Part 1 out of 5
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. II.--OCTOBER, 1858.--NO. XII.
THE NEW WORLD AND THE NEW MAN.
Half a dozen rivulets leap down the western declivity of the Rocky
Mountains, and unite; four thousand miles away the mighty Missouri
debouches into the Mexican Gulf as the result of that junction. Did the
rivulets propose or plan the river? Not at all; but they knew, each,
its private need to find a lower level; the universal law they obeyed
accomplished the rest. So is it with the great human streams. Mighty
beginnings do not lie in the minds of the beginners. History is a
perpetual surprise, ever developing results of which men were the
agents without being the expectants. Individual actors, with respect to
the master claim of humanity, are, for the most part, not unlike that
fleet hound which, enticed by a tempting prospect of meat, outran a
locomotive engine all the way from Lowell to Boston, and won a handsome
wager for his owner, while intent only on a dinner for himself.
Humanity is served out of all proportion to the intention of service.
Even the noble souls, never wanting in history, who follow not a bait,
but belief, see only in imperfect survey the connections and relations
of their deeds. Each is faithfully obeying his own inward vocation, a
voice unheard by other soul than his own, and the inability to
calculate consequences makes the preeminent grandeur of his position;
or he is urged by the high inevitable impulse to publish or verify an
idea: the Divine Destiny _works_ in their hearts, and _plans_ over
Socrates felt a sacred impulse to test his neighbors, what they knew
and were: this is such account of his life as he himself can give at
its close. His contemporaries generally saw in him an imperturbable and
troublesome questioner, fatally sure to come at the secret of every
man's character and credence, whom no subterfuge could elude, no
compliments flatter, no menaces appall,--suspected also of some
emancipation from the popular superstitions: this is the account of him
which _they_ are able to give. At twenty-three centuries' distance _we_
see in him the source of a river of spiritual influence, that yet
streams on, more than a Missouri, in the minds of men,--more than a
Missouri, for it not only flows as an open current, but, percolating
beneath the surface, and coming up in distinct and distant fountains,
it becomes the hidden source of many a constant tide in the faiths and
philosophies of nations.
The veil covers the eyes of spectators and agents alike. Columbus
returns, freighted with wondrous tidings, to the Spanish shore; the
nation rises and claps its hands; the nation kneels to bless its gods
at all its shrines, and chants its delight in many a choral Te Deum.
What, then, do they think is gained? Why, El Dorado! Have they not
gained a whole world of gold and silver mines to buy jewelled cloaks
and feathers and frippery with? Have they not gained a cornucopia of
savages, to support new brigades at home by their enslavement, and new
bishoprics abroad by their salvation? Touching, truly, is the childish
eagerness and _bonhommie_ with which those Spaniards in fancy assume,
as it were, between thumb and finger, this continent, deemed to be
nothing less than gold, and feed with it the leanness of hungry purses;
and the effect is not a little enhanced by the extreme pains they are
at to say a sufficient grace over the imagined meal. "Oh, wonderful,
Pomponius!" shouts the large-minded Peter Martyr. "Upon the surface of
that earth are found rude masses of gold, of a weight that one fears to
mention!... Spain is spreading her wings," etc. He is of the minority
there, who does not suppose this New World a Providential donation to
aid him to dinners, dances, and dawdling, or at best to promote his
"glory" and pride of social estimation. Even Columbus, more magnanimous
than most of his contemporaries, is not so greatly more wise. The
noblest use he can conceive for his discovery is to aid in the recovery
of the Holy Sepulchre. With the precious metals that should fall to his
share, says his biographer, he made haste to vow the raising of a force
of five thousand horse and fifty thousand foot for the expulsion of the
Saracens from Jerusalem. Nor is this the only instance in which even
the noble among men have sought to clutch the grand opening futures,
and wreathe the beauty of their promise about the consecrated graves of
the past. "Servants of Sepulchres" is a title which even now, not
individuals alone, but whole nations, may lawfully claim.
The Old World, we say, seized upon this magnificent new force now
thrown into history, and harnessed it unsuspiciously to its own car, as
if it could have been designed for no other possible use. Happily,
however, the design was different, and Providence having a peculiar
faculty of protecting its own plans, the holding of the reins after
such a steed proved anything but a sinecure. Spain, indeed, rode in a
high chariot for a time, but at length, in that unlucky Armada drive,
crashed against English oak on the ocean highways, and came off
creaking and rickety,--grew thenceforth ever more unsteady,--finally,
came utterly to the ground, with contusions, fractures, and much
mishap,--and now the poor nation hobbles hypochondriacally upon
crutches, all its brave charioteering sadly ended. England drove more
considerately, but could not avoid fate; so in 1783 she, too, must let
go the rein with some mental disturbance. For the great Destiny was not
exclusively a European Providence,--had meditated the establishment of
a fresh and independent human centre on the western side of the sea.
The excellent citizens of London and Madrid found themselves incapable
of crediting this until it was duly placarded in gunpowder print.--It
is, indeed, an unaccountable foible men have, not to recognize a plain
fact till it has been published in this blazing hieroglyphic. What were
England and France doing at Sebastopol? Merely issuing a poster to this
effect,--"Turkey is not yours,"--in a type that Russia could feel free
to understand. Terribly costly editions these are, and in a type
utterly hideous; but while nations refuse to see the fact in a more
agreeable presentation, it may probably feel compelled to go into this
ugly, but indubitable shape.--Well, somewhat less than a century since,
England had committed herself to the proposition, that America was
really a part or dependency of Europe, a lower-caste Europe, having
about the same relation to the Cisatlantic continent that the farmer's
barn has to his house. Mild refutations of this modest doctrine having
been attempted without success, posters in the necessary red-letter
type were issued at Concord, Bunker Hill, Yorktown, etc., which might
be translated somewhat thus:--"America has its own independent root in
the world's centre, its own independent destiny in the Providential
thought." This important fact, having then and there exploded itself
into legibility, and come to be known and read of all men, admits now
of no dispute, and requires no confirmation. It is evidently so. The
New World is not merely a newly-discovered hay-loft and dairy-stall for
the Old, but is itself a proper household, of equal dignity with any.
To draw the due inferences from this, to see what is implied in it, is
all that we are here required to do.
Be it, then, especially noted that the continent by itself can take no
such rank. A spirituality must appear to crown and complete this great
continental body; otherwise America is acephalous. Unless there be an
American Man, the continent is inevitably but an appendage, a kitchen
and laundry for the European parlor. American Man,--and the word Man is
to receive a large emphasis. Observe, that it does not refer to mere
population. The fact required will hardly be reported in the census.
Indeed, there is quite too much talk about population, about
prospective increase of numbers. We are to have thirty millions of
inhabitants, they say, in 1860; soon forty, fifty, one hundred
millions. Doubtless; and if that be all, one yawns over the statement.
Could any prophet assure us of _one_ million of men who would stand for
the broadest justice as Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans stood
for Lacedaemon! But Hebrew David was thought to be punished for taking
a census; nor is the story without significance. To reckon numbers
alone a success _is_ a sin, and a blunder beside. Russia has sixty
millions of people: who would not gladly swap her out of the world for
glorious little Greece back again, and Plato and Aeschylus and
Epaminondas still there? Who would exchange Concord or Cambridge in
Massachusetts for any hundred thousand square miles of slave-breeding
dead-level? Who Massachusetts in whole for as many South American (or
Southern) republics as would cover Saturn and all his moons? Make sure
of depth and breadth of soul as the national characteristic; then roll
up the census columns; and roll out a hallelujah for each additional
Thus had the great Genoese been destined merely to make a new highway
on the ocean and new lines on the map,--to add the potato, maize, and
tapioca to the known list of edibles, and tobacco to that of
narcotics,--to explode Spain, give England a cotton-field, Ireland a
hospital, and Africa a hell. This could by no means seem sufficient.
The crew of the Pinta shouted, "Land! Land!"--peering through the dark
at the new shores; the Spanish nation chanted, "Gold! Gold!"--gazing
out through murky desires toward the wondrous West; but it is only with
the cry of "Man! Man!" as at the sight of new cerebral shores and
wealth of more than golden humanities, that the true America is
discovered and announced. So whatever reason we have to assert for
America a really independent existence and destiny, the same have we
for predicting an opulence of heart and brain, to which Western
prairies and Californian gold shall seem the natural appurtenance.
And this noble man must be likewise a _new_ man,--not merely a migrated
European. Western Europe pushed a little farther west does not meet our
demand. Why should Europe go three thousand miles off to be Europe
still? Besides, can we afford to England, France, Spain, a larger room
in the world? Are we more than satisfied with their occupancy of that
they already possess? The Englishman is undeniably a wholesome picture
to the mental eye; but will not twenty million copies of him do, for
the present? It would seem like a poverty in Nature, were she unable to
vary, but must go helplessly on to reproduce that selfsame British
likeness over all North America. But history fully warrants the
expectation of a new form of man for the new continent. German and
Scandinavian Teutons peopled England; but the Englishman is _sui
generis_, not merely an exported Teuton. Egypt, says Bunsen, was
peopled by a colony from Western Asia; but the genius and physiognomy
of Egypt are peculiar and its own. Mr. Pococke will have it that Greece
was a migrated India: it was, of course, a migration from some place
that first planted the Hellenic stock in Europe; but if the man who
carved the Zeus, and built the Parthenon, and wrote the "Prometheus"
and the "Phaedrus," were a copy, where shall we find the original?
Indeed, there has never been a great migration that did not result in a
new form of national genius. And it is the thoroughness of the
transformations thus induced which makes the chief difficulty in
tracing the affinities of peoples.
So it is that the world is enriched. Every new form of man establishes
another current in those reciprocations of thought, in those electrical
streams of sympathy,--of wholesome attraction and wholesome
repulsion,--by which the intellectual life is kindled and quickened.
Thought begins not until two men meet. Col. Hamilton Smith makes it
quite clear that civilization has found its first centres there where
two highways of national movement crossed, and dissimilar men looked
each other in the face. They have met, it may be, with the rudest kind
of greetings; but have obtained good thoughts from hard blows, and
beaten ideas _out_ of each other's heads, if not _into_ them, according
to the ancient pedagogic tradition. Higher culture brings higher terms
of meeting; traffic succeeds war, conversation follows upon traffic;
ever the necessity of various men to each other remains. There is no
pure white light until seven colors blend; so to the mental
illumination of humanity many hues of national genius must consent: and
the value of life to all men is greater so soon as a new man has made
All this is matter of daily experience with us. We do not, indeed, tire
of old friends. A soul whose wealth we have once recognized must be
ever rich to us. Gold turns not to copper by keeping; and perhaps old
friends are rather like old wine, and can never be too old. Yet who
does not mark in the calendar those days wherein he has met a _new_
rich soul, that has a physiognomy, a grace and expression, peculiarly
its own? Even decided repulsions have also a use. We whet our
conscience on our neighbors' faults, as sober Spartans were made by the
spectacle of drunken Helots;--though he who makes habitual _talk_ about
his neighbors' faults whets his conscience across the edge. If there be
sermons in stones, no less is there blessing in bores and in bullies.
We found one day in the face of a black bear what could not be so well
found in libraries. The creature regarded us attentively, and with
affection rather than malice,--saw simply certain amounts of savory
flesh, useful for the satisfaction of ursine hungers,--and saw nothing
more. It was an incomparable lesson to teach that the world is an
endless series of levels, and that each eye sees what its own altitude
commands; the rest to it is non-extant. _That_ bear was in his natural
covering of hair; his brothers we frequently meet in broadcloth.
Now, as Nature keeps up this inexhaustible variety of individual genius
which individual quickening requires, so on the larger scale is she
ever working and compounding to produce varieties of national genius.
Her aim is the same in both cases,--to enrich the whole by this
electrical and enlivening relation between its parts. And thus an
American man, no copy, but an original, formed in unprecedented moulds,
with his own unborrowed grandeur, his own piquancy and charm, is to be
looked for,--is, indeed, even now to be seen,--on this shore.
Yes, the man we seek is already found, his features rapidly becoming
distinct. He is the offspring of Northern Europe; he occupies Central
North-America. Other fresh forms are doubtless to appear, but, though
dimly shaping themselves, are as yet inchoate. But the Anglo-American
is an existing fact, to be spoken of without prognostication, save as
this is implied in the recognition of tendencies established and
unfolding into results. The Anglo-American may be considered the latest
new-comer into this planet. Let us, then, a little celebrate his
advent. Let us make all lawful and gentle inquiry about the
First, what is his pedigree? He need not be ashamed to tell; for he
comes of a noble family, the Teutonic,--a family more opulent of human
abilities, and those, for the most part, the deeper kind of abilities,
than any other on the earth at present. He reckons among his
progenitors and relatives such names as Shakspeare, Goethe, Milton, the
two Bacons, Lessing, Richter, Schiller, Carlyle, Hegel, Luther, Behmen,
Swedenborg, Gustavus Adolphus, William of Orange, Cromwell, Frederick
II., Wellington, Newton, Leibnitz, Humboldt, Beethoven, Handel, Turner;
and nations might be enriched out of the names that remain when the
supreme ones in each class have been mentioned. Consider what
incomparable range and variety, as well as depth, of genius are here
affirmed. Greece and India possessed powers not equally represented
here; but otherwise these might stand for the full abilities of
mankind, each in its handsomest illustration.--It is remarkable, too,
that our Anglo-American has no "poor relations." Not a scurvy nation
comes of this stock. They are the Protestant nations, giving religion a
moral expression, and reconciling it with freedom of thought. They are
the constitutional nations, exacting terms of government that
acknowledge private right. _Resource_ may also be emphasized as a
characteristic of these nations. Hitherto they have honored every draft
that has been made upon them. The Dutch first fished their country out
from under the sea, and afterwards defended it in a war of eighty
years' duration against the first military power on the globe: two
feats, perhaps, equally without parallel.
Being thus satisfied upon the point of pedigree, we may proceed to
inquire about estate. To what inheritance of land has Nature invited
our New Man? He comes to the country of highest organization, perhaps,
upon either hemisphere. Brazil and China suggest, but probably do not
sustain, a rivalry. What is implied in superior organization will
appear from the items to be mentioned.
1. Elaboration. Central North-America is to an extraordinary degree
worked out everywhere in careful detail, in moderate hill and valley,
in undulating prairie and fertile plain,--not tossed into barren
mountain-masses and table-lands, like that vast desert _plateau_ which
stretches through Central Asia,--not struck out in blank, like the
Russian _steppes_ and the South American _llanos_, as if Nature had
wanted leisure to elaborate and finish. Indeed, these primary
conditions of fertility and large habitability appertain to America, as
a whole, to such degree, that, with less than half the extent of the
Old World, it actually numbers more acres of fertile soil, and can, of
course, sustain a larger population.
2. Unity. Between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic coast, and
between the Gulf of Mexico and the northern wheat-limit, a larger space
of fertile territory, embracing a wider variety of climate and
production, is thrown into one mass, broken by no barrier, than can,
perhaps, elsewhere be found.
3. Communication. No mass of land equal in other advantages is to the
same extent thrown open and enriched by natural highways. The first
item under this head is access to the ocean, which is the great
road-space and highway of the world. Not mentioning the Pacific, as
that coast is not here considered, we have the open sea upon two sides,
while upon the northern boundary is an inclosed sea, the string of
lakes, occupying a space larger than Great Britain and Ireland, and of
a form to afford the greatest amount of coast-line and accommodation in
proportion to space. But coast-_line_ is not enough; land and sea must
be wedded as well as approximated. The Doge of Venice went annually
forth to wed the Adriatic in behalf of its queen, and to cast into its
bosom the symbolic ring; but Nature alone can really join the hands of
ocean and main. By bays, estuaries, ports, spaces of sea lovingly
inclosed by arms of sheltering shore, are conversation and union
established between them.
"The sea doth wash out all the ills of life," sings Euripides; and it
is, indeed, with some penetration of wonder that one observes how deep
and productive a relation to man the ocean has sustained. Some share in
the greatest enterprises, in the finest results, it seldom fails to
have. Not capriciously did the subtile Greek imagination derive the
birth of Venus from the foam of the sea; for social love,--that vast
reticulation of wedlock which society is--has commonly arisen not far
from the ocean-shore. The Persian is the only superior civilization,
now occurring to our recollection, which has no intimate relation
either with river or sea; and that pushed inevitably toward the Tigris
and Euphrates. Now to Europe must be conceded the supremacy in this
single respect, that of representing the most intimate coast relation
with the sea; North America follows next in order. Africa, washed, but
not wedded, by the wave, represents the greatest seclusion,--and has
gone into a sable suit in her sorrow. After the ocean, rivers, which
are interior highways, claim regard. The United States have on this
side the Rocky Mountains more than forty thousand miles of river-flow,
that is, eighty thousand miles of river-bank,--counting no stream of
less than one hundred miles in length. Europe, in a larger space, has
but seventeen thousand miles. The American rivers are nearly all
accessible from the ocean, and, owing to the gentle elevation of the
continent, flow at easy declivities, and accordingly are largely
navigable. The Mississippi descends at an average of only eight inches
_per_ mile from source to mouth; the Missouri is said to be navigable
to the very base of the Rocky Mountains; and these monarch streams
represent the rivers of the continent. Thus here do these highways of
God's own making run, as it were, past every man's door, and connect
each man with the world he lives in.
Rivers await their due celebration. We easily see that Nile, Ganges,
Euphrates, Jordan, Tiber, Thames, are rivers of influence in human
history, no less than water-currents on the earth's surface. They have
borne barks and barges that the eye never saw. They have brought on
their soft bosoms freight to the cities of the brain, as well as to
Memphis, Rome, London. Some experience of their spiritual influence
must have fallen to the lot of most men. The loved and lovely Merrimac
no longer accedes to the writer's eye, but, as of old, glides securely
seaward in his thought,--like a strain of masterly music long ago
heard, and, when heard, identical in its suggestions with the total
significance and vital progress of one's experience, that, intertwining
itself as a twin thread with the shuttled fibre of life, it was woven
into the same fabric, and became an inseparable part of the
consciousness; so, hearken when one will, after the changes and
accessions of many peopled years, and amid the thousand-footed trample
of the mob of immediate impressions, still secure and predominant it is
heard subtly sounding. Deep conversation with any river readily
interprets to us that venerable mythus which connects Eden with the
four rivers of the world; as if water must flow where man is chiefly
But the point here to be emphasized is, that rivers are the progressive
and public element in its geographical expression. They throw the
continent open; they are doors and windows, through which the nations
look forth upon the world, and leave and enter their own household.
They are the hospitality of the continent,--every river-mouth chanting
out over the sea a perpetual, "Walk in," to all the world. Or again,
they are geographical senses,--eyes, ears, and speech; for of these
supreme mediators in the body, voice, vision, and hearing, it is the
office, as of rivers, to open communication between the interior and
exterior world; they are rivers of access to the outlying universe of
men and things, which enters them, and approaches the soul through the
freighted suggestions of sight and sound. Rivers, lastly, are the
geographical symbol of public spirit, the flowing and connecting
element, suggesting common interests and large systems of action.
Thus in these characteristics of Various Productiveness, Unity, and
Openness or Publicity, the continent indicates the description of man
who may be its fit habitant. It suggests a nation vast in numbers and
in power, existing not as an aggregate of fragments, but as an organic
unit, the vital spirit of the whole prevailing in each of its parts;
and consequently predicts a man suitable for wide and yet intimate
societies. Let us not, however, thoughtlessly jump to accept these easy
prognostics; first let it be fully understood what an enormous demand
they imply. Americans speak complacently of their prospective one
hundred millions of inhabitants; but do they bear well in mind that the
requisition upon the individual is augmented by every multiplication
and extension of the mass? It is not without significance, that great
empires have uniformly been, or become, despotisms. Liberty lives only
in the life of just principle; and as the weight of an elephant could
not be sustained by the skeleton of a gazelle,--as, moreover, the bones
must be made stouter as well as longer,--so must a vast body politic be
permeated by a sturdier element of justice than is required for a
diminutive state. It is, indeed, the chief recommendation of our
federative form of government, that this, so far as may be, localizes
legislation, and thus, by lessening the number of interests that demand
a national consent, lessens equally the strain upon the conscience and
judgment of the whole. Near at hand, the mere good feeling of
neighbors, the companionable sentiment of cities and clans, proves a
valuable succedaneum for that deeper principle which is good for all
places and times. But this sentiment, like gravitation, diminishes in
the ratio of the square of the distance, and at any considerable remove
can no longer be reckoned upon as a counter-balance to the lawlessness
of egotism. Athenians could be passably just, or at least not
disastrously unjust, to Athenians; Spartans to Spartans; but Sparta
must needs oppress the other cities of Laconia, while Athens was at
best a fickle ally; and when Grecian liberty could be strong only in
Grecian union, the common sentiment was bankrupted by too great a draft
upon its resources. How far beyond the range of egotism of neighborhood
a _free_ state may go is determined chiefly by limits in the souls of
its constituents. At that point where equal justice begins to halt,
fatigued by too long a journey, the inevitable boundaries of the state
are fixed. Nor is it the mere sentiment of justice alone that suffices;
but this must be sustained in its applications by a certain breadth of
nature, a certain freedom and flexibility, akin to the dramatic
faculty, which enables us to enter into the feelings and wants of
others. Nothing, perhaps, in the world can be so unjust as a narrow and
frigid conscience beyond its proper range. The bounds of the state may,
indeed, not pause where the sustenance of its integral life fails. But
then its extension will be purchased with its freedom,--the quality be
debased as the quantity increases. Jelly-fish, and creatures of the
lowest animation, may sustain magnitude of body, not only with a slight
skeleton, but with none at all; and society of a cold-blooded or
bloodless kind follows the analogy. But these low grades of social
organization, having some show of congruity with the blank levels of
Russia, can pretend to none with the continent we inhabit. Yet some
species of arbitrament between man and man is sure to establish itself;
if it live not, as a part of freedom, in the bosom of each, then does
it inevitably build itself into a Fate over their heads; and despotism,
war, or similar brutal and violent instrumentalities of adjustment,
supply in their way the demand that love and reason failed to meet.
Accordingly, in our American Man must be found, first, social largeness
and susceptibility,--whatsoever, in the breadth of a flexile and
sympathetic nature, may contribute to the keeping of the Golden Rule.
But the broadest good-feeling will not alone suffice. The great pledge
of peace, fellowship, and profitable co-working among such a population
as we anticipate must be sought in the deeper unity of moral principle.
For Right is one, and is every man's interest. Right is better than
Charity; for Right meets, or even anticipates, normal wants, while
Charity only mends failures. Nothing, therefore, that we could discover
in the New Man would be such a security for his future, nothing so fit
him for his place, as a tendency to simple and universal principles of
action. In the absence of this, he will infallibly be compelled one day
to enter Providence's court of chancery, and come forth bankrupt. But
let him be, even by promise, a seer of those primary truths in which
the interests of all are comprehended and made identical, and the
virtue of his vision will become the assurance of his welfare.
Doubtless, sad men will say that our own eyes are clouded with some
glittering dust of optimism, when we declare that this Man for the
Continent is the very one whose advent we celebrate. This might,
indeed, seem a fatuitously dulcet song to sing just now, when a din of
defection and recreancy is loud through all the land,--now, when we
have immediately in view, and on the largest scale, an open patronage
of infamous wrong-doing, so brazen-fronted and blush-proof that only
the spectacle itself makes its credibility;--the prior possibility of
it we should one and all hasten, for the honor of human nature, to
deny. Yet in the midst of all this are visible the victorious
influences that mould the imported Teuton to the spiritual form which
his appointed tasks imply. These we now hasten to indicate.
And first, every breath of American air helps to make him the American
Man. The atmosphere of America was early noted as a wonder-worker. Ten
years subsequent to the landing at Plymouth, the Rev. Francis
Higginson, an acute observer, wrote to the mother country,--"A sup of
New England air is better than a whole flagon of old English ale." Jean
Paul says that the roots of humankind are the lungs, and that, being
rooted in air,--we are properly children of the aether. Truly, children
of the aether,--and so, children of fire. For the oxygen, upon which
the lungs chiefly feed, is _the_ fiery principle in Nature,--all that
we denominate fire and flame being but the manifestation of its action.
We are severe upon fire-eaters, Southern and other; yet here are we,
cool Northerns, quaffing this very principle and essence of fire in
large lung-draughts every moment, each of us carrying a perpetual
furnace in his bosom. Now it is doubtless true that we inhale more
oxygen, or at least inhale it less drenched with damp, than the people
of Europe, and are, therefore, more emphatically children of fire than
they. Be this, or be some other, the true theory of the fact, the fact
itself unquestionably is, that our climate produces the highest nervous
intensity. As there are conditions of atmosphere in which the magnetic
telegraph works well, and others in which it works ill, so some
conditions stimulate, while others repress nervous action. The air of
England seems favorable to richness and abundance of blood; there the
life-vessels sit deep, and bring opulent cargoes to the flesh-shores;
and the rotund figure, the ruddy solid cheek, and the leisurely
complacent movement, all show how well supported and stored with vital
resources the Englishman is. But to the American's lip the great
foster-mother has proffered a more pungent and rousing draught,--not an
old Saxon sleeping-cup for the night, but a waking-cup for the bright
morning and busy day. It is forenoon with him. He is up and dressed,
and at work by the job. Bring an Englishman here, and nothing short of
Egyptian modes of preservation will keep him an Englishman long. Soon
he cannot digest so much food, cannot dispose of so much stimulant; his
step becomes quicker, his eye keener, his voice rises a note on the
scale, and grows a trifle sharper. In fine, the effects observed in our
autumn foliage may be traced in the people themselves, a heightening of
colors; and while this accounts for much that is prurient and bizarre,
it infolds also the best promise of America.
The effect of this upon American physiology and physiognomy is already
quite visible. Of course we must guard against hasty generalizations,
since the interfusing of various elements in our Western States is
producing new types of manhood. But the respective _physiques_ of Old
and New England can easily be compared, and the difference strikes
every eye. The American is lean, he has a paler complexion, a sharper
face, a slighter build than his ancestors brought from the Old World.
Mr. Emerson is reported as saying (though the precise words escape us)
that the Englishman speaks from his chest, the American more from the
mouth or throat,--that is, the one associates his voice more with the
stomach and viscera, the other with the head; and, indeed, the pectoral
quality of the prevailing tones catches the ear immediately upon
setting foot on British soil. Every man instinctively apprehends where
he is strongest, and will tend to associate voice and movement with the
centre of his strengths. The American, since in him the nervous force
predominates, instinctively lifts his voice into connection with the
great household of that force, which is the brain; for an equally good
reason the Englishman speaks from the visceral and sanguineous centres.
The American (we are still dwelling chiefly on the New England type) is
also apt to throw the head forward in walking,--thereby indicating,
first, his chief reliance upon the forces which that part harbors, and,
secondly, his impulse to progress; so that our national motto, "Go
ahead," may have a twofold significance, as if it were in some sort the
antipodes of going a-foot, and suggested not only the direction of
movement, but also the active agent therein!
Mr. Robert Knox, of England, somewhat known as an ethnological lecturer
and author,--a thinker in a sort, though of the "slam-bang" school, of
far more force than faculty, and of a singular avidity for ugly
news,--dogmatically proclaims that all Americans are undergoing a
physical degeneration, involving, as he thinks, an equal lapse of
mental power, proceeding with swift fated steps, and sure ere long to
land them in sheer impotence and imbecility; and he appeals to the
common loss of adipose tissue and avoirdupois as proof. This author
belongs to a class of well-meaning gentlemen, so unfortunately
constituted that the distractions of their time induce in them an
acetous fermentation (as milk sometimes sours during thunder); and from
acid becoming acrid, they at length fall fairly in love with the
Erinnyes, and henceforth dote upon destruction and ugliness as happier
lovers do upon cosmical health and beauty. Concluding that the universe
is a shabby affair, they like to make it out shabbier still,--and so,
seldom brighten up till they have an ill thing to say. They are not
persons toward whom it is easy to feel amiable. Dogmatism is ever
unlovely, though it be in behalf of the sweetest hopes; but chronic
doubt and disbelief erected into a dogmatism are intolerable. Yet Mr.
Knox's misinterpretations of the facts are taking root in many minds
that do not share his fierce hypochondria and hunger for bitter herbs.
That the American has lost somewhat in animal resources is
incontestable; but Mr. Knox's ever-implied premise, "The animal is the
man," from which his Jeremiad derives its plaint, is but a provincial
paper-currency, of very local estimation, and can never, like gold and
silver, pass by weight in the world's marts of thought. The physical
constitution of the New Man is comparatively delicate and fragile; but
as a china vase is not necessarily less sound than a stone jug or iron
kettle, so delicacy and fragility in man are no proof of disease. The
ominous prognosis of this doctor, therefore, seems no occasion for
despair, perhaps not even for alarm. But to perceive what different
harping can be performed on this string, hear Carus:--"Leanness, as
such," says the master, "is the symbol of a certain lightness,
activity, rapidity, and mental power." Thus the adipose impoverishment,
which to the yellow-eyed Englishman seems utter bankruptcy, is at once
recognized by a superior man as denoting an augmentation, rather than
diminution, of proper human wealth.
But while the typical American organization is of this admitted
delicacy and lightness, it is still capable, under high and powerful
impulse of extraordinary feats of endurance. This has of late been
admirably illustrated. Not long since, there returned to our shores a
hero who--as Dante was believed by the people of Italy to have entered
the Inferno of Fire--had actually descended into the opposite Inferno
of Frost, and done unprecedented battle with the demons of that realm.
Dr. Kane was slight, delicately framed, lean, with sharp, clear-cut
features, of quivering mobility and fineness of texture, having the
aspect rather of an artist than an explorer,--not at all the personage
to whom most judges would assign great power of endurance. And as one
follows him through those thrice Herculean toils,--sees him not only
bearing cheerfully the great burden of his own cares and ills, but
lifting up, as it were, from his companions, and assuming upon his own
shoulders, the awful oppression of the polar night, as Atlas of old was
fabled to support the heavens,--not even one's admiration at such force
of soul can wholly exclude wonder at such fortitude of body. Whence, we
ask, this power of endurance? We can trace it to no ordinary physical
resource. It _comes_ from no ordinary physical resource. It is pure
brain-power. It streams down upon the body, in rivers of invigoration,
from the cerebral hemispheres. A conversational philosopher,
discoursing to a circle of intelligent New England mechanics,
said,--"It is commonly supposed that the earth supports man. Not so;
man upholds the earth!" "How!" exclaimed a wide-eyed auditor; "upholds
the earth? How do you make that out?" "How?" answered the philosopher,
with superb innocence,--"don't you see that it sticks to his heels?"
When the question is asked, How the slight frame of this Arctic hero
could support such tests, the answer must be analogous,--It clung to
his brain. The usual order of support is reversed; and here is that
truer Mercury, in whom the winged head, possessing as function what its
prototype only exhibited as ornament and symbol, really soars in its
own might, bearing the pendent feet.
Dr. Kane was one of the purest examples of the American organization;
and as he issued victorious from that region where "the ground burns
frore, and cold performs the effect of fire," the Man of the New World
was represented, and in him came forth with proven strength. The same
significance would not attach to all feats of endurance, even where
equally representative. Here are Hercules and Orpheus in one,--the
organization of a poet, and the physical stamina of a gladiator.
Now this peculiar organization offers the physical inducement for two
great tendencies,--one relating to the perception of truth, the other
to the feeling of social claims,--while these tendencies are supported
on the spiritual side by the great disciplines of our position; and the
genius which these foreshow is precisely that which ought to be the
genius of the New Man.
This organization is that of the seer, the poet, the spiritualist, of
all such as have an eye for the deeper essences and first principles of
things. Concede intellectual power, or the spiritual element, then add
this temperament, and there follows a certain subtile, penetrative,
radical quality of thought, a characteristic percipience of principles.
And principles are not only seen, but felt; they thrill the nerve as
well as greet the eye; and the man consequently becomes highly amenable
to his own belief. The primary question respecting men is this,--How
far are they affected by the original axiomatic truths? Truths are like
the winds. Near the earth's surface winds blow in variable directions,
and the weathercock becomes the type of fickleness. So there is a class
of little truths, dependent upon ever-variable relations, with which it
is the function of cunning, shrewdness, tact, to deal, and numbers of
men seldom or never lift their heads above this weathercock region. Yet
the upper air, alike of the spiritual and the physical atmosphere, has
its perpetual currents, unvarying as the revolution of the globe or the
sailing of constellations; and these fail not to represent themselves
by eternal tradewinds upon the surface of our planet and of our life.
Now the grand inquiry about any man is,--Does he belong to the great
current, or to the lesser ones? He appertains to the great in
proportion to his access to principles. Or we may illustrate by another
analogy a distinction, of importance so emphatic. The Arctic voyagers
find two descriptions of ice. The field-ice spreads over vast spaces,
and moves with immense power; but goes with the wind and the
surface-flow. The bergs, on the contrary, sit deep, are bedded in the
mighty under-currents; and when the field-ice was crashing down with
tide and storm, Dr. Kane found these heroes holding their steady
inevitable way in the teeth of both. Thus may one discover men who are
very massive, very powerful, engrossing such enormous spaces that there
hardly seems room in the world for anybody else; but they are Field-ice
Men; they represent with gigantic force the impulse of the hour. But
there is another class, making, perhaps, little show upon the surface,
or making it by altitude alone, who represent the grand circulations of
law, the orbital courses of truth. It is a question of depth, of
penetration. And depth, be it observed, secures unity; diversity,
contrariety, contention are of the surface. Numbers need not concern
us, whether one hundred, or one hundred millions, provided all are
imbedded in the central, commanding truths of the human consciousness.
And if the Man of the New World be characteristically one who will
attach himself to the eternal master-tides, that fact alone fits him
for his place.
Of course no sane man would intimate that organization alone can bring
about such results. The Arabian horse will hardly manufacture a Saladin
for his back. But let the Saladin be given, and this marvel of nerve
and muscle will multiply his presence,--will, as it were, give two
selves. So, if the Teutonic man who comes to our shores were innately
empty or mean, this nervous intensity would only ripen his meanness, or
make his inanity obstreperous. But in so far as he has real depth of
nature, this radical organization will aid him, quickening by its heat
what is deepest within him; and when he turns his face toward
principles, this flying brain-steed will swiftly bring him to his goal.
Nay, it is best that even meanness should ripen. The slaveholder of
South Carolina must avouch a false principle to cover his false
practice,--must affirm that slavery is a Divine institution. It is
well. A Quaker, hearing a fellow blaspheme, said,--"That is right,
friend; get such bad stuff out of thee!" A lie is dangerous, till it is
told,--like scarlatina, before it is brought to the surface: when
either breaks out, it is more than half conquered. The only falsehoods
of appalling efficacy for evil are those which circulate subtly in the
vital unconsciousness of powerful but obscure or undemonstrative
natures,--deadly from the intimacy which also makes them secret and
secure, and silently perverting to their own purposes the normal vigors
of the system. A Mephistopheles is not dangerous; he is too
clear-headed; he knows his own deserts: some muddiness is required to
harbor self-deceptions, in order that badness may reach real working
power. To all perversion iron limits are, indeed, set; but obscure
falsehood works in the largest spaces and with the longest
tether.--Thus the expressive intensity which appertains to this
organization is serviceable every way, even in what might, at first
blush, seem wholly evil effects.
While thus the brain-hand of the American is formed for grasping
principles, for apprehending the simple, subtile, universal truths
which slip through coarser and more sluggish fingers, there is also an
influence on the moral and intellectual faculties, coming in to accept
and use these cerebral ones. We are more in conversation with the heart
and pure spiritual fact of humanity than any other people of equal
power and culture. We necessarily deal more with each other on a bond
and basis of common persuasion, of open unenacted truth, than others.
This matter is of moment enough to justify somewhat formal elucidation.
Nations, like individual men, birds, and many quadrupeds and fishes,
are house-builders. They wall and roof themselves in with symbols,
creeds, codes, customs, etiquettes, and the like; they stigmatize by
the terms heresy, high-treason, and names of milder import, any attempt
to quit this edifice; and send such offenders into purgatory,
penitentiary, coventry, as the case may be. Some nations omit to insert
either door or window; they make penal even the desire to look out of
doors, even the assertion that a sky exists other than the roof of
their building, or that there is any other than a very unblessed
out-of-doors beyond its walls. Such are countries where free speech is
forbidden, where free thought is racked and thumb-screwed, and where
not only a man's overt actions, but his very hopes, his faith, his
prayers, are prescribed. Here man is put into his own institutions, as
into a box; and a very bad box it proves. Now these blank walls not
only encompass society as a mass, but also run between individuals,
cutting off bosom from bosom, and rendering impossible that streaming
of heart-fires, that mounting flame from meeting brands, out of whose
wondrous baptism come the consecrate deeds of mankind. Go to China, and
to any living soul you obtain no access, or next to none,--such
disastrous roods of etiquette are interposed between. It is as if one
very cordially shook hands with you by means of a pair of tongs or a
ten-foot pole. Indeed, it is hardly a man that you meet; it is a piece
of automatic ceremony. Nor is it in China alone that men may be found
who can hardly be accredited with proper personality. As one dying may
distribute his property in legacies to various institutions and
organizations,--so much, for example, to the Tract Society, so much to
the Colonization Society, and the like,--in the same manner do many
make wills at the outset of life for the disposal of their own personal
powers, and do nothing afterward but execute this testament,--executing
themselves in another sense at the same time. They parcel out
themselves, their judgment, their conscience, and whatsoever pertains
to their spiritual being, among the customs, traditions, institutions,
etiquettes of their time, and renounce all claim to a free existence.
After such a piece of spiritual _felo-de-se_, the man is nothing but
one wheel in a machine, or even but one cog upon a wheel. Thenceforth
he merely hangs together;--simple cohesion is the utmost approximation
to action which can be truly attributed to him.
And as nothing is so ridiculous, so, few things are so mischievous, as
the sincere insincerity, the estrangement from fact, of those who have
thus parted with themselves. It is worse, if anything can be worse,
than hypocrisy itself. The hypocrite sees two things,--the fact and the
fiction, the gold and its counterfeit; he has virtue enough to know
that he is a hypocrite. But the _post-mortem_ man, the walking legacy,
does not recognize the existence of eternal Fact; it has never occurred
to his mind that anything could be more serious than "spiritual
taking-on" and make-belief. An innocent old gentleman, being at a play
where the heroine is represented as destroyed in attempting tempting to
cross a broken bridge, rose, upon seeing her approach it, and in tones
of the deepest concern offered his opinion that said bridge was unsafe!
The _post-mortem_ man reverses this harmless blunder, and makes it
anything but harmless by the change; as that one took theatricals to be
earnest fact, so this conceives virtue itself to consist in posturing;
he thinks gold a clever imitation of brass, and the azure of the sky to
be a kind of celestial cosmetic; in fine, formalities are the realest
things he knows. It is said, that, in the later days of Rome, the
augurs and inspectors of entrails could not look each other in the face
during their ceremonies, for fear of bursting into a laugh. But still
worse off than these pitiful peddlers of fraud is he who feigns without
knowing that he feigns,--feigns unfeignedly, and calls God to witness
that he is faithful in the performance of his part. This is ape's
earnest, and is, perhaps, the largest piece of waste that ever takes
place upon this earth. _Ape's earnest_,--it is a pit that swallows
whole nations, whole ages; and the extent to which it may be carried is
wellnigh incredible, even with the fact before our eyes. A Chinese
gentleman spends an hour in imploring a relative to dine with
him,--utterly refusing, so urgent is his desire of company, to accept
No for an answer,--and then flies into a rage because the cousin
commits the _faux pas_ of yielding to his importunity, and agreeing to
dine. Louis Napoleon perpetrates the king-joke of the century by
solemnly presenting the Russian Czar with a copy of Thomas a Kempis's
"Imitation of Christ,"--a book whose great inculcation is to renounce
Now no sooner do men lose hold upon fact than they inevitably begin to
wither. They resemble a tree drawn with all its roots from the earth;
the juices already imbibed may sustain it awhile, but with every
passing day will sustain it less. If Louis Napoleon is so removed from
conversation with reality as not to perceive the colossal satire
implied in his gift, it will soon require more vigor than he possesses
to keep astride the Gallic steed. That Chinese etiquette explains the
condition of the Chinese nation. Indeed, it is easy to give a recipe
for mummying men alive. Take one into keeping, prescribe everything,
thoughts, actions, manners, so that he never shall find either
permission or opportunity to ask his own intellect, What is true? nor
his own heart, What is right? nor to consider within himself what is
intrinsically good and worthy of a man; and if he does not rebel, you
will make him as good a mummy as Egyptian catacombs can boast.
The capital art of life is to renew and augment your power by its
expenditure. It was intimated some eighteen centuries since that the
highest are obtained only by loss of the same; and the transmutation of
loss into gain is the essence and perfection of all spiritual
economies. Now of this art of arts he is already master who steadily
draws upon his own spiritual resources. The soul is an extraordinary
well; the way to replenish is to draw from it. It is more miraculous
than the widow's cruse;--that simply continued unexhausted,--never
less, indeed, but also never more; while from this the more you take,
the more remains in it. Were it, therefore, desired to arrange with
forethought a scheme of life that should afford the highest
invigoration, in such scheme there should be the minimum of
prescription, and nothing be so sedulously avoided as the superseding
of inward and active _principles_ by outward and passive _rules_;--that
is, life would be made as much moral and spontaneous, as little
political and mechanical, as possible.
And this does not ill describe our own case. No civilized nation is so
little imprisoned in precedents and traditions. Our national maxim is,
"The world is too much governed." In the degree of this release we are,
of course, thrown back upon underlying principles and universal
persuasions,--since these of necessity become, in the absence of more
artificial ties, the chief bond of such peace and cooeperation as
obtain. Leave two men to deal with each other, not merely as subjects
or citizens, but as men, and they must recur to that which is at once
native and common to both, to the universal elements in their
consciousness, that is, to principles; and thus the most ordinary
mutual dealing becomes, in some degree, a spiritual discipline. Harness
these men in precedents, and whip them through the same action with
penalties, and they will gain only such discipline as the ox obtains in
the furrow and the horse between the thills. Statutes serve men, but
lame them. They render morality mechanical. Men learn to say not, "It
is right," but, "It is enacted." And the difference is immense. "Right"
sends one to his own soul, and requires him to produce the living law
out of that; "Enacted" sends him to the Revised Statutes, or the
Reports, and there it ends. The latter gives a bit of information; the
former a step in development. Laws are necessary; but laws which are
not necessary are more and worse than unnecessary;--they pilfer power
from the soul; they intercept the absolute uses of life; they
incarcerate men, and make Caspar Hausers of them. Now in America not
only is there already much emancipation from those outside regulations
which supersede moral and private judgment, but the tendency toward a
fresh life daily gains impetus. That repeal of the Missouri Compromise,
however blamable, has several happy features, and prominent among these
must be reckoned the illustration it affords of a growing disposition
to say, "No putting To-day into Yesterday's coffin; let the Present
_live_ and be its own lord."
We need be at no loss to discover the effects of the combined
influences here stated. The ordinary phrases of our country-people
denote an alert judgment,--as, "I reckon," "I calculate," "I guess."
The inventiveness which characterizes Americans, the multiplicity of
patents, comes from the tendency to go behind the actual, to test
possibilities, to bring everything to the standard of thought. Emerson
dissolves England in the alembic of his brain, and makes a thought of
that. Our politics are yearly becoming more and more questions of
principle, questions of right and wrong. There is almost infinite
promise and significance in this gradual victory of the moral over the
political, of life over mechanism. Mr. Benton complains of the
"speculative philanthropy" of New England, because it suggests
questions upon which he could not meet his constituents, and interferes
with his domestic arrangements. It is much as if one should pray God to
abolish the sun because his own eyes are sore!
* * * * *
We now pass to the second great tendency which, as is here affirmed,
organization and moral discipline are unitedly tending to establish on
this shore. An inevitable consequence of the nervous intensity and
susceptibility characteristic of Americans is an access of personal
magnetism, or influence; we keenly feel each other, have social
impressibility. The nervous is the public element in the body, the
mediating and communicating power. It is the agent of every sense,--of
sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell,--and of the power of speech. It is
the vehicle of all fellow-feeling, of all social sympathy. It
introduces man to man, and makes strangers acquainted. And a most
unceremonious master of these ceremonies it is;--running
indiscriminately across ranks; introducing beggar and baron; forcing
the haughtiest master, spite of his theories, to feel that the slave
_is_ a man and a fellow; compelling the prince to acknowledge the
peasant,--not with a shake of the hand, perhaps, but, it may be, with
knee-shakings and heart-shakings. A terrible leveller and democrat is
this master element in the human frame; yet king and kaiser must
entertain him in courts and on thrones. Now the high development of
this in the American Man renders him communicative, gives him a quick
interest in men; he cannot let them pass without giving and taking.
Hence the much-blamed inquisitiveness,--"What is your name? Where do
you live? Where are you going? What is your business? Do you eat baked
beans on Sunday?" Mrs. Trollope is horrified; it is a bore; but one
likes the man the better for it. He is interested in you;--that is the
simple secret of all. King Carlyle calls us "eighteen millions of
bores." To be sure; is that so bad? The primitive English element was
pirate; let the primitive American _be_ bore. The fathers of the
Britain that is took men by the throat; let the fathers of the America
that is to be take them by the--button;--that is amelioration enough
for one thousand years! In truth, this intense personal interest which
characterizes the American, though often awkwardly manifested and
troublesome, is an admirable feature in his constitution, and few
traits should awaken our pride or expectation more. It is this keen
fellow-feeling that fits him for the broadest and most beneficent
public interest. This makes him a philanthropist. And his philanthropy
is peculiar. It is not merely of the neighborhood sort, such as sends a
Thanksgiving turkey to poor Robert and a hat that does not fit well to
poor Peter. For here the predilection for principles and
generalizations comes in, and leads him to translate his fellow-feeling
into social axioms. Thus it occurs that the American is that man who is
grappling most earnestly and intelligently with the problem of man's
relation to man. In every village is some knot of active minds that
brood over questions of this kind. The monarch newspaper of America is
deeply tinged with the same hue; nor could one with a contrary
complexion attain its position. This great current of human interest
floats our politics; it feeds the springs of enthusiasm, coming forth
in doctrines of non-resistance, of government by love, and the like;
and our literature contains essays upon love and friendship which, in
our judgment, are not equalled in the literature of the world.
Nor is a moral discipline wanting to second this tendency. A terrible
social anomaly has been forced upon us,--has had time to intertwine
itself with trade, with creeds, with partisan prejudice and patriotic
pride, and, having become next to unconquerable, now shows that it can
keep no terms and must kill or be killed. And through this the question
of man's duties to man, on the broadest scale, is incessantly kept in
agitation. It is like a lurid handwriting across the sky,--"Learn what
man should be and do to his fellow." And the companion sentence is
this,--"Thy justice to the strangers shall be the best security to
thine own household."
* * * * *
By the co-working of these two grand tendencies we obtain at once the
largest speculative breadth and the closest practical and personal
interest. What sweeter promise could any one ask than that of this rare
and admirable combination? Thought and action have been more than
sufficiently separated. The philosopher has discoursed to a few, and in
the dialect of the few, in Academic shades; sanctity has hidden itself
away, lost in the joy of its secret contemplations; the great world has
rolled by, unhearing, unheeding,--like London roaring with cataract
thunder around St. Paul's, while within the choral service is performed
to an audience of one. Thinking and doing have hardly recognized each
other. Now we are not of those vague, enthusiastic persons who fancy
that all truths are for all ears,--that the highest spiritual fact can
be communicated, where there is no spiritual apprehension to lay hold
upon it. _He that hath ears_, let him hear. Nor would we attempt to
confuse the functions of sayer and doer. But let there be a sympathy
and understanding between them, that, when achieved, will mark an epoch
in the world's history. Nowhere, at least in modern times, have thought
and action approached so nearly and intimately as in America; nowhere
is speculative intellect so colored with the hues of practical interest
without limiting its own flight; nowhere are labor and executive power
so receptive of pure intellectual suggestion. The union of what is
deepest and most recondite in thought with clear-sighted sagacity has
been well hit by Lowell in his description of the typical American
"Sits in a mystery calm and intense,
And looks round about him with sharp common-sense."
That is, the New Man has two things that seldom make each other's
acquaintance,--Sight and Insight. Accordingly, our subtilest thinker,
whom the scholarly Mr. Vaughan classes with the mystics and accuses of
going beyond the legitimate range even of mystics, has written such an
estimate of the most practical nation in the world as has never been
written of that or any other before. The American knows what is about
him, has tact, sagacity, conversance with surfaces and circumstances,
is the shrewdest guesser in the world; and seeing him on this side
alone, one might say,--This is the man of to-day, a quick worker, good
to sail ships, bore mountains, buy and sell, but belonging to the
surface, knowing only that. The medal turns, and lo! here is this 'cute
Yankee a thinker, a mystic, fellow of the antique, Oriental in his
subtilest contemplations, a rider of the sunbeam, dwelling upon Truth's
sweetness with such pure devotion and delight that vigorous Mr.
Kingsley must shriek, "Windrush!" "Intellectual Epicurism!" and disturb
himself in a somewhat diverting manner. Pollok declaimed against the
attempt to lay hold of the earth with one hand and heaven with the
other. But that is the peculiar feat for which the American is
born,--to bring together seeing and doing, principle and practice,
eternity and to-day. The American is given, they say, to extremes.
True, but to _both_ extremes; he belongs to the two antipodes. To the
one he appertains by intellectual emancipation and penetrative power;
to the other by his pungent element of sympathy with persons. Speaking
of the older Northern States, and of the people as a whole, we affirm
that their inhabitants are more speculative _and_ more practical, the
scholars know more of immediate common interests and speak more the
dialect of the people, while the mechanics know more of speculative
truth and understand better the necessary vocabulary of thought, than
any other people.
Lyell says, that the New World is really the Old World,--that there,
preeminently, the antique geological formations are found, and nearer
the surface than elsewhere. Thus the physical peculiarity of our
continent is, that here an elaborate and highly finished surface is
immediately superimposed upon the oldest rock, rock wrought in fire and
kneaded with earthquake knuckles. We discover in this a symbol of the
American Man. He likewise brings into near association the most ancient
and the most modern. By insight he dwells in the old thoughts, the
eternal truths, the meditations that rapt away the early seers into
trance and dream; but he brings these into sharp contact with life,
associates them with the newest work, the toil and interests of this
year and day.
We shall find space to mention but one peril which besets the New Man.
It is danger of physical exhaustion. Dr. Kane, the hero of two Arctic
nights, came forth to the day only to die. That which makes the
preeminence of our organization makes also its peril. Denmark is said
to be impoverished by the disproportion of the learned to the
industrial class; production is insufficient, and too much of a good
thing cripples the country. The nervous system is a learned class in
the body; it contributes dignity and superior uses, but makes no corn
grow in the physiological fields. A brain of great animation and power
is a perilous freight for the stanchest body; in a weak and shattered
body it is like gold in a spent swimmer's pocket,--the richer it would
make him on dry land, the less chance it gives him of arriving there.
That this danger is not imaginary too many are able to testify.--Few
scenes in Rabelais are more exquisitely ludicrous than that in which he
pictures the monk Panurge in a storm at sea. The oily ecclesiastic is
terrified as only a combination of hypocrite and coward can be; and, in
the extremity of his craven distress, he fancies that any situation on
shore, no matter how despicable, would be paradise. So at length he
whines, "Oh that I were on dry land, and somebody kicking me!" In a
similar manner--similar, save that farce deepens to tragedy--many a man
in America of opulent mental outfit, but with only a poor wreck of a
body to bear the precious cargo, must often have been tempted to cry,
"Oh that I had a sound digestion, and were some part of a dunce!" In
truth, we are a nation of health-hunters, betraying the want by the
search. It were to be wished that an accurate computation could be made
how much money has been paid in the United States, within a score of
years, for patent medicines. It would buy up a kingdom of respectable
dimensions. So eager is this health-hunger, that it bites at bare
hooks. The "advertising man" of Arnold's Globules offers his services
as nostrum-puffer-general, and appeals to past success as proof of his
abilities in this line. But Arnold's Globules will sell no whit the
worse. Is the amiable Mr. Knox right, after all? Doubtless, we answer,
the American organization is more easily disordered than the
English,--just as a railway-train running at forty miles an hour is
more liable to accident than one proceeding at twenty. Besides,
Americans have not learned to live as these new circumstances require.
The New Man is a clipper-ship, that can run out of sight of land while
one of the old bluff-bowed, round-ribbed craft is creeping out of port;
but, from the very nature of his superiorities, he is apt to be
shorter-lived, and more likely to spring a leak in the strain of a
storm. He demands nicer navigation. It will not do for him to beat over
sand-bars. Yet dinner-pilotage in this country is reckless and
unscientific to a degree. The land is full of wrecks hopelessly snagged
upon indigestible diet. As yet, it is difficult to obtain a hearing for
precaution. Men answer you out of their past experience,--much like a
headstrong personage who was about to attempt crossing a river in a
boat sure to sink. "You will drown, if you go in that thing," said a
bystander. "Never was drowned yet," was the prompt retort; and pushing
off, he soon lost the opportunity to repeat that boast! But this
resistance is constantly becoming less. Meantime, numbers of foreseeing
men are waking up, or are already awakened, to the importance of
recreation and physical culture,--members of the clerical profession,
to the credit of the craft be it said, taking the lead. Messrs.
Beecher, Bellows, and Hale plead the cause of amusements; the author of
"Saints and their Bodies" celebrates the uses and urges the need of
athletic sports; gymnasia are becoming matters of course in the cities
and larger towns; "The New York Tribune" attends to the matter of
cookery; and it is safe to predict that the habits of the people will
undergo in time the necessary changes. That health is possible to
Americans ought not to be questioned. Of despair we will not listen to
a word. In crossing the ocean, in the backwoods-experience which
everywhere precedes cultivation, in the excitement which has followed
the obliteration of social monopolies and the throwing open of the
wealth of a continent to free competition, the old traditional
precautions have been lost, the old household wisdoms, the old
economies of health; and these we have now to reproduce for ourselves.
It will be done. And when this is done, though ancient English brawn
will not reappear, there will be health, and its great blessing of
cheerful spirits. The special means by which this shall be accomplished
we leave to the care of the gentlemen abovenamed, and their
compeers--merely putting in one word for _gentle_ exercise, and two
words for the cherishing of mental health, the expulsion of morbid
excitements, assume what guise they may. We should take extreme care
not to admit decay at the summit. A healthy soul is a better
prophylactic than belladonna. Refusing to despond respecting American
health, we cheerfully trust that the genius of the New Man will find
all required physical support, and due length of time for demonstrating
And now we may notice a doubt which some readers will cherish. Is not
all this, they may say, over-sanguine and enthusiastic? Is it not a
self-complacent dream? Are the tendencies adverted to so productive? Is
any such genius really forming as is here claimed? Is it not, on the
contrary, now fully understood that the Americans are a commonplace
people, meagre-minded money-makers, destitute of originality? What have
they done to demonstrate genius yet?--These skepticisms are somewhat
prevalent nowadays, and are a natural enough reaction from
Fourth-of-July flatulencies. Let them have their day. The fact will
vindicate itself. Meanwhile we may remark, that the appeal to attained
performance, in justification of the view taken in this paper of
American abilities and prospects, would obviously place us at undue
disadvantage. We speak here, and are plainly entitled to speak, rather
of tendencies than of attainments, of powers forming themselves in man,
and not of results produced without him. Nevertheless, results there
are,--admirable, satisfactory results.
As first of these may be mentioned American Reform. In depth, in
breadth, in vigor, in practical quality, this may challenge comparison
with anything of a similar kind elsewhere. This is the direct outburst
of a new life, arising and wrestling with the old forms, habitudes,
institutions, with whatsoever is imported and traditional, on the one
hand, and with the crude or barbarous improvisations of native energy,
on the other. It is a force springing out of the summit of the brain,
the angel of its noblest sentiment, going forth with no less an aim
than to construct a whole new social status from ideas. And the token
of its superiority is this, that it builds its new outward life only
from the most ancient incorruptible material, out of the eternal
granite of Moral Law. Sweeping social _schemes_ prevail in France. But
American Reform is not a scheme; it is the service of an _idea_. It is
made conservative by that which also makes it radical, by working in
the interest of the moral sentiment.
The Literature of the New World is also worthy of the New Man. We are
quite aware that a large portion of this literature is trash. So was a
large part in Shakspeare's, in Cervantes's, in Plato's age and place.
But we admit even that the comparison does not hold,--that an especial
accusation may be brought against the issues of the press in this
country. Wise men should have anticipated this, and, instead of
reasoning from the size of our lakes, prairies, and mountains, and
demanding epics and philosophies of us before we are fairly out of our
primitive woods, the critics should have hastened to say,--A colony
must have time to strike root, and to draw up therefrom a new life,
before it can arrive at valuable and genuine literary expression. The
Life must come before the Thought. Nothing could be more absurd than
the expectation that American literature should spring away into the
air from the top of European performance. Our first literature was
colonial,--that is, imitative, written for the approbation of European
critics,--of course, having somewhat the empty correctness of good
school-boy composition. Next followed what we may call fire-weed
literature,--the first rank, raw product of new lands. Under these two
heads a vast number of books must of course be reckoned. But beyond
these American literature has already passed, and now can point to
books that spring out of the pure genius of the New Man. And having
only these in mind, we hesitate not to say that there is now sounding
upon these shores a deeper, subtler, and more universal note than is
heard in any other land touched by the Atlantic Sea. We have now
writings in several departments of literature, and in both prose and
verse, which are characterized by a breadth and largeness of
suggestion, by a spirituality and a prophetic adherence to the moral
sentiment, which justify all that has here been affirmed or reasoned.
And our deepest thought finds a popular reception which proves it not
foreign or exceptional. Wilkinson's "Human Body," the largest piece of
speculative construction which England has produced in two centuries,
has not yet, after some eight years, we believe, exhausted its first
edition. Emerson's Poems, still less adapted, one would say, than the
work just mentioned, to the taste of populaces, had reached its fourth
edition in about the same period. Learned works have, of course, a
superior reception in the mother-country; works of pure thought in the
daughter. Said to us, during the past season, the subtilest thinker of
Great Britain,--"I must send to America whatever I wish to put in
print, unless I pay for its publication from my own pocket."
And beyond this, there is a hush in the nation's heart, an expectancy,
a waiting and longing for some unspoken word, which sometimes seems
awful in the bounty of its promise. I know men educated to speak, with
the burden of a speaker's vocation on their hearts, but now these many
years remaining heroically silent; the fountains of a fresh
consciousness sweet within them, but not yet flowing into speech, and
they too earnest, too expectant, too sure of the future to say aught
beneath the strain. "Why do you not speak?" was inquired of one.
"Because I can keep silent," he said, "and the word I am to utter will
command me." No man assumes that attitude until he is already a party
to the deepest truth, is the silent side of a seer; and in a nation
where any numbers are passing this more than Pythagorean lustrum, a
speech is surely coming that will no more need to apologize for itself
than the speech of the forest or the ocean-shore. The region of the
trade-winds is skirted with calm. Sydney Smith said of Macaulay, that
his talk, to render it charming, "needed only a few brilliant flashes
of silence." We are talkative, but the flashes of silence are not
wanting, and there is prophecy in them as well as charm. Said one, of a
speaker,--"He was so rarely eloquent, that what he did not say was even
better than what he did." And here, not only are some wholly silent,
but in our best writings the impressive not-saying lends its higher
suggestion than that expressly put forth. What spaces between Emerson's
sentences! Each seems to float like a solitary summer-cloud in a whole
sky of silence.
Yes, the fact is already indubitable, a rich life, sure in due time of
its rich expression, is forming here. As out of the deeps of Destiny,
the Man for the Continent, head-craftsman, hand-craftsman, already puts
his foot to this shore. All hail, new-comer! Welcome to great tasks,
great toils, to mighty disciplines, to victories that shall not be too
cheaply purchased, to defeats that shall be better than victories! We
give thee joy of new powers, new work, unprecedented futures! We give
the world joy of a new and mighty artist to plan, a new strong artisan
to quarry and to build in the great architectures of humanity!
THE POET KEATS.
His was the soul, once pent in English clay,
Whereby ungrateful England seemed to hold
The sweet Narcissus, parted from his stream,--
Endymion, not unmindful of his dream,
Like a weak bird the flock has left behind,
Untimely notes the poet sung alone,
Checked by the chilling frosts of words unkind;
And his grieved soul, some thousand years astray,
Paled like the moon in most unwelcome day.
His speech betrayed him ere his heart grew cold;
With morning freshness to the world he told
Of man's first love, and fearless creed of youth,
When Beauty he believed the type of Truth.
In the vexed glories of unquiet Troy,
So might to Helen's jealous ear discourse
The flute, first tuned on Ida's haunted hill,
Against OEnone's coming, to betray
In what sweet solitude her shepherd lay.
Yet, Poet-Priest! the world shall ever thrill
To thy loved theme, its charm undying still!
Hearts in their youth are Greek as Homer's song,
And all Olympus half contents the boy,
Who from the quarries of abounding joy
Brings his white idols without thought of wrong.
With reverent hand he sets each votive stone,
And last, the altar "To the God Unknown."
As in our dreams the face that we love best
Blooms as at first, while we ourselves grow old,--
As the returning Spring in sunlight throws
Through prison-bars, on graves, its ardent gold,--
And as the splendors of a Syrian rose
Lie unreproved upon the saddest breast,--
So mythic story fits a changing world:
Still the bark drifts with sails forever furled.
An unschooled Fancy deemed the work her own,
While mystic meaning through each fable shone.
HER GRACE, THE DRUMMER'S DAUGHTER.
Foray, a mass of crags embellished by some greenness, looked up to
heaven a hundred miles from shore. It was a fortified position, and a
place of banishment. In the course of a long war, waged on sea and land
between two great nations, this, "least of all," became a point of some
importance to the authority investing it; the fort was well supplied
with the machinery of death, and the prison filled with prisoners. But
peace had now been of long continuance; and though a nation's banner
floated from the tower of the fort, and was seen afar by
mariners,--though the cannon occupied their ancient places, ordered for
instant use,--though all within the fort was managed and conducted day
by day with careful regard to orders,--the operations indicated, in the
spirit of their conduct, no fear of warlike surprises. No man gave or
obeyed an order as if his life depended on his expedition. Neither was
the prison the very place it had been; for, once, every cell had its
occupant,--an exile, or a prisoner of war.
The officials of the island led an easy life, therefore. Active was the
brain that resisted the influences of so much leisure as most of these
people had. But, under provocation even, Nature must be true. So true
is she, indeed, that every violation of her dignities illustrates the
meaning of that sovereign utterance, VENGEANCE IS MINE. She will not
bring a thorn-tree from an acorn. Pray, day and night, and see if she
will let you gather figs of thistles. Prayer has its conditions, and
faith is not the sum of them.
But Nature's buoyant spirits must needs conquer the weight of
influences whose business is to depress. And they, seeking, find their
centre among things celestial, in spite of all opposing. Much leisure,
light labor, was not the worst thing that could befall some of the men
whose lot was cast on Foray.
Adolphus Montier was a member of the military band. He was drummer to
the regiment by the grace of his capacity. Besides, he played on the
French horn, to the admiration of his wife, and others; and he could
fill, at need, the place of any missing member of the company, leaving
nothing to be desired in the performance.
Adolphus came to Foray in the first vessel that brought soldiers
hither. He saw the first stone laid in the building of the fort. Here
he had lived since. He was growing gray in the years of peace. He had
some scars from the years of strife, he was a brave fellow, and
idleness, a devil's bland disguise, found no favor with him.
His daughter Elizabeth was the first child born on the island. Bronzed
warriors smiled on her fair infancy; sometimes they called her, with
affectionate intonation, "The Daughter of the Regiment." She deserved
the notice they bestowed,--as infancy in general deserves all it
receives,--but Elizabeth for other reasons than that she had come
whence none could tell, and was going whither no man could
predict,--for other reason than that she was the first discovered
native of the island. She was a beautiful child; and I state this fact
not specially in deference to the universal expectation that a
character brought forward for anybody's notice should be personally
capable of fascinating such. Indeed, it seems inevitable that we find
our heroines and heroes in life beautiful. Miss Nightingale must needs
remain our type of pure charity in person, as in character. Elisha Kent
Kane among his icebergs must stand manifestly efficient for his
"princely purpose," his eye and brow magnificent with beauty. Rachel,
to every woman's memory, must live the unparalleled Camille.
Little Elizabeth--I smile to write her name upon the page with
these--it were a shame to cheat of beauty by any bungle of description.
Is not a fair spirit predestined conqueror of flesh and blood? Have we
not read of the noble lady whose loveliness a painter's eye was the
very first to discover? Where the likeness? The soul saw it, not the
eye; and he understood, who, seeing it, exclaimed, "Our friend--in
heaven!" While Adolphus Montier cleaned and polished his French horn,
an occupation which was his unfailing resource, if he could find
nothing else to do, or when he practised his music, business in which
he especially delighted when off duty, it was his pleasure to have wife
and child with him.
Imagination was an active power in the Drummer's sphere. He, away off
in Foray, used to talk about the forms and colors of sounds, as if he
knew about them; and he had not learned the talk in any school. He
would have done no injury to transcendentalism. And he was a happy man,
in that the persons before whom he indulged in this manner of speech
rather encouraged it. Never had his Pauline's pride and fondness failed
Adolphus the Drummer. Life in Foray was little less than banishment,
though it had its wages and--renown; but Pauline made out of this
single man her country, friends, and home. Never woman endeavored with
truer single-heartedness to understand her spouse. In her life's aim
was no failure. Let him expatiate on sound to the bounds of fancy's
extravagance, she could confidently follow, and would have volunteered
her testimony to a doubter, as if all were a question of tangible fact,
to be definitely proved. So in every matter. For all the comfort she
was to the man she loved, for her confidence in him who deserved it,
for her patient endurance of whatsoever ill she met or bore, for
choosing to walk in so peaceful a manner, with a heart so light and a
face so fair, praise to the Drummer's wife!
Elizabeth, the companion of her parents in all their happy rambling and
unambitious home-life, was their joy and pride. If she frolicked in the
grass while her father played his airs, she lost not a strain of the
music. She hearkened also to his deep discourse, and gave good heed,
when he illustrated the meaning of the tunes he loved to play. And
these were rarely the stirring strains with which the Governor's policy
kept the band chiefly busy when the soldiers gathered on summer nights
in knots of listeners, and the ladies of the fort, the Governor's wife,
and the wives of the officers, came out to enjoy the evening, or when a
vessel touched the rocky shore.
Elizabeth's vision was clearer than even love could make her
mother's,--clearer than music made her father's; since a distinct
conception of images seems not to be inevitable among the image-makers.
The prophets are not always to be called upon for an interpretation. No
white angel ever floats more clearly before the eyes of those who look
on the sculptor's finished work than before the eyes of Elizabeth
appeared the shapes and hues of sounds which swept in gay or solemn
procession through the windings of her father's horn, floating over the
blue water, dissolving as the mist. No bright-winged bird, fair flower,
or gorgeous sunset or sea-wave, was more distinct to the child's eyes
than the hues of the same notes, stately as palm or pine,--red as
crimson, white as wool, rich and full as violet, softly compelling as
Pauline Montier was by nature as active and diligent as Adolphus. She
was a seamstress before the days of Foray and the Drummer, and still
continued to ply her needle, though no longer urged by necessity. She
sewed for the officers' wives, she knit stockings and mufflers for the
soldiers. The income thus derived independently of Montier's public
service was very considerable.
Born of such parents, Elizabeth would have had some difficulty in
persuading herself that her business was to idle through this life.
Her early experiences were not as peaceful as those which followed her
tenth year. The noise of battle, the cries of defeat, the shouts of
victory, the sight of agonized faces, the vision of death, the
struggles of pain and anguish, the sorrow of bereavement,--she had seen
all with those young eyes. She had heard the whispered command in
hushed moments of mortal danger, and the shout of triumph--in the
tumult of victory,--had watched blazing ships, seen prisoners carried
to their cells, attended the burial of brave men slain in battle, had
marched with soldiers keeping time to funeral strains. Her courage and
her pity had been stirred in years when she could do no more than see
and hear. Once standing, through the heat of a bloody engagement, by
the side of a lad, a corporal's son, who was stationed to receive and
communicate an order, a random shot struck the boy down at her side.
She saw that he was dead,--waited for the order, transmitted it, and
then carried away the lifeless body of her fellow-sentinel, staggering
under the weighty burden, never resting till she had laid him in the
shelter of his father's quarters. After the engagement, this story was
told through the victorious ranks by the witnesses of her valor, and a
medal was awarded the child by acclamation. She always wore it, and was
as proud of it as a veteran of his ribbons and stars.
But now, in times of peace, the fair flower of her womanhood was
forming. Like a white hyacinth she grew,--a lady to look upon, with
whom, for loveliness, not a lady of the fort could be compared. Not one
of them in courage or unselfishness exceeded her.
The family lived in a little house adjoining the barracks. It was a
home that could boast of nothing beyond comfort and cleanliness;--the
word comfort I use as the poor man understands it. Neither Adolphus nor
Pauline had any worldly goods to bring with them when they came to
Foray. They lived at first, and for a long time, in the barracks; the
little house they now occupied had once been used for the storage of
provisions; but when the war ended, Adolphus succeeded in obtaining
permission to turn it into a dwelling-house. Here the child was
sheltered, and taught the use of a needle; and here she learned to read
In the great vegetable garden which covered the space between the
prison and the fort was a corner that reflected no great credit on the
authorities. The persons who might reasonably have been expected to
take that neglected bit of ground under their loving care did no such
thing. The beds were weeded by Sandy, the gardener, and now and then a
blossom rewarded that attention; but the flower-patch waited for
The gardener knew very well how she prized the pretty flowers;--they
appealed to his own rude nature in a very tender way. He loved to see
the young girl flying down the narrow paths as swiftly as a bird, if
she but spied a bloom from afar. There was a tree whose branches hung
over the wall, every one of them growing, with dreadful perversity,
away from the cold, hard prison-ground which held the roots so fast.
Time was never long enough when she sat in the shade of those branches,
watching Sandy at his work.
By-and-by it happened that the flower-garden was given over to the
charge of the girl. It was natural that she, who had never seen other
flower-beds than these, should, aided by the home-recollections of her
mother, imagine far prettier,--that she should dare suggest to Sandy,
until his patience and his skill were exhausted,--that the final good
result should have come about in a moment when no one looked for
it,--he giving up his task with vexation, she accepting it with
humility, and both working together thereafter, the most helpful of
It required not many seasons for Elizabeth to prove her skill and
diligence in the culture of this garden-ground,--not many for the
transformation of square, awkward beds into a mass of bloom. How did
those flowers delight the generous heart! With what particular splendor
shone the house of Montier through all the summer season! The ladies
now began to think about bouquets, and knew where they could find them.
From this same blessed nook the Governor's table was daily supplied
with its most beautiful ornament. Men tenderly disposed smiled on the
young face that from under the broad-brimmed garden-hat smiled back on
them. Some deemed her fairer than the flowers she cared for.
One day in the spring of the year that brought her thirteenth birthday,
Elizabeth ran down through the morning mist, and plucked the first
spring flower. She stayed but to gather the beauty whose budding she
had long watched; no one must rob her mother of this gift.
She carried off the prize before the gaze of one who had also hailed it
in the bleak, drear dawn. This was not the gardener;--and there was
neither man, woman, nor child in sight, during the swift run;--no
freeman; but a prisoner in an upper room of the prison. Through its
grated window, the only one on that side of the building, he had that
morning for the first time looked upon the island which had held him
long a prisoner.
Since daybreak he had stood before the window. The evening before, the
stone had been rolled away from the door of his sepulchre,--not by an
angel, neither by force of the resistless Life-spirit within, shall it
be said? Who knows that it was _not_ by an angel? who shall aver it was
_not_ by the resistless Life? At least, he was here,--brought from the
cell he had occupied these five years,--brought from the arms of Death.
His window below had looked on a dead stone-wall; this break in the
massive masonry gave heaven and earth to him.
The first ray of daylight saw him dragging his feeble body to the
window. He did not remove from that post till the rain was over,--nor
then, except for a moment. As the clouds rose from the sea, he watched
them. How strange was the aspect of all things! Thus, while he had
lived and not beheld, these trees had waved, these waters rolled, these
clouds gathered,--grass had grown, and flowers unfolded; for he saw the
scarlet bloom before Elizabeth plucked it. And all this while he had
lived like a dead man, unaware! Not so; but now he remembered not the
days, when, conscious of all this life, he had deathly despair in his
heart, and stones alone for friends.
Imprisonment and solitude had told upon the man. He was still young,
and one whom Nature and culture had fitted for no obscure station in
the world. He could, by every evidence he gave, perform no mere
commonplaces of virtue or of vice. The world's ways would not assign
his limitation. He was capable of devising and of executing great
things,--and had proved the power; and to this his presence testified,
even in dilapidation and listlessness.
His repose was the repose of helplessness,--not that of grace or
nature. The opening of this prospect with the daylight had not the
effect to increase his tranquillity. His dejection in the past months
had been that of a strong man who yields to necessity; his present mood
was not inspired with hope. The waves that leaped in the morning's
gloomy light were not so aimless as his life seemed to him. He had
heard a bird sing in the branches of a tree whose roots were in the
prison-yard,--now he could see her nest; he had heard the dismal
pattering of the rain,--and now beheld it, and the clouds from which it
fell; he saw the glimpses of the blue beyond, where the clouds were
breaking; he saw the fort, the cannon mounted on the walls, the flag
that fluttered from the tower, the barracks, the parade-ground, and the
surrounding sea, whose boundaries he knew not; he saw the trees, he saw
the garden-ground. Slowly his eyes scanned all,--and the soul that was
lodged in the emaciated figure grew faint and sick with seeing. But no
tears, no sighs, no indications of grief or despair or desperate
submission. He had little to learn of suffering;--that he knew. How
could he greet the day, hail the light, bless Nature for her beauty,
thank God for his life? Oh, the weariness with which he leaned his head
against those window-bars, faint and almost dying under the weight of
thoughts that rushed upon him, fierce enough to slay, if he showed any
resistance! But he manifested none. The day of struggle was over with
him. He believed that they had brought him to this room to die. If any
thought could give him joy, surely it was this. He was right. Yesterday
the Governor of the island, hearing the condition of the prisoner, this
one remaining man of all whose sentence had been endured within these
walls, had ordered a change of scene for him. His sentence was
imprisonment for life. Did they fear his release by the hands of one
who hears the sighing of the prisoner, and gives to every bondman the
Year of Jubilee? Were they jealous and suspicious of the approach of
Though he had been so long a prisoner, he showed in his person
self-respect and dignity of nature. His hair and beard were grown long;
many a gray thread shone in his chestnut locks; his mouth was a firm
feature; his eyes quiet, but not the mildest; his forehead very ample;
he was lofty in stature;--outside the prison, a freeman, his presence
would have been commanding. But he needed the free air for his lungs,
and the light to surround him,--the light to set him in relief, the
sense of life to compel him to stand out in his own powerful
individuality, distinct from every other living man.
By-and-by, while he stood at the window, looking forth upon the strange
scenes before him, this new heaven and new earth, the landscape became
alive. The first human creature he had seen outside his cell since he
became an inmate of this prison appeared before his eyes,--the young
girl skipping through the garden till she came to the flower-bed and
plucked the scarlet blossom. If she had been a spirit or an angel, he
could hardly have beheld her with greater surprise.
She was singing when she came. He thought he recognized that
voice,--that it was the same he had often heard from the cell below.
Many a time the horrible stillness of that cell had been broken by the
sound of a child's voice, which, like a spirit, swept unhindered
through the walls,--an essence of life, and a power.
It was but a moment that she paused before the flower; she plucked it,
and was gone. But his eyes could follow her. She did not really, with
her disappearing, vanish. And yet this vision had not to him the
significance of the bow seen in the cloud, whose interpreter, and whose
interpretation, was the Almighty Love.
All day he stood before that window. The keeper hailed the symptom. The
Governor was satisfied with the report. Towards sunset the rain was
over, and with the sun came forth abundant indications of the island
life. The gardener walked among the garden-beds and measured his
morrow's work, calculating time and means within his reach,--and
vouchsafing some attention to the flower-garden, as was evident when he
paused before it and made his thoughtful survey. The prisoner saw him
smile when he took hold of the broken stalk which had been
flower-crowned. And Sandy saw the prisoner.
The next day Elizabeth came out with the gardener, and they began their
day's work together. They seemed to be in the best spirits. The smell
of the fresh-turned earth, the sight of the fresh shoots of tender
green springing from bulb and root and branch, acted upon them like an
inspiration. The warm sun also held them to their task. Sandy was
generous in bestowing aid and counsel,--and also in the matter of his
land,--trenching farther on the ground allotted to the vegetables than
he had ever done before.
"The land must pay for it," said he. "We'll make a foot give us a
yard's worth. Cram a bushel into a peck, though 'The Doctor' said you
never could do that! I know how to coax."
"Yes, and you know how to order, if you have not forgotten, Sandy. You
frightened me once for taking an inch over my share."
"That was a long while back," answered honest Sandy,--"before I knew
what the little girl could do. I've seen young folk work at gardening
afore, but you do beat 'em all. How could I tell you would, though? You
don't look it. Yes,--may-be you do, though. But you've changed since
_I_ first knew you."
"Why, I was nothing but a baby then, Sandy."
"Yes, yes,--I know; but you're changed since then!"
So they all spoke to Elizabeth, praising her, confiding in her with
loving willingness,--the Daughter of the Regiment.
The gardener was proud of his assistant, and seemed to enjoy the part
she took in his labor. They worked till noon, Elizabeth stopping hardly
a moment to rest. All this while the prisoner stood watching by his
window, and the gardener saw him. The sight occasioned him a new
perplexity, and he gravely considered the subject. It was a good while
before he said to Elizabeth, speaking on conviction, in his usual low
and rather mysterious tone,--
"There's some one will enjoy it when all's done."
"Who is that?" asked she, thinking he meant herself, perhaps.
"One up above," was the answer.
But though Sandy spoke thus plainly, he did not look toward the
prison,--and the prison was the last place of which Elizabeth was
thinking. It was so long a time since the cell with the window had an
occupant, that she was almost unconscious of that gloomy neighborhood.
So, when the gardener explained that it was one up above who would
enjoy her work, her eyes instantly sought the celestial heights. She
was thinking of sun, or star, or angel, may-be, and smiling at Sandy's
speech, for sympathy.
He saw her new mistake, and made haste to correct this also.
"Not so high," said he, cautiously.
Then, but as it seemed of chance, and not of purpose, the eyes of
Elizabeth Montier turned toward the prison-wall, and fixed upon that
window, the solitary one visible from the garden, and her face flushed
in a manner that told her surprise--when she saw a man behind the iron
"Oh," said she, looking away quickly, as if conscious of a wrong done,
"what made you tell me?"
"I guess you will like to think one shut up like him will take a little
pleasure looking at what he can't get at," said Sandy, almost
sharply,--replying to something he did not quite understand, the pain
and the reproof of Elizabeth's speech.
"Oh, yes!" she answered, and went on with her work.
But though she might be pleased to think that her labor would answer
another and more serious purpose than her own gratification, or that of
the pretty flowers, it was something new and strange for the girl to
work under this mysterious sense of oversight.
"You have only got to speak the word," said the gardener, who had
perceived her perplexity, and was desirous of bringing her speedily to
his view of the case, "just speak, and he will be carried back to his
old cell below, t'other side."
Yes,--sure's you live, if he troubles you, Miss Elizabeth. Nobody will
think of letting him trouble you."
"Oh, me!" she exclaimed, quickly, "I should die quicker than have him
moved where he couldn't see the garden."
"I thought so," said Sandy, satisfied.
"Did you think I would complain of his standing by his window, Sandy?"
"How did I know you would like to be stared at?" asked he, with a
Elizabeth blushed and looked grave; to her the matter seemed too
"I might have said something," she mused, sadly.
"And if it had been to the wrong person," suggested Sandy;--"for they
a'n't very fond of him, I guess."
"Who is he, then? I never heard."
"He has been shut up in that building now a'most five year, Elizabeth,"
said Sandy, leaning on the handle of the spade he had struck into the
ground with emphasis.
"Summer heat, and winter cold. All the same to him. No wonder he
sticks, as if he was glued, to the window, now he's got one worth the
"Oh, let him!"
"If he could walk about the garden, it would be better yet"
"Won't he, Sandy?"
"I can't say. He's here for some terrible piece of work, they say. And
nobody knows what his name is, I guess,--hereabouts, I mean. I never
heard it. He won't be out very quick. But let him _look_ out, any way."
"Oh, Sandy! I might have said something that would have hindered!"
"Didn't I know you wouldn't for the world? That's why I told you."
The gardener now went on with his spading. But Elizabeth's work seemed
finished for this day. Above them stood the prisoner. He guessed not
what gentle hearts were pitiful with thinking of his sorrow.
The next day the prisoner was not at the window, nor the next day, nor
the next. Sandy was bold enough to ask the keeper, Mr. Laval, what was
the meaning of it, and learned that the man was ill, and not likely to
recover. Sandy told Elizabeth, and they agreed in thinking that for the
poor creature death was probably the least of evils.
But the day following that on--which they came to this conclusion, the
sick man appeared before Sandy's astonished eyes. He was under the
keeper's care. The physician had ordered this change of air, and they
came to the garden at on hour when there was least danger of meeting
other persons in the walks.
Sandy had much to tell Elizabeth when he saw her next. She trembled
while he told her how he thought that he had seen a ghost when the
keeper came leading the prisoner, whose pale face, tall figure, feeble
step, appeared to have so little to do with human nature and affairs.
"Did he seem to care for the flowers? did he take any?" she asked.
"No,--he would not touch them. The keeper offered him whatever he would
choose. He desired nothing. But he looked at all, he saw
everything,--even the beds of vegetables," Sandy said.
"Did he seem pleased?" Elizabeth again asked.
"Pleased!" exclaimed Sandy. "That's for you and me,--not a man that's
been shut up these five years. No,--he didn't look pleased. I don't
know how he looked; don't ask me; 'tisn't pleasant to think of."
"I would have made him take the flowers, if I had been here," said
Elizabeth, in a manner that seemed very positive, in comparison with
Sandy's uncertain speech.
"May-be,--I dare say," Sandy acquiesced; but he evidently had his
doubts even of her power in this business.
She must take no notice of the prisoner, she was given to understand
one day, if she was to remain in the garden while he walked there. So
she took no notice.
He came and went. Manuel, the keeper called him; and she was busy with
her weeding, and neither saw nor heard. Ah, she did not!--did _not_ see
the figure that came moving like a spectre through the gates!--did not
hear the slow dragging step of one who is weary almost to
helplessness,--the listless step that has lost the spring of hope, the
exultation of life, the expectation of spirit, the strength of
manhood!--She did hear, did see the man. We feel the nearness of our
friend who is a thousand miles away. Something beside the sunshine is
upon us, and receives our answering smile. That sudden shadow is not of
the passing cloud. That voice at midnight is not the disturbance of a
dream.--He walked about the garden; he retired to his cell. It might
have been an hour, or a minute, or a day. It does not take time to
dream a life's events. How is the drowning man whirled round the circle
of experiences which were so slow in their development!
Compassion without limit, courageous purpose impatient of inaction,
troubled this young girl.
"You behaved like a lady," said Sandy,--"you never looked up. You
needn't run now, I'm sure, when he thinks of taking a turn. All we've
got to do is to mind our own business, Mr. Laval says. I guess we can.
But I did want to let off those chains."
"What chains?" asked Elizabeth, as with a shudder she looked up at
"His wrists, you know,--locked," he explained.
"Oh!" groaned the gentle soul, and she walked off, forgetful of the
flowers, tools, Sandy, everything. But Sandy followed her; she heard
him calling to her, and before the garden-gate she waited for him; he
was following on a run.
"I can tell you what it's for," said he, for he had no idea of keeping
the secret to himself, and he dared not trust it to any other friend.
"What is it?" she asked,--and she trembled when she asked, and while
she waited for his answer.
"For lighting the Church. Would you think that? He did such damage, it
wasn't safe for him to be at liberty. That's how it was. I think he
must be a Lutheran;--you know they don't believe in the Holy Ghost! Of
course,--poor fellow!--it's right he should be shut up for warring with
the Church that came down through the holy Apostles, when you know all
the rest only started up with Luther and Calvin. He ought to have
"Who told you, Sandy?" asked Elizabeth, as if her next words might
undertake to extenuate and justify.
"It came straight enough, I understand. But--remember--you don't know
anything about it. His name is Manuel, though;--don't dare to mention
it;--that's what Mr. Laval calls him. Are you going? I wouldn't have
told you a word, but you took his trouble so to heart. You see, now,
it's right he should be shut up. But let on that you know anything, all
the worse for me,--I mean, him!"
"Yes," said Elizabeth, "you're safe, Sandy. Thank you for telling me."
Sandy walked off with a mind relieved, for he believed in Elizabeth,
and had found the facts communicated too great a burden to bear alone.
She passed through the garden-gate most remote from the fort; it opened
into a lonely road which ran inland from the coast, between the woods
and the prison, and to the woods she went. The shadows were gloomy
to-day, for she went among them lamenting the fate of the
stranger;--the mystery surrounding him had increased, not lessened,
with Sandy's explanation.
Fighting against _the Church_ was an unimagined crime. Of the great
conflict in which he had taken part, to the ruin of his fortunes, she
knew nothing. The disputes of Christendom, had they been explained,
would have seemed almost incredible to her. For, whatever was known and
discussed in the circle of the Governor of the island, Drummer Montier,
and such as he, kept the peace with all mankind. The Church took care
of itself, and appeared neither the oppressor nor the Saviour of the
world. What they had fought about in the first years of the possession
of Foray, Montier could hardly have told,--and yet he was no fool. He
could have given, of course, a partisan version of the struggle; but as
to its real cause, or true result, he knew as little as the other five
hundred men belonging to the regiment.
While Elizabeth wandered through those gloomy woods, she saw no
flowers, gathered no wild fruits,--though flowers and berries were
perfect and abundant. Now and then she paused in her walk to look
towards the prison, glimpses of whose strong walls were to be had
through the trees. At length the sound of her father's horn came loud
and clear from the cliffs beyond the wood. It fell upon her sombre
meditation and slightly changed the current. She hurried forward to
join him, and, as she went, a gracious purpose was shining in her face.
When she returned home, it was by the unfrequented prison-way, her
father playing the liveliest tunes he knew. For the first time in their
lives they sat down by the side of the lonely road where they had
emerged from the wood; Elizabeth's memory served her to recall every
air that was sweet to her, and she listened while her father played,
endeavoring to understand the sound those notes would have to "Manuel."
Montier could think of no worthier employment than the practice of his
music. Especially it pleased him that his daughter should ask so much
as she was now asking: he could not discern all that was passing in her
heart, nor see how many shadows moved before those sweet, serious eyes.
They went home at night-fall together; and the young girl's step was
not more light, now that her heart was troubled by what she must not
reveal, even to him.
The next morning Sandy was very busy with Elizabeth, tying up some
flowers which had been tossed about, and broken, many of them, in the
night gale, when the keeper came through the gate, leading this Manuel,
who, grim as a spectral shadow, that had been fearful but for its
exceeding pitifulness, stood now between her and all that she rejoiced
in. "There!" exclaimed Sandy. Looking up, she saw them approaching
straight along the path that led past the flowerbeds.
"Your flowers had a pretty rough time of it in the storm," said Jailer
Laval, as he drew near. He addressed the drummer's daughter,--but his
eyes were on Sandy, with the suspicious and stern inquiry common to men
who have betrayed a secret. But Sandy was busy with his delving.
"Yes," answered Elizabeth, and she looked from the ground up to the
faces of these men.
"Is that a rose-bush? That was roughly handled," said Laval, pointing
with his stick to the twisted rose-stalk covered with buds, over whose
blighted promise she had been lamenting.
"Yes," said Elizabeth again; but she hardly knew what she said, still
less was she aware of the expression her face wore when she looked at
the prisoner. Yes,--even as Sandy said, big wrists were chained
together; he was more like a ghost than a man; his face was pale and
hopeless, and woful beyond her understanding was the majesty of his
At such a price he paid for fights against _the Church!_ But in truth
he had not the look of an evil, warring man. His gravity, indeed, was
such as it seemed impossible to dispel. But only pity stirred the heart
of Elizabeth Montier as she looked on him. Surely it was a face that
never, in any excess of passion, could have looked malignance. Ah! and
at such a price he purchased his sunshine, the fresh air, and a near
vision of this flower-garden!--in chains!
When she looked at him, his gaze was on her,--not upon the roses. She
smiled, for pity's sake; but the smile met no return. His countenance
had not the habit of responding to such glances. Sombre as death was
that face. Then Elizabeth turned hastily away; but as the keeper also
moved on a step, she detained him with a hurried "Wait a minute," and
went on plucking the finest flowers in bloom. Like an iron statue stood
the prisoner while she plucked the roses,--it was but a minute's
work,--then she tied the flowers together and laid them on his fettered
hands; whether he would refuse them, whether the gift pained or pleased
him, whether the keeper approved, she seemed afraid to know,--for,
having given the flowers, she went away in haste.
It was not long after this first act of friendly courtesy, which had
many a repetition,--for the keeper was at bottom a humane man, and not
disposed to persecute his charge, while he was equally far from any
carelessness in guarding or leniency of treatment that would have
excited suspicion as to his purpose, in the minds of the authorities of
the island,--not long after this day, when the fine sympathy betrayed
for him by Elizabeth fell on Manuel's heart like dew, that the wife of
the jailer died.
Her death was sudden and unlooked-for, though neither Nature nor the
woman could have been blamed for the shock poor Laval experienced.
Death had fairly surrounded her, disarming her at every point, so that
when he called her there was no resistance.
Jailer Laval took the bereavement in a remorseful mood. The first thing
to be done now was the very last he would have owned to purposing
during her life-time. Release from that prison had been the woman's
prayer, year in and year out, these ten years, and Death was the bearer
of the answer to that prayer,--not her husband.
But now, from the day of her sudden decease, the prison had become to
him dreary beyond endurance. The mantle of her discontent fell on him,
and, having no other confidant beside honest, stupid Sandy, be talked
to him like a man who seriously thought of abandoning his labor, and
retiring to that land across the sea for which his wife had pined
during ten homesick years.
Sandy, who might have regarded himself in the light of an "humble
instrument," had he been capable of a particle of vanity or
presumption, told Elizabeth Montier, with whom he had held many a
conference concerning prison matters, since Manuel first began to walk
along the southern garden-walk, where the flower-beds lay against the
prison-wall. What was her answer? It came instantly, without
premeditation or precaution,--
"Then we must take his place, Sandy."
"We, Miss?" said Sandy, with even greater consternation than surprise.
"Yes," she replied, too much absorbed by what she was thinking, to mind
him and his blunders,--"papa must take the prison."
"Oh!"--and Sandy blushed through his tan at his absurd mistake. Then he
laughed, for he saw that she had not noticed it. Then he looked grave,
and wondering, and doubtful. The idea of Adolphus Montier's pretty wife
and pretty daughter changing their pretty home for life in the dark
prison startled him. He seemed to think it no less wrong than strange.
But he did not express that feeling out and out; he was hindered, as he
glanced sideways at the young girl who gazed so solemnly, so loftily,
before her. At what she was looking he could not divine. He saw
"I wouldn't be overly quick about that," said he, cautiously.
"No danger!" was the prompt reply.
"For I tell _you_, of all the places I ever see, that prison makes me
feel the queerest. I believe it's one reason I let the flower-garden go
so long," owned Sandy. He did not speak these words without an effort;
and never had Elizabeth seen him so solemn. She also was grave,--but
not after his manner of gravity.
"You see what I did with the poor flower-beds, Sandy," said she. "Wait
now till you see what happens to the prison."
But it is one thing to purpose, and another to execute. Far easier for
Elizabeth to declare than to conduct an heroic design. One thing
prevented rest day and night,--the knowledge that Laval's intended
resignation must be followed by a new application and appointment. With
such a degree of sympathy had the condition of the captive inspired
her, that the idea of the bare possibility of cruelty or neglect or
brutality assuming the jailer's authority seemed to lay upon her all
the responsibility of his future. She must act, for she dared not
One evening Adolphus took his horn, and, attended by wife and child,
went out to walk. He meant to send a strain from the highest of the
accessible coast-rocks. But Elizabeth changed his plan. The time was
good for what she had to say. Instead of expending his enthusiasm on a
flourish of notes, he was called upon to manifest it in a noble
When Elizabeth invited her father to a prospect sylvan rather than
marine, to the shady path on the border of the wood between it and the
prison, Montier, easily drawn from any plan that concerned his own
inclination merely, let his daughter lead, and she was responsible for
all that followed in the history of that little family. So love defers
to love, with divine courtesy, through all celestial movements.
After playing a few airs, Montier's anticipated evening ended, and
another set in. The sympathies of a condition, the opposite to that of
which he had been so happily conscious, pressed too closely against
him. The musician could not, for the life of him, have played with
becoming spirit through any one of all the strains of victory he knew.
Near him, under a tulip-tree, sat Pauline, with her knitting in her
hand, the image of peace. Not so Elizabeth. She was doubting, troubled.
But when the bird her father's music moved to sing was still, she
spoke, as she had promised herself she would, asking a question, of
whose answer she had not the slightest doubt.
"Papa, do you know that Mr. Laval is going away?"
"Why, yes, that's the talk, I believe."
"Will they get somebody to take his place?"
"Of course. There's a prisoner on hand yet, you know,--and the house to
"A big house, too, and dreadful dreary," remarked the mother of
Elizabeth. "Laval's wife used to say, when she came up to see me
sometimes, it was like being a prisoner to live in that building. And
now she's dead and gone, he begins to think the same."
"Suppose we take Laval's place," suggested Montier, looking very
seriously at his wife; but the suggestion did not alarm her. Adolphus
often expressed his satisfaction with existing arrangements by making
propositions of exchange for other states of life, propositions which
never disturbed his wife or daughter. They understood these
demonstrations of his deep content. Therefore, at these words of his,
Pauline smiled, and for the reason that the words could draw forth such
a smile Elizabeth looked grave.
"I wish we could, papa," said she.
"You wish we could, you child?" exclaimed her mother, wondering. "It
looks so pleasant, eh?" and the fair face of Pauline turned to the
prison, and surveyed it, shuddering.
"For the prisoner's sake," said Elizabeth. "Who knows but a cruel