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This volume of brief selections from a wide range of Southern expression in prose and verse leads into fields of American history and literature which, perhaps, are not well known to the general public. The reader is not offered stacks of straw to thresh over; on the contrary, it has been the aim of the compiler, in a most congenial and delightful task, to afford others easy access to grain that he has already garnered. Generally speaking, the genius of literary production in the Old South did not aspire to an outlet in the field of professional endeavor. There were, however, many gifted writers who regarded production in prose and verse as a pleasant recreation rather than an end, or as an accomplishment common to cultured minds, to be called forth as occasion offered, or when some emotion prompted expression.
By way of illustration, William Henry Timrod may be regarded as potentially a greater poet than his better-known son. Yet he was one of the occasional poets of the old régime. John Laurens composed a sonnet as he lay
dying of wounds and fever incurred in defence of his country; and Stuart, in a later struggle, wrote verses while engaged in riding around McClellan's army. These and many others like them never seriously considered revising or publishing their work. They sang from time to time because to them "singing itself is so sweet." This peculiar diffidence is a relic of the past; and at the present time, one need but review the list of leading American novelists to find that a remarkably large proportion have come from the South and write on Southern themes.
Thus, while the very nature of the South lends itself to sentiment and romance, her history is yet to be written. This little volume attempts, therefore, with particular care, to treat of historical events as their anniversaries bring them to mind. Comparatively few are the enduring works of Southern historians; and yet from the beginning of colonization the South has thrilled with the record of daring achievement. In the work of her soldiers and statesmen, the South led in shaping the Republic out of rebellion, revolution, and jarring elements. During and after the struggle with the mother country, Jefferson, Henry, Clark, and Virginia gave to the Nation the great
States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It was Jefferson who secured to the Republic peaceful possession of the vast original tract of Louisiana; and it was he, with Lewis and Clark, who made good the claim to the Oregon territory. Furthermore, the mighty empire of Texas and the far Southwest was brought in under the initiative of the South and the leadership of Polk and Tyler.
So did the South mightily assist in making a common government great and strong; but she was likewise building up a power which later overwhelmed her. In truth, she forged the fetters that for forty years chafed her people under an increasingly oppressive legislation; since it was a son of Carolina who first brought forward a tariff for protection, not for Carolina, but for New England and the Nation; and it was Clay of Kentucky who fostered the system until it involved the thirteen agricultural States of the South in an indirect taxation more burdensome than any direct impost ever proposed by Great Britain for the thirteen Colonies. In vain the South protested. Opposing majorities grew against her. And when a solidly sectional party became the dominant power, the Lower South attempted to exercise the hitherto generally
conceded right of withdrawal, a right which had been particularly emphasized in New England when that section felt its interests to be in peril. The Upper South opposed coercion; and both prepared for the fight that followed. Such is the principle for which the South contended. She failed not in valor or in honor, but fell through exhaustion; yet glory stood beside her grief, and she endowed the Nation with the stainless names of Lee and Jackson.
With the failure of the South to establish her independence, there fell also, as an incident of the struggle, that which most made her a separate section, politically, economically, and socially-the tutelage, in the most beneficent form of servitude ever known, of a child-race. That race was largely thrust upon her; and yet she raised its people from cannibal savages to civilized beings, whose devotion and faithfulness became the marvel of invading armies. Rather than interpret such a record to her shame, as some would have us do, let it be proclaimed as an everlasting tribute to the lofty character of Anglo-Saxon Christianity.
The South, after fifty years, is more intimately a part of the Union than ever before. Her interests are national and her destiny great. In the youthful Bagley she was the
first to give her blood in the war with Spain, therewith cementing the tie that now, without fetters, binds in a steadily growing amity and understanding. To-day, a true Southerner has an abiding love and loyalty for the section that has seen tears and grief, as well as sunshine and flowers, beyond the measure of any country of modern times; but he is also doubly true to, and proud of, the mighty progress of a reunited Republic. Surely it is due to the South and due to the Nation that the story of the South be told. And the highest aim of the compiler of these selections is that he may contribute something to promote that steadily expanding knowledge of historical truth which alone can fully allay the spirit of sectional strife, and from which alone we may look for perfect amity and understanding to ensue.
MATTHEW PAGE ANDREWS