HotFreeBooks.com
The Nation in a Nutshell
by George Makepeace Towle
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Sidenote: States Added to the Union.]

[Sidenote: General Results of Washington's Administration.]

Three States were added to the Union of thirteen during Washington's tenure of office. Vermont came within the circle in 1791; Kentucky followed in the next year; and her neighbor, Tennessee, became a state in 1796. What a contrast in national expenditure there was between Washington's administration and those of modern times may be judged when it is stated that the average annual expense of the government in Washington's time was something less than two millions of dollars. The population, according to the first census taken in 1790 was a little less than four millions. Now we number more than fifty millions. It may be said, generally, of Washington's presidency, that it gave the new government a good start on its career of growth, order, and prosperity. By his statesmanship, which was pure, solid, and vigorous, rather than brilliant, peace was preserved at home and abroad; and the result was that that general happiness which Henry Lee spoke of as promised only by the constitution had already at least begun to be realized.



X.

THE WAR OF 1812.

[Sidenote: The Period of Political Settlement.]

The period between the inauguration of Washington and the declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812 may be regarded as the era of formation and political settlement in the history of the republic. It must not be forgotten that, at first, many of the wisest American statesmen looked upon Republicanism as an experiment, and did not place implicit faith in its success. The accession of Jefferson to the presidency, however, and the events of his administration, gave the Republican idea full scope and trial. The most philosophical and studious of the statesmen of that day, Jefferson had the courage to test the theories for which he had contended against the Federalism of Washington, Adams, and Hamilton, by a vigorous practical policy.

[Sidenote: Jefferson's Ideas.]

Jefferson was heartily supported in this by the great mass of the nation; and it was he who, thus sustained, established those general principles of policy and government which became final, and have prevailed ever since. That suffrage is a right and not a privilege, that we should make large annexations of territory, and become the controlling power of the continent; and that a rigid economy should be practised, leaving the States the largest scope of local self-government: these were cardinal articles in the Jeffersonian creed. For twenty-four years Jefferson himself, and Madison and Monroe, his fellow-Virginians and his earnest political disciples, presided without interruption over the destinies of the country.

[Sidenote: Condition of the Union in 1812.]

The condition of the United States in the year 1812 presented a striking and most favorable contrast to that which they had exhibited at Washington's accession. The population had increased from four to about seven and a half millions. The sixteen States over which Washington presided had swelled to eighteen. Ohio and Louisiana had been admitted to the circle. But this was by no means the limit to territorial acquisition. It was President Jefferson who added to the domain of the Union that vast and fertile tract which is even now in rapid process of settlement, and which was known as the Louisiana purchase. This tract reached from the banks of the Mississippi to the base of the Rocky Mountains. It embraced nearly a million square miles, or more than the whole of the area of the Union as it then was; and fifteen millions of dollars were paid to France in exchange for it. A great invention had been put into practical operation during Jefferson's term. This was the steamboat. Robert Fulton put the Clermont upon the Hudson in 1807; and thenceforth navigation by steam was to play a great part in the commerce and economical progress of the land.

[Sidenote: Inventions.]

[Sidenote: Causes of the War.]

President Madison, who assumed the executive chair in 1809, inherited a quarrel with Great Britain from his predecessor, which soon ripened into war. The great contest which raged between France and Great Britain early in the century could not but affect the rest of the civilized world. American commerce had already grown into importance, and was now seriously crippled by the arbitrary course respecting trade adopted by both of the belligerents. Each power forbade neutral nations to trade with its foe. But while Napoleon followed the example of Pitt in making a decree to this effect, the bearing of Great Britain towards this country, in respect to the prohibition of trade, was far more arrogant and vexatious than that of France. American ships were captured on the high seas by British men-of-war, carried into port, adjudged, and confiscated.

[Sidenote: The Right of Search.]

A still more serious assault upon our national honor was made by the British government. It claimed the right to search American vessels for British seamen, and proceeded to execute it. Thus sailors were taken from our ships by the hundred; and, on one occasion, an American ship, the Chesapeake, was fired upon and forcibly boarded by a British man- of-war, within sight of the Virginia coast. For a while retaliation was attempted in the shape of an embargo upon American vessels; but this was soon found to tend to the utter extitinction of our commerce, and the embargo was abandoned. Remonstrance with Great Britain proved to be of no avail. The English ministry at that time was a strict Tory one, and far from friendly in disposition toward the United States. Despite the protests of our envoy, the practice of search was vigorously pursued.

[Sidenote: War Declared.]

This was the state of affairs when James Madison became President. The party represented by him was now clamorous for war, while the old Federalists, especially those of New England, as earnestly deprecated it. At last it became apparent that war was the only remedy for the outrages committed almost without cessation on our commerce. The President sent a message to Congress expressing this opinion; and on the 18th of June, 1812, war was formally declared against Great Britain. This was evidently in accordance with the will of the nation: but we did not enter upon the conflict without the bitter opposition of the Federalists. A convention of the leading members of that party met at Hartford, held secret sessions, and issued an energetic protest against the war. This aroused a deep sense of hostility in the breasts of the war party; and, ever since, the Hartford Convention has been regarded as at least an injudicious demonstration at a period when war already existed, and when the government needed the support of every patriot to bring it to a successful end.

[Sidenote: Beginning of Hostilities.]

[Sidenote: Naval Victories.]

The Americans began hostilities by making an ineffectual attempt to conquer Canada. Meanwhile the English promptly took up the challenge, sent ships of war loaded with excellent soldiers, many of them veterans of the Napoleonic wars, across the Atlantic, and engaged Tecumseh, and other Indian chiefs inimical to the intruders upon their former hunting-grounds, to aid them in the contest. While Tecumseh, however, was defeated and killed, the successes of the American army were few compared with the brilliant exploits of our naval forces. The War of 1812 proved that the Americans had studied well the British example and system in naval warfare. It was emphatically a naval war, simply because Great Britain could only approach us from the sea. The victories of Hull and Perry showed the greatest maritime power on earth that, though our navy might be inferior to hers in distant waters, it was more than a match for hers on the Lakes and the American coast. If the Shannon captured the Chesapeake, and if gallant David Porter had at last to desert the burning Essex, on the other hand the capture of the Guerriere and the surrender of the British squadron on Lake Erie to Perry, more than compensated for our disasters.

[Sidenote: The British take Washington.]

It was the the last year of the war, which continued nearly three years, that the British landed on our southern coast, and, making havoc of villages and plantations as they went, took Washington, and burned the Capitol and the President's house, from which Mr. Madison and his family had happily escaped into Virginia. But the enemy found it impossible to pursue their temporary success to a decisive issue. Both countries were weary of the war, and overtures of peace having been made, four American commissioners—John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, and Jonathan Russell—were sent to Ghent, in Belgium, to meet British commissioners and conclude a treaty. The treaty of Ghent was signed on the 24th of December, 1814; and, singularly enough, while such subjects as the boundary line and the fisheries were discussed, that treaty contained no stipulation in regard to the British claim to the right of search.

[Sidenote: Battle of New Orleans.]

In those days, when there were neither railways, steamships, nor telegraphs, news was long in travelling from one continent to the other. The tidings of the treaty did not reach New Orleans in time to prevent General Andrew Jackson from winning glory by defending that city from behind his cotton-bales. This was one of the most brilliant land-battles of the war, and was fought on the 8th of January, just a fortnight after peace had been formally concluded at Ghent.

[Sidenote: Results of the War.]

The War of 1812, while it left many questions unsettled between the mother and the daughter country, practically put an end to the vexatious disturbance of our commerce by Great Britain. It also tended to give a longer lease of political power to what was then called the Republican party, and prepared the way for the "era of good feeling," over which the amiable though not conspicuously able President Monroe presided. The war also brought certain men prominently before the public eye. Hull, Bainbridge, Porter, Decatur, Rodgers, and Perry, were enshrined among the country's naval heroes. General Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, and General Jackson, the hero of New Orleans, later reaped the reward of the Presidency, the indirect result of their military exploits. The gallant Richard M. Johnson afterwards became Vice-President; and it was in the War of 1812 that General Winfield Scott won his first laurels, and that General Zachary Taylor, long afterwards President, gave promise of the military genius which later so much aided in bringing the Mexican War to a speedy and victorious end.

[Sidenote: Growth of the Union.]

The period of the war and of the years immediately succeeding witnessed a very rapid growth of population, and a notable swelling of the tide of emigration westward. In 1816 Indiana came within the circle of States; followed alternately by slave and free states—Mississippi, 1817; Illinois, 1818; Alabama, 1819; Maine, 1820. and Missouri, 1821. The great highway built between Cumberland and Wheeling was all alive in those days with the wagons and groups of new settlers. A long era of peace was to follow, and to give the country opportunity to increase, to develop its resources, and to make rapid progress in its prosperity and the development of its institutions.



XI.

THE MEXICAN WAR.

[Sidenote: An Era of Peace.]

[Sidenote: Andrew Jackson.]

An interval of over thirty years elapsed between our second war with Great Britain and the war with Mexico. Although this period was one of external, and, excepting the troubles which now and then arose with the Indians, of internal peace, its social and political aspects are very full of interest. Within its limits the first railway and the first telegraph-lines were laid in the United States, and the great Erie Canal was built. After three tranquil presidential terms, presided over by the sensible though not brilliant Monroe, and by the shrewd, scholarly, and positive younger Adams, a man succeeded to the Executive Chair whose course was destined to revolutionize parties, to carry party bitterness to a height of great violence, and to divert the political destinies of the country into new channels. Andrew Jackson was well fitted by his strong will and stubborn courage to do the dangerous work of his time.

[Sidenote: Nullification.]

Various considerations induced the State of South Carolina to defy the Union. The alleged ground of her quarrel was the high rates of the tariff imposed by Congress upon imports. This tariff she resolved to resist; hence a resolution was passed by a convention in South Carolina that after a certain date the tariff should be null and void within her limits. It was further resolved that if the United States attempted to enforce it, South Carolina should secede, and form an independent government. John C. Calhoun was, or was charged with being, the instigator of this movement. It was at once quelled, however, by the prompt action of President Jackson. He sent troops and war-ships to Charleston, under the command of General Scott; and "nullification" was overawed and defeated.

President Jackson also had the nerve to veto the bill creating a national bank; and when, after two terms of service, he retired, he gave up to the rule of his designated successor a nation of fifteen millions of people, solvent, prosperous, and apparently destined to a long career of peace and power. The four years of President Van Buren's term were not notable for great events, and are chiefly interesting as exhibiting the re-formation of parties, in which the lines between the Whigs and the Democrats became more defined and distinct. Van Buren was the leader of the Democrats, but was soon to lose that leadership by reason of his connection with the fast-growing anti-slavery cause. Henry Clay was the Whig chief; and continued to be so, despite the rivalry of Webster, down to the time of his death. [Sidenote: Causes of the Mexican War.]

[Sidenote: Texas.]

It was during the term of President John Tyler, who succeeded to the chief magistracy after poor worn-out old General Harrison had exercised its functions for one brief month, that the events took their rise which ripened into the War with Mexico. The large territory of Texas, lying upon our extreme southwestern border, between Louisiana and Mexico, had revolted from the latter nation and set up an independent republic of its own. Texas had been largely colonized from the slave States, and General Sam Houston, formerly of Tennessee, was its President.

[Sidenote: Election of Polk.]

The republic sought admission to our Union in 1837, but the application was then refused. Seven years later, Mr. Tyler gave it a more hospitable reception. A treaty was framed, and at first rejected by the United States Senate. At last, in March, 1845, just as Mr. Tyler was retiring from office, a resolution was adopted by both houses of Congress annexing Texas, and this resolution was approved by the outgoing President. The presidential campaign in the autumn of 1844, between Henry Clay as the Whig and James K. Polk as the Democratic candidate, was fought mainly upon the issue of this annexation, and the election of Mr. Polk was looked upon as a confirmation of it by the people.

[Sidenote: Boundary Dispute.]

No sooner had the new President been inaugurated than what the Whig leaders had earnestly predicted came to pass. A dispute arose with Mexico as to the boundary between that country and Texas. Mexico claimed that this boundary was the river Nueces; Texas asserted it to be the Rio Grande. The matter was one of some importance, as the Nueces is a hundred miles northeastward from the Rio Grande, and that much of territory was therefore in dispute. The brief negotiations which ensued with a view to the settlement of this question, proved abortive. President Polk accordingly ordered General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed territory with a small body of troops. Taylor concentrated his men at Corpus Christi, near the frontier.

[Sidenote: First Battles.]

The Mexicans were equally prompt, and the first collisions occurred at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, near the Rio Grande. General Taylor repulsed the enemy with little difficulty and but small loss, and, crossing the Rio Grande, advanced upon and captured Matamoras. Thus far the hostilities had proceeded when a formal declaration of war was made against Mexico by the United States. Clay and the Whigs strenuously opposed this action; but the administration party bore down all opposition. Volunteers now flocked, especially from the Southern States, to Taylor's standard; and in a few weeks he found himself at the head of a resolute though not very well disciplined force of nearly eight thousand men. Monterey, a fortified town of considerable importance, was held by about nine thousand Mexican troops. General Taylor's objective point was the City of Mexico.

[Sidenote: Taylor's Campaign.]

After an attack of three days, Monterey fell into his hands. Victory followed his army everywhere. Santa Anna, a crafty and able man, who had sat in the presidential chair of Mexico, was now in command of the Mexican army, and confronted Taylor at Huena Vista. His gallant attempt to stay the advance of the triumphant Americans, however, failed, for Taylor defeated him in what was perhaps the most brilliantly and hotly contested action of the war. Taylor's force at Buena Vista numbered about six thousand men, the larger part of them being but rudely disciplined soldiers. Santa Anna's command comprised at least twenty thousand Mexicans. It was at Buena Vista that the Lancers, the best body of troops in the Mexican army, were routed by the dashing onset of the American volunteers.

[Sidenote: Victory at Vera Cruz.]

[Sidenote: Scott Enters Mexico.]

General Scott now appeared upon the scene to reap fresh victories, and to lend powerful aid, by his scientific skill and ripe military judgment, in bringing the war to a decisive issue. He was despatched with an army to attack Vera Cruz, the most important port and fort on the Mexican coast. His force numbered between eleven and twelve thousand men, and he was supported by Commodore Matthew Perry, who operated with a fleet in the Gulf. Vera Cruz fell after a vigorous bombardment and a brave defence. The Mexicans could no longer hold the fortress of San Juan D'Ulloa, which was speedily occupied by General Scott. The two victories of Buena Vista and Vera Cruz rendered the cause of the Mexicans hopeless. The fall of the capital was only a question of more or less delay. The resistance of the Mexicans was still obstinate, though always ineffectual. The troops of the United States won in succession the battles of Cerro Gordo, Cherubusco, El Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. Finally, on the 14th of September, 1847, the American army of six thousand, under Winfield Scott, entered the City of Mexico. This was one year and four months after war had been declared by Congress.

Besides these main operations, there were various collateral movements designed to cripple the power and diminish the territory of Mexico. General Kearney, with an independent force of volunteers, had marched into and taken possession of the province of New Mexico; Colonel Doliphan had in like manner occupied Chihuahua; while Colonel Fremont, placing himself at the head of a band of American settlers recruited in the valley of the Sacramento, and supported by Commodore Stockton, had availed himself of the opportunity to hold Upper California for the United States.

[Sidenote: The Treaty of Peace.]

Thus Mexico was subdued and compelled to come to terms, her enemy dictating these from her own capital. Commissioners met at the city of Guadalupe Hidalgo to conclude a treaty of peace. By this instrument Mexico agreed to accept the Rio Grande as the boundary between herself and Texas, adding thereby to the territory of the United States an area of not less than five hundred thousand square miles; to make over New Mexico and Upper California to the United States in consideration of the sum of fifteen millions of dollars; and to guarantee the debts due from Mexico to American citizens. This treaty was duly ratified and exchanged in the spring of 1848—about two years after the beginning of hostilities.

[Sidenote: Political Effect of the War.]

[Sidenote: California.]

The political effect of the Mexican War was to add a large territory and a fast-increasing population to the tier of slave-holding States, and thus to aggrandize the slave-holding oligarchy, as opposed to the party in favor of free soil. On the other hand, the military glory won by General Taylor, and his adoption in the year after the war as the Whig candidate for the Presidency, singularly enough brought into power the party which had persistently opposed both the annexation of Texas, and the war which had been undertaken to complete it. The Mexican War provided the parties with four presidential candidates, Generals Taylor, Scott, Pierce, and Fremont, two of whom succeeded in reaching the summit of executive authority. When Colonel Fremont raised the American standard in California, it was little imagined that he was acquiring a province for the country the value of which was destined to be incalculably greater than the Texan republic. Within a year, however, the gold mines had been discovered, and that wonderful civilization of the Pacific Coast which we now witness had begun to grow up in the far western wilderness.



XII.

THE SLAVERY AGITATION.

[Sidenote: Slavery Inherited.]

The United States inherited, and had to accept, from the colonial system, a great moral and social wrong. Slavery, planted on our soil soon after its first settlement, had spread not only through the South, but had existed for a time even in the Puritan colonies of New England. An active slave-trade had grown up, and was still flourishing at the time that the constitution was framed. There is every reason to believe that the most eminent and enlightened even of Southern statesmen, in the very infancy of the Republic, regarded African bondage as not only a moral, but, in many regards, a material evil. Washington and Jefferson especially uttered, in no doubtful accents, their dislike of the system; while such northern statesmen as Franklin, Adams, and Roger Sherman protested in yet sterner tones against its continuance.

[Sidenote: Strength of the Slave Power.]

[Sidenote: The Missouri Compromise.]

But slavery, like many traditional abuses of nations, was so securely lodged, so difficult to uproot, that wise men at once deplored its presence and despaired of its abolition. While, therefore, the framers of the constitution refused to insert a direct recognition of slavery in that instrument, choosing to regard it as temporary, and likely in time to become extinct, other subjects, crowding upon the attention of statesmen at the period of political formation, pushed this of slavery for a while into the background. The first definite collision between the upholders and the opponents of slavery occurred when, as a consequence of the rapid growth of the country, the territories began one after another to knock for admission into the household of States. The dispute came to an issue in the year 1820. Missouri sought admission into the Union, and it was attempted to admit her as a slave state. Then the Northern statesmen declared that some limit or restriction should be placed upon future admissions of States, in regard to slavery.

[Sidenote: The "Slavery Agitation."]

The debates in Congress were long and warm. Every argument which has since become so familiar on the subject was advanced on one side and on the other. The moral evil of slavery, its demoralizing influence upon freeman and bondman, its cruelties in practice, were dilated upon by some; others pictured "the peculiar institution" in its more patriarchal and pleasant aspects. Finally, the northern members agreed to admit Missouri as a slave State, on condition that thenceforth all new states north of the line of 36 deg.30'north latitude— known as "Mason and Dixon's line"—should be free; while all new states south of that line should decide for themselves whether they should be free or slave. It was the vain hope of the statesmen of Monroe's time that this settlement, known in history as the "Missouri Compromise," would be accepted as final, and that the mutual ill-feeling which had already become bitter between the sections would be finally allayed by it.

They flattered themselves that they had put a period to the agitation, and that the irritating question was now cast outside the domain of American politics. Perhaps they did not sufficiently reflect that the same power which had established the boundaries of slavery might, when the opportunity was ripe, erase them. The slavery agitation was, however, only in its infancy. It had within it a vital and irrepressible element of growth. With the advance of civil liberty, the growth of education, it, too, must necessarily make progress. As yet it was in the hands of so-called "fanatics." Respectable statesmanship, having made the Missouri Compromise, would have no more of it.

[Sidenote: The "Liberty Party."]

[Sidenote: Garrison.]

It was early in General Jackson's presidency that the small but determined "Liberty party" of the North began to attract attention by what was considered the extravagance of its utterances, and the absurdity of its proposals. The Quaker Lundy published his "Genius of Universal Emancipation"; Garrison put forth the "Liberator" at Boston; and soon, in various parts of the Union, abolition tracts and fanatical orators brought down upon them not only the execration of the South, but the assaults of northern mobs. An insurrection, under the lead of a negro named Turner, broke out in Virginia, and massacres and burnings followed. The Georgia Legislature put a price upon Garrison's head; and that devoted advocate of human freedom responded by founding the New England Anti-Slavery Society—an example soon followed in various places through the North.

[Sidenote: Sympathy for the Slaves.]

[Sidenote: Lovejoy Killed.]

The cause was right, and grew despite every obstacle of mob violence, persecution, contempt, and, not the least, the indignant hostility of respectable statesmanship. Yet evidences began to appear, here and there, that the sympathy even of official responsibility was gradually leaning to the principle of liberty. The Massachusetts Supreme Court declared the child Med, whose master had brought her to Boston, to have become by that act free. There was still, however, much suffering in store for the anti-slavery advocates. Garrison, in attempting to speak before the Female Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, was dragged through the streets by an enraged mob, and was only saved from death by being hurried to the jail as a refuge. A hall in Philadelphia which had been desecrated by an abolition conference, was burned. Elijah Lovejoy, an Illinois abolition editor, was killed by a mob. These are a few among many examples of the violence with which the abolitionists were treated.

The old "Liberty party," however, grew gradually into the larger and more powerful "Free Soil" party, of which the venerable John Quincy Adams became the champion in the House of Representatives, and Martin Van Buren the presidential candidate in 1848. It was still, of course, a small minority, but its influence was now distinctly felt in the legislative councils and in the politics of the country. The petitions in favor of abolition which invaded Congress created alarm in the South, and at last the southern members found it necessary to pass a rule excluding these "incendiary documents" altogether.

[Sidenote: The Compromise of 1850.]

If the Free Soilers were becoming formidable, the South was also resolved to assume the offensive. Its triumph in securing the annexation of Texas as another slave State was followed, a few years after, by the celebrated "Compromise" of 1850; by which, while California was admitted as a free State, and the slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia, the Fugitive Slave Law was also conceded. This aroused the indignation of very large numbers in the North, and the treatment of fugitives under it, notably that of Jerry in New York State, and of Anthony Burns in Boston, did much to develop and strengthen the anti-slavery feeling. The outrageous character of the law was too palpable to be unperceived and unresented.

[Sidenote: The Free Sellers.]

[Sidenote: Border Ruffianism.]

The next effort of the slave power provoked the formation of a great national anti-slavery party, out of the old Free Soil elements. This effort, which, by the aid of the Pierce administration and some Northern statesmen, was successful, was to destroy the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and thus open the way to the creation of slave States north, as well as south, of Mason and Dixon's line. The immediate object of this policy was to make slave States of Kansas and Nebraska, two great territories which were ready for admission into the fatuity of the Union. No sooner had the Nebraska Bill passed, in May, 1854, than the terrible scenes of "border ruffianism" began. As the new law required that the inhabitants of the territories should themselves decide whether slavery should exist or not, the attempt was made to convert Kansas into a slave State by invasions of "border ruffians" from Missouri. After a long and bloody struggle, the cause of freedom triumphed in the two disputed territories.

[Sidenote: The "Irrepressible Conflict."]

The events in that part of the Union served to win many converts to the anti-slavery cause in the North. The Republican party was organized on the eve of the Presidential election of 1856. Its chief doctrine was that no more slave States whatever should be admitted to the Union. It put a ticket into the field with Colonel John Charles Fremont as the candidate for President, and William L. Dayton of New Jersey for Vice- President. It could not be expected that so young a party would triumph at its first essay; but when Fremont received 113 electoral votes, while Buchanan had only 177, it was appreciated everywhere that the "irrepressible conflict" between slavery and liberty was fast approaching its crisis.

[Sidenote: John Brown's Raid.]

The self-sacrificing heroism of a fanatic, the most salient incident of the slavery agitation during the Presidency of Buchanan, had a marked influence in hastening the final issue. This was John Brown's raid upon Harper's Ferry, for the purpose of setting free the slaves. The old man's courage, his utter self-devotion to his cause, his noble death, his simple and sincere character, appealed most strongly to the sympathy of the opponents of slavery, and even compelled words of strong praise from the lips of Henry A. Wise, the Virginia Governor, who signed his death-warrant.

[Sidenote: The South Prepares to Secede.]

The cause of free soil at last attained its triumph in the election of 1860. All things foreshadowed the success of Abraham Lincoln. The northern people were ripe for decisive action against the extension, at least, of human bondage. The Democratic party divided into two factions at Charleston, and the factions put each a candidate into the field, mutually to destroy each other. The South so far gave up the contest as to make preparations, while the presidential battle was yet raging, to withdraw from the Union. Then, as the grand, bitter, but necessary result of the long-continued slavery agitation, the war came, and wiped out slavery with the blood of patriots.



XIII.

THE CIVIL WAR.

[Sidenote: The Civil War.]

The great American Rebellion of 1861-65 is still, perhaps, too near to be judged with the calm and judicial spirit which gives its chief value to history. Thousands of those who took part in it on either side are yet living; millions who witnessed its progress, and watched its course with varying emotions of grief and joy, who mourned its dead, exulted in its victories, and hailed its termination, yet hold it in vivid memory. Moreover, all that could be said of it, from bald narrative to infinite discussion of this and that general, this and that campaign or stratagem, of causes and effects, has already been repeated till the tale has been, not twice, but many times told.

The results of that awful yet necessary conflict are still being felt, in one way or another, by all of us. Many a household still mourns the loss of those who died on southern battle-fields. We feel the war in our business, in our pockets. We feel it in the financial enigmas which even yet await solution. And although we have come to a period of reconciliation, when we can with free hearts garland with roses the graves alike of the blue and the gray, we feel still the indirect influences of the war in our political contests.

[Sidenote: Origin of the War.]

[Sidenote: Secession.]

The war may be said to have had its origin in two not necessarily connected circumstances. It was the fruit, on the one hand, of a certain political doctrine; on the other, of a threatened and to-be-defended social condition. The political doctrine was that called "State's rights," from which two corollaries were deduced by Calhoun and his disciples: "nullification," or the right of a State to disobey a United States law; and "secession," or the right of a State to withdraw from the Union at will. The social condition was that of slavery, threatened, as the South thought, by the election of Abraham Lincoln, and to be defended under cover of the political doctrine which Calhoun had taught the South to credit and to cherish. Thus, while the cause of the rebellion was slavery, its justification was an asserted constitutional right. The North did not believe in slavery, or at least in the extension of slavery. But what the North at first undertook to subdue was not slavery in the States, but the altogether destructive doctrine of secession.

[Sidenote: South Carolina's "Ordinance."]

[Sidenote: Fort Sumter Taken.]

The threat loudly uttered during the election of 1860, that the South would secede if Lincoln were chosen, was duly followed up by action in a few weeks after that event. Before Christmas South Carolina had passed her famous "ordinance," and by early February, 1861, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas had followed in her footsteps. The senators and representatives of these States in Congress retired front its halls, breathing defiance as they went. South Carolina took the lead in military, as she had done in political action. Claiming the national property within her limits, she attached and took Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. The way had been prepared for this by Secretaries Floyd and Toucey of the Buchanan Cabinet, who had sent South materials of war, and so disposed the navy as to render it for the time powerless for aid in the Union cause.

[Sidenote: Call for Troops.]

Lincoln was now President. The guns fired at Sumter roused the North, and gave the signal of war, proving that a conflict could no longer be avoided. Meanwhile, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas were hurried out of the Union by the political leaders. On the day following the fall of Sumter, the President issued his call for seventy-five thousand volunteers, and the governors were urged to send such forces as they could at once to Washington, which was threatened with an attack. Then came the assault upon the gallant Sixth Massachusetts in the streets of Baltimore, the isolation of Washington, and its relief. A blockade of the southern ports was proclaimed.

[Sidenote: Bull Run.]

After a few minor engagements, such as those in Western Virginia, in which McClellan was successful, and at Big Bethel, the first great battle was fought on July 21, 1861, at Bull Run. This was in consequence of an attempt by General Scott to advance upon Richmond. The result was the total defeat of the Union army, which recoiled in confusion upon Washington. Later in the first year of the war, General Lyon gained some advantages over the rebels in Missouri, and naval expeditions were sent to Hatteras and Port Royal; General Scott yielded the command-in-chief to General McClellan, and rebel privateers appeared upon the ocean, and began their destructive depredations upon our commerce. Great Britain had too hastily recognized the belligerent rights of the rebels, and in November the capture of Mason and Slidell was followed by their delivery again to the protection of the British flag.

[Sidenote: Second Year of the War.]

The second year of the war found no less than half a million of soldiers enlisted in the army of the Union. It seemed as if we were now ready to cope with rebellion in all its extent and strength. The hope of an approaching and decisive triumph animated the hearts of the loyal. McClellan now led the Army of the Potomac against Richmond, approaching it from the east. Then followed the battle of Fair Oaks, and the Seven Days' battles, of which that at Malvern Hill was the most hotly contested. The Confederates were beaten, with terrible loss on both sides. Cedar Mountain and the second Bull Run followed, the latter proving a disaster as serious as the former struggle on the same field had been.

[Sidenote: Antietam.]

Then came Lee's advance into Maryland, his capture of Frederick City, and that great battle, Antietam, in which Lee was repulsed and retreated into Virginia. But McClellan, having failed to follow up his advantage, was relieved of the command-in-chief, which was conferred on Burnside. Burnside's repulse at Fredericksburg was followed by a discouraging retreat. But though the attempt to capture Richmond was foiled, in other parts of the country many advantages were obtained by the Union forces in the year 1862.

[Sidenote: Union Victories.]

Prominent among these were the victory of the Monitor over the Merrimac, in Hampton Roads; the capture of Roanoke Island and Fort Pulaski; Grant's gallant victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, at Island No. 10, and, later, at Pittsburg Landing; and the heroic taking of New Orleans by Farragut and Butler.

[Sidenote: Chancellorsville.]

At the very threshold of the third year of the war, President Lincoln issued the "Proclamation of Emancipation." Thus not only was the crime of slavery wiped away, but a new source of strength to our forces was provided by the emancipated negroes, who were enlisted to aid in the confirmation of their freedom by final victory. The first half of the year 1863 witnessed what was perhaps the gloomiest and most disheartening period of the war. Hooker succeeded Burnside, only to meet at Chancellorsville the same disastrous fate which had overtaken his predecessor at Fredericksburg. General Lee was encouraged to assume the offensive, and to invade Pennsylvania. The North was discouraged; the expense of the war began to be grievously felt; the draft was becoming very obnoxious; the desertions from the army were alarming in number.

[Sidenote: Gettysburg.]

Lee advanced by the Shenandoah Valley into the Northern States. But at Gettysburg he met the reorganized Union army, under Meade. The collision of one hundred and sixty thousand men, lasting for three days, resulted in that hard-won Union victory which proved the turning-point of the war. On the day of Lee's retreat from Gettysburg, the Fourth of July, Vicksburg was surrendered to Grant. Soon after, Port Hudson fell, and the Mississippi was opened to the passage of troops. Then the Battle of Chattanooga was fought and won, and Tennessee was rid of Confederate occupation. Meanwhile, the siege of Charleston was proceeding on the coast, and before the end of the year Fort Wagner was taken.

[Sidenote: Grant Commander-in-chief.]

[Sidenote: Sherman's March to the Sea.]

We have now reached the fourth year of the war, 1864. It was now clear that the result was only a question of time. The first events of the year were not brilliant. Kilpatrick made his famous but futile raid near Richmond; Hanks met with disaster at Red River; Forrest captured Fort Pillow and killed three hundred negro troops. The last act of the momentous drama began by the elevation of General Ulysses S. Grant to the command-in-chief in March. The two great movements which were together to seal the fate of the Confederacy were at once prepared. Grant, assuming command of the Army of the Potomac, made Richmond his objective point. He advanced deliberately towards the southern capital, and fought the terrific battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Cold Harbor. He laid siege to Petersburg, but without immediate result. Meanwhile the gallant Sherman began his marvellous march to the sea, took Atlanta, and at last entered Savannah in triumph. Sheridan, making his famous ride, defeated Early at Cedar Creek. The Alabama was sunk by the Kearsarge off the French coast. Mobile was captured by Farragut. The Albermarle was destroyed.

[Sidenote: Surrender of Lee.]

The Confederates were now penned in, and it only remained to make a last strenuous effort to end the war. While Sherman advanced northward, taking Charleston by the way, and Terry captured Fort Fisher, the siege of Richmond became closer and more vigorous. Then Sheridan conquered at Five Forks, turning the flank of the hunted and hounded Lee. Finally, on the 3d of April, 1865, the Union troops occupied Richmond and Petersburg; Lee surrendered on the 9th, at Appomattox; Johnston followed by yielding to Sherman; and the Southern Confederacy was no more.



XIV.

THE PRESIDENTS.

[Sidenote: Number of Presidents.]

Between 1789, when the government organized by the constitution began its functions, and 1886, the people of the United States have twenty-five times chosen a President; and of the Presidents, seven have been chosen for a second term. Four of them, having died in office, were succeeded by Vice Presidents. While the number of terms, therefore, has been twenty-five, the executive chair has been filled by twenty-two individuals. In referring to the line of Presidents, and scanning the names of those who have exercised powers more extensive than those of English royalty, we are struck by the fact that very few of our Presidents have ranked first, in point of intellect, in their own generation. It may be said, indeed, that Jefferson alone of them all was without dispute the foremost statesman of his day.

[Sidenote: Presidential Ability.]

Comparing our elected chief magistrates with the various lines of hereditary sovereigns of Europe, we find that pre-eminent ability is scarcely more frequent among them than is presented by the houses of Romanoff, Hohenzollern, and Hapsburg. When, however, we consider their moral qualities as rulers—their patriotism and purity, their freedom from a too grasping ambition, the fidelity and zeal with which they have served the country as best they knew how—we are perhaps not unreasonable in judging them superior, as a line of rulers, to any royal house of which history affords record. Very rarely has it been that a President has been even suspected of craving increased power for himself, or of using his office for unworthy personal ends. Some have been weak, some perverse and obstinate; but as the clouds of party passion, which have sometimes obscured the motives and the acts of our chief magistrates, pass away, we may recognize in their action honest though now and then ill directed efforts to use their high office for the general weal.

[Sidenote: The Ablest Men not Presidents.]

Our intellectually ablest men have not, with the exception of Jefferson, attained the Presidency, though many of them have aspired to it. No one can doubt that Hamilton was a greater political genius than the first two Presidents. It can scarcely be questioned that Webster, Calhoun, and Clay were greater in this respect than the three Presidents who succeeded Jefferson. Madison was a man of culture, clear vision, and political learning, but he was the disciple of Jefferson, and did not reveal qualities of originality and constructiveness in statesmanship. Monroe was a man of yet more limited capacity, unless Polk be excepted, Monroe was the least able of all our Presidents. But he had a large experience in public affairs, he was judicious and cool-tempered, and thoroughly honest and simple-minded. He was personally liked, and after Washington was the only President who was the unanimous choice of the country.[1]

[Sidenote: Monroe.]

[Sidenote: John Quincy Adams.]

John Quincy Adams, a trained statesman, who had been an ambassador, a Senator, and a Secretary of State, was still inferior in point of political intellect to Clay, his own Secretary of State, and to Calhoun, the Vice-President; and there were several others at that time who might justly be competed with him. So, although Andrew Jackson was perhaps the greatest of our Presidents in executive vigor and stern force of will, as a political figure his most devoted admirers would scarcely rank him with Clay or Webster. Van Buren was rather a shrewd politician than an eminent statesman; but he was a politician in a higher sense, and no stain of dishonor attaches to his career, while his presidential term was an honest and able one.

[Sidenote: Later Presidents.]

Many public men might be named who, living at the time of Harrison's elevation, were very much his political superiors; in his very cabinet were at least three, Webster, Crittenden, and Ewing; and John Tyler was very far from being in the front rank of American statesmen, though his political capacity has sometimes been underrated.

[Footnote 1: Monroe was chosen for his second term by every vote but one in the Electoral College. That vote was given by Mr. Hummer of New Hampshire, on the ground that it was a dangerous precedent to elect a President unanimously.]

Polk was the weakest of all our later Presidents, and he too presided over at least three secretaries who were intellectually larger men, in Marcy, Robert J. Walker, and Buchanan. The same may be said in comparing General Taylor with his advisers, and Fillmore, Pierce, and Lincoln with theirs; for while no one can fail to revere the grand moral and practical qualities which make Lincoln illustrious, in purely intellectual eminence he was excelled by Seward, Chase, and perhaps Stanton.

[Sidenote: A Conservative Republic.]

[Sidenote: Origin of the Presidents.]

Ours has always been a conservative Republic. The French Republicans of '93 and '48, the Communards of '71, did not derive their wild and visionary fanaticism from our example, although there can be no doubt that our Revolution had not a little influence in hastening that of France. When the people have been called upon to choose a chief magistrate, therefore, they have not sought men of extreme views, nor have humble birth and limited education often been recommendations of candidates. It is notable that the first six Presidents were selected from the class which in England is called the "gentry." Washington, indeed, belonged to the high rural aristocracy of Virginia; Mount Vernon was as much a patrician manor-house as are the "halls," "priories," and "manors" of rural England; and he lived there in the style of a country magnate, John Adams belonged to the sturdy New England yeomanry sprung from the Pilgrims, and, as the descendant of John Alden, had some reason to pride himself upon good blood. The three succeeding Virginia Presidents were sons of gentlemen-farmers, and belonged to the cultivated gentry of the Old Dominion. Jackson was the first of the plebeian Presidents, and then came Van Buren, of the gentry by birth; Harrison, the son of a signer of the Declaration, and thus well born, and Tyler, another Virginia gentleman, the lord of Sherwood Forest. Polk belonged to the same rural condition. Fillmore was the next President of humble beginnings, and Lincoln the third; while Andrew Johnson, who learned to read after he was married, and began life as a country tailor, was the most lowly born of all our chief magistrates.

[Sidenote: Military Presidents.]

Those young men who, having a taste for and ambition in politics, adopt the law as a stepping-stone to political honor, may derive some encouragement from the classification of the Presidents by their professions; for out of the twenty-two Presidents, no less than eighteen were at some period of their lives practising at the bar. The four who were not lawyers were the four military Presidents, Washington, Harrison, Taylor, and Grant. Three other Presidents, however, derived something of their fame from military careers—Monroe, Jackson, and Pierce. Monroe was a revolutionary colonel, Jackson the hero of New Orleans, and Pierce a brigadier in the Mexican War. But Monroe owed his political eminence to diplomatic successes and the friendship of Jefferson and Madison: while Pierce certainly did not win the presidency by his Mexican exploits.

[Sidenote: Presidential Succession.]

No man has ever yet passed directly from the United States Senate to the White House. Of the Presidents, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Pierce, Buchanan, and Johnson had been senators; while John Adams, Jefferson and Van Buren held the Vice-Presidency just before their elevation by election to the higher office. The custom of succession from the one office to the other, which prevailed in the earlier years of the Republic, was broken when Madison was preferred to George Clinton in 1808; and was revived only in the single instance of Van Buren, whom the irresistible will of Jackson imposed upon the Democrats as his successor. Washington, before becoming President, had held the office of President of the Constitutional Convention. Polk had only served in the lower House of Congress, over which he had presided as speaker. Neither Taylor nor Grant ever held a state or national office before being raised to the Executive Chair. Lincoln had served a few years, with but little distinction, in the national House of Representatives. The same may be said of Hayes, and of Fillmore before he was chosen Vice-President.

[Sidenote: Presidents Contributed by the Various States.]

Virginia has had five Presidents, four of them having served in the first quarter of a century of the national existence. Tennessee has had three; Ohio, three; Massachusetts, two; New York, four; Illinois, two; and New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, each one. But Harrison, though elected from Ohio, and Taylor, elected from Louisiana, were both born in Virginia; and Lincoln, elected from Illinois, was born in Kentucky. Therefore Virginia gave birth to seven of the Presidents. In point of years, the ages of the Presidents have ranged from sixty-eight, which was Harrison's age on his accession, to forty-six, which was Grant's age when he became President; the average age being about fifty-seven.



XV.

MATERIAL PROGRESS.

[Sidenote: A Twofold Progress.]

It is manifestly impossible to give, within the brief scope of this volume, more than a hint of the elements which have entered into and stimulated the material progress of the United States during the past century. That progress may be said to have been twofold; the progress which we have shared in common with the civilized world, and the progress which has been peculiar to ourselves. The agency which invention and discovery have had in our advancement scarcely needs to be pointed out. We have only to look around us, and remember the origin of many of the comforts, conveniences, luxuries, nay even what we now regard as necessities, that surround us and minister to our existence, in order to comprehend how very vast, how much beyond easy calculation, the material progress of the century has been.

[Sidenote: Modern Comforts.]

Every hour of the day, should you stop to reflect, you would find yourself doing something, or aided by something, unknown to or unused by the generation of 1776. Sitting in your parlor or library, your feet rest upon carpets, which were introduced into American households in 1792; the book you are reading—which has far better paper, print, binding and illustration than the old copy of "Pilgrim's Progress" which your great-grandfather used to read—is lighted by gas, which did not come into use till this century was well on its way; and that gas you have lit by a friction match, an affair of marvellous simplicity, which was unknown till after 1830.

[Sidenote: Improvement in Dress.]

You are writing, perhaps, with a steel pen; the Declaration of Independence was signed with quills. It is, possibly, a rainy day. You put on rubbers, and you carry an umbrella. The men of '76 had to do as best they could without either. You burn coal in a furnace or stove; they must fain have warmed themselves with more cheery but less warming wood, in an open fireplace. Every article of your dress is an improvement in convenience and comfort on those worn by Washington in all his Presidential glory.

[Sidenote: Rapidity of Transit.]

Your walls are hung with photographs; your wife or daughter has a sewing-machine. In the kitchen are endless contrivances which our great- grandmothers would have greeted with speechless astonishment. You can order a case of goods from Hong Kong on Monday, and be told that they are ready for shipping on Thursday. You can go to San Francisco in almost the same time that it took, only fifty years ago, to reach Washington from New York. When General Jackson went to the capital to be President, he could travel no faster than did the Jews, after the captivity, from Babylon to Jerusalem.

[Sidenote: Material Growth.]

[Sidenote: Population.]

Taking a broader view—for we might go on with the material details of progress all about us ad infinitum, did patience and strength hold out—we look abroad over the land, and note the great elements of a progress peculiarly American, in the growth and distribution of population, in manufactures, agriculture, and commerce. Each and all have been incalculably aided by perpetual invention. A few leading facts must suffice to show that our orators, in their most daring flights, can scarcely exaggerate the marvels of our material advance. The population of this country in 1776, including slaves, was about two and three quarters millions. In 1886, it is without doubt more than fifty millions. In 1790, when the first census was taken, the figure was a little less than four millions. A notable circumstance in reference to the movement of our population has been the increase of the proportion of dwellers in our cities to those in the rural districts. In 1790, only one-thirtieth of our population inhabited the cities. In 1886, probably nearly one-fourth are included in the cities.

In 1790 there were but six cities with a population of more than eight thousand each. These were: Philadelphia, with about 42,500; New York, with about 33,000; Boston. with about 18,000; Charleston, with about 16,300: Baltimore, with about 13,500; and Salem, with a little over 8000. The total was about 131,500. Now the aggregate of our urban population is, probably, at least 12,000,000. It may be added that the centre of our population has shifted from a few miles east of Baltimore, where it was in 1790, to about eight miles west by south from Cincinnati, where it is now supposed to be.

[Sidenote: Agriculture.]

The earliest avocation of our colonies was that of agriculture; and before 1776 our agricultural industries, owing to the discoveries which had gradually been made as to the capabilities of the then settled districts, had grown to important proportions. It needs but a glance at the map to observe over what a vast area agricultural enterprise has spread since 1790. We may fairly say that invention and improvement, in the application of chemistry and mechanical discovery to the cultivation of land, have kept pace with the territorial advance of agricultural science. There can scarcely be named a farming operation which is not performed by instruments far more perfect, and with a rapidity far greater, than was possible with our ancestors.

[Sidenote: Cheaper Tools.]

Human labor has been greatly lessened in proportion to the results obtained. Tools are cheaper; and whereas they were formerly made, to a large extent, on the farms themselves, they are now perfected in factories supplied with the most efficient machinery. There were in 1880 two thousand establishments for the manufacture of agricultural implements, with an annual production valued at over $68,000,000. It would take up too much space to give even a list of these implements; suffice it to say that it is calculated that the value of those now in use on American farms is at least $500,000,000. A hundred years ago a man could only manage six bushels of grain a day—cutting, binding and stocking, threshing and cleaning it. Now, with the aid of mechanical appliances, a single man's labor can achieve almost eight times as much.

[Sidenote: Advance of Agricultural Arts]

To machinery must be added the advance in the arts of manuring, draining, irrigation, and of grafting and obtaining greater varieties of fruits and vegetables. The improvement in breeding and raising live-stock must not be omitted. In this product the wealth of the country was at least $2,000,000.000 in 1880.

[Sidenote: First Mills.]

Great as has been our progress in agriculture, it is scarcely so remarkable as that in manufactures. In 1776 we were mostly a farming community. Now, in New England at least, to a large extent in the Middle States, and to some degree in the West and South, manufactures have outstripped the farming industry. Manufacturing necessarily began, indeed, very early in the settlement of the country; for ships had to be built, and were built, soon after the colonization of Plymouth and Boston. The first saw-mill was erected at Salmon Falls as early as 1635. A printing-press was set up at Cambridge in 1638, and a book-bindery in 1663. The first fulling-mill for making cloth was started at Rowley in 1643. Iron manufacture was regularly established at Lynn in 1645. The first successful cotton-mill in the United States was started by Samuel Slater at Providence in 1793.

[Sidenote: The Cotton Industry.]

[Sidenote: Manufactures.]

The growth of the cotton industry may be appreciated when we state that its extent in 1831 comprised 795 factories and 1,246,500 spindles; while in 1880 there were over ten million spindles, and the value of the products reached nearly two hundred million dollars annually. The progress in woollen manufacture has been equally rapid. Since 1850 the number of factories in this industry has more than doubled, while the value of the products has increased over fourfold. Looking over the whole field of manufacturing industries, it is stated that the estimated capital employed throughout out the country in 1880, namely $2,790,000,000, does not really approximate to the total amount. According to the census of that year, moreover, over two and a half millions of persons were engaged in manufacturing; while about seven and a half millions were employed in agriculture, and nearly two millions in trade and transportation. Only a hint can thus be attempted of our progress in manufactures.

[Sidenote: Commercial Relations.]

It need scarcely be said that commerce, as the great medium of barter and exchange between States and with foreign nations, has necessarily kept pace with the development of the industries which we have briefly glanced at. The increase of our mercantile marine, up to the unhappy period of the war, when it was almost swept from the ocean, kept pace with the ever-increasing needs of the business of the country. Now it is again slowly reviving from the disasters of the civil conflict. During the past century, our commercial relations have extended to the remotest corners of the earth, whither we send the commodities we have to spare, and whence we derive those which we need for comfort, convenience, luxury, and wealth. The extent to which steam applied to water navigation, and telegraphy laid not only over the continents but under the oceans, have stimulated our commerce in common with that of the world, is more easy to be observed in general than calculated in detail. With many nations we have treaties of commerce, and the time may not be long in coming when such pacts will be reciprocated between all the trading nations of the world.



XVI.

PROGRESS IN LITERATURE.

[Sidenote: English Literature.]

[Sidenote: Majority of Authors from New England.]

With English laws, customs, Protestantism, habits of thought, and methods of culture, we also inherited the English literature. So rich was already this inheritance when our colonies were settled, that there was little need or incentive for the early Americans to strike out into new literary paths, and create an original literature. Our ancestors read Milton, Bunyan, Doddridge, Butler, Dryden, Pope, and Shakespeare. It is a noteworthy fact that American literature not only took its start from, but, up to within recent times, was mainly produced by the New England and the Middle States. Even now, the noted writers in any branch of letters born south of Virginia may almost be counted upon the fingers. It is equally true that west of Ohio authors who have won a general and permanent reputation are few. If we survey American literature from the time of Cotton Mather (who may perhaps be called the first author of the country whose works are still remembered and read) to the present, we find that a majority of the best authors, both in prose and verse, have been New Englanders.

[Sidenote: Ante-Revolutionary Writers.]

The rise of our literature having taken place in the colonies of Puritan stock, and those most fully imbued with Puritan sobriety and seriousness, it was natural that our earliest literary products should be religious and philosophical. Cotton Mather, with his extravagant "Magnolia"; Jonathan Edwards, with his stern treatise on the Will; Franklin, with his shrewd maxims, and clear, strong, unadorned essays, were about the only ante-revolutionary writers who are not by this time forgotten. It was not surprising that the period of the Revolution should develop a literature peculiarly political. There were, no doubt, already poetasters, novelists, and essayists; but even their names are strange to us of this age. Where are they and their works? What faint traces are still left of them show us that they were mostly mere imitators, and not brilliant ones, of the English authors of their day.

[Sidenote: Political Literature.]

But our political literature became, with the Revolution and its sequel, most vigorous, philosophical, eloquent, and profound. The Declaration itself was a masterpiece of political style, as well as of substance; and Jefferson, its author, continuing for years after to discuss political questions with a lucidity and vigor which were unrivalled in America, took his place in literary history as perhaps our greatest political writer. Close behind him came writers like Hamilton, Jay, Madison, Ames, Freneau, and Tom Paine, all of them holding high rank in this department of letters.

[Sidenote: Post-Revolutionary Writers.]

When we became an independent nation, literature naturally felt the impulse and inspiration of the new national life. Poets and novelists came up of a higher type than their ante-revolutionary predecessors; writers like Dwight, Hopkinson, Trumbull, Barlow, Brockden Brown, and Paine. But no one of these attained the rank of genius, nor did any of them establish a great reputation; and if they are remembered at all, it is rather by happy isolated pieces than by the general excellence of their works. The American novels of the last century, unlike the English novels of Swift, Fielding, and Goldsmith, have one and all passed into oblivion.

[Sidenote: William Cullen Bryant.]

The position of American literature in 1886 may, especially in the departments of history and poetry, fairly bear comparison with that of England. Yet the first really great American authors, if we except the theological and political writers of whom mention has been made, published their first works at a period quite within the memory of men still living. Our first great poet was William Cullen Bryant, who survived to old age to observe to what vast proportions our literary productions, both in quality and quantity, had grown. Our first great biographer and essayist, Washington Irving, may be remembered as living by the man of thirty-five. Our first eminent novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, would only be ninety-seven if he were still among us. And our first great historian, Prescott, died but twenty-seven years ago.

[Sidenote: Rise of American Poetry.]

The new career of American letters, indeed, may be said to have been begun when William Cullen Bryant published "Thanatopsis," in the year 1816. Our writers then began to feel the influence of the vigorous schools of English poetry of which Byron, Wordsworth, and Coleridge were the shining lights. Like these, our own writers shook off the poetic dominion of Pope, and declared form to be subordinate to the thought and the feeling. Bryant, the enthusiastic disciple of Wordsworth, set the bold example, and from that moment American literature received an element of vitality which was given it its noble and rapid growth. It is almost always the case that, in young nations, poetry is the first branch of letters to be developed. The earliest masterpieces of Greek and English literature are the "Iliad," the "Canterbury Tales," and the "Faerie Queene." Perhaps the best German literature before Lessing, worth remembering, was the songs of the Minnesinger.

[Sidenote: Earlier Poets.]

[Sidenote: Later Posts.]

In the United States, Bryant was soon followed by a succession of poets whose productions clearly revealed the magnetism of the English revival, and gave promise of the rise of that poetic art which we have seen reach its culmination in our own day. Richard H. Dana wrote the "Buccaneer"; Fitz-Greene Halleck, "Marco Bozarris"; Edgar A. Poe "The Raven"; the painter Allston turned easily from brush to pen, and added more than one fine poem to our literature; Emerson rose to found a school of transcendental poetry as well as philosophy; N.P. Willis became the lyrical likeness of Moore on this side of the Atlantic; Percival reached a brief popularity, and wrote some things well worthy of remembrance; and the banker-poet Sprague filled a worthy place in our group of bards. In the next generation came the poets of the highest culture and most widely extended popularity: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

[Sidenote: Historians.]

The United States have produced a race of historians whose works and names may not unfairly be ranked with those of Hume, Macaulay, Hallam, and Froude. Prescott and Irving have been followed by Bancroft, Motley, Parkman, Adams, Kirk, Goodwin, Young, and Ticknor. Sydney Smith, were he now living, would find his question, "Who reads an American book?" speedily answered; for in English drawing-rooms and on English book-stalls "Evangeline" and "The Wayside Inn" are to be found quite as often as "In Memoriam" and "Idyls of the King"; and "Ferdinand and Isabella" and the "Rise of the Dutch Republic," as often as the histories of Macaulay and Froude.

[Sidenote: Theological Literature.]

Our theologians have kept pace, in the amount and intellectual force of their writings, with those of the older continent. It is not astonishing that, in a nation established by a sect for the purpose of doing God honor, a race of great theological authors should arise. The names of Hopkins and Emmons, of Dwight, Channing, Norton, Theodore Parker, Wayland, Bacon, Park, Bushnell, and many others, will recur, to remind us how active religious philosophy and speculation have been from the time of Jonathan Edwards to the present.

[Sidenote: Political and Legal Writers.]

In other departments of letters our progress during the century, though less marked, has been very distinct. Webster, Everett, Sumner, Winthrop, and, it may well be added, Lincoln, have made a literary art, as well as a practical career, of politics. American legal writers, like Greenleaf, Kent, Story, and Parsons, are quoted in the English as in the American courts, as authorities worthy of respect and trust. In the domain of searching literary criticism, England has perhaps produced no author since the days of Gifford and Jeffrey superior in learning, acuteness, and grace to Edwin P. Whipple.

[Sidenote: Humorists.]

[Sidenote: Writers of Fiction.]

Humorists have been many; in this field we count not only Lowell, Neal, and Holmes, but the younger band, which includes Artemas Ward, Mark Twain, Nasby, Bret Harte, Warner, and Leland. In the department of essays and miscellaneous belles-lettres, the names of George William Curtis, Thoreau, Tuckerman, Higginson, Marsh, and many more, crowd upon the mind. Foremost among writers of fiction may be classed Cooper and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and though in this field America can scarcely contest the palm with the mother country, and the great purely national novel has not yet appeared, the fertility of our novelists affords promise that in time great and national romances will come. Meanwhile, Mrs. Stowe, Donald G. Mitchell, T.B. Aldrich, William D. Howells (poet as well as novelist), Henry James, Julian Hawthorne, Stockton, Miss Phelps, E.E. Hale, and others, have delighted thousands by their imaginative works.

[Sidenote: American Dictionaries.]

To present even a list, indeed, of American writers who may be called noted, would much more than occupy the limits assigned to this chapter. The multitude that crowds upon the memory, even in a cursory glance over our history, is so large that even in mentioning any names at all one runs the risk of some unjust omission. Suffice it to say that no field of letters has remained wholly uncultivated in this country, and that literary invention in the United States, though sometimes at a pause, on the whole advances with their population and civilization. We have philosophers, men of science, poets, critics, essayists, art writers, theologians, fully able to cope with their literary brethren in the old world. Let it be added that America has produced the two dictionaries which are to-day paramount authority in every English school, college, and university; and that in the science of language George P. Marsh and William D. Whitney have carried their studies to depths as profound, and have given the world results as valuable, as have any old-world philologists.



XVII.

PROGRESS IN THE ARTS.

[Sidenote: Old-time Simplicity.]

American art, like American letters, was of slow and difficult growth. The early colonists, even those who, like the Virginia cavaliers and the settlers in Maryland, possessed somewhat of the old-world culture and taste, had little time for the ornamental. To worry a decent living out of an inhospitable and reluctant soil, and to serve God after their strict and severe fashion, were abundant occupation to the Puritans. Therefore, could we carry ourselves back through the generations and find ourselves in the streets and abodes of colonial New England, we should observe but very few and slight attempts at decoration.

Pictures, unless it were now and then a scriptural or historical print, there would be none on the plain walls with their heavy beams; varnishing and frescoing would be but rare vanities, if indeed such could be anywhere discovered at all; as for rare vases, or bronzes, or marbles, such things were assuredly unknown. The austere simplicity of the place, the people, and the age, forbade not only a footing to the arts, but refused all nurture to imaginative growths. The Puritans especially had the lofty scorn of art which resented the idea of a picture or a statue in a church with as much indignation as they would have shown to the Pope had he invited them to return to the fold of Rome.

[Sidenote: John Singleton Copley.]

As there was very little literature for America to be proud of before the Declaration of Independence, so, in casting our eyes backward over the annals of art, we can discover but one notable native artist in the period between the early settlements and the Revolution. This was John Singleton Copley. He was born in Boston in 1738, and became the pupil of Smybert, an English artist of some talent, who had accompanied Bishop Berkeley across the Atlantic and had settled in Boston. The pupil soon eclipsed the master, and for years Copley stood alone as a popular portrait-painter in New England.

[Sidenote: Historical Pictures.]

But even the monopoly of his profession did not suffice to give him adequate support, or gratify Copley's ambition; and he was forced to seek in a more art-loving land the full recognition and reward of his genius. He left behind him many portraits which still exist as precious heirlooms in New England families, and just as the storm of the Revolution was gathering, he set sail for the mother country, which he never afterward left. Before he went, however, a son had been born to him in Boston, who was destined long after to reach the highest summit of English legal dignity and rank—Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst. Copley was especially great as a portrait-painter, but he also sometimes adopted historical subjects. Of these the best known is his "Death of Lord Chatham," which now hangs in the South Kensington Museum, in London.

[Sidenote: Benjamin West.]

Copley was soon succeeded by an American artist whose triumphs in England afterward far outshone his own. Benjamin West was born in Pennsylvania in 1738, and was the youngest of nine children, of Quaker parents. His genius for art was discovered in an amusing way. When he was seven sears old he was put to the task of fanning the flies away from the sleeping baby of one of his sisters. Instead of doing so, he sketched her face with black and red ink. His mother snatched the paper from him, looked at it with amazement, and exclaimed: "I declare, he has made a likeness of little Sally." From the Indians be got some of the pigments with which they smeared their faces, and his mother's indigo bag supplied him with blue; while from the house cat's tail he took the hair for his brushes. West was well known as a portrait-painter at fifteen. His Quaker friends at first demurred at the vanity of his calling: but in a solemn meeting the spirit happily moved them to bless him and consecrate him to art. He found rich patrons, who sent him to Italy, where he studied the great masters with zeal and enthusiasm.

[Sidenote: Royal Academy Founded.]

This sojourn in the favored land of art, and the chance which procured him an introduction to King George III. as he was passing through England on his way home, deprived his native country of this famous artist. Received and petted at the English court, he took up his permanent residence in London. There, with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and encouraged by the king, he founded the Royal Academy, of which he became president; and as long as King George retained his mind, West was constantly in the sunshine of royal favor. He was appointed "Painter to His Majesty," and a splendid income rewarded his labors. He was neglected by the Prince of Wales, but was recompensed for the loss of his court associations by the patronage of the nobles and people. Copley and West were the forerunners of a succession of American portrait- painters not inferior in their art to their European contemporaries. Both Copley and West aspired to something higher and more creative than copying the lineaments of human faces, but it may be said of them that in historical and imaginative painting they fell short of the highest standard.

[Sidenote: Peale, Stuart, and Trumbull.]

Following Copley and West came, close together, three painters whose works were of a high order, some of them being familiar to every one in engraved copies. These were Charles Wilson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and John Trumbull. Peale was a saddler's apprentice, Stuart the son of a snuffmaker; Trumbull, on the other hand, was the son of one of the foremost statesmen of the Revolution. To all three we owe portraits of Washington from life. Peale painted him in his prime, just after the battle of Monmouth; Trumbull painted him as he was a few years later, at the surrender of Cornwallis; and Stuart painted him when the added dignity of age had crept upon him, and he was President at Philadelphia. Both Peale and Trumbull fought in the Revolution. Trumbull is now best known as the painter of the historical pictures of the war for independence which hang in the Capitol at Washington; of which the most familiar is the "Battle of Bunker's Hill."

[Sidenote: Washington Allston.]

It could no longer be said, after these great painters had lived and left enduring results of their labors, that America was devoid of a genius for, or an appreciation of, art. The appearance of Washington Allston, who as a colorist won the name of the "American Titian," and whose noble conceptions of Biblical subjects, executed with wonderful power, have given him permanent rank among the best artists of his time; and of Henry Inman, whose versatile genius readily took up portrait, historical, or landscape painting at will, served to carry American art yet another grade higher. Rembrandt Peale sustained the tradition of his father's ability by his own works; Sully came from England to win fame here as a portrait-painter; Vanderlyn and many others rapidly rose to establish art as a profession and adornment in this country. It is worthy of note that two of the greatest of American inventors, Robert Fulton and S.F.B. Morse, began life as artists; but found it more profitable, in fame and fortune, to run steamboats and establish telegraphs.

[Sidenote: Artists as Inventors.]

[Sidenote: Sculptors.]

The sister arts have nourished in this country in a degree scarcely less marked than painting. In sculpture, a later but prolific growth with us, the names of Hiram Powers, Horatio Greenough, Crawford, Ball, Story, Ward, Rogers, Hart, and Harriet Hosmer, sufficiently attest the progress made and the reputation established in this respect. In drawing, caricature, water-colors, and other minor branches of art, our progress has been scarcely less notable; we may fairly claim to have our Gillrays and Cruikshanks as well as our English cousins.

[Sidenote: Art a Modern Necessity.]

Art, from having been a very rare luxury among our forefathers even as lately as the beginning of this century, has become an adjunct, it may even be said a necessity, of our civilization. Drawing is being taught in our schools, and is regarded as one of the polite accomplishments of educated young ladies. Art galleries have sprung up everywhere, and art stores are popular resorts in our larger cities. Art societies thrive and flourish in many States, and art teachers are in demand in most of our towns. Colonies of artists swarm in stately buildings in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The time has come when no artist of merit need starve for want of patronage.

Thousands of Americans, travelling abroad every year, spend the larger portion of their time in Europe in visiting those splendid art galleries which the munificence and taste of kings and nobles have established, and which are free to all the world. The taste for art has become universal, and has penetrated all classes; few are the American houses, in these days, wherein the evidences of this taste are not apparent.

[Sidenote: Music.]

Music has progressed with the other arts in popularity and culture; though America, like England, has as yet produced no really great composer. Every branch of music, however, is cultivated with us; and music as a profession is even more certainly lucrative than painting. America welcomes the most renowned singers and musicians in the world, and the highest efforts of musical composition are performed here to audiences sufficiently cultivated fully to enjoy and appreciate them. We cannot doubt that the future will still further develop the American love of all the arts; or that, in time, this continent will rival that of Europe in great artistic productions.



XVIII.

PROGRESS IN SCIENCE AND INVENTION.

[Sidenote: The Patent Office.]

The progress in practical science and invention, in this country and the civilized world, has been so amazingly rapid during the present century, that the merest hint of a few of the most important elements of that progress can alone be given. The fertility of the human intellect, in devising quicker and more exact methods of doing those things which contribute to the wealth and the pleasure of man, has accomplished results so vast and so varied since the Declaration of Independence, that the mind cannot survey the smallest portion of this field without bewilderment and wonder. If we should visit the Patent Office at Washington, and give ourselves up to a scrutiny of its records, its tabulated results, and its long rows of cases of models, we should in time gain some idea of the extent to which American minds have carried the effort of invention.

[Sidenote: Discoveries in the Exact Sciences.]

Yet the Patent Office, while it exhibits the results of American invention, fails to show anything like the total amount of useful discovery which has been achieved on this continent since the foundation of the government. There are those who discover and invent, and who do not patent. There are discoveries which cannot be circumscribed by the filling-out of blank forms, and an official restriction on their use. This is emphatically the case with discoveries in the exact sciences, which, while they have added immeasurably to the knowledge of mankind, have also attained results the most useful and practical.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse