Part 4 out of 5
supernal intelligence. In all poetry, Pindar's rule holds,--[Greek:
sunetois phonei], it speaks to the intelligent; and Hafiz is a poet for
poets, whether he write, as sometimes, with a parrot's, or, as at other
times, with an eagle's quill.
Every song of Hafiz affords new proof of the unimportance of your
subject to success, provided only the treatment be cordial. In general,
what is more tedious than dedications or panegyrics addressed to
grandees? Yet in the "Divan" you would not skip them, since his muse
seldom supports him better.
"What lovelier forms things wear,
Now that the Shah comes back!"
"Thy foes to hunt, thy enviers to strike
Poises Arcturus aloft morning and evening
"Mirza! where thy shadow falls,
Beauty sits and Music calls;
Where thy form and favor come,
All good creatures have their home."
Here are a couple of stately compliments to his Shah, from the kindred
genius of Enweri:--
"Not in their houses stand the stars,
But o'er the pinnacles of thine!"
"From thy worth and weight the stars
And the equipoise of heaven is thy house's
It is told of Hafiz, that, when he had written a compliment to a
"Take my heart in thy hand, O beautiful boy
I would give for the mole on thy cheek Samarcand
the verses came to the ears of Timour in his palace. Timour taxed Hafiz
with treating disrespectfully his two cities, to raise and adorn which
he had conquered nations. Hafiz replied, "Alas, my lord, if I had not
been so prodigal, I had not been so poor!"
The Persians had a mode of establishing copyright the most secure of any
contrivance with which we are acquainted. The law of the _ghaselle_, or
shorter ode, requires that the poet insert his name in the last stanza.
Almost every one of several hundreds of poems of Hafiz contains his name
thus interwoven more or less closely with the subject of the piece. It
is itself a test of skill, as this self-naming is not quite easy. We
remember but two or three examples in English poetry: that of Chaucer,
in the "House of Fame"; Jonson's epitaph on his son,--
"Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry";
"The melancholy Cowley lay."
But it is easy to Hafiz. It gives him the opportunity of the most
playful self-assertion, always gracefully, sometimes almost in the fun
of Falstaff, sometimes with feminine delicacy. He tells us, "The angels
in heaven were lately learning his last pieces." He says, "The fishes
shed their pearls, out of desire and longing, as soon as the ship of
Hafiz swims the deep."
"Out of the East, and out of the West,
no man understands me;
Oh, the happier I, who confide to none but
This morning heard I how the lyre of the
'Sweeter tones have we heard from Hafiz!'"
"I heard the harp of the planet Venus, and
it said in the early morning, 'I am the disciple
of the sweet-voiced Hafiz!'"
"When Hafiz sings, the angels hearken,
and Anaitis, the leader of the starry host,
calls even the Messiah in heaven out to the
"No one has unveiled thoughts like Hafiz,
since the locks of the Word-bride were first
"Only he despises the verse of Hafiz who
is not himself by nature noble."
But we must try to give some of these poetic flourishes the metrical
form which they seem to require:--
"Fit for the Pleiads' azure chord
The songs I sung, the pearls I bored."
"I have no hoarded treasure,
Yet have I rich content;
The first from Allah to the Shah,
The last to Hafiz went."
"High heart, O Hafiz! though not thine
Fine gold and silver ore;
More worth to thee the gift of song,
And the clear insight more."
"Thou foolish Hafiz! say, do churls
Know the worth of Oman's pearls?
Give the gem which dims the moon
To the noblest, or to none."
"O Hafiz! speak not of thy need;
Are not these verses thine?
Then all the poets are agreed,
No man can less repine."
He asserts his dignity as bard and inspired man of his people. To the
vizier returning from Mecca he says,--
"Boast not rashly, prince of pilgrims, of
thy fortune, Thou hast indeed seen the
temple; but I, the Lord of the temple. Nor
has any man inhaled from the musk-bladder
of the merchant, or from the musky morning-wind,
that sweet air which I am permitted to
breathe every hour of the day."
And with still more vigor in the following lines:--
"Oft have I said, I say it once more,
I, a wanderer, do not stray from myself.
I am a kind of parrot; the mirror is holden to me;
What the Eternal says, I stammering say again.
Give me what you will; I eat thistles as roses,
And according to my food I grow and I give.
Scorn me not, but know I have the pearl,
And am only seeking one to receive it."
And his claim has been admitted from the first. The muleteers and
camel-drivers, on their way through the desert, sing snatches of his
songs, not so much for the thought, as for their joyful temper and tone;
and the cultivated Persians know his poems by heart. Yet Hafiz does not
appear to have set any great value on his songs, since his scholars
collected them for the first time after his death.
In the following poem the soul is figured as the Phoenix alighting on
the Tree of Life:--
"My phoenix long ago secured
His nest in the sky-vault's cope;
In the body's cage immured,
He is weary of life's hope.
"Round and round this heap of ashes
Now flies the bird amain,
But in that odorous niche of heaven
Nestles the bird again.
"Once flies he upward, he will perch
On Tuba's golden bough;
His home is on that fruited arch
Which cools the blest below.
"If over this world of ours
His wings my phoenix spread,
How gracious falls on land and sea
The soul refreshing shade!
"Either world inhabits he,
Sees oft below him planets roll;
His body is all of air compact,
Of Allah's love his soul."
Here is an ode which is said to be a favorite with all educated
"Come!--the palace of heaven rests on aery pillars,--
Come, and bring me wine; our days are wind.
I declare myself the slave of that masculine soul
Which ties and alliance on earth once forever renounces.
Told I thee yester-morn how the Iris of heaven
Brought to me in my cup a gospel of joy?
O high-flying falcon! the Tree of Life is thy perch;
This nook of grief fits thee ill for a nest.
Hearken! they call to thee down from the ramparts of heaven;
I cannot divine what holds thee here in a net.
I, too, have a counsel for thee; oh, mark it and keep it,
Since I received the same from the Master above:
Seek not for faith or for truth in a world of light-minded girls;
A thousand suitors reckons this dangerous bride.
This jest [of the world], which tickles me, leave to my vagabond self.
Accept whatever befalls; uncover thy brow from thy locks;
Neither to me nor to thee was option imparted;
Neither endurance nor truth belongs to the laugh of the rose.
The loving nightingale mourns;--cause enow for mourning;--
Why envies the bird the streaming verses of Hafiz?
Know that a god bestowed on him eloquent speech."
Here is a little epitaph that might have come from Simonides:--
"Bethink, poor heart, what bitter kind of jest
Mad Destiny this tender stripling played:
For a warm breast of ivory to his breast,
She laid a slab of marble on his head."
The cedar, the cypress, the palm, the olive, and fig-tree, and the birds
that inhabit them, and the garden flowers, are never wanting in these
musky verses, and are always named with effect. "The willows," he says,
"bow themselves to every wind, out of shame for their unfruitfulness."
We may open anywhere on a floral catalogue.
"By breath of beds of roses drawn,
I found the grove in the morning pure,
In the concert of the nightingales
My drunken brain to cure.
"With unrelated glance
I looked the rose in the eye;
The rose in the hour of gloaming
Flamed like a lamp hard-by.
"She was of her beauty proud,
And prouder of her youth,
The while unto her flaming heart
The bulbul gave his truth.
"The sweet narcissus closed
Its eye, with passion pressed;
The tulips out of envy burned
Moles in their scarlet breast.
"The lilies white prolonged
Their sworded tongue to the smell;
The clustering anemones
Their pretty secrets tell."
Presently we have,--
----"All day the rain
Bathed the dark hyacinths in vain,
The flood may pour from morn till night
Nor wash the pretty Indians white."
And so onward, through many a page.
The following verse of Omar Chiam seems to belong to Hafiz:--
"Each spot where tulips prank their state
Has drunk the life-blood of the great;
The violets yon fields which stain
Are moles of beauties Time hath slain."
As might this picture of the first days of Spring, from Enweri:--
"O'er the garden water goes the wind alone
To rasp and to polish the cheek of the wave;
The fire is quenched on the dear hearth-stone,
But it burns again on the tulips brave."
Friendship is a favorite topic of the Eastern poets, and they have
matched on this head the absoluteness of Montaigne.
"Thou learnest no secret until thou knowest friendship; since to the
unsound no heavenly knowledge enters."
Ibn Jemin writes thus:--
"Whilst I disdain the populace,
I find no peer in higher place.
Friend is a word of royal tone,
Friend is a poem all alone.
Wisdom is like the elephant,
Lofty and rare inhabitant:
He dwells in deserts or in courts;
With hucksters he has no resorts."
"A friend is he, who, hunted as a foe,
So much the kindlier shows him than before;
Throw stones at him, or ruder javelins throw,
He builds with stone and steel a firmer floor."
Of the amatory poetry of Hafiz we must be very sparing in our citations,
though it forms the staple of the "Divan." He has run through the
whole gamut of passion,--from the sacred, to the borders, and over
the borders, of the profane. The same confusion of high and low, the
celerity of flight and allusion which our colder muses forbid, is
habitual to him. From the plain text,--
"The chemist of love
Will this perishing mould,
Were it made out of mire,
Transmute into gold,"--
or, from another favorite legend of his chemistry,--
"They say, through patience, chalk
Becomes a ruby stone;
Ah, yes, but by the true heart's blood
The chalk is crimson grown,"--
he proceeds to the celebration of his passion; and nothing in his
religious or in his scientific traditions is too sacred or too remote to
afford a token of his mistress. The Moon thought she knew her own orbit
well enough; but when she saw the curve on Zuleika's cheek, she was at a
"And since round lines are drawn
My darling's lips about,
The very Moon looks puzzled on,
And hesitates in doubt
If the sweet curve that rounds thy mouth
Be not her true way to the South."
His ingenuity never sleeps:--
"Ah, could I hide me in my song,
To kiss thy lips from which it flows!"--
and plays in a thousand pretty courtesies:--
"Fair fall thy soft heart!
A good work wilt thou do?
Oh, pray for the dead
Whom thine eyelashes slew!"
And what a nest has he found for his bonny bird to take up her abode
"They strew in the path of kings and czars
Jewels and gems of price;
But for thy head I will pluck down stars,
And pave thy way with eyes.
"I have sought for thee a costlier dome
Than Mahmoud's palace high,
And thou, returning, find thy home
In the apple of Love's eye."
Nor shall Death snatch her from his pursuit:--
"If my darling should depart
And search the skies for prouder friends,
God forbid my angry heart
In other love should seek amends!
"When the blue horizon's hoop
Me a little pinches here,
On the instant I will die
And go find thee in the sphere."
Then we have all degrees of passionate abandonment:--
"I know this perilous love-lane
No whither the traveller leads,
Yet my fancy the sweet scent of
Thy tangled tresses feeds.
"In the midnight of thy locks,
I renounce the day;
In the ring of thy rose-lips,
My heart forgets to pray."
And sometimes his love rises to a religious sentiment:--
"Plunge in yon angry waves,
Renouncing doubt and care;
The flowing of the seven broad seas
Shall never wet thy hair.
"Is Allah's face on thee
Bending with love benign,
And thou not less on Allah's eye
O fairest! turnest thine."
We add to these fragments of Hafiz a few specimens from other poets.
"In Farsistan the violet spreads
Its leaves to the rival sky,--
I ask, How far is the Tigris flood,
And the vine that grows thereby?
"Except the amber morning wind,
Not one saluted me here;
There is no man in all Bagdad
To offer the exile cheer.
"I know that thou, O morning wind,
O'er Kerman's meadow blowest,
And thou, heart-warming nightingale,
My father's orchard knowest.
"Oh, why did partial Fortune
From that bright land banish me?
So long as I wait in Bagdad,
The Tigris is all I see.
"The merchant hath stuffs of price,
And gems from the sea-washed strand,
And princes offer me grace
To stay in the Syrian land:
"But what is gold for but for gifts?
And dark without love is the day;
And all that I see in Bagdad
Is the Tigris to float me away."
"While roses bloomed along the plain,
The nightingale to the falcon said,
'Why, of all birds, must thou be dumb?
With closed mouth thou utterest,
Though dying, no last word to man.
Yet sitt'st thou on the hand of princes,
And feedest on the grouse's breast,
Whilst I, who hundred thousand jewels
Squander in a single tone,
Lo! I feed myself with worms,
And my dwelling is the thorn.'--
The falcon answered, 'Be all ear:
I, experienced in affairs,
See fifty things, say never one;
But thee the people prizes not,
Who, doing nothing, say'st a thousand.
To me, appointed to the chase,
The king's hand gives the grouse's breast;
Whilst a chatterer like thee
Must gnaw worms in the thorn. Farewell!'"
The following passages exhibit the strong tendency of the Persian poets
to contemplative and religious poetry and to allegory.
BODY AND SOUL.
"A painter in China once painted a hall;--
Such a web never hung on an emperor's wall;--
One half from his brush with rich colors did run,
The other he touched with a beam of the sun;
So that all which delighted the eye in one side,
The same, point for point, in the other replied.
"In thee, friend, that Tyrian chamber is found;
Thine the star-pointing roof, and the base on the ground:
Is one half depicted with colors less bright?
Beware that the counterpart blazes with light!"
I read on the porch of a palace bold
In a purple tablet letters cast,--
'A house, though a million winters old,
A house of earth comes down at last;
Then quarry thy stones from the crystal All,
And build the dome that shall not fall.'"
"What need," cries the mystic Feisi, "of palaces and tapestry? What need
even of a bed?
"The eternal Watcher, who doth wake
All night in the body's earthen chest,
Will of thine arms a pillow make,
And a holster of thy breast."
A stanza of Hilali on a Flute is a luxury of idealism:--
"Hear what, now loud, now low, the pining flute complains,
Without tongue, yellow-cheeked, full of winds that wail and sigh,
Saying, 'Sweetheart, the old mystery remains,
If I am I, thou thou, or thou art I.'"
Ferideddin Attar wrote the "Bird Conversations," a mystical tale, in
which the birds, coming together to choose their king, resolve on a
pilgrimage to Mount Kaf, to pay their homage to the Simorg. From this
poem, written five hundred years ago, we cite the following passage, as
a proof of the identity of mysticism in all periods. The tone is quite
modern. In the fable, the birds were soon weary of the length and
difficulties of the way, and at last almost all gave out. Three only
persevered, and arrived before the throne of the Simorg.
"The bird-soul was ashamed;
Their body was quite annihilated;
They had cleaned themselves from the dust,
And were by the light ensouled.
What was, and was not,--the Past,--
Was wiped out from their breast.
The sun from near-by beamed
Clearest light into their soul;
The resplendence of the Simorg beamed
As one back from all three.
They knew not, amazed, if they
Were either this or that.
They saw themselves all as Simorg,
Themselves in the eternal Simorg.
When to the Simorg up they looked,
They beheld him among themselves;
And when they looked on each other,
They saw themselves in the Simorg.
A single look grouped the two parties.
The Simorg emerged, the Simorg vanished,
This in that, and that in this,
As the world has never heard.
So remained they, sunk in wonder,
Thoughtless in deepest thinking,
And quite unconscious of themselves.
Speechless prayed they to the Highest
To open this secret,
And to unlock _Thou_ and _We_.
There came an answer without tongue.--
'The Highest is a sun-mirror;
Who comes to Him sees himself therein,
Sees body and soul, and soul and body:
When you came to the Simorg,
Three therein appeared to you,
And, had fifty of you come,
So had you seen yourselves as many.
Him has none of us yet seen.
Ants see not the Pleiades.
Can the gnat grasp with his teeth
The body of the elephant'?
What you see is He not;
What you hear is He not.
The valleys which you traverse,
The actions which you perform,
They lie under our treatment
And among our properties.
You as three birds are amazed,
Impatient, heartless, confused:
Far over you am I raised,
Since I am in act Simorg.
Ye blot out my highest being,
That ye may find yourselves on my throne;
Forever ye blot out yourselves,
As shadows in the sun. Farewell!'"
Among the religious customs of the dervises, it seems, is an
astronomical dance, in which the dervis imitates the movements of the
heavenly bodies by spinning on his own axis, whilst, at the same time,
he revolves round the sheikh in the centre, representing the sun; and as
he spins, he sings the song of Seid Nimetollah of Kuhistan:--
"Spin the ball! I reel, I hum,
Nor head from foot can I discern,
Nor my heart from love of mine,
Nor the wine-cup from the wine.
All my doing, all my leaving,
Reaches not to my perceiving.
Lost in whirling spheres I rove,
And know only that I love.
"I am seeker of the stone,
Living gem of Solomon;
From the shore of souls arrived,
In the sea of sense I dived;
But what is land, or what is wave,
To me who only jewel crave?
Love's the air-fed fire intense,
My heart is the frankincense;
As the rich aloes flames, I glow,
Yet the censer cannot know.
I'm all-knowing, yet unknowing;
Stand not, pause not, in my going.
"Ask not me, as Muftis can
To recite the Alcoran;
Well I love the meaning sweet,--
I tread the book beneath my feet.
"Lo! the God's love blazes higher,
Till all difference expire.
What are Moslems? what are Giaours?
All are Love's, and all are ours.
I embrace the true believers,
But I reek not of deceivers.
Firm to heaven my bosom clings,
Heedless of inferior things;
Down on earth there, underfoot,
What men chatter know I not."
* * * * *
THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL.
Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
----I think, Sir,--said the divinity-student,--you must intend that for
one of the sayings of the Seven Wise Men of Boston you were speaking of
the other day.
I thank you, my young friend,--was my reply,--but I must say something
better than that, before I could pretend to fill out the number.
----The schoolmistress wanted to know how many of these sayings there
were on record, and what, and by whom said.
----Why, let us see,--there is that one of Benjamin Franklin, "the great
Bostonian," after whom this lad was named. To be sure, he said a great
many wise things,--and I don't feel sure he didn't borrow this,--he
speaks as if it were old. But then he applied it so neatly!--
"He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you
another than he whom you yourself have obliged."
Then there is that glorious Epicurean paradox, uttered by my friend, the
Historian, in one of his flashing moments:--
"Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its
To these must certainly be added that other saying of one of the
wittiest of men:--
"Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris."
----The divinity-student looked grave at this, but said nothing.
The schoolmistress spoke out, and said she didn't think the wit meant
any irreverence. It was only another way of saying, Paris is a heavenly
place after New York or Boston.
A jaunty-looking person, who had come in with the young fellow they call
John,--evidently a stranger,--said there was one more wise man's saying
that he had heard; it was about our place, but he didn't know who said
it.--A civil curiosity was manifested by the company to hear the fourth
wise saying. I heard him distinctly whispering to the young fellow who
brought him to dinner, _Shall I tell it?_ To which the answer was, _Go
ahead!_--Well,--he said,--this was what I heard:--
"Boston State-House is the hub of the solar system. You couldn't
pry that out of a Boston man, if you had the tire of all creation
straightened out for a crowbar."
Sir,--said I,--I am gratified with your remark. It expresses with
pleasing vivacity that which I have sometimes heard uttered with
malignant dulness. The satire of the remark is essentially true of
Boston,--and of all other considerable--and inconsiderable--places with
which I have had the privilege of being acquainted. Cockneys think
London is the only place in the world. Frenchmen--you remember the line
about Paris, the Court, the World, etc.--I recollect well, by the way,
a sign in that city which ran thus: "Hotel de l'Univers et des Etats
Unis"; and as Paris _is_ the universe to a Frenchman, of course the
United States are outside of it.--"See Naples and then die."--It is
quite as bad with smaller places. I have been about, lecturing, you
know, and have found the following propositions to hold true of all of
1. The axis of the earth sticks out visibly through the centre of each
and every town or city.
2. If more than fifty years have passed since its foundation, it is
affectionately styled by the inhabitants the "_good old_ town _of_"----
(whatever its name may happen to be).
3. Every collection of its inhabitants that comes together to listen
to a stranger is invariably declared to be a "remarkably intelligent
4. The climate of the place is particularly favorable to longevity.
5. It contains several persons of vast talent little known to the world.
(One or two of them, you may perhaps chance to remember, sent short
pieces to the "Paetolian" some time since, which were "respectfully
Boston is just like other places of its size;--only, perhaps,
considering its excellent fish-market, paid fire-department, superior
monthly publications, and correct habit of spelling the English
language, it has some right to look down on the mob of cities. I'll tell
you, though, if you want to know it, what is the real offence of Boston.
It drains a large water-shed of its intellect, and will not itself be
drained. If it would only send away its first-rate men, instead of its
second-rate ones, (no offence to the well-known exceptions, of which we
are always proud,) we should be spared such epigrammatic remarks as that
which the gentleman has quoted. There can never be a real metropolis
in this country, until the biggest centre can drain the lesser ones of
their talent and wealth. I have observed, by the way, that the people
who really live in two great cities are by no means so jealous of each
other, as are those of smaller cities situated within the intellectual
basin, or _suction-range_, of one large one, of the pretensions of any
other. Don't you see why? Because their promising young author and
rising lawyer and large capitalist have been drained off to the
neighboring big city,--their prettiest girl has been exported to the
same market; all their ambition points there, and all their thin gilding
of glory comes from there. I hate little toad-eating cities.
----Would I be so good as to specify any particular example?--Oh,--an
example? Did you ever see a bear-trap? Never? Well, shouldn't you
like to see me put my foot into one? With sentiments of the highest
consideration I must beg leave to be excused.
Besides, some of the smaller cities are charming. If they have an old
church or two, a few stately mansions of former grandees, here and there
an old dwelling with the second story projecting, (for the convenience
of shooting the Indians knocking at the front-door with their
tomahawks,)--if they have, scattered about, those mighty-square houses
built something more than half a century ago, and standing like
architectural boulders dropped by the former diluvium of wealth, whose
refluent wave has left them as its monument,--if they have gardens with
elbowed apple trees that push their branches over the high board-fence
and drop their fruit on the side-walk,--if they have a little grass in
the side-streets, enough to betoken quiet without proclaiming decay,--I
think I could go to pieces, after my life's work were done, in one of
those tranquil places, as sweetly as in any cradle that an old man may
be rocked to sleep in. I visit such spots always with infinite delight.
My friend, the Poet, says, that rapidly growing towns are most
unfavorable to the imaginative and reflective faculties. Let a man live
in one of these old quiet places, he says, and the wine of his soul,
which is kept thick and turbid by the rattle of busy streets, settles,
and, as you hold it up, you may see the sun through it by day and the
stars by night.
----Do I think that the little villages have the conceit of the great
towns?--I don't believe there is much difference. You know how they read
Pope's line in the smallest town in our State of Massachusetts?--Well,
they read it
"All are but parts of one stupendous HULL!"
----Every person's feelings have a front-door and a side-door by which
they may be entered. The front-door is on the street. Some keep it
always open; some keep it latched; some, locked; some, bolted,--with a
chain that will let you peep in, but not get in; and some nail it up,
so that nothing can pass its threshold. This front-door leads into
a passage which opens into an ante-room, and this into the interior
apartments. The side-door opens at once into the sacred chambers.
There is almost always at least one key to this side-door. This is
carried for years hidden in a mother's bosom. Fathers, brothers,
sisters, and friends, often, but by no means so universally, have
duplicates of it. The wedding-ring conveys a right to one; alas, if none
is given with it!
If nature or accident has put one of these keys into the hands of a
person who has the torturing instinct, I can only solemnly pronounce the
words that Justice utters over its doomed victim,--_The Lord have mercy
on your soul!_ You will probably go mad within a reasonable time,--or,
if you are a man, run off and die with your head on a curb-stone, in
Melbourne or San Francisco,--or, if you are a woman, quarrel and break
your heart, or turn into a pale, jointed petrifaction that moves about
as if it were alive, or play some real life-tragedy or other.
Be very careful to whom you trust one of these keys of the side-door.
The fact of possessing one renders those even who are dear to you very
terrible at times. You can keep the world out from your front-door, or
receive visitors only when you are ready for them; but those of your own
flesh and blood, or of certain grades of intimacy, can come in at the
side-door, if they will, at any hour and in any mood. Some of them have
a scale of your whole nervous system, and can play all the gamut of your
sensibilities in semitones,--touching the naked nerve-pulps as a pianist
strikes the keys of his instrument. I am satisfied that there are as
great masters of this nerve-playing as Vieuxtemps or Thalberg in their
lines of performance. Married life is the school in which the most
accomplished artists in this department are found. A delicate woman
is the best instrument; she has such a magnificent compass of
sensibilities! From the deep inward moan which follows pressure on the
great nerves of right, to the sharp cry as the filaments of taste are
struck with a crashing sweep, is a range which no other instrument
possesses. A few exercises on it dally at home fit a man wonderfully for
his habitual labors, and refresh him immensely as he returns from them.
No stranger can get a great many notes of torture out of a human soul;
it takes one that knows it well,--parent, child, brother, sister,
intimate. Be very careful to whom you give a side-door key; too many
have them already.
----You remember the old story of the tender-hearted man, who placed a
frozen viper in his bosom, and was stung by it when it became thawed? If
we take a cold-blooded creature into our bosom, better that it should
sting us and we should die than that its chill should slowly steal into
our hearts; warm it we never can! I have seen faces of women that were
fair to look upon, yet one could see that the icicles were forming
round these women's hearts. I knew what freezing image lay on the white
breasts beneath the laces!
A very simple _intellectual_ mechanism answers the necessities of
friendship, and even of the most intimate relations of life. If a watch
tells us the hour and the minute, we can be content to carry it about
with us for a life-time, though it has no second-hand, and is not
a repeater, nor a musical watch,--though it is not enamelled nor
jewelled,--in short, though it has little beyond the wheels required
for a trustworthy instrument, added to a good face and a pair of useful
hands. The more wheels there are in a watch or a brain, the more trouble
they are to take care of. The movements of exaltation which belong to
genius are egotistic by their very nature. A calm, clear mind, not
subject to the spasms and crises that are so often met with in creative
or intensely perceptive natures, is the best basis for love or
friendship.--Observe, I am talking about _minds_. I won't say, the more
intellect, the less capacity for loving; for that would do wrong to the
understanding and reason;--but, on the other hand, that the brain often
runs away with the heart's best blood, which gives the world a few pages
of wisdom or sentiment or poetry, instead of making one other heart
happy, I have no question.
If one's intimate in love or friendship cannot or does not share
all one's intellectual tastes or pursuits, that is a small matter.
Intellectual companions can be found easily in men and books. After all,
if we think of it, most of the world's loves and friendships have been
between people that could not read nor spell.
But to radiate the heat of the affections into a clod, which absorbs all
that is poured into it, but never warms beneath the sunshine of smiles
or the pressure of hand or lip,--this is the great martyrdom of
sensitive beings,--most of all in that perpetual _auto da fe_ where
young womanhood is the sacrifice.
----You noticed, perhaps, what I just said about the loves and
friendships of illiterate persons,--that is, of the human race, with a
few exceptions here and there. I like books,--I was born and bred among
them, and have the easy feeling, when I get into their presence, that a
stable-boy has among horses. I don't think I undervalue them either as
companions or as instructors. But I can't help remembering that the
world's great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its great
scholars great men. The Hebrew patriarchs had small libraries, I think,
if any; yet they represent to our imaginations a very complete idea of
manhood, and, I think, if we could ask in Abraham to dine with us men of
letters next Saturday, we should feel honored by his company.
What I wanted to say about books is this: that there are times in which
every active mind feels itself above any and all human books.
----I think a man must have a good opinion of himself, Sir,--said the
divinity-student,--who should feel himself above Shakspeare at any time.
My young friend,--I replied,--the man who is never conscious of any
state of feeling or of intellectual effort entirely beyond expression
by any form of words whatsoever is a mere creature of language. I can
hardly believe there are any such men. Why, think for a moment of the
power of music. The nerves that make us alive to it spread out (so the
Professor tells me) in the most sensitive region of the marrow, just
where it is widening to run upwards into the hemispheres. It has its
seat in the region of sense rather than of thought. Yet it produces
a continuous and, as it were, logical sequence of emotional and
intellectual changes; but how different from trains of thought proper!
how entirely beyond the reach of symbols!--Think of human passions as
compared with all phrases! Did you ever hear of a man's growing lean by
the reading of "Romeo and Juliet," or blowing his brains out because
Desdemona was maligned? There are a good many symbols, even, that are
more expressive than words. I remember a young wife who had to part with
her husband for a time. She did not write a mournful poem; indeed, she
was a silent person, and perhaps hardly said a word about it; but she
quietly turned of a deep orange color with jaundice. A great many people
in this world have but one form of rhetoric for their profoundest
experiences,--namely, to waste away and die. When a man can _read_, his
paroxysm of feeling is passing. When he can _read_, his thought has
slackened its hold.--You talk about reading Shakspeare, using him as an
expression for the highest intellect, and you wonder that any common
person should be so presumptuous as to suppose his thought can rise
above the text which lies before him. But think a moment. A child's
reading of Shakspeare is one thing, and Coleridge's or Schlegel's
reading of him is another. The saturation-point of each mind differs
from that of every other. But I think it is as true for the small mind
which can only take up a little as for the great one which takes up
much, that the suggested trains of thought and feeling ought always
to rise above--not the author, but the reader's mental version of the
author, whoever he may be.
I think most readers of Shakspeare sometimes find themselves thrown into
exalted mental conditions like those produced by music. Then they may
drop the book, to pass at once into the region of thought without words.
We may happen to be very dull folks, you and I, and probably are, unless
there is some particular reason to suppose the contrary. But we get
glimpses now and then of a sphere of spiritual possibilities, where we,
dull as we are now, may sail in vast circles round the largest compass
of earthly intelligences.
----I confess there are times when I feel like the friend I mentioned
to you some time ago,--I hate the very sight of a book. Sometimes it
becomes almost a physical necessity to talk out what is in the mind,
before putting anything else into it. It is very bad to have thoughts
and feelings, which were meant to come out in talk, _strike in_, as they
say of some complaints that ought to show outwardly.
I always believed in life rather than in books. I suppose every day
of earth, with its hundred thousand deaths and something more of
births,--with its loves and hates, its triumphs and defeats, its pangs
and blisses, has more of humanity in it than all the books that were
ever written, put together. I believe the flowers growing at this moment
send up more fragrance to heaven than was ever exhaled from all the
essences ever distilled.
----Don't I read up various matters to talk about at this table or
elsewhere?--No, that is the last thing I would do. I will tell you my
rule. Talk about those subjects you have had long in your mind, and
listen to what others say about subjects you have studied but recently.
Knowledge and timber shouldn't be much used till they are seasoned.
----Physiologists and metaphysicians have had their attention turned a
good deal of late to the automatic and involuntary actions of the mind.
Put an idea into your intelligence and leave it there an hour, a day, a
year, without ever having occasion to refer to it. When, at last,
you return to it, you do not find it as it was when acquired. It has
domiciliated itself, so to speak,--become at home,--entered into
relations with your other thoughts, and integrated itself with the whole
fabric of the mind. Or take a simple and familiar example. You forget
a name, in conversation,--go on talking, without making any effort to
recall it,--and presently the mind evolves it by its own involuntary and
unconscious action, while you were pursuing another train of thought,
and the name rises of itself to your lips.
There are some curious observations I should like to make about the
mental machinery, but I think we are getting rather didactic.
----I should be gratified, if Benjamin Franklin would let me know
something of his progress in the French language. I rather liked that
exercise he read us the other day, though I must confess I should hardly
dare to translate it, for fear some people in a remote city where I once
lived might think I was drawing their portraits.
----Yes, Paris is a famous place for societies. I don't know whether the
piece I mentioned from the French author was intended simply as Natural
History, or whether there was not a little malice in his description.
At any rate, when I gave my translation to B.F. to turn back again into
French, one reason was that I thought it would sound a little bald in
English, and some people might think it was meant to have some local
bearing or other,--which the author, of course, didn't mean, inasmuch as
he could not be acquainted with anything on this side the water.
[The above remarks were addressed to the schoolmistress, to whom I
handed the paper after looking it over. The divinity-student came
and read over her shoulder,--very curious, apparently, but his eyes
wandered, I thought. Seeing that her breathing was a little hurried and
high, or _thoracic_, as my friend, the Professor, calls it, I watched
her a little more closely.--It is none of my business.--After all, it
is the imponderables that move the world,--heat, electricity,
This is the piece that Benjamin Franklin made into boarding-school
French, such as you see here; don't expect too much;--the mistakes give
a relish to it, I think.
LES SOCIETES POLYPHYSIOPHILOSOPHIQUES.
Ces Societes la sont une Institution pour suppleer aux besoins d'esprit
et de coeur de ces individus qui ont survecu a leurs emotions a l'egard
du beau sexe, et qui n'ont pas la distraction de l'habitude de boire.
Pour devenir membre d'une de ces Societes, on doit avoir le moins
de cheveux possible. S'il y en reste plusieurs qui resistent aux
depilatoires naturelles et autres, on doit avoir quelques connaissances,
n'importe dans quel genre. Des le moment qu'on ouvre la porte de la
Societe, on a un grand interet dans toutes les choses dont on ne sait
rien. Ainsi, un microscopiste demontre un nouveau _flexor_ du _tarse_
d'un _melolontha vulgaris_. Douze savans improvises, portans des
besicles, et qui ne connaissent rien des insectes, si ce n'est les
morsures du _culex_, se precipitent sur l'instrument, et voient--une
grande bulle d'air, dont ils s'emerveillent avec effusion. Ce qui est
un spectacle plein d'instruction--pour ceux qui ne sont pas de ladite
Societe. Tous les membres regardent les chimistes en particulier avec
un air d'intelligence parfaite pendant qu'ils prouvent dans un discours
d'une demi heure que O^6 N^3 H^5 C^6 etc. font quelque chose qui n'est
bonne a rien, mais qui probablement a une odeur tres desagreable, selon
l'habitude des produits chimiques. Apres cela, vient un mathematicien
qui vous bourre avec des _a+b_ et vous rapporte enfin un _x+y_, dont
vous n'avez pas besoin et qui ne change nullement vos relations avec
la vie. Un naturaliste vous parle des formations speciales des animaux
excessivement inconnus, dont vous n'avez jamais soupconne l'existence.
Ainsi il vous decrit les _follicules_ de _l'appendix vermiformis_ d'un
_dzigguetai_. Vous ne savez pas ce que c'est qu'un _follicule_. Vous ne
savez pas ce que c'est qu'un _appendix vermiformis_. Vous n'avez
jamais entendu parler du _dzigguetai_. Ainsi vous gagnez toutes ces
connaissances a la fois, qui s'attachent a votre esprit comme l'eau
adhere aux plumes d'un canard. On connait toutes les langues _ex
officio_ en devenant membre d'une de ces Societes. Ainsi quand on entend
lire un Essai sur les dialectes Tchutchiens, on comprend tout cela de
suite, et s'instruit enormement.
Il y a deux especes d'individus qu'on trouve toujours a ces Societies:
1 deg. Le membre a questions; 2 deg. Le membre a "Bylaws."
La _question_ est une specialite. Celui qui en fait metier ne fait
jamais des reponses. La question est une maniere tres commode de dire
les choses suivantes: "Me voila! Je ne suis pas fossil, moi,--je respire
encore! J'ai des idees,--voyez mon intelligence! Vous ne croyiez pas,
vous autres, que je savais quelque chose de cela! Ah, nous avons un
peu de sagacite, voyez vous! Nous ne sommes nullement la bete qu'on
pense!"--_Le faiseur de questions donne peu d'attention aux reponses
qu'on fait; ce n'est pas la dans sa specialite._
Le membre a "Bylaws" est le bouchon de toutes les emotions mousseuses
et genereuses qui se montrent dans la Societe. C'est un empereur
manque,--un tyran a la troisieme trituration. C'est un esprit dur,
borne, exact, grand dans les petitesses, petit dans les grandeurs, selon
le mot du grand Jefferson. On ne l'aime pas dans la Societe, mais on le
respecte et on le craint. Il n'y a qu'un mot pour ce membre audessus
de "Bylaws." Ce mot est pour lui ce que l'Om est aux Hindous. C'est sa
religion; il n'y a rien audela. Ce mot la c'est la CONSTITUTION!
Lesdites Societes publient des feuilletons de tems en tems. On les
trouve abandonnes a sa porte, nus comme des enfans nouveau-nes, faute
de membrane cutanee, ou meme papyracee. Si on aime la botanique, on y
trouve une memoire sur les coquilles; si on fait des etudes zooelogiques,
on trouve un grand tas de q[square root]-1, ce qui doit etre infiniment
plus commode que les encyclopedies. Ainsi il est clair comme la
metaphysique qu'on doit devenir membre d'une Societe telle que nous
Recette pour le Depilatoire Physiophilosophique.
Chaux vive lb. ss. Eau bouillante Oj.
Depilez avec. Polissez ensuite.
----I told the boy that his translation into French was creditable to
him; and some of the company wishing to hear what there was in the piece
that made me smile, I turned it into English for them, as well as I
could, on the spot.
The landlady's daughter seemed to be much amused by the idea that,
a depilatory could take the place of literary and scientific
accomplishments; she wanted me to print the piece, so that she might
send a copy of it to her cousin in Mizzourah; she didn't think he'd
have to do anything to the outside of his head to get into any of
the societies; he had to wear a wig once, when he played a part in a
No,--said I,--I shouldn't think of printing that in English. I'll tell
you why. As soon as you get a few thousand people together in a town,
there is somebody that every sharp thing you say is sure to hit. What
if a thing was written in Paris or in Pekin?--that makes no difference.
Everybody in those cities, or almost everybody, has his counterpart
here, and in all large places.--You never studied averages, as I have
had occasion to.
I'll tell you how I came to know so much about averages. There was
one season when I was lecturing, commonly, five evenings in the week,
through most of the lecturing period. I soon found, as most speakers do,
that it was pleasanter to work one lecture than to keep several in hand.
----Don't you get sick to death of one lecture?--said the landlady's
daughter,--who had a new dress on that day, and was in spirits for
I was going to talk about averages,--I said,--but I have no objection to
telling you about lectures, to begin with.
A new lecture always has a certain excitement connected with its
delivery. One thinks well of it, as of most things fresh from his mind.
After a few deliveries of it, one gets tired and then disgusted with
its repetition. Go on delivering it, and the disgust passes off, until,
after one has repeated it a hundred or a hundred and fifty times, he
rather enjoys the hundred and first or hundred and fifty-first time,
before a new audience. But this is on one condition,--that he never lays
the lecture down and lets it cool. If he does, there comes on a
loathing for it which is intense, so that the sight of the old battered
manuscript is as bad as sea-sickness.
A new lecture is just like any other new tool. We use it for a while
with pleasure. Then it blisters our hands, and we hate to touch it.
By-and-by our hands get callous, and then we have no longer any
sensitiveness about it. But if we give it up, the calluses disappear;
and if we meddle with it again, we miss the novelty and get the
blisters.--The story is often quoted of Whitefield, that he said a
sermon was good for nothing until it had been preached forty times,
A lecture doesn't begin to be old until It has passed its hundredth
delivery; and some, I think, have doubled, if not quadrupled, that
number. These old lectures are a man's best, commonly; they improve by
age, also,--like the pipes, fiddles, and poems I told you of the other
day. One learns to make the most of their strong points and to carry off
their weak ones, to take out the really good things which don't tell on
the audience, and put in cheaper things that do. All this degrades
him, of course, but it improves the lecture for general delivery. A
thoroughly popular lecture ought to have nothing in it which five
hundred people cannot all take in a flash, just as it is uttered.
----No, indeed,--I should be very sorry to say anything disrespectful
of audiences. I have been kindly treated by a great many, and may
occasionally face one hereafter. But I tell you the _average_ intellect
of five hundred persons, taken as they come, is not very high. It may be
sound and safe, so far as it goes, but it is not very rapid or profound.
A lecture ought to be something which all can understand, about
something which interests everybody. I think, that, if any experienced
lecturer gives you a different account from this, it will probably be
one of those eloquent or forcible speakers who hold an audience by the
charm of their manner, whatever they talk about,--even when they don't
talk very well.
But an _average_, which was what I meant to speak about, is one of the
most extraordinary subjects of observation and study. It is awful in its
uniformity, in its automatic necessity of action. Two communities of
ants or bees are exactly alike in all their actions, so far as we can
see. Two lyceum assemblies, of five hundred each, are so nearly alike,
that they are absolutely undistinguishable in many cases by any definite
mark, and there is nothing but the place and time by which one can tell
the "remarkably intelligent audience" of a town in New York or Ohio from
one in any New England town of similar size. Of course, if any principle
of selection has cone in, as in those special associations of young
men which are common in cities, it deranges the uniformity of the
assemblage. But let there be no such interfering circumstances, and one
knows pretty well even the look the audience will have, before he goes
in. Front seats: a few old folks,--shiny-headed,--slant up best ear
towards the speaker,--drop off asleep after a while, when the air begins
to get a little narcotic with carbonic acid. Bright women's faces, young
and middle-aged, a little behind these, but toward the front--(pick out
the best, and lecture mainly to that). Here and there a countenance
sharp and scholarlike, and a dozen pretty female ones sprinkled about.
An indefinite number of pairs of young people,--happy, but not always
very attentive. Boys in the back-ground, more or less quiet. Dull faces
here, there,--in how many places! I don't say dull _people_, but faces
without a ray of sympathy or a movement of expression. They are what
kill the lecturer. These negative faces with their vacuous eyes and
stony lineaments pump and suck the warm soul out of him;--that is the
chief reason why lecturers grow so pale before the season is over. They
render _latent_ any amount of vital caloric; they act on our minds as
those cold-blooded creatures I was talking about act on our hearts.
Out of all these inevitable elements the audience is generated,--a great
compound vertebrate, as much like fifty others you have seen as any two
mammals of the same species are like each other. Each audience laughs,
and each cries, in just the same places of your lecture; that is, if you
make one laugh or cry, you make all. Even those little indescribable
movements which a lecturer takes cognizance of, just as a driver notices
his horse's cocking his ears, are sure to come in exactly the same place
of your lecture, always. I declare to you, that, as the monk said about
the picture in the convent,--that he sometimes thought the living
tenants were the shadows, and the painted figures the realities,--I
have sometimes felt as if I were a wandering spirit, and this great
unchanging multivertebrate which I faced night after night was one
ever-listening animal, which writhed along after me wherever I fled, and
coiled at my feet every evening, turning up to me the same sleepless
eyes which I thought I had closed with my last drowsy incantation!
----Oh, yes! A thousand kindly and courteous acts,--a thousand faces
that melted individually out of my recollection as the April snow melts,
but only to steal away and find the beds of flowers whose roots are
memory, but which blossom in poetry and dreams. I am not ungrateful, nor
unconscious of all the good feeling and intelligence everywhere to be
met with through the vast parish to which the lecturer ministers. But
when I set forth, leading a string of my mind's daughters to market, as
the country-folk fetch in their strings of horses----Pardon me, that
was a coarse fellow who sneered at the sympathy wasted on an unhappy
lecturer, as if, because he was decently paid for his services, he had
therefore sold his sensibilities.--Family men get dreadfully homesick.
In the remote and bleak village the heart returns to the red blaze of
the logs in one's fireplace at home.
"There are his young barbarians all at play,"--
if he owns any youthful savages.--No, the world has a million roosts for
a man, but only one nest.
----It is a fine thing to be an oracle to which an appeal is always made
in all discussions. The men of facts wait their turn in grim silence,
with that slight tension about the nostrils which the consciousness
of earning a "settler" in the form of a fact or a revolver gives the
individual thus armed. When a person is really full of information, and
does not abuse it to crush conversation, his part is to that of the real
talkers what the instrumental accompaniment is in a trio or quartette of
----What do I mean by the real talkers?--Why, the people with fresh
ideas, of course, and plenty of good warm words to dress them in. Facts
always yield the place of honor, in conversation, to thoughts about
facts; but if a false note is uttered, down comes the finger on the key
and the man of facts asserts his true dignity. I have known three of
these men of facts, at least, who were always formidable,--and one of
them was tyrannical.
----Yes, a man sometimes makes a grand appearance on a particular
occasion; but these men knew something about almost everything, and
never made mistakes.--He? _Veneers_ in first-rate style. The mahogany
scales off now and then in spots, and then you see the cheap light
stuff.--I found----very fine in conversational information, the other
day, when we were in company. The talk ran upon mountains. He was
wonderfully well acquainted with the leading facts about the Andes, the
Apennines, and the Appalachians; he had nothing in particular to
say about Ararat, Ben Nevis, and various other mountains that were
mentioned. By and by some Revolutionary anecdote came up, and he showed
singular familiarity with the lives of the Adamses, and gave many
details relating to Major Andre. A point of Natural History being
suggested, he gave an excellent account of the air-bladder of fishes.
He was very full upon the subject of agriculture, but retired from the
conversation when horticulture was introduced in the discussion. So
he seemed well acquainted with the geology of anthracite, but did not
pretend to know anything of other kinds of coal. There was something so
odd about the extent and limitations of his knowledge, that I suspected
all at once what might be the meaning of it, and waited till I got an
opportunity.--Have you seen the "New American Cyclopaedia?" said I.--I
have, he replied; I received an early copy.--How far does it go?--He
turned red, and answered,--To Araguay.--Oh, said I to myself,--not quite
so far as Ararat;--that is the reason he knew nothing about it; but he
must have read all the rest straight through, and, if he can remember
what is in this volume until he has read all those that are to come, he
will know more than I ever thought he would.
Since I had this experience, I hear that somebody else has related a
similar story. I didn't borrow it, for all that.--I made a comparison
at table some time since, which has often been quoted and received many
compliments. It was that of the mind of a bigot to the pupil of the eye;
the more light you pour on it, the more it contracts. The simile is a
very obvious, and, I suppose I may now say, a happy one; for it has just
been shown me that it occurs in a Preface to certain Political Poems of
Thomas Moore's, published long before my remark was repeated. When a
person of fair character for literary honesty uses an image such as
another has employed before him, the presumption is, that he has struck
upon it independently, or unconsciously recalled it, supposing it his
It is impossible to tell, in a great many cases, whether a comparison
which suddenly suggests itself is a new conception or a recollection. I
told you the other day that I never wrote a line of verse that seemed to
me comparatively good, but it appeared old at once, and often as if it
had been borrowed. But I confess I never suspected the above comparison
of being old, except from the fact of its obviousness. It is proper,
however, that I proceed by a formal instrument to relinquish all claim
to any property in an idea given to the world at about the time when
I had just joined the class in which Waster Thomas Moore was then a
somewhat advanced scholar.
I, therefore, in full possession of my native honesty, but knowing the
liability of all men to be elected to public office, and for that reason
feeling uncertain how soon I maybe in danger of losing it, do hereby
renounce all claim to being considered the _first_ person who gave
utterance to a certain simile or comparison referred to in the
accompanying documents, and relating to the pupil of the eye on the one
part and the mind of the bigot on the other. I hereby relinquish all
glory and profit, and especially all claims to letters from
autograph collectors, founded upon my supposed property in the above
comparison,--knowing well, that, according to the laws of literature,
they who speak first hold the fee of the thing said. I do also agree
that all Editors of Cyclopedias and Biographical Dictionaries, all
Publishers of Reviews and Papers, and all Critics writing therein,
shall be at liberty to retract or qualify any opinion predicated on
the supposition that I was the sole and undisputed author of the above
comparison. But, inasmuch as I do affirm that the comparison aforesaid
was uttered by me in the firm belief that it was new and wholly my own,
and as I have good reason to think that I had never seen or heard it
when first expressed by me, and as it is well known that different
persons may independently utter the same idea,--as is evinced by that
familiar line from Donatus,--
"Pereant illi qui ante nos nostra dixcrunt,"--
now, therefore, I do request by this instrument that all well-disposed
persons will abstain from asserting or implying that I am open to any
accusation whatsoever touching the said comparison, and, if they have
so asserted or implied, that they will have the manliness forthwith to
retract the same assertion or insinuation.
I think few persons have a greater disgust for plagiarism than myself.
If I had even suspected that the idea in question was borrowed,--I
should have disclaimed originality, or mentioned the coincidence, as
I once did in a case where I had happened to hit on an idea of
Swift's.--But what shall I do about these verses I was going to read
you? I am afraid that half mankind would accuse me of stealing their
thoughts, if I printed them. I am convinced that several of you,
especially if you are getting a little on in life, will recognize some
of these sentiments as having passed through your consciousness at some
time. I can't help it,--it is too late now. The verses are written, and
you must have them. Listen, then, and you shall hear
WHAT WE ALL THINK.
That age was older once than now,
In spite of locks untimely shed,
Or silvered on the youthful brow;
That babes make love and children wed.
That sunshine had a heavenly glow,
Which faded with those "good old days,"
When winters came with deeper snow,
And autumns with a softer haze.
That--mother, sister, wife, or child--
The "best of women" each has known.
Were schoolboys ever half so wild?
How young the grandpapas have grown!
That _but for this_ our souls were free,
And _but for that_ our lives were blest;
That in some season yet to be
Our cares will leave us time to rest.
Whene'er we groan with ache or pain,
Some common ailment of the race,--
Though doctors think the matter plain,--
That ours is "a peculiar case."
That when like babes with fingers burned
We count one bitter maxim more,
Our lesson all the world has learned,
And men are wiser than before.
That when we sob o'er fancied woes,
The angels hovering overhead
Count every pitying drop that flows
And love us for the tears we shed.
That when we stand with tearless eye
And turn the beggar from our door,
They still approve us when we sigh,
"Ah, had I but _one thousand more_!"
That weakness smoothed the path of sin,
In half the slips our youth has known;
And whatsoe'er its blame has been,
That Mercy flowers on faults outgrown.
Though temples crowd the crumbled brink
O'erhanging truth's eternal flow,
Their tablets bold with _what we think_,
Their echoes dumb to _what we know_;
That one unquestioned text we read,
All doubt beyond, all fear above,
Nor crackling pile nor cursing creed
Can burn or blot it: GOD is LOVE!
* * * * *
Have you read in the Talmud of old,
In the legends the Rabbins have told
Of the limitless realms of the air,
Have you read it,--the marvellous story
Of Sandalphon, the Angel of Glory,
Sandalphon, the Angel of Prayer?
How. erect, at the outermost gate?
Of the City Celestial he waits,
With his feet on the ladder of light,
That, crowded with angels unnumbered,
By Jacob was seen, as he slumbered
Alone in the desert at night?
The Angels of Wind and of Fire
Chant only one hymn, and expire
With the song's irresistible stress,--
Expire in their rapture and wonder,
As harp-strings are broken asunder
By the music they throb to express.
But serene in the rapturous throng,
Unmoved by the rush of the song,
With eyes unimpassioned and slow,
Among the dead angels, the deathless
Sandalphon stands listening, breathless,
To sounds that ascend from below,--
From the spirits on earth that adore,
From the souls that entreat and implore
In the frenzy and passion of prayer,--
From the hearts that are broken with losses,
And weary with dragging the crosses
Too heavy for mortals to bear.
And he gathers the prayers as he stands,
And they change into flowers in his hands,
Into garlands of purple and red;
And beneath the great arch of the portal,
Through the streets of the City Immortal,
Is wafted the fragrance they shed.
It is but a legend, I know,--
A fable, a phantom, a show
Of the ancient Rabbinical lore;
Yet the old mediaeval tradition,
The beautiful, strange superstition,
But haunts me and holds me the more.
When I look from my window at night,
And the welkin above is all white,
All throbbing and panting with stars,
Among them majestic is standing
Sandalphon the angel, expanding
His pinions in nebulous bars.
And the legend, I feel, is a part
Of the hunger and thirst of the heart,
The frenzy and fire of the brain,
That grasps at the fruitage forbidden,
The golden pomegranates of Eden,
To quiet its fever and pain.
* * * * *
MR. BUCHANAN'S ADMINISTRATION.
Mr. Buchanan came into power with the prestige of experience; he was
known to have been long in public life; he had been a senator, a
secretary, a diplomatist, and almost everything else which is supposed
to fit a man for the practical conduct of affairs.
This presumed fitness for office greatly assisted his chances in the
Presidential campaign; and it assisted him especially with those timid
and conservative minds, of which there are many, apt to conceive that a
familiarity with the business and details of government is the same as
statesmanship, and to confound the skill and facility acquired by mere
routine with a genuine ability in execution. Had these men, however,
looked more closely into Mr. Buchanan's official career, they would have
found causes for suspecting the validity of their judgment, in the very
length and variety of his services. They would have discovered, that,
long as these had been and various as they had been, they were quite
undistinguished by any peculiar evidences of capacity or aptitude.
He had been, senator, secretary, and diplomatist, it is true; but in no
one of these positions had he achieved any remarkable successes. The
occasion could not be indicated on which he had risen above the average
level of respectability as a public man. There were no salient points in
his course,--no splendid developments of mastery,--no great reports, or
speeches, or measures, to cause him to be remembered,--and no leading
thoughts or acts, to awaken a high and general feeling of admiration on
the part of his countrymen. He was never such a senator as Webster
was, nor such a secretary as Clay, nor such a diplomatist as Marey.
Throughout his protracted official existence, he followed in the wake
of his party submissively, doing its appointed work with patience, and
vindicating its declared policy with skill, but never emerging as a
distinct and prominent figure. He never exhibited any peculiar largeness
of mind or loftiness of character; and though he spoke well and wrote
well, and played the part of a cool and wary manager, he was scarcely
considered a commanding spirit among his fellows. Amid that array of
luminaries, indeed, which adorned the Senate, where his chief reputation
was made,--among such men as Calhoun, Clay, Webster, Benton, and
Wright,--he shone with a diminished lustre.
Now, forty years of action, in the most conspicuous spheres,
unillustrated by a single incident which mankind has, or will have,
reason to cite and applaud, were not astonishing evidence of fitness for
the chief magistracy; and the event has shown, that Mr. Buchanan was to
be regarded as an old politician rather than a practised statesman, that
the most serviceable soldier in the ranks may prove to be an indifferent
general in command,--and that the experience, for which he was vaunted
and trusted, was not that ripening discipline of the mind and heart,
-------"which doth attain
To something of prophetic strain,"--
but that other unlearning use and wont, which
----"chews on wisdom past,
And totters on in blunders to the last."
His administration has been a series of blunders, and worse; it
has evinced no mastery; on the other hand, it may be arraigned for
inconsistencies the most palpable, for proceedings the most awkward, for
a general impotence which places it on a level with that of Tyler or
Pierce, and for signal offences against the national sense of decorum
It is scarcely a year since Mr. Buchanan assumed the reins at
Washington. He assumed them under circumstances by which he and his
party and the whole country had been taught a great lesson of
political duty. The infamous mismanagement of Kansas, by his immediate
predecessor, had just shattered the most powerful of our party
organizations, and caused a mighty uprising of the masses of the North
in defence of menaced freedom. His election was carried amid the
extremest hazards, and with the utmost difficulty. Two months more of
such ardent debate and such popular enlightenment as were then going
forward would have resulted in his defeat. As it was, nearly every
Northern State--no matter how firm its previous adherence to the
Democratic party--was aroused to a strenuous opposition. Nearly every
Northern State pronounced by a stupendous majority against him and
against his cause. Nothing but a systematic disguise of the true
questions at issue by his own party, and a gratuitous complication of
the canvass by means of a foolish third party, saved his followers from
the most complete and shameful rout that had been given for many years
to any political array. Men of every class, of every shade of faith,
joined in that hearty protest against the spirit which animated the
Democratic administration, and joined in it, that they might utter the
severest rebuke in their power, of its meanness and perfidy.
Mr. Buchanan ought to have read the warning which was thus blazed across
the political skies, like the hand-writing upon the wall. He ought to
have discerned in this general movement the signs of a deep, earnest,
and irrepressible conviction on the part of the North. It is no slight
cause which can start such general and enthusiastic expressions of
popular feeling; they cannot be manufactured; they are not the work of
mere party excitement; there is nothing spurious and nothing hollow in
them; but they well up from the deep heart of nations, showing that a
chord of sympathy has been touched, with which it is fatal to tamper or
to sport. Call it fanaticism, if you will; call it delusion; call it
anything; but recollect also that it is out of such feelings that
revolutions are born, and by them that awful national crises are
But Mr. Buchanan has not profited, as we shall see, by the monition. His
initial act, the choice of a cabinet, in which the only man of national
reputation was superannuated, and the others were of little note, gave
small hope that he would do so; and his subsequent mistakes might have
been augured from the calibre of the counsellors by whom he chose to
be surrounded.--But let the men pass, since our object is to discuss
The questions with which the President and his cabinet have had to deal,
without following them in the order either of time or importance, may
be classified as the Mormon question, the Financial question, the
Filibuster question, and the Kansas question. All these required, for
a proper adjustment of them, firmness rather than ability,--a clear
perception of the principles of right, rather than abstruse policy,--and
vigor of execution, rather than profound diplomatic skill. Yet we do not
perceive that our government has displayed, in regard to the treatment
of any of these questions, either firmness or ability. It has employed
policy enough and diplomacy enough, but the policy has been incoherent
and the diplomacy shallow. At the end of the first year of its rule, the
most striking result of its general management is the open defection of
many of its most powerful friends, and the increased earnestness and
energy of all its foes.
The difficulty with the Mormons originated, before the accession of the
present administration, in a hasty and improper extension of the Federal
authority over a people whose customs and religious opinions were
utterly incompatible with those of our own people. The inhabitants of
Utah were averse from the outset to the kind of government provided for
them at Washington. Having adopted a form of society more like that of
Congo and Dahomey than of the United States, and having accepted too
literally the prevalent dogma, that every community has the right to
form its own institutions for itself,--they preferred the polygamy
of barbarism to the monogamy of civilization, and the rod of the
priest-prophet Brigham or the seal of Elder Pratt to the sceptre
of Governor Steptoe or the sword of Colonel Johnston. Under these
circumstances, the duty of the government of the United States was to
relinquish its pretensions to supremacy over a nation opposed to its
rule, or to maintain that supremacy, if it were necessary, with a strong
and unflinching hand. Mr. Buchanan, on his own principles of popular
sovereignty, as far as we can understand them, ought, logically, to have
adopted the former course, but (as the interests of Slavery were not
involved) he elected to pursue the latter; and he has pursued it with an
impotence which has cost the nation already many millions of
dollars, and which has involved the "army of Utah" in inextricable
embarrassments, allowing them to be shut up in the snows of the
mountains before they could strike a blow or reach the first object of
their expedition. Not very well appointed in the beginning, this little
force was despatched to the Plains when it was too late in the season; a
part of it was needlessly delayed in assisting to choke down freedom in
Kansas; and when it attained the hills which guard the passages to the
valley of the Salt Lake, it found the canons obstructed by snow, and
the roads impassable. The supplies required for its subsistence were
scattered in useless profusion from Leavenworth to Fort Laramie, and
assistance and action were alike hopeless until the arrival of the
[Footnote: A: More recently the energy and wisdom of Col. Johnston
have repaired some of the mischief produced by the dilatoriness of his
The same feebleness, which left the poor soldier to perish in the
desert, has brought an overflowing treasury nearly to default. Mr.
Buchanan, in his Message, discussed the existing financial crisis with
much sounding phrase and very decided emphasis. He rebuked the action of
the banks, which had presumed to issue notes to the amount of more than
three times that of their specie, in a tone of lofty and indignant
virtue. He commended them to the strictest vigilance and to the
exemplary discipline of the State legislatures, while descanting at
large upon the safety, the economy, the beauty, and the glory of a sound
hard-money currency. When he entered upon his office, he found the
Treasury replete with eagles and dimes; it was so flush, that, in the
joy of his heart, he ordered the debts of the United States to be
redeemed at a premium of sixteen _per cent_.; and he and his followers
were disposed to jubilate over the singular spectacle, that, while all
other institutions were failing, the Treasury of the United States was
firm and resplendent in its large possession of gold. It was deemed a
rare wisdom and success, indeed, which could utter a note of triumph in
the midst of so universal a cry of despair; it was deemed a rare piece
of liberality, that the government should come to the aid of society in
an hour of such dark distress. The stocks of the United States, which
had been originally sold at a small advance, were bought back on a very
large advance; the usurers and the stock-jobbers received sixteen _per
cent_. for what they had bought at a premium of but two or three _per
cent_.; and an unparalleled glory shone around the easy vomitories of
the Treasury. The foresight and the sagacity of the proceeding were
marvellous! In less than a quarter by the moon, the coffers of the
government were empty,--the very clerks in its employ went about the
streets borrowing money to pay their board-bills,--and the grand-master
of the vaults, Mr. Cobb, counting his fingers in despair over the vacant
prospect, was compelled, in the extremity of his distress, to fill
his limp sacks with paper. Of the nineteen millions of gold which in
September distended the public purse, little or nothing remained in
December, while in its place were paper bills,--founded, not upon a
basis of one-third specie, but upon a basis of--_We promise to pay_! It
was a sad application of the high-sounding doctrines of the Message,--a
dreadful descent for a pure hard-money government,--and a lamentable
conversion of the pompous swagger of October into the shivering collapse
It may be said, that, by this pre-purchase of its own stocks, running at
an interest of six _per cent_., the government has saved the amount of
interest which would else have accrued between the time of the purchase
and the time of ultimate redemption. And this is true to sonic
extent,--and it would show an admirable economy, if the Treasury had had
no other use for its money. A government, like an individual, having a
large balance of superfluous cash on hand, can do no better with it than
to pay off its debts; but to do this, when there was every prospect of a
Mormon war to raise the expenditure, little prospect of retrenchment
in any branch of service, and a daily diminishing revenue at all
points,--it was purely a piece of folly, a want of ordinary forecast, to
get rid of the cash in hand. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Cobb were guilty of
this folly, and, for the sake of the poor _eclat_ of coming to the
relief of the money-market, (which was no great relief, after all,) they
sacrificed the hard-money pretensions of the government, and sunk its
character to the level of that of the needy "kiteflier" in Wall Street,
Their true course, in the existing condition and aspect of affairs, was
to retain their capital, and to institute a most rigid economy, a most
searching reduction, in every branch of the public service. We have,
however, yet to learn whether any such economy and reduction have been
All this was simply weakness; but in turning from the conduct of
the Finances by the administration, to consider its management of
Filibusterism, we pass from the consideration of acts of mere debility
to the consideration of acts which have a color of duplicity in them.
On the Filibusters, as on the Finances, the First Annual Message of the
President was outspoken and forcible. It characterized the past and
proposed doings of William Walker and his crew, as the common sense
and common conscience of the world had already characterised them, as
nothing short of piracy and murder. Recognizing the obligations of
fraternity and peace as the rule of right in international relations, it
pledged the utmost vigilance and energy of the Federal powers against
every semblance of freebootery. In pursuance of this promise, orders
were issued to the various civil and naval authorities, (orders not very
clear, it is true, but clear enough to bear but one meaning in honest
and simple minds,) to the effect that they should maintain a sharp
watch, and execute a summary arrest of every person suspected of or
discovered in unlawful enterprises. The authorities on land, to whom it
was easy to hold secret communication with Washington, were found to
have very blind eyes and very slippery hands. General Walker and his
confederates were taken at New Orleans, but they passed through
the courts far more rapidly than goods are apt to pass through the
custom-houses. Under a merely nominal recognizance, he sailed away with
flying colors, and amid the plaudits of an admiring crowd, among whom,
it is to be presumed, the authorities took care to be only not too
But the authorities on the sea, who could not so readily get a cue from
Wellington, with the directness, in construing orders, which is the
habit of the military mind, took their instructions at the word.
Commanded to intercept all marauders and pirates, they kept a look-out
for Walker. He eluded the guns of Captain Chatard, but Commodore
Paulding seized him in the very act of invading a friendly soil.
Hoisting him on board of a war-ship, he returned him in pressing haste
to the President. Commodore Paulding, who had read the Message, and read
the instructions of Secretary Cass, doubtless supposed that black meant
black, and white, white. Perhaps, also, in the unsophisticated pride
with which he contemplated the promptitude and decision of his action,
in saving an innocent people from a sanguinary ruffian, and in
maintaining the honor of his country unsullied, dim visions crossed his
mind of a letter of thanks from the President, and of the vote of a
sword by Congress. Alas for such hopes! Commodore Paulding was clearly
not a politician; he did not know that black meant white and white meant
black,--nor that the present of a filibuster, which he sent to the
President, was the present of something worse than an elephant. It
was the present of a herd of elephants,--of a sea of troubles. Mr.
Buchanan's fine denunciations of freebooters had only been fine words
for the public ear; secretly he cherished a _penchant_ for freebooters,
or rather for the friends of freebooters; and, under those
circumstances, to be presented, by his own agent, with the very chief
of the freebooters, as a criminal and a scamp, was the most unheard-of
simplicity of understanding, and the most astounding literalness of
obedience, in any subordinate. What to do was the question. He had
menaced Chatard with a cashiering for allowing Walker to escape; and
here was Paulding, who did not allow him to escape,--so he menaced
Paulding likewise; and by way of capping the climax of absurdities, he
set Walker himself at large, to go about the country clamoring to be
sent back, at the expense of the government, to the scenes of his late
innocent occupations and virtuous designs, whence he had been ruthlessly
torn by an over-officious sailor.
The history of the farce is both argument and comment. Walker was either
a citizen of the United States, levying war upon a friendly foreign
state, and as such amenable to the penalties of our neutrality laws,--or
he was a citizen of Nicaragua, as he pretended to be, abusing our
protection to organize warlike enterprises against his fellow-citizens,
and as such also amenable to our neutrality laws. In either capacity,
and however taken, he should have been severely dealt with by the
President. But, unfortunately, Mr. Buchanan, not left to his own
instincts of right, is surrounded by assistants who have other than
great public motives for their conduct. Walker's schemes were not
individual schemes, were not simple projects of piracy and plunder,
got up on his own responsibility and for his own ends. Connected with
important collateral issues, they received the sympathy and support of
others more potent than himself. He was, in a word, the instrument
of the propagandist slave-holders, the fear of whom is ever before a
President's eyes. As the old barbarian Arbogastes used to say to the
later Roman emperors, whom he helped to elevate, "The power which made
you is the power which can break you," so these modern masters of the
throne dictate and guide its policy. Mr. Buchanan was their man as much
as Walker was, and, however grand his speeches before the public, he
must do their bidding when things came to the trial.
But this allusion brings us, by an obvious transition, to the last and
most important question submitted to the administration,--the question
of Kansas,--in the management of which, we think, it will be found that
all the before-noted deficiencies of the government have been combined
with a criminal disregard of settled principles and almost universal
convictions. In reference to Kansas, as in reference to the other
topics, the President began with fair and seductive promises. He did
not, it is true, either in his Message or anywhere else, that we know
of, narrate the actual history of the long contest which has divided
that Territory, but he did hold up for the future the brightest hopes
of an honest and equitable adjustment of all the past difficulties. He
selected and commissioned Robert J. Walker, as Governor, for the express
purpose of "pacifying Kansas." Pretending to overlook the past causes
of trouble, he announced that everything would now be set right by new
elections, in which the whole people should have full opportunity
of declaring their will. Mr. Walker went to Kansas with a full
determination to carry out this amiable promise of the President. Both
he and his secretary, Mr. Stanton, labored strenuously to convince
the people of the Territory of his honest purposes, and, by dint of
persuasions, pledges, assurances, and oaths, at length succeeded in
procuring a pretty general exercise of the franchise. The result was a
signal overthrow of the minority which had so long ruled by fraud and
violence; and the sincerity of the President is tested by the fact,
avouched by both Walker and Stanton, that, from the moment of the
success of the Free-State party, he was wroth towards his servants.
Stanton was removed and Walker compelled to resign, though their only
offence was a laborious prosecution of the President's own policy. Ever
since then, he has strained every nerve, and at this moment is straining
every nerve, to defeat the well-known legally demonstrated wish of the
majority. In the face of his own plighted word, and of the emphatic
assurances of his agents, sanctioned by himself, he insists upon
imposing on them officers whom they detest and an instrument of
government which they spurn. These people of Kansas,--who were to
be "pacified,"--to be conciliated,--to be guarantied a just
administration,--are denounced in the most virulent and abusive terms as
refractory, and are threatened with the coercion of a military force,
because they are unwilling to submit to outrage!
The excuse offered by the President for this perfidious course is
the Lecompton Constitution, which he professes to consider a legal
instrument, framed by a legal Convention, and approved by a legal
election of the people,--and which is therefore not to be set aside
except by the same sovereign power by which it was created. It would be
a good excuse, if it were not a transparent and monstrous quibble from
beginning to end. The Lecompton Constitution has no one element of
legality in it; from the _Whereas_, to the signatures, it is an
imposture;--for neither had the Legislature, that called the Convention
in which it was made, lawful authority to do so,--nor was that
Convention lawfully constituted,--nor was the alleged adoption of it by
the people more than a trick.
A Territory is an inchoate and dependent community, which can be erected
into a State only in two ways: first, formally, by an enabling act of
Congress, giving permission to the inhabitants to set up for themselves;
and second, informally, by a spontaneous and general movement of the
people, which Congress must afterwards legitimate. In either case, the
consent of Congress, first or last, is necessary to the validity of the
proceeding. But a Territorial Legislature, which is the mere creature of
Congress, having no powers but what are strictly conveyed to it in the
Organic Act instituting the Territorial government, cannot originate
a movement to supersede itself, and also to abrogate the authority
of Congress. The attempt to do so, as declared by General Jackson's
cabinet, in the case of Arkansas, would be, not simply null and void,
but unlawful, rebellious; and the President would be obliged to suppress
it, if called upon, by force of arms. The Organic Act is the supreme law
of the Territory, which can be altered or revoked only by the authority
from which it emanated; and every measure commenced or prosecuted with a
design to annul that law, to subvert the Territorial government, or
to put in force in its place a new government, without the consent of
Congress, is a flagrant usurpation.
Now the Lecompton Convention was called not merely without the consent
of Congress, but against its consent; it was called by and under the
arrangements of the Territorial Legislature; it was not the spontaneous
act of the people, a large majority of whom condemned the movement
and refused to participate in it; and thus, in its inception, it was
unlawful. It was neither regularly nor irregularly proper;--the supreme
legislature had not acknowledged it; the masses of society had not
acknowledged it; and the entire project possessed no other character
than that of a factious scheme for perpetuating the power of a few
But, if we grant the right of the Territorial Legislature to originate
such a movement, the manner in which it was carried into effect would
still brand it with the marks of illegality. A census and registry of
voters had been provided for in the law authorizing the Convention, as
the basis of an apportionment of the delegates, and that provision was
not complied with. In nineteen out of the thirty-eight counties no
registry was made, and in the others it was imperfectly made. "In some
of the counties," according to the evidence of Mr. Stanton, then acting
Governor, "the officers were probably deterred and discouraged by the
people from their duty of taking the census," (although he adds that he
does not know that such was the fact,) "while in others the officers
utterly refused to do their duty." "I know," he says, "that the people
of some of those counties ardently desired to be represented in the
Convention, for they afterwards, under the statements of Governor Walker
and myself, that they would probably be admitted, elected delegates and
sent them up to the Convention; but they were not admitted to seats."
In consequence of this failure or refusal to do their duty, only
the geographical half or the numerical fourth of the Territory was
represented in the Convention. Nor is it any excuse for the defaulting
officers, even if it had been true, that some of the people opposed the
execution of their duty. They professed to be acting under law; their
functions were plainly prescribed to them; and they were bound to make
the census and registry, whatever the disposition of the people. In a
land of laws, it is the law, and not any mere prevailing sentiment,
which prescribes and limits official duty. There is, however, no
evidence that the discharge of their task was rendered impossible by the
popular opposition, while there is evidence that they were very willing
to neglect it, and very willing to allow any obstacle, no matter how
trivial, to obstruct their performance of it. They were, in truth, as
everybody knows, the simple tools of the faction which started this
Convention movement, and not at all desirous to secure a fair and
adequate representation of the inhabitants.
That many of the people should be careless of the registration, and even
unfriendly to it, is natural, because they disapproved the plan, and
were hostile to the ends of the Convention. They doubted the authority
by which it had been summoned; they doubted both the validity and the
probable fairness of an election under such authority; and, moreover,
they were indifferent as to its proceedings, because they had been
assured that they would be called upon to pronounce _pro_ or _con_ upon
its results. The Convention, as actually constituted when assembled,
consisted of sixty delegates, representing about 1,800 voters, in an
electoral body of 12,000 in all,--or one delegate to thirty voters! A
convention so composed ought to have been ashamed of the very pretence
of acting in the name of the whole people. It would have been ashamed of
it, if it had contained men sincerely anxious to reflect the will of the
great body of the citizens. It would have been as much ashamed of it,
as any honest man would be to pass himself off as the agent of a person
whom he had never known, or who openly derided and despised him. But
this precious body--each man of whom represented thirty men besides
himself, in a voting population of 12,000--was not sensible to such
considerations. By a miserable chicane, it had got into a position to do
mischief, and it proceeded to do it, with as much alacrity and headlong
zeal as rogues are apt to exhibit when the prize is great and the
opportunity short. An election for the Legislature, held subsequently to
that for the Convention, showing a public opinion decidedly adverse to
it, the sole study of its members thenceforth seemed to be, how they
could most adroitly and effectively nullify the ascendency of the
majority. For this end alone they consulted, and caballed, and
calculated, and junketed; and the Lecompton Constitution, with the
Schedule annexed, was the worthy fruit of their labors.
It is monstrous in Mr. Buchanan to assume that a body so contrived and
so acting expressed in any sense the sovereign will of the people. But,
not to dwell upon this point, let us suppose that the Convention had
been summoned by a competent authority, that it had been fairly chosen
by its small constituency, and that its proceedings had been managed
with ordinary decorum,--would the Constitution it framed be valid, in
the face of a clear popular condemnation? We hold that it would not,
because, in our estimation, and in the estimation of every intelligent
American, the very essence of republicanism is "the consent of the
governed." It is the highest function of political sovereignty to devise
and ordain the organic law of society, the vital form of its being; and
the characteristic difference between the despotic or oligarchical and
the republican government is, that in the one case the function is
exercised by a monarch or a class, and in the other by the body of the
citizens. This distinctive feature of our politics, as opposed to
all others, regards the will of the people, directly or indirectly
expressed, as alone giving; validity to law; our National Constitution,
and every one of our thirty-one State Constitutions, proceeds upon
that principle; every act of legislation in the Congress and the State
Assemblies supposes it; and every decision of every Court has that for
its basis. Constitutions have been adopted, undoubtedly, without a
distinct submission of them to the ratification of the people; but in
such cases there has been no serious agitation of the public mind, no
important conflict or division of opinion, rendering such ratification
necessary,--and, in the absence of dispute, the general assent of the
community to the action of its delegates might fairly be presumed. But
in no case, in which great and debatable questions were involved, has
any Convention dared to close its labors without providing for their
reference to the popular sanction; much less has there been any instance
in which a Convention has dared to make its own work final, in the
face of a known or apprehended repugnance of the constituency. The
politicians who should have proposed such a thing would have been
overwhelmed with unmeasured indignation and scorn. No sentiment more
livingly pervades our national mind, no sentiment is juster in itself,
than that they who are to live under the laws ought to deride on the
character of the laws,--that they whose persons, property, welfare,
happiness, life, are to be controlled by a Constitution of Government,
ought to participate in the formation of that government.
Conscious of this truth, and of its profound hold on the popular heart,
Mr. Buchanan instructed Governor Walker to see the Kansas Constitution
submitted to the people,--to protect them against fraud and violence in
voting upon it,--and to proclaim, in the event of any interference with
their rights, that the Constitution "would be and ought to be rejected
by Congress." Walker was voluble in proclamations to that end. The
trainers of the Constitution, aware of its invalidity without the
sanction of the people, provided for its submission to "approval"
or "disapproval," to "ratification" or "rejection"; and yet, by the
paltriest juggle in recorded history, devised, in the same breath, a
method of taking the vote, which completely nullified its own terms.
No man was allowed to "disapprove" it, no man was allowed to "reject"
it,--except in regard to a single section,--and before he could vote for
or against that, he was obliged to vote in favor of all the rest. If
there had been a hundred thousand voters in the Territory opposed to
the Constitution, and but one voter in its favor, the hundred thousand
voters could not have voted upon it at all, but the one voter
could,--and the vote of that one would have been construed into a
popular approval, while the will of all the others would have been
practically void. By this pitiful stratagem, it was supposed, the
double exigency of Mr. Buchanan's often repeated sentiments, and of
the pro-slavery cause, which dreaded a popular vote, was completely
satisfied; and the President of the United States, reckless of his
position and his fame, lent himself to the shameless and despicable
palter. He not only lent himself to it, but he has openly argued its
propriety, and is now making the adherence of his friends to such
baseness the test of their party fidelity. In the name of Democracy,--of
that sacred and sublime principle into which we, as a nation, have been
baptized,--which declares the inalienable rights of man,--and which,
as it makes the tour of the earth, hand and hand with Christianity, is
lifting the many from the dust, where for ages they have been trampled,
into political life and dignity,--he converts a paltry swindle into its
standard and creed, and prostitutes its glorious mission, as a redeeming
influence among men, into a ministry of slavery and outrage.
Mr. Buchanan knows--we believe better than any man in the country--that
the Lecompton Constitution is not the act of the people of Kansas. By
the election of the 4th of January--an election which was perfectly
valid, because it was held under the authority of a Territorial
Legislature superior to the Convention--it was solemnly and
unequivocally condemned. This of itself was enough to demonstrate that
fact. But all the Democratic Governors of the Territory--with the single
exception of Shannon, and the recently appointed acting Governor,
Denver, who is prudently silent--testify urgently to the same truth.
Reeder, Geary, and Walker, together with the late acting Governor,
Stanton, asseverate, in the most earnest and emphatic manner, that the
majority in Kansas is for making it a Free State,--that the minority
which has ruled is a factious minority, and that they have obtained and
perpetuated their ascendency by a most unblushing series of crimes and
frauds. Yet, in the teeth of this evidence,--of repeated elections,--of
his own witnesses turning against him,--the President adheres to the
infamous plans of the pro-slavery leaders; and, if not arrested by the
rebukes of the North, he will insist on imposing their odious measures
upon their long-suffering victims.
Looking at the administration of Mr. Buchanan simply from the point of
view of an enlightened statesmanship, we find nothing in it that is not
contemptible; but when we regard it as the accredited exponent of the
moral sense of a majority of our people, it is saved from contempt,
indeed, but saved only because contempt is merged in a deeper feeling
of humiliation and apprehension. Unparalleled as the outrages in Kansas
have been, we regard them as insignificant in comparison with the
deadlier fact that the Chief Magistrate of the Republic should strive to
defend them by the small wiles of a village attorney,--that, when the
honor of a nation and the principle of self-government are at stake, he
should show himself unconscious of a higher judicature or a nobler
style of pleading than those which would serve for a case of petty
larceny,--and that he should be abetted by more than half the national
representatives, while he brings down a case of public conscience to the
moral level of those who are content with the maculate safety which they
owe to a flaw in an indictment, or with the dingy innocence which is
certified to by the disagreement of a jury.
These things are the logical consequences of that profound national
demoralization which followed the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Bill
and alone made its execution possible,--a demoralization wilfully
brought about, for selfish ends, in that sad time which saw our greatest
advocates and our acutest politicians spending all their energy of mind
and subtlety of argument to persuade the people that there was no higher
law than that rule of custom and chicane woven of the split hairs of
immemorial sophistry, and whose strongest fibre is at the mercy of an
obstinate traverse juror,--no law higher than the decree of party,
ratified by a popular majority achieved by the waiters on Presidential
providence, through immigrant voters whom the gurgling oratory of
the whiskey-barrel is potent to convince, and whose sole notion of
jurisprudence is based upon experience of the comparative toughness
of Celtic skulls and blackthorn shillalahs. And such arguments were
listened to, such advocates commended for patriotism, in a land from
whose thirty thousand pulpits God and Christ are preached weekly to
hearers who profess belief in the Divine government of the world and the
irreversible verdicts of conscience!
The capacity of the English race for self-government is measured by
their regard as well for the forms as the essence of law. A race
conservative beyond all others of what is established, averse beyond all
others to the heroic remedy of forcible revolution, they have yet three
times in the space of a century and a half assumed the chances of
rebellion and the certain perils of civil war, rather than submit to
have Right infringed by Prerogative, and the scales of Justice made a