From the Richmond Examiner, 12/16/1865, p. 2, c. 3
DEMORALIZATION, AN EFFECT OF THE WAR. – It is very consoling and refreshing to our minds when we can find a scape goat upon which to heap all our faults and offences, so that, although we confess the error, we have at the same time a good excuse for its commission. So has it been with the war, which has already had to bear the burden of so many faults, and the weight of so much national and individual crime. Any apparent increase in the use of ardent spirits, any impropriety of language or expression, any seeming depravity on the part of the men, or any appearance of the slightest fastness among the young ladies, was laid without discussion to the account of the natural demoralization caused by war.
None more than we can appreciate the fearful sorrows and troubles which any civil war brings in its train; and none can feel more acutely the inconsolable sorrow of those whose dear ones have been hurried unanealed into eternity during the late terrible struggle; but we do maintain that the war only gave expression to those concealed tendencies to wrong which had long existed; it did not create, but only germinated and ripened those seeds of sin, which otherwise might have remained barren of fruit forever.
The experience of each one of us must have shown that those who were honourable, just and virtuous prior to the war, continued to be so until its close; if there was any difference it was that all their good qualities were made more prominent, and remained more firmly established. On the other hand, it is readily to be believed, that those who did become demoralized, would have fallen into the same way whenever the same opportunities and means were presented to them. We believe that the young men of our cities who now haunt the billiard saloon or concert hall, who lounge about our streets, smoking, chewing and scoffing at each other and the passers-by, had laid the foundation of their present habits, both well and firmly, before the day of the eventful ordinance of secession. Of the ladies, it behooves us to speak with all the respect and reverence which we feel, for, however their customs and manners may have changed, however they may have seemed to leave, for a moment, their natural spheres – we know that all their actions proceed from the pure and unselfish motives of alleviating the pain of the sick and wounded, or of cheering the hearts of those gallant soldiers who were enduring the dangers of battle, and the discomforts of the march and bivouac. But all is now over, and it only remains to us to cleanse the traces of war from our homes and hearts.
A great future lies before the South, if her people are willing to live with Spartan purity and simplicity, and work with energy and perseverance. The wealth of the South in former times was great, her people have been opulent and perhaps indolent, but the fires of adversity will show the true metal of which Southerners are made, and in the increasing solid prosperity and intellectual activity of their country, they will be brought to acknowledge, at last, that the hand of Providence “work all things aright.”