What We Have Learned
September 15, 1866
In an effort to place the Southern Conservative cause as a fight for greater personal freedom, guaranteed by the constitution and its fundamental principles, the southern cause is compared to the actions of the Carthaginians, the Barons of England, the Tories, and even the American Revolutionaries.
What We Have Learned. It may bare incomprehensible to us before the late civil war in this country why the men of a certain little Carthaginian town, rather than surrender it to the Romans, burned all their jewelry and other valuables, killed all the women and children, and then, sallying forth to meet their enemies, fought till the last man of their number was killed. When we reflect upon the humiliations to which the Radicals are now anxious to subject the southern people, we naturally suspect that the brave Carthaginians had reason to know that death was preferable to the mercy of their enemies. We understand now, without accepting as true De Quincey's exaggerated estimate of the number of the population of Rome, how that famons republic armed and equipped such vast bodies of men, and over-run the neighboring countries. Before our own war we attributed the extraordinary evidences of patriotism, the self sacrificing devotion to country, and the unflagging zeal, which characterized the Romans to some feature of their religion the history of which had not been transmitted to posterity. We may now take it for granted that they worshipped their flag, and were ready to sacrifice home, friends, personal liberty, mercy, and everything else in their desire to punish every heathenish iconoclast who fought against it. We understand now why it was necessary for the Barons of England, time after time, under King after King, and sometimes more than once under the same King, to reassert the rights and privileges of their order and to have their favorite laws and customs periodically declared to be still in force. It was because the Kings constantly violated their coronation oaths, and treated charters and customs as nullities. No respect was paid to what the English call their "constitution"-an unwritten constitution, it is true, but none the worse for that. The Philadelphia Conservative Convention was an assemblage of our " barons," convened for the purpose of causing the powers that be to return to their allegiance to the Constitution, to respect the teachings of the fathers, to bring our ancient customs again into use, and to pledge their faith to one another that the Congress (here the dominant power) should be strictly watched, and if possible prevented from harassing the people. We understand how it was that the Tory clergy in England, after the restoration of Charles II., preached three times as many sermons about the "blessed martyr" Charles I., as they did about the Savior. This is stated by Macauley to have been a fact, and it was so incredible that he thought it necessary to cite his authority in a note. (We are not sure that the proportion is hero stated in Macauley's words.) We who remember the chief staple of the sermons preached in the North a year ago, can have no difficulty in crediting the statement. Political parsons in every previous age were like those of the present day. They thought no subject so worthy of their attention and elucidation as the political questions of the hour. And the deplorable feature is that they preach on such subjects to excite rancorous prejudice against an unprotected class. We understand now how it was that the people of England became restless under the Commonwealth, and hailed the restoration of Charles II. with such extravagant demonstrations of satisfaction and delight that he expressed his astonishment, and inquired what could have become of his enemies. The Radical Roundheads had disgusted all the conservative classes by their follies and wickedness. And, finally, we understand that the atrocities committed by Henry VIII., the horrors of the inquisition, the massacre of St. Bartholomew's day, the execution of Lady Jane Grey, were not only justified in the eyes of the guilty authors by the plea that "the life of the nation was in danger, but that the mass of the people in England, France, and Spain coincided in the opinion of their rulers. The heart of man is indeed desperately wicked. Whether the people of the present "enlightened" age are in any respect better than those of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, is a question which admits of debate And whether the people of the South are to meet with any better treatment than the Republicans did under Charles I., the dissenting Protestants and Catholics under Henry VIII., the 1 Protestants in Spain and France in the seventeenth century, and the nobility in France at the close of the eighteenth, is a question which a year ago we thought could not possibly arise, but which the tone and temper of the Radicals of the North now tell us is of tremendous practical import.
About this article
“What We Have Learned,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 29, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/327.