1865 March 25: Editorial on Patriotism
The following editorial comes from the March 25, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.
It is customary in these times for all parties to quote the sentiment that gave birth to the American revolution, and to eulogise the spirit of ’76. The politician exults it the skies, and claims that all there is in existence left of it, it contained within the party pale that he advocating.—There is some truth in the bitter remark, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but there is far more truth in the ascertion [sic] that it lives in the hearts of the people ; and it is there, among the cottages and homesteads of the land, more than among occupants of place and station, that it lives. While contractors are swindling the Government ; politicians quarreling about the spoils ; Generals are jealous of promotion, and shoddy airs itself, flaunting its ill-bred taste upon the avenues, it is among the homespun people of the country, in the rank and file of society and of the army that the Promethean fire—not stolen, but lent from Heaven—burns eternal. From there have the sacrifices come—best loved ones have been cheerfully furnished, while death has reaped his harvests on many battle fields—and even while the mourning weeds show that hearts are sorrowing, fresh reinforcements are constantly marching forth, even from these hearts bereaved. There has been no limit to the sacrifices, and the rank and file, coming from the common walks of life, show not more clearly that the public pulse beats for the Union, than does the nation of many of the wealthier class.
The noblest lives of the Nation have been freely given, and such names as Sedgwick [John Sedgwick], Lyon [Nathaniel Lyon], Foot [sic: Andrew Hull Foote], Kearny [Philip Kearny], Wadsworth [James S. Wadsworth] and hundreds of others, have fallen martyrs to a cause ; contending for a principle, not only dear to the American people, but honored by the world. Time shows us victorious ; the people have never faltered, and that we are achieving success is due, not more to force of arms, than to unity of sentiment. Today we are victorious everywhere. War has shown us who are our Generals, and while those we expected most have failed us,—proved incapable of success, fruitless in action,—we have others that can marshal our armies in confidence and inspire them in victory.
The South have been fighting for an idea and not for a principle ; too proud to belong to a Nation it cannot control—too hot spirited to contend within the Union for success depending upon an institution that cannot longer dominate over the public sentiment of all the States, they rashly dared to commence war.
Theirs was a revolution, led and controlled by an aristocracy, and the voice of the people has been heard. Now they complain that deserters outnumber their armies, that the people do not willingly fight.
Our cause succeeds because the people are with it ; theirs is failing, because their people are not earnest it, and in their failing efforts, and mutterings of discontent, we plainly read the end. The lessons we are learning at so much expense of life and treasure must not be lost. We may come out of the conflict but burthened with debt, and with widows and orphans claiming our remembrance, but still the experience will be worth the price, if we can indeed and in truth be in the future a free and united people ; if our soil shall no more know the footprint of the slave, and if intelligent free labor can develope [sic] the wonderful resources of Southern as well as Northern fields. Let this be so, and soon before the invention, wealth and enterprise of the next few generations, the national burthen of debt will melt away and be forgotten.