Superior Heroes and Noble Patriots
Dr. Hunter McGuire, Stonewall Jackson’s surgeon, recalled Edmund Burke’s opinion of the Southern people in America, that they are “much more strongly and with a higher and more stubborn spirit attached to liberty than those in the [North].” Burke added that “such were the ancient Commonwealths; such were our Gothic ancestors; and such, in our day, the Poles . . . In such a people the haughtiness of domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it and renders it invincible.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Superior Heroes and Noble Patriots
[Southern] society produced splendid men and women, probably the best on this continent. Culture, grace, elegance, self-reliance, were its legitimate offshoots. Orators, poets, statesmen, soldiers, scientists, lawyers, ministers and physicians, the first and greatest in the whole land, came out of it.
What orator have we like Henry or Yancey, what poet like Poe, what scientist like Matthew F. Maury, what statesman like Jefferson, what jurist like Benjamin, what divine like Hoge, what soldier like Stonewall Jackson, what surgeon like Sims?
And the women – how can I describe them! They were as cultured as they were refined; they were as beautiful as they were queenly, the loveliest of sweethearts, the noblest of matrons. Let us look for a moment and see from whence these people of the South came, and what they have done.
The colonial settlers of the southern portion of North America were kindred by ties of blood, by association, and by the laws of common inheritance. They came to this country deeply imbued with the idea of civil liberty. In many instances they were descended from a superior element of the English people. The blood of the cavalier coursed through their veins; they were prepared to organize a government, to undertake the herculean task of creating a country out of chaos. And they accomplished it.
To these settlers were soon afterwards added another stream of emigrants, who came into the South through Maryland and Virginia, and through the seaports of the Carolinas and Georgia. These were the God-loving, tyranny-hating Scotch-Irish, who have left their distinguishing characteristics to this day, upon the people of every State in the South, from Maryland to the Rio Grande.
When the struggle came for the defense of their rights against the mother-country, how quickly her sons took up arms in defense of the common cause, and how nobly they performed their part it is useless to say, for is not the history of the time filled with accounts of their patriotism and achievements?
The enunciation of principle, the declaration of rights, sprung from the fertile brain of a Southerner, and to-day the readers of American history recognize in Jefferson the foremost thinker of his age.
Well has a New Englander, in speaking of Washington and the Southern soldiers of 1776, recently said: “We must go back to Athens to find another instance of a society, so small in numbers, and yet capable of such an outburst of ability and force.” Without the men of the South, the Revolution of 1776 would have gone down into history as the rebellion of that period.
How wonderful it is, that in the comparative seclusion and solitude of an agricultural country, the men should have been reared whose writings on Constitutional government embodied the wisdom and the experience of the patriots of all ages, and whose State papers actually formed the mould in which the constitution of the United Colonies was shaped; and that then, after Southern statesmen had formed the most perfect government the world ever saw, that Southern soldiers should have made it an accomplished fact by their skill, valor, and endurance.
Men of Southern birth and Southern rearing were the successful generals in the war of 1812, and the central figures in 1846. The acquisition of territory was made during the administration of Southern men. Louisiana, Florida, Texas, and California were acquired during their terms of office.
The Chief Justice-ship was held continuously for sixty-three years by Southern men. I need not speak of the orators and statesmen produced in every State in the South – they are household names.
Examine the details of the well-contested battlefields [of the late war] . . . Jackson, Lee, Johnston, Claiborne, Stuart and Forrest! What tender thoughts, what hallowed associations gather around the names of these bright stars in the Southern constellation! Does all history, does even the field of romance furnish heroes superior or patriots more noble? They were leaders of an equally brave and noble people, who, when all save honor was lost, submitted to the inevitable with a dignity born only of true greatness.”
(The Progress of Medicine in the South, Dr. Hunter McGuire, Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XVII, R.A. Brock, editor, 1889, pp. 5-7)