The notice of Miss Austen, by Macaulay, to which Mr. Lewes alludes, must be, we presume, the passage which occurs in Macaulay's article on Madame D'Arblay, in the "Edinburgh Review," for January, 1843. We do not find the phrase, "prose Shakspeare," but the meaning is the same; we give the passage as it stands before us:—
"Shakspeare has neither equal nor second; but among writers who, in the point we have noticed, have approached nearest the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen, as a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings. There are, for example, four clergymen, none of whom we should be surprised to find in any parsonage in the kingdom,—Mr. Edward Ferrars, Mr. Henry Tilney, Mr. Edward Bertram, and Mr. Elton. They are all specimens of the upper part of the middle class. They have been all liberally educated. They all lie under the restraints of the same sacred profession. They are all young. They are all in love. Not any one of them has any hobby-horse, to use the phrase of Sterne. Not one has any ruling passion, such as we read in Pope. Who would not have expected them to be insipid likenesses of each other? No such thing. Harpagon is not more unlike Jourdain, Joseph Surface is not more unlike Sir Lucius O'Trigger, than every one of Miss Austen's young divines to all his reverend brethren. And almost all this is done by touches so delicate that they elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have contributed."
Dr. Whately, the Archbishop of Dublin, in the "Quarterly Review," 1821, sums up his estimate of Miss Austen with these words: "The Eastern monarch who proclaimed a reward to him who should discover a new pleasure would have deserved well of mankind, had he stipulated it should be blameless. Those again who delight in the study of human nature may improve in the knowledge of it, and in the profitable application of that knowledge, by the perusal of such fictions. Miss Austen introduces very little of what is technically called religion into her books, yet that must be a blinded soul which does not recognize the vital essence, everywhere present in her pages, of a deep and enlightened piety.
There are but few descriptions of scenery in her novels. The figures of the piece are her care; and if she draws in a tree, a hill, or a manor-house, it is always in the background. This fact did not arise from any want of appreciation for the glories or the beauties of the outward creation, for we know that the pencil was as often in her hand as the pen. It was that unity of purpose, ever present to her mind, which never allowed her to swerve from the actual into the ideal, nor even to yield to tempting descriptions of Nature which might be near, and yet aside from the main object of her narrative. Her creations are living people, not masks behind which the author soliloquizes or lectures. These novels are impersonal; Miss Austen never herself appears; and if she ever had a lover, we cannot decide whom he resembled among the many masculine portraits she has drawn.
Very much has been said in her praise, and we, in this brief article, have summoned together witnesses to the extent of her powers, which are fit and not few. Yet we are aware that to a class of readers Miss Austen's novels must ever remain sealed books. So be it. While the English language is read, the world will always be provided with souls who can enjoy the rare excellence of that rich legacy left to them by her genius.
Once in our lifetime we spent three delicious days in the Isle of Wight, and then crossed the water to Portsmouth. After taking a turn on the ramparts in memory of Fanny Price, and looking upon the harbor whence the Thrush went out, we drove over Portsdown Hill to visit the surviving member of that household which called Jane Austen their own.
We had been preceded by a letter, introducing us to Admiral Austen as fervent admirers of his sister's genius, and were received by him with a gentle courtesy most winning to our heart.
In the finely-cut features of the brother, who retained at eighty years of age much of the early beauty of his youth, we fancied we must see a resemblance to his sister, of whom there exists no portrait.
It was delightful to us to hear him speak of "Jane," and to be brought so near the actual in her daily life. Of his sister's fame as a writer the Admiral spoke understandingly, but reservedly.
We found the old Admiral safely moored in that most delightful of havens, a quiet English country-home, with the beauty of Nature around the mansion, and the beauty of domestic love and happiness beneath its hospitable roof.
There we spent a summer day, and the passing hours seemed like the pages over which we had often lingered, written by her hand whose influence had guided us to those she loved. That day, with all its associations, has become a sacred memory, and links us to the sphere where dwells that soul whose gift of genius has rendered immortal the name of Jane Austen.
* * * * *
"I order and declare that all persons held as slaves in the said designated States and parts of States are and hereafter shall be free,... and I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence."
Saint Patrick, slave to Milcho of the herds Of Ballymena, sleeping, heard these words: "Arise, and flee Out from the land of bondage, and be free!"
Glad as a soul in pain, who hears from heaven The angels singing of his sins forgiven, And, wondering, sees His prison opening to their golden keys,
He rose a man who laid him down a slave, Shook from his locks the ashes of the grave, And outward trod Into the glorious liberty of God.
He cast the symbols of his shame away; And passing where the sleeping Milcho lay, Though back and limb Smarted with wrong, he prayed, "God pardon him!"
So went he forth: but in God's time he came To light on Uilline's hills a holy flame; And, dying, gave The land a saint that lost him as a slave.
O dark, sad millions, patiently and dumb Waiting for God, your hour, at last, has come, And freedom's song Breaks the long silence of your night of wrong!
Arise and flee! shake off the vile restraint Of ages! but, like Ballymena's saint, The oppressor spare, Heap only on his head the coals of prayer!
Go forth, like him! like him, return again, To bless the land whereon in bitter pain Ye toiled at first, And heal with freedom what your slavery cursed!
* * * * *
THE LAW OF COSTS.
Our nation is now paying the price, not only of its vice, but also of its virtue,—not alone of its evil doing, but of its noble and admirable doing as well. It has of late been a customary cry with a certain class, that those who cherish freedom and advocate social justice are the proper authors of the present war. No doubt there is in this allegation an ungracious kind of truth; that is, had the nation been destitute of a political faith and of moral feeling, there would have been no contest. But were one lying ill of yellow-fever or small-pox, there would be the same sort of lying truth in the statement, that the life in him, which alone resists the disease, is really its cause; since to yellow-fever, or to any malady, dead bodies are not subject. There is no preventive of disease so effectual as death itself,—no place so impregnable to pestilence as the grave. So, had the vitality gone out of the nation's heart, had that lamp of love for freedom and justice and of homage to the being of man, which once burned in its bosom so brightly, already sunk into death-flicker and extinction, then in the sordid and icy dark that would remain there could be no war of like nature with this that to-day gives the land its woful baptism of blood and tears. Oh, no! there would have been peace—and putrefaction: peace, but without its sweetness, and death, but without its hopes.
In one important sense, however, this war—hateful and horrible though it be—is the price which the nation must pay for its ideas and its magnanimity. If you take a clear initial step toward any great end, you thereby assume as a debt to destiny the pursuit and completion of your action; and should you fail to meet this debt, it will not fail to meet you, though now in the shape of retribution and with a biting edge. The seaman who has signed shipping-papers owes a voyage, and must either sail or suffer. The nation which has recognized absolute rights of man, and in their name assumed to shed blood, has taken upon itself the burden of a high destination, and must bear it, if not willingly, reluctantly, if not in joy and honor, then in shame and weeping.
Our nation, by the early nobility of its faith and action, assumed such a debt to destiny, and now must pay it. It needed not to come in this shape: there need have been no horror of carnage,—no feast of vultures, and carnival of fiends,—no weeping of Rachel, mourning for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are not. There was required only a magnanimity in proceeding to sustain that of our beginning,—only a sympathy broad enough to take our little planet and all her human tribes in its arms, deep enough to go beneath the skin in which men differ, to the heart's blood in which they agree,—only pains and patience, faith and forbearance,—only a national obedience to that profound precept of Christianity which prescribes service to him that would be greatest, making the knowledge of the wise due to the ignorant, and the strength of the strong due to the weak. The costs of freedom would have been paid in the patient lifting up of a degraded race from the slough of servitude; and the nation would at the same time have avoided that slough of lava and fire wherein it is now ingulfed.
It was not to be so. History is coarse; it gets on by gross feeding and fevers, not by delicacy of temperance and wisdom of regimen. Our debt was to be paid, not in a pure form, but mixed with the costs of unbelief, cowardice, avarice. Yet primarily it is the cost, not of meanness, but of magnanimity, that we are now paying,—not of a base skepticism, but of a noble faith. For, in truth, normal qualities and actions involve costs no less than vicious and abnormal. Such is the law of the world; and it is this law of the costs of worthiness, of knowledge and nobility, of all memorable being and doing, that I now desire to set forth. Having obtained the scope and power of the law, having considered it also as applying to individuals, we may proceed to exhibit its bearing upon the present struggle of our Republic.
The general statement is this,—that whatever has a worth has also a cost. "The law of the universe," says a wise thinker, "is, Pay and take." If you desire silks of the mercer or supplies at the grocery, you, of course, pay money. Is it a harvest from the field that you seek? Tillage must be paid. Would you have the river toil in production of cloths for your raiment? Only pay the due modicum of knowledge, labor, and skill, and you shall bind its hand to your water-wheels, and turn all its prone strength into pliant service. Or perhaps you wish the comforts of a household. By payment of the due bearing of its burdens, you may hope to obtain it,—surely not otherwise. Do you ask that this house may be a true home, a treasury for wealth of the heart, a little heaven? Once more the word is pay,—pay your own heart's unselfish love, pay a generous trustfulness, a pure sympathy, a tender consideration, and a sweet firm-heartedness withal. And so, wherever there is a gaining, there is a warning,—wherever a well-being, a well-doing,—wherever a preciousness, a price of possession; and he who scants the payment stints the purchase; and he that will proffer nothing shall profit nothing; but he that freely and wisely gives shall receive as freely.
But these desiderata which I have named are all prices either of ordinary use, of comfort, or felicity; and it is generally understood that happiness is costly: but virtue? Virtue, so far from costing anything, is often supposed to be itself a price that you pay for happiness. It is told us that we shall be rewarded for our virtue; what moralistic commonplace is more common than this? But rewarded for your virtue you are not to be; you are to pay for it; at least, payment made, rather than received, is the principal fact. He who is honest for reward is a knave without reward. He who asks pay for telling truth has truth only on his tongue and a double lie in his heart. Do you think that the true artist strives to paint well that he may get money for his work? Or rather, is not his desire to pay money, to pay anything in reason, for the sake of excellence in his art? And, indeed, what is worthier than Worth? What fitter, therefore, to be paid for? And that payment is made, even under penal forms, every one may see. For what did Raleigh give his lofty head? For the privilege of being Raleigh, of being a man of great heart and a statesman of great mind, with a King James, a burlesque of all sovereignty, on the throne. For what did Socrates quaff the poison? For the privilege of that divine sincerity and penetration which characterized his life. For what did Kepler endure the last straits of poverty, his children crying for bread, while his own heart was pierced with their wailing? For the privilege—in his own noble words—"of reading God's thoughts after Him,"—God's thoughts written in stellar signs on the scroll of the skies. And Cicero and Thomas Cromwell, John Huss and John Knox, John Rogers and John Brown, and many another, high and low, famed and forgotten, must they not all make, as it were, penal payment for the privilege of being true men, truest among true? And again I say, that, if one knows something worthier than Worth, something more excellent than Excellence, then only does he know something fitter than they to be paid for.
Payment may assume a penal form: do not think this its only form. And to take the law at once out of the limitations which these examples suggest, let me show you that it is a law of healthy and unlamenting Nature. Look at the scale of existence, and you will see that for every step of advance in that scale payment is required. The animal is higher than the vegetable; the animal, accordingly, is subject to the sense of pain, the vegetable not; and among animals the pain may be keener as the organization is nobler. The susceptibility not only to pain, but to vital injury, observes the same gradation. A little girdling kills an oak; but some low fungus may be cut and troubled and trampled ad libitum, and it will not perish; and along the shores, farmers year after year pluck sea-weed from the rocks, and year after year it springs again lively as ever. Among the lowest orders of animals you shall find a creature that, if you cut it in two, straightway duplicates its existence and floats away twice as happy as before; but of the prick of a bodkin or the sting of a bee the noblest of men may die.
In the animal body the organs make a draft from the general vigors of the system just in proportion to their dignity. The eye,—what an expensive boarder at the gastric tables is that! Considerable provinces of the brain have to be made over to its exclusive use; and it will be remembered that a single ounce of delicate, sensitive brain, full of mysterious and marvellous powers, requires more vital support than many pounds of common muscle. The powers of the eye are great; it has a right to cost much, and it does cost. Also we observe that in this organ there is the exceeding susceptibility to injury, which, as we have observed, invariably accompanies powers of a lofty grade.
Noble senses cost much; noble susceptibilities cost vastly more. Compare oxen with men in respect to the amount of feeling and nervous wear and tear which they severally experience. The ox enjoys grass and sleep; he feels hunger and weariness, and he is wounded by that which goes through his hide. But upon the nerve of the man what an incessant thousandfold play! Out of the eyes of the passers-by pleasures and pains are rained upon him; a word, a look, a tone thrills his every fibre; the touch of a hand warms or chills the very marrow in his bones. Anticipation and memory, hope and regret, love and hate, ideal joy and sorrow and shame, ah, what troops of visitants are ever present with his soul, each and all, whether welcome guests or unwelcome, to be nourished from the resources of his bosom! And out of this high sensibility of man must come what innumerable stabs of quick agony, what slow, gasping hours of grief and pain, that to the cattle upon the hills are utterly unknown! But do you envy the ox his bovine peace? It is precisely that which makes him an ox, It is due to nothing but his insensibility,—by no means, as I take occasion to assure those poets who laud outward Nature and inferior creatures to the disparagement of man,—by no means due to composure and philosophy. The ox is no great hero, after all, for he will bellow at a thousandth part the sense of pain which from a Spartan child wrings no tear nor cry.
Yes, it is precisely this sensibility which makes man human. Were he incapable of ideal joy and sorrow, he, too, were brute. It is through this delicacy of conscious relationship, it is through this openness to the finest impressions, that he can become an organ of supernal intelligence, that he is capable of social and celestial inspirations. High spiritual sensibility is the central condition of a noble and admirable life; it is the hinge on which turn and open to man the gates of his highest glory and purest peace. Yet for this he must pay away all that induration of brutes and boors which sheds off so many a wasting excitement and stinging chagrin, as the feathers of the water-fowl shed rain.
In entering, therefore, upon any noble course of life, any generous and brave pursuit of excellence, understand, that, so far as ordinary coin is concerned, you are rather to pay, than to be paid, for your superiorities. Understand that the pursuit of excellence must indeed be brave to be prosperous,—that is, it is always in some way opposed and imperilled. Understand, that, with every step of spiritual elevation which you attain, some part of your audience and companionship will be left behind. Understand, that, if you carry lofty principles and philosophic intelligence into camps, these possessions will in general not be passed to your credit, but will be charged against you; and you must surpass your inferiors in their own kinds of virtue to regain what of popular regard these cost you. Understand, that, if you have a reverence for theoretical and absolute truth, less of common fortune will come to you in answer to equal business and professional ability than to those who do care for money, and do not care for truth. Are you a physician? Let me tell you that there is a possible excellence in your profession which will rather limit than increase your practice; yet that very excellence you must strive to attain, for your soul's life is concerned in your doing so. Are you a lawyer? Know that there is a depth and delicacy in the sense of justice, which will sometimes send clients from your office, and sometimes tie your tongue at the bar; yet, as you would preserve the majesty of your manhood, strive just for that unprofitable sense of justice,—unprofitable only because infinitely, rather than finitely, profitable. In a stormy and critical time, when much is ending and much beginning, and a great land is heaving and quivering with commingled agonies of dissolution and throes of new birth, are you a statesman of earnestness and insight, with your eye on the cardinal question of your epoch, its answer clearly in your heart, and your will irrevocably set to give it due enunciation and emphasis? Expect calumny and affected contempt from the base; expect alienation and misconstruction and undervaluing on the part of some who are honorable. Are you a woman rich in high aims, in noble sympathies and thrilling sensibilities, and, as must ever be the case with such, not too rich in a meet companionship? Expect loneliness, and wear it as a grace upon your brow; it is your laurel. Are you a true artist or thinker? Expect to go beyond popular appreciation; go beyond it, or the highest appreciation you will not deserve. In fine, for all excellence expect and seek to pay.
No one ever held this law more steadily in view than Jesus; and when ardent young people came to him proposing pupilage, he was wont at once to bring it before their eyes. It was on such an occasion that he uttered the words, so simple and intense that they thrill to the touch like the string of a harp, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." Of like suggestion his question of the king going to war, who first sitteth down and consulteth whether he be able, and of the man about to build a house, who begins by counting the cost.
The cost,—question of this must arise; question of this must on all sides either be honestly met or dishonestly eluded. For observe, that attempt to escape payment for the purest values, no less than for the grossest, is dishonest. If one seek to compass possession of ordinary goods without compensation, we at once apply the opprobrious term of theft or fraud. Why does the same sort of attempt cease to be fraudulent when it is carried up to a higher degree and applied to possessions more precious? If he that evades the revenue law of the State be guilty of fraud, what of him who would import Nature's goods and pay no duties? For Nature has her own system of impost, and permits no smuggling. There was a tax on truth ere there was one on tea or on silver plate. Character, genius, high parts in history are all assessed upon. Nature lets out her houses and lands on liberal terms; but resorts to distraint, if her dues be not forthcoming. Be sure, therefore, that little success and little honor will wait upon any would-be thieving from God. He who attempts to purloin on this high scale has set all the wit of the universe at work to thwart him, and will certainly be worsted sorely in the end.
The moment, therefore, that any man is found engaged in this business, how to estimate him is clear. Daniel O'Connell tried the experiment of being an heroic patriot and making money by it. It is conceded by his friends that he applied to his private uses, to sustaining the magnificence of his household, the rent-moneys sweated from the foreheads of Irish peasants. But, they say, he had sacrificed many ambitions in taking up the role of a patriot; and he felt entitled to revenues as liberal as any indulgence of them could have procured him! The apology puts his case beyond all apology. He who—to employ the old phraseology—seeks to exact the same bribe of God that he might have obtained from the Devil is always the Devil's servant, no matter whose livery he wears. Had one often to apply the good word patriot to such men, it would soon blister his mouth. I find, in fact, no vice so bad as this spurious virtue, no sinners so unsavory as these mock saints.
To nations, also, this comprehensive law applies. Would you have a noble and orderly freedom? Buy it, and it is yours. "Liberty or death," cried eloquent Henry; and the speech is recited as bold and peculiar; but, by an enduring ordinance of Nature, the people that does not in its heart of hearts say, "Liberty or death," cannot have liberty. Many of us had learned to fancy that the stern tenure by which ancient communities held their civilization was now become an obsolete fact, and that without peril or sacrifice we might forever appropriate all that blesses nations; but by the iron throat of this war Providence is thundering down upon us the unalterable law, that man shall hold no ideal possession longer than he places all his lower treasures at its command.
But there was a special form of cost, invited by the virtue of our national existence; and it is this in particular that we are now paying,—paying it, I am sorry to say, in the form of retribution because the nation declined to meet it otherwise. But the peculiarity of the case is, as has been affirmed, that it was chiefly the virtue and nobility of the nation which created this debt at the outset.
And now what is the peculiar virtue and glory of this nation? Why, that its national existence is based upon a recognition of the absolute rights and duties of humanity. Theoretically this is our basis; practically there is a commixture; much of this cosmopolitan faith is mingled with much of confined self-regard. But the theoretical fact is the one here in point: since the question now is not of the national unfaith or infidelity, but of the national faith. And beyond a question, the real faith of the nation, so far as it has one, is represented by its formal declaration, made sacred by the shedding of blood. Our belief really is not in the special right or privilege of Americans, but in the prerogative of man. This prerogative we may have succeeded well or ill in stating and interpreting; the fact, that our appeal is to this, alone concerns us here.
Now this national attitude, so far as history informs me, is unprecedented. The true-born son of Albion, save as an exceptional culture enlarges his soul, believes religiously that God is an Englishman, and that the interests of England precede those of the universe. When, therefore, he sees anything done which depletes the pocket of England, it affects him with a sense of infidelity in those to whom this loss is due. England professes to have a national religion; she has, and in a deeper sense than is commonly meant.
We will not disparage England overmuch; she has done good service in history. We will not boast of ourselves; the actual politics of this country have been, in no small part, base and infidel to a degree that is simply sickening. Nevertheless, it remains true that the fundamental idea of the State here represents a new phase of human history. Every European nationality had taken shape and character while yet our globe was not known to be a globe, while before the eyes of all lookers land and sea faded away into darkness and mystery; and it was not possible that common human sympathy should take into its arms a world of which it could not conceive. But a national spirit was here generated when the ocean had been crossed, when the earth had been rounded, when, too, Newton had, as it were, circumnavigated the solar system,—when, therefore, there could be, and must be, a new recognition of humanity. Our country, again, was peopled from the minorities of Europe, from those whom the spirit of the new time had touched, and taken away their content with old institutions,—a population restless, uncertain, yeasty, chaotic, it might be, full of the rawness of new conditions, mean and magnanimous by turns, as such people are wont, but all leavened more or less with a sentiment new in history,—all leavened with a kind of whole-world feeling, a sense of the oneness of humanity, and, as derived from this, a sense of absolute rights of man, of prerogatives belonging to human nature as such.
The truth of all this has been brought under suspicion by the flatulent oratory of our Fourth-of-Julys; but truth it remains. Our nation did enunciate a grand idea never equally felt by any other. Our nation has said, and said with the sword in its right hand, "Every man born into this world has the right from God to make the most and best of his existence, and society is established only to further and guard this sacred right." We thus established a new scale of justice; we raised a demand for the individual which had not been so made before. Freedom and order were made one; both were identified with justice, simple, broad, equal, universal justice. The American idea, then, what is it? The identification of politics with justice, this it is. With justice, and this, too, not on a scale of conventional usage, but on the scale of natural right. That, as I read, is the American idea,—making politics moral by their unity with natural justice, justice world-old and world-wide.
This conception—obscurely seen and felt, and mixed with the inevitable amount of folly and self-seeking, yet, after, all, this conception—our nation dared to stand up and announce, and to consecrate it by the shedding of blood, calling God and all good men to witness. The deed was grand; the hearts of men everywhere were more or less its accomplices; all the tides of history ran in its favor; kings, forgetting themselves into virtue and generosity, lent it good wishes or even good arms; it was successful; and on its primary success waited such prosperities as the world has seldom seen.
But, because the deed was noble, great costs must needs attend it, attend it long. And first of all the cost of applying our principle within our own borders. For, when a place had been obtained for us among nations, we looked down, and, lo! at our feet the African—in chains. A benighted and submissive race, down-trodden and despised from of old, a race of outcasts, of Pariahs, covered with the shame of servitude, and held by the claim of that terrible talisman, the word property,—here it crouched at our feet, lifting its hands, imploring. Yes, America, here is your task now; never flinch nor hesitate, never begin to question now; thrust your right hand deep into your heart's treasury, bring forth its costliest, purest justice, and lay its immeasurable bounty into this sable palm, bind its blessing on this degraded brow. Ah, but America did falter and question. "How can I?" it said. "This is a Negro, a Negro! Besides, he is PROPERTY!" And so America looked up, determined to ignore the kneeling form. With pious blasphemy it said, "He is here providentially; God in His own good time will dispose of him"; as if God's hour for a good effect were not the earliest hour at which courage and labor can bring it about, not the latest to which indolence and infidelity can postpone it. Then it looked away across oceans to other continents, and began again the chant, "Man is man; natural right is sacred forever; and of politics the sole basis is universal justice." Joyfully it sang for a while, but soon there began to come up the clank of chains mingling with its chant, and the groans of oppressed men and violated women, and prayers to Heaven for another justice than this; and then the words of its chant grew bitter in the mouth of our nation, and a sickness came in its heart, and an evil blush mounted and stood on its brow; and at length a devil spoke in its bosom and said, "The negro has no rights that a white man is bound to respect"; and ere the words were fairly uttered, their meaning, as was indeed inevitable, changed to this,—"A Northern 'mudsill' has no rights that a Southern gentleman is bound to respect"; and soon guns were heard booming about Sumter, and a new chapter in our history and in the world's history began.
Our nation refused allegiance to its own principles, refused to pay the lawful costs of its virtue and nobility; therefore it is sued in the courts of destiny, and the case is this day on trial.
The case is plain, the logic clear. Natural right is sacred, or it is not. If it is, the negro is lawfully free; if it is not, you may be lawfully a slave. Just how all this stands in the Constitution of the United States I do not presume to say. Other heads, whose business it is, must attend to that. Every man to his vocation. I speak from the stand-point of philosophy, not of politics; I attend to the logic of history, the logic of destiny, according to which, of course, final judgment will be rendered. It is not exactly to be supposed that the statute of any nation makes grass green, or establishes the relationship between cause and effect. The laws of the world are considerably older than our calendar, and therefore date yet more considerably beyond the year 1789. And by the laws of the world, by the eternal relationship between cause and effect, it stands enacted beyond repeal, and graven upon somewhat more durable than marble or brass, that the destiny of this nation for more than one century to come hinges upon its justice to that outcast race,—outcast, but not henceforth to be cast out by us, save to the utter casting down of ourselves. Once it might have been otherwise; now we have made it so. Justice to the African is salvation to the white man upon this continent. Oh, my America, you must not, cannot, shall not be blind to this fact! America, deeper in my love and higher in my esteem than ever before, newly illustrated in worth, newly proven to be capable still, in some directions, of exceeding magnanimity, open your eyes that your feet may have guidance, now when there is such need! Open your eyes to see, that, if you deliberately deny justice and human recognition to one innocent soul in all your borders, you stab at your own existence; for, in violating the unity of humanity, you break the principle that makes you a nation and alive. Give justice to black and white, recognize man as man; or the constituting idea, the vital faith, the crystallizing principle of the nation perishes, and the whole disintegrates, falls into dust.
I invite the attention of conservative men to the fact that in this due paying of costs lies the true conservation. I invite them to observe, that, as every living body has a principle which makes it alive, makes it a unit, harmonizing the action of its members,—as every crystal has a unitary law, which commands the arrangement of its particles, the number and arrangement of its faces and angles,—so it is with every orderly or living state. To this also there is a central, clarifying, unifying faith. Without this you may collect hordes into the brief, brutal empire of a Chingis Khan or Tamerlane; but you can have no firm, free, orderly, inspiring national life.
Whenever and wherever in history this central condition of national existence has been destroyed, there a nation has fallen into chaos, into imbecility, losing all power to produce genius, to generate able souls, to sustain the trust of men in each other, or to support any of the conditions of social health and order. Even advances in the right line of progress have to be made slowly, gradually, lest the shock of newness be too great, and break off a people from the traditions in which its faith is embodied; but a mere recoil, a mere denial and destruction of its centralizing principle, is the last and utmost calamity which can befall any nation.
This is no fine-spun doctrine, fit for parlors and lecture-rooms, but not for counting-rooms and congressional halls. It is solid, durable fact. History is full of it; and he is a mere mole, and blinder than midnight, who cannot perceive it. The spectacle of nations falling into sudden, chronic, careless imbecility is frequent and glaring enough for even wilfulness to see; and the central secret of this sad phenomenon, so I am sure, has been suggested here. When the socializing faith of a nation has perished, the alternative for it becomes this, that it can be stable only as it is stagnant, and vigorous only as it is lawless.
Of this I am sure; but whether Bullion Street can be willing to understand it I am not so sure. Yet if it cannot, or some one in its behalf, grass will grow there. And why should it refuse heed? Who is more concerned? Does Bullion Street desire chaos? Does it wish that the pith should be taken out of every statute, and the chief value from every piece of property? If not, its course is clear. This nation has a vital faith,—or had one,—well grounded in its traditions. Conserve this; or, if it has been impaired, renew its vigor. This faith is our one sole pledge of order, of peace, of growth, of all that we prize in the present, or hope for the future. That it is a noble faith, new in its breadth, its comprehension and magnanimity,—this would seem in my eyes rather to enhance than diminish the importance of its conservation. Yet the only argument against it is, that it is generous, broad, inspiring; and the only appeal in opposition to it must be made to the coldness of skepticism, the suicidal miserliness of egotism, or the folly and fatuity of ignorance.
Our nation has a political faith. Will you, conservative men, conserve this, and so regain and multiply the blessing it has already brought? or will you destroy it, and wait till, through at least a century of tossing and tumult, another, and that of less value, is grown? A faith, a crystallizing principle for many millions of people is not grown in a day; if it can be grown in a century is problematical. The fact, and the choice, are before you.
Our nation had a faith which it cherished with sincerity and sureness. If half the nation has fallen away from this,—if half the remaining moiety is doubtful, skeptical about it,—if, therefore, we are already a house divided against itself and tottering to its fall,—to what is all due? Simply to the fact that no nation can long unsay its central principle, and yet preserve it in faithfulness and power,—that no nation can long preach the sanctity of natural right, the venerableness of man's nature, and the identity of pure justice with political interest, from an auction-block on which men and maidens are sold,—that, in fine, a nation cannot continue long with impunity to play within its own borders the part both of Gessler and Tell, both of Washington and Benedict Arnold, both of Christ and of him that betrayed him.
We must choose. For our national faith we must make honest payment, so conserving it, and with it all for which nations may hope; or else, refusing to meet these costs, we must suffer the nation's soul to perish, and in the imbecility, the chaos, and shame that will follow, suffer therewith all that nations may lawfully fear.
What good omens, then, attend our time, now when the first officer of the land has put the trumpet to his mouth and blown round the world an intimation that, to the extent of the nation's power, these costs will begin to be paid, this true conservation to be practised! The work is not yet done; and the late elections betoken too much of moral debility in the people. But my trust continues firm. The work will be done,—at least, so far as we are responsible for its doing. And then! Then our shame, our misery, our deadly sickness will be taken away; no more that poison in our politics; no more that degradation in our commercial relations; no more that careful toning down of sentiment to low levels, that it may harmonize with low conditions; no more that need to shun the company of all healthful and heroic thoughts, such as are fit, indeed, to brace the sinews of a sincere social order, but sure to crack the sinews of a feeble and faithless conventionalism. Base men there will yet be, and therefore base politics; but when once our nation has paid the debt it owes to itself and the human race, when once it has got out of its blood the venom of this great injustice, it will, it must, arise beautiful in its young strength, noble in its new-consecrated faith, and stride away with a generous and achieving pace upon the great highways of historical progress. Other costs will come, if we are worthy; other lessons there will be to learn. I anticipate a place for brave and wise restrictions,—for I am no Red Republican,—as well as for brave and generous expansions. Lessons to learn, errors to unlearn, there will surely be; tasks to attempt, and disciplines to practise; but once place the nation in the condition of health, once get it at one with its own heart, once get it out of these aimless eddies into clear sea, out of these accursed "doldrums," (as the sailors phrase it,) this commixture of broiling calm and sky-bursting thunder-gust, into the great trade-winds of natural tendency that are so near at hand,—and I can trust it to meet all future emergency. All the freshest blood of the world is flowing hither: we have but to wed this with the life-blood of the universe, with eternal truth and justice, and God has in store no blessing for noblest nations that will not be secured for ours.
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THE CHASSEURS A PIED.
Among the most celebrated corps of the French army, one of the most conspicuous and remarkable is that peculiar body of troops to which has been given the name of Chasseurs a Pied, or Foot-Chasseurs, to distinguish it from an organization of mounted men in the same service, uniformed and trained on similar principles. The Chasseurs a Pied have not attained the same romantic renown as that acquired by their brethren and rivals in arms, the Zouaves, but, nevertheless, they have had an exceedingly brilliant career in the late wars and conquests of France. They possess their own characteristics of originality, too, and are, in many respects, one of the most efficient and formidable forces in existence.
In order to convey a clear and correct idea of the new principles adopted in the organization and equipment of the Chasseurs, and to furnish our readers with some facts that may be interesting to them as historical students, and most useful to such among them as are connected with or may have any aspiration for military life, we must beg them to go back with us, for a moment, to the very period of the invention of gunpowder. It would be out of the question, of course, to attempt, in these pages, a description of all the curious weapons that were at first employed under the name of fire-arms. We will only remark that such weapons were, despite the anathemas of Bayard and the sarcasms of Ariosto, very much used as early as the middle of the sixteenth century, and played an important part on the battle-fields of that epoch.
To the Spaniards belongs the credit of having rendered the use of fire-arms more easy, more regular, and more general among the nations. For more than a hundred years the Spaniards were the very masters of the art of war. Their power had begun to decline, but they still retained their military superiority; and from the Battle of Ceresole, won by the Count of Enghien in 1544, down to the memorable victory of Rocroy, gained in 1643 by a hero of the same race and the same name, they had the upper-hand in all pitched engagements. Their generals were the very best and most thoroughly instructed, and formed a real school; they, too, were the only officers who practised strategy. Their organization was better than any other, and their celebrated tercios were the very model of all regiments. Their armament was likewise superior, as they had adopted the musket, which was the first fire-arm that a man could handle with any facility, load with rapidity, and aim with any precision. Each of their tercios or battalions contained a regulated proportion of these musketeers, and the number was large, compared to the whole mass of troops.
The excellent results attained by the Spaniards, in the more perfect organization and equipment of their infantry, did not escape the attention of the French officers; and one of them especially, the Duke Francis de Guise, endeavored to turn his observations to good account. It is to him that we are indebted for the first rough sketch of regimental organization modelled upon that of the tercios, and, in more than one encounter with the Huguenots, the numbers of thoroughly skilled arquebuse-men embodied in the old French bands in Picardy and Piedmont secured advantages to the Catholic armies. In the opposite party, a young general who was destined to become a great king, endowed with that creative instinct, that genius which is as readily applicable to the science of government as to that of war, and which, when tempered with good sense, may bestow glory and happiness upon whole nations, Henry IV., had taken particular pains to increase the number and the efficiency of his arquebuse-men, and frequently managed to employ them in ways as novel as they were successful. At the Battle of Coutras, he distributed them in groups of twenty-five, in the midst of his squadrons of cavalry, so that, when the royal gendarmerie advanced to charge the latter, they were suddenly received with murderous volleys by these arquebuse-men of the spur, as they were called, owing to their combination with the cavalry, and the shock they thus encountered gave victory to the Protestants. Henry IV. went even too far with his passion for fire-arms. He increased their number and their use among cavalry so extravagantly, that the latter arm was perverted from its proper object. The cavalry, for a long time, forgot that their strength lay in the points of their sabres, in the dash of the men, and the speed of their horses.
Most of the great captains of an early day thus signalized their progress by some improvement in the equipment of their infantry. One of the most formidable enemies of Spanish power, Maurice of Nassau, a skilful engineer and tactician, was the first to array infantry in such a manner as to combine the simultaneous use of the musket and the pike. Before his time, fire-arms had been used only for skirmishing service; he commenced to use them in line. This reform was, however, only foreshadowed, as it were, by the Dutch General; it was reserved for Gustavus Adolphus to complete it. While he was executing a series of military operations such as the world had not beheld since the days of Caesar, he was also creating a movable artillery, and giving to the fire of his infantry an efficacy which had not been attained before. For the heavy machines of war which were drawn by oxen to the field of battle, and which remained there motionless and paralyzed by the slightest movements of the contending armies, he substituted light cannon drawn by horses and following up all the manoeuvres of either cavalry or foot. He had found the infantry formed in dense battalions. His system arranged it in long continuous lines in which each rank of musketeers was sustained by several ranks of pikemen, so that his array, thus distributed, should present to the enemy a front bristling with steel, while, at the same time, it could cover a large space of ground with its discharge of lead. Attentive to all kinds of detail, he also gave his soldiers the cartouch-box and knapsack instead of the cumbersome apparatus to which they had been accustomed. In fact, Gustavus Adolphus was the founder of the modern science of battle. In strategy and the grand combinations of warfare, he was the disciple and rival of the ancient masters; for, even if this "divine portion" of the military art be inaccessible to the vast number of its votaries, and if history can easily enumerate those who were capable of comprehending it, and, more especially, of applying it, its rules and principles have, nevertheless, been by no means the same in all ages. On the contrary, the invention of fire-arms demanded an entirely new system of tactics, and this the Swedish hero introduced.
The example set by Gustavus was not, however, very rapidly followed, and, although some slight improvements were introduced by French officers during the seventeenth century, it was not until the time of Louis XIV. that the reforms started by Maurice of Nassau, and so successfully continued by the Swedish army, began to attain their consummation. The progress made in that direction was due to Vauban, whose eminent genius had mastered every question and every branch of study so completely, that, when applied to on any subject connected with politics or war, his opinion was always clear and correct. The very numerous essays and sketches from his hand which are found deposited in the fortresses and in the archives of France all reveal some flash of genius, and even his wildest speculations bear the stamp of his high intellect and excellent heart. Engineering science was carried by him to such a degree of perfection that it has made but few advances since his time; and it was Vauban who induced Louis XIV. to replace the pike and the musket with a weapon which should be, at one and the same time, an instrument for both firing and thrusting, namely, the bayonet-gun. The Royal Fusileer Regiment, since called the Royal Artillery, was the first one armed with this weapon, (in 1670,) and in 1703 the whole French army finally gave up the pike. Notwithstanding some reverses sustained by the infantry thus armed, and notwithstanding the disapproval of Puysegur and others, this gun was soon adopted by all Europe, and the success of the great Frederick put a conclusive indorsement on this new style of weapon. Frederick had taken up and perfected the ideas of Gustavus Adolphus; and he now laid down certain rules for the formation and manoeuvring of infantry, which are still followed at this day; and since that time, no one has disputed the fact that the strength of foot-troops lies in their guns and their legs.
Our present firelock differs from the article used during the Seven Years' War only in its more careful construction and some modifications of detail. The most important of these relates to the more rapid explosion of the charge. In 1840 the old flint-locks were generally replaced by the percussion-lock, which is simpler, is less exposed to the effects of dampness, and more quickly and surely ignites the powder. Even the ordinary regulation-musket with its bayonet was spoken of by Napoleon in his time as "the best engine of warfare ever invented by man." Since the day of the Great Emperor, and even during the reign of the present Napoleon, continued improvements have been made in the character of the weapon used by the French infantry. The weight, length, correctness of aim, durability, and handiness of the gun have all been carefully examined and modified, to the advantage of the soldier, until, finally, we have a weapon which combines wonderful qualities of lightness, strength, correctness of equipoise, ease and rapidity of loading, with perfect adaptability as a combination of the lance, pike, and sword, when it has ceased to be a fire-arm.
We have not here the space to enter upon a disquisition concerning these progressive changes; but suffice it to say that nearly all the peculiar styles of fire-arms were well known at an early period, and that the rifling, etc., of guns and cannon, with the other modifications now adopted, are merely the development and consummation of old ideas. For instance, the rifled arquebuse was known and used at the close of the fifteenth century, and, although the rifled musket was not put in general use by the French infantry, from the fact that its reduced length and the greater complication of movements required in loading and discharging it deprived it of other advantages when in the hands of troops of the line, still it was adopted in a certain proportion in some branches of the French service.
As early as the middle of the seventeenth century, some corps of light cavalry called Carabins were armed with the short rifle-musket, and hence the derivation of the term carabines applied to the weapon. These "carabines" were also very promptly adopted by hunters and sportsmen everywhere. The Swiss and the Tyrolese employed them in chasing the chamois among their mountains, and practised their skill in the use of them at general shooting-matches, which to this very day are celebrated as national festivals. The Austrian Government was the first to profit by this preference on the part of certain populations for accurate fire-arms, and at once proceeded to organize battalions of Tyrolese Chasseurs, or Huntsmen,—to give the meaning of the French word. These Chasseurs were applied in the Austrian service as light troops, and so great was their efficiency against the Prussians that Frederick the Great was compelled, in his turn, to organize a battalion of Chasseur sharp-shooters. France followed suit, in the course of the eighteenth century, and called into existence various corps of the same description, under different names. These, however, were but short-lived, although some of them, for instance, the Grassin Legion, acquired quite a reputation.
Finally came the French Revolution. The troops of the Republic were more remarkable for courage and enthusiasm than for tactics and drill. They usually attacked as skirmishers,—a system which may be employed successfully by even the most regularly disciplined armies, but which is sometimes more especially useful to raw troops, because it gives the private soldier an opportunity to compensate by personal intelligence for the lack of thorough instruction. Struck by the aptitude of the French recruits for that kind of fighting, the Convention, in reorganizing the army, decreed the formation of some half-brigades of light infantry. The picked men were to be armed with the new weapon, and received the name of Carabiniers. The carabine of 1793 is the first specimen of that kind of arm which was regularly employed in France.
Subsequently, owing to many practical defects, when Napoleon reorganized the equipment of the French armies, the carabine was dropped from the service, although the regiments of light infantry were retained, and their picked companies preserved the title of Carabiniers. In the Imperial Guard, too, there were companies of Skirmishers, Flankers, and Chasseurs, but neither one of these corps was distinguished by any particular style of arms or drill. The Emperor's wish was to have the armament and training of all his infantry uniform, so that all the regiments should be equally adapted to the service of troops of the line or light troops. Finally, to carry out his design with greater ease, he formed all the men who were more active and agile than the rest, or whose low stature prevented them from becoming Grenadiers, into companies of Voltigeurs,—and this was one of his finest military creations.
However, notwithstanding the correctness of Napoleon's views, as a general principle, the thousand and one uses of a corps of picked marksmen as light troops were so universally admitted that the different nations of Europe continued and even augmented that branch of their military service. Under different names they were found not only in the armies of England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, but also under the banners of the secondary powers, such as Sweden, Piedmont, and Switzerland.
After the disasters of 1815, the reorganization of the French army was confided to Marshal Gouvion de St. Cyr, who united to sincere patriotism every qualification of an able general. He gave to the French service the basis of its present success, his suggestions having, of course, been perfected and expanded in the mean time. Among other things, he prescribed the formation of battalions of Chasseurs, to be organized in legions, side by side with the infantry of the line, but with their own special equipment. This plan was not efficiently executed, and the Chasseur battalions shared the fate of the Department Legions of France, and were merged in the existing regiments.
The project, in a different form, was revived by Marshal Soult, who, as Minister of War, in 1833, succeeded in securing the passage of a royal ordinance prescribing the formation of companies of sharp-shooters "armed with carabines and uniformed in a manner befitting their special service." These companies were to be united subsequently into battalions, and were to undergo a particular course of training. Although the ordinance was not immediately carried into execution, the impulse had been given, and erelong successful improvements in the rifle having been effected by an old officer of the Royal Guard, named Delvigne, and a certain Colonel Poncharra, inspector of the manufacture of arms, the Duke of Orleans brought about the formation of a company of marksmen peculiarly trained and equipped, and provided with the so-called Delvigne-Poncharra carabine. This company was placed in garrison at Vincennes, where, under skilful and popular commanders, it gave such satisfaction that it was finally decided to try the experiment on a larger scale, and a decree of November 14, 1838, created a battalion of the same character.
This corps, then, and even now, known to the people as the Tirailleurs de Vincennes, wore a uniform very similar to that of the present Chasseurs, but quite different from that of the infantry of the period. Instead of the stiff accoutrements and heavy headgear of the latter, they assumed a frock, wide and roomy pantaloons, and a light military shako. The double folds of white buckskin, which were very fine to look at, to be sure, but which oppressed the lungs and offered a conspicuous mark to the enemy, were discarded; the sabre was no longer allowed to dangle between the legs of the soldier and impede his movements; while the necessary munitions were carried in a manner more convenient and better adapted to their preservation. The arms consisted of a carabine, and a long, solid, sharpened appendage to it, termed the sword-bayonet. This latter weapon was provided with a hilt, and could be used for both cut and thrust, with considerable effect, while, affixed to the end of the carabine, it furnished a most formidable pike.
Although the Delvigne-Poncharra carabine had great advantages, it still did not command the range of the coarser and heavier muskets of the line, and, in order to make up for this in some degree, the most robust and skilful men of the corps were armed with a heavier gun, constructed on the same principles, but capable of throwing a heavier charge with precision, to greater distances. The proportion of men so armed was one-eighth of the battalion. The use of these two different calibres of fire-arms had some drawbacks, but they were counterbalanced by some curious advantages. For instance, the battalion could keep up a steady fire at ordinary distances, while, at the same moment, the men armed with the heavy carabines, or Carabiniers, as they were distinctively called, even within their own battalion, could reach the enemy at points where he deemed himself beyond the range of the force he saw in front of him. United in groups, the Carabiniers could thus produce severe effect, and actually formed a sort of hand artillery,—to use an expression often employed concerning them.
The Tirailleurs thus composed were, owing to the shortness of their carabines, drawn up in two ranks, instead of in the regimental style of three ranks. They manoeuvred in line, like all other infantry battalions, but, in addition to the ordinary drill, were trained in gymnastics and double-quick evolutions, as well as in fencing with the bayonet, a special course of sharp-shooting, and what was termed the new Tirailleur drill.
Gymnastics have always been encouraged in the French army, and, when not carried to excess, they are of the greatest use, particularly in developing the strength of young men, giving suppleness and confidence to raw recruits, and facilitating their manoeuvres. Running was naturally a portion of these exercises, although it was rarely permitted in the evolutions of French troops, since it was found to produce much disorder. The Tirailleurs were so trained, however, that they could move, with all their accoutrements, in ranks, without noise and without confusion, at a cadenced and measured running step termed the pas gymnastique, or gymnastic step,—and they could use it even during complicated field-manoeuvres. This was a most excellent innovation, for it enabled infantry to pass rapidly to any important point, and to execute many evolutions with the promptitude in some degree which cavalry obtains from the combination of the two gaits.
The bayonet-exercise was very acceptable to the men, for it augmented their confidence in their weapons and their skill in handling them.
The target or sharp-shooting drill was much the most complicated and difficult, as the troops were taught to fire when kneeling and lying on the ground, and to avail themselves of the slightest favoring circumstances of the soil. The rules and methods adopted in this branch of the drill have been the subject of profound and careful study, and are exceedingly ingenious.
The approval of these measures by the French Government was such, that, by a decree of August 28th, 1839, the merely temporary organization of the Tirailleurs was made permanent and separate, and the corps was sent to camp at Fontainebleau. There, the agility of the men, their neat and convenient uniforms and equipments, and their rapid and orderly evolutions struck every one who saw them. When, at the close of their period of encampment, the King was passing them in review as a special compliment, he warmly asked Marshal Soult what he thought of the new corps. The Marshal, in replying, emphatically expressed the wish that His Majesty had thirty such battalions instead of only one.
However, the new organization found some opponents, and many urgent arguments were adduced to prevent its extension. In order to put all these to the test, it was finally determined to submit the Tirailleurs to the ordeal of actual warfare; and they were speedily shipped to Africa, where it was quickly discovered that their gymnastic training had so prepared them that they easily became inured to the fatigues and privations of campaigning life. Their heavy carabines succeeded admirably, and the skill of their marksmen—among others, of a certain Sergeant Pistouley—was the theme of universal praise.
The Tirailleurs were now brigaded with the Zouaves, and erelong had shared glorious laurels with those celebrated troops.
Finally, in 1840, the dangers that seemed to be accumulating over France on all sides assumed so dark a form that the patriotism of the whole nation was aroused, and, in the midst of the general outpouring of men and means, the Duke of Orleans was authorized to form no less than ten battalions of Chasseurs.
The Duke set himself about this important task with all the zeal that had characterized his first effort to create the organization, and all the erudition he had gleaned from years of military study and research. In the first place, he abandoned the title of Tirailleurs, as being not sufficiently distinctive, and adopted that of Chasseurs a Pied, or Foot-Chasseurs. The organization by battalions was retained, and the one formed two years before at Vincennes was designated as the First Battalion, and recalled from Africa to St. Omer as a model for the other nine that were to be organized. St. Omer offered extensive barracks, a vast field suitable to military exercise, and, in fine, all the establishments requisite for a large concourse of troops. The ranks were soon filled with picked men from all sides, and ardent, ambitious officers from every corps of the army sought commands. Among the latter we may mention a certain Captain, since Marshal de M'Mahon, who was put at the head of the Tenth Battalion.
Under the eyes of the Prince Royal, and in accordance with a series of regulations drawn up by him with the greatest care, and constantly modified to suit circumstances, the battalions were drilled and trained assiduously in all the walks of their profession connected with their own destined service. Every branch of their military life was illustrated by their exercises, and even the officers went through a thorough course of special instruction under accomplished tutors, who were also officers of peculiar ability and experience. While the Duke of Orleans, with the distinguished General Rostolan and two picked lieutenant-colonels, remained at St. Omer in charge of the growing force, another lieutenant-colonel was intrusted with the task of training subordinates to serve as teachers in sharp-shooting, and for this purpose a detachment was assembled at Vincennes, consisting of ten officers and a number of subalterns who had attracted attention by their particular aptitude. These, after having been thoroughly instructed in the manufacture of small arms, the preparation of munitions, and the rules and practice of sharp-shooting, were sent to St. Omer to furnish the new battalions with the officers who were to form part of the permanent organization. The weapon selected was an improvement upon the former carabines of the Tirailleurs; and while the old proportion, to wit, the eighth part of each battalion, were armed with guns of longer range, and styled distinctively Carabiniers, these were set apart as the picked company of each battalion. The Duke, taking up his residence at St. Omer, attended in person to all that was going forward; and so constant were his exertions, and so warm the zeal of those who assisted the enterprise, that in a few months all the battalions were equipped, armed, and well drilled.
One fine spring morning,—it was in May, 1841,—a long column of troops entered Paris with a celerity hitherto unknown. There was no false glitter, no tinsel; everything was neat and martial, with bugles for their only music, and a uniform that was sombre, indeed, but of such harmonious simplicity as to be by no means devoid of elegance. This column consisted of the Chasseurs, coming to receive their standard from the hands of Louis Philippe, and speeding through the streets with their gymnastic step. On the very next day, as though to signalize the serious and entirely military character of the organization, four of these battalions were sent off to Africa, and the remaining six posted at the different leading fortresses of France, where the collections of artillery, etc., enabled them to proceed with the perfect development of their training.
It was only a year later, when the Duke of Orleans was snatched away, on the very eve of some crowning experiments he was about to make in illustration of the full uses and capacities of this force, that it received the title of Chasseurs d'Orleans, which the modesty of its founder would not tolerate during his lifetime. This name they gallantly bore through the combats that marked their novitiate in Africa, where it was at once found that the complete preparation of both officers and men made victory comparatively easy for them. The deadly precision of their aim struck terror into the Arabs, and, as early as 1842, the splendid behavior of the Sixth Battalion in the bloody fights of the Oued Foddah at once ranged the Chasseurs among the finest troops in Africa. To attempt to follow them step by step in their career would be idle in the space we have here allotted to ourselves. We shall therefore cite merely a few instances where their courage and efficiency shone with peculiar lustre.
In the course of the year 1845, an impostor, playing upon the credulity of the Arabs, and artfully availing himself of the organization ready furnished by the religious sect to which he belonged, succeeded in bringing about a revolt of a great portion of the tribes in Algiers and Oran. He went by the title of "Master of the Hour," a sort of Messiah who had been long expected in that region. But he was more generally known as Bou-Maza, or The Father with the She-Goat, from the fact that a she-goat was his customary companion, and was supposed by the populace to serve him as a medium of communication with the supernatural Powers. This man exhibited a great deal of skill and audacity. His activity was so extraordinary, and he had been seen at so many different points at almost the same time, that his very existence was at first doubted, and many supposed him to be a myth. At one time it was thought that the insurrection had been quelled, as a chief calling himself Bou-Maza had been captured and shot, when, suddenly, the real leader reappeared among the Flittas, one of the most warlike tribes of Algeria, and living in a region very difficult of access. Against these and the Prophet, General Bourjolly, the French commander, marched at once, but unfortunately with very inadequate force. A terrible combat ensued, the Fourth Regiment of the Chasseurs d'Afrique and the Ninth Battalion of the Chasseurs d'Orleans having to sustain the brunt of it. Both these corps performed prodigies of valor, and it was worth while to hear the men of each reciprocally narrating the glory and the peril of their comrades,—these telling by what noble exploits the mounted Chasseurs (d'Afrique) had saved the remains of Lieutenant-Colonel Berthier, and the others describing the Chasseurs a Pied, how they stood immovable, although without cartridges, around the body of their commander, Clere, with their terrible sword-bayonets bloody to the hilt!
On almost the same day, the Eighth Battalion succumbed to a frightful catastrophe. At a period of supposed tranquillity, the Souhalia tribe, who had been steadfast allies of the French, were unexpectedly attacked by Abd-el-Kader at the head of an overwhelming force. Lieutenant-Colonel Montagnac, with only sixty-two horsemen of the Second Hussars and three hundred and fifty men of the Eighth Chasseurs d'Orleans, hurried to the rescue. He was repeatedly warned of the danger, but, despite all that could be said, he dashed at the whole force of Abd-el-Kader. At the very first discharge, Montagnac fell mortally wounded, and in a few moments all the horses and nearly all the men were disabled. Captain Cognord, of the Second Hussars, rallied the survivors, and this little handful of heroes, huddled together upon a hillock, fought like tigers, until their ammunition was exhausted. The Arabs then closed in upon the group, which had become motionless and silent, and, to use the expressive language of an eye-witness, "felled them to the earth as they would overturn a wall." The enemy found none remaining but the dead, or those who were so badly wounded that they gave no sign of life. Before expiring, Montagnac had summoned to his aid a small detachment he had left in reserve. The latter, on its approach, was immediately surrounded, and perished to the very last man. There was now surviving of the whole French force only the Carabinier company of the Eighth Chasseurs, upon whom the Arabs rushed with fury, from every side. After a resistance of almost fabulous heroism, during which the flag of the company was shot away in shreds, and the Carabiniers cut their bullets into six and eight pieces so as to prolong their defence, every volley decimating the foe, this little band of seventy men, encumbered with ten wounded, succeeded in wearying and disheartening the Emir to such an extent that he determined to abandon the direct assault which was costing him so dearly, and to surround the French detachment in the ruined building which served them for a refuge, and so starve them out. Captain Dutertre, Adjutant of the Eighth, who had been captured by the Arabs in the early part of the action, was sent forward by the enemy toward his old comrades. For a moment the firing ceased, and the Captain shouted so that all could hear him,—"Chasseurs, they have sworn to behead me, if you do not lay down your arms; and I say to you, Die, rather than surrender one single man!"
The Captain was instantly sabred, and the conflict recommenced. The same summons was repeated twice afterwards, and twice failed, when, finally, the firing ceased, and the Arabs bivouacked around their prey. Every possible approach was closed and guarded, and, thus caged in, the Chasseurs remained for three nights and days without food or drink. At length, by a sudden and desperate dash, on the morning of September 20th, the seventy heroes, bearing their ten wounded comrades, succeeded in breaking through the line of Arab sentinels, and escaped to a neighboring chain of hills. Thither they were pursued by their wild foemen, who, although infuriated at the daring and success of this sally, had a sufficient respect for the heavy carabines of the French, and merely hovered closely on their rear, awaiting some favorable opportunity to dash in upon them. This moment soon came. The French soldiers, no longer able to withstand the torments of thirst, descending from the hills, in spite of the entreaties of their officers, dashed into a neighboring stream to cool their burning lips. The instant of doom had come, and, in less time than it takes to recite the narrative, all but twelve of the little band were massacred by the exulting Arabs. The twelve escaped to Djemaa only after terrible privations and sufferings.
We might readily fill a volume with episodes equally glorious and equally gloomy in the career of the Chasseurs. They were in nearly all the brilliant actions of the ensuing Algerian campaigns, and, at Zaatcha, Isly, and other famed engagements, they contended side by side with the renowned Zouaves for the palm of military excellence. Their agility, their promptitude in action, their ardor in attack, and their solidity in retreat, their endurance on the march, their skill and intelligence in availing themselves of every inequality of ground and in turning everything to account, made them so conspicuously preferable, as an infantry corps, for certain operations, that Marshal Bugeaud caused the number of battalions employed in Africa to be increased to six. From that time to the present, continual progress has been, made in the organization, discipline, and instruction of the Chasseurs, and all the objections which at different periods were, raised against the special composition and details of the force having been one by one met and obviated, France now counts no less than twenty-one battalions of them in her army.
It was for a long time thought by some, that, although the Chasseurs, like the Zouaves, had been successful in the skirmishing engagements of Algeria, they would not be found so useful in European warfare. This opinion was proved to be erroneous at the siege of Rome, in 1849, where the Chasseurs, armed with their new and terrible weapon, the carabine a tige, in the management of which they had been thoroughly drilled, rendered the most important service; and from what was seen of them there it became evident that the existence of such a force, so perfected in every particular, would hereafter greatly modify the relations and conditions of the defence and attack of fortified works. The importance of this fact will impress the reader, when he remembers how large a part fortresses have played in warfare since 1815, and especially when he glances at the tendency everywhere perceptible now toward transforming military strongholds into great intrenched camps, as revealed at Antwerp in Belgium, Fredericia in Denmark, Buda and Comorn in Hungary, Peschiera, Mantua, Venice, Verona, and Rome in Italy, Silistria and Sebastopol in the East, and Washington, Manassas, and Richmond in America.
Other nations have not been slow to follow French example. Russia is rapidly manufacturing rifled pieces for her service; England is providing her whole army with the Minie musket, and Austria and Prussia are applying inventions of their own to the armament of corps organized and trained on the principle of the French Chasseurs.
The Duke of Wellington is said to have remarked, not long before his death, while speaking of the English troops, that they had, indeed, adopted the new musket, but that it would be physically difficult for them to transform themselves into light infantry. The same observation will undoubtedly apply to all the Continental nations excepting the French; but in the United States, while we could muster the finest heavy troops in the world, we have also the most abundant material for just such light infantry as those described in the foregoing sketch.
The Chasseurs are not merely distinguished as perfect light infantry, but they also form excellent troops of the line. By the weight of their fire, they are capable of producing in battles and sieges effects unknown before their appearance on the scene, and that is the great point, the entirely new feature about them.
The creation of these battalions, well planned and happily executed as it has been, remains a most important event in military history. Consecrated by the valor and the intelligence of the officers and soldiers of France, it has been the signal and the source of new and rapid reforms. One of these battalions attached to each infantry division adds fresh force to that fine classification which first arose under the Republic, and, although somewhat perverted under the Empire, still remains the basis of the French grand organization, recalling, as it does, the immortal idea of the Roman Legion.
With the aid of its example, and the emulation inspired by the success of the Chasseurs, the splendid system of the French infantry-service has been completed under the present Napoleon; and we now behold the race he rules so disciplined for war, the respective qualities of the North and the South of France, the firmness and solidity of the former and the enthusiasm and ardor of the latter, so beautifully blended, that we may well exclaim, "Here, indeed, is a whole nation armed! in pedite robur!"
In conclusion, the writer and compiler of this sketch would not be venturing too far, perhaps, were he to remark that so excellent an example can be nowhere better followed than in this country, if, as would to-day appear a certainty, we are to turn aside from the ways of peace to study the art of war. We have here precisely the material for whole armies of light infantry, the most favorable conditions for their equipment and instruction, and, owing to the nature of the region we inhabit, its dense woodlands, its wide savannas, its broad rivers, and its numerous ranges of rough mountains, the very land in which the tactics and marksmanship of the Chasseurs would be most available.
LATEST VIEWS OF MR. BIGLOW.
[It is with feelings of the liveliest pain that we inform our readers of the death of the Reverend Homer Wilbur, A.M., which took place suddenly, by an apoplectic stroke, on the afternoon of Christmas day, 1862. Our venerable friend (for so we may venture to call him, though we never enjoyed the high privilege of his personal acquaintance) was in his eighty-fourth year, having been born June 12, 1779, at Pigsgusset Precinct (now West Jerusha) in the then District of Maine. Graduated with distinction at Hubville College in 1805, he pursued his theological studies with the late Reverend Preserved Thacker, D.D., and was called to the charge of the First Society in Jaalam in 1809, where he remained till his death.
"As an antiquary he has probably left no superior, if, indeed, an equal," writes his friend and colleague, the Reverend Jeduthun Hitchcock, to whom we are indebted for the above facts; "in proof of which I need only allude to his 'History of Jaalam, Genealogical, Topographical, and Ecclesiastical,' 1849, which has won him an eminent and enduring place in our more solid and useful literature. It is only to be regretted that his intense application to historical studies should have so entirely withdrawn him from the pursuit of poetical composition, for which he was endowed by Nature with a remarkable aptitude. His well-known hymn, beginning, 'With clouds of care encompassed round,' has been attributed in some collections to the late President Dwight, and it is hardly presumptuous to affirm that the simile of the rainbow in the eighth stanza would do no discredit to that polished pen."
We regret that we have not room at present for the whole of Mr. Hitchcock's exceedingly valuable communication. We hope to lay more liberal extracts from it before our readers at an early day. A summary of its contents will give some notion of its importance and interest. It contains: 1st, A biographical sketch of Mr. Wilbur, with notices of his predecessors in the pastoral office, and of eminent clerical contemporaries; 2d, An obituary of deceased, from the Punkin-Falls "Weekly Parallel"; 3d, A list of his printed and manuscript productions and of projected works; 4th, Personal anecdotes and recollections, with specimens of table-talk; 5th, A tribute to his relict, Mrs. Dorcas (Pilcox) Wilbur; 6th, A list of graduates fitted for different colleges by Mr. Wilbur, with biographical memoranda touching the more distinguished; 7th, Concerning learned, charitable, and other societies, of which Mr. Wilbur was a member, and of those with which, had his life been prolonged, he would doubtless have been associated, with a complete catalogue of such Americans as have been Fellows of the Royal Society; 8th, A brief summary of Mr. Wilbur's latest conclusions concerning the Tenth Horn of the Beast in its special application to recent events, for which the public, as Mr. Hitchcock assures us, have been waiting with feelings of lively anticipation; 10th, Mr. Hitchcock's own views on the same topic; and, 11th, A brief essay on the importance of local histories. It will be apparent that the duty of preparing Mr. Wilbur's biography could not have fallen into more sympathetic hands.
In a private letter with which the reverend gentleman has since favored us, he expresses the opinion that Mr. Wilbur's life was shortened by our unhappy civil war. It disturbed his studies, dislocated all his habitual associations and trains of thought, and unsettled the foundations of a faith, rather the result of habit than conviction, in the capacity of man for self-government. "Such has been the felicity of my life," he said to Mr. Hitchcock, on the very morning of the day he died, "that, through the divine mercy, I could always say, Summum nec metuo diem, nec opto. It has been my habit, as you know, on every recurrence of this blessed anniversary, to read Milton's 'Hymn of the Nativity' till its sublime harmonies so dilated my soul and quickened its spiritual sense that I seemed to hear that other song which gave assurance to the shepherds that there was One who would lead them also in green pastures and beside the still waters. But to-day I have been unable to think of anything but that mournful text, 'I came not to send peace, but a sword,' and, did it not smack of pagan presumptuousness, could almost wish I had never lived to see this day."
Mr. Hitchcock also informs us that his friend "lies buried in the Jaalam graveyard, under a large red-cedar which he specially admired. A neat and substantial monument is to be erected over his remains, with a Latin epitaph written by himself; for he was accustomed to say pleasantly that there was at least one occasion in a scholar's life when he might show the advantages of a classical training."
The following fragment of a letter addressed to us, and apparently intended to accompany Mr. Biglow's contribution to the present number, was found upon his table after his decease.—EDITORS ATLANTIC MONTHLY.]
To the Editors of the ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
Jaalam, 24th Dec'r, 1862
RESPECTED SIRS,—The infirm state of my bodily health would be a sufficient apology for not taking up the pen at this time, wholesome as I deem it for the mind to apricate in the shelter of epistolary confidence, were it not that a considerable, I might even say a large, number of individuals in this parish expect from their pastor some publick expression of sentiment at this crisis. Moreover, Qui tacitus ardet magis uritur. In trying times like these, the besetting sin of undisciplined minds is to seek refuge from inexplicable realities in the dangerous stimulant of angry partisanship or the indolent narcotick of vague and hopeful vaticination; fortunamque suo temperat arbitrio. Both by reason of my age and my natural temperament, I am unfitted for either. Unable to penetrate the inscrutable judgments of God, I am more than ever thankful that my life has been prolonged till I could in some small measure comprehend His mercy. As there is no man who does not at some time render himself amenable to the one,—quum vix Justus sit securus,—so there is none that does not feel himself in daily need of the other.
I confess, I cannot feel, as some do, a personal consolation for the manifest evils of this war in any remote or contingent advantages that may spring from it. I am old and weak, I can bear little, and can scarce hope to see better days; nor is it any adequate compensation to know that Nature is old and strong and can bear much. Old men philosophize over the past, but the present is only a burthen and a weariness. The one lies before them like a placid evening landscape; the other is full of the vexations and anxieties of housekeeping. It may be true enough that miscet haec illis, prohibetque Clotho fortunam stare, but he who said it was fain at last to call in Atropos with her shears before her time; and I cannot help selfishly mourning that the fortune of our Republick could not at least stand till my days were numbered.
Tibullus would find the origin of wars in the great exaggeration of riches, and does not stick to say that in the days of the beechen trencher there was peace. But averse as I am by nature from all wars, the more as they have been especially fatal to libraries, I would have this one go on till we are reduced to wooden platters again, rather than surrender the principle to defend which it was undertaken. Though I believe Slavery to have been the cause of it, by so thoroughly demoralizing Northern politicks for its own purposes as to give opportunity and hope to treason, yet I would not have our thought and purpose diverted from their true object,—the maintenance of the idea of Government. We are not merely suppressing an enormous riot, but contending for the possibility of permanent order coexisting with democratical fickleness; and while I would not superstitiously venerate form to the sacrifice of substance, neither would I forget that an adherence to precedent and prescription can alone give that continuity and coherence under a democratical constitution which are inherent in the person of a despotick monarch and the selfishness of an aristocratical class. Stet pro ratione voluntas is as dangerous in a majority as in a tyrant.
I cannot allow the present production of my young friend to go out without a protest from me against a certain extremeness in his views, more pardonable in the poet than the philosopher. While I agree with him that the only cure for rebellion is suppression by force, yet I must animadvert upon certain phrases where I seem to see a coincidence with a popular fallacy on the subject of compromise. On the one hand there are those who do not see that the vital principle of Government and the seminal principle of Law cannot properly be made a subject of compromise at all, and on the other those who are equally blind to the truth that without a compromise of individual opinions, interests, and even rights, no society would be possible. In medio tutissimus. For my own part, I would gladly——
Ef I a song or two could make, Like rockets druv by their own burnin', All leap an' light, to leave a wake Men's hearts an' faces skyward turnin'!— But, it strikes me, 't ain't jest the time Fer stringin' words with settisfaction: Wut's wanted now's the silent rhyme 'Twixt upright Will an' downright Action.
Words, ef you keep 'em, pay their keep, But gabble's the short cut to ruin; It's gratis, (gals half-price,) but cheap At no rate, ef it henders doin'; Ther' 's nothin' wuss, 'less 't is to set A martyr-prem'um upon jawrin': Teapots git dangerous, ef you shet Their lids down on 'em with Fort Warren.
'Bout long enough it's ben discussed Who sot the magazine afire, An' whether, ef Bob Wickliffe bust, 'T would scare us more or blow us higher, D' ye s'pose the Gret Foreseer's plan Wuz settled fer him in town-meetin'? Or thet ther' 'd ben no Fall o' Man, Ef Adam'd on'y bit a sweetin'?
Oh, Jon'than, ef you want to be A rugged chap agin an' hearty, Go fer wutever'll hurt Jeff D., Nut wut'll boost up ary party. Here's hell broke loose, an' we lay flat With half the univarse a-singein', Till Sen'tor This an' Gov'nor Thet Stop squabblin' fer the garding-ingin'.
It's war we're in, not politics; It's systems wrastlin' now, not parties; An' victory in the eend'll fix Where longest will an' truest heart is. An' wut's the Guv'ment folks about? Tryin' to hope ther' 's nothin' doin', An' look ez though they didn't doubt Sunthin' pertickler wuz a-brewin'.
Ther' 's critters yit thet talk an' act Fer wut they call Conciliation; They'd hand a buff'lo-drove a tract When they wuz madder than all Bashan. Conciliate? it jest means be kicked, No metter how they phrase an' tone it; It means thet we're to set down licked, Thet we're poor shotes an' glad to own it!