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“A banner with a strange Device”

Our obligations to the Anarchy of South Carolina are too enormous to be expressed. Bolted she has; quite a large amount of our personal property has she taken with her, but she has left our dear old bird. She has spoiled the gridiron, but she has spared the goose. We have him still, beak, talons and feathers! For us, dis-United States though we may be, he will continue to soar and scream and spread his wings. From our banner a star or two may madly shoot, and a stripe or so may fade; but we keep our bird — creature called by our name — our pet fowl, so admired and respected in the principal Courts of Europe. He [122] has not nullified. Without him we had been bankrupt in our blazonry hard up in our heraldry a colorless, flagless, standardless, buntingless, pennonless people. With him we may indulge in dreams of future glory to some extent gratifying. Let us indulge!

The Southern Confederacy it would seem, is sick of ornithological devices. In cropping the eagle, it crops the whole feathered race. There were birds to be had for the catching — buzzards, vultures, condor, adjutants, flamingoes parrots, daws — but it will have nothing to do with them. In its present melancholy condition of political chlorosis it has a stomach only for snakes. At Montgomery the other day, after the Convention had concluded its pleasing labors of disintegration, the lovely ladies presented a banner to the delegates, whereupon was embroidered, probably by their own delicate digits a huge rattle-snake, so done to the life, that by the mere force of the imagination, he was distinctly heard to rattle. “In hoc signo vinces, Mr. President!” said the ladies, or rather they would have said so, if they had understood Latin. “To be sure!” the President responded. The whole scene must have been a pretty one.

Snakes and ladies! The conjunction may not appear to the fastidious a particularly felicitous one. There is an old, a very old story of a snake and a lady, and of a short but important conversation between them respecting the edibility of a certain apply, in the course of which the slimy creature observed: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as [123] gods, knowing good and evil.” We have all read of what happened after the fatal bite. We all understand what that little pippin has cost us. Adam seceded, under a strong pressure, from the garden, and none of his descendants have been so fortunate as to return to its enchanting scenes. The snake has not, it appears, in spite of all his bruises, amended his old habit of oily lying. He whispers still to the ambitious and the discontented and the restless: “Bite and be brave! Bite and be presidents, generals, dukes or kings! Bite and be happy! Bite and be as gods!”

Under the combined influence of ambition and whiskey, the Confederated Adams are yielding to the blandishments of the serpent. In the wreck of social happiness, in the destruction of a free government, in the chaotic dissolution of all political institutions, in the shame and sorrow and alarm of intestine broils, in the rule of madness, under the heavy hands of irresponsible dictators, or tossed about at the caprice of insurgent mobs, the amateur revolutionists of the South may find that bitter in the belly which was so sweet in the mouth, and may learn that it is easier to rouse than to quiet the father of lies. Have they forgotten that other text: “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life?” Whatever may be the temptation of cotton, it is hardly probable that foreign nations will fall violently in love with the rattle-snake. They will fear to meet him in every bale; they will find him printed on every shirt; and [124] they will rank the flag upon which he is painted with the black banner of pirates or the threatening devices of Asiatic barbarians.

Let the Southern Confederates, then, revise their blazon! They have a large variety from which to select — lions, leopards, pelicans, unicorns, bears, griffins, dragons — the whole menagerie of heraldry. Why will they endeavor to introduce such a disagreeable creature as the rattle-snake into the society of Christian nations? If they must have one on their flag, the King of Dahomey is the foreign potentate for their diplomacy.

January 31, 1861.

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