Friday, November 15, 2019

Joseph Green Cogswell to George Ticknor, April 29, 1861

NEW YORK, April 29, 1861.

. . . The humiliating condition to which Southern insolence and ruffianism have reduced us has preyed upon me greatly. I never wished to be young again until now, and, old as I am, I would have volunteered with any adequate number to go down and force a way through Baltimore, by laying it in ruins, if it could have been done in no other way. It was no disgrace to have the lawful authority of the country fallen upon by a mob, for that might happen under the strongest government. It is an indelible one to have allowed the mob to keep up the obstruction for days, between every part of the country and the capital of it. If it is not soon wiped out I shall be ashamed to own that I am an American.

The course which has been pursued by the South has changed all my feelings towards them. If they had taken the ground, that they had a right to secede if such was the clear and express will of the people, and maintained the right like honest men, I, for one, would have said, “Go, you shall have what fairly belongs to you”— but to buccaneers I would give no answer except from the mouth of the cannon.1

Out of all this evil great good will come. The Northern States will be more united, the principle of unlicensed democracy will be checked, our vainglorious boasting will be silenced, and the practical acknowledgment that Cotton is King will no more be heard. I firmly believe that the substantial and permanent prosperity of the North was secured by the first gun that was fired at Fort Sumpter, and the rapid decline of the South will date from the same event. I rejoice to find that Massachusetts has come up so nobly to the rescue.

1 In connection with this strong expression of feeling it is pleasant to be allowed to present the testimony of a lady whose relations with different parts of the country, as well as her high standing in society, and refined estimate of the demands of good breeding, entitle her words to be accepted and highly valued.  In a note written after Mr. Cogswell’s death, Mrs. Gilpin of Philadelphia speaks of “His information on all subjects of conversation so correct and extended, and his manners so mild and unobtrusive, with great delicacy of feelings for others. This,” she goes on to say, “I particularly observed during the war, as he was often my guest during that unfortunate period, when, from the peculiarity of my own position, Southern ladies and gentlemen were often with us.  No word ever escaped his lips to wound the feelings of any, and at the same time he was known to be firm in his own opinion.  He avoided argument or heated discussion on the merits of the war question, and gave to all around him a beautiful example of forbearance, with the most kindly feeling for those whom I knew he thought in the wrong.”

SOURCE: Anna Eliot Ticknor, Editor, Life of Joseph Green Cogswell as Sketched in His Letters, p. 286-7

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