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1865 August 19: Advice From the Ex-Rebel General Wade Hampton

August 23, 2015

The following letter to the Columbia, South Carolina, Phoenix was reprinted in the August 19, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.

Letter from Wade Hampton, the Last of the Chivalry.

To the Editor of the Columbia Phoenix:

SIR—Numerous communications having been addressed to me, proposing to form a colony to emigrate, I take this method of answering them, not only on account of their number, but because of the want of mail facilities.  The desire to leave a country, which has been reduced to such a deplorable condition as ours, and whose future has so little of hope, is doubtless as widespread as it is natural.  But, I doubt the propriety of the expatriation of so many of our best men.  The very fact that our State is passing through so terrible an ordeal as at present, should cause her sons to cling the more closely to her.  My advice to all my fellow citizens is, that they should devote all their energies to the restoration of law and order, the re-establishment of agriculture and commerce, the promotion of education and the re-building of our cities and dwellings, which have been laid in ashes.  To accomplish these objects—the highest that patriotism can conceive—I recommend that all who can do so should take the oath of allegiance to the United States Government, so that they may participate in the restoration of civil government to our State.

War, after four years of heroic but unsuccessful struggle, has failed to secure to us the rights for which we engaged in it. To save any of our rights—to rescue anything more from the general ruin—will require all the statesmanship and all the patriotism of our citizens.  If the best men of our country—those who for years past have risked their lives in her defence [sic]—refuse to take the oath, they will be excluded from the councils of the State, and its destiny will be committed of necessity to those who forsook her in her hour of need, or to those who would gladly pull her down to irretrievable ruin.  To guard against such a calamity, let all true patriots devote themselves, with zeal and honesty of purpose, to the restoration of law, the blessings of peace, and to the rescue of whatever of liberty may be saved from the general wreck.  If, after an honest effort to effect these objects, we fail, we can then seek a home in another country.

A distinguished citizen of our State—an honest man and a true patriot—has been appointed Governor.  He will soon call a convention of the people, which will be charged with the most vital interests of our State.  Choose for this convention your best and truest men ;  not those who have skulked in the hour of danger—nor those who have worshipped [sic] mammon while their country was bleeding at every pore—nor the politician, who, after urging war, dared not encounter its hardships—but those who laid their all upon the altar of their country.  Select such men, and make them serve as your representatives. You will then be sure that your rights will not be wantonly sacrificed, nor your liberty bartered for a mess of pottage . My intention is to pursue the course I recommend to others.  Besides the obligations I owe to my State, there are others of a personal character which will not permit me to leave the country at present.  I shall devote myself earnestly, if allowed to do so, to the discharge of these obligations, public and private.  In the meantime, I shall obtain all information which would be desirable in the establishment of a colony, in case we should ultimately be forced to leave the country.  I invoke my fellow-citizens—especially those who have shared with me the perils and the glories of the last four years—to stand by our State manfully and truly.  The Roman Senate voted thanks to one of their generals, because, in the darkest hour of the republic, he did not despair.  Let us emulate the example of the Roman, and thus entitle ourselves to the gratitude of our country.

Respectfully yours,
.               .WADE HAMPTON.

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