"You will naturally ask, my dear Johns, why I do not combat this; but I am too old and too far spent for a fight about creeds. I should have made a lame fight on that score at any day; but now my main concern, it would seem, should be to look out personally for the creed which has most of mercy in it. If I seem to speak triflingly, my dear Johns, I pray you excuse me; it is only my business way of stating the actual facts in the case. As for Madame Maverick, I am sure you will find no trifling in her (if you ever meet her); she is terribly in earnest. I tell her she would have made a magnificent lady prioress, whereat she thumbs her beads and whispers a Latin distich, as if she were exorcising a demon. Yet I should do wrong if I were to represent her as always severe, even upon such a theme; there certainly belongs to her a tender, appealing manner (reminding of Adele in a way that brings tears to my eyes); but it is always bounded by allegiance to her sworn faith. You will think it an exaggeration, but she reminds me at times of those women of the New Testament (which I have not altogether forgotten) who gave up all for the following of the Master. If I were in your study, my dear Johns, you might ask me who those women were? And for my soul I could not tell you. Yet I have a vague recollection that there were those who showed a beautiful devotion to the Christian faith, that somehow sublimated their lives and memories. Again, I feel constrained to put before you another feature in her character, which I am confident will make you feel kindly toward her; my home near to Marseilles, which has been but a gypsy home for so many years, she has taken under her hand, and by its new appointments and order has convicted me of the losses I have felt so long. True, you might object to the oratoire; but in all else I am confident you would approve, and in all else felicitate Adele upon the home which was preparing for her.
"Madame Maverick will not sail with me for America; although the marriage, under French law, may have admitted Adele to all rights and even social immunities, yet I have represented that another law and custom rules with you. Whatever opprobrium might attach to the mother, Julie, with her exalted religious sentiment, would not weigh for a moment; but as regards Adele, she manifests a strange tenderness. To spare her any pang, or possible pangs, she is content to wait. I have feared, too, I must confess, that any undue expression of condemnation or distrust might work revulsion of her own feeling. But while she assents,—with some reluctance, I must admit,—to this plan of deferring her meeting with Adele, on whom all her affections seem to centre, she insists, in a way that I find it difficult to combat, upon her child's speedy return. That her passionate love will insure entire devotion on the part of Adele, I cannot doubt. And how the anti-Romish faith which must have been instilled in the dear girl by your teachings, as well as by her associations, may withstand the earnest attack of Madame Maverick, I cannot tell. I have a fear it may lead to some dismal complications. You know what the earnestness of your own faith is; but I don't think you yet know the earnestness of an opposing faith, with a Frenchwoman to back it. Even as I write, she comes to cast a glance at my work, and says, 'Monsieur Maverick,' (she called me Frank once,) 'what are you saying there to the heretical Doctor?'
"Whereupon I translate for her ear a sentence or two. 'Tell him,' says she, 'that I thank him for his kindness; tell him besides, that I can in no way better atone for the guiltiness of the past, than by bringing back this wandering lamb into the true fold. Only when we kneel before the same altar, her hand in mine, can I feel that she is truly my child.'
"I fear greatly this zeal may prove infectious.
"And now, my dear Johns, in regard to the revelation to Adele of what is written here,—of the whole truth, in short, for it must come out,—I haven't the heart or the courage to make it myself. I must throw myself on your charity. For Heaven's sake, tell the story as kindly as you can. Don't let her think too harshly of me. See to it, I pray, that my name don't become a bugbear in the village. I have pretty broad shoulders, and could bear it, if I only were to be sufferer; but I am sure 't would react fearfully on the sensibilities of poor Adele. That sin is past cure and past preachment; no good can come from trumpeting wrath against it. Do me this favor, Johns, and you will find me a more willing listener in what is to come. I can't promise, indeed, to accept all your dogmas; there is a thick crust of the world on me, and I doubt if you could force them through it; but, for Adele's sake, I think I could become a very orderly and presentable person, even for a New England meeting-house. I will make a beginning now by turning over the little property which you hold for Adele, in trust, for disbursement in your parish charities. The dear child won't need it, and the parish may."
The Doctor was happy to be relieved of the worst part of the revelation; but he had yet to communicate the fact that the mother was still alive, and (what was to him worst of all) that she was imbruted with the delusions of the Romish Church. He chose his hour, and, meeting her upon the village street, asked her into his study.
"Adaly, your father is coming. He will be here within a month."
"At last! at last!" said she, with a cry of joy.
"But, Adaly," continued he, with great gravity, "I have perhaps led you into error. Your mother, Adaly,—your mother is still living."
"Living!" and an expression almost of radiance shot over the fair face. But in an instant it was gone. Was not the poor lady she had so religiously mourned over her mother? That death embrace and the tomb were, then, only solemn mockeries! With a frightful alertness her thought ran to them,—weighed them. "New Papa," said she, approaching him with a gravity that matched his own, "is this some new delusion? Is it true? Has he written me?"
"He has not written you, my child; but I have a letter, informing me of his marriage, and begging me to make the revelation to you as kindly as I might."
"Marriage! Marriage to whom?" says Adele, her eyes flashing fire, and her lips showing a tempest of scarce controllable feeling.
"Marriage to your mother, Adaly. He would be just at last."
"O my God!" exclaimed Adele, with a burst of tears. "It's false! I shall never see my mother again in this world. I know it! I know it!"
"But, Adaly, my child, consider!" said the old gentleman.
Adele did not heed him. She was lost in her own griefs. She could only exclaim, "O my father! my father!"
The old Doctor was greatly moved; he laid down his spectacles, and paced up and down the room. The earnestness of her doubt made him almost believe that he was himself deceived.
"Can it be? can it be?" he muttered, half under breath, while Adele sat drooping in her chair. "May be the instinct of the poor girl is right, after all," thought he,—"sin is so full of disguises."
At this moment there is a sharp tap at the door, and Miss Eliza steps in, the bearer of a letter from Reuben.
KILLED AT THE FORD
He is dead, the beautiful youth, The heart of honor, the tongue of truth,— He, the life and light of us all, Whose voice was blithe as a bugle call, Whom all eyes followed with one consent, The cheer of whose laugh, and whose pleasant word, Hushed all murmurs of discontent.
Only last night, as we rode along Down the dark of the mountain gap, To visit the picket-guard at the ford, Little dreaming of any mishap, He was humming the words of some old song: "Two red roses he had on his cap And another he bore at the point of his sword."
Sudden and swift a whistling ball Came out of a wood, and the voice was still; Something I heard in the darkness fall, And for a moment my blood grew chill; I spake in a whisper, as he who speaks In a room where some one is lying dead; But he made no answer to what I said.
We lifted him up on his saddle again, And through the mire and the mist and the rain Carried him back to the silent camp, And laid him as if asleep on his bed; And I saw by the light of the surgeon's lamp Two white roses upon his cheeks, And one just over his heart blood-red!
And I saw in a vision how far and fleet That fatal bullet went speeding forth, Till it reached a town in the distant North, Till it reached a house in a sunny street, Till it reached a heart that ceased to beat Without a murmur, without a cry; And a bell was tolled in that far-off town, For one who had passed from cross to crown,— And the neighbors wondered that she should die.
THE LATE INSURRECTION IN JAMAICA.
If Cuba be the Queen of the Antilles, then fairest of the sisterhood which adorn her regal state is Jamaica. A land of streams and mountains, from the one it derives almost inexhaustible fertility of valleys and plains; from the other, enchanting prospects, which challenge comparison with the scenery even of Tyrol and Switzerland. Tropical along its shores, temperate up its steep hills, the sun of Africa on its plains, the frosts of New England in its mountains, there is scarcely a luxury of the South or a comfort of the North which may not be cultivated to advantage somewhere within its borders. Here is the natural home of the sugar-cane; and it is scarcely a figure of speech to say that the sugar supply of the world might come from the teeming bosom of this little island. Here too are slopes of hills, and broad savannas, where "the grass may almost be seen growing," and where may be bred cattle fit to compete with the far-famed herds of England. The forests are full of mahogany and logwood. The surrounding waters swarm with fish of every variety, and of the finest flavor. Nominally, at least, the people are free and self-governed; and if, under propitious skies, the burdens either of the private home or of the state are heavy and crushing, it is because of mismanagement and not of necessity. To a casual observer, therefore, it would seem as if nowhere in the same space were gathered more elements of wealth, prosperity, and happiness than in Jamaica.
* * * * *
Yet Jamaica is poor and discontented, and from year to year is growing more miserable and more full of complaints. While on the little island of Barbadoes, which is flat and comparatively destitute of natural beauty, the inhabitant is proud to the verge of the ludicrous of his home, the Jamaican, dwelling amid scenes of perpetual loveliness, despises his native soil. And not without reason. For Jamaica presents that saddest and least flattering sight, a land sinking into hopeless ruin. Her plantations are left uncultivated. Her cities look time-worn and crumbling. Her fields, which once blossomed like the rose, are relapsing into the wilderness. She does not feed her people. She does not clothe them. She does not furnish them shelter. With three hundred and fifty thousand negroes she has not sufficient labor. With twenty thousand whites she has not employers enough who are capable of managing wisely and paying honestly what labor she has. With a soil which Nature has made one broad pasture, she does not raise the half of her own beef and pork. With plains which ought to be waving with luxuriant harvests of wheat and corn, her children are fed from our overflowing granaries. With woods filled with trees fit for building, she sends all the way to the Provinces for shingles, joist, and boards. On her two hundred swift, sparkling rivers there was not, in 1850, a single saw-mill. In an age of invention and labor-saving machines, the plough is to her a modern innovation; and her laborers still scratch the soil which they seek to till with tools of the Middle Ages. Even the production of sugar, to which she has sacrificed every other industrial interest, has sunk from the boasted hundred and fifty thousand hogsheads of the last century, to a meagre yearly crop of thirty thousand. Nine tenths of her proprietors are absentees. More than that proportion of her great estates are ruinously mortgaged. A tourist gives as the final evidence of exhaustion, that Jamaica has no amusements, no circus, no theatre, no opera, none of the pleasant trifles which surplus wealth creates.
Nor are the moral aspects any more encouraging. Slavery, dying, cursed the soil with its fatal bequest, contempt for labor; and the years which have elapsed since emancipation have done little or nothing to give to the toiler conscious dignity and worth. The bondsman, scarcely yet freed from all his chains, naturally enough thinks that, "if Massa will not work," it is the highest gentility in him not to work either, and sighs for a few acres whereon he may live in sluggish content. And his quondam master, left to his own resources, will not any more than before put his shoulder to the work; and, though sunk himself in sloth, ceases not to complain of another's indolence. The spirit of caste is still relentless. The white man despises the black man, and, if he can, cheats him and tramples upon him. The black man, in return, suspects and fears his old oppressor, and sometimes, goaded to desperation, turns upon him. A perpetual discontent has always brooded over Jamaica; and it is recorded that no less than thirty bloody rebellions have left their crimson stains on her ignoble annals.
It is in vain to inquire for the causes of this physical and moral decay. For every class has its special complaint, every traveller his favorite theory, and every political economist his sufficient explanation. But let the cause be what it may, the fact stands out black and repulsive. Jamaica, which came from the hand of the Creator a fair and well-watered garden, has presented for more than half a century that melancholy spectacle, too common in Equatorial America, of a land rich in every natural advantage, and yet through the misfortune or folly of its people plunged in poverty and misery.
* * * * *
The world at large had become tired of the griefs of Jamaica, and reconciled itself to her wretchedness as a foregone conclusion, when the events of last October lent a fresh and terrible interest to her history. An insurrection, including in its purpose the murder of every white man on the island, has been quenched in the blood of its leaders, say the Governor of Jamaica and his defenders. An insignificant riot has been followed by a wholesale and indiscriminate massacre, sparing not even the women and children, reply their opponents.
Admitting for a moment the whole planter theory of a general insurrection, the question inevitably arises, What are the causes which would prompt such a rebellion, and which, while they do not justify violence, furnish reasons why every humane mind should desire to treat with leniency the errors, and even the crimes, of an ignorant and oppressed race? The ordinary burden of the Jamaica negro is far from a light one. The yearly expense of his government is not less than a million dollars, or about three dollars for every man, woman, and child on the island. The executive and judicial departments are on a scale of expense which would befit a continent. The Governor receives a salary of forty thousand dollars, the Chief Justice fifteen thousand dollars, the Associate Justices ten thousand dollars. The ecclesiastical establishment, which ministers little or nothing to the religious wants of the colored race, absorbs another huge portion of the public revenue. And all this magnificence of expenditure in a population of twenty thousand bankrupt whites and three hundred and fifty thousand half-naked blacks. If, now, the negro believed that this burden was distributed evenly, he might bear it with patience. But he does not believe so. He is sure, on the contrary, that the white man, who controls legislation, so assesses the revenue that it shall relieve the rich and burden the poor. He tells you that the luxuries of the planter are admitted at a nominal duty, while the coarse fabrics with which he must clothe himself and family pay forty per cent; that while the planter's huge hogshead of seventeen hundred pounds' weight pays only an excise of three shillings, the hard-raised barrel of his home produce of two hundred pounds must pay two shillings; that every miserable mule-cart of the petty land-owner is subjected to eighteen shillings license, while the great ox-carts of the thousand-acre plantation go untaxed,—a law under which the number of little carts in one district sunk from five hundred to less than two hundred, and with it sunk who shall tell how much growing enterprise. These complaints may be unjust, but the negro believes in them, and they chafe and exasperate him.
Another important question is, What is the ability of the negro to bear these burdens? A defender of the planters gravely asserts "that the negro demands a price for his labor which would be exorbitant in any part of the world." What is that exorbitant price? An able-bodied agricultural laborer in Jamaica receives from eighteen to thirty cents a day; and, if he is both fortunate and industrious, may net for a year's work the fabulous sum of from fifty to eighty dollars. And this in a country which is one of the dearest in the world; where the necessaries of life are always at war prices; where flour is now twenty dollars a barrel, and eggs are fifty cents a dozen, and butter is forty cents a pound, and ham twenty-five, and beef and mutton still higher.
Did the laborer actually receive his pittance, his lot might be more tolerable. But it is the almost universal complaint, that, either from inability or disinclination, the planter does not keep his agreements. Sometimes the overseer, when the work has been done, and well done, arbitrarily retains a quarter, or even a half, of the stipulated wages. The negro says he has no chance for redress; that even a written agreement is worth no more than a blank paper, for the magistrates are either all planters, or their dependents, and have no ears to hear the cry of the lowly. Add now to all this the fact, that the last few seasons have been unfavorable to agriculture; that planters and peasants alike are even more than usually poor; that in whole districts the blacks are destitute, their children up to the age of ten or twelve years from absolute necessity going about stark naked, and their men and women wearing only rags and streamers, which do not preserve even the show of decency;—and is there not sufficient reason, not indeed to justify murder and arson, but why a whole race of suffering and excitable people should not be stamped as fiends in human shape for the outrages of a few of their number?
* * * * *
Turn now to the actual scene of conflict. In a little triangular tract of country on the east shore of Jamaica, hemmed in between the sea and the Blue Mountains, twenty-five miles long and two thirds as wide, occurred in October last what Governor Eyre has seen fit to dignify with the name of an insurrection. The first act of violence was committed at Morant Bay,—a town where it is said that no missionary to the blacks has been permitted to live for thirty-five years,—in the parish of St. Thomas in the East,—that very St. Thomas, possibly, whose court-house was called forty years ago the "hell of Jamaica," and where is preserved as a pleasant relic of the past a record book wherein the curious traveller reads the prices paid in the palmy days of slavery for cutting off the ears and legs, and slitting the noses, of runaway negroes. Had these negroes of Morant Bay any special causes of exasperation? They had. Their complaint was threefold. First, that the only magistrate who protected their interests had been arbitrarily removed. Second, that a plantation claimed by them to be deserted was as arbitrarily adjudged to be the rightful property of a white man. Third, that the plucking of fruit by the wayside, which had been a custom from time immemorial, and which resembled the plucking of ears of corn under the Jewish law, was by new regulations made a crime. Thus matters stood on the day of the outbreak; a general condition of poverty and discontent throughout the island; a special condition of exasperation in the parish of St. Thomas in the East, and particularly at Morant Bay.
* * * * *
On the 7th of last October, a negro was arrested for picking two cocoanuts, value threepence. This arrest had every exasperating condition. The fruit was taken from a plantation whose title was disputed, and upon which the negroes had squatted. The law which made the plucking of fruit a crime was itself peculiarly obnoxious. The magistrate before whom the offence was to be tried, rightly or wrongly, was accused by the blacks of gross partiality and injustice. The accused man was followed to the court by a crowd of his friends, armed, it is said, with clubs, though this latter statement seems to be doubtful. When a sentence of four shillings' fine, or, in default of payment, thirty days' imprisonment, was imposed, the award was received in silence. But when the costs were adjudged to be twelve shillings and sixpence, there were murmurs. Some tumultuously advised the man not to pay. Some, believing the case involved the title to the land, told him to appeal to a higher court. The magistrate ordered the arrest of all noisy persons. But these fled to the street, and, shielded by the citizens, escaped. The next day but one, six constables armed with a warrant proceeded to Stony Gut, the scene of the original arrest, to take into custody twenty-eight persons accused of riot. But they were forcibly resisted, handcuffed with their own irons, and forced ignominiously to take their way back. Some of the arrests, however, were made quietly a little time after.
On the 11th of October dawned an eventful day. The magistrates were assembled in the court-house at Morant Bay for the purpose of examining the prisoners. The court-house was guarded by twenty armed volunteers, a body apparently of local militia. Some four or five hundred excited blacks surrounded the court-house, armed with bludgeons, grasping stones. What led to a collision can never be known. Very probably missiles were thrown at the guard. At any rate the officer in command ordered them to fire upon the crowd, and fifteen of the rioters fell dead or wounded. Then all restraint was at an end. The negroes threw themselves with incredible fury upon the guard, drove them into the court-house, summoned them to surrender at discretion, then set fire to the building, and murdered, with many circumstances of atrocity, the unhappy inmates, as they sought to flee. Sixteen were killed, and eighteen wounded, while a few escaped unharmed, by the help of the negroes themselves. This was the beginning and the end of the famous armed insurrection, so far as it ever was armed insurrection. The rioters dispersed. The spirit of insubordination spread to the plantations. There was general confusion, some destruction of property, some robbery. The whites were filled with alarm. Many left all and fled. The most exaggerated reports obtained credence. But if we except a Mr. Hine, who had rendered himself especially unpopular, and who was murdered on his plantation, not one white man appears to have been killed in cold blood, and not one white woman or child suffered from violence of any sort. Facts to the contrary may yet come to light. Official reports may reveal some secret chapter of bloodshed. But the chances of such a revelation are small enough. Three months have elapsed since the first tidings of the outbreak reached the mother country. There has been a great excitement; investigation has been demanded; facts have been called for; the defenders of the planters have been defied to produce facts. Meanwhile the Governor of Jamaica has written home repeated despatches; the commander of the military forces which crushed the rebellion has visited England; the planters' journals have come laden with vulgar abuse of the negro, and with all sorts of evil surmises as to his motives and purposes; letters have been received from Jamaica from persons in every position in life; and still no new facts,—not so much as one clear accusation of any further fatal violence. The conclusion is irresistible, that this was a riot, and not an insurrection; and that it began and ended, so far as armed force was concerned, at Morant Bay, on that unhappy day, the 11th of last October.
It cannot be denied that the occurrences of that day were marked by some circumstances of painful ferocity. Men were literally hacked to pieces, crying for mercy. One man's tongue was cut from his mouth even while he lived. Another, escaping, was thrown back into the burning building, and roasted to death. The joints of the hand of the dead chief magistrate were dissevered by the blacks, who cried out exultingly, "This hand will write no more lying despatches to the Queen." But the events of that day were marked also by instances of humanity. The clerk of the court was rescued by his negro servant, who thrust him beneath the floor, and, watching his opportunity, conveyed him to the shelter of the woods next morning. A child, who happened to be with his father in the court-house, was snatched up by a negro woman, who, at the risk of her own life, carried him to a place of safety. But admitting the worst charges, any one who remembers the New York riot of 1863 will be slow to assert that this black mob exhibited any barbarity which has not been more than emulated by white mobs. Shocking enough the details are; but human action always and with every race is ferocious, when once the restraints of self-control and the law are thrown off.
* * * * *
With a people so excitable as the blacks of Jamaica, and among whom there existed so many causes of disaffection, the greatest promptitude of action was a virtue. Had Governor Eyre marched with a military force into the district, had he crushed out every vestige of armed resistance, had he brought before proper tribunals and punished with severity all persons who were convicted of any complicity in these outrages, he would have merited the praise of every good man. What he did was to let loose upon a little district, unmuzzled, the dogs of war. What he did was to gather from all quarters an armed force, a motley crew, regulars and militia, sailors and landsmen, black and white, and permit them to hold for fourteen long days a saturnalia of blood. What he did was to summon the savage Maroon tribes to the feast of death, that by their barbaric warfare they might add yet one more shade of gloom to the picture. The official accounts are enough to blanch the cheek with horror. In two days after the riot martial law was declared. In four, the outbreak was hemmed into narrow quarters. In a week, it ceased to exist in any shape. Yet the work of death went on. Bands of maddened soldiers pierced the country in every direction. Men were arrested upon the slightest suspicion. Every petty officer constituted himself a judge; every private soldier became an executioner. If the black man fled, he was shot as a rebel; if he surrendered, he was hung on the same pretext, after the most summary trial. If the number of prisoners became inconveniently large, they were shot, or else whipped and let go, apparently according to the whim of the officer in command. Women were seized, stripped half naked, and thrown among the vulgar soldiery to be scourged. The estimate is that five hundred and fifty were hung by order of drum-head court-martials, five hundred destroyed by the Maroons, two thousand shot by the soldiery, and that three hundred women were catted, and how many men nobody presumes even to guess. One asks, At what expense of life to the victors was all this slaughter accomplished? And he reads, that not one soldier was killed, that not one soldier was wounded, that not one soldier received so much as a scratch, unless from the bushes through which he pursued his human prey. It was not war: it was a massacre. These poor people fled like panic-struck sheep, and the soldiery tracked them like wolves. The human heart could wish to take refuge in incredulity, but alas! the worst testimony of all is found in the official reports of the actors themselves.
A few terrible anecdotes will give reality to the picture. George Marshall, a mulatto, was taken up with others as a straggler, and ordered to receive fifty lashes. With each lash the unfortunate man gritted his teeth and turned his head, whether from pain or anger is uncertain. The provost-marshal construed this into a threatening look, and ordered him to be hung, which was done. There was no proof whatever that Marshall had any connection with the riot. A company of Maroons discovered a body of blacks, men, women, and children, who had taken refuge up in the trees, and stood and deliberately shot them, one by one, until they had all fallen, and the ground beneath was thickly strewn with their dead bodies. On a plantation between Morant Bay and Port Antonio the people were led by evil example into some acts of riot and pillage. But even in the midst of their license they sent word to the English gentleman who had charge of the plantation, that, if he and his family remained quiet, they should be protected. So rapidly did the spirit of rioting burn itself out, that on the next Sunday, only four days after the first outbreak at Morant Bay, he rode down to the estate, conducted a religious service as usual, speaking boldly to the people of the folly and sin of their course, and counselling them to return quietly to their work. His words were so well received, that on Monday morning he started for the plantation, purposing to appoint for the workmen their tasks, as the best possible way of keeping them out of mischief. As he drew near, he heard firing, and the first sight which greeted him was a negro shot down. The village was in possession of a small company of soldiers, without even a subaltern to control them. Without pretence of a trial, they were shooting the people one by one, as they were pointed out to them by a petty constable. On their march, these very soldiers had been ordered to fire upon every one who ran away, and they fired at every bush at random, never stopping to count the slain.
Nothing can exceed the horrible frankness of the reports of the officers. Here is Lieutenant Aldcock's language: "On returning to Golden Grove in the evening, sixty-seven prisoners were sent in by the Maroons. I disposed of as many as possible, but was too tired to continue after dark. On the morning of the 24th, I started for Morant Bay, having first flogged four, and hung six rebels." Here is a gem from Captain Ford: "The black troops are more successful than ours in catching horses; nearly all of them are mounted. They shot about one hundred and sixty people in their march from Port Antonio to Manchioneal, hanged seven in Manchioneal, and shot three on their way here. This is a picture of martial law. The soldiers enjoy it." Now consider a moment this killing of one hundred and sixty people on the way from Port Antonio. The distance traversed in a direct line was about twelve miles. There are no large towns on the line of march; and if you suppose that the rural population had here the average density of the island, there could not have been, in a belt of country one mile wide and the twelve miles long, over five hundred people; and we are forced to the conclusion, that these restorers of peace cleaned a strip a mile wide of every man and every well-grown boy. "And the soldiers enjoy it!" And the officers glory in it! Nothing was permitted to stop or clog the death mills. At Morant Bay, "to save time," two court-martials were formed. No time was lost in proceeding to business. "Each five minutes condemned rebels were taken down under escort awaiting their doom." Only three brought before these terrible tribunals escaped death. The court, composed exclusively of military and naval officers, spared none; every one brought before it was hanged. How many other such courts were at work does not appear; but it is evident not less than ten or a dozen. And subalterns, who ought not to have been intrusted with the charge of a score of men, assumed the dread power of life and death over poor wretches snatched from their homes, and given neither time nor opportunity for defence. Yet all this does not satisfy the remorseless planter. When, in a parish of thirty thousand people, two or three thousand sleep in bloody graves, and at least as many more have been pitilessly scourged, he calls "the clemency of the authorities extraordinary," and says, "that it comes too soon." No wonder that such a record as this stirred to its depth the popular heart of England. And it is the only relieving feature, that the indignation thus aroused has overridden all opposition, silenced all paltry excuses, and forced the government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry, and pending that inquiry to suspend Governor Eyre from his office.
One case, that of the judicial murder of Mr. Gordon, has properly awakened great attention. Mr. Gordon was the very magistrate whose removal from office created so much discontent in the whole parish of St. Thomas in the East. He was a colored man with a very slight infusion of black blood. His father was an Englishman, and he himself was bred in England and married an English lady. He was wealthy, and the owner of a great plantation. A bitter and fearless opponent of what he considered to be the oppression of the planters, they in turn concentrated upon him all their anger and malice, while the negroes looked up to him as their hope and defence. The mere statement of the facts indicates that, if Mr. Gordon was to be tried at all, the investigation should have been patient, open, and thorough, granting to the accused every opportunity of defence. What did take place was this. Mr. Gordon was at Kingston, forty miles away from the scene of action. As soon as he learned that a warrant was out for his arrest, he surrendered himself, and was hurried away from the place where civil law was supreme to the scene of martial law at Morant Bay. Without a friend to defend him, with no opportunity to procure rebutting evidence, he was brought before a court of three subalterns, and, after what was called "a very patient trial" of four or five hours, sentenced to be hanged. Not one insult was spared. When he was marched up from the wharf, the sailors were permitted to heap upon him every opprobrious epithet. Before his execution "his black coat and vest were taken from him as a prize by one soldier, his spectacles by another; so," as an officer boasts, "he was treated not differently from the common herd." The accusation was, that he had plotted a wide-spread and diabolical rebellion. The only evidence which has been submitted proves him guilty of intemperate language, and an abounding sympathy for the poor and oppressed.[G] In his last letter to his wife, written just before his execution, he uses language which has the stamp of truth upon it. "I do not deserve my sentence, for I never advised or took part in the insurrection. All I ever did was to recommend the people who complained to seek redress in a legitimate way. It is, however, the will of God that I should thus suffer in obeying his command to relieve the poor and needy, and so far as I was able to protect the oppressed. And glory be to His name, and I thank Him that I suffer in such a cause." But it matters not of what Mr. Gordon was guilty; the method of the proceedings, the dragging him from civil protection, the deprivation of all proper opportunity for defence, the putting him to death as it were in a corner, were all subversive of personal rights and safety. The highest authority in England has declared the whole trial an illegality. And the circumstances of the hour, when every vestige, ever pretence, of armed resistance had been swept away, left no excuse for over-stepping the bounds of legal authority.
It is proper that full weight should be given to the alleged justification of these enormities. A diabolical plot existed, whose meshes included the whole island, and whose purpose was to put to death every white man and to outrage every white woman. This is what the Governor asserts. This is what the Assembly reiterates. This is the charge upon which every appeal of the Jamaican journals turns. The whole truth we probably never shall know. The men who could best reveal it are silent in the graves which lawless violence has dug for them, and will bear no testimony except at the bar or Eternal Justice. The report of the Committee of Inquiry will no doubt shed some light. Pending that inquiry there are considerations which strike every one. If for two years a bloody insurrection had been plotted, and the outbreak at Morant Bay was the first stroke to toward its accomplishment, is it credible that these truculent rebels should submit themselves as sheep to the slaughter,—that not one band should be found to strike a manly blow for life and liberty? If such an insurrection had its roots in every part of the island, is it credible, that, while the whole military and naval force, and no small part of the white inhabitants, were engaged in putting down the thirty thousand of their brethren in St. Thomas and Portland parishes, the three hundred thousand blacks all over the island should remain peaceable and law-abiding? And it is to be noticed that, since the reign of terror has subsided a little, those who know the negroes best, the missionaries who labor among them, express the most hearty contempt for these charges. But suppose that the negro had plotted insurrection, diabolical, satanic, would that be any excuse for wholesale slaughter, without forms of law, when all resistance was at an end? We know that the South plotted and consummated rebellion; that her people have slain three hundred thousand of our sons on the battle-field; that more than thirty thousand have wasted and died of slow torture in her prisons; that whenever the secrets of that charnel-house, Southern life, are disclosed, they will tell of thousands of Unionists who were hung, who were shot, who were burned at the stake, who were hunted by dogs, who were scourged to death with whips, and all because they were faithful to their country. And knowing all this, is there a man of the North who, when military resistance has ceased, would march our armies southward, hang every tenth man, shoot every fourth, scourge as many more, and suffer a wild soldiery to strip half naked and score with cruel whips thousands of the women? And does it alter the moral aspect of the case, that these things are transacted on a little island of the sea, and not on a continent,—or that the skin of the sufferer is black instead of white?
* * * * *
The use men seek to make of events reveals often the motives which they carried into the transaction of these events. Never was this more true of any body of people than of the planters of Jamaica. The Kingston Journal, an opposition, but not radical paper, boldly asserts, that the press has been gagged because it urged upon government the necessity of reform; that it has not dared to comment upon current facts, lest it should come under grave suspicion; that "now, when the greatest order prevails, and there is not the remotest probability of another outbreak, we dare not comment upon events, which, for the good of all classes, ought to be calmly and fully discussed." A significant commentary upon these statements is the fact that Mr. Levien, the editor of a Jamaica paper, was arrested, because in an editorial he boldly condemned the trial and execution of Mr. Gordon. And it is probable that he escaped paying dearly for his courage, only because the Chief Justice of Jamaica declared the whole law under which he was arrested unconstitutional, and dismissed the case. A still more significant commentary upon these statements is that other fact, that, in the midst of what they averred were the throes of a great rebellion, the members of the Assembly proceeded to destroy the very foundations of civil and religious liberty and of the freedom of the press. They proposed to give the Governor almost despotic authority, by surrendering the franchise of the Assembly, and vesting its power in a council of twenty-four, half of whom should be appointed by the Governor himself, and half elected by the people from the list only of those who had estates worth more than fifteen hundred dollars a year, or a salary of more than twenty-five hundred dollars. All social worship, all conference and prayer meetings, and even family prayers, if more than two strangers were present, were to be interdicted, unless, indeed, they were conducted by a minister of a favored sect. The denominations who had chiefly ministered to the blacks were to be placed under such disabilities as should greatly limit, or else destroy, their usefulness. And to round out and complete the circle of despotism, this proposition, was introduced,—"that if anything is contained in any printed paper which may be considered seditious, or that may be adjudged so by any court which the Governor may appoint, the writer shall be sentenced to hard labor in the penitentiary for seven years." It is idle to suppose that these measures will be sanctioned by the Queen; but they show what feelings burn in the breasts of the planters, and admonish us to receive with caution any statements which they may make concerning other classes of the community.
* * * * *
This Jamaica "insurrection," whose origin, growth, and extinguishment in blood have now been traced, has been the cause of we know not how many oracular warnings from the lips of those who have not been distinguished by any hearty attachment to the rights of the black. "See now," they say, "what is the peril of emancipating these blacks." "Behold what comes of educating this people up to the capacity of mischief." "Acknowledge now that not even the gift of universal suffrage will elevate and soften a race at once fickle and ferocious. There is no safety but in keeping them under. Stop in your perilous experiments while you can."
So long as the accounts of this outbreak are at once so conflicting and so colored by party feeling, it may not be easy to say what are its positive lessons. But it is easy to tell some things which it does not teach.
In the first place, it does not teach the danger of conferring the right to vote upon the negro, for the negro of Jamaica has never attained to that privilege. His traducers cry out, "What a race! The best fed, the best clothed, the best sheltered, the least worked peasantry on the face of the earth! Free! Free to make their own laws, to choose their own rulers, to govern themselves! And yet they are discontented!" Turn now and inquire what are the facts about their governing themselves. True, no law says the negro shall not vote, but the qualification is made so high that it is impossible that he should vote. In a country where wages are scarcely a quarter of a dollar a day, he is required to have an estate worth thirty dollars a year, or an income of one hundred and forty dollars a year, or to pay taxes of fifteen dollars a year. Suppose now that in New England a law were passed that no man should vote who had not an estate worth two hundred dollars a year, or an income of one thousand dollars, or who did not pay one hundred dollars yearly tax,—and this, considering the difference of wages, is scarcely as high a qualification as that of Jamaica,—and how large a proportion of our people would obtain the privileges of a voter? In fact, in Jamaica only three thousand vote, or about one twenty-fifth of the adult males. Is it not just possible that the discontent there may grow out of aspirations for self-government, and for the dignity and privileges, as well as the name, of freemen? May not the outbreak teach the danger of not allowing the negro to vote?
In the second place, this rebellion does not teach the danger of educating the negro; for the negro of Jamaica never has been educated. While the government has wrung from his scanty wages a million dollars, it pays the Governor alone more than three times the sum it appropriates to education. It doles out for the education of seventy-five thousand children the pittance of twelve thousand five hundred dollars. Did not the negro himself eke out this bounty from his own little savings, not one in a dozen of the children would ever enter a school-room or see a book. As it is, only one sixth part of the children are, or ever were, under instruction. And the instruction they receive is too often from persons themselves illiterate and full of superstition, but who are the best teachers who can be obtained with limited means. Consider, then, the real condition of affairs,—three hundred and fifty thousand blacks, a large share of them children or grandchildren of those who were brought from Africa, with the wild blood of their fathers scarcely diluted in their veins, with all the old traditions of Fetichism and Obi worship fresh in their minds, altogether uneducated, or at best half educated; consider what virgin soil is here for every vile superstition, what a field for the demagogue to cultivate, and then decide whether it might not be safer, after all, to educate the negro in Jamaica.
This insurrection does not teach, in the third place, the danger of obliterating the lines of caste, for in Jamaica those lines have never been obliterated, or even made faint. It may be doubted whether there was ever a moment when the ill-dissembled contempt of the whites, and the distrust of the blacks, were more profound then now. An intelligent observer declared, in 1850, that the gap between the blacks and whites had been steadily increasing ever since emancipation. And ten years later the Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society records, "that, as a general statement, there is no generous feeling in the relations between employer and employed. The negro can expect nothing but barest justice, and is happy if he gets that." Can there be any safety for the minority, when the majority, which numbers fifteen to one, has such a sense of injustice rankling in its breast? One wades through the late reprints of the Jamaica journals, column after column, page after page, filled with coarse invective, with bitter denunciation, with injurious suspicion; sees with what terrible relish the sufferings of these deluded people are recorded; marks how the heroism which goes to the scaffold without a tremor, and looks undeserved death in the face without a fear, is travestied; shudders to hear the planters, after thousands have been slain, yet cry for more blood; and then he puts the paper down and says, "Here in this language is material enough out of which to create a dozen bloody rebellions." How any race with the blood of the tropics boiling in their veins, with the traditions of old oppressions burning in their memory, can ever forget or forgive this language and these unbridled outrages is inconceivable. He is mad who does not see that the gulf of caste, too wide before, has widened and deepened almost unfathomably by the influence of the events of the last few months. He is mad, too, who thinks that Morant Bay, or the parish of St. Thomas in the East, with their unshrived dead, is a safer place for a white man to dwell in than it was six months ago.
It is too early to gather up all the lessons of this last of the almost innumerable outbreaks in Jamaica. They may never be gathered up. But one lesson stands out prominently, and that is, the safety of justice. We cannot bring perfect equality upon the earth. It is not desirable perhaps that we should. To the end of time, probably, there will be rich and poor, high and low, weak and strong, black and white. But we can be just. We can recognize every man as a child of God. We can grant to him all the rights, all the privileges, and all the opportunities which belong to a man. That is a lesson which Jamaica has never learned, and therefore she sits under the shadow of her mountains, by the side of the restless sea, clothed in garments of wretchedness.
[G] Since the above was written, despatches and explanations have been received from Governor Eyre, and published; also an unofficial account of the trial of Mr. Gordon, from the pen of a reporter who was present. It is to be regretted that these papers do not relieve the authorities from the charge of atrocious and illegal cruelty in the slightest degree. Neither does the evidence in any way justify the legal or illegal murder of Mr. Gordon. While in November there was an evident desire to boast of the number and severity of the punishments which had been inflicted upon the unfortunate blacks, there is as evident a desire in January to show that the number of those who perished has been greatly exaggerated. But it is difficult to see how the actors propose to refute statements for which they themselves furnished the materials. One agreeable fact comes out in these papers, that the British home authorities never committed themselves to a support of the conduct of the Jamaican officials. On the contrary, it now appears that Mr. Cardwell, the British Colonial Secretary, from the beginning intimated very clearly his doubt on the propriety of the proceedings, especially in the case of Mr. Gordon.
THE CHIMNEY-CORNER FOR 1866.
DRESS, OR WHO MAKES THE FASHIONS.
The door of my study being open, I heard in the distant parlor a sort of flutter of silken wings, and chatter of bird-like voices, which told me that a covey of Jennie's pretty young street birds had just alighted there. I could not forbear a peep at the rosy faces that glanced out under pheasants' tails, doves' wings, and nodding hummingbirds, and made one or two errands in that direction only that I might gratify my eyes with a look at them.
Your nice young girl, of good family and good breeding, is always a pretty object, and, for my part, I regularly lose my heart (in a sort of figurative way) to every fresh, charming creature that trips across my path. All their mysterious rattle-traps and whirligigs,—their curls and networks and crimples and rimples and crisping-pins,—their little absurdities, if you will,—have to me a sort of charm, like the tricks and stammerings of a curly-headed child. I should have made a very poor censor if I had been put in Cato's place: the witches would have thrown all my wisdom into some private chip-basket of their own, and walked off with it in triumph. Never a girl bows to me that I do not see in her eye a twinkle of confidence that she could, if she chose, make an old fool of me. I surrender at discretion on first sight.
Jennie's friends are nice girls,—the flowers of good, staid, sensible families,—not heathen blossoms nursed in the hot-bed heat of wild, high-flying, fashionable society. They have been duly and truly taught and brought up, by good mothers and painstaking aunties, to understand in their infancy that handsome is that handsome does; that little girls must not be vain of their pretty red shoes and nice curls, and must remember that it is better to be good than to be handsome; with all other wholesome truisms of the kind. They have been to school, and had their minds improved in all modern ways,—have calculated eclipses, and read Virgil, Schiller, and La Fontaine, and understand all about the geological strata, and the different systems of metaphysics,—so that a person reading the list of their acquirements might be a little appalled at the prospect of entering into conversation with them. For all these reasons I listened quite indulgently to the animated conversation that was going on about—Well!
What do girls generally talk about, when a knot of them get together? Not, I believe, about the sources of the Nile, or the precession of the equinoxes, or the nature of the human understanding, or Dante, or Shakespeare, or Milton, although they have learned all about them in school; but upon a theme much nearer and dearer,—the one all-pervading feminine topic ever since Eve started the first toilet of fig-leaves; and as I caught now and then a phrase of their chatter, I jotted it down in pure amusement, giving to each charming speaker the name of the bird under whose colors she was sailing.
"For my part," said little Humming-Bird, "I'm quite worn out with sewing; the fashions are all so different from what they were last year, that everything has to be made over."
"Isn't it dreadful!" said Pheasant. "There's my new mauve silk dress! it was a very expensive silk, and I haven't worn it more than three or four times, and it really looks quite dowdy; and I can't get Patterson to do it over for me for this party. Well, really, I shall have to give up company because I have nothing to wear."
"Who does set the fashions, I wonder," said Humming-Bird; "they seem now-a-days to whirl faster and faster, till really they don't leave one time for anything."
"Yes," said Dove, "I haven't a moment for reading, or drawing, or keeping up my music. The fact is, now-a-days, to keep one's self properly dressed is all one can do. If I were grande dame now, and had only to send an order to my milliner and dressmaker, I might be beautifully dressed all the time without giving much thought to it myself; and that is what I should like. But this constant planning about one's toilet, changing your buttons and your fringes and your bonnet-trimmings and your hats every other day, and then being behindhand! It is really too fatiguing.
"Well," said Jennie, "I never pretend to keep up. I never expect to be in the front rank of fashion, but no girl wants to be behind every one; nobody wants to have people say, 'Do see what an old-times, rubbishy-looking creature that is.' And now, with my small means and conscience, (for I have a conscience in this matter, and don't wish to spend any more time and money than is needed to keep one's self fresh and tasteful,) I find my dress quite a fatiguing care."
"Well, now, girls," said Humming-Bird, "do you really know, I have sometimes thought I should like to be a nun, just to get rid of all this labor. If I once gave up dress altogether, and knew I was to have nothing but one plain robe tied round my waist with a cord, it does seem to me as if it would be a perfect repose,—only one is a Protestant, you know."
Now, as Humming-Bird was the most notoriously dressy individual in the little circle, this suggestion was received with quite a laugh. But Dove took it up.
"Well, really," she said, "when dear Mr. S—— preaches those saintly sermons to us about our baptismal vows, and the nobleness of an unworldly life, and calls on us to live for something purer and higher than we are living for, I confess that sometimes all my life seems to me a mere sham,—that I am going to church, and saying solemn words, and being wrought up by solemn music, and uttering most solemn vows and prayers, all to no purpose; and then I come away and look at my life, all resolving itself into a fritter about dress, and sewing-silk, cord, braid, and buttons,—the next fashion of bonnets,—how to make my old dresses answer instead of new,—how to keep the air of the world, while in my heart I am cherishing something higher and better. If there's anything I detest it is hypocrisy; and sometimes the life I lead looks like it. But how to get out of it? what to do?"
"I'm sure," said Humming-Bird, "that taking care of my clothes and going into company is, frankly, all I do. If I go to parties, as other girls do, and make calls, and keep dressed,—you know papa is not rich, and one must do these things economically,—it really does take all the time I have. When I was confirmed the Bishop talked to us so sweetly, and I really meant sincerely to be a good girl,—to be as good as I knew how; but now, when they talk about fighting the good fight and running the Christian race, I feel very mean and little, for I am sure this isn't doing it. But what is,—and who is?"
"Aunt Betsey Titcomb is doing it, I suppose," said Pheasant.
"Aunt Betsey!" said Humming-Bird, "well, she is. She spends all her money in doing good. She goes around visiting the poor all the time. She is a perfect saint;—but O girls, how she looks! Well, now, I confess, when I think I must look like Aunt Betsey, my courage gives out. Is it necessary to go without hoops, and look like a dipped candle, in order to be unworldly? Must one wear such a fright of a bonnet?"
"No," said Jennie, "I think not. I think Miss Betsey Titcomb, good as she is, injures the cause of goodness by making it outwardly repulsive. I really think, if she would take some pains with her dress, and spend upon her own wardrobe a little of the money she gives away, that she might have influence in leading others to higher aims; now all her influence is against it. Her outre and repulsive exterior arrays our natural and innocent feelings against goodness; for surely it is natural and innocent to wish to look well, and I am really afraid a great many of us are more afraid of being thought ridiculous than of being wicked."
"And after all," said Pheasant, "you know Mr. St. Clair says, 'Dress is one of the fine arts,' and if it is, why of course we ought to cultivate it. Certainly, well-dressed men and women are more agreeable objects than rude and unkempt ones. There must be somebody whose mission it is to preside over the agreeable arts of life; and I suppose it falls to 'us girls.' That's the way I comfort myself, at all events. Then I must confess that I do like dress; I'm not cultivated enough to be a painter or a poet, and I have all my artistic nature, such as it is, in dress. I love harmonies of color, exact shades and matches; I love to see a uniform idea carried all through a woman's toilet,—her dress, her bonnet, her gloves, her shoes, her pocket-handkerchief and cuffs, her very parasol, all in correspondence."
"But, my dear," said Jennie, "anything of this kind must take a fortune!"
"And if I had a fortune, I'm pretty sure I should spend a good deal of it in this way," said Pheasant. "I can imagine such completeness of toilet as I have never seen. How I would like the means to show what I could do! My life, now, is perpetual disquiet. I always feel shabby. My things must all be bought at hap-hazard, as they can be got out of my poor little allowance,—and things are getting so horridly dear! Only think of it, girls! gloves at two and a quarter! and boots at seven, eight, and ten dollars! and then, as you say, the fashions changing so! Why, I bought a sack last fall and gave forty dollars for it, and this winter I'm wearing it, to be sure, but it has no style at all,—looks quite antiquated!"
"Now I say," said Jennie, "that you are really morbid on the subject of dress; you are fastidious and particular and exacting in your ideas in a way that really ought to be put down. There is not a girl of our set that dresses as nicely as you do, except Emma Seyton, and her father, you know, has no end of income."
"Nonsense, Jennie," said Pheasant. "I think I really look like a beggar; but then, I bear it as well as I can, because, you see, I know papa does all for us he can, and I won't be extravagant. But I do think, as Humming-Bird says, that it would be a great relief to give it up altogether and retire from the world; or, as Cousin John says, climb a tree and pull it up after you, and so be in peace."
"Well," said Jennie, "all this seems to have come on since the war. It seems to me that not only has everything doubled in price, but all the habits of the world seem to require that you shall have double the quantity of everything. Two or three years ago a good balmoral skirt was a fixed fact; it was a convenient thing for sloppy, unpleasant weather. But now, dear me! there is no end to them. They cost fifteen and twenty dollars; and girls that I know have one or two every season, besides all sorts of quilled and embroidered and ruffled and tucked and flounced ones. Then, in dressing one's hair, what a perfect overflow there is of all manner of waterfalls, and braids, and rats and mice, and curls, and combs; when three or four years ago we combed our own hair innocently behind our ears, and put flowers in it, and thought we looked nicely at our evening parties! I don't believe we look any better now, when we are dressed, than we did then,—so what's the use?"
"Well, did you ever see such a tyranny as this of fashion?" said Humming-Bird. "We know it's silly, but we all bow down before it; we are afraid of our lives before it; and who makes all this and sets it going? The Paris milliners, the Empress, or who?"
"The question where fashions come from is like the question where pins go to," said Pheasant. "Think of the thousands and millions of pins that are being used every year, and not one of them worn out. Where do they all go to? One would expect to find a pin mine somewhere."
"Victor Hugo says they go into the sewers in Paris," said Jennie.
"And the fashions come from a source about as pure," said I, from the next room.
"Bless me, Jennie, do tell us if your father has been listening to us all this time!" was the next exclamation; and forthwith there was a whir and rustle of the silken wings, as the whole troop fluttered into my study.
"Now, Mr. Crowfield, you are too bad!" said Humming-Bird, as she perched upon a corner of my study-table, and put her little feet upon an old "Froissart" which filled the arm-chair.
"To be listening to our nonsense!" said Pheasant.
"Lying in wait for us!" said Dove.
"Well, now, you have brought us all down on you," said Humming-Bird, "and you won't find it so easy to be rid of us. You will have to answer all our questions."
"My dears, I am at your service, as far as mortal man may be," said I.
"Well, then," said Humming-Bird, "tell us all about everything,—how things come to be as they are. Who makes the fashions?"
"I believe it is universally admitted that, in the matter of feminine toilet, France rules the world," said I.
"But who rules France?" said Pheasant. "Who decides what the fashions shall be there?"
"It is the great misfortune of the civilized world, at the present hour," said I, "that the state of morals in France is apparently at the very lowest ebb, and consequently the leadership of fashion is entirely in the hands of a class of women who could not be admitted into good society, in any country. Women who can never have the name of wife,—who know none of the ties of family,—these are the dictators whose dress and equipage and appointments give the law, first to France, and through France to the civilized world. Such was the confession of Monsieur Dupin, made in a late speech before the French Senate, and acknowledged, with murmurs of assent on all sides, to be the truth. This is the reason why the fashions have such an utter disregard of all those laws of prudence and economy which regulate the expenditures of families. They are made by women whose sole and only hold on life is personal attractiveness, and with whom to keep this up, at any cost, is a desperate necessity. No moral quality, no association of purity, truth, modesty, self-denial, or family love, comes in to hallow the atmosphere about them, and create a sphere of loveliness which brightens as mere physical beauty fades. The ravages of time and dissipation must be made up by an unceasing study of the arts of the toilet. Artists of all sorts, moving in their train, rack all the stores of ancient and modern art for the picturesque, the dazzling, the grotesque; and so, lest these Circes of society should carry all before them, and enchant every husband, brother, and lover, the staid and lawful Penelopes leave the hearth and home to follow in their triumphal march and imitate their arts. Thus it goes in France; and in England, virtuous and domestic princesses and peeresses must take obediently what has been decreed by their rulers in the demi-monde of France; and we in America have leaders of fashion, who make it their pride and glory to turn New York into Paris, and to keep even step with everything that is going on there. So the whole world of womankind is marching under the command of these leaders. The love of dress and glitter and fashion is getting to be a morbid, unhealthy epidemic, which really eats away the nobleness and purity of women.
"In France, as Monsieur Dupin, Edmond About, and Michelet tell us, the extravagant demands of love for dress lead women to contract debts unknown to their husbands, and sign obligations which are paid by the sacrifice of honor, and thus the purity of the family is continually undermined. In England there is a voice of complaint, sounding from the leading periodicals, that the extravagant demands of female fashion are bringing distress into families, and making marriages impossible; and something of the same sort seems to have begun here. We are across the Atlantic, to be sure; but we feel the swirl and drift of the great whirlpool; only, fortunately, we are far enough off to be able to see whither things are tending, and to stop ourselves if we will.
"We have just come through a great struggle, in which our women have borne an heroic part,—have shown themselves capable of any kind of endurance and self-sacrifice; and now we are in that reconstructive state which makes it of the greatest consequence to ourselves and the world that we understand our own institutions and position, and learn that, instead of following the corrupt and worn-out ways of the Old World, we are called on to set the example of a new state of society,—noble, simple, pure, and religious; and women can do more towards this even than men, for women are the real architects of society.
"Viewed in this light, even the small, frittering cares of woman's life—the attention to buttons, trimmings, thread, and sewing-silk—may be an expression of their patriotism and their religion. A noble-hearted woman puts a noble meaning into even the commonplace details of life. The women of America can, if they choose, hold back their country from following in the wake of old, corrupt, worn-out, effeminate European society, and make America the leader of the world in all that is good."
"I'm sure," said Humming-Bird, "we all would like to be noble and heroic. During the war, I did so long to be a man! I felt so poor and insignificant because I was nothing but a girl!"
"Ah, well," said Pheasant, "but then one wants to do something worth doing, if one is going to do anything. One would like to be grand and heroic, if one could; but if not, why try at all? One wants to be very something, very great, very heroic; or if not that, then at least very stylish and very fashionable. It is this everlasting mediocrity that bores me."
"Then, I suppose, you agree with the man we read of, who buried his one talent in the earth, as hardly worth caring for."
"To say the truth, I always had something of a sympathy for that man," said Pheasant. "I can't enjoy goodness and heroism in homoeopathic doses. I want something appreciable. What I can do, being a woman, is a very different thing from what I should try to do if I were a man, and had a man's chances: it is so much less—so poor—that it is scarcely worth trying for."
"You remember," said I, "the apothegm of one of the old divines, that if two angels were sent down from heaven, the one to govern a kingdom, and the other to sweep a street, they would not feel any disposition to change works."
"Well, that just shows that they are angels, and not mortals," said Pheasant; "but we poor human beings see things differently."
"Yet, my child, what could Grant or Sherman have done, if it had not been for the thousands of brave privates who were content to do each their imperceptible little,—if it had not been for the poor, unnoticed, faithful, never-failing common soldiers, who did the work and bore the suffering? No one man saved our country, or could save it; nor could the men have saved it without the women. Every mother that said to her son, Go; every wife that strengthened the hands of her husband; every girl who sent courageous letters to her betrothed; every woman who worked for a fair; every grandam whose trembling hands knit stockings and scraped lint; every little maiden who hemmed shirts and made comfort-bags for soldiers,—each and all have been the joint doers of a great heroic work, the doing of which has been the regeneration of our era. A whole generation has learned the luxury of thinking heroic thoughts and being conversant with heroic deeds, and I have faith to believe that all this is not to go out in a mere crush of fashionable luxury and folly and frivolous emptiness,—but that our girls are going to merit the high praise given us by De Tocqueville, when he placed first among the causes of our prosperity the noble character of American women. Because foolish female persons in New York are striving to outdo the demi-monde of Paris in extravagance, it must not follow that every sensible and patriotic matron, and every nice, modest young girl, must forthwith, and without inquiry, rush as far after them as they possibly can. Because Mrs. Shoddy opens a ball in a two-thousand-dollar lace dress, every girl in the land need not look with shame on her modest white muslin. Somewhere between the fast women of Paris and the daughters of Christian American families there should be established a cordon sanitaire, to keep out the contagion of manners, customs, and habits with which a noble-minded, religious democratic people ought to have nothing to do."
"Well now, Mr. Crowfield," said the Dove, "since you speak us so fair, and expect so much of us, we must of course try not to fall below your compliments; but, after all, tell us what is the right standard about dress. Now we have daily lectures about this at home. Aunt Maria says that she never saw such times as these, when mothers and daughters, church-members and worldly people, all seem to be going one way, and sit down together and talk, as they will, on dress and fashion,—how to have this made and that altered. We used to be taught, she said, that church-members had higher things to think of,—that their thoughts ought to be fixed on something better, and that they ought to restrain the vanity and worldliness of children and young people; but now, she says, even before a girl is born, dress is the one thing needful,—the great thing to be thought of; and so, in every step of the way upward, her little shoes, and her little bonnets, and her little dresses, and her corals and her ribbons, are constantly being discussed in her presence, as the one all-important object of life. Aunt Maria thinks mamma is dreadful, because she has maternal yearnings over our toilet successes and fortunes; and we secretly think she is rather soured by old age, and has forgotten how a girl feels."
"The fact is," said I, "that the love of dress and outside show has been always such an exacting and absorbing tendency, that it seems to have furnished work for religionists and economists, in all ages, to keep it within bounds. Various religious bodies, at the outset, adopted severe rules in protest against it The Quakers and the Methodists prescribed certain fixed modes of costume as a barrier against its frivolities and follies. In the Romish Church an entrance on any religious order prescribed entire and total renunciation of all thought and care for the beautiful in person or apparel, as the first step towards saintship. The costume of the religieuse seemed to be purposely intended to imitate the shroudings and swathings of a corpse and the lugubrious color of a pall, so as forever to remind the wearer that she was dead to the world of ornament and physical beauty. All great Christian preachers and reformers have levelled their artillery against the toilet, from the time of St. Jerome downward; and Tom Moore has put into beautiful and graceful verse St. Jerome's admonitions to the fair church-goers of his time.
'WHO IS THE MAID?
'ST. JEROME'S LOVE.
'Who is the maid my spirit seeks, Through cold reproof and slander's blight? Has she Love's roses on her cheeks? Is hers an eye of this world's light? No: wan and sunk with midnight prayer Are the pale looks of her I love; Or if, at times, a light be there, Its beam is kindled from above.
'I chose not her, my heart's elect, From those who seek their Maker's shrine In gems and garlands proudly decked, As if themselves were things divine. No: Heaven but faintly warms the breast That beats beneath a broidered veil; And she who comes in glittering vest To mourn her frailty still is frail.
'Not so the faded form I prize And love, because its bloom is gone; The glory in those sainted eyes Is all the grace her brow puts on. And ne'er was Beauty's dawn so bright, So touching, as that form's decay, Which, like the altar's trembling light, In holy lustre wastes away.'
"But the defect of all these modes of warfare on the elegances and refinements of the toilet was that they were too indiscriminate. They were in reality founded on a false principle. They took for granted that there was something radically corrupt and wicked in the body and in the physical system. According to this mode of viewing things, the body was a loathsome and pestilent prison, in which the soul was locked up and enslaved, and the eyes, the ears, the taste, the smell, were all so many corrupt traitors in conspiracy to poison her. Physical beauty of every sort was a snare, a Circean enchantment, to be valiantly contended with and straitly eschewed. Hence they preached, not moderation, but total abstinence from all pursuit of physical grace and beauty.
"Now, a resistance founded on an over-statement is constantly tending to reaction. People always have a tendency to begin thinking for themselves; and when they so think, they perceive that a good and wise God would not have framed our bodies with such exquisite care only to corrupt our souls,—that physical beauty, being created in such profuse abundance around us, and we being possessed with such a longing for it, must have its uses, its legitimate sphere of exercise. Even the poor, shrouded nun, as she walks the convent garden, cannot help asking herself why, if the crimson velvet of the rose was made by God, all colors except black and white are sinful for her; and the modest Quaker, after hanging all her house and dressing all her children in drab, cannot but marvel at the sudden outstreaking of blue and yellow and crimson in the tulip-beds under her window, and reflect how very differently the great All-Father arrays the world's housekeeping. The consequence of all this has been, that the reforms based upon these severe and exclusive views have gradually gone backward. The Quaker dress is imperceptibly and gracefully melting away into a refined simplicity of modern costume, which in many cases seems to be the perfection of taste. The obvious reflection, that one color of the rainbow is quite as much of God as another, has led the children of gentle dove-colored mothers to appear in shades of rose-color, blue, and lilac; and wise elders have said, it is not so much the color or the shape that we object to, as giving too much time and too much money,—if the heart is right with God and man, the bonnet ribbon may be of any shade you please."
"But don't you think," said Pheasant, "that a certain fixed dress, marking the unworldly character of a religious order, is desirable? Now, I have said before that I am very fond of dress. I have a passion for beauty and completeness in it; and as long as I am in the world and obliged to dress as the world does, it constantly haunts me, and tempts me to give more time, more thought, more money, to these things than I really think they are worth. But I can conceive of giving up this thing altogether as being much easier than regulating it to the precise point. I never read of a nun's taking the veil, without a certain thrill of sympathy. To cut off one's hair, to take off and cast from her, one by one, all one's trinkets and jewels, to lie down and have the pall thrown over one, and feel one's self, once for all, dead to the world,—I cannot help feeling as if this were real, thorough, noble renunciation, and as if one might rise up from it with a grand, calm consciousness of having risen to a higher and purer atmosphere, and got above all the littlenesses and distractions that beset us here. So I have heard charming young Quaker girls, who, in more thoughtless days, indulged in what for them was a slight shading of worldly conformity, say that it was to them a blessed rest when they put on the strict, plain dress, and felt that they really had taken up the cross and turned their backs on the world. I can conceive of doing this, much more easily than I can of striking the exact line between worldly conformity and noble aspiration, in the life I live now."
"My dear child," said I, "we all overlook one great leading principle of our nature, and that is, that we are made to find a higher pleasure in self-sacrifice than in any form of self-indulgence. There is something grand and pathetic in the idea of an entire self-surrender, to which every human soul leaps up, as we do to the sound of martial music.
"How many boys of Boston and New York, who had lived effeminate and idle lives, felt this new power uprising in them in our war! How they embraced the dirt and discomfort and fatigue and watchings and toils of camp-life with an eagerness of zest which they had never felt in the pursuit of mere pleasure, and wrote home burning letters that they never were so happy in their lives! It was not that dirt and fatigue and discomfort and watchings and weariness were in themselves agreeable, but it was a joy to feel themselves able to bear all and surrender all for something higher than self. Many a poor Battery bully of New York, many a street rowdy, felt uplifted by the discovery that he too had hid away under the dirt and dust of his former life this divine and precious jewel. He leaped for joy to find that he too could be a hero. Think of the hundreds of thousands of plain, ordinary workingmen, and of seemingly ordinary boys, who, but for such a crisis, might have passed through life never knowing this to be in them, and who courageously endured hunger and thirst and cold, and separation from dearest friends, for days and weeks and months, when they might, at any day, have bought a respite by deserting their country's flag! Starving boys, sick at heart, dizzy in head, pining for home and mother, still found warmth and comfort in the one thought that they could suffer, die, for their country; and the graves at Salisbury and Andersonville show in how many souls this noble power of self-sacrifice to the higher good was lodged,—how many there were, even in the humblest walks of life, who preferred death by torture to life in dishonor.
"It is this heroic element in man and woman that makes self-sacrifice an ennobling and purifying ordeal in any religious profession. The man really is taken into a higher region of his own nature, and finds a pleasure in the exercise of higher faculties which he did not suppose himself to possess. Whatever sacrifice is supposed to be duty, whether the supposition be really correct or not, has in it an ennobling and purifying power; and thus the eras of conversion from one form of the Christian religion to another are often marked with a real and permanent exaltation of the whole character. But it does not follow that certain religious beliefs and ordinances are in themselves just, because they thus touch the great heroic master-chord of the human soul. To wear sackcloth and sleep on a plank may have been of use to many souls, as symbolizing the awakening of this higher nature; but, still, the religion of the New Testament is plainly one which calls to no such outward and evident sacrifices.
"It was John the Baptist, and not the Messiah, who dwelt in the wilderness and wore garments of camel's hair; and Jesus was commented on, not for his asceticism, but for his cheerful, social acceptance of the average innocent wants and enjoyments of humanity. 'The Son of man came eating and drinking.' The great, and never-ceasing, and utter self-sacrifice of his life was not signified by any peculiarity of costume, or language, or manner; it showed itself only as it unconsciously welled up in all his words and actions, in his estimates of life, in all that marked him out as a being of a higher and holier sphere."
"Then you do not believe in influencing this subject of dress by religious persons' adopting any particular laws of costume?" said Pheasant.
"I do not see it to be possible," said I, "considering how society is made up. There are such differences of taste and character,—people move in such different spheres, are influenced by such different circumstances,—that all we can do is to lay down certain great principles, and leave it to every one to apply them according to individual needs."
"But what are these principles? There is the grand inquiry."
"Well," said I, "let us feel our way. In the first place, then, we are all agreed in one starting-point,—that beauty is not to be considered as a bad thing,—that the love of ornament in our outward and physical life is not a sinful or a dangerous feeling, and only leads to evil, as all other innocent things do, by being used in wrong ways. So far we are all agreed, are we not?"
"Certainly," said all the voices.
"It is, therefore, neither wicked nor silly nor weak-minded to like beautiful dress, and all that goes to make it up. Jewelry, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, rubies, and all sorts of pretty things that are made of them, are as lawful and innocent objects of admiration and desire, as flowers or birds or butterflies, or the tints of evening skies. Gems, in fact, are a species of mineral flower; they are the blossoms of the dark, hard mine; and what they want in perfume, they make up in durability. The best Christian in the world may, without the least inconsistency, admire them, and say, as a charming, benevolent old Quaker lady once said to me, 'I do so love to look at beautiful jewelry!' The love of beautiful dress, in itself, therefore, so far from being in a bad sense worldly, may be the same indication of a refined and poetical nature that is given by the love of flowers and of natural objects.
"In the third place, there is nothing in itself wrong, or unworthy a rational being, in a certain degree of attention to the fashion of society in our costume. It is not wrong to be annoyed at unnecessary departures from the commonly received practices of good society in the matter of the arrangement of our toilet; and it would indicate rather an unamiable want of sympathy with our fellow-beings, if we were not willing, for the most part, to follow what they indicate to be agreeable in the disposition of our outward affairs."