Last night I watched the news reports. The uncertainty of these times gripped me, making me wonder and question. I finally closed the apps on my phone, turned it off, and set it aside. Glancing up, the title on a book’s spine caught my eye: Breckinridge.
John C. Breckinridge. The Confederate general I’d studied while writing Call Out The Cadets. But I didn’t think about his military role. I thought about his life in the weeks leading into the Civil War. Like all Americans in the ending days of 1860 and the opening days of 1861, he faced uncertainty and choices.
He worked for compromise as Southern states announced secession. He campaigned for neutrality after he took his seat in the Senate, representing Kentucky after finishing his term as vice president. Eventually, circumstance and a last-resort decision would bring him to the Confederacy, but his primary sources and earlier actions suggest this was not his goal or his hope as 1861 began.
I re-read the chapter about his final weeks as vice president, presiding over a Senate that was trying to crumble as southerners left. About his months as a senator, disliked by both sides as he attempted to keep his state neutral and out of the war.
I found again his quote from one of his political speeches during the 1860 presidential campaign, speaking in context of union and disunion. Today, the news and circumstances are different than that conflicts and troubles of that era, but perhaps his words offer a type of hope that is still there and still needed:
“The truth will prevail. You may smother it for a time beneath the passions and prejudices of men, but those passions and prejudices will subside; and the truth will reappear as the rock reappears above the receding tide. I believe this country will yet walk by the light of these principles. Bright and fixed, as the rock-built lighthouse in the stormy sea, they will abide, a perpetual beacon, to attract the political mariner to the harbor of the Constitution.”
Uncertainty may run crazy. Questions abound. But we can still choose to have hope and faith. And we can believe in the certainty of truth in the end.