal we willingly rest our case; but we claim to stand before it without having the case prejudged—as a people, unfortunate if you please, but who, convinced of the integrity of our purposes, and acting according to our best lights, proved our faith by staking all on the issue. And to the same august judgment-seat, without fear as to its verdict, we appeal in behalf of him who was our President —whom we ourselves constituted our leader—Jefferson Davis, who but a short time ago went down in sorrow, still in honor, to the grave. The beauty and purity of his character; his steadfastness in discharges of duty; his lofty patriotism; the vigor of his well-rounded intellect; the virtue of his life; his kindly nature and the simplicity of his faith will yet be recognized by others as they are known to and honored by us.

There is inherent in our people a sense of right, a love of fairplay—dormant and overshadowed at times, perhaps, but which some day must impel the victors in the war between the States to do justice to the vanquished, and when that shall be frankly done it will bring about mutual confidence and perfect reconciliation.

Feelings of this kind, I venture to believe, even now animate many of our fellow countrymen, and, in the near future, will influence all intelligent and generous men in all this broad land—though their magnanimity will have to undergo the severer test of according full justice to a beaten instead of a victorious foe.

That I am not without warrant for such belief the following extract from a Northern paper, whose editor was an officer of the Federal Army, will in great measure prove. He says: [295]

As we get further and further removed from the blinding passions that clouded our judgment, and as the soothing hand of time quiets our wrath, engendered by a deadly conflict, there is one name that rises higher and brighter, not only at home but throughout Europe, as that of the greatest military leader of time, and that is the name of Robert E. Lee. Gathering up an army from a country that had no other resource than the brave hearts of its doomed people, poorly armed and worse equipped, to march without pay, sleep without shelter and fight without food, through the long years of that terrible conflict, he rode on from victory to victory over superior numbers, marking the boundary line of his country with death and disaster to the enemy, until his devoted army, wasted through sickness and fatigue, fell from sheer exhaustion.

A great struggle like that which ended at our Bentonville must some day be regarded in its true light by all men, no matter what their predilections for the contending parties, and not from the standpoint of passion and prejudice. A proper sense of self respect and a right estimate of the unanimous action of a whole people, must banish the opprobrious terms which it seems good to many to employ when speaking of the war between the States, and of those who took part in it. Men who fought to maintain the Union, without yielding in any degree their own convictions, or a natural pride in their success in upholding them, will in time freely accord to their opponents equal honesty and earnestness, and will recognize the absurdity of the vulgar cant about ‘rebels’ and ‘treason.’ Each party to the strife should willingly allow to the other what it claims for itself. No sentiment is more worthy of condemnation than that feeling of faction, that petty spirit of party, that wilfully excludes from view everything that is not within the direct range of its own narrow vision. In spite of the boasted liberalism of this land of popular education, intolerance is a marked defect in our national character; one that it is our duty to correct, to the end that prejudice may fade away and give place to that large-mindedness that going hand in hand with large-heartedness makes up the perfect man.

Resting in the rectitude of our past, honoring our dead, and fulfilling every present obligation, we are content to await the coming of that day of justice and reconciliation. And should some uncorighteous brother denounce us as ‘rebels’ and brand as ‘treason’ political belief and acts older than our government itself, we may [296] point to the tombs of the Revolutionary patriots, Francis Nash and Joseph Warren, of Edward Buncombe and William Davidson, who taught us ‘rebellion’—and died in teaching us—and make answer: ‘Every tree is known by his own fruit.’ The land that gave the ‘rebels’ George Washington and Patrick Henry, Richard Caswell and Jethro Sumner to lead and counsel the men whom we commemorate in centennial celebrations, gave also in these latter days Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Alexander Stephens and John C. Breckinridge, Leonidas Polk and Albert Sidney Johnston, worthy sons of noble sires.

A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Behold in these men the true exponents of the South and her cause, the outgrowth of her civilization! Does any land show their superiors? By them, our exemplars, let us be judged.

But why multiply words? Let the whole world contemn, still will we love and honor the voiceless dust that lies here-aye and all our patriot dead, it recks not where their bodies lie! Even had they in mistaken zeal done wrong, we would still revere their memories for their unselfish devotion and unrepining sacrifice.

Long years ago when the lowly Nazarene, who ‘spake as never man spake,’ was doing his work of mercy and love among the hills of Palestine—Himself, the incarnation of love—it is written that he said:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

That, Ladies of the Memorial Association—that, fellow citizens and soldiers—that, men and women of the South, is what alike the men of the Revolution and they who sleep in this consecrated ground did for you and for me. Shall we not cherish their love?

Their precious lives though vainly sped—
     Long as its share old Ocean laves,
We'll bow with reverence o'er our dead,
     And bless the turf that wraps their graves.

Ladies of the Memorial Association

This poor tribute to the deeds and memory of the Confederate dead, I have, at your honored bidding, laid upon their graves. Bear with me a moment longer while I add a word in behalf of the survivors [297] of our great conflict, our veterans—the ‘frail wrecks from that gory sea.’ Not in feeble language of my own—but in the touching lines of Frank Stanton, who makes such loving appeal for

The Confederate soldier.

Here he is in wreck of gray—
With the brazen belt of the C. S. A.
Men, do you know him? Far away
Where the battle blackened the face of day,
And the rapid rivers in crimson fled,
And God's white roses were wrecked in red,
His strength he gave and his blood he shed;
Followed fearless where Stonewall led,
Or galloped wild in the wake of Lee,
In the daring mad artillery.
Shelled the ranks of the enemy,
For the South that was and the South to be;
Or bore his musket with wounded hands,
O'er icy rivers and burning sands,
Levelled straight at the hostile bands,
That swept like death through the ravaged lands,
Men do you know him? Grim and gray,
He speaks to you from the far away.
There he stands on the prison sod,
A statue carved by the hand of God;
He bore his rags and his wounds for ye.
He bore the flag of the warring South
With red—scarred hands to the cannon's mouth—
By Heaven! I see as I did that day
The red wounds gleam throa the rags of gray.

Men of the South, your heroes stand
Statue-like in your new born land.
Will ye pass them by? Will your lips condemn?
The wounds on their brave breasts plead for them.
Shall the South that they gave their blood to save
Give them only a nameless grave?
Nay; for the men who faced the fray
Are her's in trust 'till the judgment day,
And God Himself in the sweet far land
Will ask their blood at their country's hand. [298]
Soldier—you in the wreck of gray,
With the brazen belt of the C. S. A.—
Take my love and my tears to-day,
Take them—all that I have to give;
But by God's grace while my heart shall live,
It still shall keep in its faithful way
The camp—fire lit for the men in gray.
Aye—'till the trump sounds far away,
And the silver bugles of Heaven play
And the roll is called at the Judgment-day.

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