Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 54, April, 1862
Part 4 out of 5
a General Council of the Church to look into these matters. When I left
Florence, a short time ago, the faction opposed to him broke into the
convent and took him away. I myself was there."
"What!" said Agnes, "did they break into the convent of the San Marco?
My uncle is there."
"Yes, and he and I fought side by side with the mob who were rushing
"Uncle Antonio fight!" said Agnes, in astonishment.
"Even women will fight, when what they love most is attacked," said the
He turned to her, as he spoke, and saw in the moonlight a flash from her
eye, and an heroic expression on her face, such as he had never remarked
before; but she said nothing. The veil had been rudely torn from her
eyes; she had seen with horror the defilement and impurity of what she
had ignorantly adored in holy places, and the revelation seemed to have
wrought a change in her whole nature.
"Even you could fight, Agnes," said the knight, "to save your religion
"No," said she; "but," she added, with gathering firmness, "I could die.
I should be glad to die with and for the holy men who would save the
honor of the true faith. I should like to go to Florence to my uncle. If
he dies for his religion, I should like to die with him."
"Ah, live to teach it to me!" said the knight, bending towards her, as
if to adjust her bridle-rein, and speaking in a voice scarcely audible.
In a moment he was turned again towards the Princess, listening to her.
"So it seems," she said, "that we shall be running into the thick of the
conflict in Florence."
"Yes, but my uncle hath promised that the King of France shall
interfere. I have hope something may even now have been done. I hope to
effect something myself."
Agostino spoke with the cheerful courage of youth. Agnes glanced timidly
up at him. How great the change in her ideas! No longer looking on him
as a wanderer from the fold, an enemy of the Church, he seemed now in
the attitude of a champion of the faith, a defender of holy men and
things against a base usurpation. What injustice had she done him, and
how patiently had he borne that injustice! Had he not sought to warn
her against the danger of venturing into that corrupt city? Those words
which so much shocked her, against which she had shut her ears, were all
true; she had found them so; she could doubt no longer. And yet he had
followed her, and saved her at the risk of his life. Could she help
loving one who had loved her so much, one so noble and heroic? Would
it be a sin to love him? She pondered the dark warnings of Father
Francesco, and then thought of the cheerful, fervent piety of her old
uncle. How warm, how tender, how life-giving had been his presence
always! how full of faith and prayer, how fruitful of heavenly words and
thoughts had been all his ministrations!--and yet it was for him and
with him and his master that Agostino Sarelli was fighting, and against
him the usurping head of the Christian Church. Then there was another
subject for pondering during this night-ride. The secret of her birth
had been told her by the Princess, who claimed her as kinswoman. It had
seemed to her at first like the revelations of a dream; but as she rode
and reflected, gradually the idea shaped itself in her mind. She was, in
birth and blood, the equal of her lover, and henceforth her life would
no more be in that lowly plane where it had always moved. She thought of
the little orange-garden at Sorrento, of the gorge with its old bridge,
the Convent, the sisters, with a sort of tender, wondering pain. Perhaps
she should see them no more. In this new situation she longed once more
to see and talk with her old uncle, and to have him tell her what were
Their path soon began to be a wild clamber among the mountains, now lost
in the shadow of groves of gray, rustling olives, whose knotted, serpent
roots coiled round the rocks, and whose leaves silvered in the moonlight
whenever the wind swayed them. Whatever might be the roughness and
difficulties of the way, Agnes found her knight ever at her bridle-rein,
guiding and upholding, steadying her in her saddle when the horse
plunged down short and sudden descents, and wrapping her in his mantle
to protect her from the chill mountain-air. When the day was just
reddening in the sky, the whole troop made a sudden halt before a square
stone tower which seemed to be a portion of a ruined building, and here
some of the men dismounting knocked at an arched door. It was soon swung
open by a woman with a lamp in her hand, the light of which revealed
very black hair and eyes, and heavy gold earrings.
"Have my directions been attended to?" said Agostino, in a tone of
command. "Are there places made ready for these ladies to sleep?"
"There are, my Lord," said the woman, obsequiously,--"the best we could
get ready on so short a notice."
Agostino came up to the Princess. "Noble Madam," he said, "you will
value safety before all things; doubtless the best that can be done here
is but poor, but it will give you a few hours for repose where you may
be sure of being in perfect safety."
So saying, he assisted her and Agnes to dismount, and Elsie and Monica
also alighting, they followed the woman into a dark stone passage and up
some rude stone steps. She opened at last the door of a brick-floored
room, where beds appeared to have been hastily prepared. There was no
furniture of any sort except the beds. The walls were dusty and hung
with cobwebs. A smaller apartment opening into this had beds for Elsie
The travellers, however, were too much exhausted with their night-ride
to be critical, the services of disrobing and preparing for rest were
quickly concluded, and in less than an hour all were asleep, while
Agostino was busy concerting the means for an immediate journey to
"LET US ALSO GO, THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM."
Father Antonio sat alone in his cell in the San Marco in an attitude of
deep dejection. The open window looked into the garden of the convent,
from which steamed up the fragrance of violet, jasmine, and rose, and
the sunshine lay fair on all that was without. On a table beside him
were many loose and scattered sketches, and an unfinished page of
the Breviary he was executing, rich in quaint tracery of gold and
arabesques, seemed to have recently occupied his attention, for his
palette was wet and many loose brushes lay strewed around. Upon the
table stood a Venetian glass with a narrow neck and a bulb clear
and thin as a soap-bubble, containing vines and blossoms of the
passion-flower, which he had evidently been using as models in his work.
The page he was illuminating was the prophetic Psalm which describes the
ignominy and sufferings of the Redeemer. It was surrounded by a wreathed
border of thorn-branches interwoven with the blossoms and tendrils of
the passion-flower, and the initial letters of the first two words were
formed by a curious combination of the hammer, the nails, the spear, the
crown of thorns, the cross, and other instruments of the Passion; and
clear, in red letter, gleamed out those wonderful, mysterious words,
consecrated by the remembrance of a more than mortal anguish,--"My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
The artist-monk had perhaps fled to his palette to assuage the
throbbings of his heart, as a mourning mother flies to the cradle of her
child; but even there his grief appeared to have overtaken him, for the
work lay as if pushed from him in an access of anguish such as comes
from the sudden recurrence of some overwhelming recollection. He was
leaning forward with his face buried in his hands, sobbing convulsively.
The door opened, and a man advancing stealthily behind laid a hand
kindly on his shoulder, saying softly, "So, so, brother!"
Father Antonio looked up, and, dashing his hand hastily across his
eyes, grasped that of the new-comer convulsively, and saying only, "Oh,
Baccio! Baccio!" hid his face again.
The eyes of the other filled with tears, as he answered gently,--
"Nay, but, my brother, you are killing yourself. They tell me that you
have eaten nothing for three days, and slept not for weeks; you will die
of this grief."
"Would that I might! Why could not I die with him as well as Fra
Domenico? Oh, my master! my dear master!"
"It is indeed a most heavy day to us all," said Baccio della Porta,
the amiable and pure-minded artist better known to our times by his
conventual name of Fra Bartolommeo. "Never have we had among us such a
man; and if there be any light of grace in my soul, his preaching first
awakened it, brother. I only wait to see him enter Paradise, and then
I take farewell of the world forever. I am going to Prato to take the
Dominican habit, and follow him as near as I may."
"It is well, Baccio, it is well," said Father Antonio; "but you must not
put out the light of your genius in those shadows,--you must still paint
for the glory of God."
"I have no heart for painting now," said Baccio, dejectedly. "He was my
inspiration, he taught me the holier way, and he is gone."
At this moment the conference of the two was interrupted by a knocking
at the door, and Agostino Sarelli entered, pale and disordered.
"How is this?" he said, hastily. "What devils' carnival is this which
hath broken loose in Florence? Every good thing is gone into dens and
holes, and every vile thing that can hiss and spit and sting is crawling
abroad. What do the princes of Europe mean to let such things be?"
"Only the old story," said Father Antonio,--"_Principes convenerunt in
unum adversus Dominum, adversus Christum ejus_."
So much were all three absorbed in the subject of their thoughts, that
no kind of greeting or mark of recognition passed among them, such as is
common when people meet after temporary separation. Each spoke out from
the fulness of his soul, as from an overflowing bitter fountain.
"Was there no one to speak for him,--no one to stand up for the pride of
Italy,--the man of his age?" said Agostino.
"There was one voice raised for him in the council," said Father
Antonio. "There was Agnolo Niccolini: a grave man is this Agnolo, and of
great experience in public affairs, and he spoke out his mind boldly. He
told them flatly, that, if they looked through the present time or the
past ages, they would not meet a man of such a high and noble order as
this, and that to lay at our door the blood of a man the like of whom
might not be born for centuries was too impious and execrable a thing to
be thought of. I'll warrant me, he made a rustling among them when he
said that, and the Pope's commissary--old Romalino--then whispered
and frowned; but Agnolo is a stiff old fellow when he once begins a
thing,--he never minded it, and went through with his say. It seems to
me he said that it was not for us to quench a light like this, capable
of giving lustre to the faith even when it had grown dim in other parts
of the world,--and not to the faith alone, but to all the arts and
sciences connected with it. If it were needed to put restraint on him,
he said, why not put him into some fortress, and give him commodious
apartments, with abundance of books, and pen, ink, and paper, where he
would write books to the honor of God and the exaltation of the holy
faith? He told them that this might be a good to the world, whereas
consigning him to death without use of any kind would bring on our
republic perpetual dishonor."
"Well said for him!" said Baccio, with warmth; "but I'll warrant me, he
might as well have preached to the north wind in March, his enemies are
in such a fury."
"Yes, yes," said Antonio, "it is just as it was of old: the chief
priests and Scribes and Pharisees were instant with loud voices,
requiring he should be put to death; and the easy Pilates, for fear of
the tumult, washed their hands of it."
"And now," said Agostino, "they are putting up a great gibbet in the
shape of a cross in the public square, where they will hang the three
holiest and best men of Florence!"
"I came through there this morning," said Baccio, "and there were young
men and boys shouting, and howling, and singing indecent songs, and
putting up indecent pictures, such as those he used to preach against.
It is just as you say. All things vile have crept out of their lair, and
triumph that the man who made them afraid is put down; and every house
is full of the most horrible lies about him,--things that they said he
"Confessed!" said Father Antonio,--"was it not enough that they tore
and tortured him seven times, but they must garble and twist the very
words that he said in his agony? The process they have published is
foully falsified,--stuffed full of improbable lies; for I myself have
read the first draught of all he did say, just as Signor Ceccone took it
down as they were torturing him. I had it from Jacopo Manelli, canon of
our Duomo here, and he got it from Ceccone's wife herself. They not only
can torture and slay him, but they torture and slay his memory with
"Would I were in God's place for one day!" said Agostino, speaking
through his clenched teeth. "May I be forgiven for saying so."
"We are hot and hasty," said Father Antonio, "ever ready to call down
fire from heaven,--but, after all, 'the Lord reigneth, let the earth
rejoice.' 'Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness.' Our
dear father is sustained in spirit and full of love. Even when they
let him go from the torture, he fell on his knees, praying for his
"Good God! this passes me!" said Agostino, striking his hands together.
"Oh, wherefore hath a strong man arms and hands, and a sword, if he
must stand still and see such things done? If I had only my hundred
mountaineers here, I would make one charge for him to-morrow. If I could
only _do_ something!" he added, striding impetuously up and down the
cell and clenching his fists. "What! hath nobody petitioned to stay this
"Nobody for him," said Father Antonio. "There was talk in the city
yesterday that Fra Domenico was to be pardoned; in fact, Romalino was
quite inclined to do it, but Battista Albert talked violently against
it, and so Romalino said, 'Well, a monk more or less isn't much matter,'
and then he put his name down for death with the rest. The order was
signed by both commissaries of the Pope, and one was Fra Turiano, the
general of our order, a mild man, full of charity, but unable to stand
against the Pope."
"Mild men are nuisances in such places", said Agostino, hastily; "our
times want something of another sort."
"There be many who have fallen away from him even in our house here,"
said Father Antonio,--"as it was with our blessed Lord, whose disciples
forsook him and fled. It seems to be the only thought with some how they
shall make their peace with the Pope."
"And so the thing will be hurried through to-morrow," said Agostino,
"and when it's done and over, I'll warrant me there will be found kings
and emperors to say they meant to have saved him. It's a vile, evil
world, this of ours; an honorable man longs to see the end of it. But,"
he added, coming up and speaking to Father Antonio, "I have a private
message for you."
"I am gone this moment," said Baccio, rising with ready courtesy; "but
keep up heart, brother."
So saying, the good-hearted artist left the cell, and Agostino said,--
"I bring tidings to you of your kindred. Your niece and sister are here
in Florence, and would see you. You will find them at the house of one
Gherardo Rosselli, a rich citizen of noble blood."
"Why are they there?" said the monk, lost in amazement.
You must know, then, that a most singular discovery hath been made
by your niece at Rome. The sister of her father, being a lady of the
princely blood of Colonna, hath been assured of her birth by the
confession of the priest that married him; and being driven from Rome by
fear of the Borgias, they came hither under my escort, and wait to see
you. So, if you will come with me now, I will guide you to them."
"Even so," said Father Antonio.
In a shadowy chamber of a room overlooking the grand square of Florence
might be seen, on the next morning, some of the principal personages of
our story. Father Antonio, Baccio della Porta, Agostino Sarelli, the
Princess Paulina, Agnes, with her grandmother, and mixed crowd of
citizens and ecclesiastics who all spoke in hushed and tremulous voices,
as men do in the chamber of mourners at a funeral. The great, mysterious
bell of the Campanile was swinging with dismal, heart-shaking toll, like
a mighty voice from the spirit-world; and it was answered by the
tolling of all the bells in the city, making such wavering clangors and
vibrating circles in the air over Florence that it might seem as if it
were full of warring spirits wrestling for mastery.
Toll! toll! toll! O great bell of the fair Campanile! for this day the
noblest of the wonderful men of Florence is to offered up. Toll! for an
era is going out,--the era of her artists, her statesmen, her poets, and
her scholars. Toll! for an era is coming in,--the era of her disgrace
and subjugation and misfortune!
The stepping of the vast crowd in the square was like the patter of a
great storm, and the hum of voices rose up like the murmur of the ocean;
but in the chamber all was so still that one could have heard the
dropping of a pin.
Under the balcony of this room were seated in pomp and state the Papal
commissioners, radiant in gold and scarlet respectability; and Pilate
and Herod, on terms of the most excellent friendship, were ready to act
over again the part they had acted fourteen hundred years by before. Now
has arrived the moment when the three followers of the Man of Calvary
are to be degraded from the fellowship of His visible Church.
Father Antonio, Agostino, and Baccio stood forth in the balcony, and,
drawing in their breath, looked down, as the three men of the hour, pale
and haggard with imprisonment and torture, were brought up amid the
hoots and obscene jests of the populace. Savonarola first was led before
the tribunal, and there, with circumstantial minuteness, endued with
all his priestly vestments, which again, with separate ceremonies of
reprobation and ignominy, were taken from him. He stood through it all
serene as stood his Master when stripped of His garments on Calvary.
There is a momentary hush of voices and drawing in of breaths in the
great crowd. The Papal legate takes him by the hand and pronounces the
words, "Jerome Savonarola, I separate thee from the Church Militant and
the Church Triumphant."
He is going to speak.
"What says he?" said Agostino, leaning over the balcony.
Solemnly and clear that impressive voice which so often had thrilled the
crowds in that very square made answer,--
"From the Church Militant you _may_ divide me; but from the Church
Triumphant, _no,--that_ is above your power!"--and a light flashed out
in his face as if a smile from Christ had shone down upon him.
"Amen!" said Father Antonio; "he hath witnessed a good confession,"--and
turning, he went in, and, burying his face in his hands, remained in
"When like ceremonies had been passed through with the others, the three
martyrs were delivered to the secular executioner, and, amid the scoffs
and jeers of the brutal crowd, turned their faces to the gibbet.
"Brothers, let us sing the Te Deum," said Savonarola.
"Do not so infuriate the mob," said the executioner,--"for harm might be
"At least let us repeat it together," said he, "lest we forget it."
And so they went forward, speaking to each other of the glorious company
of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army
of martyrs, and giving thanks aloud in that great triumphal hymn of the
Church of all Ages.
When the lurid fires were lighted which blazed red and fearful through
that crowded square, all in that silent chamber fell on their knees, and
Father Antonio repeated prayers for departing souls.
To the last, that benignant right hand which had so often pointed the
way of life to that faithless city was stretched out over the crowd
in the attitude of blessing; and so loving, not hating, praying with
exaltation, and rendering blessing for cursing, the souls of the martyrs
ascended to the great cloud of witnesses above.
A few days after the death of Savonarola, Father Antonio was found one
morning engaged in deep converse with Agnes.
The Princess Paulina, acting for her family, desired to give her hand to
the Prince Agostino Sarelli, and the interview related to the religious
scruples which still conflicted with the natural desires of the child.
"Tell me, my little one," said Father Antonio, "frankly and truly, dost
thou not love this man with all thy heart?"
"Yes, my father, I do," said Agnes; "but ought I not to resign this love
for the love of my Saviour?"
"I see not why," said the monk. "Marriage is a sacrament as well as holy
orders, and it is a most holy and venerable one, representing the divine
mystery by which the souls of the blessed are united to the Lord. I do
not hold with Saint Bernard, who, in his zeal for a conventual life,
seemed to see no other way of serving God but for all men and women to
become monks and nuns. The holy order is indeed blessed to those souls
whose call to it is clear and evident, like mine; but if there be a
strong and virtuous love for a worthy object, it is a vocation unto
marriage, which should not be denied."
"So, Agnes," said the knight, who had stolen into the room unperceived,
and who now boldly possessed himself of one of her hands--"Father
Antonio hath decided this matter," he added, turning to the Princess
and Elsie, who entered, "and everything having been made ready for
my journey into France, the wedding ceremony shall take place on the
morrow, and, for that we are in deep affliction, it shall be as private
as may be."
And so on the next morning the wedding ceremony took place, and the
bride and groom went on their way to France, where preparations
befitting their rank awaited them.
Old Elsie was heard to observe to Monica, that there was some sense in
making pilgrimages, since this to Rome, which she had undertaken so
unwillingly, had turned out so satisfactory.
In the reign of Julius II., the banished families who had been plundered
by the Borgias were restored to their rights and honors at Rome; and
there was a princess of the house of Sarelli then at Rome, whose
sanctity of life and manners was held to go back to the traditions of
primitive Christianity, so that she was renowned not less for goodness
than for rank and beauty.
In those days, too, Raphael, the friend of Fra Bartolommeo, placed in
one of the grandest halls of the Vatican, among the Apostles and Saints,
the image of the traduced and despised martyr whose ashes had been cast
to the winds and waters in Florence. His memory lingered long in Italy,
so that it was even claimed that miracles were wrought in his name and
by his intercession. Certain it is, that the living words he spoke were
seeds of immortal flowers which blossomed in secret dells and obscure
shadows of his beautiful Italy.
* * * * *
Hear ye not how, from all high points of Time,--
From peak to peak adown the mighty chain
That links the ages,--echoing sublime
A Voice Almighty,--leaps one grand refrain,
Wakening the generations with a shout,
And trumpet-call of thunder,--Come ye out!
Out from old forms and dead idolatries;
From fading myths and superstitious dreams;
From Pharisaic rituals and lies,
And all the bondage of the life that seems!
Out,--on the pilgrim path, of heroes trod,
Over earth's wastes, to reach forth after God!
The Lord hath bowed His heaven, and come down!
Now, in this latter century of time,
Once more His tent is pitched on Sinai's crown!
Once more in clouds must Faith to meet Him climb!
Once more His thunder crashes on our doubt
And fear and sin,--"My people! come ye out!
"From false ambitions and base luxuries;
From puny aims and indolent self-ends;
From cant of faith, and shams of liberties,
And mist of ill that Truth's pure daybeam bends:
Out, from all darkness of the Egypt-land,
Into My sun-blaze on the desert sand!
"Leave ye your flesh-pots; turn from filthy greed
Of gain that doth the thirsting spirit mock;
And heaven shall drop sweet manna for your need,
And rain clear rivers from the unhewn rock!
Thus saith the Lord!" And Moses--meek, unshod--
Within the cloud stands hearkening to his God!
Show us our Aaron, with his rod in flower!
Our Miriam, with her timbrel-soul in tune!
And call some Joshua, in the Spirit's power,
To poise our sun of strength at point of noon!
God of our fathers! over sand and sea,
Still keep our struggling footsteps close to Thee!
* * * * *
THEN AND NOW IN THE OLD DOMINION.
The history of Virginia opens with a romance. No one will be surprised
at this, for it is a habit histories have. There is Plymouth Rock, for
example; it would be hard to find anything more purely romantic than
that. Well do we remember the sad day when a friend took us to the
perfectly flat wharf at Plymouth, and recited Mrs. Hemans's humorous
"The breaking waves dashed high,
On a stern and rock-bound coast."
"Such, then," we reflected, "is History! If Plymouth Rock turns out to
be a myth, why may not Columbus or Santa Claus or Napoleon, or anything
or anybody?" Since then we have been skeptical about history even where
it seems most probable; at times doubt whether Rip Van Winkle really
slept twenty years without turning over; are annoyed with misgivings as
to whether our Western pioneers Boone, Crockett, and others, _did_ keep
bears in their stables for saddle-horses, and harness alligators as we
do oxen. So we doubted the story of John Smith and Pocahontas with which
Virginia opens. In one thing we had already caught that State making a
mythical statement: it was named by Queen Elizabeth Virginia in honor of
her own virgin state,--which, if Cobbett is to be believed, was also a
romance. Well, America was named after a pirate, and Sir Walter Raleigh,
who suggested the name of the Virgin Queen, was fond of a joke.
But notwithstanding the suspicion with which we entered upon the
investigation, we are convinced that the romance of Pocahontas is true.
As only a portion of the story of this Indian maiden, "the colonial
angel," as she was termed by the settlers, is known, and that not
generally with exactness, we will reproduce it here.
It will be remembered that Pocahontas, when about thirteen years of age,
saved the young English captain, John Smith, from the death which her
father, Powhatan, had resolved he should suffer. As the tomahawk was
about to descend on his head, the girl rushed forward and clasped that
head in her arms. The stern heart of Powhatan relented, and he consented
that the captive should live to make tomahawks for him and beads and
bells for Pocahontas. Afterward Powhatan agreed that Smith should return
to Jamestown, on condition of his sending him two guns and a grindstone.
Soon, after this Jamestown with all its stores was destroyed by fire,
and the colonists came near perishing from cold and hunger. Half of them
died; and the rest were saved only by Pocahontas, who appeared in the
midst of their distress, bringing bread, raccoons, and venison.
John Smith and his companions after this explored a large portion of the
State, and a second time came to rest at the home of Powhatan and his
beautiful daughter. The name of the place was Werowocomoco. His visit
this time fell on the eve of the coronation of Powhatan. The king,
being absent when Smith came, was sent for; meanwhile Pocahontas called
together a number of Indian maidens to get up a dramatic entertainment
and ballet for the handsome young Englishman and his companions. They
made a fire in a level field, and Smith sat on a mat before it. A
hideous noise and shrieking were suddenly heard in the adjoining woods.
The English snatched up their arms, apprehending foul play. Pocahontas
rushed forward, and asked Smith to slay her rather than suspect her of
perfidy; so their apprehensions were quieted. Then thirty young Indian
maidens issued suddenly from the wood, all naked except a cincture of
green leaves, their bodies painted. Pocahontas was a complete picture of
an Indian Diana: a quiver hung on her shoulder, and she held a bow and
arrow in her hand; she wore, also, on her head a beautiful pair of
buck's horns, an otter's skin at her girdle, and another on her arm. The
other nymphs had antlers on their heads and various savage decorations.
Bursting from the forest, they circled around the fire and John Smith,
singing and dancing for an hour. They then disappeared into the wood as
suddenly as they had come forth. When they reappeared, it was to invite
Smith to their habitations, where they danced around him again, singing,
"Love you not me? Love you not me?" They then feasted him richly, and,
lastly, with pine-knot torches lighted him to his finely decorated
Captain John Smith was, without doubt, an imperial kind of man. His
personal appearance was fine, his sense and tact excellent, his manners
both cordial and elegant. There is no doubt, as there is no wonder, that
the Indian maiden felt some tender palpitations on his account. Once
again, when, owing to some misunderstanding, Powhatan had decreed the
death of all the whites, Pocahontas spent the whole pitch-dark night
climbing hills and toiling through pathless thickets, to save Smith and
his friends by warning them of the imminent danger. Smith offered her
many beautiful presents on this occasion, evidently not appreciating the
sentiment that was animating her. To this offer of presents she replied
with tears; and when their acceptance was urged, Smith himself relates,
that, "with the teares running downe her cheeks, she said she durst not
be seen to have any, for, if Powhatan should know it, she were but dead;
and so she ran away by herself, as she came."
There is no doubt what the Muse of History ought to do here: were she a
dame of proper sensibilities, she would have Mr. John Smith married to
Miss P. Powhatan as soon as a parson could be got from Jamestown. Were
it a romance, this would be the result. As it is, we find Smith going
off to England in two years, and living unmarried until his death; and
Pocahontas married to the Englishman John Rolfe, for reasons of state,
we fear,--a link of friendship between the Reds and the Whites being
thought desirable. She was of course Christianized and baptized, as any
one may see by Chapman's picture in the Rotunda at Washington, unless
Zouave criticism has demolished it. Immediately she went with her
husband to England. At Brentford, where she was staying,. Captain John
Smith went to visit her. Their meeting was significant and affecting.
"After a modest salutation, without uttering a word, she turned away and
hid her face as if displeased.". She remained thus motionless for two or
three hours. Who can know what struggles passed through the heart of
the Indian bride at this moment,--emotions doubly unutterable to this
untaught stranger? It seems that she had been deceived by Rolfe and his
friends into thinking that Smith was dead, under the conviction that she
could not be induced to marry him, if she thought Smith alive. After
her long, sad silence, before mentioned, she came forward to Smith and
touchingly reminded him, there in the presence of her husband and a
large company, of the kindness she had shown him in her own country,
saying, "You did promise Powhatan what was yours should be his, and he
the like to you; you called him 'Father,' being in his land a stranger,
and for the same reason so I must call you." After a pause, during which
she seemed to be under the influence of strong emotion, she said, "I
will call you Father, and you shall call me Child, and so I will be
forever and ever your countrywoman." Then she added, slowly and with
emphasis, "_They did tell us always you were dead, and I knew no other
till I came to Plimoth; yet Powhatan did command Uttamattomakin to seeke
you and know the truth, because your countrymen will lie much_." It was
not long after this interview that Pocahontas died: she never returned
to Virginia. Her death occurred in 1617. The issue of her marriage was
one child, Thomas Rolfe; so it is through him that the First Families of
Virginia are so invariably descended from the Indian Princess. Captain
Smith lived until 1631, and, as we have said, never married. He was a
noble and true man, and Pocahontas was every way worthy to be his wife;
and one feels very ill-natured at Rolfe and Company for the cruel
deception which, we must believe, was all that kept them asunder, and
gave to the story of the lovely maiden its almost tragic close.
One can scarcely imagine a finer device for Virginia to have adopted
than that of the Indian maiden protecting the white man from the
tomahawk. But, alas! with the departure of Smith the soul seems to have
left the Colony. The beautiful lands became a prey to the worn-out
English gentry, who spent their time cheating the simple-hearted red
men. These called themselves gentlemen, because they could do nothing.
In a classification of seventy-eight persons at Jamestown we are
informed that there were "four carpenters, twelve laborers, one
blacksmith, one bricklayer, one sailor, one barber, one mason, one
tailor, one drummer, one chirurgeon, and fifty-four gentlemen." To this
day there seems to be a large number in that vicinity who have no other
occupation than that of being gentlemen, and it is evidently in many
cases just as much as they can do.
When Pocahontas died, the last link was broken between the Indian and
the settler. Unprovoked wars of extermination were begun to dispossess
these children of Nature of the very breasts of their mother, which had
sustained them so long and so peacefully. For a century the Indian's
name for Virginian was "Longknife." The very missionaries robbed him
with one hand whilst baptizing him with the other. One story concerning
the missionaries strikes us as sufficiently characteristic of the wit
of the Indian and the temper of the period to be preserved. There was a
branch of the Catawbas on the Potomac, in which river are to be found
the best shad in the world. The missionaries who settled among
this tribe taught them that it would be a good investment in their
soul-assurance to catch large quantities of the shad for them, the
missionaries. The Indians earnestly set themselves to the work; their
reverend teachers taking the fish and sending them off secretly to
various settlements in Virginia and Maryland, and making thereby
large sums of money. The Indians worked on for several months without
receiving any compensation, and the missionaries were getting richer and
richer,--when by some means the red men discovered the trick, and routed
the holy men from their neighborhood. Many years afterward the Catholics
made an effort to establish a mission with this same tribe. The
priest who first addressed them took as his text, "Ho, every one that
thirsteth, come ye to the waters,"--and went on in figurative style to
describe the waters of life. When the sermon was ended, the Indians held
a council to consider what they had just heard, and finally sent three
of their number to the missionaries, who said, "White men, you speak in
fine words of the waters of life; but before we decide on what we have
heard, we wish to know _whether any shad swim in those waters_."
It is very certain that Christianity, as illustrated by the Virginians,
did not make a good impression on these savages. They were always
willing to compare their own religion with that of the whites, and
generally regarded the contrast as in their favor. One of them said to
Colonel Barnett, the commissioner to run the boundary-line of lands
ceded by the Indians, "As to religion, you go to your churches, sing
loud, pray loud, and make great noise. The red people meet once a year
at the feast of New Corn, extinguish all their fires and kindle up a
new one, the smoke of which ascends to the Great Spirit as a grateful
incense and sacrifice. Now what better is your religion than ours?" One
of the chiefs, it is said, received an Episcopal divine who wished to
indoctrinate him into the mystery of the Trinity. The Indian, who was
a "model of deportment," heard his argument; and then, when he was
through, began in turn to indoctrinate the divine in _his_ faith,
speaking of the Great Spirit, whose voice was the thunder, whose eye was
the sun. The clergyman interrupted him rather rudely, saying, "But
that is not true,--that is all heathen trash!" The chief turned to his
companions and said gravely, "This is the most impolite man I have ever
met; he has just declared that he has three gods, and now will not let
me have one!"
The valley of Virginia, its El Dorado in every sense, had a different
settlement, and by a different people. They were, for the most part,
Germans, of the same class with those that settled in the great valleys
of Pennsylvania, and who have made so large a portion of that State into
a rich ingrain-carpet of cultivation upon a floor of limestone. One day
the history of the Germans of Pennsylvania and Virginia will be written,
and it will be full of interest and value. They were the first strong
sinews strung in the industrial arm of the Colonies to which they came;
and although mingled with nearly every European race, they remain to
this day a distinct people. A partition-wall rarely broken down has
always inclosed them, and to this, perhaps, is due that slowness of
progress which marks them. The restless ambition of _Le Grand Monarque_
and the cruelties of Turenne converted the beautiful valley of the Rhine
into a smoking desert, and the wretched peasantry of the Palatinate fled
from their desolated firesides to seek a more hospitable home in the
forests of New York and Pennsylvania, and thence, somewhat later,
found their way into Virginia. The exodus of the Puritans has had more
celebrity, but was scarcely attended with more hardship and heroism. The
greater part of the German exiles landed in America stripped of their
all. They came to the forests of the Susquehanna and the Shenandoah
armed only with the woodman's axe. They were ignorant and superstitious,
and brought with them the legends of their fatherland. The spirits
of the Hartz Mountains and the genii of the Black Forest, which
Christianity had not been able entirely to exorcise, were transferred to
the wild mountains and dark caverns of the Old Dominion, and the same
unearthly visitants which haunted the old castles of the Rhine continued
their gambols in some deserted cabin on the banks of the Sherandah (as
the Shenandoah was then called). Since these men left their fatherland,
a great Literature and Philosophy have breathed like a tropic upon that
land, and the superstitions have been wrought into poetry and thought;
but that raw material of legend which in Germany has been woven into
finest tissues on the brain-looms of Wieland, Tieck, Schiller, and
Goethe, has remained raw material in the great valley that stretches
from New York to Upper Alabama. Whole communities are found which in
manners and customs are much the same with their ancestors who crossed
the ocean. The horseshoe is still nailed above the door as a protection
against the troublesome spook, and the black art is still practised.
Rough in their manners, and plain in their appearance, they yet conceal
under this exterior a warm hospitality, and the stranger will much
sooner be turned away from the door of the "chivalry" than from that of
the German farmer. Seated by his blazing fire, with plenty of apples and
hard cider, the Dutchman of the Kanawha enjoys his condition with gusto,
and is contented with the limitations of his fence. We have seen one
within two miles of the great Natural Bridge who could not direct us to
that celebrated curiosity; his wife remarking, that "a great many people
passed that way to the hills, but for what she could not see: for her
part, give her a level country."
The first German settler who came to Virginia was one Jacob Stover, who
went there from Pennsylvania, and obtained a grant of five thousand
acres of land on the Shenandoah. Stover was very shrewd, and does not at
all justify the character we have ascribed to his race: there is a story
that casts a suspicion on his proper Teutonism. The story runs, that,
on his application to the colonial governor of Virginia for a grant of
land, he was refused, unless he could give satisfactory assurance that
he would have the land settled with the required number of families
within a given time. Being unable to do this, he went over to England,
and petitioned the King himself to direct the issuing of his grant; and
in order to insure success, had given human names to every horse, cow,
hog, and dog he owned, and which he represented as heads of families,
ready to settle the land. His Majesty, ignorant that the Williams,
Georges, and Susans seeking royal consideration were some squeaking
in pig-pens, others braying in the luxuriant meadows for which they
petitioned, issued the huge grant; and to-day there is serious reason
to suppose that many of the wealthiest and oldest families around
Winchester are enjoying their lands by virtue of titles given to
ancestral flocks and herds.
The condition of Virginia for the period immediately preceding the
Revolution was one which well merits the consideration of political
philosophers. For many years the extent of the territory of the Old
Dominion was undecided, no lines being fixed between that State and Ohio
and Pennsylvania. Virginia claimed a large part of both these States
as hers; and, indeed, there seems to be in that State an hereditary
unconsciousness of the limits of her dominion. The question of
jurisdiction superseded every other for the time, and the formal
administration of the law itself ceased. There is a period lasting
through a whole generation in which society in the western part of the
State went on without courts or authorities. There was no court but of
public opinion, no administration but of the mob. Judges were ermined
and juries impanelled by the community when occasion demanded.
Kercheval, who grew from that vicinity and state of things, and whose
authority is excellent, says,--"They had no civil, military, or
ecclesiastical laws,--at least, none were enforced; yet we look in vain
for any period, before or since, when property, life, and morals were
any better protected." A statement worth pondering by those who tell
us that man is nought, government all. The tongue-lynchings and other
punishments inflicted by the community upon evil-doers were adapted to
the reformation of the culprit or his banishment from the community. The
punishment for idleness, lying, dishonesty, and ill-fame generally, was
that of "hating the offender out," as they expressed it. This was about
equivalent to the [Greek: atimia] among the Greeks. It was a public
expression, in various ways, of the general indignation against any
transgressor, and commonly resulted either in the profound repentance or
the voluntary exile of the person against whom it was directed: it was
generally the fixing of any epithet which was proclaimed by each tongue
when the sinner appeared,--_e.g.,_ Foultongue, Lawrence, Snakefang.
The name of Extra-Billy Smith is a quite recent case of this
"tongue-lynching." It was in these days of no laws, however, that the
practice of duelling was imported into Virginia. With this exception,
the State can trace no evil results to the period when society was
resolved into its simplest elements. Indeed, it was at this time
that there began to appear there signs of a sturdy and noble race of
Americanized Englishmen. The average size of the European Englishman was
surpassed. A woman was equal to an Indian. A young Virginian one day
killed a buffalo on the Alleghany Mountains, stretched its skin over
ribs of wood, and on the boat so made sailed the full length of the Ohio
and Mississippi Rivers. But this development was checked by the influx
of "English gentry," who brought laws and fashions from London. The old
books are full of the conflicts which these fastidious gentlemen and
ladies had with the rude pioneer customs and laws. The fine ladies found
that there was an old statute of the Colony which read,--"It shall be
permitted to none but the Council and Heads of Hundreds to wear gold
in their clothes, or to wear silk till they make it themselves." What,
then, could Miss Softdown do with the silks and breastpins brought from
London? "Let her wear deer-skin and arrow-head," said the natives. But
Miss Softdown soon had her way. Still more were these new families
shocked, when, on ringing for some newly purchased negro domestic, the
said negro came into the parlor nearly naked. Then began one of the most
extended controversies in the history of Virginia,--the question being,
whether out-door negroes should wear clothes, and domestics dress like
other people. The popular belief, in which it seems the negroes shared,
was, that the race would perish, if subjected to clothing the year
round. The custom of negro men going about _in puris naturalibus_
prevailed to a much more recent period than is generally supposed.
One by one, the barbarisms of Old Virginia were eradicated, and the
danger was then that effeminacy would succeed; but a better class of
families began to come from England, now that the Colony was somewhat
prepared for them. These aimed to make Virginia repeat England: it might
have repeated something worse, and in the end has. About one or two old
mansions in Maryland and Virginia the long silvery grass characteristic
of the English park is yet found: the seed was carefully brought from
England by those gentlemen who came under Raleigh's administration,
and who regarded their residence in these Colonies as patriotic
self-devotion. On one occasion, the writer, walking through one of
these fields, startled an English lark, which rose singing and soaring
skyward. It sang a theme of the olden time. Governor Spottswood brought
with him, when he came, a number of these larks, and made strenuous
efforts to domesticate them in the neighborhood of Fredericksburg,
Virginia. He did not succeed. Now and then we have heard of one's being
seen, companionless. It is a sad symbol of that nobler being who tried
to domesticate himself in Virginia, the fine old English gentleman. He
is now seen but little oftener than the silver grass and the lark which
he brought with him. But let no one think, whilst ridiculing those who
can now only hide their poor stature under the lion-skin of F-F-V-ism,
that the race of old Virginia gentlemen is a mythic race. Through
the fair slopes of Eastern Virginia we have wandered and counted the
epitaphs of as princely men and women as ever trod this continent.
Yonder is the island, floating on the crystal Rappahannock, which,
instead of, as now, masking the guns which aim at Freedom's heart,
once bore witness to the noble Spottswood's effort to realize for the
working-man a Utopia in the New World. Yonder is the house, on the same
river, frowning now with the cannon which defend the slave-shamble, (for
the Richmond railroad passes on its verge,) where Washington was reared
to love justice and honor; and over to the right its porch commands
a marble shaft on which is written, "Here lies Mary, the Mother of
Washington." A little lower is the spot where John Smith gave the right
hand to the ambassadors of King Powhatan. In that old court-house the
voice of Patrick Henry thundered for Liberty and Union. Time was when
the brave men on whose hearts rested the destinies of the New World made
this the centre of activity and rule upon the continent; they lived and
acted here as Anglo-Saxon blood should live and act, wherever it bears
its rightful sceptre; but now one walks here as through the splendid
ruins of some buried Nineveh, and emerges to find the very sunlight sad,
as it reveals those who garnish the sepulchres of their ancestors with
one hand, whilst with the other they stone and destroy the freedom and
institutions which their fathers lived to build and died to defend.
And this, alas! is the first black line in the sketch of Virginia as
it now is. The true preface to the present edition of Virginia, which,
unhappily, has been for many years stereotyped, may be found in a single
entry of Captain John Smith's journal:--
"August, 1619. A Dutch man-of-war visited Jamestown and sold the
settlers twenty negroes, the first that have ever touched the soil of
They have scarcely made it "sacred soil." A little entry it is, of what
seemed then, perhaps, an unimportant event,--but how pregnant with
The very year in which that Dutch ship arrived with its freight of
slaves at Jamestown, the Mayflower sailed with its freight of freemen
Let us pause a moment and consider the prospects and opportunities which
opened before the two bands of pilgrim. How hard and bleak were the
shores that received the Mayflower pilgrims! Winter seemed the only
season of the land to which they had come; when the snow disappeared, it
was only to reveal a landscape of sand and rock. To have soil they must
pulverize rock. Nature said to these exiles from a rich soil, with her
sternest voice,--"Here is no streaming breast: sand with no gold mined:
all the wealth you get must be mined from your own hearts and coined by
your own right hands!"
How different was it in Virginia! Old John Rolfe, the husband of
Pocahontas, writing to the King in 1616, said,--"Virginia is the same as
it was, I meane for the goodness of the scate, and the fertilenesse of
the land, and will, no doubt, so continue to the worlds end,--a countrey
as worthy of good report as can be declared by the pen of the best
writer; a countrey spacious and wide, capable of many hundred thousands
of inhabitants." It must be borne in mind that Rolfe's idea of an
inhabitant's needs was that he should own a county or two to begin with,
which will account for his moderate estimate of the number that could be
accommodated upon a hundred thousand square miles. He continues,--"For
the soil, most fertile to plant in; for ayre, fresh and temperate,
somewhat hotter in summer, and not altogether so cold in winter as in
England, yet so agreable is it to our constitutions that now 't is more
rare to hear of a man's death than in England; for water, most wholesome
and verie plentifull; and for fayre navigable rivers and good harbors,
no countrey in Christendom, in so small a circuite, is so well stored."
Any one who has passed through the State, or paid any attention to its
resources, may go far beyond the old settler's statement. Virginia is a
State combining, as in some divinely planned garden, every variety of
soil known on earth, resting under a sky that Italy alone can match,
with a Valley anticipating in vigor the loam of the prairies: up to that
Valley and Piedmont stretch throughout the State navigable rivers, like
fingers of the Ocean-hand, ready to bear to all marts the produce of
the soil, the superb vein of gold, and the iron which, unlocked from
mountain-barriers, could defy competition. But in her castle Virginia is
still, a sleeping beauty awaiting the hero whose kiss shall recall her
to life. Comparing what free labor has done for the granite rock called
Massachusetts, and what slave labor has done for the enchanted garden
called Virginia, one would say, that, though the Dutch ship that brought
to our shores the Norway rat was bad, and that which brought the Hessian
fly was worse, the most fatal ship that ever cast anchor in American
waters was that which brought the first twenty negroes to the settlers
of Jamestown. Like the Indian in her own aboriginal legend, on whom a
spell was cast which kept the rain from falling on him and the sun from
shining on him, Virginia received from that Dutch ship a curse which
chained back the blessings which her magnificent resources would have
rained upon her, and the sun of knowledge shining everywhere has left
her to-day more than eighty thousand white adults who cannot read or
It was at an early period as manifest as now that a slave population
implied and rendered necessary a large poor-white population. And whilst
the pilgrims of Plymouth inaugurated the free-school system in their
first organic law, which now renders it impossible for one sane person
born in their land to be unable to read and write, Virginia was boasting
with Lord Douglas in "Marmion,"
"Thanks to Saint Bothan, son of mine
Could never pen a written line."
Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia for thirty-six years,
beginning with 1641, wrote to the King as follows:--"I thank God, there
are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these
hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and
sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels upon
the best governments. God keep us from both!" Most fearfully has the
prayer been answered. In Berkeley's track nearly all the succeeding ones
went on. Henry A. Wise boasted in Congress that no newspaper was printed
in his district, and he soon became governor.
It gives but a poor description of the "poor-white trash" to say that
they cannot read. The very slaves cannot endure to be classed on their
level. They are inconceivably wretched and degraded. For every rich
slave-owner there are some eight or ten families of these miserable
tenants. Both sexes are almost always drunk.
There is no better man than the Anglo-Saxon man who labors; there is no
worse animal than the same man when bred to habits of idleness. When
"Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do,"
he wrote what is much truer of his own race than of any other. This
law has been the Nemesis of the young Virginian. His descent demands
excitement and activity; and unless he becomes emasculated into a
clay-eater, he obtains the excitement that his ancestors got in war, and
the New-Englander gets in work, in gaming, horse-racing, and all manner
of dissipation. His life verifies the proverb, that the idle brain is
the Devil's workshop. He is trained to despise labor, for it puts him on
a level with his father's slaves. At the University of Virginia one may
see the extent of demoralization to which eight generations of idleness
can bring English blood. There the spree, the riot, and we might almost
say the duel, are normal. About five years ago we spent some time
at Charlottesville. The evening of our arrival was the occasion of
witnessing some of the ways of the students. A hundred or more of them
with blackened or masked faces were rushing about the college yard; a
large fire was burning around a stake, upon which was the effigy of a
woman. A gentleman connected with the University, with whom we were
walking, informed us that the special occasion of this affair was, that
a near relative of Mrs. Stowe's, a sister, perhaps, had that day arrived
to visit her relative, Mrs. McGuffey. The effigy of Mrs. Stowe was
burned for her benefit. The lady and her friends were very much alarmed,
and left on the early train next morning, without completing their
"They will close up by all getting dead-drunk," said our friend, the
"But," we asked, "why does not the faculty at once interfere in this
"They have got us lately," he replied, "where we are powerless. Whenever
they wish a spree, they tackle it on to the slavery question, and know
that their parents will pardon everything to the spirit of the South
when it is burning the effigy of Mrs. Stowe or Charles Sumner, or the
last person who furnishes a chance for a spree. To arrest them ends only
in casting suspicion of unsoundness on the professor who does it."
Virginia has had, for these same causes, no religious development
whatever. The people spend four-and-a-half fifths of their time arguing
about politics and religion,--questions of the latter being chiefly as
to the best method of being baptized, or whether sudden conversions are
the safest,--but they never take a step forward in either. Archbishop
Purcell, of Cincinnati, stated to us, that, once being in Richmond,
he resolved to give a little religious exploration to the surrounding
country. About seven miles out from the city he saw a man lying
down,--the Virginian's natural posture,--and approaching, he made
various inquiries, and received lazy Yes and No replies. Presently he
inquired to what churches the people in that vicinity usually went.
"Well, not much to any."
"What are their religious views?"
"Well, not much of any."
"Well, my friend, may I inquire what are _your_ opinions on religious
"The man, yet reclining," said the Archbishop, "looked at me sleepily a
moment, and replied,--
"'My opinion is that them as made me will take care of me.'"
The Archbishop came off discouraged; but we assured him that the man
was far ahead of many specimens we had met. We never see an opossum in
Virginia--a fossil animal in most other places--but it seems the sign
of the moral stratification around. There are many varieties of
opossum in Virginia,--political and religious: Saturn, who devours his
offspring, has not come to Virginia yet.
Old formulas have, doubtless, to a great extent, lost their power there
also, but there is not vitality enough to create a higher form. For no
new church can ever be anywhere inaugurated in this world until the
period has come when its chief corner-stone can be Humanity. Till then
the old creeds in Virginia must wander like ghosts, haunting the old
ruins which their once exquisite churches have become. Nothing can be
more picturesque, nothing more sad, than these old churches,--every
brick in them imported from Old England, every prayer from the past
world and its past need: the high and wide pews where the rich sat
lifted some feet above the seats of the poor represent still the faith
in a God who subjects the weak to the strong. These old churches, rarely
rebuilt, are ready now to become rocks imbedding fossil creeds. In these
old aisles one walks, and the snake glides away on the pavement, and the
bat flutters in the high pulpit, whilst moss and ivy tenderly enshroud
the lonely walls; and over all is written the word DESOLATION. Symbol it
is of the desolation which caused it, even the trampled fanes and altars
of the human soul,--the temple of God, whose profanation the church has
suffered to go on unrebuked, till now both must crumble into the same
* * * * *
A certain degree of progress from the rudest state in which man is
found,--a dweller in caves, or on trees, like an ape, a cannibal, an
eater of pounded snails, worms, and offal,--a certain degree of progress
from this extreme is called Civilization. It is a vague, complex name,
of many degrees. Nobody has attempted a definition. Mr. Guizot, writing
a book on the subject, does not. It implies the evolution of a highly
organized man, brought to supreme delicacy of sentiment, as in practical
power, religion, liberty, sense of honor, and taste. In the hesitation
to define what it is, we usually suggest it by negations. A nation that
has no clothing, no alphabet, no iron, no marriage, no arts of peace, no
abstract thought, we call barbarous. And after many arts are invented or
imported, as among the Turks and Moorish nations, it is often a little
complaisant to call them civilized.
Each nation grows after its own genius, and has a civilization of its
own. The Chinese and Japanese, though each complete in his way, is
different from the man of Madrid or the man of New York. The term
imports a mysterious progress. In the brutes is none; and in mankind,
the savage tribes do not advance. The Indians of this country have not
learned the white man's work; and in Africa, the negro of to-day is the
negro of Herodotus. But in other races the growth is not arrested; but
the like progress that is made by a boy, "when he cuts his eye-teeth,"
as we say,--childish illusions pricing daily away, and he seeing things
really and comprehensively,--is made by tribes. It is the learning the
secret of cumulative power, of advancing on one's self. It implies a
facility of association, power to compare, the ceasing from fixed ideas.
The Indian is gloomy and distressed, when urged to depart from his
habits and traditions. He is overpowered by the gaze of the white, and
his eye sinks. The occasion of one of these starts of growth is always
some novelty that astounds the mind, and provokes it to dare to change.
Thus there is a Manco Capac at the beginning of each improvement, some
superior foreigner importing new and wonderful arts, and teaching them.
Of course, he must not know too much, but must have the sympathy,
language, and gods of those he would inform. But chiefly the sea-shore
has been the point of departure to knowledge, as to commerce. The most
advanced nations are always those who navigate the most. The power which
the sea requires in the sailor makes a man of him very fast, and the
change of shores and population clears his head of much nonsense of his
Where shall we begin or end the list of those feats of liberty and wit,
each of which feats made an epoch of history? Thus, the effect of
a framed or stone house is immense on the tranquillity, power, and
refinement of the builder. A man in a cave, or in a camp, a nomad, will
die with no more estate than the wolf or the horse leaves. But so simple
a labor as a house being achieved, his chief enemies are kept at bay.
He is safe from the teeth of wild animals, from frost, sunstroke, and
weather; and fine faculties begin to yield their fine harvest. Invention
and art are born, manners and social beauty and delight. 'T is wonderful
how soon a piano gets into a log-hut on the frontier. You would think
they found it under a pine-stump. With it comes a Latin grammar, and one
of those towhead boys has written a hymn on Sunday. Now let colleges,
now let senates take heed! for here is one, who, opening these fine
tastes on the basis of the pioneer's iron constitution, will gather all
their laurels in his strong hands.
When the Indian trail gets widened, graded, and bridged to a good
road,--there is a benefactor, there is a missionary, a pacificator, a
wealth-bringer, a maker of markets, a vent for industry. The building
three or four hundred miles of road in the Scotch Highlands in 1726
to 1749 effectually tamed the ferocious clans, and established public
order. Another step in civility is the change from war, hunting, and
pasturage, to agriculture. Our Scandinavian forefathers have left us a
significant legend to convey their sense of the importance of this step.
"There was once a giantess who had a daughter, and the child saw a
husbandman ploughing in the field. Then she ran and picked him up with
her finger and thumb, and put him and his plough and his oxen into her
apron, and carried them to her mother, and said, 'Mother, what sort of a
beetle is this that I found wriggling in the sand?' But the mother said,
'Put it away, my child; we must begone out of this land, for these
people will dwell in it.'" Another success is the post-office, with
its educating energy, augmented by cheapness, and guarded by a certain
religious sentiment in mankind, so that the power of a wafer or a drop
of wax or gluten to guard a letter, as it flies over sea, over land, and
comes to its address as if a battalion of artillery brought it, I look
upon as a fine metre of civilization.
The division of labor, the multiplication of the arts of peace, which is
nothing but a large allowance to each man to choose his work according
to his faculty, to live by his better hand, fills the State with useful
and happy laborers,--and they, creating demand by the very temptation
of their productions, are rapidly and surely rewarded by good sale: and
what a police and ten commandments their work thus becomes! So true is
Dr. Johnson's remark, that "men are seldom more innocently employed than
when they are making money."
The skilful combinations of civil government, though they usually
follow natural leadings, as the lines of race, language, religion, and
territory, yet require wisdom and conduct in the rulers, and in their
result delight the imagination. "We see insurmountable multitudes
obeying, in opposition to their strongest passions, the restraints of
a power which they scarcely perceive, and the crimes of a single
individual marked and punished at the distance of half the earth."[A]
[Footnote A: Dr. Thomas Brown.]
Right position of woman in the State is another index. Poverty and
industry with a healthy mind read very easily the laws of humanity, and
love them: place the sexes in right relations of mutual respect, and a
severe morality gives that essential charm to woman which educates all
that is delicate, poetic, and self-sacrificing, breeds courtesy and
learning, conversation and wit, in her rough mate; so that I have
thought it a sufficient definition of civilization to say, it is the
influence of good women.
Another measure of culture is the diffusion of knowledge, overrunning
all the old barriers of caste, and, by the cheap press, bringing the
university to every poor man's door in the newsboy's basket. Scraps of
science, of thought, of poetry are in the coarsest sheet, so that in
every house we hesitate to tear a newspaper until we have looked it
The ship, in its latest complete equipment, is an abridgment and compend
of a nation's arts: the ship steered by compass and chart, longitude
reckoned by lunar observation, and, when the heavens are hid, by
chronometer; driven by steam; and in wildest sea-mountains, at vast
distances from home,
"The pulses of her iron heart
Go beating through the storm."
No use can lessen the wonder of this control, by so weak a creature, of
forces so prodigious. I remember I watched, in crossing the sea, the
beautiful skill whereby the engine in its constant working was made to
produce two hundred gallons of fresh water out of salt water, every
hour,--thereby supplying all the ship's want.
The skill that pervades complex details; the man that maintains himself;
the chimney taught to burn its own smoke; the farm made to produce all
that is consumed on it; the very prison compelled to maintain itself
and yield a revenue, and, better than that, made a reform school, and a
manufactory of honest men out of rogues, as the steamer made fresh
water out of salt: all these are examples of that tendency to combine
antagonisms, and utilize evil, which is the index of high civilization.
Civilization is the result of highly complex organization. In the snake,
all the organs are sheathed: no hands, no feet, no fins, no wings. In
bird and beast, the organs are released, and begin to play. In man, they
are all unbound, and full of joyful action. With this unswaddling, he
receives the absolute illumination we call Reason, and thereby true
Climate has much to do with this melioration. The highest civility has
never loved the hot zones. Wherever snow falls, there is usually civil
freedom. Where the banana grows, the animal system is indolent and
pampered at the cost of higher qualities: the man is grasping, sensual,
and cruel. But this scale is by no means invariable. For high degrees of
moral sentiment control the unfavorable influences of climate; and some
of our grandest examples of men and of races come from the equatorial
regions,--as the genius of Egypt, of India, and of Arabia.
These feats are measures or traits of civility; and temperate climate is
an important influence, though not quite indispensable, for there have
been learning, philosophy, and art in Iceland, and in the tropics. But
one condition is essential to the social education of man,--namely,
morality. There can be no high civility without a deep morality, though
it may not always call itself by that name, but sometimes the point
of honor, as in the institution of chivalry; or patriotism, as in the
Spartan and Roman republics; or the enthusiasm of some religious sect
which imputes its virtue to its dogma; or the cabalism, or _esprit du
corps_, of a masonic or other association of friends.
The evolution of a highly destined society must be moral; it must run in
the grooves of the celestial wheels. It must be catholic in aims. What
is moral? It is the respecting in action catholic or universal ends.
Hear the definition which Kant gives of moral conduct: "Act always so
that the immediate motive of thy will may become a universal rule for
all intelligent beings."
Civilization depends on morality. Everything good in man leans on what
is higher. This rule holds in small as in great. Thus, all our strength
and success in the work of our hands depend on our borrowing the aid of
the elements. You have seen a carpenter on a ladder with a broad-axe
chopping upward chips and slivers from a beam. How awkward! at what
disadvantage he works! But see him on the ground, dressing his timber
under him. Now, not his feeble muscles, but the force of gravity brings
down the axe; that is to say, the planet itself splits his stick. The
farmer had much ill-temper, laziness, and shirking to endure from his
hand-sawyers, until, one day, he bethought him to put his saw-mill on
the edge of a waterfall; and the river never tires of turning his wheel:
the river is good-natured, and never hints an objection.
We had letters to send: couriers could not go fast enough, nor far
enough; broke their wagons, foundered their horses; bad roads in spring,
snow-drifts in winter, heats in summer; could not get the horses out
of a walk. But we found out that the air and earth were full of
electricity; and it was always going our way,--just the way we wanted to
send. _Would he take a message?_ Just as lief as not; had nothing
else to do; would carry it in no time. Only one doubt occurred, one
staggering objection,--he had no carpet-bag, no visible pockets, no
hands, not so much as a mouth, to carry a letter. But, after much
thought and many experiments, we managed to meet the conditions, and to
fold up the letter in such invisible compact form as he could carry in
those invisible pockets of his, never wrought by needle and thread,--and
it went like a charm.
I admire still more than the saw-mill the skill which, on the sea-shore,
makes the tides drive the wheels and grind corn, and which thus engages
the assistance of the moon, like a hired hand, to grind, and wind, and
pump, and saw, and split stone, and roll iron.
Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor,
to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods
themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the
elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind,
fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing.
Our astronomy is full of examples of calling in the aid of these
magnificent helpers. Thus, on a planet so small as ours, the want of
an adequate base for astronomical measurements is early felt, as, for
example, in detecting the parallax of a star. But the astronomer, having
by an observation fixed the place of a star, by so simple an expedient
as waiting six months, and then repeating his observation, contrived
to put the diameter of the earth's orbit, say two hundred millions of
miles, between his first observation and his second, and this line
afforded him a respectable base for his triangle.
All our arts aim to win this vantage. We cannot bring the heavenly
powers to us, but, if we will only choose our jobs in directions in
which they travel, they will undertake them with the greatest pleasure.
It is a peremptory rule with them, that _they never go out of their
road_. We are dapper little busybodies, and run this way and that
way superserviceably; but they swerve never from their fore-ordained
paths,--neither the sun, nor the moon, nor a bubble of air, nor a mote
And as our handiworks borrow the elements, so all our social and
political action leans on principles. To accomplish anything excellent,
the will must work for catholic and universal ends. A puny creature
walled in on every side, as Donne wrote,--
------"unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!"
but when his will leans on a principle, when he is the vehicle of ideas,
he borrows their omnipotence. Gibraltar may be strong, but ideas are
impregnable, and bestow on the hero their invincibility. "It was a great
instruction," said a saint in Cromwell's war, "that the best courages
are but beams of the Almighty." Hitch your wagon to a star. Let us not
fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone. Let us not lie
and steal. No god will help. We shall find all their teams going the
other way,--Charles's Wain, Great Bear, Orion, Leo, Hercules:--every
god will leave us. Work rather for those interests which the divinities
honor and promote,--justice, love, freedom, knowledge, utility.
If we can thus ride in Olympian chariots by putting our works in the
path of the celestial circuits, we can harness also evil agents, the
powers of darkness, and force them to serve against their will the ends
of wisdom and virtue. Thus, a wise Government puts fines and penalties
on pleasant vices. What a benefit would the American Government, now
in the hour of its extreme need, render to itself, and to every city,
village, and hamlet in the States, if it would tax whiskey and rum
almost to the point of prohibition! Was it Bonaparte who said that he
found vices very good patriots?--"he got five millions from the love of
brandy, and he should be glad to know which of the virtues would pay him
as much." Tobacco and opium have broad backs, and will cheerfully carry
the load of armies, if you choose to make them pay high for such joy as
they give and such harm as they do.
These are traits, and measures, and modes; and the true test of
civilization is, not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the
crops,--no, but the kind of man the country turns out. I see the vast
advantages of this country, spanning the breadth of the temperate zone.
I see the immense material prosperity,--towns on towns, states on
states, and wealth piled in the massive architecture of cities,
California quartz-mountains dumped down in New York to be re-piled
architecturally along-shore from Canada to Cuba, and thence westward to
California again. But it is not New-York streets built by the confluence
of workmen and wealth of all nations, though stretching out towards
Philadelphia until they touch it, and northward until they touch New
Haven, Hartford, Springfield, Worcester, and Boston,--not these that
make the real estimation. But, when I look over this constellation of
cities which animate and illustrate the land, and see how little
the Government has to do with their daily life, how self-helped and
self-directed all families are,--knots of men in purely natural
societies,--societies of trade, of kindred blood, of habitual
hospitality, house and house, man acting on man by weight of opinion, of
longer or better-directed industry, the refining influence of women,
the invitation which experience and permanent causes open to youth and
labor,--when I see how much each virtuous and gifted person whom all men
consider lives affectionately with scores of excellent people who are
not known far from home, and perhaps with great reason reckons these
people his superiors in virtue, and in the symmetry and force of their
qualities, I see what cubic values America has, and in these a better
certificate of civilization than great cities or enormous wealth.
In strictness, the vital refinements are the moral and intellectual
steps. The appearance of the Hebrew Moses, of the Indian Buddh,--in
Greece, of the Seven Wise Masters, of the acute and upright Socrates,
and of the Stoic Zeno,--in Judea, the advent of Jesus,--and in modern
Christendom, of the realists Huss, Savonarola, and Luther, are causal
facts which carry forward races to new convictions, and elevate the rule
of life. In the presence of these agencies, it is frivolous to insist
on the invention of printing or gunpowder, of steam-power or gas-light,
percussion-caps and rubber-shoes, which are toys thrown off from that
security, freedom, and exhilaration which a healthy morality creates in
society. These arts add a comfort and smoothness to house and
street life; but a purer morality, which kindles genius, civilizes
civilization, casts backward all that we held sacred into the profane,
as the flame of oil throws a shadow when shined upon by the flame of the
Bude-light. Not the less the popular measures of progress will ever be
the arts and the laws.
But if there be a country which cannot stand any one of these tests,--a
country where knowledge cannot be diffused without perils of mob-law
and statute-law,--where speech is not free,--where the post-office is
violated, mail-bags opened, and letters tampered with,--where public
debts and private debts outside of the State are repudiated,--where
liberty is attacked in the primary institution of their social
life,--where the position of the white woman is injuriously affected by
the outlawry of the black woman,--where the arts, such as they have,
are all imported, having no indigenous life,--where the laborer is not
secured in the earnings of his own hands,--where suffrage is not free
or equal,--that country is, in all these respects, not civil, but
barbarous, and no advantages of soil, climate, or coast can resist these
Morality is essential, and all the incidents of morality,--as, justice
to the subject, and personal liberty. Montesquieu says,--"Countries are
well cultivated, not as they are fertile, but as they are free"; and the
remark holds not less, but more, true of the culture of men than of the
tillage of land. And the highest proof of civility is, that the whole
public action of the State is directed on securing the greatest good of
the greatest number.
Our Southern States have introduced confusion into the moral sentiments
of their people, by reversing this rule in theory and practice, and
denying a man's right to his labor. The distinction and end of a soundly
constituted man is his labor. Use is inscribed on all his faculties. Use
is the end to which he exists. As the tree exists for its fruit, so a
man for his work. A fruitless plant, an idle animal, is not found in
the universe. They are all toiling, however secretly or slowly, in the
province assigned them, and to a use in the economy of the world,--the
higher and more complex organizations to higher and more catholic
service; and man seems to play a certain part that tells on the general
face of the planet,--as if dressing the globe for happier races of
his own kind, or, as we sometimes fancy, for beings of superior
But thus use, labor of each for all, is the health and virtue of all
beings. ICH DIEN, _I serve_, is a truly royal motto. And it is the mark
of nobleness to volunteer the lowest service,--the greatest spirit only
attaining to humility. Nay, God is God because he is the servant of
all. Well, now here comes this conspiracy of slavery,--they call it an
institution, I call it a destitution,--this stealing of men and setting
them to work,--stealing their labor, and the thief sitting idle himself;
and for two or three ages it has lasted, and has yielded a certain
quantity of rice, cotton, and sugar. And standing on this doleful
experience, these people have endeavored to reverse the natural
sentiments of mankind, and to pronounce labor disgraceful, and the
well-being of a man to consist in eating the fruit of other men's labor.
Labor: a man coins himself into his labor,--turns his day, his strength,
his thought, his affection into some product which remains as the
visible sign of his power; and to protect that, to secure that to
him, to secure his past self to his future self, is the object of all
government. There is no interest in any country so imperative as that
of labor; it covers all, and constitutions and governments exist for
that,--to protect and insure it to the laborer. All honest men are daily
striving to earn their bread by their industry. And who is this who
tosses his empty head at this blessing in disguise, the constitution of
human nature, and calls labor vile, and insults the faithful workman at
his daily toil? I see for such madness no hellebore,--for such calamity
no solution but servile war, and the Africanization of the country that
At this moment in America the aspects of political society absorb
attention. In every house, from Canada to the Gulf, the children ask
the serious father,--"What is the news of the war to-day? and when will
there be better times?" The boys have no new clothes, no gifts, no
journeys; the girls must go without new bonnets; boys and girls find
their education, this year, less liberal and complete. All the little
hopes that heretofore made the year pleasant are deferred. The state of
the country fills us with anxiety and stern duties. We have attempted to
hold together two states of civilization: a higher state, where labor
and the tenure of land and the right of suffrage are democratical; and
a lower state, in which the old military tenure of prisoners or slaves,
and of power and land in a few hands, makes an oligarchy: we have
attempted to hold these two states of society under one law. But the
rude and early state of society does not work well with the later,
nay, works badly, and has poisoned politics, public morals, and social
intercourse in the Republic, now for many years.
The times put this question,--Why cannot the best civilization be
extended over the whole country, since the disorder of the less
civilized portion menaces the existence of the country? Is this secular
progress we have described, this evolution of man to the highest powers,
only to give him sensibility, and not to bring duties with it? Is he
not to make his knowledge practical? to stand and to withstand? Is not
civilization heroic also? Is it not for action? has it not a will?
"There are periods," said Niebuhr, "when something much better than,
happiness and security of life is attainable." We live in a new and
exceptional age. America is another word for Opportunity. Our whole
history appears like a last effort of the Divine Providence in behalf of
the human race; and a literal slavish following of precedents, as by
a justice of the peace, is not for those who at this hour lead the
destinies of this people. The evil you contend with has taken alarming
proportions, and you still content yourself with parrying the blows it
aims, but, as if enchanted, abstain from striking at the cause.
If the American people hesitate, it is not for want of warning or
advices. The telegraph has been swift enough to announce our disasters.
The journals have not suppressed the extent of the calamity. Neither
was there any want of argument or of experience. If the war brought
any surprise to the North, it was not the fault of sentinels on the
watch-towers, who had furnished full details of the designs, the muster,
and the means of the enemy. Neither was anything concealed of the theory
or practice of slavery. To what purpose make more big books of these
statistics? There are already mountains of facts, if any one wants them.
But people do not want them. They bring their opinions into the world.
If they have a comatose tendency in the brain, they are pro-slavery
while they live; if of a nervous sanguineous temperament, they are
abolitionists. Then interests were never persuaded. Can you convince the
shoe interest, or the iron interest, or the cotton interest, by reading
passages from Milton or Montesquieu? You wish to satisfy people that
slavery is bad economy. Why, the "Edinburgh Review" pounded on that
string, and made out its case forty years ago. A democratic statesman
said to me, long since, that, if he owned the State of Kentucky, he
would manumit all the slaves, and be a gainer by the transaction. Is
this new? No, everybody knows it. As a general economy it is admitted.
But there is no one owner of the State, but a good many small owners.
One man owns land and slaves; another owns slaves only. Here is a woman
who has no other property,--like a lady in Charleston I knew of, who
owned fifteen chimney-sweeps and rode in her carriage. It is clearly a
vast inconvenience to each of these to make any change, and they are
fretful and talkative, and all their friends are; and those less
interested are inert, and, from want of thought, averse to innovation.
It is like free trade, certainly the interest of nations, but by no
means the interest of certain towns and districts, which tariff feeds
fat; and the eager interest of the few overpowers the apathetic general
conviction of the many. Banknotes rob the public, but are such a daily
convenience that we silence our scruples, and make believe they are
gold. So imposts are the cheap and right taxation; but by the dislike of
people to pay out a direct tax, governments are forced to render life
costly by making them pay twice as much, hidden in the price of tea and
In this national crisis, it is not argument that we want, but that rare
courage which dares commit itself to a principle, believing that Nature
is its ally, and will create the instruments it requires, and more than
make good any petty and injurious profit which it may disturb. There
never was such a combination as this of ours, and the rules to meet it
are not set down in any history. We want men of original perception and
original action, who can open their eyes wider than to a nationality,
namely, to considerations of benefit to the human race, can act in the
interest of civilization. Government must not be a parish clerk, a
justice of the peace. It has, of necessity, in any crisis of the State,
the absolute powers of a Dictator. The existing Administration is
entitled to the utmost candor. It is to be thanked for its angelic
virtue, compared with any executive experiences with which we have been
familiar. But the times will not allow us to indulge in compliment. I
wish I saw in the people that inspiration which, if Government would not
obey the same, it would leave the Government behind, and create on the
moment the means and executors it wanted. Better the war should more
dangerously threaten us,--should threaten fracture in what is still
whole, and punish us with burned capitals and slaughtered regiments, and
so exasperate the people to energy, exasperate our nationality. There
are Scriptures written invisibly on men's hearts, whose letters do not
come out until they are enraged. They can be read by war-fires, and by
eyes in the last peril.
We cannot but remember that there have been days in American history,
when, if the Free States had done their duty, Slavery had been blocked
by an immovable barrier, and our recent calamities forever precluded.
The Free States yielded, and every compromise was surrender, and invited
new demands. Here again is a new occasion which Heaven offers to sense
and virtue. It looks as if we held the fate of the fairest possession
of mankind in our hands, to be saved by our firmness or to be lost by
The one power that has legs long enough and strong enough to cross the
Potomac offers itself at this hour; the one strong enough to bring all
the civility up to the height of that which is best prays now at the
door of Congress for leave to move. Emancipation is the demand of
civilization. That is a principle; everything else is an intrigue. This
is a progressive policy,--puts the whole people in healthy, productive,
amiable position,--puts every man in the South in just and natural
relations with every man in the North, laborer with laborer.
We shall not attempt to unfold the details of the project of
emancipation. It has been stated with great ability by several of its
leading advocates. I will only advert to some leading points of the
argument, at the risk of repeating the reasons of others.[B]
[Footnote B: I refer mainly to a Discourse by the Rev. M.D. Conway,
delivered before the "Emancipation League," in Boston, in January last.]
The war is welcome to the Southerner: a chivalrous sport to him, like
hunting, and suits his semi-civilized condition. On the climbing scale
of progress, he is just up to war, and has never appeared to such
advantage as in the last twelve-month. It does not suit us. We are
advanced some ages on the war-state,--to trade, art, and general
cultivation. His laborer works for him at home, so that he loses no
labor by the war. All our soldiers are laborers; so that the South, with
its inferior numbers, is almost on a footing in effective war-population
with the North. Again, as long as we fight without any affirmative step
taken by the Government, any word intimating forfeiture in the rebel
States of their old privileges under the law, they and we fight on the
same side, for Slavery. Again, if we conquer the enemy,--what then? We
shall still have to keep him under, and it will cost as much to hold him
down as it did to get him down. Then comes the summer, and the fever
will drive our soldiers home; next winter, we must begin at the
beginning, and conquer him over again. What use, then, to take a fort,
or a privateer, or get possession of an inlet, or to capture a regiment
But one weapon we hold which is sure. Congress can, by edict, as a part
of the military defence which it is the duty of Congress to provide,
abolish slavery, and pay for such slaves as we ought to pay for. Then
the slaves near our armies will come to us: those in the interior will
know in a week what their rights are, and will, where opportunity
offers, prepare to take them. Instantly, the armies that now confront
you must run home to protect their estates, and must stay there, and
your enemies will disappear.
There can be no safety until this step is taken. We fancy that the
endless debate, emphasized by the crime and by the cannons of this war,
has brought the Free States to some conviction that it can never go well
with us whilst this mischief of Slavery remains in our politics, and
that by concert or by might we must put an end to it. But we have too
much experience of the futility of an easy reliance on the momentary
good dispositions of the public. There does exist, perhaps, a popular
will that the Union shall not be broken,--that our trade, and therefore
our laws, must have the whole breadth of the continent, and from Canada
to the Gulf. But, since this is the rooted belief and will of the
people, so much the more are they in danger, when impatient of defeats,
or impatient of taxes, to go with a rush for some peace, and what kind
of peace shall at that moment be easiest attained: they will make
concessions for it,--will give up the slaves; and the whole torment of
the past half-century will come back to be endured anew.
Neither do I doubt, if such a composition should take place, that the
Southerners will come back quietly and politely, leaving their haughty
dictation. It will be an era of good feelings. There will be a lull
after so loud a storm; and, no doubt, there will be discreet men from
that section who will earnestly strive to inaugurate more moderate and
fair administration of the Government, and the North will for a time
have its full share and more, in place and counsel. But this will not
last,--not for want of sincere good-will in sensible Southerners, but
because Slavery will again speak through them its harsh necessity. It
cannot live but by injustice, and it will be unjust and violent to the
end of the world.
The power of Emancipation is this, that it alters the atomic social
constitution of the Southern people. Now their interest is in keeping
out white labor; then, when they must pay wages, their interest will be
to let it in, to get the best labor, and, if they fear their blacks, to
invite Irish, German, and American laborers. Thus, whilst Slavery makes
and keeps disunion, Emancipation removes the whole objection to union.
Emancipation at one stroke elevates the poor white of the South, and
identifies his interest with that of the Northern laborer.
Now, in the name of all that is simple and generous, why should not
this great right be done? Why should not America be capable of a second
stroke for the well-being of the human race, as eighty or ninety years
ago she was for the first? an affirmative step in the interests of human
civility, urged on her, too, not by any romance of sentiment, but by
her own extreme perils? It is very certain that the statesman who shall
break through the cobwebs of doubt, fear, and petty cavil that lie
in the way, will be greeted by the unanimous thanks of mankind. Men
reconcile themselves very fast to a bold and good measure, when once it
is taken, though they condemned it in advance. A week before the two
captive commissioners were surrendered to England, every one thought it
could not be done: it would divide the North. It was done, and in two
days all agreed it was the right action. And this action which costs so
little (the parties injured by it being such a handful that they can
very easily be indemnified) rids the world, at one stroke, of this
degrading nuisance, the cause of war and ruin to nations. This measure
at once puts all parties right. This is borrowing, as I said, the
omnipotence of a principle. What is so foolish as the terror lest the
blacks should be made furious by freedom and wages? It is denying these
that is the outrage, and makes the danger from the blacks. But justice
satisfies everybody,--white man, red man, yellow man, and black man. All
like wages, and the appetite grows by feeding.
But this measure, to be effectual, must come speedily. The weapon is
slipping out of our hands. "Time," say the Indian Scriptures, "drinketh
up the essence of every great and noble action which ought to be
performed, and which is delayed in the execution."
I hope it is not a fatal objection to this policy that it is simple and
beneficent thoroughly, which is the attribute of a moral action. An
unprecedented material prosperity has not tended to make us Stoics or
Christians. But the laws by which the universe is organized reappear at
every point, and will rule it. The end of all political struggle is
to establish morality as the basis of all legislation. It is not free
institutions, 't is not a republic, 't is not a democracy, that is the
end,--no, but only the means. Morality is the object of government.
We want a state of things in which crime shall not pay. This is the
consolation on which we rest in the darkness of the future and the
afflictions of to-day, that the government of the world is moral, and
does forever destroy what is not.
It is the maxim of natural philosophers, that the natural forces wear
out in time all obstacles, and take place: and 't is the maxim of
history, that victory always falls at last where it ought to fall; or,
there is perpetual march and progress to ideas. But, in either case,
no link of the chain can drop out. Nature works through her appointed
elements; and ideas must work through the brains and the arms of good
and brave men, or they are no better than dreams.
* * * * *
Since the above pages were written, President Lincoln has proposed to
Congress that the Government shall cooeperate with any State that shall
enact a gradual abolishment of Slavery. In the recent series of national
successes, this Message is the best. It marks the happiest day in the
political year. The American Executive ranges itself for the first time
on the side of freedom. If Congress has been backward, the President has
advanced. This state-paper is the more interesting that it appears to be
the President's individual act, done under a strong sense of duty. He
speaks his own thought in his own style. All thanks and honor to the
Head of the State! The Message has been received throughout the country
with praise, and, we doubt not, with more pleasure than has been spoken.
If Congress accords with the President, it is not yet too late to begin
the emancipation; but we think it will always be too late to make it
gradual. All experience agrees that it should be immediate. More and
better than the President has spoken shall, perhaps, the effect of this
Message be,--but, we are sure, not more or better than he hoped in his
heart, when, thoughtful of all the complexities of his position, he
penned these cautious words.
* * * * *
In the strength of the endeavor,
In the temper of the giver,
In the loving of the lover,
Lies the hidden recompense.
In the sowing of the sower,
In the fleeting of the flower,
In the fading of each hour,
Lurks eternal recompense.
A MESSAGE OF JEFF DAVIS IN SECRET SESSION.
CONJECTURALLY REPORTED BY H. BIGLOW.
_To the Editors of the_ ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
Jaalam, 10th March, 1862.
GENTLEMEN,--My leisure has been so entirely occupied with the hitherto
fruitless endeavour to decypher the Runick inscription whose fortunate
discovery I mentioned in my last communication, that I have not found
time to discuss, as I had intended, the great problem of what we are to
do with slavery, a topick on which the publick mind in this place is at
present more than ever agitated. What my wishes and hopes are I need
not say, but for safe conclusions I do not conceive that we are yet
in possession of facts enough on which to bottom them with certainty.
Acknowledging the hand of Providence, as I do, in all events, I am
sometimes inclined to think that they are wiser than we, and am willing
to wait till we have made this continent once more a place where
freemen can live in security and honour, before assuming any further
responsibility. This is the view taken by my neighbour Habakkuk
Sloansure, Esq., the president of our bank, whose opinion in the
practical affairs of life has great weight with me, as I have generally
found it to be justified by the event, and whose counsel, had I followed
it, would have saved me from an unfortunate investment of a considerable
part of the painful economies of half a century in the Northwest-Passage
Tunnel. After a somewhat animated discussion with this gentleman, a
few days since, I expanded, on the _audi alteram partem_ principle,
something which he happened to say by way of illustration, into the
Once on a time there was a pool
Fringed all about with flag-leaves cool
And spotted with cow-lilies garish,
Of frogs and pouts the ancient parish.
Alders the creaking redwings sink on,
Tussocks that house blithe Bob o' Lincoln.
Hedged round the unassailed seclusion,
Where muskrats piled their cells Carthusian;
And many a moss-embroidered log,
The watering-place of summer frog,
Slept and decayed with patient skill,
As watering-places sometimes will.
Now in this Abbey of Theleme,
Which realized the fairest dream
That ever dozing bull-frog had,
Sunned on a half-sunk lily-pad,
There rose a party with a mission
To mend the polliwogs' condition,
Who notified the selectmen
To call a meeting there and then.
"Some kind of steps." they said, "are needed;
They don't come on so fast as we did:
Let's dock their tails; if that don't make 'em
Frogs by brevet, the Old One take 'em!
That boy, that came the other day
To dig some flag-root down this way,
His jack-knife left, and 't is a sign
That Heaven approves of our design:
'T were wicked not to urge the step on,
When Providence has sent the weapon."
Old croakers, deacons of the mire,
That led the deep batrachiain choir,
_Uk! Uk! Caronk!_ with bass that might
Have left Lablache's out of sight,
Shook knobby heads, and said, "No go!
You'd better let 'em try to grow:
Old Doctor Time is slow, but still
He does know how to make a pill."
But vain was all their hoarsest bass,
Their old experience out of place,
And, spite of croaking and entreating,
The vote was carried in marsh-meeting.
"Lord knows," protest the polliwogs,
"We're anxious to be grown-up frogs;
But do not undertake the work
Of Nature till she prove a shirk;
'T is not by jumps that she advances,
But wins her way by circumstances:
Pray, wait awhile, until you know
We're so contrived as not to grow;
Let Nature take her own direction,
And she'll absorb our imperfection;
_You_ mightn't like 'em to appear with,
But we must have the things to steer with."
"No," piped the party of reform,
"All great results are ta'en by storm;
Fate holds her best gifts till we show
We've strength to make her let them go:
No more reject the Age's chrism,
Your cues are an anachronism;
No more the Future's promise mock,
But lay your tails upon the block,
Thankful that we the means have voted
To have you thus to frogs promoted."
The thing was done, the tails were cropped,
And home each philotadpole hopped,
In faith rewarded to exult,
And wait the beautiful result.
Too soon it came; our pool, so long
The theme of patriot bull-frogs' song,
Next day was reeking, fit to smother,
With heads and tails that missed each other,--
Here snoutless tails, there tailless snouts:
The only gainers were the pouts.
From lower to the higher next,
Not to the top, is Nature's text;
And embryo Good, to reach full stature,
Absorbs the Evil in its nature.
I think that nothing will ever give permanent peace and security to
this continent but the extirpation of Slavery therefrom, and that the
occasion is nigh; but I would do nothing hastily or vindictively, nor
presume to jog the elbow of Providence. No desperate measures for me
till we are sure that all others are hopeless,--_flectere si nequeo
SUPEROS, Acheronta movebo_. To make Emancipation a reform instead of
a revolution is worth a little patience, that we may have the Border
States first, and then the non-slaveholders of the Cotton States with us
in principle,--a consummation that seems to me nearer than many imagine.
_Fiat justitia, ruat coelum,_ is not to be taken in a literal sense by
statesmen, whose problem is to get justice done with as little jar as
possible to existing order, which has at least so much of heaven in it
that it is not chaos. I rejoice in the President's late Message, which
at last proclaims the Government on the side of freedom, justice, and
As I write, comes the news of our disaster at Hampton Roads. I do not
understand the supineness which, after fair warning, leaves wood to an
unequal conflict with iron. It is not enough merely to have the right
on our side, if we stick to the old flint-lock of tradition. I have
observed in my parochial experience (_haud ignarus mali_) that the Devil
is prompt to adopt the latest inventions of destructive warfare, and may
thus take even such a three-decker as Bishop Butler at an advantage. It
is curious, that, as gunpowder made armour useless on shore, so armour
is having its revenge by baffling its old enemy at sea,--and that, while
gunpowder robbed land-warfare of nearly all its picturesqueness to give
even greater stateliness and sublimity to a sea-fight, armour bids fair
to degrade the latter into a squabble between two iron-shelled turtles.
Yours, with esteem and respect,
HOMER WILBUR, A.M.
P.S. I had wellnigh forgotten to say that the object of this letter is
to inclose a communication from the gifted pen of Mr. Biglow.
I sent you a messige, my friens, t' other day,
To tell you I'd nothin' pertickler to say:
'T wuz the day our new nation gut kin' o' stillborn,
So't wuz my pleasant dooty t' acknowledge the corn,
An' I see clearly then, ef I didn't before,
Thet the _augur_ in inauguration means _bore_.
I needn't tell _you_ thet my messige wuz written
To diffuse correc' notions in France an' Gret Britten,
An' agin to impress on the poppylar mind
The comfort an' wisdom o' goin' it blind,--
To say thet I didn't abate not a hooter
O' my faith in a happy an' glorious futur',
Ez rich in each soshle an' p'litickle blessin'
Ez them thet we now hed the joy o' possessin',
With a people united, an' longin' to die
For wut _we_ call their country, without askin' why,
An' all the gret things we concluded to slope for
Ez much within reach now ez ever--to hope for.
We've all o' the ellermunts, this very hour,
Thet make up a fus'-class, self-governin' power:
We've a war, an' a debt, an' a flag; an' ef this
Ain't to be inderpendunt, why, wut on airth is?
An' nothin' now henders our takin' our station
Ez the freest, enlightenedest, civerlized nation,
Built up on our bran'-new politickle thesis
Thet a Guv'ment's fust right is to tumble to pieces,--
I say nothin' henders our takin' our place
Ez the very fus'-best o' the whole human race,
A-spittin' tobacker ez proud ez you please
On Victory's bes' carpets, or loafin' at ease
In the Tool'ries front-parlor, discussin' affairs
With our heels on the backs o' Napoleon's new chairs,
An' princes a-mixin' our cocktails an' slings,--
Excep', wal, excep' jest a very few things,
Sech ez navies an' armies an' wherewith to pay,
An' gittin' our sogers to run t' other way,
An' not be too over-pertickler in tryin'
To hunt up the very las' ditches to die in.
Ther' are critters so base thet they want it explained
Jes' wut is the totle amount thet we've gained,
Ez ef we could maysure stupenjious events
By the low Yankee stan'ard o' dollars an' cents:
They seem to forgit, thet, sence last year revolved,
We've succeeded in gittin' seceshed an' dissolved,
An' thet no one can't hope to git thru dissolootion
'Thout sonic kin' o' strain on the best Constitootion.
Who asks for a prospec' more flettrin' an' bright,
When from here clean to Texas it's all one free fight?
Hain't we rescued from Seward the gret leadin' featurs
Thet makes it wuth while to be reasonin' creaturs?
Hain't we saved Habus Coppers, improved it in fact,
By suspending the Unionists 'stid o' the Act?
Ain't the laws free to all? Where on airth else d' ye see
Every freeman improvin' his own rope an' tree?
It's ne'ssary to take a good confident tone
With the public; but here, jest amongst us, I own
Things looks blacker 'n thunder. Ther' 's no use denyin'
We're clean out o' money, an' 'most out o' lyin',--
Two things a young nation can't mennage without,
Ef she wants to look wal at her fust comin' out;
For the fust supplies physickle strength, while the second
Gives a morril edvantage thet's hard to be reckoned:
For this latter I'm willin' to du wut I can;
For the former you'll hev to consult on a plan,--
Though our _fust_ want (an' this pint I want your best views on)
Is plausible paper to print I.O.U.s on.
Some gennlemen think it would cure all our cankers
In the way o' finance, ef we jes' hanged the bankers;
An' I own the proposle 'ud square with my views,
Ef their lives wuzn't all thet we'd left 'em to lose.
Some say thet more confidence might be inspired,
Ef we voted our cities an' towns to be fired,--
A plan thet 'ud suttenly tax our endurance,
Coz 't would be our own bills we should git for th' insurance;
But cinders, no metter how sacred we think 'em,
Mightn't strike furrin minds ez good sources of income,
Nor the people, perhaps, wouldn't like the eclaw
O' bein' all turned into paytriots by law.
Some want we should buy all the cotton an' burn it,
On a pledge, when we've gut thru the war, to return it,--
Then to take the proceeds an' hold _them_ ez security
For an issue o' bonds to be met at maturity
With an issue o' notes to be paid in hard cash
On the fus' Monday follerin' the 'tarnal Allsmash:
This hez a safe air, an', once hold o' the gold,
'Ud leave our vile plunderers out in the cold,
An' _might_ temp' John Bull, ef it warn't for the dip he
Once gut from the banks o' my own Massissippi.
Some think we could make, by arrangin' the figgers,
A hendy home-currency out of our niggers;
But it wun't du to lean much on ary sech staff,
For they're gittin' tu current a'ready, by half.
One gennleman says, ef we lef' our loan out
Where Floyd could git hold on 't, _he_'d take it, no doubt;
But 't ain't jes' the takin', though 't hez a good look,
We mus' git sunthin' out on it arter it's took,
An' we need now more 'n ever, with sorrer I own,
Thet some one another should let us a loan,
Sence a soger wun't fight, on'y jes' while he draws his
Pay down on the nail, for the best of all causes,
'Thout askin' to know wut the quarrel's about,--
An' once come to thet, why, our game is played out.
It's ez true ez though I shouldn't never hev said it
Thet a hitch hez took place in our system o' credit;
I swear it's all right in my speeches an' messiges,
But ther' 's idees afloat, ez ther' is about sessiges:
Folks wun't take a bond ez a basis to trade on,
Without nosin' round to find out wut it's made on,
An' the thought more an' more thru the public min' crosses
Thet our Treshry hez gut 'mos' too many dead hosses.
Wut's called credit, you see, is some like a balloon,
Thet looks while it's up 'most ez harnsome 'z a moon,
But once git a leak in 't an' wut looked so grand
Caves righ' down in a jiffy ez flat ez your hand.
Now the world is a dreffle mean place, for our sins,
Where ther' ollus is critters about with long pins
A-prickin' the globes we've blowcd up with sech care,
An' provin' ther' 's nothin' inside but bad air:
They're all Stuart Millses, poor-white trash, an' sneaks,
Without no more chivverlry 'n Choctaws or Creeks,
Who think a real gennleman's promise to pay
Is meant to be took in trade's ornery way:
Them fellers an' I couldn' never agree;
They're the nateral foes o' the Southun Idee;
I'd gladly take all of our other resks on me
To be red o' this low-lived politikle 'con'my!
Now a dastardly notion is gittin' about
Thet our bladder is bust an' the gas oozin' out,
An' onless we can mennage in some way to stop it,
Why, the thing's a gone coon, an' we might ez wal drop it.
Brag works wal at fust, but it ain't jes' the thing
For a stiddy inves'ment the shiners to bring,
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