ePub 版

the skill of an eminent chemist, an enterprise which was but the forerunner of the many that have added immensely to the wealth and commerce of Charleston, while they have conferred a great boon upon the planting interests of the whole country. From this initial mill of the Etiwan Company there are now twenty-two companies in active operation in the vicinity of Charleston, manufacturing fertilizers and employing an aggregate capital of $4,500,000, while others, giving employment to many hundred hands, are mining and exporting the crude phosphate rock to foreign ports, the mines of South Carolina being the leading source of supply of phosphate for the world.

[ocr errors]

While the cares of his law office and the general supervision of the company, whose success was to be the precursor of a return of prosperity to his loved city, occupied his mind, Mr. Memminger was deeply concerned for the welfare of his State. Under the provisions of the "civil rights' act of Congress and of the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the recently liberated slaves were not only enfranchised, but were encouraged to assert the rights of citizenship thus conferred upon them in a manner that was constantly provoking the white citizens of the State to acts of violence. Under the administration of officers appointed from a recently victorious army, and who were supported in their authority by troops garrisoned throughout the State, a government was inaugurated, which in every feature was a disgrace to the power that sustained it and an outrage on the civilization of the age.

The vindictive spirit of the party in control of the government of the United States seemed to be exercised in order to heap upon the devoted people of South Carolina every indignity which malice or passion could suggest.

Ignorant negroes, inflamed by appeals to their impulsive natures, and misled by false and ridiculous promises, elected to every office, from governor to constable, men who

were either unprincipled adventurers, seeking only to better their fortunes, or the debauched native whose licentiousness was among the least of his vices, or the ignorant, the conceited or reckless among their own race. The capital of the proud old Commonwealth, where from the earliest colonial days had been reflected the virtues of the Cavalier and the Huguenot, had become the focal point of all that was mean, servile, and corrupt. The gown that had once been the recognized symbol of dignity, and the vestment of an incorruptible integrity, was unblushingly worn in the courts of the State by men whose claim to citizenship dated no farther back than to the coming of an army of invasion, and whose highest conception of duty was to enforce the measures of the political party in power. The College of the State, grand old alma-mater of statesmen, jurists, scholars and divines, a nursery in which wisdom. and virtue had impressed their great truths upon the youth of the State through generations, was made a hot-bed in which to nourish the weeds of passion, prejudice, and spleen, and from which was disseminated among ignorant negroes, a false philosophy and a perverted history. Schoolhouses and academies, under State patronage and State supervision, were presided over by imported teachers, who, between the spelling-book and the black-board, would supplement their professed missionary work by endeavoring to fix in the young negro's mind a bitter hatred of the white people who were once their masters. Under varied pretexts the public treasury had been plundered and the public debt increased to such an extent that complete bankruptcy seemed to be the inevitable fate of the State.


Such was the condition of South Carolina in 1876. volting as it may be to every honest person, this picture is not overdrawn.

Aroused by these outrages, the people of South Carolina, to whom had come by right of inheritance, a duty of citi

zenship more sacred than any obligation they could possibly owe to so corrupt a government, appealing to the virtuous everywhere, by a concerted action and manly courage, worthy of their sires, threw off this infamous government and organized one whose representatives were native-born citizens of known integrity and patriotism. This bloodless. revolution has made the year 1876 as memorable in the annals of South Carolina as any in her eventful history. It restored the State government to those to whom it rightfully belonged, and who were worthy of the high trust. It was the triumph of virtue over vice, the courage of truth over the cowardice of falsehood, and the spirit of the AngloSaxon race applauded the achievement even amid the snows of New England.

The meeting of the Legislature of 1877 brought to Columbia many members, who in the golden period of the history of South Carolina, had maintained the honor of the State and kept bright her fair escutcheon. Among them was Mr. Memminger, returned from the goodly parish of St. Philips and St. Michaels, and by a constituency he had represented in this body from his early manhood. He was assigned to duty at his old post of honor, and as chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, brought all the energies of his mind to work to try, if possible, to restore the lost credit of the State.

It would extend this work far beyond the scope intended were I to attempt to give in detail the disgusting revelations which were made when committees proceeded to investigate the affairs of the State and to ascertain the extent to which the public money had been appropriated to private uses, and the credit of the State compromised. At least two large volumes of reports, setting forth in detail the most disgraceful transactions, are to be found among the records of the State, and will no doubt give to some future historian ample material for a narrative of knavery unparalleled

in the annals of legislation. Let it now suffice to say that following these investigations all that it was possible to do was done to bring the most culpable of these offenders to a well-merited punishment. When men of honor at the North, irrespective of their political affiliations, ascertained that South Carolina was redeemed and the affairs of state restored to the management of men whose public and private characters were known to be beyond reproach, a new life was infused into all business enterprises, and in every respect the future of the State became more auspicious, promising a return, at no distant day, of prosperity to her citizens. It was at this session of the Legislature that Mr. Memminger brought forward a bill to reorganize the South Carolina College. No one of her sons was more attached to his almamater and none more active or devoted in her service.

While he was willing to recognize as a fact that education was necessary in order to fit the negro for the proper appreciation of his functions of citizenship, and he was disposed to make the experiment and to urge the Legislature to make a liberal provision for this purpose, his knowledge of human nature assured him that it was best for both races that this training should be conducted at separate institutions.

I regret that I have not been able to secure a report of his speech made in the House of Representatives upon this most important subject. Those who were present inform me that it was among the most logical and eloquent of the many that had been delivered by him in this body and had heretofore given direction to its legislation.

With this session of the Legislature the public life of Mr. Memminger, to a certain extent, was brought to a close. With the adjournment of the House of Representatives he had appeared for the last time in this council chamber of his State, and as a legislator had rendered his last service to a constituency who had long honored him with their confidence.

Having done all that it was possible for him to do in aiding his countrymen to bring back to the State the prosperity she had once known, he closed his long record of service in her behalf, leaving it to posterity, unsullied by a single reprehensible act, and as clean as the motives that inspired his patriotism were pure and unselfish.

It was at this time that a shadow fell across the hearthstone of Mr. Memminger-a chilling shade that sooner or later pales the brightest lights of the happiest home-a shadow coming from far in the infinite future, and reaching across the horizon of life, to envelop the form of some loved one in the mysterious veil of death. She who had been the love of his youth, the companion of his matured years, and the mother of his children, was now before him still and cold in death. The chord that had so long and so sweetly made perfect the harmony of his home was broken, and mute was the harp whose glad refrain had given joy to his soul as the years with their burdens of care went by.

The death of Mrs. Memminger could not but deeply affect one who had the manly nature of her husband. At the grave of his wife he was, as in all things and under all circumstances, a sincere Christian. The faith of his religion gave to him an assurance that the severed ties of his loves would again be united in an immortal state of existence, to which the grave was but a gateway, and with this assurance he moved on to meet the duties of life with the spirit and the manly courage that had always characterized his actions.

One whose whole life has been one of labor, whose mind is yet active in its normal functions, whose physical strength remains to bless his old age, cannot live long without some employment. To work has become a law of being which cannot be suspended without hastening the end of physical existence. He well knew that "absence of occupation is not rest."

Whether this fact in the history of

« 上一頁繼續 »