Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 11) online

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touches the slave, and the upper edge reaches up to the
third and ruling class. This class was a small minority in
numbers, but in practical ability they had centred in their
hands the whole government of the South, and had mainly
governed the whole country. Upon this polished, cul-
tured, exceedingly capable, and wholly unprincipled class,
rests the whole burden of this war. Forced up by the bot-
tom heat of slavery, the ruling class in all the disloyal states
arrogated to themselves a superiority not compatible with
republican equality, nor with just morals. They claimed
a right of preeminence. An evil prophet arose who trained
these wild and luxuriant shoots of ambition to the shapely
form of a political philosophy. By its reagents they pre-
cipitated drudgery to the bottom of society, and left at the
top what they thought to be a clarified fluid. In their
political economy, labor was to be owned by capital; in
their theory of government, the few were to rule the many.
They boldly avowed, not alone the fact, that, under all
forms of government, the few rule the many, but their
right and duty to do so. Set free from the necessity of
labor, they conceived a contempt for those who felt its
wholesome regimen. Believing themselves foreordained to
supremacy, they regarded the popular vote, when it failed
to register their wishes, as an intrusion and a nuisance.
They were born in a garden, and popular liberty, like
freshets overswelling their banks, but covered their dainty
walks and flowers with slime and mud of democratic votes.
When, with shrewd observation, they saw the growth of
the popular element in the northern states, they instinc-
tively took in the inevitable events. It must be controlled,
or cut off from a nation governed by gentlemen ! Con-
trolled, less and less, could it be in every decade; and they
prepared secretly, earnestly, and with wide conference and
mutual connivance, to effect the separation. We are to
distinguish between the pretenses and means, and the real
causes of this war. To inflame and unite the great middle
class of the South, who had no interest in separation and
no business with war, they alleged grievances that never
existed, and employed arguments which they, better than
all other men, knew to be specious and false.


Slavery itself was cared for only as an instrument of
power or of excitement. They had unalterably fixed their
eye upon empire, and all was good which would secure
that, and bad which hindered it. Thus, the ruling class of
the South an aristocracy as intense, proud, and inflexible
as ever existed not limited either by customs or institu-
tions, not recognized and adjusted in the regular order of
society, playing a reciprocal part in its machinery, but
secretly disowning its own existence, baptized with osten-
tatious names of democracy, obsequious to the people for
the sake of governing them ; this nameless, lurking aristoc-
racy, that ran in the blood of society like a rash not yet
come to the skin ; this political parasite, that produced
nothing, but lay coiled in the body, feeding on its nutri-
ment, and holding the whole structure but a servant set up
to nourish it this aristocracy of the plantation, with firm
and deliberate resolve, brought on the war, that they might
cut the land in two, and, clearing themselves from an incor-
rigibly free society, set up a sterner, statelier empire, where
slaves should work that gentlemen might live at ease. Nor
can there be any doubt that though, at first, they meant to
erect the form of republican government, this was but a
device, a step necessary to the securing of that power by
which they should be able to change the whole economy of
society. That they never dreamed of such a war., we may
well believe. That they would have accepted it, though
twice as bloody, if only thus they could rule, none can
doubt that knows the temper of these worst men of modern
society. But they miscalculated. They understood the
people of the South; but they were totally incapable of
understanding the character of the great working classes of
the loyal states. That industry, which is the foundation of
independence, and so of equity, they stigmatized as stupid
drudgery, or as mean avarice. That general intelligence
and independence of thought which schools for the common
people and newspapers breed, they reviled as the incite-
ment of unsettled zeal, running easily into fanaticism. They
more thoroughly misunderstood the profound sentiment of
loyalty, the deep love of country, which pervaded the com-
mon people. If those who knew them best had never sus-
pected the depth and power of that love of country which


threw it into an agony of grief when the flag was here
humbled, how should they conceive of it who were wholly
disjoined from the people in sympathy? The whole land
rose up, you remember, when the flag came down, as if
inspired unconsciously by the breath of the Almighty and
the power of omnipotence. It was as when one pierces the
banks of the Mississippi for a rivulet, and the whole raging
stream plunges through with headlong course. There they
calculated, and miscalculated! And more than all, they
miscalculated the bravery of men who had been trained
under law, who are civilized and hate personal brawls, who
are so protected by society as to have dismissed all thought
of self-defense, the whole force of whose life is turned to
peaceful pursuits. These arrogant conspirators against
government, with Chinese vanity, believed that they could
blow away these self-respecting citizens as chaff from the
battle-field. Few of them are left alive to ponder their
mistake! Here, then, are the roots of this civil war. It
was not a quarrel of wild beasts, it was an inflection of the
strife of ages, between power and right, between ambition
and equity. An armed band of pestilent conspirators
sought the nation's life. Her children rose up and fought
at every door and room and hall, to thrust out the mur-
derers and save the house and household. It was not legiti-
mately a war between the common peoples of the North
and South. The war was set on by the ruling class, the
aristocratic conspirators of the South. They suborned the
common people with lies, with sophistries, with cruel de-
ceits and slanders, to fight for secret objects which they
abhorred, and against interests as dear to them as their
own lives. I charge the whole guilt of this war upon the
ambitious, educated, plotting, political leaders of the South.
They have shed this ocean of blood. They have desolated
the South. They have poured poverty through all her
towns and cities. They have bewildered the imagination
of the people with phantasms^ and led them to believe that
they were fighting for their homes and liberty, whose homes
were unthreatened, and whose liberty was in no jeopardy.
These arrogant instigators of civil war have renewed the
plagues of Egypt, not that the oppressed might go free,
but that the free might be oppressed. A day will come


when God will reveal judgment, and arraign at His bar these
mighty miscreants; and then, every orphan that their
bloody game has made, and every widow that sits sorrow-
ing, and every maimed and wounded sufferer, and every
bereaved heart in all the wide regions of this land, will rise
up and come before the Lord to lay upon these chief cul-
prits of modern history their awful testimony. And from a
thousand battle-fields shall rise up armies of airy witnesses,
who, with the memory of their awful sufferings, shall con-
front these miscreants with shrieks of fierce accusation ; and
every pale and starved prisoner shall raise his skinny hand
in judgment. Blood shall call out for vengeance, and tears
shall plead for justice, and grief shall silently beckon, and
love, heart-smitten, shall wail for justice. Good men and
angels will cry out: " How long, O Lord, how long, wilt
thou not avenge?" And then these guiltiest and most
remorseless traitors, these high and cultured men with
might and wisdom, used for the destruction of their country
these most accursed and detested of all criminals, that
have drenched a continent in needless blood, and moved
the foundations of their times with hideous crimes and
cruelty, caught up in black clouds, full of voices of venge-
ance and lurid with punishment, shall be whirled aloft
and plunged downward forever and forever in an endless
retribution; while God shall say, " Thus shall it be to all
who betray their country"; and all in heaven and upon
the earth will say ''Amen ! "

But for the people misled, for the multitudes drafted
and driven into this civil war, let not a trace of animosity
remain. The moment the willing hand drops the musket,
and they return to their allegiance, then stretch out your
own honest right hand to greet them. Recall to them the
old days of kindness. Our hearts wait for their redemp-
tion. All the resources of a renovated nation shall be ap-
plied to rebuild their prosperity, and smooth down the
furrows of war. Has this long and weary period of strife
been an unmingled evil? Has nothing been gained? Yes,
much. This nation has attained to its manhood. Among
Indian customs is one which admits young men to the rank
of warriors only after severe trials of hunger, fatigue, pain,
endurance. They reach their station, not through years,


but ordeals. Our nation has suffered, but now is strong.
The sentiment of loyalty and patriotism, next in impor-
tance to religion, has-been rooted and grounded. We have
something to be proud of, and pride helps love. Never so
much as now did we love our country. But four such years
of education in ideas, in the knowledge of political truth, in
the lore of history, in the geography of our own country,
almost every inch of which we have probed with the bay-
onet, have never passed before. There is half a hundred
years advance in four. We believed in our institutions
and principles before; but now we know their power. It is
one thing to look upon artillery, and be sure that it is
loaded; it is another thing to prove its power in battle!
We believed in the hidden power stored in our institutions;
we had never before seen this nation thundering like Mount
Sinai at all those that worshiped the calf at the base of the
mountain. A people educated and moral are competent to
all the exigencies of national life. A vote can govern better
than a crown. We have proved it. A people intelligent
and religious are strong in all economic elements. They
are fitted for peace and competent to war. They are not
easily inflamed, and, when justly incensed, not easily ex-
tinguished. They are patient in adversity, endure cheer-
fully needful burdens, tax themselves for real wants more
royally than any prince would dare to tax his people. They
pour forth without stint relief for the sufferings of war,
and raise charity out of the realm of a dole into a munifi-
cent duty of beneficence. The habit of industry among
free men prepares them to meet the exhaustion of war with
increase of productiveness commensurate with the need that
exists. Their habits of skill enable them at once to supply
such armies as only freedom can muster, with arms and
munitions such as only free industry can create. Free
society is terrible in war, and afterward repairs the mis-
chief of war with celerity almost as great as that with which
the ocean heals the seams gashed in it by the keel of a
plowing ship. Free society is fruitful of military genius.
It comes when called ; when no longer needed, it falls back
as waves do to the level of the common sea, that no wave
may be greater than the undivided water. With proof of
strength so great, yet in its infancy, we stand up among



the nations of the world, asking no privileges, asserting no
rights, but quietly assuming our place, and determined to
be second to none in the race of civilization and religion.
Of all nations we are the most dangerous and the least to
be feared. We need not expound the perils that wait upon
enemies that assault us. They are sufficiently understood.
But it is not because we are warlike that we are a dangerous
people. All the arrogant attitudes of this nation, so offen-
sive formerly to foreign governments, were inspired by
slavery, and under the administration of its minions. Our
tastes, our habits, our interests, and our principles, incline
us to the arts of peace. This nation was founded by the
common people for the common people. We are seeking
to embody in public economy more liberty, with higher
justice and virtue, than have been organized before. By
the necessity of our doctrines, we are put in sympathy
with the masses of men in all nations. It is not our busi-
ness to subdue nations, but to augment the powers of the
common people. The vulgar ambition of mere domination,
as it belongs to universal human nature, may tempt us;
but it is withstood by the whole force of our principles, our
habits, our precedents, and our legends. We acknowledge
the obligation which our better political principles lay upon
us, to set an example more temperate, humane, and just
than monarchical governments can. We will not suffer
wrong, and still less will we inflict it upon other nations.
Nor are we concerned that so many, ignorant of our con-
flict, for the present misconceive the reasons of our in-
vincible military zeal. ' Why contend," say they, " for a
little territory that you do not need?" Because it is ours.
Because it is the interest of every citizen to save it from be-
coming a fortress and refuge of iniquity. This nation is our
house, and our fathers' house; and accursed be the man who
will not defend it to the uttermost. More territory than we
need ! England, that is not large enough to be our pocket,
may think that it is more than we need; but we are better
judges of what we need than others are.

Shall a philanthropist say to a banker, who defends him-
self against a robber, " Why do you need so much money? "
But we will not reason with such questions. When any
foreign nation willingly will divide its territory and give it


cheerfully away, we will answer the question why we are
righting for territory.

I now pass to the consideration of benefits that accrue
to the South in distinction from the rest of the nation. At
present the South reaps only suffering; but good seed lies
buried under the furrows of war, that peace will bring to
harvest. i. Deadly doctrines have been purged away in
blood. The subtle poison of secession was a perpetual
threat of revolution. The sword has ended that danger.
That which reason had affirmed as a philosophy, that people
have settled as a fact. Theory pronounces: "There can be
no permanent government where each integral particle has
liberty to fly off." Who would venture upon a voyage in
a ship, each plank and timber of which might withdraw at
its pleasure? But the people have reasoned by the logic of
the sword and of the ballot, and they have declared that
states are inseparable parts of the national government.
They are not sovereign. State rights remain ; but sover-
eignty is a right higher than all others; and that has been
made into a common stock for the benefit of all. All fur-
ther agitation is ended. This element must be cast out of
our political problems. Henceforth that poison will not
rankle in the blood. 2. Another thing has been learned:
the rights and duties of minorities. The people of the
whole nation are of more authority than the people of any
section. These United States are supreme over northern,
eastern, western, and southern states. It ought not to
have required the awful chastisement of war to teach that
a minority must submit the control of the nation's govern-
ment to a majority. The army and the navy have been
good political schoolmasters. The lesson is learned. Not
for many generations will it require further illustration.
3. No other lesson will be more fruitful of peace than the
dispersion of those conceits of vanity, which, on either side,
have clouded the recognition of the manly courage of all
Americans. If it be a sign of manhood to be able to fight,
then Americans are men. The North certainly is in no
doubt whatever of the soldierly qualities of southern men.
Southern soldiers have learned that all latitudes breed cour-
age on this continent. Courage is a passport to respect.
The people of all the regions of this nation are likely here-


after to cherish a generous admiration of each other's prow-
ess. The war has bred respect, and respect will breed
affection, and affection peace and unity. 4. No other
event of the war can fill an intelligent southern man, of
candid nature, with more surprise than the revelation of
the capacity, moral and military, of the black race. It is
a revelation indeed. No people were ever less understood
by those most familiar with them. They were said to be
lazy, lying, impudent, and cowardly wretches, driven by the
whip alone to the tasks needful to their own support and the
functions of civilization. They were said to be dangerous,
bloodthirsty, liable to insurrection ; but four years of tumul-
tuous distress and war have rolled across the area inhabited
by them, and I have yet to hear of one authentic instance
of the misconduct of a colored man. They have been
patient and gentle and docile in the land while the men of
the South were away in the army; they have been full of
faith and hope and piety; and, when summoned to free-
dom, they have emerged with all the signs and tokens that
freedom will be to them what it was to be, the swaddling-
band that shall bring them to manhood. And after the
government, honoring them as men, summoned them to
the field, when once they were disciplined, and had learned
the art of war, they proved themselves to be not second to
their white brethren in arms. And when the roll of men
that have shed their blood is called in the other land, many
and many a dusky face will rise, dark no more when the
light of eternal glory shall shine upon it from the throne of
God! 5. The industry of the southern states is regener-
ated, and now rests upon a basis that never fails to bring
prosperity. Just now industry is collapsed; but it is not
dead ; it sleepeth. It is vital yet. It will spring like mown
grass from the roots that need but showers and heat and
time to bring them forth. Though in many districts not
a generation will see wanton wastes of self-invoked war
repaired, and many portions may lapse again to wilderness,
yet, in our lifetime, we shall see states, as a whole, raised
to a prosperity vital, wholesome, and immovable. 6. The
destruction of class interests, working with a religion which
tends toward true democracy, in proportion as it is pure
and free, will create a new era of prosperity for the common

laboring people of the South. Upon them have come the
labor, the toil, and the loss of this war. They have fought
blindfolded. They have fought for a class that sought their
degradation, while they were made to believe that it was
for their own homes and altars. Their leaders meant a
supremacy which would not long have left them political
liberty, save in name. But their leaders are swept away.
The sword has been hungry for the ruling classes. It has
sought them out with remorseless zeal. New men are to
rise up ; new ideas are to bud and blossom ; and there will be
men with different ambition and altered policy. 7. Mean-
while, the South, no longer a land of plantations, but of
farms; no longer tilled by slaves, but by freedmen, will
find no hindrance to the spread of education. Schools will
multiply. Books and papers will spread. Churches will
bless every hamlet. There is a good day coming for the
South. Through darkness and tears and blood she has
sought it. It has been an unconscious via dolorosa. But
in the end it will be worth all that it has cost. Her insti-
tutions before were deadly. She nourished death in her
bosom. The greater her secular prosperity, the more sure
was her ruin. Every year of delay but made the change
more terrible. Now, by an earthquake, the evil is shaken
down. And her own historians, in a better day, shall write,
that from the day the sword cut off the cancer, she began
to find her health. What, then, shall hinder the rebuilding
of this republic? The evil spirit is cast out: why should
not this nation cease to wander among tombs, cutting itself?
Why should it not come, clothed and in its right mind, to
" sit at the feet of Jesus "? Is it feared that the govern-
ment will oppress the conquered states? What possible
motive has the government to narrow the base of that pyra-
mid on which its own permanence stands? Is it feared that
the rights of the states will be withheld? The South is not
more jealous of their state rights than the North. State
rights from the earliest colonial days have been the peculiar
pride and jealousy of New England. In every stage of
national formation, it was peculiarly northern, and not
southern, statesmen that guarded state rights as we were
forming the Constitution. But once united, the loyal
states gave up forever that which had been delegated to


the national government. And now, in the hour of vic-
tory, the loyal states do not mean to trench upon southern
state rights. They will not do it, nor suffer it to be done.
There is not to be one rule for high latitudes and another
for low. We take nothing from the southern states that
has not already been taken from the northern. The South
shall have just those rights that every eastern, every mid-
dle, every western state has no more, no less. We are
not seeking our own aggrandizement by impoverishing the
South. Its prosperity is an indispensable element of our

We have shown, by all that we have suffered in war, how
great is our estimate of the importance of the southern
states of this Union; and we will measure that estimate,
now, in peace, by still greater exertions for their rebuild-
ing. Will reflecting men not perceive, then, the wisdom of
accepting established facts, and, with alacrity of enterprise,
begin to retrieve the past? Slavery cannot come back. It
is the interest, therefore, of every man to hasten its end.
Do you want more war? Are you not yet weary of con-
test? Will you gather up the unexploded fragments of this
prodigious magazine of all mischief, and heap them up for
continued explosions? Does not the South need peace?
And, since free labor is inevitable, will you have it in its
worst forms or in its best? Shall it be ignorant, imperti-
nent, indolent, or shall it be educated, self-respecting,
moral, and self-supporting? Will you have men as drudges,
or will you have them as citizens? Since they have vindi-
cated the government, and cemented its foundation stones
with their blood, may they not offer the tribute of their
support to maintain its laws and its policy? It is better
for religion ; it is better for political integrity; it is better
for industry; it is better for money if you will have that
ground motive that you should educate the black man,
and, by education, make him a citizen. They who refuse
education to the black man would turn the South into a
vast poorhouse, and labor into a pendulum, incessantly
vibrating between poverty and indolence. From this pulpit
of broken stone we speak forth our earnest greeting to all
our land. We offer to the President of these United States
our solemn congratulations that God has sustained his life


and health under the unparalleled burdens and sufferings
of four bloody years, and permitted him to behold this
auspicious consummation of that national unity for which
he has waited with so much patience and fortitude, and for
which he has labored with such disinterested wisdom. To
the members of the government associated with him in the
administration of perilous affairs in critical times; to the
senators and representatives of the United States, who
have eagerly fashioned the instruments by which the popu-
lar will might express and enforce itself, we tender our
grateful thanks. To the officers and men of the army and
navy, who have so faithfully, skilfully, and gloriously upheld
their country's authority, by suffering, labor, and sublime
courage, we offer here a tribute beyond the compass of
words. Upon those true and faithful citizens, men and

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 11) → online text (page 20 of 43)