Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 26.djvu/63

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
The Dismemberment of Virginia.

communities is analogous to the maiming of the human body in that if individual members of society. Had the State, thus mutilated, evinced in her previous history a cruel, sordid or selfish spirit towards her sister States? Were her services to the Union slight and inconsiderable, her contributions to its history trivial and inglorious? Did she not at the period of the Revolution promptly take up a quarrel not primarily her own, and hasten to place herself, without waiting to count the cost, by the side of imperiled Massachusetts?

Did she not, by her own unaided efforts, achieve the conquest of a vast domain, and afterward, with a more than imperial generosity, cede it as a free gift to the Confederation? Let the answer be taken from the lips, not of devoted sons or partial friends, but of eminent representatives of the geographical section and the political school most opposed to her. "There is," says Senator Hoar, of Massachusetts, "no more touching story of the munificence and bounty of one people to another than that of Virginia to Massachusetts when the port of Boston was shut up by Act of Parliament and by a hostile English fleet.


Little had happened which bore hardly upon Virginia."


There was no personal suffering here. It was only the love of liberty that inspired the generous people of the Old Dominion to stand by Massachusetts.


But saving, therefore, my allegiance to her (Massachusetts), I affirm without hesitation that the history of no other civilized community on earth, of like numbers, since Athens, for a like period, can be compared with that of Virginia from 1765 or 1770 down to 1825. What her gallant soldier, Henry Lee, said of her most illustrious son may well be said of her: First in War, first in Peace. The list of her great names of that wonderful period is like a catalogue of the fixed stars. For all time, the American youth who would learn the principles of liberty protected by law; who would learn how to frame constitutions and statutes; who would seek models of the character of the patriot, of the statesman, of the gentle-man, of the soldier, may seek instruction from her, may study her history as in a great university." And elsewhere, in commenting upon the cession of her northwestern territory to the Union in 1784, he says in a similar vein: "The cession of Virginia was the most marked instance of a large and generous self-denial."

"I never," said Webster, in one of his last great speeches in the Senate, "reflect upon it without a disposition to do honor and