The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

30
Irreconcilably Hostile Systems

Frank H. Alfriend

It is no disparagement of the wisdom and patriotism of our forefathers, for us who have survived the wreck of the government of their creation, to ascribe its destruction to certain radical errors of principle, which escaping their penetration are revealed in the calamities which afflict their posterity. It is no ungrateful denial of their merited fame, to avail ourselves of the lights which experience has given us, while reading the philosophy of the failure of the Union, in the events which marked its career, and culminated in its downfall.

The Revolution, through whose blood-stained paths we are now treading our way to independence, is but the natural sequence, with all its coincident features of misery and desolation, of those causes whose operation began with the existence of the late Union, and have steadily increased in force and directness with each stage of our national development.

John Randolph, when a youth of sixteen, with that sagacity which so eminently distinguished his later years, clearly detected that insidious germ of consolidation which he afterwards so aptly characterized as the "poison under the wing of the Federal Constitution." But this alarming evil against which even then the forecast of Mason, and the inspired prophecy of Henry, warned their countrymen as the source of contention and strife, if not the instrument of destruction to all rights and powers of state sovereignty, was not the only cause for apprehension, nor indeed the most formidable. Later events have proven that the most powerful cause operating for the severance of the bonds of Union between North and South was far beyond the reach of legislative remedy, and far superior to the statesmanship of the wisest framers of the Federal Constitution.

We advance no new theory in this interpretation of the philosophy of this revolution, when we ascribe the necessity of separation to the irrecon

FRANK H. ALFRIEND, "A Southern Republic and a Northern Democracy," Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 35 ( Richmond, March, 1863), pp. 283-290.

Alfriend, a Richmond lawyer, summed up the political philosophy which frequently found expression in Southern newspapers and journals of opinion.

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