The Rejected Stone; Or, Insurrection vs. Resurrection in America/the Golden Hour
1. By a Native of Virginia. Second Edition. Boston: Walker, Wise, & Co. 1862.
2. By Ticknor & Fields. 1862., Author of “ The Rejected Stone.” Impera purendo. Boston :
SELDOM have political writings found such accomplices in events as these, whose final criticism appears in the great Proclamation of the President. Two campaigns have been the bloody partisans of this earnest pen : the impending one will cheerfully undertake its final vindication. Not because these two little books stand sole and preëminent, the isolated prophecies of an all but rejected truth, nor because they have created the opinion out of which the President gathers breath for his glorious words. Mr. Conway would hardly claim more, we think, than to have spoken frankly what the people felt, the same people which hailed the early emancipationing instinct of General Fremont. We see the fine sense of Mr. Emerson in his advice to hitch our wagon to a star, but there must he a well-seasoned vehicle, with a cunning driver to thrust his pin through the coupling, one not apt to jump out when the axles begin to smoke.
At the first overt act of this great Rebellion, anti-slavery men perceived the absurdity of resisting a symptom instead of attacking the disease. They proclaimed the old-fashioned truth, that an eruption can be rubbed back again into the system, not only without rubbing out its cause, but at the greatest hazard to the system, which is loudly announcing its difficulty in this cutaneous fashion. But Northern politicians saw that the inflammatory blotches made the face of the country ugly and repulsive : their costliest preparations have been well rubbed in ever since, without even yet reducing the rebellious red ; on the contrary, it flamed out more vigorously than ever. Their old practice was not abandoned, the medicines only were changed. The wash of compromise was replaced by the bath of blood. And into that dreadful color the tears and agony of a million souls have been distilled, as if they would make a mixture powerful enough to draw out all our trouble by the pores. The very skin of the Rebellion chafed and burned more fiercely with all this quackery.
If Slavery is our disease, the Abolition of Slavery is our remedy. Our bayonets only cupped and scored the patient, our war-measures in and out of Congress only worked dynamically against other warmeasures far more clogged and desperate than our own. The sentence of Emancipation is the specific whose operation will be vital, by effecting an alteration in the system, and soon annihilating that condition of the blood which feeds our fevers and rushes in disgusting blotches to the taee. “ No,” — a Northern minority still says, — “ every fever has its term ; only watch your self-limiting disease, keep the patient from getting too much hurt during his delirium, and he will be on ’Change before long.”
No doubt of that. He loves to be on ’Change; of all the places in the country, out of his own patriarchal neighborhoods, not even Saratoga and Newport were ever so exhilarating to him as Wall Street and State Street, and he longs to be well enough to infest his whilom haunts. Slavery is a self-limited disease, for it suffers nothing but itself to impose its limits. in that sense the North would soon have his old crony on the pavement again, with one yellow finger in his button-hole, and another nervously playing at a trigger behind the back. For the North was paying roundly in men and dollars to renew that pleasurable intercourse, to get the dear old soul out again as little dilapidated as possible, with as much of the old immunities and elasticities preserved as an attack so violent would allow.
The President said to the deputation of Quakers, “ Where the Constitution cannot yet go, a proclamation cannot.” This was accepted by a portion of the North as another compact expression of Presidential wisdom. It was the common sense, curtly and neatly put, upon which our armies waited, and for whose cold and bleached utterances our glorious young men were sent home from Washington by rail in coffins, red receipts of Slavery to acknowledge Northern indecision. It was the kind of common sense which, after every familytomb has got its tenant, and wives, mothers, sisters tears to be their bread and meat continually, would have jogged oft ’Change snugly some fine morning arm in arm with the murderer of their noble dead. For, though neither the Constitution nor a proclamation can quite yet go down practically into Slavery, Slavery might come up hereto find the Constitution in its old place at the Potomac ferry, and without a toll or pike to heed.
It seemed so sensible to say, that, where one document cannot go, another cannot! And yet it depends upon what is in the document, If the Constitution could go South now, it would be the last thing we should want to send, at this stage of the national malady. It contains the immunity out of which the malady has flamed. Its very neutrality is the best protection which a conquered South could have, and a moral triumph that would richly compensate it for a military defeat. Would it not have been quite as sagacious, and equally aphoristic, if the President liad said, “ Where a proclamation cannot go, the Constitution never can again”? He has said it! And if the proclamation goes first, the Constitution will follow to bless and to save.
Both of these little books of Mr. Conway are devoted to showing the necessity for a proclamation of emancipation, as simple justice, as military policy, as mercy to the South, to put us right at home and abroad, to destroy at once the cause of the Republic's shame and sorrow. He combats various objections : such as that a proclamation of that nature would send home instantly the pro-slavery officers and men who are now fighting merely to enhance their own importance or to restore the state of things before the war: that a proclamation of emancipation, finding its way, as it surely would, to the heart of every slave, would breed insurrections and all the horrors of a servile war; that such a document would not be worth the paper which it blotted, until the military power of the South was definitively broken : that it would convert the Border States into active foes, and make them rush by natural proclivity into the bosom of Secession. Mr. Conway disposes well of a great deal of trash which even good Republican papers, upon which we have hitherto relied, but can do so no longer, have vented under all these heads of objections.
He writes with such enthusiasm, and is so plainly a dear lover and worshipper of the justice which can alone exalt this nation, that we are carried clear over the wretched half - republicanism which has been trying all the year to say eminently sound and unexceptionable things, we forget the deceit and expediency whose leaded columns have been more formidable than those which rolled the tide of war back again to the Potomac. Great is the animating power of faith, when faithfully brought home to the universal instinct for righteousness. Mr. Conway was born and bred among slaveholders, knows them and their institution, knows the slave, and his moral condition, and his expectations: so that these inspiriting prophecies of his are more than those of a lively and talented pamphleteer.
His earnest purpose in writing lifts us pretty well over some things in his style which seem to us discordant with his glorious theme. He has a way, as good as the President’s, to whom much of his matter is addressed, of making his apologues and stories tell; they are apt, and give the reader the sensation of being clinched. One feels like a nail when it catches the board. But sometimes the transition to a grotesque allusion from a fine touch of fancy or from the inbred religiousness of the subject is abrupt. Jean Paul may offer you, in his most glowing page, a quid of tobacco, if be pleases; the shock is picturesque, and sometimes lets in a deep analogy. But the hour in which Mr. Conway writes, the height of faith from which his pen stoops to the mortal page, the unspeakable solemnity of the theme, which our volunteers are rudely striving to trace upon their country’s bosom with their blood, and our women are steeping in their tears, ought to drive all flippancy shuddering from the lines in which sarcasm itself should be measured and awful as the deaths which gird us round.
But the two volumes are full of power and feeling. They are written so that all may read. Their effect is popular, without stooping deliberately to become so. They are among the brightest and simplest pages which this exciting period has produced. It would be a great mistake to gauge their effect by what they bring to pass in the minds of cabinet officers, editors, and party-leaders : for they put into plain, stout language the growing instinct of the people to get at the cause of the war which lays them waste.
Some of the most effective pages in these volumes are those which lament the dread alternative of war, and which show that emancipation would be merciful to all classes at the South. It is no paradox that to free the slaves to-morrow would restore health to the South and regenerate its people.
And we are glad that Mr. Conway speaks so emphatically against that measure of colonization, whether the proposition be to deport the contrabands to Hayti, or to tote them away to Central America under the leadership of intelligent colored representatives of the North. Ail these are plans which look to the eventual removal of the only men at the South who know how to labor, and who are now the only representatives there of the country's industrial ideas. We pray you, Mr. President, to use the money voted for colonizing purposes to rid the country of the men in the Border and Cotton States who cannot or will not work, slave-owners and bushwhackers, who kill and harry, but who never did an honest stroke of work in their lives, and whom, with or without slavery, this Republic will have to support. Take some Pacific Island for a great Alms-House, and inaugurate an exodus of the genuine Southern pauper; he is only an incumbrance to the industrious and humble-minded blacks, from whose toil the country may draw the staples of free sugar and free cotton, raised upon the soil which is theirs by the holy prescription of blood and sorrow. “ If it were not for your presence in the country,” says the President to the colored men, “we should have no war ! ” If it were not for silverware and jewelry, no burglaries would be committed ! Don’t let us get rid of the villains, but of the victims; thereby villainy will cease !
Let Mr. Pomeroy he sent to annex some of the Paumotu or Tongan groups, where spontaneous bread-fruit would afford Mr. Floyd goud plucking, and Messrs. Wigfall, Benjamin, and Prior could even have their chewing done by proxy, for the native pauper employs the old women to masticate his Ava into drink. There they might continue to take their food from other people’s mouths, with the chance now and then of a strong anti-slavery clergyman well barbecued, a luxury for which they have howled for many a year. That is the place for your oligarchic pauper, where the elements themselves are field-hands, with Nature for overseer, manufactures superfluous and free-trade a blessing, and plenty of colored persons to raise the mischief with. That is the sole crop which they have raised at home. Let their propensities be transferred to a place unconnected with the politics or the privileges of a Christian Republic.
But let this great Republic drive into exile the wheat-growers of the West, the miners and iron-men of Pennsylvania, and the farmers of New England, as soon as these men who have created the cottoncrop which clothes a world, and who only wait for another stimulus to supersede the lash. Let them find it, as in Jamaica, in a plot of ground, their seed and tools, their hearth-side and marriage, their freedom, and the shelter of a country which wants to use the products of their hands.
If it be an object to stretch a great band of free tropical labor across Central America, to people those wastes with ideas which shall curb the southward lust of men, and nourish a grateful empire against the intrigues of European States, let that be done, if the colored American of the Border States is willing to advance the project. Let the project be clearly understood, and its prospective upholders frankly invited to become men, and aid their country’s welfare. But never let colonization be opened like an artery, through whose “ unkindest cut ” some of the best blood of the country shall slip away and be lost forever. We want the cotton labor even more extensively diffused, to conquer John Bull with bales, as at New Orleans. Let no cotton-grower ever budge.