Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 17.djvu/245
The Monument to General Robert E. Lee. 237
It has been said that the cause of the South was the worst that any people ever fought for. To those who measure national greatness by the acre, and know no national welfare that does not bear the stamp of the mint, the cause was bad, but not so in the eyes of the children of that holy covenant between the power of the State and the liberty of the people, the first lines of which were written at Runnymede, whose leaves are stained with the blood of countless martyrs, and to which the hand of Washington set the blood-red seal at Yorktown.
To them the cause was one for which it was an honor to fight and a glory to die.
We are here to day to honor ourselves by doing honor to the memory of the foremost champion of that cause.
If we look for a moment at the result of the method of composing the troubles of the country in 1861, adopted by Mr. Lincoln, I do not think that much encouragement will be found to resort to it again.
It is true that it abolished slavery and removed the only serious cause of dissension between the people of the North and South, but as I have shown the overthrow of slavery was an accident of the war, and not its object.
Its object was the restoration of the cotton States to the Union, or, in the language of the proclamation, '* to maintain the integrity and existence of our national Union and the perpetuity of popular gov- ernment, and to avenge wrongs already long enough endured.'*
The last- mentioned object, it must be owned, was accomplished, whatever and however great the wrongs to be avenged may have been.
It did restore the cotton States to the Union, but it restored only the land and the wretched inhabitants of it.
Instead of maintaining the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our national Union, it destroyed that Union, in all but a territo- rial sense, more effectually than secession, by substituting conquered provinces for free States, and repeating in America the shameful history of Russia and Poland.
Instead of maintaining the perpetuity of popular government, it established a military government ; instead of enforcing the laws of the Union, it established over nearly half the Union military and martial law.