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rise and fall of parties in our country, and mark bow much of the nation's history is bound up in theirs. It would furnish us some impressive lessons in regard to the control exerted over men by ideas, and names associated with ideas, as well as names which have lost their ideas. We should see how great systems of evil seized control of one after another of the party organizations, and through them prolonged their own existence, and directed the nation's policy. We should also see how necessarily such circumstances caused political parties to verge around on to moral ground, and how this result was caused, both by the direct opposition to the prevalence of iniquity, and by the reaction consequent upon the success of wrong.
In all the revolutions of parties, for the past sixty years, the great underlying principles have not essentially changed. They have only become more clearly defined and tangible. The elements of power
. and influence have been crystalizing around these central ideas; the latent forces have been concentrating energy, and in the fullness of time, the great conflict is transferred from the field of mind, to the field of muscle.
With these facts in view, it is idle to assert that party spirit, or the existence of certain parties, have caused this great conflict. These were only symptoms and occasions, not causes. As well say that the downfall of Grecian Liberty was caused by the existence of certain parties or factions, when they only indicated the antecedent decay of virtue, and the loss of the capacity for liberty.
And yet, while we cannot assign to parties and party spirit the dignity of prime causes, we can see how their influence has been potent, and can read their effects in every incident and stage of the wondrous history.
We were led into this thought by some reflections upon the position of our own Commonwealth at the present time. The statement is sometimes made, that Connecticut contains a relatively larger number of sympathizers with treason, than any other free State. Such statements, together with the somewhat notorious disloyal action of some of its prominent citizens, and the alleged difficulty in securing prompt enlistments in the army of the Union, have tended to affix a stigma of indifference, if not of disloyalty, to the people of the State. Knowing the essential truth of most of these allegations, from which this inference is sought to be drawn, and having a justifiable pride in the fair name of State whose record has hitherto been a glorious one, we have desired to account for these facts, in some way which would be satisfactory, and at the same time remove all unworthy imputations. In the first place, this state of things does not arise from any traditional disloyalty to the great ideas upon wbich our government is founded; as can be easily shown in regard to South Carolina. The slaves of Connecticut were never numerous and were early set free, and no aristocratic class has ever bad precedence within her borders.
Her record for the Revolutionary period, equals, or excels in brightness, that of any other State. In the second war with Great Britain, she bore a great burden of suffering, more than atoning for any lack of positive service.
Thus, from the early Colonial days down to the present hour, she has ever been ready to respond promptly, and to the extent of her means, to every call which rightful authority or allegiance to the principles of Liberty have made upon her.
Neither can we attribute the fact to any lack of general intelligence, since, by the educational statistics, no other State in the world, with the exception of Prussia, ranks so bigh in this respect.
It is not largely a result of the peculiar trade of the State, though this has undoubtedly had its effect.
It can only be accounted for, by taking into view the history of par: ties and party movements for several years past. For a score of years or more, the State has been very evenly divided between two political parties, though they have not always existed under the same names. At almost any time within this period, the change of a thousand votes would change the government of the State. There have consequently been the most exciting party campaigns at almost every annual election, often extending themselves, with equal violence, to the semi-annual elections. Party spirit has raged to an extent hardly known in any other State. A whole generation has grown up under such political influences. The result is a harvest of bitter partizan prejudice
. and bigotry.
Moreover, the State is cursed with the presence of a race of as corrupt politicians as can be found outside of New York City. They are comparatively few in number, and small in ability, and yet they contrive, by shrewd management, to wield a prodigious influence.
When conspirators of thirty years standing, openly assault our noble government, these small demagogues see nothing in it but ajus tifiable opposition to an unwelcome political rule, and therefore say is “not unreasonable.” Ex-Governors, belonging to that same cl: 8 then occupying positions of trust and power, directly aided the spirators, and still lend them support and comfort. Some - the
forth to fight at the call of patriotism, go forth under the paternal ban. Large classes, proposing to enlist, are dissuaded, because, forsooth, their absence will weaken the political power of a few of these demagogues.
All these things are only indications, that in some breasts at least, the pure flame of patriotism has been extinguished by the baser fire of party spirit, just as the hot, seething lava-stream quenches the fire upon the cottage hearth. Yet in spite of all this direct sympathy with the rebellion, the loyal people of the State are doing their whole duty, and under the guidance of their noble Governor, will preserve its fair fame untarnished. To do this they are called to, and will gladly make, unusual sacrifices.
Thus far in the struggle Connecticut soldiers have done her great credit. Forming the rear guard upon retreat, as at Bull Run and Winchester, and the front of the advance, as at Roanoke and Newbern, they have everywhere honored themselves and their cause. Of her officers she may be equally proud.
The country looks with a sad and reverent interest upon that small spot of Connecticut soil, where repose the ashes of the brave Lyon, the nation's “ early loved and lost.”
Her gallant Foote presses her bosom with the crutches won in brilliant service, and seeks invigoration and energy from her pure air for greater achievement.
If, now, inquiry is made why party spirit has raged so high, and why political parties have been so evenly matched, notwithstanding the great increase of intelligence, and the frequent change of party names and party platforms; we confess we cannot account for it, but in part.
The state is comparatively small, the terms of office short, the number of offices large, their value small, and owing to the absence of any large cities, the local press has a peculiar influence in controlling the political movements and moulding the character of the people of the State. The immigration of foreigners has mainly strengthened one party, the emigration of native-born has weakened the other to an extent hardly compensated by the accessions resulting from the increased intelligence, and improved moral tone of the people.
All these causes, and others of a kindred nature, have had their int fluence, and combined, have made the political history of the State the deeply interesting in its relation to the present character of the people. one,
Let patriots in other States wait patiently for the somewhat slower Woula VOL. XXVII.
movements of their crippled sister, and Connecticut will be surpassed by none in her devotion, and effective service in the cause of liberty and the Union.
This subject, though somewhat different from those usually considered in the Lit., has for us, its practical side.
As a matter of fact, many of the most violent partizans and most unscrupulous political schemers, are found among the recent graduates of our Colleges. For this their College training must be in good part responsible. We have here our political contests, and carry them on with all the spirit and energy of those upon the broader field of the State.
We go further, and descend to the base deceits and wily arts of the practiced politician, and thus acquire a most dangerous familiarity with them, and skill in their use, which only lacks the temptation of larger opportunity, to hurry us swift and far along the slippery path.
And the worst feature about these contests is, that they are mostly mere struggles for place and honor, and in the nature of the case, can seldom rise to the dignity of contests for an idea or a principle.
We are, therefore, the more likely to gain from them, not moral tone and healthy enthusiasm, but rather, a partizan dexterity, and a feverish passion to engage in party strifes, for the sole end of success. We can guard against these results, only by keeping in view the insignificant nature of most of these contests, and the entire avoidance of everything which bears the taint of meanness and falsehood.
We are at this time passing through one of these contests; our great annual campaign, as we rather grandiloquently call it. We are all well acquainted with the excesses which have marked this struggle in years past, and the unsuccessful efforts which have been made to remove them; unsuccessful, not from any radical defect in the plan proposed and tried, but, confessedly, because the moral sentiment of the College did not sustain it. It is vain to say that these excesses are necessary incidents of the campaign ; were it true, they would not be our disgrace. It is never necessary for scholars and gentlemen to descend to the arts of the demagogue or the muscle of the bully. The campaign between the Brothers and Linonia need not be for a mere numerical majority, since the incoming class is not so unknown, as some, in arguing upon this subject, have urged us to believe.
The campaign between the Freshman Societies, which commences as early and is carried on at the same time with the other, proves this, since there, the best men are sought, and usually obtained, and the question of numbers hardly enters into the account.
We would fain believe that there has been, within a few years, a decided tendency towards the reformation of some of these evils; we trust the present year will witness a more decided advance in the same direction. It needs only the emphatic utterance of the better part of College, to change public sentiment; to remove what is now our crying shame; to make the moral distinctions involved, clear as sunlight; to persuade us, in this important sphere of our College life, to honorable, MANLY action.
C. W. F.
TOWNSEND PRIZE ORATION.*
BY JAMES P. BLAKE, NEW HAVEN, CONN,
ORATION God bids men dwell in peace, and wherever there is no peace His Law has been broken. A war right on both sides was never. One party or both fights against society, against God.
But He who commands Peace, with even more emphasis ordains Justice. And to secure it He has established society upon it as a corner-stone, and has graven the moral law on every man's heart; so that whoever assaults Justice rouses against him our whole nature in holy indignation.
It is not for me to vindicate the Creator. Enough that He has so framed society that it must maintain Justice or perish, and so formed us that outrageous crime enkindles a glow of Divine wrath,-not transient like passion, nor blind like rage, but lasting, wise, resistless.
And then comes War. On the one side Force, Violence; on the other Justice and Law.
Not often indeed do belligerents fully personify these principles. Both may be wrong. But War, when it means anything more than a combat of gladiators, means Justice against Force.
* This oration was withdrawn for competition for the DeForest prize, on account of the illness of the author.