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The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

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responsible and of which he knew no more than they. The humor of
this situation seemed to him so much more pointed than the
terror, as to make him laugh at himself with a sincerity he had
been long strange to. As far as he could comprehend, he had
nothing to lose that he cared about, but the banks stood to lose
their existence. Money mattered as little to him as to anybody,
but money was their life. For the first time he had the banks in
his power; he could afford to laugh; and the whole community was
in the same position, though few laughed. All sat down on the
banks and asked what the banks were going to do about it. To
Adams the situation seemed farcical, but the more he saw of it,
the less he understood it. He was quite sure that nobody
understood it much better. Blindly some very powerful energy was
at work, doing something that nobody wanted done. When Adams went
to his bank to draw a hundred dollars of his own money on
deposit, the cashier refused to let him have more than fifty, and
Adams accepted the fifty without complaint because he was himself
refusing to let the banks have some hundreds or thousands that
belonged to them. Each wanted to help the other, yet both refused
to pay their debts, and he could find no answer to the question
which was responsible for getting the other into the situation,
since lenders and borrowers were the same interest and socially
the same person. Evidently the force was one; its operation was
mechanical; its effect must be proportional to its power; but no
one knew what it meant, and most people dismissed it as an
emotion -- a panic -- that meant nothing.

Men died like flies under the strain, and Boston grew suddenly
old, haggard, and thin. Adams alone waxed fat and was happy, for
at last he had got hold of his world and could finish his
education, interrupted for twenty years. He cared not whether it
were worth finishing, if only it amused; but he seemed, for the
first time since 1870, to feel that something new and curious was
about to happen to the world. Great changes had taken place since
1870 in the forces at work; the old machine ran far behind its
duty; somewhere -- somehow -- it was bound to break down, and if
it happened to break precisely over one's head, it gave the
better chance for study.

For the first time in several years he saw much of his brother
Brooks in Quincy, and was surprised to find him absorbed in the
same perplexities. Brooks was then a man of forty-five years old;
a strong writer and a vigorous thinker who irritated too many
Boston conventions ever to suit the atmosphere; but the two
brothers could talk to each other without atmosphere and were
used to audiences of one. Brooks had discovered or developed a
law of history that civilization followed the exchanges, and
having worked it out for the Mediterranean was working it out for
the Atlantic. Everything American, as well as most things
European and Asiatic, became unstable by this law, seeking new
equilibrium and compelled to find it. Loving paradox, Brooks,
with the advantages of ten years' study, had swept away much
rubbish in the effort to build up a new line of thought for
himself, but he found that no paradox compared with that of daily
events. The facts were constantly outrunning his thoughts. The
instability was greater than he calculated; the speed of
acceleration passed bounds. Among other general rules he laid
down the paradox that, in the social disequilibrium between
capital and labor, the logical outcome was not collectivism, but
anarchism; and Henry made note of it for study.

By the time he got back to Washington on September 19, the
storm having partly blown over, life had taken on a new face, and
one so interesting that he set off to Chicago to study the
Exposition again, and stayed there a fortnight absorbed in it. He
found matter of study to fill a hundred years, and his education
spread over chaos. Indeed, it seemed to him as though, this year,
education went mad. The silver question, thorny as it was, fell
into relations as simple as words of one syllable, compared with
the problems of credit and exchange that came to complicate it;
and when one sought rest at Chicago, educational game started
like rabbits from every building, and ran out of sight among
thousands of its kind before one could mark its burrow. The
Exposition itself defied philosophy. One might find fault till
the last gate closed, one could still explain nothing that needed
explanation. As a scenic display, Paris had never approached it,
but the inconceivable scenic display consisted in its being there
at all -- more surprising, as it was, than anything else on the
continent, Niagara Falls, the Yellowstone Geysers, and the whole
railway system thrown in, since these were all natural products
in their place; while, since Noah's Ark, no such Babel of loose
and ill joined, such vague and ill-defined and unrelated thoughts
and half-thoughts and experimental outcries as the Exposition,
had ever ruffled the surface of the Lakes.

The first astonishment became greater every day. That the
Exposition should be a natural growth and product of the
Northwest offered a step in evolution to startle Darwin; but that
it should be anything else seemed an idea more startling still;
and even granting it were not -- admitting it to be a sort of
industrial, speculative growth and product of the Beaux Arts
artistically induced to pass the summer on the shore of Lake
Michigan -- could it be made to seem at home there? Was the
American made to seem at home in it? Honestly, he had the air of
enjoying it as though it were all his own; he felt it was good;
he was proud of it; for the most part, he acted as though he had
passed his life in landscape gardening and architectural
decoration. If he had not done it himself, he had known how to
get it done to suit him, as he knew how to get his wives and
daughters dressed at Worth's or Paquin's. Perhaps he could not do
it again; the next time he would want to do it himself and would
show his own faults; but for the moment he seemed to have leaped
directly from Corinth and Syracuse and Venice, over the heads of
London and New York, to impose classical standards on plastic
Chicago. Critics had no trouble in criticising the classicism,
but all trading cities had always shown traders' taste, and, to
the stern purist of religious faith, no art was thinner than
Venetian Gothic. All trader's taste smelt of bric-a-brac; Chicago
tried at least to give her taste a look of unity.

One sat down to ponder on the steps beneath Richard Hunt's dome
almost as deeply as on the steps of Ara Coeli, and much to the
same purpose. Here was a breach of continuity -- a rupture in
historical sequence! Was it real, or only apparent? One's
personal universe hung on the answer, for, if the rupture was
real and the new American world could take this sharp and
conscious twist towards ideals, one's personal friends would come
in, at last, as winners in the great American chariot-race for
fame. If the people of the Northwest actually knew what was good
when they saw it, they would some day talk about Hunt and
Richardson, La Farge and St. Gaudens, Burnham and McKim, and
Stanford White when their politicians and millionaires were
otherwise forgotten. The artists and architects who had done the
work offered little encouragement to hope it; they talked freely
enough, but not in terms that one cared to quote; and to them the
Northwest refused to look artistic. They talked as though they
worked only for themselves; as though art, to the Western people,
was a stage decoration; a diamond shirt-stud; a paper collar; but
possibly the architects of Paestum and Girgenti had talked in the
same way, and the Greek had said the same thing of Semitic
Carthage two thousand years ago.

Jostled by these hopes and doubts, one turned to the exhibits
for help, and found it. The industrial schools tried to teach so
much and so quickly that the instruction ran to waste. Some
millions of other people felt the same helplessness, but few of
them were seeking education, and to them helplessness seemed
natural and normal, for they had grown up in the habit of
thinking a steam-engine or a dynamo as natural as the sun, and
expected to understand one as little as the other. For the
historian alone the Exposition made a serious effort. Historical
exhibits were common, but they never went far enough; none were
thoroughly worked out. One of the best was that of the Cunard
steamers, but still a student hungry for results found himself
obliged to waste a pencil and several sheets of paper trying to
calculate exactly when, according to the given increase of power,
tonnage, and speed, the growth of the ocean steamer would reach
its limits. His figures brought him, he thought, to the year
1927; another generation to spare before force, space, and time
should meet. The ocean steamer ran the surest line of
triangulation into the future, because it was the nearest of
man's products to a unity; railroads taught less because they
seemed already finished except for mere increase in number;
explosives taught most, but needed a tribe of chemists,
physicists, and mathematicians to explain; the dynamo taught
least because it had barely reached infancy, and, if its progress
was to be constant at the rate of the last ten years, it would
result in infinite costless energy within a generation. One
lingered long among the dynamos, for they were new, and they gave
to history a new phase. Men of science could never understand the
ignorance and naivete; of the historian, who, when he came
suddenly on a new power, asked naturally what it was; did it pull
or did it push? Was it a screw or thrust? Did it flow or vibrate?
Was it a wire or a mathematical line? And a score of such
questions to which he expected answers and was astonished to get

Education ran riot at Chicago, at least for retarded minds
which had never faced in concrete form so many matters of which
they were ignorant. Men who knew nothing whatever -- who had
never run a steam-engine, the simplest of forces -- who had never
put their hands on a lever -- had never touched an electric
battery -- never talked through a telephone, and had not the
shadow of a notion what amount of force was meant by a watt or an
ampere or an erg, or any other term of measurement introduced
within a hundred years -- had no choice but to sit down on the
steps and brood as they had never brooded on the benches of
Harvard College, either as student or professor, aghast at what
they had said and done in all these years, and still more ashamed
of the childlike ignorance and babbling futility of the society
that let them say and do it. The historical mind can think only
in historical processes, and probably this was the first time
since historians existed, that any of them had sat down helpless
before a mechanical sequence. Before a metaphysical or a
theological or a political sequence, most historians had felt
helpless, but the single clue to which they had hitherto trusted
was the unity of natural force.

Did he himself quite know what he meant? Certainly not! If he
had known enough to state his problem, his education would have
been complete at once. Chicago asked in 1893 for the first time
the question whether the American people knew where they were
driving. Adams answered, for one, that he did not know, but would
try to find out. On reflecting sufficiently deeply, under the
shadow of Richard Hunt's architecture, he decided that the
American people probably knew no more than he did; but that they
might still be driving or drifting unconsciously to some point in
thought, as their solar system was said to be drifting towards
some point in space; and that, possibly, if relations enough
could be observed, this point might be fixed. Chicago was the
first expression of American thought as a unity; one must start

Washington was the second. When he got back there, he fell
headlong into the extra session of Congress called to repeal the
Silver Act. The silver minority made an obstinate attempt to
prevent it, and most of the majority had little heart in the
creation of a single gold standard. The banks alone, and the
dealers in exchange, insisted upon it; the political parties
divided according to capitalistic geographical lines, Senator
Cameron offering almost the only exception; but they mixed with
unusual good-temper, and made liberal allowance for each others'
actions and motives. The struggle was rather less irritable than
such struggles generally were, and it ended like a comedy. On the
evening of the final vote, Senator Cameron came back from the
Capitol with Senator Brice, Senator Jones, Senator Lodge, and
Moreton Frewen, all in the gayest of humors as though they were
rid of a heavy responsibility. Adams, too, in a bystander's
spirit, felt light in mind. He had stood up for his eighteenth
century, his Constitution of 1789, his George Washington, his
Harvard College, his Quincy, and his Plymouth Pilgrims, as long
as any one would stand up with him. He had said it was hopeless
twenty years before, but he had kept on, in the same old
attitude, by habit and taste, until he found himself altogether
alone. He had hugged his antiquated dislike of bankers and
capitalistic society until he had become little better than a
crank. He had known for years that he must accept the regime, but
he had known a great many other disagreeable certainties -- like
age, senility, and death -- against which one made what little
resistance one could. The matter was settled at last by the
people. For a hundred years, between 1793 and 1893, the American
people had hesitated, vacillated, swayed forward and back,
between two forces, one simply industrial, the other
capitalistic, centralizing, and mechanical. In 1893, the issue
came on the single gold standard, and the majority at last
declared itself, once for all, in favor of the capitalistic
system with all its necessary machinery. All one's friends, all
one's best citizens, reformers, churches, colleges, educated
classes, had joined the banks to force submission to capitalism;
a submission long foreseen by the mere law of mass. Of all forms
of society or government, this was the one he liked least, but
his likes or dislikes were as antiquated as the rebel doctrine of
State rights. A capitalistic system had been adopted, and if it
were to be run at all, it must be run by capital and by
capitalistic methods; for nothing could surpass the nonsensity of
trying to run so complex and so concentrated a machine by
Southern and Western farmers in grotesque alliance with city
day-laborers, as had been tried in 1800 and 1828, and had failed
even under simple conditions.

There, education in domestic politics stopped. The rest was
question of gear; of running machinery; of economy; and involved
no disputed principle. Once admitted that the machine must be
efficient, society might dispute in what social interest it
should be run, but in any case it must work concentration. Such
great revolutions commonly leave some bitterness behind, but
nothing in politics ever surprised Henry Adams more than the ease
with which he and his silver friends slipped across the chasm,
and alighted on the single gold standard and the capitalistic
system with its methods; the protective tariff; the corporations
and trusts; the trades-unions and socialistic paternalism which
necessarily made their complement; the whole mechanical
consolidation of force, which ruthlessly stamped out the life of
the class into which Adams was born, but created monopolies
capable of controlling the new energies that America adored.

Society rested, after sweeping into the ash-heap these cinders
of a misdirected education. After this vigorous impulse, nothing
remained for a historian but to ask -- how long and how far!


SILENCE (1894-1898)

The convulsion of 1893 left its victims in dead-water, and closed
much education. While the country braced itself up to an effort
such as no one had thought within its powers, the individual
crawled as he best could, through the wreck, and found many
values of life upset. But for connecting the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, the four years, 1893 to 1897, had no value
in the drama of education, and might be left out. Much that had
made life pleasant between 1870 and 1890 perished in the ruin,
and among the earliest wreckage had been the fortunes of Clarence
King. The lesson taught whatever the bystander chose to read in
it; but to Adams it seemed singularly full of moral, if he could
but understand it. In 1871 he had thought King's education ideal,
and his personal fitness unrivalled. No other young American
approached him for the combination of chances -- physical energy,
social standing, mental scope and training, wit, geniality, and
science, that seemed superlatively American and irresistibly
strong. His nearest rival was Alexander Agassiz, and, as far as
their friends knew, no one else could be classed with them in the
running. The result of twenty years' effort proved that the
theory of scientific education failed where most theory fails --
for want of money. Even Henry Adams, who kept himself, as he
thought, quite outside of every possible financial risk, had been
caught in the cogs, and held for months over the gulf of
bankruptcy, saved only by the chance that the whole class of
millionaires were more or less bankrupt too, and the banks were
forced to let the mice escape with the rats; but, in sum,
education without capital could always be taken by the throat and
forced to disgorge its gains, nor was it helped by the knowledge
that no one intended it, but that all alike suffered. Whether
voluntary or mechanical the result for education was the same.
The failure of the scientific scheme, without money to back it,
was flagrant.

The scientific scheme in theory was alone sound, for science
should be equivalent to money; in practice science was helpless
without money. The weak holder was, in his own language, sure to
be frozen out. Education must fit the complex conditions of a new
society, always accelerating its movement, and its fitness could
be known only from success. One looked about for examples of
success among the educated of one's time -- the men born in the
thirties, and trained to professions. Within one's immediate
acquaintance, three were typical: John Hay, Whitelaw Reid, and
William C. Whitney; all of whom owed their free hand to marriage,
education serving only for ornament, but among whom, in 1893,
William C. Whitney was far and away the most popular type.

Newspapers might prate about wealth till commonplace print was
exhausted, but as matter of habit, few Americans envied the very
rich for anything the most of them got out of money. New York
might occasionally fear them, but more often laughed or sneered
at them, and never showed them respect. Scarcely one of the very
rich men held any position in society by virtue of his wealth, or
could have been elected to an office, or even into a good club.
Setting aside the few, like Pierpont Morgan, whose social
position had little to do with greater or less wealth, riches
were in New York no object of envy on account of the joys they
brought in their train, and Whitney was not even one of the very
rich; yet in his case the envy was palpable. There was reason for
it. Already in 1893 Whitney had finished with politics after
having gratified every ambition, and swung the country almost at
his will; he had thrown away the usual objects of political
ambition like the ashes of smoked cigarettes; had turned to other
amusements, satiated every taste, gorged every appetite, won
every object that New York afforded, and, not yet satisfied, had
carried his field of activity abroad, until New York no longer
knew what most to envy, his horses or his houses. He had
succeeded precisely where Clarence King had failed.

Barely forty years had passed since all these men started in a
bunch to race for power, and the results were fixed beyond
reversal; but one knew no better in 1894 than in 1854 what an
American education ought to be in order to count as success. Even
granting that it counted as money, its value could not be called
general. America contained scores of men worth five millions or
upwards, whose lives were no more worth living than those of
their cooks, and to whom the task of making money equivalent to
education offered more difficulties than to Adams the task of
making education equivalent to money. Social position seemed to
have value still, while education counted for nothing. A
mathematician, linguist, chemist, electrician, engineer, if
fortunate might average a value of ten dollars a day in the open
market. An administrator, organizer, manager, with mediaeval
qualities of energy and will, but no education beyond his special
branch, would probably be worth at least ten times as much.
Society had failed to discover what sort of education suited it
best. Wealth valued social position and classical education as
highly as either of these valued wealth, and the women still
tended to keep the scales even. For anything Adams could see he
was himself as contented as though he had been educated; while
Clarence King, whose education was exactly suited to theory, had
failed; and Whitney, who was no better educated than Adams, had
achieved phenomenal success.

Had Adams in 1894 been starting in life as he did in 1854, he
must have repeated that all he asked of education was the facile
use of the four old tools: Mathematics, French, German, and
Spanish. With these he could still make his way to any object
within his vision, and would have a decisive advantage over nine
rivals in ten. Statesman or lawyer, chemist or electrician,
priest or professor, native or foreign, he would fear none.

King's breakdown, physical as well as financial, brought the
indirect gain to Adams that, on recovering strength, King induced
him to go to Cuba, where, in January, 1894, they drifted into the
little town of Santiago. The picturesque Cuban society, which
King knew well, was more amusing than any other that one had yet
discovered in the whole broad world, but made no profession of
teaching anything unless it were Cuban Spanish or the danza; and
neither on his own nor on King's account did the visitor ask any
loftier study than that of the buzzards floating on the
trade-wind down the valley to Dos Bocas, or the colors of sea and
shore at sunrise from the height of the Gran Piedra; but, as
though they were still twenty years old and revolution were as
young as they, the decaying fabric, which had never been solid,
fell on their heads and drew them with it into an ocean of
mischief. In the half-century between 1850 and 1900, empires were
always falling on one's head, and, of all lessons, these constant
political convulsions taught least. Since the time of Rameses,
revolutions have raised more doubts than they solved, but they
have sometimes the merit of changing one's point of view, and the
Cuban rebellion served to sever the last tie that attached Adams
to a Democratic administration. He thought that President
Cleveland could have settled the Cuban question, without war, had
he chosen to do his duty, and this feeling, generally held by the
Democratic Party, joined with the stress of economical needs and
the gold standard to break into bits the old organization and to
leave no choice between parties. The new American, whether
consciously or not, had turned his back on the nineteenth century
before he was done with it; the gold standard, the protective
system, and the laws of mass could have no other outcome, and, as
so often before, the movement, once accelerated by attempting to
impede it, had the additional, brutal consequence of crushing
equally the good and the bad that stood in its way.

The lesson was old -- so old that it became tedious. One had
studied nothing else since childhood, and wearied of it. For yet
another year Adams lingered on these outskirts of the vortex,
among the picturesque, primitive types of a world which had never
been fairly involved in the general motion, and were the more
amusing for their torpor. After passing the winter with King in
the West Indies, he passed the summer with Hay in the
Yellowstone, and found there little to study. The Geysers were an
old story; the Snake River posed no vital statistics except in
its fordings; even the Tetons were as calm as they were lovely;
while the wapiti and bear, innocent of strikes and corners, laid
no traps. In return the party treated them with affection. Never
did a band less bloody or bloodthirsty wander over the roof of
the continent. Hay loved as little as Adams did, the labor of
skinning and butchering big game; he had even outgrown the
sedate, middle-aged, meditative joy of duck-shooting, and found
the trout of the Yellowstone too easy a prey. Hallett Phillips
himself, who managed the party loved to play Indian hunter
without hunting so much as a fieldmouse; Iddings the geologist
was reduced to shooting only for the table, and the guileless
prattle of Billy Hofer alone taught the simple life. Compared
with the Rockies of 1871, the sense of wildness had vanished; one
saw no possible adventures except to break one's neck as in
chasing an aniseed fox. Only the more intelligent ponies scented
an occasional friendly and sociable bear.

When the party came out of the Yellowstone, Adams went on alone
to Seattle and Vancouver to inspect the last American railway
systems yet untried. They, too, offered little new learning, and
no sooner had he finished this debauch of Northwestern geography
than with desperate thirst for exhausting the American field, he
set out for Mexico and the Gulf, making a sweep of the Caribbean
and clearing up, in these six or eight months, at least twenty
thousand miles of American land and water.

He was beginning to think, when he got back to Washington in
April, 1895, that he knew enough about the edges of life --
tropical islands, mountain solitudes, archaic law, and retrograde
types. Infinitely more amusing and incomparably more picturesque
than civilization, they educated only artists, and, as one's
sixtieth year approached, the artist began to die; only a certain
intense cerebral restlessness survived which no longer responded
to sensual stimulants; one was driven from beauty to beauty as
though art were a trotting-match. For this, one was in some
degree prepared, for the old man had been a stage-type since
drama began; but one felt some perplexity to account for failure
on the opposite or mechanical side, where nothing but cerebral
action was needed.

Taking for granted that the alternative to art was arithmetic,
plunged deep into statistics, fancying that education would find
the surest bottom there; and the study proved the easiest he had
ever approached. Even the Government volunteered unlimited
statistics, endless columns of figures, bottomless averages
merely for the asking. At the Statistical Bureau, Worthington
Ford supplied any material that curiosity could imagine for
filling the vast gaps of ignorance, and methods for applying the
plasters of fact. One seemed for a while to be winning ground,
and one's averages projected themselves as laws into the future.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of the study lay in the attitude
of the statisticians, who showed no enthusiastic confidence in
their own figures. They should have reached certainty, but they
talked like other men who knew less. The method did not result
faith. Indeed, every increase of mass -- of volume and velocity
-- seemed to bring in new elements, and, at last, a scholar,
fresh in arithmetic and ignorant of algebra, fell into a
superstitious terror of complexity as the sink of facts. Nothing
came out as it should. In principle, according to figures, any
one could set up or pull down a society. One could frame no sort
of satisfactory answer to the constructive doctrines of Adam
Smith, or to the destructive criticisms of Karl Marx or to the
anarchistic imprecations of Elisee Reclus. One revelled at will
in the ruin of every society in the past, and rejoiced in proving
the prospective overthrow of every society that seemed possible
in the future; but meanwhile these societies which violated every
law, moral, arithmetical, and economical, not only propagated
each other, but produced also fresh complexities with every
propagation and developed mass with every complexity.

The human factor was worse still. Since the stupefying
discovery of Pteraspis in 1867, nothing had so confused the
student as the conduct of mankind in the fin-de-siecle. No one
seemed very much concerned about this world or the future, unless
it might be the anarchists, and they only because they disliked
the present. Adams disliked the present as much as they did, and
his interest in future society was becoming slight, yet he was
kept alive by irritation at finding his life so thin and
fruitless. Meanwhile he watched mankind march on, like a train of
pack-horses on the Snake River, tumbling from one morass into
another, and at short intervals, for no reason but temper,
falling to butchery, like Cain. Since 1850, massacres had become
so common that society scarcely noticed them unless they summed
up hundreds of thousands, as in Armenia; wars had been almost
continuous, and were beginning again in Cuba, threatening in
South Africa, and possible in Manchuria; yet impartial judges
thought them all not merely unnecessary, but foolish -- induced
by greed of the coarsest class, as though the Pharaohs or the
Romans were still robbing their neighbors. The robbery might be
natural and inevitable, but the murder seemed altogether archaic.

At one moment of perplexity to account for this trait of
Pteraspis, or shark, which seemed to have survived every moral
improvement of society, he took to study of the religious press.
Possibly growth m human nature might show itself there. He found
no need to speak unkindly of it; but, as an agent of motion, he
preferred on the whole the vigor of the shark, with its chances
of betterment; and he very gravely doubted, from his aching
consciousness of religious void, whether any large fraction of
society cared for a future life, or even for the present one,
thirty years hence. Not an act, or an expression, or an image,
showed depth of faith or hope.

The object of education, therefore, was changed. For many years
it had lost itself in studying what the world had ceased to care
for; if it were to begin again, it must try to find out what the
mass of mankind did care for, and why. Religion, politics,
statistics, travel had thus far led to nothing. Even the Chicago
Fair had only confused the roads. Accidental education could go
no further, for one's mind was already littered and stuffed
beyond hope with the millions of chance images stored away
without order in the memory. One might as well try to educate a
gravel-pit. The task was futile, which disturbed a student less
than the discovery that, in pursuing it, he was becoming himself
ridiculous. Nothing is more tiresome than a superannuated

For the moment he was rescued, as often before, by a woman.
Towards midsummer, 1895, Mrs. Cabot Lodge bade him follow her to
Europe with the Senator and her two sons. The study of history is
useful to the historian by teaching him his ignorance of women;
and the mass of this ignorance crushes one who is familiar enough
with what are called historical sources to realize how few women
have ever been known. The woman who is known only through a man
is known wrong, and excepting one or two like Mme. de Sevigne, no
woman has pictured herself. The American woman of the nineteenth
century will live only as the man saw her; probably she will be
less known than the woman of the eighteenth; none of the female
descendants of Abigail Adams can ever be nearly so familiar as
her letters have made her; and all this is pure loss to history,
for the American woman of the nineteenth century was much better
company than the American man; she was probably much better
company than her grandmothers. With Mrs. Lodge and her husband,
Senator since 1893, Adams's relations had been those of elder
brother or uncle since 1871 when Cabot Lodge had left his
examination-papers on Assistant Professor Adams's desk, and
crossed the street to Christ Church in Cambridge to get married.
With Lodge himself, as scholar, fellow instructor, co-editor of
the North American Review, and political reformer from 1873 to
1878, he had worked intimately, but with him afterwards as
politician he had not much relation; and since Lodge had suffered
what Adams thought the misfortune of becoming not only a Senator
but a Senator from Massachusetts -- a singular social relation
which Adams had known only as fatal to friends -- a superstitious
student, intimate with the laws of historical fatality, would
rather have recognized him only as an enemy; but apart from this
accident he valued Lodge highly, and in the waste places of
average humanity had been greatly dependent on his house.
Senators can never be approached with safety, but a Senator who
has a very superior wife and several superior children who feel
no deference for Senators as such, may be approached at times
with relative impunity while they keep him under restraint.

Where Mrs. Lodge summoned, one followed with gratitude, and so it
chanced that in August one found one's self for the first time at
Caen, Coutances, and Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. If history
had a chapter with which he thought himself familiar, it was the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries; yet so little has labor to do
with knowledge that these bare playgrounds of the lecture system
turned into green and verdurous virgin forests merely through the
medium of younger eyes and fresher minds. His German bias must
have given his youth a terrible twist, for the Lodges saw at a
glance what he had thought unessential because un-German. They
breathed native air in the Normandy of 1200, a compliment which
would have seemed to the Senator lacking in taste or even in
sense when addressed to one of a class of men who passed life in
trying to persuade themselves and the public that they breathed
nothing less American than a blizzard; but this atmosphere, in
the touch of a real emotion, betrayed the unconscious humor of
the senatorial mind. In the thirteenth century, by an unusual
chance, even a Senator became natural, simple, interested,
cultivated, artistic, liberal -- genial.

Through the Lodge eyes the old problem became new and personal;
it threw off all association with the German lecture-room. One
could not at first see what this novelty meant; it had the air of
mere antiquarian emotion like Wenlock Abbey and Pteraspis; but it
expelled archaic law and antiquarianism once for all, without
seeming conscious of it; and Adams drifted back to Washington
with a new sense of history. Again he wandered south, and in
April returned to Mexico with the Camerons to study the charms of
pulque and Churriguerresque architecture. In May he ran through
Europe again with Hay, as far south as Ravenna. There came the
end of the passage. After thus covering once more, in 1896, many
thousand miles of the old trails, Adams went home October, with
every one else, to elect McKinley President and start the world

For the old world of public men and measures since 1870, Adams
wept no tears. Within or without, during or after it, as partisan
or historian, he never saw anything to admire in it, or anything
he wanted to save; and in this respect he reflected only the
public mind which balanced itself so exactly between the
unpopularity of both parties as to express no sympathy with
either. Even among the most powerful men of that generation he
knew none who had a good word to say for it. No period so
thoroughly ordinary had been known in American politics since
Christopher Columbus first disturbed the balance of American
society; but the natural result of such lack of interest in
public affairs, in a small society like that of Washington, led
an idle bystander to depend abjectly on intimacy of private
relation. One dragged one's self down the long vista of
Pennsylvania Avenue, by leaning heavily on one's friends, and
avoiding to look at anything else. Thus life had grown narrow
with years, more and more concentrated on the circle of houses
round La Fayette Square, which had no direct or personal share in
power except in the case of Mr. Blaine whose tumultuous struggle
for existence held him apart. Suddenly Mr. McKinley entered the
White House and laid his hand heavily on this special group. In a
moment the whole nest so slowly constructed, was torn to pieces
and scattered over the world. Adams found himself alone. John Hay
took his orders for London. Rockhill departed to Athens. Cecil
Spring-Rice had been buried in Persia. Cameron refused to remain
in public life either at home or abroad, and broke up his house
on the Square. Only the Lodges and Roosevelts remained, but even
they were at once absorbed in the interests of power. Since 1861,
no such social convulsion had occurred.

Even this was not quite the worst. To one whose interests lay
chiefly in foreign affairs, and who, at this moment, felt most
strongly the nightmare of Cuban, Hawaiian, and Nicaraguan chaos,
the man in the State Department seemed more important than the
man in the White House. Adams knew no one in the United States
fit to manage these matters in the face of a hostile Europe, and
had no candidate to propose; but he was shocked beyond all
restraints of expression to learn that the President meant to put
Senator John Sherman in the State Department in order to make a
place for Mr. Hanna in the Senate. Grant himself had done nothing
that seemed so bad as this to one who had lived long enough to
distinguish between the ways of presidential jobbery, if not
between the jobs. John Sherman, otherwise admirably fitted for
the place, a friendly influence for nearly forty years, was
notoriously feeble and quite senile, so that the intrigue seemed
to Adams the betrayal of an old friend as well as of the State
Department. One might have shrugged one's shoulders had the
President named Mr. Hanna his Secretary of State, for Mr. Hanna
was a man of force if not of experience, and selections much
worse than this had often turned out well enough; but John
Sherman must inevitably and tragically break down.

The prospect for once was not less vile than the men. One can
bear coldly the jobbery of enemies, but not that of friends, and
to Adams this kind of jobbery seemed always infinitely worse than
all the petty money bribes ever exploited by the newspapers. Nor
was the matter improved by hints that the President might call
John Hay to the Department whenever John Sherman should retire.
Indeed, had Hay been even unconsciously party to such an
intrigue, he would have put an end, once for all, to further
concern in public affairs on his friend's part; but even without
this last disaster, one felt that Washington had become no longer
habitable. Nothing was left there but solitary contemplation of
Mr. McKinley's ways which were not likely to be more amusing than
the ways of his predecessors; or of senatorial ways, which
offered no novelty of what the French language expressively calls
embetement; or of poor Mr. Sherman's ways which would surely
cause anguish to his friends. Once more, one must go!

Nothing was easier! On and off, one had done the same thing
since the year 1858, at frequent intervals, and had now reached
the month of March, 1897; yet, as the whole result of six years'
dogged effort to begin a new education, one could not recommend
it to the young. The outlook lacked hope. The object of travel
had become more and more dim, ever since the gibbering ghost of
the Civil Law had been locked in its dark closet, as far back as
1860. Noah's dove had not searched the earth for resting-places
so carefully, or with so little success. Any spot on land or
water satisfies a dove who wants and finds rest; but no perch
suits a dove of sixty years old, alone and uneducated, who has
lost his taste even for olives. To this, also, the young may be
driven, as education, end the lesson fails in humor; but it may
be worth knowing to some of them that the planet offers hardly a
dozen places where an elderly man can pass a week alone without
ennui, and none at all where he can pass a year.

Irritated by such complaints, the world naturally answers that
no man of sixty should live, which is doubtless true, though not
original. The man of sixty, with a certain irritability proper to
his years, retorts that the world has no business to throw on him
the task of removing its carrion, and that while he remains he
has a right to require amusement -- or at least education, since
this costs nothing to any one -- and that a world which cannot
educate, will not amuse, and is ugly besides, has even less right
to exist than he. Both views seem sound; but the world wearily
objects to be called by epithets what society always admits in
practice; for no one likes to be told that he is a bore, or
ignorant, or even ugly; and having nothing to say in its defence,
it rejoins that, whatever license is pardonable in youth, the man
of sixty who wishes consideration had better hold his tongue.
This truth also has the defect of being too true. The rule holds
equally for men of half that age Only the very young have the
right to betray their ignorance or ill-breeding. Elderly people
commonly know enough not to betray themselves.

Exceptions are plenty on both sides, as the Senate knew to its
acute suffering; but young or old, women or men, seemed agreed on
one point with singular unanimity; each praised silence in
others. Of all characteristics in human nature, this has been one
of the most abiding. Mere superficial gleaning of what, in the
long history of human expression, has been said by the fool or
unsaid by the wise, shows that, for once, no difference of
opinion has ever existed on this. "Even a fool," said the wisest
of men, "when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise," and still
more often, the wisest of men, when he spoke the highest wisdom,
has been counted a fool. They agreed only on the merits of
silence in others. Socrates made remarks in its favor, which
should have struck the Athenians as new to them; but of late the
repetition had grown tiresome. Thomas Carlyle vociferated his
admiration of it. Matthew Arnold thought it the best form of
expression; and Adams thought Matthew Arnold the best form of
expression in his time. Algernon Swinburne called it the most
noble to the end. Alfred de Vigny's dying wolf remarked: --

"A voir ce que l'on fut sur terre et ce qu'on laisse,
Seul le silence est grand; tout le reste est faiblesse."
"When one thinks what one leaves in the world when one dies,
Only silence is strong, -- all the rest is but lies."

Even Byron, whom a more brilliant era of genius seemed to have
decided to be but an indifferent poet, had ventured to affirm
that --

"The Alp's snow summit nearer heaven is seen
Than the volcano's fierce eruptive crest;"

with other verses, to the effect that words are but a "temporary
torturing flame"; of which no one knew more than himself. The
evidence of the poets could not be more emphatic: --

"Silent, while years engrave the brow!
Silent, -- the best are silent now!"

Although none of these great geniuses had shown faith in
silence as a cure for their own ills or ignorance, all of them,
and all philosophy after them, affirmed that no man, even at
sixty, had ever been known to attain knowledge; but that a very
few were believed to have attained ignorance, which was in result
the same. More than this, in every society worth the name, the
man of sixty had been encouraged to ride this hobby -- the
Pursuit of Ignorance in Silence -- as though it were the easiest
way to get rid of him. In America the silence was more oppressive
than the ignorance; but perhaps elsewhere the world might still
hide some haunt of futilitarian silence where content reigned --
although long search had not revealed it -- and so the pilgrimage
began anew!

The first step led to London where John Hay was to be
established. One had seen so many American Ministers received in
London that the Lord Chamberlain himself scarcely knew more about
it; education could not be expected there; but there Adams
arrived, April 21, 1897, as though thirty-six years were so many
days, for Queen Victoria still reigned and one saw little change
in St. James's Street. True, Carlton House Terrace, like the
streets of Rome, actually squeaked and gibbered with ghosts, till
one felt like Odysseus before the press of shadows, daunted by a
"bloodless fear"; but in spring London is pleasant, and it was
more cheery than ever in May, 1897, when every one was welcoming
the return of life after the long winter since 1893. One's
fortunes, or one's friends' fortunes, were again in flood.

This amusement could not be prolonged, for one found one's self
the oldest Englishman in England, much too familiar with family
jars better forgotten, and old traditions better unknown. No
wrinkled Tannhauser, returning to the Wartburg, needed a wrinkled
Venus to show him that he was no longer at home, and that even
penitence was a sort of impertinence. He slipped away to Paris,
and set up a household at St. Germain where he taught and learned
French history for nieces who swarmed under the venerable cedars
of the Pavillon d'Angouleme, and rode about the green
forest-alleys of St. Germain and Marly. From time to time Hay
wrote humorous laments, but nothing occurred to break the
summer-peace of the stranded Tannhauser, who slowly began to feel
at home in France as in other countries he had thought more
homelike. At length, like other dead Americans, he went to Paris
because he could go nowhere else, and lingered there till the
Hays came by, in January, 1898; and Mrs. Hay, who had been a
stanch and strong ally for twenty years, bade him go with them to

Adams cared little to see Egypt again, but he was glad to see
Hay, and readily drifted after him to the Nile. What they saw and
what they said had as little to do with education as possible,
until one evening, as they were looking at the sun set across the
Nile from Assouan, Spencer Eddy brought them a telegram to
announce the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor. This was the
greatest stride in education since 1865, but what did it teach?
One leant on a fragment of column in the great hall at Karnak and
watched a jackal creep down the debris of ruin. The jackal's
ancestors had surely crept up the same wall when it was building.
What was his view about the value of silence? One lay in the
sands and watched the expression of the Sphinx. Brooks Adams had
taught him that the relation between civilizations was that of
trade. Henry wandered, or was storm-driven, down the coast. He
tried to trace out the ancient harbor of Ephesus. He went over to
Athens, picked up Rockhill, and searched for the harbor of
Tiryns; together they went on to Constantinople and studied the
great walls of Constantine and the greater domes of Justinian.
His hobby had turned into a camel, and he hoped, if he rode long
enough in silence, that at last he might come on a city of
thought along the great highways of exchange.


INDIAN SUMMER (1898-1899)

The summer of the Spanish War began the Indian summer of life
to one who had reached sixty years of age, and cared only to reap
in peace such harvest as these sixty years had yielded. He had
reason to be more than content with it. Since 1864 he had felt no
such sense of power and momentum, and had seen no such number of
personal friends wielding it. The sense of solidarity counts for
much in one's contentment, but the sense of winning one's game
counts for more; and in London, in 1898, the scene was singularly
interesting to the last survivor of the Legation of 1861. He
thought himself perhaps the only person living who could get full
enjoyment of the drama. He carried every scene of it, in a
century and a half since the Stamp Act, quite alive in his mind
-- all the interminable disputes of his disputatious ancestors as
far back as the year 1750 -- as well as his own insignificance in
the Civil War, every step in which had the object of bringing
England into an American system. For this they had written
libraries of argument and remonstrance, and had piled war on war,
losing their tempers for life, and souring the gentle and patient
Puritan nature of their descendants, until even their private
secretaries at times used language almost intemperate; and
suddenly, by pure chance, the blessing fell on Hay. After two
hundred years of stupid and greedy blundering, which no argument
and no violence affected, the people of England learned their
lesson just at the moment when Hay would otherwise have faced a
flood of the old anxieties. Hay himself scarcely knew how
grateful he should be, for to him the change came almost of
course. He saw only the necessary stages that had led to it, and
to him they seemed natural; but to Adams, still living in the
atmosphere of Palmerston and John Russell, the sudden appearance
of Germany as the grizzly terror which, in twenty years effected
what Adamses had tried for two hundred in vain -- frightened
England into America's arms -- seemed as melodramatic as any plot
of Napoleon the Great. He could feel only the sense of
satisfaction at seeing the diplomatic triumph of all his family,
since the breed existed, at last realized under his own eyes for
the advantage of his oldest and closest ally.

This was history, not education, yet it taught something
exceedingly serious, if not ultimate, could one trust the lesson.
For the first time in his life, he felt a sense of possible
purpose working itself out in history. Probably no one else on
this earthly planet -- not even Hay -- could have come out on
precisely such extreme personal satisfaction, but as he sat at
Hay's table, listening to any member of the British Cabinet, for
all were alike now, discuss the Philippines as a question of
balance of power in the East, he could see that the family work
of a hundred and fifty years fell at once into the grand
perspective of true empire-building, which Hay's work set off
with artistic skill. The roughness of the archaic foundations
looked stronger and larger in scale for the refinement and
certainty of the arcade. In the long list of famous American
Ministers in London, none could have given the work quite the
completeness, the harmony, the perfect ease of Hay.

Never before had Adams been able to discern the working of law
in history, which was the reason of his failure in teaching it,
for chaos cannot be taught; but he thought he had a personal
property by inheritance in this proof of sequence and
intelligence in the affairs of man -- a property which no one
else had right to dispute; and this personal triumph left him a
little cold towards the other diplomatic results of the war. He
knew that Porto Rico must be taken, but he would have been glad
to escape the Philippines. Apart from too intimate an
acquaintance with the value of islands in the South Seas, he knew
the West Indies well enough to be assured that, whatever the
American people might think or say about it, they would sooner or
later have to police those islands, not against Europe, but for
Europe, and America too. Education on the outskirts of civilized
life teaches not very much, but it taught this; and one felt no
call to shoulder the load of archipelagoes in the antipodes when
one was trying painfully to pluck up courage to face the labor of
shouldering archipelagoes at home. The country decided otherwise,
and one acquiesced readily enough since the matter concerned only
the public willingness to carry loads; in London, the balance of
power in the East came alone into discussion; and in every point
of view one had as much reason to be gratified with the result as
though one had shared in the danger, instead of being vigorously
employed in looking on from a great distance. After all, friends
had done the work, if not one's self, and he too serves a certain
purpose who only stands and cheers.

In June, at the crisis of interest, the Camerons came over, and
took the fine old house of Surrenden Dering in Kent which they
made a sort of country house to the Embassy. Kent has charms
rivalling those of Shropshire, and, even compared with the many
beautiful places scattered along the Welsh border, few are nobler
or more genial than Surrenden with its unbroken descent from the
Saxons, its avenues, its terraces, its deer-park, its large
repose on the Kentish hillside, and its broad outlook over whet
was once the forest of Anderida. Filled with a constant stream of
guests, the house seemed to wait for the chance to show its
charms to the American, with whose activity the whole world was
resounding; and never since the battle of Hastings could the
little telegraph office of the Kentish village have done such
work. There, on a hot July 4, 1898, to an expectant group under
the shady trees, came the telegram announcing the destruction of
the Spanish Armada, as it might have come to Queen Elizabeth in
1588; and there, later in the season, came the order summoning
Hay to the State Department.

Hay had no wish to be Secretary of State. He much preferred to
remain Ambassador, and his friends were quite as cold about it as
he. No one knew so well what sort of strain falls on Secretaries
of State, or how little strength he had in reserve against it.
Even at Surrenden he showed none too much endurance, and he would
gladly have found a valid excuse for refusing. The discussion on
both sides was earnest, but the decided voice of the conclave was
that, though if he were a mere office-seeker he might certainly
decline promotion, if he were a member of the Government he could
not. No serious statesman could accept a favor and refuse a
service. Doubtless he might refuse, but in that case he must
resign. The amusement of making Presidents has keen fascination
for idle American hands, but these black arts have the old
drawback of all deviltry; one must serve the spirit one evokes,
even though the service were perdition to body and soul. For him,
no doubt, the service, though hard, might bring some share of
profit, but for the friends who gave this unselfish decision, all
would prove loss. For one, Adams on that subject had become a
little daft. No one in his experience had ever passed unscathed
through that malarious marsh. In his fancy, office was poison; it
killed -- body and soul -- physically and socially. Office was
more poisonous than priestcraft or pedagogy in proportion as it
held more power; but the poison he complained of was not
ambition; he shared none of Cardinal Wolsey's belated penitence
for that healthy stimulant, as he had shared none of the fruits;
his poison was that of the will -- the distortion of sight -- the
warping of mind -- the degradation of tissue -- the coarsening of
taste -- the narrowing of sympathy to the emotions of a caged
rat. Hay needed no office in order to wield influence. For him,
influence lay about the streets, waiting for him to stoop to it;
he enjoyed more than enough power without office; no one of his
position, wealth, and political experience, living at the centre
of politics in contact with the active party managers, could
escape influence. His only ambition was to escape annoyance, and
no one knew better than he that, at sixty years of age, sensitive
to physical strain, still more sensitive to brutality,
vindictiveness, or betrayal, he took office at cost of life.

Neither he nor any of the Surrenden circle made presence of
gladness at the new dignity for, with all his gaiety of manner
and lightness of wit, he took dark views of himself, none the
lighter for their humor, and his obedience to the President's
order was the gloomiest acquiescence he had ever smiled. Adams
took dark views, too, not so much on Hay's account as on his own,
for, while Hay had at least the honors of office, his friends
would share only the ennuis of it; but, as usual with Hay,
nothing was gained by taking such matters solemnly, and old
habits of the Civil War left their mark of military drill on
every one who lived through it. He shouldered his pack and
started for home. Adams had no mind to lose his friend without a
struggle, though he had never known such sort of struggle to
avail. The chance was desperate, but he could not afford to throw
it away; so, as soon as the Surrenden establishment broke up, on
October 17, he prepared for return home, and on November 13, none
too gladly, found himself again gazing into La Fayette Square.

He had made another false start and lost two years more of
education; nor had he excuse; for, this time, neither politics
nor society drew him away from his trail. He had nothing to do
with Hay's politics at home or abroad, and never affected
agreement with his views or his methods, nor did Hay care whether
his friends agreed or disagreed. They all united in trying to
help each other to get along the best way they could, and all
they tried to save was the personal relation. Even there, Adams
would have been beaten had he not been helped by Mrs. Hay, who
saw the necessity of distraction, and led her husband into the
habit of stopping every afternoon to take his friend off for an
hour's walk, followed by a cup of tea with Mrs. Hay afterwards,
and a chat with any one who called.

For the moment, therefore, the situation was saved, at least in
outward appearance, and Adams could go back to his own pursuits
which were slowly taking a direction. Perhaps they had no right
to be called pursuits, for in truth one consciously pursued
nothing, but drifted as attraction offered itself. The short
session broke up the Washington circle, so that, on March 22,
Adams was able to sail with the Lodges for Europe and to pass
April in Sicily and Rome.

With the Lodges, education always began afresh. Forty years had
left little of the Palermo that Garibaldi had shown to the boy of
1860, but Sicily in all ages seems to have taught only
catastrophe and violence, running riot on that theme ever since
Ulysses began its study on the eye of Cyclops. For a lesson in
anarchy, without a shade of sequence, Sicily stands alone and
defies evolution. Syracuse teaches more than Rome. Yet even Rome
was not mute, and the church of Ara Coeli seemed more and more to
draw all the threads of thought to a centre, for every new
journey led back to its steps -- Karnak, Ephesus, Delphi,
Mycencae, Constantinople, Syracuse -- all lying on the road to
the Capitol. What they had to bring by way of intellectual riches
could not yet be discerned, but they carried camel-loads of
moral; and New York sent most of all, for, in forty years,
America had made so vast a stride to empire that the world of
1860 stood already on a distant horizon somewhere on the same
plane with the republic of Brutus and Cato, while schoolboys read
of Abraham Lincoln as they did of Julius Caesar. Vast swarms of
Americans knew the Civil War only by school history, as they knew
the story of Cromwell or Cicero, and were as familiar with
political assassination as though they had lived under Nero. The
climax of empire could be seen approaching, year after year, as
though Sulla were a President or McKinley a Consul.

Nothing annoyed Americans more than to be told this simple and
obvious -- in no way unpleasant -- truth; therefore one sat
silent as ever on the Capitol; but, by way of completing the
lesson, the Lodges added a pilgrimage to Assisi and an interview
with St. Francis, whose solution of historical riddles seemed the
most satisfactory -- or sufficient -- ever offered; worth fully
forty years' more study, and better worth it than Gibbon himself,
or even St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, or St. Jerome. The most
bewildering effect of all these fresh cross-lights on the old
Assistant Professor of 1874 was due to the astonishing contrast
between what he had taught then and what he found himself
confusedly trying to learn five-and-twenty years afterwards --
between the twelfth century of his thirtieth and that of his
sixtieth years. At Harvard College, weary of spirit in the wastes
of Anglo-Saxon law, he had occasionally given way to outbursts of
derision at shedding his life-blood for the sublime truths of Sac
and Soc: --


The Latin was as twelfth-century as the law, and he meant as
satire the claim that he had been first to explain the legal
meaning of Sac and Soc, although any German professor would have
scorned it as a shameless and presumptuous bid for immortality;
but the whole point of view had vanished in 1900. Not he, but Sir
Henry Maine and Rudolph Sohm, were the parents or creators of Sac
and Soc. Convinced that the clue of religion led to nothing, and
that politics led to chaos, one had turned to the law, as one's
scholars turned to the Law School, because one could see no other
path to a profession.

The law had proved as futile as politics or religion, or any
other single thread spun by the human spider; it offered no more
continuity than architecture or coinage, and no more force of its
own. St. Francis expressed supreme contempt for them all, and
solved the whole problem by rejecting it altogether. Adams
returned to Paris with a broken and contrite spirit, prepared to
admit that his life had no meaning, and conscious that in any
case it no longer mattered. He passed a summer of solitude
contrasting sadly with the last at Surrenden; but the solitude
did what the society did not -- it forced and drove him into the
study of his ignorance in silence. Here at last he entered the
practice of his final profession. Hunted by ennui, he could no
longer escape, and, by way of a summer school, he began a
methodical survey -- a triangulation -- of the twelfth century.
The pursuit had a singular French charm which France had long
lost -- a calmness, lucidity, simplicity of expression, vigor of
action, complexity of local color, that made Paris flat. In the
long summer days one found a sort of saturated green pleasure in
the forests, and gray infinity of rest in the little
twelfth-century churches that lined them, as unassuming as their
own mosses, and as sure of their purpose as their round arches;
but churches were many and summer was short, so that he was at
last driven back to the quays and photographs. For weeks he lived
in silence.

His solitude was broken in November by the chance arrival of
John La Farge. At that moment, contact with La Farge had a new
value. Of all the men who had deeply affected their friends since
1850 John La Farge was certainly the foremost, and for Henry
Adams, who had sat at his feet since 1872, the question how much
he owed to La Farge could be answered only by admitting that he
had no standard to measure it by. Of all his friends La Farge
alone owned a mind complex enough to contrast against the
commonplaces of American uniformity, and in the process had
vastly perplexed most Americans who came in contact with it. The
American mind -- the Bostonian as well as the Southern or Western
-- likes to walk straight up to its object, and assert or deny
something that it takes for a fact; it has a conventional
approach, a conventional analysis, and a conventional conclusion,
as well as a conventional expression, all the time loudly
asserting its unconventionality. The most disconcerting trait of
John La Farge was his reversal of the process. His approach was
quiet and indirect; he moved round an object, and never separated
it from its surroundings; he prided himself on faithfulness to
tradition and convention; he was never abrupt and abhorred
dispute. His manners and attitude towards the universe were the
same, whether tossing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
sketching the trade-wind from a whale-boat in the blast of
sea-sickness, or drinking the cha-no-yu in the formal rites of
Japan, or sipping his cocoanut cup of kava in the ceremonial of
Samoan chiefs, or reflecting under the sacred bo-tree at

One was never quite sure of his whole meaning until too late to
respond, for he had no difficulty in carrying different shades of
contradiction in his mind. As he said of his friend Okakura, his
thought ran as a stream runs through grass, hidden perhaps but
always there; and one felt often uncertain in what direction it
flowed, for even a contradiction was to him only a shade of
difference, a complementary color, about which no intelligent
artist would dispute. Constantly he repulsed argument: "Adams,
you reason too much!" was one of his standing reproaches even in
the mild discussion of rice and mangoes in the warm night of
Tahiti dinners. He should have blamed Adams for being born in
Boston. The mind resorts to reason for want of training, and
Adams had never met a perfectly trained mind.

To La Farge, eccentricity meant convention; a mind really
eccentric never betrayed it. True eccentricity was a tone -- a
shade -- a nuance -- and the finer the tone, the truer the
eccentricity. Of course all artists hold more or less the same
point of view in their art, but few carry it into daily life, and
often the contrast is excessive between their art and their talk.
One evening Humphreys Johnston, who was devoted to La Farge,
asked him to meet Whistler at dinner. La Farge was ill -- more
ill than usual even for him -- but he admired and liked Whistler,
and insisted on going. By chance, Adams was so placed as to
overhear the conversation of both, and had no choice but to hear
that of Whistler, which engrossed the table. At that moment the
Boer War was raging, and, as every one knows, on that subject
Whistler raged worse than the Boers. For two hours he declaimed
against England -- witty, declamatory, extravagant, bitter,
amusing, and noisy; but in substance what he said was not merely
commonplace -- it was true! That is to say, his hearers,
including Adams and, as far as he knew, La Farge, agreed with it
all, and mostly as a matter of course; yet La Farge was silent,
and this difference of expression was a difference of art.
Whistler in his art carried the sense of nuance and tone far
beyond any point reached by La Farge, or even attempted; but in
talk he showed, above or below his color-instinct, a willingness
to seem eccentric where no real eccentricity, unless perhaps of
temper, existed.

This vehemence, which Whistler never betrayed in his painting,
La Farge seemed to lavish on his glass. With the relative value
of La Farge's glass in the history of glass-decoration, Adams was
too ignorant to meddle, and as a rule artists were if possible
more ignorant than he; but whatever it was, it led him back to
the twelfth century and to Chartres where La Farge not only felt
at home, but felt a sort of ownership. No other American had a
right there, unless he too were a member of the Church and worked
in glass. Adams himself was an interloper, but long habit led La
Farge to resign himself to Adams as one who meant well, though
deplorably Bostonian; while Adams, though near sixty years old
before he knew anything either of glass or of Chartres, asked no
better than to learn, and only La Farge could help him, for he
knew enough at least to see that La Farge alone could use glass
like a thirteenth-century artist. In Europe the art had been dead
for centuries, and modern glass was pitiable. Even La Farge felt
the early glass rather as a document than as a historical
emotion, and in hundreds of windows at Chartres and Bourges and
Paris, Adams knew barely one or two that were meant to hold their
own against a color-scheme so strong as his. In conversation La
Farge's mind was opaline with infinite shades and refractions of
light, and with color toned down to the finest gradations. In
glass it was insubordinate; it was renaissance; it asserted his
personal force with depth and vehemence of tone never before
seen. He seemed bent on crushing rivalry.

Even the gloom of a Paris December at the Elysee Palace Hotel
was somewhat relieved by this companionship, and education made a
step backwards towards Chartres, but La Farge's health became
more and more alarming, and Adams was glad to get him safely back
to New York, January 15, 1900, while he himself went at once to
Washington to find out what had become of Hay. Nothing good could
be hoped, for Hay's troubles had begun, and were quite as great
as he had foreseen. Adams saw as little encouragement as Hay
himself did, though he dared not say so. He doubted Hay's
endurance, the President's firmness in supporting him, and the
loyalty of his party friends; but all this worry on Hay's account
fretted him not nearly so much as the Boer War did on his own.
Here was a problem in his political education that passed all
experience since the Treason winter of 1860-61! Much to his
astonishment, very few Americans seemed to share his point of
view; their hostility to England seemed mere temper; but to Adams
the war became almost a personal outrage. He had been taught from
childhood, even in England, that his forbears and their
associates in 1776 had settled, once for all, the liberties of
the British free colonies, and he very strongly objected to being
thrown on the defensive again, and forced to sit down, a hundred
and fifty years after John Adams had begun the task, to prove, by
appeal to law and fact, that George Washington was not a felon,
whatever might be the case with George III. For reasons still
more personal, he declined peremptorily to entertain question of
the felony of John Adams. He felt obliged to go even further, and
avow the opinion that if at any time England should take towards
Canada the position she took towards her Boer colonies, the
United States would be bound, by their record, to interpose, and
to insist on the application of the principles of 1776. To him
the attitude of Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues seemed
exceedingly un-American, and terribly embarrassing to Hay.

Trained early, in the stress of civil war, to hold his tongue,
and to help make the political machine run somehow, since it
could never be made to run well, he would not bother Hay with
theoretical objections which were every day fretting him in
practical forms. Hay's chance lay in patience and good-temper
till the luck should turn, and to him the only object was time;
but as political education the point seemed vital to Adams, who
never liked shutting his eyes or denying an evident fact.
Practical politics consists in ignoring facts, but education and
politics are two different and often contradictory things. In
this case, the contradiction seemed crude.

With Hay's politics, at home or abroad, Adams had nothing
whatever to do. Hay belonged to the New York school, like Abram
Hewitt, Evarts, W. C. Whitney, Samuel J. Tilden -- men who played
the game for ambition or amusement, and played it, as a rule,
much better than the professionals, but whose aims were
considerably larger than those of the usual player, and who felt
no great love for the cheap drudgery of the work. In return, the
professionals felt no great love for them, and set them aside
when they could. Only their control of money made them
inevitable, and even this did not always carry their points. The
story of Abram Hewitt would offer one type of this statesman
series, and that of Hay another. President Cleveland set aside
the one; President Harrison set aside the other. "There is no
politics in it," was his comment on Hay's appointment to office.
Hay held a different opinion and turned to McKinley whose
judgment of men was finer than common in Presidents. Mr. McKinley
brought to the problem of American government a solution which
lay very far outside of Henry Adams's education, but which seemed
to be at least practical and American. He undertook to pool
interests in a general trust into which every interest should be
taken, more or less at its own valuation, and whose mass should,
under his management, create efficiency. He achieved very
remarkable results. How much they cost was another matter; if the
public is ever driven to its last resources and the usual
remedies of chaos, the result will probably cost more.

Himself a marvellous manager of men, McKinley found several
manipulators to help him, almost as remarkable as himself, one of
whom was Hay; but unfortunately Hay's strength was weakest and
his task hardest. At home, interests could be easily combined by
simply paying their price; but abroad whatever helped on one
side, hurt him on another. Hay thought England must be brought
first into the combine; but at that time Germany, Russia, and
France were all combining against England, and the Boer War
helped them. For the moment Hay had no ally, abroad or at home,
except Pauncefote, and Adams always maintained that Pauncefote
alone pulled him through.

Yet the difficulty abroad was far less troublesome than the
obstacles at home. The Senate had grown more and more
unmanageable, even since the time of Andrew Johnson, and this was
less the fault of the Senate than of the system. "A treaty of
peace, in any normal state of things," said Hay, "ought to be
ratified with unanimity in twenty-four hours. They wasted six
weeks in wrangling over this one, and ratified it with one vote
to spare. We have five or six matters now demanding settlement. I
can settle them all, honorably and advantageously to our own
side; and I am assured by leading men in the Senate that not one
of these treaties, if negotiated, will pass the Senate. I should
have a majority in every case, but a malcontent third would
certainly dish every one of them. To such monstrous shape has the
original mistake of the Constitution grown in the evolution of
our politics. You must understand, it is not merely my solution
the Senate will reject. They will reject, for instance, any
treaty, whatever, on any subject, with England. I doubt if they
would accept any treaty of consequence with Russia or Germany.
The recalcitrant third would be differently composed, but it
would be on hand. So that the real duties of a Secretary of State
seem to be three: to fight claims upon us by other States; to
press more or less fraudulent claims of our own citizens upon
other countries; to find offices for the friends of Senators when
there are none. Is it worth while -- for me -- to keep up this
useless labor?"

To Adams, who, like Hay, had seen a dozen acquaintances
struggling with the same enemies, the question had scarcely the
interest of a new study. He had said all he had to say about it
in a dozen or more volumes relating to the politics of a hundred
years before. To him, the spectacle was so familiar as to be
humorous. The intrigue was too open to be interesting. The
interference of the German and Russian legations, and of the
Clan-na-Gael, with the press and the Senate was innocently
undisguised. The charming Russian Minister, Count Cassini, the
ideal of diplomatic manners and training, let few days pass
without appealing through the press to the public against the
government. The German Minister, Von Holleben, more cautiously
did the same thing, and of course every whisper of theirs was
brought instantly to the Department. These three forces, acting
with the regular opposition and the natural obstructionists,
could always stop action in the Senate. The fathers had intended
to neutralize the energy of government and had succeeded, but
their machine was never meant to do the work of a twenty-million
horse-power society in the twentieth century, where much work
needed to be quickly and efficiently done. The only defence of
the system was that, as Government did nothing well, it had best
do nothing; but the Government, in truth, did perfectly well all
it was given to do; and even if the charge were true, it applied
equally to human society altogether, if one chose to treat
mankind from that point of view. As a matter of mechanics, so
much work must be done; bad machinery merely added to friction.

Always unselfish, generous, easy, patient, and loyal, Hay had
treated the world as something to be taken in block without
pulling it to pieces to get rid of its defects; he liked it all:
he laughed and accepted; he had never known unhappiness and would
have gladly lived his entire life over again exactly as it
happened. In the whole New York school, one met a similar dash of
humor and cynicism more or less pronounced but seldom bitter. Yet
even the gayest of tempers succumbs at last to constant friction
The old friend was rapidly fading. The habit remained, but the
easy intimacy, the careless gaiety, the casual humor, the
equality of indifference, were sinking into the routine of
office; the mind lingered in the Department; the thought failed
to react; the wit and humor shrank within the blank walls of
politics, and the irritations multiplied. To a head of bureau,
the result seemed ennobling.

Although, as education, this branch of study was more familiar
and older than the twelfth century, the task of bringing the two
periods into a common relation was new. Ignorance required that
these political and social and scientific values of the twelfth
and twentieth centuries should be correlated in some relation of
movement that could be expressed in mathematics, nor did one care
in the least that all the world said it could not be done, or
that one knew not enough mathematics even to figure a formula
beyond the schoolboy s = gt^2/2. If Kepler and Newton could take
liberties with the sun and moon, an obscure person in a remote
wilderness like La Fayette Square could take liberties with
Congress, and venture to multiply half its attraction into the
square of its time. He had only to find a value, even
infinitesimal, for its attraction at any given time. A historical
formula that should satisfy the conditions of the stellar
universe weighed heavily on his mind; but a trifling matter like
this was one in which he could look for no help from anybody --
he could look only for derision at best.

All his associates in history condemned such an attempt as
futile and almost immoral -- certainly hostile to sound
historical system. Adams tried it only because of its hostility
to all that he had taught for history, since he started afresh
from the new point that, whatever was right, all he had ever
taught was wrong. He had pursued ignorance thus far with success,
and had swept his mind clear of knowledge. In beginning again,
from the starting-point of Sir Isaac Newton, he looked about him
in vain for a teacher. Few men in Washington cared to overstep
the school conventions, and the most distinguished of them, Simon
Newcomb, was too sound a mathematician to treat such a scheme
seriously. The greatest of Americans, judged by his rank in
science, Willard Gibbs, never came to Washington, and Adams never
enjoyed a chance to meet him. After Gibbs, one of the most
distinguished was Langley, of the Smithsonian, who was more
accessible, to whom Adams had been much in the habit of turning
whenever he wanted an outlet for his vast reservoirs of
ignorance. Langley listened with outward patience to his
disputatious questionings; but he too nourished a scientific
passion for doubt, and sentimental attachment for its avowal. He
had the physicist's heinous fault of professing to know nothing
between flashes of intense perception. Like so many other great
observers, Langley was not a mathematician, and like most
physicists, he believed in physics. Rigidly denying himself the
amusement of philosophy, which consists chiefly in suggesting
unintelligible answers to insoluble problems, he still knew the
problems, and liked to wander past them in a courteous temper,
even bowing to them distantly as though recognizing their
existence, while doubting their respectability. He generously let
others doubt what he felt obliged to affirm; and early put into
Adams's hands the "Concepts of Modern Science," a volume by Judge
Stallo, which had been treated for a dozen years by the schools
with a conspiracy of silence such as inevitably meets every
revolutionary work that upsets the stock and machinery of
instruction. Adams read and failed to understand; then he asked
questions and failed to get answers.

Probably this was education. Perhaps it was the only scientific
education open to a student sixty-odd years old, who asked to be
as ignorant as an astronomer. For him the details of science
meant nothing: he wanted to know its mass. Solar heat was not
enough, or was too much. Kinetic atoms led only to motion; never
to direction or progress. History had no use for multiplicity; it
needed unity; it could study only motion, direction, attraction,
relation. Everything must be made to move together; one must seek
new worlds to measure; and so, like Rasselas, Adams set out once
more, and found himself on May 12 settled in rooms at the very
door of the Trocadero.



UNTIL the Great Exposition of 1900 closed its doors in
November, Adams haunted it, aching to absorb knowledge, and
helpless to find it. He would have liked to know how much of it
could have been grasped by the best-informed man in the world.
While he was thus meditating chaos, Langley came by, and showed
it to him. At Langley's behest, the Exhibition dropped its
superfluous rags and stripped itself to the skin, for Langley
knew what to study, and why, and how; while Adams might as well
have stood outside in the night, staring at the Milky Way. Yet
Langley said nothing new, and taught nothing that one might not
have learned from Lord Bacon, three hundred years before; but
though one should have known the "Advancement of Science" as well
as one knew the "Comedy of Errors," the literary knowledge
counted for nothing until some teacher should show how to apply
it. Bacon took a vast deal of trouble in teaching King James I
and his subjects, American or other, towards the year 1620, that
true science was the development or economy of forces; yet an
elderly American in 1900 knew neither the formula nor the forces;
or even so much as to say to himself that his historical business
in the Exposition concerned only the economies or developments of
force since 1893, when he began the study at Chicago.

Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of
ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts. Adams had
looked at most of the accumulations of art in the storehouses
called Art Museums; yet he did not know how to look at the art
exhibits of 1900. He had studied Karl Marx and his doctrines of
history with profound attention, yet he could not apply them at
Paris. Langley, with the ease of a great master of experiment,
threw out of the field every exhibit that did not reveal a new
application of force, and naturally threw out, to begin with,
almost the whole art exhibit. Equally, he ignored almost the
whole industrial exhibit. He led his pupil directly to the
forces. His chief interest was in new motors to make his airship
feasible, and he taught Adams the astonishing complexities of the
new Daimler motor, and of the automobile, which, since 1893, had
become a nightmare at a hundred kilometres an hour, almost as
destructive as the electric tram which was only ten years older;
and threatening to become as terrible as the locomotive
steam-engine itself, which was almost exactly Adams's own age.

Then he showed his scholar the great hall of dynamos, and
explained how little he knew about electricity or force of any
kind, even of his own special sun, which spouted heat in
inconceivable volume, but which, as far as he knew, might spout
less or more, at any time, for all the certainty he felt in it.
To him, the dynamo itself was but an ingenious channel for
conveying somewhere the heat latent in a few tons of poor coal
hidden in a dirty engine-house carefully kept out of sight; but
to Adams the dynamo became a symbol of infinity. As he grew
accustomed to the great gallery of machines, he began to feel the
forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians
felt the Cross. The planet itself seemed less impressive, in its
old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or daily revolution, than this
huge wheel, revolving within arm's length at some vertiginous
speed, and barely murmuring -- scarcely humming an audible
warning to stand a hair's-breadth further for respect of power --
while it would not wake the baby lying close against its frame.
Before the end, one began to pray to it; inherited instinct
taught the natural expression of man before silent and infinite
force. Among the thousand symbols of ultimate energy the dynamo
was not so human as some, but it was the most expressive.

Yet the dynamo, next to the steam-engine, was the most familiar
of exhibits. For Adams's objects its value lay chiefly in its
occult mechanism. Between the dynamo in the gallery of machines
and the engine-house outside, the break of continuity amounted to
abysmal fracture for a historian's objects. No more relation
could he discover between the steam and the electric current than
between the Cross and the cathedral. The forces were
interchangeable if not reversible, but he could see only an
absolute fiat in electricity as in faith. Langley could not help
him. Indeed, Langley seemed to be worried by the same trouble,
for he constantly repeated that the new forces were anarchical,
and especially that he was not responsible for the new rays, that
were little short of parricidal in their wicked spirit towards
science. His own rays, with which he had doubled the solar
spectrum, were altogether harmless and beneficent; but Radium
denied its God -- or, what was to Langley the same thing, denied
the truths of his Science. The force was wholly new.

A historian who asked only to learn enough to be as futile as
Langley or Kelvin, made rapid progress under this teaching, and
mixed himself up in the tangle of ideas until he achieved a sort
of Paradise of ignorance vastly consoling to his fatigued senses.
He wrapped himself in vibrations and rays which were new, and he
would have hugged Marconi and Branly had he met them, as he
hugged the dynamo; while he lost his arithmetic in trying to
figure out the equation between the discoveries and the economies
of force. The economies, like the discoveries, were absolute,
supersensual, occult; incapable of expression in horse-power.
What mathematical equivalent could he suggest as the value of a
Branly coherer? Frozen air, or the electric furnace, had some
scale of measurement, no doubt, if somebody could invent a
thermometer adequate to the purpose; but X-rays had played no
part whatever in man's consciousness, and the atom itself had
figured only as a fiction of thought. In these seven years man
had translated himself into a new universe which had no common
scale of measurement with the old. He had entered a supersensual
world, in which he could measure nothing except by chance
collisions of movements imperceptible to his senses, perhaps even
imperceptible to his instruments, but perceptible to each other,
and so to some known ray at the end of the scale. Langley seemed
prepared for anything, even for an indeterminable number of
universes interfused -- physics stark mad in metaphysics.

Historians undertake to arrange sequences, -- called stories,
or histories -- assuming in silence a relation of cause and
effect. These assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty
libraries, have been astounding, but commonly unconscious and
childlike; so much so, that if any captious critic were to drag
them to light, historians would probably reply, with one voice,
that they had never supposed themselves required to know what
they were talking about. Adams, for one, had toiled in vain to
find out what he meant. He had even published a dozen volumes of
American history for no other purpose than to satisfy himself
whether, by severest process of stating, with the least possible
comment, such facts as seemed sure, in such order as seemed
rigorously consequent, he could fix for a familiar moment a
necessary sequence of human movement. The result had satisfied
him as little as at Harvard College. Where he saw sequence, other
men saw something quite different, and no one saw the same unit
of measure. He cared little about his experiments and less about
his statesmen, who seemed to him quite as ignorant as himself
and, as a rule, no more honest; but he insisted on a relation of
sequence, and if he could not reach it by one method, he would
try as many methods as science knew. Satisfied that the sequence
of men led to nothing and that the sequence of their society
could lead no further, while the mere sequence of time was
artificial, and the sequence of thought was chaos, he turned at
last to the sequence of force; and thus it happened that, after
ten years' pursuit, he found himself lying in the Gallery of
Machines at the Great Exposition of 1900, his historical neck
broken by the sudden irruption of forces totally new.

Since no one else showed much concern, an elderly person
without other cares had no need to betray alarm. The year 1900
was not the first to upset schoolmasters. Copernicus and Galileo
had broken many professorial necks about 1600; Columbus had stood
the world on its head towards 1500; but the nearest approach to
the revolution of 1900 was that of 310, when Constantine set up
the Cross. The rays that Langley disowned, as well as those which
he fathered, were occult, supersensual, irrational; they were a
revelation of mysterious energy like that of the Cross; they were
what, in terms of mediaeval science, were called immediate modes
of the divine substance.

The historian was thus reduced to his last resources. Clearly
if he was bound to reduce all these forces to a common value,
this common value could have no measure but that of their
attraction on his own mind. He must treat them as they had been
felt; as convertible, reversible, interchangeable attractions on
thought. He made up his mind to venture it; he would risk
translating rays into faith. Such a reversible process would
vastly amuse a chemist, but the chemist could not deny that he,
or some of his fellow physicists, could feel the force of both.
When Adams was a boy in Boston, the best chemist in the place had
probably never heard of Venus except by way of scandal, or of the
Virgin except as idolatry; neither had he heard of dynamos or
automobiles or radium; yet his mind was ready to feel the force
of all, though the rays were unborn and the women were dead.

Here opened another totally new education, which promised to be
by far the most hazardous of all. The knife-edge along which he
must crawl, like Sir Lancelot in the twelfth century, divided two
kingdoms of force which had nothing in common but attraction.
They were as different as a magnet is from gravitation, supposing
one knew what a magnet was, or gravitation, or love. The force of
the Virgin was still felt at Lourdes, and seemed to be as potent
as X-rays; but in America neither Venus nor Virgin ever had value
as force -- at most as sentiment. No American had ever been truly
afraid of either.

This problem in dynamics gravely perplexed an American
historian. The Woman had once been supreme; in France she still
seemed potent, not merely as a sentiment, but as a force. Why was
she unknown in America? For evidently America was ashamed of her,
and she was ashamed of herself, otherwise they would not have
strewn fig-leaves so profusely all over her. When she was a true
force, she was ignorant of fig-leaves, but the
monthly-magazine-made American female had not a feature that
would have been recognized by Adam. The trait was notorious, and
often humorous, but any one brought up among Puritans knew that
sex was sin. In any previous age, sex was strength. Neither art
nor beauty was needed. Every one, even among Puritans, knew that
neither Diana of the Ephesians nor any of the Oriental goddesses
was worshipped for her beauty. She was goddess because of her
force; she was the animated dynamo; she was reproduction -- the
greatest and most mysterious of all energies; all she needed was
to be fecund. Singularly enough, not one of Adams's many schools
of education had ever drawn his attention to the opening lines of
Lucretius, though they were perhaps the finest in all Latin
literature, where the poet invoked Venus exactly as Dante invoked
the Virgin: --

"Quae quondam rerum naturam sola gubernas."

The Venus of Epicurean philosophy survived in the Virgin of the
Schools: --

"Donna, sei tanto grande, e tanto vali,
Che qual vuol grazia, e a te non ricorre,
Sua disianza vuol volar senz' ali."

All this was to American thought as though it had never
existed. The true American knew something of the facts, but
nothing of the feelings; he read the letter, but he never felt
the law. Before this historical chasm, a mind like that of Adams
felt itself helpless; he turned from the Virgin to the Dynamo as
though he were a Branly coherer. On one side, at the Louvre and
at Chartres, as he knew by the record of work actually done and
still before his eyes, was the highest energy ever known to man,
the creator four-fifths of his noblest art, exercising vastly
more attraction over the human mind than all the steam-engines
and dynamos ever dreamed of; and yet this energy was unknown to
the American mind. An American Virgin would never dare command;
an American Venus would never dare exist.

The question, which to any plain American of the nineteenth
century seemed as remote as it did to Adams, drew him almost
violently to study, once it was posed; and on this point Langleys
were as useless as though they were Herbert Spencers or dynamos.
The idea survived only as art. There one turned as naturally as
though the artist were himself a woman. Adams began to ponder,
asking himself whether he knew of any American artist who had
ever insisted on the power of sex, as every classic had always
done; but he could think only of Walt Whitman; Bret Harte, as far
as the magazines would let him venture; and one or two painters,
for the flesh-tones. All the rest had used sex for sentiment,
never for force; to them, Eve was a tender flower, and Herodias
an unfeminine horror. American art, like the American language
and American education, was as far as possible sexless. Society
regarded this victory over sex as its greatest triumph, and the
historian readily admitted it, since the moral issue, for the
moment, did not concern one who was studying the relations of
unmoral force. He cared nothing for the sex of the dynamo until
he could measure its energy.

Vaguely seeking a clue, he wandered through the art exhibit,
and, in his stroll, stopped almost every day before St. Gaudens's
General Sherman, which had been given the central post of honor.
St. Gaudens himself was in Paris, putting on the work his usual
interminable last touches, and listening to the usual
contradictory suggestions of brother sculptors. Of all the
American artists who gave to American art whatever life it
breathed in the seventies, St. Gaudens was perhaps the most
sympathetic, but certainly the most inarticulate. General Grant
or Don Cameron had scarcely less instinct of rhetoric than he.
All the others -- the Hunts, Richardson, John La Farge, Stanford
White -- were exuberant; only St. Gaudens could never discuss or
dilate on an emotion, or suggest artistic arguments for giving to
his work the forms that he felt. He never laid down the law, or
affected the despot, or became brutalized like Whistler by the
brutalities of his world. He required no incense; he was no
egoist; his simplicity of thought was excessive; he could not
imitate, or give any form but his own to the creations of his
hand. No one felt more strongly than he the strength of other
men, but the idea that they could affect him never stirred an
image in his mind.

This summer his health was poor and his spirits were low. For
such a temper, Adams was not the best companion, since his own
gaiety was not folle; but he risked going now and then to the
studio on Mont Parnasse to draw him out for a stroll in the Bois
de Boulogne, or dinner as pleased his moods, and in return St.
Gaudens sometimes let Adams go about in his company.

Once St. Gaudens took him down to Amiens, with a party of
Frenchmen, to see the cathedral. Not until they found themselves
actually studying the sculpture of the western portal, did it
dawn on Adams's mind that, for his purposes, St. Gaudens on that
spot had more interest to him than the cathedral itself. Great
men before great monuments express great truths, provided they
are not taken too solemnly. Adams never tired of quoting the
supreme phrase of his idol Gibbon, before the Gothic cathedrals:
"I darted a contemptuous look on the stately monuments of
supersition." Even in the footnotes of his history, Gibbon had
never inserted a bit of humor more human than this, and one would
have paid largely for a photograph of the fat little historian,
on the background of Notre Dame of Amiens, trying to persuade his
readers -- perhaps himself -- that he was darting a contemptuous
look on the stately monument, for which he felt in fact the
respect which every man of his vast study and active mind always
feels before objects worthy of it; but besides the humor, one
felt also the relation. Gibbon ignored the Virgin, because in
1789 religious monuments were out of fashion. In 1900 his remark
sounded fresh and simple as the green fields to ears that had
heard a hundred years of other remarks, mostly no more fresh and
certainly less simple. Without malice, one might find it more
instructive than a whole lecture of Ruskin. One sees what one
brings, and at that moment Gibbon brought the French Revolution.
Ruskin brought reaction against the Revolution. St. Gaudens had
passed beyond all. He liked the stately monuments much more than
he liked Gibbon or Ruskin; he loved their dignity; their unity;
their scale; their lines; their lights and shadows; their
decorative sculpture; but he was even less conscious than they of
the force that created it all -- the Virgin, the Woman -- by
whose genius "the stately monuments of superstition" were built,
through which she was expressed. He would have seen more meaning
in Isis with the cow's horns, at Edfoo, who expressed the same
thought. The art remained, but the energy was lost even upon the

Yet in mind and person St. Gaudens was a survival of the 1500;
he bore the stamp of the Renaissance, and should have carried an
image of the Virgin round his neck, or stuck in his hat, like
Louis XI. In mere time he was a lost soul that had strayed by
chance to the twentieth century, and forgotten where it came
from. He writhed and cursed at his ignorance, much as Adams did
at his own, but in the opposite sense. St. Gaudens was a child of
Benvenuto Cellini, smothered in an American cradle. Adams was a
quintessence of Boston, devoured by curiosity to think like
Benvenuto. St. Gaudens's art was starved from birth, and Adams's
instinct was blighted from babyhood. Each had but half of a
nature, and when they came together before the Virgin of Amiens
they ought both to have felt in her the force that made them one;
but it was not so. To Adams she became more than ever a channel
of force; to St. Gaudens she remained as before a channel of

For a symbol of power, St. Gaudens instinctively preferred the
horse, as was plain in his horse and Victory of the Sherman
monument. Doubtless Sherman also felt it so. The attitude was so
American that, for at least forty years, Adams had never realized
that any other could be in sound taste. How many years had he
taken to admit a notion of what Michael Angelo and Rubens were
driving at? He could not say; but he knew that only since 1895
had he begun to feel the Virgin or Venus as force, and not
everywhere even so. At Chartres -- perhaps at Lourdes -- possibly
at Cnidos if one could still find there the divinely naked
Aphrodite of Praxiteles -- but otherwise one must look for force
to the goddesses of Indian mythology. The idea died out long ago
in the German and English stock. St. Gaudens at Amiens was hardly
less sensitive to the force of the female energy than Matthew
Arnold at the Grande Chartreuse. Neither of them felt goddesses
as power -- only as reflected emotion, human expression, beauty,
purity, taste, scarcely even as sympathy. They felt a railway
train as power, yet they, and all other artists, constantly
complained that the power embodied in a railway train could never
be embodied in art. All the steam in the world could not, like
the Virgin, build Chartres.

Yet in mechanics, whatever the mechanicians might think, both
energies acted as interchangeable force on man, and by action on
man all known force may be measured. Indeed, few men of science
measured force in any other way. After once admitting that a
straight line was the shortest distance between two points, no
serious mathematician cared to deny anything that suited his
convenience, and rejected no symbol, unproved or unproveable,
that helped him to accomplish work. The symbol was force, as a
compass-needle or a triangle was force, as the mechanist might
prove by losing it, and nothing could be gained by ignoring their
value. Symbol or energy, the Virgin had acted as the greatest
force the Western world ever felt, and had drawn man's activities
to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or
supernatural, had ever done; the historian's business was to
follow the track of the energy; to find where it came from and
where it went to; its complex source and shifting channels; its
values, equivalents, conversions. It could scarcely be more
complex than radium; it could hardly be deflected, diverted,
polarized, absorbed more perplexingly than other radiant matter.
Adams knew nothing about any of them, but as a mathematical
problem of influence on human progress, though all were occult,
all reacted on his mind, and he rather inclined to think the
Virgin easiest to handle.

The pursuit turned out to be long and tortuous, leading at last
to the vast forests of scholastic science. From Zeno to
Descartes, hand in hand with Thomas Aquinas, Montaigne, and
Pascal, one stumbled as stupidly as though one were still a
German student of 1860. Only with the instinct of despair could
one force one's self into this old thicket of ignorance after
having been repulsed a score of entrances more promising and more
popular. Thus far, no path had led anywhere, unless perhaps to an
exceedingly modest living. Forty-five years of study had proved
to be quite futile for the pursuit of power; one controlled no
more force in 1900 than in 1850, although the amount of force
controlled by society had enormously increased. The secret of
education still hid itself somewhere behind ignorance, and one
fumbled over it as feebly as ever. In such labyrinths, the staff
is a force almost more necessary than the legs; the pen becomes a
sort of blind-man's dog, to keep him from falling into the
gutters. The pen works for itself, and acts like a hand,
modelling the plastic material over and over again to the form
that suits it best. The form is never arbitrary, but is a sort of
growth like crystallization, as any artist knows too well; for
often the pencil or pen runs into side-paths and shapelessness,
loses its relations, stops or is bogged. Then it has to return on
its trail, and recover, if it can, its line of force. The result
of a year's work depends more on what is struck out than on what
is left in; on the sequence of the main lines of thought, than on
their play or variety. Compelled once more to lean heavily on
this support, Adams covered more thousands of pages with figures
as formal as though they were algebra, laboriously striking out,
altering, burning, experimenting, until the year had expired, the
Exposition had long been closed, and winter drawing to its end,
before he sailed from Cherbourg, on January 19, 1901, for home.



WHILE the world that thought itself frivolous, and submitted
meekly to hearing itself decried as vain, fluttered through the
Paris Exposition, jogging the futilities of St. Gaudens, Rodin,
and Besnard, the world that thought itself serious, and showed
other infallible marks of coming mental paroxysm, was engaged in
weird doings at Peking and elsewhere such as startled even
itself. Of all branches of education, the science of gauging
people and events by their relative importance defies study most
insolently. For three or four generations, society has united in
withering with contempt and opprobrium the shameless futility of
Mme. de Pompadour and Mme. du Barry; yet, if one bid at an
auction for some object that had been approved by the taste of
either lady, one quickly found that it were better to buy
half-a-dozen Napoleons or Frederics, or Maria Theresas, or all
the philosophy and science of their time, than to bid for a
cane-bottomed chair that either of these two ladies had adorned.
The same thing might be said, in a different sense, of Voltaire;
while, as every one knows, the money-value of any hand-stroke of
Watteau or Hogarth, Nattier or Sir Joshua, is out of all
proportion to the importance of the men. Society seemed to
delight in talking with solemn conviction about serious values,
and in paying fantastic prices for nothing but the most futile.
The drama acted at Peking, in the summer of 1900, was, in the
eyes of a student, the most serious that could be offered for his
study, since it brought him suddenly to the inevitable struggle
for the control of China, which, in his view, must decide the
control of the world; yet, as a money-value, the fall of China
was chiefly studied in Paris and London as a calamity to Chinese
porcelain. The value of a Ming vase was more serious than
universal war.

The drama of the Legations interested the public much as though
it were a novel of Alexandre Dumas, but the bearing of the drama
on future history offered an interest vastly greater. Adams knew
no more about it than though he were the best-informed statesman
in Europe. Like them all, he took for granted that the Legations
were massacred, and that John Hay, who alone championed China's
"administrative entity," would be massacred too, since he must
henceforth look on, in impotence, while Russia and Germany
dismembered China, and shut up America at home. Nine statesmen
out of ten, in Europe, accepted this result in advance, seeing no
way to prevent it. Adams saw none, and laughed at Hay for his

When Hay suddenly ignored European leadership, took the lead
himself, rescued the Legations and saved China, Adams looked on,
as incredulous as Europe, though not quite so stupid, since, on
that branch of education, he knew enough for his purpose. Nothing
so meteoric had ever been done in American diplomacy. On
returning to Washington, January 30, 1901, he found most of the
world as astonished as himself, but less stupid than usual. For a
moment, indeed, the world had been struck dumb at seeing Hay put
Europe aside and set the Washington Government at the head of
civilization so quietly that civilization submitted, by mere
instinct of docility, to receive and obey his orders; but, after
the first shock of silence, society felt the force of the stroke
through its fineness, and burst into almost tumultuous applause.
Instantly the diplomacy of the nineteenth century, with all its
painful scuffles and struggles, was forgotten, and the American
blushed to be told of his submissions in the past. History broke
in halves.

Hay was too good an artist not to feel the artistic skill of
his own work, and the success reacted on his health, giving him
fresh life, for with him as with most men, success was a tonic,
and depression a specific poison; but as usual, his troubles
nested at home. Success doubles strain. President McKinley's
diplomatic court had become the largest in the world, and the
diplomatic relations required far more work than ever before,
while the staff of the Department was little more efficient, and
the friction in the Senate had become coagulated. Hay took to
studying the "Diary" of John Quincy Adams eighty years before,
and calculated that the resistance had increased about ten times,
as measured by waste of days and increase of effort, although
Secretary of State J. Q. Adams thought himself very hardly
treated. Hay cheerfully noted that it was killing him, and proved
it, for the effort of the afternoon walk became sometimes

For the moment, things were going fairly well, and Hay's unruly
team were less fidgety, but Pauncefote still pulled the whole
load and turned the dangerous corners safely, while Cassini and
Holleben helped the Senate to make what trouble they could,
without serious offence, and the Irish, after the genial Celtic
nature, obstructed even themselves. The fortunate Irish, thanks
to their sympathetic qualities, never made lasting enmities; but
the Germans seemed in a fair way to rouse ill-will and even ugly
temper in the spirit of politics, which was by no means a part of
Hay's plans. He had as much as he could do to overcome domestic
friction, and felt no wish to alienate foreign powers. Yet so
much could be said in favor of the foreigners that they commonly
knew why they made trouble, and were steady to a motive. Cassini
had for years pursued, in Peking as in Washington, a policy of
his own, never disguised, and as little in harmony with his chief
as with Hay; he made his opposition on fixed lines for notorious
objects; but Senators could seldom give a reason for obstruction.
In every hundred men, a certain number obstruct by instinct, and
try to invent reasons to explain it afterwards. The Senate was no
worse than the board of a university; but incorporators as a rule
have not made this class of men dictators on purpose to prevent
action. In the Senate, a single vote commonly stopped
legislation, or, in committee, stifled discussion.

Hay's policy of removing, one after another, all irritations,
and closing all discussions with foreign countries, roused
incessant obstruction, which could be overcome only by patience
and bargaining in executive patronage, if indeed it could be
overcome at all. The price actually paid was not very great
except in the physical exhaustion of Hay and Pauncefote, Root and
McKinley. No serious bargaining of equivalents could be
attempted; Senators would not sacrifice five dollars in their own
States to gain five hundred thousand in another; but whenever a
foreign country was willing to surrender an advantage without an
equivalent, Hay had a chance to offer the Senate a treaty. In all
such cases the price paid for the treaty was paid wholly to the
Senate, and amounted to nothing very serious except in waste of
time and wear of strength. "Life is so gay and horrid!" laughed
Hay; "the Major will have promised all the consulates in the
service; the Senators will all come to me and refuse to believe
me dis-consulate; I shall see all my treaties slaughtered, one by
one, by the thirty-four per cent of kickers and strikers; the
only mitigation I can foresee is being sick a good part of the
time; I am nearing my grand climacteric, and the great culbute is

He was thinking of his friend Blaine, and might have thought of
all his predecessors, for all had suffered alike, and to Adams as
historian their sufferings had been a long delight -- the
solitary picturesque and tragic element in politics --
incidentally requiring character-studies like Aaron Burr and
William B. Giles, Calhoun and Webster and Sumner, with Sir
Forcible Feebles like James M. Mason and stage exaggerations like
Roscoe Conkling. The Senate took the place of Shakespeare, and
offered real Brutuses and Bolingbrokes, Jack Cades, Falstaffs,
and Malvolios -- endless varieties of human nature nowhere else
to be studied, and none the less amusing because they killed, or
because they were like schoolboys in their simplicity. "Life is
so gay and horrid!" Hay still felt the humor, though more and
more rarely, but what he felt most was the enormous complexity
and friction of the vast mass he was trying to guide. He bitterly
complained that it had made him a bore -- of all things the most
senatorial, and to him the most obnoxious. The old friend was
lost, and only the teacher remained, driven to madness by the
complexities and multiplicities of his new world.

To one who, at past sixty years old, is still passionately
seeking education, these small, or large, annoyances had no great
value except as measures of mass and motion. For him the
practical interest and the practical man were such as looked
forward to the next election, or perhaps, in corporations, five
or ten years. Scarcely half-a-dozen men in America could be named
who were known to have looked a dozen years ahead; while any
historian who means to keep his alignment with past and future
must cover a horizon of two generations at least. If he seeks to
align himself with the future, he must assume a condition of some
sort for a world fifty years beyond his own. Every historian --
sometimes unconsciously, but always inevitably -- must have put
to himself the question: How long could such-or-such an outworn
system last? He can never give himself less than one generation
to show the full effects of a changed condition. His object is to
triangulate from the widest possible base to the furthest point
he thinks he can see, which is always far beyond the curvature of
the horizon.

To the practical man, such an attempt is idiotic, and probably
the practical man is in the right to-day; but, whichever is right
-- if the question of right or wrong enters at all into the
matter -- the historian has no choice but to go on alone. Even in
his own profession few companions offer help, and his walk soon
becomes solitary, leading further and further into a wilderness
where twilight is short and the shadows are dense. Already Hay
literally staggered in his tracks for weariness. More worn than
he, Clarence King dropped. One day in the spring he stopped an
hour in Washington to bid good-bye, cheerily and simply telling
how his doctors had condemned him to Arizona for his lungs. All
three friends knew that they were nearing the end, and that if it
were not the one it would be the other; but the affectation of
readiness for death is a stage role, and stoicism is a stupid
resource, though the only one. Non doles, Paete! One is ashamed
of it even in the acting.

The sunshine of life had not been so dazzling of late but that
a share of it flickered out for Adams and Hay when King
disappeared from their lives; but Hay had still his family and
ambition, while Adams could only blunder back alone, helplessly,
wearily, his eyes rather dim with tears, to his vague trail
across the darkening prairie of education, without a motive, big
or small, except curiosity to reach, before he too should drop,
some point that would give him a far look ahead. He was morbidly
curious to see some light at the end of the passage, as though

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