Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
A Southerner on South Carolina
By William Mumford Baker (18251883)
[Born in Washington, D.C., 1825. Died in South Boston, Mass., 1883. From Inside: A Chronicle of Secession. 1866.]
THOUGH, while we are upon the subject, there is one thing in regard to Columbia I have never yet fully understood, said Mrs. Bowles, after a while. Rutledge Bowles has explained it to me over and over again in his lettersthe perpetual revolutions in the College, I mean. From what Rutledge Bowles writes it has been impossible for the students to pursue, consistently with their own honor, any other course. It seems strange that the many Faculties of the College cannot come to understand, any of them, what the youth of South Carolina are and what they will not submit to. Strange! It is a great interruption to the studies, I fear. I know very little of the institutions out of the State; but I fear it is something peculiar to Columbia, said Mrs. Bowles, though her fear sounded far more like pride.
Yes, in the history, eventful enough, of the College of South Carolina, at Columbia, you have, in epitome, the character and history of the State itself. Self-will, contempt for rightful authority, reckless disregard of everything except the selfish abstraction of the hour! Gallant, generous, high-toned youth, they yield their own notions to that of their Faculty? No, Sir! Rather than that, let the institution be wrecked to its foundation! Rather than that, let their own education, and consequent success in life, perish! See the same youth when grown a few inches higher in stature and immeasurably more generous, gallant, high-toned, and all the rest; they submit their own ideas to the superior authority of the General Government? they yield a hairs-breadth from their own heated view of their own rights and wrongsimprescriptible rights, infinite wrongs? By all that elevates the man above the brute and the negro, never, Mr. Speaker, never! Rather, Sir, let the General Government be wrecked till not a spar floats to tell where once it sailed! Rather perish the hope of the human race! Above all, rather, Mr. Speaker, we of South Carolina lose every negro from our fields, every cent from our coffers, every city from our soil, every son on the field of battle from our hearth-stones! Perish the universe and we, Sir, we with it, rather than it move save as we intend it shall move! From his birth to his death never in the ages such a conspiracy as against your South Carolinian. Nurse, parent, schoolmaster, College Faculty, General Government, opinion of Christendom, course of Gods eternal providenceone early begun, universal, incessant combination against him. But not more magnificent the coalition than the defiance thereof on his part!
Poor Mrs. Bowles! From its foundation was practical Secession the incidental but leading part of the Columbia Curriculum, and well was the lesson learned. The yellow-fever is, they say, a standing affair in Cuba; and there lives scarce a man beside the Pedees, the Congaree, the Edisto, and the Cooper and Ashley but inhaled Secession as his vital atmosphere. It was too strong even for the Gospel. Heaven defend us, even in the conventions of religious bodies. It was: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Moderator, it is painful to us, Sir, it is very painful, but on this point we cannot yield. No one can regret it more than ourselves, but if brethren will press this point, there is, Sir, but one course left usIn sæcula sæculorumque, aut South Carolina aut nullus.
Sturdy, wrong-headed little State! Look at it on the map there, altogether unlike North Carolina even on the one side, and Georgia on the other; tough, three-sided fragment of mediæval granite, refusing to be dissolved or to lose an angle even in the rolling of the great waters of progress; requiring something besides the silent, serene processes of nature by which the craggy mountains are being melted slowly down and the rough globe rounded into shape; requiring the extra force and fury as of waters too long and too obstinately dammed back from their natural and inevitable course. Every soul of us, however, admires the South Carolinian at last. Only let him be master, and a truer gentleman never breathed. The Hardkoppig Piet in him is hidden under the Bayard, the Cur de Lion. He is only a hundred years or so out of place, that is all. There is nothing to laugh at in Don Quixote except his living a century or two too late. Even then it is with pain that we smile at the ancient armor, language defiant of the universe, and, most sorrowful of all, poor old Rosinante which bears him up!