It will affect the whole history of the world. There were great
and good men, on both sides, who knew it would affect the whole
history of the world. Yet the great majority of Englishmen know
nothing about it, or only know the things that are not true.
They have a general idea that it was `all about niggers';
and they are taught by their newspapers to admire Abraham Lincoln
as ignorantly and idiotically as they once used to abuse him.
All this seems to me very strange; not only considering the importance
of America, but considering how everybody is now making America
so very important. America is allowed to have, if anything,
far too much influence on the affairs of the rest of the world...
....We know, in our own case, that it is sometimes possible to lose
a war after we have won it. The American politicians lost something
more valuable than a war; they lost a peace. They lost a possibility
of reconciliation that would not only have doubled their strength,
but would have given them a far better balance of ideas which would
have vastly increased their ultimate influence on the world.
Lincoln may have been right in thinking that he was bound to
preserve the Union. But it was not the Union that was preserved.
A union implies that two different things are united; and it should
have been the Northern and Southern cultures that were united.
As a fact, it was the Southern culture that was destroyed.
And it was the Northern that ultimately imposed not a unity
but merely a uniformity. But that was not Lincoln's fault.
He died before it happened; and it happened because he died.
Everybody knows, I imagine, that the first of the men who really
destroyed the South was the Southern fanatic, John Wilkes Booth.
He murdered the one man in the North who was capable
of comprehending that there was a case for the South.
But Northern fanatics finished the work of the Southern fanatic;
many of them as mad as he and more wicked than he. Mr. Bowers gives
a vivid account of the reign of terror that Stevens and Sumner and
the rest let loose on the defeated rebels a pestilence of oppression
from which the full promise of America has never recovered.
But I have a particular reason at the moment for recommending
to my countrymen some study of the book and the topic.
Every age has its special strength, and generally one in which some
particular nation is specially strong. Every age has also its special
weakness and deficiency, and a need which only another type could supply.
This is rather specially the Age of America; but inevitably,
and unfortunately, rather the America of the Northern merchants
and industrialists. It is also the age of many genuine forms
of philanthropy and humanitarian effort, such as modern America has
very generously supported. But there is a virtue lacking in the age,
for want of which it will certainly suffer and possibly fail.
It might be expressed in many ways; but as short a way of stating it
as any I know is to say that, at this moment, America and the whole
world is crying out for the spirit of the Old South.
In other words, what is most lacking in modern psychology is the sentiment
of Honour; the sentiment to which personal independence is vital and to
which wealth is entirely incommensurate. I know very well that Honour
had all sorts of fantasies and follies in the days of its excess.
But that does not affect the danger of its deficiency, or rather
its disappearance. The world will need, and need desperately,
the particular spirit of the landowner who will not sell his land,
of the shopkeeper who will not sell his shop, of the private man who
will not be bullied or bribed into being part of a public combination;
of what our fathers meant by the free man. And we need the Southern
gentleman more than the English or French or Spanish gentleman.
For the aristocrat of Old Dixie, with all his faults and inconsistencies,
did understand what the gentle man of Old Europe generally did not.
He did understand the Republican ideal, the notion of the Citizen
as it was understood among the noblest of the pagans.
That combination of ideal democracy with real chivalry was a
particular blend for which the world was immeasurably the better;
and for the loss of which it is immeasurably the worse.
It may never be recovered; but it will certainly be missed.
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: There are so many comments I would like to add to this wonderful script, but for the sake of time and space, I will have to limit it. Chesterton begins with the comment: "The American Civil War was a real war between two civilizations. It will affect the whole history of the world." In this he is right on both counts. The Civil War was really a War for Southern (Dixie) Independence. It was a war of secession, not a "civil war" in the proper sense, because the South had no interest in taking over the Union government in Washington City. It merely wanted to separate from it. However, the term "Civil War" has become commonplace in reference to the conflict, and when the word "civil" is put into the context of "civilisation" I have no problem with it. For the Civil War was literally a Civilisation War -- or a war between two different civilisations. Chesterton was also right in saying that the Civil War would effect the whole history of the world, and indeed it did, in so many different ways, and continues to do so on into the future. Through America's Civil War, all of the Western world was introduced to the concept of "total war" wherein all the restraints of Christendom are thrown to the wind and armies now make war on civilians and their property with the same fury they would their military opponents on the battlefield. Thanks to the North's conquest of the South, the entire Western world was made ready for the savagery of World War I, World War II and all the conflicts of the Cold War, to the modern day wars in the Middle East.
On America, from "Come to Think of It"
Chesterton continues: "As a fact, it was the Southern culture that was destroyed. And it was the Northern that ultimately imposed not a unity but merely a uniformity. But that was not Lincoln's fault. He died before it happened; and it happened because he died." Lincoln's great genius was that he understood the consequences of his actions, and could accurately foresee these consequences up to 150 years in advance as evidenced when he wrote the following...
"I have two great enemies, the southern army in front of me and the financial institutions, in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is the greatest enemy. I see in the future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war." -- Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins upon passage of the National Banking Act of 1863But Lincoln's great evil was that in spite of this foresight he believed the ends justified the means. He chose war over peace, compulsory empire over voluntary union, and in doing so he sacrificed not only the lives and fortunes of his generation, but the financial freedom of our generation. Lincoln didn't have to go to war, as his predecessor James Buchanan demonstrated through the strength of his restraint. He opposed secession every bit as much as Lincoln but he knew the president was not given the constitutional authority to make war on the very states he is sworn to protect. Lincoln's sole redeeming quality, in my opinion, is that while he practically invented the modern concept of total war, he also believed in total peace. He gave General Grant permission to negotiate a peace treaty with General Lee, wherein Southern soldiers would simply surrender their firearms and return to their homes and families without consequence. He envisioned a peace wherein everything would go back to the way it was, and he was perhaps the only man in Washington City who could restrain the zealots in Congress from taking their revenge on the defeated South. Sadly, he was killed shortly after Lee's negotiated surrender at Appomattox. As a result of his death, his successor (Andrew Johnson) did not honour the agreement, and the zealots in Congress took their revenge on Dixie just as Lincoln had feared. General Lee later regretted his surrender, and stated that if he knew what the North would do to the South after the war, he would have fought to the last man.
Chesterton continues: "This is rather specially the Age of America; but inevitably, and unfortunately, rather the America of the Northern merchants and industrialists," because that is all there is left. The agrarian aristocracy of the South was annihilated. "But there is a virtue lacking in the age, for want of which it will certainly suffer and possibly fail." Herein we have an observation that has since become prophetic. For we have all most certainly suffered, and yes, this age will soon fail. That is a historical certainty. What is uncertain is what will arise after it fails.
"America and the whole world is crying out for the spirit of the Old South." It is a statement that brings a tear to my eyes, because it is true. What is the spirit of the Old South. The Modernists and pedallers of endless race-baiting would have us believe it was nothing more than slavery, the oppression of black men by white men, a crime which can never be paid for, and for which they will demand infinite recompense. This however was not the spirit of the Old South -- dear God no! For slavery was just as much a Northern institution as it was Southern, and it existed South of Dixie as well, in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. It existed for decades there, long after the American Civil War ended. No, the spirit of the Old South was not slavery, but rather how Southerners dealt with this evil in everyday life, and indeed, how they dealt with everything. While there most certainly were abuses in some places, for the most part, the majority of slave owners in the South worked in the fields side-by-side with their slaves, toiling in the sun and humidity, for the very sustenance that would eventually nourish them both. Then again, the majority of Southerners didn't even own slaves, even though they certainly had the legal right and ability. Still yet, there are those descended from Africa today who would say of all the places in the world God could have sent their ancestors as slaves, they were blessed to be sent to the American South (Dixie), for no other nation would have treated their ancestors better. Why? What is this spirit of the South that makes men say such things? I tell you, it is the spirit of a simple Christian life, living close to the land, and trusting in God's providence. For the South was steeped in honour, dignity and tradition. While hindsight is always 20/20, and we are sure to find errors in the ways of our ancestors, it doesn't change the fact that we are not half the men they were (whether slave or free). For they believed in something higher than themselves, and for them, life wasn't about how to make the next dollar. It was a way of life, a way of living, and if you want to sum it up into a nutshell, look no further than Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum, written in 1891 with the consequences of the American Civil War in retrospect. Because of the North's victory, Yankee Imperialism was born, and because of Yankee Imperialism, the merchants and industrialists were able to conquer the whole world. That is why the world cries out for the spirit of the Old South. It is the same spirit of Rerum Novarum, of economic Distributism, of the ability for the common man to own his job and in doing so gain the dignity of providing for his family using his own property. It is a dignity becoming increasingly scarce in our modern world, as the ultra-rich and super-powerful continue to aggregate the wealth of the world into a few hands. "The world will need, and need desperately, the particular spirit of the landowner who will not sell his land, of the shopkeeper who will not sell his shop, of the private man who will not be bullied or bribed into being part of a public combination; of what our fathers meant by the free man."
Chesterton concludes: "That combination of ideal democracy with real chivalry was a particular blend for which the world was immeasurably the better; and for the loss of which it is immeasurably the worse. It may never be recovered; but it will certainly be missed." I do not know if Old Dixie can be revived, but I do know that I can at least plead her case before my international audience. For the Southern Gentleman shall never return without the return of the South which was and is his home.