Public Exercises 589
and chose as his topic "The Times We Live In." It is a well ordered
speech, one section of which is on the political situation; in this the
speaker makes no concealment of the fact that disruption of the Union
was imminent, possibly with disastrous consequences. Such was the
outlook before the young men just graduating from College, both
elsewhere in the South and at Wake Forest, in 1860. After speaking of
the political unrest in France, he goes on to tell of that in our own
country, as follows:
A restlessness not very unlike this has been visible on our own shores. Here, have
the political heavens been overhung with blackness; it requires no extraordinary
sagacity to foresee the approaching storm. A disquiet has interrupted the once
tranquil elements, and a spirit of political experimenting is fast diffusing itself
among all classes.
That man must have studied the present commotions to little purpose, who cannot
read in the movements of designing and plotting demagogues of either section a
desire to experiment on our social organization, and see if something new, if not
better, may not under their plastic hand be moulded into form and being. Are there
now no ominous symptoms of yielding integrity, of treasonable ambition, and
desperate factional discord, already visible? Have not some, yea many, of our wise
and learned and even honorable men begun to threaten with fearful earnestness the
dissolution of our national Union? A few years ago, and who so rash as to venture
the prediction that the value of the Union would so soon have become the topic of
remark-a subject of grave calculation or of speculative discussion? And now we
find it the theme of every newspaper, and of discourse in every party, and the
subject of harangue on every hustings. The importance and stability of the Union, a
Northern and a Southern Confederacy, the relative advantages which each would
afford, are as freely and as universally canvassed as the qualifications for office.
Here is a fact of most solemn and portentous bearing. It speaks a language not to be
misunderstood, and it necessarily creates doubt and misgiving in regard to the
future. Unless the present agitation is quieted by the mighty power of the popular
will, there is no alternative but the disruption of a nation whose prosperity has stood
unparalleled in the history of the world. In an evil and unguarded hour the subtle
enemy has invaded our delightful paradise-has thrown the apple of discord into our
once united and therefore invincible house-is eagerly prompting brother to imbrue
his hands in the blood of a brother, and thus
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