Sunday, September 9, 2012

Common Scolds

Next to lying, the easiest thing in the world is scolding; and there are men who have acquired such skill by practice that they may be said to scold and lie with equal facility.  It affords one an opportunity to be very smart – to exhibit an unusual degree of wisdom and sagacity – to have a criticism for every act, a suspicion for every motive, and an offset of censure for every word of extorted praise.  It is a very pretty thing for some people to believe, or affect to believe, that public virtue is dead, that selfishness is the rule of live in every responsible station, that patriotism is scarcer than diamonds, and that the country generally is only fit to go to the devil and is well advanced in the journey.  This sort of thing gives the self-appointed censor prominence, as the office which he assumes to fill is one that pre-supposes eminent purity, patriotism, valor, prudence and all unselfishness and all excellence as its qualifications and credentials.

Since the commencement of the present war, there have been men, nominally supporters of the Government and the Administration – nay, men who are the recipients of the favors of the Administration – whose words and whose influence have not been such as to strengthen either the hands of the Government or the hearts of the people.  If men have gone to them for strength or comfort, they have not found it. – They have instead, received the impression that the Government either does not know what it is about, or is in the hands of sharpers; that military men care more for themselves, a thousand times, than they do for their country; that the Government has no policy and the army no plan; and that the rebels really monopolize all the military genius of the country.  The President, according to these wise ones, is “well enough,” but he is weak: every member of the Cabinet is “well enough,” but there is something radically wrong about him; and military men are “well enough,” perhaps, but military men are military men, and much in the way of the public virtue is not to be expected of them.  If a mistake is made, it is always “inexcusable.”  If any possible emergency proves to be unprovided for, somebody’s neck should be stretched for it.  Every success is only a lucky chance which involves no credit to anybody, and the common scolds even go so far, not unfrequently, as to say that the happening is contrary to the will of the superiors in military command, and that all successful subordinates would be punished if the operation were a safe one.

It was a remark of Mr. Beecher, we believe, that the strongest encouragement he ever obtained in his Christian life was derived from the weaknesses of the apostles.  If they, in intimate contact with the great Master, were so much like him, then there was no hope for him.  We feel very much like this on looking to revolutionary times.  Let a person take up and read through Irving’s Life of Washington, and get his glimpses of the revolution through that life, and it will certainly give him courage and strength.  He will find that no man connected with the government to-day is half as much maligned and abused as Washington was by the men of his time – that rancor and hatred, such as were leveled at him, are to-day unknown out of the precincts of treason.  He will find prevalent everywhere the same impatience, and same caviling spirit, the same cursing and scolding, there were men, then, as now, who could see nothing good in public men, and nothing laudable in public policy.  There were men, then, as now who assumed the censorship of all movements, and could find nothing good in any.  Yet Washington and his associates stand to-day the glorified objects of our reverent love; and we have no doubt that the men who are at the head of affairs to-day are to take their place among the canonized immortals whom grateful patriotism will never permit to die.  We say this none the less heartily because the common scolds will turn up their noses at the bare suggestion.

It is easy to sit home and scold.  It is easy to do nothing while others are crushed down by cares of state, or are sacrificing ease and comfort in the camp, and periling life and limb in deadly conflict.  We say it is easy to sit at home – nay, it may be easier still to sit in the editor’s chair – and scold; but it is meaner than any other thing mentionable.  If there ever lived a set of men who deserved the sympathy and the moral support of their fellow countrymen, then those who are engaged in putting down this great rebellion deserve them.  The largest charity should be extended to them, and the firmest trust reposed in them.  Our hope under god must be in them; and even if they should not all be what they ought to be, they are the best we have, and it is impossible to decide impartially upon their fitness for their posts to-day.  No man to-day is in possession of the facts that will enable him to decide fully as to the merits of those who are at the head of the civil and military affairs of this country.

In view of the late advances and successes of our army, it would seem as if the common scolds would perceive that their vocation is gone; but we presume they are in full blast yet.  In their opinion, the evacuation of Columbus and Manassas is not attributable to any strategic plan, devised in Washington; but it happened so. – Indeed, we presume that it will be represented to have occurred against the will of those in power, and to have subjected all who were active in procuring it to degradation from the service.  Such men deserve to be slapped across the mouth, and to receive an emphatic injunction to “dry up.”  If a man cannot be sharp and witty and impressive, at a time like this, without sowing the seeds of discontent and dissatisfaction and distrust in every mind with which he comes in contact, let us have his right hand in a swing.  A “friend of the government” who believes in the general rascality of all who are in it is nothing better than a pimp of treason. {Springfield Republican.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 22, 1862, p. 3

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