Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/341

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333
The South and the Union.

as a large majority of the people of the United States believed in 1860, was it expedient, was it wise to exercise that right? What must be said of the wisdom of the men who led us into a terrific struggle, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of money to win a success which when won would, as is assumed above, have put us in a position not only worse than we had, then, but worse than our present condition? There can be but one reply. Brave and good men we know them to have been, but very unwise, if not foolish, in leading their people to withdraw from the Union. Compare them with such men as the Virginians, Botts and Lewis, who steadily refused under much odium and obloquy to take any step to leave the Union.

"Are not these the men whom, if the assumption is correct, we Virginians should honor with monuments and hold up to our children as guides and counselors in public affairs? Compare General Lee and General Thomas, Virginians who took opposite sides in the contest; both brave men, each fighting for the cause he thought right. But which was right? If it was better for us to fall, surely it must follow that Thomas was right and Lee wrong. When men rise up in resistance to an established government, they must establish, or aim at establishing, some better government for their peopie. If this aim could not have been realized, even had they been successful in their effort, they can have but small claim to the love and honor of the people whom they, however good their intentions, have led to disaster and ruin. If the independence they aimed at to be a blessing to their people, success or failure should make no difference in our estimate of them, except that in failure they are even more deserving of the sympathy and reverence of their people, like Aristomenes, Sertorius, Emmett and other unsuccessful patriots. But if success could have brought (as is assumed) no blessing, then the sooner these leaders are forgotten the better. Had Washington and the other leaders in 1776 failed in their efforts to throw off the British yoke, they would still have a strong claim on the gratitude and love of their people, not because they thought they were right, but because they were right. The leaders in Monmouth's rebellion no doubt thought they were right, and died bravely in that unfortunate effort; but they were mistaken and wrong, and are justly held responsible for the great evils that befell their followers in that ill-judged and ill-fated enterprise.

"If it was better for us to fail in the war of secession, a great mistake was made in the South in 1861. Who were responsible for it? Our