Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Origin And Character Of The War

Lecture of Hon. Edward Everett.

Bryan Hall was crowded last evening in its utmost capacity with an intelligent and appreciative audience, assembled to listen to the celebrated lecture of the distinguished and venerable orator from Massachusetts, Edward Everett, upon “The Origin and Character of the Present War.”  Long ere the hour appointed for the commencement of the address the continual stream of people which had been pouring in since 7 o’clock had filled the spacious hall and galleries, and eagerly awaited the appearance of the eminent speaker.  At 8 o’clock Mr. Everett, accompanied by the Chairman of the Lecture Committee of the Young Men’s Association, E. W. Russell, Esq., made his appearance upon the stage, and was greeted with prolonged and enthusiastic applause.  After a few remarks by Mr. Russell, Mr. Everett came forward and opened his address with a brief introduction, in which he stated that, soon after the commencement of this war, it was said that the time for action had arrived; but with how much more propriety might it now be said since the brilliant victories at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Yorktown, and, as we have every reason to believe, the occupation of Richmond. (Tremendous applause.)  With this introduction, Mr. Everett proceeded to show that the present war is not, as is asserted, both here and abroad, by the enemies of the Union, an aggressive war on the part of the North.

The orator then proceeded to show that the present contest was commenced as far back as the year 1828, when South Carolina raised the cry of nullification on account of a tariff which was imposed upon sugar and cotton for the express purpose of introducing and encouraging their culture in the Southern States.  But we then had a President who did not understand the Constitution as Buchanan understood it, and that President was General Jackson.  The only privilege offered by him to the nullifiers, or any one found opposing the laws of the United States by force of arms, was that of a military execution.  In tracing the progress of this contest, the speaker’s allusions to President Jackson and General Scott were received with the most tumultuous applause.  He referred to the famous letter of Jackson in 1833, after the close of the nullification struggle, in which, with singular sagacity, as events had since proven, he declared that the tariff was then but the pretext for disunion and a southern confederacy.  The next pretext would be the slavery question.

The orator then proceeded to trace the rise and progress of the movement in England for the abolition of slavery in her colonies, and the influence it had upon the minds of certain persons on this side of the ocean; the slave insurrections in South Carolina and Virginia, which greatly excited the minds of the southern people; the Missouri Compromise of 1821; the exertions which were made during a number of sessions to settle the question of the non-introduction of slaves into the Territories; and the manner in which the South even more than the North, had made options relative to slavery a party test.

Upon Mr. Everett’s reference to the exertions which he had made to unite the hearts of the North and South, by attempting to inspire a reverence for the name of Washington and a sacred regard for his birthplace, the house rang with shouts of applause.

He then proceeded to show that the North had had as much cause for complaint and irritations by the tone of the southern journals, and speeches in Congress of southern men, as the South.  One was just as provoking as the other.

The South had been the petted child of the Union.  From the time of the Texas annexation to the compromise of 1854 and the administration of Mr. Buchanan, during which she was again favored in the forced settlement of the Kansas question against the will of the majority of the people, everything had been done to conciliate the South.  At length the election of 1860 placed the candidate of the republican party in the Presidential chair, and even then the utmost efforts were made to convince the South that its constitutional rights were the special care of the President and his friends, but the defeat of that very democratic party which southern conspirators had divided in Charleston was made the pretest for immediate secession.  South Carolina did not wait for overt acts, for she well knew that none would be committed.  She withdrew from the Union, declaring herself free and independent.  From this point Mr. Everett continued to delineate the progress of secession, step by step, and the brilliant instances of patriotism that illustrated the action of the North and northern men.  His mention of Gen. Anderson and Gen. Dix, and the conduct of the portions of the border states, especially Western Virginia and Northern Kentucky, was crowned with reiterated plaudits.  The labors of the Union Conference Convention received especial encomium, and a handsome tribute was paid to the name of Virginia and her dead patriots, chief among whom stood the immortal Washington.  The late and present position of Eastern Virginia was analyzed with much force.  Virginia tinctured with the heresies of nullification and secession, would not secede with South Carolina, but, if the right of the latter to secede should be denied, then would she stand by her.  The Teachings of her own Jefferson and Madison were perverted to the people until this right was declared to be established.

Still, Virginia would not move until the President should take measures to invade the South, as his preparations to maintain the government were called.  She would still cling to the Union, provided the Union would be divided, at will, by any and every discontented member.  The strategy of the States that had already seceded, bearing upon the melancholy privilege of Virginia to stock the plantations of the cotton States, soon changed even these dispositions, and by a wicked concert of trickery, at Richmond and Montgomery, the Old Dominion was betrayed to overt treason.  Next came the phase of open violence.  This was illustrated by a vivid description of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, which the orator declared to have been a place of cool Machiavellian policy to force the United States government into hostilities, and to drive Virginia to the fulfillment of her promise to resist the march of national troops across her territory against the South.  That act, commencing on the 12th of April, was, as Knox Walker, a member of the Confederate Cabinet, in a public harangue, declared the inauguration of the war, for the proclamation of Mr. Lincoln did not issue until the 15th of April, and hence was not the cause or opening of the conflict.  That atrocious bombardment, which was intended to “fire the southern heart,” did fire the northern heart; and the flag that the same Walker boasted was, by the 1st of may 1860 [sic], to float above the dome of the capitol at Washington, and soon thereafter over Faneuil Hall at Boston, will have to wait until it can regain its flight above its own Beaufort in South Carolina {Thunders of applause.}  Mr. Everett here graphically and touchingly depicted the horrors of the civil war throughout the country, and particularly the devastating punishment of Virginia and South Carolina.

Reverting then to the consideration of our government and Union in peace and prosperity, he painted a glowing picture of the future as it might be on this continent, with a vast confederacy of fifty or sixty free States, enjoying such glories and advantages as mankind has not yet dreamed.  All this bright vision foul secession blights.  The grand imposing position occupied only two years since by the United States among the nations is already jeopardized and where the South, even then, was ready to go to war with mighty England for a mere patch of Maine or Oregon, or face in arms, side by side with us, the combined power of Europe in defending the honor of the flag of stars, today she is willing to cast away the entire North – twenty great States – and herself pass under the protectorate of foreign monarchies.  Mr. Everett eloquently exposed the folly of secession, the designs of European despotisms, and the certain doom of this people when permanently divided, citing numerous historical parallels.  He concluded by invoking the vengeance of heaven and earth alike on the man who builds his fame, or rather conspicuous infamy, upon the ruin of his country, and declaring that the aims of such shall not succeed in the present instance, uttered a thrilling appeal to all the land to rally for the Union.

“Come as the winds come
When forests are rended;
Come as the waves come
When navies are stranded.”

Young and old, men and women alike, of all creeds and climes, who have sought homes and refuge on our soil with those it bore, and ye lovers of liberty throughout the world – come! come one, come all! to the rescue of the Union! –{Chicago Times.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 24, 1862, p. 1

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