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قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly , Vol. 2 No. 5, November 1862 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

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‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly , Vol. 2 No. 5,  November 1862
Devoted to Literature and National Policy

The Continental Monthly , Vol. 2 No. 5, November 1862 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

institutions, among considerable numbers, in all parts of the South.

From the foregoing views, it is plain, that only in a certain sense can slavery be pronounced the cause of the rebellion. It was not the first and original motive; neither is it the sole end of the conspirators. But in another sense, it may justly be considered the cause of the war; for without it, the war could never have taken place.

There was no actual necessity to destroy the Union for the protection of slavery and for its continued existence. Construed in any rational sense likely to be adopted, the Constitution afforded ample security—far more, indeed, than could be found under a separate confederacy. This was evident to the leaders of the rebellion, though it was their policy to conceal the truth from the people, by the fierce passions artfully aroused in the beginning. Slavery could not have been perpetuated, because its permanence is against the decrees of nature. But it could have lived out a peaceful and perhaps a prosperous existence, gradually disappearing without convulsion or bloodshed. Discussion and agitation could not have been prevented, nor could the inevitable end have been averted. Yet the whole movement could well have been controlled and directed, by the adoption of wise and well-considered measures, not inconsistent with the natural laws governing the case, whose final operation it was wholly impossible to prevent.

But this system of gradual amelioration, and peaceful development of ends that must come, did not satisfy the ambition of the conspirators. They saw their last opportunity for a successful rebellion, and they determined not to let it pass unimproved. The vast power of the slave interest; the passions easily to be excited by it; the encouraging delusions clustering around it; and the fearful apprehensions growing out of its darker aspects, all contributed to make it the very instrument for accomplishing the long-cherished design.

Slavery has been the chief means of bringing about the rebellion. It is the lever, resting upon the fulcrum of State sovereignty, by which the conspirators have been able, temporarily, to force one section of the Union from its legitimate connections. Thus used for this unhallowed purpose, and become tainted with treason and crimsoned with the blood of slaughtered citizens, slavery necessarily subjects itself to all the fearful contingencies and responsibilities of the rebellion. Whether the confederate cause shall succeed or fail, the slave institution, thus fatally involved in it, cannot long survive. In either event, its doom is fixed. Like one of those reptiles, which, in the supreme act of hostility, extinguish their own lives inflicting a mortal wound upon their victims, slavery, roused to the final paroxysm of its hate and rage, injects all its venom into the veins of the Union, exhausts itself in the effort, and inevitably dies.


The time has come when we must have an entirely new lot of superlatives—intensifiers of meaning—verifiers of earnestness—asserters of exactness, etc., etc. The old ones are as dead as herrings; killed off, too, as herrings are, by being taken from their natural element. What between passionate men and affected women, all the old stand-bys are used up, and the only practical question is, Where are the substitutes to come from? Who shall be trusted to invent them? Not the linguists: they would make them too long and slim. Not the mob: they would make them too short and stout.

There are plenty of words made; but in these times they are all nouns, and what we want are adverbs—'words that qualify verbs, participles, adjectives, and other adverbs.' We could get along well enough with the old adjectives, badly as the superlative degree of some of them has been used. They are capable of being qualified when they become too weak—or, rather, when our taste becomes too strong—just as old ladies qualify their tea when they begin to find the old excitement insufficient. But even this must be done with reason, or we shall soon find with the new supply, as we are now finding with the old, that the bottle gives out before the tea-caddy. The whole language is sufficient, except in the excessives—the ultimates.

Why use up the sublime to express the ridiculous? Why be only noticeable from the force of your language as compared with the feebleness of what you have to say? Why chain Pegasus to an ox cart, or make your Valenciennes lace into horse blankets? If the noble tools did the ignoble work any better, it might be some satisfaction; but cutting blocks with a razor is proverbially unprofitable, and a million-magnifying microscope does not help a bit to tell the time by the City Hall clock. And again: the beggar doth but make his mishaps the more conspicuous by climbing a tree, while the poor bird of paradise, when once fairly on the ground, must needs stay and die, being kept from rising into her more natural element by the very weight of her beauties. Like this last-named victim of misdirected ambition, poetical expressions, being once fairly reduced to the level of ordinary use, so that all feel at liberty to take them in vain, can never 'revocare gradem.'

The elegant, however, is not so much of a loss, as the strong and serviceable part of the language;—which, so far, is like grain in a hopper, always being added to at the top, and ground away at the bottom. The good old unmistakable words seem to sink the faster from their greater specific gravity compared to the chaff that surrounds them; for example: Indeed used to be a fine and reliable word for impressing an assertion, but now it is almost discarded except as a sort of questioning expression of surprise, which might advantageously be shortened thus:?! Strictly interpreted, it denotes a lack of faith, suggesting a possible discrepancy between the words of the speaker and the deeds they relate to. It is but one step removed from the politeness of the Sligo Irishwomen, who say, 'You are a liar,' meaning exactly what an American lady does in saying 'You don't mean so!'

I suppose it seemed as if the force of language could no further go, when men first said really. "What is more indisputable than reality? But it has come to be a sort of vulcanizer, to make plain English, irony. Nowadays, when a young lady adds, 'really,' one may know that she means to cast a doubt over the seriousness of what she says, or to moderate its significance. 'Really, sir, you must not talk so,' is the appropriate form for a tone of decided encouragement to continue your remarks—probably complimentary to herself, or the opposite to some friend. And so we might go on down, taking every word of the sort from the dictionary, and comparing its usefulness now, with that of the time when it had no ambiguity.

Positively, seriously, perfectly, and their synonymes, have been subtracted, one after another, from our list of absolute words,—Burked, carried off, and consumed, by people who, if they had each had the finishing off of one word, instead of each doing a part at the ruin of all, would deserve to have their names handed down to posterity in connection with the ruin they had wrought, as much as ever Erostratus or Martin did; the former, we all know, was he of whom it is said:

'The ambitious youth who fired th' Ephesian dome
Outlives in fame the pious fool that reared it.'

The latter, it is not so well known, did likewise by Yorkminster, for a similar purpose, and is now, as Mrs. Partington would say, 'Expatiating his offence' in a lunatic asylum. But their name is legion. How many a man, perhaps, 'father of a family, member of the church, and doing a snug business,' hears every day or two 'positively and without joking or exaggeration, the most