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Hampton and Reconstruction.

By Edward L. Wells,
Author of Hampton and his Cavalry in 1864, Columbia, S. C., 1907.
The value of this faithful presentation of a period so full of menace to all, held dear in the South, has been attested in numerous commendatory notices.

Those who suffered and endured, during this darkest era of wanton oppression, and who resisted-all-encompassed with circumstances in every way depressing — with a patriotism not to be overwhelmed, respond in every fibre to the stirring depiction. Mr. Wells served with Hampton in his famous Legion, and his previous work is the authority on the resplendant military career of the great Carolinian. As to the scope and purpose of his work the author justly says in his preface:

This sketch is part of the biography of a people, the American people, at a most important period of its life.

The past is the parent of the present and of the future of a people's life, as it is with every man's life.

Hereditary inclinations, good and evil, influence a people's career, just as they influence that of an individual, and they should be equally subject to the guidance and restraint that experience imposes through conscience. Although this is an account of events happening many years ago, yet the causes producing them, at present in the background, are as full of vitality now as then—they are sleeping lions. Where treasure is, near at hand will always be lurking thieves.

Because you may be sailing on summer seas, free of care and with no thought of tempests, you do not doubt that the ocean, now so harmless looking, will some time or other be lashed into angry waves mountain-high, by blasts at present slumbering in the caves of the winds.

So will the demon of storm reappear from time to time in your political summer seas.

You cannot prevent this by ignoring it, but you can save [184] yourself from ship-wreck by profiting by the experience of others. The miseries of Reconstruction were rendered possible only by the subversion of representative government, “the consent of the governed,” without which all government is simply despotism, however disguised. This thing can never again take place at the South under the same pretext—the negro—for that humbug has been exploded by the unanswerable logic of the reductio ad absurdum. But wily, unscrupulous politicians, hungering for plunder, will sooner or later manufacture other pretexts to “fool the people.” Next time the North or West may become the scene of such planned wholesale burglary. When that time comes the afflicted section will sorely need a political heir of the qualities of Hampton, and also sorely stand in need of the experience taught to the Southern people by their affliction.

It is often said that the history of an epoch is best written by some one living after it, or at least outside of its noise, bustle, stir and confusion, but this is not always true. A little reflection will convince any one of its error. The keen interest that animates an absence of contemporary events stamps on his mind exact impressions of facts, and these impressions are durable as brass. If he be fairly intelligent and educated, and becomes an earnest, conscientious, life-long student of the subjects involved, with the facts grown on his mind, he is liable to arrive at approximately correct conclusions.

In narrating so important a story it was necessary to sketch briefly the youth and early manhood of Wade Hampton to give an idea of the heroic mould of the man. His brilliant record in the War between the Sections, made evident the grand exemplification that dominated and redeemed the State of South Carolina in its most desperate hour. ‘It will be made clear,’ the preface concludes, ‘how the State's reconstruction from the grave was brought about by Wade Hampton, and that in the pacification of the entire country, in the restoration of fraternal feeling, no man's handiwork was so widely beneficent as his; that he was in the truest, most patriotic, most exalted and most all-embracing sense of the term, a Union man.’

The book is a handsome 8vo. of 238 pages, prefixed with a portrait of General Hampton as he appeared in 1876.

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