« PrejšnjaNaprej »
SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS.
Introductory Remarks.-Allusion to the "Irrepressible Conflict” Theory.
- Direct Issue made therewith.-Sectionalism.--Its dangerous Tendencies.-Geographical Parties.- Washington's Warning against them. -Mr. Webster's Remarks upon Sectionalism.-Author's first Acquaintance with Mr. Webster in 1825.-Renewal of that Acquaintance twenty Years thereafter.--Allusions to Mr. Webster's Life and Character. Remarks upon his great Ability as a Statesman and Orator.—IIis amiable Qualities in private Life.--Mr. Webster's funeral Notice of his great Rival, Mr. Calhoun.
In no community of Christendom can the public mind be reasonably supposed, at the present moment, to be prepared to receive with a fitting respect an honest and impartial account of all the exciting and lamentable occurrences which have had their progress on this continent, and in the bosom of our own country, during the last four years. Various and conflicting interests, existing to some extent wheresoever commerce is known or free intercourse by mail has been provided for, diverse and repugnant statements, embodied in massy and imposing volumes, in pointed and glittering editorials, in gusty and delusive partisan harangues (the wordy wonders of an hour), in solemn, didactic discourses, in labored official documents, and in innumerable reports of sanguinary battles, of obstinate and long-continued sieges, of the fearful and heartrending devastation of large and populous districts, or brilliant and sudden assaults and captures upon land or water, and fierce marauding incursions—a necessary concomitant of war, and yet how
, shocking and deplorable—have awakened and diffused such clashing and intensely.cherished prejudices and pre dilections as naught would be of power to remove, save, perchance, the toilsome diligence of such discriminating writers as some future age may supply, and the ever softening and effacing influence of Time. If this be true in regard even to distant nations, how much more forci. bly must the statement just made be found applicable to the different parts of our own country, within whose territorial limits all these momentous events have been tak. ing place, and where all the multiplied sources of error referred to have had their original location. But, even were those who are now upon the stage of action, in our own and in other lands, ever so ready to receive the truth in relation to occurrences so irritating and so recent, there would seem to be but little reason to expect that a suitable writer would be found to record, in language worthy of general credence and respect, scenes which the powers of a Livy or a Tacitus would have been scarcely able to depicture, and of a nature well calculated to discompose even the philosophic serenity of a Gibbon or a Hume. With such views as these, and with no exorbitant conception of my own ability as a writer, it will not be held surprising that I have chosen to indicate in advance, by the title which I have thought proper to prefix to this work, that I do not at all aspire to be recognized as the IIistorian of the most momentous conflict of arms, viewed
AUTHOR NO SECTIONALIST.
in its various aspects and bearings, that the world has yet known. In truth, I shall aim only to present, in as simple and perspicuous language as possible, a series of remarkable occurrences, running through a period of some twenty years or more, accompanied by sober and impartial delineations of character, and personal anecdotes, more or less illustrative of public events, with some account of the rival movements of parties, and the characteristic acts and utterances of acknowledged party leaders. Having, at a period in my past life not yet remote, been thrown into contact, in the councils of the nation, with a large number of our public men of great distinction and influence, and having held relations more or less familiar with a few of the most eminent among them, I am not without a hope of being able to revive some gratifying and instructive reminiscences of illustrious personages now no longer living, as well as of others yet fortunately surviving, which will not prove altogether uninteresting to such as may glance over these pages. It having been my fortune, though born in a Southern state, to have resided for considerable periods in both the great sections of our now reconciled country, and having contracted the most delicate and endearing ties, both social and domestic, in each of them, I dare to presume that, in the execution of the task which I have assumed, I shall be able, in a great degree, if not altogether, to avoid the exhibition of any thing like a decided local bias. I shall at once give notice that I do not by any means agree in opinion with those who assert that the gigantic military struggle from which we have but just emerged was, to any considerable extent, the result of what has been so
vociferously bruited as an “irrepressible conflict of antagonisms imbedded in the very nature of our heterogeneous institutions;" and, with all proper courtesy and deference, I shall venture to make direct issue with those, wheresoever they shall be found, who undertake to promulgate the notion that “the successive compromises whereby” civil war, with all its attendant horrors," was so long put off," were, after all, but "deplorable mistakes, detrimental to our national character."* I shall, on the contrary, endeavor to maintain, more by an array of irresistible facts than by any effort of over-subtle reasoning, or by ingenious appeals to long-standing prejudices, that the fearful domestic troubles in which our noble republic has been so recently involved could not possibly have arisen but for the most unskillful and blundering management of men in power—the incessant agitation of sectional factionists, both in the North and in the South, and the unwise disregard of that august spirit of conciliation and compromise in which our complex frame of govern. ment is known to have had its origin, and to the faithful cultivation of which, if it be destined to endure for future ages, it must undoubtedly owe both its preservation and its maintenance.
Without in the least degree calling in question the patriotism or sincerity of others, I may be permitted to say
I that no dogma more fraught with mischief could possibly have been set afloat among the American people, or one better calculated, if widely diffused, to undermine the sacred compact of union established by our fathers, than that which has just been alluded to. Let two considera
* Extract from Mr. Greeley's "American Conflict."
ble segments or classes of a free and enlightened people any where be once induced conscientiously to believe that such an irremovable incompatibility of essential interests exists between them that the permanent repose and happiness of the whole, or of certain of its parts, will be impossible, except by a great and fearful sacrifice on the one side or on the other, and it is most obvious that exciting thoughts and schemes of separation, and even of armed collision, would not be very long in making themselves manifest. Such, in fact, is known to have been the precise condition of things in the early days of the Roman republic, between the Patricians and the Plebeians; and hence certain noted attempts on the part of the weaker class in Rome, and the one which deemed itself oppressed, to provide security against future injuries by secession to Mons Sacer. So it was also with the people of the American colonies in the last century, when, becoming convinced that it was not at all consistent with their safety and happiness that they should remain longer under British rule, they boldly erected the all-inspiring standard of independence. The successful propagation of this theory of an "irrepressible conflict” of hostile forces, in two different sections of the same country, it is evident, must generate" geographical parties ;" against the formation of which, Washington, in his Farewell Address, so solemnly and so pathetically warned his countrymen. The continued existence of these geographical parties, when once fairly organized, as our melancholy experience has now demonstrated, must naturally beget schemes of territorial partition; which, however peacefully and quietly put in execution, if resisted on the part of those