James Russell Lowell
A Message Of Jeff Davis In Secret Session - Poem by James Russell Lowell
I sent you a messige, my friens, t'other day,
To tell you I'd nothin' pertickler to say:
'twuz the day our new nation gut kin' o' stillborn,
So 'twuz my pleasant dooty t' acknowledge the corn,
An' I see clearly then, ef I didn't before,
Thet the _augur_ in inauguration means _bore_.
I needn't tell _you_ thet my messige wuz written
To diffuse correc' notions in France an' Gret Britten,
An' agin to impress on the poppylar mind
The comfort an' wisdom o' goin' it blind,-
To say thet I didn't abate not a hooter
O' my faith in a happy an' glorious futur',
Ez rich in each soshle an' p'litickle blessin'
Ez them thet we now hed the joy o' possessin',
With a people united, an' longin' to die
For wut _we_ call their country, without askin' why,
An' all the gret things we concluded to slope for
Ez much within reach now ez ever-to hope for.
We've gut all the ellerments, this very hour,
Thet make up a fus'-class, self-governin' power:
We've a war, an' a debt, an' a flag; an' ef this
Ain't to be inderpendunt, why, wut on airth is?
An' nothin' now henders our takin' our station
Ez the freest, enlightenedest, civerlized nation,
Built up on our bran'-new politickle thesis
Thet a Gov'ment's fust right is to tumble to pieces,-
I say nothin' henders our takin' our place
Ez the very fus'-best o' the whole human race,
A spittin' tobacker ez proud ez you please
On Victory's bes' carpets, or loaf-in' at ease
In the Tool'ries front-parlor, discussin' affairs
With our heels on the backs o' Napoleon's new chairs,
An' princes a-mixin' our cocktails an' slings,-
Excep', wal, excep' jest a very few things,
Sech ez navies an' armies an' wherewith to pay,
An' gettin' our sogers to run t'other way,
An' not be too over-pertickler in tryin'
To hunt up the very las' ditches to die in.
Ther' are critters so base thet they want it explained
Jes' wut is the totle amount thet we've gained,
Ez ef we could maysure stupenjious events
By the low Yankee stan'ard o' dollars an' cents:
They seem to forgit, thet, sence last year revolved,
We've succeeded in gittin' seceshed an' dissolved,
An' thet no one can't hope to git thru dissolootion
'thout some kin' o' strain on the best Constitootion.
Who asks for a prospec' more flettrin' an' bright,
When from here clean to Texas it's all one free fight?
Hain't we rescued from Seward the gret leadin' featurs
Thet makes it wuth while to be reasonin' creators?
Hain't we saved Habus Coppers, improved it in fact,
By suspendin' the Unionists 'stid o' the Act?
Ain't the laws free to all? Where on airth else d' ye see
Every freeman improvin' his own rope an' tree?
Ain't our piety sech (in our speeches an' messiges)
Ez t' astonish ourselves in the bes'-composed pessiges,
An' to make folks thet knowed us in th' ole state o' things
Think convarsion ez easy ez drinkin' gin-slings?
It's ne'ssary to take a good confident tone
With the public; but here, jest amongst us, I own
Things look blacker 'n thunder. Ther' 's no use denyin'
We're clean out o' money, an' 'most out o' lyin';
Two things a young nation can't mennage without,
Ef she wants to look wal at her fust comin' out;
For the fust supplies physickle strength, while the second
Gives a morril advantage thet's hard to be reckoned:
For this latter I'm willin' to du wut I can;
For the former you'll hev to consult on a plan,-
Though our _fust_ want (an' this pint I want your best views on)
Is plausible paper to print I.O.U.s on.
Some gennlemen think it would cure all our cankers
In the way o' finance, ef we jes' hanged the bankers;
An' I own the proposle 'ud square with my views,
Ef their lives wuzn't all thet we'd left 'em to lose.
Some say thet more confidence might be inspired,
Ef we voted our cities an' towns to be fired,-
A plan thet 'ud suttenly tax our endurance,
Coz 'twould be our own bills we should git for th' insurance;
But cinders, no matter how sacred we think 'em,
Mightn't strike furrin minds ez good sources of income,
Nor the people, perhaps, wouldn't like the eclaw
O' bein' all turned into paytriots by law.
Some want we should buy all the cotton an' burn it,
On a pledge, when we've gut thru the war, to return it,-
Then to take the proceeds an' hold _them_ ez security
For an issue o' bonds to be met at maturity
With an issue o' notes to be paid in hard cash
On the fus' Monday follerin' the 'tarnal Allsmash:
This hez a safe air, an', once hold o' the gold,
'ud leave our vile plunderers out in the cold,
An' _might_ temp' John Bull, ef it warn't for the dip he
Once gut from the banks o' my own Massissippi.
Some think we could make, by arrangin' the figgers,
A hendy home-currency out of our niggers;
But it wun't du to lean much on ary sech staff,
For they're gittin' tu current a'ready, by half.
One gennleman says, ef we lef' our loan out
Where Floyd could git hold on 't _he_'d take it, no doubt;
But 'tain't jes' the takin', though 't hez a good look,
We mus' git sunthin' out on it arter it's took,
An' we need now more'n ever, with sorrer I own,
Thet some one another should let us a loan,
Sence a soger wun't fight, on'y jes' while he draws his
Pay down on the nail, for the best of all causes,
'thout askin' to know wut the quarrel's about,-
An' once come to thet, why, our game is played out.
It's ez true ez though I shouldn't never hev said it,
Thet a hitch hez took place in our system o' credit;
I swear it's all right in my speeches an' messiges,
But ther's idees afloat, ez ther' is about sessiges:
Folks wun't take a bond ez a basis to trade on,
Without nosin' round to find out wut it's made on,
An' the thought more an' more thru the public min' crosses
Thet our Treshry hez gut 'mos' too many dead hosses.
Wut's called credit, you see, is some like a balloon,
Thet looks while it's up 'most ez harnsome 'z a moon,
But once git a leak in 't, an' wut looked so grand
Caves righ' down in a jiffy ez flat ez your hand.
Now the world is a dreffle mean place, for our sins,
Where ther' ollus is critters about with long pins
A-prickin' the bubbles we've blowed with sech care,
An' provin' ther' 's nothin' inside but bad air:
They're all Stuart Millses, poor-white trash, an' sneaks,
Without no more chivverlry 'n Choctaws or Creeks,
Who think a real gennleman's promise to pay
Is meant to be took in trade's ornery way:
Them fellers an' I couldn' never agree;
They're the nateral foes o' the Southun Idee;
I'd gladly take all of our other resks on me
To be red o' this low-lived politikle 'con'my!
Now a dastardly notion is gittin' about
Thet our bladder is bust an' the gas oozin' out,
An' onless we can mennage in some way to stop it,
Why, the thing's a gone coon, an' we might ez wal dropp it.
Brag works wal at fust, but it ain't jes' the thing
For a stiddy inves'ment the shiners to bring,
An' votin' we're prosp'rous a hundred times over
Wun't change bein' starved into livin' in clover.
Manassas done sunthin' tow'rds drawin' the wool
O'er the green, antislavery eyes o' John Bull:
Oh, _warn't_ it a godsend, jes' when sech tight fixes
Wuz crowdin' us mourners, to throw double-sixes!
I wuz tempted to think, an' it wuzn't no wonder,
Ther' wuz really a Providence,-over or under,-
When, all packed for Nashville, I fust ascertained
From the papers up North wut a victory we'd gained.
'twuz the time for diffusin' correc' views abroad
Of our union an' strength an' relyin' on God;
An', fact, when I'd gut thru my fust big surprise,
I much ez half b'lieved in my own tallest lies,
An' conveyed the idee thet the whole Southun popperlace
Wuz Spartans all on the keen jump for Thermopperlies,
Thet set on the Lincolnites' bombs till they bust,
An' fight for the priv'lege o' dyin' the fust;
But Roanoke, Bufort, Millspring, an' the rest
Of our recent starn-foremost successes out West,
Hain't left us a foot for our swellin' to stand on,-
We've showed _too_ much o' wut Buregard calls _abandon_,
For all our Thermopperlies (an' it's a marcy
We hain't hed no more) hev ben clean vicy-varsy,
An' wut Spartans wuz lef' when the battle wuz done
Wuz them thet wuz too unambitious to run.
Oh, ef we hed on'y jes' gut Reecognition,
Things now would ha' ben in a different position!
You'd ha' hed all you wanted: the paper blockade
Smashed up into toothpicks; unlimited trade
In the one thing thet's needfle, till niggers, I swow,
Hed ben thicker'n provisional shin-plasters now;
Quinine by the ton 'ginst the shakes when they seize ye;
Nice paper to coin into C.S.A. specie;
The voice of the driver'd be heerd in our land,
An' the univarse scringe, ef we lifted our hand:
Wouldn't _thet_ be some like a fulfillin' the prophecies,
With all the fus' fem'lies in all the fust offices?
'twuz a beautiful dream, an' all sorrer is idle,-
But _ef_ Lincoln _would_ ha' hanged Mason an' Slidell!
For wouldn't the Yankees hev found they'd ketched Tartars,
Ef they'd raised two sech critters as them into martyrs?
Mason _wuz_ F.F.V., though a cheap card to win on,
But t'other was jes' New York trash to begin on;
They ain't o' no good in European pellices,
But think wut a help they'd ha' ben on their gallowses!
They'd ha' felt they wuz truly fulfillin' their mission,
An' oh, how dog-cheap we'd ha' gut Reecognition!
But somehow another, wutever we've tried,
Though the the'ry's fust-rate, the facs _wun't_ coincide:
Facs are contrary 'z mules, an' ez hard in the mouth,
An' they allus hev showed a mean spite to the South.
Sech bein' the case, we hed best look about
For some kin' o' way to slip _our_ necks out:
Le's vote our las' dollar, ef one can be found,
(An', at any rate, votin' it hez a good sound,)-
Le''s swear thet to arms all our people is flyin',
(The critters can't read, an' wun't know how we're lyin',)-
Thet Toombs is advancin' to sack Cincinnater,
With a rovin' commission to pillage an' slahter,-
Thet we've throwed to the winds all regard for wut's lawfle,
An' gone in for sunthin' promiscu'sly awfle.
Ye see, hitherto, it's our own knaves an' fools
Thet we've used, (those for whetstones, an' t'others ez tools,)
An' now our las' chance is in puttin' to test
The same kin' o' cattle up North an' out West,-
Your Belmonts, Vallandighams, Woodses, an' sech,
Poor shotes thet ye couldn't persuade us to tech,
Not in ornery times, though we're willin' to feed 'em
With a nod now an' then, when we happen to need 'em;
Why, for my part, I'd ruther shake hands with a nigger
Than with cusses that load an' don't darst dror a trigger;
They're the wust wooden nutmegs the Yankees perdooce,
Shaky everywheres else, an' jes' sound on the goose;
They ain't wuth a cuss, an' I set nothin' by 'em,
But we're in sech a fix thet I s'pose we mus' try 'em.
I-But, Gennlemen, here's a despatch jes' come in
Which shows thet the tide's begun turnin' agin',-
Gret Cornfedrit success! C'lumbus eevacooated!
I mus' run down an' hev the thing properly stated,
An' show wut a triumph it is, an' how lucky
To fin'lly git red o' thet cussed Kentucky,-
An' how, sence Fort Donelson, winnin' the day
Consists in triumphantly gittin' away.
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