The people now began to disperse, but slowly, however. Meanwhile, the court of inquiry on Captain Preston was in session, and, after an examination that lasted three hours, he was bound over for trial. Later, the file of soldiers were also arrested. It was three o'clock in the morning before the Lieutenant-Governor left the scene of the massacre. And now all, excepting about a hundred of the people, who formed themselves into a watch, left the streets. Thus wise action by the crown officials, the activity of the popular leaders, and the habitual respect of the people for law, proved successful in preventing further carnage. "It was Royal George's livery," said Warren, "that proved a shield to the soldiery, and saved them from destruction." Hence, a contemporary versifier and participator in these scenes was able to write,—
"No sudden rage the ruffian soldier bore, Or drenched the pavements with his vital gore; Deliberate thought did all our souls compose, Till veiled in gloom the low'ry morning rose."
During the night, the popular leaders sent expresses to the neighboring towns, bearing intelligence of what had occurred, and summoning people from their beds to go to the aid of Boston; but as the efforts to restore quiet were proving successful, the summons was countermanded. This action accounts for the numbers who, very early in the morning of the sixth of March, flocked into the town. They could learn details of the tragedy from the actors in it,—could see the blood, the brains even, of the slaughtered inhabitants,—could hear the groans of the wounded,—could view the bodies of the dead. This terrible revelation of the work of arbitrary power, to a people habitually tender of regard for human life, naturally shocked the sensibilities of all; and thus the public temper was again wrought up to a fearful pitch of indignation. It required the strongest moral influence to restrain the rash, and to guide in the forms of law a righteous demand for a redress of grievance and for future security.
The Lieutenant-Governor, during the night, had summoned such members of the Council as were within reach to meet in the Council-Chamber in the morning; and on joining them, he found the Selectmen, with most of the justices of the county, waiting for him, to represent, as he says, "their opinion of the absolute necessity of the troops being at a distance, that there might be no intercourse between the inhabitants and them, in order to prevent a further effusion of blood." Such was the logic of events which now forced the seventeen months' question of the removal of the troops on the civil and military authorities with an imperativeness that could not be resisted.
The question, however, came up now in a new shape. To put it in the simplest way, and in the very words used on that day,—the people were so excited by the shedding of blood on the preceding night, that they were resolved no longer to acquiesce in the decision of the constituted authorities as to the troops; but, failing in other means, they were determined to effect their removal by force, let the act be deemed rebellion or otherwise. Not that any conspiracy existed; not that any plan had been matured to do this; but circumstances had transferred the question from the domain of reason to that of physical force; and the only point with the crown officials, during this whole day's deliberations, was, whether they would be justified in what appeared to them lowering the national standard at the demand of a power which they habitually represented as "the faction," or whether they might venture to take the responsibility of resisting the demand and of meeting the consequences. Well might John Adams say, "This was a dangerous and difficult crisis."
The Selectmen expressed to the Lieutenant-Governor the opinion, that "the inhabitants would be under no restraint whilst the troops were in town." "I let them know," Hutchinson says, "that I had no power to remove the troops." They also informed him that they had been requested to call a town-meeting, which was the special dread of Hutchinson. As the settled determination of the people became revealed, the anxiety of the Lieutenant-Governor naturally deepened as to what the day might bring forth; and he sent for Colonels Dalrymple and Carr to be present in Council and act as military advisers. But the discussions here were interrupted by the entrance of a messenger from another assembly, bearing the ominous summons for the immediate presence among them of the Selectmen.
This summons invites attention to the movements of the people, who had been constantly coming in from the neighboring towns, and had now gathered in great numbers in and around Faneuil Hall, to use Hutchinson's words, "in a perfect frenzy." It was, however, the general disposition, volcanic as were the elements, to act with caution, deliberation, and in a spirit of unity, and, doubtless, with the consideration that the eyes of the friends of their cause were upon them, and the name and fame of Boston were at stake. The hours passed, and no warrant appeared calling a town-meeting; when, at eleven o'clock, the town-records say, "the freeholders and other inhabitants" held a meeting, "occasioned, by the massacre made in King Street by the soldiery." The town-clerk, William Cooper, acted as the chairman. This true and intrepid patriot held this office forty-nine years, which speaks for his fidelity to duty, intelligence, devotion to principle, and moral worth. "The Selectmen," his clear, round record reads, "not being present, and the inhabitants being informed that they were in the Council-Chamber, it was voted that Mr. William Greenleaf be desired to proceed there and acquaint the Selectmen that the inhabitants desire and expect their attendance at the Hall." This was virtually a command, and the Selectmen immediately repaired thither. Thomas Cushing was chosen the Moderator. He was now the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and though not of such shining abilities as to cause him to be looked up to in Boston as a leader, and of the moderate class of Patriots, yet, by urbanity of manner, a high personal character, diligent public service, and fidelity to the cause, he won a large influence. It was next voted that Constable Wallace wait upon the Reverend Dr. Cooper and acquaint him that the inhabitants desired him to open the meeting with prayer. This great divine was a brother of the town-clerk, and the pastor of the Brattle-Street Church. He was devoted to the Patriot cause, and on the most confidential terms with the popular leaders; and besides being rich in genius and learning, he had, says Dr. Eliot, a gift in prayer peculiar and very excellent. He complied with the request, but no reporter has transmitted the words of this righteous man, or described this solemn assembly, as fervent prayer now went up for country.
The meeting next voted to invite any citizen to give information of the massacre of the preceding evening, "that the same might be minuted by the town-clerk"; whereupon several persons related details of the tragedy. One said he heard a soldier, after the firing, say, that "the Devil might give quarter, he should give none"; another said he heard a soldier say, that "his officer told him, that, if the soldiers went out that night, they must go armed and in companies"; another related a soldier's story of a scheme formed to kill the inhabitants; another said, he "descried a soldier who struck down the inhabitants." These homely words are life-like glimpses of the spirit of the hour. No speech could have been more eloquent, because none could have been better calculated to deepen the general conviction and minister to the common emotion. However, so many witnesses were ready to testify, that it was found to be impracticable to hear all; and a committee was appointed to receive and digest the evidence.
Samuel Adams addressed this remarkable meeting. He spoke with a pathos peculiar to himself. His manner, naturally impressive, was rendered more so by the solemnity of the occasion, and every heart was moved. The great hour demanded dignity and discretion in unison with firmness, and they were combined in the action of the meeting. It resolved that the inhabitants would submit no longer to the insult of military rule. A committee of fifteen was chosen to wait on the Lieutenant-Governor, and acquaint him that it was the unanimous opinion of the meeting that the inhabitants and soldiery could no longer dwell together in safety, and that nothing could be rationally expected to restore the peace of the town and prevent additional scenes of blood and carnage but the immediate removal of the troops; and to say, further, that they most fervently prayed his Honor that his power and influence might be exerted in order that this removal might be instantly effected. This committee well represented the intelligence, the patriotism, the varied interests, and whatever there was of true greatness in Boston. The meeting now dissolved; when the Selectmen issued a warrant for a regular town-meeting to convene at the same place, at three o'clock in the afternoon.
It was about noon when the Lieutenant-Governor received the committee of the town at the Council-Chamber, the Council being in session. I have found no details of what was said by the committee at this interview, in urging a compliance with the demand. Hutchinson said he was not prepared to reply, but would give an answer in writing, when the committee withdrew into another room; and he gives glimpses of what then occurred. "I told the Council," he says, "that a removal of the troops was not with me; and I desired them to consider what answer I could give to this application of the town, whilst Colonel Dalrymple, who had the command, was present." Some of the members, who were among the truest Patriots, urged a compliance, when the Lieutenant-Governor declared that "he would upon no consideration whatever give orders for their removal." The result reached this morning was an advice for the removal of one regiment, in which the commanding officer concurred. As Hutchinson rose from this sitting, he declared that "he meant to receive no further application on the subject."
Things wore a gloomy aspect during the interval between the session of the Council and the time of the afternoon meeting; for the natural effect of the unbending tone of the crown officials was to give firmness to the determined spirit of the people. There were consultations between members of the Council, the popular leaders, and the commanding officers; and now the very men who were branded as incendiaries, enemies of Great Britain, and traitors, were again seen quietly endeavoring to prevent a catastrophe. Hutchinson, in his History, says it was intimated to members of the Council, that, though the commanding officer should receive no authoritative order to remove all the troops, yet the expression of a desire by the Lieutenant-Governor and Council that it should be done would cause him to do it; and on this basis Hutchinson was prevailed upon to meet the Council in the afternoon. This was a great point gained for the popular cause.
At three o'clock, Faneuil Hall was filled to overflowing with the excited population assembled in legal town-meeting. Thomas Cushing was again chosen the Moderator; but the place would hold only about thirteen hundred, and the record reads, "The Hall not being spacious enough to receive the inhabitants who attended, it was voted to adjourn to Dr. Sewall's meeting-house,"—the Old South. The most convenient way for the people would be to pass into King Street, up by the Council-Chamber, and along what is now Washington Street, to the church. As they went, no mention is made of mottoes or banners or flags, of cheers or of jeers. Thomas dishing said his countrymen "were like the old British commoners, grave and sad men"; and it was said in the Council to Hutchinson, "That multitude are not such as pulled down your house"; but they are "men of the best characters," "men of estates and men of religion," "men who pray over what they do." With similar men, men who feared God and were devoted to public liberty, Cromwell won at Marston Moor; and so striking was the analogy, that at this hour it virtually forced itself on the well-read Hutchinson: for men of this stamp had once made a revolution in Boston, and as he looked out on this scene, perhaps scanned the concourse who passed from Faneuil Hall to the Old South, and read in their faces the sign of resolute hearts, he judged "their spirit to be as high as was the spirit of their ancestors when they imprisoned Andros, while they were four times as numerous." As the burden of official responsibility pressed heavily on him, he realized that he had to deal with an element far more potent than "the faction" which officials had long represented as composing the Patriot band, and that much depended on dealing with it wisely. This was not a dependent and starved host wildly urging the terrible demand of "Bread or blood"; nor was it fanaticism in a season of social discontent claiming impossibilities at the hand of power: the craving was moral and intellectual: it was an intelligent public opinion, a people with well-grounded and settled convictions, making a just demand on arbitrary power. Was such public opinion about to be scorned as though it were but a faction, and by officials who bore high the party-standard? And were men of such resoluteness of character and purpose about to be involved in a work of carnage? or would the wielders of British authority avoid the extremity by concession? Boston, indeed America, had seen no hour of intenser interest, of deeper solemnity, of more instant peril, or of truer moral sublimity; and as this assembly deliberated with the sounds of the fife and drum in their ears, and with the soldiery in their sight, questions like these must have been on every lip,—and they are of the civil-war questions that cause an involuntary shudder in every home.
The Old South was not large enough to hold the people, and they stood in the street and near the Town-House awaiting the report of the committee of fifteen, chosen in the morning. The Lieutenant-Governor was now at the Council-Chamber, where, in addition to Colonels Dalrymple and Carr, there had been summoned Captain Caldwell of the Rose frigate; and Hutchinson would, he says, have summoned other crown officers, but he knew the Council would not consent to it. He took care to repeat to the committee, he says, the declaration which he had made in the morning to the Selectmen, the Justices, and the Council,—that "the ordering of the troops did not lie with him." As the committee, with Samuel Adams at the head, appeared on the Town-House steps, the people were in motion, and the word passed, "Make way for the committee!" Adams uncovered his head, and, as he went towards the church, he bowed alternately to those on each side of the lane that was formed, and repeated the words, "Both regiments or none." The answer of the Lieutenant-Governor to the morning demand for a total removal of the troops was read to the meeting in the church. It was to the effect, that he had conferred with the commanders of the two regiments, who received orders from the General in New York, and it was not in his power to countermand these orders; but the Council desired their removal, and Colonel Dalrymple had signified that because of the part which the Twenty-Ninth Regiment had taken in the differences it should be placed without delay in the barracks at the Castle, and also that the main guard should be removed; while the Fourteenth Regiment should be so disposed and laid under such restraint that all occasion for future differences might be prevented. And now resounded through the excited assembly, from a thousand tongues, the words, "Both regiments or none!"
A short debate occurred, when the answer was voted to be unsatisfactory. Then another committee was chosen. It was resolved that John Hancock, Samuel Adams, William Molineaux, William Phillips, Joseph Warren, Joshua Henshaw, and Samuel Pemberton be a committee to inform the Lieutenant-Governor that it was the unanimous opinion of the people that the reply was by no means satisfactory, and that nothing less would satisfy them than a total and immediate removal of the troops. This committee was one worthy of a great occasion. Hancock, Henshaw, and Pemberton, besides being individually of large and just influence from their ability, patriotism, worth, and wealth, were members of the Board of Selectmen, and therefore represented the municipality; Phillips, who had served on this Board, was a type of the upright and liberal merchant; Molineaux was one of the most determined and zealous of the Patriots, and a stirring business-man; Warren, ardent and bold, of rising fame as a leader, personified the generous devotion and noble enthusiasm of the young men; Adams, though not the first-named on the committee, played so prominent a part in its doings, that he appears as its chairman. He was so widely and favorably known now that he was addressed as "the Father of America." Of middling stature, plain in dress, quiet in manner, unpretending in deportment, he exhibited nothing extraordinary in common affairs; but on great occasions, when his deeper nature was called into action, he rose, without the smallest affectation, into an upright dignity of figure and bearing,—with a harmony of voice and a power of speech which made a strong impression, the more lasting from the purity and nervous eloquence of his style and the logical consistency of his argument. Such were the men selected to speak and act for Boston in this hour of deep passion and of high resolve.
The committee, about four o'clock, repaired to the Council-Chamber. It was a room respectable in size and not without ornament and historic memorials. On its walls were representatives of the two elements now in conflict,—of the Absolutism that was passing away, in full-length portraits of Charles II. and James II. robed in the royal ermine, and of a Republicanism which had grown robust and self-reliant, in the heads of Belcher and Bradstreet and Endicott and Winthrop. Around a long table were seated the Lieutenant-Governor and the members of the Council with the military officers,—the scrupulous and sumptuous costumes of civilians in authority, gold and silver lace, scarlet cloaks, and large wigs, mingled with the brilliant uniforms of the British army and navy. Into such imposing presence was now ushered the plainly attired committee of the town.
At this time the Lieutenant-Governor, a portion of the Council, the military officers, and, among other officials now in the Town-House, though not in the Council, the Secretary of the Province, were sternly resolved to refuse compliance with the demand of the people. On the vote of the meeting being presented to the Lieutenant-Governor, Adams remarked at length on the illegality of quartering troops on the inhabitants in time of peace and without the consent of the legislature, urged that the public service did not require them, adverted with sensibility and warmth to the late tragedy, painted the misery in which the town would be involved, if the troops were suffered to remain, and urged the necessity of an immediate compliance with the vote of the people. The Lieutenant-Governor, in a brief reply, defended both the legality and the necessity of the troops, and renewed his old assertion that they were not subject to his authority. Adams again rose, and attention was riveted on him as he paused and gave a searching look at the Lieutenant-Governor. There was in his countenance and attitude a silent eloquence that words could not express; his manner showed that the energies of his soul were roused; and, in a tone not loud, but deep and earnest, he again addressed himself to Hutchinson, "It is well known," he said, "that, acting as Governor of the Province, you are, by its Charter, the Commander-in-Chief of the military forces within it, and, as such, the troops now in the capital are subject to your orders. If you, or Colonel Dalrymple under you, have the power to remove one regiment, you have the power to remove both; and nothing short of their total removal will satisfy the people or preserve the peace of the Province. A multitude, highly incensed, now wait the result of this application. The voice of ten thousand freemen demands that both regiments be forthwith removed. Their voice must be respected,—their demand obeyed. Fail, then, at your peril, to comply with this requisition. On you alone rests the responsibility of the decision; and if the just expectations of the people are disappointed, you must be answerable to God and your country for the fatal consequences that must ensue. The committee have discharged their duty, and it is for you to discharge yours. They wait your final determination." As Adams, while speaking, intently eyed Hutchinson, he says, "I observed his knees to tremble; I saw his face grow pale; and I enjoyed the sight."
A spell of silence followed this appeal. Then there was low conversation, to a whisper, between the Lieutenant-Governor and Colonel Dalrymple, who, in the spirit of the unbending soldier, was for resisting this demand, as he had been for summary proceedings in the case of the meetings. "It is impossible for me," he had said this afternoon, "to go any further lengths in this matter. The information given of the intended rebellion is sufficient reason against the removal of His Majesty's troops." But he now said in a loud tone, "I am ready to obey your orders," which threw the responsibility on Hutchinson. All the members of the committee urged the demand. "Every one of them," Hutchinson says, "deliberately gave his opinion at large, and generally gave this reason to support it,—that the people would most certainly drive out the troops, and that the inhabitants of the other towns would join in it; and several of the gentlemen, declared that they did not judge from the general temper of the people only, but they knew it to be the determination, not of a mob, but of the generality of the principal inhabitants; and they added, that all the blood would be charged to me alone, for refusing to follow their unanimous advice, in desiring that the quarters of a single regiment might be changed, in order to put an end to the animosities between the troops and the inhabitants, seeing Colonel Dalrymple would consent to it." After the committee withdrew, the debates of the Council were long and earnest; and, as they went on, Hutchinson asked, "What protection would there be for the Commissioners, if both regiments were ordered to the Castle?" Several said, "They would be safe, and always had been safe." "As safe," said Gray, "without the troops as with them." And Irving said, "They never had been in danger, and he would pawn his life that they should receive no injury." "Unless the troops were removed," it was said, "before evening there would be ten thousand men on the Common." "The people in general," Tyler said, "were resolved to have the troops removed, without which they would not be satisfied; that, failing of other means, they were determined to effect their removal by force, let the act be deemed rebellion or otherwise." As the Council deliberated, the people were impatient, and the members were repeatedly called out to give information as to the result, This at length was unanimity. This body resolved, that, to preserve the peace, it was absolutely necessary that the troops should be removed; and they advised the Lieutenant-Governor to communicate that conclusion to Colonel Dalrymple, and to request that he would order his whole command to Castle William.
The remark of Dalrymple, as well as the decision of the Council, became known to the people, and the word passed round, "that Colonel Dalrymple had yielded, and that the Lieutenant-Governor only held out." This circumstance was communicated to Hutchinson, and he says, "It now lay upon me to choose that side which had the fewest and least difficulties; and I weighed and compared them as well as the time I had for them would permit. I knew it was most regular for me to leave this matter entire to the commanding officer. I was sensible the troops were designed to be, upon occasion, employed under the direction of the civil magistrate, and that at the Castle they would be too remote, in most cases, to answer that purpose. But then I considered they never had been used for that purpose, and there was no probability they ever would be, because no civil magistrate could be found under whose directions they might act; and they could be considered only as having a tendency to keep the inhabitants in some degree of awe, and even this was every day lessening; and the affronts the troops received were such that there was no avoiding quarrels and slaughter." Still he hesitated substantially to retract his word; for now a request from him, he knew, was equivalent to an order; and before he determined, he consulted three officers of the crown, who, though not present in the Council, were in the building, and the Secretary, Oliver. All agreed that he ought to comply with the advice of the Council. He then formally recommended Colonel Dalrymple to remove all the troops, who gave his word of honor that he would commence preparations in the morning for a removal, and that there should be no unnecessary delay in quartering both regiments at the Castle.
It was dark when the committee bore back to the meeting the great report of their success. It was received with expressions of the highest satisfaction. What a burden was lifted from the hearts of the Patriots! They did not, however, regard their work as quite done. They voted that a strong watch was necessary through the night, when the committee who had waited on the Lieutenant-Governor tendered their services to make a part of the watch, and the whole matter was placed in their hands as "a committee of safety." They were authorized to accept the service of such inhabitants as they might deem proper. The meeting, then dissolved. A few days after, the two regiments were removed to the Castle.
The withdrawal of the troops caused great surprise in England, and long deliberations by the Ministry. "It is put out of all doubt," Governor Bernard wrote Hutchinson, "that the attacking the soldiers was preconcerted in order to oblige them to fire, and then make it necessary to quit the town, in consequence of their doing what they were forced to do. It is considered by thinking men wholly as a manoeuvre to support the cause of non-importation." The Opposition termed it an indignity put upon Great Britain, and called upon the Ministry to resent it upon a system, or to resign their offices. Lord Barrington, who approved of the soldiers' retiring to the Castle, said, that, "where there was no magistracy there should be no soldiers; and if they intended to have soldiers sent there again, they should provide for a magistracy, which could not be done but by appointing a royal Council, instead of the present democratical one." The Government were perplexed; but the expectation was general, that General Gage, without waiting for orders from the Government, would send a reinforcement to Boston, and order the whole of the troops into the town. "Every one," Governor Bernard wrote, "without exception, says it must be immediately done. Those in opposition are as loud as any. Lord Shelburne told a gentleman, who reported it to me, that it was now high time for Great Britain to act with spirit." The Governor advised Hutchinson, that, should it turn out that he had been successful in preventing Captain Preston from being murdered by the mob, "Government might be reconciled to the removal of the troops." There was much outside clamor, and those who indulged in it could not reconcile to themselves "six hundred regular troops giving way to two or three thousand common people, who, they say, would not have dared to attack them, if they had stood their ground"; and this class regarded the affair "as a successful bully." Colonel Barre, in the House of Commons, disposed of the question in a few words: "The officers agreed in sending the soldiers to Castle William; what Minister will dare to send them back to Boston?"
These events stirred the public mind in the Colonies profoundly. The Spirit evinced by the people of Boston in the whole transaction raised the town still higher in the estimation of the Patriots; annual commemorative orations kept alive the tragic scene; and thus the introduction of the troops, the question involved in their removal, and the massacre and triumph of the people, contributed powerfully to bring about that change in affections and principles which finally resulted in American Independence.
* * * * *
BY A FARMER.
We are fairly on English ground now; of course, it is wet weather. The phenomena of the British climate have not changed much since the time when the rains "let fall their horrible pleasure" upon the head of the poor, drenched outcast, Lear. Thunder and lightning, however, which belonged to that particular war of the elements, are rare in England. The rain is quiet, fine, insinuating, constant as a lover,—not wasting its resources in sudden, explosive outbreaks.
During a foot-tramp of some four hundred miles, which I once had the pleasure of making upon English soil, and which led me from the mouth of the Thames to its sources, and thence through Derbyshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and all of the Lake counties, I do not think that the violence of the rain kept me housed for more than five days out of forty. Not to say that the balance showed sunshine and a bonny sky; on the contrary, a soft, lubricating mist is the normal condition of the British atmosphere; and a neutral tint of gray sky, when no wet is falling, is almost sure to call out from the country-landlord, if communicative, an explosive and authoritative, "Fine morning, this, Sir!"
The really fine, sunny days—days you believed in rashly, upon the sunny evidence of such blithe poets as Herrick—are so rare, that, after a month of British travel, you can count them on your fingers. On such a one, by a piece of good fortune, I saw all the parterres of Hampton Court,—its great vine, its labyrinthine walks, its stately alleys, its ruddy range of brick, its clipped lindens, its rotund and low-necked beauties of Sir Peter Lely, and the red geraniums flaming on the window-sills of once royal apartments, where the pensioned dowagers now dream away their lives. On another such day, Twickenham, and all its delights of trees, bowers, and villas, were flashing in the sun as brightly as ever in the best days of Horace Walpole or of Pope. And on yet another, after weary tramp, I toiled up to the inn-door of "The Bear," at Woodstock; and after a cut or two into a ripe haunch of Oxfordshire mutton, with certain "tiny kickshaws," I saw, for the first time, under the light of a glorious sunset, that exquisite velvety stretch of the park of Woodstock, dimpled with water, dotted with forest—clumps, where companies of sleek fallow-deer were grazing by the hundred, where pheasants whirred away down the aisles of wood, where memories of Fair Rosamond and of Rochester and of Alice Lee lingered,—and all brought to a ringing close by Southey's ballad of "Blenheim," as the shadow of the gaunt Marlborough column slanted across the path.
There are other notable places, however, which seem—so dependent are we on first impressions—to be always bathed in a rain-cloud. It is quite impossible, for instance, for me to think of London Bridge save as a great reeking thoroughfare, slimy with thin mud, with piles of umbrellas crowding over it, like an army of turtles, and its balustrade steaming with wet. The charming little Dulwich Gallery, with its Bonningtons and Murillos, I remember as situated somewhere (for I could never find it again of my own head) at a very rainy distance from London, under the spout of an interminable waterfall. The guide-books talk of a pretty neighborhood, and of a thousand rural charms thereabout; I remember only one or two draggled policemen in oil-skin capes, and with heads slanted to the wind, and my cabby, in a four-caped coat, shaking himself like a water-dog, in the area. Exeter, Gloucester, and Glasgow are three great wet cities in my memory,—a damp cathedral in each, with a damp-coated usher to each, who shows damp tombs, and whose talk is dampening to the last degree. I suppose they have sunshine in these places, and in the light of the sun I am sure that marvellous gray tower of Gloucester must make a rare show; but all the reports in the world will not avail to dry up the image of those wet days of visit.
Considering how very much the fair days are overbalanced by the dirty, thick, dropping, misty weather of England, I think we take a too sunny aspect of her history: it has not been under the full-faced smiles of heaven that her battles, revolutions, executions, and pageants have held their august procession; the rain has wet many a May-day and many a harvesting, whose traditional color (through tender English verses) is gaudy with yellow sunshine. The revellers of the "Midsummer Night's Dream" would find a wet turf eight days out of ten to disport upon. We think of Bacon without an umbrella, and of Cromwell without a mackintosh; yet I suspect both of them carried these, or their equivalents, pretty constantly. Raleigh, indeed, threw his velvet cloak into the mud for the Virgin Queen to tread upon,—from which we infer a recent shower; but it is not often that an historical incident is so suggestive of the true state of the atmosphere.
History, however, does not mind the rain: agriculture must. More especially in any view of British agriculture, whether old or new, and in any estimate of its theories or progress, due consideration must be had for the generous dampness of the British atmosphere. To this cause is to be attributed primarily that wonderful velvety turf which is so unmatchable elsewhere; to the same cause, and to the accompanying even temperature, is to be credited very much of the success of the turnip-culture, which has within a century revolutionized the agriculture of Kugland; yet again, the magical effects of a thorough system of drainage are nowhere so demonstrable as in a soil constantly wetted, and giving a steady flow, however small, to the discharging tile. Measured by inches, the rain-fall is greater in most parts of America than in Great Britain; but this fall is so capricious with us, often so sudden and violent, that there must be inevitably a large surface-discharge, even though the tile, three feet below, is in working order. The true theory of skilful drainage is, not to carry away the quick flush of a shower, but to relieve a soil too heavily saturated by opening new outflows, setting new currents astir of both air and moisture, and thus giving new life and an enlarged capacity to lands that were dead with a stagnant over-soak.
Bearing in mind, then, the conditions of the British climate, which are so much in keeping with the "wet weather" of these studies, let us go back again to old Markham's day, and amble along—armed with our umbrellas—through the current of the seventeenth century.
James I., that conceited old pedant, whose "Counterblast to Tobacco" has worked the poorest of results, seems to have had a nice taste for fruits; and Sir Henry Wotton, his ambassador at Venice, writing from that city in 1622, says,—"I have sent the choicest melon-seeds of all kinds, which His Majesty doth expect, as I had order both from ray Lord Holderness and from Mr. Secretary Calvert." Sir Henry sent also with the seeds very particular directions for the culture of the plants, obtained probably from some head-gardener of a Priuli or a Morosini, whose melons had the full beat of Italian sunshine upon the south slopes of the Vicentine mountains. The same ambassador sends at that date to Lord Holderness "a double-flowering yellow rose, of no ordinary nature"; and it would be counted of no ordinary nature now, if what he avers be true, that "it flowreth every month from May till almost Christmas."
King James took special interest in the establishment of his garden at the Theobald Palace in Hertfordshire: there were clipped hedges, neat array of linden avenues, fountains, and a Mount of Venus within a labyrinth; twelve miles of wall encircled the park, and the soldiers of Cromwell found fine foraging-ground in it, when they entered upon the premises a few years later. The schoolmaster-king formed also a guild of gardeners in the city of London, at whose hands certificates of capacity for garden-work were demanded, and these to be given only after proper examination of the applicants. Lord Bacon possessed a beautiful garden, if we may trust his own hints to that effect, and the added praises of Wotton. Cashiobury, Holland House, and Greenwich gardens were all noted in this time; and the experiments and successes of the proprietor of Bednall-Greene garden I have already alluded to. But the country-gentleman, who lived upon his land and directed the cultivation of his property, was but a very savage type of the Bedford or Oxfordshire landholders of our day. It involved a muddy drag over bad roads, after a heavy Flemish mare, to bring either one's self or one's crops to market.
Sir Thomas Overbury, who draws such a tender picture of a "Milke-Mayde," is severe, and, I dare say, truthful, upon the country-gentleman. "His conversation," says he, "amongst his tenants is desperate: but amongst his equals full of doubt. His travel is seldome farther than the next market towne, and his inquisition is about the price of corne: when he travelleth, he will goe ten mile out of the way to a cousins house of his to save charges; and rewards servants by taking them by the hand when hee departs. Nothing under a sub-poena can draw him to London: and when he is there, he sticks fast upon every object, casts his eyes away upon gazing, and becomes the prey of every cut-purse. When he comes home, those wonders serve him for his holy-day talke. If he goe to court, it is in yellow stockings: and if it be in winter, in a slight tafety cloake, and pumps and pantofles."
The portrait of the smaller farmer, who, in this time, tilled his own ground, is even more severely sketched by Bishop Earle. "A plain country fellow is one that manures his ground well, but lets himself lye fallow and unfilled. He has reason enough to do his business, and not enough to be idle or melancholy.... His hand guides the plough, and the plough his thoughts, and his ditch and land-mark is the very mound of his meditations. He expostulates with his oxen very understandingly, and speaks gee, and ree, better than English. His mind is not much distracted with objects, but if a good fat cow come in his way, he stands dumb and astonished, and though his haste be never so great, wilt fix here half an hours contemplation. His habitation is some poor thatched roof, distinguished from his barn by the loop-holes that let out smoak, which the rain had long since washed through, but for the double ceiling of bacon on the inside, which has hung there from his grand-sires time, and is yet to make rashers for posterity. He apprehends Gods blessings only in a good year, or a fat pasture, and never praises him but on good ground."
Such were the men who were to be reached by the agricultural literature of the day! Yet, notwithstanding this unpromising audience, scarcely a year passed but some talker was found who felt himself competent to expound the whole art and mystery of husbandry.
Adam Speed, Gent., (from which title we may presume that he was no Puritan,) published a little book in the year 1626, which he wittily called "Adam out of Eden." In this he undertakes to show how Adam, under the embarrassing circumstance of being shut out of Paradise, may increase the product of a farm from two hundred pounds to two thousand pounds a year by the rearing of rabbits on furze and broom! It is all mathematically computed; there is nothing to disappoint in the figures; but I suspect there might be in the rabbits.
Gentleman Speed speaks of turnips, clover, and potatoes; he advises the boiling of "butchers' blood" for poultry, and mixing the "pudding" with bran and other condiments, which will "feed the beasts very fat."
The author of "Adam out of Eden" also indulges himself in verse, which is certainly not up to the measure of "Paradise Lost." This is its taste:—
"Each soyl hath no liking of every grain, Nor barley nor wheat is for every vein; Yet know I no country so barren of soyl But some kind of come may be gotten with toyl. Though husband at home be to count the cost what, Yet thus huswife within is as needful as that: What helpeth in store to have never so much, Half lost by ill-usage, ill huswifes, and such?"
The papers of Bacon upon subjects connected with rural life are so familiar that I need not recur to them. His particular suggestions, however sound in themselves, (and they generally are sound,) did by no means measure the extent of his contribution to the growth of good husbandry. But the more thorough methods of investigation which he instituted and encouraged gave a new and healthier direction to inquiries connected not only with agriculture, but with every experimental art.
Thus, Gabriel Platte, publishing his "Observations and Improvements in Husbandry," about the year 1638, thinks it necessary to sustain and illustrate them with a record of "twenty experiments."
Sir Richard Weston, too, a sensible up-country knight, has travelled through Flanders about the same time, and has seen such success attending upon the turnip and the clover culture there, that he urges the same upon his fellow-landholders, in a "Discourse of Husbandrie."
The book was published under the name of Hartlib,—the same Master Samuel Hartlib to whom Milton addressed his tractate "Of Education," and of whom the great poet speaks as "a person sent hither [to England] by some good Providence from a far country, to be the occasion and incitement of great good to this island."
This mention makes us curious to know something more of Master Samuel Hartlib. I find that he was the son of a Polish merchant, of Lithuania, was himself engaged for a time in commercial transactions, and came to England about the year 1640. He wrote several theological tracts, edited sundry agricultural works, including, among others, those of Sir Richard Weston, and published his own observations upon the shortcomings of British husbandry. He also proposed a grandiose scheme for an agricultural college, in order to teach youths "the theorick and practick parts of this most ancient, noble, and honestly gainfull art, trade, or mystery." The work published under his name entitled "The Legacy," besides notices of the Brabant husbandry, embraces epistles from various farmers, who may be supposed to represent the progressive agriculture of England. Among these letters I note one upon "Snaggreet," (shelly earth from river-beds); another upon "Seaweeds"; a third upon "Sea-sand"; and a fourth upon "Woollen-rags."
Hartlib was in good odor during the days of the Commonwealth; for he lived long enough to see that bitter tragedy of the executed king before Whitehall Palace, and to hold over to the early years of the Restoration. But he was not in favor with the people about Charles II.; the small pension that Cromwell had bestowed fell into sad arrearages; and the story is, that he died miserably poor.
It is noticeable that Hartlib, and a great many sensible old gentlemen of his date, spoke of the art of husbandry as a mystery. And so it is; a mystery then, and a mystery now. Nothing tries my patience more than to meet one of those billet-headed farmers who—whether in print or in talk—pretend to have solved the mystery and mastered it.
Take my own crop of corn yonder upon the flat, which I have watched since the day when it first shot up its little dainty spears of green, until now it spindles has been faithfully ploughed and fed and tilled; but how gross appliances all these, to the fine fibrous feeders that have been searching, day by day, every cranny of the soil,—to the broad leaflets that, week by week, have stolen out from their green sheaths to wanton with the wind and caress the dews! Is there any quick-witted farmer who shall tell us with anything like definiteness what the phosphates have contributed to all this, and how much the nitrogenous manures, and to what degree the deposits of humus? He may establish the conditions of a sure crop, thirty, forty, or sixty bushels to the acre, (seasons favoring); but how short a reach is this toward determining the final capacity of either soil or plant! How often the most petted experiments laugh us in the face! The great miracle of the vital laboratory in the plant remains to mock us. We test it; we humor it; we fondly believe that we have detected its secret: but the mystery stays.
A bumpkin may rear a crop that shall keep him from starvation; but to develop the utmost capacity of a given soil by fertilizing appliances, or by those of tillage, is the work, I suspect, of a wiser man than belongs to our day. And when I find one who fancies he has resolved all the conditions which contribute to this miracle of God's, and can control and fructify at his will, I have less respect for his head than for a good one—of Savoy cabbage. The great problem of Adam's curse is not worked out so easily. The sweating is not over yet.
If we are confronted with mystery, it is not blank, hopeless, fathomless mystery. Our plummet-lines are only too short; but they are growing longer. It is a lively mystery, that piques and tempts and rewards endeavor. It unfolds with an appetizing delay. Every year a new secret is laid bare, which, in the flush of triumph, seems a crowning development; whereas it presently appears that we have only opened a new door upon some further labyrinth.
Throughout the seventeenth century, the progress in husbandry, without being at any one period very brilliant, was decided and constant. If there was anything like a relapse, and neglect of good culture, it was most marked shortly after the Restoration. The country-gentlemen, who had entertained a wholesome horror of Cromwell and his troopers, had, during the Commonwealth, devoted themselves to a quiet life upon their estates, repairing the damages which the Civil War had wrought in their fortunes and in their lands. The high price of farm-products stimulated their efforts, and their country-isolation permitted a harmless show of the chivalrous contempt they entertained for the novi homines of the Commonwealth. With the return of Charles they abandoned their estates once more to the bailiffs, and made a rush for the town and for their share of the "leeks and onions."
But the earnest men were at work. Sainfoin and turnips were growing every year into credit. The potato was becoming a crop of value; and in the year 1664 a certain John Foster devoted a treatise to it, entitled, "England's Happiness increased, or a Sure Remedy against all Succeeding Dear Years, by a Plantation of Roots called Potatoes."
For a long time the crop had been known, and Sir Thomas Overbury had made it the vehicle of one of his sharp witticisms against people who were forever boasting of their ancestry,—their best part being below ground. But Foster anticipates the full value of what had before been counted a novelty and a curiosity. He advises how custards, paste, puddings, and even bread, may be made from the flour of potatoes.
John Worlidge (1669) gives a full system of husbandry, advising green fallows, and even recommending and describing a drill for the putting in of seed, and for distributing with it a fine fertilizer.
Evelyn, also, about this time, gave a dignity to rural pursuits by his "Sylva" and "Terra," both these treatises having been recited before the Royal Society. The "Terra" is something muddy, and is by no means exhaustive; but the "Sylva" for more than a century was the British planter's hand-book, being a judicious, sensible, and eloquent treatise upon a subject as wide and as beautiful as its title. Even Walter Scott,—himself a capital woodsman,—when he tells (in "Kenilworth") of the approach of Tressilian and his Doctor companion to the neighborhood of Say's Court, cannot forego his tribute to the worthy and cultivated author who once lived there, and who in his "Sylva" gave a manual to every British planter, and in his life an exemplar to every British gentleman.
Evelyn was educated at Oxford, travelled widely upon the Continent, was a firm adherent of the royal party, and at one time a member of Prince Rupert's famous troop. He married the daughter of the British ambassador in Paris, through whom he came into possession of Say's Court, which he made a gem of beauty. But in his later years he had the annoyance of seeing his fine parterres and shrubbery trampled down by that Northern boor, Peter the Great, who made his residence there while studying the mysteries of ship-building at Deptford, and who had as little reverence for a parterre of flowers as for any other of the tenderer graces of life.
The British monarchs have always been more regardful of those interests which were the object of Evelyn's tender devotion. I have already alluded to the horticultural fancies of James I. His son Charles was an extreme lover of flowers, as well as of a great many luxuries which hedged him against all Puritan sympathy. "Who knows not," says Milton, in his reply to the [Greek: EIKON BASIAIKE], "the licentious remissness of his Sunday's theatre, accompanied with that reverend statute for dominical jigs and May-poles, published in his own name," etc.?
But the poor king was fated to have little enjoyment of either jigs or May-poles; harsher work belonged to his reign; and all his garden-delights came to be limited finally to a little pot of flowers upon his prison-window. And I can easily believe that the elegant, wrong-headed, courteous gentleman tended these poor flowers daintily to the very last, and snuffed their fragrance with a Christian gratitude.
Charles was an appreciative lover of poetry, too, as well as of Nature. I wonder if it ever happened to him, in his prison-hours at Carisbrooke, to come upon Milton's "L'Allegro," (first printed in the very year of the Battle of Naseby,) and to read,—
"In thy right hand lead with thee The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty; And if I give thee honor due, Mirth, admit me of thy crew To live with her, and live with thee, In unreproved pleasures free; To hear the lark begin his flight, And, singing, startle the dull night, From his watch-tower in the skies, Till the dappled dawn doth rise; Then to come, in spite of sorrow, And at my window bid good-morrow, Through the sweetbrier, or the vine, Or the twisted eglantine."
How it must have smitten the King's heart to remember that the tender poet, whose rhythm none could appreciate better than he, was also the sturdy Puritan pamphleteer whose blows had thwacked so terribly upon the last props that held up his tottering throne!
Cromwell, as we have seen, gave Master Hartlib a pension; but whether on the score of his theological tracts, or his design for an agricultural college, would be hard to say. I suspect that the hop was the Protector's favorite among flowering plants, and that his admiration of trees was measured by their capacity for timber. Yet that rare masculine energy, which he and his men carried with them in their tread all over England, was a very wakeful stimulus to productive agriculture.
Charles II. loved tulips, and befriended Evelyn. In his long residence at Paris he had grown into a great fondness for the French gardens. He afterward sent for Le Notre—who had laid out Versailles at an expense of twenty millions of dollars—to superintend the planting of Greenwich and St. James. Fortunately, no strict imitation of Versailles was entered upon. The splendors of Chatsworth Garden grew in this time out of the exaggerated taste, and must have delighted the French heart of Charles. Other artists have had the handling of this great domain since the days of Le Notre. A crazy wilderness of rock-work, amid which the artificial waters commit freak upon freak, has been strewed athwart the lawn; a stately conservatory has risen, under which the Duke may drive, if he choose, in coach and four, amid palm-trees, and the monster-vegetation of the Eastern archipelago; the little glass temple is in the gardens, under which the Victoria lily was first coaxed into British bloom; a model village has sprung up at the Park gates, in which each cottage is a gem, and seems transplanted from the last book on rural ornamentation. But the sight of the village oppresses one with a strange incongruity; the charm of realism is wanting; it needs a population out of one of Watteau's pictures,—clean and deft as the painted figures; flesh and blood are too gross, too prone to muddy shoes, and to—sneeze. The rock-work, also, is incongruous; it belongs on no such wavy roll of park-land; you see it a thousand times grander, a half-hour's drive away, toward Matlock. And the stiff parterres, terraces, and alleys of Le Notre are equally out of place in such a scene. If, indeed, as at Versailles, they bounded and engrossed the view, so that natural surfaces should have no claim upon your eye,—if they were the mere setting to a monster palace, whose colonnades and balusters of marble edged away into colonnades and balusters of box-wood, and these into a limitless extent of long green lines, which are only lost to the eye where a distant fountain dashes its spray of golden dust into the air,—as at Versailles,—there would be keeping. But the Devonshire palace has quite other setting. Blue Derbyshire hills are behind it; a grand, billowy slope of the comeliest park-land in England rolls down from its terrace-foot to where the Derwent, under hoary oaks, washes its thousand acres of meadow-vale, with a flow as charming and limpid as one of Virgil's eclogues. It is such a setting that carries the great quadrangle of Chatsworth Palace and its flanking artificialities of rock and garden, like a black patch upon the face of a fine woman of Charles's court.
This brings us upon our line of march again. Charles II. loved stiff gardens; James II. loved stiff gardens; and William, with his Low-Country tastes, out-stiffened both, with his
"topiary box a-row."
Lord Bacon has commended the formal style to public admiration by his advocacy and example. The lesson was repeated at Cashiobury by the most noble the Earl of Essex (of whom Evelyn writes,—"My Lord is not illiterate beyond the rate of most noblemen of his age"). So also that famous garden of Moor-Park in Hertfordshire, laid out by the witty Duchess of Bedford, to whom Dr. Donne addresses some of his piquant letters, was a model of old-fashioned and stately graces. Sir William Temple praises it beyond reason in his "Garden of Epicurus," and cautions readers against undertaking any of those irregularities of garden-figures which the Chinese so much affect. He admires only stateliness and primness. "Among us," he says, "the Beauty of Building and Planting is placed chiefly in some certain Proportions, Symmetries, or Uniformities; our Walks and our Trees ranged so as to answer one another, and at exact Distances."
From all these it is clear what was the garden-drift of the century. Even Waller, the poet,—whose moneys, if he were like most poets, could not be thrown away idly,—spent a large sum in levelling the hills about his rural home at Beaconsfields. (We shall find a different poet and treatment by-and-by in Shenstone.)
Only Milton, speaking from the very arcana of the Puritan rigidities, breaks in upon these geometric formalities with the rounded graces of the garden which he planted in Eden. There
"the crisped brooks, Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold With mazy error under pendent shades, Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon Poured forth profuse on hill and dale and plain."
Going far behind all conventionalities, he credited to Paradise—the ideal of man's happiest estate—variety, irregularity, profusion, luxuriance; and to the fallen estate, precision, formality, and an inexorable Art, which, in place of concealing, glorified itself. In the next century, when Milton comes to be illustrated by Addison and the rest, we shall find gardens of a different style from those of Waller and of Hampton Court.
And now from some look-out point near to the close of the seventeenth century, when John Evelyn, in his age, is repairing the damages that Peter the Great has wrought in his pretty Deptford home, let us take a bird's-eye glance at rural England.
It is raining; and the clumsy Bedford coach, drawn by stout Flemish mares,—for thorough-breds are as yet unknown,—is covered with a sail-cloth to keep the wet away from the six "insides." The grass, wherever the land is stocked with grass, is as velvety as now. The wheat in the near county of Herts is fair, and will turn twenty bushels to the acre; here and there an enterprising landholder has a small field of dibbled grain, which will yield a third more. John Worlidge's drill is not in request, and is only talked of by a few wiseacres who prophesy its ultimate adoption. The fat bullocks of Bedford will not dress more than seven hundred a head; and the cows, if killed, would not overrun five hundred weight. There are occasional fields of sainfoin and of turnips; but these latter are small, and no ridging or hurdling is yet practised. From time to time appears a patch of barren moorland, which has been planted with forest-trees, in accordance with the suggestions of Mr. Evelyn, and under the wet sky the trees are thriving. Wide reaches of fen, measured by hundreds of miles, (which now bear great crops of barley,) are saturated with moisture, and tenanted only by ghost-like companies of cranes.
The gardens attached to noble houses, under the care of some pupil of Wise, or of Parkinson, have their espaliers,—their plums, their pears, and their grapes. These last are rare, however, (Parkinson says sour, too,) and bear a great price in the London market. One or two horticulturists of extraordinary enterprise have built greenhouses, warmed, Evelyn says, "in a most ingenious way, by passing a brick flue underneath the beds."
The lesser country-gentlemen, who have no establishments in town, rarely venture up, for fear of the footpads on the heath, and the insolence of the black-guard Cockneys. Their wives are staid dames, learned at the brew-tub and in the buttery,—but not speaking French, nor wearing hoops or patches. A great many of the older exotic plants have become domesticated; and the goodwife has a flaming parterre at her door,—but not valued one half so much as her bed of marjoram and thyme. She may read King James's Bible, or, if a Non-Conformist, Baxter's "Saint's Rest"; while the husband regales himself with a thumb-worn copy of "Sir Fopling Flutter," or, if he live well into the closing years of the century, with De Foe's "True-born Englishman."
Poetic feeling was more lacking in the country-life than in the illustrative literature of the century. To say nothing of Milton's brilliant little poems, "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," which flash all over with the dews, there are the charming "Characters" of Sir Thomas Overbury, and the graceful discourse of Sir William Temple. The poet Drummond wrought a music out of the woods and waters which lingers alluringly even now around the delightful cliffs and valleys of Hawthornden. John Dryden, though a thorough cit, and a man who would have preferred his arm-chair at Will's Coffee-House to Chatsworth and the fee of all its lands, has yet touched most tenderly the "daisies white" and the spring, in his "Flower and the Leaf."
But we skip a score of the poets, and bring our wet day to a close with the naming of two honored pastorals. The first, in sober prose, is nothing more nor less than Walton's "Angler." Its homeliness, its calm, sweet pictures of fields and brooks, its dainty perfume of flowers, its delicate shadowing-forth of the Christian sentiment which lived by old English firesides, its simple, artless songs, (not always of the highest style, but of a hearty naturalness that is infinitely better,)—these make the "Angler" a book that stands among the thumb-worn. There is good marrowy English in it; I know very few fine writers of our times who could make a better book on such a subject to-day,—with all the added information, and all the practice of the newspaper-columns. What Walton wants to say he says. You can make no mistake about his meaning; all is as lucid as the water of a spring. He does not play upon your wonderment with tropes. There is no chicane of the pen; he has some pleasant matters to tell of, and he tells of them—straight.
Another great charm about Walton is his childlike truthfulness. I think he is almost the only earnest trout-fisher I ever knew (unless Sir Humphrey Davy be excepted) whose report could be relied upon for the weight of a trout. I have many excellent friends—capital fishermen—whose word is good upon most concerns of life, but in this one thing they cannot be confided in. I excuse it; I take off twenty per cent. from their estimates without either hesitation, anger, or reluctance.
I do not think I should have trusted in such a matter Charles Cotton, although he was agricultural as well as piscatory,—having published a "Planter's Manual." I think he could, and did, draw a long bow. I suspect innocent milkmaids were not in the habit of singing Kit Marlowe's songs to the worshipful Mr. Cotton.
One pastoral remains to mention, published at the very opening of the year 1600, and spending its fine forest-aroma thenceforward all down the century. I mean Shakspeare's play of "As You Like It."
From beginning to end the grand old forest of Arden is astir overhead; from beginning to end the brooks brawl in your ear; from beginning to end you smell the bruised ferns and the delicate-scented wood-flowers. It is Theocritus again, with the civilization of the added centuries contributing its spangles of reason, philosophy, and grace. Who among all the short-kirtled damsels of all the eclogues will match us this fair, lithe, witty, capricious, mirthful, buxom Rosalind? Nowhere in books have we met with her like,—but only at some long-gone picnic in the woods, where we worshipped "blushing sixteen" in dainty boots and white muslin. There, too, we met a match for sighing Orlando,—mirrored in the water; there, too, some diluted Jaques may have "moralized" the excursion for next day's "Courier," and some lout of a Touchstone (there are always such in picnics) passed the ices, made poor puns, and won more than his share of the smiles.
Walton is English all over; but "As You Like It" is as broad as the sky, or love, or folly, or hope.
* * * * *
THE FRENCH STRUGGLE FOR NAVAL AND COLONIAL POWER.
In comparison with our national misfortunes all beside seems trifling. Else nothing would so fasten our attention as the French invasion and conquest of Mexico. A dependency of France established at our door! The most restless, ambitious, and warlike nation in Europe our neighbor! Who shall tell what results, momentous and lasting, may follow in the train of such events?
What is the explanation of this conquest? Is it the freak of an ambitious despot? Or is it only a stroke in the line of a settled policy? one fact, which we see, amid a great number of facts which we do not see?
This particular enterprise comes close to us. It affronts our pride and tramples upon our political traditions. It establishes, what we did not wish to see on this Western Continent, another foreign jurisdiction. But for more than twenty-five years France has been engaged in a series of like enterprises. In places not so near to us, by the same arbitrary methods, she has already achieved conquests as important. With soft-footed ambition, she has planted her flag and reared her strongholds on spots full of natural advantages. But the aim is the same everywhere: the reestablishment of her lost colonial and naval power. And the hope of France is, that in the race for mercantile and naval greatness she may yet challenge and vanquish the Sovereign of the Seas.
* * * * *
The peace of 1815 left France with her naval and colonial power broken apparently beyond hope. Even in the thirteen years preceding that peace England had taken or destroyed not less than six hundred of her war-ships. In the Mediterranean, on the Atlantic, amid the islands of the West Indies, in the far-off golden East, wherever contending, fleet against fleet, or ship with ship, everywhere she had been vanquished and driven from the sea. That boundless colonial empire, of which Dupleix in the East dreamed, and for whose establishment in the West Montcalm fought and died, had shrunk to a few fishing-ports off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a few sugar-islands in the West Indies, and some unarmed factories dotting the coasts of Africa and the shores of Hindostan, and existing by British grace and permission. To so low an estate had fallen that towering ambition which thought to exercise uncontrolled dominion over this continent, to rule with more than regal sway the rich islands and peninsulas of Asia, and to dictate peace to fallen England from the guns of her armadas. After five wars waged with no craven spirit in less than three-quarters of a century, after she had exhausted every resource and more than once banded against her island foe every naval power in Europe, she was forced to succumb to British perseverance and to the gallantry of British sailors. The peace, which came not a moment too soon, found her with a navy literally annihilated, and with little remaining of her colonial empire but the memory. When we compare this hopeless failure with the mercantile activity and naval force of Modern France,—when we call up, in imagination, her new colonies, the germs almost of empires,—we cannot admire too much the courage and energy which have called into existence such magnificent resources. To what are we to attribute this stupendous change? What have been the methods of this growth? By what steps has this grand progress from weakness to strength been achieved?
* * * * *
In such a work of restoration, France had everything to create,—ships, armaments, machinery, and sailors even, to replace those who had fallen in the front of battle. To produce capacity of production was her first work,—to establish new ports or replenish old ones, to build docks, to rear workshops, to gather materials. This is what she has been doing. Silently and steadily she has been laying the foundations of maritime greatness. Her ports, in everything which contributes to naval efficiency,—in size, in mechanical appliances, in concentration upon one spot of all the trades and all the resources necessary for the construction and repair of war-ships,—excel all other naval depots in the world.
This is no exaggeration. There is the port of Cherbourg. Originally it was little more than an open bay, hollowed by the waters of the English Channel in the French coast, with a rocky shore exposed to every northern blast. But it was situated just where France needed a harbor, midway on her northern coast, facing England. Across this open bay, as a chord subtends its arc, a gigantic sea-wall has been stretched. Built in deep water more than a mile from the head of the bay, it extends almost from shore to shore. It is nearly three miles long. It is scarcely less than nine hundred feet wide at its base. Rising from the bed of the sea sixty-six feet, it is firm enough to bear up fortresses strong as human engineering can rear. This is the famous digue of Cherbourg. Its construction has been a seventy years' battle with the elements. Many times the waves have destroyed the work of years. Once a furious tempest swept away the whole superstructure, with its forts, armaments, barracks, and even garrison. But failure has only awakened fresh energy, and it stands now complete and rooted in the sea like a reef. At each end of the digue, between it and the main land, are broad ship-channels, affording a free passage at all tides to the largest ships. Thus science has called into existence a safe harbor, protected from the assaults of the sea by its granite barrier,—protected none the less from man's assaults by the concentric fire of more than six hundred guns.
This is but the exterior of Cherbourg. In the bosom of the rocky cliffs of its western shore three basins or docks have been hewn with gigantic toil. The first, finished in 1813, is 950 feet long, 768 feet wide, and 55 feet deep, and will hold securely fifteen ships of the line. The second, of somewhat smaller dimensions, was completed in 1829, and will float a dozen ships. The third, far larger than either, was opened with great ceremony in 1858: it is 1365 feet long, 650 feet wide, and 60 feet deep, and will contain eighteen or twenty ships of the largest size. On the sides of these basins are twelve building-slips and seven docks. And radiating from them, and in close contiguity, are arsenals, storehouses, timber-yards, ropewalks, sail-lofts, bakeries, and machine-shops capable of turning out marine engines, anchors, cables, and indeed every piece of iron-work which enters into the construction of a ship. It is no vain boast that an army of a hundred thousand men can be embarked any fine morning at Cherbourg, and that the fleet necessary for its transport can be built and armed and equipped and protected to the hour of its departure in this fortified haven.
Yet Cherbourg is but one of five ports equally efficient, equally protected, and equally furnished with the products of mechanic and nautical invention. Brest, L'Orient, and Rochefort, on the west, have far greater natural and scarcely less acquired advantages; while the old port of Toulon on the Mediterranean, old only in name, has been so enlarged and strengthened, that it can supply for the southern waters all and more than Cherbourg does for the northern. One fact will show to what an extent this power of naval production has been carried. In these five ports are some eighty building-slips or houses, and twenty-five docks, and, connected with them, all the materials, all the trades, all the labor-saving machines, all the mechanical forces, which the nineteenth century knows. If she wished, France could build at the same time forty ships of the line and forty frigates, while twenty-five more were undergoing repairs. The result of all this activity is, that, in extent, in completeness, in concentration of forces upon the right spot, the naval ports and dockyards of France are absolutely unequalled. And the work goes on. To-day twenty-two thousand men are employed upon naval works. Within six months a wet dock has been completed at Toulon, and another at L'Orient, while at Brest great ranges of workshops are hastening to completion; and it is whispered that at Cherbourg another basin is, like its predecessors, to be chiselled out of the solid rock.
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Do we ask now what France has gained, in fleets and armaments, from this immense work of preparation? Everything. Not to dwell upon sailing-ships, which the progress of invention has made of inferior worth, she has a steam-navy second to that of no power in Europe. Her present ruler has fully appreciated the importance of that new element in naval warfare, steam,—an element all the more important to France, that it tends to lower the value of mere seamanship, in which she has always been deficient, and to increase the value of scientific knowledge and training, in which she has ever been with the foremost. For ten years her energy has been tasked to produce steamships of the greatest power and of the finest models. Since 1852 her ships of the line have increased from two to forty, and her frigates from twenty-one to forty-six. A fleet has thus been created which is numerically equal to that of England, and which, so far as these things depend upon the stanchness of the ships and the weight of the armaments, is perhaps in force and efficiency superior.
If we turn our attention to iron-clad ships, we shall see best displayed the sagacity, energy, and secretiveness of Louis Napoleon. In the Crimean War, three floating batteries covered with iron slabs, and each mounting eighteen fifty-pounders, silenced the Russian fort at Kinburn. This was a lesson it would seem that any one might learn. Louis Napoleon did not fail to learn it. If a ship can be made invulnerable, or nearly so, in every part, then of what avail is that strategy which secures choice of position, and which, of old, almost decided the battle? Will not he come off victor who can produce guns from which the heaviest shot may be hurled at the highest velocity, and gunners who shall launch them on their errand of destruction with the greatest accuracy? The French emperor has fairly overreached his island rivals. While they were experimenting, he laid the keels of two iron-clads of six thousand tons burden. In 1859 he ordered the construction of twenty steel-clad frigates and fifty gunboats. Lord Clarence Paget declared in debate last March, that, while England had, finished or constructing, only sixteen iron-clad frigates, France had thirty-one. And even this takes no account of floating-batteries and gunboats, wholly or in part protected, and of which, if we are to trust her papers, France has an almost fabulous number.
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But who shall man this fleet? Where are the skilful mariners to make efficient these tremendous elements of naval power? It was Lord Nelson, I think, who exclaimed, when he saw the stanch ships of Spain, "Thank God, Spaniards cannot build men!" The recent changes in naval construction, decreasing perhaps the relative worth of mere seamanship, may have made the exclamation less pertinent than of old. But, after all, on the rude and stormy ocean, proverbially fickle and uncertain, nothing can take the place of sailors,—of brave and skilful men, trained by long struggle with wind and wave, calm in danger, apt in emergencies, finding the narrow path of safety where common eyes see only peril and ruin. France understands tins. She knows how many of her past humiliations can be traced directly to defective seamanship. But where to seek the remedy? How to find or make sailors fit to contend with those who were almost born and bred on the restless surge? By what methods, with a slender commercial marine and a people reluctant to encounter the hardships and dangers of sea-life, to fill up the scanty roll of her able seamen? That is the problem France had to solve; and she has done everything to solve it,—but remove impossibilities.
The first counsel of wisdom was to make the number of her sailors greater. France has, at the most liberal estimate, only one hundred and fifty thousand men at all conversant with the sea; while England has, including boatmen, fishermen, coasters, and sailors of long voyages, the enormous number of eight hundred thousand. Remove this disproportion and you settle the whole question. Unfortunately, this is a matter in which government can do but little, while national tastes and habits do everything. No despotism can make a commercial marine where no commercial spirit is. And no voice, charm it ever so wisely, can draw the peasant of France from his vine-clad hills and plains. The French rulers have done what they could. They have fostered, with a steady and liberal hand, the fisheries. Every spring, twenty thousand men have set sail to that best nursery of seamanship,—the Banks of Newfoundland. These men are paid a bounty by Government, and, in return, are subjected to a naval discipline, and, upon an emergency, are liable at a moment's notice to enter into the naval service. To quicken mercantile enterprise, by which alone mariners can be called into existence, enormous subsidies have been paid to the great lines of steamers to Brazil and the East. And the yearning for colonies, which in our day has led to almost simultaneous attempts to found settlements in both hemispheres and in all waters, has no doubt for a leading cause the desire to build up a mercantile marine, and with it a numerous body of expert seamen. If these efforts have not accomplished all that their projectors could wish, it is not because their plans lacked sagacity, but because it is hard to put the genius of the sea into the breasts of men who are essentially landsmen.
To increase the number of French sailors would unquestionably be the best possible method of adding to French naval power. But suppose that this cannot be done. Supposes that there is in the heart of the French people an invincible attachment to the soil, which makes them deaf to every siren of the sea. What is the next counsel of wisdom? This, is it not? To make what sailors you have efficient and available for naval emergencies. In this respect the French authorities have achieved an entire success. Every sailor, nay, every man whose employment savors at all of maritime life, though he be only a boatman plying the river, or a laborer in harbor or dock, is enrolled in what is called the marine inscription,—thenceforward in all times of need to be called into active service. This puts the whole seafaring population at the disposal of Government. Nor is this all. Regular drafts are made upon the seamen; and it is computed that in every period of nine years all the sailors of France serve in their turn in the navy. They are trained in all that belongs to naval duty: in the use of ships' guns, in the sailing of great ships, and in the evolutions of fleets. No matter how sudden the call, or from what direction the sailors are taken, no French fleet leaves or can leave port with a crew of green hands.
The training which is given to sailors actually in service is an equally important matter. The French Admiralty keeps no drones in its employ; certainly it does not promote them to places of trust. Honors are won, not bought. Every step up, from midshipman to admiral, must be the result of honorable service, and actual proficiency both in the theory and practice of a sailor's profession. The modern French naval officer is master of his business, fit to compete with the best skill of the best maritime races. Then the sailors themselves are trained. Even in time of peace, twenty-five thousand are kept in service. Gathered on board great experimental fleets, officers and men alike are schooled in all branches of nautical duty. In port or out of it, they are not idle. Every day a prescribed routine of exercise is rigidly enforced. Great have been the results. The French sailor of 1863 is not a reproduction of the sailor of 1800. In alertness, in knowledge, in silent obedience, he is a great improvement upon his predecessor. Actual experiment shows that a French crew will weigh anchor, spread and furl sail, replace spars or running-ringing, lower or raise topmasts, or perform any other duty pertaining to a ship, with as much celerity as the crew of any other nation. And no confusion, no babbling of many voices, such as the British writers of the last generations delighted to describe, mars the beauty of the evolutions. One mind directs, and one voice alone breaks the stillness. Since the Crimean War, the English speak with respect of French seamanship; and though they do not believe that it is equal to their own, they do not scruple to allow that a naval battle would be disputed now with a fierceness hitherto unknown.
All that sagacity and experience would prompt has been attempted. All that training and discipline can do has already been accomplished. Yet there is one source of weakness for which there can be no remedy. France has no naval reserves. And if she war with England, she will need them. To put her marine on a war-basis would require all her available seamen. To fill the gaps of war, she has not, and she cannot have, until a truly commercial spirit grows up in the hearts of her people, the multitudes of reserved men, more familiar with the sea than the land, such as swarm in English ports. Yet, with every deduction, her capacity of naval production, her strong fleets, and her trained seamen make her a naval power whose might no one can estimate, and whose assault any nation may well shun by all means except the sacrifice of honor and rights.
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If now we turn from the naval progress of France to her recent colonial enterprises, we shall find fresh evidence that she has resumed that contest which came to so disastrous a close fifty years ago. The old dream of colonial empire has come back again. This was inevitable. A great nation like France cannot always drink the cup of humiliation. With an ambition no less high and arrogant than that which pervades the British mind, she would plant far and wide French ideas and civilization. While England has colonies scattered in every part of the habitable globe, while Holland has almost monopolized the rich islands of the Eastern Archipelago, and while even Spain has Manila in the East and Cuba in the West, it could hardly be expected that France, the equal of either, and in some respects the superior of all, should rest content with a virtual exclusion from everything but her narrow home-possessions.
And then, however disguised, there is in the heart of France an intense naval rivalry of England. Though the stern logic of events has been against her more than once, she does not accept the verdict. She means to revise it with a strong hand. But she must have a navy, and a navy cannot exhibit its highest vigor, unless it have a just foundation in an energetic, wide-ranging commerce. And such a commerce cannot exist except it have its depots and its agencies, its outlets and its markets, everywhere. Above all, we are to seek the source of this new colonial ambition in the character and purposes of that singular man who controls the destinies of France. Not even his enemies would now question his ability. The power he wields in Europe, the impression he has stamped upon its policy, the skill with which he has made even his foes minister to his greatness, all bear witness to it. But no one can study him in the light of the past and not see that his is no ordinary ambition. To be the ruler of one kingdom does not fill out its measure. To be the arbiter of the fortunes of states, the genius who shall change the current of affairs and shape the destiny of the future,—to exercise a power in every part of the globe, and to have a name familiar in every land and beneath every sun,—this is his ambition. No wonder that under such a ruler France has embarked in a career of colonial aggrandizement whose limit no one can foresee. The same hand which curbed the despot of the North, and made the fair vision of Italian unity a solid reality, may well think to place a puppet king on the throne of the Aztecs, or to carve rich provinces out of Farther India.
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France made her first practical essay in colonization by her conquest of Algiers. A Dey once said to an English consul, "The Algerines are a company of rogues, and I am their captain." The definition cannot be improved. That such a power should have been permitted to exist and ravage is one of the anomalies of modern history. Yet within the memory of living men this hoard of pirates flaunted its barbarism in the face of the civilization of the nineteenth century. But in 1830 the Dey filled the cup of wrath to the brim. He inflicted upon the French consul, in full levee, the gross insult of a blow in the face. The expedition sent to revenge the insult showed upon what a hollow foundation this savage power rested. The army landed without opposition. In five days it swept before it in hopeless rout the wreck of the Algerine forces. In three weeks it breached and captured the corsair's strongholds. The history of the French occupation of Algeria is a tale of unceasing martial exploits, by which France has extended her empire six hundred miles along the shores of the Mediterranean, and inland fifty miles,—two hundred miles, according, we had almost said, to the position of the last Arab or Kabyle raid and insurrection.
Whatever else Algeria may or may not have done for France, it certainly has furnished a field whereon to train soldiers. Here seventy-five thousand men, day and night, have watched and fought a wily foe. Here all the great soldiers of the Empire, Arnand, Pelissier, Canrobert, Bosquet, have won their first laurels. Here, amid the exigencies of wild desert and mountain campaigning, has grown up that marvellous body of soldiers, the Zouaves: "picked men, short of stature, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, bull-necked," agile as goats, tolerant of thirst and hunger, outmarching, outfighting, and outenduring the Desert Arab; men who have never turned their backs upon a foe. Subtract from the army of Louis Napoleon the heroes of Algeria, and you leave behind a body out of which the fiery soul has fled.
The commercial results are not quite so satisfactory. The exports, indeed, have risen to fifteen millions of dollars, and the imports to twenty-five millions more; while some two hundred thousand Europeans have made their home in the Colony, and a few hundred square miles have been subjected to European culture. But as the yearly cost of the occupation is fifteen million of dollars, the net profit cannot be great. Algeria, however, is the safety-valve of France, giving active employment to the idle, the discontented, and the revolutionary; and the Government, on that account, may consider that the money is well expended.
One consequence of the occupation of Algeria has generally been overlooked,—its naval result. Hitherto France had absolutely no good port in the Mediterranean (if we except those of Corsica) but Toulon and Marseilles. It was absolutely less at home in its own sea than England. The new conquest gave it a strip of coast on the southern border of the sea, but no port. The harbor of Algiers, with the exception of a little haven artificially protected and capable of holding insecurely a dozen vessels, was much like that of Cherbourg, an open bay, facing northward. The storms sweep it with such fury that not less than twenty vessels have been driven ashore in one gale. But the French genius seems to delight in such struggles for empire with the waves. Almost with the taking of the citadel the engineer began his work. Two jetties, as they are called, were pushed out from the land into deep water,—one from the mole on the north, half a mile long, and the other from Point Bab-Azoum on the south, a third of a mile long. In 1850 these were so far complete as to inclose a safe harbor of two hundred acres. But not content, the French have already planned, and possibly are now finished, still other works, by which the perilous roadstead outside this harbor shall be transformed into a secure anchorage of sixteen hundred acres. Past events warrant us in believing that these improvements will be pursued with no slack hand, until astonished Europe finds another Cherbourg, a safe harbor, ample means of repair, and frowning guns to repel all invaders. Imprudent Young France, indeed, whispers now that Algiers makes the Mediterranean a French lake. But that is a little premature. While Gibraltar and Malta hold safely their harbors, and England's naval power is unbroken, no nation can truly make this boast.
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The next enterprise of France was hardly so creditable to her as the Algerine conquest. Midway in the Pacific is the island of Tahita or Otaheite,—as fair a gem as the sun ever looked down upon. The soft and balmy air,—the undulating surface, rising to mountains and sinking into deep valleys, luxuriant with tropical verdure,—the distant girdle of coral reefs, which holds the island set in a circlet of tranquil blue waters,—the gentle and indolent temper of the natives,—have all conspired to throw an air of romance around the very name Otaheite. The Christian world is bound to it by another tie. For thither came Protestant missionaries, drawn by the reports of the tractable disposition of the islanders, and labored with such success that in 1817 the king and all his subjects espoused Christianity.
Into this island Eden discord came in the guise of a Roman catechist, who was sent thither for the express purpose of proselyting. As if aware of the nature of his ungracious task, he disguised his real character. But he was detected, and, together with a companion who had joined him, was dismissed from the island by Queen Pomare, who dreaded the sectarian strife his presence would awaken. This was her whole offence. Four years later, in 1838, when the whole transaction might well have been forgotten, Captain De Petit Thouars appeared in the French frigate Venus, and demanded and obtained satisfaction in the sum of two thousand piastres Spanish, and freedom for Catholic worship. In two subsequent visits, though no new offence had been given, he increased the severity of his demands, first putting the island under a protectorate, and finally, in 1843, taking full possession of it as a French colony. The helpless Queen appealed to Louis Philippe, who returned the island, but reaffirmed the protectorate.
This same French protectorate is a rare piece of ponderous irony. The French governor collects all export and import duties, writes all state-papers, assembles and dismisses the island legislature according to his good pleasure, doles out to the Queen a yearly allowance of a thousand pounds, puts her in duress in her own house, if her conduct displeases him, and will not allow her to see strangers, except by his permission. Few will believe that zeal for the honor of the Catholic Church prompted Louis Philippe to inflict so disproportioned a punishment. That the island is the best victualling-station in the South Pacific is a far greater sin, and one for which there could be in covetous eyes no adequate punishment, except that seizure which is so modestly termed a protectorate.
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Pass now from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. There is the little rocky island of St. Paul, situated in the same latitude as Cape Town and Melbourne; and, planted with singular accuracy equidistant from the two, it is the only place of shelter in the long route between them. Its harbor, if harbor it may be called, is the most secure, the most secluded, and the most romantic, perhaps, in the whole world. St. Paul is of volcanic origin. It is, indeed, little more than an extinct crater with a narrow rim of land around it to separate it from the sea. Through this rim the waters of the great Indian Ocean have cut a channel. The crater has thus become a beautiful salt lake, a mile in diameter, clear, deep, almost circular, and from whose border, on every side, rise the old volcanic walls draped in verdure. The strait connecting it with the sea is but three hundred feet wide, and at high tide ten feet deep,—thus affording an easy passage for small vessels into this most delightful seclusion; and no doubt the strait might be so deepened as to float the largest ships. St. Paul is not at present much frequented. But in a sea which is every year becoming more populous with the commerce of every nation, who shall tell what such a central station may become? Its title was somewhat uncertain. England thought she held it as a dependency of Mauritius. But in 1847 the governor of Bourbon, with a happy audacity, took possession of it, as an outpost of his own island, and planted a little French colony of fishermen. We have not heard that the assumption has been disputed.
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No doubt, most of our readers may have observed in the daily prints occasional allusions to the French War in Cochin China. Probably few have understood the full meaning of the facts so quietly chronicled. Perhaps none have dreamed that they were reading the first notices of a new Eastern conquest, which, in extent and importance, may yet be second only to that which has already been achieved by the British in Hindostan. Yet so it is. The Cambodia is the largest river in Southern Asia, and, together with the smaller and parallel river of Saigon, drains a tract of not less than five hundred thousand square miles. The region for which the French have been contending includes the provinces which cluster around the mouths of these two rivers, and command them. No position could be happier. For while on the one hand it controls the outlet of a river stretching up into a rich and fertile country eighteen hundred miles, on the other it projects into the Chinese Sea at a point nearly midway between Singapore and Hong Kong, and so secures to its possessor a just influence in that commercial highway. The ostensible cause of the war in this region was the murder of a French missionary. If this was ever the real cause, it long since gave way to a settled purpose of conquest.
In the latter part of the year 1862 the Emperor of Cochin China was forced to cede to France the coveted provinces. Already new fortifications have arisen at Saigon, and dock-yards and coal-depots been established, and all steps taken for a permanent occupation of the territory. The following advertisement appeared in the London "Times" for January 23, 1863,—"Contract for transportation from Glasgow to Saigon of a floating iron dock in pieces. Notice to ship-owners. The administration of the Imperial Navy of France have at Glasgow a floating iron dock in pieces, which they require to be transported from that port to Saigon, Cochin China. The said dock, with machinery, pumps, anchors, and instruments necessary to its working, will weigh from two thousand to twenty-five hundred tons. Ship-owners disposed to undertake the transport are requested to forward their tenders to the Minister of Marine and Colonies previous to the fifth of February next." Now, if we consider that the news of the cession of these provinces did not reach France until the close of the year 1862, that this advertisement is dated January 23, 1863, and that a dock of the magnitude described could hardly be constructed short of many months, we shall be satisfied, that, long before any definite articles of peace had been proposed, the Emperor had settled in his own mind just what region he would annex to his dominions.