In the first months of the Civil War, this editorial from the “Teacher’s Desk” gave readers of Student and Schoolmate some heartening reminders about the sometimes-disorderly-appearing United States.
“Hail, Columbia!” (from Student and Schoolmate, August 1861; p. 309)

The United States have always been a wonder to the nations of the old world. History presents no parallel to the progress of our country in wealth and population. In developing the resources of nature, in the invention of useful machinery, in the magnitude of its internal improvements, in the enlargement of its agricultural and commercial facilities,—in every thing, in short, which adds to the greatness of a nation, our country is without a rival, or a compeer. We have astonished the world, and our rapid progress has been regarded as a miracle by others.

When the present rebellion began to exhibit its gigantic proportions, and while the government “hung fire” in the presence of treason and treachery, the American in Europe was humiliated by the spectacle of his country overridden by faction and anarchy, and the enemies of republicanism in England and elsewhere triumphantly predicted the utter ruin of the system of self-government as practiced on this side of the ocean. It seemed to them, as it did to us, that our government was too weak to stand alone; that the constitution under which we had made such immense advancement was only a thing of straw, which the first rude shock of adversity had overthrown.

But a change came; the guns of Fort Sumter roused the people from their lethargy, and another miracle was presented to the astonished gaze of the old world. That government which had seemed to be so weak and tottering, suddenly exhibited all the elements of strength and vigor; suddenly proved itself to be the most powerful in the world.

Only a few months ago there seemed not the slightest disposition to draw the sword in defence of our insulted flag; but now the bayonets of three hundred thousand men bristle on the field, and a million soldiers are ready to step forward in defence of the government. No despot ever called armies to his aid with such promptness, no government ever stood firmer than ours stands to-day. We have again astonished the world, and this time more than ever before.

If we may congratulate ourselves upon the marvellous growth of our country in all the elements of national greatness, we certainly ought to be proud of the devotion of our people to the principles of liberty and justice. If it was “Hail, Columbia, happy land,” before, it is doubly so now, when the country has proved its loyalty to principle, and her sons, as one man, have shouldered the musket in defence of the Flag of the Union.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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