Page images

Mississippi, once a beautiful expanse of happy homes; the black, mangled belt of territory that, commencing at Harper's Ferry, extends to Fortress Monroe, bound like a ghastly pall with the silver fringe of the Potomac; these are the hideous monuments of partial conquest which the Yankee has committed to the memory of the world and to the inscriptions of history. What has been safe in this war from the grasp of his plunder or the touch of his desecration? In the districts of the Confederacy where his soldiers have penetrated they have appropriated or destroyed private property; they have stolen even works of art and ornament; they have plundered churches ; they have desecrated the grave and despoiled the emblems which love has consecrated to honor. And all this has been done according to a peculiar theory of hostilities which makes of war a sensual selfishness, and contemplates its objects as a savage gain of blood and plunder. This is the true and characteristic conception of the Yankee. He is taught by his political education, by his long training in the crooked paths of thrift, that all the principles of civilized usage are to be set at nought, when convenience and present policy interfere with their fulfilment.

It is in this sense of narrow, materialistic expediency that the Yankee has surrendered his liberties in this war, and proclaimed the enormous doctrine, that the Constitution under which he lives, and all his other monuments of liberty, are suspended by the paramount necessity of conquering and despoiling the South. He has carried his commercial politics into the war, and trades his own liberties for the material rewards of an otherwise vain and fruitless conquest.

But we leave the subject of the Yankee to turn to the other side of the question, and inquire what new political ideas the South has developed in this war. Here is an extraordinary blank. In the new government of the Confederacy we do not discover any statesmanship, any financial genius, any ideas beyond what are copied from the old effete systems that, it was thought, the revolution replaced. There must be some explanation of this absence of new ideas, this barren negation in our revolution.

By a misfortune, not easily avoided, the new government of the Confederacy fell into the hands of certain prominent partisans, but

mediocre politicians, who made a servile copy of the old Yankee Constitution; who had no ideas of political administration higher than the Washington routine; and who, by their ignorance and conceit, have blindfolded and staggered the revolution from its commencement. This observation gives the key to the political history of the Confederacy in this war. A servile copy of old political ideas, an ape of the Washington administration, without genius, without originality, rejecting the counsels of the intelligent, and living in its own little circle of conceit, the Confederate government has fallen immeasurably below the occasion of this revolution, and misrepresents alike its spirit and its object.

But this weak, negative government of the Confederacy is but the early accident of this revolution; and the people endure the accident of their present rulers merely from patriotic scruples which contemplate immediate exigencies. We stand but on the threshold of this revolution, and the curtain falls over a grand future of new ideas. Those who expect that it will terminate with the mere formality of a treaty with the public enemy, and that we shall then have a plodding future of peace, a repetition of old political ideas and manners, have got their pleasant philosophy from newspaper articles and street talk; they have never read the exalted and invariable lesson of history, that, on commotions as immense as this warno matter what its particular occasion-there are reared those new political structures which mark the ages of public progress. If it was true that this war, with its immense expenditures of blood and treasure, was merely to determine the status of negroes in the South-merely to settle the so-called Slavery question-there is not an intelligent man in the Confederacy but would spit upon the sacrifice. If it was true that this terrible war was merely to decide between two political administrations of the same model, then the people of the Confederacy would do right to abandon it.

Political novelty will come soon enough: it is the inevitable offspring of such commotions as this war. We repeat, that the Confederacy is now barren of political ideas, because those who are accidentally its rulers are, without originality or force, copyists of old rotten systems, and the apes of routine; and because the public mind of the South is now too forcibly en

grossed with the publie enemy, either to replace their authority or to chastise their excesses. It is under these peculiar restraints that the Confederacy has produced such little political novelty in this war.

But the revolution is not yet past. Those exalted historical inspirations, which, with rapt souls and kindled blood, we read in the printed pages of the past, are this day, with trumpet sound, at our doors. We live in great times; we are in the presence of great events; we stand in the august theatre of a national tragedy. This struggle cannot pass away, until the great ideas, which the public danger alone holds in abeyance, have found a full development and a complete realization; - until the South vindicates her reputation for political science and eliminates from this war a system of government more ingenious than a Chinese copy of Washington.

But while we thus reflect upon the intellectual barrenness of this war, we must not forget that, while the Confederacy in this time has produced but few new ideas, it has brought out troops of virtues. In this respect, the moral interest of the war is an endless theme for the historian; and we may be pardoned for leaving our immediate subject to say a few words of those fields of grandeur in which the Confederacy has found compensation for all other short-comings, and stands most conspicuous before the world.

We have put into the field soldiers such as the world has seldom seen-men who, half-clothed and half-fed, have, against superior numbers, won two-thirds of the battles of this war. The material of the Confederate army, in social worth, is simply superior to all that is related in the military annals of mankind. Men of wealth, men accustomed to the fashions of polite society, men who had devoted their lives to learned professions and polished studies, have not hesitated to shoulder their muskets and fight as privates in the ranks with the hard-fisted and uncouth laborer, no less a patriot than themselves. Our army presents to the world, perhaps, the only example of theoretical socialism reduced to practice it has ever seen, and realizes, at least in respect of defensive arms, the philosopher's dream of fraternal and sympathetic equality.

The hero of this war is the private soldier: not the officer whose dress is embroidered with lace, and whose name gar

nishes the gazette, but the humble and honest patriot of the South in his dirt-stained and sweat-stained clothes, who toils through pain and hunger and peril; who has no reward but in the satisfaction of good deeds; who throws his poor, unknown life away at the cannon's mouth, and dies in that single flash of glory. How many of these heroes have been laid in unmarked ground-the nameless graves of self-devotion. But the ground where they rest is in the sight of Heaven. Nothing kisses their graves but the sunlight; nothing mourns for them but the sobbing wind; nothing adorns their dust but the wild flowers that have grown on the bloody crust of the battlefield. But not a Southern soldier has fallen in this war without the account of Heaven, and Death makes its registry of the pure and the brave on the silver pages of immortal life.

It is said that some of our people in this war have cringed beneath disaster, and compromised with misfortune. These are exceptions: they may be sorrowful ones. But in this war the people of the Confederacy, in the mass, have shown a fortitude, an elasticity under reverse, a temperance in victory, a self-negation in misfortune, a heroic, hopeful, patient, enduring, working resolution, which challenge the admiration of the world. It is not only material evils which have been thus endured the scourge of tyranny, the bitterness of exile, the dregs of poverty. But the most beautiful circumstance of all is the strange resignation of our people in that worst trial and worst agony of war-the consignment of the living objects of their love to the bloody altars of sacrifice. These are the real horrors of war, and patriotism has no higher tribute to pay than the brave and uncomplaining endurance of such agony.

How have we been resigned in this war to the loss of our loved ones! How many noble sorrows are in our hearts! How many skeletons are in our closets! War War may ruin and rifle the homestead; may scatter as chaff in the wind the prop erty of years; may pronounce the doom of exile-but all these are paltry afflictions in comparison with the bereavement of kindred, whose blood has been left on the furze of the field and the leaves of the forest, and whose uncoffined bones are scattered to the elements.

The virtues and passions of the South in this war are not idle sentimentalisms. They are the precursors of new and illus

trious ideas-the sure indications of a new political growth. In the warmth of such passions are born noble and robust ideas. Thus we await the development of this war in ideas, in political structures, in laws, which will honor it, and for which we shall not unduly pay the dreadful price of blood.

It is impossible that a nation should have suffered as the South has in this struggle; should have adorned itself with such sacrifices; should have illustrated such virtues, to relapse, at the end, into the old routine of its political existence. have not poured out our tears—we have not made a monument of broken hearts-we have not kneaded the ground with human flesh, merely for the poor negative of a peace, with nought higher or better than things of the past. Not so does nature recompense the martyrdom of individuals or of nations: it pronounces the triumph of resurrection.

We believe that a new name is to be inscribed in the Pantheon of history; not that of an old idolatry. All now is ruin and confusion, but from the scattered elements will arise a new spirit of beauty and order. All now is dark, but the cloud will break, and in its purple gates will stand the risen Sun.

« PreviousContinue »