Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 39, January, 1861
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Whatever peculiarity there might have been in Shelley's religious faith, I have the best authority for believing that it was confined to the early period of his life. The practical result of its course of action, I am sure, had its source from the "Sermon on the Mount." There is not one clause in that divine code which his conduct towards his fellow-mortals did not confirm, and substantiate him to be a follower of Christ. Yet, when the news arrived in London of the death of Shelley and Captain Williams by drowning, the "Courier" newspaper—an evening journal of that day—capped the intelligence with the following remark:—"He will now know whether there is a hell or not!"—I believe that there are still one or two public fanatics who would think that surmise, but not one would dare to utter it in his journal. So much for the progress of liberality, and the power of opinion.

At page 100 of the "Life of Keats," Vol. I., Mr. Monckton Milnes has quoted a literary portrait of him, which he received from a lady who used to see him at Hazlitt's lectures at the Surrey Institution. The building was on the south or right-hand side, and close to Blackfriars' Bridge. I believe that the whole of Hazlitt's lectures, on the British Poets, the Writers of the Time of Elizabeth, and the Comic Writers, were delivered in that Institution, during the years 1817 and 1818; shortly after which time the establishment appears to have been broken up. The lady's remark upon the character and expression of Keats's features is both happy and true. She says,—"His countenance lives in my mind as one of singular beauty and brightness; it had an expression as if he had been looking on some glorious sight." That's excellent.—"His mouth was full, and less intellectual than his other features." True again. But when our artist pronounces that "his eyes were large and blue" and that "his hair was auburn," I am naturally reminded of the fable of the "Chameleon":—"They're brown, Ma'am,—brown, I assure you!" The fact is, the lady was enchanted—and I cannot wonder at it—with the whole character of that beaming face; and "blue" and "auburn" being the favorite tints of the human front divine, in the lords of the creation, the poet's eyes consequently became "blue," and his hair "auburn." Colors, however, vary with the prejudice or partiality of the spectator; and, moreover, people do not agree even upon the most palpable prismatic tint. A writing-master whom we had at Enfield was an artist of more than ordinary merit; but he had one dominant defect: he could not distinguish between true blue and true green. So that, upon one occasion, when he was exhibiting to us a landscape he had just completed, I hazarded the critical question, why he painted his trees so blue? "Blue!" he replied,—"what do you call green?"—Reader, alter in your copy of Monckton Milnes's "Life of Keats," Vol. I., page 103, "eyes" light hazel, "hair" lightish-brown and wavy.

The most perfect, and withal the favorite portrait of him, was the one by Severn, published in Leigh Hunt's "Lord Byron and his Contemporaries," and which I remember the artist's sketching in a few minutes, one evening, when several of Keats's friends were at his apartments in the Poultry. The portrait prefixed to the "Life," also by Severn, is a most excellent one-look-and-expression likeness,—an every-day, and of "the earth, earthy" one;—and the last, which the same artist painted, and which is now in the possession of Mr. John Hunter, of Craig Crook, Edinburgh, may be an equally felicitous rendering of one look and manner; but I do not intimately recognize it. There is another, and a curiously unconscious likeness of him, in the charming Dulwich Gallery of Pictures. It is in the portrait of Wouvermans, by Rembrandt. It is just so much of a resemblance as to remind the friends of the poet,—though not such a one as the immortal Dutchman would have made, had the poet been his sitter. It has a plaintive and melancholy expression, which, I rejoice to say, I do not associate with him.

There is one of his attitudes, during familiar conversation, which, at times, (with the whole earnest manner and sweet expression of the man) presents itself to me, as though I had seen him only last week. The attitude I speak of was that of cherishing one leg over the knee of the other, smoothing the instep with the palm of his hand. In this action I mostly associate him in an eager parley with Leigh Hunt, in his little cottage in the "Vale of Health." This position, if I mistake not, is in the last portrait of him at Craig Crook; if not, it is in a reminiscent one, painted after his death.

His stature could have been very little more than five feet; but he was, withal, compactly made and—well-proportioned; and before the hereditary disorder which carried him off began to show itself, he was active, athletic, and enduringly strong,—as the fight with the butcher gave full attestation.

The critical world,—by which term I mean the censorious portion of it; for many have no other idea of criticism than, that of censure and objection,—the critical world have so gloated over the feebler, or, if they will, the defective side of Keats's genius, and his friends, his gloryingly partial friends, have so amply justified him, that I feel inclined to add no more to the category of opinions than to say, that the only fault in his poetry I could discover was a redundancy of imagery,—that exuberance, by-the-by, being a quality of the greatest promise, seeing that it is the constant accompaniment of a young and teeming genius. But his steady friend, Leigh Hunt, has rendered the amplest and truest record of his mental accomplishment in the Preface to the "Foliage," quoted at page 150 of the first volume of the "Life of Keats"; and his biographer has so zealously, and, I would say, so amiably, summed up his character and intellectual qualities, that I can add no more than my assent.

Keats's whole course of life, to the very last act of it, was one routine of unselfishness and of consideration for others' feelings. The approaches of death having come on, he said to his untiring nurse—friend,—"Severn,—I,—lift me up,—I am dying:—I shall die easy; don't be frightened;—be firm, and thank God it has come."

There are constant indications through the memoirs, and in the letters of Keats, of his profound reverence for Shakspeare. His own intensity of thought and expression visibly strengthened with the study of his idol; and he knew but little of him till he himself had become an author. A marginal note by him in a folio copy of the Plays is an example of the complete absorption his mind had undergone during the process of his matriculation;—and, through life, however long with any of us, we are all in progress of matriculation, as we study the "myriad-minded's" system of philosophy. The note that Keats made was this;—"The genius of Shakspeare was an innate universality; wherefore he laid the achievements of human intellect prostrate beneath his indolent and kingly gaze: he could do easily men's utmost; his plan of tasks to come was not of this world. If what he proposed to do hereafter would not in the idea answer the aim, how tremendous must have been his conception of ultimates!"


It is not long since we listened to an interesting discussion of this question:—Which was the more important year to Europe,—1859 or 1860? The question is one that may be commended to the attention of those ingenuous young gentlemen, in debating-societies assembled, who have not yet settled whether Brutus, Cassius, & Co. were right in assassinating "the mighty Julius," or whether Mary Stuart was a martyred saint or a martyred sinner, or whether the cold chop to which Cromwell treated Charles I. on a memorable winter-day was either a just or a politic mode of touching for the king's evil. It would have the merit of novelty,—and Americans are as fond of new things in their day of power as ever were the Athenians in the day of their decline. A yet rarer merit it would have, in the fact that a great deal could justly be said on both sides of the question. An umpire would probably decide in favor of 1859,—because, he might say, had the events of that year been different, those of 1860 must have undergone a complete change.

The romantic conquest of Sicily by Garibaldi, and his successes in Naples, whereby a junior branch of the Bourbon family has been sent to "enjoy" that exile which has so long been the lot of the senior branch,—and the destruction of the Papalini by the Italian army of Victor Emanuel II., which asserted the superiority of the children of the soil over the bands of foreign ruffians assembled by De Merode and Lamoriciere for the oppression of the Peninsula in the name of the venerable head of the Church of Rome,—these are events even more striking than those by which the iron sceptre of Austria was cut through in the earlier year, because they have been accomplished by Italian genius and courage, the few foreigners in the army of Garibaldi not counting for much in the contest. They prove the regeneration of Italy. But it is evident that nothing of the kind could have been done in 1860, if 1859 had been as quiet a year for Italy as its immediate predecessor. Before the leaders and the soldiers of Italy could obtain the indispensable place whereon to stand, it was imperatively necessary that the power of Austria should be broken down, through the defeat and consequent demoralization of her army. For a period of forty-four years, Austria had had her own way in the Peninsula. From the fall of Napoleon's Italian dominion, in 1814, to the day when the third Napoleon's army entered Sardinia, there was, virtually, no other rule in Italy but that which Austria approved. The events of 1848, which at one time promised to remove "the barbarians," had for their conclusion the re-establishment of her ascendency in greater force than ever; and the last ten years of that ascendency will always be remembered as the period when its tyrannical character was most fully developed. The hoary proconsul of the Lorraines, Radetzky, if not personally cruel, was determined to do for his masters what Castilian lieutenants had done for the Austro-Burgundian monarchs of Spain and her dependencies, the fairest portions of Italy being among those dependencies, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,—to destroy the public spirit of Italy. Could he have completed a century of life, or had there been no European nation ready to prevent the success of the Germanic policy under which Italy was to wither to provincial worthlessness, he might have been successful. But Austria lost her best man, the only one of her soldiers who had shown himself capable of upholding her Italian position, when he had reached to more than ninety years; and it pleased Providence to raise up a friend to Italy in a quarter to which most men had ceased to look for anything good.

Well has it been said, that "it is not the best tools that shape out the best ends; if so, Martin Luther would not have been selected as the master-spirit of the Reformation." Napoleon III. may deserve all that is said against him by men of the extreme right and by men of the extreme left,—by Catholics and infidels,—by Whites, and Reds, and Blues,—but it cannot be denied that he gave to the Italians that assistance without which they never could have obtained even partial deliverance from the Austrian yoke, and which they could have procured from no other potentate or power. Bankrupt though she was, Austria's force was so superior to anything that Italy could present in the shape of an army, that Sardinia must have been conquered, if she had contended alone with her enemy; and a war between Austria and Sardinia was inevitable, and would probably have broken out long before 1859, had the former country been assured of the neutrality of France.

There has been a great inkshed, and a large expenditure of oratory, on the question of the origin of the Italian war of 1859; and, as usual, much nonsense has been written and said of and concerning the ambition of France and the encroachments of Sardinia. But that war was brought about neither by French ambition nor by Sardinian desire for territorial aggrandizement. That it occurred in 1859 was undoubtedly owing to the action of France, which country merely chose its own time to drub its old foe; but the point at issue was, whether Austrian or Sardinian ideas should predominate in the government of Italy. Austria's purpose never could be accomplished so long as a constitutional polity existed in the best, because the best governed and the best organized, of all the Italian States; and Sardinia's purpose never could be accomplished so long as Austria was in a condition to dictate to the Italians the manner in which they should be ruled. A war between the two nations was, as we have said, inevitable. The only point about which there could be any dispute was, whether Sardinia would have to fight the battle of Italy unaided, or be backed by some power beyond the mountains.

It shows how much men respect a military monarchy, how deferential they are to the sword, that even those persons who assumed that France must espouse the Sardinian cause were far from feeling confident that Austria would be overmatched by an alliance of the two most liberal of the Catholic nations of Europe. That monarchy is the type of force to all minds; and though she has seldom won any splendid successes in the field over the armies of enlightened nations, and has been repeatedly beaten by Prussia and France, men cling to old ideas, and give her great advantages at the beginning of every war in which she engages. The common opinion, in the spring of 1859, was, that Austria would crush Sardinia before the French could reach the field in force, and that her soldiers, flushed by successes over the Italians, would hurl their new foes out of the country, or leave them in its soil. As before, Italy was to be the grave of the French,—only that their grave was to be dug at the very beginning of the war, instead of being made, as in other days, at its close. But it was otherwise ordered. The Austrians lost the advantage which certainly was theirs at the opening of the contest, and, that lost, disaster after disaster befell their arms, until the "crowning mercy" of Solferino freed Italy from their rule, if it did not entirely banish them from her land. That Solferino was not so great a victory to the Allies as it was claimed to be at the time, that it resembled less Austerlitz than Wagram, may be admitted, and yet its importance remain unquestioned; for its decision gained for Italy the only thing that it was necessary she should have in order to work out her own salvation. Henceforth, she was not to tremble at the mere touch of the hilt of the sword worn by the Viceroy at Milan, but was to have the chance, at least, of ordering her own destinies. If not thoroughly free, she was no longer utterly enslaved.

The peace of Villafranca surprised every one, from the Czar on the Neva to the gold-gatherers on the Sacramento. Strange as had been the doings—the world called them tricks—of Napoleon III., no man was prepared for that; and even now, though seventeen eventful months have rolled away since the first shock of it was experienced, the summer-day it was received seems more like one of those days we see in dreams than like a day of real life. Doubt, laughter, astonishment, and disgust followed each other through the minds of millions of men. If curses could kill, the man who had escaped the bombs of Orsini and the bullets of the Austrians would certainly have died in the month that followed the interview he had flogged his imperial brother into granting him. In America,—where we are always doing so much (on paper) for the cause of freedom, and for the deliverance of "oppressed nationalities" of the proper degrees and shades of whiteness, in the firm conviction that the free man is the better customer,—in America the reaction of opinion was overwhelming; and there were but few persons in the United States who would not have shouted over news that Henri Cinq was in Paris, and that the French Empire had a third time made way for the Kingdom of France. Time has not altogether removed the impression then created; for, if it has not justified the belief that the French Emperor had abandoned the Italian cause, it has convinced the world that he lost a noble opportunity to effect the destruction of Austria. There may be—most probably there are—facts yet unknown to the public, knowledge of which would partially justify the conduct of the victor toward the vanquished, in 1859; but, if we judge from what we know, which is all that any monarch can demand of the formers of opinion, Napoleon III. was guilty of a monstrous political and military blunder when he forced a truce upon Francis Joseph.

There is no evidence that any European power was about to interfere in behalf of Austria. Prussia, it is true, had taken a stern attitude, and showed a disposition to place herself at the head of those German States which were for beginning a march upon Paris at once, though M. le Marechal Duc de Malakoff was ready with two hundred thousand men to receive them, and Paris itself was not the feeble place it had been in 1814 and 1815. It is altogether likely that Prussia was, as is usual with her at every European crisis, shamming. She had no interest in the maintenance of Austria's territorial integrity, and it was rather late in the day to assume that Berlin was affected by the mortifications of Vienna. Could the hearts of kings and the counsels of cabinets be known with that literal exactness which is so desirable in politics, and yet so unattainable, we should probably find that Prussia's apparent readiness to lead Germany was owing to her determination that German armies should be led nowhere to the assistance of Austria. England had just changed her Ministry, the Derby Cabinet giving way to Lord Palmerston's, which was recognized on all sides as a great gain to the cause of Italian independence; and Lord John Russell had written one of those crusty notes to the Prussian government for which he is so famous, and which was hardly less Italian in its sentiments than that in which, written in October last, he upheld the course of Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel. Russia had evinced no disposition to interfere in behalf of Austria, and perhaps the news of Magenta and Solferino was as agreeable to the dwellers in St. Petersburg and Moscow as it was to the citizens of New York and Boston. She was, indeed, believed to be backing France. Politically, so far as we can judge, there was no cause or occasion for the throwing up of the cards by the French, after Solferino.

Nor were the military reasons for the cessation of warlike operations of a nature to convince men of their irresistible weightiness. A great deal was said about the strength of "the Quadrilateral," and of the impregnability of the position which it formed,—as if there ever had existed a military position which could not be carried or turned, or out of which its defenders could not be bought, or forced, or starved! The strength of the Quadrilateral was as well known to the Emperor in January as it was in July, and he must have counted its powers of resistance before he resolved upon war. Victory he had organized, like Carnot; and victory in Lombardy was sure to take his army to the Mincio. Verona and Venetia were to be the complement of Milan. Then there was the story that he frightened the Kaiser into giving his consent to the truce by proving to him that the fortresses upon which he relied were not in good defensible condition, his commissaries having placed the funds in their pockets that should have been devoted to the purchase of stores,—a story that wears a very probable air, in view of the discovery subsequently made of the malversations of some of the highest persons at Vienna, and which had much to do with the suicide of the Minister of Finance. It is known, too, that the force which Napoleon III. had assembled in the Adriatic was very strong, and could have been so used as to have promoted an Hungarian insurrection in a sense not at all pleasant to the Austrians, to have attacked Dalmatia and Istria, and to have aided in the deliverance of Venice. That force was largely naval in its character, and the French navy was burning to distinguish itself in a war that had been so productive of glory to the sister-service: it would have had a Magenta and a Palestro of its own, won where the Dorias and the Pisani had struggled for fame and their countries' ascendency. Instead of the Quadrilateral being a bar to the French, it would have been a trap to the Austrians, who would have been taken there after the manner in which Napoleon I. took their predecessors at Ulm. After the war was over, it came out that Verona was not even half armed.

If Napoleon III. was bent upon carrying that imitation of his uncle, of which he is so fond, to the extent of granting a magnanimous peace to a crushed foe, he may be said to have caricatured that which he sought to imitate. The first Napoleon's magnanimity after Austerlitz has been attributed to the craft of the beaten party,—he allowing the Russians to escape when they had extricated themselves from the false position in which their master's folly had caused them to be placed. But the third Napoleon did allow the Austrians to avoid the consequences of their defeat, and so disappointed Italy and the world. He was magnanimous, and most astonishing to the minds of men was his magnanimity. Most people called it stupidity, and strange stories were told of his nervous system having been shattered by the sights and sounds of those slaughter-fields which he had planned and fought and won!

We live rapidly in this age, when nations are breaking up all around us, when unions are dissolving, when dynasties disappear before the light like ghosts at cock-crowing, and when emperors and kings rely upon universal suffrage, once so terrible a bugbear in their eyes, for the titles to their crowns. Opinion is rapidly formed, and is as rapidly dismissed. We may be as much astonished now at the peace of Villafranca as we were on the day when first it was announced, and while looking upon it only as a piece of diplomacy intended to put an end to a contest costly in blood and gold; but we cannot say, as it was common then to say, that the war which it closed has decided nothing. That war established the freedom and nationality of Italy, and the peace so much condemned was the means of demonstrating to the world the existence of an Italian People. How far the French Emperor was self-deceived, and to what extent he believed in the practicability of the arrangements made at Villafranca and Zurich, are inscrutable mysteries. Que sais-je? might be the form of his own answer, were any one entitled to question him concerning his own opinion on his own acts of 1859. But of the effects of his attack on Austria there can be no doubt. That Lorraines and Bourbons have ceased to reign in Italy,—that the Kingdom of Victor Emanuel has increased from six millions of people to twenty-four millions,—that the same constitutional monarch who ruled at Turin is now acknowledged in Milan, in Ancona, in Florence, in Naples, and in Palermo, being King of Lombards, and Tuscans, and Romans, and Neapolitans, and Sicilians,—and that the Austrians are no longer the rulers of the Peninsula,—these things are all due to the conduct of the French Emperor. Had the peace of Europe not been broken by France, the Austrian power in Italy would have been unbroken at this moment, and Naples have been still under the dominion of that mad tyrant whose supreme delight it was to offend the moral sense of the world, and who found even in the remonstrances of his brother-despots occasion for increasing the weight of the chains of his victims, and of adding to the intensity and the exquisiteness of their tortures.

These solid advantages to Italy, this freedom of hers from domestic despotism and foreign control, are the fruits of French intervention; and they could have been obtained in no other way. There was no nation but France to which Italy could look for aid, and to France she did not look in vain. Of the motives of her ally it would be idle to speak, as there is no occasion to go beyond consequences; and those consequences are just as good as if the French Emperor were as pure-minded and unselfish as the most perfect of those paladins of romance who went about redressing one class of wrongs by the creation of another. What Italy desired, what alone she needed, was freedom from foreign intervention; and that she got through the interposition of French armies, and that she could have got from no other human source. This single fact is an all-sufficient answer to the myriads of sneers that were called forth by the failure of Napoleon III. to redeem his pledge to make Italy free from the Alps to the Adriatic. What other potentate did anything for that country in 1859, or has done anything for it since that memorable year? Neither prince nor people, leaving Napoleon III. and the French aside, has so much as lifted a hand to promote the regeneration of Italy. America has enough to do in the way of attending to domestic slavery, without concerning herself about the freedom of foreigners; and she has given the Italians her—sympathies, which are of as much real worth to her as would be a treatise on the Resolutions of '98 to a man who should happen to tumble into the Niagara, with the Falls close upon him. England would have had Italy submit to that Austrian rule which had been established over her by English influence in 1814, when even the perverse, pig-headed Francis II. could see sound objections to it; and all because want of submission on her part would disturb the equilibrium of Europe, and might tend to the aggrandizement of France,—two things which she by no means desired to see happen. Russia, like America, gave Italy her sympathies; but she had a better excuse than we had for being prudent, as her monarch was engaged in planning at least the freedom of the serfs. If the Russians desired the overthrow of the Austrians, it was not because they loved the Italians, but from hatred of their oppressors; and that hatred had its origin in the refusal of Austria to join Russia when she was so hard pressed by France and England, Turkey and Piedmont. Prussia, us we have seen, sided with Austria; and though it is impossible to believe in her sincerity, her moral power, so far as it went, was adverse to the Italian cause. The other European nations were of no account, having no will of their own, and being influenced only by the action of the members of the Pentarchy. Save France, Italy had no friend possessed of the disposition and the ability to afford her that assistance without which she must soon have become in name, as she was fast becoming in fact, a mere collection of Austrian provinces.

We dwell upon those well-known facts because an opinion seems to prevail that no nation or government shall interfere for the protection of the weak against the strong, unless it shall be able to show that it is perfect itself, and that its intentions are of the most unselfish nature. Peoples are to be delivered from oppression only as the Israelites were delivered, by the direct and immediate interposition of Heaven in human affairs; and the delivering agent must be as high-minded and generous as Moses, who was allowed merely to gaze upon the Promised Land. Men who thus reason about human action, and the motives of actors on the great stage of life, must have read history to very little purpose, and have observed the making of history round about them to no purpose at all. The instruments of Providence are seldom perfect men, and the broad light in which they live brings out their faults in full force. Napoleon III. is not above the average morality of his time; and if he had been so, probably he never would have become Emperor of the French. But in this respect differs he much from those men who have wrought great things for the world, and whom the world is content to reverence? Robert Bruce, who saved Scotland from the misery that befell Ireland; Henry IV., who renewed the life of France; Maurice of Saxony, who prevented the Reformation from proving a stupendous failure; and William III., without whose aid the Constitutionalists of England must have gone down before the Stuarts: not one of these men was perfect; and yet what losses the world would have experienced, if they had never lived, or had failed in their great labors! It has been claimed for Gustavus Adolphus that he was the only pure conqueror that ever lived; but his purity may safely be placed to the account of the balls of Luetzen: he was not left unto temptation. We should extend to Napoleon III. the same charity that we extend to men who have long been historical characters, and judge him by his actions and their results, and not criticise him by the canons of faction.

Italy was delivered by the war of 1859, and that war was terminated by the peace of Villafranca. For the moment, it seemed as if there were to be a restoration of the petty princes who had fled from Tuscany and Parma and Modena, and that an Italian Confederation had been resolved upon, in which the noxious influences of Austria and Naples and Papal Rome should stifle the pure principles upheld by Sardinia. A few months sufficed to show that these evils existed in apprehension only. The Italians, by the withdrawal of the French, were thrown upon their own resources, and by their conduct they dissipated the belief that they were unequal to the emergency. Had the war been continued, had Venetia been conquered, and had the last of the Austrians been driven beyond the Isonzo, Italy would have been the prize of French valor and genius; for all this must have been done on the instant, and before the Italians, less the Sardinians, could have taken an effective part in the war. The most devoted believer in the patriotism and bravery of the Italians must perforce admit that they had little to do with the war of 1859. Leaving the Sardinians aside, the Italian element in that contest was scarcely appreciable. This we say without meaning any reflection on the Italians. There were many good reasons why they should remain quiet. In common with the rest of the world, even France herself, the war took them by surprise, Austria bringing it on weeks, if not months, before Napoleon III. had meant it to begin. They, too, had seen their country so often abused by those who had conquered there, that they had some excuse for waiting the progress of events. The most industrious and studied efforts had been made to convince them that the object of the ruler of France was the realization of another Napoleonic idea, namely, the restoration of that Kingdom of Italy which perished in 1814; and though the rule of Napoleon I. was the best that Italy had known for three hundred years, it was hardly worth while to enter upon a doubtful fight for its restoration. Hence the majority of the people of Italy were not so active as they might have been; and their coolness is said to have had much effect on the mind of the victor, who must have thought that the people he had come to deliver were taking things very easily, and who could not have felt much flattered, when assured, in the politest terms, that those people believed him to be a selfish liar. His work, therefore, was but partially performed. Instead of halting on the shores of the historical Adriatic, his armies drew up on the banks of the classic Mincius. Trance had done her part; let Italy do the rest, if it were to be done. Thus abdicating his original purpose, and probably feeling much as William III. felt when the English were so slow in joining him that he talked of returning to his ships, Napoleon III. gave up his power to dictate the future of Italy. He had no right, thereafter, to say that the Bourbons should continue to govern in the Two Sicilies, that the Dukes should be restored to their Duchies, and that Venetia should be guarantied to Austria. He felt this, as the terms of the treaties that were made very clearly show; for he was careful to abstain from pledging himself to anything of a definite character. If he had perfected his original work, and been possessed of the power to effect a new settlement of Italy, he would, we presume, have stipulated for the continuance of the Bourbon power in the southern portion of the Peninsula and in Sicily; while the much talked-of purpose of creating an Italian Kingdom or Duchy for Prince Napoleon would probably have been carried out, and that gentleman have been established on the Arno. To the Sardinian monarchy would have been assigned the spoils taken from Austria,—Venice and Lombardy. The change in his political plans was the consequence of the change in his military plan,—though either change may be pronounced the cause or the effect, according to the point from which the observer views the entire series of transactions. Thus the peace of 1859 may be considered to have been a benefit to Italy, just as the war it terminated had been. The war freed her from Austrian dominion; the peace, from its character, and from the circumstances under which it was made, left her people at liberty to act as they pleased in the fair field that had been won for their exertions by the skill and courage of the French and Sardinian armies.

The destinies of Italy being placed in her own hands, the Italians were as prompt as politic considerations would allow them to be in promoting the unification of their country. Central Italy soon became a part of the constitutional monarchy which had grown up under the shadow of the Alps. This could not have happened, if Napoleon III. had chosen to veto the proceedings of the Italians, which had virtually nullified one of his purposes. That he consented to this large addition to the power of Sardinia on the condition of receiving Savoy and Nice is by no means unlikely; and we do not think that Victor Emanuel was either unwise or wanting in patriotism in parting with those countries for the benefit of Italy. Taking advantage of the troubles in Sicily, Garibaldi led a small expedition to that island, which there landed, and began those operations which had their appropriate termination, in five months, in the addition of all the territories of the wretched Francis II., except Gaeta, to the dominions of the Sardinian King. The importance of Garibaldi's undertaking it is quite impossible to overrate; but of what account could it have been, if the Austrians had stood to Italy in the same position that they held at the opening of 1859? Of none at all. Garibaldi is preeminently a man of sense, and he would never have thought of moving against Francis II., if Francis Joseph had been at liberty to assist that scandalous caricature of kings. Or, if he had been tempted to enter upon the project, he would have been "snuffed out" as easily as was Murat, when, in 1815, he sought to recover the Neapolitan throne. If Austrian ships had not prevented him from landing in Sicily, Austrian troops would have destroyed him in that island. Nay, it is but reasonable to believe that Bomba's navy and army would have been amply sufficient to do their master's work. That his men were not wanting in courage and conduct has been proved by their deeds since the tyrant left his capital, on the Volturno and around Capua and at Gaeta. It was not want of bravery that led to their failure in Sicily, but the belief that their employer's system had failed, and that he and they were given up to the vengeance of Italy, supposing the Italians to be strong enough to do justice on them. They took courage when European circumstances led them to conclude that Austria would be advised, at the Warsaw Conference, to use her forces for the restoration of the old order of things in Italy, and receive the support of Russia and Prussia. To deserve such aid from the North, the Neapolitan army struggled hard, but in vain. The Absolutist cause was lost in Naples when the sovereigns met in the Polish capital; and though, forty years earlier, this would have been held an additional reason for the entrance of the barbarians into Italy, the successes of the patriots must have had their proper weight with the Prince Regent of Prussia and the Czar, who are understood to have been as deaf as adders to the charming of their young brother from Vienna. What was resolved upon at Warsaw the world has no positive means of knowing, and but little reliance is to be placed upon the rumors that have been so abundant; but, as Austria has not moved against the Italians, and as the instructions to her new commander-in-chief in Venetia (Von Benedek) are reported to be strong on the point of non-intervention, we are at liberty to infer that she accepts all that has been done as accomplished facts, and means to stand upon the defensive, in the hope of gaining moral support by her moderation in being outwardly content with less than half the spoil which was given to her at the expense of Italy, when Europe was "settled," for the time, four-and-forty years ago.

The action of the Sardinian government, in sending its soldiers against the legal banditti whom Lamoriciere had sought to drill into the semblance of an army, which was a direct attack on the Pope, and the subsequent employment of those soldiers, and of the Sardinian fleet, against the forces of Francis II., were model pieces of statesmanship, and worthy of the great man whose name and fame have become indissolubly associated with the redemption of Italy. The decision thus to act could not have been taken without the consent of Napoleon III. having first been had and obtained; and there is probably much truth in the story, that, when Lamoriciere had the coolness to threaten his conquerors with the vengeance of the Emperor, they told him, half-laughingly, that, they had planned the campaign with that illustrious personage at Chambery, which must have convinced him that the cause of the Keys had nothing to expect from France beyond the sort of police aid which General Goyon was affording to it in the name of his master. Lamoriciere also expected help from Austria, and professed to be able to number the few days at the expiration of which the white-coats would be at Alessandria, which would have been a diversion in his favor, that, had it been made, must have saved him from the mortification of surrendering to men whom he affected to despise, but who brought him and his army under the yoke. The faith of the commander of the rabble of the Faith in Austrian assistance was a Viennese inspiration, and was meant to induce him to resist to the last. Nor was it altogether false; for the Kaiser and Count Rechberg appear to have believed that they could induce the governments of Russia and Prussia to support them in a crusade in behalf of Rome and Naples, which was to rely upon Lutherans and supporters of the Eastern Church for the salvation of the Western Church and its worst members. The first interview between Rechberg and Gortschakoff, if we can believe a despatch from Warsaw, led quickly to a quarrel, which must have taken place not long after their chiefs, the Kaiser and the Czar, had been locked in each other's arms at the railway-station. It is but just to the Austrians to state, that they probably had received from St. Petersburg some promises of assistance, which Alexander found himself unable to redeem, so determined was Russian opinion in its expression of aversion to Austria when its organs began to suspect that the old game was to be renewed, and that Alexander contemplated doing in 1861 what Nicholas had done in 1849,—to step between Francis Joseph and humiliation, perhaps destruction. If it be true that the Czar has ordered all Russians to leave Italy, that piece of pitiful spite would show how he hates the Italian cause, and also that it is not in his power seriously to retard its progress at present. Instead of ordering Russians from Italy, he would send them to that country in great masses, could he have his way in directing the foreign policy of his empire.

The entire success of Victor Emanuel and Garibaldi has brought Italian matters to a crisis. Carrying out the policy of Cavour, the King and the Soldier have all but completed the unification of their country, at the very time when the United States are threatened with disunion. The Kingdom of Italy exists at this time, virtually, if not in terms, and contains about twenty-four million people. It comprises the original territories of Victor Emanuel, minus Savoy and Nice, the Two Sicilies, Lombardy, almost the whole of the Papal States, and Tuscany, Parma, and Modena. If we except the fragment of his old possessions yet held by the Pope, and the Austrian hold on Venetia, all Italy now acknowledges the rule of Victor Emanuel, who is to meet an Italian Parliament in January, 1861. No political change of our century has been more remarkable than this, whether we look to its extent, or have regard to the agencies by which it has been brought about. Two years ago, there was more reason to believe that the King of Sardinia would be an exile than that the Bourbon King of Naples would be on his travels. No man would have dared to prophesy that the former would be reigning over seven-eighths of the Italians, while the latter should be reduced to one town, garrisoned by foreign mercenaries. That these changes should be wrought by universal suffrage, had it been predicted, would have been thought too much to be related as a dream. Yet it is the voice of the Italian People, speaking under a suffrage-system apparently more liberal than ever has been known in America, which has accomplished all that has been done since the summer of 1859 in the Peninsula and in Sicily. It was because Napoleon III. would not place himself in opposition to the opinion of the people of Central Italy, that the petty monarchs of that country were not restored to their thrones, and that they became subjects of Victor Emanuel; and the voting in Sicily and Naples has confirmed the decision of arms, and made it imperative on the reactionists to attack the people, should their policy lead them to seek a reversal of the decrees of 1860. The new monarch of the Italians expressly bases his title to reign on the will of the people, expressed through the exercise of the least restricted mode of voting that ever has been known among men; and the people of Southern Italy never could have had the opportunity to vote their crown to him, if Garibaldi had not first freed them from the savage tyranny of Francis II.; and Garibaldi himself could not have acted for their deliverance, if Italy had not previously been delivered from the Austrians by France. Thus we have the French Emperor, designated as a parvenu both in England and America, and owing his power to his name,—the democrat Garibaldi, whose power is from his deeds, and whose income is not equal to that of an Irish laborer in the United States,—the rich and noble Cavour, whose weekly revenues would suffice to purchase the fee-simple of Garibaldi's island-farm,—the King of Sardinia, representing a race that was renowned before the Normans reigned in England,—and the masses of the Italian people,—all acting together for the redemption of a country which needs only justice to enable it to assume, as near as modern circumstances will permit, its old importance in the world's scale. That there should have been such a concurrence of foreign friendship, democratic patriotism, royal sagacity, aristocratic talent, and popular good sense, for Italy's benefit, must help to strengthen the belief that the Italians are indeed about to become a new Power in Europe, and in the world, and that their country is no more to be rated as a mere "geographical expression."

The Italian crisis is a European crisis; for matters have now reached a pass in which the foreigner must have something to say of Italy's future: and it will be well for the general peace, if he shall use only the words of justice, in giving his decision; for his right to speak at all in the premises is derived only from an act of usurpation, long acquiescence in which has clothed it with a certain show of legality. In all that the Italians have thus far done, since the conclusion of the with Austria, they have not necessarily been brought into conflict with any foreign nation, though they may have terribly offended those legitimate sovereigns who have been accustomed either to give law to Europe or to see public opinion defer considerably to their will. Not a single acquisition thus far made by Victor Emmanuel can be said to have proceeded from any act at which Europe could complain with justice. Lombardy was given to him by his ally of France, whose prize it was, and who had an undid dispose of it in a most righteous manner. That Central Italy was acquired by him was due partly to the cowardice of the old rulers thereof, and partly to intelligence, activity, and patriotism of its people. No foreign rights, conventional or otherwise, were assailed or disregarded, when it passed under the Sardinian sceptre. When go much of the Pope's temporal possessions were taken from him by the people themselves, who had become weary of the worst system of misgovernment known to the west of Bokhara, no doubt many pious Catholics were shocked; but, if they knew anything of the history of the Papal temporal rule and power, they could not complain at what was done, on the score of illegality; and the deeds of Cialdini and Fanti and Persano were performed against foreigners who had intruded themselves into Italy, and who were employed to uphold the political supremacy of a few persons at Rome, while they had no more connection with the religion of the ancient Church than they had with that of Thibet. The King of the Two Sicilies, by his tyranny, and by his persistence in the offensive course of his house, had become an outlaw, as it were, and every Italian at least was fairly authorized to attack him; and in doing so he could not be said to assail European order, nor could any European power send assistance to a monarch who had refused to listen even to the remonstrances of Austria against his cruelties. The stanchest of English conservatives, while they said they must regard Garibaldi as a freebooter, did not hesitate to express the warmest wishes for the freebooter's success. When the Sardinians marched to Garibaldi's aid, they did so in the interest of order, which has been promptly restored to Southern Italy through their energetic course.

Thus far, that which has been done in Italy has been of a local character; but nothing more can be done, in the way of completing the independence and unity of Italy, without bringing the patriots into conflict with Austria. That power still is supreme in Venetia, which is one of the best portions of Italy, and which can be held by no foreign sovereign without endangering the whole Peninsula. Were there no other reason for seeking to redeem Venetia from Austrian oppression, the safety of the rest of Italy would demand that that redemption should be accomplished. Venetia, as she now is, is a place of arms for the chief, we may say the only, foreign enemy that the Italian Kingdom has or can have; and that enemy has a deep and a peculiar interest in seeking occasion to bring about the new kingdom's destruction. If Austria should succeed in conciliating the Hungarians,—which she might do, if she were to act justly toward them,—and a change of government were to take place in France,—and changes in the French government have occurred so often since 1789 as not to be improbable now,—she would, through possession of Venetia, be enabled to commence a new Italian war with the chances of success greatly in her favor. The Italians, therefore, are compelled to round and complete their work, in getting possession of Venetia, by that desire for safety and for self-preservation which actuates all men and all communities. A nobler feeling, too, moves them. They feel the obligation that exists to extend to the Venetians that freedom which is now enjoyed by all Italians except the Venetians and a small portion of the Pope's subjects. They would be recreant to the dictates of duty, and disregardful of those of honor, were they to leave Venetia in the hands of Austria. What their feelings on this momentous subject are may be gathered from Garibaldi's address to his companions-in-arms, when, having completed his immediate work, he withdrew from active service for the time, in November last. His words point as directly to an attack on Venetia as his landing in Sicily indicated his intention to overthrow Francis II.; and that attack, according to the Patriot Soldier, is to be made under the lead of the Patriot King, Victor Emanuel. A million of Italians are called for, that it may be successfully made; and that number ought to be raised, if so vast a host shall be found necessary to perfect the independence of Italy. After what we have seen done by the Italians, we should not distrust their power to do even more, if no delay should be permitted, and full advantage be taken of the spirit of enthusiastic patriotism which now animates them. That Garibaldi means no delay is proved by his naming next March as the date for the renewal of the mighty crusade in the course of which already such miracles have been wrought.

That Italy, as she stands to-day, would be found more than the equal of Austria, no doubt can be felt by any one who is acquainted with the condition of the two powers. Italy would enter upon a contest with Austria under circumstances of peculiar advantage. She would have so decided a naval superiority, that the Austrian flag would disappear from the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, and she would be able to operate powerfully from the sea against Venice. It is a military axiom, that, wherever there is a sea-side, there is a weak side; and Venetia presents this to an assailing force in quite a striking manner. Command of the Adriatic and the neighboring waters would enable the Italians to threaten many points of the Austrian territory, which would require to be watched by large collections of soldiers; and aid could be sent to the Hungarians, should they rise, by the way of Fiume. Italy could raise a larger army to attack Venetia than Austria could employ for its defence, with Hungary on the eve of revolution, Bohemia discontented, Croatia not the loyal land it was in '48, and even the Tyrol no longer a model of subserviency to the Imperial House. The Italians are at any time the equals of the Austrians as soldiers, and at this time their minds are in an exalted state, under the dominion of which they would be found superior to any men who could be brought against them, if well led; and among the Imperial commanders there is no man, unless Von Benedek be an exception, who is to be named with the generals who have led the way in the work we have seen done since last spring. In a military sense, and in a moral sense, Italy is the superior of the beaten, bankrupt monarchy of Austria, and capable of wresting Venetia from the intrusive race, which holds it as much in defiance of common sense as of common right.

But would Italy be permitted to settle her quarrel with her old oppressor without foreign intervention? We fear that she would not. Venetia is held by Austria in virtue of the Vienna settlement of Europe, in the first place, and then under the treaty that followed the war of 1859. Some English statesmen would appear to be of opinion that Venetia must remain among the possessions of Austria, without reference to the interests of Italy, the party most concerned in the business. In his first note to Sir James Hudson, British Minister at Turin, which note was to be read to Count Cavour, Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary, writes more like an Austrian than an Englishman, going even to the astounding length of declaring that a war to defend her right to Venetia would be on Austria's part a patriotic war,—such a war, we presume the Honorable Secretary of State must have meant, as Wallace waged against Edward I., or that which the first William of Orange carried on against Philip II.! Lord Palmerston seems inclined to indorse his colleague's views: for he referred directly to this very note in terms of approbation, in the speech which he made at the dinner of the "Worshipful Company of Salters," on the 14th of November. It is true, that, in a later note from Lord John Russell to Sir James Hudson, extreme ground in favor of what had been done in Naples by the Sardinians is taken, and sustained with eminent ability; and in the speech of Lord Palmerston referred to, the object of the first note was said to be the prevention of a rash course that "might have blighted all the best hopes of Italian freedom." We do not for a moment suppose that the English people would ever allow their government to do anything to help Austria to maintain possession of Venetia; but the relations between Austria and England are of old date, and an opinion prevails in the latter country that the former should be kept strong, in order that she may be preserved as a counterpoise, on the one side to Russia, and on the other to France. England has a difficult part to play, and her course, or rather that of her government, sometimes makes considerable demand on the charitable construction of the world; but her people are sound, and for a long series of years their weight has been felt on the right side of European contests. The Italian cause is popular with all classes of Englishmen, and their country will never do anything to the prejudice of that cause. But it may refuse aid at a time when such aid shall be much needed, and when even France may stand aloof, and refrain from finishing the business which she commenced.

There is said to be an opinion growing up in France that Italy may be made too strong for the good of her friend and ally. A new nation of twenty-seven million souls—which would be Italy's strength, should Rome and Venetia be gained for her—might become a potent enemy even to one of its chief creators; and the taking of Savoy and Nice has caused ill-feeling between the two countries, in which Garibaldi heartily shares. Napoleon III. might be depended upon, himself, to support Italy hereafter against any foreign enemy, but it is by no means clear that France would support him in such a course; and he must defer to the opinion of his subjects to a considerable extent, despotic though his power is supposed to be. It is opinion, in the last resort, that governs every where,—under an absolute monarchy quite as determinedly as under a liberal polity like ours or England's. There is a large party in France, composed of the most incongruous materials, which has the profoundest interest in misrepresenting the policy of the Imperial government, and which is full of men of culture and intellect,—men whose labors, half-performed though they are, must have considerable effect on the French mind. The first Napoleon had the ground honeycombed under him by his enemies, who could not be suppressed, nor their labors be made to cease, even by his stern system of repression. It may be so with the present Emperor, who knows that one false step might upset his dynasty as utterly as it was twice over-thrown by the armies of combined Europe. What was then done by the lions and the eagles might now be done by the moles. The worms that gnawed through the Dutch dykes did Holland more damage than she experienced from the armies of Louis XIV. Let the French mind become possessed with the idea that the Emperor is helping Italy at the expense of France, and we may see a third Restoration in that country, or even a third Republic. The elder Bourbons were driven out because they were as a monument in Paris to Leipzig and Vittoria and Waterloo, erected by the victors on those fatal fields. The Orleans dynasty broke down because it had become an article in the belief of most Frenchmen that it was disgracing France by the corruption of its domestic policy and the subserviency of its foreign policy. Napoleon III. could no more sustain himself against the belief that he was using France for the benefit of Italy than the King of the French could sustain himself against the conviction that he was abusing the country he ruled over for the advancement of his family. He has already offended the Catholic clergy by what he has done for Italy, which they regard as having been done against their Church; and as they helped to make him, so they may be able to unmake him. To satisfy grumblers, he took Savoy and Nice. For some time past, rumor has been busy in attributing to him the design of demanding the island of Sardinia. If he should ask for Sardinia, and receive it, might he not ask also for Sicily, the country of which he offered to become King in 1848, and did not receive one vote, an incident that may still weigh upon the imperial heart, no man ever forgetting a contemptuous slight? If he should make these demands, or either of them, would the other European Powers permit the Italians to comply with them? These are questions not to be answered hurriedly, but they closely concern the Italian question, a solution of which must soon be had, for the world's peace.

The third act of the drama approaches, and 1861 may be a more important year to Italy than was either 1859 or 1860. The successful antagonist of Austria she can be; but could she, without foreign aid, withstand an alliance that should be formed against her in the name of order, while her former ally should remain quiet and refuse to take any part in the war? Austria, it has been intimated, might be induced to sell Venetia to Italy, and this is possible, though such a settlement of the question in dispute would be an extraordinary confession of weakness on the part of the aristocratical military monarchy of the Lorraines, and a proceeding of which it would be more ashamed than it would be even of a generous action.

* * * * *


Having just returned from a visit to this admirable Institution in company with a friend who is one of the Directors, we propose giving a short account of what we saw and heard. The great success of the Asylum for Idiots and Feeble-minded Youth, several of the scholars from which have reached considerable distinction, one of them being connected with a leading Daily Paper in this city, and others having served in the State and National Legislatures, was the motive which led to the foundation of this excellent Charity. Our late distinguished townsman, Noah Dow, Esquire, as is welt known, bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to this establishment,—"being thereto moved," as his will expressed it, "by the desire of N. Dowing some publick Institution for the benefit of Mankind." Being consulted as to the Rules of the Institution and the selection of a Superintendent, he replied, that "all Boards must construct their own Platforms of operation. Let them select anyhow and he should be pleased." N.E. Howe, Esq., was chosen in compliance with this delicate suggestion.

The Charter provides for the support of "One hundred aged and decayed Gentlemen-Punsters." On inquiry if there was no provision for females, my friend called my attention to this remarkable psychological fact, namely:—


This remark struck me forcibly, and on reflection I found that I never knew nor heard of one, though I have once or twice heard a woman make a single detached pun, as I have known a hen to crow.

On arriving at the south gate of the Asylum grounds, I was about to ring, but my friend held my arm and begged me to rap with my stick, which I did. An old man with a very comical face presently opened the gate and put out his head.

"So you prefer Cane to A bell, do you?" he said,—and began chuckling and coughing at a great rate.

My friend winked at me.

"You're here still, Old Joe, I see," he said to the old man.

"Yes, yes,—and it's very odd, considering how often I've bolted, nights."

He then threw open the double gates for us to ride through.

"Now," said the old man, as he pulled the gates after us, "you've had a long journey."

"Why, how is that, Old Joe?" said my friend.

"Don't you see?" he answered; "there's the _East hinges_ on one side of the gate, and there's the West hinges_ on t'other side,—haw! haw! haw!"

We had no sooner got into the yard than a feeble little gentleman, with a remarkably bright eye, came up to us, looking very seriously, as if something had happened.

"The town has entered a complaint against the Asylum as a gambling establishment," he said to my friend, the Director.

"What do you mean?" said my friend.

"Why, they complain that there's a lot o' rye on the premises," he answered, pointing to a field of that grain,—and hobbled away, his shoulders shaking with laughter, as he went.

On entering the main building, we saw the Rules and Regulations for the Asylum conspicuously posted up. I made a few extracts which may be interesting.


5. Each Inmate shall be permitted to make Puns freely from eight in the morning until ten at night, except during Service in the Chapel and Grace before Meals.

6. At ten o'clock the gas will be turned off, and no further Puns, Conundrums, or other play on words, will be allowed to be uttered, or to be uttered aloud.

9. Inmates who have lost their faculties and cannot any longer make Puns shall be permitted to repeat such as may be selected for them by the Chaplain out of the work of Mr. Joseph Miller.

10. Violent and unmanageable Punsters, who interrupt others when engaged in conversation, with Puns or attempts at the same, shall be deprived of their Joseph Millers, and, if necessary, placed in solitary confinement.


4. No Inmate shall make any Pun, or attempt at the same, until the Blessing has been asked and the company are decently seated.

7. Certain Puns having been placed on the Index Expurgatorius of the Institution, no Inmate shall be allowed to utter them, on pain of being debarred the perusal of Punch and Vanity Fair, and, if repeated, deprived of his Joseph Miller.

Among these are the following:—

Allusions to Attic salt, when asked to pass the salt-cellar.

Remarks on the Inmates being mustered, etc., etc.

Associating baked beans with the benefactors of the Institution.

Saying that beef-eating is befitting, etc., etc.

The following are also prohibited, excepting to such Inmates as may have lost their faculties and cannot any longer make Puns of their own:—

"——your own hair or a wig"; "it will be long enough, "etc., etc.; "little of its age," etc., etc.;—also, playing upon the following words: hospital; mayor; pun; pitied; bread; sauce, etc., etc., etc. See INDEX EXPURGATORIUS, printed for use of Inmates.

The subjoined Conundrum is not allowed:—Why is Hasty Pudding like the Prince? Because it comes attended by its sweet;—nor this variation to it, to wit: Because the 'lasses runs after it.

The Superintendent, who went round with us, had been a noted punster in his time, and well known in the business-world, but lost his customers by making too free with their names,—as in the famous story he set afloat in '29 of four Jerries attaching to the names of a noted Judge, an eminent Lawyer, the Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, and the well-known Landlord at Springfield. One of the four Jerries, he added, was of gigantic magnitude. The play on words was brought out by an accidental remark of Solomons, the well-known Banker. "Capital punishment!" the Jew was overheard saying, with reference to the guilty parties. He was understood as saying, A capital pun is meant, which led to an investigation and the relief of the greatly excited public mind.

The Superintendent showed some of his old tendencies, as he went round with us.

"Do you know"—he broke out all at once—"why they don't take steppes in Tartary for establishing Insane Hospitals?"

We both confessed ignorance.

"Because there are nomad people to be found there," he said, with a dignified smile.

He proceeded to introduce us to different Inmates. The first was a middle-aged, scholarly man, who was seated at a table with a Webster's Dictionary and a sheet of paper before him.

"Well, what luck to-day, Mr. Mowzer?" said the Superintendent.

"Three or four only," said Mr. Mowzer. "Will you hear 'em now,—now I'm here?"

We all nodded.

"Don't you see Webster ers in the words center and theater?

"If he spells leather lether, and feather fether, isn't there danger that he'll give us a bad spell of weather?

"Besides, Webster is a resurrectionist; he does not allow u to rest quietly in the mould.

"And again, because Mr. Worcester inserts an illustration in his text, is that any reason why Mr. Webster's publishers should hitch one on in their appendix? It's what I call a Conntect-a-cut trick.

"Why is his way of spelling like the floor of an oven? Because it is under bread.

"Mowzer!" said the Superintendent,—"that word is on the Index!"

"I forgot," said Mr. Mowzer;—"please don't deprive me of Vanity Fair, this one time, Sir.

"These are all, this morning. Good day, Gentlemen. Then to the Superintendent,—Add you, Sir!"

The next Inmate was a semi-idiotic-looking old man. He had a heap of block-letters before him, and, as we came up, he pointed, without saying a word, to the arrangements he had made with them on the table. They were evidently anagrams, and had the merit of transposing the letters of the words employed without addition or subtraction. Here are a few of them:—





The mention of several new York papers led to two or three questions. Thus: Whether the Editor of the Tribune was H.G. really? If the complexion of his politics were not accounted for by his being an eager person himself? Whether Wendell Fillips were not a reduced copy of John Knocks? Whether a New York Feuilletoniste is not the same thing as a Fellow down East?

At this time a plausible-looking, bald-headed man joined us, evidently waiting to take a part in the conversation.

"Good morning, Mr. Riggles," said the Superintendent. "Anything fresh this morning? Any Conundrum?"

"I haven't looked at the cattle," he answered, dryly.

"Cattle? Why cattle?"

"Why, to see if there's any corn under 'em!" he said; and immediately asked, "Why is Douglas like the earth?"

We tried, but couldn't guess.

"Because he was flattened out at the polls!" said Mr. Riggles.

"A famous politician, formerly," said the Superintendent. "His grandfather was a seize-Hessian-ist in the Revolutionary War. By the way, I hear the freeze-oil doctrines don't go down at New Bedford."

The next Inmate looked as if be might have been a sailor formerly.

"Ask him what his calling was," said the Superintendent.

"Followed the sea," he replied to the question put by one of us. "Went as mate in a fishing-schooner."

"Why did you give it up?"

"Because I didn't like working for two mast-ers," he replied.

Presently we came upon a group of elderly persons, gathered about a venerable gentleman with flowing locks, who was propounding questions to a row of Inmates.

"Can any Inmate give me a motto for M. Berger?" he said.

Nobody responded for two or three minutes. At last one old man, whom I at once recognized as a Graduate of our University, (Anno 1800,) held up his hand.

"Rem a cue tetigit."

"Go to the head of the Class, Josselyn," said the venerable Patriarch.

The successful Inmate did as he was told, but in a very rough way, pushing against two or three of the Class.

"How is this?" said the Patriarch.

"You told me to go up jostlin'," he replied.

The old gentlemen who had been shoved about enjoyed the Pun too much to be angry.

Presently the Patriarch asked again,—

"Why was M. Berger authorized to go to the dances given to the Prince?"

The Class had to give up this, and he answered it himself:—

"Because every one of his carroms was a tick-it to the ball."

"Who collects the money to defray the expenses of the last campaign in Italy?" asked the Patriarch.

Here again the Class failed.

"The war-cloud's rolling Dun," he answered.

"And what is mulled wine made with?"

Three or four voices exclaimed at once,——

"Sizzle-y Madeira!"

Here a servant entered, and said, "Luncheon-time." The old gentlemen, who have excellent appetites, dispersed at once, one of them politely asking us if we would not stop and have a bit of bread and a little mite of cheese.

"There is one thing I have forgotten to show you," said the Superintendent,—"the cell for the confinement of violent and unmanageable Punsters."

We were very curious to see it, particularly with reference to the alleged absence of every object upon which a play of words could possibly be made.

The Superintendent led us up some dark stairs to a corridor, then along a narrow passage, then down a broad flight of steps into another passage-way, and opened a large door which looked out on the main entrance.

"We have not seen the cell for the confinement of 'violent and unmanageable' Punsters," we both exclaimed.

"This is the sell!" he exclaimed, pointing to the outside prospect.

My friend, the Director, looked me in the face so good-naturedly that I had to laugh.

"We like to humor the Inmates," he said. "It has a bad effect, we find, on their health and spirits to disappoint them of their little pleasantries. Some of the jests to which we have listened are not new to me, though I dare say you may not have heard them often before. The same thing happens in general society,—with this additional disadvantage, that there is no punishment provided for 'violent and unmanageable' Punsters, as in our Institution."

We made our bow to the Superintendent and walked to the place where our carriage was waiting for us. On our way, an exceedingly decrepit old man moved slowly towards us, with a perfectly blank look on his face, but still appearing as if he wished to speak.

"Look!" said the Director,—"that is our Centenarian."

The ancient man crawled towards us, cocked one eye, with which he seemed to sec a little, up at us, and said,—

"Sarvant, young Gentlemen. Why is a—a—a—like a—a—a—? Give it up? Because it's a—a—a—a—."

He smiled a pleasant smile, as if it were all plain enough.

"One hundred and seven last Christmas," said the Director. "He lost his answers about the age of ninety-eight. Of late years he puts his whole Conundrums in blank,—but they please him just as well."

We took our departure, much gratified and instructed by our visit, hoping to have some future opportunity of inspecting the Records of this excellent Charity and making extracts for the benefit of our Readers.

* * * * *


Dean Swift, in a letter to Lord Bolingbroke, says that he does not "remember to have ever heard or seen one great genius who had long success in the ministry; and recollecting a great many in my memory and acquaintance, those who had the smoothest time were, at best, men of middling degree in understanding." However true this may be in the main,—and it undoubtedly is true that in ordinary times the speculative and innovating temper of an original mind is less safe than the patience of routine and persistence in precedent of a common-place one,—there are critical occasions to which intellect of the highest quality, character of the finest fibre, and a judgment that is inspired rather than confused by new and dangerous combinations of circumstances, are alone equal. Tactics and an acquaintance with the highest military authorities were adequate enough till they were confronted with General Bonaparte and the new order of things. If a great man struggling with the storms of fate be the sublimest spectacle, a mediocre man in the same position is surely the most pitiful. Deserted by his presence of mind, which, indeed, had never been anything but an absence of danger,—baffled by the inapplicability of his habitual principles of conduct, (if that may be called a principle, which, like the act of walking, is merely an unconscious application of the laws of gravity,) —helpless, irresolute, incapable of conceiving the flower Safety in the nettle Danger, much more of plucking it thence,—surely here, if anywhere, is an object of compassion. When such a one is a despot who has wrought his own destruction by obstinacy in a traditional evil policy, like Francis II. of Naples, our commiseration is outweighed by satisfaction that the ruin of the man is the safety of the state. But when the victim is a so-called statesman, who has malversated the highest trusts for selfish ends, who has abused constitutional forms to the destruction of the spirit that gave them life and validity, who could see nothing nobler in the tenure of high office than the means it seemed to offer of prolonging it, who knows no art to conjure the spirit of anarchy he has evoked but the shifts and evasions of a second-rate attorney, and who has contrived to involve his country in the confusion of principle and vacillation of judgment which have left him without a party and without a friend,—for such a man we have no feeling but contemptuous reprobation. Pan-urge in danger of shipwreck is but a faint type of Mr. Buchanan in face of the present crisis; and that poor fellow's craven abjuration of his "former friend," Friar John, is magnanimity itself, compared with his almost-ex-Excellency's treatment of the Free States in his last Message to Congress. There are times when mediocrity is a dangerous quality, and a man may drown himself as effectually in milk-and-water as in Malmsey.

The question, whether we are a Government or an Indian Council, we do not propose to discuss here; whether there be a right of secession tempered by a right of coercion, like a despotism by assassination, and whether it be expedient to put the latter in practice, we shall not consider: for it is not always the part of wisdom to attempt a settlement of what the progress of events will soon settle for us. Mr. Buchanan seems to have no opinion, or, if he has one, it is a halting between two, a bat-like cross of sparrow and mouse that gives timidity its choice between flight and skulking. Nothing shocks our sense of the fitness of things more than a fine occasion to which the man is wanting. Fate gets her hook ready, but the eye is not there to clinch with it, and so all goes at loose ends. Mr. Buchanan had one more chance offered him of showing himself a common-place man, and he has done it full justice. Even if they could have done nothing for the country, a few manly sentences might have made a pleasing exception in his political history, and rescued for him the fag-end of a reputation.

Mr. Buchanan, by his training in a system of politics without a parallel for intrigue, personality, and partisanship, would have unfitted himself for taking a statesmanlike view of anything, even if he had ever been capable of it. His nature has been subdued to what it worked in. We could not have expected from him a Message around which the spirit, the intelligence, and the character of the country would have rallied. But he might have saved himself from the evil fame of being the first of our Presidents who could never forget himself into a feeling of the dignity of the place he occupied. He has always seemed to consider the Presidency as a retaining-fee paid him by the slavery-propagandists, and his Message to the present Congress looks like the last juiceless squeeze of the orange which the South is tossing contemptuously away.

Mr. Buchanan admits as real the assumed wrongs of the South Carolina revolutionists, and even, if we understand him, allows that they are great enough to justify revolution. But he advises the secessionists to pause and try what can be done by negotiation. He sees in the internal history of the country only a series of injuries inflicted by the Free upon the Slave States; yet he affirms, that, so far as Federal legislation is concerned, the rights of the South have never been assailed, except in the single instance of the Missouri Compromise, which gave to Slavery the unqualified possession of territory which the Free States might till then have disputed. Yet that bargain, a losing one as it was on the part of the Free States, having been annulled, can hardly be reckoned a present grievance. South Carolina had quite as long a list of intolerable oppressions to resent in 1832 as now, and not one of them, as a ground of complaint, could be compared with the refusal to pay the French-Spoliation claims of Massachusetts. The secession movement then, as now, had its origin in the ambition of disappointed politicians. If its present leaders are more numerous, none of them are so able as Mr. Calhoun; and if it has now any other object than it had then, it is to win by intimidation advantages that shall more than compensate for its loss in the elections.

In 1832, General Jackson bluntly called the South Carolina doctrines treason, and the country sustained him. That they are not characterized in the same way now does not prove any difference in the thing, but only in the times and the men. They are none the less treason because James Buchanan is less than Andrew Jackson, but they are all the more dangerous.

It has been the misfortune of the United States that the conduct of their public affairs has passed more and more exclusively into the hands of men who have looked on politics as a game to be played rather than as a trust to be administered, and whose capital, whether of personal consideration or of livelihood, has been staked on a turn of the cards. A general skepticism has thus been induced, exceedingly dangerous in times like these. The fatal doctrine of rotation in office has transferred the loyalty of the numberless servants of the Government, and of those dependent on or influenced by them, from the nation to a party. For thousands of families every change in the National Administration is as disastrous as revolution, and the Government has thus lost that influence which the idea of permanence and stability would exercise in a crisis like the present. At the present moment, the whole body of office-holders at the South is changed from a conservative to a disturbing element by a sense of the insecurity of their tenure. Their allegiance having always been to the party in power at Washington, and not to the Government of the Nation, they find it easy to transfer it to the dominant faction at home.

The subservience on the question of Slavery, which has hitherto characterized both the great parties of the country, has strengthened the hands of the extremists at the South, and has enabled them to get the control of public opinion there by fostering false notions of Southern superiority and Northern want of principle. We have done so much to make them believe in their importance to us, and given them so little occasion even to suspect our importance to them, that we have taught them to regard themselves as the natural rulers of the country, and to look upon the Union as a favor granted to our weakness, whose withdrawal would be our ruin. Accordingly, they have grown more and more exacting, till at length the hack politicians of the Free States have become so imbued with the notion of yielding, and so incapable of believing in any principle of action higher than temporary expedients to carry an election, or any object nobler than the mere possession of office for its own sake, that Mr. Buchanan gravely proposes that the Republican party should pacify South Carolina by surrendering the very creed that called it into existence and holds it together, the only fruit of its victory that made victory worth having. Worse than this, when the Free States by overwhelming majorities have just expressed their conviction, that slavery, as he creature of local law, can claim no legitimate extension beyond the limits of that law, he asks their consent to denationalize freedom and to nationalize slavery by an amendment of the Federal Constitution, that shall make the local law of the Slave States paramount throughout the Union. Mr. Buchanan would stay the yellow fever by abolishing the quarantine hospital and planting a good virulent case or two in every village in the land.

We do not underestimate the gravity of the present crisis, and we agree that nothing should be done to exasperate it; but if the people of the Free States have been taught anything by the repeated lessons of bitter experience, it has been that submission is not the seed of conciliation, but of contempt and encroachment. The wolf never goes for mutton to the mastiff. It is quite time that it should be understood that freedom is also an institution deserving some attention in a Model Republic, that a decline in stocks is more tolerable and more transient than one in public spirit, and that material prosperity was never known to abide long in a country that had lost its political morality. The fault of the Free States in the eyes of the South is not one that can be atoned for by any yielding of special points here and there. Their offence is that they are free, and that their habits and prepossessions are those of Freedom. Their crime is the census of 1860. Their increase in numbers, wealth, and power is a standing aggression. It would not be enough to please the Southern States that we should stop asking them to abolish slavery,—what they demand of us is nothing less than that we should abolish the spirit of the age. Our very thoughts are a menace. It is not the North, but the South, that forever agitates the question of Slavery. The seeming prosperity of the cotton-growing States is based on a great mistake and a great wrong; and it is no wonder that they are irritable and scent accusation in the very air. It is the stars in their courses that fight against their system, and there are those who propose to make everything comfortable by Act of Congress.

It is almost incredible to what a pitch of absurdity the Slave-holding party have been brought by the weak habit of concession which has been the vice of the Free States. Senator Green of Missouri, whose own State is rapidly gravitating toward free institutions, gravely proposes an armed police along the whole Slave frontier for the arrest of fugitives. Already the main employment of our navy is in striving to keep Africans out, and now the whole army is to mount guard to keep them in. This is but a trifle to the demands that will be made upon us, if we yield now under the threats of a mob,—for men acting under passion or terror, or both, are a mob, no matter what their numbers and intelligence.

A dissolution of the Union would be a terrible thing, but not so terrible as an acquiescence in the theory that Property is the only interest that binds men together in society, and that its protection is the highest object of human government. Nothing could well be more solemn than the thought of a disruption of our great and prosperous Republic. Even if peaceful, the derangement consequent upon it would cause incalculable suffering and disaster. Already the mere threat of it, assisted by the efforts of interested persons, has caused a commercial panic. But would it be wisdom in the Free States to put themselves at the mercy of such a panic whenever the whim took South Carolina to be discontented? That would be the inevitable result of a craven spirit now. Let the Republican party be mild and forbearing,—for the opportunity to be so is the best reward of victory, and taunts and recriminations belong to boys; but, above all, let them be manly. The moral taint of once submitting to be bullied is a scrofula that will never out of the character.

We do not believe that the danger is so great as it appears. Rumor is like one of those multiplying-mirrors that make a mob of shadows out of one real object. The interests of three-fifths of the Slave-holding States are diametrically opposed to secession; so are those of five-sixths of the people of the seceding States, if they did but know it. The difficulties in the way of organizing a new form of government are great, almost insuperable; the expenses enormous. As the public burdens grow heavier, the lesson of resistance and rebellion will find its aptest scholars in the non-slave-owning majority who will be paying taxes for the support of the very institution that has made and keeps them poor. Men are not long in arriving at just notions of the value of what they pay for, especially when it is for other people. Taxes are a price that people are slowest to pay for a cat in a bag. If matters are allowed to take their own course for a little longer, the inevitable reaction is sure to set in. The Hartford Convention gave more uneasiness to the Government and the country than the present movement in the South, but the result of it was the ruin of the Federal Party, and not of the Federal Union.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse