Notwithstanding his thoughtless lavishness, there was a high sense of honor in the “chivalrous Sonthron.” He did not mean to defraud any one. I have known an expensive, generous fellow to cut his throat because he could not meet a note which was coming due. I have known another bankrupt to put his wife and children into a buggy and drive with them into the sea, drowning the whole party. I do not assert positively—I only give it as my strong impression — that such tragedies of wounded honor were more common in Dixie than in Yankeeland.
The honor of Southern students is not college honor as it is understood at the North, and perhaps in Europe; it comes much nearer to the honor of good citizens, and the honor of the gentleman of society. The pupils are not leagued against the teachers for the purpose of passing fraudulent examinations, by the trickeries of stealing the prepared lists of questions, carrying furtive copies of lessons into the recitation-rooms, mutual postings, and purchased compositions. A professor of the Charleston Medical College assures me that he has never detected such a cheat in thirty years of tuition. A professor of the University at Columbia, South Carolina, told a friend of mine that he had known but one such instance, and that in that case the two criminals were forced to leave by their classmates. The “chivalrous Southron” undergraduate, at least while surrounded by his native moral atmosphere, considers himself a gentleman first and a student afterward. When one remembers the strength of college esprit de corps, these facts exhibit an individual self-respect and uprightness which is astonishing, and which must, I suspect, fill the faculties of Yale and Harvard with envy. I must explain that my testimony on this point refers only to South Carolina, and I may therefore have drawn too large an inference in extending my eulogium to all Southern students. It is worth while also to note that in Dixie examinations are less severe than with us, and that a failure in passing them rarely ends in expulsion.
“How can a race of traitors be called honorable ?“ will be the objection of millions of loyal citizens. It must be remembered, I answer, that the “chivalrous Southron” conceived himself as owing a closer allegiance to his State than to the Union; and that, furthermore, he, like the Roman patrician, like the aristocrat of all time, felt that he owed fealty to his caste. These questions have now been settled by the highest of earthly courts. If the South rebels again it will be traitorous even in its own eyes.
De Forest, J.W., “Chivalrous and Semi-Chivalrous Southrons” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume 38, Issue 224, January 1869; New York: Harper & Bros.
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