Does he want to injure, or heal? Is he base, or noble? Would he transgress and so ruin his patrimony, or elaborate and so glorify it?
It is in practice pretty easy to tell, no? It is not after all so hard to parse this, or therefore to decide which side deserves your lot. Go then; decide. Which poet shall you heed?
There is in the final analysis nothing else that is in your power. Everything else, from the morning coffee to the changing of the diaper to the valor of the battlefield is a faint echo – a mighty, magnificent, immensely important echo – of this basic decision.
Is it about you, you worm? Or is it about something more? If it is about something more, then: is it about the Ultimate, or is it about something damnably less?
Let’s on with it then, brothers. Into the fray. Deus vult!
Arnold Bertonneau (1832 -1912); Photograph from the mid-1860s
My great-grand uncle Arnold Bertonneau (1832 – 1912) traveled from New Orleans to Boston and Washington D.C. in April, 1864, to present his Creole Petition to Congress, which ultimately rejected it. On 12 April Bertonneau responded to an invitation by the Massachusetts Republicans to speak on the merits of his proposal. After an introduction by Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew, Bertonneau delivered the following words:
BEFORE THE OUTBREAK of the rebellion, Louisiana contained about forty thousand free colored people, and three hundred twelve thousand persons held in slavery. In the city of New Orleans, there were upwards of twenty thousand free persons of color. Nearly all the free persons of color read and write. The free people have always been on the side of
law and good order, always peaceful and self-sustaining, always loyal. Taxed on an assessment of more than fifteen million dollars — among many other things, for the support of public-school education — debarred from the right of sending their children to the common schools which they have been and are compelled to aid in supporting, taxed on their property, and compelled to contribute toward the general expense of sustaining the state, they have always been and now are prohibited from exercising the elective franchise.
When the first fratricidal shot was fired at Sumter, and Louisiana had joined her fortunes with the other seceding states, surrounded by enemies educated in the belief that “Africans and their descendants had no rights that white men were bound to respect,” without arms and ammunition, or any means of self-defense, the condition and position of our people were extremely perilous. When summoned to volunteer in the defense of the state and city against Northern invasion, situated as we were, could we do otherwise than heed the warning and volunteer in the defense of New Orleans? Could we have adopted a better policy? In the city of New Orleans, under the Confederate government, we raised one regiment of a thousand men, the line officers of which were colored.
Right now, Derek Chauvin looks like he may become the Gavrilo Princip of our age. Let us pray that this time, history turns out differently.
(I make no reference to Chauvin’s intent, which is currently unknown. I refer to his impact.)