Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

not a first-rate general; but, with the advantages he had, he was superior to any general whom England could at that time send against him ; while, for the really more important work of restraining the passions, moderating the jealousies, overcoming the selfishness, soothing the fears, stirring the indolence, of his own friends, he was the very man; and he imprinted the mark of his own high character upon the political life of his country-a mark which it took many years to efface. After England had recognised the independence of the colonies, the counsels of statesmen were required to form their disunited communities into a Federation; and none of the thirteen could show a list of delegates to the Convention of 1787 at all comparable to those sent by Virginia.

In the present case it is different. Before Virginia had joined the Confederacy, that cluster of States had placed at its head a man who, I think, will be thought to be one of the very foremost statesmen of this century, and, in fact, stand on as high a pedestal as Cavour. There was therefore no great need for that sort of ability. The great Mississippian President would need able subordinates ; but it was better that none should appear as his equal to dispute his pre-eminence, and perhaps introduce rivalry into the counsels of the Confederacy. A second Cavour might perhaps neutralise the first. So Virginia contented herself with having a representative in the Cabinet, and supplying useful and able members to Congress, without aspiring to the foremost place. But soldiers were much wanted. Not that the States which could produce Beauregard, Longstreet, Hood, and others too numerous to record, could be said to be deficient in military ability. But there was still room for more. In the statesman's department what was wanted was one master-mind, and that the Confederacy had. In the military department, the requirements were endless. Wherever the war might rage—and, in fact, it spread all around the frontier of the seceding States like a circle of fire, and here and there pushed its desolating course deep into their midst—there might be room for the display of the highest qualities of the soldier. This was what the Confederates wanted, and in no stinted measure: and this Virginia felt that it was her province to supply. According to her wont, she did so most royally. The roll of Virginian soldiers upon whom this war has conferred high and glorious renown is a long one, and I should probably add to it if I knew more accurately than I do the particular States to which the officers of the Southern army respectively belong. Suffice it to say, that the “Old Dominion” has produced the general who stands second to Wellington among the great soldiers of English blood of the present century; and who, if you enlarge the field, and take the world into the competition, will acknowledge no superiors besides Wellington and Napoleon alone. She has also given to her country a brilliant and dashing cavalry chief, to whose exploits I cannot call to mind any parallel in history; and a hero whose name will last to the end of time, as an instance of the combination of the most adventurous and at the same time felicitous daring as a soldier, the most self-sacrificing devotion as a patriot, and the most exalted character as a man -one who could unite the virtues of the Cavalier and of the Roundhead without the faults of either, and be at once a Havelock and a Garibaldi. If all the stories about cruelty to negroes were as true as most of them are false—if Legree was rather the rule than the exception among the holders of Southern plantations—if the non-slaveowning whites of the Confederacy were as brutal and degraded a set as, until this war enlightened us, we used to fancy they were,—even then the Confederacy might claim to stand on a pretty high level on the strength of having produced three such contemporaries as Lee, Stuart, and Jackson. All of them have been distinguished, not more for their courage, their genius in their respective lines, and the enthusiasm which they have been able to excite in their soldiers, than for the gentle and unselfish character which has been common to all; and for all of them, and for others who, if less celebrated, are on every ground worthy to be ranked beside them, the Confederacy is indebted to the single State of Virginia.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE RIGHTS OF THE WAR.

AND now, if all this is true, are we to be told that the South had no right to secede? It is difficult to see what can give any nation a right to change its Government, if such a series of events as I have described does not give that right. I believe that the right of secession is so clear, that if the South had wished to do so for no better reason than that it could not bear to be beaten in an election, like a sulky schoolboy out of temper at not winning a game, and had submitted the question of its right to withdraw from the Union to the decision of any court of law in Europe, she would have carried her point. But if any one differs from this opinion, I am not careful to argue with him, as it appears to be a matter of infinitesimal importance. The Seceders may well say, with Hallam, “God forbid that we should submit our liberties to a jury of antiquaries !”

« AnteriorContinuar »