Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/322

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

A sense of responsibility in the gifted for the inadequate; compassion for the friendless; sympathy for the wronged, is the fine expression through human agents of the justice and love of the Creator. It is the purest and most undefiled religion.

The high men of that old day gave to a Commonwealth characters which touched with their own beauty the very humblest who stood near them and looked up to them. They were made in the image of their State; or, shall we say, their State was the mirror which threw back their image. We see in them a certain repose in greatness and not the restless impatience of them who are forever agonizing to persuade themselves and others that they are great. It was a Commonwealth whose binding link was sympathy; great, because of heartfelt sympathy with greatness. The trouble with this civilization was not that it was too low, but that it was too high; not that it was beneath them who rallied against it, but that it was above. Because she was true to her own tradition, Virginia deserved to be called by James Russell Lowell, "Mother of States and unpolluted men." Those "unpolluted men" had the self-respect which springs from respect for others, and is rewarded by respect of others. So grew Virginia, as grows a high-born tree; spreading by slow degrees in the vital air of sympathy—a sympathy, wide and warm as her own tender sky.

At the first flight of the Eagle of Union, John Randolph, of Roanoke, saw what he called the "poison under the wings." Through his life he fought with the gift divine of genius to expel it. Few there were who could withstand the power of that piercing eye. He knew how to impale the avowed high motive for the action that was mean; how, with a lash of flame to strip selfishness of all disguises; and they who writhed under his wrath abhorred the terrible truth of his veracious scorn. The simulation of the ethics of love by the ethics of lust has been the arch mock to procure each recurring downfall of fair hope. This simulation it was the mission of his fearless wisdom to lay bare with a consuming fury. The sophisters could not entice him. He was peculiar, they said—too peculiar to be practical. From of old God's people have been a "peculiar people." Doubtless, it is true, that in the modern sense no man could have said to him, "We are practical men." He had looked deep