Secession Era Editorials Project

The Progress of the Revolution.

Richmond, Virginia, Whig [American]

(4 June 1856)

We lay, this morning, before the people of Virginia and the South, the resolutions and speeches at a meeting in New York, said to be comprised of the choice spirits of all parties. We desire that the Southern people should have the opportunity to see what sentiments are expressed with reference to them by their brethren of the North that they may be the better able to judge of the advantages and probabilities of our continuing a united people.

The meeting purports to have for its object, the maintenance of the freedom of speech. These gentlemen claim that members of Congress have the right, as members, to say anything they choose, with impunity, about anybody or anything. There is no limitation whatever to the exercise of the privilege. A M C. may vilify and defame individuals ad libitum -- it is his constitutional right. The aggrieved party has no redress. Submission is his only alternative. This is a very convenient doctrine for foul-mouthed dastards; but it is one which has no sanction in reason, in justice, or the manly sense of resentment, which animates the bosom of a high-spirited people. Dr. Franklin laid down the true doctrine on this subject many years ago. He said that the freedom of speech carried with it the freedom of the cudgel. The brave and honorable man, who, hedged about with privileges, insults an individual, will make reparation or give satisfaction according to the usages of gentlemen; but the blackguard, who does the same thing, being insensible to the dictates of honor, can only be reached by the cowhide or bludgeon.

But the truth is, there is no question about the freedom of speech in the matter. Mr. Brooks did not deny Mr. Sumner's right to charge his uncle with every possible falsehood; he only claimed the right to chastise him for the foul imputation. The affair was nothing more than one of the thousands of personal difficulties, which are always taking place. The wise men, the great men of Gotham, however, affect to see in it an assault upon the very citadel of freedom. By their extravagance, and obvious perversion and distortion of a plain matter, they betray the dishonesty of their motives. The wounds to the public law is all a pretence -- their real purpose is to subserve the cause of political abolition.

These gentlemen -- we are willing to concede that they are what they claim to be -- the foremost characters in New York, set up to be the arbiters of chivalry and true courage. By their discourses and conduct towards others, they furnish us with their idea of a man of honor and heroism. Three hundred miles from the scene of danger, and proclaiming to the world that they repudiate all personal responsibility for insults, they denounce Mr. Brooks as a coward, and stigmatize the whole population of the South as "ruffians," "assassins," "brutes," "murderers," "scoundrels," "cowards," &c. We confess our inability to appreciate the valor of this proceeding. Wherein its daring manhood consists we are unable to perceive. In all our reading of brave men and heroic nations, we have never encountered any who did not seem to consider that a willingness to incur some degree of personal risk was essential to the attribute of courage; and if we were to subject the wordy heroes of New York to those tests, we should say they were destitute of the first principle of honor and the least particle of generous manhood. To speak of feeling an insult as a wound would be to them an unintelligible jargon. Not one of them ever experienced the sensation implied in the phrase. They are dead to its effects -- they are unconscious of its existence. That they possess the gross, brute courage of barbarians, or that which cowards derive from superior numbers, we doubt not. A Mr. Ruggles, one of the fiery orators, supplies a lively illustration of the fact. "Let us all go to Washington," he exclaimed. The valiant man had no idea of going alone. Mr. Morgan, a M C. from New York, also figured on the occasion. He took it upon himself to pronounce Mr Brooks. a "villain." We do not know that Mr. is a dastard -- and we shall not, therefore, denounce him as one. But, if, when he returns to Washington, Mr. Brooks shall demand a retraction of the insult, or satisfaction for it, and he shall refuse the one or the other, it will be impossible for us to resist the conviction that he was describing himself when speaking of Mr. Brooks.

Mr. Calhoun and many other sagacious and profound thinkers have contended that the Northern people were incapable of preserving free institutions. With a population far from dense, compared with Europe, a resort to the military is no unfrequent occurrence among them, even at the present time. Their breed of noble men is well nigh extinct. All their really great men of the revolution were bred up under slave institutions -- for at that time slavery existed in all the colonies. Their greatest man of later days was Webster. He was destitute of moral courage, and his whole character was disfigured by ignoble stains. -- Of the present generation -- excepting Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Winthrop, neither of whom has mingled in this wordy foray against the South -- their public men are mere demagogues -- shallow pretenders -- fit only for the stock-jobbing department of politics. -- Under the lead of canting hypocrites, they affect a mighty degree of piety, and their nice consciences are greatly distressed about the slaves, whom their piratical ancestors kidnapped and brought to this country, and sold to Southern planters. Probably if the bottom of their hearts were searched, it would be found that they are chiefly anxious to liberate the present race of Africans, that they might have the opportunity of supplying their place, by resuming the old and profitable traffic by which they made so much money in former times. They, however, as represented by the elite of New York, claim to be the only fit people to uphold free Government, and manage the affairs of a Republic. The only evidence we have of their fitness, is their late and continued attempt to subvert the legal Government of Kansas by a mob of craven fanatics, who, after defying war, either sold or threw away their arms, and took to their heels, and their recent proposition, through the columns of the Tribune, to send a band of bullies to Washington to overawe Congress, which proposition was seconded and amended, by the furious Ruggles, to include all, and loudly applauded by the meeting of honorable and courageous gentlemen of New York, Union Square, Fifth Avenue and Wall street have by recommending force, but a ball in motion, which may cause their palaces to topple, and cannot be stopped as easily as it was started.

The funniest part of the imposing exhibition was the failure of the effort to conceal its real character by keeping the avowed abolitionists muzzled and out of view. But old Beecher was on hand, and to the horror of the pretended conservatives, appropriately closed the proceedings.


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