The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 58, August, 1862, by Various This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 58, August, 1862 Author: Various Posting Date: November 12, 2011 [EBook #9876] Release Date: February, 2006 First Posted: October 26, 2003 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ATLANTIC MONTHLY, AUGUST 1862 *** Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Bob Blair, and Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders
Physical culture is on the top of the wave. But the movement is as yet in the talk stage. Millions praise the gymnasium; hundreds seek its blessings. Similar incongruities make up the story of human life. But in this case inconsistency is consistent.
Evidences of physical deterioration crowd upon us. Fathers and mothers regard their children with painful solicitude. Not even parental partiality can close the eye to decaying teeth, distorted forms, pallid faces, and the unseemly gait. The husband would gladly give his fortune to purchase roses for the cheeks of the loved one, while thousands dare not venture upon marriage, for they see in it only protracted invalidism. Brothers look into the languishing eyes of sisters with sad forebodings, and sisters tenderly watch for the return of brothers, once the strength and hope of the fatherless group, now waiting for death. The evil is immense. What can be done? Few questions have been repeated with such intense anxiety.
My object is to submit, for the consideration of the readers of the "Atlantic," a new system of physical training, adapted to both sexes, and to persons of all ages and degrees of strength. I have an ardent faith that in it many will find an answer to the important question.
The common remark, that parents are too much absorbed in the accomplishments of their daughters to give any attention to their health, is absurd. Mothers know that the happiness of their girls, as well as the character of their settlement in life, turns more upon health and exuberance of spirits than upon French and music. To suppose, that, while thousands are freely given for accomplishments, hundreds would be refused for bodily health and bloom, is to doubt the parents' sanity. If the father were fully satisfied that Miss Mary could exchange her stooping form, pale face, and lassitude for erectness, freshness, and elasticity, does anybody suppose he would hesitate? Fathers give their daughters Italian and drawing, not because they regard these as the best of the good things of life, but because they form a part of the established course of education. Only let the means for a complete physical development be organized, and announced as an integral part of our system of education, and parents would be filled with grateful satisfaction. The people are ready and waiting. No want is so universal, none so deeply felt. But how shall symmetry and vigor be reached? What are the means? Where is the school? During the heat of the summer our city-girls go into the country, perhaps to the mountains: this is good. When in town, they skate or walk or visit the riding-school: all good. But still they are stooping and weak. The father, conscious that their bodies, like their minds, are susceptible of indefinite development, in his anxiety takes them to the gymnasium. They find a large room furnished with bars, ladders, and swings. They witness the wonderful performances of accomplished gymnasts and acrobates, admire the brilliant feats; but the girls see no opportunity for themselves. They are nearly right. The ordinary gymnasium offers little chance for girls, none for old people, but little for fat people of any age, and very little for small children of either sex.
Are not these the classes which most require artificial training? It is claimed that the common gymnasium is admirable for young men. I think there are other modes of training far more fascinating and profitable; but suppose it were true that for young men it is the best of all possible modes. These young men we need in the gymnasium where young women exercise. If young women are left by themselves, they will soon lose interest. A gymnasium with either sex alone is like a ball-room with one sex excluded. To earn a living, men and women will labor when separated; but in the department of recreation, if there be lack of social stimulus, they will soon fall off. No gymnasium, however well managed, with either sex excluded, has ever achieved a large and enduring success. I know some of them have long lists of subscribers; but the daily attendance is very small. Indeed, the only gymnasium which never lacks patronage is the ball-room. Dancing is undeniably one of the most fascinating exercises; but the places where even this is practised would soon be forsaken, were the sexes separated.
Some lady-reader suggests that ladies of delicate sensibilities would scarcely be willing to join gentlemen in climbing about on ladders. I presume not; but are such exercises the best, even for men?
I do not doubt that walking with the hands, on a ladder, or upon the floor, head down, is a good exercise; but I think the common prejudice in favor of the feet as a means of locomotion is well founded. Man's anatomy contemplates the use of the legs in supporting the weight of the body. His physical powers are most naturally and advantageously brought into play while using the feet as the point of support. It is around and from this centre of support that the upper part of the body achieves its free and vigorous performances.
The deformities of gymnasts, to which Dr. Dixon and many others have called attention, are produced in great part by substituting arms for legs. I need scarcely say that ring, dumb-bell, club, and many other similar exercises, with cane and sword practice, boxing, etc., are all infinitely superior to the ladder and bar performances. In the new system there is opportunity for all the strength, flexibility, and skill which the most advanced gymnasts possess, with the priceless advantage that the two sexes may mingle in the scene with equal pleasure and profit.
I can but regard the common gymnasium as an institution of organized selfishness. In its very structure it practically ignores woman. As I have intimated, it provides for young men alone, who of all classes least need a gymnasium. They have most out-door life; the active games and sports are theirs; the instinct for motion compels them to a great variety of active exercises, which no other class enjoys. Is it not a strange mistake to provide a gymnasium for these alone?
But it is said, if you introduce women into the gymnasium, men will have no opportunity for those difficult, daring feats which constitute the charm of the place. If by this is meant that there can be no competition between the sexes in lifting heavy weights, or turning somersets, the objection holds good. But are not games of skill as attractive as lifting kegs of nails? Women need not fall behind men in those exercises which require grace, flexibility, and skill. In the Normal Institute for Physical Education, where we are preparing teachers of the new gymnastics, females succeed better than males. Although not so strong, they are more flexible. There are in my gymnasium at this time a good many ladies with whom the most ambitious young man need not be ashamed to compete, unless the shame come from his being defeated. Gentlemen will sacrifice nothing by joining their lady-friends in the gymnasium. But suppose it costs them something; I greatly mistake the meaning of their protestations of devotion, if they are not quite willing to make the sacrifice.
Before proceeding farther, I desire to answer a question which wise educators have asked:--"Do children require special gymnastic training?" An eminent writer has recently declared his conviction that boys need no studied muscle-culture. "Give them," he says, "the unrestrained use of the grove, the field, the yard, the street, with the various sorts of apparatus for boys' games and sports, and they can well dispense with the scientific gymnasium."
With all our lectures, conversations, newspapers, and other similar means of mental culture, we are not willing to trust the intellect without scientific training. The poorest man in the State demands for his children the culture of the organized school; and he is right. An education left to chance and the street would be but a disjointed product. To insure strength, patience, and consistency, there must be methodical cultivation and symmetrical growth. But there is no need of argument on this point. In regard to mental training, there is, fortunately, among Americans, no difference of opinion. Discriminating, systematic, scientific culture is our demand. No man doubts that chess and the newspaper furnish exercise and growth; but we hold that exercise and growth without qualification are not our desire. We require that the growth shall be of a peculiar kind,--what we call scientific and symmetrical. This is vital. The education of chance would prove unbalanced, morbid, profitless.
Is not this equally true of the body? Is the body one single organ, which, if exercised, is sure to grow in the right way? On the contrary, is it not an exceedingly complicated machine, the symmetrical development of which requires discriminating, studied management? With the thoughtful mind, argument and illustration are scarcely necessary; but I may perhaps be excused by the intelligent reader for one simple illustration. A boy has round or stooping shoulders: hereby the organs of the chest and abdomen are all displaced. Give him the freedom of the yard and street,--give him marbles, a ball, the skates! Does anybody suppose he will become erect? Must he not, for this, and a hundred other defects, have special training?
Before our system of education can claim an approach to perfection, we must have attached to each school a professor who thoroughly comprehends the wants of the body, and knows practically the means by which it may be made symmetrical, flexible, vigorous, and enduring.
Since we have, unhappily, become a military people, the soldier's special training has been much considered as a means of general physical culture. Numberless schools, public and private, have already introduced the drill, and make it a part of each day's exercises.
But this mode of exercise can never furnish the muscle-culture which we Americans so much need. Nearly all our exercise is of the lower half of the body: we walk, we run up and down stairs, and thus cultivate hips and legs, which, as compared with the upper half of the body, are muscular. But our arms, shoulders, and chests are ill-formed and weak. Whatever artificial muscular training is employed should be specially adapted to the development of the upper half of the body.
Need I say that the military drill fails to bring into varied and vigorous play the chest and shoulders? Indeed, in almost the entire drill, are not these parts held immovably in one constrained position? In all but the cultivation of erectness, the military drill is singularly deficient in the requisites of a system of muscle-training adapted to a weak-chested people.
Dancing, to say nothing of its almost inevitably mischievous concomitants, brings into play chiefly that part of the body which is already in comparative vigor, and which, besides, has little to do directly with the size, position, and vigor of the vital organs.
Horseback exercise is admirable, and has many peculiar advantages which can be claimed for no other training; but may it not be much indulged while the chest and shoulders are left drooping and weak?
Skating is graceful and exhilarating; but, to say nothing of the injury which not unfrequently attends the sudden change from the stagnant heat of our furnaced dwellings to the bleak winds of the icy lake, is it not true that the chest-muscles are so little moved that the finest skating may be done with the arms folded?
I should be sorry to have any of these exercises abandoned. While some of them demand reform, they are all, on the whole, exceedingly useful.
What I would urge is this: As bodily symmetry is vital to the highest physiological conditions, and as departure from symmetry is the rule among all classes, but especially with Young America, we must, to secure this symmetry, introduce into our system of physical education a variety of special, studied means.
The new gymnastics are all adapted to music. A party may dance without music. I have seen it done. But the exercise is a little dull.
Exercises with the upper extremities are as much improved by music as those with the lower extremities. Indeed, with the former there is much more need of music, as the arms make no noise, such as might secure concert in exercises with the lower extremities.
A small drum, costing perhaps five dollars, which may be used as a bass-drum, with one beating-stick, with which any one may keep time, is, I suppose, the sort of music most classes in gymnastics will use at first. And it has advantages. While it is less pleasing than some other instruments, it secures more perfect concert than any other. The violin and piano are excellent, but on some accounts the hand-organ is the best of all.
Feeble and apathetic people, who have little courage to undertake gymnastic training, accomplish wonders under the inspiration of music. I believe three times as much muscle can be coaxed out, with this delightful stimulus, as without it.
I have selected the dumb-bell as perhaps the happiest means by which to illustrate the mischievous consequences of "heavy weights." Thoughtful physiologists deeply regret the lifting mania. In every possible case, lifting is an inferior means of physical training, and for women and children, in short for nine-tenths of the people, it is positively mischievous. I introduce the dumb-bell exercises to illustrate and enforce this doctrine.
Heretofore dumb-bells have been made of metal. The weight in this country has usually been considerable. The general policy at present is to employ those as heavy as the health-seeker can "put up." In the great German gymnastic institutes dumb-bells were formerly employed weighing from fifty to one hundred pounds; but now Kloss and other distinguished authors condemn such weights, and advocate those weighing from two to five pounds. I think those weighing two pounds are heavy enough for any man; and as it is important that they be of considerable size, I introduced, some years ago, dumb-bells made of wood. Every year my faith grows stronger in their superiority.
Some years since, before I had seen the work of Professor Kloss on the Dumb-Bell, I published a paper upon the use of this piece of apparatus, in which I stated the best weight for men as from two to five pounds, and gave at length the reasons for the employment of such light weights, and the objections to heavy ones. I was filled, not with pride, but with profound satisfaction, while engaged in translating Kloss's work recently, to find, as fundamental with this great author, identically the same weights and reasons.
In my early experience as a teacher of gymnastics I advocated the use of heavy dumb-bells, prescribing those weighing one hundred pounds for persons who could put up that weight. As my success had always been with heavy weights, pride led me to continue their use long after I had begun to doubt the wisdom of such a course.
I know it will be said that dumb-bells of two pounds' weight will do for women and children, but cannot answer the requirements of strong men.
The weight of the dumb-bell is to be determined entirely by the manner in which it is used. If only lifted over the head, one or two pounds would be absurdly light; but if used as we employ them, then one weighing ten pounds is beyond the strength of the strongest. No man can enter one of my classes of little girls even, and go through the exercises with dumb-bells weighing ten pounds each.
We had a good opportunity to laugh at a class of young men, last year, who, upon entering the gymnasium, organized an insurrection against the wooden dumb-bells, and through a committee asked me to procure iron ones; I ordered a quantity, weighing three pounds each; they used them part of one evening, and when asked the following evening which they would have, replied, "The wooden ones will do."
A just statement of the issue is this: If you only lift the dumb-bell from the floor, put it up, and then put it down again, of course it should be heavy, or there is no exercise; but if you would use it in a great variety of ways, assuming a hundred graceful attitudes, and bringing the muscles into exercise in every direction, requiring skill and followed by an harmonious development, the dumb-bell must be light.
There need be no controversy between the light-weight and the heavy-weight party on this point. We of the light-weight party agree, that, if the dumb-bell is to be used as the heavy-weight party uses it, it must be heavy; but if as we use it, then it must be light. If they of the heavy-weight party think not, we ask them to try it.
The only remaining question is that which lies between all heavy and light gymnastics, namely, whether strength or flexibility is to be preferred. Without entering upon a discussion of the physiological principles underlying this subject, I will simply say that I prefer the latter. The Hanlon brothers and Heenan are, physiologically considered, greatly superior to heavy-lifters.
But here I ought to say that no man can be flexible without a good degree of strength. It is not, however, the kind of strength involved in heavy-lifting. Heenan is a very strong man, can strike a blow twice as hard as Windship, but cannot lift seven hundred pounds nor put up a ninety-pound dumb-bell. William Hanlon, who is probably the finest gymnast, with the exception of Blondin, ever seen on this continent, cannot lift six hundred pounds. Such men have a great fear of lifting. They know, almost by instinct, that it spoils the muscles.
One of the finest gymnasts in the country told me that in several attempts to lift five hundred pounds he failed, and that he should never try it again. This same gymnast owns a fine horse. Ask him to lend that horse to draw before a cart and he will refuse, because such labor would make the animal stiff, and unfit him for light, graceful movements before the carriage.
The same physiological law holds true of man: lifting great weights affects him as drawing heavy loads affects the horse. So far from man's body being an exception to this law, it bears with peculiar force upon him. Moving great weights through small spaces produces a slow, inelastic, inflexible man. No matter how flexible a young man may be, let him join a circus-company, and lift the cannon twice a day for two or three years, and he will become as inflexible as a cart-horse. No matter how elastic the colt is when first harnessed to the cart, he will soon become so inelastic as to be unfit to serve before the carriage.
If it be suspected that I have any personal feeling against Dr. Windship or other heavy-lifters, I will say that I regard all personal motives in a work of such magnitude and beneficence as simply contemptible. On the contrary, I am exceedingly grateful to this class of gymnasts for their noble illustration of the possibilities in one department of physical development.
Men, women, and children should be strong, but it should be the strength of grace, flexibility, agility, and endurance; it should not be the strength of a great lifter. I have alluded to the gymnastics of the circus. Let all who are curious in regard to the point I am discussing visit it. Permit me to call special attention to three performers,--to the man who lifts the cannon, to the India-rubber man, and to the general performer. The lifter and the India-rubber man constitute the two mischievous extremes. It is impossible that in either there should be the highest physiological conditions; but in the persons of the Hanlon brothers, who are general performers, are found the model gymnasts. They can neither lift great weights nor tie themselves into knots, but they occupy a position between these two extremes. They possess both strength and flexibility, and resemble fine, active, agile, vigorous carriage-horses, which stand intermediate between the slow cart-horse and the long-legged, loose-jointed animal.
"Strength is health" has become a favorite phrase. But, like many common saws, it is an error. Visit the first half-dozen circuses that may come to town, and ask the managers whether the cannon-lifter or the general performer has the better health. You will find in every case it is the latter. Ask the doctors whether the cartmen, who are the strongest men in the city, have better health than other classes, who, like them, work in the open air, but with light and varied labor. You will not find that the measure of strength is the measure of health. Flexibility has far more to do with it.
Suppose we undertake the training of two persons, of average condition. They have equal strength,--can lift four hundred pounds. Each has the usual stiff shoulders, back, and limbs. One lifts heavy weights until he can raise eight hundred pounds. Inevitably he has become still more inflexible. The other engages in such exercises as will remove all stiffness from every part of the body, attaining not only the greatest flexibility, but the most complete activity. Does any intelligent physiologist doubt that the latter will have done most for the promotion of his health? that he will have secured the most equable and complete circulation of the fluids, which is essentially what we mean by health, and have added most to the beauty and effectiveness of his physical action?
With heavy dumb-bells the extent of motion is very limited, and of course the range and freedom of action will be correspondingly so. This is a point of great importance. The limbs, and indeed the entire body, should have the widest and freest range of motion. It is only thus that our performances in the business or pleasures of life become most effective.
A complete, equable circulation of the blood is thereby most perfectly secured. And this, I may remark, is in one aspect the physiological purpose of all exercise. The race-horse has a much more vigorous circulation than the cart-horse. It is a fact not unfamiliar to horsemen, that, when a horse is transferred from slow, heavy work to the carriage, the surface-veins about the neck and legs begin at once to enlarge; when the change is made from the carriage to the cart, the reverse is the result.
And when we consider that the principal object of all physical training is an elastic, vigorous condition of the nervous system, the superiority of light gymnastics becomes still more obvious. The nervous system is the fundamental fact of our earthly life. All other parts of the organism exist and work for it. It controls all, and is the seat of pain and pleasure. The impressions upon the stomach, for example, resulting in a better or worse digestion, must be made through the nerves. This supreme control of the nervous system is forcibly illustrated in the change made by joyful or sad tidings. The overdue ship is believed to have gone down with her valuable, uninsured cargo. Her owner paces the wharf, sallow and wan,--appetite and digestion gone. She heaves in sight! She lies at the wharf! The happy man goes aboard, hears all is safe, and, taking the officers to a hotel, devours with them a dozen monstrous compounds, with the keenest appetite, and without a subsequent pang.
I am confident that the loyal people of this country have eaten and digested, since Roanoke and Donelson, as they had not before since Sumter.
Could we have an unbroken succession of good news, we should all have good digestion without a gymnasium. But in a world of vexation and disappointment, we are driven to the necessity of studied and unusual muscle-culture, and other hygienic expedients, to give the nervous system that support and vitality which our fitful surroundings deny.
If we would make our muscle-training contributive in the highest degree to the healthful elasticity of our nerves, the exercises must be such as will bring into varied combinations and play all our muscles and nerves. Those exercises which require great accuracy, skill, and dash are just those which secure this happy and complete intermarriage of nerve and muscle. If any one doubts that boxing and small-sword will do more to give elasticity and tone to the nervous system than lifting kegs of nails, then I will give him over to the heavy-lifters.
Another point I take the liberty to urge. Without accuracy in the performance of the feats, the interest must be transient. This principle is strikingly exemplified in military training. Those who have studied our infantry drill have been struck with its simplicity, and have wondered that men could go through with its details every day for years without disgust. If the drill-master permit carelessness, then, authority alone can force the men through the evolutions; but if he insist on the greatest precision, they return to their task every morning, for twenty years, with fresh and increasing interest.
What precision, permit me to ask, is possible in "putting up" a heavy dumb-bell? But in the new dumb-bell exercises there is opportunity and necessity for all the accuracy and skill which are found in the most elaborate military drills.
I have had experience in boxing and fencing, and I say with confidence, that in neither nor both is there such a field for fine posturing, wide, graceful action, and studied accuracy, as is to be found in the new series of dumb-bell exercises.
But, it is said, if you use dumb-bells weighing only two pounds, you must work an hour to obtain the exercise which the heavy ones would furnish in five minutes. I need not inform those who have practised the new series with the light dumb-bells that this objection is made in ignorance. If you simply "put up" the light implement, it is true; but if you use it as in the new system, it is not true. On the contrary, in less than five minutes, legs, hips, back, arms, shoulders, neck, lungs, and heart will each and all make the most emphatic remonstrance against even a quarter of an hour's practice of such feats.
At this point it may be urged that those exercises which quicken the action of the thoracic viscera, to any considerable degree, are simply exhaustive. This is another blunder of the "big-muscle" men. They seem to think you can determine every man's constitution and health by the tape-line; and that all exercises whose results are not determinable by measurement are worthless.
I need scarcely say, there are certain conditions of brain, muscle, and every other tissue, far more important than size; but what I desire to urge more particularly in this connection is the importance, the great physiological advantages, of just those exercises in which the lungs and heart are brought into active play. These organs are no exceptions to the law that exercise is the principal condition of development. Their vigorous training adds more to the stock of vitality than that of other organs. A man may stand still and lift kegs of nails and heavy dumb-bells until his shoulders and arms are Samsonian, it will contribute far less to his health and longevity than a daily run of a mile or two.
Speaking in a general way, those exercises in which the lungs and heart are made to go at a vigorous pace are to be ranked among the most useful. The "double-quick" of the soldier contributes more in five minutes to his digestion and endurance than the ordinary drill in two hours.
I have said an elastic tone of the nervous system is the physiological purpose of all physical training. If one may be allowed such an analysis, I would add that we exercise our muscles to invigorate the thoracic and abdominal viscera. These in their turn support and invigorate the nervous system. All exercises which operate more directly upon these internal organs--as, for example, laughing, deep breathing, and running--contribute most effectively to the stamina of the brain and nerves. It is only the popular mania for monstrous arms and shoulders that could have misled the intelligent gymnast on this point.
But finally, it is said, you certainly cannot deny that rapid motions with great sweep exhaust more than slow motions through limited spaces. A great lifter said to me the other day,--
"Do you pretend to deny that a locomotive with a light train, flying at the rate of forty miles an hour, consumes more fuel than one with a heavy train, moving at the rate of five miles?"
I did not attempt to deny it.
"Well, then," he added, with an air of triumph, "what have you to say now about these great sweeping feats with your light dumb-bells, as compared with the slow putting up of heavy ones?"
I replied by asking him another question.
"Do you pretend to deny, that, when you drive your horse ten miles within an hour, before a light carriage, he is more exhausted than by drawing a load two miles an hour?"
"That's my doctrine exactly," he said.
Then I asked,--
"Why don't you always drive two miles an hour?"
"But my patients would all die," replied my friend.
I did not say aloud what was passing in my mind,--that the danger to his patients might be less than he imagined; but I suggested, that most men, as well as most horses, had duties in this life which involved the necessity of rapid and vigorous motions,--and that, were this slow movement generally adopted, every phase of human life would be stripped of progress, success, and glory.
As our artificial training is designed to fit us for the more successful performance of the duties of life, I suggest that the training should be, in character, somewhat assimilated to those duties. If you would train a horse for the carriage, you would not prepare him for this work by driving at a slow pace before a heavy load. If you did, the first fast drive would go hard with him. Just so with a man. If he is to lift hogsheads of sugar, or kegs of nails, as a business, he may be trained by heavy-lifting; but if his business requires the average activity and free motions of human occupations, then, upon the basis of his heavy, slow training, he will find himself in actual life in the condition of the dray-horse who is pushed before the light carriage at a high speed.
Perhaps it is not improper to add that all this talk about expenditure of vitality is full of sophistry. Lecturers and writers speak of our stock of vitality as if it were a vault of gold, upon which you cannot draw without lessening the quantity. Whereas, it is rather like the mind or heart, enlarging by action, gaining by expenditure.
When Daniel Boone was living alone in Kentucky, his intellectual exercises were doubtless of the quiet, slow, heavy character. Other white men joined him. Under the social stimulus, his thinking became more sprightly. Suppose that in time he had come to write vigorously, and to speak in the most eloquent, brilliant manner, does any one imagine that he would have lost in mental vigor by the process? Would not the brain, which had only slow exercise in his isolated life, become bold, brilliant, and dashing, by bold, brilliant, and dashing efforts?
A farm-boy has slow, heavy muscles. He has been accustomed to heavy exercises. He is transferred to the circus, and performs, after a few years' training, a hundred beautiful, splendid feats. He at length reaches the matchless Zampillacrostation of William Hanlon. Does any one think that his body has lost power in this brilliant education?
Is it true, either in intellectual or physical training, that great exertions, under proper conditions and limitations, exhaust the powers of life? On the contrary, is it not true that we find in vigorous, bold, dashing, brilliant efforts the only source of vigorous, bold, dashing, and brilliant powers?
In this discussion I have not considered the treatment of invalids. The principles presented are applicable to the training of children and adults of average vitality.
I will rest upon the general statement, that all persons, of both sexes, and of every age, who are possessed of average vitality, should, in the department of physical education, employ light apparatus, and execute a great variety of feats which require skill, accuracy, courage, presence of mind, quickness of eye and hand,--in brief, which demand a vigorous and complete exercise of all the powers and faculties with which the Creator has endowed us; while deformed and diseased persons should be treated in consonance with the philosophy of the Swedish Movement-Cure, in which the movements are slow and limited.
It is but justice to the following series of exercises with dumb-bells to state that not only are they, with two or three exceptions, the writer's own invention, but the wisdom of the precise arrangement given, as well as the balance of exercise in all the muscles of the body and limbs, has been well proved by an extensive use during several years.
By way of illustrating the new system of dumb-bell exercises, I subjoin a few cuts. The entire series contains more than fifty exercises.
The pupil, assuming these five positions, in the order presented, twists the arms. In each twisting, the ends of the dumb-bells should, if possible, be exactly reversed. Great precision will sustain the interest through a thousand repetitions of this or any other exercise. The object in these twisting exercises is to break up all rigidity of the muscles and ligaments about the shoulder-joint. To remove this should be the primary object in gymnastic training. No one can have examined the muscles of the upper half of the body without being struck with the fact that nearly all of them diverge from the shoulder like a fan. Exercise of the muscles of the upper part of the back and chest is dependent upon the shoulder. It is the centre from which their motions are derived. As every one not in full training has inflexibility of the parts about the shoulder-joint, this should be the first object of attack. These twistings are well calculated to effect the desired result. While practising them, the position should be a good one,--head, shoulders, and hips drawn far back.
In our attempts to correct stooping shoulders, one good series of exercises is found in thrusting the dumb-bells directly upwards. While performing this the positions must be varied. A few illustrations are offered.
As effective means by which to call into vigorous play neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs, I submit the following exercises.
Bearing burdens on the head results in an erect spine and well-balanced gait. Observing persons, who have visited Switzerland, Italy, or the Gulf States, have noticed a thousand verifications of this physiological law.
Cognizant of the value of this feature of gymnastic training, I have employed, within the last twelve years, various sorts of weights, but have recently invented an iron crown, which I think completely satisfactory. I have it made to weigh from five to thirty pounds. It is so padded within that it rests pleasantly on the head, and yet so arranged that it requires skill to balance it.
The skull-cap, which is fitted to the top of the head, must have an opening of two inches in diameter at the crown, so that that part of the head shall receive no pressure. If this be neglected, many persons will suffer headache. The skull-cap should be made of strong cotton, and supported with a sliding cord about the centre. With such an arrangement, a feeble girl can easily carry a crown, weighing ten or fifteen pounds, sufficiently long, morning and evening, to secure an erect spine in a few months.
The crown which I employ is so constructed as to admit within itself two others, whereby it may be made to weigh nine, eighteen, or twenty-seven pounds, at the pleasure of the wearer. This is a profitable arrangement, as in the first use nine pounds might be as heavy as could be well borne, while twenty-seven pounds could be as easily borne after a few weeks.
The crown may be used at home. It has been introduced into schools with excellent results.
Instead of this iron crown, a simple board, with an oblong rim on one side so padded with hair that the crown of the head entirely escapes pressure, may prove a very good substitute. The upholsterer should so fill the pad that the wearer will have difficulty in balancing it. It may be loaded with bags of beans.
Wear it five to fifteen minutes morning and evening. Hold the body erect, hips and shoulders thrown far back, and the crown rather on the front of the head.
Walk up and down stairs, keeping the body very erect. While walking through the hall or parlors, first turn the toes inward as far as possible; second, outward; third, walk on the tips of the toes; fourth, on the heels; fifth, on the right heel and left toe; sixth, on the left heel and right toe; seventh, walk without bending the knees; eighth, bend the knees, so that you are nearly sitting on the heels while walking; ninth, walk with the right leg bent at the knee, rising at each step on the straight left leg; tenth, walk with the left leg bent, rising at each step on the straight right leg.
With these ten different modes of walking, the various muscles of the back will receive the most invigorating exercise.
Wearing the crown is the most valuable of all exercises for young people. If perseveringly practised, it would make them quite erect, give them a noble carriage of the head, and save them from those maladies of the chest which so frequently take their rise in drooping shoulders.
After the exercises with the crown, those with the new gymnastic ring are the best ever devised. Physiologists and gymnasts have everywhere bestowed upon them the most unqualified commendation. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive any other series so complete in a physiological point of view, and so happily adapted to family, school, and general use.
If a man were as strong as Samson, he would find in the use of these rings, with another man of equal muscle, the fullest opportunity to exert his utmost strength; while the frailest child, engaged with one of equal strength, would never be injured.
There is not a muscle in the entire body which may not be brought into direct play through the medium of the rings. And if one particular muscle or set of muscles is especially deficient or weak, the exercise may be concentrated upon that muscle or set of muscles.
Wherever these rings are introduced, they will obtain favor and awaken enthusiasm.
The rings are made of three pieces of wood, glued together with the grain running in opposite directions. They are round, six inches in diameter with body one inch thick, and finished with a hard, smooth polish.
The first series with the rings consists of a number of twisting exercises with the arms. Not only are these valuable in producing freedom about the shoulder-joint, which, as has been explained, is a great desideratum, but twisting motions of the limbs contribute more to a rounded, symmetrical development than any other exercises. If the flexors and extensors are exercised in simple, direct lines, the muscular outlines will be too marked.
In twisting with the rings, the arms may be drawn into twenty positions, thus producing an almost infinite variety of action in the arm and shoulder.
Two of the positions assumed in this series are shown in the cuts.
It is our policy in these exercises to pull with a force of from five to fifty pounds, and thus add indefinitely to the effectiveness of the movements.
To illustrate a few of the many hundred exercises possible with rings, the subjoined cuts are introduced.
In this exercise, the rings are made to touch the floor, as shown, in alternation with the highest point they can be made to reach, all without bending the knees or elbows.
The hands are thrust upward, outward, and downward with force.
The hands are thrust forward and drawn backward in alternation as far as the performers can reach.
It will be understood that in none of these exercises are the performers to maintain the illustrated positions for a single moment. As in dancing, there is constant motion and change, while the music secures concert. When, by marks on the floor, the performers are kept in linear rank and file, the scene is most exhilarating to participants and spectators.
[Illustration: *No Caption]
The above are specimens of the many charges with the rings. Shoulders, arms, back, and legs receive an incomparable training. In constant alternation with the charges, the pupils rise to the upright position; and when the company move simultaneously to the music, few scenes are so brilliant.
In most exercises there must be some resistance. How much better that this should be another human being, rather than a pole, ladder, or bar! It is social, and constantly changing.
A straight, smooth stick, four feet long, (three feet for children,) is known in the gymnasium as a wand. It is employed to cultivate flexibility, and is useful to persons of all ages and degrees of strength.
Of this series there are sixty-eight exercises in the new system, but I have space only for a few illustrations.
The use of small bags filled with beans, for gymnastic exercise, was suggested to my mind some years since, while attempting to devise a series of games with large rubber-balls. Throwing and catching objects in certain ways, requiring skill and presence of mind, not only affords good exercise of the muscles of the arms and upper half of the body, but cultivates a quickness of eye and coolness of nerve very desirable. Appreciating this, I employed large rubber-balls, but was constantly annoyed at the irregularities resulting from the difficulty of catching them. When the balls were but partially inflated, it was observed that the hand could better seize them. This at length suggested the bean-bags. Six years' use of these bags has resulted in the adoption of those weighing from two to five pounds, as the best for young people. The bags should be very strong, and filled three-quarters full with clean beans. The beans must be frequently removed and the bags washed, so that the hands and dress may not be soiled, nor the lungs troubled with dust.
Forty games have been devised. If managers of schools are unwilling to study these games, and organize their practice, it is hoped they will reject them altogether. If well managed, a school of young ladies will use the bags half an hour every day for years, and their interest keep pace with their skill; but mismanaged, as they generally have been, it is a marvel, if the interest continues through a single quarter.
The following cuts may serve to illustrate some of the bag-exercises. It will be observed that the players appear to be looking and throwing somewhat upward. Most of the exercises illustrated are performed by couples,--the bags being thrown to and fro. It has been found advantageous, where it is convenient, to suspend a series of hoops between the players, and require them to throw the bags through these hoops, which, being elevated several feet, compel the players to assume the positions seen in the figures.
With the bean-bags there are numberless possible games, requiring eye and hand so quick, nerves so cool, skill and endurance so great, that the most accomplished has ever before him difficulties to be surmounted.
In a country where pulmonary maladies figure so largely in the bills of mortality, a complete system of physical training must embrace special means for the development of the respiratory apparatus. The new system is particularly full and satisfactory in this department. Its spirometers and other kindred agencies leave nothing to be desired.
Physiologists and teachers believe that the new system of gymnastics is destined to establish a new era in physical education. It is ardently hoped that events may justify their confidence.
I cannot tell who built it. It is a queer piece of architecture, a fragment, that has been thrown off in the revolutions of the wheel mechanical, this tower of mine. It doesn't seem to belong to the parsonage. It isn't a part of the church now, if ever it has been. No one comes to service in it, and the only voiced worshipper who sends up little winding eddies through its else currentless air is I.
My sister said "I will" one day, (naughty words for little children,) and so it came to pass that she paid the penalty by coming to live in the parsonage with a very grave man. And he preaches every Sunday out of the little square pulpit, overhung by a great, tremulous sounding-board, to the congregation, sitting silently listening below, within the church.
I come every year to the parsonage, and in my visiting-time I occupy this tower. It is quite deserted when I am away, for I carry the key, and keep it with me wherever I go. I hang it at night where I can see the great shadow wavering on the ceiling above my head, when the jet of gas, trembling in the night-wind below, sends a shimmer of light into my room.
It is a skeleton-key. It wouldn't open ordinary homes. There's a something about it that seems to say, as plainly as words can say, "There are prisoners within"; and as oft as my eyes see it hanging there, I say, "I am your jailer."
On the first day of March, in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty, I arrived at the parsonage. It was early morning when I saw the little wooden church-"steeple," in the distance, and the sun was not risen when she who said the "naughty words" and the grave minister came out to welcome me.
Ere the noontide came, I had learned who had gone from the village, all unattended, on the mysterious journey, since last I had been there. There were new souls within the town. And a few, that had been two, were called one. These things I heard whilst the minister sat in his study up-stairs, and held his head upon his hands, thinking over the theology of the schools; his wife, meanwhile, in the room below, working out a strange elective predestination, free-will gifts to be, for some little ones that had strayed into the fold to be warmed and clothed and fed. At length the village "news" having all been imparted to me, I gave a thought to my tower.
"How is the old place?" asked I, as my sister paused a moment in the cutting out of a formula for a coat, destined for a growing boy.
"Don't get excited about the tower yet, Sister Anna," she said; "let it alone one day."
"Oh, I can't, Sophie!" I said; "it's such a length of days since I sat in the grated window!"--and I looked out as I spoke.
Square and small and high stood the tower, as high as the church's eaves.
"What could it have been built for?"
I knew not that I had spoken my thought, until Sophie answered,--
"We have found out recently that the tower was here when the first church was built. It may have been here, for aught we know, before white men came."
"Perhaps the church was built near to it for safety," I suggested.
"It has been very useful," said Sophie. "Not long ago, the first night in January, I think, Mr. Bronson came to see my husband. He lived here when he was a boy, and remembers stories told by his father of escapes, from the church to the tower, of women and children, at the approach of Indians. One stroke of the bell during service, and all obeyed the signal. Deserted was the church, and peopled the tower, when the foes came up to meet the defenders outside."
"I knew my darling old structure had a history," said I. "Is there time for me to take one little look before dinner?"
"No," somewhat hastily said Sophie; "and I don't wish you to go up there alone."
"Don't wish me to go alone, Sophie? Why, I have spent hours there, and never a word said you."
"I--believe--the--place--is--haunted," slowly replied she, "by living, human beings."
"Never! Why, Sophie, think how absurd! Here's the key,--a great, strong, honest key; where could another be found to open the heavy door? Such broad, true wards it has,--look, and believe!"
As if unhearing, Sophie went on,--
"I certainly heard a voice in there one day. Old Mother Hudson died, and was buried in the corner, close beside the church. My husband went away as soon as the burial was over, and I came across the graveyard alone. It was a bright winter's day, with the ground all asnow, and no footstep had broken the fleecy white that lay on my way. As I passed under the tower I heard a voice, and the words, too, Anna, as plainly as ever spoken words were heard."
"What were they, Sophie?"
"'But hope will not die; it has a root of life that goes down into the granite formation; human hand cannot reach it.'"
"Who said it?" I asked.
"That is the mystery, Anna. The words were plainly spoken; the voice was that of one who has sailed out into the region of great storms, and found that heavy calms are more oppressive."
"Was it voice of man?"
"Yes, deep and earnest."
"Where did it come from?"
"From the high window up there, I thought."
"And there were no footsteps near?"
"I told you, none; my own were the first that had crossed the church-yard that day."
"You know, Sophie, we voice our own thoughts sometimes all unknowingly; and knowing the thought only, we might dissever the voice, and call it another's."
Sophie looked up from the table upon which she had been so industriously cutting, and holding in one hand an oddly shapen sleeve, she gave a demonstrative wave at me, and said,--
"Anna, your distinctions are too absurd for reason to examine even. Have I a voice that could command an army, or shout out orders in a storm at sea? Have I the voice of a man?"
Sophie had a depth of azure in her eyes that looked ocean-deep into an interior soul; she had softly purplish windings of hair around a low, cool brow, that said, "There are no torrid thoughts in me." And yet I always felt that there was an equator in Sophie's soul, only no mortal could find it. Looking at her, as thus she stood, I forgot that she Lad questioned me.
"Why do you look at me so?" she asked. "Answer me! Have I the voice of a man? Listen now! Hear Aaron up-stairs: he's preaching to himself, to convince himself that some thorn in theology grows naturally: could I do that?"
"Your voice, I fancy, can do wonders: but about the theology, I don't believe you like thorns in it; I think you would break one off at once, and cast it out";--and I looked again at the rough tower, and ran my fingers over the strong protective key in my hands.
"Don't look that way, Anna,--please don't!--for your footsteps have an ugly way of following some will-o'-the-wisp that goes out of your eyes. I know it,--I've seen it all your life," Sophie urged, as I shook my head in negation.
"Will you lend me this hood?" I asked, as I took up one lying near.
"If you are determined to go; but do wait. Aaron shall go with you after dinner; he will have settled the thorn by that time."
"What for should I take Aaron up the winding stairs? There is no parishioner in want or dying up there."
And I tied the hood about my head, and in a wrapping-shawl, closely drawn,--for cold and cannon-like came the bursts of wind down through the mountain valleys,--I went out. Through the path, hedged with leafless lilac-shrubs, just athrob with the mist of life sent up from the roots below, I went, and crossed the church-yard fence. Winding in and out among the graves,--for upon a heart, living and joyous, or still and dead, I cannot step,--I took my way. "Dear old tower, I have thee at last!" I said; for I talk to unanswering things all over the world. In crowded streets I speak, and murmur softly to highest heights.
But I quite forgot to tell what my tower was built like, and of what it was made. A few miles away, a mountain, neither very large nor very high, has met with some sad disaster that cleaved its stony shell, and so, time out of memory, the years have stolen into its being, and winter frosts have sadly cut it up, and all along its rocky ridges, and thickly at its base, lie beds of shaly fragments, as various in form and size as the autumn-leaves that November brings.
I've traced these bits of broken stone all the way from yonder mountain hither; and that once my tower stood firm and fast in the hill's heart, I know.
There are sides and curves, concaves and convexities, and angles of every degree, in the stones that make up my tower. The vexing question is, What conglomerated the mass?
No known form of cement is here, and so the simple village-people say, "It was not built by the present race of men."
On the northern side of the tower leaves of ungathered snow still lay.
In the key-hole all winter must have been dead, crispy, last-year leaves, mingled with needles of the pine-tree that stands in the church-yard corner; for I drew out fragment after fragment, before I could find room for my key. At last the opening was free, and my precious bit of old iron had given intimation of doing duty and letting me in, when a touch upon my shoulder startled me.
'T was true the wind was as rude as possible, but I knew it never could grasp me in that way. It was Aaron.
"What is the matter?" I asked; for he had come without his hat.
My brother-in-law, rejoicing in the authoritative name of Aaron, looked decidedly foolish, as I turned my clear brown eyes upon him, standing flushed and anxious, with only March wind enveloping his hair all astir with breezes of Theology and Nature.
"Sophie sent me," he said, with all the meekness belonging to a former family that had an Aaron in it.
"What does Sophie wish?" I asked.
"She says it's dinner-time."
"And did she send you out in such a hurry to tell me that?"
"No, Anna,"--and the importance of his mission grew upon him, for he spoke quite firmly,--"Sophie is troubled and anxious about your visit to this tower; please turn the key and come away."
"I will, if you give me good reason," I said.
"Why do you wish to go up, just now?"
"Simply because I like it."
"To gratify a passing fancy?"
"Nothing more, I do assure you; but why shouldn't I?"--and I grasped the key with a small attempt at firmness of purpose.
"Because Sophie dislikes it. She called to me to come and keep you from going in; there was distress in her manner. Won't you come away, for now?"
He had given me a reason. I rejoice in being reasonable. I lent him a bit of knitting-work that I happened to have brought with me, with which he kept down his locks, else astray, and walked back with him.
"You are not offended?" he asked, as we drew near to the door.
Sophie hid something that had been very close to her eyes, as we went in.
My brother-in-law gave me back my strip of knitting-work, and went upstairs.
"You think I'm selfish, Anna," spoke Sophie, when he was gone.
"You can't help it, I think."
"But I can. I recognize a law of equilibrium that forbids me to think so."
"How? What is the law like?"
"Did you ever go upon the top of a great height, whether of building or earth?"
"Oh, yes,--and I'm not afraid at all. I can go out to the farthest edge, where other heads would feel the motion of the earth, perhaps, and I stand firm as though the north-pole were my support."
"That is just it," replied I. "Now it puts all my fear in action, and imagination works indescribable horrors in my mind, to stand even upon a moderate elevation, or to see a little child take the first steps at the head of a staircase; and I think it would be the height of cruelty for you to go and stand where it gave me such pain."
"I wouldn't do it knowingly,"--and the blue in Sophie's eyes was misty as she spoke.
"How did you feel about my going into the tower a few moments ago?"
"As you would, if you saw me on a jutting rock over the age-chiselled chasm at Niagara."
"Thus I felt that it would be wrong to go in, though I had no fear. But you will go with me, perhaps, this afternoon; I can't quite give up my devotion."
"If Aaron can't, I will," she said; but a bit of pallor whitened her face as she promised.
I thoroughly hate ghosts. There is an antagonism between mystery and me. My organs of hearing have been defended by the willingest of fingers, from my childhood, against the slightest approach of the appearance or the actions of one, as pictured in description. I think I'm afraid. But in the mid-day flood of sunlight, and the great sweep of air that enveloped my tower, standing very near to the church, where good words only were spoken, and where prayers were prayed by true-hearted people, why should my cool-browed sister Sophie deter me from a pleasure simple and true, one that I had grown to like, weaving fancies where I best pleased? I asked myself this question, with a current of impatience flowing beneath it, as I waited for Sophie to finish the "sewing-society work," which must go to Deacon Downs's before two of the clock.
I know she did not hasten. I know she wished for an interruption; but none came. The work-basket was duly sent off, whither Sophie soon must follow; for her hands, and her good, true heart, were both in the work she had taken up to do. Sophie won't lay it down discouraged; she sees plains of verdure away on,--a sort of mirage of the mind. I cannot. It is not given unto me.
I had prepared the way to open the door of the tower when Aaron interrupted me in the morning. I didn't keep Sophie standing long in the wind, but she was trembling when I said,--
"Help me a little; my door has grown heavy this winter."
It creaked on its hinges, rusted with the not-far-away sea-air; and a good strong pull, from four not very strong hands, was necessary to admittance. Darkness was inside, except the light that we let in. We stood a little, to accustom our eyes to the glimmer of rays that came down from the high-up window, and those that went up from the open door. At length they met, and mingled in a half-way gloom. There were broad winding stairs, with every inch of standing-room well used; for wherever within a mortal might be, there was fixed a foundation.
"What's the use of going up, Anna? It's only a few minutes that we can stay."
Sophie looked pale and weary.
"You shall not," I said; "stay here; let me reconnoitre: I'll come down directly."
I left her standing outside,--or rather, I felt her going out, as I ran lightly on, up the rude stairway. Past a few of the landings, (how short the way seemed this day!) and I was beside the window. I looked across into the belfry of the church, lying scarce a hundred feet away. I thought it was bird-time; but no,--deserted were the beamy rafters and the spaces between.
What is this upon the window-bar? A scrap, a shred of colored fabric. "It has been of woman's wear," thought I, as I took the little bit from off its fastening-hook; "but how came it here? It isn't anything that I have worn, nor Sophie. A grave, brown, plaid morsel of a woman's dress, up here in my tower, locked all the winter, and the key never away from me!"
Ah! what is that? A paper, on the floor. I got down from the high window-ledge, where I had climbed to get the piece of cloth, and picked up an envelope, or as much of one as the mysterious visitor had left. The name, once upon it, was so severed that I could not link the fragments.
I heard a voice away down the winding stair. It was Sophie, calling, because I stayed so long. I hid the trophies of my victory, for I considered my coming to be a style of conquering, and relieved her waiting by my presence.
"Perhaps you were afraid to come up?" I asked, as I joined her.
"I was, and I was not," she said; "but please hurry, Anna, and lock the door, for we shall be late at 'Society.'"
"No one knows that I am here as yet," I pleaded, "and I feel a little weary with having been last night on the steamboat. Suppose you let me stay quietly at home. I don't feel like talking, and you know I'm not of much assistance in deeds of finger-charity."
"And will you not get lonely?"
"Not a bit of it,--or if I do, there's Aaron up-stairs; he doesn't mind my pulling his sermons in pieces, for want of better amusement."
Thus good sister Sophie let me escape scrutiny and observation on the first day of March, 1860. How recent it is, scarcely a week old, the time!
Sophie went her way to Deacon Downs's farm-house up the hill, to tire her fingers out with stitches put in, to hear the village grievances told over, and to speak her words of womanly kindness. I walked a little of the way with her; then, in turning back, I remembered that Aaron would think me gone with Sophie; so I had the time, four full hours, to dream my dreams and weave my fancies in.
I took out my envelope, and tried to find a name to fit it among the good people whose names were known to me. The wind was blowing in my face. A person came up and passed me by, as I, with head bent over the paper, walked slowly. I only noticed that he turned to see what I was doing. At the paper bit he cast only the slightest glance.
The church-door was open. This was the day for sweeping out the Sunday dust. "Is there any record here, any old, forgotten list of deeds done by the early church?" I questioning thought. "There's a new sexton, I heard Aaron say,--a man who used, years ago, to fulfil the duties; perhaps he'll know something of the tower. I'll ask him this very afternoon."
In the vestibule lay the brooms and brushes used in renovating the place, the windows were open, but no soul was inside. I walked up the central aisle, and read the mortuary tablets on either pulpit-side. We sometimes like to read that which we best know, and the words on these were written in the air wherever I went, still I chose the marble-reading that day.
A little church-mouse ran along the rail, and stopped a moment at the baptismal basin, but, finding no water left by careless sexton there, it continued its journey up the pulpit-stairs, and I saw the hungry little thing go gnawing at the corner of the Book wherein is the Bread of Life. I threw a pine-tree cone that I had gathered in my walk up at the little Vandal, and went out.
"I'll wait for the sexton in my tower," thought I; "he'll not be long away, and I can see him as he comes."
I looked cautiously up at the study-windows ere I went into the tower. I took out the key, for it fastened only on the outside, and closed myself tightly in. A moment of utter darkness, then the thread of light was let down to me from above. I caught at it, and, groping up the stairs, gained my high window-seat. Without the tower, I saw the deep-sea line, crested with short white waves, the far-away mountain, and all the valley that lay between, while just below me, surging close to the tower's base, were the graves of those who had gone down into the deeper, farther-away Sea of Death, the terrible sea! What must its storms be to evolve such marble foam as that which the shore of our earth receives?
"O Death, Death! what art thou?" my spirit cried out in words, and only the dream of Life answered me. In the midst of it, I saw the person who had passed me as I examined the envelope coming up the street churchward. Not a sound of life or of motion came from the building, and I must have heard the slightest movement, for my window was only of iron bars. Losing sight of this face new to me, I lost the memory of it in my dream. Still, this figure coming up the silent village-street on that afternoon I found had unwoven the heavier part of my vision; and to restore it, I took from my pocket, for the second time, my two treasures.
Oh, how I did glory in those two wisps of material! The fragment of envelope had come from a foreign land. What contained it once? joy or sorrow? Was the recipient worthy, or the gift true? And I went on with the imaginary story woven out of the shreds of fabric before me until it filled all my vision, when suddenly fancy was hushed to repose,--for, as sure as I sat there, living souls had come into the tower below.
All was darkness down there; not one ray of light since I shut the door. Why did I do it?
It was the fear that Aaron in his study would see me.
Voices, confused and indistinct, I heard, sending bubbling words up through the sea of darkness down below. At first I did not try to hear; I listened only to the great throbbings of my own heart, until there came the sound of a woman's voice. It was eager, anxious, and pained. It asked,--
"Did he see you?"
A man's voice, deep and earnest, answered,--
"No, no; hush, child!"
"This is dreadful!"
"But I know I was not seen. And here you are sure no one ever comes?" --and I heard a hand going over the great door down there, to find the latch.
"Yes, no one ever comes but the minister's wife's sister. She takes a fancy to the dreariness, and always carries the key with her. She's away, and no one can get in."
"Shall we go up higher, nearer to the window?"
"No. I must wait but a moment; I have something yet to do."
I heard the deep voice say,--
"Oh, woman's moments, how much there is in one of them! Will you sit on this step? But you won't heed what I have to say, I know."
"I always heed you, Herbert. What have you to say? Speak quickly."
"Sit here, upon this step."
A moment's rustling pause in the darkness down below, and then the far-out-at-sea voice spoke again.
"Do you send me away?"
"Indeed you must go; it is terrible to have you here. Think, what if you had been seen!"
"I know, I know; but you won't go with me?"
"Why are you cruel, uselessly?" said the pleading voice of woman.
"Cruel? Who? I cruel?"
"What is it that keeps me? Answer me that!"
"Your will is all."
Silence one moment,--two,--and an answer came.
"Herbert! Herbert! is it you speaking to me? My will keeping me? Who hath sinned?"
The sound of a soul in torture came eddying up in confused words; all that came to the mortal ear, listening unseen, were, "Forgive--I--I only"----
A few murmurous sounds, and then the voice that had uttered its confession in that deep confessional of a gloomy soul said, and there was almost woman's pleadingness in it,--
"When can I come again?"
"I will write to you."
"When will you write?"
"When one more soul is gone."
"Oh, it's wicked to shorten life by wishes even! but when one has done one terrible wrong, little wickednesses gather fast."
Woman has a pathos, when she pleads for God, deeper than when she pleads for anything on earth. That pleading,--I can't make you hear it,--the words were,--
"Herbert! Herbert! don't you see, won't you see, that, if you leave the one great sin all uncovered, open to the continual attrition of a life of goodness, God will let it wear away? It will lessen and lessen, until at the last, when the Ocean of Eternity beats against it, it shall go down, down into the deeps of love that no mortal line can fathom. Oh, Herbert, come out with me!--come out into this Infinity of Love!"
"With you? yes, anywhere!"
"Oh, oh! this is it!--this is man! It isn't my love that you want; it isn't the little one-grained thing that the Angel of Life takes from out of Heaven's granary and scatters into the human soul; it is the great Everlasting, a sempiternity of love, that you want, Herbert!"
"And you can't give it to me?"
"No, I will ask it for you; and you will ask it for yourself?"
"Only tell me how."
"You know how to ask for human love."
"Yours, yes; but then I haven't sinned against you."
"Have you not, Herbert?"
"Well,--but not in the same way. I haven't gone beyond the measure of your affection, I feel that it is larger than my sin, or I could not be here."
"Tell me how you know this. What is the feeling like?"
"What is it like? Why, when I come to you, I don't forever feel it rising up with a thousand speary heads that shut you out; it drowns in your presence; the surface is cool and clear, and I can look down, down, into the very heart of my sin, like that strange lake we looked into one day,--do you remember it?--the huge branches and leafless trunks of gigantic pines coming up stirless and distinct almost to the surface; and do you remember the little island there, and the old tradition that it was the feasting-place of a tribe of red men, who displeased the Great Spirit by their crimes, and in direful punishment, one day, when they were assembled on their mountain, it suddenly gave way beneath them, and all were drowned in the flood of waters that rushed up, except one good old squaw who occupied one of the peaks that is now the island?"
"And so I am the good old squaw?" said the lady.
"For all that I can see in the darkness."
"But that makes me better than the many who lie below;--the squaw was good, you remember. But how did she get off of the island? Pity tradition didn't tell us. Loon's Island, in Lake Mashapaug in Killingly, wasn't it?"
A little silence came, broken by the words,--
"It's so long since I have been with you!"
"Yes, and it's time that I was gone."
"Not a few moments more?--not even to go back to the old subject?"
"No,--it's wrong,--it perils you. You put away your sin when you come to the little drop of my love; go and hide it forever in the sea that every hour washes at your feet."
I heard a sound below, like the drawing of a match across a stone; then a faint bit of glimmer flickered a moment. I couldn't see where they were. I bent forward a little, in vain.
"My last match," said the lady. "What shall we do? We can't go through in the darkness."
"We must. I will go first. Give me your hand. Now, three steps down, then on; come,--fear nothing."
A heavy sound, as of some ponderous weight let fall, and I knew that the only living soul in there was hers who sat with hands fast hold of frosty bars, high up in the window of the tower.
I left fragments of the skin of my fingers upon the cold iron, in pay for the woollen bit I had taken thence.
I ventured down a step or two. Beyond was inky darkness. If only a speck of light were down below! Why did I shut the door? Go on I could not. I turned my face upward, where the friendly light, packing up its robes of every hue for the journey of a night, looked kindly in. And so I went back, and sat in my usual seat, and watched the going day, as, one by one, she took down from forest-pegs and mountain-hooks breadths of silver, skirts of gold, folding silently the sheeny vestments, pressing down each shining fold, gathering from the bureau of the sea, with scarcely time enough for me to note, waves of whitely flowing things, snowy caps, crimpled crests, and crispy laces, made by hands that never tire, in the humid ocean-cellar. A wardrobe fit for fair Pre-Evites to wear lay rolled away, and still I, poor prisoner in my tower, watched in vain the dying day. It sent no kind jailer to let me free. No footstep crossed the church-yard. The sexton had put the windows down before my visitors went away. He must have gone home an unusual way, for I waited in vain to hear him go.
I saw, when just enough of light was left to see, my sister Sophie coming down the hill. Strange fancy,--she went as far from the tower as if it were a ghostly quarantine. She did not hear me call in a very human voice, but went right on; and I heard the parsonage door-latch sharply close her in.
Would they look for me, now I was not there? I waited, and a strange, unearthly tremor shook both blood and nerves, until tears were wrought out, and came dropping down, and in the stillness I heard one fall upon a stone below.
A forsaken, forgotten, uncared-for feeling crept up to me, half from the words of woful meaning that I that afternoon had heard, and half the prisoned state, with fear, weak and absurd, jailing me in.
The reverberations from my fallen tear scarce were dead in my ears when I heard footsteps coming. I called,--
Aaron's own true voice answered me,--
"Where are you, Anna?"
"In the tower. Open the door, please."
"Give me the lantern," Sophie said, "whilst you open the door."
I, thoughtlessly taking the key, had left nothing by which to draw it out. Aaron worked away at it, right vigorously, but it would not yield.
"Can't you come down and push?" timidly asked Sophie, creeping round the corner, in view of tombstones.
"It's very dark inside; I can't," I said; and so Aaron went on, pulling and prying, but not one inch did the determined door yield.
Out of the darkness came an idea. I came in with the key,--why not they? and, calling loudly, I bade them watch whilst I threw it from the window. In the lantern's circle of light it went rushing down; and I'm sorry to tell that in its fall it grazed an angel's wing of marble, striking off one feather from its protecting mission above a sleeping child.
The door was opened at last; at last a circle of light came into this inverted well, and arose to me. Can you imagine, any one, I ask, who is of mortal hue and mould,--can you imagine yourself deep down in a well, such a one as those living on high lands draw their water from, holding on with weary fingers to the slimy mosses, fearing each new energy of grasping muscle is the last that Nature holds in its store for you; and then, weary almost unto death, you look up and see two human faces peering above the curbstone, see the rope curling down to you, swinging right before your grasp, and a doubt comes,--have you life enough to touch it?
So, could I get down to them, to the two friendly, anxious faces that peered up at me? You who have no imaginary fears, who never press the weight of all your will to weigh down eyelids that something tells you, if uplifted, would let in on the sight a something nameless, come from where you know not, made visible in midnight darkness, can never know with what a throbbing of heart I went weakly down. If I did not know that the great public opinion becomes adamant after a slight stratum of weakness, I would say what befell me when Sophie's fingers, tired with stitching, clasped mine.
Aaron and Sophie were not of the questioning order of humanity, and I was left a few moments to my own way of expressing relief, and then Aaron locked the tower as usual, and we went away. He, I noticed, put the key in his pocket, instead of delivering it to me, self-constituted its rightful owner.
"Will you give me my key?" I said, with a timid tenacity in the direction of my right.
"Not enough of the dreary, ghoul-like place yet, Anna? And to give us such an alarm upon your arrival-day!"
The key came to me, for Aaron would not keep it without good reason.
It was around the bright, cheerful tea-table that Sophie asked,--
"Why did you not come down, Anna? Did you choose staying up so late?"
"No, Sophie,"--and I looked with my clear brown eyes as fearlessly at them both as when I had listened to reason in the morning,--"I shut the door when I went up, and afterwards, when I would have come down, I felt afraid invisible hands were weaving in the blackness to seize me. I believe it would have killed me to come out, after I had been an hour up there."
"And you don't mind confessing to such cowardice?" asked Sophie, evidently slightly ashamed of me.
"I never did mind telling the truth, when it was needful to speak at all. I don't cultivate this fear,--I urge reason to conquer it; but when I have most rejoiced in going on, despite the ache of nerve and brain, after it I feel as if I had lost a part of my life, my nature doesn't unfold to sunny joys for a long time."
"'Tis a sorry victory, then!" said Aaron.
"You won't mind my telling you what it is like?"
"It's like that ugly point in theology that hurt you so, last autumn; and when you had said a cruel Credo, you found sweet flowers lost out of your religion. I know you missed them."
"Don't interrupt me; let me finish. It's like making maple-sugar: one eats the sugar, calling it monstrous sweet, and all through the burning sun of summer sits under thin-leaved trees, to pay for the condensation. The point is, it doesn't pay,--the truest bit of sentiment the last winter has brought to me."
"Is this Anna?" asked the minister.
"Yes, Aaron, it is I, Anna."
"You're not what you were when last here."
"Quite a different person, Sir. But what is your new sexton's name?"
"That is more sensible. His name is Abraham Axtell."
"What sort of person is he?"
"The strangest man in all my parish. I cannot make him out. Have you seen him?"
"No. Is there any harm in my making his acquaintance?"
"What an absurd question!" said Sophie.
"You are quite at liberty to get as many words out of him as he will give, which I warn you will be very few," said the sexton's friendly pastor.
"Is he in need of the small salary your church must give its sexton?" I asked.
"The strangest part of the whole is that he won't take anything for his services; and the motive that induces him to fight the spiders away is past my comprehension. He avoids Sophie and me."
So much for my thread of discovery: a very small fibre, it is true,--a church-sexton performing the office without any reward of gold,--but I twisted it and twirled it round in all the ideal contortions plausible in idealic regions, and fell asleep, with the tower-key under my pillow, and the rising moon shining into my room.
I awoke with my secret safely mine,--quite an achievement for one in no wise heroic; but I do delight in sole possessions.
There is the sun, a great round bulb of liquid electricity, open to all the eyes that look into the sky; but do you fancy any one owns that sun but I? Not a bit of it! There is no record of deed that matches mine, no words that can describe what conferences sun and I do hold. The cloudy tent-door was closed, the sun was not "at home" to me, as I went down to life on the second day of March, 1860.
Sophie seemed stupid and commonplace that morning. Aaron had a headache, (that theologic thorn, I know,) and Sophie must go and sit beside him, and hold the thread of his Sunday's discourse to paper, whilst with wrapped brow and vision-seeing eyes he told her what his people ought to do.
Good Sophie! I forgave her, when she put sermons away, and came down to talk a little to me. It is easy to forgive people for goodness to others, when they are good to one's self just afterwards.
"Do you know any Herbert in Redleaf?" I ventured to ask, with as careless a tone as I knew.
"No, Anna;--let me think;--I thought I knew,--but no, it is not here. Why?"
"It doesn't matter. I thought there might be a person with that name.--Don't you get very tired of this hum-drum life?"
"But it isn't hum-drum in the least, except in bee-time, and on General-Training days."
"Oh, Sophie! you know what I mean."
"Well, I confess to liking a higher development of intellectual nature than I find in Redleaf, but I feel that I belong to it, I ought to be here; and feeling atones for much lack of mind,--it gets up higher, nearer into the soul. You know, Anna, we ought to love Redleaf. Look across that maple-grove."
"What is there?"
"Well, what of them?"
"There was smoke in them once,--smoke rising from our father's fires, you know, Anna."
"But so long ago, one scarcely feels it."
"Only sixteen years; we remember, you and I, the day the fires were put out."
"Yes, I remember."
"Don't you think we ought to love the place where our lives began, because our father lived here too?"
"It's a sorry sort of obligation, to ought to love anything."
"Even the graves, out there, in the church-yard?"
"Yes, even them. I would rather love them through knowing something that some one tenant of them loved and suffered and achieved than to love them merely because they hold the mortal temples that once were columns in 'our family.' The world says we ought to love so much, and our hearts tell us we ought to love foolishly sometimes, and I say one oughtn't to love at all."
"I haven't got any Aaron, Sophie, to teach me the 'ought-tos.'"
There was a morsel of pity outgleaming from Sophie's eyes, as she went to obey a somewhat peremptory call. She needn't have bestowed it on me; I learned not to need it, yesterday.
Satisfied that the tower wouldn't give me any more information, and that the visit of "the two" was the last for some time to come, I closed down my horizon of curiosity over the church-steeple, a little round, shingly spire with a vane,--too vain to tell which way the wind might chance to go.
Ere Sophie came back to me, there was a bell-stroke from the belfry. She hurried down at the sound of it.
"Will you come with me, Anna? Aaron wants to know who is dead."
"Who rings the bell?"
"The sexton, of course."
We were within the vestibule before he had begun to toll the years.
A little timidly, Sophie spoke,--
"Mr. Wilton wishes to know who has died."
The uncivil fellow never turned an inch; he only started, when Sophie began to speak. I couldn't see his face.
"Tell Mr. Wilton that my mother is dead, if he wishes to know."
Sophie pulled my sleeve, and whispered, "Come away!"--and the man, standing there, began to toll the years of his mother's life.
"Don't go," I said, outside; "don't leave him without saying, 'I am sorry': you didn't even ask a question."
"You wouldn't, if you knew the man."
"Which I mean to do. You go on. I'll wait upon the step till he is done, and then I'll talk to him."
"I wouldn't, Anna. But I must hurry. Aaron will go up at once."
Dutiful little wife! She went to send her headaching husband half a mile away, to offer consolation, unto whom?
I sat upon the step until he had done. The years were not many,--half a score less than the appointed lot.
Would he come out? He did. I heard him coming; but I would not move. I knew that I was in his way, and wanted him to have to speak to me. I sat just where he must stand to lock the door.
"Are you waiting to see me?" he asked. "Is there anything for the sexton to do?"
I arose, and turned my face toward him.
"I am waiting to see if I can do anything for you. I am your minister's wife's sister."
What could have made him shake so? And such a queer, incongruous answer he gave!
"Isn't it enough to have a voice, without a face's coming to torment me too?"
It was not the voice that spoke in the tower yesterday. It was of the kind that has a lining of sentiment that it never was meant by the Good Spirit should be turned out for the world to breathe against, making life with mortals a mental pleurisy.
"I hope I don't torment you."
"When did your mother die?"
"There! I knew! Will you take away your sympathy? I haven't anything to do with it."
"You'll tell me, please, if I can do anything for you, or up at your house. Do you live near here?"
"It's a long way. You can't go."
"Oh, yes, I can. I like walking."
He locked the door, and dropped the key when he was done. I picked it up, before he could get it.
A melodious "Thank you," coming as from another being, rewarded me.
"Let me stop and tell my sister, and I'll go with you," I said, believing that he had consented.
The old voice again was used as he said,--
"No, you had better not"; and he quickly walked on his way.
Completely baffled in my expectation of touching this strange being by proffers of kindness, I turned toward the parsonage. Aaron was already gone on his ministerial mission.
"What strange people one does find in this world!" said Sophie, as I gave her the history of my defeat. "Now this Axtell family are past my comprehension."
"Ah! a family. I didn't think him a married man."
"Neither is he."
"Then what is the family?"
"The mother, a sister, and himself."
"Do you know the sister?"
"Just a little. She is the finest person in mind we have here, but wills to live alone, except she can do deeds of charity. I met her once in a poor farmer's house. The man had lost his wife. Such a soft, sweet glamour of comfort as she was winding in and out over his sorrow, until she actually had the poor fellow looking up with an expression that said he was grateful for the good gift Heaven had gained! She stopped as soon as I went in. I wish she would come out in Redleaf."
"And the mother?"
"A proud old lady, sick these many years, and, ever since we've been here, confined to her room. I've only seen her twice."
"And now she's dead?"
Sophie was silent.
"Who'll dig her grave?"
One of my bits of mental foam that strike the shore of sound.
"Anna, how queer you are growing! What made you think of such a thing?"
"I don't think my thoughts, Sophie."
But I did watch the church-yard that day. No one came near it, and my knitting-work grew, and my mystery in the tower was as dark as ever, when at set of sun Aaron came home.
"There is a sorry time up there," he said. "The old lady died in the night, and Miss Lettie is quite beside herself. Doctor Eaton was there when I came away, and says she will have brain-fever."
"Oh, I hope not!" said Sophie.
"Who is there?" I asked.
"No one but Abraham. I offered to let Sophie come, but he said no."
"That will never do, Aaron: one dead, and one sick in the house, and only one other."
"Of course it will not, Sophie,--I will go and stay to-night," said I.
"You, Anna? What do you know of taking care of sick people?"
"I? Why, here, let me take this,"--and I picked up Miss Nightingale's new thoughts thereon. "Thus armed and fortified, do you think they'll ask other reference of their nurse?"
"It's better for her than going up to stay in the tower; and they are in need, though they won't say it. Let it be, Sophie."
And so my second night in March came on. A neighbor's boy walked the way with me, and left me at the door.
"I guess you'll repent your job," he said, as I bade him good-night.
"Mr. Axtell will not send me back alone," I thought; and I waited just a little, that my escort might get beyond call before I knocked.
It was a solemn, great house under whose entrance-porch I stood. Generation after generation might have come, stayed, and gone, like the last soul: here last night,--to-night, oh! where?
I looked up at the sombre roof, dropping a little way earthward from the sides. Mosses hung from the eaves. Not one sound of life came to me as I stood until the neighbor's boy was out of sight. I knocked then, a timid, tremulous knock,--for last night's fear was creeping over me. The noise startled a dog; he came bounding around the corner with a sharp, quick bark.
I am afraid of dogs, as well as of several other things. Before he reached me the door opened.
A little maid stood within it. Fear of the dog, scarce a yard away, impelled me in.
"Away, Kino! Away, I say! Leave the lady alone!"
Kino went back to his own abode, and I was closed into the hall of this large, melancholy house. The little maid waited for some words from me. Before I found any to bestow, the second door along the hall opened, and the voice that had been so uncivil to me in the morning said,--
"What aroused Kino, Kate?"
"This lady, Sir."
The little Kate held a candle in her hand, but Mr. Axtell had not seen me. Strange that I should take a wicked pleasure in making this man ache!--but I know that I did, and that I would have owned it then, as now, if I had been accused of it.
"What does the lady want?"
"It is I, who have come to stay with your sister. Mr. Wilton says she's sick."
"She's sick, that's true; but I can take care of her."
"And you won't let me stay?"
"Won't let you? Pray tell me if young ladies like you like taking care of sick people."
"Young ladies just like me do, if brothers don't send them away."
Did he say, "Brothers ar'n't Gibraltars"? I thought so; but immediately thereafter, in that other voice, out of that other self that revolved only in a long, long period, came,--
"Will you come in?"
He had not moved one inch from the door of the room out of which he had come; but I had walked a little nearer, that my voice might not disturb the sick. The one lying dead, never more to be disturbed, where was she? Kate, the little maid, said,--
"It is in there he wants you to go."
Abraham Axtell stood aside to let me enter. There was no woman there, no one to say to me, in sweet country wise,--"I'm glad you're come,--it's very kind of you; let me take your things."
I did not wait, but threw aside my hood, the very one Sophie had lent me to go into the tower, and, taking off my shawl and furs, I laid them as quietly away in the depths of a huge sofa's corner as though they had hidden there a hundred times before.
"I think I scarcely needed this," I said, putting upon the centre-table, under the light of the lamp, Miss Nightingale's good book,--and I looked around at a library, tempting to me even, as it spread over two sides of the room.
He turned at my speaking; for the ungrateful man had, I do believe, forgotten that I was there.
He took up the book, looked at its title, smiled a little--scornfully, was it?--at me, and said of her who wrote the book,--
"She is sensible; she bears the result of her own theories before imposing their practice upon others; but," and he went back to the thorn-apple voice, "do you expect to take care of my sister by the aid of this to-night?"
"It may give me assistance."
"It will not. What does Miss Nightingale know of Lettie?"
Well, what does she? I don't know, and so I had to answer,--
"That doctor is here," said Kate, at the door.
"Are you coming up, too?" he asked, as he turned suddenly upon me, half-way out of the room.
"Certainly!"--and I went out with him.
Up the wide staircase walked the little maid, lighting the way, followed by the doctor, Mr. Axtell, and Anna Percival.
Kate opened the door of a room just over the library, where we had been.
The doctor went in, quietly moving on toward the fireplace, in which burned a cheery wood-fire. In front of it, in one of those large comfort-giving, chintz-covered, cushioned chairs, sat Miss Axtell; but the comfort of the chair was nothing to her, for she sat leaning forward, with her chin resting upon the palm of her right hand, and her eyes were gone away, were burning into the heart of the amber flame that fled into darkness up the chimney. Hers was the style of face which one might expect to find under Dead-Sea waves, if diver could go down,--a face anxious to escape from Sodom, and held fast there, under heavy, heavy waters, yet still with its eyes turned toward Zoar.
Now a feverous heat flushed her face, white a moment before, when we came in; but she did not turn away her eyes,--they seemed fixed, out of her control. The doctor laid his hand upon her forehead. It broke the spell that bound her gaze. She spoke quite calmly. I almost smiled to think any one could imagine danger of brain-fever from that calm creature who said,--
"Please don't give me anything, Doctor Eaton; believe me, I shall do better without."
"And then we shall have you sick on our hands, Abraham and I. What should we do with you?"
"I'll try not to trouble you," she said,--"but I would rather you left me to myself to-night"; but even as she spoke, a quick convulsion of muscles about her face told of pain.
Doctor Eaton had not seen me, for I stood in the shadow of the bed behind him.
"Who will stay with your sister tonight?" he asked Mr. Axtell.
Mr. Axtell looked around at me, as if expecting that I would answer; and I presented myself for the office.
"You look scarcely fit," was the village-physician's somewhat ungracious comment; and his eyes said, what his lips dared not,--"Who are you?"
"I think you'll find me so, if you try me."
Miss Axtell had gone away again, and neither saw nor heeded me.
"Will you come below?"--and the doctor looked at me as he went out.
I followed him. In the library he shut the door, sat down near the table, took from his pocket a small phial containing a light brown powder, and, dividing a piece of paper into the minute scraps needful, made a deposit in each from the phial, and then, folding over the bits of paper, handed them to me.
"Are you accustomed to take care of sick persons?" he asked.
"Not much; but I am a physician's daughter. I have a little experience."
"Are you a visitor here?"
"No,--at the parsonage."
A pair of quick gray eyes danced out at me from under browy cliffs clothed with a ledge of lashes, in an actually startling manner. I didn't think the man had so much of life in him.
"You're Mrs. Wilton's sister, perhaps."
"Give her one of these every half-hour, till she falls asleep."
"Don't let her talk; but she won't, though. If she gets incoherent,--says wild things,--talks of what you can't understand,--send for me; I live next door."
"Is this all for her?"
"Enough. Do you know her?"
"I never saw her until to-night."
"The brother? Monstrous fellow."
"Look up there."
"On the wall."
There were several paintings hanging there.
"The face, of course."
"I can't see it very well."
Shadows were upon it, and the lampshade was on.
"Then I'll take this off"; and Doctor Eaton removed the shade, letting the light up to the wall.
"A young girl's face," I said.
The doctor was looking at me, and not at the painting there. A little bit of confusion came,--I don't know why.
"Do you like it?" I ventured.
"I like it? I'm not the one to like it."
"Somebody does, then?"
"Of course. What did he paint it for, if he didn't like it?"
"I do not know of whom you are talking, at all," I said, a little vexed at this information-no-information style.
"You don't?" in a voice of the utmost astonishment.
"No. Is this all, for the sick lady? I think I ought to go to her."
"Of course you ought. It's a sad thing, this death in the house"; and Doctor Eaton picked up his hat, and opened the door.
Kate was waiting in the hall.
"Mr. Abraham thinks you'd better look in and see if it's well to have any watchers in there, before you go," she said.
"Well, light me in, then, Katie. You wait in there, if you please, Miss," to me; and I saw the two go to the front-room on the right.
A waft of something, it may have been the air that came out of that room, sent me back from the hall, and I shut the door behind me. It was several minutes before they came back. In the interim I had taken a long look at the face on the wall. It seemed too young to be very beautiful, and I couldn't help wishing that the artist had waited a year or two, until a little more of the outline of life had come to it; yet it was a sweet, loving face, with a brow as low and cool as Sophie's own, only it hadn't any shadow of an Aaron on it. I didn't hear the door open, I hadn't heard the sound of living thing, when some one said, close to me, as I was standing looking up at the face I've spoken of,--
"What are you doing?"
It was Mr. Axtell, and the voice was a prickly one.
"Is there any harm?" I said. "I'm only looking here,"--pointing to where my eyes had been before. "Who painted it?"
"An unknown, poor painter."
"Was he poor in spirit?"
"He is now, I trust."
A man that has variant voices is a cruel thing in this world, because one cannot help their coming in at some one of the gates of the heart, which cannot all be guarded at the same moment. "Poor in spirit?" "He is now, I trust." I felt decidedly vexed at this man before me for having such tones in his voice.
"Can I go up to Miss Axtell now?" I asked.
"In a moment, when Kate has shown Doctor Eaton out."
I picked up my powders and my illustrious book, and waited.
"The doctor says there's no need," she said, in her laconic way.
Kate, I afterwards learned, was the daughter of the farmer that Sophie heard Miss Axtell consoling for the loss of his wife, one day.
My budding Daphne wanted scope
She felt a cramp around her root
I set me to the kindly task;
Shapely and painted; straightway seized
From earthen bound and sordid thrall,
Stately and tall, like any queen,
Nor stinted aught with larger fate,
I learned, in accidental way,
A chance that marked the simple change
And so, therefrom, with anxious care,
As, day by day, my listening soul
Of pealing victory, that should bear
I tended gently all the more
The weary winter wore away,
And still, in full and leafy pride,
Till her fair buds outburst their bars,
Above each stalwart, loyal stem
And flooded forth their incense rare,
Well might my backward thought recall
The strange release to larger space,
And joyous hail the homely sign
For all this life, and light, and bloom,
Was born from out the banded rim,
With grains that feed the Cannon's breath,
"On the whole, it was very disagreeable," wrote a certain great traveller and hunter, summing up an account of his position, as he composed himself to rest upon a certain evening after a hard day's work. And no doubt it must have been very disagreeable. The night was cold and dark; and the intrepid traveller had to lie down to sleep in the open air, without even a tree to shelter him. A heavy shower of hail was falling,--each hailstone about the size of an egg. The dark air was occasionally illuminated by forked lightning, of the most appalling aspect; and the thunder was deafening. By various sounds, heard in the intervals of the peals, it seemed evident that the vicinity was pervaded by wolves, tigers, elephants, wild-boars, and serpents. A peculiar motion, perceptible under horse-cloth which was wrapped up to serve as a pillow, appeared to indicate that a snake was wriggling about underneath it. The hunter had some ground for thinking that it was a very venomous one, as indeed in the morning it proved to be; but he was too tired to look. And speaking of the general condition of matters upon that evening, the hunter stated, with great mildness of language, that "it was very disagreeable."
Most readers would be disposed to say that disagreeable was hardly the right word. No doubt, all things that are perilous, horrible, awful, ghastly, deadly, and the like, are disagreeable too. But when we use the word disagreeable by itself, our meaning is understood to be, that in calling the thing disagreeable we have said the worst of it. A long and tiresome sermon is disagreeable; but a venomous snake under your pillow passes beyond being disagreeable. To have a tooth stopped is disagreeable; to be broken on the wheel (though nobody could like it) transcends that. If a thing be horrible and awful, you would not say it was disagreeable. The greater includes the less: as when a human being becomes entitled to write D.D. after his name, he drops all mention of the M.A. borne in preceding years.
Let this truth be remembered, by such as shall read the following pages. We are to think about disagreeable people. Let it be understood that (speaking generally) we are to think of people who are no worse than disagreeable. It cannot be denied, even by the most prejudiced, that murderers, pirates, slave-drivers, and burglars, are disagreeable. The cut-throat, the poisoner, the sneaking black-guard who shoots his landlord from behind a hedge, are no doubt disagreeable people,--so very disagreeable that in this country the common consent of mankind removes them from human society by the instrumentality of a halter. But disagreeable is too mild a word. Such people are all that, and a great deal more. And accordingly they stand beyond the range of this dissertation. We are to treat of folk who are disagreeable, and not worse than disagreeable. We may sometimes, indeed, overstep the boundary-line. But it is to be remembered that there are people who in the main are good people, who yet are extremely disagreeable. And a further complication is introduced into the subject by the fact, that some people who are far from good are yet unquestionably agreeable. You disapprove them; but you cannot help liking them. Others, again, are substantially good; yet you are angry with yourself to find that you cannot like them.
I take for granted that all observant human beings will admit that in this world there are disagreeable people. Probably the distinction which presses itself most strongly upon our attention, as we mingle in the society of our fellow-men, is the distinction between agreeable people and disagreeable. There are various tests, more or less important, which put all mankind to right and left. A familiar division is into rich and poor. Thomas Paine, with great vehemence, denied the propriety of that classification, and declared that the only true and essential classification of mankind is into male and female. I have read a story whose author maintained, that, to his mind, by far the most interesting and thorough division of our race is into such as have been hanged and such as have not been hanged: he himself belonging to the former class. But we all, more or less, recognize and act upon the great classification of all human beings into the agreeable and the disagreeable. And we begin very early to recognize and act upon it. Very early in life, the little child understands and feels the vast difference between people who are nice and people who are not nice. In school-boy days, the first thing settled as to any new acquaintance, man or boy, is on which side he stands of the great boundary-line. It is not genius, not scholarship, not wisdom, not strength nor speed, that fixes the man's place. None of these things is chiefly looked to: the question is, Is he agreeable or disagreeable? And according as that question is decided, the man is described, in the forcible language of youth, as "a brick," or as "a beast."
Yet it is to be remembered that the division between the agreeable and disagreeable of mankind is one which may be transcended. It is a scratch on the earth,--not a ten-foot wall. And you will find men who pass from one side of it to the other, and back again,--probably several times in a week, or even in a day. There are people whom you never know where to have. They are constantly skipping from side to side of that line of demarcation; or they even walk along with a foot on each side of it. There are people who are always disagreeable, and disagreeable to all men. There are people who are agreeable at some times, and disagreeable at others. There are people who are agreeable to some men, and disagreeable to other men. I do not intend by the last-named class people who intentionally make themselves agreeable to a certain portion of the race, to which they think it worth while to make themselves agreeable, and who do not take that trouble in the case of the remainder of humankind. What I mean is this: that there are people who have such an affinity and sympathy with certain other people, who so suit certain other people, that they are agreeable to these other people, though perhaps not particularly so to the race at large. And exceptional tastes and likings are often the strongest. The thing you like enthusiastically another man absolutely loathes. The thing which all men like is for the most part liked with a mild and subdued liking. Everybody likes good and well-made bread; but nobody goes into raptures over it. Few persons like caviare; but those who do like it are very fond of it. I never knew but one being who liked mustard with apple-pie; but that solitary man ate it with avidity, and praised the flavor with enthusiasm.
But it is impossible to legislate for every individual case. Every rule must have exceptions from it; but it would be foolish to resolve to lay down no more rules. There may be, somewhere, the man who likes Mr. Snarling; and to that man Mr. Snarling would doubtless be agreeable. But for practical purposes Mr. Snarling may justly be described as a disagreeable man, if he be disagreeable to nine hundred and ninety-nine mortals out of every thousand. And with precision sufficient for the ordinary business of life we may say that there are people who are essentially disagreeable.
There are people who go through life, leaving an unpleasant influence on all whom they come near. You are not at your ease in their society. You feel awkward and constrained while with them. That is probably the mildest degree in the scale of unpleasantness. There are people who disseminate a much worse influence. As the upas-tree was said to blight all the country round it, so do these disagreeable folk prejudicially affect the whole surrounding moral atmosphere. They chill all warmth of heart in those near them; they put down anything generous or magnanimous; they suggest unpleasant thoughts and associations; they excite a diverse and numerous array of bad tempers. The great evil of disagreeable people lies in this: that they tend powerfully to make other people disagreeable too. And these people are not necessarily bad people, though they produce a bad effect. It is not certain that they design to be disagreeable. There are those who do entertain that design; and they always succeed in carrying it out. Nobody ever tried diligently to be disagreeable, and failed. Such persons may, indeed, inflict much less annoyance than they wished; they may even fail of inflicting any pain whatever on others; but they make themselves as disgusting as they could desire. And in many cases they succeed in inflicting a good deal of pain. A very low, vulgar, petty, and uncultivated nature may cause much suffering to a lofty, noble, and refined one,--particularly if the latter be in a position of dependence or subjection. A wretched hornet may madden a noble horse; a contemptible mosquito may destroy the night's rest which would have recruited a noble brain. But without any evil intention, sometimes with the very kindest intention, there are those who worry and torment you. It is through want of perception,--want of tact,--coarseness of nature,--utter lack of power to understand you. Were you ever sitting in a considerable company, a good deal saddened by something you did not choose to tell to any one, and probably looking dull and dispirited enough,--and did a fussy host or hostess draw the attention of the entire party upon you, by earnestly and repeatedly asking if you were ill, if you had a headache, because you seemed so dull and so unlike yourself? And did that person time after time return to the charge, till you would have liked to poison him? There is nothing more disagreeable, and few things more mischievous, than a well-meaning, meddling fool. And where there was no special intention, good or bad, towards yourself, you have known people make you uncomfortable through the simple exhibition to you, and pressure upon you, of their own inherent disagreeableness. You have known people after talking to whom for a while you felt disgusted with everything, and above all, with those people themselves. Talking to them, you felt your moral nature being rubbed against the grain, being stung all over with nettles. You showed your new house and furniture to such a man, and with eagle eye he traced out and pointed out every scratch on your fine fresh paint, and every flaw in your oak and walnut; he showed you that there were corners of your big mirrors that distorted your face,--that there were bits of your grand marble mantel-pieces that might be expected soon to scale away. Or you have known a man who, with no evil intention, made it his practice to talk of you before your face as your other friends are accustomed to talk of you behind your back. It need not be said that the result is anything but pleasant. "What a fool you were, Smith, in saying that at Snooks's last night!" your friend exclaims, when you meet him next morning. You were quite aware, by this time, that what you said was foolish; but there is something grating in hearing your name connected with the unpleasant epithet. I would strongly advise any man, who does not wish to be set down as disagreeable, entirely to break off the habit (if he has such a habit) of addressing to even his best friends any sentence beginning with "What a fool you were." Let me offer the like advice as to sentences which set out as follows:--"I say, Smith, I think your brother is the greatest fool on the face of the earth." Stop that kind of thing, my friend; or you may come to be classed with Mr. Snarling. You are probably a manly fellow, and a sincere friend; and for the sake of your substantial good qualities, one would stand a great deal. But over-frankness is disagreeable; and if you make over-frankness your leading characteristic, of course your entire character will come to be disagreeable, and you will be a disagreeable person.
Besides the people who are disagreeable through malignant intention, and through deficiency of sensitiveness, there are other people who are disagreeable through pure ill-luck. It is quite certain that there are people whom evil fortune dogs through all their life, who are thoroughly and hopelessly unlucky. And in no respect have we beheld a man's ill-luck so persecute him as in the matter of making him (without the slightest evil purpose, and even when he is most anxious to render himself agreeable) render himself extremely disagreeable. Of course there must be some measure of thoughtlessness and forgetfulness,--some lack of that social caution, so indispensable in the complication of modern society, which teaches a man (so to speak) to try if the ice will bear him before venturing his entire weight upon it,--about people who are unlucky in the way of which I am speaking. But doubtless you have known persons who were always saying disagreeable things, or putting disagreeable questions,--either through forgetfulness of things which they ought to have remembered, or through unhappily chancing on forbidden ground. You will find a man, a thoughtless, but quite good-natured man, begin at a dinner-table to relate a succession of stories very much to the prejudice of somebody, while somebody's daughter is sitting opposite him. And you will find the man quite obtuse to all the hints by which the host or hostess tries to stop him, and going on to particulars worse and worse, till, in terror of what all this might grow to, the hostess has to exclaim, "Mr. Smith, you won't take a hint: that is Mr. Somebody's daughter sitting opposite you." It is quite essential that any man, whose conversation consists mainly of observations not at all to the advantage of some absent acquaintance, should carefully feel his way before giving full scope to his malice and his invention, in the presence of any general company. And before making any playful reference to halters, you should be clear that you are not talking to a man whose grandfather was hanged. Nor should you venture any depreciatory remarks upon men who have risen from the ranks, unless you are tolerably versed in the family-history of those to whom you are talking. You may have heard a man very jocular upon lunatic-asylums, to another who had several brothers and sisters in one. And though in some cases human beings may render themselves disagreeable through a combination of circumstances which really absolves them from all blame, yet, as a general rule, the man who is disagreeable through ill-luck is at least guilty of culpable carelessness.
* * * * *
You have probably, my reader, known people who had the faculty of making themselves extremely agreeable. You have known one or two men who, whenever you met them, conveyed to you, by a remarkably frank and genial manner, an impression that they esteemed you as one of their best and dearest friends. A vague idea took possession of your mind that they had been longing to see you ever since they saw you last,--which in all probability was six or twelve months previously. And during all that period it may be regarded as quite certain that the thought of you had never once entered their mind. Such a manner has a vast effect upon young and inexperienced folk. The inexperienced man fancies that this manner, so wonderfully frank and friendly, is reserved specially for himself, and is a recognition of his own special excellences. But the man of greater experience has come to suspect this manner, and to see through it. He has discovered that it is the same to everybody,--at least, to everybody to whom it is thought worth while to put it on. And he no more thinks of arguing the existence of any particular liking for himself, or of any particular merit in himself, from that friendly manner, than he thinks of believing, on a warm summer day, that the sun has a special liking for himself, and is looking so beautiful and bright all for himself. It is perhaps unjust to accuse the man, always overflowing in geniality upon everybody he meets, of being an impostor or humbug. Perhaps he does feel an irrepressible gush of love to all his race: but why convey to each individual of the race that he loves him more than all the others?
Yet it is to be admitted that it is always well that a man should be agreeable. Pleasantness is always a pleasing thing. And a sensible man, seeking by honest means to make himself agreeable, will generally succeed in making himself agreeable to sensible men. But although there is an implied compliment, to your power, if not to your personality, in the fact of a man's taking pains to make himself agreeable to you, it is certain that he may try to make himself so by means of which the upshot will be to make him intensely disagreeable. You know the fawning, sneaking manner which an occasional shopkeeper adopts. It is most disagreeable to right-thinking people. Let him remember that he is also a man; and let his manner be manly as well as civil. It is an awful and humiliating sight, a man who is always squeezing himself together like a whipped dog, whenever you speak to him,--grinning and bowing, and (in a moral sense) wriggling about before you on the earth, and begging you to wipe your feet on his head. You cannot help thinking that the sneak would be a tyrant, if he had the opportunity. It is pleasant to find people, in the humblest position, blending a manly independence of demeanor with the regard justly due to those placed by Providence farther up the social scale. Yet doubtless there are persons to whom the sneakiest manner is agreeable,--who enjoy the flattery and the humiliation of the wretched toady who is always ready to tell them that they are the most beautiful, graceful, witty, well-informed, aristocratic-looking, and generally-beloved of the human race. You must remember that it depends very much upon the nature of a man himself whether any particular demeanor shall be agreeable to him or not. And you know well that a cringing, toadying manner, which would be thoroughly disgusting to a person of sense, may be extremely agreeable and delightful to a self-conceited idiot. Was there not an idiotic monarch who was greatly pleased, when his courtiers, in speaking to him, affected to veil their eyes with their hands, as unable to bear the insufferable effulgence of his countenance? And would not a monarch of sense have been ready to kick the people who thus treated him like a fool? And every one has observed that there are silly women who are much gratified by coarse and fulsome compliments upon their personal appearance, which would be regarded as grossly insulting by a woman of sense. You may have heard of country-gentlemen, of Radical politics, who had seldom wandered beyond their paternal acres, (by their paternal acres I mean the acres they had recently bought,) and who had there grown into a fixed belief that they were among the noblest and mightiest of the earth, who thought their parish-clergyman an agreeable man, if he voted at the county-election for the candidate they supported, though that candidate's politics were directly opposed to those of the parson. These individuals, of course, would hold their clergyman as a disagreeable man, if he held by his own principles, and quite declined to take their wishes into account in exercising the trust of the franchise. Now, of course, a nobleman or gentleman of right feeling would regard the parson as a turncoat and sneak, who should thus deny his convictions. Yes, there is no doubt that you may make yourself agreeable to unworthy folk by unworthy means. A late marquis declared on his dying bed, that a two-legged animal, of human pretensions, who had acted as his valet, and had aided that hoary reprobate in the gratification of his peculiar tastes, was "an excellent man." And you may remember how Burke said, that, as we learn that a certain Mr. Russell made himself very agreeable to Henry VIII., we may reasonably suppose that Mr. Russell was himself (in a humble degree) something like his master. Probably, to most right-minded men, the fact that a man was agreeable to Henry VIII., or to the marquis in question, or to Belial, Beelzebub, or Apollyon, would tend to make that man remarkably disagreeable. And let the reader remember the guarded way in which the writer laid down his general principle as to pleasantness of character and demeanor. I said that a sensible man, seeking by honest means to make himself agreeable, will generally succeed in making himself agreeable to sensible men. I exclude from the class of men to be esteemed agreeable those who would disgust all but fools or blackguards. I exclude parsons who express heretical views in theology in the presence of a patron known to be a freethinker. I exclude men who do great folk's dirty work. I exclude all toad-eaters, sneaks, flatterers, and fawning impostors,--from the school-boy who thinks to gain his master's favor by voluntarily bearing tales of his companions, up to the bishop who declared that he regarded it not merely as a constitutional principle, but as an ethical fact, that the king could do no wrong, and the other bishop who declared that the reason why George II. died was that this world was not good enough for him, and it was necessary to transfer him to heaven that he might be the right man in the right place. Such persons may succeed in making themselves agreeable to the man with whom they desire to ingratiate themselves, provided that man be a fool or a knave; but they assuredly render themselves disagreeable, not to say revolting, to all human beings whose good opinion is worth the possessing. And though any one who is not a fool will generally make himself agreeable to people of ordinary temper and nervous system, if he wishes to do so, it is to be remembered that too intrusive attempts to be agreeable often make a man very disagreeable; and likewise, that a man is the reverse of agreeable, if you see that he is trying, by managing and humoring you, to make himself agreeable to you,--I mean, if you can see that he is smoothing you down, and agreeing with you, and trying to get you on your blind side, as if he thought you a baby or a lunatic. And there is all the difference in the world between the frank, hearty wish in man or woman to be agreeable, and this diplomatic and indirect way. No man likes to think that he is being managed as Mr. Rarey might manage an unbroken colt. And though many human beings must in fact be thus managed,--though a person of wrong head, or of outrageous vanity, or of invincible prejudices, must be managed very much as you would manage a lunatic, (being, in fact, removed from perfect sanity upon these points,) still, they must never be allowed to discern that they are being managed, or the charm will fail at once. I confess, for myself, that I am no believer in the efficacy of diplomacy and indirect ways in dealing with one's fellow-creatures. I believe that a manly, candid, straight-forward course is always the best. Treat people in a perfectly frank manner,--you will be agreeable to most of those to whom you will desire to be so.
My reader, I am now about to tell you of certain sorts of human beings who appear to me as worthy of being ranked among disagreeable people. I do not pretend to give you an exhaustive catalogue of such. Doubtless you have your own black beasts, your own special aversions, which have for you a disagreeableness beyond the understanding or sympathy of others. Nor do I make quite sure that you will agree with me in all the views which I am going to set forth. It is not impossible that you may regard as very nice people or even as quite fascinating and inthralling people, certain people whom I regard as intensely disagreeable. Let me begin with an order of human beings, as to which I do not expect every one who reads this page to go along with me, though I do not know any opinion which I hold more resolutely than that which I am about to express.
We all understand the kind of thing which is meant by people who talk of Muscular Christianity. It is certainly a noble and excellent thing to make people discern that a good Christian need not be a muff (pardon the slang term: there is no other that would bring out my meaning). It is a fine thing to make it plain that manliness and dash may co-exist with pure morality and sincere piety. It is a fine thing to make young fellows comprehend that there is nothing fine and manly in being bad and nothing unmanly in being good. And in this view it is impossible to value too highly such characters and such biographies as those of Hodson of Hodson's Horse and Captain Hedley Vicars. It is a splendid combination, pluck and daring in their highest degree, with an unaffected and earnest regard to religion and religious duties,--in short, muscularity with Christianity. A man consists of body and soul; and both would be in their ideal perfection, if the soul were decidedly Christian, and the body decidedly muscular.
But there are folk whose admiration of the muscularity is very great, but whose regard for the Christianity is very small. They are captivated by the dash and glitter of physical pluck; they are quite content to accept it without any Christianity, and even without the most ordinary morality and decency. They appear, indeed, to think that the grandeur of the character is increased by the combination of thorough blackguardism with high physical qualifications: their gospel, in short, may be said to be that of Unchristian Muscularity. And you will find various books in which the hero is such a man: and while the writer of the book frankly admits that he is in strict morality an extremely bad man, the writer still recalls his doings with such manifest gusto and sympathy, and takes such pains to make him agreeable on the whole, and relates with such approval the admiration which empty-headed idiots express for him when he has jumped his horse over some very perilous fence or thrashed some insolent farmer, that it is painfully apparent what is the writer's ideal of a grand and imposing character. You know the kind of man who is the hero of some novels,--the muscular blackguard,--and you remember what are his unfailing characteristics. He has a deep chest. He has huge arms and limbs,--the muscles being knotted. He has an immense moustache. He has (God knows why) a serene contempt for ordinary mortals. He is always growing black with fury, and bullying weak men. On such occasions, his lips may be observed to be twisted into an evil sneer. He is a seducer and liar: he has ruined various women, and had special facilities for becoming acquainted with the rottenness of society: and occasionally he expresses, in language of the most profane, not to say blasphemous character, a momentary regret for having done so much harm,--such as the Devil might sentimentally have expressed, when he had succeeded in misleading our first parents. Of course, he never pays tradesmen for the things with which they supply him. He can drink an enormous quantity of wine without his head becoming affected. He looks down with entire disregard on the laws of God and man, as made for inferior beings. As for any worthy moral quality,--as for anything beyond a certain picturesque brutality and bull-dog disregard of danger, not a trace of such a thing can be found about him.
We all know, of course, that such a person, though not uncommon in novels, very rarely occurs in real life; and if he occur at all, it is with his ideal perfections very much toned down. In actual life, such a hero would become known in the Insolvent Court, and would frequently appear before the police magistrates. He would eventually become a billiard-marker; and might ultimately be hanged, with general approval. If the man, in his unclipped proportions, did actually exist, it would be right that a combination should be formed to wipe him out of creation. He should be put down,--as you would put down a tiger or a rattlesnake, if found at liberty somewhere in the Midland Counties. A more hateful character, to all who possess a grain of moral discernment, could not even be imagined. And it need not be shown that the conception of such a character is worthy only of a baby. However many years the man who deliberately and admiringly delineates such a person may have lived in this world, intellectually he cannot be more than about seven years old. And none but calves the most immature can possibly sympathize with him. Yet, if there were not many silly persons to whom such a character is agreeable, such a character would not be portrayed. And it seems certain that a single exhibition of strength or daring will to some minds be the compendium of all good qualities, or (more accurately speaking) the equivalent for them. A muscular blackguard clears a high fence: he does precisely that,--neither more nor less. And upon the strength of that single achievement, the servants at the house where he is visiting declare that they would follow him over the world. And you may find various young women, and various women who wish to pass for young, who would profess, and perhaps actually feel, a like enthusiasm for the muscular blackguard. I confess that I cannot find words strong enough to express my contempt and abhorrence for the theory of life and character which is assumed by the writers who describe such blackguards, and by the fools who admire them. And though very far from saying or thinking that the kind of human being who has been described is no worse than disagreeable, I assert with entire confidence that to all right-thinking men he is more disagreeable than almost any other kind of human being. And I do not know any single lesson you could instil into a youthful mind which would be so mischievous as the lesson that the muscular blackguard should be regarded with any other feeling than that of pure loathing and disgust. But let us have done with him. I cannot think of the books which delineate him and ask you to admire him without indignation more bitter than I wish to feel in writing such a page.
And passing to the consideration of human beings who, though disagreeable, are good in the main, it may be laid down as a general principle, that any person, however good, is disagreeable from whom you feel it a relief to get away. We have all known people, thoroughly estimable, and whom you could not but respect, in whose presence it was impossible to feel at ease, and whose absence was felt as the withdrawal of a sense of constraint of the most oppressive kind. And this vague, uncomfortable influence, which breathes from some men, is produced in various ways. Sometimes it is the result of mere stiffness and awkwardness of manner: and there are men whose stiffness and awkwardness of manner are such as would freeze the most genial and silence the frankest. Sometimes it arises from ignorance of social rules and proprieties; sometimes from incapacity to take, or even to comprehend, a joke. Sometimes it proceeds from a pettedness of nature, which keeps you ever in fear that offence may be taken at the most innocent word or act. Sometimes it comes of a preposterous sense of his own standing and importance, existing in a man whose standing and importance are very small. It is quite wonderful what very great folk very little folk will sometimes fancy themselves to be. The present writer has had little opportunity of conversing with men of great rank and power; yet he has conversed with certain men of the very greatest: and he can say sincerely that he has found head-stewards to be much more dignified men than dukes; and parsons of no earthly reputation, and of very limited means, to be infinitely more stuck-up than archbishops. And though at first the airs of stuck-up small men are amazingly ridiculous, and so rather amusing, they speedily become so irritating that the men who exhibit them cannot be classed otherwise than with the disagreeable of the earth.
Few people are more disagreeable than the man who, while you are conversing with him, is (you know) taking a mental estimate of you, more particularly of the soundness of your doctrinal views,--with the intention of showing you up, if you be wrong, and of inventing or misrepresenting something to your prejudice, if you be right. Whenever you find any man trying (in a moral sense) to trot you out, and examine your paces, and pronounce upon your general soundness, there are two courses you may follow. The one is, severely to shut him up, and sternly make him understand that you don't choose to be inspected by him. Show him that you will not exhibit for his approval your particular views about the Papacy, or about Moral Inability, or about Pelagianism or the Patripassian heresy. Indicate that you will not be pumped: and you may convey, in a kindly and polite way, that you really don't care a rush what he thinks of you. The other course is, with deep solemnity and an unchanged countenance, to horrify your inspector by avowing the most fearful views. Tell him, that, on long reflection, you are prepared to advocate the revival of Cannibalism. Say that probably something may be said for Polygamy. Defend the Thugs, and say something for Mumbo Jumbo. End by saying that no doubt black is white, and twice ten are fifty. Or a third way of meeting such a man is suddenly to turn upon him, and ask him to give you a brief and lucid account of the views he is condemning. Ask him to tell you what are the theological peculiarities of Bunsen; and what is the exact teaching of Mr. Maurice. He does not know, you may be tolerably sure. In the case of the latter eminent man, I never met anybody who did know: and I have the firmest belief that he does not know himself. I was told, lately, of an eminent foreigner who came to Britain to promote a certain public end. For its promotion, the eminent man wished to conciliate the sympathies of a certain small class of religionists. He procured an introduction to a leading man among them,--a good, but very stupid and self-conceited man. This man entered into talk with the eminent foreigner, and ranged over a multitude of topics, political and religious. And at an hour's end the foreigner was astonished by the good, but stupid man suddenly exclaiming,--"Now, Sir, I have been reckoning you up: you won't do: you are a"--no matter what. It was something that had nothing earthly to do with the end to be promoted. The religious demagogue had been trotting out the foreigner; and he had found him unsound. The religious demagogue belonged to a petty dissenting sect, no doubt; and he was trying for his wretched little Shibboleth. But you may have seen the like, even with leading men in National Churches. And I have seen a pert little whipper-snapper ask a venerable clergyman what he thought of a certain outrageous lay-preacher, and receive the clergyman's reply, that he thought most unfavorably of many of the lay-preacher's doings, with a self-conceited smirk that seemed to say to the venerable clergyman, "I have been reckoning you up: you won't do."
People whom you cannot get to attend to you when you talk to them are disagreeable. There are men whom you feel it is vain to speak to,--whether you are mentioning facts or stating arguments. All the while you are speaking, they are thinking of what they are themselves to say next. There is a strong current, as it were, setting outward from their minds; and it prevents what you say from getting in. You know, if a pipe be full of water, running strongly one way, it is vain to think to push in a stream running the other way. You cannot get at their attention. You cannot get at the quick of their mental sensorium. It is not the dull of hearing whom it is hardest to get to hear; it is rather the man who is roaring out himself, and so who cannot attend to anything else. Now this is provoking. It is a mortifying indication of the little importance that is attached to what we are saying; and there is something of the irritation that is produced in the living being by contending with the passive resistance of inert matter. And there is something provoking even in the outward signs that the mind is in a non-receptive state. You remember the eye that is looking beyond you,--the grin that is not at anything funny in what you say,--the occasional inarticulate sounds that are put in at the close of your sentences, as if to delude you with a show of attention. The non-receptive mind is occasionally found in clever men; but the men who exhibit it are invariably very conceited: they can think of nothing but themselves. And you may find the last-named characteristic strongly developed even in men with gray hair, who ought to have learned better through the experience of a pretty long life. There are other minds which are very receptive. They seem to have a strong power of suction. They take in, very decidedly, all that is said to them. The best mind, of course, is that which combines both characteristics,--which is strongly receptive when it ought to be receiving, and which gives out strongly when it ought to be giving out. The power of receptivity is greatly increased by habit. I remember feeling awe-stricken by the intense attention with which a very great judge was wont, in ordinary conversation, to listen to all that was said to him. It was the habit of the judgment-seat, acquired through many years of listening, with every faculty awake, to the arguments addressed to him. But when you began to make some statement to him, it was positively alarming to see him look you full in the face, and listen with inconceivable fixedness of attention to all you said. You could not help feeling that really the small remark you had to make was not worth that great mind's grasping it so intently, as he might have grasped an argument by Follett. The mind was intensely receptive, when it was receiving at all. But I remember, too, that, when the great judge began to speak, then his mind was (so to speak) streaming out; and he was particularly impatient of inattention or interruption, and particularly non-receptive of anything that might be suggested to him.
It is extremely disagreeable, when a vulgar fellow, whom you hardly know, addresses you by your surname with great familiarity of manner. And such a person will take no hint that he is disagreeable,--however stiff, and however formally polite, you may take pains to be to him. It is disagreeable, when persons, with whom you have no desire to be on terms of intimacy, persist in putting many questions to you as to your private concerns,--such as your annual income and expenditure, and the like. No doubt, it is both pleasant and profitable for people who are not rich to compare notes on these matters with some frank and hearty friend whose means and outgoings are much the same as their own. I do not think of such a case,--but of the prying curiosity of persons who have no right to pry, and who, very generally, while diligently prying into your affairs, take special care not to take you into their confidence. Such people, too, while making a pretence of revealing to you all their secrets, will often tell a very small portion of them, and make various statements which you at the time are quite aware are not true. There are not many things more disagreeable than a very stupid and ill-set old woman, who, quite unaware what her opinion is worth, expresses it with entire confidence upon many subjects of which she knows nothing whatever, and as to which she is wholly incapable of judging. And the self-satisfied and confident air with which she settles the most difficult questions, and pronounces unfavorable judgment upon people ten thousand times wiser and better than herself, is an insufferably irritating phenomenon. It is a singular fact, that the people I have in view invariably combine extreme ugliness with spitefulness and self-conceit. Such a person will make particular inquiries of you as to some near relative of your own,--and will add, with a malicious and horribly ugly expression of face, that she is glad to hear how very much improved your relative now is. She will repeat the sentence several times, laying great emphasis and significance upon the very much improved. Of course, the notion conveyed to any stranger who may be present is that your relative must in former days have been an extremely bad fellow. The fact probably is, that he has always, man and boy, been particularly well-behaved, and that really you were not aware that he needed any special improvement,--save, indeed, in the sense that every human being might be and ought to be a great deal better than he is.
People who are always vaporing about their own importance, and the value of their own possessions, are disagreeable. We all know such people: and they are made more irritating by the fact, that their boasting is almost invariably absurd and false. I do not mean ethically false, but logically false. For doubtless, in many cases, human beings honestly think themselves and their possessions as much better than other men and their possessions as they say they do. If thirty families compose the best society of a little country-town, you may be sure that each of the thirty families in its secret soul looks down upon the other twenty-nine, and fancies that it stands on a totally different level. And it is a kind arrangement of Providence, that a man's own children, horses, house, and other possessions, are so much more interesting to himself than are the children, horses, and houses of other men, that he can readily persuade himself that they are as much better in fact as they are more interesting to his personal feeling. But it is provoking, when a man is always obtruding on you how highly he estimates his own belongings, and how much better than yours he thinks them, even when this is done in all honesty and simplicity; and it is infuriating, when a man keeps constantly telling you things which he knows are not true, as to the preciousness and excellence of the gifts with which fortune has endowed him. You feel angry, when a man who has lately bought a house, one in a square containing fifty, all as nearly as possible alike, tells you with an air of confidence that he has got the finest house in Scotland, or in England, as the case may be. You are irritated by the man who on all occasions tells you that he drives in his mail-phaeton "five hundred pounds' worth of horse-flesh." You are well aware that he did not pay a quarter of that sum for the animals in question: and you assume as certain that the dealer did not give him that pair of horses for less than they were worth. It is somewhat irritating, when a man, not remarkable in any way, begins to tell you that he can hardly go to any part of the world without being recognized by some one who remembers his striking aspect or is familiar with his famous name. "It costs me three hundred a year, having that picture to look at," said Mr. Windbag, pointing to a picture hanging on a wall in his library. He goes on to explain that he refused six thousand pounds for that picture; which at five per cent. would yield the annual income named. You repeat Windbag's statement to an eminent artist. The artist knows the picture. He looks at you fixedly, and for all comment on Windbag's story says, (he is a Scotchman,) "HOOT TOOT!" But the disposition to vapor is deep-set in human nature. There are not very many men or women whom I would trust to give an accurate account of their family, dwelling, influence, and general position, to people a thousand miles from home, who were not likely ever to be able to verify the picture drawn.
It is hardly necessary to mention among disagreeable people those individuals who take pleasure in telling you that you are looking ill,--that you are falling off physically or mentally. "Surely you have lost some of your teeth since I saw you last," said a good man to a man of seventy-five years: "I cannot make out a word you say, you speak so indistinctly." And so obtuse, and so thoroughly devoid of gentlemanly feeling, was that good man, that, when admonished that he ought not to speak in that fashion to a man in advanced years, he could not for his life see that he had done anything unkind or unmannerly. "I dare say you are wearied wi' preachin' to-day: you see you're gettin' frail noo," said a Scotch elder, in my hearing, to a worthy clergyman. Seldom has it cost me a greater effort than it did to refrain from turning to the elder, and saying with candor, "What a boor and what a fool you must be, to say that!" It was as well I did not: the boor would not have known what I meant. He would not have known the provocation which led me to give him my true opinion of him. "How very bald you are getting!" said a really good-natured man to a friend he was meeting for the first time in several years. Such remarks are for the most part made by men who, in good faith, have not the least idea that they are making themselves disagreeable. There is no malicious intention. It is a matter of pure obtuseness, stupidity, selfishness, and vulgarity. But an obtuse, stupid, selfish, and vulgar person is disagreeable. And your right course will be to carefully avoid all intercourse with such a person.
But besides people who blunder into saying unpleasant things, there are a few who do so of set intention. And such people ought to be cracked. They can do a great deal of harm,--inflict a great deal of suffering. I believe that human beings in general are more miserable than you think. They are very anxious,--very careworn,--stung by a host of worries,--a good deal disappointed, in many ways. And in the case of many people, worthy and able, there is a very low estimate of themselves and their abilities, and a sad tendency to depressed spirits and gloomy views. And while a kind word said to such is a real benefit, and a great lightener of the heart, an ingenious malignant may suggest to such things which are as a stunning blow, and as an added load on the weary frame and mind. I have seen, with burning indignation, a malignant beast (I mean man) playing upon that tendency to a terrible apprehensiveness which is born with many men. I have seen the beast vaguely suggest evil to the nervous and apprehensive man. "This cannot end here": "I shall take my own measures now": "A higher authority shall decide between us": I have heard the beast say, and then go away. Of course I knew well that the beast could and would do nothing, and I hastened to say so to the apprehensive man. But I knew that the poor fellow would go away home, and brood over the beast's ominous threats, and imagine a hundred terrible contingencies, and work himself into a fever of anxiety and alarm. And it is because I know that the vague threatener counted on all that, and wished it, and enjoyed the thought of the slow torment he was causing, that I choose to call him a beast rather than a man. Indeed, there is an order of beings, worse than beasts, to which that being should rather be referred. You have said or done something which has given offence to certain of your neighbors. Mr. Snarling comes and gives you a full and particular account of the indignation they feel, and of their plans for vengeance. Mr. Snarling is happy to see you look somewhat annoyed, and he kindly says, "Oh, never mind: this will blow over, as other things you have said and done have blown over." Thus he vaguely suggests that you have given great offence on many occasions, and made many bitter enemies. He adds, in a musing voice, "Yes, as MANY other things have blown over." Turn the individual out, and cut his acquaintance. It would be better to have a upas-tree in your neighborhood. Of all disagreeable men, a man with his tendencies is the most disagreeable. The bitterest and longest-lasting east-wind acts less perniciously on body and soul than does the society of Mr. Snarling.
Suspicious people are disagreeable; also people who are always taking the pet. Indeed, suspiciousness and pettedness generally go together. There are many men and women who are always imagining that some insult is designed by the most innocent words and doings of those around them, and always suspecting that some evil intention against their peace is cherished by some one or other. It is most irritating to have anything to do with such impracticable and silly mortals. But it is a delightful thing to work along with a man who never takes offence,--a frank, manly man, who gives credit to others for the same generosity of nature which he feels within himself, and who, if he thinks he has reason to complain, speaks out his mind and has things cleared up at once. A disagreeable person is he who frequently sends letters to you without paying the postage,--leaving you to pay twopence for each penny which he has thus saved. The loss of twopence is no great matter; but there is something irritating in the feeling that your correspondent has deliberately resolved that he would save his penny at the cost of your twopence. There is a man, describing himself as a clergyman of the Church of England, (I cannot think he is one,) who occasionally sends me an abusive anonymous letter, and who invariably sends his letters unpaid. I do not mind about the man's abuse; but I confess I grudge my twopence. I have observed, too, that the people who send letters unpaid do so habitually. I have known the same individual send six successive letters unpaid. And it is probably within the experience of most of my readers, that, out of (say) a hundred correspondents, ninety-nine invariably pay their letters properly, while time after time the hundredth sends his with the abominable big 2 stamped upon it, and your servant walks in and worries you by the old statement that the postman is waiting. Let me advise every reader to do what I intend doing for the future: to wit, to refuse to receive any unpaid letter. You may be quite sure that by so doing you will not lose any letter that is worth having. A class of people, very closely analogous to that of the people who do not pay their letters, is that of such as are constantly borrowing small sums from their friends, which they never restore. If you should ever be thrown into the society of such, your right course will be to take care to have no money in your pocket. People are disagreeable who are given to talking of the badness of their servants, the undutifulness of their children, the smokiness of their chimneys, and the deficiency of their digestive organs. And though, with a true and close friend, it is a great relief, and a special tie, to have spoken out your heart about your burdens and sorrows, it is expedient, in conversation with ordinary acquaintances, to keep these to yourself.
It must be admitted, with great regret, that people who make a considerable profession of religion have succeeded in making themselves more thoroughly disagreeable than almost any other human beings have ever made themselves. You will find people, who claim not merely to be pious and Christian people, but to be very much more pious and Christian than others, who are extremely uncharitable, unamiable, repulsive, stupid, and narrow-minded, and intensely opinionated and self-satisfied. We know, from a very high authority, that a Christian ought to be an epistle in commendation of the blessed faith he holds. But it is beyond question that many people who profess to be Christians are like grim Gorgons' heads, warning people off from having anything to do with Christianity. Why should a middle-aged clergyman walk about the streets with a sullen and malignant scowl always on his face, which at the best would be a very ugly one? Why should another walk with his nose in the air, and his eyes rolled up till they seem likely to roll out? And why should a third be always dabbled over with a clammy perspiration, and prolong all his vowels to twice the usual length? It is, indeed, a most woful thing, that people who evince a spirit in every respect the direct contrary of that of our Blessed Redeemer should fancy that they are Christians of singular attainments; and it is more woful still, that many young people should be scared away into irreligion or unbelief by the wretched delusion, that these creatures, wickedly caricaturing Christianity, are fairly representing it. I have beheld more deliberate malice, more lying and cheating, more backbiting and slandering, denser stupidity, and greater self-sufficiency, among bad-hearted and wrong-headed religionists, than among any other order of human beings. I have known more malignity and slander conveyed in the form of a prayer than should have consigned any ordinary libeller to the pillory. I have known a person who made evening prayer a means of infuriating and stabbing the servants, under the pretext of confessing their sins. "Thou knowest, Lord, how my servants have been occupied this day": with these words did the blasphemous mockery of prayer begin one Sunday evening in a house I could easily indicate: and then the man, under the pretext of addressing the Almighty, raked up all the misdoings of the servants (they being present, of course) in a fashion, which, if he had ventured on it at any other time, would probably have led some of them to assault him. "I went to Edinburgh," said a Highland elder, "and was there a Sabbath. It was an awfu' sight! There, on the Sabbath-day, you would see people walking along the street, smiling AS IF THEY WERE PERFECTLY HAPPY!" There was the gravamen of the poor Highlander's charge. To think of people being or looking happy on the Lord's day! And, indeed, to think of a Christian man ever venturing to be happy at all! "Yes, this parish was highly favored in the days of Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown," said a spiteful and venomous old woman,--with a glance of deadly malice at a young lad who was present. That young lad was the son of the clergyman of the parish,--one of the most diligent and exemplary clergymen in Britain. Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown were the clergymen who preceded him. And the spiteful old woman adopted this means of sticking a pin into the young lad,--conveying the idea that there was a sad falling off now. I saw and heard her, my reader. Now, when an ordinary spiteful person says a malicious thing, being quite aware that she is saying a malicious thing, and that her motive is pure malice, you are disgusted. But when a spiteful person says a malicious thing, all the while fancying herself a very pious person, and fancying that in gratifying her spite she is acting from Christian principle,--I say the sight is to me one of the most disgusting, perplexing, and miserable, that ever human eye beheld. I have no fear of the attacks of enemies on the blessed faith in which I live, and hope to die; but it is dismal to see how our holy religion is misrepresented before the world by the vile impostors who pretend to be its friends.
Among the disagreeable people who make a profession of religion, probably many are purely hypocrites. But we willingly believe that there are people, in whom Christianity appears in a wretchedly stunted and distorted form, who yet are right at the root. It does not follow that a man is a Christian, because he turns up his eyes and drawls out his words, and, when asked to say grace, offers a prayer of twenty minutes' duration. But, again, it does not follow that he is not a Christian, though he may do all these things. The bitter sectary, who distinctly says that a humble, pious man, just dead, has "gone to hell," because he died in the bosom of the National Church, however abhorrent that sectary may be in some respects, may be, in the main, within the Good Shepherd's fold, wherein he fancies there are very few but himself. The dissenting teacher, who declared from his pulpit that the parish clergyman (newly come, and an entire stranger to him) was "a servant of Satan," may possibly have been a good man, after all. Grievous defects and errors may exist in a Christian character, which is a Christian character still. And the Christian, horribly disagreeable and repulsive now, will some day, we trust, have all that purged away. But I do not hesitate to say, that any Christian, by so far as he is disagreeable and repulsive, deviates from the right thing. Oh, my reader, when my heart is sometimes sore through what I see of disagreeable traits in Christian character, what a blessed relief there is in turning to the simple pages, and seeing for the thousandth time The True Christian Character,--so different! Yes, thank God, we know where to look, to find what every pious man should be humbly aiming to be: and when we see That Face, and hear That Voice, there is something that soothes and cheers among the wretched imperfections (in one's self as in others) of the present,--something that warms the heart, and that brings a man to his knees!
The present writer has a relative who is Professor of Theology in a certain famous University. With that theologian I recently had a conversation on the matter of which we have just been thinking. The Professor lamented bitterly the unchristian features of character which may be found in many people making a great parade of their Christianity. He mentioned various facts, which had recently come to his own knowledge, which would sustain stronger expressions of opinion than any which I have given. But he went on to say, that it would be a sad thing, if no fools could get to heaven,--nor any unamiable, narrow-minded, sour, and stupid people. Now, said he, with great force of reason, religion does not alter idiosyncrasy. When a fool becomes a Christian, he will be a foolish Christian; a narrow-minded man will be a narrow-minded Christian; a stupid man, a stupid Christian. And though a malignant man will have his malignity much diminished, it by no means follows that it will be completely rooted out. "When I would do good, evil is present with me." "I find a law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and enslaving me to the law of sin." But you are not to blame Christianity for the stupidity and unamiability of Christians. If they be disagreeable, it is not the measure of true religion they have got that makes them so. In so far as they are disagreeable, they depart from the standard. You know, you may make water sweet or sour,--you may make it red, blue, black; and it will be water still, though its purity and pleasantness are much interfered with. In like manner, Christianity may coexist with a good deal of acid,--with a great many features of character very inconsistent with itself. The cup of fair water may have a bottle of ink emptied into it, or a little verjuice, or even a little strychnine. And yet, though sadly deteriorated, though hopelessly disguised, the fair water is there, and not entirely neutralized.
And it is worth remarking, that you will find many persons who are very charitable to blackguards, but who have no charity for the weaknesses of really good people. They will hunt out the act of thoughtless liberality done by the scapegrace who broke his mother's heart and squandered his poor sisters' little portions; they will make much of that liberal act,--such an act as tossing to some poor Magdalen a purse filled with money which was probably not his own; and they will insist that there is hope for the blackguard yet. But these persons will tightly shut their eyes against a great many substantially good deeds done by a man who thinks Prelacy the abomination of desolation, or who thinks that stained glass and an organ are sinful. I grant you that there is a certain fairness in trying the blackguard and the religionist by different standards. Where the pretension is higher, the test may justly be more severe. But I say it is unfair to puzzle out with diligence the one or two good things in the character of a reckless scamp, and to refuse moderate attention to the many good points about a weak, narrow-minded, and uncharitable good person. I ask for charity in the estimating of all human characters,--even in estimating the character of the man who would show no charity to another. I confess freely that in the last-named case the exercise of charity is extremely difficult.
"God be praised! the troops are landed, and critically too," Commodore Hood said, after he had received from Lieutenant-Colonel Dalrymple an account of his entrance into Boston. The Commodore reflected, with infinite satisfaction, he wrote, that, in anticipation of a great emergency, he collected the squadron; that he was enabled to act the moment he received the first application for aid; and that he was prepared to throw forward additional force until informed that no more was wanted: and now, with an officer's pride, he advised George Grenville, that on the twenty-seventh day from the date at New York of the order of General Gage for troops, the detachment was landed at Boston. The two commanders were well satisfied with each other. Hood characterized Dalrymple as a very excellent officer, quite the gentleman, knowing the world, having a good address, and with all the fire, judgment, coolness, integrity, and firmness that a man could possess. Dalrymple wrote to Hood,--"My good Sir, you may rest satisfied that the arrival of the squadron was the most seasonable thing ever known, and that I am in possession of the town; and therefore nothing can be apprehended. Had we not arrived so critically, the worst that could be apprehended must have happened." Both were good officers and honorable men, who believed and acted on the fabulous relations of the Boston crown officials.
"Our town is now a perfect garrison," the Patriots said, after the troops were posted, and the rough experiment on their well-ordered municipal life had fairly begun. It galled them to see a powerful fleet and a standing army watching all the inlets to the town,--to see a guard at the only land-avenue leading into the country, companies patrolling at the ferry-ways, the Common alive with troops and dotted with tents, marchings and countermarchings through the streets to relieve the guards, and armed men occupying the halls of justice and freedom, with sentinels at their doors. Quiet observers of this strange spectacle, like Andrew Eliot, wondered at the infatuation of the Ministry, and what the troops were sent to do; while the popular leaders and the body of the Patriots regarded their presence as insulting. The crown officials and Loyalist leaders, however, exulted in this show of force, and ascribed to it a conservative influence and a benumbing effect. "Our harbor is full of ships, and our town full of troops," Hutchinson said. "The red-coats make a formidable appearance, and there is a profound silence among the Sons of Liberty." The Sons chose to labor and to wait; and the troops could not attack the liberty of silence.
The House of Representatives, on reviewing the period of the stay of the troops in Boston, declared that there resulted from their introduction "a scene of confusion and distress, for the space of seventeen months, which ended in the blood and slaughter of His Majesty's good subjects." The popular leaders, who repelled, as calumny, the Loyalist charge that they were engaged in a scheme of rebellion, said that to quarter among them in time of peace a standing army, without the consent of the General Court, was as harrowing to the feelings of the people, and as contrary to the constitution of Massachusetts, as it would be harrowing to the people of England, and contrary to the Bill of Eights and of every principle of civil government, if soldiers were posted in London without the consent of Parliament; in a word, that it was as violative of their local self-government as the Stamp Act or the Revenue Act, and was also an impeachment of their loyalty. They, therefore, as a matter of right, were opposed to a continuance of the troops in the town.
The question of removal now became an issue of the gravest political character, and of the deepest personal interest; and a steady pursuit of this object, from October, 1768, to March, 1770, gave unity, directness, and an ever-painful foreboding to the local politics, until the flow of blood created a delicate and dangerous crisis.
The crown officials and over-zealous Loyalists, during this period, resisted this demand for a removal of the troops. The officers urged that a military force was needed to support the King's authority; the Loyalists said that it was necessary to protect their lives and property; and the Ministry viewed it as vital to the success of their measures. Lord Hillsborough,--who was an exponent of the school that placed little account on public opinion as the basis of law, but relied on physical force,--in an elaborate confidential letter addressed to Governor Bernard, urged as a justification of this policy, that the authority of the civil power was too weak to enforce obedience to the laws, and preserve that peace and good order which are essential to the happiness of every State; and he directed the Governor punctually to observe former instructions, especially those of the preceding July, and gave now the additional instruction, to institute inquiries into such unconstitutional acts as had been committed since, in order that the perpetrators of them might, if possible, be brought to justice. It is worthy of remark, that there is nothing more definite in this letter as to what the Ministry considered to be unconstitutional acts.
As American affairs were pondered, at this period, (October, 1768,) by Under-Secretary Pownall, a brother of Ex-Governor Pownall, Lord Barrington, and Lord Hillsborough, in the deep shading of the misrepresentations of the local officials of Boston, they appeared to be in a very critical condition. These officials had, however, the utmost confidence in the exhibition of British power, and in the wisdom of Francis Bernard. The letters which the Governor now received, both private and official, from these friends, were, as to his personal affairs, of the most gratifying character; and their congratulations on the landing of the troops were as though a crisis had been fortunately passed. Lord Hillsborough congratulated him, officially, "on the happy and quiet landing of the troops, and the unusual approbation which his steady and able conduct had obtained." Lord Barrington, in a private letter, said,--"There is only one comfortable circumstance, which is, that the troops are quietly lodged in Boston. This will for a time preserve the public peace, and secure the persons of the few who are well affected to the mother-country." Both these leading politicians--there were none at this time more powerful in England--expressed similar sentiments in Parliament from the Ministerial benches: Lord Hillsborough sounding fully the praise of the Governor, and Lord Barrington, in an imperial strain, terming the Americans "worse than traitors against the Crown, traitors against the legislature of Great Britain," and saying that "the use of troops was to bring rioters to justice."
The sentiment expressed as to the future was equally gratifying to the Governor. Lord Hillsborough, (November 15, 1768,) in an official letter, said,--"It will, I apprehend, be a great support and consolation for you to know that the King places much confidence in your prudence and caution on the one hand, and entertains no diffidence in your spirit and resolution on the other, and that His Majesty will not suffer these sentiments to receive any alterations from private misrepresentations, if any should come"; and in a private letter, by the same mail, the Secretary said,--"If I am listened to, the measure you think the most necessary will be adopted." It is not easy to see how a Government could express greater confidence in an agent than the Secretary expressed in Francis Bernard; and the talk in Ministerial circles now was, as it was confidentially reported to the Governor, that, as he had nothing to arrange with the faction, and nothing to fear from the people, he could fully restore the King's authority.
The tone of the Governor's letters and the object of his official action, by a thorough repudiation of the democratic principle, and a jealous regard for British dominion, were well calculated to inspire this confidence; for they came up to the ideal, not merely of the leaders of the Tory party, or of the Whig party, but of the England of that day. There was then great confusion in the British factions. Ex-Governor Pownall, after comparing this confusion to Des Cartes's chaos of vortices, remarked, (1768,) in a letter addressed to Dr. Cooper,--"We have but one word,--I will not call it an idea,--that is, our sovereignty; and it is like some word to a madman, which, whenever mentioned, throws him into his ravings, and brings on a paroxysm." The Massachusetts crown officials were continually pronouncing this word to the Ministry. They constantly set forth the principle of local self-government, which was tenaciously and religiously clung to by the Patriots as being the foundation of all true liberty, as a principle of independence; and they represented the jealous adherence to the local usages and laws, which faithfully embodied the popular instincts and doctrine, to be proofs of a decay of the national authority, and the cloak of long-cherished schemes of rebellion. And this view was accepted by the leading political men of England. They held, all of them but a little band of republican-grounded sympathizers with the Patriots, that the principles announced by the Patriots went too far, and that, in clinging to them the Americans were endangering the British empire; and the only question among the public men of England was, whether the Crown or the Parliament was the proper instrumentality, as the phrase was, for reducing the Colonies to obedience. Lord Barrington, in his speech above cited, laid most stress on the denial of the authority of Parliament: all who questioned any part of this authority were regarded as disloyal; and hence Lord Hillsborough's instructions to Governor Bernard ran,--"If any man or set of men have been daring enough to declare openly that they will not submit to the authority of Parliament, it is of great consequence that His Majesty's servants should know who and what they are."
Another class of British observers, already referred to, of the school of Sidney and Milton, lovers of civil and religious liberty, saw in Boston and Massachusetts a state of things far removed from rebellion and anarchy. They looked upon the spectacle of a people in general raised by mental and moral culture into fitness for self-government and an appreciation of the higher aims of life, as a result at which good men the world over ought to rejoice, a result honorable to the common humanity. They pronounced the late Parliamentary acts affecting such a people to be grievances, the course of the Ministry towards them to be oppressive, and the claims set forth in their proceedings to be reasonable; they even went so far as to say that the equity was wholly on the side of the North-Americans. Thus this class, as they rose above a selfish jealousy of political power, fairly anticipated the verdict of posterity. Thomas Hollis, the worthy benefactor of Harvard College, was a type of this republican school. "The people of Boston and of Massachusetts Bay," he wrote in 1768, "are, I suppose, take them as a body, the soberest, most knowing, virtuous people, at this time, upon earth. All of them hold Revolution principles, and were to a man, till disgusted by the Stamp Act, the stanchest friends to the House of Hanover and subjects of King George III."
The representations made to the Ministry, at this time, (October, 1768,) by Bernard, Hutchinson, and Gage, were similar in tone. There was very little government in Boston, according to Gage; there was nothing able to resist a mob, according to Hutchinson; so much wickedness and folly were never before combined as in the men who lately ruled here, according to Bernard. The Commander-in-Chief and the Governor sent despatches to Lord Hillsborough on the same day (October 31, 1768). Gage informed the Secretary that the constitution of the Province leaned so much to the side of democracy that the Governor had not the power to remedy the disorders that happened in it; Bernard informed him that indulgence towards the Province, whence all the mischief had arisen, would ever have the same effect that it had had hitherto, led on from claim to claim till the King had left only the name of the government and the Parliament but the shadow of authority. There was nothing whatever to justify this strain of remark, but the idea which the people had grasped, that they had a right to an equal measure of freedom with Englishmen; but such a claim was counted rebellious. "I told Cushing, the Speaker, some months ago," the Governor says in this letter, "that they were got to the edge of rebellion, and advised them not to step over the line." The reply of the Speaker is not given, but he was constantly disclaiming, in his letters, any purpose of rebellion. Now that Bernard saw, what he had desired to see for years, troops in Boston, he was as ill at ease as before; and at the close of the letter just cited he says,--"I am now at sea again in the old weather-beaten boat, with the wind blowing as hard as ever."
The political winds, however, do not seem to have been damaging any body or thing but the Governor and his cause. During the month of October the crown officials urged the local authorities to billet the troops in the town; but this demand was quietly and admirably met by setting against it the law of the land as interpreted by just men. The press was now of signal service; and all through this period of seventeen months, though it severely arraigned the advocates of arbitrary power, yet it ever urged submission to the law. "It is always safe to adhere to the law," are the grand words of the "Boston Gazette," October 17, 1768, "and to keep every man of every denomination and character within its bounds. Not to do this would be in the highest degree imprudent. What will it be but to depart from the straight line, to give up the law and the Constitution, which is fixed and stable, and is the collected and long-digested sentiment of the whole, and to substitute in its place the opinion of individuals, than which nothing can be more uncertain?" These words were penned by Samuel Adams, and freedom never had a more unselfish advocate; they fell upon a community that was discussing in every home the gravest of political questions; and they were responded to with a prudence and order that were warmly eulogized both in America and England. This respect for Law, when Liberty was as a live coal from a divine altar, adhered to so faithfully for years, in spite, too, of goadings by those who wielded British power, but forgot American right, must be regarded as remarkable. Until the close of Bernard's administration, the town, to use contemporary words, was surprisingly quiet; but during the remainder of the period of the seventeen months, when selfish importers broke their agreement and set themselves against what was considered to be the public safety, they provoked disturbances and even mobs. Still, in an age when, to use Hutchinson's words, "mobs of a certain sort were constitutional," the wonder is, not that there were any, but that there were not more of them in Boston. Besides, the concern of the popular leaders to preserve order was so deep and their action so prompt, that disturbances were checked and suppressed without the use of the military on a single occasion; and hence the injury done both to persons and property was so small, when compared with the bloodshed and destruction by contemporary British mobs, that what Colonel Barré said of the June riots in Boston was true of the outbreaks at the close of this period, namely, that they but mimicked the mobs of the mother-country.
The patience of the people was severely tried on the evening of the landing of the troops, as they filed into Faneuil Hall; and it was still more severely tried, as, on the next day, Sunday, they filed into the Town-House. The latter building was thus occupied under an order from Governor Bernard, who, it was said in the journals, had no authority to give such an order. The legislature and the courts of law held their sessions here, and, what was not known then elsewhere in the world, the General Court was public,--that is, the people were admitted to hear the debates, while in England the public was excluded; it was an offence to report the debates in Parliament, and a breach of privilege for a member to print even his own speech. In consequence of the political advance that had been made here, the galleries of the Hall of the House of Representatives, in December, 1767, for eighteen days in succession, were thronged with people, who listened to the discussion when the most remarkable state-paper of the time was under consideration, namely, the letter which the House addressed to their agent, Mr. De Berdt. It now provoked the people to see these halls, all except the chamber in which the Council held its sessions, occupied by armed men, and the field-pieces of the train placed in the street, pointing towards the building. The lower floor was used as an Exchange by the merchants, who were annoyed by being obliged daily to brush by the red-coats. All this was excessively irritating, and needed no exaggeration from abroad. Still it is but just to the men of that day to present all the circumstances under which they maintained their dignity. "Asiatic despotism," so says a contemporary London eulogy on their conduct, which was printed in the Boston journals, "does not present a picture more odious to the eye of humanity than the sanctuary of justice and law turned into a main guard." And on comparing the moderation in this town under such an infliction with a late effusion of blood in St. George's Fields, the writer says,--"By this wise and excellent conduct you have disappointed your enemies, and convinced your friends that an entire reliance is to be placed on the supporters of freedom at Boston, in every occurrence, however delicate or dangerous."
While the indignation of the Sons of Liberty, under such provocations, was as deep as Hutchinson says their silence was profound, there was, in the local press, the severest denunciation of this use of their forum. The building is called in print this year, (1768,) the Town-House, the State-House, the Court-House, and the Parliament-House. It may be properly termed the political focus of the Province, and it then bore to Massachusetts a similar relation to that which Faneuil Hall now bears to Boston. The goodly and venerable structure that still looks down on State Street and the Merchants' Exchange has little in it to attract the common eye, much less a classic taste; but there is not on the face of the earth, it has been said, a temple, however magnificent, about which circles a more glorious halo. There is much to relieve the remark of Mayor Otis from exaggeration. Its humble halls, for over a generation, had echoed to the appeals for the Good Old Cause made by men of whom it was said Milton was their great forerunner. Here popular leaders with such root in them had struggled long and well against the encroachments of Prerogative. Here the state-papers were matured that first intelligently reconciled the claims of local self-government with what is due to a protective nationality. Here intrepid representatives of the people, on the gravest occasion that had arisen in an American assembly, justly refused to comply with an arbitrary royal command. Here first in modern times was recognized the vital principle of publicity in legislation. Here James Otis, as a pioneer patriot, poured forth his soul when his tongue was as a flame of fire,--John Adams, on the side of freedom, first showed himself to be a Colossus in debate,--Joseph Hawley first publicly denied that Parliament had the right to rule in all cases whatsoever,--and the unequalled leadership of Samuel Adams culminated, when he felt obliged to strive for the independence of his country; and, in the fulness of time, the imperishable scroll of the Declaration, from this balcony, and in a scene of unsurpassed moral sublimity, was first officially unrolled before the people of the State of Massachusetts. Thus this relic of a hero age is fragrant with the renown of
"The men that glorious law who taught,
Unshrinking liberty of thought,
And roused the nations with the truth sublime."
On the 15th of October, General Gage, with a distinguished staff, came to Boston to provide quarters for the troops, and was received at a review on the Common with a salute of seventeen guns by the train of artillery, when, preceded by a brilliant corps of officers, he passed in a chariot before the column. The same journals (October 20) which contained a notice of this review had extracts from London papers, by a fresh arrival, in which it was said,--"The town of Boston meant to render themselves as independent of the English nation as the crown of England is of that of Spain"; and that "the nation was treated by them in terms of stronger menace and insult than sovereign princes ever use to each other."
The journals now announced that two regiments, augmented to seven hundred and fifty men each, were to embark at Cork for Boston; and General Gage informed the local authorities that he expected their arrival, and asked quarters for them, when the subject was considered in the Council. This body now complied so far as, in the words printed at the time, to "advise the Governor to give immediate orders to have the Manufactory House in Boston, which is the property of the Province, cleared of those persons who are in the present possession of it, so that it might be ready to receive those of said regiments who could not be conveniently accommodated at Castle William." This building, as already remarked, stood in what is now Hamilton Place, near the Common, and for twelve years had been hired by Mr. John Brown, a weaver, who not only carried on his business here, but lived here with his family; and hence it was his legal habitation, his castle, "which the wind and the rain might enter, but which the King could not enter."
Mr. Brown, having before declined to let the troops already in town occupy the building, now, acting under legal advice, declined to comply with the present request to leave it; whereupon it was determined to take forcible possession. Accordingly, on the 17th of October, at two o'clock in the afternoon, Sheriff Greenleaf, accompanied by Chief-Justice Hutchinson, went to the Manufactory House for this purpose, but was denied entrance by Mr. Brown, who had fastened all the doors. He appeared, however, at a window, when the Sheriff presented the Governor's order; but Mr. Brown replied, that he never had had any lawful warning to leave the house, and did not look upon the power of the Governor and Council as sufficient to dispossess him; and finally told the Sheriff that he would not surrender his possession to any till required by the General Court, under whom he held, or till he was obliged to do it by the law of the Province, or compelled by force: whereupon the Sheriff and the Chief-Justice retired.
On the nest morning, at ten o'clock, Sheriff Greenleaf, attended by his deputies, again appeared before the house, and again found the doors shut. They, however, entered the cellar by a window, that was partly opened, it is said to let out an inmate,--when, after a scuffle, Mr. Brown declared that the Sheriff was his prisoner; upon which the Sheriff informed the commanding officer of the regiment on the Common of his situation, who sent a guard for his protection. Sentinels were now placed at the doors, two at the gate of the yard, and a guard of ten in the cellar; and as the people gathered fast about the gate, an additional company was ordered from the Common. Any one was allowed to come out of the house, but no one was allowed to go in. The press now harped upon the cries of Mr. Brown's children for bread.
This strange proceeding caused great excitement, and at this stage there was (October 22) a meeting of the Council to consider the subject, when seven of the members waited on the Governor to assure him that nothing could be farther from their intention, when they gave their advice, than to sanction this use of force; and about seven o'clock that evening most of the troops were taken away, leaving only one or two soldiers at a window and a small guard in the cellar. In a few days afterwards all the guards were removed, and finally Mr. Brown was left in quiet possession. The whole affair lasted seventeen days. Shortly after, Mr. Brown prosecuted the Sheriff for trespass, when the Council declined to be accountable for these official doings. He soon announced to the public in a card a resumption of his business. His tombstone bears a eulogy on the bravery which thus long and successfully resisted an attempt to force a citizen from his legal habitation. "Happy citizen," the stone reads, "when called singly to be a barrier to the liberties of a continent!"
Soon after this affair, fifteen members of the Council, and among them several decided Loyalists, signed an address which was adopted at a meeting held without a summons from the Governor, and which was presented (October 27, 1768) directly to General Gage, as "from members of His Majesty's Council." This address is a candid, truthful, and strong exposition of the whole series of proceedings connected with the introduction of the troops. "Your own observation," it says, "will give you the fullest evidence that the town and the Province are in a peaceful state; your own inquiry will satisfy you, that, though there have been disorders in the town of Boston, some of them did not merit notice, and that such as did have been magnified beyond the truth." The events of the eighteenth of March and of the tenth of June were reviewed: the former were pronounced trivial, and such as could not have been noticed to the disadvantage of the town but by persons inimical to it; the latter were conceded to be criminal, and the actors in them guilty of a riot; but, in justice to the town, it was urged that this riot had its origin in the threats and the armed force used in the seizure of the sloop Liberty. The General was informed that the people thought themselves injured, and by men to whom they had done no injury, and thus was "most unjustly brought into question the loyalty of as loyal a people as any in His Majesty's dominions"; and he was assured that it would be a great ease and satisfaction to the inhabitants, if be would please to order the troops to Castle William.
In a brief reply to this elaborate address, the next day, General Gage said that the riots and the resolves of the town had induced His Majesty to order four regiments to protect his loyal subjects in their persons and properties, and to assist the civil magistrates in the execution of the laws; that he trusted the discipline and order of the troops would render their stay in no shape distressful to His Majesty's dutiful subjects; and that he hoped the future behavior of the people would justify the best construction of past actions, and afford him a sufficient foundation to represent to His Majesty the propriety of withdrawing the most part of the troops. This was very paternal, haughty, and very English. However, the activity of the commander, in bargaining for stores, houses, and other places to be used as barracks for the soldiers, indicated better behavior in the future on the part of crown officials than the browbeating of the local authorities, from the Council down to the Justices, in the vain attempt to make them do what the law did not require them to do, and what their feelings, as well as their sense of right, forbade their doing. In a short time the good people had the satisfaction of seeing the redcoats move out of Fanueil Hall and the Town-House into quarters provided by those who sent them into the town, and of reflecting on the moral victory which their idolized leaders had won in standing firmly by the law.
It was now in the mouths, not only of the Patriots, but of Loyalists of the candid type of those who signed the recent address to General Gage, that, as it was evident things had been grossly misrepresented to the Ministers, when truth and time should set matters fairly right before the Government there would be a change of policy; and so Hope, in her usual bright way, lifted a little the burden from heavy hearts in the cheering words through the press (October, 1768),--"The pacific and prudent measures of the town of Boston must evince to the world that Americans, though represented by their enemies to be in a state of insurrection, mean nothing more than to support those constitutional rights to which the laws of God and Nature entitle them; and when the measure of oppression and mi..st...al iniquity is full, and the dutiful supplications of an injured people shall have reached the gracious ear of their sovereign, may at length terminate in a glorious display of liberty."
The journals, a few days after these events, announced that "the worshipful the Commissioners of the Customs, having of their own free will retreated in June to the Castle, designed to make their re-entrance to the metropolis, so that the town would be again blessed with the fruits of the benevolence of the Board, as well as an example of true politeness and breeding"; and soon afterwards this Board again held its sessions in Boston. It was further announced, that the troops that had been quartered in the Town-House had moved into a house lately possessed by James Murray, which was near the church in Brattle Street, (hence the origin of "Murray's Barracks," which became historic from their connection with the Boston Massacre,)--that James Otis, at the session of the Superior Court, in the Town-House, moved that the Court adjourn to Faneuil Hall, because of the cannon that remained pointed at the building, as it was derogatory to the honor of the Court to administer justice at the mouth of the cannon and the point of the bayonet,--that the Sixty-Fourth and Sixty-Fifth Regiments had arrived from Cork, and were quartered in the large and commodious stores on Wheelwright's Wharf,--and that Commodore Hood, the commander of His Majesty's ships in America, had arrived (November 13) in town. It is stated that there were now about four thousand troops here, under the command of General Pomeroy, who was an excellent officer and became very popular with the citizens.
The town, meanwhile, continued remarkably quiet. There was no call for popular demonstrations during the winter; and the Patriots confined their labors to severe animadversions on public measures, and efforts to tone the people up to a rigid observance of the non-importation scheme. The crown officials endeavored to enliven the season with balls and concerts, and at first were mortified that few of the ladles would attend them; but they persevered, and were more successful. "Now," Richard Carey writes, (February 7, 1769,) "it is mortifying to many of the inhabitants that they have obtained their wishes, and that such numbers of ladies attend. It is a bad thing for Boston to have so many gay, idle people in it." There is much comment, in the letters and journals, upon these balls and concerts, and some of it not very flattering to the ladies who countenanced them.
Meantime there appeared (January 10, 1769) an extra "Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser," a broadside or half-sheet, printed in pica type, but only on one side, which, under the heading of "Important Advices," spread before the community the King's speech to Parliament. This state-paper, which was read the world over, represented the people of Boston as being "in a state of disobedience to all law and government, and to have proceeded to measures subversive of the Constitution, and attended with circumstances that might manifest a disposition to throw off their dependence upon Great Britain"; and it contained a pledge "to defeat the mischievous designs of those turbulent and seditious persons who, under false pretences, had but too successfully deluded numbers," and whose designs, if not defeated, could not fail to produce the most serious consequences, not only to the Colonies immediately, but, in the end, to all the dominions of the Crown.
The Patriots remarked, (January 14, 1769,) that the countenances of a few, who seemed to enjoy a triumph, were now very jocund; but that His Majesty's loyal subjects were distressed that he had conceived such an unfavorable sentiment of the temper of the people, who, far from the remotest disposition to faction or rebellion, were struggling, as they apprehended, for a constitution which supported the Crown, and for the rights devised to them by their Charter and confirmed to them by the declaration of His Majesty's glorious ancestors, William and Mary, at that important era, the Revolution. These words are from an article entitled "Journal of the Times," of which notice will be taken presently; and they came out of what Bernard used to term the cabinet of the faction. Other words, from Thomas Cushing, who was not an ultra Whig, run, as to His Majesty,--"He must have been egregiously misinformed. Nothing could have been farther from the truth than such advices. I hope time, which scatters and dispels the mists of error and falsehood, will place us in our true light, and convince the Administration how much they have been abused by false and malicious misrepresentations." Official falsehood and malice did their appointed work, doubtless, in inflaming the British mind; but the root of the difficulty was the feeling, so general at that time in England, that every man there had a right to govern every man in America. The King represented this imperialism.
The King's speech, threatening resolves adopted in Parliament, startling avowals in the direction of arbitrary power uttered in the debates, gave fresh significance to the quartering of troops in Boston, and forced upon the Patriots the conviction that these troops were not here merely to aid in maintaining a public peace that was not disturbed, or in collecting revenue that was regularly paid, but were indicative of a purpose in the Ministry to change their local government, and subjugate them, as to their domestic affairs, to foreign-imposed law. "My daily reflections for two years," says John Adams, who lived near Murray's Barracks, "at the sight of those soldiers before my door, were serious enough. Their very appearance in Boston was a strong proof to me that the determination in Great Britain to subjugate us was too deep and inveterate ever to be altered by us; for everything we could do was misrepresented, and nothing we could say was credited." This statement is abundantly confirmed by contemporary facts. Nothing that the Patriots could say availed to diminish the alarm which was felt by the British aristocracy at the obvious tendency of the democratic principle. The progress of events but revealed new grandeur in the ideas of freedom and equality that had been here so intelligently grasped, and new capacities in the republican forms in which they had found expression. This was growth. The mode prescribed to check this growth was a change in the local Constitution, and this would be "the introduction of absolute rule" in Massachusetts.
The voluminous correspondence, at this period, between the members of the British Cabinet and Governor Bernard shows that this purpose of changing the Constitution was entertained by the Ministers and was warmly urged by the local crown officials. Thus, John Pownall, the Under-Secretary, avowed in a letter addressed to the Governor, that such a measure was necessary, and that such "had been long his firm and unalterable opinion upon the fullest consideration of what had passed in America"; and in the same letter be says that the Government had under consideration "the forfeiture of the Charter and measures of local regulation and reform."
The Governor, for years, had urged this in general, and of late had named the specific measure of so altering the constitution of the Council, that, instead of being chosen by the Representatives, it should be appointed by the Crown; and he was vexed because his superiors did not consider the Charter as at their mercy. "I have just now heard," he wrote, October 22, 1768, to Lord Barrington, "that the Charter of this government is still considered as sacred. For, most assuredly, if the Charter is not so far altered as to put the appointment of the Council in the King, this government will never recover itself. When order is restored, it will be at best but a republic, of which the Governor will be no more than President." A month later (November 22, 1768) he wrote to John Pownall,--"If the Convention and the proceedings of the Council about the same time shall give the Crown a legal right or induce the Parliament to exercise a legislative power over the Charter, it will be most indulgently exercised, if it is extended no farther than to make an alteration in the form of the government, which has always been found wanting, is now become quite necessary, and will really, by making it more constitutional, render it more permanent. With this alteration, I do believe that all the disorders of this government will be remedied, and the authority of it fully restored. Without it, there will be a perpetual occasion to resort to expedients, the continual inefficiency of which will speak in the words of Scripture,--'You are careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful.'"
As week after week passed and no orders came from the Secretary of State to make arrests of certain individuals who had been conspicuous in the late town-meetings, and no legislation was entered upon as to the Charter, the crown officials were greatly agitated; and Bernard says (December, 1768) that they were "under the apprehension that the Government of Great Britain might not take the full advantage of what the late mad and wicked proceedings of The Sons of Liberty [faction] had put in their hands. They say that the late wild attempt to create a revolt and take the government of the Province out of the King's into their own hands affords so fair an opportunity for the supreme power to reform the constitution of this subordinate government, to dispel the faction which has harassed this Province for three years past, and to inflict a proper and not a severe censure upon some of the heads of it, that, if it is now neglected, they say, it is not like soon, perhaps ever, to happen again." And the Governor said that he heard much of this from all the sensible men with whom he conversed. What a testimonial is this record in favor of republican Boston and Massachusetts! So complete was the quiet of the town, so forbearing were the people under the severest provocations, that this set of politicians were out of all patience, and feared they never would see another riot out of which to make a case for abolishing the cherished local government. The Patriots, Bernard says in this letter, did not experience this agitation. "Those persons," he writes, "who have reason to expect a severe censure from Great Britain do not appear to be so anxious for the event as the friends and well-wishers to the authority of the Government." The Patriots intended no rebellion, and they experienced no apprehension. They put forth no absurd claims to meddle with things that were common and national, and they asked simply to be let alone as to things peculiar and local.
Meantime Governor Bernard was fairly importuned by Government officials for advice; and again and again he was assured that his judgment was regarded as valuable. "Mr. Pownall and I," Lord Hillsborough says, in a private letter, (November 15, 1768,) "have spent some days in considering with the utmost attention your correspondence." John Pownall, the Under-Secretary here referred to, wrote (December 24, 1768,) to Bernard,--"I want to know very much your real sentiments on the present very critical situation of American affairs, and the more fully the greater will be the obligations conferred." There are curious coincidences in history, and one occurred on the day on which this letter was dated; for Governor Bernard, with a letter of this same date addressed to Pownall, sent him a remarkable communication developing the measures which the Boston crown officials considered to be necessary to maintain the King's authority.
At this time (December, 1768) there appears to have been but little difference of opinion among the prominent Loyalists as to the necessity of an extraordinary exercise of authority in some way, both as a point of honor and as a measure of precaution for the future. On this point Hutchinson was as decided as Bernard, though he was reticent as to the precise shape it ought to take. It would not do, he said, to leave the Colonies to the loose principle, espoused by so many, that they were subject to laws that appeared to them equitable, and no other; nor would it do to drive the Colonies to despair; but if nothing were done but to pass declaratory acts and resolves, it would soon be all over with the friends of Government; and so he wrote, "This is most certainly a crisis."
The remarkable paper just referred to is recorded in Governor Bernard's Letter-Books, without either address or signature, but in the form of a letter, dated December 23, 1768, and marked, "Confidential." It is elaborate and able, but too long for citation here in full. In it the Governor professes to speak for others as well as for himself, and to present the reasonings used in Boston on an important and critical occasion.
The second paragraph embodies the propositions which were recommended by the Loyalists, and is as follows:--"It is said that the Town-Meeting, the Convention, and the refusal of the Justices to billet the soldiers, severally, point out and justify the means whereby, First, the disturbers of the peace of the government may be properly censured, Second, the magistracy of the town reformed, and, Third, the constitution of the government amended: all of them most desirable ends, and some of them quite necessary to the restoration of the King's authority. I will consider these separately."
The Governor represented the town-meeting which called the September Convention as undoubtedly intending to bring about a rebellion,--and the precise way designed is said to have been, to seize the two highest officials and the treasury, and then to set up a standard; and after remarking on the circumstances that defeated this scheme, he inquires why so notorious an attempt should go unpunished because it was unsuccessful. He recommends the passage of an Act of Parliament disqualifying the principal persons engaged in this from holding any office or sitting in the Assembly; and this was urged as being much talked of, and as likely in its tendency to have a good influence in other governments. He presented, as proper to be censured, the Moderator of the town-meeting, Otis,--the Selectmen, Jackson, Ruddock, Hancock, Rowe, and Pemberton,--the Town-Clerk, Cooper,--the Speaker of the Convention, Gushing,--and its Clerk, Adams. "The giving these men a check," he said, "would make them less capable of doing more mischief,--would really be salutary to themselves, as well as advantageous to the Government."
The Governor represented that to reform the magistracy of the town would be of great service, for there were among the Justices several of the supporters of the Sons of Liberty; and their refusal, under their own hands, to quarter the soldiers in town would justify a removal. He recommended that this reform should be by Act of Parliament, and that by beginning in the County of Suffolk a precedent might be established for a like exercise of authority as to other places. Such an act, with a royal instruction to the Governor as to appointments, was looked upon as of such value for the restoration of authority, that "some were for carrying this remedial measure to all the commissions of all kinds in the Government"
The Governor represented the fundamental change proposed as to the Council to be a most desirable object,--"If one was to say," his words were, "quite necessary to the restoration and firm establishment of the authority of the Crown, it would not be saying too much." The justification for this was alleged to be, the sitting of the Convention and certain proceedings of the Council, which, it was argued at some length, broke the condition on which the Charter was granted, and thereby made it liable to forfeiture. It was alleged that the Council had met separately as a Council without being assembled by the Governor, that the people had chosen Representatives also without being summoned by the Governor, and that these Representatives had met and transacted business, as in an Assembly, even after they had been required in the King's name to break up their meeting. Thus both the Council and the people had committed usurpations on the King's rights; and it would surely be great grace and favor in the King, if he took no other advantage than to correct the errors in the original formation of the government and make it more congenial to the Constitution of the mother-country.
The concluding portion of the paper urges general considerations why the local government ought to be changed. "It requires no arguments to show," are its words, "that the inferior governments of a free State should be as similar to that of the supreme State as can well be. And it is self-evident that the excellency of the British Constitution consists in the equal balance of the regal and popular powers. If so, where the royal scale kicks the beam and the people know their own superior strength, the authority of Government can never be steady and durable: it must either be perpetually distracted by disputes with the Crown, or be quieted by giving up all real power to the demagogues of the people." And, after other considerations, the paper closes as follows:--"It is therefore not to be wondered at that the most sensible men of this Province see how necessary it is for the peace and good order of this government that the royal scale should have its own constitutional weights restored to it, and thereby be made much more equilibrial with the popular one. How this is to be done, whether by the Parliament or the King's Bench, or by both, is a question for the Administration to determine; the expedience of the measure is out of doubt; and if the late proceedings of the Convention, etc., amount to a forfeiture, a reformation of the constitution of the government, if it is insisted upon, must and will be assented to."
The Governor, in a letter addressed to John Pownall, which is marked "Private and Confidential," explains the origin and intention of this paper,--a paper which has not been referred to by historians:--
FRANCIS BERNARD TO JOHN POWNALL.
"Boston, Dec. 24, 1768.
"Dear Sir,--The enclosed letter is the result of divers conferences I have had with some of the chief members of the Government and the principal gentlemen of the town, in the course of which I have scarce ever met with a difference to the opinions there laid down. I have been frequently importuned to write to the Minister upon these subjects, that the fair opportunity which offers to crush the faction, reform the government, and restore peace and order may not be lost, I have, however, declined it, not thinking it decent in me to appear to dictate to the Minister so far as to prescribe a set of measures. Besides, I have thought the subject and manner of dictating it too delicate for a public letter. However, as it appears to me that the welfare of this Province, the honor of the British Government, and the future connection between them both depend upon the right improvement of the time present, I have put the thoughts to writing in a letter, in which I have avoided all personalities which may discover the writer, and even the signing and addressing it. If these hints are like to be of use, communicate them in such a manner that the writer may not be known, unless it is in confidence. If they come too late, or disagree with the present system, destroy the paper. All I can say for them is that they are fully considered and are well intended.
"I am," etc.
This relation shows that the popular leaders were right in their judgment, that they had broader work before them than to deal with the special matter of taxation, and that the presence of the troops meant the beginning of arbitrary government. The duty of the hour was not shirked. The Patriots could not know the extent of the Governor's misrepresentations; but they knew from the tone of the Parliamentary debates, that they were regarded as children, with a valid claim, perhaps, to be well governed, but not as Englishmen, with coequal rights to govern themselves, and that the British aristocracy meant to cover them with its cold shade. And when the Loyalists arraigned the Charter and town-meetings and juries as difficulties in the way of good order, Shippen, in the "Gazette," (January 25, 1769,) said,--"The Province has been, and may be again, quietly and happily governed, while these terrible difficulties have subsisted in their full force. They are, indeed, wise checks upon power in favor of the people. But power vested in some rulers can brook no check. To assert the most undoubted rights of human nature, and of the British Constitution, they term faction; and having embarrassed a free government by their own impolitic measures, they fly to military power."
It may be asked, What came of the recommendations of Bernard? "I know," Hutchinson wrote, (May 6, 1769,) "the Ministry, when I wrote you last, had determined to push it [the alteration of the Constitution] in Parliament. They laid aside the thought a little while. The latter end of February they took it up again. I have reason to think it is laid aside a second time." There was a third time also. The Patriots for six years endured a steady aggression on their constitutional rights, which had the single object in view of checking the republican idea, when the scheme was taken up and pressed to a consummation. The Parliamentary acts of 1774, as to town-meetings, trial by jury, and the Council of Massachusetts, aimed a deadly blow at the local self-government. It was the subjugation that John Adams judged was symbolized by the military rule of 1768. Not until they saw this, did the generation of that day feel justified in invoking the terrible arbiter of war. Nor did they draw the awful sword until the Thirteen Colonies, in Congress assembled, (1774,) solemnly pledged each other to stand as one people in defence of the old local government. This was in the majesty of revolution. It is profanation to compare with this patience and glory the insurrection begun by South Carolina. She--the first time such an organization ever did it--assumed to be a nation; and then madly led off in a suicidal war on the National Government, although the three branches of it, Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary, recognized every constitutional obligation, and had not attempted an invasion of any local right.
A month after the Governor transmitted his plan for an alteration of the Constitution, he renewed, in an elaborate letter to Lord Hillsborough, (January 24, 1769,) his old allegation, that the popular leaders designed by their September town-meeting to inaugurate insurrection, and by the Convention to make their proposed insurrection general,--and that the plan was, to remove the King's Governor and resume the old Charter. "A chief of the faction"--this was a sample of the evidence--"said that he was always for gentle measures; for he was only for driving the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor out of the Province, and taking the government into their own hands. Judge, my Lord, what must be the measures proposed by others, when this is called a gentle measure." And he advised the Minister, that, to aid him in the execution of the orders he had received, he had formed a Cabinet Council of three principal officers of the Crown, whose zeal, ability, and fidelity could not be suspected. On the next day (January 25) the Governor devoted a despatch to Lord Hillsborough to remarks upon the press, and especially the "Boston Gazette" and Edes and Gill--"They may be said to be no more than mercenary printers," are the Governor's words,--"but they have been and still are the trumpeters of sedition, and have been made the apparent instruments of raising that flame in America which has given so much trouble and is still likely to give more to Great Britain and her Colonies"; and it seemed to the Governor that "the first step for calling the chiefs of the faction to account would be by seizing their printers, together with their papers, if it could be." He would not pronounce any particular piece absolutely treason, but he sent to his Lordship a complete file of this journal from the 14th of August, 1767, "when the present troubles began."
The next official action on the Patriot side was taken by the Selectmen, who, in a touching as well as searching address to the Governor, (February 18, 1769,) requested him to communicate to them such representations of facts only as he had judged proper to make to the Ministry during the past year relative to the town, in order that, by knowing precisely what had been alleged against its proceedings or character, the town might have an opportunity to vindicate itself. After characterizing as truly alarming to a free people the array of ships of war around it and the troops within it, the address proceeds,--"Your Excellency can witness for the town that no such aid is necessary; loyalty to the sovereign, and an inflexible zeal for the support of His Majesty's authority and the happy Constitution, is its just character; and we may appeal to an impartial world, that peace and order were better maintained in the town before it was even rumored that His Majesty's troops were to be quartered among us than they have been since"; and the judgment is expressed, that the opinion entertained abroad as to the condition of things in Boston could have arisen only from a great misapprehension, by His Majesty's Ministers, as to the behavior of individuals or the public transactions of the town.
To this rather troublesome request the Governor returned a very brief and curt answer,--that he had no reason to think that the public transactions had been misapprehended by the Government, "or that their opinions thereon were founded upon any other accounts than those published by the town itself"; and he coolly added,--"If, therefore, you can vindicate yourselves from such charges as may arise from your own publications, you will, in my opinion, have nothing further to apprehend."
A week later, the Selectmen waited on the Governor with another address, which assumed that his reply to the former address had substantially vindicated the town as a corporation, as it had published nothing but its own transactions in town-meeting legally assembled. And now the Selectmen averred, that, if the town had suffered from the disorders of the eighteenth of March and the tenth of June, "the only disorders that had taken place in the town within the year past," the Governor's words were full testimony to the point, that it must be in consequence of some partial or false representations of those disorders to His Majesty's Ministers; and the address entreated the Governor to condescend to point out wherein the town, in its public transactions, had militated with any law or the British constitution of government, so that either the town might be made sensible of the illegality of its proceedings, or its innocence might appear in a still clearer light.
The following sentence constituted the whole of the reply of the royal representative: for what else could such a double-dealer say?
"Gentlemen,--As in my answer to your former address I confined myself to you as Selectmen and the town as a Body, I did not mean to refer to the disorders on the eighteenth of March or of the tenth of June, but to the transactions in the town-meetings and the proceedings of the Selectmen in consequence thereof.
"Feb. 24, 1769."
The town next, at the annual March meeting, petitioned the King to remove the troops. This petition is certainly a striking paper, and places in a strong light the earnest desire of the popular leaders to steer clear of everything that might tend to wound British pride or in any way to inflame the public mind of the mother-country, and to impress on the Government their deep concern at the twin charges brought against the town of disorder and disloyalty. While lamenting the June riot, they averred that it was discountenanced by the body of the inhabitants and immediately repressed; but with a confidence, they said, which will ever accompany innocence and truth, they declared that the courts had never been interrupted, not even that of a single magistrate,--that not an instance could be produced of so much as an attempt to rescue any criminal out of the hands of justice,--that duties required by Acts of Parliament held to be grievous had been regularly paid,--and that all His Majesty's subjects were disposed orderly and dutifully to wait for that relief which they hoped from His Majesty's wisdom and clemency and the justice of Parliament. After reviewing elaborately the representations that had been made of the condition of the town, with "the warmest declarations of their attachment to their constitutional rights," they pronounced those accounts to be ill-grounded which represented them as held to their "allegiance and duty to the best of sovereigns only by the bond of terror and the force of arms." The petition then most earnestly supplicates His Majesty to remove from the town a military power which the strictest truth warranted them in declaring unnecessary for the support of the civil authority among them, and which they could not but consider as unfavorable to commerce, destructive to morals, dangerous to law, and tending to overthrow the civil constitution. "Your Majesty," was the utterance of Boston, and in one of those town-meetings that were heralded even from the Throne and Parliament as instrumentalities of rebellion, "possesses a glory superior to that of any monarch on earth,--the glory of being at the head of the happiest civil constitution in the world, and under which human nature appears with the greatest advantage and dignity,--the glory of reigning over a free people, and of being enthroned in the hearts of your subjects. Your Majesty, therefore, we are sure, will frown, not upon those who have the warmest attachment to this constitution and to their sovereign, but upon such as shall be found to have attempted by their misrepresentations to diminish the blessings of your Majesty's reign, in the remotest parts of your dominions."
This is not the language of party-adroitness or of a low cunning, but the calm utterance of truth by American manhood. There is no indication of the authorship of the petition, but a strong committee was chosen at the meeting which adopted it, consisting of James Otis, Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, Richard Dana, Joseph Warren, John Adams, and Samuel Quincy, to consider the subject of vindicating the town from the misrepresentations to which it had been subjected. This petition, accompanied by a letter penned by Samuel Adams, was transmitted (April 8, 1769) to Colonel Barré, with the request that he would present it, by his own hand, to His Majesty. Both the letter and the petition requested the transmission to Boston of all Bernard's letters, a specimen only of which had now been received. "Conscious," the letter said, "of their own innocence, it is the earnest desire of the town that you would employ your great influence to remove from the mind of our Sovereign, his Ministers, and Parliament, the unfavorable sentiments that have been formed of their conduct, or at least obtain from them the knowledge of their accusers and the matters alleged against them, and an opportunity offered of vindicating themselves."
The letters just referred to as having been received from England were six in number, five written by Governor Bernard and one by General Gage, which contained specimens of the characteristic misrepresentations of political affairs by the crown officials; and, having been transmitted to the Council, this body felt called upon to act in the matter, which they did (April 15, 1769) in a spirited letter addressed to Lord Hillsborough. This letter is occupied mainly with the various questions touching the introduction and the quartering of the troops. Again were the disorders of the eighteenth of March and the tenth of June reviewed and explained; the charge made by the Governor, that the Council refused to provide quarters for the troops out of servility to the populace, was pronounced to be without foundation or coloring of truth; and the Council boldly charged upon Bernard, that his great aim was the destruction of the constitution to which, as Englishmen and by the Charter, they were entitled,--"a constitution," they remark, "dearly purchased by our ancestors and dear to us, and which we persuade ourselves will be continued to us." Then, also, they charged that no Council had borne what the present Council had borne from Bernard; that his whole conduct with regard to the troops was arbitrary and unbecoming the dignity of his station; and that his common practice, in case the Council did not come into his measures, of threatening to lay their conduct before His Majesty, was absurd and insulting.
The troops, during the progress of the events which have been related, did not redeem the promise, as to discipline and order, which General Gage made for them to the Council. After the arrival of the Sixty-Fourth and Sixty-Fifth Regiments, General Pomeroy continued the commander through the winter, and down to the month of May; and he made himself popular with the inhabitants. Still, the four regiments consisted, to a great degree, of such rough material, that they could not, in the idleness in which they were kept, be controlled. "The soldiers," Andrew Eliot writes, January 29, 1769, "were in raptures at the cheapness of spirituous liquors among us, and in some of their drunken hours have been insolent to some of the inhabitants"; and he further remarks that "the officers are the most troublesome, who, many of them, are as intemperate as the men." Thus, while the temptation to excess was strong, the restraint of individual position was weak, and both privates and officers became subjects of legal proceedings as disturbers of the public peace.
The routine of military discipline grated rudely on old customs. Citizens who, like their ancestors for a century and a half, had walked the streets with perfect freedom, were annoyed at being obliged to answer the challenge of sentinels who were posted at the Custom-House and other public places, and at the doors of the officers' lodgings. Then the usual quiet of Sunday was disturbed by the changes of the guards, with the sounds of fife and drum, and the tunes of "Nancy Dawson" and "Yankee Doodle"; church-goers were annoyed by parties of soldiers in the streets, and the whole community outraged by horse-racing on the Common. Applications for redress had been ineffectual; and General Pomeroy was excused for not checking some of these things, on the ground that he was controlled by a superior officer. His successor, General Mackay, gave great satisfaction by prohibiting, in general orders, (June 15, 1769,) horse-racing on the Common on the Lord's day by any under his command, and also by forbidding soldiers to be in the streets during divine service, a practice that had been long disagreeable to the people.
In one way and another the troops became sources of irritation. The Patriots, mainly William Cooper, the town clerk, prepared a chronicle of this perpetual fret, which contains much curious matter obtained through access to authentic sources of information, private and official. This diary was first printed in New York, and reprinted in the newspapers of Boston and London, under the title of "Journal of Occurrences." The numbers, continued until after the close of Bernard's administration, usually occupied three columns of the "Boston Evening Post," and constituted a piquant record of the matters connected with the troops and general politics. It attracted much attention, and the authors of it formed the subject of a standing toast at the Liberty celebrations. Hutchinson averred that it was composed with great art and little truth. After this weekly "Journal of the Times," as it was now called, had been published four months, Governor Bernard devoted to it an entire official letter addressed to Lord Hillsborough. He said that this publication was intended "to raise a general clamor against His Majesty's government in England and throughout America, as well as in Massachusetts"; and that in this way the Patriots "flattered themselves that they should get the navy and army removed, and again have the government and Custom-House in their own hands." The idea of such disloyal purposes excited the Governor to the most acrimonious criticism. "It is composed," he informed Lord Hillsborough, "by Adams and his associates, among which there must be some one at least of the Council; as everything that is said or done in Council, which can be made use of, is constantly perverted, misrepresented, and falsified in this paper. But if the Devil himself was of the party, as he virtually is, there could not have been got together a greater collection of impudent, virulent, and seditious lies, perversions of truth, and misrepresentations, than are to be found in this publication. Some are entirely invented, and first heard of from the printed papers; others are founded in fact, but so perverted as to be the direct contrary of the truth; other part of the whole consists of reflections of the writer, which pretend to no other authority but his own word. To set about answering these falsities would be a work like that of cleansing Augeas's stable, which is to be done only by bringing in a stream strong enough to sweep away the dirt and collectors of it all together." Doubtless there were exaggerations in this journal. It would be strange, if there were not. If the perversions of truth were greater than the Governor's misrepresentations of the proceedings of the inhabitants on the eighteenth of March, or on the tenth of June, or of what was termed "the September Rebellion," they deserved more than this severe criticism. But, in the main, the general allegations, as to grievances suffered by the people from the troops, are borne out by private letters and official documents; and a plain statement of the course of Francis Bernard shows that they did not exceed the truth as to him.
The troops continued under the command of General Pomeroy until the arrival (April 30, 1769) of Hon. Alexander Mackay, Colonel of the Sixty-Fifth Regiment, a Major-General on the American establishment, and a member of the British Parliament, when the command of the troops, so it was announced, in the Eastern District of America, devolved on him. When General Pomeroy left the town, the press, of all parties, and even the "Journal of the Times," highly complimented his conduct both as an officer and a gentleman.
The crown officials found themselves, at this period, in an awkward situation as to arrests of the popular leaders. They had recommended to the Government what they termed the slight punishment of disqualification, by Act of Parliament, from engaging in civil service; but the Ministry and their supporters determined on the summary proceeding of prosecutions under existing law for treason, thinking that few cases would be necessary,--and all agreed that these should be selected from Boston. On this point of singling out Boston for punishment, whatever other measures might be proposed, there was entire unanimity of sentiment. Thus, Lord Camden, on being applied to by the Prime-Minister for advice, suggested a repeal of the Revenue Act in favor of other Provinces, but the execution of it with rigor in Massachusetts, saying,--"There is no pretence for violence anywhere but at Boston; that is the ringleading Province; and if any country is to be chastised, the punishment ought to be levelled there." As to the policy of arrests, in Lord Barrington's judgment, five or six examples would be sufficient for all the Colonies, and he thought that it was right they should be made in Boston, the only place where there had been actual crime; for "they," his words are, "would be enough to carry terror to the wicked and factious spirits all over the continent, and would show that the subjects of Great Britain must not rebel with impunity anywhere." The King and Parliament stood pledged to make arrests; Lord Hillsborough, in his instructions, had urged them again and again; the private letters of the officials addressed to Bernard were refreshingly full and positive as to the advantage which such exercise of the national authority would be to the King's cause; the British press continually announced that they were to be made; and all England was looking to see representative men of America, who had dared to deny any portion of the authority of Parliament, occupy lodgings in London Tower. And yet, though it had been announced in Parliament that the object in sending troops was to bring rioters to justice, not a man had been put under arrest; and the only requisition that had been made for eight months upon a military power which was considered to be invincible was that which produced the inglorious demonstration at the Manufactory House occupied by John Brown the weaver. So ridiculous was the figure which the British Lion cut on the public stage of Boston!
Governor Bernard not unlikely felt more keenly the awkwardness of all this from having received, as a reward for service, the honor of a Baronetcy of Great Britain. The "Gazette," in announcing this, (May 1, 1769,) has an ironical article addressing the new Baronet thus:--"Your promotion, Sir, reflects an honor on the Province itself,--an honor which has never been conferred upon it since the thrice happy administration of Sir Edmund Andres, of precious memory, who was also a Baronet"; and in a candid British judgment to-day, (that of Lord Mahon,) the honor was "a most ill-timed favor surely, when he had so grievously failed in gaining the affections or confidence of any order or rank of men within his Province." The subject occupies a large space in the private correspondence, and the title was the more flattering and acceptable to the Governor from being exempted from the usual concomitant of heavy expense as fees. But whatever other service he had rendered, he had not rendered what was looked upon as most vital, the service of making arrests.
At this period the Governor held a consultation with distinguished political leaders, consisting of the Secretary, Andrew Oliver, who had been Stamp-Officer, the Judge of Admiralty, Robert Auchmuty, who was an eminent lawyer, and the Chief Justice, Hutchinson, who was counted the ablest man of the party, all ultra Loyalists, to consider the future policy as to arrests,--all doubtless feeling that the non-action course needed explanation. The details of this consultation are given at such length, and with such minuteness, by Bernard, in a letter addressed to Lord Hillsborough, that these learned political doctors can almost be seen making a diagnosis of the prevalent treason-disease and discussing proposed prescriptions. They carefully considered what had been done at the great public meetings, and what had been printed in the "Boston Gazette," which had been all collected and duly certified, and had been faithfully transmitted to Westminster, where distinctions of law were better known than they were in Boston. But, after legal scrutiny there, no specifications of acts amounting to treason had been made out as proper bases for proceedings, and it could not be expected that the local authorities would be wiser than their superiors; and thus this class of offences was set aside. To deal with other matters of treason, and especially with "the Rebellion of September," was found to be involved in difficulties. The members of the faction were now behaving "very cautiously and inoffensively," and so nothing could be made out of the present; and as they would not bear witness against each other as to the past, it was not easy from old affairs to make out cases of treason. Former private consultations of a treasonable character, it was said, lacked connection with overt acts, and the overt acts of a treasonable character lacked connection with the prior consultations: as, for instance, they said, the consultation to seize the Castle was treasonable, but it was not followed by an overt act,--and the overt act of the tar-barrel signal on the beacon-pole was treasonable, but it could not be traced to a prior consultation so as to evidence the intent. So these acute crown officials went on in their deliberations, and came to the conclusion, which Bernard officially communicated (May 25, 1769) to Lord Hillsborough, in the long letter above referred to, that they could not fix upon any acts "that amounted to actual treason, though many of them approached very near to it."
The Governor, meantime, had issued precepts to the towns to return members of the General Court; this made each locality (May, 1769) alive with politics; and he stated to Lord Hillsborough, as a further reason for not polling inquiry into treasonable practices, that he was anxious not to irritate the people more than he felt obliged to. The question of the removal of the troops was now discussed in the little country forums, and the resolves and instructions to the Representatives, printed in the journals, reëcho, in a spirited manner and with great ability, the political sentiment which had been embodied in official papers. They contain earnest protestations of a determination to maintain His Most Sacred Majesty George the Third, their rightful sovereign, his crown, dignity, and family; to maintain their Charter immunities, with all their rights derived from God and Nature, and to transmit them inviolable to their latest posterity; and they charge the Representatives not to allow, by vote or resolution, a right in any power on earth to tax the people to raise a revenue except in the General Assembly of the Province. All urged action relative to the troops, and several put this as the earliest duty of the Assembly, as the presence of the troops tended to awe or control freedom of debate. These utterances of the towns, which the journals of May contain, make a glowing record of the spirit of the time.
The Selectmen of Boston, on issuing the usual warrants for an election of Representatives, requested General Mackay to order the troops out of town on the day (May 8, 1769) of the town-meeting; but though he felt obliged to decline to do this, yet, in the spirit in which he acted during his entire residence here, he kept the troops, on this day, confined to their barracks. The town, after choosing Otis, Cushing, Adams, and Hancock as Representatives, adopted a noble letter of instructions, not only rehearsing the grievances, but asserting ideas of freedom and equality, as to political rights, that had been firmly grasped. They arraigned the Act of Parliament of 4th Geo. III., extending admiralty jurisdiction and depriving the colonists of native juries, as a distinction staring them in the face which was made between the subject in Great Britain and the subject in America,--the Parliament in one section guarding the people of the realm, and securing to them trial by jury and the law of the land, and in the next section depriving Americans of those important rights; and this distinction was pronounced a brand of disgrace upon every American, a degradation below the rank of an Englishman. While the instructions claimed for each subject in America equality of political right with each subject in England, they claimed also for the General Court the dignity of a free assembly, and declared the first object of their labors to be a removal of "those cannon and guards and that clamorous parade that had been daily about the Court-House since the arrival of His Majesty's troops."
The country towns, which now responded so nobly to the demand of the hour, were controlled by freemen. Among these it was rare to find any who could not read and write; they were mostly independent freeholders, with person and property guarded, as it used to be said in the Boston journals of the time, not by one law for the peasant and another law for the prince, but by equal law for all; they exercised liberty of thought and political action, and their proceedings, as they appeared in the public prints, gave great alarm to the Governor. He now informed Lord Hillsborough that the Sons of Liberty had got as high as ever; and that out of a party which used to keep the opposition to Government under, there were reckoned to be not above ten members returned in a House of above one hundred and twenty. After giving an account of a meeting of "the factious chiefs" in Boston, held a few days before the General Court assembled, he says,--"To see that faction which has occasioned all the troubles in this Province, and I may add in America too, has quite overturned this government, now triumphant and driving over every one who has loyalty and resolution to stand up in defence of the rights of the King and Parliament, gives me great concern."
This result of the elections, which the crown officials ascribed to a talent for mischief in the popular leaders, naturally flowed from the exhibition of arbitrary power. The introduction of the troops was a suicidal measure to the Loyalists, and in urging their continuance in the Province the crown officials had been carrying an exhaustive burden; while, even in every failure to effect their removal, the Whigs had won a fresh moral victory. There was, in consequence, a more perfect union of the people than ever. The members returned to the General Court constituted a line representation of the character, ability, and patriotism of the Province; many of the names were then obscure which subsequent large service to country was to make famous as the names of heroes and sages; and such a body of men was now to act on the question of a removal of the troops.
It would be travelling a beaten path to relate the proceedings of this session of the General Court; and only a glance will be necessary to show its connection with the issue that had so long stirred the public mind. Immediately on taking the oath of office, at nine o'clock, the House, through a committee, presented an elaborate and strong protest to the Governor against the presence of the troops. They averred that they meant to be loyal; that no law, however grievous, had in the execution of it been opposed in the Province; but, they said, as they came as of right to their old Parliament-House, to exercise, as of right, perfect freedom of debate, they found a standing army in their metropolis, and a military guard with cannon pointed at their very doors; and, in the strong way of the old Commonwealth men, they protested against this presence as "a breach of privilege, and inconsistent with that dignity and freedom with which they had a right to deliberate, consult, and determine." The Governor's laconic reply was,--"I have no authority over His Majesty's ships in this port or his troops within this town; nor can I give any orders for their removal." The House, resolving that they proceeded to take part in the elections of the day from necessity and to conform the Charter, chose their Clerk, Speaker, and twenty-eight Councillors.
The Governor at ten o'clock received at the Province House a brilliant array of officials, when an elegant collation was served; at twelve, escorted by Captain Paddock's company, he repaired to the Council-Chamber, whence, after approving the choice of Speaker, the whole Government went in procession to the Old Brick Meeting-House, where the election sermon was preached; then succeeded an elegant dinner at Faneuil Hall, which was attended by the field-officers of the four regiments, and the official dignitaries, including Commodore Hood and General Mackay, which, as to the Governor, closed the proceedings of the day.
The House in its choice of Councillors elected several decided Loyalists, though it did not reelect four of this party who were of that body the last year, namely, Messrs. Flucker, Ropes, Paine, and Worthington. The Governor refused his consent to eleven on the list. On the next day he thus wrote of these events:--
FRANCIS BERNARD TO JOHN POWNALL.
"Boston, June 1,1769.
"Dear Sir,--There being a snow ready to sail for Glasgow, I take the opportunity of sending you the printed account of the election and other proceedings on yesterday and to-day; from which you will perceive that everything goes as bad as could be expected. The Boston faction has taken possession of the two Houses in such a manner that there are not ten men in both who dare contradict them. They have turned out of the Council four gentlemen of the very first reputation in the country, and the only men remaining of disposition and ability to serve the King's cause. I have negatived eleven, among which are two old Councillors, Brattle and Bowdoin, the managers of all the late opposition in the Council to the King's government. There is not now one man in the Council who has either power or spirit to oppose the faction; and the friends of Government are so thin in the House, that they won't attempt to make any opposition; so that Otis, Adams, etc., are now in full possession of this government, and will treat it accordingly. This is no more than was expected. I will write more particularly in a few days.
"I am," etc.
The Governor could write thus of his political friends of the Council, several of whom, six years later, when the attempt was made to change the Constitution, were thought to have spirit enough to receive appointments from the Crown,--such, for instance, as Danforth, Russell, Royal, and Gray,--and hence were called Mandamus Councillors.
A few days after (May 5, 1769) there was a holiday in Boston, the celebration of the birth-day of the King, which the House, "out of duty, loyalty, and affection to His Majesty," noticed formally, as provided by a committee consisting of Otis, Hancock, and Adams. The Governor received a brilliant party--at the Province House; the three regiments in town, the Fourteenth, Twenty-Ninth, and Sixty-Fourth, paraded on the Common; the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company--it happened to be their anniversary--went through the customary routine, including the sermon, the dinner at Faneuil Hall, and the exchange of commissions on the Common; and in the evening there was a ball at Concert Hall, where, it is said in the Tory paper, there was as numerous and brilliant an appearance of gentlemen and ladies as was ever known in town on any former occasion. The Patriot journals give more space to the celebration, towards evening, in the Representatives' Hall, where, besides the members, were a great number of merchants and gentlemen of the first distinction, who, besides toasting, first the King, Queen, and Royal Family, and second, North America, drank to "The restoration of harmony between Great Britain and the Colonies," "Prosperity and perpetuity to the British Empire in all parts of the world," and "Liberty without licentiousness to all parts of the world." The House thus testified their loyalty to country; but, as the Governor refused to remove the troops, they--the "Boston Gazette" of June 12th said--"had for thirteen days past made a solemn and expressive pause in public business."
Meantime the Governor received in one day (June 10) communications which surprised him half out of his wits and wholly out of his office, and which must have made rather a blue day in his calendar.
The Ministry now vacillated in their high-handed policy, and gave to General Gage discretionary power as to a continuance of the troops in Boston; and this officer had come to the sensible conclusion that troops were worse than needless, for they were an unnecessary irritation and detrimental to a restoration of the harmony which the representative men of both parties professed to desire. Accordingly the Governor received advices that the Commander-in-Chief had ordered the Sixty-Fourth and Sixty-Fifth Regiments, with the train of artillery, to Halifax, and that he had directed General Mackay to confer with his Excellency as to the disposition of the remainder of the troops, whether His Majesty's service required that any should be posted longer in Boston, and if so, what the number should be. The Governor was further requested to give his opinion on this point in writing.
As the Governor had received no intimation of such a change of policy from his friends in England, he could hardly find words in which to express his astonishment. He wrote, two days after, that nothing could be more mal-à-propos to the business of Government or hard upon him; that it was cruel to have this forced upon him at such a time and in such a manner; and as the question was put, it was hardly less than whether he should abdicate government. "If the troops are removed," he wrote, "the principal officers of the Crown, the friends of Government, and the importers of goods from England in defiance of the combination, who are considerable and numerous, must remove also," which would have been quite an extensive removal. He wrote to Lord Hillsborough,--"It is impossible to express my surprise at this proposition, or my embarrassment on account of the requisition of an answer."
The other communication was a right royal greeting. Up to this time the letters to the Governor from the members of the Government, private as well as official, had been to him of the most gratifying character, to say nothing of the gift of the baronetcy. "I can give you the pleasure of knowing," Lord Barrington wrote to him, (April 5, 1769,) "that last Sunday the King spoke with the highest approbation of your conduct and services in his closet to me"; but in a postscript to this letter were the ominous words,--"I understand you are directed to come hither; but Lord Hillsborough authorizes me to say, you need not be in any inconvenient haste to obey that instruction." This order, in the manuscript, is indorsed, "Received June 10, 1769"; and being unique, it is here copied from the original, which has Hillsborough's autograph:--
"Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. Whereas we have thought fit by our royal license under our signet and sign-manual bearing date the twenty-second day of June, 1768, in the eighth year of our reign, to permit you to return into this our kingdom of Great Britain: Our will and pleasure therefore is, that as soon as conveniently may be, after the receipt hereof, you do repair to this our kingdom in order to lay before us a state of our province of Massachusetts Bay. And so we bid you farewell. Given at our court at St. James the twenty-third day of March, 1769, in the ninth year of our reign.
"By His Majesty's command, "HILLSBOROUGH."
It was now an active time with the Patriots. Before the Governor had a chance to talk with General Mackay or to write to General Gage, the news spread all over the town that the two regiments were ordered off; and with this there was circulated the story, that Commissioner Temple had received a letter from George Grenville containing the assurance that the Governor would be immediately recalled with disgrace, that three of the Commissioners of the Customs would be turned off directly, and that next winter the Board would be dissolved; and Bernard, who tells these incidents, says that the reports exalted the Sons of Liberty as though the bells had rung for a triumph, while there was consternation among the crown officials, the importers, and the friends of Government. Here was thrust upon Bernard, over again, the question of the introduction of the troops.
The Governor was as much embarrassed by the requisition for an answer in writing as to the two regiments that were not ordered off as he was astonished at the order that had been given; and on getting a note from General Mackay, he gave the verbal answer, that he would write to General Gage. Meantime, while Bernard was hesitating, the Patriots were acting, and immediately applied themselves to counteract the influence which they knew was making to retain the two regiments. One hundred and forty-two of the citizens petitioned the Selectmen for a town-meeting, at which it was declared, that the law of the land made ample provision for the security of life and property, and that the presence of the troops was an insult. After a week's hesitation, the Governor wrote to General Gage, who had promised inviolable secrecy, that to remove a portion of the two regiments would be detrimental to His Majesty's service; to remove all of these troops would be quite ruinous to the cause of the Crown; but that one regiment in the town and one at the Castle might be sufficient. Of course, General Gage, if he paid any respect to the Governor's advice, could do no less than order both regiments to remain. Thus was it that the two Sam Adams Regiments continued in town, designed for evil, but working for the good of the common cause.
Governor Bernard, during the month of June, and down to the middle of July, was greatly disturbed by the manly stand of the General Court; and, because of its refusal to enter upon the public business under the mouths of British cannon, adjourned it to Cambridge. On the night after this adjournment, the cannon were removed. These irritating proceedings made this body still more high-toned. While in this mood, it received from the Governor two messages, (July 6 and 12,) asking an appropriation of money to meet the expenses which had been incurred by the crown officers in quartering troops in Boston. The members nobly met this demand by returning to the Governor (July 15, 1769) a grandly worded state-paper, in which, claiming the rights of freeborn Englishmen, as confirmed by Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights, and as settled by the Revolution and the British Charter, they expressly declared that they never would make provision for the purposes mentioned in the two messages. On the same day, it was represented in the House that armed soldiers had rescued a prisoner from the hands of justice, when two constables were ordered to attend on the floor who were heard on the matter, and a committee was then appointed to consider it. But Secretary Oliver now appeared with a message from the Governor to the effect that he was at the Court-House and directed the immediate attendance of the members. They accordingly, with Speaker Cushing at their head, repaired to the Governor, who, after a haughty speech charging them with proclaiming ideas lacking in dignity to the Crown and inconsistent with the Province continuing a part of the British Empire, prorogued the Court until the 10th of January.
The press arraigned the arbitrary proceedings of the Governor with great boldness and a just severity; while it declared that the action taken by the intrepid House of Representatives, with rare unanimity, was supported by the almost universal sentiments of the people. The last act of the Governor, the prorogation of the General Court for six months, was especially criticized; and after averring that such long prorogations, in such critical times, could never promote the true service of His Majesty or the tranquility of his good subjects, it predicted that impartial history would hang up Governor Bernard as a warning to his successors who had any sense of character, and perhaps his future fortune might be such as to teach even the most selfish of them not to tread in his steps.
On the day this prediction was written, (August 1, 1769,) Sir Francis Bernard, in the Rippon, was on his way to England. Congratulations among the people, exultation on the part of the press, the Union Flag on Liberty Tree, salutes from Hancock's Wharf, and bonfires, in the evening, on the hills, expressed the general joy. And yet Francis Bernard was hardly a faithful representative of the proud imperial power for which he acted. He was a bad Governor, but he was not so bad as the cause he was obliged to uphold. He was arbitrary, but he was not so arbitrary as his instructions. He was vacillating, but he was not so vacillating as the Ministers. When he gave the conciliatory reply to the June town-meeting, it was judged that he lowered the national standard, and it seriously damaged him at Court; when he spoke in the imperial tone that characterized the British rule of that day, he was rewarded with a baronetcy. The Governor after months of reflection, in England, on reviewing in an elaborate letter the political path he had travelled, indicated both his deep chagrin and his increase of wisdom in the significant words,--"I was obliged to give up, a victim to the bad policy and irresolution of the supreme Government."
The execution of a bad policy as directed by an irresolute Ministry was now the lot of Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson. It was embodied in the question of the removal of the troops; and this question was not decided, until, after months of confusion and distress, the blood and slaughter of His Majesty's good subjects compelled an indignant American public opinion to command their departure from the town of Boston.
At five, P. M., we found ourselves--Iglesias, a party of friends, and myself--on board the Isaac Newton, a great, ugly, three-tiered box that walks the North River, like a laboratory of greasy odors.
In this stately cinder-mill were American citizens. Not to discuss spitting, which is for spittoons, not literature, our fellow-travellers on the deck of the "floating palace" were passably endurable people, in looks, style, and language. I dodge discrimination, and characterize them en masse by negations. The passengers of the Isaac Newton, on a certain evening of July, 18--, were not so intrusively green and so gasping as Britons, not so ill-dressed and pretentious as Gauls, not so ardently futile and so lubberly as Germans. Such were the negative virtues of our fellow-citizen travellers; and base would it be to exhibit their positive vices.
And so no more of passengers or passage. I will not describe our evening on the river. Alas for the duty of straight-forwardness and dramatic unity! Episodes seem so often sweeter than plots! The way-side joys are better than the final successes. The flowers along the vista, brighter than the victor-wreaths at its close. I may not dally on my way, turning to the right and the left for beauty and caricature. I will balance on the strict edge of my narrative, as a seventh-heavenward Mahometan with wine-forbidden steadiness of poise treads Al Seràt, his bridge of a sword-blade.
Next morning, at Albany, divergent trains cleft our party into a better and a worser half. The beautiful girls, our better half, fled westward to ripen their pallid roses with richer summer-hues in mosquitoless inland dells. Iglesias and I were still northward bound.
At the Saratoga station we sipped a dreary, faded reminiscence of former joys and sparkling brilliancy long dead, in cups of Congress-water, brought by unattractive Ganymedes and sold in the train,--draughts flat, flabby, and utterly bubbleless, lukewarm heel-taps with a flavor of savorless salt.
Still northward journeying, and feeling the sea-side moisture evaporate from our blood under inland suns and sultry inland breezes, we came to Lake Champlain.
As before banquets, to excite appetite, one takes the gentle oyster, so we, before the serious pleasure of our journey, tasted the Adirondack region, paradise of Cockney sportsmen. There through the forest, the stag of ten trots, coquetting with greenhorns. He likes the excitement of being shot at and missed. He enjoys the smell of powder in a battle where he is always safe. He hears Greenhorn blundering through the woods, stopping to growl at briers, stopping to revive his courage with the Dutch supplement. The stag of ten awaits his foe in a glade. The foe arrives, sees the antlered monarch, and is panic-struck. He watches him prance and strike the ground with his hoofs. He slowly recovers heart, takes a pull at his flask, rests his gun upon a log, and begins to study his mark. The stag will not stand still. Greenhorn is baffled. At last his target turns and carefully exposes that region of his body where Greenhorn has read lies the heart. Just about to fire, he catches the eye of the stag winking futility into his elaborate aim. His blunderbuss jerks upward. A shower of cut leaves floats through the smoke, from a tree thirty feet overhead. Then, with a mild-eyed melancholy look of reproachful contempt, the stag turns away, and wanders off to sleep in quiet coverts far within the wood. He has fled, while for Greenhorn no trophy remains. Antlers have nodded to the sportsman; a short tail has disappeared before his eyes;--he has seen something, but has nothing to show. Whereupon he buys a couple of pairs of ancient weather-bleached horns from some colonist, and, nailing them up at impossible angles on the wall of his city-den, humbugs brother-Cockneys with tales of vénerie, and has for life his special legend, "How I shot my first deer in the Adirondacks."
The Adirondacks provide a compact, convenient, accessible little wilderness,--an excellent field for the experiments of tyros. When the tyro, whether shot, fisherman, or forester, has proved himself fully there, let him dislodge into some vaster wilderness, away from guides by the day and superintending hunters, away from the incursions of the Cockney tribe, and let out the caged savage within him for a tough struggle with Nature. It needs a struggle tough and resolute to force that Protean lady to observe at all her challenger.
It is well to go to the Adirondacks. They are shaggy, and shagginess is a valuable trait. The lakes are very well,--very well indeed. The objection to the region is not the mountains, which are reasonably shaggy,--not the lakes and rivers, which are water, a capital element. The real difficulty is the society: not the autochthonous society,--they are worthy people, and it is hardly to be mentioned as a fault that they are not a discriminating race, and will asseverate that all fish are trout, and the most arrant mutton is venison,--but the immigrant, colonizing society. Cockneys are to be found at every turn, flaunting their banners of the awkward squad, proclaiming to the world with protuberant pride that they are the veritable backwoodsmen,--rather doing it, rather astonishing the natives, they think. And so they are. One squad of such neophytes might be entertaining; but when every square mile echoes with their hails, lost, poor babes, within a furlong of their camps, and when the woods become dim and the air civic with their cooking-smokes, and the subtle odor of fried pork overpowers methylic fragrance among the trees, then he who loves forests for their solitude leaves these brethren to their clumsy joys, and wanders elsewhere deeper into sylvan scenes.
Our visit to the Adirondacks was episodic; and as I have forsworn episodes, I turn away from them with this mild slander, and strike again our Maine track. With lips impurpled by the earliest huckleberries, we came out again upon Champlain. We crossed that water-logged valley in a steamboat, and hastened on, through a pleasant interlude of our rough journey, across Vermont and New Hampshire, two States not without interest to their residents, but of none to this narrative.
By coach and wagon, by highway and by-way, by horse-power and steam-power, we proceeded, until it chanced, one August afternoon, that we left railways and their regions at a way-side station, and let our lingering feet march us along the Valley of the Upper Connecticut. This lovely river, baptizer of Iglesias's childhood, was here shallow and musical, half river, half brook; it had passed the tinkling period, and plashed and rumbled voicefully over rock and shallow.
It was a fair and verdant valley where we walked, overlooked by hills of pleasant pastoral slope. All the land was gay and ripe with yellow harvest. Strolling along, as if the business of travel were forgotten, we placidly identified ourselves with the placid scenery. We became Arcadians both. Such is Arcadia, if I have read aright: a realm where sunshine never scorches, and yet shade is sweet; where simple pleasures please; where the blue sky and the bright water and the green fields satisfy forever.
We were in lightest marching-trim. Iglesias bore an umbrella, our armor against what heaven could do with assault of sun or shower. I was weaponed with a staff, should brute or biped uncourteous dispute our way. We had no impediments of "great trunk, little trunk, bandbox, and bundle." A thoughtful man hardly feels honest in his life except as a pedestrian traveller. "La propriété c'est le vol"--which the West more briefly expresses by calling baggage "plunder." What little plunder our indifferent honesty had packed for this journey we had left with a certain stage-coachman, perhaps to follow us, perhaps to become his plunder. We were thus disconnected from any depressing influence; we had no character to sustain; we were heroes in disguise, and could make our observations on life and manners, without being invited to a public hand-shaking, or to exhibit feats in jugglery, for either of which a traveller with plenteous portmanteaus, hair or leather, must be prepared in villages thereabouts. Totally unembarrassed, we lounged along or leaped along, light-hearted. When the river neared us, or winsome brooklet from the hill-side thwarted our path, we stooped and lapped from their pools of coolness, or tasted that most ethereal tipple, the mingled air and water of electric bubbles, as they slid brightly toward our lips.
The angle of the sun's rays grew less and less, the wheat-fields were tinged more golden by the clinging beams, our shadows lengthened, as if exercise of an afternoon were stimulating to such unreal essences. Finally the blue dells and gorges of a wooded mountain, for two hours our landmark, rose between us and the sun. But the sun's Parthian arrows gave him a splendid triumph, more signal for its evanescence. A storm was inevitable, and sunset prepared a reconciling pageant.
Now, as may be supposed, Iglesias has an eye for a sunset. That summer's crop had been very short, and he had been some time on starvation-allowance of cloudy magnificence. We therefore halted by the road-side, and while I committed the glory to memory, Iglesias entrusted his distincter memorial to a sketch-book.
We were both busy, he repeating forms, noting shades and tints, and I studying without pictorial intent, when we heard a hail in the road below our bank. It was New Hampshire, near the Maine line, and near the spot where nasal organs are fabricated that twang the roughest.
"Say!" shrieked up to us a freckled native, holding fast to the tail of a calf, the last of a gambolling family he was driving,--"Say! whodger doon up thurr? Layn aoot taoonshup lains naoou, aancher? Cauds ur suvvares raoond. Spekkleayshn goan on, ur guess."
We allowed this unmelodious vocalist to respect us by permitting him to believe us surveyors in another sense than as we were. One would not be despised as an unpractical citizen, a mere looker at Nature with no immediate view to profit, even by a freckled calf-driver of the Upper Connecticut. While we parleyed, the sketch was done, and the pageant had faded quick before the storm.
Splendor had departed; the world in our neighborhood had fallen into the unillumined dumps. An ominous mournfulness, far sadder than the pensiveness of twilight, drew over the sky. Clouds, that donned brilliancy for the fond parting of mountain-tops and the sun, now grew cheerless and gray; their gay robes were taken from them, and with bended heads they fled away from the sorrowful wind. In western glooms beyond the world a dreary gale had been born, and now came wailing like one that for all his weariness may not rest, but must go on harmful journeys and bear evil tidings. With the vanguard gusts came volleys of rain, malicious assaults, giving themselves the trouble to tell us in an offensive way what we could discover for ourselves, that a wetting impended and umbrellas would soon be nought.
While the storm was thus nibbling before it bit, we lengthened our strides to escape. Water, concentrated in flow of stream or pause of lake, is charming; not so to the shelterless is water diffused in dash of deluge. Water, when we choose our method of contact, is a friend; when it masters us, it is a foe; when it drowns us or ducks us, a very exasperating foe. Proud pedestrians become very humble personages, when thoroughly vanquished by a ducking deluge. A wetting takes out the starch not only from garments, but the wearers of them. Iglesias and I did not wish to stand all the evening steaming before a kitchen-fire, inspecting meanwhile culinary details: Phillis in the kitchen is not always as fresh as Phillis in the field. We therefore shook ourselves into full speed and bolted into our inn at Colebrook; and the rain, like a portcullis, dropped solid behind us.
In town, the landlord is utterly merged in his hotel. He is a sovereign rarely apparent. In the country, the landlord is a personality. He is greater than the house he keeps. Men arriving inspect the master of the inn narrowly. If his first glance is at the pocket, cheer will be bad; if at the eyes or the lips, you need not take a cigar before supper to keep down your appetite.
Our landlord was of the latter type. He surged out of the little box where he was dispensing not too fragrant rummers to a circle of village-politicians, and congratulated us on our arrival before the storm. He was a discriminating person. He detected us at once, saw we were not tramps or footpads, and led us to the parlor, a room attractively furnished with a map of the United States and an oblong music-book open at "Old Hundred." Our host further felicitated us that we had not stopped at a certain tavern below, where, as he said,--
"They cut a chunk er beef and drop 't into a pot to bile, and bile her three days, and then don't have noth'n' else for three weeks."
He put his head out of the door and called,--
"George, go aoot and split up that 'ere wood as fine as chaowder: these men 'll want their supper right off."
Drawing in his head, he continued to us confidentially,--
"That 'ere George is jes' like a bird: he goes off at one snappin'."
Our host then rolled out toward the bar-room, to discuss with his cronies who we might be. From the window we perceived the birdlike George fly and alight near the specified wood, which he proceeded to bechowder. He brought in the result of his handiwork, as smiling as a basket of chips. Neat-handed Phillis at the door received the chowder, and by its aid excited a sound and a smell, both prophetic of supper. And we, willing to repose after a sixteen-mile afternoon-walk, lounged upon sofa or tilted in rocking-chair, taking the available mental food, namely, "Godey's Lady's Book" and the Almanac.
Next morning it poured. The cinders before the blacksmith's shop opposite had yielded their black dye to the dismal puddles. The village cocks were sadly draggled and discouraged, and cowered under any shelter, shivering within their drowned plumage. Who on such a morn would stir? Who but the Patriot? Hardly had we breakfasted, when he, the Patriot, waited upon us. It was a Presidential campaign. They were starving in his village for stump-speeches. Would the talking man of our duo go over and feed their ears with a fiery harangue? Patriot was determined to be first with us; others were coming with similar invitations; he was the early bird. Ah, those portmanteaus! they had arrived, and betrayed us.
We would not be snapped up. We would wriggle away. We were very sorry, but we must start at once to pursue our journey.
"But it pours," said Patriot.
"Patriot," replied our talking member, "man is flesh; and flesh, however sweet or savory it may be, does not melt in water."
Thus fairly committed to start, we immediately opened negotiations for a carriage. "No go," was the first response of the coachman. Our willy was met by his nilly. But we pointed out to him that we could not stay there all a dismal day,--that we must, would, could, should go. At last we got within coachee's outworks. His nilly broke down into shilly-shally. He began to state his objections; then we knew he was ready to yield. We combated him, clinking the supposed gold of coppers in our pockets, or carelessly chucking a tempting half-dollar at some fly on the ceiling. So presently we prevailed, and he retired to make ready.
By-and-by a degraded family-carriage came to the door. It came by some feeble inertia left latent in it by some former motive-power, rather than was dragged up by its more degraded nags. A very unwholesome coach. No doubt a successful quack-doctor had used it in his prosperous days for his wife and progeny; no doubt it had subsequently become the property of a second-class undertaker, and had conveyed many a quartette of cheap clergymen to the funerals of poor relations whose leaking sands of life left no gold-dust behind. Such was our carriage for a rainy day.
The nags were of the huckleberry or flea-bitten variety,--a freckled white. Perhaps the quack had fed them with his refuse pills. These knobby-legged unfortunates we of course named Xanthus and Balius, not of podargous or swift-footed, but podagrous or gouty race. Xanthus, like his Achillean namesake, (vide Pope's Homer,)
"Seemed sensible of woe and dropped his head,--
Trembling he stood before the (seedy) wain."
Balius was in equally deplorable mood. Both seemed more sensible to "Whoa" than to "Hadaap." Podagrous beasts, yet not stiffened to immobility. Gayer steeds would have sundered the shackling drag. These would never, by any gamesome caracoling, endanger the coherency of pole with body, of axle with wheel. From end to end the equipage was congruous. Every part of the machine was its weakest part, and that fact gave promise of strength: an invalid never dies. Moreover, the coach suited the day: the rusty was in harmony with the dismal. It suited the damp unpainted houses and the tumble-down blacksmith's-shop. We contented ourselves with this artistic propriety. We entered, treading cautiously. The machine, with gentle spasms, got itself in motion, and steered due east for Lake Umbagog. The smiling landlord, the disappointed Patriot, and the birdlike George waved us farewell.
Coachee was in the sulks. The rain, beat upon him, and we by purse-power had compelled him to encounter discomfort. His self-respect must be restored by superiority over somebody. He had been beaten and must beat. He did so. His horses took the lash until he felt at peace with himself. Then half-turning toward us, he made his first remark.
"Them two hosses is gorming."
"Yes," we replied, "they do seem rather so."
This was of course profound hypocrisy; but "gorming" meant some bad quality, and any might be safely predicated of our huckleberry pair. Who will admit that he does not know all that is to be known in horse-matters? We therefore asked no questions, but waited patiently for information.
Delay pays demurrage to the wisely patient. Coachee relapsed into the sulks. The driving rain resolved itself into a dim chaos of mist. Xanthus and Balius plodded on, but often paused and gasped, or, turning their heads as if they missed something, strayed from the track and drew us against the dripping bushes. After one such excursion, which had nearly been the ruin of us, and which by calling out coachee's scourging powers had put him thoroughly in good-humor, he turned to us and said, superlatively,--
"Them's the gormingest hosses I ever see. When I drew 'em in the four-hoss coach for wheelers, they could keep a straight tail. Now they act like they was drunk. They's gorming,--they won't do nothin' without a leader."
To gorm, then, is to err when there is no leader. Alas, how mankind gorms!
By sunless noon we were well among the mountains. We came to the last New-Hampshire house, miles from its neighbors. But it was a self-sufficing house, an epitome of humanity. Grandmamma, bald under her cap, was seated by the stove dandling grandchild, bald under its cap. Each was highly entertained with the other. Grandpapa was sandy with grandboy's gingerbread-crumbs. The intervening ages were well represented by wiry men and shrill women. The house, also, without being tavern or shop, was an amateur bazaar of vivers and goods. Anything one was likely to want could be had there,--even a melodeon and those inevitable Patent-Office Reports. Here we descended, lunched, and providently bought a general assortment, namely, a large plain cake, five pounds of cheese, a ball of twine, and two pairs of brown ribbed woollen socks, native manufacture. My pair of these indestructibles will outlast my last legs and go as an heirloom after me.
The weather now, as we drove on, seemed to think that Iglesias deserved better of it. Rain-globes strung upon branches, each globe the possible home of a sparkle, had waited long enough unillumined. Sunlight suddenly discovered this desponding patience and rewarded it. Every drop selected its own ray from the liberal bundle, and, crowding itself full of radiance, became a mirror of sky and cloud and forest. Also, by the searching sunbeams' store of regal purple, ripe raspberries were betrayed. On these, magnified by their convex lenses of water, we pounced. Showers shook playfully upon us from the vines, while we revelled in fruitiness. We ran before our gormers, they gormed by us while we plucked, we ran by, plucked again, and again were gormingly overtaken and overtook. Thus we ate our way luxuriously through the Dixville Notch, a capital cleft in a northern spur of the White Mountains.
Picturesque is a curiously convenient, undiscriminating epithet. I use it here. The Dixville Notch is, briefly, picturesque,--a fine gorge between a crumbling conical crag and a scarped precipice,--a pass easily defensible, except at the season when raspberries would distract sentinels.
Now we came upon our proper field of action. We entered the State of Maine at Township Letter B. A sharper harshness of articulation in stray passengers told us that we were approaching the vocal influence of the name Androscoggin. People talked as if, instead of ivory ring or coral rattle to develop their infantile teeth, they had bitten upon pine knots. Voices were resinous and astringent. An opera, with a chorus drummed up in those regions, could dispense with violins.
Toward evening we struck the river, and found it rasping and crackling over rocks as an Androscoggin should. We passed the last hamlet, then the last house but one, and finally drew up at the last and northernmost house, near the lumbermen's dam below Lake Umbagog. The damster, a stalwart brown chieftain of the backwoodsman race, received us with hearty hospitality. Xanthus and Balius stumbled away on their homeward journey. And after them the crazy coach went moaning: it was not strong enough to creak or rattle.
Next day was rainy. It had, however, misty intervals. In these we threw a fly for trout and caught a chub in Androscoggin. Or, crouched on the bank of a frog-pond, we tickled frogs with straws. Yes, and fun of the freshest we found it. Certain animals, and especially frogs, were created, shaped, and educated to do the grotesque, that men might study them, laugh, and grow fat. It was a droll moment with Nature, when she entertained herself and prepared entertainment for us by devising the frog, that burlesque of bird, beast, and man, and taught him how to move and how to speak and sing. Iglesias and I did not disdain batrachian studies, and set no limit to our merriment at their quaint, solemn, half-human pranks. One question still is unresolved,--Why do frogs stay and be tickled? They snap snappishly at the titillating straw; they snatch at it with their weird little hands; they parry it skilfully. They hardly can enjoy being tickled, and yet they endure, paying a dear price for the society of their betters. Frogs the frisky, frogs the spotted, were our comedy that day. Whenever the rain ceased, we rushed forth and tickled them, and thus vicariously tickled ourselves into more than patience, into jollity. So the day passed quickly.
While we were not tickling frogs, we were talking lumber with the Umbagog damster. I had already coasted Maine, piloted by Iglesias, and knew the fisherman-life; now, under the same experienced guidance, I was to study inland scenes, and take lumbermen for my heroes.
Maine has two classes of warriors among its sons,--fighters of forest and fighters of sea. Braves must join one or the other army. The two are close allies. Only by the aid of the woodmen can the watermen build their engines of victory. The seamen in return purvey the needful luxuries for lumber-camps. Foresters float down timber that seamen may build snips and go to the saccharine islands of the South for molasses: for without molasses no lumberman could be happy in the unsweetened wilderness. Pork lubricates his joints; molasses gives tenacity to his muscles.
Lumbering develops such men as Pindar saw when he pictured Jason, his forest hero. Life is a hearty and vigorous movement to them, not a drooping slouch. Summer is their season of preparation; winter, of the campaign; spring, of victory. All over the north of the State, whatever is not lake or river is forest. In summer, the Viewer, like a military engineer, marks out the region, and the spots of future attack. He views the woods; and wherever a monarch tree crowns the leafy level, he finds his way, and blazes a path. Not all trees are worthy of the axe. Miles of lesser timber remain untouched. A Maine forest after a lumber-campaign is like France after a coup d'état: the bourgeoisie are prosperous as ever, but the great men are all gone.
While the viewer views, his followers are on commissariat and quartermaster's service. They are bringing up their provisions and fortifying their camp. They build their log-station, pile up barrels of pork, beans, and molasses, like mortars and Paixhans in an arsenal, and are ready for a winter of stout toil and solid jollity.
Stout is the toil, and the life seemingly dreary, to those who cower by ingle-nooks or stand over registers. But there is stirring excitement in this bloodless war, and around plenteous camp-fires vigor of merriment and hearty comradry. Men who wield axes and breathe hard have lungs. Blood aërated by the air that sings through the pine-woods tingles in every fibre. Tingling blood makes life joyous. Joy can hardly look without a smile or speak without a laugh. And merry is the evergreen-wood in electric winter.
Snows fall level in the sheltered, still forest. Road-making is practicable. The region is already channelled with watery ways. An imperial pine, with its myriads of feet of future lumber, is worth another path cut through the bush to the frozen riverside. Down goes his Majesty Pinus I., three half-centuries old, having reigned fifty years high above all his race. A little fellow with a little weapon has dethroned the quiet old king. Pinus I was very strong at bottom, but the little revolutionist was stronger at top. Brains without much trouble had their will of stolid matter. The tree fallen, its branches are lopped, its purple trunk is shortened into lengths. The teamster arrives with oxen in full steam, and rimy with frozen breath about their indignant nostrils. As he comes and goes, he talks to his team for company; his conversation is monotonous as the talk of lovers, but it has a cheerful ring through the solitude. The logs are chained and dragged creaking along over the snow to the river-side. There the subdivisions of Pinus the Great become a basis for a mighty snow-mound. But the mild March winds blow from seaward. Spring bourgeons. One day the ice has gone. The river flows visible; and now that its days of higher beauty and grace have come, it climbs high up its banks to show that it is ready for new usefulness. It would be dreary for the great logs to see new verdure springing all around them, while they lay idly rotting or sprouting with uncouth funguses, not unsuspect of poison. But they will not be wasted. Lumbermen, foes to idleness and inutility, swarm again about their winter's trophies. They imprint certain cabalistic tokens of ownership on the logs,--crosses, xs, stars, crescents, alphabetical letters,--marks respected all along the rivers and lakes down to the boom where the sticks are garnered for market. The marked logs are tumbled into the brimming stream, and so ends their forest-life.
Now comes "the great spring drive." Maine waters in spring flow under an illimitable raft. Every camp contributes its myriads of brown cylinders to the millions that go bobbing down rivers with jaw-breaking names. And when the river broadens to a lake, where these impetuous voyagers might be stranded or miss their way and linger, they are herded into vast rafts, and towed down by boats, or by steam-tugs, if the lake is large as Moosehead. At the lake-foot the rafts break up and the logs travel again dispersedly down stream, or through the "thoro'fare" connecting the members of a chain of lakes. The hero of this epoch is the Head-Driver. The head-driver of a timber-drive leads a disorderly army, that will not obey the word of command. Every log acts as an individual, according to certain imperious laws of matter, and every log is therefore at loggerheads with every other log. The marshal must be in the thick of the fight, keeping his forces well in hand, hurrying stragglers, thrusting off the stranded, leading his phalanxes wisely round curves and angles, lest they be jammed and fill the river with a solid mass. As the great sticks come dashing along, turning porpoise-like somersets or leaping up twice their length in the air, he must be everywhere, livelier than a monkey in a mimosa, a wonder of acrobatic agility in biggest boots. He made the proverb, "As easy as falling off a log."
Hardly less important is the Damster. To him it falls to conserve the waters at a proper level. At his dam, generally below a lake, the logs collect and lie crowded. The river, with its obstacles of rock and rapid, would anticipate wreck for these timbers of future ships. Therefore, when the spring drive is ready, and the head-driver is armed with his jackboots and his iron-pointed sceptre, the damster opens his sluices and lets another river flow through atop of the rock-shattered river below. The logs of each proprietor, detected by their marks, pay toll as they pass the gates and rush bumptiously down the flood.
Far down, at some water-power nearest the reach of tide, a boom checks the march of this formidable body. The owners step forward and claim their slicks. Dowse takes all marked with three crosses and a dash. Sowse selects whatever bears two crescents and a star. Rowse pokes about for his stock, inscribed clip, dash, star, dash, clip. Nobody has counterfeited these hieroglyphs. The tale is complete. The logs go to the saw-mill. Sawdust floats seaward. The lumbermen junket. So ends the log-book.
"Maine," said our host, the Damster of Umbagog, "was made for lumbering-work. We never could have got the trees out, without these lakes and dams."
[To be continued.]
TO WILLIAM LOWELL PUTNAM,
AFTER SEEING TWO PHOTOGRAPHS OF HIM.
The blood that flows in bounding veins,
Doers and sufferers of God's will
Two portraits light my chamber-wall,
With gleaming hilt, girt for the fray
But, lo! he turns, he folds his hands;
Through looks that match each varied thought
Young leader! quick to win a name
CARIB SLAVES--INTRODUCTION OF NEGROES--LAS CASAS--DECAY OF SAN DOMINGO.
Among the natives captured by the Spaniards in the neighboring islands and upon the Terra Firma, as the South-American coast was called,--were numerous representatives of Carib tribes, who had been released by Papal dispensation from the difficulties and anxieties of freedom in consequence of their reputation for cannibalism. This vicious taste was held to absolve the Spaniards from all the considerations of policy and mercy which the Dominicans pressed upon them in the case of the more graceful and amiable Haitians. But we do not find that Las Casas himself made any exception of them in his pleadings for the Indians; for, though he does not mention cannibalism in the list of imputed crimes which the Spaniards held as justification in making war upon the natives to enslave them, he vindicates them from other charges, such as that of sacrificing infants to their idols. The Spaniards were touched with compassion at seeing so many innocent beings perish before arriving at years of discretion, and without having received baptism. They argued that such a practice, which was worse than a crime, because it was a theological blunder, could not be carried on in a state of slavery. "This style of reasoning," says Las Casas, "proves absolutely nothing; for God knows better than men what ought to be the future destiny of children who die in the immense countries where the Christian religion is unknown. His mercy is infinitely greater than the collective charity of mankind; and in the interim He permits things to follow their ordinary course, without charging anybody to interfere and prevent their consequences by means of war."
The first possessors of Hayti were startled at the multitude of human bones which were found in some of the caverns of the island, for they were considered as confirming the reports of cannibalism which had reached them. These ossuaries were accidental; perhaps natives seeking shelter from the hurricane or earthquake were overwhelmed in these retreats, or blocked up and left to perish. We have no reason to believe that the caves had been used for centuries. And even the Caribs did not keep the bones which they picked, to rise up in judgment against them at last, clattering indictments of the number of their feasts. Nor do they seem to have shared the taste of the old Scandinavian and the modern Georgian or Alabamian, who have been known to turn drinking-cups and carve ornaments out of the skeletons of their enemies.
But they liked the taste of human flesh. The difference between them and the Spaniard was merely that the latter devoured men's flesh in the shape of cotton, sugar, gold. And the native discrimination was not altogether unpraiseworthy, if the later French missionaries can be exonerated from national prejudice, when they declare that the Caribs said Spaniards were meagre and indigestible, while a Frenchman made a succulent and peptic meal. But if he was a person of a religious habit, priest or monk, woe to the incautious Carib who might dine upon him! a mistake in the article of mushrooms were not more fatal. Du Tertre relates that a French priest was killed and smoke-dried by the Caribs, and then devoured with satisfaction. But many who dined upon the unfortunate man, whom the Church had ordained to feed her sheep less literally, died suddenly: others were afflicted with extraordinary diseases. Afterwards they avoided Christians as an article of food, being content with slaying them as often as possible, but leaving them untouched.
The Caribs were very impracticable in a state of slavery. Their stubborn and rigid nature could not become accommodated to a routine of labor. They fled to the mountains, and began marooning; but they carried with them the scar of the hot iron upon the thigh, which labelled them as natives in a state of war, and therefore reclaimable as slaves. The Dominicans made a vain attempt to limit this branding to the few genuine Caribs who were reduced to slavery; but the custom was universal of marking Indians to compel them to pass for Caribs, after which they were sold and transferred with avidity, the authorities having no power to enforce the legal discrimination. The very existence of this custom offered a premium to cruelty, by furnishing the colonists with a technical permission to enslave.
But the supply could not keep up with the insatiable demand. The great expeditions which were organized to sweep the Terra Firma and the adjacent islands of their population found the warlike Caribs difficult to procure. The supply of laborers was failing just at the period when the colonists began to see that the gold of Hayti was scattered broadcast through her fertile soil, which became transmuted into crops at the touch of the spade and hoe. Plantations of cacao, ginger, cotton, indigo, and tobacco were established; and in 1506 the sugar-cane, which was not indigenous, as some have affirmed, was introduced from the Canaries. Vellosa, a physician in the town of San Domingo, was the first to cultivate it on a large scale, and to express the juice by means of the cylinder-mill, which he invented. The Government, seeing the advantages to be derived from this single article, offered to lend five hundred gold piastres to every colonist who would fit up a sugar-plantation. Thus stimulated, the cultivation of the cane throve so, that as early as 1518 the island possessed forty sugar-works with mills worked by horse-power or water. But the plantations were less merciful to the Indians than the mines, and in 1503 there began to be a scarcity of human labor.
At this date we first hear that negroes had been introduced into the colony. But their introduction into Spain and Europe took place early in the fifteenth century. "Ortiz de Zuñigo, as Humboldt reports, with his usual exactness, says distinctly that 'blacks had been already brought to Seville in the reign of Henry III of Castile,' consequently before 1406. 'The Catalans and the Normans frequented the western coast of Africa as far as the Tropic of Cancer at least forty-five years before the epoch at which Don Henry the Navigator commenced his series of discoveries beyond Cape Nun.'"
But the practice of buying and selling slaves in Europe can be traced as far back as the tenth century, when fairs were established in all the great cities. Prisoners of war, representing different nations at different times, according to the direction which the love of piracy and conquest took, were exposed at those great periodical sales of merchandise to the buyers who flocked from every land. The Northern cities around the Baltic have the distinction of displaying these human goods quite as early as Venice or any commercial centre of the South: the municipal privileges and freedom of those famous cities were thus nourished partly by a traffic in mankind, for whose sake privilege and right are alone worth having. Seven thousand Danish slaves were exposed at one fair held in the city of Mecklenburg at the end of the twelfth century. They had the liberty of being ransomed, but only distinguished captives could be saved in that way from being sold. The price ranged from one to three marks. It is difficult to tell from this how valuable a man was considered, for the relation of the mark to other merchandise, or, in other words, the value of the currency, cannot be represented by modern sums, which are only technically equivalent,--as a mark, for instance, was then held equal to eight ounces of silver. That was not exorbitant, however, for those times, and shows that men were frequently exposed for sale. The merchants of Bristol used to sell a great many captives into Ireland; but it is recorded that the Irish were the first Christian people who agreed at length to put a stop to this traffic by refusing to have any more captives brought into their country. The Church had long before forbidden it; and there are no grounds for supposing that any other motive than humanity induced the Irish people to show this superiority to the conventions of the age.
From the essay by Schoelcher, entitled "The Slave-Trade and its Origin," which has been prepared with considerable research, we gather that the first negroes seen in Portugal were carried there in 1441. Antonio Gonzales was the name of the man who first excited his countrymen by offering for sale this human booty which he had seized. All classes of people felt a mania like that which turns the tides of emigration to Australia and California. Nothing was desired but the means of equipping vessels for the coast of Guinea. Previously to this a few Guanches from the Canaries had been exposed for sale in the markets of Lisbon and Seville, and there were many Moorish slaves in Spain, taken in the wars which preceded the expulsion of that nation. But now there was a rapid accumulation of this species of property, fed by the inexhaustible soil of Africa, whence so many millions of men have been reaped and ploughed into the soils of other lands.
In 1443, an expedition of six caravels, commanded by a gentleman of the Portuguese court, went down the coast on one of these ventures, ostensibly geographical, but really mercenary, which then excited the popular enterprise. It managed to attack some island and to make a great number of prisoners. The same year a citizen of Lisbon fitted out a vessel at his own expense, went beyond the Senegal, where he seized a great many natives, discovered Cape Verde, and was driven back to Lisbon by a storm.
Prince Henry built the fort of Mina upon the Gold Coast, and made it a depot for articles of Spanish use, which he bartered for slaves. He introduced there, and upon the island of Arguin, near Cape Blanco, the cultivation of corn and sugar; the whole coast was formally occupied by the Portuguese, whose king took the title of Lord of Guinea. Sugar went successively to Spain, Madeira, the Azores, and the West Indies, in the company of negro slaves. It was carried to Hayti just as the colonists discovered that negroes were unfit for mining. Charlevoix says that the magnificent palaces of Madrid and Toledo, the work of Charles V., were entirely built by the revenue from the entry-tax on sugar from Hayti.
At first, all prisoners taken in war, or in attacks deliberately made to bring on fighting, were sold, whatever their nation or color. This was due to the Catholic theory that all unbaptized people were infidels. But gradually the same religious influence, moved by some scruples of humanity, made a distinction between negroes and all other people, allowing only the former to become objects of traffic, because they were black as well as heathen. Thus early did physiology come to the aid of religion, notifying the Church of certain physical peculiarities which seemed to be the trade-marks of the Creator, and perpetual guaranties, like the color of woods, the odor of gums, the breadth and bone of draught-cattle, of their availability for the market. What renown has graced the names of Portuguese adventurers, and how illustrious does this epoch of the little country's life appear in history! Rivers, bays, and stormy headlands, long reaches of gold coast and ivory coast, and countries of palm-oil, and strange interiors stocked with new forms of existence, and the great route to India itself, became the charter to a brilliant fame of this mercenary heroism. Man went as far as he was impelled to go. While the stimulus continued, and the outlay was more than equalled by the income and the glory, unexplored regions yielded up their secrets, and the Continent of Africa was established by this insignificant nation to be for centuries the vast slave-nursery of the world.
When the habit of selling men began to be restricted to the selling of negroes, companies were formed to organize this business and to have it carried on with economy. The Portuguese had a monopoly of the trade for a long time. They went up and down the African coast, picking quarrels with the natives when the latter did not quarrel enough among themselves to create a suitable supply of captives. Slaves were in great demand in Spain, and quite numerous at Seville. The percentage which the Portuguese exacted induced the Spaniards at length to enter into the traffic, which they did, according to Zuñigo, in 1474.
At that time negroes were confined, like Jews, to a particular quarter of a Spanish city. They had their places of worship, their own regulations and police. "A Cédula [order] of November 8, 1474, appoints a negro named Juan de Valladolid mayoral of the blacks and mulattoes, free and slaves, in Seville. He had authority to decide in quarrels and regular processes of law, and also to legalize marriages, because, says the Cédula, 'it is within our knowledge that you are acquainted with the laws and ordinances.' He became so famous that people called him El Conde Negro, The Black Count, and his name was bestowed upon one of the streets of the negro quarter."
Thus men were born in Europe into a condition of slavery before 1500. In that year the introduction of negroes into Hayti was authorized, provided they were born in Spain in the houses of Christian masters. Negroes who had been bred in Morisco families were not allowed to be carried thither, from a well-grounded fear that the Moorish hatred had sunk too deeply into a kindred blood.
A great many slaves were immediately transported to Hayti; for in 1503, "Ovando, the Governor-General of the Indies, who had received the instructions of 1500, asked the court 'not to send any more negroes to Española, because they often escaped to the Indians, taught them bad habits, and could never be retaken.'"
Schoelcher seems to think that these first slaves were so difficult to manage because they had been reared in a civilized country; and he notices that Cardinal Ximenes, who was well acquainted with the Spanish negro, constantly refused to authorize a direct slave-trade with Hayti, because it would introduce into the colony so many enterprising and prolific people, who would revolt when they became too numerous, and bring the Spaniards themselves under the yoke. This was an early presentiment of the fortune of Hayti, but it was not justly derived from an acquaintance with the Spanish-bred negro alone; for the negroes who were afterwards transported to the colony directly from Africa had the same unaccommodating temper, which frequently disconcerted the Cardinal's theory that an African should be born and bred in a Christian city to render him unfit for slavery. This unclerical native prejudice against working for white men is so universal, and has been so consistently maintained for three hundred years, as to present a queer contradiction to those divine marks which set him apart for that condition. The Cardinal attributed, in fact, to intercourse with the spirit of his countrymen that disposition of the negro which seems to be derived from intercourse with the spirit of his Creator.
No sooner did the negro enter the climate of Hayti, and feel that more truculent and desolating one of the Spanish temper, than he began to revolt, to take to the mountains, to defend his life, to organize leagues with Caribs and other natives. The colonists were often slain in conflicts with them. The first negro insurrection in Hayti occurred in November, 1522. It began with twenty Jolof negroes belonging to Diego Columbus; others joined them; they slew and burned as they went, took negroes and Indians along with them, robbed the houses, and were falling back upon the mountains with the intent to hold them permanently against the colony. Oviedo is enthusiastic over the action of two Spanish cavaliers, who charged the blacks lance in rest, went through them several times with a handful of followers, and broke up their menacing attitude. They were then easily hunted down, and in six or seven days most of them were hanging to the trees as warnings. The rest delivered themselves up. In 1551, Charles V. forbade negroes, both free and slave, from carrying any kind of weapon. It was necessary subsequently to renew this ordinance, because the slaves continued to be as dexterous with the machete or the sabre as with the hoe.
Humboldt and others have alluded to a striking prediction made by Girolamo Benzoni, an Italian traveller who visited the islands and Terra Firma early in the sixteenth century, and witnessed the condition and temper of the blacks. It is of the clearest kind. He says, after speaking of marooning in Hayti,--"Vi sono molti Spagnuoli che tengono per cosa certa che quest' Isola in breve tempo sarà posseduta da questi Mori. Et per tanto gli governatori tengono grandissima vigilanza" etc.: "There are many Spaniards who hold it for certain that in a brief time this island will fall into the hands of the Africans. On this account the governors use the greatest vigilance." He goes on to remark the fewness of the Spaniards, and afterwards gives his own opinion to confirm the Spanish anticipation. Nothing postponed the fulfilment of this natural expectation till the close of the eighteenth century, but the sudden decay into which the island fell under Spanish rule, when it became no longer an object to import the blacks. Many Spaniards left the island before 1550, from an apprehension that the negroes would destroy the colony. Some authorities even place the number of Spaniards remaining at that time as low as eleven hundred.
The common opinion that Las Casas asked permission for the colonists to draw negroes from Africa, in order to assuage the sufferings of the Indians, does not appear to be well-founded. For negroes were drawn from Guinea as early as 1511, and his proposition was made in 1517. The Spaniards were already introducing these substitutes for the native labor, regardless of the ordinance which restricted the possession of negroes in Hayti to those born in Spain. It is not improbable that Las Casas desired to regulate a traffic which had already commenced, by inducing the Government to countenance it. His object was undoubtedly to make it easier for the colonists to procure the blacks; but it must have occurred to him that his plan would diminish, as far as possible, the miseries of an irregular transfer of the unfortunate men from Africa. (See Bridge's Jamaica, Appendix, Historical Notes on Slavery. The Spaniards had even less scruple about their treatment of the negroes than of the Indians, alleging in justification that their own countrymen sold them to the traders on the Guinea coast!)
The horrors of a middle passage in those days of small vessels and tedious voyages would have been great, if the number of slaves to be transported had not been limited by law. There is no direct evidence, however, that Las Casas made his proposition out of any regard for the negro. Charles V. resolved to allow a thousand negroes to each of the four islands, Hayti, Ferdinanda, Cuba, and Jamaica. The privilege of importing them was bestowed upon one of his Flemish favorites; but he soon sold it to some Genoese merchants, who held each negro at such a high price that only the wealthiest colonists could procure them. Herrera regrets that in this way the prudent calculation of Las Casas was defeated.
This was the first license to trade in slaves. It limited the number to four thousand, but it was a fatal precedent, which was followed by French, Spanish, and Dutch, long after the decay of the Spanish part of Hayti, till all the islands, and many parts of Central America, were filled with negroes.
It is pleasanter to dwell upon those points in which the brave and humane Las Casas surpassed his age, and prophesied against it, than upon those which he held in common with it, as he acquiesced in its instinctive life. At first it seems unaccountable that the argument which he framed with such jealous care to protect his Indians and recommend them to the mercy of Government was not felt by him to apply to the negroes with equal force. Slavery uses the same pretexts in every age and against whatsoever race it wishes to oppress. The Indians were represented by the colonists as predestined by their natural dispositions, and by their virtues as well as by their vices, to be held in tutelage by a superior race: their vices were excuses for colonial cruelty, their virtues made it worth while to keep the cruelty in vigorous exercise. In refuting this interested party, Las Casa anticipates the spirit and reasoning of later time. He was the first to utter anti-slavery principles in the Western hemisphere. We have improved upon his knowledge, but have not advanced beyond his essential spirit, for equity and iniquity always have the same leading points to make through their advocates. When we see that such a man as Las Casas was unconscious of the breadth of his own philanthropy, we wonder less at the liability of noble men to admit some average folly of their age. This is the ridiculous and astonishing feature of their costume, the exceptional bad taste which their spiritual posterity learn to disavow.
The memory of Las Casas ought to be cherished by every true democrat of these later times, for he announced, in his quality of Protector of the Indian, the principles which protect the rights of all men against oppressive authority. He was eager to convince a despotic court that it had no legal or spiritual right to enslave Indians, or to deprive them of their goods and territory. In framing his argument, he applied doctrines of the universal liberty of men, which are fatal to courts themselves; for they transfer authority to the people, who have the best of reasons for desiring to be governed well. It is astonishing that the republicanism of Las Casas has not been more carefully noted and admired; for his writings show plainly, without forced construction or after-thought of the enlightened reader, that he was in advance of Spain and Europe as far as the American theory itself is. Our Declaration of the Rights of Man shows nothing which the first Western Abolitionist had not proclaimed in the councils and conferences of Seville.
It is worth while to show this as fully as the purpose of this article will admit. One would expect to find that he counselled kings to administer their government with equal regard to the little and the great, the poor and the rich, the powerful and the miserable; for this the Catholic Church has always done, and has held a lofty theory before earthly thrones, not-withstanding its own ambitious derelictions. But Las Casas tells the Supreme Council of the Indies that no charge, no servitude, no labor can be imposed upon a people without its previous and voluntary consent; for man shares, by his origin, in the common liberty of all beings, so that every subordination of men to princes, and every burden imposed upon material things, should be inaugurated by a voluntary pact between the governing and the governed; the election of kings, princes, and magistrates, and the authority with which they are invested to rule and to tax, anciently owed their origin to a free determination of people who desired to establish thereby their own happiness; the free will of the nation is the only efficient cause, the only immediate principle and veritable source of the power of kings, and therefore the transmission of such power is only a representative act of a nation giving free expression to its own opinion. For a nation would not have recourse to such a form of government, except in accordance with its human instinct, to secure the advantage of all; nor does it, in thus delegating power, renounce its liberty, or have the intention of submitting to the domination of another, or of conceding his right to impose burdens and contributions without the consent of those who have to bear them, or to command anything that is contrary to the general interest. When a nation thus delegates a portion of its power to the sovereign, it is not done by subscribing any written contract or transaction, because primitive right presides, and there are natural reserves not expressed by men, such as that of preserving intact their individual independence, that of their property, and the right of never submitting to a privation of good or an establishment of taxes without a previous consent. People existed before kings and magistrates. Then they were free, and governed themselves according to their untrammelled intent. In process of time people make kings, but the good of the people is the final cause of their existence. Men do not make kings to be rendered miserable by their rule, but to derive from them all the good possible. Liberty is the greatest good which a people can enjoy: its rights are violated every time that a king, without consulting his people, decrees that which wounds the general interest; for, as the intention of subjects was not to grant a prince the ability to injure, all such acts ought to be considered unjust and altogether null. "Liberty is inalienable, and its price is above that of all the goods of this world."
Las Casas follows the fashion of his time in resting all his glorious axioms upon the authority of men and councils. He quotes Aristotle, Seneca, Thomas Aquinas, the different Popes, the Canons, and the Scriptures; but it is astonishing to find how democratic they all are to the enthusiastic Bishop, or rather, how the best minds of all ages have admitted the immutable principles of human nature into their theology and metaphysics. When will the Catholic Church, which has nourished and protected so many noble spirits, express in her average sentiment and policy their generous interpretations of her religion, and their imputations to her of being an embodiment of the universal religion of mankind?
Men complained of Las Casas for being severe and unsparing in his speech. In this respect, of calling the vices and enormities of Slavery by their simple names, and of fastening the guilt of special transactions not vaguely upon human nature, but directly upon the perpetrators who disgraced the nature which they shared, he also anticipated the privilege and ill-repute of American Abolitionists. He told what he saw, or what was guarantied to him by competent witnesses. His cheek grew red when it was smitten by some fierce outrage upon humanity, and men could plainly read the marks which it left there. Nor did they easily fade away; he held his branded cheek in the full view of men, that they might be compelled to interpret the disgrace to which they were so indifferent. Men dislike to hear the outcries of a sensitive spirit, and dread to have their heathenism called by Christian names. How much better it would be, they think, if philanthropy never made an attack upon the representatives of cruelty! they would soon become converted, if they were politely let alone. No doubt, all that the supporters of any tyranny desire is to be let alone. They delight in abstract delineations of the vices of their system, which flourishes and develops while moral indignation is struggling to avoid attacking it where only it is dangerous, in the persons of its advocates. If there were nothing but metaphysical wickedness in the world, how effective it would be never to allude to a wicked man! If Slavery itself were the pale, thin ghost of an abstraction, how bloodless this war would be! Fine words, genteel deprecation, and magnanimous generality are the tricks of villany. Indignant Mercy works with other tools; she leaps with the directness of lightning, and the same unsparing sincerity, to the spot to which she is attracted. What rogue ever felt the clutch of a stern phrase at his throat, with a good opinion of it? Shall we throttle the rascal in broad day, or grope in the dark after the impersonal weasand of his crime?
And those amiable people who think to regenerate the world by radiating amenity are the choice accomplices of the villains. They keep everything quiet, hush up incipient disturbances, and mislead the police. No Pharisee shall be called a Devil's child, if they can help it: they say "Fie!" to the scourge of knotted cord in the temple, or eagerly explain that it was used only upon the cattle, who cannot, of course, rebel. "These people who give the fine name of prudence to their timidity, and whose discretion is always favorable to injustice!"
"I have decided to write this history," says Las Casas, in his "Memoir upon the Cruelty of the Spaniards," "by the advice of many pious and God-fearing persons, who think that its publication will cause a desire to spring up in many Christian hearts to bring a prompt remedy to these evils, as enormous as they are multiplied." He designates the guilty governors, captains, courtiers, and connects them directly with their crimes. He does not say that they were gentlemen or Christians: "these brigands," "executioners," "barbarians," are his more appropriate phrases. If he had addressed them as gentlemen, the terrible scenes would have instantly ceased, and the system of Repartimientos would have been abandoned by men who were only waiting to be converted by politeness! He calls that plan of allotting the natives, and reducing them to Spanish overseership, "atrocious." Yet for some time it was technically legal: it was equivalent to what we call constitutional. So that it was by no means so bad as the anarchical attack which Las Casas made upon it! He tells where an infamous overseer was still living in Spain,--or at least, he says, "his family was living in Seville when I last heard about him." What a disgraceful attack upon an individual! how it must have hurt the feelings of a respectable family!--"How malignant!" cried the hidalgos; "How coarse!" the women; and "How ill-judged!" the clergy. He speaks of Cortés with contempt: why should he not? for he was only the burglar of a kingdom. But we read these sincere pages of Las Casas with satisfaction. The polished contemporaries of Abolitionists turn over the pages of antique denunciation, and their lymph really quickens in their veins as they read the prophetic vehemence of an Isaiah, the personality of a Nathan, the unmeasured vernacular of Luther, the satire and invective of all good upbraiders of past generations, until they reach their own, which yet waits for a future generation to make scripture and history of its speech and deeds. Time is the genial critic that effaces the contemporary glosses of interested men. It rots away the ugly scaffolding up which the bold words climbed, and men see the beautiful and tenacious arch which only genius is daring enough and capable to build. It is delightful to walk across the solid structure, with gratitude and taste in a glow. We love to read indictments of an exploded crime which we have learned to despise, or which we are committing in a novel form.
Charlevoix takes up this complaint of the imprudence of Las Casas, and, to illustrate it, thinks that he could not have anticipated the bad effects of the publication of his "Memoir upon the Cruelty of the Spaniards," for it appeared during the war with the revolted Netherlands, and was translated into Dutch by a Frenchman. "Nothing," he says, "so animated those people to persist in their rebellion, as the fear, that, if they entered into any accommodation with Spain, they would be served as the natives had been in the American Provinces, who were never so badly oppressed as when they felt most secure upon the faith of a treaty or convention." If the book of Las Casas really lent courage and motive to that noble resistance, as it undoubtedly did by confirming the mistrust of Spanish rule in the Low Countries, the honorable distinction should be preserved by history.
While a bad institution is still vigorous and aggressive, the divine rage of conscientious men is not so exhilarating. A different style of thought, like that which prevailed among the French missionaries to the Indies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is more acceptable to colonial susceptibility. A South-side religion is a favorable exposure for delicate and precarious products like indigo, sugar, coffee, and cotton. Las Casas had not learned to wield his enthusiastic pen in defence of the negro; but when the islands became well stocked with slaves, later Catholics eagerly reproduced the arguments of the Spanish encomiendas, and vindicated afresh the providential character of Slavery. "I acknowledge," says one, "and adore with all humility the profound and inconceivable secrets of God; for I do not know what the unfortunate nation has committed to deserve that this particular and hereditary curse of servitude should be attached to them, as well as ugliness and blackness." "It is truly with these unfortunates that the poet's saying is verified,--
"'Dimidium mentis Jupiter illis aufert,'--
"as I have remarked a thousand times that God deprives slaves of half their judgment, lest, recognizing their miserable condition, they should be thrown into despair. For though they are very adroit in many things which they do, they are so stupid that they have no more sense of being enslaved than if they had never enjoyed liberty. Every land becomes their country, provided they find enough to eat and drink, which is very different from the state of mind of the daughters of Zion, who cried, on finding themselves in a foreign country,--'Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena?'"
Another missionary, in describing his method of administering baptism, says: "After the customary words, I add, 'And thee, accursed spirit, I forbid in the name of Jesus Christ ever to dare to violate this sacred sign which I have just made upon the forehead of this creature, whom He has bought with His blood.' The negro, who comprehends nothing of what I say or do, makes great eyes at me, and appears confounded; but to reassure him, I address to him through an interpreter these words of the Saviour to St. Peter: 'What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.'"
He complains that they do not appear to value the mystery of the Trinity as a necessary means of salvation: the negro does not understand what he is made to repeat, any more than a parrot. And here the knowledge of the most able theologian will go a very little ways. "Still, a missionary ought to think twice before leaving a man, of whatever kind, to perish without baptism; and if he has scruples upon this point, these words of the Psalmist will reassure his mind: 'Homines et jumenta salvabis, Domine': 'Thou, Lord, shall save both man and cattle!'"
Father Labat is scandalized because the English planters refused to have their slaves baptized. Their clergymen told him, in excuse, that it was unworthy of a Christian to hold in slavery his brother in Christ. "But may we not say that it is still more unworthy of a Christian not to procure for souls bought by the blood of Jesus Christ the knowledge of a God to whom they are responsible for all that they do?" This idea, that the negroes had been first bought by Christ, must have been consoling and authoritative to a planter. The missionary has not advanced upon the Spanish theory, that baptism introduced the natives into a higher life. "However," says Labat, "this notion of the English does not affect them, whenever they can get hold of our negroes. They know very well that they are Christians, they cannot doubt that they have been made by baptism their brothers in Christ, yet that does not prevent them from holding them in slavery, and treating them like those whom they do not regard as their brothers." This English antipathy to baptizing slaves, for fear of recognizing them as men by virtue of that rite, appears to have existed in the early days of the North-American Colonies. Bishop Berkeley, in his "Proposal for the Better Supplying of Churches in our Foreign Plantations," etc., alludes to the little interest which was shown in the conversion of negroes, "who, to the infamy of England and scandal of the world, continue heathen under Christian masters and in Christian countries; which could never be, if our planters were rightly instructed and made sensible that they disappointed their own baptism by denying it to those who belong to them." This receives an explanation in a sermon preached by the Bishop in London, where he speaks of the irrational contempt felt for the blacks in the Plantation of Rhode Island, "as creatures of another species, who had no right to be instructed or admitted to the sacraments. To this may be added an erroneous notion that the being baptized is inconsistent with a state of slavery. To undeceive them in this particular, which had too much weight, it seemed a proper step, if the opinion of his Majesty's attorney and solicitor-general could be procured. This opinion they charitably sent over, signed with their own hands; which was accordingly printed in Rhode Island, and dispersed throughout the Plantation. I heartily wish it may produce the intended effect."
In a speech upon West-Indian affairs, which Lord Brougham delivered in the House of Commons in 1823, there is some account of the religious instruction of the slaves as conducted by the curates. He alludes in particular to the testimony of a worthy curate, who stated that he had been twenty or thirty years among the negroes, "and that no single instance of conversion to Christianity had taken place during that time,--all his efforts to gain new proselytes among the negroes had been in vain; all of a sudden, however, light had broken in upon their darkness so suddenly that between five and six thousand negroes had been baptized in a few days. I confess I was at first much surprised at this statement. I knew not how to comprehend it; but all of a sudden light broke in upon my darkness also. I found that there was a clue to this most surprising story, and that these wonderful conversions were brought about, not by a miracle, as the good man seems himself to have really imagined, and would almost make us believe, but by a premium of a dollar a head paid to this worthy curate for each slave that he baptized!"
We return to Las Casas once more, to state precisely his complicity in the introduction of the race whose sorrows have been so fearfully avenged by Nature in every part of the New World. Many of the writers who have treated of these transactions, as Robertson, for instance, have accused Las Casas, on the strength of a passage in Herrera, of having originated the idea that the blacks could be profitably substituted for the Indians. It is supposed, that, in his eagerness to save the Indians from destruction, he sought also to save colonial interests, by procuring still a supply of labor from a hardier and less interesting race. Thus his indignation at the rapid extinction of the Indians appears sentimental; to indulge his fancy for an amiable race, he was willing to subject another, with which he had no graceful associations, to the same liabilities. We have seen, however, that the practice of carrying negroes to Hayti was already established, seven years before Las Casas suggests his policy. The passage from Herrera has been misunderstood, as Llorente, Schoelcher, the Abbé Grégoire, and others, conclusively show. That historian says that Las Casa, disheartened by the difficulties which he met from the colonists and their political and ecclesiastical friends at home, had recourse to a new expedient, to solicit leave for the Spaniards to trade in negroes, "in order that their labor on the plantations and in the mines might render that of the natives less severe." This proposition, made in 1517, has been wrongly supposed to signalize the first introduction of blacks into America. Nor was Las Casas the first to make this proposition; for another passage of Herrera discloses that three priests of St. Jerome, who had been despatched to the colony by Cardinal Ximenes, for the experiment of managing it by a Board instead of by a Governor, recommended in 1516 that negroes should be sent out to stock the plantations, in order to diminish the forced labor of the natives. This was a concession by the Jeromites to the public opinion which Las Casas had created. Negroes already existed there; the priests perceived their value, and that the introduction of a greater number would both improve the colony and diminish the anti-slavery agitation of the Dominicans. The next year this project was taken up by Las Casas, borrowed from the Jeromites as the only alternative to preserve a colony, to relieve the natives, and to keep the people interested in the wholesome reforms which he was continually urging upon the colonial administration.
He had no opportunity to become acquainted with the evils of negro slavery, but it is strange that he did not anticipate them. It was taken for granted by him that the blacks were enslaved in Africa, and he accepted too readily the popular idea that their lot was improved by transferring them from barbarous to Christian masters. Their number was so small in Hayti, and the island fell so suddenly into decay, that no formidable oppression of them occurred during his lifetime to replace his recollections of the horrors of Indian servitude. His plan did not take root, but it was remembered. Thus the single error of a noble man, committed in the fulness of his Christian aspirations, and at the very moment when he was representing to a generation of hard and avaricious men the divine charity, betrayed their victims to all the nations that sought wealth and luxury in the West, and pointed out how they were to be obtained. His compromise has the fatal history of all compromises which secure to the present a brief advantage, whose fearful accumulation of interest the future must disgrace, exhaust, and cripple itself to pay.
In 1519 the colony had already begun to decay, though all the external marks of luxury and splendor were still maintained. That was the date of a famous insurrection of the remnant of Indians, who occupied the mountains, and defended themselves for thirteen years against all the efforts of the Spaniards to reduce them. It was hardly worth while to undertake their subjection. Adventurers and emigrants were already leaving San Domingo to its fate, attracted to different spots of the Terra Firma, to Mexico and Peru, by the reported treasures. That portion of the colony which had engaged in agriculture found Indians scarce and negroes expensive. There was no longer any object in fitting out expeditions to reinforce the colony, and repair the waste which it was beginning to suffer from desertion and disease. The war with the natives was ignominiously ended by Charles V. in 1533, who found that the colony was growing too poor to pay for it. He despatched a letter to the cacique who had organized this desperate and prolonged resistance, flattered him by the designation of Dom Henri and profuse expressions of admiration, sent a Spanish general to treat with him, and to assign him a district to inhabit with his followers. Dom Henri thankfully accepted this pacification, and soon after received Las Casas himself, who had been commissioned to assure the sole surviving cacique and representative of two million natives that Spain was their friend! At last the Protector of the Indians has the satisfaction of meeting them with authoritative messages of peace. And this was the first salutation of Dom Henri, after his forty years' experience of Spanish probity, and thirteen years of struggle for existence: "During all this war, I have not failed a day to offer up my prayers, I have fasted strictly every Friday, I have watched with care over the morals and the conduct of my subjects, I have taken measures everywhere to prevent all profligate intercourse between the sexes"; thus nobly trying to recommend himself to the good Bishop, who had always believed in their capacity for temporal and spiritual elevation. He retired to a place named Boya, a dozen leagues from the capital. All the Indians who could prove their descent from the original inhabitants of the island were allowed to follow him. A few of them still remained in 1750; their number was only four thousand when Dom Henri led them away from Spanish rule to die out undisturbed.
After its passionate and blood-thirsty life, the colony was sinking to sleep, not from satiety nor exhaustion, for the same race was holding its orgies in other countries, but from inability to gather fuel for its excesses. A long list of insignificant governors is the history of the island for another century. They did nothing to improve the condition of the inhabitants, whose distress was sometimes severe; but they continued to embellish the capital, which Oviedo described to Charles V. as rivalling in solidity and beauty any city in Spain. He wrote in 1538, and possessed a beautiful residence in the plain of St. John. The private houses were built substantially, in several stories, of stone, embowered in charming gardens; the public edifices, including the cathedral, displayed all the strength and rich ornamentation which had been common for a hundred years in the Spanish cities. There were several well-endowed convents, and a fine hospital. When Sir Francis Drake took possession of San Domingo in 1586, he attempted to induce the inhabitants, who had fled into the country, to pay an enormous ransom for their city, by threatening to destroy a number of fine houses every day till it was paid. He undertook the task, but found that his soldiers were scarcely able to demolish more than one a day, and he eventually left the city not materially damaged.
Antonio Herrera, in his "Description of the West Indies," gives the number of inhabitants of the city in 1530 as six hundred, and says that there were fourteen thousand Castilians, many of them nobles, who carried on the different interests of the colony. He has a list of seventeen towns, with brief descriptions of them.
It appears by this that the island had speedily recovered from the ill reports of the early emigrants, many of whom returned to Spain broken in purse and person, with excesses of passion and climate chronicled in their livid faces. There was a period when everybody who could get away from the colony left it in disgust, and with the expectation that it would soon become extinct. It was to prevent such a catastrophe, which would have effectually terminated the explorations of Columbus, that he proposed to the Government, in 1496, to commute the punishments of all criminals and large debtors who were at the time in prison to a perpetual banishment to the island, persons convicted of treason or heresy being alone excepted. The advice was instantly adopted, without a thought of the consequences of reinforcing the malignant ambition of the colony with such elements. Persons capitally convicted were to serve two years without wages; all others were to serve on the same terms for one year; and they went about with the ingenious clog of a threat of arrest for the old crimes in case they returned to Europe.
The Government improved upon the hint of Columbus by decreeing that all the courts in Spain should condemn to the mines a portion of the criminals who would in the course of nature have gone to the galleys. Thus a new country, which invited the benign organization of law and religion, and held out to pure spirits an opportunity richer than all its crops and mines, was poisoned in its cradle. What wonder that its vigor became the aimless gestures of madness, that a bloated habit simulated health, and that decrepitude suddenly fell upon the uneasy life?
At the same time it was expressly forbidden to all commanders of caravels to receive on board any person who was not a born subject of the crown of Castile. This was conceived in the exclusive colonial policy of the time. It was a grotesque idea to preserve nationality by insisting that even criminals must respect the Spanish birthright. History counts the fitful pulses of this bluest blood of Europe, and hesitates to declare that such emigrants misrepresented the mother-country.
But after the middle of the sixteenth century, the inhabitants were pillaged by the public enemies of the mother-country, and by private adventurers of all lands. And yet, in 1587, the year after Drake's expedition, their fleet carried home 48 quintals of cassia, 50 of sarsaparilla, 134 of logwood, 893 chests of sugar, each weighing 200 pounds, and 350,444 hides of every kind. There is no account of indigo, and the cultivation of cotton had not commenced. Coffee was first introduced at Martinique during the reign of Louis XIV., who died in 1715. Its cultivation was not commenced in Jamaica till 1725.
The negroes whom Hawkins procured on his first voyage to Africa were carried by him to San Domingo. This was in 1563, the date of England's first venture in the slave-trade. The English had sent vessels to the African coast as early as 1551, on private account, for gold and ivory; but as they had no West-Indian colony, and the trade in slaves was a monopoly, they had no object to increase the risks of a voyage which infringed upon the Portuguese right to Africa by carrying negroes away. Vessels were fitted out in 1552 and 1553 to trade for ivory and pepper; in the two following years the English interest in Africa increased, and a negro was occasionally carried away and brought to England. This appears to have been the first circumstance which attracted the attention of Queen Elizabeth, and drew remonstrances from her before it became clear that a good deal of money could be made out of such transactions. She blamed Captain Hawkins, who had succeeded by treachery and violence in getting hold of three hundred negroes whom he carried to San Domingo, and disposed of in the ports of Isabella, Puerto-de-Plata, and Monte Christi. Her virtue was proof against this first speculation, although it was an exceedingly good one, for Hawkins filled his three vessels with hides, ginger, and a quantity of pearls, and freighted two more with hides and other articles which he sent to Spain. It was after his third voyage, in 1567, when he sold his negroes in Havana at a profit greater than he could derive from the decaying San Domingo, that the Queen forgot her scruples, and gave Hawkins a crest symbolical of his wicked success: "a demi-Moor, in his proper color, bound with a cord," made plain John a knight.
But the Portuguese jealously watched their privilege to export men from Africa, so that only about forty thousand negroes were brought yearly by lawful and contraband channels to the different islands. Cuba obtained most of these. The greater part of the Portuguese trade took the direction of Brazil, for the sugar-cane had been carried from Madeira to Rio Janeiro in 1531. Formidable rivalry in selfishness was thus sown in every direction by the early splendor of San Domingo. When the Genoese merchants bought the original privilege to transport four thousand, they held the price of negroes at two hundred ducats. Their monopoly ceased in 1539, when a great market for slaves was opened at Lisbon; Spain could buy them there at a price varying from ten to fifty ducats a head, but their price delivered in good condition at San Domingo, including the inevitable percentage of loss, made them almost as expensive as before.
The capital was shattered by an earthquake in 1684. The people melted away, and fine houses, which were deserted by their owners, remained tenantless, and went to ruin. Valverde, a Creole of the island, is the chronicler of its condition in the middle of the eighteenth century. He observes that the Spanish Creoles were living in such poverty that mass was said before daylight, so that mutual scandal at dilapidated toilets might not interfere with the enjoyment of religion. The leprosy was common, and two lazarettos were filled with its victims. The negro blood had found its way into almost every family; a female slave received her freedom as a legacy of piety or of lust. She could also purchase it for two hundred and fifty dollars; and if she was with child, an additional twelve dollars and fifty cents would purchase for the new-comer all the glories and immunities of Creole society. These were to doze and smoke in hammocks, and to cultivate listlessly about twenty-two dilapidated sugar-plantations and a little coffee. The trade in cattle with the French part of the island absorbed all the business and enterprise that remained. Still Valverde will not admit that the Spanish Creole was indolent: it is in consequence of a deficiency of negroes, he explains, that they cannot labor more!
A great injury was inflicted upon the colony by the exclusive commercial spirit of the mother-country. Spain was the first European government which undertook to interfere with the natural courses of trade, on the pretence of protecting isolated interests. In the eleventh century a great commercial competition existed between some Italian, French, and Spanish cities. To favor the last, when they were already enjoying their just share of trade, the King of Aragon prohibited, in 1227, "all foreign vessels from loading for Ceuta, Alexandria, or other important ports, if a Catalan ship was able and willing to take the cargo"; the commerce of Barcelona was in consequence of this navigation act seriously damaged. Spain treated her colonies afterward in the same spirit; and other countries, France in particular, pursued this narrow and destructive policy, wherever colonial success excited commercial jealousy and avarice.
"The commerce of the colony was all confined to the unwise arrangement of a Government counting-house, called the Casa de la Contratacion, (House of Trade,) through which all exports were sent out to the colonies and all remittances made in return. By this order of things, the want of free competition blasted all enterprise, and the exorbitant rates of an exclusive traffic paralyzed industry. The cultivation of the vine, the olive, and other staple productions of Spain, was prohibited. All commerce between the colonies was forbidden; and not only could no foreigner traffic with them, but death and confiscation of property were decreed to the colonist who should traffic with a foreigner,--slave-vessels alone being excepted."
Thus the policy which ought to have favored the island first settled by Spaniards, against the attractions of Peru, Mexico, and Cuba, towards which the mother-colony was rapidly emptying her streams of life, was not forthcoming. These Spaniards, who were enslaved by the tenacious fancy that El Dorado still glittered for them in some distant place, needed to be attached to the soil by generous advantages, such as premiums for introducing and sustaining the cultivation of new productions, immunity from imposts either by Government or by the middle-men of a company, and liberty to exchange hides, tallow, and crops of every kind with the French, Dutch, and English, in every port of the island, to convert a precarious illicit trade with those nations into a natural intercourse, so that different articles of food, which were often scarce, and sometimes failed entirely, might be regularly supplied, until by such fostering care the colony should grow strong enough to protect itself against its own and foreign adventurers. But if all these measures had been accordant with the ideas of that age, they would have been defeated by its passions.
Other people now appear upon the scene, to put the finishing touch to this decay, while they freshen the old crimes and assume the tradition of excess and horror which is the island's history.
[To be continued.]
1. Herrera says, however, that Las Casas declared them to be legitimately enslaved, the natives of Trinity Island in particular. Schoelcher (Colonies Étrangèrés et Haiti, Tom. II. p. 59) notices that all the royal edicts in favor of the people of America, miserably obeyed as they were, related only to Indians who were supposed to be in a state of peace with Spain; the Caribs were distinctly excepted. It was convenient to call a great many Indians Caribs; numerous tribes who were peaceful enough when let alone, and victims rather than perpetrators of cannibalism, became slaves by scientific adjudication. "These races," said Cardinal Ximenes, "are fit for nothing but labor."
2. Fifth Memoir: Upon the Liberty of the Indians. Llorente, Tom. II. p. 11.
3. Cimarron was Spanish, meaning wild: applied to animals, and subsequently to escaped slaves, who lived by hunting and stealing.
4. "Gimlamo Benzoni, of Milan, who, at the age of twenty-two, visited Terra Firma, took part in some expeditions in 1542 to the coasts of Bordones, Cariaco, and Paria, to carry off the unfortunate natives. He relates with simplicity, and often with a sensibility not common in the historians of that time, the examples of cruelty of which he was a witness. He saw the slaves dragged to New Cadiz, to be marked on the forehead and on the arms, and for the payment of the quint to the officers of the crown. From this port the Indians were sent to the island of Hayti, after having often changed masters, not by way of sale, but because the soldiers played for them at dice."--Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Vol. I. p. 176.
5. Schoelcher, Hayti, Vol. II. p.78. The Arabs introduced the cane, which had been cultivated in the East from the remotest times, into Sicily in the ninth century, whence it found its way into Spain, and was taken to the Canaries: Madeira sent sugar to Antwerp in 1500. See Bridge, Annals of Jamaica, Vol.I. p.594, who, however, makes the mistake of saying that a variety of the sugar-cane was indigenous to the Antilles. See Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Vol. II. p.28, who says that negroes were employed in the cultivation of the sugar-cane in the Canaries from its introduction.
6. Schoelcher, La Traile et son Origine, in Colonies Etrengères, Tom. I. p. 364.
7. Upon the subject of changes in the value of money, and some comparisons between the past and present, see Hallam's Europe, during the Middle Ages, Vol. II. pp. 427--432, and Supplement, p. 406. Dealing in money, banking, bills of exchange, have a very early date in Europe. The Bank of Venice was founded in 1401. Florentines dealt in money as early as 1251, and their system of exchange was in use throughout the North early in the fifteenth century.--McCullagh's Industrial History of Free Nations Vol. II. p. 94.
8. See in Hallam's Supplement to Europe during the Middle Ages, p. l33, and in Motley's Dutch Republic, Vol. I. pp. 32, 33, various causes mentioned for voluntary and compulsory servitude in the early European times. See also Summer's White Slavery, p. 11.
9. Moors, living In Spain as subjects, and nominally Christianized.
10. La Historia sel Mondo Nuovo, Venetia, 1565, Book II. p.65, a duodecimo filled with curious plates representing the habits of the natives and the Spanish dealings with them. Benozi elsewhere has a good deal to say about the cruelty exercised towards the negroes. For a failure to perform a daily stint in the mines, a negro was usually buried up to his chin, and left to be tormented by the insects. Wire whips were used in flogging, and hot pitch was applied to the wounds.
11. Fifth Memoir: Upon the Liberty of the Indians who have been reduced to the Condition of Slavery; Morente, Tom. II. pp. 34, 35. Sixth Memoir: Upon the Question whether Kings have the Power to alienate their Subjects, their Towns and Jurisdiction, pp. 64 et seq. Letter of Las Casas to Miranda, resident in England with Philip, in 1555.--The Sixth Memoir is a remarkable production. Its closing words are these: "The dignity of a king does not consist in usurping rights of which he is only the administrator. Invested with all the necessary power to govern well and to make his kingdom happy, let him fulfil that fine destiny, and the respect of the people will be his reward."
12. "Ces hommes qui donnent le beau nom de prudence à leur timidité, et dont la discrétion est toujours favorable à l'injustice."--Hilliard d'Aubertueil, Considérations sur l'Ètat Présent de la Colonie Françoise de St. Domingue, 1776.
13. Histoire Générale des Isles de St. Christophe, etc., 1654, par Du Tertre.
14. From a letter by the Jesuit father Le Pers, quoted by Charlevoix, Histoire de St. Domingue, Tom. IV. p. 369. Amsterdam, 1733.
15. Upon the reputed effects of baptism, and some anecdotes connected with the administration of this rite, see Humboldt's Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, London, 1811, Vol. I. p. 165, note.
16. Nouveau Voyage aux Isles de l'Amerique, A la Haye, 1724, Tom. V. p. 42. Father Labat is delighted because the Dutch asked him to confess their slaves; and he records that many masters take great pains to have their Catholic slaves say their prayers morning and evening, and approach the sacrament; nor do they undertake to indoctrinate them with Calvinism.
17. A Sermon preached before the Incorporated Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, at their Anniversary Meeting in the Parish Church of St. Mary-le-Bow, on Friday, February 18, 1731.
18. Oviedo says nothing about this Jeromite proposition, but records the arrival of this priestly commission, (Hist. Ind., Book IV. ch. 3,) and that one object of it was to provide for the Indians,--"buen tractamiento é conserveçion de los indios." He says that all the remedial measures which it undertook increased the misery and loss of the natives. He was not humane. It seemed absurd to him that the Indians should kill themselves on the slightest pretext, or run to the mountains; and he can find no reason for it, except that their chief purpose in life (and one which they had always cherished, before the Christians came among them) was to eat, drink, "folgar, é luxuriar, é idolatrar, é exercer otras muchas suçiedades bestiales."
19. The priests gave him the name of Henri, when they baptized him, long previous to his revolt. He was called Henriquillo by way of Catholic endearment. But the consecrating water could not wash out of his remembrance that his father and grandfather had been burnt alive by order of a Spanish governor. What, indeed, can quench such fires? Yet this dusky Hannibal loved the exercises and pure restraints of the religion which had laid waste his family.
20. Oviedo, Hist. Ind., Book V. ch. 11, who gives the cacique little credit for some of his prohibitions, but on the whole praises him, and, after mentioning that he lived little more than a year from the time of this pacification, and died like a Christian, commends his soul to God. Oviedo hated the Indians, and wrote about colonial affairs coldly and in the Spanish interests.
21. Histoire Politique et Statistique. Par Placide Justin.
22. "The Indies are not for every one! How many heedless persons quit Spain, expecting that in the Indies a dinner costs nothing, and that there is nobody there in want of one; that as they do not drink wine in every house, why, they give it away! Many, Father, have been seen to go to the Indies, and to have returned from them as miserable as when they left their country, having gained from the journey nought but perpetual pains in the arms and legs, which refuse in their treatment to yield to sarsaparilla and palo santo, [lignum vitae,] and which neither quicksilver nor sweats will eject from their constitution." From a Spanish novel by Yanez y Rivera, "Alonzo, el Donado Hablador": "Alonzo, the Talkative Lay-Brother," written in 1624. New York, 1844.
23. Charlevoix, Histoire de St. Domingue, 1733, Tom.I. p.185, who notices the admission of Herrera that the Admiral made a great mistake, since malefactors should not be selected for the founders of republics. No, neither in Virginia nor in any virgin world.
24. Some slips of Mocha fell into the hands of Europeans first by being carried to Batavia. It was then transplanted to Amsterdam in the end of the sixteenth century; and a present of some shrubs was made to Louis XIV., at the Peace of Utrecht. They flourished in his garden, and three shrubs were taken thence and shipped to Martinique in the care of a Captain de Cheu. The voyage was so prolonged that two of them died for want of moisture, and the captain saved the third by devoting to it his own ration of water.
25. Hüne, Geschichte des Sclavenhandels, I. 300.
26. When John's son, Richard, was fitting out a vessel for a voyage into the South Sea, ostensibly to explore, his mother-in-law had the naming of it at his request; and she called it "The Repentance." Sir Richard was puzzled at this; but his mother would give him no other satisfaction "then that repentance was the safest ship we could sayle in to purchase the haven of Heaven." The Queen changed the name to "Daintie."--Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins, Knight, in his Voyage into the South Sea, A. D. 1593.
27. Idea del Valor, etc., Madrid, 1785: An Idea of the Value of the Spanish Island, etc. By A.S. Valverde.
28. McCullagh's Industrial History of Free Nations; the Dutch, Vol. II. p. 51.
29. The History and Present Condition of St. Domingo, by J. Brown, M. D., 1837, p. 40. Even this exception in favor of slave-traders appears afterwards to have been withdrawn; for Charlevoix relates (Histoire de St. Domingue, Tom. III. p. 36) that the Governor of San Domingo got Tortuga away from the French, in 1654, by means of two negroes whom he had purchased cheap from some Dutchmen, and who showed him a path by which he drew up two cannon to command the fort. He was recalled, and beheaded at Seville, because he had bought negroes of foreigners.
I was born in a small town of Virginia. My father was a physician, more respected than employed; for it was generally supposed, and justly, that he was more devoted to chemical experiment and philosophical speculation than to the ordinary routine of his profession. It was quite natural, that, in course of time, another physician should come to dash by, with fine turnout, my father's humble gig; and such, indeed, was the result. It was equally natural, that, as the dear old man looked his own fate straight in the eyes, and saw his patients falling away one by one, he should adjourn practical success to his only son,--myself. Quiet, but unremitting, were his efforts to make me avoid the rock on which his worldly fortunes had been wrecked. In vain: to me there was a light in his eye which lured me on to those visionary shores from which he warned me; and whilst he was holding out the labors and duties of a regular and steadfast practitioner as merciful and honorable among the highest, there was an undertone in his voice, of which he was unconscious, which told me plainly that the knowledge he most valued in himself was that apparently most unproductive. My mother had died several years before; my father's affection, pride, and hope rested utterly upon me. I knew not then how sad it was to disappoint him. Often, when he returned to his office, hoping to find me studying the "Materia Medica," I was discovered poring over some old volumes on the "Human Humors, or the Planetary Sympathies of the Viscera." A sincere grief filled his eyes at such times, but I could not help feeling that it was mingled with respect. The heaviest cross I had to bear was that the curious old volumes which attracted me were gradually abstracted from the library.
One day, walking with my father on the outskirts of the town, we found a merry throng gathered about the car of a travelling daguerrotypist. Having nothing more entertaining on hand, we entered the car and sat, whilst the village belles, and the newly affianced, and the young brides came for their miniatures. This was interesting; but when they were gone, my father and the artist entered upon a conversation which was far more absorbing to me, and indeed colored the whole of my subsequent life. My father made inquiries concerning the materials used in daguerrotyping, and the progress of the art; and the artist, finding him an intelligent man, entered with spirit upon his relation.
"It is, indeed, wonderful," he said, "that more has not been accomplished through this discovery; and I can attribute this to nothing but the lack amongst our poor fraternity of the capital necessary for carrying on and out the many experiments suggested to us daily in the course of our operations."
"About what point," asked my father, "do these suggestions usually gather?"
"That which chiefly excites our speculation is the unfathomed mystery of the nitrate of silver. The story of this wonderful agent is not half unfolded; and every artist knows that its power is limited only by the imperfection of the materials with which it has to act. Its sensitiveness approaches that of thought itself. I have a very small quantity of highest quality which I use on rare occasions and generally for experiments. A few days ago I caught with it this first flash of sunrise,--see, is it not perfect?"
The picture which he showed us was, indeed, beautiful. A wave of light bursting upon the plate to a foamy whiteness, almost beyond the power of the eye to bear. But that which excited me most was the photograph of a star, which he had fixed after highly magnifying it. What a fascination there was about that little point of fire!
It turned out to be the star under which I was born: its fatal influences were already upon me: I returned home to pass a night sleepless, indeed, but not without dreams.
Why is it that a new idea, taking possession of the young, raising some new object for their pursuit, does, in the proportion of its power, foreclose even the most accustomed confidences? My father was precisely the one man living who would have sympathized in the purpose which from the time of this visit sucked into its whirl all my desires and powers; but that purpose seemed at once to turn my heart to stone. For a week I was acting a part before the kindest and simplest of men; and I deliberately went forward to reach my object over his happiness and even life.
When the daguerrotypist left town, I easily found the direction he had taken; and, after waiting several days to prevent any suspicious coincidence in the time of our departure, I one night, soon after midnight, crept from my bed and followed him. I overtook him at a village some twenty miles distant, where he was remaining a day or two, and easily procured an engagement with him, since I desired nothing but to serve him and be taught the mechanical details of his art. My father had no clue whatever to my direction, for he had not dreamed of anything unusual in my thoughts or plans. He was now entirely alone. But I knew that I was helpless against the phantom which was leading me forth; it also contained a stimulant which was able to bear me safely through seasons of self-reproach and depression.
For about six months I got along with the artist very well. My desire to learn made me attentive, prompt, and respectful. But at the end of that time I had learned all that he could teach me, and, as I had engaged with him for an ulterior object, the business began to lose its interest for me, and the inconveniences of wandering about in a car, hitherto unthought of, were now felt. The relations between my master and myself had been so agreeable that for a long time this change in my feelings was not alluded to in words. He was a thrifty Yankee, and with a Yankee's sense of justice; so he offered me a fair proportion of the profits. But at the end of the year he told me that he thought I was "too much of a Virginian" ever to follow this occupation, and that, having seen my father and known his position, he was surprised that he had ever favored such a pursuit for me. This was, indeed, the falsehood I had told him.
It was in a Canadian village that I parted with this gentlemanly and generous New-Englander. When I left him, I was not penniless, but a bitter sense of my loneliness was upon me, and a consciousness of the uncandid and cruel turn I had done my father brought me almost to the verge of suicide. On Sunday morning I entered a church in Toronto, and tears flowed down my face as I heard the minister read the parable of the Prodigal Son. It seemed to me as a voice from home, and I determined to go to my father. Without hesitating, or stopping an hour, I took all the money I had to pay my way, and in about six days afterward, sitting beside the driver on the stage-coach, looked from a hill upon the house in which I was born. A pang shot through my heart at that instant. Until that moment I had dreamed of my father's seeing me whilst I was yet a great way off, of resting my weary head upon his warm, infolding heart. But now the dream faded, and a pain as of an undying worm gnawed already on my soul. I paused at the gate, nearly paralyzed by fear. Was he dead? No; I felt this was not the case; but I felt that something worse than this was about to befall me. I gained strength to enter the hall, and sat down there. I heard several voices. I went on to the well-known chamber. A physician and a nurse were there. Standing in the door a moment, I heard my father say in a whisper, "If he ever comes back, let him have all; tell him his father loved him to the last; but do not tell him more, do not make him suffer,--mark you!" A moment more, and I was kneeling by his dying bed. "My father, my father, I have murdered you!" After some moments it was impressed upon the old man that his penitent son was by his side. I almost looked for the curse that I deserved; but a peaceful light was on his face as he said,--"I'm sorry I hid the books from you, child. I meant well,--I meant well,--I erred. If I can help you from up there, I will." Life departed with these words.
It will not be wondered that I became a recluse. The recluse is usually one cast up from such bleak experiences of sin and grief that he fears to launch upon life again, and only seeks to hide him in any cavern that may be found along the shore that has received him. Thus it was with me, at least. I dreaded to look one of my townsmen in the face,--they knew all: and many years after, when the harsh judgments which would have received me were softened by my lonely penance and sadness, and proffers came from society, my solitude had become sacred to me; and that old star which the daguerrotypist had shown me still reigned.
My father had left me enough property to enable me to carry forward the investigations and experiments to which all voices seemed to call me. I had an upper room prepared with a skylight and all other appliances. I purchased an excellent instrument, and some very strong diameters for magnifying photographs. The trials I had made convinced me that the minuteness and extent of objects photographed were limited only by the comparative coarseness of the materials through and on which the object passed. So I was very particular in selecting lenses. Further trials, however, led me to believe that the plate was still more important. Obtaining a steel of perfect grain, I spent days in giving it the highest polish it would bear, and kept it ready for any important office. By means of a long and bright tin reflector, (the best,) my artificial light was ready, in case I should desire to photograph at night; and, indeed, it was the hope of making some astronomic discovery that was leading me on.
Calm and clear was the night on which I brought these my treasures forth. Jupiter was blazing in the heavens, and challenged Art to seize his majestic lineaments. It turned out a point of fire much like that which my master had exhibited to me. I mixed a finer nitrate, repolished my plate, and was this time rewarded by seeing, under all the diameters which I had, the satellites also. Very much thrilled even with this degree of success, and taking the picture on paper, I put my plate away, and set myself to study what I should do next. It had not yet occurred to me to inquire of myself what definite thing I really was after. My deepest hope was in the undefinableness of its object: I knew only that a clear idea (and Plato says all clear ideas are true) of the subtile susceptibilities of nitrate of silver, limited only by materials, had engendered within me, through much pondering, an embryo idea, to the development of which my life was intuitively consecrated. I would not define it to myself, because I felt (intuitively, also) that it was something illimitable, therefore indefinable.
I began to experiment now with lenses, placing various kinds and powers one above another. It occurred to me that I had hitherto brought their power to bear only upon whole, objects. But what would be the result of magnifying an object daguerrotyped until it covered the disc of the reflector, then photographing it, and afterward magnifying a central segment of the picture to its utmost, and again renewing the experiment on this? An infinite series of analyses might be carried into the heart of an image; and might not something therein, invisible not only to the naked eye, but to the strongest magnifier, be revealed? Following this reflection, I took a common stereoscopic view and subjected it to my lenses. It was an ordinary view of a Swiss hamlet, the chief object of which was an inn with a sign over the door surmounted by a bush. The only objects upon the sign discernible with a common convex eye-glass were a mug of beer on one side and a wine-bottle on the other. Their position indicated that something else was on the sign: the stronger diameters presently brought out "CARL ELZNERS"; the strongest I had were exhausted in bringing out "GARTEN UND GASTHAUS." When this, the utmost dimension, was reached, I photographed it. Then, taking ordinary magnifiers, I began upon that part of the sign where, if anything remained unevoked, it would be found. The reader will observe, that, each time that the result of one enlargement was made the subject for another, the loss was in the field or range which must be paid for intensity and minuteness. Thus, in the end, there might appear but one letter of a long sentence, or a part of a letter. In this case, however, the result was better than I had expected: I read distinctly, "--EIN, WEI--"; and Luther's popular lines, "Wer liebt nicht wein, weib," etc., were brought to my mind at once. Thus I had the sign in full: the powerful agent of the sun on earth had fixed Carl Elzner and his Protestant beer-garden on the stereoscopic view forever, whether the dull eyes of men could read them or not.
Thrilled and animated by this success, I hastened to apply the same plan of magnifying segment by segment to my photograph of Jupiter. But, alas, although something suggestive did appear, or so I fancied, the image grew dimmer with each analysis, until, under the higher powers, it disappeared, and the grainings of the card superseded the planet. Had I not proved that my principle was good in the case of the Swiss sign-board, I should now have given it up as the whim of an over-excited brain. But now I thought only of the assertion of the daguerrotypist, that "the nitrate was limited in sensitiveness only by the imperfection of the materials," (i. e. plates, glass, reflectors, etc.,) and I had heard the same repeated by the paper which had finally replaced the picture it held. I now determined to risk on the experiment the elegant steel plate on whose polish I had spent so much pains and time. I took the portrait of Jupiter thereon, and fixed it forever. This time I could not be mistaken in supposing that as the field of vision shrank some strange forms appeared; but I could be certain of none which were essentially different from those revealed by the largest telescopes. My narrowing and intensifying process then began to warn me of another failure: when I had reached the last point at which the image could be held at all, the grain of the steel plate was like great ropes, and it was only after resting my eyes for some time, then suddenly turning them upon it, that I could see any picture at all. For an instant it would look like an exceedingly delicate lichen,--then nothing was visible but huge bars of steel.
Ah, with what despair did I see the grand secret which had so long hovered before me and led my whole life now threatening to elude and abandon me forever! "But," I cried, "it shall not go so easily, by Heaven! If there be a genius in the casket, unsealed it shall be!"
I resolved to give up steel for some metal or substance of finer grain. I almost impoverished myself in purchasing plates of the finer metals, before it occurred to me to try glass, and had to laugh at my own stupidity when I discovered that in the last analysis glass showed much smoother than any of the rest. I immediately obtained a great many specimens of glass, and spent much time in subjecting them to my lenses only to see how much fibrous appearance, or unevenness, could be brought before the eye from a smooth surface. I found one excellent specimen, and gave myself up to grinding it to the utmost extent consistent with its strength.
I felt now that I was about to make a final test. It would be not only a test of my new plate, but of my own sanity, which I had at various times doubted. I felt, that, unless my idea should be proved true, I could no longer trust my reason, which had at every step beckoned me on to the next. I had studied medicine enough in my father's office long ago to know that either sanity or insanity may come as a reality from a mind's determined verdict on itself. When, therefore, I again sat down to analyze my daguerrotype of the planet, it was with the awe and fear which might beset one standing on a ledge between a frightful chasm and a transcendent height, and not knowing which was to receive him.
From the first burst of the sunlight over the world, I sat at my task. Each instrument, each lens I used, I spent an hour or hours over, giving it the finest polish or nicety of adjustment to which it could be brought. Into that day I had distilled my past; into it I was willing to distil the eternity that was before me. With each now application, the field of the planet shrank a thousand leagues, but each time the light deepened. According to my principle, there was no doubt that some object would be revealed before the space became too limited, provided nothing interfered with the distinctness of the picture. At length I calculated that I was selecting about twenty square miles from about seven hundred. Forms were distinct, but they were rigid, and painfully reminded me of the astronomic maps. About five removes from this, I judged that the space I was looking at must be about ten feet square. I was sure that the objects really occupying those ten feet must be in my picture, if I could evoke them.
On this I placed a mild power, and was startled at finding something new. The picture which had been so full of rigid and sharp outlines now became a confusion of ever-changing forms. Now it was light,--now shadow; angles faded into curves; but out of the swarming mass of shapes I could not, after hours of watching, obtain one that seemed like any form of life or art that I had ever seen.
Had I, then, come to the end of my line? My eyes so pained me, and had been so tried, that I strove to persuade myself that the evanescent forms resulting from my unsatisfactory experiment must be optical illusions. I determined to let matters rest as they were until the next day, when my brain would be less heated and my eye calmer and steadier.
They will never let a man alone,--they, the herd, who cry "Madman!" when any worker and his work which they cannot comprehend rise before them. In the great moment when, after years of climbing, I stood victorious on the summit, they claimed that I had fallen to the chasm's depths, and confined me here at Staunton as a hopeless lunatic. This heart of mine, burning with the grandest discovery ever made, must throb itself away in a cell, because it could not contain its high knowledge, but went forth among men once more to mingle ideal rays with their sunshine, and make every wind, as it passed over the earth, waft a higher secret than was ever before attained. A lunatic! I! But next me in array are the prisons of the only sane ones of history, the cells dug by Inquisitorial Ignorance in every age for its wisest men. Now I understand them; walls cannot impede the hands we stretch out to each other across oceans and centuries. One day the purblind world will invoke in its prayers the holy army of the martyrs of Thought.
Yes, I was mad,--mad to think that the world's horny eyes could not receive the severe light of knowledge,--mad as was he who ran through the streets and cried, "Eureka!" The head and front of my madness have this extent,--no more. And for this I must write the rest of my story here amid iron gratings, through which, however, thank God, my familiars, the stars, and the red, blue, and golden planets, glance kindly, saying, "Courage, brother! soon thou shaft rise to us, to whom thou belongest!" Yet I will write it: one day men will read, and say, "Come, let us garnish the sepulchre of one immured because his stupid age could not understand!" and then, doubtless, they will go forth to stone the seer on whose tongue lies the noblest secret of the Universe for that day.
When I left the last experiment mentioned in these pages, in order to recover steadiness of brain and nerve, and to relieve my overtaxed eyes, I had no hope of reaching success in any other way than that pointed out in the principle which I was pressing,--a principle whose importance is proved in the familiar experiments on stereoscopic views, whereby things entirely invisible to the naked eye are disclosed by lenses. But that night I dreamed out the success which had eluded my waking hours. I have nothing to say here about the phenomenon of dreaming: I state only the fact. In my dream there appeared to me my father, bearing in his left hand a plate of glass, and in his right a phial of bright blue liquid which he seemed to be pouring on the polished surface. The phial was of singular shape, having a long slender neck rising from a round globe. When I awoke, I found myself standing in the middle of the floor with hands stretched out appealingly to the vacant air.
Acknowledging, as I did, nothing but purely scientific methods,--convinced that nothing could be reached but through all the intervening steps fixed by Nature between Reason and Truth,--I should, at any other than such a weary time, have forgotten the vision in an hour. But now it took a deeper hold on my imagination. That my father should be associated in my dream with these experiments was natural; the glass plate which he had held was the same I was using; as for the phial, might it not be some old compound that I had known him or the daguerrotypist use, now casually spun out of the past and woven in with my present pursuits? Nevertheless, I was glad to shove aside this rationalistic interpretation: on the verge of drowning, I magnified the straw to a lifeboat, and caught at it. I pardoned myself for going to the shelves which still held my father's medicines, and examining each of the phials there. But when I turned away without finding one which at all answered to my dream, I felt mean and miserable; deeply disappointed at not having found the phial, I was ashamed at my retrogression to ages which dealt with incantations, and luck, and other impostures. I was shamed to the conclusion that the phial with its blue liquid was something I had read of in the curious old books which my father had hidden away from me, and which, strange to say, I had never been able to find since his death.
Whilst I was meditating thus, there was a knock at my door, and a drayman entered with a chest, which he said had belonged to my father, and had been by him deposited several years before with a friend who lived a few miles from our village. I could scarcely close and bolt the door after the man had departed; as he brought in the chest, I had seen through the lid the phial with the blue liquid. So certain was I of this, that before I opened it I went and withdrew my glass plate, repolished it, and made all ready for a final experiment. Opening the chest, I found the old books which had been abstracted, and a small medicine-box, in which was the phial seen in my dream.
But now the question arose, How was the blue fluid to be applied? I had not looked closely at the plate which my father held to see whether it was already prepared for an impression; and so I was at a loss to know whether this new fluid was to prepare the glass with a more perfect polish, or to mingle with the subtile nitrate itself. Unfortunately I tried the last first, and there was no result at all,--except the destruction of a third of the precious fluid. Cleaning the plate perfectly, I burnt into it, drop by drop, the whole of the contents of the phial. As I drained the last drop from it, it reddened on the glass as if it were the last drop of my heart's blood poured out.
At the first glance on the star-picture thus taken, I knew that I was successful. Jupiter shone like the nucleus of a comet, even before a second power was upon it. As picture after picture was formed, belts of the most exquisite hues surrounded the luminous planet, which seemed rolling up to me, hurled from lens to lens, as if wrested from its orbit by a commanding force. Plainer and plainer grew its surface; mountain-ranges, without crags or chasms, smooth and undulating, emerged; it was zoned with a central sunlit sea. On each scene of the panorama I lingered, and each was retained as well as the poor materials would allow. I was cautious enough to take two pictures of each distinct phase,--one to keep, if this happy voyage should be my last, and the other of course as the subject from which a centre should be selected for a new expansion.
At last there stood plainly before my eye a tower!--a tower, slender and high, with curved dome, the work of Art! A cry burst from my lips,--I fainted with joy. Afraid to touch the instrument with my trembling hand, I walked the floor, imploring back my nervous self-possession. Fixing the tower by photograph, I took the centre of its dome as the next point for expansion. Slowly, slowly, as if the fate of a solar system depended on each turn of the screw, I drew on the final view. An instant of gray confusion,--another of tremulous crystallization,--and, scarcely in contact with the tower's dome, as if about to float from it, hovered an aerial ship, with two round balls suspended above it. Again one little point was taken, for I felt that this was not the culmination of my vision; and now two figures appeared, manifestly human, but their features and dress as yet undistinguishable.
Another turn, and I looked upon the face of a glorious man!
Another, and the illusion, Space, shrank away beneath my feet, my eye soared over her abysses, and gazed into the eye of an immortal.
But now,--oh, horror!--turning back to earth, I remembered that I had not analyzed the precious liquid which could so link world with world. Seized with a sudden agony, I tried to strain one least drop more; but, alas! the power had perished from the earth!
For this loss I deserve all that has happened to me. My haste to fulfil my life's object proved me the victim of a mental lust, and I saw why the highest truth is not revealed: simply, it awaits those who can receive and not be intoxicated by it. And now the planet which I had disobeyed for another avenges itself,--seeing, naturally, in strange results, whose methods are untraceable, nothing but monomania. The photographs, in which the pollens of two planet-flowers mingle, lie in my attic, dust-eaten:--"Above all, the patient must not see anything of that kind," has been the order ever since I published a card announcing my discovery to my fellow-citizens.
But they were gentle; they did not take away all. The old books are with me, each a benison from a brother. The best works of ancient times are, I think, best understood when read by prison-light.
Hist! some visitor comes! Many come from curiosity to see one who thinks he descried a man in a planet "Distinguished man of science from Boston to see me,"--ah, indeed! Celebrated paper on tadpoles, I suppose! But now that I look closer, I like my Boston man-of-science's eye, and his voice is good. I have not yet exhausted the fingers of one hand in counting up all the sane people who have visited me since I have been immured.
How do I test them?
As now I test you.
Here my treasure of treasures I open. It is the old suppressed volume of John de Sacro Bosco, inscribed to that Castilian Alphonso who dared to have the tables of Ptolemy corrected. (Had he not been a king, he had been mad: such men as Bosco were mad after Alphonso died.) And thus to my curious scientific visitor I read what I ask may go into his report along with the description of my case.
"John de Sacro Bosco sendeth this book to Alphonso de Castile. A. D. 1237."
"They alone are kings who know." "Ken and Can are twins." "God will not be hurried."
"Sacred are the fools: God understandeth them."
"Impatient, I cried, 'I will clear the stair that leadeth to God!' Now sit I at His feet, lame and weak, and men scoff at knowledge,--'Aha, this cometh of ascending stairways!'"
"The silk-worm span its way up to wings. I am ashamed and dumb, who would soar ere I had toiled.
"When riseth an Ideal in the concave of some vaulting heart or brain, it is a new heaven and signeth a new earth."
"Each clear Idea that ascendeth the vault of Pure Reason is a Bethlehem star; be sure a Messias is born for it on the Earth; the new sign lit up in the heaven of Vision is a new power set in motion among men; and, do what the Herods will, Earth's incense, myrrh, yea, even its gold, must gather to the feet of the Omnipotent Child,--the IDEA."
INSCRIBED TO W.B.
As they who watch by sick-beds find relief
And while, with hearts of thankfulness, we bear
Her fingers shame the ivory keys
O perfumed suitor, spare thy smiles!
Her heart is like an outbound ship
She sings, and, smiling, hears her praise,
She questions all the winds that blow,
She speeds them with the thanks of men
Brown Viking of the fishing-smack!
But ne'er shall Amy Wentworth wear
The stream is brightest at its spring,
Full lightly shall the prize be won,
Her home is brave in Jaffrey Street,
Still green about its ample porch
And on her, from the wainscot old,
But, strong of will and proud as they,
The sweet-brier blooms on Kittery-side,
She looks across the harbor-bar
She hums a song, and dreams that he,
Oh, rank is good, and gold is fair,
Henry David Thoreau was the last male descendant of a French ancestor who came to this country from the Isle of Guernsey. His character exhibited occasional traits drawn from this blood in singular combination with a very strong Saxon genius.
He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on the 12th of July, 1817. He was graduated at Harvard College in 1837, but without any literary distinction. An iconoclast in literature, he seldom thanked colleges for their service to him, holding them in small esteem, whilst yet his debt to them was important. After leaving the University, he joined his brother in teaching a private school, which he soon renounced. His father was a manufacturer of lead-pencils, and Henry applied himself for a time to this craft, believing he could make a better pencil than was then in use. After completing his experiments, he exhibited his work to chemists and artists in Boston, and having obtained their certificates to its excellence and to its equality with the best London manufacture, he returned home contented. His friends congratulated him that he had now opened his way to fortune. But he replied, that he should never make another pencil. "Why should I? I would not do again what I have done once." He resumed his endless walks and miscellaneous studies, making every day some new acquaintance with Nature, though as yet never speaking of zoology or botany, since, though very studious of natural facts, he was incurious of technical and textual science.
At this time, a strong, healthy youth, fresh from college, whilst all his companions were choosing their profession, or eager to begin some lucrative employment, it was inevitable that his thoughts should be exercised on the same question, and it required rare decision to refuse all the accustomed paths, and keep his solitary freedom at the cost of disappointing the natural expectations of his family and friends: all the more difficult that he had a perfect probity, was exact in securing his own independence, and in holding every man to the like duty. But Thoreau never faltered. He was a born protestant. He declined to give up his large ambition of knowledge and action for any narrow craft or profession, aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well. If he slighted and defied the opinions of others, it was only that he was more intent to reconcile his practice with his own belief. Never idle or self-indulgent, he preferred, when he wanted money, earning it by some piece of manual labor agreeable to him, as building a boat or a fence, planting, grafting, surveying, or other short work, to any long engagements. With his hardy habits and few wants, his skill in wood-craft, and his powerful arithmetic, he was very competent to live in any part of the world. It would cost him less time to supply his wants than another. He was therefore secure of his leisure.
A natural skill for mensuration, growing out of his mathematical knowledge, and his habit of ascertaining the measures and distances of objects which interested him, the size of trees, the depth and extent of ponds and rivers, the height of mountains, and the air-line distance of his favorite summits,--this, and his intimate knowledge of the territory about Concord, made him drift into the profession of land-surveyor. It had the advantage for him that it led him continually into new and secluded grounds, and helped his studies of Nature. His accuracy and skill in this work were readily appreciated, and he found all the employment he wanted.
He could easily solve the problems of the surveyor, but he was daily beset with graver questions, which he manfully confronted. He interrogated every custom, and wished to settle all his practice on an ideal foundation. He was a protestant à l'outrance, and few lives contain so many renunciations. He was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived alone; be never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh, he drank no wine, he never knew the use of tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. He chose, wisely, no doubt, for himself, to be the bachelor of thought and Nature. He had no talent for wealth, and knew how to be poor without the least hint of squalor or inelegance. Perhaps he fell into his way of living without forecasting it much, but approved it with later wisdom. "I am often reminded," he wrote in his journal, "that, if I had bestowed on me the wealth of Croesus, my aims must be still the same, and my means essentially the same." He had no temptations to fight against,--no appetites, no passions, no taste for elegant trifles. A fine house, dress, the manners and talk of highly cultivated people were all thrown away on him. He much preferred a good Indian, and considered these refinements as impediments to conversation, wishing to meet his companion on the simplest terms. He declined invitations to dinner-parties, because there each was in every one's way, and he could not meet the individuals to any purpose. "They make their pride," he said, "in making their dinner cost much; I make my pride in making my dinner cost little." When asked at table what dish he preferred, he answered, "The nearest." He did not like the taste of wine, and never had a vice in his life. He said,--"I have a faint recollection of pleasure derived from smoking dried lily-stems, before I was a man. I had commonly a supply of these. I have never smoked anything more noxious."
He chose to be rich by making his wants few, and supplying them himself. In his travels, he used the railroad only to get over so much country as was unimportant to the present purpose, walking hundreds of miles, avoiding taverns, buying a lodging in farmers' and fishermen's houses, as cheaper, and more agreeable to him, and because there he could better find the men and the information he wanted.
There was somewhat military in big nature not to be subdued, always manly and able, but rarely tender, as if he did not feel himself except in opposition. He wanted a fallacy to expose, a blunder to pillory, I may say required a little sense of victory, a roll of the drum, to call his powers into full exercise. It cost him nothing to say No; indeed, he found it much easier than to say Yes. It seemed as if his first instinct on hearing a proposition was to controvert it, so impatient was he of the limitations of our daily thought. This habit, of course, is a little chilling to the social affections; and though the companion would in the end acquit him of any malice or untruth, yet it mars conversation. Hence, no equal companion stood in affectionate relations with one so pure and guileless. "I love Henry," said one of his friends, "but I cannot like him; and as for taking his arm, I should as soon think of taking the arm of an elm-tree."
Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river. And he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts or grapes. Talking, one day, of a public discourse, Henry remarked, that whatever succeeded with the audience was bad. I said, "Who would not like to write something which all can read, like 'Robinson Crusoe'? and who does not see with regret that his page is not solid with a right materialistic treatment, which delights everybody?" Henry objected, of course, and vaunted the better lectures which reached only a few persons. But, at supper, a young girl, understanding that he was to lecture at the Lyceum, sharply asked him, "whether his lecture would be a nice, interesting story, such as she wished to hear, or whether it was one of those old philosophical things that she did not care about." Henry turned to her, and bethought himself, and, I saw, was trying to believe that he had matter that might fit her and her brother, who were to sit up and go to the lecture, if it was a good one for them.
He was a speaker and actor of the truth,--born such,--and was ever running into dramatic situations from this cause. In any circumstance, it interested all bystanders to know what part Henry would take, and what he would say; and he did not disappoint expectation, but used an original judgment on each emergency. In 1845 he built himself a small framed house on the shores of Walden Pond, and lived there two years alone, a life of labor and study. This action was quite native and fit for him. No one who knew him would tax him with affectation. He was more unlike his neighbors in his thought than in his action. As soon as he had exhausted the advantages of that solitude, he abandoned it. In 1847, not approving some uses to which the public expenditure was applied, he refused to pay his town tax, and was put in jail. A friend paid the tax for him, and he was released. The like annoyance was threatened the next year. But, as his friends paid the tax, notwithstanding his protest, I believe he ceased to resist. No opposition or ridicule had any weight with him. He coldly and fully stated his opinion without affecting to believe that it was the opinion of the company. It was of no consequence, if every one present held the opposite opinion. On one occasion he went to the University Library to procure some books. The librarian refused to lend them. Mr. Thoreau repaired to the President, who stated to him the rules and usages, which permitted the loan of books to resident graduates, to clergymen who were alumni, and to some others resident within a circle of ten miles' radius from the College. Mr. Thoreau explained to the President that the railroad had destroyed the old scale of distances,--that the library was useless, yes, and President and College useless, on the terms of his rules,--that the one benefit he owed to the College was its library,--that, at this moment, not only his want of books was imperative, but he wanted a large number of books, and assured him that he, Thoreau, and not the librarian, was the proper custodian of these. In short, the President found the petitioner so formidable, and the rules getting to look so ridiculous, that he ended by giving him a privilege which in his hands proved unlimited thereafter.
No truer American existed than Thoreau. His preference of his country and condition was genuine, and his aversation from English and European manners and tastes almost reached contempt. He listened impatiently to news or bon mots gleaned from London circles; and though he tried to be civil, these anecdotes fatigued him. The men were all imitating each other, and on a small mould. Why can they not live as far apart as possible, and each be a man by himself? What he sought was the most energetic nature; and he wished to go to Oregon, not to London. "In every part of Great Britain," he wrote in his diary, "are discovered traces of the Romans, their funereal urns, their camps, their roads, their dwellings. But New England, at least, is not based on any Roman ruins. We have not to lay the foundations of our houses on the ashes of a former civilization."
But, idealist as he was, standing for abolition of slavery, abolition of tariffs, almost for abolition of government, it is needless to say he found himself not only unrepresented in actual politics, but almost equally opposed to every class of reformers. Yet he paid the tribute of his uniform respect to the Anti-Slavery party. One man, whose personal acquaintance he had formed, he honored with exceptional regard. Before the first friendly word had been spoken for Captain John Brown, he sent notices to most houses in Concord, that he would speak in a public hall on the condition and character of John Brown, on Sunday evening, and invited all people to come. The Republican Committee, the Abolitionist Committee, sent him word that it was premature and not advisable. He replied,--"I did not send to you for advice, but to announce that I am to speak." The hall was filled at an early hour by people of all parties, and his earnest eulogy of the hero was heard by all respectfully, by many with a sympathy that surprised themselves.
It was said of Plotinus that he was ashamed of his body, and it is very likely he had good reason for it,--that his body was a bad servant, and he had not skill in dealing with the material world, as happens often to men of abstract intellect. But Mr. Thoreau was equipped with a most adapted and serviceable body. He was of short stature, firmly built, of light complexion, with strong, serious blue eyes, and a grave aspect,--his face covered in the late years with a becoming beard. His senses were acute, his frame well-knit and hardy, his hands strong and skilful in the use of tools. And there was a wonderful fitness of body and mind. He could pace sixteen rods more accurately than another man could measure them with rod and chain. He could find his path in the woods at night, he said, better by his feet than his eyes. He could estimate the measure of a tree very well by his eye; he could estimate the weight of a calf or a pig, like a dealer. From a box containing a bushel or more of loose pencils, he could take up with his hands fast enough just a dozen pencils at every grasp. He was a good swimmer, runner, skater, boatman, and would probably outwalk most countrymen in a day's journey. And the relation of body to mind was still finer than we have indicated. He said he wanted every stride his legs made. The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing. If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.
He had a strong common sense, like that which Rose Flammock, the weaver's daughter, in Scott's romance, commends in her father, as resembling a yardstick, which, whilst it measures dowlas and diaper, can equally well measure tapestry and cloth of gold. He had always a new resource. When I was planting forest-trees, and had procured half a peck of acorns, he said that only a small portion of them would be sound, and proceeded to examine them, and select the sound ones. But finding this took time, he said, "I think, if you put them all into water, the good ones will sink"; which experiment we tried with success. He could plan a garden, or a house, or a barn; would have been competent to lead a "Pacific Exploring Expedition"; could give judicious counsel in the gravest private or public affairs.
He lived for the day, not cumbered and mortified by his memory. If he brought you yesterday a new proposition, he would bring you to-day another not less revolutionary. A very industrious man, and setting, like all highly organized men, a high value on his time, he seemed the only man of leisure in town, always ready for any excursion that promised well, or for conversation prolonged into late hours. His trenchant sense was never stopped by his rules of daily prudence, but was always up to the new occasion. He liked and used the simplest food, yet, when some one urged a vegetable diet, Thoreau thought all diets a very small matter, saying that "the man who shoots the buffalo lives better than the man who boards at the Graham House." He said,--"You can sleep near the railroad, and never be disturbed: Nature knows very well what sounds are worth attending to, and has made up her mind not to hear the railroad-whistle. But things respect the devout mind, and a mental ecstasy was never interrupted." He noted, what repeatedly befell him, that, after receiving from a distance a rare plant, he would presently find the same in his own haunts. And those pieces of luck which happen only to good players happened to him. One day, walking with a stranger, who inquired where Indian arrow-heads could be found, he replied, "Everywhere," and, stooping forward, picked one on the instant from the ground. At Mount Washington, in Tuckerman's Ravine, Thoreau had a bad fall, and sprained his foot. As he was in the act of getting up from his fall, he saw for the first time the leaves of the Arnica mollis.
His robust common sense, armed with stout hands, keen perceptions, and strong will, cannot yet account for the superiority which shone in his simple and hidden life. I must add the cardinal fact, that there was an excellent wisdom in him, proper to a rare class of men, which showed him the material world as a means and symbol. This discovery, which sometimes yields to poets a certain casual and interrupted light, serving for the ornament of their writing, was in him an unsleeping insight; and whatever faults or obstructions of temperament might cloud it, he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. In his youth, he said, one day, "The other world is all my art: my pencils will draw no other; my jack-knife will cut nothing else; I do not use it as a means." This was the muse and genius that ruled his opinions, conversation, studies, work, and course of life. This made him a searching judge of men. At first glance he measured his companion, and, though insensible to some fine traits of culture, could very well report his weight and calibre. And this made the impression of genius which his conversation sometimes gave.
He understood the matter in hand at a glance, and saw the limitations and poverty of those he talked with, so that nothing seemed concealed from such terrible eyes. I have repeatedly known young men of sensibility converted in a moment to the belief that this was the man they were in search of, the man of men, who could tell them all they should do. His own dealing with them was never affectionate, but superior, didactic,--scorning their petty ways,--very slowly conceding, or not conceding at all, the promise of his society at their houses, or even at his own. "Would he not walk with them?" He did not know. There was nothing so important to him as his walk; he had no walks to throw away on company. Visits were offered him from respectful parties, but he declined them. Admiring friends offered to carry him at their own cost to the Yellow-Stone River,--to the West Indies,--to South America. But though nothing could be more grave or considered than his refusals, they remind one in quite new relations of that fop Brummel's reply to the gentleman who offered him his carriage in a shower, "But where will you ride, then?"--and what accusing silences, and what searching and irresistible speeches, battering down all defences, his companions can remember!
Mr. Thoreau dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields, hills, and waters of his native town, that he made them known and interesting to all reading Americans, and to people over the sea. The river on whose banks he was born and died he knew from its springs to its confluence with the Merrimack. He had made summer and winter observations on it for many years, and at every hour of the day and the night. The result of the recent survey of the Water Commissioners appointed by the State of Massachusetts he had reached by his private experiments, several years earlier. Every fact which occurs in the bed, on the banks, or in the air over it; the fishes, and their spawning and nests, their manners, their food; the shad-flies which fill the air on a certain evening once a year, and which are snapped at by the fishes so ravenously that many of these die of repletion; the conical heaps of small stones on the river-shallows, one of which heaps will sometimes overfill a cart,--these heaps the huge nests of small fishes; the birds which frequent the stream, heron, duck, sheldrake, loon, osprey; the snake, muskrat, otter, woodchuck, and fox, on the banks; the turtle, frog, hyla, and cricket, which make the banks vocal,--were all known to him, and, as it were, townsmen and fellow-creatures; so that he felt an absurdity or violence in any narrative of one of these by itself apart, and still more of its dimensions on an inch-rule, or in the exhibition of its skeleton, or the specimen of a squirrel or a bird in brandy. He liked to speak of the manners of the river, as itself a lawful creature, yet with exactness, and always to an observed fact. As he knew the river, so the ponds in this region.
One of the weapons he used, more important than microscope or alcohol-receiver to other investigators, was a whim which grew on him by indulgence, yet appeared in gravest statement, namely, of extolling his own town and neighborhood as the most favored centre for natural observation. He remarked that the Flora of Massachusetts embraced almost all the important plants of America,--most of the oaks, most of the willows, the best pines, the ash, the maple, the beech, the nuts. He returned Kane's "Arctic Voyage" to a friend of whom he had borrowed it, with the remark, that "most of the phenomena noted might be observed in Concord." He seemed a little envious of the Pole, for the coincident sunrise and sunset, or five minutes' day after six months: a splendid fact, which Annursnuc had never afforded him. He found red snow in one of his walks, and told me that he expected to find yet the Victoria regia in Concord. He was the attorney of the indigenous plants, and owned to a preference of the weeds to the imported plants, as of the Indian to the civilized man,--and noticed, with pleasure, that the willow bean-poles of his neighbor had grown more than his beans. "See these weeds," he said, "which have been hoed at by a million farmers all spring and summer, and yet have prevailed, and just now come out triumphant over all lanes, pastures, fields, and gardens, such is their vigor. We have insulted them with low names, too,--as Pigweed, Wormwood, Chickweed, Shad-Blossom." He says, "They have brave names, too,--Ambrosia, Stellaria, Amelanchia, Amaranth, etc."
I think his fancy for referring everything to the meridian of Concord did not grow out of any ignorance or depreciation of other longitudes or latitudes, but was rather a playful expression of his conviction of the indifferency of all places, and that the best place for each is where he stands. He expressed it once in this wise:--"I think nothing is to be hoped from you, if this bit of mould under your feet is not sweeter to you to eat than any other in this world, or in any world."
The other weapon with which he conquered all obstacles in science was patience. He knew how to sit immovable, a part of the rock he rested on, until the bird, the reptile, the fish, which had retired from him, should come back, and resume its habits, nay, moved by curiosity, should come to him and watch him.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to walk with him. He knew the country like a fox or a bird, and passed through it as freely by paths of his own. He knew every track in the snow or on the ground, and what creature had taken this path before him. One must submit abjectly to such a guide, and the reward was great. Under his arm he carried an old music-book to press plants; in his pocket, his diary and pencil, a spy-glass for birds, microscope, jack-knife, and twine. He wore straw hat, stout shoes, strong gray trousers, to brave shrub-oaks and smilax, and to climb a tree for a hawk's or a squirrel's nest. He waded into the pool for the water-plants, and his strong legs were no insignificant part of his armor. On the day I speak of he looked for the Menyanthes, detected it across the wide pool, and, on examination of the florets, decided that it had been in flower five days. He drew out of his breast-pocket his diary, and read the names of all the plants that should bloom on this day, whereof he kept account as a banker when his notes fall due. The Cypripedium not due till to-morrow. He thought, that, if waked up from a trance, in this swamp, he could tell by the plants what time of the year it was within two days. The redstart was flying about, and presently the fine grosbeaks, whose brilliant scarlet makes the rash gazer wipe his eye, and whose fine clear note Thoreau compared to that of a tanager which has got rid of its hoarseness. Presently he heard a note which he called that of the night-warbler, a bird he had never identified, had been in search of twelve years, which always, when he saw it, was in the act of diving down into a tree or bush, and which it was vain to seek; the only bird that sings indifferently by night and by day. I told him he must beware of finding and booking it, lest life should have nothing more to show him. He said, "What you seek in vain for, half your life, one day you come full upon all the family at dinner. You seek it like a dream, and as soon as you find it you become its prey."
His interest in the flower or the bird lay very deep in his mind, was connected with Nature,--and the meaning of Nature was never attempted to be defined by him. He would not offer a memoir of his observations to the Natural History Society. "Why should I? To detach the description from its connections in my mind would make it no longer true or valuable to me: and they do not wish what belongs to it." His power of observation seemed to indicate additional senses. He saw as with microscope, heard as with ear-trumpet, and his memory was a photographic register of all he saw and heard. And yet none knew better than he that it is not the fact that imports, but the impression or effect of the fact on your mind. Every fact lay in glory in his mind, a type of the order and beauty of the whole.
His determination on Natural History was organic. He confessed that he sometimes felt like a hound or a panther, and, if born among Indians, would have been a fell hunter. But, restrained by his Massachusetts culture, he played out the game in this mild form of botany and ichthyology. His intimacy with animals suggested what Thomas Fuller records of Butler the apiologist, that "either he had told the bees things or the bees had told him." Snakes coiled round his leg; the fishes swam into his hand, and he took them out of the water; he pulled the woodchuck out of its hole by the tail, and took the foxes under his protection from the hunters. Our naturalist had perfect magnanimity; he had no secrets: he would carry you to the heron's haunt, or even to his most prized botanical swamp,--possibly knowing that you could never find it again, yet willing to take his risks.
No college ever offered him a diploma, or a professor's chair; no academy made him its corresponding secretary, its discoverer, or even its member. Whether these learned bodies feared the satire of his presence. Yet so much knowledge of Nature's secret and genius few others possessed, none in a more large and religious synthesis. For not a particle of respect had he to the opinions of any man or body of men, but homage solely to the truth itself; and as he discovered everywhere among doctors some leaning of courtesy, it discredited them. He grew to be revered and admired by his townsmen, who had at first known him only as an oddity. The farmers who employed him as a surveyor soon discovered his rare accuracy and skill, his knowledge of their lands, of trees, of birds, of Indian remains, and the like, which enabled him to tell every farmer more than he knew before of his own farm; so that he began to feel a little as if Mr. Thoreau had better rights in his land than he. They felt, too, the superiority of character which addressed all men with a native authority.
Indian relics abound in Concord,--arrow-heads, stone chisels, pestles, and fragments of pottery; and on the river-bank, large heaps of clam-shells and ashes mark spots which the savages frequented. These, and every circumstance touching the Indian, were important in his eyes. His visits to Maine were chiefly for love of the Indian. He had the satisfaction of seeing the manufacture of the bark-canoe, as well as of trying his hand in its management on the rapids. He was inquisitive about the making of the stone arrow-head, and in his last days charged a youth setting out for the Rocky Mountains to find an Indian who could tell him that: "It was well worth a visit to California to learn it." Occasionally, a small party of Penobscot Indians would visit Concord, and pitch their tents for a few weeks in summer on the river-bank. He failed not to make acquaintance with the best of them; though he well knew that asking questions of Indians is like catechizing beavers and rabbits. In his last visit to Maine he had great satisfaction from Joseph Polis, an intelligent Indian of Oldtown, who was his guide for some weeks.
He was equally interested in every natural fact. The depth of his perception found likeness of law throughout Nature, and I know not any genius who so swiftly inferred universal law from the single fact. He was no pedant of a department. His eye was open to beauty, and his ear to music. He found these, not in rare conditions, but wheresoever he went. He thought the best of music was in single strains; and he found poetic suggestion in the humming of the telegraph-wire.
His poetry might be bad or good; he no doubt wanted a lyric facility and technical skill; but he had the source of poetry in his spiritual perception. He was a good reader and critic, and his judgment on poetry was to the ground of it. He could not be deceived as to the presence or absence of the poetic element in any composition, and his thirst for this made him negligent and perhaps scornful of superficial graces. He would pass by many delicate rhythms, but he would have detected every live stanza or line in a volume, and knew very well where to find an equal poetic charm in prose. He was so enamored of the spiritual beauty that he held all actual written poems in very light esteem in the comparison. He admired Aeschylus and Pindar; but, when some one was commending them, he said that "Aeschylus and the Greeks, in describing Apollo and Orpheus, had given no song, or no good one. They ought not to have moved trees, but to have chanted to the gods such a hymn as would have sung all their old ideas out of their heads, and new ones in." His own verses are often rude and defective. The gold does not yet run pure, is drossy and crude. The thyme and marjoram are not yet honey. But if he want lyric fineness and technical merits, if he have not the poetic temperament, he never lacks the causal thought, that his genius was better than his talent. He knew the worth of the Imagination for the uplifting and consolation of human life, and liked to throw every thought into a symbol. The fact you tell is of no value, but only the impression. For this reason his presence was poetic, always piqued the curiosity to know more deeply the secrets of his mind. He had many reserves, an unwillingness to exhibit to profane eyes what was still sacred in his own, and knew well how to throw a poetic veil over his experience. All readers of "Walden" will remember his mythical record of his disappointments:--
"I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks, and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud; and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves." [Walden, p. 20.]
His riddles were worth the reading, and I confide, that, if at any time I do not understand the expression, it is yet just. Such was the wealth of his truth that it was not worth his while to use words in vain. His poem entitled "Sympathy" reveals the tenderness under that triple steel of stoicism, and the intellectual subtilty it could animate. His classic poem on "Smoke" suggests Simonides, but is better than any poem of Simonides. His biography is in his verses. His habitual thought makes all his poetry a hymn to the Cause of causes,
"I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before;
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore."
And still more in these religious lines:--
"Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life;
I will not doubt the love untold,
Which not my worth or want hath bought,
Which wooed me young, and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought."
Whilst he used in his writings a certain petulance of remark in reference to churches or churchmen, he was a person of a rare, tender, and absolute religion, a person incapable of any profanation, by act or by thought. Of course, the same isolation which belonged to his original thinking and living detached him from the social religious forms. This is neither to be censured nor regretted. Aristotle long ago explained it, when he said, "One who surpasses his fellow-citizens in virtue is no longer a part of the city. Their law is not for him, since he is a law to himself."
Thoreau was sincerity itself, and might fortify the convictions of prophets in the ethical laws by his holy living. It was an affirmative experience which refused to be set aside. A truth-speaker he, capable of the most deep and strict conversation; a physician to the wounds of any soul; a friend, knowing not only the secret of friendship, but almost worshipped by those few persons who resorted to him as their confessor and prophet, and knew the deep value of his mind and great heart. He thought that without religion or devotion of some kind nothing great was ever accomplished: and he thought that the bigoted sectarian had better bear this in mind.
His virtues, of course, sometimes ran into extremes. It was easy to trace to the inexorable demand on all for exact truth that austerity which made this willing hermit more solitary even than he wished. Himself of a perfect probity, he required not less of others. He had a disgust at crime, and no worldly success would cover it. He detected paltering as readily in dignified and prosperous persons as in beggars, and with equal scorn. Such dangerous frankness was in his dealing that his admirers called him "that terrible Thoreau," as if he spoke when silent, and was still present when he had departed. I think the severity of his ideal interfered to deprive him of a healthy sufficiency of human society.
The habit of a realist to find things the reverse of their appearance inclined him to put every statement in a paradox. A certain habit of antagonism defaced his earlier writings,--a trick of rhetoric not quite outgrown in his later, of substituting for the obvious word and thought its diametrical opposite. He praised wild mountains and winter forests for their domestic air, in snow and ice he would find sultriness, and commended the wilderness for resembling Rome and Paris. "It was so dry, that you might call it wet."
The tendency to magnify the moment, to read all the laws of Nature in the one object or one combination under your eye, is of course comic to those who do not share the philosopher's perception of identity. To him there was no such thing as size. The pond was a small ocean; the Atlantic, a large Walden Pond. He referred every minute fact to cosmical laws. Though he meant to be just, he seemed haunted by a certain chronic assumption that the science of the day pretended completeness, and he had just found out that the savans had neglected to discriminate a particular botanical variety, had failed to describe the seeds or count the sepals. "That is to say," we replied, "the blockheads were not born in Concord; but who said they were? It was their unspeakable misfortune to be born in London, or Paris, or Rome; but, poor fellows, they did what they could, considering that they never saw Bateman's Pond, or Nine-Acre Corner, or Becky-Stow's Swamp. Besides, what were you sent into the world for, but to add this observation?"
Had his genius been only contemplative, he had been fitted to his life, but with his energy and practical ability he seemed born for great enterprise and for command; and I so much regret the loss of his rare powers of action, that I cannot help counting it a fault in him that he had no ambition. Wanting this, instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry-party. Pounding beans is good to the end of pounding empires one of these days; but if, at the end of years, it is still only beans!
But these foibles, real or apparent, were fast vanishing in the incessant growth of a spirit so robust and wise, and which effaced its defeats with new triumphs. His study of Nature was a perpetual ornament to him, and inspired his friends with curiosity to see the world through his eyes, and to hear his adventures. They possessed every kind of interest.
He had many elegances of his own, whilst he scoffed at conventional elegance. Thus, he could not bear to hear the sound of his own steps, the grit of gravel; and therefore never willingly walked in the road, but in the grass, on mountains and in woods. His senses were acute, and he remarked that by night every dwelling-house gives out bad air, like a slaughter-house. He liked the pure fragrance of melilot. He honored certain plants with special regard, and, over all, the pond-lily,--then, the gentian, and the Mikania scondens, and "life-everlasting," and a bass-tree which he visited every year, when it bloomed, in the middle of July. He thought the scent a more oracular inquisition than the sight,--more oracular and trustworthy. The scent, of course, reveals what is concealed from the other senses. By it he detected earthiness. He delighted in echoes, and said they were almost the only kind of kindred voices that he heard. He loved Nature so well, was so happy in her solitude, that he became very jealous of cities, and the sad work which their refinements and artifices made with man and his dwelling.
The axe was always destroying his forest. "Thank God," he said, "they cannot cut down the clouds!" "All kinds of figures are drawn on the blue ground with this fibrous white paint."
I subjoin a few sentences taken from his unpublished manuscripts, not only as records of his thought and feeling, but for their power of description and literary excellence.
"Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk."
"The chub is a soft fish, and tastes like boiled brown paper salted."
"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them."
"The locust z-ing."
"Devil's-needles zigzagging along the Nut-Meadow brook."
"Sugar is not so sweet to the palate as sound to the healthy ear."
"I put on some hemlock-boughs, and the rich salt crackling of their leaves was like mustard to the ear, the crackling of uncountable regiments. Dead trees love the fire."
"The bluebird carries the sky on his back."
"The tanager flies through the green foliage as if it would ignite the leaves."
"If I wish for a horse-hair for my compass-sight, I must go to the stable; but the hair-bird, with her sharp eyes, goes to the road."
"Immortal water, alive even to the superficies."
"Fire is the most tolerable third party."
"Nature made ferns for pure leaves, to show what she could do in that line."
"No tree has so fair a bole and so handsome an instep as the beech."
"How did these beautiful rainbow-tints get into the shell of the fresh-water clam, buried in the mud at the bottom of our dark river?"
"Hard are the times when the infant's shoes are second-foot."
"We are strictly confined to our men to whom we give liberty."
"Nothing is so much to be feared as fear. Atheism may comparatively be popular with God himself."
"Of what significance the things you can forget? A little thought is sexton to all the world."
"How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seed-time of character?"
"Only he can be trusted with gifts who can present a face of bronze to expectations."
"I ask to be melted. You can only ask of the metals that they be tender to the fire that melts them. To nought else can they be tender."
There is a flower known to botanists, one of the same genus with our summer plant called "Life-Everlasting," a Gnaphalium like that, which grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolese mountains, where the chamois dare hardly venture, and which the hunter, tempted by its beauty, and by his love, (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens,) climbs the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the flower in his hand. It is called by botanists the Gnaphalium leontopodium, but by the Swiss Edelweisse, which signifies Noble Purity. Thoreau seemed to me living in the hope to gather this plant, which belonged to him of right. The scale on which his studies proceeded was so large as to require longevity, and we were the less prepared for his sudden disappearance. The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a son it has lost. It seems an injury that he should leave in the midst his broken task, which none else can finish,--a kind of indignity to so noble a soul, that it should depart out of Nature before yet he has been really shown to his peers for what be is. But he, at least, is content. His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.
A SUMMER DAY.
At daybreak, in the fresh light, joyfully
And, pink with sunrise, many a shadowy sail
Silence was everywhere. The rising tide
No clouds at dawn,--but, as the sun climbed higher,
Stealing along the coast from cape to cape,
At noon the wind rose,--swept the glassy sea
Till all the west was dark, and inky black
Then sudden roared the thunder, a great peal
And brought the rain, sweeping o'er land and sea.
And loud the ocean sang,--a chorus grand,--
Where, joyful in His tempest as His calm,
Soon lulled the wind,-the summer storm soon died;
And wide a splendor streamed through all the sky
Warm, odorous gusts came off the distant land,
Slow faded the sweet light, and peacefully
Such unalloyed delight its hours had given,
Saw and was pleased, perhaps, one child of His
Dared, lifting up to Him untroubled eyes
This novel belongs to that class which has been most in favor of late years, in which the incidents and characters are drawn from the daily life that is going on around us, and the sources of interest are sought in the acts, struggles, and sufferings of the world that lies at our feet, discarding the idealizing charm which arises from distance in space or remoteness in time. The novels of Disraeli, Bulwer, Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, Miss Bronté, Mrs. Gaskell, Miss Muloch, and Miss Evans, differing as they do so widely in style, treatment, and spirit, all come under this general division. Fictitious compositions of this class have difficulties peculiar to themselves, but success, when attained, is proportionally great; and from the sympathetic element in man they can secure the interest of their readers, though their plots may be improbable and their characters unnatural. The scene of "Ravenshoe" is laid in England, the time is the present, and the men and women are such as may be seen at a flower-show at Chiswick or on the race-course at Epsom on a Derby day. The plot is ingenious, thickly strewn with sudden and startling incidents, though very improbable; but the story flows on in so rapid and animated a current that the reader can never pause long enough for criticism, and it is not till he lays the volume down, and recalls the ground he has been over, that he has leisure to remark that the close has been reached by such stepping-stones as are never laid down in the path of real life.
The characters are various, drawn with the greatest spirit, but not all of them natural. Lord Saltire, for instance, is a portrait with which the author has evidently taken much pains; but the elements we see in him are such as never were, never could be, combined in any living and breathing man. Father Mackworth is elaborately drawn, but the sketch wants vitality and unity. Adelaide and Ellen present essentially the same type, modified by difference of position and circumstances, and, in the latter, by the infusion of a fanatical religious element. Charles Ravenshoe, the hero, is well conceived and consistently carried; and the same may be said of Cuthbert. But the best character in the book is old Lady Ascot. She is quite original, and yet quite natural; and we guess that some of her peculiarities are drawn from life.
The descriptions of scenery are admirable,--so admirable that we pardon the author for introducing them a little too frequently. He is evidently one of those few men who love Nature with a manly and healthy love,--by whom the outward world is not sought as a shelter against invading cares, or as balm for a wounded spirit, but who find in the sunshine, the play of the breeze, and the dance of the waves, a cheerful, enduring, and satisfying companionship. The scenery is English, and South English too: the author's pictures are drawn from memory, and not from imagination. And the whole tone and spirit of the book are thoroughly English. It represents the best aspects of English life, character, and manners as they are to-day. Whatever is most generous, heroic, tender, and true in the men and women of England is here to be seen, and not drawn in colors any more flattering than it is the right of fiction to use. We think the author carries us too much into the stable and the kennel; but this, we need not say, is also English.
But we have yet to mention what we consider the highest charm of this charming book, and that is the combination which we find in it of healthiness of tone and earnestness of purpose. A healthier book we have never read. Earnestness of purpose is apt to be attended with something of excess or extravagance; but in "Ravenshoe" there is nothing morbid, nothing cynical, nothing querulous, nothing ascetic. The doctrine of the book is a reasonable enjoyment of all that is good in the world, with a firm purpose of improving the world in all possible ways. It is one of the many books which have appeared in England of late years which show the influence of the life and labors of the late Dr. Arnold. It is as inspiriting in its influence as a gallop over one of the breezy downs of Mr. Kingsley's own Devonshire.
It is, in short, a delightful book, in which all defects of structure and form are atoned for by a wonderful amount of energy, geniality, freshness, poetical feeling, and moral elevation. And furthermore, we think, no one can read it without saying to himself that he would like to see and know the writer. Long may he live to write new novels!
Vanity Fair. Volumes I.-V. New York: Louis H. Stephens, Publisher for the Proprietors.
The American is often considered to be by nature unadapted for jollity, if not positively averse to it. This supposition is not without some reasonable foundation, and the stranger may be readily excused for adopting it as an axiomatic truth. Busy calculation and restless labor appear at first to be the grand elements of American life; mirth is apparently excluded, as the superfluous members of his equations are eliminated by the algebraist. Fun is not practical enough for the American, and subserves none of his profitable projects; it provokes to idle laughter, and militates against the unresting career of industry which he has prescribed, and his utilitarian spirit thinks it were as well abolished. His recreations are akin to his toil. If he give to study such hours as business spares, fates first claim his attention, and then philosophy or ethics: he cannot resign himself to lighter topics. When he reads in his Horace, "Dulce est desipere in loco," he grants the proposition, with the commentary that he, at least, has very rarely been "in loco." He reads tragedies, and perhaps writes one; but he does not affect comedies, and he could have no sympathy with an uproarious burlesque or side-shaking Christmas pantomime. His brethren who seek the theatre for amusement are of similar opinion, and so are they who stand behind the foot-lights. Therefore it is, that, for every passable comedian, America can produce a whole batch of very fair tragic actors.
This serious character the American is apt to wear abroad as well as at home. When he travels, he is wont to be in a hurry, and to examine curious cities as if he were making sharp bargains against time. In spite of the wonderful power of adaptation which makes him of all men the best cosmopolitan, he never is quite perfect in his assumption of another nationality, and he generally falls short of a thorough appreciation of its mirthful principle. If he emigrate to France, he soon feasts upon frogs as freely and speaks with as accurate an accent as the Parisian, but he cannot quite assume the gay insouciance of the French; if to England, he adores method, learns to grumble and imbibe old ale, yet does not become accustomed to the free, blunt raillery,--the "chaff,"--with which Britons disport themselves; if to China, he lives upon curries and inscribes his name with a camel's-hair pencil, but all Oriental bizarrerie fails to thoroughly amuse him. Wherever he may go, he settles at once and easily into the outward life of the people among whom he is,--while he always reserves within himself a cold, stern individuality; he often is angered when he should be amused, and retorts with resentment when he should reply in repartee. Still, the American is not sombre to the core. He has a kind of grim merriment bestowed somewhere in the recesses of his being. It is quaint and severe, however, and abounding in dry conceits. It inclines more to the nature of sarcasm than of flashing wit or genial humor. There is apt to be the bitterness about it which would provoke a heavy blow, unless it had been itself so weighty in attack as to crush what might have sprung into resistance. It passes from badinage into personalities and recriminations. In these respects it is consonant with the general bearing of the American character. The levity of wit and the pleasantry of humor appear at first purposeless; they are immaterial, and, even when most palpably present, seem, like Macbeth's encountering witches, to make of themselves air, into which they vanish. But sarcasm, and the direct application of ridicule, effect something at once; their course may be swift and cloudy, like that of the bullet, but it has a definite end in view; they are discharged and sweep away invisibly, or like a dark speck at most, but the crash and shiver of the distant target show that the shot has told. They are practical, and the American understands them; as for mere wit and humor, he will perhaps investigate them when there shall come to him that season of leisure which he mythically proposes to enjoy when there shall be no more work to do, and into which he is usually ushered by one busier even than himself, and less tolerant of idleness and folly,--Death, the great Chamberlain of Eternal Halls.
There is another characteristic of American wit and humor: they are evanescent and keen, escaping adroitly from the snares of the printer. America cannot boast of her satirists or humorists as forming a class like the great English and European groups, and yet her literature is enriched with many volumes wherein may be found the most brilliant wit and the most genial, genuine humor. Seldom, however, are these the main features of the books in which they occur; they are not bound in the great, all-important chain, but are woven into the little threads which underlie it; the obtuse or careless reader may easily overlook them, passing on to the end without suspecting the treasures which he has missed; and the foreigner, who does not look for such qualities among a people so perversely practical as Americans, will be apt entirely to ignore their possible existence. Again, if the writers are first-class men, their birth is the most purely American characteristic they possess. Their cast of thought and culture denotes that they belong to other times and lands as well as to this. They would have been at home among the literati of Queen Anne's day,--for their fellowship has been with such in spirit, if not in the flesh. Therefore the prejudiced, and they whose perceptions are not quick to recognize the finer traits which indicate the real character of men and of their works, are wont to say that here is nothing new, nothing indigenous to the soil, only an outgrowth of the Old World,--merely exotics, which would soon perish from the pains of transplanting, if they were not carefully fostered.
As a bit of drift-wood warns the most unpractised eye of the direction which a current takes, so the light, ephemeral brochures of any epoch give a plain hint of the tendency of its thought. The librarian and historian know the value of newspapers and pamphlets, for in them can be found what big books and voluminous records do not contain. From pasquinades, caricatures, and bits of comedy or satire can be drawn an idea of the popular humor of any era, which the works of great authors fail to convey. They are spontaneous and unstudied, regardless alike of reputation already established, which must be maintained, and of that which may yet be won; for they come from unknown sources, and exist solely for their own sakes and by their own vitality. They are, therefore, trustworthy assistants to him who studies the spirit of any people or generation.
In this respect American humor has been ill represented. Comic publications have appeared only at rare intervals, and comic journals have soon degenerated into stupidity or coarseness. Yet this has not been for lack of material, but of a proper editorial faculty, and from the want of a habitude or a willingness on the part of those who conceive clever things to note them down and give them out in black and white. When "Vanity Fair" first appeared, we thought we saw in it the germ of a journal which might be an exponent of our national spirit of mirthfulness, and we took occasion to say so briefly. We have not been disappointed. The five volumes which have already been published in weekly numbers have been true to the honest purpose which the conductors proposed to themselves and the public in their prospectus, and are fair representatives of the wit and humor which are in their essence allied to the merriment and the satire of Hawthorne and Lowell, Holmes and Saxe, although, of course, they are not yet developed with like delicacy and brilliance. There is in these pages a vast deal of genuine, hearty fun, and of sharp, stinging sarcasm; there are also hundreds of cleverly drawn and cleanly cut illustrations. Better than these, there is a fearlessness of consequences and of persons, when a wrong is to be combated, an error to be set right. And this Touchstone has been impartial as well as sturdy in his castigation; he has not been blind to the faults of his friends, or slow in bidding them imitate the excellences of his enemies; he had "a whip of scorpions" for the late Administration, when others, whose intuitions were less quick, saw nothing to chastise, and he has not hesitated to rebuke the official misdemeanors of these days, because officers have per contra done other portions of their duties well. According to his creed, a wrong cannot be palliated into a right, but must be reformed thereto; he has no tolerance for that evil whose cure is obvious and possible, and he treats boldly and severely the subjects of which the timid scarcely dare to speak.
It cannot, of course, be claimed for "Vanity Fair" that it is all clever. The brightest wit must say some dull things, and a comic journal can hardly help letting some dreary attempts at mirth slip into its columns. We could point out paragraphs in this serial which are most chaotic and unmeaning, and some, indeed, which fall below its own excellent standard of refinement; but we do not remember ever to have met in its pages a double-entendre or a foulness of speech. We must advise its conductor (who, we may say in passing, is a gentleman whose writings have not infrequently appeared in the "Atlantic") never to allow his paper to descend to the level of the ignoble vulgus; and we are glad that in wishing "Vanity Fair" long life and prosperity we have to censure it only for some slight violations of good taste, not for any offence against modesty or decorum. It deserves admission to the library and the drawing-room.
Lectures on the Science of Language, delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, in April, May, and June, 1861. By Max Miller, M.A., Fellow of All-Souls College, Oxford, Corresponding Member of the Institute of France. From the Second London Edition, revised. New York. C. Scribner. 12mo. pp. 416. $1.50.
Ballads of the War. No. I. The March to the Capitol. No. II. Sumter. By Augustine J.H. Duganne. Illustrated. New York. John Robins. 4to. paper, each number, pp. 12, 25 cts.
Les Misérables. Par Victor Hugo. Première Partie. Fantine. 2 vols. New York. F.W. Christen. Paris. Pagnerre. 8vo. pp. 355, 376. $3.00.
Journal of Alfred Ely, a Prisoner of War in Richmond. Edited by Charles Lanman. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 359. $1.00.
The Indian Scout; or, Life on the Frontier. By Gustave Aimard. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp. 202. 50 cts.
The Law and Practice of the Game of Euchre. By a Professor. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 16mo. pp. 134. 50 cts.
Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church. With an Introduction, on the Study of Ecclesiastical History. By Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D., Regius Professor of Ecclesiatical History in the University of Oxford, and Canon of Christ Church. From the Second London Edition, revised. New York. Charles Scribner. 8vo. pp. 551. $2.50.
Lyrics for Freedom, and other Poems. Under the Auspices of the Continental Club. New York. G.W. Carleton. 16mo. pp. xvi., 243. $1.00.
The C.S.A. and the Battle of Bull Run. A Letter to an English Friend. By J.G. Barnard, Major of Engineers, U.S.A., Brigadier-General and Chief Engineer, Army of the Potomac. With Five Maps. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 8vo. pp. 136. $1.50.
Artemus Ward, his Book. With Many Comic Illustrations. New York. G.W. Carleton. 12mo. pp. 264. $1.00.
A Life's Secret. A Story of Woman's Revenge. By Mrs. Henry Wood, Author of "East Lynne," etc. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. pp. 144. $1.00.
Why Paul Ferroll killed his Wife. By the Author of "Paul Ferroll." New York. G. W. Carleton. 12mo. paper, pp. 235. 50 cts.
Les Misérables. Fantine. A Novel. By Victor Hugo. Translated from the Original French, by Charles E. Wilbour. New York. G.W. Carleton. 8vo. pp. 171. $1.00.
Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated from Drawings by F.O.C. Darley and John Gilbert. Barnaby Rudge. In Three Volumes. New York. Sheldon & Co. 16mo. pp. 315, 315, 310. $2.25.
A Dictionary of English Etymology. By Hensleigh Wedgwood, M.A., late Fellow of Chr. Coll. Cam. Vol. I. (A-D.) With Notes and Additions by George P. Marsh. New York. Sheldon & Co. 4to. pp. 247. $2.00.
Concord Fight. By S.R. Bartlett. Concord. Albert Stacy. 16mo. pp. 34. 25 cts.
First Lessons in Mechanics; with Practical Applications. Designed for the Use of Schools. By W.E. Worthen. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 16mo. pp. 192. 50 cts.
Replies to "Essays and Reviews." By the Rev. E.M. Goulburn, D.D.; Rev. H.J. Rose, B.D.; Rev. C.A. Heurtley, D.D.; Rev. W. J. Irons, D.D.; Rev. G. Rorison, M.A.; Rev. A.W. Haddan, B.D.; Rev. Chr. Wordsworth, D.D. With a Preface by the Lord Bishop of Oxford, and Letters from the Radcliffe Observer and the Reader in Geology in the University of Oxford. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 438. $1.25.
The Two Prima Donnas. A Novel of Real Life. By George Augustus Sala. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp. 78. 25 cts.
The Stolen Mask; or, The Mysterious Cash-Box. By Wilkie Collins. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp. 78. 25 cts.
The Works of Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, and Lord High Chancellor of England. Collected and edited by James Spedding, M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge; Robert Leslie Ellis, M.A., late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and Douglas Denon Heath, Barrister-at-Law, late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Vol. IV. Boston. Brown. & Taggard. 12mo. pp. 483. $1.50.
John Doe and Richard Roe; or, Episodes of Life in New York. By Edward S. Gould, Author of "Abridgment of Alison's Europe," etc. New York. G. W. Carleton. 12 mo. pp. 312. $1.00.
Game-Fish of the Northern States of America and British Provinces. By Barnwell. New York. G. W. Carleton. 12mo. pp. 324. $1.25.
Home, and other Poems. By A. H. Caughey. New York. G. W. Carleton. 16 mo. pp. 82. 50 cts.
Among the Pines; or, South in Secession-Time. By Edmund Kirke. New York. J.R. Gilmore. 12mo. pp. 310. $1.00.
The Morfesons. By Elizabeth Stoddard. New York. G. W. Carleton. 12mo. pp. 259. $1.00.
Oriental Harems and Scenery. Translated from the French of the Princess Belgiojoso. New York. G. W. Carleton. 12mo. pp. 422. $1.25.
Love's Labor Won. By Mrs. Emma D. E. N. Southworth. Philadelphia. T. B. Peterson & Brothers. 12mo. pp. 383. $1.25.
The Flirt; or, Passages in the Life of a Fashionable Young Lady. By Mrs. Grey, Author of "The Gambler's Wife," etc. Philadelphia. T. E. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp. 216. 50 cts.
Naval Text-Book and Dictionary, for the Use of the Midshipmen of the United States Navy. By B. J. Tatten, Commander U. S. Navy. New Edition, revised. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 12mo. pp. 449. $2.50.
Life of Mary, Queen of Scots. In Two Books. By Donald MacLeod, Author of "Pynnshurst," etc. New York. D. & J. Sadlier & Co. 12mo. pp. 430. $1.25.
Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession; with a Narrative of Personal Adventures among the Rebels. By W. G. Brownlow, Editor of the "Knoxville Whig." Philadelphia. G. W. Childs. 12mo. pp. 458. $1.00.
Les Misérables. Cosette. A Novel. By Victor Hugo. Translated from the Original French, by Charles E. Wilbour. New York. G. W. Carleton. 8vo. paper, pp. 164. 50 cts.