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EQUAL RIGHTS VS. THE PRESIDENTIAL POLICY
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK INDEPENDENT, OCTOBER 29, 1865.
BOSTON, October 29, 1865.
EAR MR. EDITOR, -I rejoice that "The Independent" has planted itself firmly on the sure ground of Equal Rights. It is natural that a journal which has from the beginning so bravely and constantly opposed Slavery in all its pretensions should now insist that these pretensions shall be trampled out, so that nothing shall be left to breed future trouble. This can be done only through the establishment of Equal Rights.
To my mind, there never was a duty plainer or more instinctive. It is plain as the Moral Law, and it is instinctive as self-defence. If the country fails to do this justice now, it will commit a crime where guilt and meanness strive for mastery. On this head it is enough to say that it is a debt we owe to saviours and benefactors. But here all the instincts of self-defence harmonize with justice.
For the sake of the whole country, which suffers from weakness in any part, -for the sake of the States lately distracted by war, which above all things need security and repose, for the sake of agriculture, which
is neglected there, for the sake of commerce, which has fled, for the sake of the national creditor, whose generous trust is exposed to repudiation, — and, finally, for the sake of reconciliation, which can be complete only when justice prevails, we must insist upon Equal Rights as the condition of the new order of things. So long as this question remains unsettled, there can be no true peace. Therefore I would say to the merchant, who wishes to open trade with this region, — to the capitalist, who would send his money there, the emigrant, who seeks to find a home there, begin by assuring justice to all men. This is the one essen
tial condition of prosperity, of credit, and of tranquillity. Without this, mercantile houses, banks, and emigration societies, having anything to do with this region, must all fail, or at least suffer in business and
To Congress we must look as guardian, under the Constitution, of the national safety. I do not doubt its full power over the whole subject; nor do I doubt its duty to see that every pretended government organized by recent Rebels is treated as a present nullity. President Johnson then spoke well, when in Tennessee he said that "in the work of reorganization Rebels must take back seats, leaving place to those who have been truly loyal." There is the key-note of a just policy, which I trust Congress will adopt.
It is difficult to measure the mischief already accumulating from the policy that has been pursued. Looking at the positive loss to business and the productive industry of the country, it is painful. Looking at the distress it has caused among loyal people by the revival of the Rebel spirit, it is heart-rending.
Looking at it in any way, it is a terrible failure. It will be for Congress to apply the remedy.
Meanwhile you have the thanks of good people for your loyalty to the cause, and your strenuous efforts in its behalf. Go on, I entreat you, nor ever hesitate. I am, dear Sir,
Your grateful fellow-laborer,
CLEMENCY AND COMMON SENSE.
A CURIOSITY OF LITERATURE; WITH A MORAL.
ARTICLE IN THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, DECEMBER, 1865.
"Instabile est regnum quod non clementia firmat."
"Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim."
ERE are two famous verses, both often quoted, and one a commonplace of literature. That they have passed into proverbs attests their merit both in substance and in form. Something more than truth is needed for a proverb. And so, also, something more than form is needed. Both must concur. The truth must be expressed in such form as to satisfy the requirements of Art.
Most persons, who have not occasionally indulged in such diversions, if asked where these verses are to be found, would say at once that it was in some familiar poet of school-boy days. Both have a sound as of something heard in childhood. The latter is Virgilian in tone and movement. More than once I have heard it insisted that it was by Virgil. But nobody is able to find it there, although the opposite dangers are represented in the voyage of Æneas:
"Dextrum Scylla latus, lævum implacata Charybdis
1 Æne's, Lib. III. 420, 421.
Another poet shows the peril without the contrast:
"Scylla, et Charybdis Sicula contorquens freta
Thinking of the historical proverb, I am reminded of the eminent character who first showed it to me in the heroic poem where it appears. I refer to the late Dr. Maltby, Bishop of Durham, who had been a favorite. pupil of Dr. Parr, and was unquestionably among the best scholars of England. His amenity was equal to his scholarship. I was his guest at Auckland Castle early in the autumn of 1838. Conversation turned much upon books and the curiosities of study. One morning, after breakfast, the learned Bishop came to me with a small volume in his hand, printed in the Italian character, and remarking, "You seem to be interested in such things," he pointed to this much quoted verse. It was the Latin epic, "Alexandreïs, sive Gesta Alexandri Magni," by Philippus Gualterus, a mediæval poet of France.
Of course the fable of Scylla and Charybdis is ancient; but this verse cannot be traced to antiquity. For the fable Homer is our highest authority, and he represents the Sirens as unfriendly accessories, playing their part to tempt the victim.
These fronting terrors belong to mythology and to geography. Mythologically, they were two voracious monsters, dwelling opposite to each other, Charybdis on the coast of Sicily, and Scylla on the coast of Italy. Geographically, they were dangers to the navigator in the narrow strait between Sicily and Italy. Charybdis was a whirlpool, where ships were often sucked to de
1 Seneca, Hercules Etæus, 235, 236.