previous next


We cannot permit the race of croakers to pass away without a parting benediction.

Among the darkest shadows are those which people conjure up from their own hypochondriacal spirits. Your genuine croaker is not as comfortable as he was before the war began. This is not the world he took it for. It is not a world of mutton chops, English ale and six per cents. It is not a world in which a man can live till he is ready to die, and say to his soul: "Eat, drink and be merry." The preachers had told him so till it became a bore, and now he considers himself swindled. He is, therefore, not prepared to take a very hopeful view of public affairs.

Mr. Snooks, for example, though he has never been below to inspect the ballast, is of opinion that the Confederate ship carries too much sail and careens awfully. He is always rode by Yankee Doodle — now in the shape of a gunboat; now in the shape of a raider's horse, a very pretty kind of nightmare to a gentleman of weak nerves; and now of a halter. He proposes to consider himself enslaved to the Yankees — destined to become the personal property of a lank man, attached to a long nose, and to hoe his corn or drive his chariot, whilst Mrs. Snooks does the cooking in the kitchen. The ears of Snooks are always pricked up to hear if any Confederate town or garrison has fallen, in which case he indulges himself in an entertainment of profound despair. A perfect luxury of woe was the fall of New Orleans, only surpassed by that of Vicksburg. Then the falling back of Lee from Gettysburg, of Johnston to Atlanta — never was anything so gloriously melancholy. Snooks thinks of commemorating these performances by falling back himself from a third-story window, leaving forever a land where the coffee is of rye, and the tea is the only thing that does not smell of gun-powder. "Isn't there something," he exclaims, in the bitterness of his soul, "that will never fall?" Rejoice, oh disconsolate mortal, there is. Beef and bacon, bread and clothing, rent and servants' hire, fuel and whiskey, will never fall--"not till the last arm'd foe expires"--but rise victorious over all the ills of human life. Snooks begins to inquire about Mexico, what advantages it offers to a man of moderate enterprise, and whether Maximilian would be likely to interfere with his liberty of person, or the Roman Catholic Church with his freedom of conscience. For the present, however, he concludes to retire to the country, one of whose eligible rural seats he finds in the illuminated columns of an auctioneer's advertisement: commodious mansion, productive grounds, orchards of apple and peach, never-failing springs, oak groves, salubrious atmosphere, and a refined and intelligent neighborhood. Ah! here is a Paradise. The terms moderate! "What a fool the owner is to sell out! Going into the army, I suppose." Well, here Mr. Snooks will retire from war's alarms, dusty streets and muddy hydrant water. No high prices, no city taxes, no McClellan and Grant deepening the blue of the horizon and shelling you like an oyster. There Snooks will cut his own wood, and raise his own bacon. A green oasis in the desert; and the proprietor greener still to part for a small sum with such an Eden. Alas, for the vanity of human expectations. Snooks has scarcely begun to enjoy his new possessions, and is, perhaps, some calm, moonlight night, sitting on his porch and contemplating the beauties of nature, pitying, from the bottom of his soul, the poor, crowded denizens of cities, when a neighbor dashes up on horseback. "The Yankees are coming!" Before he has recovered from the incredible and stunning intelligence, a crowd of blue-coats, mounted on flying chargers, rush up his lawn, trample down his wife's flowers; ask him if he has not got a Government contract, and do not believe him when he says no; inquire if he voted for secession, and does not he wish he had not. Men of all nations abuse him in the language of their various countries, and prove the universal brotherhood of the race by uniting to steal everything they can lay hands on. Irishmen break his crockery, Germans curse him for dissolving the glorious Union, colonels of cavalry take his watch, Chinese catch his Shanghais, Dutchmen eat his cabbage, negroes damn his eyes, and members of Young Men's Christian Associations steal his family Bible. Sidney Smith, on seeing a lump of American ice, said he was glad to see anything in America solvent. If he had lived to witness a Yankee raid, he would have beheld a universal solvent, dissolving not only the ligaments of the Union, but all earthly ties, loosening a man's hold upon all sublunary things, making him realize, as he never did before, that riches take to themselves wings and fly away, and wishing that he had wings himself and could fly to some distant star, no matter what, so it do not belong to the American Constellation, and admits no one to it who wears a blue coat, steals horses, and talks through his nose. Such a visitation, of course, does not improve the spirits of a habitual croaker. Mr. Snooks is not exactly in the habit of singing comic songs. A deep bass is his forte. He could contract to supply a hundred Dismal Swamps with any amount of croaking. "Hark from the tombs a solemn sound" is his eternal ditty. He seems to claim a charter of immortality, with which this war has interfered. He does not realize that, war or no war, he would have ceased, in the course of time, to cast a shadow on the sun; that all that was mortal of Snooks must some day sink beneath the sod, and flowers bloom and children play about his grave. Or, if you press him hard, he admits that he must die, but prefers a good comfortable bed, gasping away his last breath in a quiet and civilized manner. It is idle to suggest that perhaps a Higher Power knows better what is good for Snooks than Snooks himself; and that, if he submit cheerfully and trustingly to his condition, he may extract from it some great good which it was intended to impart. He only sees in it the opportunity to grumble and to growl, and to go flitting about, like a human bat or owl, and to look with complacency upon everything on the right side of nature except the inevitable African, whom he regards as the cause of all his tribulation; and therefore, though as black as his own spirit, feels an unspeakable antipathy to his presence. He wishes there never had been a nigger (forgetful of all the good dinners they have cooked him), and that they were all back where they came from, stealing and eating each other. Even his congratulations after a victory sound like the dissonant braying of an ass amid the brilliant and harmonious gloria of drums and trumpets.--Coffee and hot rolls at breakfast, and roast beef and plum-pudding at dinner, are worth all the unsubstantial honors that ever excited the human brain. Can you feed on honor? quoth he. Can you drink it? Can you wear it? Can you resolve it into bacon and cabbage? Will it pay your house rent or servant's hire? Free Constitutions! Are they anything to the human constitution? Is the fairest structure of government anything to the structure of the human frame? Die for your country? And did your country ever die for you? What claims has my country on me because I was born here? Had I anything to do with being born here or being born at all? On the contrary, does not the country owe me a living instead of a dying? If people are to be killed because they are born here, who would be willing to be born in the Southern Confederacy? Die for my country! What did my country ever do for me, except tax me and govern me, whilst I have had to scuffle all my life to live at all. What is she going to give me for dying for her? A grave, which she would have to give me anyhow; or her tears, which every man is weeping for his own dead; or her laurels, which belong to generals and other commissioned officers. What good would it do me even if a paragraph should appear in the villainous newspapers saying: "Another martyr to Liberty.!--The worthy citizen, Snooks, second-class militia, has fallen in defence of his country. His disconsolate widow has reopened the grocery establishment formerly carried on in this city by her enterprising and lamented husband."--The worthy citizen, Snooks, can no longer hear all that, and even if he could, would wish he had not. What is my country? A mere collection of men, women and children, who do not know of my existence, and, even if they did, would only regard me as one more leaf fallen from the forest. His idea of country is certainly not that which a patriotic Scotchman defines as "an ardent zeal for the welfare of human beings; a proud, imaginative attachment to the majestic land of which he is a son; that land, the Greek and Roman would have said, where the boy had sung in the pomp that led the sacrifice to the altar of the ancient deities of the soil," or of which the Lacedaemonian poet animated his countrymen in unsuccessful war by singing: "He who fights well among the foremost, if he fall, shall be sung among his people; or, if he live, shall be in reverence in their council, and old men shall give place to him; his tomb shall be in honor and the children of his children"; nor that of which the Southron might say: The land which claimed a Washington as its father, and which has always led the way in resistance to tyranny, whether of Cromwell, George III., or Lincoln; whose ancestry ever preferred death to degradation; whose domestic virtues have been as stainless as her soldier's swords, and more beautiful and fragrant than the vine and fig tree which threw over them their protecting shade; whose altars have been crimsoned with more precious sacrifices than ever bled in heathen temples; and whose sons have sprung forth in this war, a constellation of heroes, gilding the blackest clouds with immortal light, whilst, glowing at the heads of the majestic constellation, the fame of Lee fills the earth with its radiance, and the memory of Jackson shines with reflected glory from every patriot heart. Try to admit, oh Snooks, that a land which has produced such a galaxy is worthy of thy farthing candle, and that even if it be snuffed out by a bombshell extinguisher, it is better than to die in its own grease, and disgust all honest noses with its pestilential smell.

We have given a picture of Snooks before the peace commissioners at Fortress Monroe. We are happy to learn that the prescriptions of the Federal physicians on that occasion have had the happiest effect on his heart and liver. He has provided himself with weapons of war, and determined that if his goods and chattels are, in reality, to be confiscated, and his neck to be untimeously broken, he will know the reason why.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (1)
China (China) (1)
Atlanta (Georgia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Snooks (16)
R. E. Lee (2)
Sidney Smith (1)
McClellan (1)
Maximilian (1)
Lincoln (1)
Johnston (1)
Jackson (1)
Grant (1)
Yankee Doodle (1)
Cromwell (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: