Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

66

UNHOLY COMBINATION.

66

"The Origin of the Late War," published by the Appleton's in 1866, but out of print for lack of Northern popularity, is a book pre-eminently, worthy of reading. Its author, Mr. George Lunt, of Boston, in Mr. Fiske's own State of Massachusetts, tells us that an unholy combination between Massachusetts Freesoilers and Democrats to defeat the Whigs, with no reference to any principle at all, sent Sumner to Congress and materially contributed to the cause of the war, partly through the Preston Brooks incident, which Mr. Fiske so unfairly describes. Slavery," this author observes, was the cause of war, just as property is the cause of robbery." If Mr. Fiske will read the Lincoln and Douglass debates of the time before the war; if he will lay aside preconceived opinion and read the Emancipation Proclamation itself, he will see that not even for Lincoln himself was slavery the cause of action, or its abolition his intent; that emancipation was simply a war measure, not affecting, as you know, the border States that had not seceded; even excluding from its operation certain counties of Virginia; simply intended to disable the fighting States, and more thoroughly to unite the rabid Abolitionists of the North in his own deadly purpose to overthrow the constitutional rights of the States. Just after the battle of Sharpsburg, from which, as you remember, he dated his abolition proclamation, he very clearly indicated his view of the cause or purpose of the war on his part. "If he could save the Union,” he said, "by freeing the slaves, he would do it; if he could save it by freeing one-half and keeping the other half in slavery, he would take that plan; if keeping them all in slavery would effect the object, then that would be his course." Further, with respect to the provocation offered to the South that led to the war-so far as slavery was its cause-Mr. Webster, in his speech at Capon Springs in 1851, used these words: "I do not hesitate to say and repeat that if the Northern States refuse willfully and deliberately to carry into effect that part of the Constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, the South would no longer be bound to keep the compact." Mr Lunt and Mr. Webster were Massachusetts men, like Mr. Fiske. Mr. Webster was a great constitutional lawyer; Mr.

Lincoln was President. Yet we do not learn from Mr. Fiske that any of these heresies or mistaken purposes had currency in Massachusetts or in the Union. He would teach all men that Mr. Lincoln claims immortality as the apostle of freedom. He is the co-worker with the orator of their absurd Peace Jubilee, who lately proclaimed that the flag of Washington was the flag of independence; the flag of Lincoln the flag of liberty.

FALSE PICTURE.

"Demands of slave-holders," "Concessions to slave-holders.” These and the like are the expressions our author uses to paint a picture of an aggressive South and a conciliatory North. Through and through this author's work runs the same evidence of preconception as to the causes of war, and predetermined purpose as to the effect his book is to produce; the same consciousness of the necessity laid upon him and his co-laborers; the same proof of his consequent inability to write a true history of the sectional strife; the same proof that his book is unfit to be placed in the hands of Southern children.

A curious observation is to be made. Just where we ourselves would say that slavery was the cause, or at least, the occasion of the outbreak of the war, Mr. Fiske does not see the connection. He would have us take even his own statement on that point with a very marked limitation. "Slavery was the cause," but only in so far as the action of the South made it so, and by no means in consequence of any act done by the North or Northern men. That is the doctrine that we must teach our children. Even the John Brown raid is outside of the group of causes. That was beyond question an overt act of Northern men. Therefore, the incident is to be minimized in history and effect. Those of you who remember the situation and possibly marched to Harper's Ferry on that occasion, will be surprised to note that Mr. Fiske says "he (Brown) intended to make an asylum in the mountains for the negroes, and that the North took little notice of his raid." There is no occasion for answering such a statement. We know that Brown and those who sent him here, aiding him to buy his pikes, etc., purposed war, in

tending that his fort should be the headquarters of an insurrection of the negroes, and purposed that his pikes should be driven into the breasts of Virginia men and women. All of us remember the platform and pulpit denunciation of our people, the parading, the bell-tolling, and other clamorous manifestations of approval and sympathy which went through the North and convinced the people of Virginia that the long-threatened war of the North against the South had at last begun. In this sense, perhaps, it was not of the causes of the war; it was the war. I myself saw the demonstration of the Northern people on that occasion. Happening to be at that time living in Philadelphia, it was instantly plain to me that I was in an enemy's country. The southern students around me saw it as plainly as I did. It took but a dozen sentences to open the eyes of the least intelligent. It was only to say, "Come on, boys! Let's go!" and three hundred of us marched over on our side of the line. The war for us was on, and I know that the State of Virginia knew that was what the North meant. Just how Mr. Fiske enables himself to make the statement quoted, we cannot understand. We only see another proof that his point of view distorts the picture in his mind, to such an extent that he ought not to be employed as a painter for us or our children.

Much has been said of Mr. Fiske's elegant style. We will only observe that the sugar-coating of a pill does not justify our administering poison. The Trojan horse may have been a shapely structure, but in its belly were concealed the enemies of the city. It has been said, perhaps untruly, that the rounded period marks the unreliable historian. There have been notable examples of it. And it is certainly true that an inconvenient fact does sometimes give pain to a writer who is in the habit of testing his sentences by his ear. This is the apparent explanation of some of Mr. Fiske's ob servations as to slave-breeding in Virginia.

ONE MORE POINT.

One other point remains. The statement has been made, and denied, that this book was adopted on the recommendation of the Citizens' Committee of 1898, endorsed by the Grand Camp Commit

tee of the same year. However the impression as to that recommendation arose or was made on the mind of any member of the Board of Education or anybody else, we are prepared to prove by the text, and by a recent report of the same committee, that they recommended only two books-the Jones and Lee histories.

The second book to be noticed, also erroneously supposed to have been recommended by the committee for 1898, is the Cooper and Estill history, "Our Country." The effective detailed criticism of that work also is handed you in the able report of Rev. S. Taylor Martin. Like the last, this needs only a general criticism as a basis for the resolution we shall offer for your adoption. If you will read the "Introduction" you will see that the author proposes to write such a book as will serve to cultivate a large patriotism and eradicate sectionalism. This is doubtless a worthy motive. But a preconceived purpose in writing is the bane of the historian. The great Scripture models indicate no purpose; they simply tell the naked truth. Reading the so-called history these gentlemen have given us in the light of their own announced intention, we shall find that it has led them again and again so to present incidents antagonistic to their purpose that the real truth is not told. Many paragraphs in support of this statement may readily be selected. We respect their purpose, but it has far misled the authors; so that, to put it briefly, the book is simply not a history of the country.

CAUSE OF STRIFE

The preconceived purpose to write a book that will cultivate a large patriotism has led these authors so to deal with the elements of strife between the North and South as to make it appear that no guilt or blame attached to either party; that all differences arose naturally and innocently; that the war itself was the logical outcome of circumstances of growth and development for which the parties engaged were not responsible; and that it was not the result of any such hostile feeling on the one side as any principle required the other to return in kind. The preface, to which allusion has been especially made, and such paragraphs as 416, 519, etc., for example, sufficiently illustrate our meaning. The book is clearly

in error as to some very important matters, as, for instance, in 550; but it is with respect to and in consequence of the effort to carry out the apparently commendable purpose with which it is written, that we are compelled to say that it presents a picture utterly inconsistent with the truth. Its principal errors thus concern matters of right and principle, as to which it is of the first and last importance that our children should be rightly informed, and so to absolutely forbid its use in our schools. The book is all the more pernicious because its authors pose as Southern men. Such may be the truth, but they certainly do not teach the truth of history. This so-called history does not anywhere mention the names of Generals Ewell, Hill, Cheatham, McLaws, Wheeler, Gordon, and Stephen D. Lee. Nor is there any record of the battles of Ball's Bluff, Gen. Lee's West Virginia campaign, Drewry's Bluff, Chantilly, Shepherdstown, Forrest's battle of Murfreesboro, Salem Church, Ewell's defeat of Milroy at Winchester. The defence of Fort Sumter for three years, the battle of Trevillian's Station, and numerous other heavy engagements are considered unworthy of notice by these Texas authors. The affair of the Merrimac and Monitor is misleading and inaccurate. The story of the campaign of Lee and Grant in 1864 is a model of inaccuracy. In fact, it is difficult to believe that such a compilation could be the work of Southern men.

LEE AND JONES.

Finally, with respect to the Lee and Jones histories. They have been re-examined by members of the committee, and while we still regard them as the best so far published, we are glad to know that new editions of them have been or are to be issued, and we recommend to the authors and publishers such careful improvements in style and arrangement as their great merits deserve. A much improved edition of the first has just come to hand. We regard both of them, however, as insufficient for the higher classes in our schools and for collegiate use.

Accordingly, we offer for your adoption the following resolutions: Resolved, 1. That this committee, after due examination and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »