Part 4 out of 5
range of Beranger. Without attempting here to institute a comparison,
there is one thing essential to be remarked: in Beranger there was not
only a poet, but a man, and the man in him was more considerable than
the poet,--the reverse of what is the case with so many others. People
went to see him, after having heard his songs sung, to tell him how much
they had been applauded and enjoyed,--and, after the first compliments,
found that the poet was a man of sense, a good talker on all subjects,
interested in politics, a wonderful reasoner, with great knowledge
of men, and characterizing them delicately with a few fine and happy
touches. They became sincerely attached to him; they came again, and
delighted to draw out in talk that wisdom armed with epigram, that
experience full of agreeable counsels. His passions had been the talent
of the poet; his good sense gave authority to the man. Even by those
least willing to accept popular idols, Beranger will always be ranked as
one of the subtilest wits of the French school, and as something more
than this,--as one of the acutest servants of free human thought.
A TIFFIN OF PARAGRAPHS.
How runs the Hindoo saw? "Are we not to milk when there is a cow?" When
India is giving down generous streams of paragraphy to all the greedy
buckets of the press, shall we not hold our pretty pail under? As our
genial young friend, Ensign Isnob, of the "Sappies and Minors," would
say,--"I believe you, me boy!"
Then come with us to Cossitollah, and we'll have a tiffin of talk; some
cloves of adventure, with a capsicum or two of tragic story, shall stand
for the curry; the customs of the country may represent the familiar
rice; a whiff of freshness and fragrance from the Mofussil will be as
the mangoes and the dorians; in the piquancy and grotesqueness of the
first pure Orientalism that may come to hand we shall recognize the
curious chow-chow of the chutney; and as for the beer,--why, we will be
the beer ourselves.
"Kitmudgar, remove that scorpion from the punka, before it drops into
the Sahib's plate.--Hold, miscreant! who told you to kill it?
"'Take it up tenderly,
Lift it with care,--
Fashioned so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!'
"For know, O Kitmudgar, that there is one beauty of women, and another
beauty of scorpions; and if the beauty of scorpions be to thee as the
ugliness of women, the fault is in thy godless eye.
"'Only a crawling kafir,' sayest thou, O heathen! and straightway goest
about to stick a fork into a political symbol? Verily, the hapless
wretch shall be sacrificed unto Agnee, god of Fire, that a timely
warning may enter into thy purblind soul!
"Here, take this bottle of brandy,--'_Sahib_ brandy,' you
perceive,--genuine old 'London Dock,'--and pour a cordon of ardent
spirits on the table, to 'weave a circle round him thrice.' So! that's
for British Ascendency!
"Now drop your subjugated brother into the midst thereof. See how, in
his senseless, drunken rage, he wriggles and squirms,--then desperately
dashes, and venomously snaps! That's Indian Revolt!
"Quickly, now! light the train; so!--What think you of Anglo-Saxon
power and hereditary pride?
"Oho, my Kitmudgar! you begin to understand!--the living fable is not
lost on you!
"But watch your Great Mogul! Barrackpore, Meerut, Cawnpore, Lucknow,
Delhi,--five imposing plunges, but impotent; for at every point
the Sahib's fatal fire, fire, fire, fire, fire!--insurmountable,
"Maimed, discomfited, dismayed, shivering, at wits' end, a crippled
wriggler, in the midst of the exulting flames,--there lies your Great
"But see!--the scorpion, brave wretch! with a gladiator's fortitude,
loosens the shameful coil in which its last agonies have twisted it,
fiercely erects its head once more, lashes defiantly with its tail, and
then--_click! click! click!--_stings itself to death.
"And with that ends our figure of speech; for only the pitifulness of
the defeat is the Great Mogul's; the sublimity of suicide is proper to
the scorpion alone.
"Take away the fable, Kitmudgar!"
I lay in bed this morning half an hour after the sun had risen, watching
my Parsee neighbor on his house-top, and thereby lost my drive on the
Esplanade. But I console myself with imagining that the pretty Chee-chee
spinster who comes every morning from Raneemoody Gully in a green
tonjon, and makes romantic eyes at me through the silk curtains, missed
the Boston gentleman with the gray moustache, and was lonesome.
My Parsee neighbor is quite as fat, but by no means as saucy, as ever.
Last week his youngest boy died,--little Kirsajee Samsajee Bonnarjee,
a contemplative young fire-worshipper, with eyes as profound as the
philosophy of Zoroaster. I saw the dismal procession depart from the
house, and my heart ached for the little Gheber.
Four awful creatures, that were like ghosts, clad all in white, solemnly
dumb and veiled, bore him away on an iron bier. When they arrived at the
drawbridge, great sheets of copper were spread before them, and they
crossed upon those; for wood is sacred to their adored Element, and the
touch of "them on whose shoulders the dead doth ride" would pollute it.
So they carried little Kirsajee to Golgotha, their Place of Skulls,
which is a dreary, treeless field, encompassed round about with a blank
wall; and they laid him naked in a stone trough on the edge of a great
pit, and left him there, betaking them, still solemnly veiled and mute,
to their homes again.
All but my Parsee neighbor; he went and sat him down, like Hagar in the
wilderness, over against the dead Kirsajee, "a good way off, as it were
a bowshot"; and he lifted up his voice, and wept for the lad that was
dead. But still he waited there, till the crows and the Brahminee kites
should come to perform the last horrid rites; for to Parsee custom the
sepulture most becoming to men and most acceptable to God is in the
stomachs of the fowls of the air, in the craws of ghoulish vultures and
And presently there came a great Pondicherry eagle, sniffing the feast
from afar; and he came alone. Swiftly sailing, poised on silent wings,
he circled over Golgotha, circle within circle, circle below circle,
over the child sleeping naked, over the father watching veiled.
One moment he flutters, as for a foothold on the pinnacle of his
"Like a thunderbolt he falls."
Sitting solemnly on the breast of the dead boy, the "grim, ungainly,
gaunt, and ominous bird" peers with sidelong glance into his face,
gloating; and then--
Immediately my Parsee neighbor uprises in his place, throws aside his
veil, and, shouting, runs forward. The Pondicherry eagle soars screaming
to the clouds, and the sorrow-stricken Gheber bends over the dear
corpse. Is it Heaven or Hell? _the right eye or the left?_ Alas, the
He beats his breast, he falls upon his knees, and cries with frantic
gestures to the setting Sun; but the sullen god only draws a cloud
before his face, and leaves his poor worshipper to despair. Then my
Parsee neighbor arises and girds up his loins, muffles his haggard face
more closely than before, and with dishevelled beard, and chin sadly
sunk upon his breast, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left,
and meeting no man's gaze, wends silently homeward.
To-morrow he will take his wife and go to Bombay, to feed with
consecrated sandal-wood and oil the Sacred Flame the Magi brought from
Persia, when they were driven thence with all their people to Ormuz. But
the name of little Kirsajee will cross their lips no more; his memory is
a forbidden thing in the household; he is as if he never had been.
When Brahminee kite, and adjutant, and white-breasted crow have done
their ghoulish office on little Kirsajee, his bones shall lie bleaching
under the pitiless eye of his people's blazing god, till the rains
come, and fill the pit, and carry the waste of Gheber skeletons by
subterraneous sewers down to the sea. But the Pondicherry eagle took
the _left eye_ first; wherefore the most pious deeds of merit, to be
performed by my Parsee neighbor,--even a hospital for maimed dogs, or
feeding the Sacred Flame with great store of sandal-wood and precious
gums, or tilling the earth with a diligence equivalent to the efficacy
of ten thousand prayers,--can hardly suffice to save the soul of little
Kirsajee, the Forbidden!
* * * * *
There is a blood-feud of three months' standing between two members of
One day, Lootee, the chuprassey's cat, took Tchoop, the khansamah's
monkey, unawares, as he was sunning himself on the house-top, and with
scratching and spitting, sudden and furious, so startled him, that he
threw himself over the parapet into the crowded Cossitollah, and would
have been killed by the fall, had he not chanced to alight on the
voluminous turban of a dandy hurkaru from the Mint. As it was, one of
his arms sustained a compound fracture, and his nerves suffered so
frightful a shock, that it was only by a miracle of surgery, and the
most patient nursing, that he was ever restored to his wonted agility
But the day of retribution has arrived; Lootee has had kittens. There
were five of them in the original litter; but only one remains. Tchoop
tossed two of them from the house-top when no dandy hurkaru from the
Mint was below to soften the fall; the old adjutant-bird, that for three
years has stood on one leg on the Parsee's godown, gobbled up another as
it lay choked in the south veranda; while the dismayed sirdar found the
head of a fourth jammed inextricably in the neck of his sacred lotah,
wherewith he performs his pious ablutions every morning at the ghaut.
On the other hand, Lootee has made prize of about three inches of
Tehoop's tail, and displays it all over the house for a trophy.--It is a
blood-feud, fierce and implacable as any between Afghans, and there's no
knowing where it will all end.
In Europe the monkey is a cynic, in South America an overworked slave,
in Africa a citizen, but in India an imp,--I mean to the eye of
the Western stranger, for in the estimation of the native he is
mythologically a demigod, and socially a guest. At Ahmedabad, the
capital of Guzerat, there are certainly two--Mr. De Ward says
three--hospitals for sick and lame monkeys, who are therein provided
with salaried physicians, apothecaries, and nurses.
In the famous Hindoo epic, the "Ramayana" of Valmiki,--"by singing and
hearing which continually a man may attain to the highest state of
enjoyment, and be shortly admitted to fraternity with the gods,"--the
exploits of Hoonamunta, the Divine Monkey, are gravely relaxed, with
a dramatic force and figurativeness that hold a street audience
spell-bound; but to the European imagination the childish drollery of
the plot is irrestistible.
Boodhir, the Earth, was beset by giants, demons, and chimeras dire; so
she besought Vishnu, with many tears, and vows of peculiar adoration,
to put forth his strength of arms and arts against her abominable
tormentors, and rout them utterly. The god was gracious; whence his nine
avatars, or incarnations,--as fish, as tortoise, as boar, as man-lion,
as dwarf Brahmin, as Pursuram,--the Brahmin-warrior who overthrew the
Kshatriya, or soldier-caste; the eighth avatar appeared in the person of
Krishna, and the ninth in that of Boodh.
But the seventh incarnation was the avatar of Rama, and it is this that
the "Ramayana" celebrates.
Vishnu proceeds to be born unto Doosurath, King of Ayodhya, (Oude,) as
the Prince Rama, or Ramchundra. Nothing remarkable occurs thereupon
until Rama has attained the marriageable age, when he espouses Seeta,
daughter of the King of Mithili.
Immediately old Mrs. Mithili, our hero's mother-in-law, being of an
intriguing turn of mind, applies herself to the amiable task of worrying
the poor old King of Ayodhya out of his crown or his life; and so well
does she succeed, that Doosurath, for the sake of peace and quietness,
would fain abdicate in favor of his son.
But Rama will have none of his royalty. Was it for bored kings and
mischief-making mothers-in-law, he asks, speaking with the ante-natal
memories of Vishnu, that he came among the sons of men? Not at all! he
has a mission, and he bides his time. For the present he will take his
wife Seeta, whose will is his, and go out into the wilderness, there to
build him a hut of bamboos and banian-boughs and palmyra-leaves, and
be--Seeta and he--two jolly yogees, that is, religious gypsies,--living
on grass-roots, wild rice, and white ants, and being dirty and devout to
their heart's content.
So they went; and for a little while they enjoyed, undisturbed,
their yogeeish ideas of a good time. But by-and-by tidings came to
Rawunna--the giant with ten heads and twice ten arms, that was King
of Lunka (Ceylon)--of the plots of Mrs. Mithili, the disgust of old
Doosurath, the distraction of the kingdom of Ayodhya, and the whimsical
adventure of Rama and Seeta.
And immediately Rawunna, the giant, is seized in all his heads and arms
with a great longing to know what manner of man this Rama may be, that
he should prefer the yogee's breech-cloth to the royal purple, a hut of
leaves, with only his Seeta, to a harem of a hundred wives, white ants
and paddy to the white camel's flesh and golden partridges of Ayodhya's
imperial repasts. Especially is he curious as to the charms of Seeta, as
to the mighty magic wherewithal she renders monogamy acceptable to an
By Indra! he will see for himself! So, pleading exhaustion from the
cares of state, and ten headaches of trouble and dyspepsia, he announces
his intention to make an excursion a few hundred coss into the country
for the benefit of his health; and taking twenty carpet-bags in his
hands, he sets out, in his monstrous way, for Ayodhya, leaving his
kingdom in the care of a blue dwarf with an eye in the back of his neck.
With seven-coss strides he comes to Ayodhya, and straightway finds the
banian hut in the forest, where Rama dwells with Seeta in the devout
dirtiness of their jolly yogeery.
The god has gone abroad in search of a dinner, and is over the hills to
the sandy nullahs, where the white ants are fattest; while that greasy
Joan, Seeta, "doth keel the pot" at home.
Then Rawunna, the giant, assuming the shape of a pilgrim yogee rolling
to the Caves of Ellora,--with Gayntree, the mystical text, on his lips,
and the shadow of Siva's beard in his soul,--rolls to Rama's door, and
cries, "Alms, alms, in the name of the Destroyer!"
And Seeta comes forth, with water in a palm-leaf and grass-roots in the
fold of her saree; and when she beholds the false yogee her heart blooms
with pity, so that her smile is as the alighting of butterflies, and her
voice as the rustling of roses.
But, behold you, as she bends over the prostrate yogee, and, saying,
"Drink from the cup of Vishnu!" offers the crisp leaf to his dusty lips,
a great spasm of desire impels the impostor; and, flinging off the
yogee, he leaps erect, Rawunna, the Abhorred!
With ten mouths he kisses her; with twenty arms he clasps her; and away,
away to Lunka! while yet poor Seeta gasps with fear.
When Rama returned and found no Seeta, his soul was seized with a mighty
horror; and a blankness, like unto the mystery of Brahm, fell upon his
heart He shed not a tear, but the sky wept floods; he uttered not a
groan, but Earth shook from her centre, and the mountains fell on their
faces. But Rama, stupefied, stood stock still where he was stricken, and
stared, till his eyelids stiffened, at the desolate hut, at the desolate
Then all the angels in heaven, who had witnessed the crime of Rawunna,
and his flight, passed into the forms of monkeys; and a million of them
made a monkey chain, that the rest of the celestial host might descend
into the banian-groves of Ayodhya. The tails glide swiftly through each
glowing hand, and quick as lightning on the trees they stand.
And Hoonamunta, their chief, prostrated himself before Rama, and said,
"Behold, my Lord, we are here! I and all my host are yours,--command
But Rama spoke not; he only stood where he was stricken, and stared at
Then Hoonamunta turned him to his host, and said, "Bide here till I
come, and be silent; break not the quiet of divine sorrow." And he went
forth with mighty bounds.
That night he came to Lunka. But the city slept; if Seeta yet lived,
she, too, was silent; no cry of sorrow rose on the night; no stir, as of
an unusual event, disturbed the stillness and the gloom.
So Hoonamunta took upon himself the form of a rat, and sped nimbly
through the huts of dwarfs and the towers of giants, through the
hiding-places of misery and the high seats of power, through the places
of trouble and the places of ease; till at last he came to an ivory
dome, hard by the silver palace of Rawanna, the Monstrous; and there lay
Seeta, buried in a profound trance of despair.
Hoonamunta bit, very tenderly, her slender white finger; but she stirred
not, she made no sign.
Then he whispered softly in her ear, "Rama comes!" and Seeta started
from her death-sleep, and sat erect; her eyes were open, and she cried,
"My Lord, I am here!"
So Hoonamunta spake to her, bidding her be of good cheer, for Brahm was
with her, and the Omnipotent Three,--bade her be of good heart and wait.
And Seeta's smile was as the alighting of many butterflies, and her
voice of murmured joy was as the rustling of all the roses of Ayodhya.
Then Hoonamunta took counsel with his cunning; and he said unto himself,
"I will arouse the sleepers; I will take the strength of the city; I
will count the heads of Rawunna, and the arms of him."
So straightway he resumed his monkey shape, and went forth into the
streets, by the tanks and through the bazaars, among the places of the
oppressed and the places of the powerful.
And he bit the ears of the Pariah dogs, so that they howled; he twisted
the tails of the Brahmin bulls, so that they rushed, bellowing, down to
the ghauts; he plucked the beards of gorged adjutants, till they snapped
their great beaks with a terrible clatter.
He made a great splashing in the tanks; he ran through the bazaars,
banging the gongs of the bell-makers, and smashing the brittle wares of
the potters; he tore holes in the roofs of houses, and threw down tiles
upon them that were buried in slumber; he cried with a loud voice,
"Siva, Siva, the Destroyer, cometh!"
So that the city awoke with a great outcry and a din, with all its
torches and all its dogs. And the multitude filled the streets, and the
compounds, and the open places round about the tanks; and all cried,
But when they beheld Hoonamunta, how he tore off roofs, and pelted them
with tiles,--how he climbed to the tops of pagodas, and jangled the
sacred bells,--how he laid his shoulder to the city walls and overthrew
them, so that the noise of their fall was as the roar of the breakers on
the far-off coast of Lunka when the Typhoon blows,--then they cried,
"A demon! a fiend from the halls of Yama!" and they gave chase with a
mighty uproar,--the gooroos, and the yogees, and the jugglers going
Then Hoonamunta took counsel with his cunning; and he came down and
stood in the midst of the angry people, and asked, "What would you with
me? and where is this demon you pursue?"
But they cried, "Hear him, how he mocks us! Hear him, how he flouts us!"
and they dragged him into the presence of Rawunna, the king.
And when the giant would have questioned him, who he was, and whence
he came, and what his mission, he only mocked, and mimicked the
fee-faw-fumness of Rawunna's tones, and said, "Lo! This beggar goes
a-foot, but his words ride in a palanquin!"
And the king said, "I have been foolish, I have been weak, to waste
words on this kafir. Am not I a mighty monarch? Am not I a terrible
giant? Let him be cast out!"
And again Hoonamunta mocked him, saying, "His insanity is past! fetch
him the rice-pounder that he may gird himself! fetch him the gong that
he may cover his feet!"
And Hoonamunta would have sat on the throne, on Rawunna's right hand;
but Rawunna thrust him off, and cursed him.
So Hoonamunta took his tail in his hand, and pulled and pulled; and the
tail grew, and grew,--a fathom, a furlong, a whole coss.
And Hoonamunta coiled it on the floor, a lofty coil, on the right hand
of the throne, higher and higher, till it overlooked the golden cushion
of the king; and Hoonamunta laughed.
Then Rawunna turned him to his counsellors, and said, "What shall we do
with this audacious fellow?"
And with one voice all the counsellors cried, "Burn his tremendous
And the king commanded:--
"Let all the dwarfs of Lunka
Bring rags from near and far;
Call all the dwarfs of Lunka
To soak them all in tar!"
So they went, and brought as many rags as ten strong giants could lift,
and a thousand maunds of tar.
And they soaked the rags in the tar, even as Kawunna had commanded, and
bound them all at once on the tremendous tail of Hoonamunta.
And when they had done this, the king said, "Lead him forth, and light
And they led him forth into the great Midaun, hard by the triple pagoda;
and they lighted his tail with a torch. And immediately the flames
leaped to the skies, and the smoke filled all the city.
Then Hoonamunta broke away from his captors, and with a loud laugh
started on his fiery race,--over house-tops and hay-ricks, through close
bazaars and dry rice-fields, through the porticoes of palaces and the
porches of pagodas,--kindling a roaring conflagration as he went.
And all the people pursued him, screaming with fear, imploring
mercy, imploring pardon, crying, "Spare us, and we will make you our
high-priest! Spare us, and you shall be our king!"
But Hoonamunta staid not, till, having laid half the city in flames,
he ascended to the top of a lofty tower to survey his work with
Thither the great men of Lunka followed him,--the princes, and the
Brahmins, and the victorious chieftains, the strong giants, and the
And when they were all gathered underneath the tower, and in the porch
of it, he shook it, till it fell and crushed a thousand of the first
Then Hoonamunta sped away northward to Ayodhya, extinguishing his tail
in the sea as he went.
And when he came to where his army lay, he found them all waiting in
silence. When he entered the hut of Rama, the bereaved one still lay on
his face. But Hoonamunta spake softly in his ear: "My Lord, arise! for
Seeta calls you, and her heart sickens within her that you come not!"
Immediately Rama uprose, and stood erect, and all the god blazed in his
eyes; and he grew in the sight of Hoonamunta until his stature was
as the stature of Rawunna, the giant, and his countenance was as the
countenance of Indra, King of Heaven.
And he went forth, and stood at the head of Hoonamunta's monkey host,
and called for a sword; and when they gave him one, it became alive in
his hand, and was a sword of flame; and when they gave him a spear, lo!
it became his slave, flying whithersoever he bade it, and striking where
So Rama and Hoonamunta, with all their monkey host, took up their march
When they came to the sea (which is the Gulf of Manaar) there was no
bridge; but Rama mounted the back of Hoonamunta, and called to the host
to follow him; and all the monkeys leaped across.
Then immediately they fell upon Lunka; and Rama slew Rawunna, the
Monster, and rescued the delighted Seeta.
And now those three sit together on a throne in heaven,--Seeta, the
faithful wife, on the left hand of Rama,--and Hoonamunta on his right
hand, the shrewd and courageous friend.
Who would not be a monkey in Hindostan?
* * * * *
THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW.
Oh, that last day in Lucknow fort!
We knew that it was the last,
That the enemy's lines crept surely on,
And the end was coming fast.
To yield to that foe was worse than death,
And the men and we all worked on;
It was one day more of smoke and roar,
And then it would all be done.
There was one of us, a corporal's wife,
A fair, young, gentle thing,
Wasted with fever in the siege,
And her mind was wandering.
She lay on the ground, in her Scottish plaid,
And I took her head on my knee:
"When my father comes hame frae the pleugh," she said,
"Oh! then please wauken me."
She slept like a child on her father's floor
In the flecking of woodbine-shade,
When the house-dog sprawls by the open door,
And the mother's wheel is staid.
It was smoke and roar and powder-stench,
And hopeless waiting for death;
And the soldier's wife, like a full-tired child,
Seemed scarce to draw her breath.
I sank to sleep; and I had my dream
Of an English village-lane,
And wall and garden;--but one wild scream
Brought me back to the roar again.
There Jessie Brown stood listening
Till a sudden gladness broke
All over her face, and she caught my hand
And drew me near, as she spoke:--
"The Hielanders! Oh! dinna ye hear
The slogan far awa?
The McGregor's? Oh! I ken it weel;
It's the grandest o' them a'!
"God bless thae bonny Hielanders!
We're saved! we're saved!" she cried;
And fell on her knees; and thanks to God
Flowed forth like a full flood-tide.
Along the battery-line her cry
Had fallen among the men,
And they started back;--they were there to die;
But was life so near them, then?
They listened for life; the rattling fire
Far off, and the far-off roar,
Were all; and the colonel shook his head,
And they turned to their guns once more.
But Jessie said, "The slogan's done;
But winna ye hear it noo,
_The Campbells are comin'_? It's no a dream;
Our succors hae broken through!"
We heard the roar and the rattle afar,
But the pipes we could not hear;
So the men plied their work of hopeless war,
And knew that the end was near.
It was not long ere it made its way,--
A shrilling, ceaseless sound:
It was no noise from the strife afar,
Or the sappers under ground.
It _was_ the pipes of the Highlanders!
And now they played _Auld Lang Syne_;
It came to our men like the voice of God,
And they shouted along the line.
And they wept and shook one another's hands,
And the women sobbed in a crowd;
And every one knelt down where he stood,
And we all thanked God aloud.
That happy time, when we welcomed them,
Our men put Jessie first;
And the general gave her his hand, and cheers
Like a storm from the soldiers burst.
And the pipers' ribbons and tartans streamed,
Marching round and round our line;
And our joyful cheers were broken with tears
As the pipes played _Auld Lang Syne_.
NEW ENGLAND MINISTERS.
Dr. Sprague, of Albany, has added to the literature of our country
two large octavo volumes, containing biographical accounts of the
Congregational clergy of New England, from its earliest settlement until
the year 1841. The book has been for the most part compiled from letters
furnished by different individuals, who, either through personal
knowledge or through tradition, had the most intimate acquaintance with
the subjects of which they wrote.
The characters here sketched, though perfectly individual, are in so
great a degree the result of peculiar political influences, that it
would be difficult to suppose their existence elsewhere than in New
England. We have therefore chosen this book as a kind of standpoint from
which to take a glance at the New England clergy and pulpit.
The earliest constitution of government in New England was a theocracy;
it was the realization of Arnold's idea of the identity of Church and
State. Under it the clergy had peculiar powers and privileges, which,
it is but fair to say, they turned to the advantage of the Commonwealth
more than has generally been the case with any privileged order.
A time, however, came when the democratic element, which these men
themselves had fostered, worked out its logical results, by depriving
them of all special immunities, and leaving them, like any other
citizens, to make their way by pure force of character, and to be rated,
like other men, simply for what they were and what they could do.
It is creditable to the intelligence and shrewdness of this body of
men that the more far-sighted among them received this change with
satisfaction; that they were such uncommonly fair logicians as to be
willing to accept the direct inference from principles which they had
been foremost to inculcate, and, like men of strong mind and clear
conscience, were not afraid to rest their claim to influence and
deference on the manfulness with which they should strive to deserve
Dr. Sprague's book contains pictures of life under both the old _regime_
and the new. The following extract from the venerable Josiah Quincy's
recollections of the Rev. Mr. French, of Andover, is interesting, as an
illustration of the olden times.
"Mrs. Dowse, my maternal aunt, has often related to me her pride
and delight at visiting at the Rev. Mr. Phillips', her paternal
grandfather's house, when a child; which was interesting as a statement
of the manners of those early times in Massachusetts, before the sceptre
of worldly power, which the first settlers of the Colony had placed in
the hands of the clergy, had been broken. The period was about between
1760 and the Revolution. The parsonage at Andover was situated about two
or three hundred rods from the meeting-house, which was three stories
high, of immense dimensions, far greater, I should think, than those of
any meeting-houses in these anti-church-going, degenerate times. It was
on a hill, slightly elevated above the parsonage, so that all the flock
could see the pastor as he issued from it.
"Before the time of service, the congregation gradually assembled in
early season, coming on foot or on horseback, the ladies behind their
lords or brothers or one another, on pillions, so that before the time
of service the whole space before the meeting-house was filled with a
waiting, respectful, and expecting multitude. At the moment of service
the pastor issued from his mansion with Bible and manuscript sermon
under his arm, with his wife leaning on one arm, flanked by his negro
man on his side, as his wife was by her negro woman, the little negroes
being distributed according to their sex by the side of their respective
parents. Then followed every other member of the family according to age
and rank, making often, with family visitants, somewhat of a formidable
procession. As soon as it appeared, the congregation, as if moved by one
spirit, began to move towards the door of the church; and before the
procession reached it, all were in their places.
"As soon as the pastor entered the church, the whole congregation
rose and stood until the pastor was in the pulpit and his family
seated,--until which was done the whole assembly continued standing. At
the close of the service the congregation stood until he and his family
had left the church, before any one moved towards the door.
"Forenoon and afternoon the same course of proceeding was had,
expressive of the reverential relation in which the people acknowledged
that they stood towards their clergyman.
"Such was the account given me by Mrs. Dowse in relation to times
previous to my birth, and which I relate as her narrative, and not
as part of my recollections. The procession from the parsonage, the
disappearance of the people on the appearance of the procession, and
that their pastor was received with every mark of decorum and respect,
I well remember, but of their rising at his entrance and standing after
the service until he had departed, I have no recollection; my time was
almost twenty years after that narrated by Mrs. Dowse. During that
period the Revolution had commenced."
Some might think it an advantage, if more of the decorum and reverence
of such a state of society had been preserved to our day; for this
respect paid to the minister was but part of a general and all-pervading
system. Children were more reverential to their parents, scholars to
their teachers, the people to their magistrates. A want of reverence
threatens now to become the besetting sin of America, whether young or
The clergy of New England have, as a body, been distinguished for a rare
union of the speculative and the practical. In both points they have
been so remarkable, that in observing the great development of either of
these qualities by itself one would naturally suppose that there was no
room for the other.
Generally speaking, they were rural pastors,--living on salaries so
small as to afford hardly a nominal support; and in order to bring up
their families and give their sons a college education, it was necessary
to understand fully the practical _savoir faire_. Accordingly, they
farmed and gardened, and often took young people into their families to
educate, and in these ways eked out a subsistence. It is related of the
venerable Moses Hallock, that he educated in his own family, during his
ministerial lifetime, three hundred young people, of whom thirty were
females. One hundred and thirty-two of these he fitted for college;
fifty became ministers, and six foreign missionaries.
Some of the clergy gained such an acquaintance with the practice of
medicine as to be able sometimes to unite the offices of physician of
the body and of the soul; and not unfrequently a general knowledge
of law enabled the pastor to be the worldly as well as the spiritual
counsellor of his people. A striking case in point is that of the
venerable Parson Eaton, who resided in a lonely seafaring district
on the coast of Maine, and preached to a congregation who lived the
amphibious life of farmers and fishermen. The town of Harpswell, where
"is a narrow projection of ten miles southward into Casco Bay, on both
sides of which it comprises within its incorporated limits several
islands, some of them of considerable size and well inhabited. In his
pastoral visits and labors, the clergyman was often obliged to ride
several miles, and then cross the inlets of the sea, to preach a lecture
or to minister comfort or aid to some sick or suffering parishioner.
In addition to his clerical duties, Mr. Eaton, having experience and
discernment in the more common forms of disease, was generally applied
to in sickness; and he usually carried with him a lancet and the more
common and simple medicines. If a case was likely to baffle his skill,
he advised his patient to send for a regular physician. His admirable
sense, moreover, and his education fitted him to render aid and counsel
in matters of controversy; so that he often acted as an umpire, and
very often to the settling of disputes. Seldom did his people consult a
lawyer; and it is even said, that, at the time of his death, most of the
wills in the town were in his handwriting."
It is a singular thing, that the preaching and the bent of mind of a
set of men so intensely practical should have been at the same time
intensely speculative. Nowhere in the world, unless perhaps in Scotland,
have merely speculative questions excited the strong and engrossing
interest among the common people that they have in New England. Every
man, woman, and child was more or less a theologian. The minister, while
he ground his scythe or sharpened his axe or laid stone-fence, was
inwardly grinding and hammering on those problems of existence which are
as old as man, and which Christian and heathen have alike pondered.
The Germans call the whole New England theology rationalistic, in
distinction from traditional.
There are minds which are capable of receiving certain series of
theological propositions without even an effort at comparison,--without
a perception of contradiction or inconsequency,--without an effort at
harmonizing. Such, however, were not the New England ministers. With
them predestination _must_ be made to harmonize with freewill; the
Divine entire efficiency with human freedom; the existence of sin with
the Divine benevolence;--and at it they went with stout hearts, as men
work who are not in the habit of being balked in their undertakings.
Hence the Edwardses, the Hopkinses, the Emmonses, with all their various
schools and followers, who, leviathan-like, have made the theological
deep of New England to boil like a pot, and the agitation of whose
course remains to this day.
It is a mark of a shallow mind to scorn these theological wrestlings and
surgings; they have had in them something even sublime. They were always
bounded and steadied by the most profound reverence for God and his
word; and they have constituted in New England the strong mental
discipline needed by a people who were an absolute democracy. The
Sabbath teaching of New England has been a regular intellectual drill as
well as a devotional exercise; and if one does not see the advantage of
this, let him live awhile in France or Italy, and see the reason why,
with all their aspirations after liberty, there is no capability of
self-government in the masses; put the tiller of the Campagna, or
the vine-dresser of France, beside the theologically trained, keen,
thoughtful New England farmer, and see which is best fitted to
administer a government.
Another leading characteristic of the New England clergy was their great
freedom of original development. The volumes before us are full of
indications of the most racy individuality. There was no such thing as a
clerical mould or pattern; but each minister, particularly in the rural
districts, grew and nourished as freely and unconventionally as the
apple-trees in his own orchard, and was considered none the worse for
that, so long as he bore good fruit of the right sort. Thus we find
among them all stamps and kinds of men,--men of decorum and ceremony,
like Dr. Emmons and President Edwards, and men who, aiming after the
real, despised the form, kept no order, and revered no ceremony; yet all
flourished in peace, and were allowed to do their work in their own way.
We find here and there records of pleasant little encounters of humor
among them on these points. Parson Deane, of Portland, was a precise
man, and always appeared in the clerical regalia of the times, with
powdered wig, cocked hat, gown, bands. Parson Hemmenway went about with
just such clothes as he happened to find convenient, without the least
regard to the conventional order.
Being together on a council. Dr. Deane playfully remarked,--
"The ferryman, Brother Hemmenway, as we came over, hadn't the least idea
you were a clergyman. Now I am particular always to appear with my wig
"Precisely," said Dr. Hemmenway; "I know it is well to bestow more
abundant honor on the part that lacketh."
It is a curious illustration of the times and people to see how quietly
the personal eccentricities of a good minister were received.
One Mr. Moody, who flourished in the State of Maine, was one of
those born oddities whose growth of mind rejects every outward rule.
Brilliant, original, restless, he found it impossible to bring his
thoughts to march in the regular platoon and file of a properly written
sermon. It is told of him, that, moved by the admiration of his people
for the calm and orderly performances of one of his neighboring brethren
of the name of Emerson, he resolved to write a sermon in the same style.
After the usual introductory services, he began to read his performance,
but soon grew weary, stumbled disconsolately, and at last stopped,
exclaiming,--"Emerson must be Emerson, and Moody must be Moody! I feel
as if I had my head in a bag! You call Moody a rambling preacher;--it is
true enough; but his preaching will do to catch rambling sinners, and
you are all runaways from the Lord."
His clerical brethren at a meeting of the Association once undertook to
call him to account for his odd expressions and back-handed strokes. He
stepped into his study and produced a record of some twenty or thirty
cases of conversions which had resulted from some of his exceptional
sayings. As he read them over with the dates, they looked at each other
with surprise, and one of them very sensibly remarked, "If the Lord owns
Father Moody's oddities, we must let him take his own way."
His son, Joseph Moody, furnished the original incident which Hawthorne
has so exquisitely worked up in his story of "The Minister's Black
Veil." Being of a singularly nervous and melancholic temperament, he
actually for many years shrouded his face with a black handkerchief.
When reading a sermon he would lift this, but stood with his back to the
audience so that his face was concealed,--all which appears to have
been accepted by his people with sacred simplicity. He was known in the
neighborhood by the name of Handkerchief Moody.
It is recorded also of the venerable and eccentric Father Mills, of
Torringford, that, on the death of his much beloved wife, he was greatly
exercised as to how a minister who always dressed in black could
sufficiently express his devotion and respect for the departed by any
outward change of dress. At last he settled the question to his
own satisfaction, by substituting for his white wig a black silk
pocket-handkerchief, with which head-dress he officiated in all
simplicity during the usual term of mourning.
We think it one result of their great freedom from any strait-laced
conventional ideas, that no point of character is more frequently
noticed in the subjects of these sketches than wit and humor. New
England ministers never held it a sin to laugh; if they did, some of
them had a great deal to answer for; for they could scarce open their
mouths without dropping some provocation to a smile. An ecclesiastical
meeting was always a merry season; for there never were wanting quaint
images, humorous anecdotes, and sharp flashes of wit, and even the
driest and most metaphysical points of doctrine were often lit up and
illuminated by these corruscations.
A panel taken out of the house of the Rev. John Lowell, of Newbury, is
still preserved, representing the common style of an ecclesiastical
meeting in those days. The divines, each in full wig and gown, are
seated around a table, smoking their pipes, and above is the well-known
inscription: _In necessariis, Unitas: in non necessariis, Libertas: in
In that delightfully naive and simple journal of the Rev. Thomas Smith,
the first minister settled in Portland, Maine, in the year 1725, we find
the following entries.
"July 4, 1763. Mr. Brooks was ordained. A multitude of people from my
parish. A decent solemnity."
"January 16, 1765. Mr. Foxcroft was ordained at New Gloucester. We had a
pleasant journey home. Mr. L. was alert and kept us all merry. A jolly
ordination. We lost sight of decorum."
This Mr. L., by the by, who was so alert on this occasion, it appears by
a note, was Stephen Longfellow, the great-grandfather of the poet.
Those who enjoy the poet's acquaintance will probably testify that the
property of social alertness has not evaporated from the family in the
lapse of so many years.
It is recorded of Dr. Griffin, that, when President of the Andover
Theological Seminary, he convened the students at his room one evening,
and told them he had observed that they were all growing thin and
dyspeptical from a neglect of the exercise of Christian laughter, and he
insisted upon it that they should go through a company-drill in it then
and there. The Doctor was an immense man,--over six feet in height, with
great amplitude of chest and most magisterial manners. "Here," said he
to the first, "you must practise; now hear me!" and bursting out into a
sonorous laugh, he fairly obliged his pupils, one by one, to join, till
the whole were almost convulsed. "That will do for once," said the
Doctor, "and now mind you keep in practice!"
New England used to be full of traditions of the odd sayings of Dr.
Bellamy, one of the most powerful theologians and preachers of his
time. His humor, however, seems to have been wholly a social quality,
requiring to be struck out by the collision of conversation; for nothing
of the peculiar quaintness and wit ascribed to him appears in his
writings, which are in singularly simple, clear English. One or two of
his sayings circulated about us in our childhood. For example, when one
had built a fire of green wood, he exclaimed, "Warm me _here!_ I'd as
soon try to warm me by star-light on the north side of a tombstone!"
Speaking of the chapel-bell of Yale College, he said, "It was about as
good a bell as a fur cap with a sheep's tail in it."
A young minister, who had made himself conspicuous for a severe and
denunciatory style of preaching, came to him one day to inquire why he
did not have more success. "Why, man," said the Doctor, "can't you take
a lesson of the fisherman? How do you go to work, if you want to catch a
trout? You, get a little hook and a fine line, you bait it carefully and
throw it in as gently as possible, and then you sit and wait and humor
your fish till you can get him ashore. Now you get a great cod-hook
and rope-line, and thrash it into the water, and bawl out, 'Bite or be
The Doctor himself gained such a reputation as an expert spiritual
fisherman, that some of his parishioners, like experienced old trout,
played shy of his hook, though never so skilfully baited.
"Why, Mr. A.," he said to an old farmer in his neighborhood, "they tell
me you are an Atheist. Don't you believe in the being of a God?"
"No!" said the man.
"But, Mr. A., let's look into this. You believe that the world around us
exists from some cause?"
"No, I don't!"
"Well, then, at any rate, you believe in your own existence?"
"No, I don't!"
"What! not believe that you exist yourself?"
"I tell you what, Doctor," said the man, "I a'n't going to be twitched
up by any of your syllogisms, and so I tell you I _don't_ believe
anything,--and I'm not going to believe anything!"
A collection of the table-talk of the clergy whose lives are sketched in
Dr. Sprague's volumes would be a rare fund of humor, shrewdness, genius,
and originality. We must say, however, that as nothing is so difficult
as to collect these sparkling emanations of conversation, the written
record which this work presents falls far below that traditional one
which floated about us in our earner years. So much in wit and humor
depends on the electric flash, the relation of the idea to the attendant
circumstances, that people often remember only _how_ they have laughed,
and can no more reproduce the expression than they can daguerreotype the
heat-lightning of a July night.
The doctrine that a minister is to maintain some ethereal, unearthly
station, where, wrapt in divine contemplation, he is to regard with
indifference the actual struggles and realities of life, is a sickly
species of sentimentalism, the growth of modern refinement, and
altogether too moonshiny to have been comprehended by our stout-hearted
and very practical fathers. With all their excellences, they had nothing
sentimental about them; they were bent on reducing all things to
practical, manageable realities. They would not hear of churches, but
called them meeting-houses; they would not be called clergymen, but
_ministers_ or servants,--thereby signifying their calling to real,
tangible work among real men and things.
As we have already said, in the beginnings of New England, the Church
and State were identical, and the clergy _ex officio_ the main
counsellors and directors of the Commonwealth; and when this especial
prerogative was relinquished, they naturally retained something of the
bent it had given them.
An interesting portion of these sketches comprises the lives of
ministers during our Revolutionary struggle, showing how ardently and
manfully at that time the clergy headed the people. Many of them went
into the army as chaplains; one or two, more zealous still, even took up
temporal arms; while the greater number showered the enemy with sermons,
tracts, and pamphlets.
Some of the more zealous politicians among them did not scruple to bring
their sentiments even into the prayers of the church. We recollect
an anecdote of a stout Whig minister of New Haven, who, during the
occupation of the town by the British, was ordered to offer public
prayers for the King, which he did as follows: "O Lord, bless thy
servant, King George, and grant unto him wisdom; for thou knowest, O
Lord, _he needs it_."
So afterwards, in the time of the Embargo, Parson Eaton, of Harpswell, a
Federalist, is recorded to have introduced his prayer for the President
in a formula which might be recommended at the present day for the use
of the people of Kansas. "Forasmuch as thou hast commanded us to pray
for our enemies, we pray for the President of these United States, that
his heart may be turned to just counsels," etc.
This same Parson Eaton distinguished himself also for his patriotic
enthusiasm in Revolutionary times. When the British had burned Falmouth,
(Portland,) a messenger came to Harpswell to beat up for recruits to the
Continental forces. Not succeeding to his mind, he went to Parson Eaton,
one Sunday morning, and begged him to say something for him in the
course of the day's services. "It is my sacramental Sabbath," said the
valiant Doctor, "and I cannot. But at the going down of the sun I will
speak to my people." And accordingly, that very evening, Bible in hand,
on the green before the meeting-house, Dr. Eaton addressed the people,
denouncing the curse of Meroz on those who came not up to the help of
the country, and recruits flowed in abundantly.
The pastors of New England were always in their sphere moral reformers.
Profitable and popular sins, though countenanced by long-established
custom, were fearlessly attacked. No sight could be more impressive than
that of Dr. Hopkins--who with all his power of mind was never a popular
preacher, and who knew he was not popular--rising up in Newport pulpits
to testify against the slave-trade, then as reputable and profitable a
sin as slave-holding is now. He knew that Newport was the stronghold
of the practice, and that the probable consequence of his faithfulness
would be the loss of his pulpit and of his temporal support; but none
the less plainly and faithfully did he testify. Fond as he was of
doctrinal subtilties, keen as was his analysis of disinterested
benevolence, he did not, like some in our day, confine himself to
analyzing virtue in the abstract, but took upon himself the duty of
practicing it in the concrete without fear of consequences,--well
knowing that there is no logic like that of consistent action.
We should do injustice to our subject, if we did not add a testimony to
the peculiarly religious character and influence of the men of whom we
speak. Shrewd, practical, capable, as they were, in the affairs of this
life, perfectly natural and human as were their characters, still they
were in the best sense unworldly men. Religion was the deep underlying
stratum on which their whole life was built. Like the granite framework
of the earth, it sunk below all and rose above all else in their life.
No _Acta Sanctorum_ contain more pathetic pictures of simple and
all-absorbing godliness than were displayed by the subjects of these
sketches. However they may have differed among themselves as to the
metaphysical adjustment of the Calvinistic system, all agreed in so
presenting it as to make God all in all.
Doctor Arnold says it is necessary for the highest development of
the soul that it should have somewhere an object of entire reverence
enthroned above all possibility of doubt or criticism. Now a radically
democratic system, like that of New England, at once sweeps all
factitious reliances of this kind from the soul. No crown, no court,
no nobility, no ritual, no hierarchy,--the beautiful principles of
reverence and loyalty might have died out of the American heart, had not
these men by their religious teachings upborne it as on eagles' wings to
the footstool of the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible. Hence we see why
what was commonly called among them the "Doctrine of Divine Sovereignty"
acquired so prominent a place in their preaching and their hearts. They
were men of deep reverence and profound loyalty of nature, from whom
every lower object for the repose of these qualities had been torn
away,--who concentrated on God alone those sentiments of faith and
fealty which in other lands are divided with Church and King. Hence,
more than that of any other clergy, their preaching contemplated God as
King and Ruler. Submission to him without condition, without limit,
they both preached and practised. _Unconditional submission_ was as
constantly on their lips God-ward as it was sparingly uttered man-ward.
No picture of the "good parson" that was ever drawn could exceed in
beauty that of the Rev. Jeremiah Hallock, whose life and manners had
that indescribable beauty, completeness, and sacredness, which religion
sometimes gives when shining out through a peculiarly congenial natural
temperament,--yet we must confess we are as much interested and
impressed with its effects in those wilder and more erratic
temperaments, such as Bellamy, Backus, and Moody, where genius and
passion were so combined as to lead to many inconsistencies. This book
is a record of how manfully many such men battled with themselves,
repairing the faults of their hasty and passionate hours by the true and
honest humility of their better ones, so that, as one has said of our
Pilgrim Fathers, we feel that they may have been endeared to God even by
The pastoral labors of these ministers were abounding. Two and sometimes
three services on the Sabbath, and a weekly lecture, were only the
beginning of their labors. Multitudes of them held circuit meetings, to
the number of two or three a week, in the outskirts of their parishes;
besides which they labored conversationally from house to house with
Gradual, indefinite, insensible amelioration of character was not by any
means the only or the highest aim of their preaching. They sought to
make religion as definite and as real to men as their daily affairs, and
to bring them, as respects their spiritual history, to crises as marked
and decided as those to which men are brought in temporal matters.
They must become Christians now, today; the change must be immediate,
Such a style of preaching, from men of such power, could not be without
corresponding results, especially as it was based always upon strong
logical appeals to the understanding. From it resulted, from time to
time, periods which are marked in these narratives as revivals of
religion,--seasons in which the cumulative force of the instructions and
power of the pastor, recognized by that gracious assistance on which he
always depended, reached a point of outward development that affected
the whole social atmosphere, and brought him into intimate and
confidential knowledge of the spiritual struggles of his flock.
The preaching of the pastor was then attuned and modified to these
disclosures, and his metaphysical system shaped and adapted to what he
perceived to be the real wants and weaknesses of the soul. Hence arose
modifications of theology,--often interfering with received theory, just
as a judicious physician's clinical practice varies from the book. Many
of the theological disputes which have agitated New England have arisen
in the honest effort to reconcile accepted forms of faith with the
observed phenomena and real needs of the soul in its struggles
* * * * *
A BRIEF REVIEW OF THE KANSAS USURPATION.
If it had been the avowed intention of the dominant party in this
country to disgust the people by a long and systematic course of
wrong-doing,--if it had wished to prove that it was indissolubly wedded
to injustice, inconsistency, and error, it could not have chosen a
better method of doing so than it has actually pursued, in the entire
management of the Kansas question. From the beginning to the end, that
has been both a blunder and a crime. Nothing more atrocious,--nothing
more perverse,--nothing more foolish, as a matter of policy,--and
we might add, but for the seriousness of the subject, nothing more
ludicrous,--has occurred in our history, than the attempt, which has now
been persisted in for several years, to force the evils of Slavery upon
a people who cannot and will not endure them.
We say, to force the evils of slavery upon an unwilling people,--because
such has been and is the only end of this protracted endeavor. The
authors of the scheme have scarcely shown the ordinary cunning of
rogues, which conceals its ulterior purposes. Disdaining the advice
of Mrs. Peachum to her daughter Polly, to be "somewhat nice" in her
deviations from virtue, they have advanced bravely and flagrantly to
their nefarious object. They have been reckless, defiant, aggressive;
but, unfortunately for them, they have not been sagacious. The thin
disguise of principle under which they masked their designs at the
outset--as it were a bit of oiled paper--was soon torn away; the plot
betrayed its inherent wickedness from step to step; the instruments
selected to execute it have one after another abandoned the task,
as quite impracticable for any honest mortal; and now these whilom
advocates of "Popular Sovereignty" stand exposed to the scorn and
derision of the country, as nothing less than what their opponents all
along declared them to be,--the sworn champions of Slavery-Extension.
All the movements and changes of their external policy find their
explication in the single phrase, the actual and the political
advancement of the interests of Slavery.
It is humiliating to an American citizen to cast his eyes back, even for
a moment, to the history of this Kansas plot,--humiliating in many ways;
but in none more so than in the revelation it makes of the depth
and extent of party-servility in the Northern mind. Throughout the
proceedings of the "Democracy" towards the unhappy settlers of Kansas,
it is difficult to place the finger on a single act of large, just, or
generous policy; every step in it appears to have developed some new
outrage or some new fraud; and yet, every step in it has also elicited
new shouts of approval from the echoing lieges and bondmen of "the
Party." We should willingly, therefore, turn away from the theme, but
that we believe the end is not yet come; a review of its past may
instruct us as to its future. For it is not always true, as Coleridge
says, that experience, like the stern-lights of a ship, illuminates only
the track it has left; the lights may be hung upon the bows, and the
spectator be enabled to discern, by means of them, no less, the way in
which it is going.
A "Territory," viewed in connection with the political system of
the United States, must be confessed to be a somewhat erratic and
embarrassing member. Few or no specific provisions are made for it in
the Organic Law, which applies primarily, and quite exclusively,
to "States." The word is mentioned there but once,--in the clause
empowering Congress to "make all needful rules and regulations
respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United
States,"--and here it occurs in a somewhat doubtful sense. Judging by
the mere letter or obvious import of the Constitution, the right of
acquiring and governing territory would seem to be a _casus omissus_, or
a power overlooked. Accordingly, Mr. Webster went so far as to assert
that the framers of it never contemplated its extension beyond the
original limits of the country;[A] but this we can scarcely believe of
men so far-seeing and sagacious. It were a better opinion, which
Mr. Benton has recently urged, that the acquisition and control of
territories are necessary incidents of the sovereign and proprietary
character of the government created by the Constitution.[B] But be
this as it may, whatever the theoretic origin of the right to acquire
territory,--whatever the origin of the right to govern it,--whether the
former be derived from the war-making power, which implies conquest, or
from the treaty-making power, which implies purchase,--and whether the
latter be derived from an express grant or is involved as necessary to
the execution of other grants, both questions were definitively settled
by long and universally accepted practice. Under the actual legislation
of Congress, running over a period of sixty years,--a legislation
sanctioned by all administrations, by all departments of the government,
by all the authorities of the individual States, by all statesmen of all
parties, and by frequent popular recognitions,--prescription has taken
the force of law, and that which might once be theoretically doubtful
became forever practically valid and legitimate.
[Footnote A: Works, Vol. V. p. 306.]
[Footnote B: See his late pamphlet on the Dred Scott decision, which
we may say, without adopting its conclusions, every statesman ought to
It was not till within the last few years that the right of Congress
over the Territories was questioned. Certain classes of politicians then
discovered that the whole of our past statesmanship had been a mistake,
and that the time had come to propound a new doctrine. No! they said, it
is not Congress, not the Federal Government, which is entitled to govern
the Territories, but the Territories themselves,--which means the
handful of their original occupants. The real sovereignty resides in
the squatters, and Squatter Sovereignty is the charm which dispels
all difficulties. Alas! it was rather like the ingredients mingled by
Macbeth's hags, only "a charm of powerful trouble." Overlooking the fact
that the Territories were Territories precisely because they were not
States, this absurd theory proposed to confer the highest character of
an organized political existence upon a society wholly inchoate. As
_land_, the Territories were the property of the United States, to be
disposed of and regulated by the will of Congress; as _collections of
men_, they were yet immature communities, having in reality no social
being, and in that light also wisely and benevolently subjected to the
will of Congress; but Squatter Sovereignty elevated them, _willy nilly_,
to an independent self-subsistence. They were declared full-formed and
fledged before they were out of the shell. A mere conglomeration of
emigrants, Indian traders, and half-breeds was invested with all the
functions of a mature and ripened civilization. Long ere there were
people enough in any Territory to furnish the officers of a regular
government,--before they possessed any of the apparatus of courts
houses, jails, legislative chambers, etc., essential to a regular
government,--before they lived near enough to each other, in fact,
to constitute a respectable town-meeting,--before they could pay the
expenses or gather the means of their own defence from the Indians,
these wonderful entities were held to be endowed with the right of
entering into the most complicated relations and of forming the most
important institutions for themselves,--and not only for themselves, but
for their posterity.
This puerile dogma was asserted ostensibly in the interest of Slavery,
in order to get rid of the power of Congress over that subject; but the
real source of it was the cowardice of those invertebrate and timorous
politicians who desired to evade the responsibility of expressing
opinions concerning this power. General Cass was the putative father of
it, and it might well have come from one of his pliancy and calibre; but
as Slavery itself, embodied in the person of Calhoun, scouted the feeble
bantling, there was soon no one so mean as to confess the paternity.
Abandoned of its begetters, Squatter Sovereignty wandered the streets
like a squalid and orphaned outcast, begging anybody and everybody to
take it in, and finding no creditable welcome anywhere.
Calhoun and his friends, no less anxious than Cass and his friends
to rescue Slavery from the discretion of Congress, though for other
reasons, contrived to find a more respectable excuse for such a policy.
As California and New Mexico--both free soil--had lately been acquired,
they contended that the moment new territories attached to the United
States, the same moment the Constitution attached to them; and inasmuch
as the Constitution guarantied the existence of Slavery, _presto_,
Slavery must be regarded as existing under it in the Territories! This,
we say, was more respectable ground than Squatter Sovereignty, because
it met the question more fairly in the face; yet, considered either as
dialectics or history, it was not one whit less absurd. We do not wonder
that Webster, and all the other sound lawyers of the nation, heard such
an announcement of Constitutional hermeneutics with utter surprise and
astonishment. It was enough to astound even the veriest tyro in the law.
The Constitution--and especially by all the premises of the State-Rights
school--is a mere compact between the States; it confers no powers but
delegated and enumerated powers, and such as are indispensable to the
execution of these; and nowhere is there a clause or letter in
it extending its operation beyond the States. Even in respect to
acknowledged powers, these are inoperative until carried into effect by
a special act of Congress; they have no vitality in themselves,--they
are only dead provisions or forms till Congress has breathed into them
the breath of life; and thence to argue that of their own energy they
may leap into or embrace the Territories is to argue that a corpse may
on its own motion rise and walk.
But granting this caoutchouc property, this migratory power, in the
Constitution, the inference that it would take Slavery with it is a
still more monstrous error than the original premises. Slavery as such
is not recognized or guarantied by the Federal Constitution. Whatever
the five slave-holding judges of the Supreme Court may seek to maintain,
they cannot upset the universal logic of the law, nor extinguish the
fundamental principles of our political system. Slavery exists only by
the local or municipal usage of the States in which it exists; it is
there universally defined as a right of property in man; whereas
the Constitution of the United States, in all its prohibitions and
provisions, designates and acts upon human beings only as persons.
Whatever their characters or relations under the laws of the States,
they are, under the Federal Constitution, MEN. Nowhere in that immortal
paper is there an iota or tittle which gives countenance to the idea
that human beings may be held as property. It speaks of "persons held to
service or labor," as apprentices, for instance,--and of persons other
than free, _i.e._ not politically citizens, as Indians and some negroes;
but it does not speak of Slaves or of Slavery; on the contrary, in every
part, it legislates for men solely as men. The laws of each State, and
the relations of the various inhabitants of each State, it of course
recognizes as valid within each State; but it recognizes them as resting
exclusively on the municipal authority of the State, and not on its own
authority. Against nothing did the framers of the Constitution more
strenuously contend than against the admission of any phrase sanctioning
the tenure of man as property. They refused even to allow of the use
of the word _servitude_, so much did they hate the thing; and Madison
expressed their almost unanimous sentiment when he exclaimed, "We intend
this Constitution to be THE GREAT CHARTER OF HUMAN LIBERTY to the unborn
millions who shall yet enjoy its protection, and who should not see that
such an institution as Slavery was ever known in our midst." In
that spirit was the instrument framed, and in that spirit was it
administered, while its framers lived.
Nevertheless, under the twofold pretence we have cited,--the one
reconciling the conscience with the cowardice of the North, and the
other conceding the arrogant pretensions of the South,--the negation
of the power of the central government over Slavery was carried into
effect. By a legislative hocus-pocus, known as the Compromise Measures
of 1850, Congress, contrary to the uniform tendency of bodies entrusted
with a discretion, vacated instead of enlarging its powers. Its
sovereign function of territorial legislation was abdicated, in favor of
that wretched and ragged pretender, Squatter Sovereignty; and silly or
misguided people everywhere, who professed to regard as dangerous that
political excitement and agitation which are the life of republics,
hailed the accession of King Log as a glorious triumph of legitimacy.
In the remanding of a delicate question from the central to a
local jurisdiction, in the conversion of a general into a topical
inflammation, they affected to see an end of the difficulty, a cure to
the disease. But no expectation could have been less wise. It was a
transfer, and a possible postponement, but not a settlement of the
trouble. Had they looked deeper, they would have discerned that the
dispute in regard to Slavery is involved in the very structure of our
government, which links two incompatible civilizations under the same
head, which compels a struggle for political power between the diverse
elements by the terms and conditions of their union, and which, if the
contest is suppressed at one time or place, forces it to break out
at another, and will force it to break out incessantly, until either
Freedom or Slavery has achieved a decisive triumph.
The principle of the non-interference of Congress with the Territories
once secured, there yet stood in the way of its universal application
the time-honored agreement called the Missouri Compromise. Down to
the year 1820, Congress had legislated to keep Slavery out of the
Territories; but at that disastrous era, a weak dread of civil
convulsion led to the surrender of a single State (Missouri) to this
evil,--under a solemn stipulation and warrant, however, that it should
never again be introduced north of a certain line. Originating with the
Slave-holders, and sustained by the Slave-holders, this compact was
sacredly respected by them for thirty-three years; it was respected
until they had got out of it all the advantages they could, and until
Freedom was about to reap _her_ advantages,--when they began to denounce
it as unconstitutional and void. A Northern Senator--whose conduct then
we shall not characterize, as he seems now to be growing weary of the
hard service into which he entered--was made the instrument of its
overthrow. That hallowed landmark, which had lifted its awful front
against the spread of Slavery for more than an entire generation, was
obliterated by a quibble, and the morning sun of the 22d of May, 1854,
rose for the last time "on the guarantied and certain liberties of
all the unsettled and unorganized region of the American Continent."
Everything there was of honor, of justice, of the love of truth and
liberty, in the heart of the nation, was smitten by this painful blow;
the common sense of security felt the wound; the consoling consciousness
that the faith of men might be relied upon was removed by it; and to the
general imagination, in fact, it seemed as if some mighty charm, which
had stayed the issue of untold calamities, were suddenly and wantonly
Thus, after the Constitution had been perverted in its fundamental
character,--after Congress had been despoiled of one of its most
important functions,--after a compact, made sacred by the faith,
the feelings, and the hopes of the third of a century, was torn in
pieces,--the road was clear for the organization of the Kansas and
Nebraska Territories. It was given out, amid jubilations which could not
have been louder, if they had been the spontaneous greetings of some
real triumph of principle, that henceforth and forever the inhabitants
of the Territories would be called to determine their "domestic
institutions" for themselves. Under this theory, and amid these shouts,
Kansas was opened for settlement; and it was scarcely opened, before it
became, as might have been expected, the battleground for the opposing
civilizations of the Union, to renew and fight out their long quarrel
upon. From every quarter of the land settlers rushed thither, to take
part in the wager of battle. They rushed thither, as individuals and as
associations, as Yankees and as Corn-crackers, as Blue Lodges and as
Emigrant Aid Societies; and most of them went, not only as it was their
right, but as it was their duty to do. Congress had invited them in; it
had abandoned legitimate legislation in order to substitute for it a
scramble between the first comers; and it had said to every man who knew
that Slavery was more than a simple local interest, that it was in fact
an element of the general political power, "Come and decide the issue
Whatever the consequences, therefore, the cowardly action of Congress
was the original cause. But what were the consequences? First,
a protracted anarchy and civil war among the several classes of
emigrants;--second, a murderous invasion of the Territory by the
borderers of a neighboring State, for the purpose of carrying the
elections against the _bona-fide_ settlers;--third, the establishment of
a system of terrorism, in which outrages having scarcely a parallel
on this continent were committed, with a view to suppress all protest
against the illegality of those elections, and to drive out settlers of
a particular class;--fourth, the commission of a spurious legislative
assembly, in the enforced absence of protests against the illegal
returns of votes;--fifth, the enactment of a series of laws for the
government of the Territory, the most tyrannical and bloody ever devised
for freemen,--laws which aimed a fatal blow at the four corner-stones of
a free commonwealth,--freedom of speech, of the press, of the jury, and
of suffrage;--sixth, the recognition of Slavery as an existing fact, and
the denunciation of penalties, as for felony, against every attempt
to question it in word or deed;--and, finally, the dismissal of the
Territorial Governor, (Reeder,) who had exhibited some signs of
self-respect and conscience in resisting these wicked schemes, and who
was compelled to fly the Territory in disguise, under a double menace of
public prosecution and private assassination.
These were the scenes of the first act, in a drama then commenced; and
those of the next were not unlike. A second Governor (Shannon) having
been procured,--a Governor chosen with a double fitness to the use,--on
the ground of his sympathy with whatever was vulgar in border-ruffian
habits and with whatever was obsequious in Presidential policy,--the
deliberate game of forcing the settlers to submit to the infamous
usurpation of the Missourians was opened. But, thank Heaven! those brave
and hardy pioneers would not submit! There was enough of the blood of
the Puritans and of the Revolutionary Sires coursing in their veins, to
make them feel that submission, under such circumstances, would have
been a base betrayal of liberty, a surrender of honor, and a sacrifice
of every honest sentiment of justice and self-respect. "Come," they said
to the marauders,--"come, hack this flesh from our limbs, and scatter
these bones to bleach with those of so many of our friends and brothers,
already strewn upon the unshorn and desolate fields,--but do not ask us
to submit to wrongs so daring or to frauds so foul!" The marauders took
them at their word, and hewed and hacked them with shameless cruelty;
yet, with a singular forbearance, the friends of freedom did not hastily
resent the outrages with which they had been visited. They loved
freedom, but they loved law too; and they proceeded in a legal and
peaceful spirit to procure the redress of their grievances,--in the
first place by an appeal to Congress, and in the second, by the
organization of a State government of their own. Both of these methods
they had an indisputable right to adopt; for the first is guarantied to
every citizen, even the meanest,--and the second, though informal, was
not illegal, and had, time and again, been sanctioned by the highest
political tribunals of the land.
Congress had dismissed the subject of Territorial Government; and here
it was again, in a more troublesome guise than it had ever before
assumed. The ghost of the murdered Banquo would not down at its bidding.
Nearly the entire session of 1856 was consumed in heated and virulent
debates on Kansas. The House, fresh from the affections of the people,
was disposed to do justice to the sufferers; it confirmed, by the
investigations of its committees, the verity of every complaint, and it
was not willing to allow a trivial technicality to stand in the way of
the great cause of truth and right. But the Senate was dogmatic
and hard,--full of whims, and scruples, and hair-splitting
difficulties,--ever straining at gnats and swallowing camels; of the few
there inclined to bear a manly part, one was overpowered by the club of
a bully, and the others by the despotism of numbers and of party drill.
As for the Executive, it was bound hand and foot to the Slave Power, and
had no option but to let loose its minions, its judges, its sheriffs,
its vagabonds, and its dragoons upon the poor Free-State men, whose only
crime was a refusal to submit to the most outrageous abuses. Their towns
were burned, their presses destroyed, their assemblies dispersed, and
their wives and children brutally insulted. The debauched and imbecile
Governor, who represented the Federal Power, hounded on the miscreants
of the border to the work of destruction, so long as he was able; but he
happily became in the end too weak even for this perfunctory labor; and
he gradually sank into deliquium, till his final withdrawal into
the obscurities whence he had emerged gave a momentary peace to the
distracted and baffled settlers.
We pass over the administration of Geary, the third of the Kansas
Governors,--a period in which the ravages of the marauders were
continued, but under meliorated circumstances. The great uprising of the
Northern masses, in the Presidential election, had impressed upon the
most desperate of the Pro-Slavery faction the necessity of a restrained
and moderated zeal. Geary went to the Territory with some desire to deal
justly with all parties. He fancied, from the promises made to him, that
he would be sustained in this honorable course by the President. It was
no part of his conception of his task, that he should be called upon
to screen assassins, to justify perjury. But he had reckoned without
knowledge of what he had undertaken. He was soon involved with the
self-styled judiciary of Kansas, whose especial favorites were the
promoters of outrage; his correspondence was intercepted, his plans
thwarted, his motives aspersed, his life menaced; and he resigned
his thankless charge, in a feeling of profound contempt and bitter
disappointment,--of contempt for the restless knot of villains who
circumvented all conciliatory action, and of disappointment towards
superiors at Washington who betrayed their promises of countenance and
With the advent of Mr. Buchanan to the Presidency a new era was
expected, because a new era had been plainly prescribed by the entire
course and spirit of the Presidential campaign. All through that heated
and violent contest, it was loudly promised on one side, as it was
loudly demanded on the other, that the affairs of Kansas should be
honestly and equitably administered. As the time had then come, in the
progress of population, when the Territory might be considered competent
to determine its political institutions,--the period of its immaturity
and pupilage being past,--the election turned upon the single issue of
Justice to Kansas. Mr. Buchanan and his party,--their conventions,
their orators, and their newspapers,--in order to quell the storm of
indignation swelling the Northern heart, were voluble in their pledges
of a fair field for a fair settlement of all its difficulties. In the
name of Popular Sovereignty,--or of the indisputable right of every
people, that is a people, to determine its political constitution for
itself,--they achieved a hard-won success. On no other ground could they
have met the gallant charge of their opponents, and on no other ground
did they retain their hold of the popular support. In his inaugural
address, Mr. Buchanan foreshadowed a complete and final adjustment of
every element of discord. He selected, for the accomplishment of his
policy, a statesman of national reputation, experienced in politics,
skilful in administration, and of well-known principles and proclivities
in the practical affairs of government. Mr. Walker accepted the place of
Territorial Governor, under the most urgent entreaties, and on repeated
and distinct pledges on the part of the President that the organization
of Kansas as a State should be unfettered and free. His personal
sympathies were strongly on the side of the party which had so long
ruled with truculent hand in the affairs of the Territory; but he was
none the less resolved that the fairly ascertained majority should have
Under assurances to that effect, the Free-State men, for the first time
since the great original fraud which had disfranchised them, consented
to enter into an electoral contest with their foes and oppressors.
The result was the return of a Free-State delegate to Congress, and a
Free-State legislature, by a majority which, after the rejection of a
series of patent and wretched frauds, was more than ten to one; and yet
the desperate game of conquest and usurpation was not closed. For, in
the mean time, a convention of delegates to frame a State Constitution
had been summoned to assemble at Lecompton. It was called by the old
spurious legislature, which represented Missouri, and not Kansas; it was
called by a legislature, which, even if not spurious, had no authority
for making such a call; it was called under provisions for a census
and registry of voters which in more than half the Territory were not
complied with; and it was elected by a small proportion of a small
minority, the Free-State men and others refusing to enter into a contest
under proceedings unauthorized at best, and as they believed illegal.
Let it be added, also, that a large number of its members were pledged
to submit the result of their doings to a vote of the people,--according
to what Mr. Buchanan, in his instructions to Governor Walker, and
Governor Walker himself, on the strength of those instructions, had
proclaimed as the policy of "the party."
This Convention, in the prosecution of its gratuitous task, devised the
scheme of a Constitution wholly in the interest of its members and of
the meagre minority they represented,--and so objectionable in many
respects, that not one in twenty of the voters of the Territory, as
Governor Walker informed the writer of this, could or would approve it.
Recognizing Slavery as an existing fact, and perpetuating it in
every event, it yet purported to submit the question of Slavery to a
determining vote of the people. This was, however, a mere pretence; for
the method proposed for getting at the sense of the people was nothing
but a pitiful juggle, according to which no one could vote on
the Slavery question who did not at the same time vote _for_ the
Constitution. No alternative or discretion was allowed to the citizens
whose Constitution it purported to be; if they voted at all on the vast
variety of subjects usually embraced in an organic law, they must vote
in favor of the measures concocted by the Convention. The entire conduct
of the election and the final adjudication of the returns, moreover,
were taken out of the hands of the officers, and from under the
operation of the laws, already established by the Territorial
authorities, to be vested exclusively in one of the Convention's own
creatures,--a reckless and unprincipled politician, whose whole previous
career had been an offence and a nuisance to the majority of the
inhabitants. Had the Convention been legitimately called and
legitimately chosen, this audacious abrogation of the Territorial laws
and of the functions of the Territorial officers would in itself have
been sufficient to vitiate its authority; but being neither legitimately
called, nor legitimately chosen, and outraging the sentiments of
nineteen twentieths of the community, the illegal election provided for
can be regarded only as the crowning atrocity of the long series of
atrocities to which Kansas has been subjected.
The most surprising thing, however, could anything surprise us in these
Kansas proceedings, is, that the President, eating all his former
promises, adopts the Lecompton Convention as a legitimate body, and
commends its swindling mode of submission as a "fair" test of the
popular will! Yet, it is sad to say, this is only following up the line
of precedents established from the beginning. The plot against the
freedom of Kansas was conceived in a Congressional breach of faith; it
was inaugurated by invasion, bloodshed, and civil war; it was prosecuted
for two years through a series of unexampled violences; and it would be
strange, if it had not been consummated at Lecompton and Washington by
a series of corresponding frauds. It seems to have been impossible to
touch the business without perpetrating some iniquity, great or small;
and Mr. Buchanan, cautious, circumspect, timorous, as he is, tumbles
into the fatal circle headlong.
And how do we know all this? Upon what kind and degree of evidence do we
rest these heavy accusations? Upon the hasty opinions of those who are
unfriendly to the principles and purposes of the dominant party? Not at
all; but upon the voluntary confessions of the distinguished and chosen
agents of that party, these agents being themselves eyewitnesses of the
facts to which they testify. For proof of the original invasion and
usurpation, with all its frauds and outrages, we appeal to the testimony
of Governor Reeder; for proof of the continued ravages and persistent
malignity of the border ruffians, we appeal to the testimony of Governor
Geary; and for proof of the illegal and swindling character of the
late Constitutional movement, we appeal to Governor Walker;--all these
witnesses being original friends of the Kansas-Nebraska bill and policy;
all the original coadjutors of the Slave Power; all its carefully
selected instruments; all strongly prejudiced at the outset against the
cause and the men of the Free-State Party; and yet, each one of them, as
soon as he has fairly entered the field of his operations, offering such
loud rebuke of the plans and projects of his own party as to provoke
his speedy removal!--no strength of party attachment, no pliability of
conscience, no hope of future favor, no dread of instant punishment,
being sufficient to prevent him from turning against his own masters and
colleagues! Even the Senators of the party catch the spirit of revolt;
and the very godfather of the Kansas scheme,--its most efficient
advocate,--the leading and organizing mind of it,--has become the
strongest opponent and bitterest denouncer of the policy which directs
In this view of the case, may we not ask whether this base and cruel
attempt at subduing Kansas has not gone far enough? Have not the
circumstances shown that it is as impracticable as it is base and cruel?
Or are we to see the despotism of the New World as insanely obstinate as
the despotisms of the Old? Is there no warning, no instruction, to be
derived from the examples of those older nations? An eloquent historian
has recently depicted for us, in scenes which the memory can never lose,
the mad attempts of the House of Stuart to Romanize England, to the
loss of the most magnificent dominion the world ever saw; and another
historian, scarcely less eloquent, has drawn a series of fearfully
interesting pictures of the stern efforts of the Spaniards to impose
a detested State and a more detested Church upon the burghers of the
Netherlands. The spirit of James II., and the spirit of Philip II., was
the same spirit which is now striving to force Slavery and Slave Law
upon Kansas; and though the field of battle is narrower, and the scene
less conspicuous, the consequences of the struggle are hardly of less
moment. Kansas is the future seat of empire; she will yet give tone and
law to the entire West; and they who are fighting there, in behalf of
humanity and justice, do not fight for themselves alone, but for a large
* * * * *
The brave old Poets sing of nobler themes
Than the weak griefs which haunt men's coward souls.
The torrent of their lusty music rolls
Not through dark valleys of distempered dreams,
But murmurous pastures lit by sunny streams;
Or, rushing from some mountain height of Thought,
Swells to strange music, that our minds have sought
Vainly to gather from the doubtful gleams
Of our more gross perceptions. Oh, their strains
Nerve and ennoble Manhood!--no shrill cry,
Set to a treble, tells of querulous woe;
Yet numbers deep-voiced as the mighty Main's
Merge in the ringdove's plaining, or the sigh
Of lovers whispering where sweet streamlets flow.
THE BRITISH GALLERY IN NEW YORK.
To speak of English Art was, ten years ago, to speak of something
formless, chaotic, indeed, so far as any order or organization of
principles was concerned,--a mass of individual results, felt out,
often, under the most glorious artistic inspiration, but much oftener
the expression of merely ignorant whim, or still more empty academic
knowledge,--a waste of uncultivated, unpruned brushwood, with here and
there a solitary tree towering into unapproachable and inexplicable
symmetry and beauty. Hogarth, Gainsborough, and Turner are great names
in Art-history; but to deduce their development from the English culture
of Art, one must use the same processes as in proving Cromwell to have
been called up by the loyalty of Englishmen. They towered the higher
from contempt for the abasement around them. If there was greatness in
measure in English Art, it was greatness subjected to tradition and
conventionalism. The three artists we have just named were the only
great freemen, in the realm of Art England had known down to the close
of the first half of the nineteenth century; and of these, Turner alone
has left his impress on the Art succeeding his.
With the commencement of the present half-century there began a
systematic movement in revolt from the degradation of Art in England,
which, unfortunately, so far as significance was concerned, assumed the
name of Pre-Raphaelitism. It extended itself rapidly, absorbing most of
the young painters of any force or earnestness, and attracting some who
already held high places in public esteem. Being something new, it
was sure of its full measure of derision while it was considered
unimportant, and of bitter and violent antagonism when it became evident
that it was strong enough to make its way. This hostility, beaten down
for the moment by the rhetoric of Ruskin and the inherent earnestness
of the new Art, is, however, as sure to prevail again as the English
character is at once conservative of old forms, reverential of
authorities, and subject to enthusiasms for new things, whose very
extravagance tends to reaction. If Pre-Raphaelitism now holds its own in
England, it is simply because it is neither thoroughly understood nor
completely defined. It is an absolutely revolutionary movement, and
must, therefore, be rejected by the English mind when seen as such,--and
this all the more certainly and speedily because Ruskin with his
imaginative enthusiasm has raised it to a higher position than it really
deserves at present. That cause is unfortunate which retains as its
advocate one whose rhetoric persuades all, while his logic convinces
none; and the too readily believing converts of his enthusiasm and
splendid diction, their sympathetic fire abated, revert with an
implacable bitterness to their former traditions. With all our respect
for Ruskin, we think that he has asserted many things, but proved next
to nothing. He has utterly misunderstood and misstated Pre-Raphaelitism,
which will thus be one day the weaker for his support.
But, pending this inevitable decline in favor at home, Pre-Raphaelitism
colonizes. During the past year, some lovers of Art in England organized
an association, having as its purpose the introduction of English Art to
the American public,--partly, it was to be expected, with the view of
opening this El Dorado to the English painter, but still more with the
desire to extend the knowledge of what was to them a new and important
revelation of Art. In its inception the plan was almost exclusively
Pre-Raphaelite, but extended itself, on after-consideration, so far as
to admit the worthiest artists of the conventional stamp. We have the
first fruits of the undertaking in an exhibition which has achieved a
success in New York, and which will probably visit the principal cities
of the Union before its return home in the spring to make way for a
second which will open in the autumn.
It is not as a collection of pictures merely that we purpose to notice
this exhibition. Out of nearly four hundred pictures, the great
proportion are mere conventionalisms,--many of them choice, but most of
them in no wise to be compared with the pictures of the same class by
French and German painters, since neither just drawing nor impressive
color redeems their inanity of conception. There are some curious
water-color drawings by Lance, remarkable mainly as forcibly painted,
some exquisite color-pieces by William Hunt, and a number of fine
examples of the matter-of-fact common-place which forms the great mass
of pictures in the London exhibitions. Two drawings deserve especial,
though brief, notice; one a coast bit by Copley Fielding,--a sultry,
hazy afternoon on the seashore, where sea and sky, distance and
foreground, are fused into one golden, slumberous silence, in which
neither wave laps nor breeze fans, and only the blinding sun moves,
sinking slowly down to where heaven and ocean mingle again in a happy
dream of their old unity before the waters under the firmament were
divided from the waters above the firmament, and the stranded ships lie
with sails drooping and listless on a beach from which the last tide
seems to have ebbed, leaving the ooze glistening and gleaming in the
sunlight,--a picture of rare sentiment and artistic refinement;--the
other is a waterfall by Nesfield,--a dreamy, careless, wayward plunge
of waters over ledge after ledge of massive rock, the merry cascade
enveloping itself in a robe of spray and mist, on the skirt of which
flashes the faintest vision of a rainbow, which wavers and flits,
almost, as you look at it, while the jets of foam plash up from the pool
at the foot of the fall, a tranquil pause of the waters in a depth of
uncertain blue, in which a suggestion of emerald flashes, and from
which they dance on in less frantic mood over the brown and water-worn
boulders to follow their further whims; everything that is most charming
and _spirituelle_ in the water-fall is given, and with a delicacy of
color and subtilty of execution fitting the subject. These are not the
only good drawings, but there is in them a simplicity and singleness
of purpose, a total subordination of all minor matters to the great
impression, which makes them points of poetic value in the collection.
There are some drawings by Finch, scarcely less noticeable for their
rendering of solemn twilight, tender and touching as the memory of a
loved one long dead. The water-color representation is, indeed, complete
and interesting; but we have only present use with five of these
drawings, by Turner, and from different stages of his progress.
Ruskin, in his pamphlet on Pre-Raphaelitism, has drawn such a comparison
between Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites as to make them only different
manifestations of the same spirit in Art. Nothing, it seems to us, could
be more mistaken than this; for, in all that concerns either the end of
Art or its paths of approach, its purposes or its methods, Turner and
the Pre-Raphaelites are diametrically opposed. Turner was intensely
subjective,--the Pre-Raphaelites are as intensely objective. There is
no evidence whatever in Turner's works that he ever made the slightest
attempt to reproduce Nature in such guise as the Pre-Raphaelites paint
her in; on the contrary, the early drawings of Turner are as inattentive
to absolute truth of detail as they could well he. His course of study
was one of memory. He commenced by expressing in his drawing such
palpable facts and truths as were most strongly retained, and in which
he conveyed the great impression of the scene, with the most complete
indifference to all facts not essential to the telling of his story.
From this, as his memory grew stronger and his perception more minute
and comprehensive, he widened his circle of ideas and facts, always
working from feeling rather than from what Nature set before him. His
mind thus sifting his perceptions, retaining always only those which
constituted the essential features of the impression, and with
a distinctness proportioned to their relative importance, there
necessarily resulted a subjective unity like that of an absolute
creation. The Pre-Raphaelites, on the other hand, endeavor to paint
everything that they see just as they see it; and doing this without
permitting the slightest liberty of choice to their feeling, where
they _have_ feeling, their Art is, of course, in all its early stages,
destitute of that singleness of purpose which marked Turner's works
from the beginning. Turner felt an emotion before Nature, and used the
objects from which he had received the emotion as symbols to
convey it again;--the Pre-Raphaelites look at Nature as full
of beautiful facts, and, like children amid the flowers, they
gather their hands full, "indifferent of worst or best," and when their
hands are full, crowd their laps and bosoms, and even drop some
already picked, to make room for others which beckon from their
stems,--insatiable with beauty. This is delightful,--but childlike,
nevertheless. Turner was, above all, an artist; with him Art stood
first, facts secondary;--with the Pre-Raphaelites it is the reverse; it
is far less important to them that their facts should be broadly stated
and in keeping in their pictures, than that they should be there and
comprehensible. To him a fact that was out of keeping was a nuisance,
and he treated it as such; while any falsehood that was in keeping was
as unhesitatingly admitted, if he needed it to strengthen the impression
of his picture. Turner would put a rainbow by the side of the sun, if he
wanted one there;--a Pre-Raphaelite would paint with a stop-watch, to
get the rainbow in the right place. In brief, Turner's was the purely
subjective method of study, a method fatal to any artist of the opposite
quality of mind;--that of the Pre-Raphaelites is the purely objective,
absolutely enslaving to a subjective artist, and no critic capable of
following out the first principles of Art to logical deductions could
confound the two. The one leads to a sentimental, the other to a
philosophic Art; and the only advice to be given to an artist as to his
choice of method is, that, until he knows that he can trust himself in
the liberty of the subjective, he had better remain in the discipline
of the objective. The fascination of the former, once felt, forbids all
return to the latter. If he be happy in the Pre-Raphaelite fidelity, let
him thank the Muse and tempt her no farther.
There can be no more valuable lesson in Art given than that series
of Turner drawings in the British collection, both as concerns its
progression in the individual and those subtile analogies between
painting (color) and music,--analogies often hinted at, but never, that
we are aware, fully followed out. Color bears the same relation to form
that sound does to language. If a painter sit down before Nature
and accurately match all her tints, we have an absolute but prosaic
rendering of her; and the analogy to this in music would be found in
a passage of ordinary conversational language written down, with its
inflections and pauses recorded in musical signs. Both are transcripts
of Nature, but neither is in any way poetic, or, strictly speaking,
artistic; we cannot, by any addition or refinement, make them so. Now
mark that in the two early drawings of Turner we have white and
black with only the slightest possible suggestion of blue in the
distance;--the corresponding form in language is verse, with its measure
of time for measure of space, and just so much inflection of voice as
these drawings have of tint,--enough not to be absolutely monotonous. We
have in both cases left the idea of mere imitation of Nature, and have
entered on Art. Verse grows naturally into music by simple increase of
the range of inflection, as Turner's color will grow more melodic and
finally harmonic. And in thus beginning Turner has placed his works
above the level of prosaic painting of Nature, just as verse is placed
above prose by the unanimous consent of mankind. From these simple
presages of Art we may diverge and follow his development as a poet by
his engravings, without ever making reference to him as a colorist. But
beside being a poet, he was a great color-composer. If, leaving poetry
as recited, we take the ballad, or poetry made fully melodic, we have
the single voice, passing through measured inflections and with measured
pauses. Correspondingly, the next in the series of Turner drawings, the
"Aysgarth Force," shows no attempt to give the real color of Nature, but
a single color governing the whole drawing, a golden brown passing in
shadow into its exact negative. There is an absolute tint, full, and
inflected through every shade of its tones to the bottom of the scale.
The strict analogy is broken in this case by a dash of delicate
gray-blue in the sky and gray-red in the figures, the slightest possible
accompaniment to his golden-brown melody; but these were not needed, and
we find earlier drawings which adhere to the strict monochrome. In the
drawing next in date, the "Hastings from the Sea," we have the further
step from monochrome to polychrome; we have the distinct trio, the
golden yellow in the sky, the blue in the sea, and the red in the
figures in the boats,--as in a vocal trio we have the only three
possible musical sounds of the human voice, the soprano, the basso,
and the falsetto of the child's voice. All these colors are distinctly
asserted and perfectly harmonized in a most exquisite play of tints, but
it is still no more like Nature than the trio in "I Puritani" is like
conversation. Turner never dreamed of painting _like_ Nature, and no
sane man ever saw or can see, in this world, Nature in the colors in
which he has painted her, any more than he will find men conducting
business in operatic notes.
One step farther, and we leave the analogy. In the "Swiss Valley," one
of his last works, we are from the first conscious that his harmonies
have run away with his theme. In Ole Bull's "Niagara" we have almost as
much of matter-of-fact Nature as in Turner's "Swiss Valley." The eye
untrained by study of Turner's works finds nothing but a blaze of color
with no intelligible object, just as we have, in opera, music of which
the words are inaudible;--both are there for practised ear and eye, but
in neither case as of primary importance. Turner has even gone farther,
and given us pictures of pure color, as in the illustration of Goethe's
theory of colors,--a _fantasie_ of the palette. And why shall Turner
not orchestrate color as well as Verdi sound? why not give us his
synchromies as well as Beethoven his symphonies? You prefer common
sense,--Harding and Fripp, Stanfield and Creswick? Well, suppose you
like better to hear some familiar voice talking of past times than to
hear "Robert le Diable" ever so well sung, or Hawthorne's prose better
than Browning's verse,--it proves nothing, save that you do not care for
music and poetry so well as some others do.
But after all, Turner was one of the old school of artists. Claude was
the first landscape painter of the line, Turner the last; subjective
poets both,--the one a child, the other a mighty man. But the poets
no longer govern the world as in times past; they give place to the
philosophers. The race is no longer content with its inspirations and
emotions, but must see and understand. The old school of Art was one of
sentiment, the new is one of fact; and out of that English mind from
whose seeming common-place level of untrained, unschooled intellect have
burst so many of the loftiest souls the world has known,--from that mind
more inspired in its want of academic greatness, more self-educated in
its wild liberty, than the best-trained nations of Europe, this new
school has fittingly had its origin.
We speak of it as a School, though yet in its rudiments, because it
has a distinctive character, a real purpose,--and because it is the
embodiment of the new-age spirit of truth-seeking, of the spirit of
science, rather than that of song. Among the pictures contributed to the
English exhibition by the Pre-Raphaelites, there are very few which do
not convey the distinct impression of a determined effort to realize
certain truths. There are few which succeed entirely; but this is so far
from astonishing, that we have only to think that the oldest of these
artists has hardly passed his first decade of recognized artistic
existence, and that their aims are new in Art, to wonder that so much of
fresh and subtile truth is given. There are two respects in which nearly
all the works of the school agree, and which have come to be regarded by
superficial students of Art as its characteristics, namely, that they
are very deficient in drawing and devoid of grace. Both deficiencies
are such as might have been expected from the circumstances. Young men
filled with earnestness and enthusiasm, and with an artistic purpose
full in view, will spend little time in acquiring academic excellences,
or trouble themselves much with methods or styles of drawing. They dash
at once to their purpose, and let technical excellence follow, as it
ought, in the train of the idea of their work. Of course they do not
compare, as draughtsmen and technists, with men who have spent years in
getting a knowledge of the proportions of the human figure, and the best
methods of applying color; but, on the other hand, they are safe from
that most alluring and fatal course of study which makes the subject
only a lay figure to display artistic capacity on. Of all the pictures
of the school, in the collection of which we speak, there is but one of
academic excellence in drawing,--the "King Lear" of Ford Madox Brown.
All the others have errors, and some of them to a ludicrous degree; but
wherever refined drawing is needed to convey the idea of the picture, no
school can furnish drawing more subtile and expressive. The head of
the "Light of the World" is worthy in this respect to be placed beside
Raphael and Da Vinci; and the "Ophelia" of Hughes, though inexcusably
incorrect in the figure, has a refinement of drawing in the face,
and especially in the lines of the open, chanting mouth, which no
draughtsman of the French school can equal. It is where the idea guides
the hand that the Pre-Raphaelites are triumphant; everywhere else they
fail. But this is a fault which will correct itself as they learn the
significance and value of things they do not now understand. They paint
well that which they love, and devotion grows and widens its sphere the
longer it endures, taking in, little by little, all things which bear
relation to the thought or thing it clings to; and the man who draws
because he has something to tell, and draws _that_ well, is certain
of finally drawing all things well. This very deficiency of
Pre-Raphaelitism, then, points to its true excellence, and indicates
that singleness of purpose which is an element in all true Art. The want
of grace, which is made almost a synonyme with Pre-Raphaelitism, has its
origin in the same resolute clinging to truth as the artist comprehends
it, and uncompromising determination to express it as perfectly as he
has the power,--a feeling which never permits him to think whether his
work be graceful, but whether it be just; so that his tremulous and
almost fearful conscientiousness--tremulous with desire to see all,
and fearful lest some line should wander by a hair's breadth from its
fullest expressiveness--makes him lose sight entirely of grace and
repose. No form that has the appearance of being painfully drawn
can ever be a graceful one; and so the Pre-Raphaelite, until he has
something of a master's facility and decision, can never be graceful.
The artist who prefers grace to truth will never be remarkable either
for grace or truth, while the one who clings to truth at all sacrifices
will finally reach the expression of the highest degree of beauty which
his soul is capable of conceiving; for the lines of highest beauty and
supremest truth are coincident. The Ideal meets the Actual finally in
If there be one point of feeling in which the Pre-Raphaelites can be
said to be more than in all others antagonistic to the schools of
painting which preceded them, it would be that indicated by this
distinction,--that the new school is one which in all cases places truth
before beauty, while the old esteems beauty above truth. The tendency
of the one is towards a severe and truth-seeking Art, one in all its
characteristics essentially religious in the highest sense of the term,
holding truth dearer than all success in popular estimation, or than all
attractions of external beauty, reverent, self-forgetting, and humble
before Nature; that of the other is towards an Art Epicurean and
atheistic, holding the truth as something to be used or neglected at
its pleasure, and of no more value than falsehood which is equally
beautiful,--making Nature, indeed, something for weak men to lean on and
for superstitious men to be enslaved by. This distinction is radical; it
cuts the world of Art, as the equator does the earth, with an unswerving
line, on one side or the other of which every work of Art falls, and
which permits no neutral ground, no chance of compromise;--he who is not
for the truth is against it. We will not be so illiberal as to say that
Art lies only on one side of this line; to do so were to shut out works
which have given us exceeding delight;--so neither could we exclude
Epicurus and his philosophy from the company of doers of good;--but the
distinction is as inexorable as the line Christ drew between his and
those not his; it lies not in the product, which may be mixed good and
evil, but in the motive, which is indivisible.
Pre-Raphaelitism must take its position in the world as the beginning of
a new Art,--new in motive, new in methods, and new in the forms it puts
on. To like it or to dislike it is a matter of mental constitution.
The only mistake men can make about it is to consider it as a mature
expression of the spirit which animates it. Not one, probably not two
or three generations, perhaps not so many centuries, will see it in its
full growth. It is a childhood of Art, but a childhood of so huge a
portent that its maturity may well call out an expectation of awe.
In all its characteristics it is childlike,--in its intensity, its
humility, its untutored expressiveness, its marvellous instincts of
truth, and in its very profuseness of giving,--filling its caskets with
an unchoosing lavishness of pearl and pebble, rose and may-weed, all
treasures alike to its newly opened eyes, all so beautiful that there
can scarcely be choice among them.
To suppose that a revolution so complete as this could take place
without a bitter opposition would be an hypothesis without any
justification in the world's experience; for, be it in whatever sphere
or form, when a revolution comes, it offends all that is conservative
and reverential of tradition in the minds of men, and arouses an
apparently inexplicable hostility, the bitterness of which is not at all
proportionate to the interest felt by the individual in the subject of
the reform, but to his constitutional antipathy to all reform, to all
agitation. The conservative at heart hates the reformer because he
agitates, not because he disturbs him personally. This is clearly seen
in the hostility with which the new Art has been met in England, where
conservatism has built its strongest batteries in the way of invading