Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
The South Loyal
By Roger Atkinson Pryor (18281919)
[Born in Dinwiddie Co., Va., 1828. Died in New York, N. Y., 1919. The Union: A Plea for Reconciliation. Address on Decoration Day, Brooklyn, N. Y., 30 May, 1877.]
BE assured, Southern statesmanship is not so blinded in its proverbial sagacity as not to see that henceforth the strength and security of the South are to be found only under the shield of the Union. Against the perils of foreign invasion it gains in the Union the bulwark of a mighty prestige and an invincible army. As a guaranty of peace between its discordant peoples the ever-imminent intervention of the Federal arm will operate to deter the unruly and to tranquillize the timid. Freedom and facility of access to every part of this vast and opulent land opens to the enterprise of the South a boundless field of adventure, and imparts to its industrial and commercial energies a quickening impulse of development and fruition. Meanwhile, an expedient devised to balk the ambition of the white race recoils upon its source, and by augmenting the political power of the South, enables its aspiring spirits to play a splendid and superior part on the theatre of Federal affairs.
If, in contrast with the brilliant future offered to the South in the Union, you contemplate for a moment the destiny to which it would be condemned by another civil convulsion, caused by another revolt against the Federal power; the havoc and carnage of a war aggravated by a conflict between races and issuing inevitably in the catastrophe of a remorseless subjugation, you cannot, on the supposition that the Southern people are rational beings, impute to them any other policy or purpose than to cleave to the Union as their only and their all-sufficient shelter and support .
Nor to the restoration of the Union is the Confederate soldier any the less reconciled by the destruction of slavery. True, the material interests of the South were essentially implicated in the maintenance of the system; but, philosophically, it was the occasion, not the cause, of secession. For the cause of secession you must look beyond the incident of the anti-slavery agitation to that irrepressible conflict between the principles of State sovereignty and Federal supremacy, which menacing the Union in the conception as the twin children of the patriarch wrestled for the mastery in their mothers womb, again endangered its existence in 1798 on occasion of the Alien and Sedition laws; and again in 1819 on occasion of the admission of Missouri: and still again in 1833 on occasion of the protective tariff; and which, arrested by no concession and accommodated by no compromise, continued to rage with increasing fury, until, provoking the revolt of the South, it terminated finally in the absolute and resistless ascendancy of the national power. In 1861 the people of the South resented the intervention of the Federal Government to restrict the extension of slavery; but it was the principle, not the object, of the interference that encountered their opposition; and any other usurpation of Federal power on the sovereign rights of the States would equally have challenged their resistance. Nor, suffer me to say, was slavery any more the point of your attack than of our defence; for, otherwise, in beginning the war the Federal Government would not have been so scrupulous to proclaim through all its organs, its purpose not to touch any the least of the securities of slave property.
No, people of the North, impartial history will record that slavery fell not by any effort of mans will, but by the immediate intervention and act of the Almighty himself; and, in the anthem of praise ascending to Heaven for the emancipation of four million human beings, the voice of the Confederate soldier mingles its note of devout gratulation. The Divinity that presided over the destinies of the Republic at its nativity graciously endowed it with every element of stability save one; and now that in the exuberance of its bounty the same propitious Providence is pleased to replace the weakness of slavery by the unconquerable strength of freedom, we may fondly hope that the existence of our blessed Union is limited only by the mortality that measures the duration of all human institutions.
But why argue on speculative grounds to prove the patriotism of the Confederate soldier, since within these few months he has, by so memorable an illustration, vindicated his fidelity to the Union? You cannot have forgottenfor the land still trembles with the agitations of the crisisthat when of late a disputed succession to the Presidency appalled the country with the imminence of civil war: when business stood still and men held their breath in apprehension of a calamity of which the very shadow sufficed to eclipse all the joy of the nation: you cannot but remember, how, obdurate to the entreaties of party, and impenetrable to the promptings of resentment, and responsive only to the inspirations of patriotism, the Confederate soldier in Congress spoke peace to the affrighted land. Your difficulty was his opportunity; he had only to say the word, and the fatal fourth of March would have passed without the choice of a Federal executive, and the Union have been involved in the agonies of a dynastic struggle. But, with a sublime magnanimity he spurned the proffered revengeand yet do you say the Confederate soldier is false to his allegiance? Pardon me if, even in this presence, I make bold to protest that he was never faithless to his trust: to declare that when you thought him treacherous to the Union, he was only true to his State; and to tell you that when he braved all the wrath of your majestic power, it was only in heroic fidelity to a weak but, with him, an all-commanding cause. If your reproach be just, and the Confederate soldier were a conscious culprit, then indeed is reconciliation a folly and a crime; for if false to you once he may betray you again; and instead of alluring him to your embrace by these overtures of fraternity, you should repel him from your presence as a perfidious outcast. No, patriots of the Union! The Confederate soldier offers not to your confidence a conscience stained with the guilt of recreancy. Veterans of the Union! he comes not into your companionship with a confession of criminality; but for the credentials of his loyalty to the Union he proudly adduces the constancy with which he clung to the fortunes of his ill-starred Confederacy.