ePub 版

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

intelligent men had become known to Mr. Memminger, or whether he desired employment, without a consciousness of the operations of the law, it is not at all necessary to discuss here. His experiences could not have been exceptions to a general rule, in this respect; and he worked on to the end of a life protracted through more than four-score years. Full of honors, and held in the highest esteem among his fellow citizens; blessed with fortune, which always comes to reward the judicious labor of the prudent, he might have retired to the dignified seclusion of his charming home at Flat Rock, or spent the evening of his life with the loves of his "City by the Sea."

It was about this time that the enterprise of uniting the commercial centers of the West to the seaboard at Charleston, by a more direct line of railway than was then existing, was revived in the project of the Spartanburg and Asheville railroad. The route surveyed was deemed more practicable than the one located by Rabun Gap, and that had burdened the State with the attempted construction of the Blue Ridge railroad. Always ready to advance the interests of the State and to add to the commercial facilities of her leading seaport, Mr. Memminger accepted the presidency of this railway company, and brought to the discharge of this duty the earnest spirit and honest purpose which had always been his leading business characteristic. He held the office but a short time; long enough, however, to have made the construction of the road an assured fact. He then resigned the presidency and transferred its responsibility to other hands.

[ocr errors]

In the discharge of the routine duties of his extensive law practice, in the fostering care of the public schools of Charleston, with the loves of his elegant city home, or in the summer at Rock Hill, his well-spent life found a beautiful evening of entertainment and rational repose. He still continued to take a lively interest in public affairs, especially in such matters as affected the interests of the city in whose

welfare he had labored and spent the best years of his life. Charleston was visited by a calamity on the 31st of August, 1886, unprecedented in the history of the cities of the United States. To the demoralizations of a long and unsuccessful war; to the wreck and the ruin of a protracted blockade of her port and bombardment, was now added the indescribable horrors of an earthquake that shook the devoted city to its foundations. While there have been many descriptions given of this appalling disaster; while in the shattered walls and marred features of many historic buildings the artist has made pictures to exhibit the effect of the terrible force that well nigh wrought the complete destruction of the city, no pen or skill of art can convey an adequate idea of the consternation that overwhelmed the good people who, amid every disaster and under every circumstance of misfortune, remained to share the fate of their loved home. This memorable event was not without those features of good that are more or less connected with all evil. Great calamities never befall individuals or communities but that there is aroused a sympathy which overcomes all ill-will, and in acts of generous kindness give expression to the best traits of our humanity. Charleston-contemned by those who only knew of the good city as the "Birthplace of Secession," and who were embittered against her citizens by the misrepresentations of malignant enemies-the city that had been traduced by her rivals in commerce, and had been ridiculed in her misfortunes of war, even by those she had once fostered, now received good words of cheer from every section, and substantial evidences of the fact that behind all censures and all jealousies, there was a respect for the historic place, and an admiration for her gallant citizens stronger than passion and superior to all prejudices.

Among the many of her citizens who came to the relief of the stricken city, and whose energies were freely spent in meeting the greatest emergency in her history, none were

« 上一頁繼續 »