May 4, 1867
Reconstruction is inevitable, so in order to progress as Virginia, citizens need to learn to accept it.The "status of the negro" has been defined, so there is no use in fighting it when they have no control over the state of its existence anymore.
Useless Controversy. There is said at this time a great deal in the way of controversy and cavil that is worse than useless. If the press could desist from an old habit acquired through the custom of political and party disputation in past times, it would be of infinite advantage to the State. Men are cavilling about words when events are sweeping over the country with a force utterly irresistible. They scheme and manoeuvre for the advantage in a mere war of words, like boys at marbles, who resort persistently to every trick to disconcert the adversary. "Vence your clearance " -- "vence your hand's roomance" -- "no poking " -- "knuckle down" -- and what, with these restrictions and many little tricks, the strategists contrive to save their "taws" from death, and get the advantage. Precisely after this sort is the "little game " now being played by "boys of a larger growth." It is a pity it cannot be discontinued. It serves to disconcert some people, and confuse any general plan for the easy solution and control of the process now going on, and which demands harmony and unity amongst our people to prevent evil. The reconstruction under the acts of Congress is a fixed fact. No power on earth can prevent it. No change in public sentiment can possibly intervene - no decision of the Supreme Court can come in time before the reconstruction on this plan is accomplished. When done, will any one tell us how it is to be undone? Have the old fogies and veteran partisans-have the flitterty-gibbets considered this? If they have not, let them sit down and ponder awhile. Can they take out of the sea the drop of fresh water that has fallen into it? Can they restore to their original shape and formation the masses upheaved by the volcano? As easily may they restore this State and this population to their former condition. The Supreme Court will never attempt it. Never! And the negro -- why dispute about him? His status is settled. Nothing short of omnipotent intervention can change it. He is the equal of the white man before the law, and there he must stand. Had we the power to change his position, and place him again in slavery, would we do it? We say no! The South would never again encounter the difficulties -- the everlasting war and strife which was kept up by slavery: -- an institution she had no part in creating, and for which she is in no wise responsible. No, she is content to let matters stand, and it is her wish to make the best of her situation. We believe the people are ahead of the press. They have done with disputing as to how far the law shall keep up distinctions. They have come to the true point of asking none and desiring none. They are ready to rest the maintenance of their positions in society upon the force of their own intellects and capacities. Could the question be put now to the entire people of Virginia: " Are you willing to give up the " distinctions of law and trust to your own "powers?" there would be one universal response of " YES" -- so unanimous, so hearty, that it would shake the vault above us. Then why cavil about words? and why use too many words? We suggest to platform framers not to be excited -- to frame their work calmly and reject useless ornament. Adhere to the positive. The superlative won't do in such matters. Use no more words than necessary, and avoid the piling up of expletives, which only afford cavillers an opportunity to carp and criticise. Then, congressional reconstruction is unavoidable -- the equality of the negro with the white man is a fixed fact. Why endeavor to engender discontent, reluctance, and downright opposition to that plan by harping upon its wrongs and exciting delusive hopes that it may bo avoided? Why cavil at the negro equality and essay to retain legal distinctions which will only perpetuate agitation to abolish them? It is all idle and mischievous. The United States is our country. We must make it so by our conduct. It is our policy and our duty. We can only be prosperous and happy by pursuing this course. Does any one desire to pursue a different one? Let him read the sad letters of the prominent men who now groan in misery in their voluntary exile. Read Clay's letter, and reflect. Look at the prostrate condition of the country -- look at the restless condition of the public mind, and ask yourself shall not seek quiet and order in restoration ? Is it not wiser to take it cheerfully under the congressional plan than to continue our unhappy condition and wind up in still worse results? Let us, for sake of the country, have, if possible, no more cavilling, and go to work earnestly to reconstruct the State and restore peace and prosperity to the South.
About this article
“Useless Controversy,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed October 21, 2019, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/591.