My dear Mr. A. BETTERDAY Cumming:—
I have, as you see, complied with your request, and herewith I send you my thoughts and feelings in view of the good Southern lady’s letter. I came near, once or twice, abandoning some of my long-cherished principles, under the influence of the letter and of the reflections to which it gave rise. But I have been enabled to retain my integrity. I am sorry to say that the letter has made me some trouble through its effect on my wife, to whom, incautiously, I read it. Very soon after I began to read, I perceived that some natural drops were finding their way down her tear-passage, leading her to a frequent use of the handkerchief. By this means she interrupted me, I should say, six or eight times, during the reading, and as soon as I had finished she rose and left the room.
I remained, and wrote a large part of the accompanying reflections, and, near midnight, on repairing to my room, I found that Mrs. North was asleep. She waked me in the morning by asking me if I was asleep. I told her that I would gladly listen to what she had to say. She said, “Will you not please, my dear, stop the ——, and the ——,” (naming two newspapers,) “and take others?”
“Why,” said I, “what is the matter with them?”
She began to weep again. In a few moments she said, “I would give the world if I could have a conversation with that Southern lady.”
“I fear,” said I, “that it would have a deleterious effect on your attachment to the principles of liberty.”
“Liberty!” said she. “Oh, how foolish I have been! I see now that there is another side to that question.”
“I hope, my dear,” said I, “that you will say and do nothing to occasion any reproach. Certainly, there are two sides to every question. If you manifest any surprise at finding that there is another side to the Liberty question, I fear that some will quote to you the fable of the mouse who was born in a meal-chest.”
“I never heard of it,” said she.
“Why,” said I, “the mouse one day stole up to the edge of the chest, when the cover had been left open, and, looking round on the barn-chamber, she said, ’Dear me, I had no idea that the world was half so large.’”
“The cover has been down and the meal has been in my eyes long enough,” said she. “I have been so much accustomed for a long time to read in our papers about ‘enormous wrong,’ ‘stupendous injustice,’ ’the slave-breeders,’ ‘sum of all villanies,’ that, unconsciously, I have come to think of the South, indiscriminately, as though they were Robin Hood’s men, or”—
“O my dear,” said I, “you must have known that there are many good people at the South, notwithstanding slavery.”