At a Time Like This.
April 27, 1869
Success in commerce, industry, and arts, can only be achieved under the favor of good government and freedom of the citizen. Deprive a community of these, and decline and ruin must be its fate, "were the whole country under arbitrary authority it would be different. But to submit a part to disqualification of the citizens, todenying them really all the benefits of Government, and imposing upon them only its burdens, is sure to afflict the population so oppressed with the direst misfortune."
At a Time Like This. Can Virginians think of anything else than the resuscitation of their State from utter poverty and bondage? Can they be led away from the great matter of liberating themselves from a condition of banishment from all participation in their own government? Can there be a higher motive to exertion, to patriotic devotion? How utterly insignificant in comparison with these objects is every question of State policy and local and emotional interest! If we are to continue the mere bearers of burthens, the mere payers of taxes, with no right to participate in the government, what can we expect but continued prostration and despondency? How is a country with its intelligent and capable people tender the ban, and public affairs in the hands of incompetent and untrustworthy persons? To look for anything but ruin? Success in commerce, industry, and arts, can only be achieved under the favor of good government and freedom of the citizen. Deprive a community of these, and decline and ruin must be its fate. It is especially true of this country, where government, according to our theory, rests upon the will of the people, that any irregularities such as now exist here, any denial of equal rights to citizens, mast be calamitous to the public welfare. Were the whole country under arbitrary authority it would be different. But to submit a part to disqualification of the citizens, to denying them really all the benefits of Government, and imposing upon them only its burdens, is sure to afflict the population so oppressed with the direst misfortune. The sad situation of Virginia cannot be contemplated by any citizen of right mind and true public spirit without the deepest mortification. The picture of her sufferings is darkened by the fact that the blacks, late slaves to the whites, are accorded privileges which are denied to those whites. And now, four years after the war is ended, we have a party which labors to fasten upon those whites a disqualification from participation in the government even in its most unimportant offices. Looking at these things we cannot understand how any man, whether he be fully impressed with the higher sentiments of patriotic duty or not, even if he be a man of the most ordinary sense of humanity and justice, can fail to be stirred to the bottom of his soul with sympathy for his State and a determination to devote himself to her deliverance. Then let every other consideration perish for the present, and the grand one of deliverance of the people from the horrors of the Underwood constitution alone engross every mind. If we avoid that, and free the people, we can take care of all questions of local policy in good time ; we can restore the State to prosperity; we can be the artificers of our own fortunes; we can direct our government so as to restore order and confidence, and make Virginia as great in wealth and population as she always has been in the worth and renown of her public character. Sink all minor questions, fellow-citizens, and let us be free. Seek first this, and all that a State can desire in this world's gains will be added unto you.
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“At a Time Like This.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 3, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1321.