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Doc. 59.-speech of Howell Cobb. Delivered at Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 28, 1864.

When I look back, my friends, to the last few months, I confess that the present moment is one corresponding with that bright sun that has blessed us in the past few days with his benignant [342] rays; I feel energy anew arising up in my heart, and a new inspiration appealing to the manhood of every citizen of our Confederacy, stimulating him to renewed efforts in the great cause in which we are engaged. When I look to your army, I find that its ranks are being filled up day by day, and the roll of honor increasing with every morning and evening's sun. The spirit of these brave men is unbroken. Would that our people throughout the land could gather the inspiration as it rises around the camp-fires of our army. Despair would cease among them, and despondency give way before a bright and promising sun.

My friends, I come to-night to address myself to Georgians. Deeply as every portion of our people are interested in the present condition of the country, to none does it come with more and deeper interest than to the people of Georgia. I am a Georgian, proud of my native State. I was born upon her soil, nurtured in her bosom, educated in her faith. All that I am, all that I hope ever to be, I owe to her. Beneath her soil sleep the bones of my fathers and those of my own off-spring, and, sooner or later, I must lie down by their side. I love this old commonwealth. The affections of my heart gather around this old State. I love her mountains and her valleys; I love her history in the past and in the present, and I hope I shall love it in the future; but, thank God, I have a heart big enough to love every inch of soil over which floats the proud banner of our Southern Confederacy.

To you, then, my brethren of Georgia, I come to-night to make an appeal. Your soil is invaded, your homes are threatened. Do you wish to know what it is to have a Yankee army encamped in the heart of your State? Do you wish to realize the desolation which would follow the track of a merciless and cruel enemy? If so, go to Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and let their burned villages, their desolate homes, their property of every kind destroyed, teach you the lesson. Do you hope to fare better than your brethren of those States? Is there burning in your hearts a whining spirit of Unionism, by which you hope to commend yourselves to the tender mercies of this heartless foe? I tell you to-night that the few poor, miserable persons-dishonored in name and reputation — who have sought in this way to save themselves from the effects of Yankee rapacity, have been everywhere treated with the same cruelty and outrage that have been visited upon the true and loyal men. I do thank God that they have been treated in this way, and if there be any such traitors to our cause within the borders of my native State, I pray heaven that they may be treated in like manner.

No, my friends, ours is a common fate and a common destiny, and I thank God that it is so. We must all be free, or all be slaves. We must all live or all perish. If you read the history of the outrages which the Yankees perpetrated in Virginia and Tennessee, you will see that it must be so. Do you love your property? It has been destroyed and trampled under foot. Do you love your dwellings? They have been reduced to ashes. Do you love your wives and daughters? They have been dishonored and outraged wherever this infamous invader has planted his foul footsteps upon Southern soil. If there be the hearts of men beating in your bosoms, I appeal to you, by the discharge of your duty in this hour of your trial, see to it that this desolation — this dishonor — comes not upon you and your household.

Is there a man within the hearing of my voice, whether Georgian or not, who does not feel that it is his duty, the duty of his neighbor, and the duty of every man within the limits of the Confederacy, to go forward as his country calls for and demands his services in the field? You ask me, shall the other great interests of the country be abandoned? I say, No. Your agricultural, mechanical, and other interests should be attended to and preserved, and neither your President, your Congress or your generals, nor any portion of your country, demand any such sacrifice at your hands. When men talk about calling every body into the field, and abandoning all other interests of the country, they talk wildly, and raise a phantom that they may fight it. You ask me what number of men our country needs at this time? I cannot tell you. I am not possessed of the information to give you an answer upon which you may act.

I have told you who cannot answer this question. There is one other class — high, honorable, worthy of your respect and confidence — equally unable to answer this question. They are the men who are called upon to sit in habeas corpus courts. The man whose patriotism has sunk so low as to want a habeas corpus court to decide whether he is to go into the army or not, does not deserve the liberty which is won by the strong arms of others.

My Friends, do you remember about two years and a half ago, when the summons came pealing in your ears that your country was invaded, and calling upon her sons to go in her defence? What was the response? You saw, then, your noble brethren gathering around the flag of their country — brave and true men — old and young — beardless boys and gray-headed fathers. In those days briefless lawyers sat quietly in their offices, and honest judges were never summoned to try cases before habeas corpus courts. There was no hunting down judges of superior courts to get them to decide whether brave men should go in defence of their country, or let the infamous invader run wildly over it. Those brave boys were the first who left for the defence of their country; and where are they now? My countrymen, many of them sleep in their graves, many are in hospitals, many go about the country on crutches, and many are gathered to-night around the camp-fires — all true, generous, noble souls — who have labored from that hour to the present, and are yet willing to labor in driving back the invader. Why are judges now holding their courts out of season? It is to try the habeas [343] corpus case of a man the liberty of whose country has been trampled upon — whose rights have been disregarded — a hale, healthy, hearty man, who is able to go to the field, but never has been, and asks the judge to sit at chambers to free him from the service which he owes his country. I believe my brethren of the bar have what they call a black letter book, and I tell you all the authorities upon it are cited.

Who, then, I say, shall decide the question? You cannot. I cannot, but the Constitution of your country has declared who shall decide it — in whose hands such power and such discretion shall be intrusted. I care not whether you are the friend or the enemy of your President. I care not whether you are in the list of his devoted friends or among those who have raised up a standard of opposition to him. I come not here to-night to eulogize or praise, but to speak of our duty. We have a President selected by our own unanimous voice, chosen for the discharge of high and responsible duties. Into his hands we have committed this power. That he may have sometimes erred none will deny. His worst enemy will not say that he has been false to his trust. Upon him the Constitution and laws of your country have devolved the responsibility of saying who shall and who shall not be called into the field. No other tribunal can decide that question. We must leave this power to him, of all must be lost. I ask you to-night as patriots, as men who love your country and are desirous of preserving your liberties, when your President summons you to the field, will you respond to the call? Georgians, will you go? Will you falter? Shall it be written of you in the future history of your country, that when the enemy was upon one border of your country, and the other threatened by that enemy; when your soil was the theatre of this war; your homes, your families and fire-sides involved in the issue, you remained quiet at home, and trusted your defence in the hands of those brave men of other States, who are this night in the faithful discharge of their duty? It cannot, it must not be. Better meet the enemy at the door-sill than wait for him at the hearth-stone. Better stand by the side of those brave men in the front, than meet the desolation that will come upon you after their shattered ranks shall have been driven back. I trust that you will, and that we shall have no more of that complaining spirit which has led some to shun the service which they owed to their country.

My friends, not only must we go forward to the field in the discharge of this duty, but there are other duties to be performed by those who will not be called to the field. Our planters and our farmers have their duty to perform, and this is one of deep responsibility. These brave men must be fed. I apprehend there is not a man, woman, or child within the hearing of my voice who does not respond with all his heart when I declare, again, this army must be fed. These brave men have enough to endure, enough to suffer, without the sufferings of hunger. The planters and the farmers of the country, and I apprehend I have the pleasure, to-night, of addressing many of them, must come up to the work. Your country calls upon you to make sacrifices. I shall not attempt to mince words to you; I say sacrifices; and your duty required you to make them. You tell me that the government should have your produce; all you ask is just compensation. How much better are you than the enemy? If the enemy could furnish us with corn and meat, they would do so for a just compensation. You demand, again, just compensation for your produce. Have you ever asked yourselves what would be a just compensation to that soldier who has lost an arm or leg, or who, a few months ago, was strong and hearty, but now with tottering steps goes through our streets, soon to be a victim for the grave?

Tell me, my fellow-planter, what would be a just compensation to him? Where is the treasury to pay him for his loss? Who is to give just compensation to his widowed wife and orphaned children? Talk not, my friends, of just compensation. Let us hear no more of this from farmers going to county meetings and setting down the last dollar which they can put upon the price of their produce. For whom does your government demand this produce — for whom does it ask it? For your sons — those brave soldiers that cheerfully went forth at the first call of your country. Do you love your corn, your bacon, and your wheat more than you love the children of your own loins? You sent them to encounter dangers and death upon the battle-field. They, with their comrades, stand as sentinels to-night to guard and defend you and your property, and they ask of you provisions to feed them. Do you pause to count up the cost and ascertain how much profit you can make before you will sell them? If your government can pay you just compensation, have confidence to believe that it will be done. Suppose it cannot pay but one half, or one fourth of what your provisions are worth in the market, I appeal to you as men, as patriots, as men in whose hearts beat the warm instincts of humanity, will you hug your corn and your meat to your bosom, while your soldiers are hungering in the field?

Had you rather sell your provisions a half-dollar higher in the bushel or pound, or had you not rather give it to them than that it should be written in history that while your granaries and your meat-houses were full, your brave defenders could not keep off the enemy because they could not be fed? You must come up to your duty. I appeal to you as men loving your country and your kindred. Complain not if the strong arm of the law shall put its clutches upon your property, if you refuse to do at this hour what duty demands at your hands. I know not what others may do; I speak only for myself; but, as God is my judge, so long as my country intrusts me with the command of any portion of these brave men, they shall not starve, if there be provisions in the country and I can get them, law or no law. I tell you, my friends, you may denounce [344] me as revolutionary; I may outrage the sensibilities of some who love their property dearly; but liberty is dearer to me than property, and the brave men who defend that liberty are dearer to me than the men who withhold the provisions from them. They may denounce me for this sentiment, as I denounce them for their conduct; the result is, that we will entertain for each other mutual disgust.

I do not pretend to deny that many officers of the government have done wrong, and committed outrages. I do not justify them; but it is better to endure some of these wrongs and bear these outrages than to lose liberty and all. What is that property of yours worth if the enemy gets possession of your country? What are your rights in the hands and under the control of the minions of Lincoln? You must choose between our own people and our own government, and the people and the government of your enemy. There is no middle ground. One or the other must have your provisions. One or the other must be supplied from your granaries. These brave soldier boys of our own kith and kindred must either feed upon your meat and bread, or the Yankees must feed upon them, and I tell you frankly if you refuse to let the government have your provisions, and you could be separated in one portion of the land by yourselves, I would not care how soon the Yankees got possession of both them and you.

There is but one class of men in our community meaner than the speculator and extortioner, and that is the man who is unwilling to let his produce go for the support of our brave soldiers in the field. What better are you than speculators and extortioners, who cling to your provisions with a starving army upon your border? What is the speculator and extortioner but the man who loves gold and property more than life and liberty? Is not that your case? And do you think that you satisfy the demands of your country and of your own conscience, because you agree with others in this denunciation of Yankees? If there is any man in this wide world who hates the Yankee race worse than I do, I am sorry for him, because he must have devoted his whole heart to the work; but I tell you, and the history of this war will bear me out in the assertion, that many true-hearted Southern men were born at the North, and some of the vilest Yankees that ever disgraced this earth were born at the South.

There is another duty which we are called upon to perform. Not only must these bravo men be clothed and fed and supported in the field, but their families must be provided for and taken care of at home. When I see a soldier's wife, whose little ones are dependent upon her labor for support, go into one of the stores of Atlanta, and she is asked to pay from ten to twenty dollars per bushel for meal, and corresponding prices for other articles necessary for the support and comfort of that family, I am compelled in my heart to say there is some great wrong somewhere. I know if you go to the merchant he will tell you he has to pay so large a price that he cannot afford to sell for less. Go to the man he bought it from, and the same story is told, and so on. It is not for me to decide who is to blame. I know not at whose door the fault lies, but it must rest somewhere; the responsibility must rest upon the conscience of some man that can be reached. I confess frankly to you, that with all my confidence in our cause, with all my devotion to it, my heart sinks within me when these scenes are passing before me view. I ask myself the question: Can a kind Providence, a God of mercy and justice, bless a people among whom these wrongs are perpetrated; these outrages practised?

I know, my friends, that our people have done well by the soldiers' families; I know that in many counties ample provisions have been made for their support, but in others only a small yearly pittance has been provided, which will scarcely pay the expense of going to market and obtaining a week's supply for the family. See to it that no soldier's wife or child shall suffer and you be responsible for it. To those who have much or have accumulated much, to them I appeal — to their liberality, their generosity — to their sense of justice. Let it be written of us as it was written of others in the olden time: “He that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that had gathered little had no lack.” Let this be the rule of your conduct.

You ask me, then, what of the condition of my country? My friends, I say it all depends upon yourselves. I have never, in so short a space of time, thought so much of the condition of the country in reference to the dangers by which we are surrounded and the duties we are called upon to perform. You ask me now in reference to the dangers. Tell me first, are you doing any thing in reference to the discharge of your duty? Has your spirit been aroused and excited by those dangers? Are you prepared to give your life, if need be, to your country, and go to the field, if required? Are you prepared to furnish from your granaries the provisions necessary to feed our armies? Answer me these questions and then I can tell you what of the night. If you answer me that you are ready to discharge these duties, then I can answer that all is well.

It is the answer of our brave soldiers in the field. There is with them no spirit of despondency. They are unbroken in spirits; firm, true, and steadfast to the cause in which they are engaged. They stand there as a band of brothers, fearless and defiant of danger. Tell me of the thousands and thousands that the enemy have concentrated for the spring campaign. I tell you that all Yankeedom, assisted by abolition sympathizers throughout the civilized world, cannot conquer and subjugate the south if you are true to yourselves and your country.

Therefore, choose you this night! Your fate is in your own hands. Are you looking forward with a hope which has no residing place in your conviction, and is only flitting through your mind, that, perhaps, after all, some foreign interference [345] will come to our rescue to save and preserve us from the enemy? Banish it from your minds; it is a wild and visionary dream; it is a false delusion. The sympathy of the world is against you. If you are cowards, you will falter and faint when the fact is announced to you; if you are brave men, it will arouse in your hearts the spirit of true manhood, which you have inherited from your revolutionary fathers and mothers, and make you truer than ever to your country and her cause.

Do you look forward with some hope to what has been termed the conservative element of the North, and expect to be preserved and protected by it from Lincoln's power and dominion? Banish the fatal delusion. Conservatism at the North lies prostrate in the dust. In their mad efforts to take away our liberties, they have lost their own. They are as powerless to aid you as they are to protect themselves. You must either submit to Lincoln and abolitionism, or, by your own unaided arm, with the blessing of a kind Providence, win your liberty and your independence. Think not that there is a power at the North to restore to you the Constitution and the Union as they were, even if you were prepared to accept it. You must either be freemen or you must submit to Lincoln, and he has given you his terms.

I put the picture before you. Do you stagger before it, or does it arouse within you anew the spirit of resistance, the spirit of freemen, worthy of the ancestry from which we sprung? Look at these things; consider well of them, and let us, with hearts purged and purified with afflictions, appeal to Him who alone can give victory and success to our arms.

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