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A Residence in France by J. Fenimore Cooper

Part 6 out of 6

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Previously to the recent changes, there were twenty-two cantons; a
number that the recent secession of Neufchatel has reduced to
twenty-one.[43] Until the French revolution, the number was not so
great, many of the present cantons being then associated less
intimately with the confederation, as _allies_, and some of them being
held as political dependents, by those that were cantons. Thus Vaud and
Argovie were both provinces, owned and ruled by Berne.

[Footnote 43: Berne, Soleure, Zurich, Lucerne, Schweitz, Unterwalden,
Uri, Glarus, Tessino, Valais, Vaud, Geneva, Basle, Schaffhausen,
Argovie, Thourgovie, Zug, Fribourg, St. Gall, Appenzell, and the
Grisons. They are named here without reference to their rank or

The system is that of a confederation, which leaves each of its members
to do pretty much as it pleases, in regard to its internal affairs. The
central government is conducted by a Diet, very much as our affairs were
formerly managed by the old Congress. In this Diet, each canton has one
vote. The executive power, such as it is, is wielded by a committee or
council. Its duties do not extend much beyond being the organ of
communication between the Diet and the Cantons, the care of the treasury
(no great matter), and the reception of, and the treating with, foreign
ministers. The latter duty, however, and indeed all other acts, are
subject to a revision by the Diet.

Although the cantons themselves are only known to the confederation as
they are enrolled on its list, many of them are subdivided into local
governments that are perfectly independent of each other. Thus there are
two Unterwaldens in fact, though only one in the Diet; two Appenzells,
also; and I may add, half a dozen Grisons and Valais. In other words,
the two Unterwaldens are absolutely independent of each other, except as
they are connected through the confederation, though they unite to
choose common delegates to the Diet, in which they are known as only one
canton, and possess but one vote. The same is true of Appenzell, and
will soon, most probably, be true of Schweitz and Basle; in both of
which there are, at this moment, serious dissensions that are likely to
lead to internal separations.[44] The Grisons is more of a consolidated
canton than these examples, but it is subdivided into _leagues_, which
have a good many strong features of independence. The same is true of
Valais, where the subdivisions are termed _dizains_. The Diet does
little beyond controlling the foreign relations of the republic. It
makes peace and war, receives ambassadors, forms treaties, and enters
into alliances. It can only raise armies, however, by calling on the
cantons for their prescribed contingents. The same is true as respects
taxes. This, you will perceive, is very much like our own rejected
confederation, and has most of its evils; though external pressure, and
a trifling commerce, render them less here than they were in America. I
believe the confederation has some control over the public mails, though
I think this is done, also, _through_ the cantons. The Diet neither
coins money, nor establishes any courts, beyond its own power to decide
certain matters that may arise between the cantons themselves. In short,
the government is a very loose one, and it could not hold together in a
crisis, were it not for the jealousy of its neighbours.

[Footnote 44: Basle is now divided into what are called "Basle town" and
"Basle country;" or the city population and the rural. Before the late
changes, the former ruled the latter.]

I have already told you that there exists a strong desire among the
intelligent to modify this system. Consolidation, as you know from my
letters, is wished by no one, for the great difference between the town
and the rural populations causes both to wish to remain independent.
Three languages are spoken in Switzerland, without including the
Rhetian, or any of the numerous _patois_. All the north is German.
Geneva, Vaud, and Valais are French, as are parts of Berne; while
Tessino, lying altogether south of the Alps, is Italian. I have been
told, that the states which treat with Switzerland for mercenaries,
condition that none of them shall be raised in Tessino. But the practice
of treating for mercenaries is likely to be discontinued altogether,
though the republic has lately done something in this way for the Pope.
The objection is to the Italian character, which is thought to be less
constant than that of the real Swiss.

Men, and especially men of narrow habits and secluded lives, part
reluctantly with authority. Nothing can to be more evident than the
fact, that a common currency, common post-offices, common custom-houses,
if there are to be any at all, and various other similar changes, would
be a great improvement on the present system of Switzerland. But a few
who control opinion in the small cantons, and who would lose authority
by the measure, oppose the change. The entire territory of the republic
is not as great as that of Pennsylvania, nor is the entire population
much greater than that of the same state. It is materially less than the
population of New York. On the subject of their numbers, there exists a
singular, and to me an inapplicable, sensitiveness. It is not possible
to come at the precise population of Switzerland. That given in the
tables of the contingents is thought to be exaggerated, though one does
not very well understand the motive. I presume the entire population of
the country is somewhere between 1,500,000, and 1,900,000. Some pretend,
however, there are 2,000,000. Admitting the latter number, you will
perceive that the single state of New York considerably surpasses
it.[45] More than one-third of the entire population of Switzerland is
probably in the single canton of Berne, as one-seventh of that of the
United States is in New York. The proportion between surface and
inhabitants is not very different between New England and Switzerland,
if Maine be excluded. Parts of the cantons are crowded with people, as
Zurich for instance, while a large part is uninhabitable rocks and ice.

[Footnote 45: The population of New York, to-day, is about 2,200,000, or
not greatly inferior to that of Scotland; and superior to that of
Hanover, or Wurtemberg, or Denmark, or Saxony, all of which are
kingdoms. The increase of population in the United States, at present,
the immigration included, is not far from 500,000 souls annually, which
is equal to the addition of an average state each year! The western
speculations find their solution in this fact.]

The Swiss have most of the physical peculiarities of the different
nations that surround them. The German part of the population, however,
are, on the whole, both larger and better-looking than the true
Germans. All the mountaineers are fresher and have clearer complexions
than those in the lower portions of the country, but the difference in
size is not very apparent. Nowhere is there such a population as in our
south-western states; indeed, I question if large men are as common in
any other country. Scotland, however, may possibly form an exception.

The women of Switzerland are better-looking than those of France or
Germany, but beauty, or even extreme prettiness, is rare. Light,
flexible, graceful forms are quite uncommon. Large hands and feet are
met with everywhere, those of our women being miraculous in comparison.
But the same thing is true nearly all over the north of Europe. Even our
men--meaning the gentlemen--I think, might be remarked for the same
peculiarities in this part of the world. The English have absurd notions
on this subject, and I have often enjoyed a malicious pleasure in
bringing my own democratic paws and hoofs (no prodigies at home) in
contrast with their aristocratic members. Of course, the climate has
great influence on all these things.

I scarcely think the Swiss women of the mountains entitled to their
reputation for beauty. If strength, proportions on a scale that is
scarcely feminine, symmetry that is more anatomically than poetically
perfect, enter into the estimate, one certainly sees in some of the
cantons, female peasants who may be called fine women. I remember, in
1828, to have met one of these in the Grisons, near the upper end of the
valley of the Rhine. This woman had a form, carriage, and proportions
that would have made a magnificent duchess in a coronation procession;
but the face, though fresh and fair, did not correspond with the figure.
The women of our own mountains excel them altogether, being a more true
medium between strength and coarseness. Even Mrs. Trollope admits that
the American women (perhaps she ought to have said the girls) are the
most beautiful in the world, while they are the least interesting. Mrs.
Trollope has written a vast deal of nonsense, putting cockneyisms into
the mouths of Americans, and calling them Americanisms, but she has also
written a good many truths. I will not go as far as to say she was right
in the latter part of this charge; but if our girls would cultivate
neater and more elegant forms of expression; equally avoiding vulgar
oh's and ah's! and set phrases; be more careful not to drawl; and not to
open the mouth, so as to call "hot," "haut;" giggle less; speak lower;
have more calmness and more dignity of manner, and _think_ instead of
_pulsating_,--I would put them, for all in all, against any women in the
world. They lose half of these defects when they marry, as it is; but
the wisdom of Solomon would come to our ears with a diminished effect,
were it communicated through the medium of any other than a neat
enunciation. The great desideratum in female education, at home, is to
impart a graceful, quiet, lady-like manner of speaking.

Were it not for precisely this place, Vevey, I should add, that the
women of America speak their language worse than the women of any other
country I ever was in. We all know, that a calm, even, unemphatic mode
of speaking, is almost a test of high-breeding; that a clear enunciation
is, in short, an indispensable requisite, for either a gentleman or a
lady. One may be a fool, and utter nonsense gracefully; but aphorisms
lose their force when conveyed in a vulgar intonation. As a nation, I
repeat, there is more of this fault in America, perhaps, than among an
equal portion of educated people anywhere else. Contrary to the general
rule too, the men of America speak better than the women; though the
men, as a class, speak badly. The peculiar dialect of New England, which
prevails so much all over the country, is derived from a provincial mode
of speaking in England which is just the meanest in the whole island;
and though it is far more intelligible, and infinitely better grammar is
used with us, than in the place whence the _patois_ came, I think we
have gained little on the score of elegance. I once met in England a
distinguished man, who was one of the wealthiest commoners of his
county, and he had hardly opened his mouth before I was struck with this
peculiarity. On inquiry, I learned that he came from the West of
England. It is by no means uncommon to meet with bad grammar, and an
improper use of words as relates to their significations, among the
highest classes in England, though I think not as often as in America,
but it is rare, indeed, that a gentleman or a lady does not express
himself or herself, so far as utterance, delivery, and intonation go, as
a gentleman and lady should. The fault in America arises from the habits
of drawling, and of opening the mouth too wide. Any one knows that, if
he open the stop of an organ, and keep blowing the bellows, he will make
anything but music. We have some extraordinary words, too: who, but a
Philadelphian, for instance, would think of calling his mother a _mare_?

But I am digressing; the peculiar manner of speaking which prevails at
Vevey having led me from the main subject. These people absolutely sing
in their ordinary conversation, more especially the women. In the simple
expression of "_Bon jour, madame_" each alternate syllable is uttered on
an octave higher than the preceding. This is not a _patois_ at all, but
merely a vicious and ungraceful mode of utterance. It prevails more
among the women than among the men; and, as a matter of course, more
among the women of the inferior, than among those of the superior
classes. Still it is more or less general. To ears that are accustomed
to the even, unemphatic, graceful enunciation of Paris, it is impossible
to describe to you, in words, the ludicrous effect it produces. We have
frequently been compelled to turn away, in the shops, to avoid downright

There exists the same sensitiveness, on the subject of the modes of
speech, between the French Swiss and their French neighbours, as is to
be found between us and the English. Many intelligent men here have
laboured to convince me that the Genevese, in particular, speak purer
French than even the Parisians. I dare say a part of this pretension may
be true, for a great people take great liberties with everything; but if
America, with her fifteen millions, finds it difficult to maintain
herself in such matters, even when in the right, against the influence
of England, what can little Geneva look for, in such a dispute with
France, but to be put down by sheer volubility. She will be out-talked
as a matter of course, clever as her citizens are.

On the subject of the prevalent opinion of Swiss cupidity, I have very
little to say: the practice of taking service as mercenaries in other
countries, has probably given rise to the charge. As is usually the case
in countries where the means of obtaining a livelihood are not easy, the
Swiss strike me as being more influenced by money than most of their
neighbours, though scarcely more so than the common classes of France.
To a man who gains but twenty in a day, a sou is of more account than to
him who gains forty. I presume this is the whole amount of the matter. I
shall not deny, however, that the _honorarium_ was usually more in view,
in a transaction with a Swiss, than in a transaction with a Frenchman,
though I think the first the most to be depended on. Notwithstanding one
or two instances of roguery that I have encountered, I would as soon
depend on a Swiss, a clear bargain having been made, as on any other man
I know.


Departure from Vevey.--Passage down the Lake.--Arrival at
Geneva.--Purchase of Jewellery.--Leave Geneva.--Ascent of the
Jura.--Alpine Views.--Rudeness at the Custom-house.--Smuggling.--A
Smuggler detected.--The second Custom-house.--Final View of Mont
Blanc.--Re-enter France.--Our luck at the Post-house in Dole.--A Scotch
Traveller.--Nationality of the Scotch.--Road towards Troyes.--Source of
the Seine.

Dear ----,

Notwithstanding all the poetry of our situation, we found some of the
ills of life in it. A few light cases of fever had occurred among us,
which gave reason to distrust the lake-shore at this late season, and
preparations were accordingly made to depart. Watching an opportunity,
the skiff of honest Jean was loaded with us and our effects to the
water's edge, and we embarked in the Leman, as she lay-to, in one of her
daily trips, bidding a final adieu to Vevey, after a residence of about
five weeks.

The passage down the lake was pleasant, and our eyes rested on the
different objects with melancholy interest, for we knew not that they
would ever be again looked upon by any among us. It is an exquisite
lake, and it grows on us in beauty each time that we look at it, the
surest sign of perfection. We reached Geneva early, and took lodgings at
_l'Ecu_, in season for the ladies to make some purchases. The jewellery
of this town is usually too tempting to be resisted by female
self-denial, and when we met at dinner, we had a course of ear-rings,
chains and bracelets served up, by a succession of shopmen, who
understand, as it were by instinct, the caprices of the daughters of
Eve. One of the party had taken a fancy to a pair of unfinished
bracelets, and had expressed her regrets that she could not carry them
with her. "Madame goes to Paris?" "Yes." "If she will leave her address,
they shall be sent to her in a month." As we were strangers in France,
and the regulation which prevented travellers from buying articles of
this sort for their personal use, however necessary, has always appeared
to me inhospitable, I told the man that if delivered in Paris, they
should be received, and paid for. The bargain was made, and the jewels
have already reached us. Of course I have asked no questions, and am
ignorant whether they came by a balloon, in the luggage of an
ambassador, or by the means of a dog.

The next day it rained tremendously; but having ordered horses, we left
Geneva in the afternoon, taking the road to Ferney. Not an individual of
the whole party had any desire to visit the _chateau_, however, and we
drove through the place on a gallop. We took French post-horses at the
foot of the Jura, where we found the first post-house, and began to
climb the mountains. Our party made a droll appearance just at that
moment. The rain was falling in torrents, and the carriage was dragging
slowly through the mud up the long winding ascent. Of course the windows
were shut, and we were a sort of full-dress party within, looking
ridiculously fine, and, from time to time, laughing at our silly
appearance. Everybody was in travelling dresses, jewellery excepted. The
late purchases, however, were all on our persons, for we had been told
they would certainly be seized at the custom-houses, if left in their
boxes in the trunks. The _douaniers_ could tell a recent purchase by
instinct. Accordingly, all our fingers were brilliant with rings, brows
glittered with _ferronieres_, ear-rings of the newest mode were shining
beneath travelling caps and hats, and chains abounded. I could not
persuade myself that this masquerade would succeed, but predicted a
failure. It really appeared to me that so shallow a distinction could
avail nothing against harpies who denied the right of strangers to pass
through their country with a few purchases of this nature, that had
been clearly made for their own use. But, while the sumptuary laws of
the custom-houses are very rigid, and set limits to the wants of
travellers without remorse, like quarantine regulations, they have some
rules that seem framed expressly to defeat their own ordinances.

The road led up the mountain, where a view that is much praised exists.
It is the counterpart of that which is seen everywhere, when one touches
on the eastern verge of the Jura, and first gets sight of Switzerland
proper. These views are divided into that which embraces the valley of
the Aar and the Oberland range, and this which comprises the basin of
the Leman, and the mountains that surround it. Mont Blanc, of course, is
included in the other. On the whole, I prefer the first, although the
last is singularly beautiful. We got clear weather near the summit, and
stopped a few minutes to dissect the elements of this scene. The view is
very lovely, beyond a question; but I think it much inferior to that
which has been so often spoken of between us above Vevey,
notwithstanding Mont Blanc enters into this as one of its most
conspicuous objects. I have, as yet, nowhere seen this mountain to so
much advantage. In size, as compared with the peaks around it, it is a
hay-stack among hay-cocks, with the advantage of being a pile of shining
ice, or frozen snow, while everything else near it is granite. By
insulating this mountain, and studying it by itself, one feels its mild
sublimity; but still, as a whole, I give the preference greatly to the
other view. From this point the lake is too distant, the shores of Savoy
dwindle in the presence of their mightier neighbour, and the
mysterious-looking Valais, which in its peculiar beauty has scarcely a
rival on earth, is entirely hid from sight. Then the lights and shades
are nearly lost from the summit of the Jura; and, after all, it is these
lights and shades, the natural _chiaroscuro_, that finishes the picture.

We reached the first custom-house a little before sunset; but, as there
was a reasonably good inn opposite, I determined to pass the night
there, in order to be able to defend my rights against the myrmidons of
the law at leisure, should it be necessary. The carriage was driven to
the door of the custom-house, and we were taken into separate rooms to
be examined. As for myself, I have no reason to complain; but the ladies
were indignant at being subjected to a personal examination by a female
harpy, who was equally without politeness and propriety. Surely
France--polished, refined, intellectual France--cannot actually need
this violation of decorum, not to say of decency! This is the second
time that similar rudeness has been encountered by us, on entering the
country; and, to make the matter worse, females have been the sufferers.
I made a pretty vigorous remonstrance, in very animated French, and it
had the effect of preventing a repetition of the rudeness. The men
pleaded their orders, and I pleaded the rights of hospitality and
propriety, as well as a determination not to submit to the insults. I
would have made a _detour_ of a hundred leagues to enter at another
point in preference.

In the course of the conversation that succeeded, the officers explained
to me the difficulties they had to contend with, which certainly are not
trifling. As to station, they said that made no great difference, your
duchess being usually an inveterate smuggler. Travellers are not content
to supply their own wants, but they purchase for all their friends. This
I knew to be true, though not by experience, you will permit me to say,
the ambassador's bags, half the time, containing more prohibited
articles than despatches. But, notwithstanding this explanation, I did
not deem the case of one who bought only for himself the less hard. It
is so easy to conceal light articles, that, except in instances where is
reason for distrust, it were better to confide in character. If anything
could induce me to enter seriously into the contraband, it would be such

The officers explained to me the manner in which smuggling is conducted.
The usual mode is to cross the fields in the night; for when two
custom-houses are passed, the jewellery may be put in a common trunk,
and sent forward by the diligence, unless there is some particular
grounds of suspicion. They know perfectly well, that bargains are
constantly made in Geneva, to deliver purchases in Paris; but, with all
their care and vigilance, the smugglers commonly succeed.

On a recent occasion, however, the officers had been more successful. A
cart loaded with split wood (larch) had boldly passed the door of the
_douane_. The man who drove it was a peasant, and altogether he appeared
to be one driving a very common burthen to his own home. The cart,
however, was stopped and the wood unloaded; while reloading, for nothing
but wood was found, one stick attracted attention. It was muddy, as if
it had fallen into the road. The mud, however, had a suspicious _malice
prepense_ air about it; it seemed as if it were _smeared_ on, and by
examining it closely, two _seams_ were discovered, which it had been
hoped the mud would conceal. The billet had been split in two, hollowed,
and reunited by means of pegs. The mud was to hide these pegs and the
seams, as I have told you, and in the cavity were found seventy gold
watches! I saw the billet of wood, and really felt less resentment at
the old virago who had offended us. The officers caught relenting in my
eyes and inquired what I thought of it, and I told them that _we_ were
not muddy logs of larch.

The next morning we were off betimes, intending to push through the
mountains and the custom-houses that day. The country was wild and far
from fruitful, though there were bits of naked mountain, through which
the road wound in a way to recall, on a greatly diminished scale
however, that peculiar charm of the Apennines. The villages were clean
but dreary, and nowhere, for leagues, did we see a country that was
genial, or likely to reward agriculture. This passage of the Jura is
immeasurably inferior to that by Salins and Neufchatel. At first I was
afraid it was my worn-out feelings that produced the impression; but,
by close comparisons, and by questioning my companions, some of whom
scarcely recollected the other road, I feel certain that such is the
fact. Indeed it would be like comparing a finished painting to an

We had not much trouble at the second custom-house, though the officers
eyed our ornaments with a confiscating rapacity. For my part I took my
revenge, by showing off the only ornament I had to the utmost. A---- had
made me a present of a sapphire-ring, and this I flourished in all sorts
of ways, as it might be in open defiance. One fellow had an extreme
longing for a pretty _ferroniere_, and there was a private consultation
about it, among them, I believe; but after some detention, and a pretty
close examination of the passports, we were permitted to proceed. If
Francois smuggled nothing, it must have been for want of funds, for
speculation is his hobby, as well as his misfortune, entering into every
bone of his body.

We were all day busy in those barren, sterile, and unattractive
mountains--thrice unattractive after the God-like Alps--and were
compelled to dip into the night, in order to get rid of them. Once or
twice on looking back, we saw the cold, chiseled peak of Mont Blanc,
peering over our own nearer ridges; and as the weather was not very
clear, it looked dim and spectral, as if sorry to lose us. It was rather
late when we reached a small town, at the foot of the Jura, and stopped
for the night.

This was France again,--France in cookery, beds, tone, and thought. We
lost the Swiss simplicity (for there is still relatively a good deal of
it), and Swiss directness, in politeness, _finesse_, and _manner_. We
got "_monsieur sait--monsieur pense--monsieur fera_"--for "_que
voulez-vous, monsieur?_"

We had no more to do with mountains. Our road next morning was across a
wide plain, and we plunged at once into the undeviating monotony of
French agriculture. A village had been burned, it was thought to excite
political commotion, and the postilions began to manoeuvre with us, to
curtail us of horse-flesh, as the road was full of carriages. It now
became a matter of some moment to push on, for "first come, first
served," is the law of the road. By dint of bribes and threats, we
reached the point where the two great routes unite a little east of
Dole, before a train of several carriages, which we could see pushing
for the point of junction with the same object as ourselves, came up. No
one could pass us, on the same road, unless we stopped, and abandoning
all idea of eating, we drove up to the post-house in Dole, and preferred
our claim. At the next moment, four other carriages stopped also. But
five horses were in the stable, and seventeen were needed! Even these
five had just arrived, and were baiting. Four of them fell to my share,
and we drove off with many handsome expressions of regret at being
obliged to leave but one for the four other carriages. Your travelling
is an epitome of life, in which the lucky look upon the unlucky with a
supercilious compassion.

A league or two beyond Dole, we met two carriages coming the other way,
and exchanged horses; and really I had some such generous feelings on
the occasion, as those of a rich man who hears that a poor friend has
found a bank note. The carriage with which we exchanged was English, and
it had an earl's coronet. The pair within were man and wife; and some
fine children, with an attendant or two, were in the one that followed.
They were Scotch at a glance: the master himself wearing, besides the
stamp of his nation on his face, a bonnet with the colours of his clan.
There is something highly respectable in this Scotch nationality, and I
have no doubt it has greatly contributed towards making the people what
they are. If the Irish were as true to themselves, English injustice
would cease in a twelvemonth. But, as a whole, the Irish nobles are a
band of mercenaries, of English origin, and they prefer looking to the
flesh-pots of Egypt, to falling back sternly on their rights, and
sustaining themselves by the proud recollections of their forefathers.
Indeed half of them would find their forefathers among the English
speculators, when they found them at all. I envied the Scotchman his cap
and tartan, though I dare say both he and his pretty wife had all the
fine feelings that such an emblem is apt to inspire. Your earldoms are
getting to be paltry things; but it is really something to be the chief
of a clan!

You have travelled the road between Dole and Dijon with me once,
already, and I shall say no more than that we slept at the latter town.
The next morning, with a view to vary the route, and to get off the
train of carriages, we took the road towards Troyes. Our two objects
were effected, for we saw no more of our competitors for post-horses,
and we found ourselves in an entirely new country; but, parts of
Champagne and the Ardennes excepted, a country that proved to be the
most dreary portion of France we had yet been in. While trotting along a
good road, through this naked, stony region, we came to a little valley
in which there was a village that was almost as wild in appearance, as
one of those on the Great St. Bernard. A rivulet flowed through the
village, and meandered by our side, among the half sterile meadows. It
was positively the only agreeable object that we had seen for some
hours. Recollecting the stream at Tuttlingen, A---- desired me to ask
the postilion, if it had a name. "_Monsieur, cette petite riviere
s'appelle la Seine._" We were, then, at the sources of the Seine!
Looking back I perceived, by the formation of the land, that it must
take its rise a short distance beyond the village, among some naked and
dreary-looking hills. A little beyond these, again, the streams flow
towards the tributaries of the Rhone, and we were consequently in the
high region where the waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
divide. Still there were no other signs of our being at such an
elevation, except in the air of sterility that reigned around. It
really seemed as if the river, so notoriously affluent in mud, had taken
down with it all the soil.


Miserable Inn.--A French Bed.--Free-Trade.--French Relics.--Cross
Roads.--Arrival at La Grange.--Reception by General Lafayette.--The
Nullification Strife.--Conversation with Lafayette.--His Opinion as to a
Separation of the Union in America.--The Slave Question.--Stability of
the Union.--Style of living at La Grange.--Pap.--French Manners, and the
French Cuisine.--Departure from La Grange.--Return to Paris.

Dear ----,

I have little to say of the next two days' drive, except that ignorance,
and the poetical conceptions of a postilion, led us into the scrape of
passing a night in just the lowest inn we had entered in Europe. We
pushed on after dark to reach this spot, and it was too late to proceed,
as all of the party were excessively fatigued. To be frank with you, it
was an _auberge aux charretiers_. Eating was nearly out of the question;
and yet I had faith to the last, in a French bed. The experience of this
night, however, enables me to say all France does not repose on
excellent wool mattresses, for we were obliged to put up with a good
deal of straw. And yet the people were assiduous, anxious to please, and
civil. The beds, moreover, were tidy; our straw being clean straw.

The next night we reached a small town, where we did much better. Still
one can see the great improvements that travellers are introducing into
France, by comparing the taverns on the better roads with those on the
more retired routes. At this place we slept well, and _a la Francaise_.
If Sancho blessed the man who invented sleep after a nap on Spanish
earth, what would he have thought of it after one enjoyed on a French

The drums beat through the streets after breakfast, and the population
crowded their doors, listening, with manifest interest, to the
proclamation of the crier. The price of bread was reduced; an
annunciation of great interest at all times, in a country where bread is
literally the staff of life. The advocates of free-trade prices ought to
be told that France would often be convulsed, literally from want, if
this important interest were left to the sole management of dealers. A
theory will not feed a starving multitude, and hunger plays the deuce
with argument. In short, free-trade, as its warmest votaries now carry
out their doctrines, approaches suspiciously near a state of nature: a
condition which might do well enough, if trade were a principal, instead
of a mere incident of life. With some men, however, it is a
principal--an all in all--and this is the reason we frequently find
those who are notoriously the advocates of exclusion and privileges in
government, maintaining the doctrine, as warmly as those who carry their
liberalism, in other matters, to extremes.

There was a small picture, in the manner of Watteau, in this inn, which
the landlady told me had been bought at a sale of the effects of a
neighbouring chateau. It is curious to discover these relics, in the
shape of furniture, pictures, porcelain, &c., scattered all over France,
though most of it has found its way to Paris. I offered to purchase the
picture, but the good woman held it to be above price.

We left this place immediately after breakfast, and soon quitted the
great route to strike across the country. The _chemins vicinaux_, or
cross-roads of France, are pretty much in a state of nature; the public,
I believe, as little liking to work them, as it does at home. Previously
to the revolution, all this was done by means of the _corvee_; a right
which empowered the _seigneur_ to oblige his tenants to perform a
certain amount of labour, without distinction, on the highways of his
estate. Thus, whenever M. le Marquis felt disposed to visit the
chateau, there was a general muster, to enable him and his friends to
reach the house in safety, and to amuse themselves during their
residence; after which the whole again reverted to the control of nature
and accident. To be frank, one sometimes meets with by-roads in this old
country, which are positively as bad as the very worst of our own, in
the newest settlements. Last year I actually travelled post for twenty
miles on one of these trackless ways.

We were more fortunate, however, on the present occasion; the road we
took being what is called a _route departementale_, and little, if any,
inferior to the one we had left. Our drive was through a slightly
undulating country that was prettily wooded, and in very good
agriculture. In all but the wheel-track, the traveller gains by quitting
the great routes in France, for nothing can be more fatiguing to the eye
than their straight undeviating monotony. They are worse than any of our
own air-line turnpikes; for in America the constant recurrence of small
isolated bits of wood greatly relieves the scenery.

We drove through this country some three or four leagues, until we at
length came to an estate of better arrangements than common. On our left
was a wood, and on our right a broad reach of meadow. Passing the wood,
we saw a wide, park-like lawn, that was beautifully shaded by copses,
and in which there were touches of landscape-gardening, in a taste
altogether better than was usual in France. Passing this, another wood
met us, and turning it, we entered a private road--you will remember the
country has neither fence nor hedge, nor yet scarcely a wall--which
wound round its margin, describing an irregular semicircle. Then it ran
in a straight line for a short distance, among a grove of young
evergreens, towards two dark picturesque towers covered with ivy,
crossed a permanent bridge that spanned a ditch, and dashing through a
gateway, in which the grooves of the portcullis are yet visible, we
alighted in the court of La Grange!

It was just nine, and the family was about assembling in the
drawing-room. The "_le General sera charme de vous voir, monsieur_," of
the faithful Bastien, told us we should find his master at home; and on
the great stairs, most of the ladies met us. In short, the patriarch was
under his own roof, surrounded by that family which has so long been the
admiration of thousands--or, precisely as one would most wish to find

It is not necessary to speak of our reception, where all our country are
welcome. We were soon in the drawing-room, which I found covered with
American newspapers, and in a few minutes I was made acquainted with all
that was passing on the other side of the Atlantic. Mr. Rives had sailed
for home; and as M. Perier was dead, General Lafayette had not explained
in the Chamber the error into which that minister had permitted himself
to fall, agreeably to a tardy authority to that effect received from Mr.
Rives. The ministry was on the point of dissolution in France; and it
was said the _doctrinaires_ were to come in--and the nullification
strife ran high at home. On the latter subject, Lafayette spoke with a
reserve that was unusual on subjects connected with America, though he
strongly deprecated the existence of the controversy.

There is great weakness in an American's betraying undue susceptibility
on the score of every little unpleasant occurrence that arises at home.
No one of the smallest intelligence can believe that we are to be exempt
from human faults, and we all ought to know that they will frequently
lead to violence and wrongs. Still there is so much jealousy here on
this subject, the votaries of monarchies regard all our acts with so
much malevolence, and have so strong a desire to exaggerate our faults,
that it is not an easy matter at all times to suppress these feelings. I
have often told our opponents that they pay us the highest possible
compliment, in their constant effort to compare the results of the
system with what is purely right in the abstract, instead of comparing
its results with those of their own. But the predominance of the hostile
interests are so great here, that reason and justice go for nothing in
the conflict of opinions. If a member of congress is flogged, it is no
answer to say that a deputy or a member of parliament has been murdered.
They do not affirm, but they always _argue_ as if they thought we ought
to be better than they! If we have an angry discussion and are told of
it, one would think it would be a very good answer, so far as
comparative results are concerned, to tell them that half-a-dozen of
their provinces are in open revolt; but to this they will not listen.
They expect _us_ never to quarrel! We must be without spot in all
things, or we are worse than they. All this Lafayette sees and feels;
and although it is impossible not to detect the unfairness and absurdity
of such a mode of forming estimates of men, it is almost equally
impossible, in the present situation of Europe, for one who understands
the influence of American example, not to suffer these unpleasant
occurrences to derange his philosophy.

Before breakfast the General took me into his library, and we had a long
and a much franker conversation on the state of South Carolina. He said
that a separation of the Union would break his heart. "I hope they will
at least let me die," he added, "before they commit this _suicide_ on
_our_ institutions." He particularly deprecated the practice of talking
about such an event, which he thought would accustom men's minds to it.
I had not the same apprehensions. To me it appeared that the habit of
menacing dissolution, was the result of every one's knowing, and
intimately feeling, the importance of hanging together, which induced
the dissatisfied to resort to the threat, as the shortest means of
attaining their object. It would be found in the end, that the very
consciousness which pointed out this mode as the gravest attack that
could be made on those whom the discontented wish to influence, would
awaken enough to consequences to prevent any consummation in acts. This
menace was a natural argument of the politically weak in America, just
as the physically weak lay hold of knives and clubs, where the strong
rely on their hands. It must be remembered that the latter, at need, can
resort to weapons, too. I do not believe there could be found in all
America any great number of respectable men who wish the Union
dissolved; and until that shall be the case, I see no great grounds of
apprehension. Moreover, I told him that so long as the northern states
were tranquil I had no fears, for I felt persuaded that no great
political change would occur in America that did not come from that
section of the Union. As this is a novel opinion, he inquired for its
reasons, and, in brief, this was the answer:--

There is but one interest that would be likely to unite all the south
against the north, and this was the interest connected with slavery.
Now, it was notorious that neither the federal government nor the
individual states have anything to do with this as a national question,
and it was not easy to see in what manner anything could be done that
would be likely to push matters as far as disunion on such a point There
might be, and there probably would be, discussion and
denunciations--nay, there often had been; but a compromise having been
virtually made, by which all new states at the north are to be free
states, and all at the south slave-holding, I saw nothing else that was
likely to be serious.[46] As respects all other interests, it would be
difficult to unite the whole south. Taking the present discussion as an
example: those that were disaffected, to use the strongest term the case
admits of, were so environed by those that were not, that a serious
separation became impossible. The tier of states that lies behind the
Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia, for instance, are in no degree
dependent on them for an outlet to the sea, while they are so near
neighbours as to overshadow them in a measure. Then the south must
always have a northern boundary of free states, if they separate _en
masse_--a circumstance not very desirable, as they would infallibly lose
most of their slaves.

[Footnote 46: Recent facts have confirmed this opinion.]

On the other hand, the north is very differently situated. New England,
New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the tier of states west, are closely
connected geographically, must and would go together, and they have one
frontier that is nearly all water. They contain already a free
population of eight millions, which is rapidly increasing, and are
strong enough, and united enough, to act as they please. It is their
interest to remain united with the south, and it is also a matter of
feeling with them, and I apprehend little to the Union so long as these
states continue of this mind.[47]

[Footnote 47: This was written before the recent events in Texas, which
give a new aspect to the question.]

Lafayette wished to know if I did not think the Union was getting too
large for its safety. I thought not, so long as the means of necessary
intercommunication were preserved, but just the reverse, as the larger
the Union, the less probability there would be of agitating its whole
surface by any one interest; and the parties that were tranquil, as a
matter of course, would influence those that were disturbed. Were the
Union to-day, for instance, confined to the coast, as it was forty years
since, there would be no south-western states to hold the southern in
check, as we all know is the fact at present, and the danger from
nullification would be doubled. These things act both ways; for even the
state governments, while they offer positive organised and _quasi_ legal
means of resisting the federal government, also afford the same
organized local means of counteracting them in their own neighbourhood.
Thus, Carolina and Georgia do not pull together in this very affair,
and, in a sense, one neutralizes the other. The long and short of the
matter was, that the Union was a compromise that grew out of practical
wants and _facts_, and this was the strongest possible foundation for
any polity. Men would assail it in words, precisely as they believed it
important and valued by the public, to attain their ends.--We were here
summoned to the breakfast.

I was well laughed at the table for my ignorance. The family of La
Grange live in the real old French style, with an occasional
introduction of an American dish, in compliment to a guest. We had
obtained hints concerning one or two capital things there, especially
one for a very simple and excellent dish, called _soupe au lait_; and I
fancied I had now made discovery the second. A dish was handed to me
that I found so excellent, _so very appropriate to breakfast_, that I
sent it to A----, with a request that she would get its history from
Madame George Lafayette, who sat next her. The ladies put their heads
together, and I soon saw that they were amused at the suggestion. A----
then informed me, that it was an American as well as a French dish, and
that she knew great quantities of it had been consumed in the hall at
C----, in particular. Of course I protested that I had no recollection
of it. "All this is very likely, for it is a good while since you have
eaten any. The dish is neither more nor less than pap!"

Two capital mistakes exist in America on the subject of France. One
regards its manners, and the other its kitchen. We believe that French
deportment is superficial, full of action, and exaggerated. This would
truly be a wonder in a people who possess a better tone of manners,
perhaps, than any other; for quiet and simplicity are indispensable to
high breeding. The French of rank are perfect models of these
excellences. As to the _cuisine_, we believe it is high-seasoned.
Nothing can be farther from the truth; spices of all sorts being nearly
proscribed. When I went to London with the Vicomte de V----, the first
dinner was at a tavern. The moment he touched the soup, he sat with
tears in his eyes, and with his mouth open, like a chicken with the pip!
"_Le diable!_" he exclaimed, "_celle-ci est infernale!_" And infernal I
found it too; for after seven years' residence on the Continent, it was
no easy matter for even me to eat the food or to drink the wines of
England; the one on account of the high seasoning, and the other on
account of the brandy.

We left La Grange about noon, and struck into the great post-road as
soon as possible. A succession of accidents, owing to the random driving
of the postilions, detained us several hours, and it was dark before we
reached the first _barriere_ of Paris. We entered the town on our side
of the river, and drove into our own gate about eight. The table was set
for dinner; the beds were made, the gloves and toys lay scattered about,
_a la Princesse d'Orange_, and we resumed our customary mode of life,
precisely as if we had returned from an airing in the country, instead
of a journey of three months!


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