Copyright Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1947, 1948 / All rights reserved

Selected Writings From Raintree County

Ross Lockridge, Jr.,

Raintree County, pp. 770-2.

From a postbellum litany


1865-- How --1876




for the tired hero who came back to Raintree County one day in the spring of 1865 like Lazarus from the dead. When Johnny came marching home at the War's end and when the reunions and discoveries of that extraordinary homecoming were over, he found that in a sense the report of his death had not been unduly exaggerated. Johnny Shawnessy, that innocent and happy youth who had somehow contrived to keep in touch with the elder Raintree County of before the War, was really dead (though it took his successor a little while to become aware of the fact), and the Raintree County to which he had fondly dreamed of returning was also dead. Out of the shocks and changes of the War and the equally great shocks and changes of the homecoming, there emerged a new hero of Raintree County and a new County. The old (that is to say, the young) Johnny was really gone, interred in the triteness of Garwood Jones's poem. In his stead was John Shawnessy, a sober young man of twenty-six, who had now a new life to live, a new love to find, a new poem of himself and the Republic to create.
     Also the old Republic was gone. Johnny Shawnessy had unwittingly put the torch to it along with Atlanta and Columbia. The new Republic was something he hadn't foreseen.
     He hadn't foreseen the sooty monster that stood alone after the smoke of battle had cleared, the Vanquisher alike of vanquishers and vanquished. Before the War this monster had been an awkward babe. But during the War he had put on muscle. His name was Industrialism.
     Johnny Shawnessy hadn't foreseen that where there had been one factory before the War there would be a hundred factories following. He hadn't foreseen that the railroads would grow with magic speed until the huge vine enmeshed the Republic in iron tendrils. He hadn't foreseen that hundreds of thousands of Americans would leave the farms and go to the great cities. He hadn't foreseen the great cities themselves (for who could have foreseen these huge, glistening mushrooms that appeared one morning on the surface of the Great Swamp!). He hadn't foreseen how tides of aspiration, setting ever east to west would bring millions of immigrants to America and how the tidal glut of these innumerable faces would fill up whole cities and run deep into the prairie leaving pools of alien speech and alien ways around and far beyond the borders of Raintree County.
     He didn't foresee the Reconstruction of the South, the doomed experiment of giving the black man a vote by force of arms. He didn't foresee the scalawags and carpetbaggers who exploited the prostrate South. He didn't foresee the bayonet legislatures, the wrecked economy of the Cotton Kingdom. He didn't foresee the inflamed race hatred that war left behind, the lynchings, the Ku Klux Klan. He didn't foresee the impeachment of Andrew Johnson (who was a cousin of Johnny Shawnessy's on his mother's side), a shameful effort to wrest from an honest, if tactless, Executive the power vested in him by the Constitution, a cynical effort to destroy the balanced system of government. He didn't foresee the sectional feeling kept alive for years after the War by orators North and South. He didn't foresee the formation of a Solid South, a political bloc, reactionary and resentful, a separate culture in all but legal fact.
     He didn't foresee that the greatest Union General of the War, Ulysses S. Grant, would be elected President, expressing for millions the wish to see a nation peaceful and united, and he didn't foresee that, once elected, this politically stupid man would become a helpless front for crooks in high place, who bled the Republic of wealth and honor alike.
     He didn't foresee the Tweed Ring in New York, the Gas Ring in Philadelphia, the Whiskey Ring in St. Louis. He didn't foresee the daring speculations, the corrupt deals, the barefaced frauds. He didn't foresee the famous Corner in Gold, the Credit Mobilier, the Panic of 1873. He didn't foresee Jay Gould, Jay Cooke, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morganóthe new men, titans of industry, amassers of corrupt fortunes, exploiters of millions, barons of a new feudalism.
     He didn't foresee the materialism of the age, the spirit of getting wealth, of amassing property, of conquering space, of mining and stripping and gutting and draining, and whoring and ravaging and rending the beautiful earth of America. He didn't foresee the grotesque buildings, public and private, that festered on the land, the tenements of stunted souls.
     He didn't foresee any of these things. Johnny Shawnessy didn't even foresee John Shawnessy.
 . . . .

Back to Selected Raintree County Writings

Raintree County

Back to Table of Contents

The Novel Essays Other Writings RL Jr. Writer's Award Complete Contents Book Orders
The Biography links Photos / Postcards RC Source & Facsimiles Suicide & Prevention Movie & Score

Site managed by RIII

Page last updated: 25 January 1998

Web Page design by henley/graphics