Among the other elements of discord introduced into the prevailing sectional excitement is comparisons between the bravery of the men of the North and the South, it seeming to be the determination of the “agitators” to leave nothing untried that will engender ill feelings between the North and the South. We unhesitatingly pronounce the guilty parties cowardly, for they only utter these disparaging sentiments because they feel that they will not be held accountable. Generally, those persons at the North who are most free with their boasts of superior courage are “non-combatants” from principle, or are protected from responsibility by their position of clergymen--a position, by the way, which they sadly disgrace. It is certainly very refreshing to observe ministers of the gospel, in papers avowedly religious, edging on a bitter personal quarrel between the citizens of our common country, and doing all in their power to light up a flame of bitter hate, the effect of which is not to arm ourselves against a foreign foe, but to excite passions that will provoke a fratricidal war. To draw invidious comparisons between the men of the North and the South is absurd. The two “locations,” for they are not yet, thank Heaven, “sections,” are too intimately connected to make a distinction; there is too much intercourse to allow a variety of thought and habit, much less permit a physical difference. Nay, more than this, the sentiments and traditions of the North and the South are all the same. If any advantage, however, exists, it is on the side of the South, for people engaged in agriculture are generally more vigorous and more fond of the pursuits which in peace trains soldiers, viz. the chase and out-door amusements, than are the people confined to large cities; that this is true our Congressional quarrels show, for in every instance the South, so far as physical superiority and nerve are concerned, has been superior. The subject, however, is unpleasant, and we only alluded to it as an introduction to the temperate and just article on the same subject, which we find in a recent number of the Knoxville “Presbyterian Watchman.” We recommend its spirit to some of the “pious” papers published in the more northern parts of our Union:

Many persons at the North, ministers, editors, and others, made themselves merry over the first success of John Brown in getting control of the village of Harper’s Ferry and the Arsenal, and indulged in taunts and sneers at the chivalry of Virginia, and courage of Southern people generally. For example, Henry Ward Beecher, to some extent the “American Presbyterian,” and, we believe, the Springfield “Republican.” But no just or candid mind would make such a transient success the ground and occasion of inferences and remarks like those referred to. History presents many similar instances. Did any one ever doubt the bravery of King David? And yet we find that when his wicked and ungrateful son, Absolom, raised the standard of rebellion, and attempted to dethrone him, the king was so unprepared and taken by surprise that he and his leading friends had to flee for their lives, and the unnatural conspirator succeeded in capturing Jerusalem and occupying his father’s palace. The tide of success soon turned, however, and the proud usurper dangled a corpse from the limb of an oak tree.

Such taunts hurt nobody who has elevation of soul, and can afford to despise them. But they are really harmful in fostering a spirit of overweening arrogance and superiority at the North with reference to the Southern section of the confederacy. They operate just as the sneers of the British ministry and their supporters at the strength, courage, and power of resistance of the colonies, did before the revolution, when one of them declared in Parliament that, with a few regiments he could march from one end of the colonies to the other. And in that underestimate of colonial strength lay, in great measure, the error that brought on the Revolution.

That respectable print, the Springfield “Republican,” if we mistake not, has spoken in a somewhat similar style of the ease with which a few regiments could march through the whole South. And at a demonstration in Dr. Cheever’s church on the day Brown was hung, one of the speakers said, “One thousand men, well armed, in his opinion, would subdue Virginia with very little trouble.” Old Brown thought that, like Gideon, he could overthrow slavery with three hundred. We have seen the fruits of his error.

We are not writing as a sectionalist, disunionist, or promoter of national ill-feeling. We are a lover of peace and the Union, and our only object is to say a few words on the above topic, and expose the error in question. The Southerners are eminently a military people. Burke pronounced a high eulogium on them as such, when warning the British ministry against the effort to coerce the colonies into submission. Their whole history proves their fitness for the rude business of fighting. In each of our three great national wars, the ablest commander has been a Southern man, viz., Washington, Jackson, and Scott. We do not say this boastfully, nor do we wish to withhold the due meed of praise from Northern generals and soldiery, or wound the feelings of pride in the heart of any Northern man, by sneering at the bravery of the people of that section. We merely express our opinion, that the taunts and sneers above alluded to are unfounded and unjust; (of course they are ungenerous and unfraternal;) that the spirit of Washington and Jackson--of the men who fought and conquered at Yorktown, King’s Mountain, the Horse Shoe, and New Orleans--still animates their Southern countrymen and descendants, and that, should their strength and courage ever be put to the test by those who sneeringly depreciate them, they will not be found wanting in the day of trial.


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 29.48 (7 January 1860): 566. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels, University of Richmond English undergraduate, prepared this typescript.

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.