The needs of every person differ from the needs of every other; we can make no standard for wants or possessions. But the world would be greatly transformed and much more easy to live in if everybody limited his acquisitions to his ability to assimilate them to his life. The destruction of simplicity is a craving for things, not because we need them, but because others have them. Because one man who lives in a plain little house, in all the restrictions of mean surroundings, would be happier in a mansion suited to his taste and his wants, is no argument that another man, living in a palace, in useless ostentation, would not be better off in a dwelling which conforms to his cultivation and habits. It is so hard to learn the lesson that there is no satisfaction in gaining more than we personally want.
The matter of simplicity, then, comes into literary style, into building, into dress, into life, individualized always by one's personality. In each we aim at the expression of the best that is in us, not at imitation or ostentation.
The women in history, in legend, in poetry, whom we love, we do not love because they are "clad royally." In our day, to be clad royally is scarcely a distinction. To have a superfluity is not a distinction. But in those moments when we have a clear vision of life, that which seems to us most admirable and desirable is the simplicity that endears to us the idyl of Nausicaa.
THE ENGLISH VOLUNTEERS DURING THE LATE INVASION
The most painful event since the bombardment of Alexandria has been what is called by an English writer the "invasion" of "American Literature in England." The hostile forces, with an advanced guard of what was regarded as an "awkward squad," had been gradually effecting a landing and a lodgment not unwelcome to the unsuspicious natives. No alarm was taken when they threw out a skirmish-line of magazines and began to deploy an occasional wild poet, who advanced in buckskin leggings, revolver in hand, or a stray sharp-shooting sketcher clad in the picturesque robes of the sunset. Put when the main body of American novelists got fairly ashore and into position the literary militia of the island rose up as one man, with the strength of a thousand, to repel the invaders and sweep them back across the Atlantic. The spectacle had a dramatic interest. The invaders were not numerous, did not carry their native tomahawks, they had been careful to wash off the frightful paint with which they usually go into action, they did not utter the defiant whoop of Pogram, and even the militia regarded them as on the whole "amusin' young 'possums" and yet all the resources of modern and ancient warfare were brought to bear upon them. There was a crack of revolvers from the daily press, a lively fusillade of small-arms in the astonished weeklies, a discharge of point-blank blunderbusses from the monthlies; and some of the heavy quarterlies loaded up the old pieces of ordnance, that had not been charged in forty years, with slugs and brickbats and junk-bottles, and poured in raking broadsides. The effect on the island was something tremendous: it shook and trembled, and was almost hidden in the smoke of the conflict. What the effect is upon the invaders it is too soon to determine. If any of them survive, it will be God's mercy to his weak and innocent children.
It must be said that the American people—such of them as were aware of this uprising—took the punishment of their presumption in a sweet and forgiving spirit. If they did not feel that they deserved it, they regarded it as a valuable contribution to the study of sociology and race characteristics, in which they have taken a lively interest of late. We know how it is ourselves, they said; we used to be thin-skinned and self-conscious and sensitive. We used to wince and cringe under English criticism, and try to strike back in a blind fury. We have learned that criticism is good for us, and we are grateful for it from any source. We have learned that English criticism is dictated by love for us, by a warm interest in our intellectual development, just as English anxiety about our revenue laws is based upon a yearning that our down-trodden millions shall enjoy the benefits of free-trade. We did not understand why a country that admits our beef and grain and cheese should seem to seek protection against a literary product which is brought into competition with one of the great British staples, the modern novel. It seemed inconsistent. But we are no more consistent ourselves. We cannot understand the action of our own Congress, which protects the American author by a round duty on foreign books and refuses to protect him by granting a foreign copyright; or, to put it in another way, is willing to steal the brains of the foreign author under the plea of free knowledge, but taxes free knowledge in another form. We have no defense to make of the state of international copyright, though we appreciate the complication of the matter in the conflicting interests of English and American publishers.
Yes; we must insist that, under the circumstances, the American people have borne this outburst of English criticism in an admirable spirit. It was as unexpected as it was sudden. Now, for many years our international relations have been uncommonly smooth, oiled every few days by complimentary banquet speeches, and sweetened by abundance of magazine and newspaper "taffy." Something too much of "taffy" we have thought was given us at times for, in getting bigger in various ways, we have grown more modest. Though our English admirers may not believe it, we see our own faults more clearly than we once did—thanks, partly, to the faithful castigations of our friends—and we sometimes find it difficult to conceal our blushes when we are over-praised. We fancied that we were going on, as an English writer on "Down-Easters" used to say, as "slick as ile," when this miniature tempest suddenly burst out in a revival of the language and methods used in the redoubtable old English periodicals forty years ago. We were interested in seeing how exactly this sort of criticism that slew our literary fathers was revived now for the execution of their degenerate children. And yet it was not exactly the same. We used to call it "slang-whanging." One form of it was a blank surprise at the pretensions of American authors, and a dismissal with the formula of previous ignorance of their existence. This is modified now by a modest expression of "discomfiture" on reading of American authors "whose very names, much less peculiarities, we never heard of before." This is a tribunal from which there is no appeal. Not to have been heard of by an Englishman is next door to annihilation. It is at least discouraging to an author who may think he has gained some reputation over what is now conceded to be a considerable portion of the earth's surface, to be cast into total obscurity by the negative damnation of English ignorance. There is to us something pathetic in this and in the surprise of the English critic, that there can be any standard of respectable achievement outside of a seven-miles radius turning on Charing Cross.
The pathetic aspect of the case has not, however, we are sorry to say, struck the American press, which has too often treated with unbecoming levity this unaccountable exhibition of English sensitiveness. There has been little reply to it; at most, generally only an amused report of the war, and now and then a discriminating acceptance of some of the criticism as just, with a friendly recognition of the fact that on the whole the critic had done very well considering the limitation of his knowledge of the subject on which he wrote. What is certainly noticeable is an entire absence of the irritation that used to be caused by similar comments on America thirty years ago. Perhaps the Americans are reserving their fire as their ancestors did at Bunker Hill, conscious, maybe, that in the end they will be driven out of their slight literary entrenchments. Perhaps they were disarmed by the fact that the acrid criticism in the London Quarterly Review was accompanied by a cordial appreciation of the novels that seemed to the reviewer characteristically American. The interest in the tatter's review of our poor field must be languid, however, for nobody has taken the trouble to remind its author that Brockden Brown—who is cited as a typical American writer, true to local character, scenery, and color—put no more flavor of American life and soil in his books than is to be found in "Frankenstein."
It does not, I should suppose, lie in the way of The Century, whose general audience on both sides of the Atlantic takes only an amused interest in this singular revival of a traditional literary animosity—an anachronism in these tolerant days when the reading world cares less and less about the origin of literature that pleases it—it does not lie in the way of The Century to do more than report this phenomenal literary effervescence. And yet it cannot escape a certain responsibility as an immediate though innocent occasion of this exhibition of international courtesy, because its last November number contained some papers that seem to have been irritating. In one of them Mr. Howells let fall some chance remarks on the tendency of modern fiction, without adequately developing his theory, which were largely dissented from in this country, and were like the uncorking of six vials in England. The other was an essay on England, dictated by admiration for the achievements of the foremost nation of our time, which, from the awkwardness of the eulogist, was unfortunately the uncorking of the seventh vial—an uncorking which, as we happen to know, so prostrated the writer that he resolved never to attempt to praise England again. His panic was somewhat allayed by the soothing remark in a kindly paper in Blackwood's Magazine for January, that the writer had discussed his theme "by no means unfairly or disrespectfully." But with a shudder he recognized what a peril he had escaped. Great Scott!—the reference is to a local American deity who is invoked in war, and not to the Biblical commentator—what would have happened to him if he had spoken of England "disrespectfully"!
We gratefully acknowledge also the remark of the Blackwood writer in regard-to the claims of America in literature. "These claims," he says, "we have hitherto been very charitable to." How our life depends upon a continual exhibition by the critics of this divine attribute of charity it would perhaps be unwise in us to confess. We can at least take courage that it exists—who does not need it in this world of misunderstandings?—since we know that charity is not puffed up, vaunteth not itself, hopeth all things, endureth all things, is not easily provoked; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish; but charity never faileth. And when all our "dialects" on both sides of the water shall vanish, and we shall speak no more Yorkshire or Cape Cod, or London cockney or "Pike" or "Cracker" vowel flatness, nor write them any more, but all use the noble simplicity of the ideal English, and not indulge in such odd-sounding phrases as this of our critic that "the combatants on both sides were by way of detesting each other," though we speak with the tongues of men and of angels—we shall still need charity.
It will occur to the charitable that the Americans are at a disadvantage in this little international "tiff." For while the offenders have inconsiderately written over their own names, the others preserve a privileged anonymity. Any attempt to reply to these voices out of the dark reminds one of the famous duel between the Englishman and the Frenchman which took place in a pitch-dark chamber, with the frightful result that when the tender-hearted Englishman discharged his revolver up the chimney he brought down his man. One never can tell in a case of this kind but a charitable shot might bring down a valued friend or even a peer of the realm.
In all soberness, however, and setting aside the open question, which country has most diverged from the English as it was at the time of the separation of the colonies from the motherland, we may be permitted a word or two in the hope of a better understanding. The offense in The Century paper on "England" seems to have been in phrases such as these: "When we began to produce something that was the product of our own soil and of our own social conditions, it was still judged by the old standards;" and, we are no longer irritated by "the snobbishness of English critics of a certain school," "for we see that its criticism is only the result of ignorance simply of inability to understand."
Upon this the reviewer affects to lose his respiration, and with "a gasp of incredulity" wants to know what the writer means, "and what standards he proposes to himself when he has given up the English ones?" The reviewer makes a more serious case than the writer intended, or than a fair construction of the context of his phrases warrants. It is the criticism of "a certain school" only that was said to be the result of ignorance. It is not the English language nor its body of enduring literature—the noblest monument of our common civilization—that the writer objected to as a standard of our performances. The standard objected to is the narrow insular one (the term "insular" is used purely as a geographical one) that measures life, social conditions, feeling, temperament, and national idiosyncrasies expressed in our literature by certain fixed notions prevalent in England. Probably also the expression of national peculiarities would diverge somewhat from the "old standards." All we thought of asking was that allowance should be made for this expression and these peculiarities, as it would be made in case of other literatures and peoples. It might have occurred to our critics, we used to think, to ask themselves whether the English literature is not elastic enough to permit the play of forces in it which are foreign to their experience. Genuine literature is the expression, we take it, of life-and truth to that is the standard of its success. Reference was intended to this, and not to the common canons of literary art. But we have given up the expectation that the English critic "of a certain school" will take this view of it, and this is the plain reason—not intended to be offensive—why much of the English criticism has ceased to be highly valued in this country, and why it has ceased to annoy. At the same time, it ought to be added, English opinion, when it is seen to be based upon knowledge, is as highly respected as ever. And nobody in America, so far as we know, entertains, or ever entertained, the idea of setting aside as standards the master-minds in British literature. In regard to the "inability to understand," we can, perhaps, make ourselves more clearly understood, for the Blackwood's reviewer has kindly furnished us an illustration in this very paper, when he passes in patronizing review the novels of Mr. Howells. In discussing the character of Lydia Blood, in "The Lady of the Aroostook," he is exceedingly puzzled by the fact that a girl from rural New England, brought up amid surroundings homely in the extreme, should have been considered a lady. He says:
"The really 'American thing' in it is, we think, quite undiscovered either by the author or his heroes, and that is the curious confusion of classes which attributes to a girl brought up on the humblest level all the prejudices and necessities of the highest society. Granting that there was anything dreadful in it, the daughter of a homely small farmer in England is not guarded and accompanied like a young lady on her journeys from one place to another. Probably her mother at home would be disturbed, like Lydia's aunt, at the thought that there was no woman on board, in case her child should be ill or lonely; but, as for any impropriety, would never think twice on that subject. The difference is that the English girl would not be a young lady. She would find her sweetheart among the sailors, and would have nothing to say to the gentlemen. This difference is far more curious than the misadventure, which might have happened anywhere, and far more remarkable than the fact that the gentlemen did behave to her like gentlemen, and did their best to set her at ease, which we hope would have happened anywhere else. But it is, we think, exclusively American, and very curious and interesting, that this young woman, with her antecedents so distinctly set before us, should be represented as a lady, not at all out of place among her cultivated companions, and 'ready to become an ornament of society the moment she lands in Venice."
Reams of writing could not more clearly explain what is meant by "inability to understand" American conditions and to judge fairly the literature growing out of them; and reams of writing would be wasted in the attempt to make our curious critic comprehend the situation. There is nothing in his experience of "farmers' daughters" to give him the key to it. We might tell him that his notion of a farmer's daughters in England does not apply to New England. We might tell him of a sort of society of which he has no conception and can have none, of farmers' daughters and farmers' wives in New England—more numerous, let us confess, thirty or forty years ago than now—who lived in homely conditions, dressed with plainness, and followed the fashions afar off; did their own household work, even the menial parts of it; cooked the meals for the "men folks" and the "hired help," made the butter and cheese, and performed their half of the labor that wrung an honest but not luxurious living from the reluctant soil. And yet those women—the sweet and gracious ornaments of a self-respecting society—were full of spirit, of modest pride in their position, were familiar with much good literature, could converse with piquancy and understanding on subjects of general interest, were trained in the subtleties of a solid theology, and bore themselves in any company with that traditional breeding which we associate with the name of lady. Such strong native sense had they, such innate refinement and courtesythe product, it used to be said, of plain living and high thinking—that, ignorant as they might be of civic ways, they would, upon being introduced to them, need only a brief space of time to "orient" themselves to the new circumstances. Much more of this sort might be said without exaggeration. To us there is nothing incongruous in the supposition that Lydia Blood was "ready to become an ornament to society the moment she lands in Venice."
But we lack the missionary spirit necessary to the exertion to make our interested critic comprehend such a social condition, and we prefer to leave ourselves to his charity, in the hope of the continuance of which we rest in serenity.
In a Memorial Day address at New Haven in 1881, the Hon. Richard D. Hubbard suggested the erection of a statue to Nathan Hale in the State Capitol. With the exception of the monument in Coventry no memorial of the young hero existed. The suggestion was acted on by the Hon. E. S. Cleveland, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives in the session of 1883, appropriating money for the purpose. The propriety of this was urged before a committee of the Legislature by Governor Hubbard, in a speech of characteristic grace and eloquence, seconded by the Hon. Henry C. Robinson and the Hon. Stephen W. Kellogg. The Legislature appropriated the sum of five thousand dollars for a statue in bronze, and a committee was appointed to procure it. They opened a public competition, and, after considerable delay, during which the commission was changed by death and by absence,—indeed four successive governors, Hubbard, Waller, Harrison, and Lounsbury have served on it,—the work was awarded to Karl Gerhardt, a young sculptor who began his career in this city. It was finished in clay, and accepted in October, 1886, put in plaster, and immediately sent to the foundry of Melzar Masman in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
Today in all its artistic perfection and beauty it stands here to be revealed to the public gaze. It is proper that the citizens of Connecticut should know how much of this result they owe to the intelligent zeal of Mr. Cleveland, the mover of the resolution in the Legislature, who in the commission, and before he became a member of it, has spared neither time nor effort to procure a memorial worthy of the hero and of the State. And I am sure that I speak the unanimous sentiment of the commission in the regret that the originator of this statue could not have seen the consummation of his idea, and could not have crowned it with the one thing lacking on this occasion, the silver words of eloquence we always heard from his lips, that compact, nervous speech, the perfect union of strength and grace; for who so fitly as the lamented Hubbard could have portrayed the moral heroism of the Martyr-Spy?
This is not a portrait statue. There is no likeness of Nathan Hale extant. The only known miniature of his face, in the possession of the lady to whom he was betrothed at the time of his death, disappeared many years ago. The artist was obliged, therefore, to create an ideal figure, aided by a few fragmentary descriptions of Hale's personal appearance. His object has been to represent an American youth of the period, an American patriot and scholar, whose manly beauty and grace tradition loves to recall, to represent in face and in bearing the moral elevation of character that made him conspicuous among his fellows, and to show forth, if possible, the deed that made him immortal. For it is the deed and the memorable last words we think of when we think of Hale. I know that by one of the canons of art it is held that sculpture should rarely fix a momentary action; but if this can be pardoned in the Laocoon, where suffering could not otherwise be depicted to excite the sympathy of the spectator, surely it can be justified in this case, where, as one may say, the immortality of the subject rests upon a single act, upon a phrase, upon the attitude of the moment. For all the man's life, all his character, flowered and blossomed into immortal beauty in this one supreme moment of self-sacrifice, triumph, defiance. The ladder of the gallows-tree on which the deserted boy stood, amidst the enemies of his country, when he uttered those last words which all human annals do not parallel in simple patriotism,—the ladder I am sure ran up to heaven, and if angels were not seen ascending and descending it in that gray morning, there stood the embodiment of American courage, unconquerable, American faith, invincible, American love of country, unquenchable, a new democratic manhood in the world, visible there for all men to take note of, crowned already with the halo of victory in the Revolutionary dawn. Oh, my Lord Howe! it seemed a trifling incident to you and to your bloodhound, Provost Marshal Cunningham, but those winged last words were worth ten thousand men to the drooping patriot army. Oh, your Majesty, King George the Third! here was a spirit, could you but have known it, that would cost you an empire, here was an ignominious death that would grow in the estimation of mankind, increasing in nobility above the fading pageantry of kings.
On the 21st of April, 1775, a messenger, riding express from Boston to New York with the tidings of Lexington and Concord, reached New London. The news created intense excitement. A public meeting was called in the court-house at twilight, and among the speakers who exhorted the people to take up arms at once, was one, a youth not yet twenty years of age, who said, "Let us march immediately, and never lay down our arms until we have obtained our independence,"—one of the first, perhaps the first, of the public declarations of the purpose of independence. It was Nathan Hale, already a person of some note in the colony, of a family then not unknown and destined in various ways to distinction in the Republic. A kinsman of the same name lost his life in the Louisburg fight. He had been for a year the preceptor of the Union Grammar School at New London. The morning after the meeting he was enrolled as a volunteer, and soon marched away with his company to Cambridge.
Nathan Hale, descended from Robert Hale who settled in Charlestown in 1632, a scion of the Hales of Kent, England, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, on the 6th of June, 1755, the sixth child of Richard Hale and his wife Elizabeth Strong, persons of strong intellect and the highest moral character, and Puritans of the strictest observances. Brought up in this atmosphere, in which duty and moral rectitude were the unquestioned obligations in life, he came to manhood with a character that enabled him to face death or obloquy without flinching, when duty called, so that his behavior at the last was not an excitement of the moment, but the result of ancestry, training, and principle. Feeble physically in infancy, he developed into a robust boy, strong in mind and body, a lively, sweet-tempered, beautiful youth, and into a young manhood endowed with every admirable quality. In feats of strength and agility he recalls the traditions of Washington; he early showed a remarkable avidity for knowledge, which was so sought that he became before he was of age one of the best educated young men of his time in the colonies. He was not only a classical scholar, with the limitations of those days; but, what was then rare, he made scientific attainments which greatly impressed those capable of judging, and he had a taste for art and a remarkable talent as an artist. His father intended him for the ministry. He received his preparatory education from Dr. Joseph Huntington, a classical scholar and the pastor of the church in Coventry, entered Yale College at the age of sixteen, and graduated with high honors in a class of sixty, in September, 1773. At the time of his graduation his personal appearance was notable. Dr. Enos Monro of New Haven, who knew him well in the last year at Yale, said of him
"He was almost six feet in height, perfectly proportioned, and in figure and deportment he was the most manly man I have ever met. His chest was broad; his muscles were firm; his face wore a most benign expression; his complexion was roseate; his eyes were light blue and beamed with intelligence; his hair was soft and light brown in color, and his speech was rather low, sweet, and musical. His personal beauty and grace of manner were most charming. Why, all the girls in New Haven fell in love with him," said Dr. Munro, "and wept tears of real sorrow when they heard of his sad fate. In dress he was always neat; he was quick to lend a hand to a being in distress, brute or human; was overflowing with good humor, and was the idol of all his acquaintances."
Dr. Jared Sparks, who knew several of Hale's intimate friends, writes of him:
"Possessing genius, taste, and order, he became distinguished as a scholar; and endowed in an eminent degree with those graces and gifts of Nature which add a charm to youthful excellence, he gained universal esteem and confidence. To high moral worth and irreproachable habits were joined gentleness of manner, an ingenuous disposition, and vigor of understanding. No young man of his years put forth a fairer promise of future usefulness and celebrity; the fortunes of none were fostered more sincerely by the generous good wishes of his superiors."
It was remembered at Yale that he was a brilliant debater as well as scholar. At his graduation he engaged in a debate on the question, "Whether the education of daughters be not, without any just reason, more neglected than that of the sons." "In this debate," wrote James Hillhouse, one of his classmates, "he was the champion of the daughters, and most ably advocated their cause. You may be sure that he received the plaudits of the ladies present."
Hale seems to have had an irresistible charm for everybody. He was a favorite in society; he had the manners and the qualities that made him a leader among men and gained him the admiration of women. He was always intelligently busy, and had the Yankee ingenuity,—he "could do anything but spin," he used to say to the girls of Coventry, laughing over the spinning wheel. There is a universal testimony to his alert intelligence, vivacity, manliness, sincerity, and winningness.
It is probable that while still an under-graduate at Yale, he was engaged to Alice Adams, who was born in Canterbury, a young lady distinguished then as she was afterwards for great beauty and intelligence. After Hale's death she married Mr. Eleazer Ripley, and was left a widow at the age of eighteen, with one child, who survived its father only one year. She married, the second time, William Lawrence, Esq., of Hartford, and died in this city, greatly respected and admired, in 1845, aged eighty-eight. It is a touching note of the hold the memory of her young hero had upon her admiration that her last words, murmured as life was ebbing, were, "Write to Nathan."
Hale's short career in the American army need not detain us. After his flying visit as a volunteer to Cambridge, he returned to New London, joined a company with the rank of lieutenant, participated in the siege of Boston, was commissioned a captain in the Nineteenth Connecticut Regiment in January, 1776, performed the duties of a soldier with vigilance, bravery, and patience, and was noted for the discipline of his company. In the last dispiriting days of 1775, when the terms of his men had expired, he offered to give them his month's pay if they would remain a month longer. He accompanied the army to New York, and shared its fortunes in that discouraging spring and summer. Shortly after his arrival Captain Hale distinguished himself by the brilliant exploit of cutting out a British sloop, laden with provisions, from under the guns of the man-of-war "Asia," sixty-four, lying in the East River, and bringing her triumphantly into slip. During the summer he suffered a severe illness.
The condition of the American army and cause on the 1st of September, 1776, after the retreat from Long Island, was critical. The army was demoralized, clamoring in vain for pay, and deserting by companies and regiments; one-third of the men were without tents, one-fourth of them were on the sick list. On the 7th, Washington called a council of war, and anxiously inquired what should be done. On the 12th it was determined to abandon the city and take possession of Harlem Heights. The British army, twenty-five thousand strong, admirably equipped, and supported by a powerful naval force, threatened to envelop our poor force, and finish the war in a stroke. Washington was unable to penetrate the designs of the British commander, or to obtain any trusty information of the intentions or the movements of the British army. Information was imperatively necessary to save us from destruction, and it could only be obtained by one skilled in military and scientific knowledge and a good draughtsman, a man of quick eye, cool head, tact, sagacity, and courage, and one whose judgment and fidelity could be trusted. Washington applied to Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton, who summoned a conference of officers in the name of the commander-in-chief, and laid the matter before them. No one was willing to undertake the dangerous and ignominious mission. Knowlton was in despair, and late in the conference was repeating the necessity, when a young officer, pale from recent illness, entered the room and said, "I will undertake it." It was Captain Nathan Hale. Everybody was astonished. His friends besought him not to attempt it. In vain. Hale was under no illusion. He silenced all remonstrances by saying that he thought he owed his country the accomplishment of an object so important and so much desired by the commander-in-chief, and he knew no way to obtain the information except by going into the enemy's camp in disguise. "I wish to be useful," he said; "and every kind of service necessary for the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claims to the performance of that service are imperious."
The tale is well known. Hale crossed over from Norwalk to Huntington Cove on Long Island. In the disguise of a schoolmaster, he penetrated the British lines and the city, made accurate drawings of the fortifications, and memoranda in Latin of all that he observed, which he concealed between the soles of his shoes, and returned to the point on the shore where he had first landed. He expected to be met by a boat and to cross the Sound to Norwalk the next morning. The next morning he was captured, no doubt by Tory treachery, and taken to Howe's headquarters, the mansion of James Beekman, situated at (the present) Fiftieth Street and First Avenue. That was on the 21st of September. Without trial and upon the evidence found on his person, Howe condemned him to be hanged as a spy early next morning. Indeed Hale made no attempt at defense. He frankly owned his mission, and expressed regret that he could not serve his country better. His open, manly bearing and high spirit commanded the respect of his captors. Mercy he did not expect, and pity was not shown him. The British were irritated by a conflagration which had that morning laid almost a third of the city in ashes, and which they attributed to incendiary efforts to deprive them of agreeable winter quarters. Hale was at first locked up in the Beekman greenhouse. Whether he remained there all night is not known, and the place of his execution has been disputed; but the best evidence seems to be that it took place on the farm of Colonel Rutger, on the west side, in the orchard in the vicinity of the present East Broadway and Market Street, and that he was hanged to the limb of an apple-tree.
It was a lovely Sunday morning, before the break of day, that he was marched to the place of execution, September 22d. While awaiting the necessary preparations, a courteous young officer permitted him to sit in his tent. He asked for the presence of a chaplain; the request was refused. He asked for a Bible; it was denied. But at the solicitation of the young officer he was furnished with writing materials, and wrote briefly to his mother, his sister, and his betrothed. When the infamous Cunningham, to whom Howe had delivered him, read what was written, he was furious at the noble and dauntless spirit shown, and with foul oaths tore the letters into shreds, saying afterwards "that the rebels should never know that they had a man who could die with such firmness." As Hale stood upon the fatal ladder, Cunningham taunted him, and tauntingly demanded his "last dying speech and confession." The hero did not heed the words of the brute, but, looking calmly upon the spectators, said in a clear voice, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." And the ladder was snatched from under him.
My friends, we are not honoring today a lad who appears for a moment in a heroic light, but one of the most worthy of the citizens of Connecticut, who has by his lofty character long honored her, wherever patriotism is not a mere name, and where Christian manhood is respected. We have had many heroes, many youths of promise, and men of note, whose names are our only great and enduring riches; but no one of them all better illustrated, short as was his career, the virtues we desire for all our sons. We have long delayed this tribute to his character and his deeds, but in spite of our neglect his fame has grown year by year, as war and politics have taught us what is really admirable in a human being; and we are now sure that we are not erecting a monument to an ephemeral reputation. It is fit that it should stand here, one of the chief distinctions of our splendid Capitol, here in the political centre of the State, here in the city where first in all the world was proclaimed and put into a political charter the fundamental idea of democracy, that "government rests upon the consent of the people," here in the city where by the action of these self existing towns was formed the model, the town and the commonwealth, the bi-cameral legislature, of our constitutional federal union. If the soul of Nathan Hale, immortal in youth in the air of heaven, can behold today this scene, as doubtless it can, in the midst of a State whose prosperity the young colonist could not have imagined in his wildest dreams for his country, he must feel anew the truth that there is nothing too sacred for a man to give for his native land.
Governor Lounsbury, the labor of the commission is finished. On their behalf I present this work of art to the State of Connecticut.
Let the statue speak for itself.