James Russell Lowell Poems >>
Speech Of Honourable Preserved Doe In Secret Caucus

I thank ye, my frien's, for the warmth o' your greetin':
Ther' 's few airthly blessin's but wut's vain an' fleetin';
But ef ther' is one thet hain't _no_ cracks an' flaws,
An' is wuth goin' in for, it's pop'lar applause;
It sends up the sperits ez lively ez rockets,
An' I feel it--wal, down to the eend o' my pockets.
Jes' lovin' the people is Canaan in view,
But it's Canaan paid quarterly t' hev 'em love you;
It's a blessin' thet's breakin' out ollus in fresh spots;
It's a-follerin' Moses 'thout losin' the flesh-pots.      
But, Gennlemen, 'scuse me, I ain't sech a raw cus
Ez to go luggin' ellerkence into a caucus,--
Thet is, into one where the call comprehen's
Nut the People in person, but on'y their frien's;
I'm so kin' o' used to convincin' the masses
Of th' edvantage o' bein' self-governin' asses,
I forgut thet _we_'re all o' the sort thet pull wires
An' arrange for the public their wants an' desires,
An' thet wut we hed met for wuz jes' to agree
Wut the People's opinions in futur' should be.         

Now, to come to the nub, we've ben all disappinted,
An' our leadin' idees are a kind o' disjinted,
Though, fur ez the nateral man could discern,
Things ough' to ha' took most an oppersite turn.
But The'ry is jes' like a train on the rail,
Thet, weather or no, puts her thru without fail,
While Fac' 's the ole stage thet gits sloughed in the ruts,
An' hez to allow for your darned efs an' buts,
An' so, nut intendin' no pers'nal reflections,
They don't--don't nut allus, thet is,--make connections:    
Sometimes, when it really doos seem thet they'd oughter
Combine jest ez kindly ez new rum an' water,
Both'll be jest ez sot in their ways ez a bagnet,
Ez otherwise-minded ez th' eends of a magnet,
An' folks like you 'n' me, thet ain't ept to be sold,
Git somehow or 'nother left out in the cold.

I expected 'fore this, 'thout no gret of a row,
Jeff D. would ha' ben where A. Lincoln is now,
With Taney to say 'twuz all legle an' fair,
An' a jury o' Deemocrats ready to swear             
Thet the ingin o' State gut throwed into the ditch
By the fault o' the North in misplacin' the switch.
Things wuz ripenin' fust-rate with Buchanan to nuss 'em;
But the People--they wouldn't be Mexicans, cuss 'em!
Ain't the safeguards o' freedom upsot, 'z you may say,
Ef the right o' rev'lution is took clean away?
An' doosn't the right primy-fashy include
The bein' entitled to nut be subdued?
The fect is, we'd gone for the Union so strong,
When Union meant South ollus right an' North wrong,       
Thet the People gut fooled into thinkin' it might
Worry on middlin' wal with the North in the right.
We might ha' ben now jest ez prosp'rous ez France,
Where p'litikle enterprise hez a fair chance,
An' the People is heppy an' proud et this hour,
Long ez they hev the votes, to let Nap hey the power;
But _our_ folks they went an' believed wut we'd told 'em
An', the flag once insulted, no mortle could hold 'em.
'Twuz pervokin' jest when we wuz cert'in to win,--
And I, for one, wun't trust the masses agin:           
For a People thet knows much ain't fit to be free
In the self-cockin', back-action style o' J.D.

I can't believe now but wut half on 't is lies;
For who'd thought the North wuz agoin' to rise,
Or take the pervokin'est kin' of a stump,
'thout 'twuz sunthin' ez pressin' ez Gabr'el's las' trump?
Or who'd ha' supposed, arter _sech_ swell an' bluster
'bout the lick-ary-ten-on-ye fighters they'd muster,
Raised by hand on briled lightnin', ez op'lent 'z you please
In a primitive furrest ol femmily-trees,--           
Who'd ha' thought thet them Southuners ever 'ud show
Starns with pedigrees to 'em like theirn to the foe,
Or, when the vamosin' come, ever to find
Nat'ral masters in front an' mean white folks behind?
By ginger, ef I'd ha' known half I know now,
When I wuz to Congress, I wouldn't, I swow,
Hey let 'em cair on so high-minded an' sarsy,
'thout _some_ show o' wut you may call vicy-varsy.
To be sure, we wuz under a contrac' jes' then
To be dreffle forbearin' towards Southun men;          
We hed to go sheers in preservin' the bellance;
An' ez they seemed to feel they wuz wastin' their tellents
'thout some un to kick, 'twarn't more 'n proper, you know,
Each should furnish his part; an' sence they found the toe,
An' we wuzn't cherubs--wal, we found the buffer,
For fear thet the Compromise System should suffer.

I wun't say the plan hedn't onpleasant featurs,--
For men are perverse an' onreasonin' creaturs,
An' forgit thet in this life 'tain't likely to heppen
Their own privit fancy should ollus be cappen,--        
But it worked jest ez smooth ez the key of a safe,
An' the gret Union bearin's played free from all chafe.
They warn't hard to suit, ef they hed their own way,
An' we (thet is, some on us) made the thing pay:
'twuz a fair give-an'-take out of Uncle Sam's heap;
Ef they took wut warn't theirn, wut we give come ez cheap;
The elect gut the offices down to tide-waiter,
The people took skinnin' ez mild ez a tater.
Seemed to choose who they wanted tu, footed the bills,
An' felt kind o' 'z though they wuz havin' their wills,     
Which kep' 'em ez harmless an' cherfle ez crickets,
While all we invested wuz names on the tickets;
Wal, ther' 's nothin', for folks fond o' lib'ral consumption
Free o' charge, like democ'acy tempered with gumption!

Now warn't thet a system wuth pains in presarvin',
Where the people found jints an' their frien's done the carvin',--
Where the many done all o' their thinkin' by proxy,
An' were proud on 't ez long ez 'twuz christened Democ'cy,--
Where the few let us sap all o' Freedom's foundations,
Ef you call it reformin' with prudence an' patience,      
An' were willin' Jeff's snake-egg should hetch with the rest,
Ef you writ 'Constitootional' over the nest?
But it's all out o' kilter, ('twuz too good to last,)
An' all jes' by J.D.'s perceedin' too fast;
Ef he'd on'y hung on for a month or two more,
We'd ha' gut things fixed nicer 'n they hed ben before:
Afore he drawed off an' lef all in confusion,
We wuz safely entrenched in the ole Constitootion,
With an outlyin', heavy-gun, case-mated fort
To rake all assailants,--I mean th' S.J. Court.        
Now I never'll acknowledge (nut ef you should skin me)
'twuz wise to abandon sech works to the in'my,
An' let him fin' out thet wut scared him so long,
Our whole line of argyments, lookin' so strong,
All our Scriptur an' law, every the'ry an' fac',
Wuz Quaker-guns daubed with Pro-slavery black.
Why, ef the Republicans ever should git
Andy Johnson or some one to lend 'em the wit
An' the spunk jes' to mount Constitootion an' Court
With Columbiad guns, your real ekle-rights sort,        
Or drill out the spike from the ole Declaration
Thet can kerry a solid shot clearn roun' creation,
We'd better take maysures for shettin' up shop,
An' put off our stock by a vendoo or swop.

But they wun't never dare tu; you'll see 'em in Edom
'fore they ventur' to go where their doctrines 'ud lead 'em:
They've ben takin' our princerples up ez we dropt 'em,
An' thought it wuz terrible 'cute to adopt 'em;
But they'll fin' out 'fore long thet their hope's ben deceivin' 'em,
An' thet princerples ain't o' no good, ef you b'lieve in 'em;
It makes 'em tu stiff for a party to use,            
Where they'd ough' to be easy 'z an ole pair o' shoes.
If _we_ say 'n our pletform thet all men are brothers,
We don't mean thet some folks ain't more so 'n some others;
An' it's wal understood thet we make a selection,
An' thet brotherhood kin' o' subsides arter 'lection.
The fust thing for sound politicians to larn is,
Thet Truth, to dror kindly in all sorts o' harness,
Mus' be kep' in the abstract,--for, come to apply it,
You're ept to hurt some folks's interists by it.        
Wal, these 'ere Republicans (some on 'em) ects
Ez though gineral mexims 'ud suit speshle facts;
An' there's where we'll nick 'em, there's where they'll be lost;
For applyin' your princerple's wut makes it cost,
An' folks don't want Fourth o' July t' interfere
With the business-consarns o' the rest o' the year,
No more 'n they want Sunday to pry an' to peek
Into wut they are doin' the rest o' the week.

A ginooine statesman should be on his guard,
Ef he _must_ hev beliefs, nut to b'lieve 'em tu hard;   
For, ez sure ez he does, he'll be blartin' 'em out
'thout regardin' the natur' o' man more 'n a spout,
Nor it don't ask much gumption to pick out a flaw
In a party whose leaders are loose in the jaw:
An' so in our own case I ventur' to hint
Thet we'd better nut air our perceedin's in print,
Nor pass resserlootions ez long ez your arm
Thet may, ez things heppen to turn, du us harm;
For when you've done all your real meanin' to smother,
The darned things'll up an' mean sunthin' or 'nother.      
Jeff'son prob'ly meant wal with his 'born free an' ekle,'
But it's turned out a real crooked stick in the sekle;
It's taken full eighty-odd year--don't you see?--
From the pop'lar belief to root out thet idee,
An', arter all, suckers on 't keep buddin' forth
In the nat'lly onprincipled mind o' the North.
No, never say nothin' without you're compelled tu,
An' then don't say nothin' thet you can be held tu,
Nor don't leave no friction-idees layin' loose
For the ign'ant to put to incend'ary use.           

You know I'm a feller thet keeps a skinned eye
On the leetle events thet go skurryin' by,
Coz it's of'ner by them than by gret ones you'll see
Wut the p'litickle weather is likely to be.
Now I don't think the South's more 'n begun to be licked,
But I _du_ think, ez Jeff says, the wind-bag's gut pricked;
It'll blow for a spell an' keep puffin' an' wheezin',
The tighter our army an' navy keep, squeezin'--
For they can't help spread-eaglein' long 'z ther's a mouth
To blow Enfield's Speaker thru lef' at the South.       
But it's high time for us to be settin' our faces
Towards reconstructin' the national basis,
With an eye to beginnin' agin on the jolly ticks
We used to chalk up 'hind the back-door o' politics;
An' the fus' thing's to save wut of Slav'ry ther's lef'
Arter this (I mus' call it) imprudence o' Jeff:
For a real good Abuse, with its roots fur an' wide,
Is the kin' o' thing _I_ like to hev on my side;
A Scriptur' name makes it ez sweet ez a rose,
An' it's tougher the older an' uglier it grows--       
(I ain't speakin' now o' the righteousness of it,
But the p'litickle purchase it gives an' the profit).

Things look pooty squally, it must be allowed,
An' I don't see much signs of a bow in the cloud:
Ther's too many Deemocrats--leaders wut's wuss--
Thet go for the Union 'thout carin' a cuss
Ef it helps ary party thet ever wuz heard on,
So our eagle ain't made a split Austrian bird on.
But ther's still some consarvative signs to be found
Thet shows the gret heart o' the People is sound:        
(Excuse me for usin' a stump-phrase agin,
But, once in the way on 't, they _will_ stick like sin
There's Phillips, for instance, hez jes' ketched a Tartar
In the Law-'n'-Order Party of ole Cincinnater;
An' the Compromise System ain't gone out o' reach,
Long 'z you keep the right limits on freedom o' speech.
'Twarn't none too late, neither, to put on the gag,
For he's dangerous now he goes in for the flag.
Nut thet I altogether approve o' bad eggs,
They're mos' gin'ly argymunt on its las' legs,--        
An' their logic is ept to be tu indiscriminate,
Nor don't ollus wait the right objecs to 'liminate;
But there is a variety on 'em, you'll find,
Jest ez usefle an' more, besides bein' refined,--
I mean o' the sort thet are laid by the dictionary,
Sech ez sophisms an' cant, thet'll kerry conviction ary
Way thet you want to the right class o' men,
An' are staler than all 't ever come from a hen:
'Disunion' done wal till our resh Southun friends
Took the savor all out on 't for national ends;         
But I guess 'Abolition' 'll work a spell yit,
When the war's done, an' so will 'Forgive-an'-forgit.'
Times mus' be pooty thoroughly out o' all jint,
Ef we can't make a good constitootional pint;
An' the good time'll come to be grindin' our exes,
When the war goes to seed in the nettle o' texes:
Ef Jon'than don't squirm, with sech helps to assist him,
I give up my faith in the free-suffrage system;
Democ'cy wun't be nut a mite interestin',
Nor p'litikle capital much wuth investin';           
An' my notion is, to keep dark an' lay low
Till we see the right minute to put in our blow.--

But I've talked longer now 'n I hed any idee,
An' ther's others you want to hear more 'n you du me;
So I'll set down an' give thet 'ere bottle a skrimmage,
For I've spoke till I'm dry ez a real graven image.