New York Times, “How a Gentleman is Appreciated by Proslavery Fanatics,” March 18, 1857

    Source citation
    "How a Gentleman is Appreciated by Proslavery Fanatics," New York Times, March 18, 1857, p. 2: 3.
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    South Carolina Times
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    New York Daily Times
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    How a Gentleman is Appreciated by Proslavery Fanatics
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    Leah Suhrstedt, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    How a Gentleman is Appreciated by Proslavery Fanatics.

    From the South Carolina Times.

    The conduct of Hon. WILLIAM AIKEN, the distinguished representative in Congress from the District of Charleston, in reference to Mr. Speaker BANKS, has struck not only the people of South Carolina, but of the whole country, with the most profound astonishment. We are free to confess- and we record it with deep regret- that we share largely in this astonishment. We are amazed to think, that one occupying his distinguished position- with his political antecedents- once an honored Senator and subsequently, by the exercise of peculiar favor, elected the Governor of a high-toned and chivalrous people- with a property which, in magnitude and kind, identifies him more largely with the people of the South, than almost any citizen she has- a man of noble and elevated sentiments- as sensitive and as devoted to the honor of his native State as to his own- a gentleman of education, of political experience, and with opportunities to form a clear and correct judgment of what was due to himself and the people he represented- when, we say, we consider all these things, we are lost in amazement at the bare contemplation of this one act, so extraordinary in its character, so unexpected as proceeding from such an agent.

    To say that we feel mortified- deeply mortified, would be to give but a feeble expression to the emotions it has excited. It is a source of profound humiliation- of deep and predominant shame- of humiliation when we reflect that one whose public character and private virtues we appreciate and respect so much, could so far forget what was due to his own exalted character, even though for a moment, as to stoop to the low level of this arch enemy of all his State and people hold most dear- and of shame from a profound conviction of the utter unworthiness of the object thus distinguished by this signal act of favor.

    Was it not quite enough that Mr. AIKEN, by the exercise of an unparalleled act of courtesy, conducted Mr. Speaker BANKS to the Chair? Assuredly, this act was a striking and sufficient demonstration that he was superior to any feeling of envy or mortified vanity, or disappointed ambition. This was proof enough that such ignoble feeling had no abiding place in his noble heart. We say that this was enough- and, though all did not even then approve, yet all did not condemn. But when in addition to his numerous acts of personal kindness, consideration and courtesy, Mr. AIKEN superadds the gratuitous service, and crowning and distinguished favor of thanking him, for what? Why, for not having acted as badly, perhaps, as he feared, or as he anticipated, or expected; or, for having administered the duties or discharged, the functions of the chair with unexpected impartiality- with reasonable intelligence- with ordinary ability; in short, for having simply done his duty, provided he really did all that was claimed for him- for this we say- a Southern Representative- representing the largest slaveholding constituency in the South, and himself the largest slaveholding Representative in Congress, must move that this moral traitor- traitor to his Constitution and country- should receive a vote of thanks, and Southern Representatives must vote for it!!

    This is no time nor occasion for disguise or concealment, or the suppression of one’s sentiments. We will not withhold the free and unrestrained expression of our honest conviction when we think our Representatives have committed a gross wrong. We are aware that the wisest and best of men may occasionally commit acts of indiscretion, and such too, as may result injuriously, which are not imputable to their general character. We are aware of all this- to impute infidelity to a single Southern Representative. We yield to no man in respect for Governor AIKEN, or in the confidence we repose in him. We believe, however, that in the extraordinary and unexpected position he took in relation to Mr. BANKS, he committed a great- an unfortunate mistake, and one too, which cannot be justified by any consideration arising grim propriety, courtesy, or political expediency. It doubtless sprang from the noblest sentiment of magnanimity- but we shall over think that it was the prostitution of magnanimity to a most unworthy object.

    We believe we know the sentiment that actuated Mr. AIKEN, and induced this remarkable demonstration. We trust, too, that we are not incapable of appreciating it. But, while the sentiment, regarded as a sentiment, is honorable to humanity, it is not at all times proper to follow its dictates. It is honorable to rise superior to the feelings of disappointed ambition or mortified pride, which personal rivalry and political strife so often engender. In moving that a resolution of thanks to Mr. Speaker BANKS be voted, “for his able and impartial discharge of his duties” as the presiding officer of the House, Mr. AIKEN, no doubt, regarded it as an act of magnanimity- and truly it was an act of unparalleled magnanimity! But was it a just act in its exercise? Was it proper, under all the circumstances? Was it such an act as suited the relations between Mr. AIKEN, his constituents, his State, and the recipient of this distinguishing mark of favor? There is something strikingly noble in a magnanimous act- in the exhibition of the power to rise superior to the personal considerations or selfish motives that are supposed to actuate the majority of mankind. To revenge is human- to forgive, divine. It is a heroic act to forgive our enemy when we are in a condition to be revenged. Yes, it is noble and it is magnanimous to forbear punishing your enemy- one, it may be, who has deeply wronged you- to forego revenge when revenge would be easy. It is not, however, invariably so; there are cases in which to forbear to punish would be highly criminal.

    We regard Mr. Speaker BANKS as no better than an incendiary. We regard him and the party with which he acts, with whose fortunes he is identified, and of which he is a chosen and favorite leader, as the sworn enemies of the South, desiring, plotting and compassing nothing so much as her destruction. Mr. Speaker BANKS, we repeat is one of the chosen, trusted leaders of the Black Republican Party. By them, that is, the Black Republicans, he was selected to fill the chair he occupies- and elected over Mr. AIKEN and others. His sentiments- his principles of action, in common with his party, are those of the incendiary- the sentiments and the principles of those who would fire your dwelling- would murder your wife and children- would plunder your property- would rob you of all you had? Mr. Speaker BANKS openly avows opinions that lead directly and lead inevitably to insurrection, rapine, and murder! He boldly proclaims himself an enemy to the South- to the institutions of the South. Mr. Speaker BANKS has identified himself with a party which repudiates the Constitution, and unblushingly proclaims a “higher law” than that instrument they are sworn to obey! Mr. Speaker BANKS would put the knife to the midnight assassin to your throats- he would regard the complacency, the murder of our wives and children! Mr. Speaker BANKS could thus contentedly sleep with blood upon his soul!

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