Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/366

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Southern Historical Society Papers.


Are these the fruits of a purified or of a putrified suffrage? Where is the moral regeneration for which such sacrifices of ravage and slaughter were laid upon the altar? Does a great movement for righteousness "win out" in this fashion ? Were moral ideas the expression of moral insincerities? Is is thus the "new birth of freedom" is justified of her children; thus the thunderbolt purifies the sky? The authors of reconstruction have called down on themselves the beasts they turned loose to rend others. Retributions like those foretold by Hebrew prophets have followed with the force of fate. The tireless force of a universe takes a terrible revenge on them who pollute the altars of the highest with the selfishness of the lowest. In the issue, dark and deep, increasingly, darkening and deepening; between the toiling and spoiling classes, we already hear the rumble, as of distant thunder; or it may be of volcanic insurgence against a rule which presents the antithesis of wealth to Commonwealth. There are signs of dissatisfaction with spoliation as a means of grace; a dumb consciousness of feeling rather than perception that the prosperity of plunder is the adversity of the plundered. The center of gravity has been shifted from moral to material power. As climax to a war for human rights, the one inalienable right, which seems secure is the right of Lazarus to be taxed for the table of Dives. What means this antithesis; this accumulation pari passu of material wealth and moral poverty; this material almightiness seated on the throne? It means that the South as the conservative force of the union was struck down by reconstruction. It means that war for the Union, and reconstruction in pursuance thereof, tore up by the roots the civilization of the South, and laid the axe to every best element in that of the North. It means that carpet bag government has come home to roost.

For the veneration of reality we have the idolatry of appearance; "the powers that be" dethroned by the powers that seem. A moral system that has abolished reverence cannot be expected to receive it. Reverence has been lost in the battle of machinery. A greatness, strenuous for self (where the strenuous is so ready to slide into the sinuous), looks out upon the hollow worship of