Sunday, November 14, 2010

Today in history

150 years ago today, Alexander H. Stephens, who would later become Vice President of the Confederate States, delivered this address in support of the Union, to the Georgia legislature. It is a beautiful speech, which interestingly reflects my opinions stated Oct. 1. Here are a couple of passages:

In the first, Mr. Stephens is calling institutions those public and private organizations that maintained the culture and economy of the nation:

It was only under our Institutions as they are, that they were developed. Their development is the result of the enterprise of our people under operations of the government and institutions under which we have lived. Even our people, without these, never would have done it. The organization of society has much to do with the development of the natural resources of any country or any land. The Institutions of a people, political and moral, are the matrix in which the germ of their organic structure quickens into life, takes root, and develops in form, nature, and character. Our institutions constitute the basis, the matrix from which spring all our characteristics of development and greatness. Look at Greece: There is the same fertile soil, the same blue sky, the same inlets and harbors, the same Aegean, the same Olympus-- there is the same land where Homer sung, where Pericles spoke -- it is, in nature, the same old Greece; but it is "living Greece no more." (Applause.)

Descendants of the same people inhabit the country; yet what is the reason of this mighty difference? In the midst of present degradation we see the glorious fragments of ancient works of art-- temples with ornaments and inscriptions that excite wonder and admiration, the remains of a once high order of civilization, which have outlived the language they spoke. Upon them all, Ichabod is written -- their glory has departed. Why is this so? I answer this, their institutions have been destroyed. These were the fruits of their form of government, the matrix from which their grand development sprung; and when once the institutions of our people shall have been destroyed, there is no earthly power that can bring back the Promethean spark to kindle them here again, any more than in that ancient land of eloquence, poetry and song. (Applause.) The same may be said of Italy. Where is Rome, once the mistress of the world? There are the same seven hills now, the same soil, the same natural resources; nature is the same; but what a ruin of greatness meets the eye of the traveller throughout the length and breadth of that most down-trodden land. Why have not the people of that heaven-favored clime the spirit that animated their fathers? Why this sad difference? It is the destruction of her institutions that has caused it. And my countrymen, if we shall, in an evil hour, rashly pull down and destroy those institutions which the patriotic hand of our fathers labored so long and so hard to build up, and which have done so much for us, and for the world; who can venture the prediction that similar results will not ensue? Let us avoid them if we can. I trust the spirit is amongst us that will enable us to do it. Let us not rashly try the experiment of change, of pulling down and destroying; for, as in Greece and Italy, and the South American Republics, and in every other place, whenever our Liberty is once lost, it may never be restored to us again. (Applause.) [Emphasis added]...

This paragraph echoes what I wrote Oct. 1, when I said, "I anticipate that several nullification bills will be introduced and passed. If these and all else fail, I have little doubt that the liberty movement in Ohio can be persuaded to support secession – but such talk is clearly premature at this time."

I am for exhausting all that patriotism demands, before taking the last step. I would invite, therefore, South Carolina to a conference. I would ask the same of all the other Southern States, so that if the evil has got beyond our control, which God in his mercy grant may not be the case, we may not be divided among ourselves; (cheers) but if possible, secure the united cooperation of all the Southern States, and then in the face of the civilized world, we may justify our action, and, with the wrong all on the other side, we can appeal to the God of Battles, if it comes to that, to aid us in our cause. (Loud applause.) But do nothing, in which any portion of our people, may charge you with rash or hasty action. It is certainly a matter of great importance to tear this government asunder. You were not sent here for that purpose. I would wish the whole South to be united, if this is to be done; and I believe if we pursue the policy which I have indicated, this can be effected.

In this way, our sister Southern States can be induced to act with us; and I have but little doubt, that the States of New York, and Pennsylvania, and Ohio[!], and the other Western States, will compel their Legislatures to recede from their hostile attitude, if the others do not.

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