網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

fru de man's hand.” Certain it is that the people were never able to discover the agency of the fire; though, so far as I can learn, no one doubts that it was the work of an incendiary, - “some man,” say the ex-Rebels, “who wanted to do you Federals a good turn.” Recall last winter's daily bulletin about the bombardment, — so many shells and no damage done, – so many shells and no damage done, – day after day the same old story, till one almost believed it true. Yet ex-Rebel officers will tell you now that our aim was so perfect that we killed their sentinels with our Parrott guns; and go where you will, up and down the streets in almost any portion of the city, and you find the dumb walls eloquent with praises of our skill. We never again can have the Charleston of the decade previous to the war. The beauty and pride of the city are as dead as the glories of Athens. Five millions of dollars could not restore the ruin of these four past years; and that sum is so far beyond the command of the city as to seem the boundless measure of immeasurable wealth. Yet, after all, Charleston was Charleston because of the hearts of its people. St. Michael's Church, they held, was the centre of the universe; and the aristocracy of the city were the very elect of God’s children on earth. One marks now how few young men there are, how generally the young women are dressed in black. The flower of their proud aristocracy is buried on scores of battle-fields. If it were possible to restore the broad acres of crumbling ruins to their foretime style and uses, there would even then be but the dead body of Charleston. The Charleston of 1875 will doubtless be proud in wealth and intellect and rich in grace and culture. Let favoring years bring forward such fruitage ' Yet the place has not in itself recuperative power for such a result. The material on which to build that fair structure does not here exist, and, as I am told by dozens, cannot be found in the State. If . Northern capital and Northern energy do not come here, the ruin, they say, must remain a ruin; and if this time five years finds here a handsome and thriving city, it will be the creation of New England, - not necessarily the pattern of New England, for the influences from thence will be moulded by and interfused with those now existing here; but yet, in the essential fact, the creation of New England. It was noted on the steamship by which I came from New York that, leaving out the foreign element, our passengers were from Charleston and from Massachusetts. We had nearly as many Boston men as Charleston men. One of the Charleston merchants said to me that when he went North the passengers were also almost equally divided between Massachusetts and South Carolina; and he added, that, in Eastern Massachusetts, where he spent some days, he found many men who were coming to Charleston. Of Massachusetts men, some are already in business here, and others came on to “see the lay of the land,” as one of them said. “That’s all right,” observed an ex-Rebel captain in one of our after-dinner chats, – “that’s all right; let's have Massachusetts and South Carolina brought together, for they are the only two States that amount to anything.” “I hate all you Yankees most heartily in a general sort of way,” remarked another of these Southerners; “but I find you clever enough personally, and I expect it’ll be a good thing for us to have you come down here with your money, though it’ll go against the grain with us pretty badly.” There are many Northern men here already, though one cannot say that there is much Northern society, for the men are either without families or have left them at home. Walking out yesterday with a former Charlestonian, - a man who left here in the first year of the war and returned soon after our occupation of the city, -he pointed out to

me the various “Northern houses”; and I shall not exaggerate if I say that this classification appeared to include at least half the stores on each of the principal streets. “The presence of these men,” said he, “was at first very distasteful to our people, and they are not liked any too well now ; but we know they are doing a good work for the city.” I fell into some talk with him concerning the political situation, and found him of bitter spirit toward what he was pleased to denominate “the infernal radicals.” When I asked him what should be done, he answered: “You Northern people are making a great mistake in your treatment of the South. We are thoroughly whipped; we give up slavery forever; and now we want you to quit reproaching us. Let us back into the Union, and then come down here and help us build up the country.” - Every little variation from the old order of things excites the comment “Yankee notion,” in which there is sometimes good-natured querulousness and sometimes a sharp spice of contempt. Stopping a moment this afternoon in a store where were three or four intelligent men, one of them asked me the use of the “thing” I had in my hand. It was one of the handle-and-straps so common in the North for carrying shawls, cloaks, overcoats, &c. Seeing that none of them had any idea what it was, I explained its use. “Well, now, what a Yankee notion l’” “Yes,” answered another, “but how handy: it is.” To bring here the conveniences and comforts of our Northern civilization, no less than the Northern idea of right and wrong, justice and injustice, humanity and inhumanity, is the work ready for the hand of every New England man and woman who stands waiting. There is much prejudice to overcome, and some of it is bitter and aggravating; but the measure of success won by Northern men already in the field is an earnest of the reward for

others. Self-interest is a masterful agent in modern civilization. Business is reviving slowly, though perhaps the more surely. The resident merchants are mostly at the bottom of the ladder of prosperity. They have idled away the summer in vain regrets for vanished hopes, and most of them are only just now beginning to wake to the new life. Some have already been North for goods, but more are preparing to go; not heeding that, while they vacillate with laggard time, Northern men are springing in with hands swift to catch opportunity. It pains me to see the apathy and indifference that so generally prevails; but the worst feature of the situation is, that so many young men are not only idle, but give no promise of being otherwise in the immediate future. Many of the stores were more or less injured by the shelling. A few of these have been already repaired, and are now occupied, - very likely by Northern men. A couple of dozen, great and small, are now in process of repair; and scores stand with closed shutters or gaping doors and windows. The doubt as to the title of property, and the wise caution of the President in granting pardons, unquestionably has something to do with the stagnation so painfully apparent; but very much of it is due to the hesitating shiftlessness of even the Southern merchant, who forever lets I dare not wait upon I would. Rents of eligible storerooms are at least from one fourth to one third higher than before the war, and resident business men say only Northern men who intend staying but a short time can afford to pay present prices. I’m sure I can't see how any one can afford to pay them, but I know the demand is greater than the supply. I queried of the returning merchants on the steamship how they were received in the North. An Augusta man complained that he could get no credit, and that there was a disposition to be grinding and exacting. One Charleston

man said he asked for sixty days, and got it without a word of objection. Another told me that he asked for four months, was given three, and treated like a gentleman everywhere. Another showed me the receipt for a debt of about fifteen hundred dollars contracted before the war, which he had paid in full; and when he asked for four months on a bill of eight thousand dollars, it was readily given. Still another settled his old indebtedness with one third cash and eight and twelve months notes for the balance, while he got ninety days on three fourths of his new bill. One man said he had many friends in the North, and they all knew him for a thorough Rebel; he expected some taunts, but tried to carry himself like a gentleman, and was courteously received, “even in Boston.” I judge that such of the merchants as first went North and settled with their creditors made more favorable terms than those who went later. If it be said that those were men who had loved the Union, while these are men who had not; that those were men of keen sense of commercial honor and integrity, while these are men who cared less for an adjustment; that those are men who deserved favors, while these are men who have forfeited all claim to special consideration, — if this be said, the pith of the matter will probably be hit so far as regards most of those who now complain of their reception. Yet there are men who deserved better than they have received. These are they who, whatever their views on the questions at issue in the war, meant to pay all their debts. Most of them are men who loved the Union and hated secession. That there were such men in all parts of the State is beyond question. When the negroes say any one was a Union man during the war, the fact is established; from their judgment and testimony there is no appeal. These men, having no faith in the Confederacy, put everything they could into cotton or rosin or turpentine, – hop

« 上一頁繼續 »