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1863 February 4: The Great Cause Which Providence Has Called Us to Uphold

February 4, 2013

Following is an editorial, borrowed from the New York Evening Post and reprinted in the February 4, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.  “Our Cause” is, of course, the Federal cause of maintaining the Union.

The Greatness of our Cause.

Let us be careful of our steps, nor rashly demean, by our conduct, the great cause which Providence has called us to uphold in the face of the world, against the rebellious taskmasters.  There are those amongst us, men of narrow hearts, who can see in this great matter only the strife of factious; who seek to gain from it only the triumph of a wretched party.  Let us beware how we lower our standard to the grovelling ideas of these men. We must not, we dare not forget or set aside the great principle at stake in our contest; for in maintaining this, we are the standard bearers of the whole world, and our battle is most truly the battle of the people everywhere, against their oppressors.—”Liberty and Equality, now and forever,” this was the cry with which the founders of the Union marched to victory, through tribulations and trials infinitely severer than any which have befallen us yet; and it is for that—for the sacred—cause of human rights, of human equality, of universal liberty, that we once more do battle for the world.

This is no vague rhetoric; it is the literal truth.  The American Union has been since its formation the cynosure of the noblest hopes and aspiration of the old world.  Our peaceful and orderly liberty has been the envy of the people of Europe, many hundred thousands of whom have sought our shores to share its blessings.  Our institutions have been the model upon which the wisest statemen [sic] of Europe have aimed to establish liberty within their bounds.  If Italy, through many struggles, attained at last to a Union soon, we hope to be perfected, Italians gained their inspiration from us, and one the noblest of them all, learned in our own country the method, and the supreme importance to liberty, of Union.  It is not only the eyes of the people of Europe which are fixed upon us; the truest statesmen of that continents demand that we shall achieve success, and demand it because, in the words of one of them: “If their (American) institutions should fall, ours would suffer by reaction.”

It is a heavy burden which God has laid upon us; but we cannot put it away—we dare not let it fall.  It is a great and solemn trust which the American people hold, for the people of all Christian lands.  Long tampering with slavery has made us forget that we are and have been since the beginning our our history the standard-bearers of liberty for all Christendom.  When the bitterness of defeat unnerves us, when the faint of heart cry out— shall not this thought rouse us one more!  Is not this inspiration enough, that we, the American people, fight this fight that all the world may be the gainer!

No nobler place in history has ever been held than that held by us to-day.  But we must act our part like men, so that those that come after us shall not be ashamed of our irresolution.  Dante, with noble scorn, places upon the outermost verge of Hell those dreary souls who in this life lived without blame and without praise—”they are mingled with
“that class of angels who were not re-
“bellious, nor yet faithful to God, but
“were for themselves.”  “Heaven chased
“them forth to keep its beauty from im-
“pair; and the deep hell receives them
“not, for the wicked would have some
“glory over them.”¹

Can we afford by failure to earn this place for ourselves, to gain by cowardice the scorn of all noble and true men; to peril, by lack of faith in the principle which has made us long prosperous and powerful, the progress of that principle and cause!— N. Y. Evening Post.

1.  From Dante’s Divine Comedy. Not sure why either the editor or the typesetter decided to put a quotation mark at the beginning of each line. It made sense to us to use their line breaks in the quotation so that you could see what they did, rather than having seemingly random quotation marks throughout the paragraph.

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