Harper's Weekly 09/07/1861
A POLITICAL CATECHISM FOR
IT is the boast of the United States that our
children imbibe political knowledge almost
with their mother's milk, and that our boys at
school possess an experience of political affairs
which is not surpassed by that of average citi-
zens of most foreign countries. We are not
surprised, therefore, that we have received the
following Political Catechism, which appears
to have been prepared by some very sensible
American matron for the sake of her boys, and
we commend it to the perusal of young men of
Question. What is a Democrat, mamma?
Answer. A Democrat, my dear, is a defunct
species, of which you will find a finely-preserved
stuffed specimen at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In
their day Democrats were hearty patriots who
sought the good of the whole country. These Dem-
ocrats have now gone to the wars, and are fighting
the battles of the country against traitors. Nobody
calls himself a Democrat nowadays except broken-
down politicians who have no honest means of liv-
ing, and who assume that title in the hope of being
able to cheat and steal.
Question. What is a Republican, mamma?
Answer. Republicans, my dear, were people
who sought to prevent slavery entering the na-
tional territories. As the question of slavery in
the territories (and other places besides, perhaps)
has been pretty thoroughly settled by the great
Rebellion of the slaveholders under Jeff Davis and
other traitors, there are no Republicans left now,
except a few persons who desire places in the Cus-
Question. What is the Democratic State Com-
Answer. The Democratic State Committee, my
dear, is composed of dead bodies which are so of-
fensive in the sight of God and man that no one
has had the charity to bury them. In November
next this unpleasant job will be done by the peo-
ple at large.
Question. What is a Breckinridge Democrat?
Answer. A Breckinridge Democrat is a person
who desires to see this Union overthrown, and the
rebellion of Jeff Davis successful.
Question. What do the Breckinridge Demo-
crats want, mamma?
Answer. A very natural question, my dear.
Some of them want offices under Jeff Davis: one
wants licenses to sell Southern lottery tickets: an-
other owns slaves and wants to bring them to New
York: others have money owing to them at the
South, and would like to get it: but most of them
are mere vagabonds who want to see anarchy es-
tablished in the hope of making something out of it.
Question. What is coercion, mamma?
Answer. Coercion is resisting a robber who
tries to plunder you.
Question. What is compromise?
Answer. Compromise is giving the robber your
purse, your watch, your coat, and your boots, on
condition that he leaves you your shirt-collar.
Question. What is a fratricidal war?
Answer. A fratricidal war is putting down
thieves and traitors who happen to be your fellow-
countrymen. The United States engaged in a
fratricidal war when they chased and caught the
traitor Burr: and they would have undertaken a
fratricidal war against the traitor Arnold, in un-
commonly short order, if they could have got at
Question. What is liberty of the press?
Answer. The liberty of the press, as understood
by the framers of the Constitution, is the right of
publishing what you will, provided no one is in-
jured thereby; but the liberty of the press, as un-
derstood by the friends of Jeff Davis, is the right
of playing the sneak thief when one has not the
courage to play the burglar.
Question. What is State sovereignty ?
Answer. State sovereignty, my dear, is a fine
phrase under which bad men choose the laws which
they will obey and the laws which they will break.
It is anarchy raised into a system.
Question. What is neutrality, mamma?
Answer. Neutrality, my dear, is meanly shirk-
ing your duty as a citizen, and helping the enemy
in a cowardly underhand way. A man who stands
by and sees a poor fellow beaten to death by a
rowdy is a neutral, and the model of those who are
neutral in the present war.
Question. What is the cause of the present
Answer. This war, my dear, is the last dying
struggle of slavery as a political power. If you
have read history aright, you must have learned
that all great and powerful systems or bodies die
hard. The Roman Catholic hierarchy, the divine
right monarchies, the feudal oligarchies, all strug-
gled very hard before they gave way to common
sense and the rights of the people. Just so slav-
ery, as an element of political power, is now mak-
ing its last dying struggle, and you may depend
upon it, it will fight to the last. But if you have
read your Bible right, and have the true instincts
of a free-born American boy in you, you can not
doubt how the contest will end.