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Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 10, August, 1858 by Various

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How very freely we had bled,--
We were not laying out a bed
To force their early square-roots.

The observations _we_ wished made
Were on the spirit we'd displayed,
Worthy of Athens' high days;
But _they_'ve put in a man who thinks
Only of planets' nodes and winks,
So full of astronomic kinks
He eats star-fish on Fridays.

The instruments we did not mean
For seeing through, but to be seen
At tap of Trustee's knuckle;
But the Director locks the gate,
And makes ourselves and strangers wait
While he is ciphering on a slate
The rust of Saturn's buckle.

So on the wall's outside we stand,
Admire the keyhole's contour grand
And gateposts' sturdy granite;--
But, ah, is Science safe, we say,
With one who treats Trustees this way?
Who knows but he may snub, some day,
A well-conducted planet?

Who knows what mischief he may brew
With such a telescope brand-new
At the four-hundredth power?
He may bring some new comet down
So near that it'll singe the town
And do the Burgess-Corps crisp-brown
Ere they can storm his tower.

We wanted (having got our show)
Some man, that had a name or so,
To be our public showman;
But this one shuts and locks the gate:
Who'll answer but he'll peculate,
(And, faith, some stars are missed of late,)
Now that he's watched by no man?

Our own discoveries he may steal,
Or put night's candles out, to deal
At junkshops with the sockets:
_Savants_, in other lands or this,
If any theory you miss
Whereon your cipher graven is,
Don't fail to search his pockets!

Lock up your comets: if that fails,
Then notch their ears and clip their tails,
That you at need may swear to 'em;
And watch your nebulous flocks at night,
For, if your palings are not tight,
He may, to gratify his spite,
Let in the Little Bear to 'em.

Then he's so quarrelsome, we've fears
He'll set the very Twins by the ears,--
So mad, if you resist him,
He'd get Aquarius to play
A milkman's trick, some cloudy day,
And water all the Milky Way
To starve some sucking system.

But plaints are vain! through wrath or pride,
The Council all espouse his side
And will our missives con no more;
And who that knows what _savants_ are,
Each snappish as a Leyden jar,
Will hope to soothe the wordy war
'Twixt Ologist and Onomer?

Search a Reform Convention, where
He- and she-resiarehs prepare
To get the world in _their_ power,
You will not, when 'tis loudest, find
Such gifts to hug and snarl combined
As drive each astronomic mind
With fifty-score Great-Bear-power!

No! put the Bootees on your foot,
Elope with Virgo, strive to shoot
That arrow of O'Ryan's,
Drain Georgian Ciders to the lees,
Attempt what crackbrained thing you please,
But dream not you can e'er appease
An angry man of science!

Ah, would I were, as I was once,
To fair Astronomy a dunce,
Or launching _jeux d'esprit_ at her,
Of light zodiacal making light,
Deaf to all tales of comets bright,
And knowing but such stars as might
Roll r-rs at our theatre!

Then calm I drew my night-cap on,
Nor bondsman was for what went on
Ere morning in the heavens;
Twas no concern of mine to fix
The Pleiades at seven or six,--
But now the _omnium genitrix_
Seems all at sixes and sevens.

Alas,'twas in an evil hour
We signed the paper for the tower,
With Mrs. D. to head it!
For, if the Council have their way,
We've merely had, as Frenchmen say,
The painful _maladie du_ pay,
While they get all the credit!

Boys, henceforth doomed to spell Trustees,
Think not it ends in double ease
To those who hold the office;
Shun Science as you would Despair,
Sit not in Cassiopeia's chair,
Nor hope from Berenice's hair
To bring away your trophies!


Well, it has happened, and we have survived it pretty well. The
Democratic Almanacs predicted a torrent, a whirlwind, and we know not
what meteoric phenomena,--but the next day Nature gave no sign, the
dome of the State-House was in its place, the Monument was as plumb as
ever, no chimney mourned a ravished brick, and the Republican Party
took its morning tea and toast in peace and safety. On the whole, it
must be considered a wonderful escape. Since Partridge's time there
had been no such prophecies,--since Miller's, no such perverse
disobligingness in the event.

But what had happened? Why, the Democratic Young Men's Celebration, to
be sure, and Mr. Choate's Oration.

The good city of Boston in New England, for we know not how many
years, had been in the habit of celebrating the National Birthday,
first, with an oration, as became the Athens of America, and second,
with a dinner, as was meet in the descendants of Teutonic forefathers.
The forenoon's oration glorified us in the lump as a people, and every
man could reckon and appropriate his own share of credit by the simple
arithmetical process of dividing the last census by the value he set
upon himself, a divisor easily obtained by subtracting from the total
of inhabitants in his village the number of neighbors whom he
considered ciphers. At the afternoon's dinner, the pudding of praise
was served out in slices to favored individuals; dry toasts were drunk
by drier dignitaries; the Governor was compared to Solon; the Chief
Justice to Brutus; the Orator of the Day to Demosthenes; the Colonel
of the Boston Regiment to Julius Caesar; and everybody went home happy
from a feast where the historic parallels were sure to hold out to the
last Z in Lempriere.

Gradually matters took a new course; the Union was suddenly supposed
to lie at the point of dissolution, and what we may call the
Doctor-Brandreth style of oratory began. Every orator mounted the
rostrum, like a mountebank at a fair, to proclaim the virtues of his
private panacea for the morbid Commonwealth, and, as was natural in
young students of political therapeutics, fancied that he saw symptoms
of the dread malady of Disunion in a simple eruption of Jethro Furber
at a convention of the Catawampusville Come-outers, or of Pyrophagus
Quattlebum at a training of the Palmetto Plug-Uglies,--neither of
which was skin-deep. The dinners became equally dreary. Did the eye of
a speaker light on the national dish of beans, he was reminded of the
languid pulse of the sentiment of union; did he see a broiled chicken,
it called up to his mind's eye the bird of our _un_common
country, with the gridiron on his breast, liable to be reduced at any
moment to the heraldic duality of his Austrian congener by the strife
of contending sections pulling in opposite directions; an innocent
pippin was enough to suggest the apple of discord; and with the
removal of the cloth came a dessert of diagnoses on the cancer that
was supposed to be preying on the national vitals. The only variety
was a cringing compliment, in which Bunker Hill curtsied to King's
Mountain, to any Southern brother who chanced to be present, and who
replied patronizingly,--while his compatriots at the warmer end of the
Union were probably, with amiable sincerity, applying to the Yankees
that epithet whose expression in type differs but little from that of
a doctorate in divinity, but which precedes the name it qualifies, as
that follows it, and was never, except by Beaumarchais and Fielding,
reckoned among titles of honor or courtesy.

A delusion seemed to have taken possession of our public men, that the
people wanted doctors of the body-politic to rule over them, and, if
those were not to be had, would put up with the next best
thing,--quacks. Every one who was willing to be an Eminent Statesman
issued his circulars, like the Retired Physician, on all public
occasions, offering to send his recipe in return for a vote. The
cabalistic formula always turned out to be this:--"Take your humble
servant for four years at the White House; if no cure is effected,
repeat the dose."

Meanwhile were there any symptoms of disease in the Constitution? Not
the least. The whole affair was like one of those alarms in a
country-town which begin with the rumor of ten cases of confluent
small-pox and end with the discovery that the doctor has been called
to a case of nettle-rash at Deacon Scudder's. But sober men, who
loved the Union in a quiet way, without advertising it in the
newspapers, and who were willing to sacrifice everything to the
Constitution but the rights it was intended to protect, began to fear
that the alarmists might create the disease which they kept up so much
excitement about.

This being the posture of affairs, the city of Boston, a twelvemonth
since, chose for their annual orator a clergyman distinguished for
eloquence, and for that important part of patriotism, at least, which
consists in purity of life. This gentleman, being neither a candidate
for office nor the canvasser of a candidate, ventured upon a new kind
of address. He took for his theme the duties consequent upon the
privileges of Freedom, ventured to mention self-respect as one of
them, and commented upon the invitation of a Virginia Senator, the
author of the Fugitive Slave Bill, to a Seventeenth-of-June
Celebration, while the Senators of Massachusetts were neglected. In
speaking of this, he used, we believe, the word "flunkeyism." It is
not an elegant word; it is not even an English one;--but had the
speaker sought for a Saxon correlative, he could hardly have found one
that would have seemed more satisfactory, especially to those who
deserved it; for Saxon is straightforward, and a reluctance to be
classified (fatal to science) is characteristic of the human animal.

An orator who suggests a new view of any topic is a disturber of the
digestive organs,--this was very properly a matter of offence to the
Aldermen who were to dine after the oration,--but an orator who
tampers with the language we have inherited from Shakspeare and
Milton, and which we share with Tupper, was an object for deeper
reprobation. The Young Men's Democratic Association of Boston are
purists; they are jealous for their mother-tongue,--and it is the more
disinterested in them as a large proportion of them are Irishmen; they
are exclusive,--a generous confusion of ideas as to the meaning of
democracy, even more characteristically Hibernian; they are
sentimental, too,--melancholy as gibcats,--and feared (from last
year's example) that the city might not furnish them with a
sufficiently lachrymose Antony to hold up before them the bloody
garment of America, and show what rents the envious Blairs and Wilsons
and Douglasses had made in it. Accordingly they resolved to have a
public celebration all to themselves,--a pocket-edition of the
cumbrous civic work,--and as the city provided fireworks in the
evening, in order to be beforehand with it in their pyrotechnics, they
gave Mr. Choate in the forenoon.

We did not hear Mr. Choate's oration; we only read it in the
newspapers. Cold fireworks, the morning after, are not enlivening.
You have the form without the fire, and the stick without the soar.
But we soon found that we were to expect no such disappointment from
Mr. Choate. He seems to announce at the outset that he has closed his
laboratory. The Prospero of periods had broken his wand and sunk his
book deeper than ever office-hunter sounded. The boys in the street
might wander fancy-free, and fire their Chinese crackers as they
listed; but for him this was a solemn occasion, and he invited his
hearers to a Stoic feast of Medford crackers and water, to a
philosophic banquet of metaphors and metaphysics.

We confess that we expected a great deal. Better a crust with Plato
than nightingales' tongues with Apicius; and if Mr. Choate promised
only the crust, we were sure of one melodious tongue, at least, before
the meal was over. He is a man of whom any community might be
proud. Were society an organized thing here, as in Europe, no dinner
and no drawing-room would be perfect without his talk. He would have
been heard gladly at Johnson's club. The Hortensins of our courts,
with a cloud of clients, he yet finds time to be a scholar and a
critic, and to read Plato and Homer as they were read by Plato's and
Homer's countrymen. Unsurpassed in that eloquence which, if it does
not convince, intoxicates a jury, he was counted, so long as Webster
lived, the second advocate of our bar.

All this we concede to Mr. Choate with unreserved admiration; but
when, leaving the field where he had won his spurs as the successful
defender of men criminally accused, he undertakes to demonstrate the
sources whence national life is drawn, and the causes which lead to
its decay,--to expound authoritatively the theory of political ethics
and the principles of sagacious statesmanship, wary in its steps, and
therefore durable in its results,--it becomes natural and fair to ask,
What has been the special training that has fitted him for the task?
More than this: when he comes forward as the public prosecutor of the
Republican Party, it becomes our duty to examine the force of his
arguments and the soundness of his logic. Has his own experience given
him any right to talk superciliously to a great party overwhelmingly
triumphant in the Free States? And does his oration show him to
possess such qualities of mind, such grasp of reason, such continuity
of induction, as to entitle him to underrate the intelligence of so
large a number of his fellow-citizens by accusing them of being
incapable of a generalization and incompetent to apprehend a

The Bar has given few historically-great statesmen to the
world,--fewer than the Church, which Mr. Choate undervalues in a
sentence which, we cannot help thinking, is below the dignity of the
occasion, and jarringly discordant with the generally elevated tone of
his address. Burke, an authority whom Mr. Choate will not call in
question, has said that the training of the bar tends to make the
faculties acute, but at the same time narrow. The study of
jurisprudence may, no doubt, enlarge the intellect; but the habit of
mind induced by an indiscriminate advocacy--which may be summoned to
the defence of a Sidney to-day and of a spoon-thief to-morrow--is
rather that of the sophist than of the philosophic reasoner. Not
truth, but the questionable victory of the moment, becomes naturally
and inevitably the aim and end of all the pleader's faculties. For
him the question is not what principle, but what interest of John Doe,
may be at stake. Such has been Mr. Choate's school as a reasoner. As
a politician, his experience has been limited. The member of a party
which rarely succeeded in winning, and never in long retaining, the
suffrages of the country, he for a time occupied a seat in the Senate,
but without justifying the expectations of his friends. So far, his
history shows nothing that can give him the right to assume so high
and mighty a tone in speaking of his political opponents.

But in his scholarship he has a claim to be heard, and to be heard
respectfully. Here lies his real strength, and hence is derived the
inspiration of his better eloquence. The scholar enjoys more than the
privilege, without the curse, of the Wandering Jew. He can tread the
windy plain of Troy, he can listen to Demosthenes, can follow Dante
through Paradise, can await the rising of the curtain for the first
acting of Hamlet. Mr. Choate's oration shows that he has drawn that
full breath which is, perhaps, possible only under a Grecian sky, and
it is, in its better parts, scholarly in the best sense of the
word.[1] It shows that he has read out-of-the-way books, like Bodinus
"De Republica," and fresh ones, like Gladstone's Homer,--that he can
do justice, with Spinoza, to Machiavelli,--and that in letters, at
least, he has no narrow prejudices. Its sentences are full of
scholarly allusion, and its language glitters continually with pattins
of bright gold from Shakspeare. We abhor that profane vulgarity of our
politics which denies to an antagonist the merits which are justly
his, because he may have been blinded to the truth of our principles
by the demerits which are justly ours,--which hates the man because it
hates his creed, and, instead of grappling with his argument, seeks in
the kitchen-drains of scandal for the material to bespatter his
reputation. Let us say, then, honestly, what we honestly think,--the
feeling, the mastery and choice of language, the intellectual
comprehensiveness of glance, which can so order the many-columned
aisle of a period, that the eye, losing none of the crowded
particulars, yet sees through all, at the vista's end, the gleaming
figure of thought to enshrine which the costly fabric was reared,--all
these qualities of the orator demand and receive our sincere
applause. In an age when indolence or the study of French models has
reduced our sentences to the economic curtness of telegraphic
despatches, to the dimension of the epigram without its point,
Mr. Choate is one of the few whose paragraphs echo with the
long-resounding pace of Dryden's coursers, and who can drive a
predicate and six without danger of an overset.

Mr. Choate begins by congratulating his hearers that there comes one
day in our year when "faults may be forgotten,-- ... when the
arrogance of reform, the excesses of reform, the strife of parties,
the rivalries of regions, shall give place to a wider, warmer, juster
sentiment,--when, turning from the corners and dark places of
offensiveness, ... we may go up together to the serene and secret
mountain-top," etc. Had he kept to the path which he thus marked out
for himself, we should have had nothing to say. But he goes out of
his way to indulge a spleen unworthy of himself and the occasion, and
brings against political opponents, sometimes directly, sometimes by
innuendo, charges which, as displaying personal irritation, are
impolitic and in bad taste. One fruit of scholarship, and its fairest,
he does not seem to have plucked,--one proof of contented conviction
in the truth of his opinions he does not give,--that indifference to
contemporary clamor and hostile criticism, that magnanimous
self-trust, which, assured of its own loyalty to present duty, can
wait patiently for future justice.

His exordium over, Mr. Choate proceeds to define and to discuss
Nationality. We heartily agree with him in all he says in its praise,
and draw attention, in passing, to a charming idyllic passage in which
he speaks of the early influences which first develope in us its
germinal principle. But when he says, that the sentiment of a national
life, once existing, must still be kept alive by an exercise of the
reason and the will, we dissent. It must be a matter of instinct, or
it is nothing. The examples of nationality which he cites are those of
ancient Greece and modern Germany. Now we affirm, that, with
accidental exceptions, nationality has always been a matter of race,
and was eminently so in the instances he quotes. If we read rightly,
the nationality which glows in the "Iliad," and which it was, perhaps,
one object of the poem to rouse or to make coherent, is one of blood,
not territory. The same is true of Germany, of Russia, (adding the
element of a common religious creed,) and of France, where the Celtic
sentiment becomes day by day more predominant. The exceptions are
England and Switzerland, whose intense nationality is due to
insulation, and Holland, which was morally an island, cut off as it
was from France by difference of language and antipathy of race, and
from kindred Germany by the antagonism of institutions. A patriotism
by the chart is a monster that the world ne'er saw. Men may fall in
love with a lady's picture, but not with the map of their country.
Few persons have the poetic imagination of Mr. Choate, that can vivify
the dead lines and combine the complex features. It seems to us that
our own problem of creating a national sentiment out of such diverse
materials of race, such sometimes discordant or even hostile
traditions, and then of giving it an intenseness of vitality that can
overcome our vast spaces and our differences of climate and interest,
is a new problem, not easily to be worked out by the old
methods. Mr. Choate's plan seems to consist in the old formula of the
Fathers. He would have us think of their sacrifices and their
heroisms, their common danger and their common deliverance.
Excellent, as far as it goes; but what are we to do with the large
foreign fraction of our population imported within the last forty
years, a great proportion of whom never so much as heard even of the
war of 1812? Shall we talk of Bennington and Yorktown to the Germans,
whose grandfathers, if they were concerned at all in those memorable
transactions, were concerned on the wrong side? Shall we talk of the
constancy of Puritan Pilgrims to the Romanist Irishman, who knows more
of Brian Boroo than of the Mayflower?

It will be many generations before we become so fused as to have a
common past, and the conciliation and forbearance which Mr. Choate
recommends to related sections of country will be more than equally
necessary to unrelated races. But while we are waiting for a past in
which we can all agree, Mr. Choate sees danger in the disrespect which
he accuses certain _anonymi_ of entertaining for the past in
general. But for what past? Does Mr. Choate mean our own American
past? Does he refer us to that for lessons of forbearance, submission,
and waiting for God's good time? Is the contemplation of their own
history and respect for their own traditions the lenitive he
prescribes for a people whose only history is a revolution, whose only
tradition is rebellion? To what past and to what tradition did the
Pilgrim Fathers appeal, except to that past, older than all history,
that tradition, sacred from all decay, which, derived from an
antiquity behind and beyond all the hoary generations, points the
human soul to the God from whom it derived life, and with it the
privilege of freedom and the duty of obedience? To what historical
past did Jefferson go for the preamble of the Declaration, unless to
the reveries of a half-dozen innovating enthusiasts, men of the
closet,--of that class which Mr. Choate disparages by implication,
though it has done more to shape the course of the world than any
number of statesmen, whose highest office is, commonly, to deal
prudently with the circumstances of the moment?

Mr. Choate does a great injustice to the Republican Party when he lays
this irreverence for the past to their charge. As he seems to think
that he alone has read books and studied the lessons of antiquity, he
will be pleased to learn that there are persons also in that party who
have not neglected all their opportunities in that kind. The object of
the Republicans is to bring back the policy and practice of the
Republic to some nearer agreement with the traditions of the
fathers. They also have a National Idea,--for some of them are capable
of distinguishing "a phrase from an idea," or Mr. Choate would find it
easier to convert them. They propose to create a National Sentiment,
in the only way that is possible under conditions like ours, by
clearing the way for the development of a nation which shall be, not
only in Fourth-of-July orations, but on every day in the year, and in
the mouths of all peoples, great and wise, just and brave, and whose
idea, always august and venerable, by turns lovely and terrible, shall
bind us all in a common nationality by our loyalty to what is true,
our reverence for what is good, our love for what is beautiful, and
our sense of security in what is mighty. That is the America which the
Fathers conceived, and it is that to which the children look
forward,--an America which shall displace Ireland and Germany,
Massachusetts and Carolina, in the hearts of those who call them
mother, with an image of maternity at once more tender and more

There is a past for which Republicans have indeed no respect,--but it
is one of recent date; there is a history from which they refuse to
take lessons except for warning and not example,--but it is a history
which is not yet written. When the future historian shall study that
past and gather materials for writing that history, he will find cause
for wonder at the strength of that national vitality which could
withstand and survive, not the efforts of Mr. Choate's dreadful
reformers, but of an administration calling itself Democratic, which,
with the creed of the Ostend Manifesto for its foreign, and the
practice of Kansas for its domestic policy, could yet find a scholar
and a gentleman like Mr. Choate to defend it.

Mr. Choate charges the Republicans with being incapable of a
generalization. They can, at least, generalize so far as this, that,
when they find a number of sophistries in an argument, they conclude
that the cause which requires their support must be a weak one. One of
the most amusing of these in the oration before us is where (using the
very same arguments that were urged in favor of that coalition in
Massachusetts against the morality of which the then party of Mr.
Choate exclaimed so loudly) he extols the merits of Compromise in
statesmanship. In support of what he says on this subject, he quotes
from a speech of Archbishop Whately a passage in favor of
Expediency. It is really too bad, that the Primate of Ireland, of all
men living, should be made the abetter in two fallacies. In the first
place, Mr. Choate assumes that there are certain deluded persons who
affirm that all compromises in politics are wrong. Having stuffed out
his man of straw, he proceeds gravely to argue with him, as if he were
as cunning of fence as Duns Scotus. One would think, from some of the
notions he deems it necessary to combat, that we were living in the
time of the Fifth-Monarchy men, and that Captain Venner with his troop
was ready to issue from the garrets of Batterymarch Street, to find
Armageddon in Dock Square, and the Beast of the Revelation in the
Chief of Police. There is no man who believes that the ship of State,
any more than an ordinary vessel, can be navigated by the New
Testament alone; but neither will be the worse for having it
aboard. The Puritans sailed theirs by Deuteronomy, but it was a
Deuteronomy qualified by an eye to the main chance. Mr. Choate's
syllogism may be stated thus: Some compromises are necessary in order
to carry on a free government; but this is a compromise; therefore it
is necessary. Here is the first fallacy. The other syllogism runs
thus: Expediency is essential in politics; so also is compromise;
therefore some particular compromise is expedient. Fallacy number
two. The latent application in this part of Mr. Choate's oration is,
of course, to Compromises on the Slavery question. We agree with him,
that no man of sense will deny that compromise is essential in
politics, and especially in our politics. With a single exception, all
that he says on this topic is expressed with masterly force and
completeness. But when we come to the application of it, the matter
assumes another face. Men of sense may, and do, differ as to what _is_
a compromise, or, agreeing in that, they may differ again as to
whether it be expedient. For example, if a man, having taken another's
cloak, insist on taking his coat also, the denudee, though he might
congratulate himself on having been set forward so far on his way
toward the natural man of Rousseau, would hardly call the affair a
compromise on the part of the denuder. Or again, if his brother with
principles should offer to compromise about the coat by taking only
half of it, he would be in considerable doubt whether the arrangement
were expedient. Now there are many honest people, not as eloquent as
Mr. Choate, not as scholarly, and perhaps not more illogical, who
firmly believe that our compromises on the question of Slavery have
afforded examples of both the species above described. It is not
unnatural, therefore, that, while they assent to his general
theory, they should protest against his mode of applying it to
particulars. They may be incapable of a generalization, (they
certainly are, if this be Mr. Choate's notion of one,) but they are
incapable also of a deliberate fallacy. We think we find here one of
the cases in which his training as an advocate has been of evil effect
on his fairness of mind. No more potent lie can be made than of the
ashes of truth. A fallacy is dangerous because of the half-truth in
it. Swallow a strong dose of pure poison, and the stomach may reject
it; but take half as much, mixed with innocent water, and it will do
you a mischief. But Mr. Choate is nothing, if not illogical:
recognizing the manifest hand of God in the affairs of the world, he
would leave the question of Slavery with Him. Now we offer Mr. Choate
a _dilemma_: either God _always_ interferes, or _sometimes_: if
always, why need Mr. Choate meddle? why not leave it to Him to avert
the dangers of Anti-slavery, as well as to remedy the evils of
Slavery?--if only sometimes, (_nec deus intersit nisi dignus vindice
nodus,_) who is to decide when the time for human effort has come?
Each man for himself, or Mr. Choate for all?

Let us try Mr. Choate's style of reasoning against himself. He says,
"One may know Aristophanes and Geography and the Cosmical Unity and
Telluric Influences," (why _didn't_ he add, "Neptune, Plutarch,
and Nicodemus"!) "and the smaller morals of life, and the sounding
pretensions of philanthropy," (this last, at any rate, is useful
knowledge,) "and yet not know America." We must confess, that we do
not see why on earth he should. In fact, by the time he had got to
the "Telluric Influences," (whatever they are,) we should think he
might consider his education completed, and his head would even then
be as great a wonder as that of the schoolmaster in the "Deserted
Village." In the same way, a man might have seen a horse, (if only a
clothes-horse,) a dog, a cat, and a tadpole, and yet never have seen
the elephant,--a most blame-worthy neglect of opportunities. But let
us apply Mr. Choate's syllogistic process to the list of this
extraordinary nameless person's acquirements. The Republican Party do
_not_ know any of these amazing things; _ergo_, they must
know America; and the corollary (judging from Mr. Choate's own
practice, as displayed in the parts of his oration which we are sure
he will one day wish to blot) would seem to be, that, having the honor
of her acquaintance, they may apply very contemptuous epithets to
everybody that disagrees with them. The only weak point in our case
is, that Mr. Choate himself seems to allow them the one merit of
knowing something of Geography,--for he says they wished to elect a
"geographical President,"--but, perhaps, as they did not succeed in
doing so, he will forgive them the possession of that accomplishment,
so hostile to a knowledge of America.

We confess that we were surprised to find Mr. Choate reviving, on "the
serene and secret mountain-top,"--which, being interpreted, means the
rather prosaic Tremont Temple,--the forgotten slang of a bygone
political contest, as in the instance we have just quoted of the
"geographical President." We think that Colonel Fremont might be
allowed to rest in peace, now that a California court has
decided--with a logic worthy of Mr. Choate himself--that he has no
manner of right to the gold in his Mariposa mines, _because_ he
owns them. But we should like to have Mr. Choate define, when he has
leisure, where an unfortunate candidate can take up his abode, in
order to escape the imputation of being "geographical." It is a grave
charge to be brought against any man, as we see by its being coupled
with those dreadful Telluric Influences and Cosmical (ought we not to
_dele_ the _s?_) Unities; and since the most harmless man in
the world may become a candidate before he expects it, it would be
charitable to warn him beforehand what is an allowable _habitat_
in such a contingency.

We said we were surprised at seeing our old friend, the "geographical
President," again; but we soon found that he reappeared only as the
file-leader of a ragged regiment of kindred scarecrows,--nay, with
others so battered and bedraggled, that they were scarce fit to be the
camp-followers of the soldiery with whom Falstaff refused to march
through Coventry. The sarcasms which Mr. Choate vents against the
Anti-slavery sentiment of the country are so old as to be positively
respectable,--we wish we could say that their vivacity increased with
their years,--and as for his graver indictments, there never was
anything so ancient, unless it be an American lad of eighteen. There
are not a great many of either, but they are made to recur often
enough to produce the impression of numbers. They remind us of the
theatric army, composed always of the same old guard of
supernumeraries and candle-snuffers, and which, by marching round and
round the paper forest in the background, would make six men pass
muster very well for sixty, did not the fatally regular recurrence of
the hero whose cotton armor bunches at the knees, and the other whose
legs insist on the un-Grecian eccentricity of being straight in
profile and crooked in a front view, bring us back to calmer

We used the word _indictments_ with design, both as appropriate
to Mr. Choate's profession and exactly descriptive of the thing
itself. For, as in an indictment for murder, in order to close every
loophole of evasion, the prudent attorney affirms that the accused did
the deed with an awfully destructive _to-wit_,--with a knife,
axe, bludgeon, pistol, bootjack, six-pounder, and what not, which were
then and there in the Briarean hands of him the said What's-his-name,
so Mr. Choate represents the Republican Party to have attempted the
assassination of the Constitution with a most remarkable medley of
instruments. He does not, indeed, use the words "Republican Party,"
but it is perfectly clear from the context, as in the case of the
"geographical President," for whom the charges are intended. Out of
tenderness for the artist, let him for whom the garment is intended
put it on, though it may not fit him,--and for our own parts, as
humble members of the Anti-slave-trade, Anti-filibuster, and
Anti-disreputable-things-generally Party, we don our Joseph's coat
(for Mr. Choate could not make one that was not of many colors) with
good-humored serenity.

Of course, Sectionalism is not forgotten. The pumpkin-lantern, that
had performed so many offices of alarm, though a little wrinkled now,
was too valuable a stage-property to be neglected. In the hands of so
skilful an operator, its slender body flutters voluminous with new
folds of inexpensive cotton, and its eyes glare with the baleful
terrors of unlimited tallow. Mr. Choate honestly confesses that
sectional jealousies are coeval with the country itself, but it is
only as fomented by Anti-slavery-extension that he finds them
dreadful. When South Carolina threatened disunion unless the Tariff of
the party to which Mr. Choate then belonged were modified, did he
think it necessary for the Protectionists to surrender their policy?
There is not, and there never was, any party numerically considerable
at the North, in favor of disunion. Were homilies on fraternal
concessions the things to heal this breach, the South is the fitting
place for their delivery; but mouth-glue, however useful to stick
slight matters together, is not the cement with which confederacies
are bound to a common centre. There must be the gravitation of
interest as well as of honor and duty. We wonder that the parallel
case of Scotland and England did not occur to Mr. Choate, in speaking
upon this point. Scotland was clamorous and England jealously
contemptuous, for nearly a century. Twice since the union, the land
of cakes has been in rebellion; but as long as a pound Scots was only
a twentieth part of a pound English,--as long as the treasury was
filled chiefly from south the Tweed, and the sons of poor and proud
Scottish lairds could make glittering abstractions from it,--as long
as place was to be won or hoped for,--there was no danger. So with
us,--though Jacob and Esau quarrelled already in the womb, yet, so
long as the weaker and more politic brother can get the elder
brother's portion, and simple Esau hunts his whales and pierces his
untrodden forests, content with his mess of pottage,--honestly abiding
by his bargain, though a little puzzled at its terms,--we think that
fratricide, or the sincere thought of it, is very far off.

* * * * *

We should be glad to extract some passages of peculiar force and
beauty,--such as that where Mr. Choate rebukes the undue haste of
reformers, and calls to mind the slow development and longevity of
states and ideas. But our duty is the less pleasing one of pointing to
some of the sophistries of the argument and some of the ill-advised
ebullitions of the orator. We leave his exegesis of "Render unto
Caesar" to answer itself; but what can be worse than this,--worse in
taste, in temper, in reason?

"There is a cant of shallowness and fanaticism which misunderstands
and denies this. There is a distempered and ambitious morality which
says civil prudence is no virtue. There is a philanthropy,--so it
calls itself,--pedantry, arrogance, folly, cruelty, impiousness, I
call it, fit enough for a pulpit, totally unfit for a people,--fit
enough for a preacher, totally unfit for a statesman."

Think of it!--fit enough for St. Augustine and St. Francis, (to
mention no greater names,) fit enough for Taylor and Barrow, for
Bossuet and Fenelon, but not for Mr. Buchanan or Mr. Cushing!

In another place Mr. Choate says, "that even the laughter of fools,
and children, and madmen, little ministers, little editors, and little
politicians, can inflict the mosquito-bite, not deep, but stinging."
As this is one of the best of his sarcasms, we give it the advantage
of the circulation of the "Atlantic,"--generous and tidal circulation,
as he himself might call it. We do not think the mosquito image
new,--if we remember, the editor of the Bungtown Copperhead uses it
weekly against "our pitiful contemporary,"--though the notion of a
mosquito-bite inflicted by a laugh is original with Mr. Choate, unless
Lord Castlereagh may have used it before. But we would seriously ask
Mr. Choate who the big ministers of the country are, if the Beechers,
if Wayland, Park, Bushnell, Cheever, Furness, Parker, Hedge, Bellows,
and Huntington are the little ones?

There is an amusing passage in which Mr. Choate would seem to assume
to himself and those who agree with him the honors of martyrdom. This
shows a wonderful change in public opinion; though the martyrs in the
"Legenda Aurea" and Fox seem to have had a harder time of it than we
supposed to be the case with Mr. Choate.

We have not space to follow him farther, and only the reputation of
the man, and the singularity of the occasion, which gave a kind of
national significance to the affair, would have tempted us to intrude
upon the select privacy of the Young Men's Democratic Association.

Finally, as Mr. Choate appears to have a very mean opinion of the
understandings and the culture of those opposed to him in politics, we
beg to remind him, since he has been led out, like Balaam, to prophesy
against the tents and armies of the Republican Israel, and has ended
by proving their invincibility, that it was an animal in all respects
inferior to a prophet, and in some to a politician, who was first
aware of the presence of the heavenly messenger; and it may be that
persons incapable of a generalization--as that patient creature
undoubtedly was--may see as far into the future as the greatest
philosopher who turns his eyes always to the past.

Footnote 1: We may be allowed to wonder, however, at his speaking of
"memories that burn and revel in the pages of Herodotus,"--a phrase
which does injustice to the simple and quiet style of the delightful
Pepys of Antiquity.


DR. ASA GRAY'S _Botanical Series_, New York, Ivison & Phinney,
consisting of--

I. _How Plants Grow_, etc., _with a Popular Flora,_
etc. 16mo. pp. 233.

II. _First Lessons in Botany and Vegetable Physiology._
8vo. pp. 236.

III. _Introduction to Structural and Systematic Botany and Vegetable
Physiology._ 8vo. pp. 555.

IV. _Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States, including
Virginia, Kentucky,_ etc. 8vo. pp. 636.

V. Same as IV., with the _Mosses and Liverworts_ added,
illustrated by Engravings, pp. 739.

VI. Same as IV., with II. bound up with it. pp. 872.

The first-named of these books is a new candidate for public favor;
the others are revised and improved editions of books which have
already been favorably received. We have sometimes thought that the
popularity of a school-book is in inverse proportion to its merits,
and are glad to learn that five editions of Dr. Gray's "Structural and
Systematic Botany" are witnesses against the truth of this assumption.
No man can deny that Dr. Gray's books are all of the highest order of
merit. The accuracy and extent of his scholarship are manifest on
every page,--a scholarship consisting not merely in an extensive
acquaintance with the works of other botanists, but in a careful
confirmation of their results, and in additions to their knowledge, by
an observation of Nature for himself. His clearness of style is an
equally valuable characteristic, making the reader sure that he
understands Dr. Gray, and that Dr. Gray understands the subject. In
the "Manual" this clearness of style extends to the judicious
selection of distinctive marks, whereby allied species may be
distinguished from each other. Even the most difficult genera of
golden-rods, asters, and grasses become intelligible in this manual;
and many a less difficult genus which puzzled our boyhood, with
Beck's, Eaton's, and Pursh's manuals, became so plain in Gray, that we
cannot now imagine where was the difficulty. The extent of the field
which Gray's Manual covers prevents him, of course, from giving
such lifelike descriptions of plants as may be found in Dr.
Bigelow's "Plants of Boston and its Vicinity," or such minute
word-daguerreotypes as those in Mr. Emerson's "Trees of
Massachusetts,"--books which no New England student of botany can
afford to be without; but, on the other hand, the description of each
species, aided by typographical devices of Italics, etc., is
sufficient for any intelligent observer to identify a specimen. The
exquisite engravings, illustrating the genera of Ferns, Hepaticae, and
Mosses, are also a great assistance.

The volume which we have marked III. is the fifth revised edition of
the "Botanical Text-Book." It contains a complete, although concise,
sketch of Structural Botany and Vegetable Physiology, and a birds'-eye
view of the whole vegetable kingdom in its subdivision into families,
illustrated by over thirteen hundred engravings on wood. It has become
a standard of botany, wherever our language is read.

For those who do not wish to pursue the study so far, the "First
Lessons" is one of the most happily arranged and happily written
scientific text-books ever published, and is illustrated by three
hundred and sixty well-executed wood-cuts. This takes scholars of
thirteen or fourteen years of age far enough into the recesses of the
science for them to see its beauties, and to learn the passwords which
shall admit them to all its hidden and inexhaustible treasures. It
goes over substantially the same ground that is covered by the volume
we have marked III., but in simpler language and with much less
detail; and closes with clear practical directions how to collect
specimens and make an herbarium.

The first book is intended for children of ten or twelve years old, at
home or in school. We hail it as a remarkably successful effort of a
truly learned man to write a book actually adapted to young children.
While all teachers, and writers upon education, insist on the
importance of having a child's first impressions such as shall not
need to be afterwards corrected, and such as shall attract the child
towards the study to which it is introduced, our elementary books have
usually sinned in one or both these points. They are either dry and
repulsive, or else vague and incorrect;--frequently have both
faults. But the child is here told "how plants grow" in a very
pleasant manner, with neat and pretty pictures to illustrate the
words, by one whose thorough knowledge and perspicuity of style
prevent him from ever giving a wrong impression. The "Popular Flora"
which is appended, contains a description of about one hundred
families of the most common cultivated and wild plants, and of the
most familiar genera and species in each family. The English names are
in all cases put in the foreground in bold type,--while the Latin
names stand modestly back, half hidden in parentheses and Italics; and
these English names are in general very well selected,--although we
think that when two or three English names are given to one plant, or
one name to several plants, Dr. Gray ought to indicate which name he
prefers. He allows "Dogwood" to stand without rebuke for the poison
sumac, as well as for the flowering cornel; and gives "Winterberry"
and "Black Alder" without comment to _Prinos verticellata_. A
word of preference on his part might do something towards reforming
and simplifying the popular nomenclature, and this child's manual is
the place to utter that word. We think also that in a second edition
of this Popular Flora it would be well to give a _popular_
description of a few of the most beautiful flowers belonging to those
families which are too difficult for the child properly to
analyze. Thus, Arethusa, Cypripedium, Pogonia, Calopogon, Spiranthes,
Festuca, Osmunda, Onoclea, Lycopodium, Polytrichum, Bryum, Marchantia,
Usnea, Parmelia, Cladonia, Agaricus, Chondrus, and perhaps a few other
genera, furnish plants so familiar and so striking that a child will
he sure to inquire concerning them, and a general description could
easily be framed in a few words which could not mislead him concerning

In writing for children, Dr. Gray seems to have put on a new nature,
in which we have a much fuller sympathy with him than we have ever had
in reading his larger books. We do not like that cold English common
sense which seems reluctant to admit any truth in the higher regions
of thought; and we confess, that, until we had read this little
child's book, "How Plants Grow," we had always suspected Dr. Gray of
leaning towards that old error, so finely exposed by Agassiz in
zooelogy, of considering genera, families, etc., as divisions made by
human skill, for human convenience,--instead of as divisions belonging
to the Creator's plan, as yet but partially understood by human

We hope that the appearance of this masterly little book, so finely
adapted to the child's understanding, may have the effect of
introducing botany into the common schools. The natural taste of
children for flowers indicates clearly the propriety and utility of
giving them lessons upon botany in their earliest years. Go into any
of our New England country-schools at this season of the year, and you
will find a bouquet of wild flowers on the teacher's desk. Take it up
and separate it,--show each flower to the school, tell its name, and
its relationship to other and more familiar cultivated flowers, the
characteristic sensible properties of its family, etc.,--and you will
find the younger scholars your most attentive listeners. And if any
practical man ask, What is the use of the younger scholars learning
anything about wild flowers, which the cultivation of the country may
soon render extinct, and which are but weeds at best?--there are two
sufficient answers ready: first, that all truth is divine, and that
the workmanship of infinite skill is beautiful and worthy of the eyes
which may behold it; secondly, that no mental discipline is better
adapted for the young mind than this learning how to distinguish
plants. No more striking deficiency is observable, in most men, than
the lack of a power to observe closely and with accuracy. The general
inaccuracy of testimony, usually ascribed to inaccuracy of memory, is
in fact to be attributed to inaccuracy of observation. In like
manner, a large proportion of popular errors of judgment spring from
an imperfect perception of the data on which the true conclusions
should be founded. The best remedy for this lack of clear perceptions
would evidently be the cultivation of those habits of close
observation and nice discrimination necessary in a successful

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