As England was at that time in a seething ferment of excitement, men who were unscrupulous in their language were at a premium in the political market, and the respectable constituency of the pleasant watering-place of Bath, in Somersetshire, elected the fierce little man as their representative in the Imperial Parliament. This was a great start in life for the new-fledged barrister, and, had he moderated his overweening vanity, and studied wisely, and with some self-abnegation and honest adherence to party, he might have risen to some useful position, and been saved, at least, from the indignity of fetching and carrying for the Emperor of Austria, and from the impertinence of intruding himself into the august presence of Mr. Kinglake's amiable and virtuous friend, the Emperor of France. The English nation might then possibly have pointed to his portrait in their historical gallery as that of an efficient public servant who had deserved well of his country, and he might have escaped a ludicrous immortality as the Dog Tear-'em, in the recent admirable sketch in "Punch."
But, in the words of a political song,—
"There weren't no such luck For John A. Roebuck, And he thought he would teach the whole nation That the Tories were fools, And the Whigs only tools, But Roebuck was England's salvation."
And he, according to this programme, set himself to reform the Constitution and protect the Colonies.
"Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,"
he was an eclectic in politics,—acknowledged no leader, had himself no followers. A chief without a party, an apostle without disciples, a critic without the merest ordinary penetration, a cynic whose bitterness was not enlivened by wit or humor, a spouter whose arguments, when he had any, were usually furnished from the mint, John Arthur Roebuck was for many years that impersonation of terrific honesty, glaring purity, and indignant virtue, known in English politics as an INDEPENDENT member of Parliament. When party-spirit runs high, and many party-men are disposed to be unscrupulous in the measures and artifices by which they win or retain place and power, such a position, occupied with judgment and fortified by modesty and good sense, is a most powerful and a most beneficent one; but it is useless when seized on by one whose obtrusive egotism and more than feminine vanity disqualify him for any serious or permanent influence on his fellow-men. When a Pocket-Diogenes rolls his little tub into the House of Commons, and complains that everybody is standing between him and the sun,—why, in an assembly of educated and sensible men the sham is soon discovered, the pseudo-cynic seen through, and his affected misanthropy deservedly gains for him universal derision and scorn. Some years after he entered Parliament, Mr. Disraeli, with whom he had many encounters, in which he was invariably worsted, made the House roar with laughter by taunting Roebuck with his "Sadler's Wells sarcasms and melodramatic malignities," and drew a most amusing picture of him as "a solitary sentinel pacing round the deserted citadel of his own opinions."
"He who surpasses or subdues mankind Must look down on the hate of those below";
but as Mr. Roebuck has done neither the one nor the other, his only chance of not being utterly forgotten, instead of being feared or hated, by his contemporaries, is to continue his work of mischief, and merely change the object of his puny attacks as one becomes more prominent than another, and as he can manage to maintain his own quasi-importance by attaching his name to great questions. He had no special dislike for this country; so far from that, he admired and praised us, as by an extract from one of his books we will presently prove; but since he has become a self-appointed lackey, has donned imperial livery, and as a volunteer does the dirty work of despots, he must have lost all sympathy with and all regard for an independent, free, and brave people. We hope and believe that this country vastly prefers his censure to his praise, and, as far as it has leisure at the present crisis for any serious consideration of his erratic pranks, would rather have his enmity than his friendship. Non tali auxilio!
But we must recur to his inconsistent and rather uninteresting career, and so satisfy, and perhaps weary, the curiosity of any reader who is still disposed to ask the momentous question, "Who is Roebuck?"
In 1835, he was appointed the agent—the paid agent—of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, during the dispute then raging between the Executive Government and the House of Assembly. As Englishmen especially plume themselves on the fact that the members of their legislative bodies are unremunerated, it is somewhat difficult to understand how this exception was made in John Arthur's favor. As a precedent it is to be hoped that it has not been followed; for it is obvious that such an arrangement, however advantageous or pleasant to individual members, might throw grave suspicions on the purity of public men, and introduce a wholesale venality into public life. If such a system is permitted, any foreign monarch or any foreign government may secure the services of a British senator as his agent and representative. It is quite appalling to think that the chivalrous Earl of Derby or the conscientious Mr. Gladstone should be shocked by the offer of a handsome annual salary paid quarterly, (not deducting the income-tax,) made by the King of Dahomey for an eloquent defence of his humane and enlightened rule, or by an equally munificent donative from the famous and merry monarch of the Cannibal Islands for the support of himself and his loyal subjects in their copious consumption of human flesh. We should be sorry wantonly to raise so dreadful a suspicion; but if British M.P.s are permitted, according to the Roebuck precedent, to be PAID agents, why has not Southern money found its way into senatorial pockets? Greedy Mr. Laird, and unscrupulous, money-loving Mr. Lindsay,[A] always resolutely grubbing for the main chance, are perhaps sufficiently paid by indirect, though heavy gains in shipbuilding. Needy Mr. Roebuck may be salaried by the Emperor of Austria, though there is nothing to prove, except his own open-mouthed and loud-tongued professions of purity, that he is not "paid agent" of the Confederate Government. The indulgence of the evil feelings of malice and uncharitableness may, however, sufficiently recompense him; and to him, perhaps, his virtue may be its own reward. But if paid agencies are not permitted, a very serious suspicion fastens on that hard-mouthed, rising lordling, Robert Cecil, son of the Marquis of Salisbury, and one of the most active and energetic champions of the slave-mongers of the South. The young lord, it is well known, stepped down from the lofty pedestal of a bad pedigree to marry the fair, but portionless daughter of an English judge; his father is proverbially mean and stingy, and the young lord himself proportionately poor; and in the intervals of his strenuous advocacy of the claims of the Rebels to European recognition he laudably ekes out his very narrow income by writing articles for the London newspapers and reviews; and rumor says that he communicates gossiping letters, full of piquant and satirical sketches of the proceedings of the House of Commons to two or three of the provincial papers. He is under these circumstances peculiarly open to suspicion. If the proceeding in question is a usual one, why does he not openly avow it? If it is unusual or improper, why does he not deny the soft impeachment so much credited both in this country and in his own? It is really refreshing to contemplate, that Roebuck, after being the paid agent of the Canadian House of Assembly, should have become such a purist as to drag poor Mr. Isaac Butt before the notice of the Commons, and scream for the censure on him on a mere suspicion that he had touched the yellow and handsome gold coins of one of the innumerable Indian princes and rajahs who come to England with complaints of grievances, sometimes real, and sometimes fictitious, against the British Government.
[Footnote A: Lindsay's fawning, plastic sycophancy is well known this side the water. After shrewdly filling his coffers with profits from Northern business-transactions, he now turns about, kicks his old friends, who always half suspected his knavish propensities, bows, cap in hand, to visionary cotton-bales, and hopes to turn some honest pounds, shillings, and pence by advocating the slave-drivers' rebellion. A "fool's gudgeon" will surely reward his laborious endeavors for Southern gold, that article growing beautifully less every day.]
During the period of the "paid agency" Roebuck was tolerably industrious with his pen; but in literature and journalism he proved his utter incapacity for joining in any combined action. Such was his dogged self-assertion and indomitable egotism that none of the ordinary channels would answer his purpose; and so he issued a series of political papers, entitled "Pamphlets for the People," to which the curious may sometimes refer, but which have now lost all their significance and interest. His quarrels with editors and publishers were notorious; and an altercation with Mr. Black, the well-known editor of the "Morning Chronicle," eventuated in a duel so bloodless as to be ridiculous. David's pebble did not reach Goliath, and Goliath was equally merciful to David. In these pamphlets he violently assailed the whole body of editors, sub-editors, reporters, etc., of most of the papers of any note. And the more accustomed he became to the House of Commons, the greater liberties did he take with the conventional fairness and courtesy of debate. His personality and scurrility were so indiscriminating and excessive that he was perhaps at this time the most unpopular member of the House.
In 1837 he lost his election for Bath, but was reelected in 1841. In a subsequent contest at Bath he was successfully opposed by Lord Ashley, the present Earl of Shaftesbury. On this occasion he exhibited even more than his usual bad temper and bad taste. He declined to accept Lord Ashley's proffered hand; and in the chagrin and vexation occasioned by unexpected defeat he uttered a rabid invective against the Non-Conformist ministers of the place, to whose influence he rightly attributed his rival's success. Lord Ashley was a well-known philanthropist, and his consistent support and patronage of many religious and charitable societies had naturally given him popularity among the Protestant clergy of all denominations,—a popularity heightened in the case of the Evangelical and Calvinistic ministers by his Lordship's strict Sabbatarianism and his belief in cold dinners on Sunday. On the other hand, Mr. Roebuck was openly accused of private professions of skepticism in matters of religion; and this report, so dangerous to the repute of any public man in England, (where theology and politics so frequently cross each other,) considerably damaged his chance of success. Lord Ashley, however, was in no way responsible for the rumor; and the difference between the conduct of the two during the contest was this, that Lord Ashley behaved like a gentleman and Mr. Roebuck did not.
During his retirement into private life, after this defeat in 1847, he wrote his work entitled "The History of the Whig Ministry of 1830,"—a book in the preparation of which he is said to have received considerable and valuable assistance from no less a person than Lord Brougham. Despite the aid that he received, it is amusing to find in his preface a characteristic vaunting of his entire difference with Lord Brougham about the character of King William IV. "Lord Brougham," he writes, "is accustomed to describe William IV as frank, just, and straightforward. We believe him to have been very weak and very false, a finished dissembler, and always bitterly hostile to the Whig Ministry and their great measure of Reform." This is Roebuck all over. He would infinitely rather argue that white was black than quietly coincide in any generally received opinion.
While on the subject of his writings, we will mention the book in which he vouchsafed to praise those whom he now so elaborately vilifies. In 1849 he published an octavo volume of two hundred and forty-eight pages on "The Colonies of England." Speaking (page 84) of the vast and rapid progress made by this country, he says:—
"We are led to inquire by what machinery, by what favoring circumstances, such a result has been brought about. The people, be it remarked, are the same as ourselves,—the original Thirteen States were the work of Englishmen. English heads, English hearts, English hands brought those new communities into existence. No longer connected by government with us, they nevertheless retained the characteristics of the race from which they sprang, and proceeding in the great work to which they were destined, they strode across the continent, the fairest portion of which they could now call their own. In planting new settlements they were aided by our own people,—the very elements out of which we endeavor to frame colonies, and with which we do produce sickly, miserable communities that can only be said to exist, and to linger on in a sort of half-life, without the spirit of a young, or the amenities and polish of an old community, and, above all, without any spirit of independence."
Again, speaking of colonization In this country as opposed to Canada and other English colonies, he writes (page 88):—"Certain adventurous persons, the 'pioneers' of civilization, wishing to make new settlements beyond the boundaries of Pennsylvania and Virginia, upon wild lands belonging to the United States, made formal application to the Government of the United States at Washington, who, being bound to afford all possible facility, thereupon take steps to have the land surveyed and laid out into counties, townships, parishes. The roads are also indicated, and at once the law exists; and security, guarantied by the authority of the United States, immediately follows, both for person and property; and all the machinery known to the Common Law, and needed for the maintenance of this security, and the enforcement of the law's decrees, is at once adopted. A municipal authority comes into existence; a court-house, a jail, a school-room, arise in the wilderness; and although these buildings be humble, and the men who exercise authority in them may appear to be in some degree rude, yet is the law there in all its useful majesty. To it a reverent obedience is rendered; and the plain magistrate, who, in a hunter's frock, may, in the name of the United States, pronounce the law's decree, commands an obedience as complete and sincere as that which is paid to the Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court at Washington, or to the ermined judge who presides in the courts of our Lady the Queen in Westminster Hall."
This in 1849; but what a very different tone has he thought fit to adopt now! Was any agency then expected which has not been forthcoming? Or, having degenerated from being a supporter of liberal opinions in his youth to being the fond and fatuous admirer of autocrats in his old age, does he think that it is absolutely necessary that the firm friend of Austrian despotism should be the malignant assailant of the Government and people of the United States? The man is consistent in nothing but his spiteful vindictiveness and love of mischief. He is now the general object of deserved ridicule and contempt for his flunkyistic attendance at the Tuileries. At the time of Louis Napoleon's visit to London, Roebuck raved and ranted about his "perjured lips having kissed the Queen of England."
He has, on some occasions, put himself prominently forward, and in such a way as to make himself an influential member of Parliament. He moved the vote of confidence in the Whig Government in 1850, when the great debate ensued in which the late Sir Robert Peel made his last speech, and they were kept in office by a poetical majority of nine. But the speech with which Roebuck introduced the motion was entirely eclipsed by the magnificent declamation of Sir Alexander Cockburn, the present Lord-Chief-Justice of England. On another great occasion, in January, 1855, he brought forward in the House of Commons a motion for inquiry into the conduct of the Crimean War. Lord Aberdeen's Government was defeated by an immense majority, and, of course, resigned. Mr. Roebuck was chairman of the Committee of Inquiry; but the cabinet that came in discreetly declined to give him any official post in their ranks. They knew too well the terrible uncertainty and inconsistency of the man's conduct. They could place no reliance either on his temper or his discretion. In 1855 he was one of the numerous candidates for the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but failed to inspire the electors with any confidence in his capacity for the post. In the following year he became the chairman of the Administrative Reform Association, and although the league had at first been highly successful, and aided much in awaking public attention to the miscarriages and mismanagement in the Crimea, yet, under this fatal presidency, it became speedily and ingloriously defunct. This was his last great failure, before abdicating all his early liberal principles. He has of late years endeavored to solace himself for the now irretrievable blunders of his career by an exaggerated indulgence in his idiosyncratic waywardness, paradox, and eccentricity. He is proud of being considered the acquaintance of the Emperor of Austria, and rather pleased than otherwise at being assailed on this account. He affects the society and friendship of conservative members of the House of Commons. He has become tolerant of lords. He may be seen sitting next to Lord Robert Cecil, indulging in ill-natured jocosities, from which his Lordship probably borrows when he indites ill-natured articles for the misguided "Saturday Review."[A] He hates the Manchester school of politicians, because their liberality and their sympathy with the cause of freedom and civilization in this country remind Roebuck of his own deflection from the right path.
[Footnote A: This journal is now owned by Mr. Alexander James Beresford Beresford-Hope, (we dare not omit any portion of this august name,) who has ample means to enlist the talents of reckless, "smart" young men in search of employment for any work he may require, no matter how unprincipled the job in hand.]
His private undertakings have not been more fortunate than his public acts. He was chairman of a bank, which was unsuccessful, to say the least of it. He has been connected with other enterprises, which soon courted and obtained failure.
What he has recently said and done in reference to this country is too fresh in our memories to require that we should recite or recapitulate it here. His past career, as we have reviewed it, may account for the now intolerable acerbity of temper and the ludicrous vanity which disgrace him. Never was a Nemesis more just than that which has for the present consigned him to a melancholy obscurity. The political extinguisher has certainly dropped upon his head, and this burning and shining light has gone out with an unpleasant odor into utter darkness.
In summing up his character, it is evident that excessive vanity is his besetting sin. He is not too clever or too honest to act in union with other people, but he is too vain. He is by no means too good for the rest of the world; but he is too conceited and self-opinionated to condescend to cooeperate with them. As, at some of the minor theatres, a single actor may play an army, so, in the House of Commons, Roebuck is a host in himself,—is his own party, and leads it. His occasional popularity in his own country is due to the fact, that, in his own character, he, to a certain extent, represents and crystallizes a few of the good and many of the bad qualities of Englishmen. He has their courage and audacity, their independence and pride, their generally defiant front to the rest of the world; but he is also vain, obstinate, bigoted, prejudiced, narrow in his views, and boastful in his language. His vulgar swagger, for instance, about the navy sweeping the seas, would have been condemned here, if it had been addressed by the most violent of demagogues to the most ignorant of Irish mobs.
We have heard him speak in the House of Commons in his palmier days, before he was as decrepit in mind as he is in body. He had great fluency, some power of invective, and a vast stock of assurance. We listened to him upon one occasion, when, without the slightest provocation, he used the most undignified personalities to the late Sir Robert Peel,—to which Sir Robert, very wisely, never replied.
We cannot say that we feel any profound interest as to his future. He has compared himself to a dog,—but, on behalf of that faithful and valued companion of man, we protest against the similitude. He has the kind of pugnacity which prompts a cur or a puppy to attack a Newfoundland or a mastiff. He has not the fidelity and many other good qualities of the canine race. At any rate, he has become a mischievous dog,—and a dull dog,—and will soon be a "sad dog."
We would venture to suggest, that he should at once be raised to the peerage, under the title of Baron Tear-'em. He might then aid the good cause of the slave-mongers of the South, and act in unison with that just, generous, moral, and virtuous nobleman, the Marquis of Clanricarde.
We ought to apologize to our readers for so lengthy an account of so undeserving a person,—but, at any rate, they ought by this time to know "Who is Roebuck?"
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Six Months in the Federal States. By EDWARD DICEY. In Two Volumes. London and Cambridge: Macmillan & Co.
This is a very gentlemanly book. Whatever excellence of commendation belongs to the adjective we have Italicized must be awarded to Mr. Dicey. And it is ill-adapted to the manufactures of most British tourists who have preceded him. For, to make no mention of the vulgar buffooneries of Bunn or Grattan, we hold that neither the exalted and irrepressible prosiness of Dr. Charles Mackay, nor the cleverish magic-lantern pictures of that good-natured book-maker, Mr. Anthony Trollope, would be perfectly fitted with this polite addition. It is no mean praise to say that the word gentlemanly naturally applies itself to a traveller's work. And it is necessary to allow that the majority of Americans who have printed their impressions of a scamper over Europe have fallen as hopelessly below it as a few have risen far above it. Some word of deeper meaning must characterize the sterling sentences of "English Traits"; some epithet of more rare and subtile significance is suggested by those exquisitely painted scenes of foreign life with which Hawthorne is even now adorning the pages of the "Atlantic." But after the manner in which such a well-informed, modest, humane man as we would emphatically credit as an American gentleman might speak of six months in England, so has Mr. Dicey spoken of his six months in the Federal States.
And, at this present time, far better than all curious delineations or "stereographic" descriptions are the sober testimonies concerning us which Mr. Dicey offers to his countrymen. To such loyal Americans as these volumes may reach they will give a heart not to be found in Dr. Russell's pictorial neutrality, in the dashing effects of popular Mr. Trollope, nor even—making all allowance for the sanative influence of counter-irritation—in the weekly malignity of that ex-Moral Minstrel whom the London "Times" has sent to the aid of our insurgent slave-masters. For, instead of gloating over objections and picking out what petty enigmas may not be readily soluble, Mr. Dicey has a manly, English way of accepting the preponderant evidence concerning the crisis he came to study. He seldom gets entangled in trivial events, but knows how to use them as illustrations of great events. It is really refreshing to meet with a British traveller who is so happily delivered from the haunting consciousness of a personal identity. The reader is not called upon to bemoan the tribulations of temperance-taverns, the hardships of indiscriminate railroad-carriages, nor the rapacity of New-York hackmen. There is scarcely an offence against good taste or good feeling in Mr. Dicey's volumes; and whatever American homes may have been opened to him would doubtless reopen far more readily than to most publishing tourists from the mother-land.
Mr. Dicey clearly exhibits the bearing of the Rebellion upon the fate of the servile population of the South, and confesses that his deep sympathy with the Federal cause came from the conviction that the supremacy or overthrow of Slavery was intimately connected with the success or failure of Secession. In acknowledging the necessity that was upon loyal Americans of defending the fundamental law of their society, he is not disposed to adopt the lamentation of some of our foreign well-wishers who are troubled by the fear of a military despotism in the Free States. He has the sagacity to perceive that the genius and development of the graduates of Northern school-houses are totally opposed to a military rule. Mr. Dicey cordially recognizes the democratic idea which sanctifies our convulsion, and displays a careful observation in noting "the self-restraint, the moderation, and the patience of the American people in the conduct of the people's war." He is not over-disturbed because this same people loved law and order more than freedom itself, and with few murmurs committed high principles to the championship of whatever petty men happened to represent them. Indeed, one of the best sayings he reports is that of an old Polish exile, who congratulates himself that there will be no saviours of society, no fathers of their country, to be provided for when the war is over.
Throughout these two volumes British readers may discern something more than the barren facts of our struggle: they may catch glimpses of its energy and movement; they may see it as reflected from the most generous American minds. For it seems to have been Mr. Dicey's good fortune in this country to have gained admission to the society of men and women of high intelligence, in whom the religious sentiment was living and powerful; and he appears to estimate the full weight of testimony such persons offered in sending their loved ones to Virginia to fall beneath the rifle of some Southern boor. It is this silent public opinion of the North which our foreign critics have generally failed to comprehend. They have been so long accustomed to parody the rhetorical elation of our third-rate political speakers, and to represent this as a universal American characteristic, that they signally failed to estimate the genuine emotion with which it is never connected. When the cherished barbarism of slaveholders arose and threatened our Western civilization, those who most felt and have best wrought for their country were cautious in their speech. They knew that the principle underlying the struggle must submit itself to the checks and counter-checks of constitutional law. While the fire of liberty burned at the heart of citizens of abiding loyalty, it seemed best, that, like the Psalmist, they should hold their peace even from good words. Many thought it an act of necessary self-restraint to dwell only upon the Union as a symbol of that universal freedom which they felt the Union must finally represent. The dread of overleaping the restraints of law, which, perchance, has prolonged the conflict, has been most creditable to the genuine democracy we have represented. We are proud to remember many intelligent soldiers who used no language of passionate denunciation towards the guilty institution which called them to the field, yet who knew the end when they gave their lives to a cause utterly antagonistic to its despotic claims.
By the representations of Secessionists encountered in the Free States, as well as from disloyal newspapers which the "Lincoln despotism" never sought to suppress, Mr. Dicey was convinced that the sole purpose of the Rebellion was to get possession of the vast regions which lie west of the Mississippi, wherein to establish Slave States and Territories. "The North," he declares, "is fighting against, the South is fighting for, the power of extending slavery across the American continent; and if this was all that could be said, it is clear on which side must be the sympathies of any one who really and honestly believes that slavery is an evil and a sin." But it is not here that Mr. Dicey rests the case of the North as appealing to the Christian sentiment of the world. He shows that the inexorable logic of facts must work the overthrow of slavery where it now exists. The suppression of the slave-trade, the recognition of Hayti, abolition in the District of Columbia, and finally the Proclamation of January have one tendency and can have but one result. We state these views as one more confirmation of the fact, that, whether agreeable to us or not, the sympathies of liberal men in Europe are to be had on the sole ground that ours is an anti-slavery war.
Mr. Dicey's predilections lead him to make a generous, although discriminating, estimate of those men who, in time past, have endeavored to serve their country by leaving the level commonplaces of respectable citizenship. It is no slight praise to say that his chapter upon the New-England Abolitionists is clear and just. Their points of disagreement with the Republican party are stated with no common accuracy. Careful sentences give the precise position of Garrison and his adherents: the intrinsic essence of the movement of these reformers is divested of the subordinate and trivial facts so often put forward to misrepresent it. Although Mr. Dicey endeavors not to commit himself upon the vital differences in the agitation of anti-slavery sentiments by the Abolitionists and by the Republican party, it is very evident that he inclines to the belief that the former, in their advocacy of disunion, acted not from a perverse and fanatical philosophy, but from the logical compulsions of a critical understanding, stimulated by an intense conviction of the national sin.
We have dwelt thus upon Mr. Dicey's views of the war, and of the great moral question with which it is connected, because these portions of his volumes are most pertinent to us, as well as creditable to him. His sketches of public characters are good common-sense grasps at them, which generally get their externals, and occasionally something more. The description of the President is forcible, though a little too graphic for perfect courtesy. Caleb Cushing impresses the traveller as one of the ablest of our public men, and Wendell Phillips as by far the most eloquent speaker he ever heard. General Butler, however, is not to Mr. Dicey's taste. Indeed, he is hardly behind the "Saturday Review" in the terrible epithets he bestows upon the man who he acknowledges "was associated with the grandest triumph of the Federal arms, and by some means or other preserved New Orleans to the Union with but little cost of either men or money." It is rather late to renew discussion about the notorious order relating to the women of the subjected city. But Mr. Dicey chooses to express his belief in an infamous intention of General Butler at the time of its issue,—though he declares that "the strictest care was taken lest the order should be abused," and that the "Southern ladies [?] were grossly insulting in their behavior to the Union soldiers, using language and gestures which, in a city occupied by troops of any other nation, would have subjected them, without orders, to the coarsest retaliation." To which we have only to reply, that General Butler may be a villain, but that he is certainly not a fool. Nobody doubts that he has military or civil aspirations for the future, and, for such ends, if for nothing else, wishes the approbation of his loyal countrymen. Now Mr. Dicey testifies to "the almost morbid sentiment of Americans in the Free States with regard to women": he tells us that "it renders them ridiculously susceptible to female influences"; also, that this same "sentiment" among us "protects women from the natural consequences of their own misconduct." These characteristics of his countrymen are just as familiar to General Butler as they are patent to Mr. Dicey; and we hold it to be simply incredible that one who is at least a very shrewd politician used language which he intended should convey a meaning that must necessarily consign his future career to privacy and infamy. It is perhaps not wonderful that men who have deluged their country in blood, to propagate a system which consigns unborn millions to enforced harlotry, should put an evil interpretation upon the indignant stigma applied to acts which, in civilized States, come from one class of women, and are designed for one purpose. Neither is it very astonishing that such persons as have been employed to pump the New-York sewers into the cloaca maxima which sets towards us from Printing-House Square should share the sensitive chastity of the slave-masters whose work they are put to do. But it is passing strange that a gentleman so fair and reasonable as Mr. Dicey, one so appreciative of the moral tone which Northern society demands of its representatives, should join in an accusation whose absurdity is only lost in its infinite offence.
There are small inaccuracies, as well as occasional instances of carelessness or repetition, in these volumes, which, had circumstances allowed time for revision, might have been avoided. It would require the "Pathfinder" himself to discover "Fremont Street" in the city where we write; the "Courier" is not "the most largely circulated of any Boston paper"; and our Ex-Mayor "Whiteman" requires no fanciful orthography to free his name from the obloquy of an over-devotion to the interests of colored citizens. These are local illustrations of mistakes which are excusable in view of the commendable expedition with which the work was issued,—for, in the late crisis of our affairs, an Englishman who had any good words to give us fulfilled the proverb by giving twice in giving quickly. But, whatever trifling details might be subjected to criticism, the total impression of what Mr. Dicey has written bears honorable testimony to the accuracy of his observation, as well as to his powers of comparison and judgment.
As has been already remarked, we cannot be blind to the fact that our only supporters in England are those men who recognize at the heart of our contest that genuine principle of Liberty which is not to be limited to caste or to race. And it is only by hastening to justify their confidence that we can win to our cause the great people they address. If we cannot gain the national sympathy of England, we must do without the true sympathy of any nation. It was, indeed, remarked by De Tocqueville, that, "in the eyes of the English, the cause which is most useful to England is always the cause of justice." But the rare insight of the philosopher assigns the phenomenon, not to a political Machiavelism, but to a "laudable desire to connect the actions of one's country with something more stable than interest." The English have a peculiar gift of fixing their whole attention upon certain traits or single circumstances which they desire to see. We doubt not that a portion of their sympathy with the energy and endurance of those in arms against their country is estimable according to its light. But as the dignity of our mission in this struggle becomes more and more apparent, the moral intelligence of England will be forced to unite itself with the Government of the United States. Let that day come when it will, posterity will remember its obligations to those Englishmen who did so much to avert the hideous calamity of a war between the two liberal powers of the world. And to us of this present generation it is grateful to know that our brave and generous young men have not died wholly unrecognized in the land of their ancestors. Mill, Ellison, Hughes,—what need to name the rest?—have stood up to report them and their cause aright to the unsatisfied: in which roll of the honorable and honored we are glad to write the name of Edward Dicey.
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Hospital Transports. A Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia in the Summer of 1862. Compiled and published at the Request of the Sanitary Commission. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
If pure benevolence was ever organized and utilized into beneficence, the name of the institution is the Sanitary Commission. It is a standing answer to Samson's riddle, "Out of the strong came forth sweetness." Out of the very depths of the agony of this cruel and bloody war springs this beautiful system, built of the noblest and divinest attributes of the human soul. Amidst all the heroism of daring and enduring which this war has developed, amidst all the magnanimity of which it has shown the race capable, the daring, the endurance, and the greatness of soul which have been discovered among the men and women who have given their lives to this work shine as brightly as any on the battle-field,—in some respects even more brightly. They have not the bray of trumpets nor the clash of swords to rouse enthusiasm, nor will the land ever resound with their victories. Theirs is the dark and painful side, the menial and hidden side, but made light and lovely by the spirit that shines in and through it all. Glimpses of this agency are familiar to our people; but not till the history of its inception, progress, and results is calmly and adequately written out and spread before the public will any idea be formed of the magnitude and importance of the work which it has done. Nor even then. Never, till every soldier whose last moments it has soothed, till every soldier whose flickering life it has gently steadied into continuance, whose waning reason it has softly lulled into quiet, whose chilled blood it has warmed into healthful play, whose failing frame it has nourished into strength, whose fainting heart it has comforted with sympathy,—never, until every full soul has poured out its story of gratitude and thanksgiving, will the record be complete; but long before that time, ever since the moment that its helping hand was first held forth, comes the Blessed Voice, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
An institution asking of Government only permission to live and opportunity to work, planting itself firmly and squarely on the generosity of the people, subsisting solely by their free-will offerings, it is a noble monument of the intelligence, the munificence, and the efficiency of a free people, and of the alacrity with which it responds when the right chord is rightly touched. It is, however, not unnatural that doubts should exist as to the success of a plan so far-reaching in its aims and hitherto so untried. Stories have been circulated of a mercenary disposition of its stores and trickery among its officers. Where these stories have found considerable credence, they have been tracked to their source and triumphantly refuted; but it would indeed be hardly less than miraculous, if an institution ramifying so widely, with agents so numerous, and resources so extensive, should have no knaves among its servants, and no waste in its circulation. The wonder is, that more leakage has not been proved than has ever been suspected. All that is necessary to remove floating doubts, to convince all heads of the wisdom which projected this Commission, and to warm all hearts up to its continued and sufficient support, is a knowledge of what it has done, is doing, and purposes to do. This information the Commission has, at different times, and by piecemeal, furnished: necessarily by piecemeal, since, as this book justly remarks, the immense mass of details which a circumstantial account of its operations in field and hospital must involve would prove nearly as laborious in the reading as in the performance. In this little volume we have, photographed, a single phase of its operations. It consists simply of extracts from letters and reports. There is no attempt at completeness or dramatic arrangement; yet the most elaborate grouping would probably fail to present one-half as accurately a picture of the work and its ways as these unpretending fragments. It delights us to see the—we can hardly say cheerful, as that savors too much of the "self-sacrifice" which benevolence sometimes tarnishes by talking about—but, rather, the gay, lively, merry manner in which the most balky matters are taken hold of. Men and women seem to have gone into the service with good-will and hearty love and buoyant spirits. It refreshes and strengthens us like a tonic to read of their taking the wounded, festering, filthy, miserable men, washing and dressing them, pouring in lemonade and beef-tea, and putting them abed and asleep. There is not a word about "devotion" or "ministering angels," (we could wish there were not quite so much about "ladies,") but honest, refined, energetic, able women, with quick brains and quick hands, now bathing a poor crazy head with ice-water, to be rewarded with one grateful smile from the parting soul,—now standing in the way of a procession of the slightly wounded, to pour a little brandy down their throats, or put an orange into their hands, just to keep them up till they reach food and rest,—now running up the river in a steam-tug, scrambling eggs in a wash-basin over a spirit-lamp as they go,—now groping their way, at all hours of the night, through torrents of rain, into dreadful places crammed with sick and dying men, "calling back to life those in despair from utter exhaustion, or again and again catching for mother or wife the last faint whispers of the dying,"—now leaving their compliments to serve a disappointed colonel instead of his dinner, which they had nipped in the bud by dragging away the stove with its four fascinating and not-to-be-withstood pot-holes;—and let the sutler's name be wreathed with laurel who not only permitted this, but offered his cart and mule to drag the stove to the boat, and would take no pay!
The blessings of thousands who were ready to perish, and of tens of thousands who love their country and their kind, rest upon those who originated, and those who sustain, this noble work. Let the people's heart never faint and its hand never weary; but let it, of its abundance, give to this Commission full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, that, wherever the red trail of war is seen, its divine footsteps may follow,—that, wherever the red hand of war is lifted to wound, its white hand may be lifted to heal,—that its work may never cease until it is assumed by a great Christian Government, or until peace once more reigns throughout the land. And even then, gratitude for its service, and joy in its glory, shall never die out of the hearts of the American people.
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The History of the Supernatural, in all Ages and Nations, and in all Churches, Christian and Pagan, demonstrating a Universal Faith. By WILLIAM HOWITT. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.
There has been a great change of late years in connection with the science of Pneumatology and with the manner of treating it. There was a revolution of opinion on this subject in the middle of the last century; there is a counter-revolution to-day.
The superstitions and credulities of the Middle Ages eventuated, during the course of the eighteenth century, in the Encyclopaedism of French philosophy. The grounds upon which the Church based her doctrine of the supernatural were fiercely attacked. The proofs brought forward to prove the insufficiency of such grounds were assumed to prove more than lack of logic in the Church; they were taken as proofs, that, in the nature of things, there is no evidence for the supernatural, in any sense of the term; in other words, that there is no knowledge within the reach of mortals, except that which relates to the physical,—to this earth, as the only phase of existence,—to the vital body, as the all of the human being. Emotional and intellectual phenomena were but results of material organization, as heat is the result of combustion: they exhibited themselves so long as vitality continued; they disappeared when death supervened, as the warmth from a fire dies out with the cessation of combustion. No hypothetical soul was needed to account for the thousand phenomena of thought or of sensation. Pneumatology was no science, but the mere fancy of an excited imagination.
Not to the literature and the social life of France alone was this materialistic influence confined. The mind of Germany, of England, and, more or less, of the rest of Europe, and of America, was pervaded by it. The tendency, all over the civilized world, was towards unbelief, not merely in miracles, but in all things spiritual. Science, with her strict tests and her severe inductions, lent her aid in the same direction.
It does not seem to have occurred to the philosophers of the Encyclopaedian school that a doctrine is not necessarily false because an insufficient argument is brought forward to prove it. It does not appear to have occurred to skeptical physicists that there may be laws of Nature regulating ultramundane phenomena, as fixed, as invariable, as those which decide the succession of geological phenomena and the products of chemical combinations.
Here is a theory which is worth considering. May it not be that God adapts the proofs of that which it is important that man should know to the intellectual progress of mankind? Is it certain that the same evidence which sufficed for the foundation of religious faith five hundred years ago will suffice equally well to-day? Truths are eternal; laws of Nature vary not. But of the world's thoughts there is a childhood, a youth, a manhood; and there may be various classes of arguments suited to various stages of progress.
Again, assuming that the materialist takes a contracted view of the economy of human life, ignoring every portion of it except its present phase, (that phase being but the preparation for another and a higher,) may it not be, that, as the world advances, men may gradually be permitted, occasionally and to a limited extent, to become aware of influences exerted from a more advanced phase of existence over this? May it not be that the links connecting the two phases of existence are gradually to become more numerous and apparent?
Such are the general views which William Howitt's work is intended to illustrate and enforce. He selects, as a title-page motto, an axiom from Butler's "Analogy,"—"There are two courses of Nature: the ordinary and the extraordinary." By the supernatural he does not mean phenomena out of the course of Nature, but such comparatively rare phenomena as are governed by laws with which we are unacquainted, and as are, therefore, to us something extraordinary, something to be wondered at,—miracles.
The author travels over a vast extent of ground,—more, we think, than can be properly explored in the compass of two duodecimo volumes. All ages, all countries, all faiths, furnish their quota towards his collection. It is curious, interesting, suggestive, rather than conclusive. It exhibits more industry than logic. It consists rather of abundant materials for others to use, than of materials worked up by the collector. It gives evidence of learning, research, and a comprehensive study of the subject. It is a thesaurus of pneumatological knowledge, collected with German assiduity. It will set many to thinking, though it may convince but few, except of the one truth, that the faith in the supernatural has been a universal faith, pervading all nations, persisting through all ages.
The number of those who take an interest in the subject treated of in Mr. Howitt's book, and who believe that great truths underlie popular superstitions, increases day by day; and the work will probably have a wide circulation.