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A Political Cathechism for Children
Harper's Weekly, September 7, 1861
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 citizens 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 all ages:

Question. What is a Democrat, mamma?

Answer. A Democrat, my dear, is a defunct species, of which you will find a finely-reserved stuffed specimen at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In their day Democrats were hearty patriots who sought the good of the whole country. These Democrats have now gone to the ward, 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 living, 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 national 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 Custom-house.

Question. What is the Democratic State Committee, mamma?

Answer. The Democratic State Committee, my dear, is composed of dead bodies which are so offensive 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 people 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 Democrats 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: another 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 established 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 uncommonly short order, if they could have got at him.

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 injured thereby; but the liberty of the press, as understood 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 shirking you r 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 war?

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 struggled very hard before they gave way to common sense and the rights of the people. Just so slavery, as an element of political power, is now making 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.

Harper's Weekly, September 7, 1861


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