So dreadful was the alarm and so great the consternation produced on this occasion, that a member of Congress from that State was some time after heard to express himself in his place as follows: "The nightbell is never heard to toll in the city of Richmond but the anxious mother presses her infant more closely to her bosom." The Congressman was John Randolph of Roanoke, and it was Gabriel who had taught him the lesson.

     And longer than the melancholy life of that wayward statesman,-down even to the beginning of the present civil war, and perhaps to this very moment, - there lingered in Richmond a memorial of those days, most peculiar and most instructive. Before the days of secession, when the northern traveler in Virginia, after traversing for weary leagues its miry ways, its desolate fields, and its flowery forests, rode at last into its metropolis, - now slowly expanded into a city of twenty-eight thousand inhabitants, - he was sure to be guided erelong to visit its stately Capitol, modelled by Jefferson, when French minister, from the Maison Carree. Standing before it, he might admire undisturbed the Grecian outline of its exterior, or criticize at will the unsightly cheapness of its stucco imitations; but he found himself forbidden to enter, save by passing an armed and uniformed sentinel at the door-way. No other State of the Union has thus found it necessary in time of profoundest quiet to protect its State-House by a permanent cordon of bayonets; indeed, the Constitution expressly prohibits to any State a standing army, however small. Yet there for sixty years has stood sentinel the "Public Guard" of Virginia, wearing the suicidal motto of that decaying Commonwealth, "Sic semper Tyrannis"; and when one asked the origin of the precaution, one learned that it was the lasting memorial of Gabriel's insurrection, the stern heritage of terror bequeathed by his defeat.


<back to previous page


go to next page>


cologo3.gif (6014 bytes)

August 2000