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Title: A Yankee in Canada : with anti-slavery and reform papers.
Author: Thoreau, Henry David
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Yankee in Canada : with anti-slavery and reform papers." ***


                          +YANKEE IN CANADA+,




                          +HENRY D. THOREAU+,

                    “WALDEN,” “CAPE COD,” ETC., ETC.


                          TICKNOR AND FIELDS.


       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by

                         +TICKNOR AND FIELDS+,

     in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of






                  A YANKEE IN CANADA                           1

         CHAP. I. CONCORD TO MONTREAL                          3

              II. QUEBEC AND MONTMORENCI                      18

             III. ST. ANNE                                    37

              IV. THE WALLS OF QUEBEC                         64

               V. THE SCENERY OF QUEBEC; AND THE RIVER ST.    78

        ANTI-SLAVERY AND REFORM PAPERS                       95
        ·  SLAVERY IN MASSACHUSETTS                          97
        ·  PRAYERS                                          117
        ·  CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE                               123
        ·  A PLEA FOR CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN                    152
        ·  PARADISE (TO BE) REGAINED                        182
        ·  HERALD OF FREEDOM                                206
        ·  THOMAS CARLYLE AND HIS WORKS                     211
        ·  LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE                           248
        ·  THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN BROWN                      278


                          A YANKEE IN CANADA.


“New England is by some affirmed to be an island, bounded on the north
with the River Canada (so called from Monsieur Cane).”—JOSSELYN’S

And still older, in Thomas Morton’s “New English Canaan,” published in
1632, it is said, on page 97, “From this Lake [Erocoise] Northwards is
derived the famous River of Canada, so named, of Monsieur de Cane, a
French Lord, who first planted a Colony of French in America.”


                               CHAPTER I.

                          CONCORD TO MONTREAL.

I fear that I have not got much to say about Canada, not having seen
much; what I got by going to Canada was a cold. I left Concord,
Massachusetts, Wednesday morning, September 25th, 1850, for Quebec.
Fare, seven dollars there and back; distance from Boston, five hundred
and ten miles; being obliged to leave Montreal on the return as soon as
Friday, October 4th, or within ten days. I will not stop to tell the
reader the names of my fellow-travellers; there were said to be fifteen
hundred of them. I wished only to be set down in Canada, and take one
honest walk there as I might in Concord woods of an afternoon.

The country was new to me beyond Fitchburg. In Ashburnham and afterward,
as we were whirled rapidly along, I noticed the woodbine (_Ampelopsis
quinquefolia_), its leaves now changed, for the most part on dead trees,
draping them like a red scarf. It was a little exciting, suggesting
bloodshed, or at least a military life, like an epaulet or sash, as if
it were dyed with the blood of the trees whose wounds it was inadequate
to stanch. For now the bloody autumn was come, and an Indian warfare was
waged through the forest. These military trees appeared very numerous,
for our rapid progress connected those that were even some miles apart.
Does the woodbine prefer the elm? The first view of Monadnoc was
obtained five or six miles this side of Fitzwilliam, but nearest and
best at Troy and beyond. Then there were the Troy cuts and embankments.
Keene Street strikes the traveller favorably, it is so wide, level,
straight, and long. I have heard one of my relatives, who was born and
bred there, say that you could see a chicken run across it a mile off. I
have also been told that when this town was settled they laid out a
street four rods wide, but at a subsequent meeting of the proprietors
one rose and remarked, “We have plenty of land, why not make the street
eight rods wide?” and so they voted that it should be eight rods wide,
and the town is known far and near for its handsome street. It was a
cheap way of securing comfort, as well as fame, and I wish that all new
towns would take pattern from this. It is best to lay our plans widely
in youth, for then land is cheap, and it is but too easy to contract our
views afterward. Youths so laid out, with broad avenues and parks, that
they may make handsome and liberal old men! Show me a youth whose mind
is like some Washington city of magnificent distances, prepared for the
most remotely successful and glorious life after all, when those spaces
shall be built over and the idea of the founder be realized. I trust
that every New England boy will begin by laying out a Keene Street
through his head, eight rods wide. I know one such Washington city of a
man, whose lots as yet are only surveyed and staked out, and except a
cluster of shanties here and there, only the Capitol stands there for
all structures, and any day you may see from afar his princely idea
borne coachwise along the spacious but yet empty avenues. Keene is built
on a remarkably large and level interval, like the bed of a lake, and
the surrounding hills, which are remote from its street, must afford
some good walks. The scenery of mountain towns is commonly too much
crowded. A town which is built on a plain of some extent, with an open
horizon, and surrounded by hills at a distance, affords the best walks
and views.

As we travel northwest up the country, sugar-maples, beeches, birches,
hemlocks, spruce, butternuts, and ash trees prevail more and more. To
the rapid traveller the number of elms in a town is the measure of its
civility. One man in the cars has a bottle full of some liquor. The
whole company smile whenever it is exhibited. I find no difficulty in
containing myself. The Westmoreland country looked attractive. I heard a
passenger giving the very obvious derivation of this name,
West-more-land, as if it were purely American, and he had made a
discovery; but I thought of “my cousin Westmoreland” in England. Every
one will remember the approach to Bellows Falls, under a high cliff
which rises from the Connecticut. I was disappointed in the size of the
river here; it appeared shrunk to a mere mountain stream. The water was
evidently very low. The rivers which we had crossed this forenoon
possessed more of the character of mountain streams than those in the
vicinity of Concord, and I was surprised to see everywhere traces of
recent freshets, which had carried away bridges and injured the
railroad, though I had heard nothing of it. In Ludlow, Mount Holly, and
beyond, there is interesting mountain scenery, not rugged and
stupendous, but such as you could easily ramble over,—long narrow
mountain vales through which to see the horizon. You are in the midst of
the Green Mountains. A few more elevated blue peaks are seen from the
neighborhood of Mount Holly, perhaps Killington Peak is one. Sometimes,
as on the Western Railroad, you are whirled over mountainous
embankments, from which the scared horses in the valleys appear
diminished to hounds. All the hills blush; I think that autumn must be
the best season to journey over even the _Green_ Mountains. You
frequently exclaim to yourself, what _red_ maples! The sugar-maple is
not so red. You see some of the latter with rosy spots or cheeks only,
blushing on one side like fruit, while all the rest of the tree is
green, proving either some partiality in the light or frosts, or some
prematurity in particular branches. Tall and slender ash trees, whose
foliage is turned to a dark mulberry color, are frequent. The butternut,
which is a remarkably spreading tree, is turned completely yellow, thus
proving its relation to the hickories. I was also struck by the bright
yellow tints of the yellow-birch. The sugar-maple is remarkable for its
clean ankle. The groves of these trees looked like vast forest sheds,
their branches stopping short at a uniform height, four or five feet
from the ground, like eaves, as if they had been trimmed by art, so that
you could look under and through the whole grove with its leafy canopy,
as under a tent whose curtain is raised.

As you approach Lake Champlain you begin to see the New York mountains.
The first view of the Lake at Vergennes is impressive, but rather from
association than from any peculiarity in the scenery. It lies there so
small (not appearing in that proportion to the width of the State that
it does on the map), but beautifully quiet, like a picture of the Lake
of Lucerne on a music-box, where you trace the name of Lucerne among the
foliage; far more ideal than ever it looked on the map. It does not say,
“Here I am, Lake Champlain,” as the conductor might for it, but having
studied the geography thirty years, you crossed over a hill one
afternoon and beheld it. But it is only a glimpse that you get here. At
Burlington you rush to a wharf and go on board a steamboat, two hundred
and thirty-two miles from Boston. We left Concord at twenty minutes
before eight in the morning, and were in Burlington about six at night,
but too late to see the lake. We got our first fair view of the lake at
dawn, just before reaching Plattsburg, and saw blue ranges of mountains
on either hand, in New York and in Vermont, the former especially grand.
A few white schooners, like gulls, were seen in the distance, for it is
not waste and solitary like a lake in Tartary; but it was such a view as
leaves not much to be said; indeed, I have postponed Lake Champlain to
another day.

The oldest reference to these waters that I have yet seen is in the
account of Cartier’s discovery and exploration of the St. Lawrence in
1535. Samuel Champlain actually discovered and paddled up the Lake in
July, 1609, eleven years before the settlement of Plymouth, accompanying
a war-party of the Canadian Indians against the Iroquois. He describes
the islands in it as not inhabited, although they are pleasant,—on
account of the continual wars of the Indians, in consequence of which
they withdraw from the rivers and lakes into the depths of the land,
that they may not be surprised. “Continuing our course,” says he, “in
this lake, on the western side, viewing the country, I saw on the
eastern side very high mountains, where there was snow on the summit. I
inquired of the savages if those places were inhabited. They replied
that they were, and that they were Iroquois, and that in those places
there were beautiful valleys and plains fertile in corn, such as I have
eaten in this country, with an infinity of other fruits.” This is the
earliest account of what is now Vermont.

The number of French-Canadian gentlemen and ladies among the passengers,
and the sound of the French language, advertised us by this time that we
were being whirled towards some foreign vortex. And now we have left
Rouse’s Point, and entered the Sorel River, and passed the invisible
barrier between the States and Canada. The shores of the Sorel,
Richelieu, or St. John’s River, are flat and reedy, where I had expected
something more rough and mountainous for a natural boundary between two
nations. Yet I saw a difference at once, in the few huts, in the
pirogues on the shore, and as it were, in the shore itself. This was an
interesting scenery to me, and the very reeds or rushes in the shallow
water, and the tree-tops in the swamps, have left a pleasing impression.
We had still a distant view behind us of two or three blue mountains in
Vermont and New York. About nine o’clock in the forenoon we reached St.
John’s, an old frontier post three hundred and six miles from Boston and
twenty-four from Montreal. We now discovered that we were in a foreign
country, in a station-house of another nation. This building was a
barn-like structure, looking as if it were the work of the villagers
combined, like a log-house in a new settlement. My attention was caught
by the double advertisements in French and English fastened to its
posts, by the formality of the English, and the covert or open reference
to their queen and the British lion. No gentlemanly conductor appeared,
none whom you would know to be the conductor by his dress and demeanor;
but erelong we began to see here and there a solid, red-faced,
burly-looking Englishman, a little pursy perhaps, who made us ashamed of
ourselves and our thin and nervous countrymen,—a grandfatherly
personage, at home in his great-coat, who looked as if he might be a
stage proprietor, certainly a railroad director, and knew, or had a
right to know, when the cars did start. Then there were two or three
pale-faced, black-eyed, loquacious Canadian French gentlemen there,
shrugging their shoulders; pitted as if they had all had the small-pox.
In the mean while some soldiers, red-coats, belonging to the barracks
near by, were turned out to be drilled. At every important point in our
route the soldiers showed themselves ready for us; though they were
evidently rather raw recruits here, they manœuvred far better than our
soldiers; yet, as usual, I heard some Yankees talk as if they were no
great shakes, and they had seen the Acton Blues manœuvre as well. The
officers spoke sharply to them, and appeared to be doing their part
thoroughly. I heard one suddenly coming to the rear, exclaim, “Michael
Donouy, take his name!” though I could not see what the latter did or
omitted to do. It was whispered that Michael Donouy would have to suffer
for that. I heard some of our party discussing the possibility of their
driving these troops off the field with their umbrellas. I thought that
the Yankee, though undisciplined, had this advantage at least, that he
especially is a man who, everywhere and under all circumstances, is
fully resolved to better his condition essentially, and therefore he
could afford to be beaten at first; while the virtue of the Irishman,
and to a great extent the Englishman, consists in merely maintaining his
ground or condition. The Canadians here, a rather poor-looking race,
clad in gray homespun, which gave them the appearance of being covered
with dust, were riding about in caleches and small one-horse carts
called charettes. The Yankees assumed that all the riders were racing,
or at least exhibiting the paces of their horses, and saluted them
accordingly. We saw but little of the village here, for nobody could
tell us when the cars would start; that was kept a profound secret,
perhaps for political reasons; and therefore we were tied to our seats.
The inhabitants of St. John’s and vicinity are described by an English
traveller as “singularly unprepossessing,” and before completing his
period he adds, “besides, they are generally very much disaffected to
the British crown.” I suspect that that “besides” should have been a

At length, about noon, the cars began to roll towards La Prairie. The
whole distance of fifteen miles was over a remarkably level country,
resembling a Western prairie, with the mountains about Chambly visible
in the northeast. This novel, but monotonous scenery, was exciting. At
La Prairie we first took notice of the tinned roofs, but above all of
the St. Lawrence, which looked like a lake; in fact it is considerably
expanded here; it was nine miles across diagonally to Montreal. Mount
Royal in the rear of the city, and the island of St. Helen’s opposite to
it, were now conspicuous. We could also see the Sault St. Louis about
five miles up the river, and the Sault Norman still farther eastward.
The former are described as the most considerable rapids in the St.
Lawrence; but we could see merely a gleam of light there as from a
cobweb in the sun. Soon the city of Montreal was discovered with its tin
roofs shining afar. Their reflections fell on the eye like a clash of
cymbals on the ear. Above all the church of Notre Dame was conspicuous,
and anon the Bonsecours market-house, occupying a commanding position on
the quay, in the rear of the shipping. This city makes the more
favorable impression from being approached by water, and also being
built of stone, a gray limestone found on the island. Here, after
travelling directly inland the whole breadth of New England, we had
struck upon a city’s harbor,—it made on me the impression of a
seaport,—to which ships of six hundred tons can ascend, and where
vessels drawing fifteen feet lie close to the wharf, five hundred and
forty miles from the Gulf; the St. Lawrence being here two miles wide.
There was a great crowd assembled on the ferry-boat wharf and on the
quay to receive the Yankees, and flags of all colors were streaming from
the vessels to celebrate their arrival. When the gun was fired, the
gentry hurrahed again and again, and then the Canadian caleche-drivers,
who were most interested in the matter, and who, I perceived, were
separated from the former by a fence, hurrahed their welcome; first the
broadcloth, then the homespun.

It was early in the afternoon when we stepped ashore. With a single
companion, I soon found my way to the church of Notre Dame. I saw that
it was of great size and signified something. It is said to be the
largest ecclesiastical structure in North America, and can seat ten
thousand. It is two hundred and fifty-five and a half feet long, and the
groined ceiling is eighty feet above your head. The Catholic are the
only churches which I have seen worth remembering, which are not almost
wholly profane. I do not speak only of the rich and splendid like this,
but of the humblest of them as well. Coming from the hurrahing mob and
the rattling carriages, we pushed aside the listed door of this church,
and found ourselves instantly in an atmosphere which might be sacred to
thought and religion, if one had any. There sat one or two women who had
stolen a moment from the concerns of the day, as they were passing; but,
if there had been fifty people there, it would still have been the most
solitary place imaginable. They did not look up at us, nor did one
regard another. We walked softly down the broad-aisle with our hats in
our hands. Presently came in a troop of Canadians, in their homespun,
who had come to the city in the boat with us, and one and all kneeled
down in the aisle before the high altar to their devotions, somewhat
awkwardly, as cattle prepare to lie down, and there we left them. As if
you were to catch some farmer’s sons from Marlboro, come to cattle-show,
silently kneeling in Concord meeting-house some Wednesday! Would there
not soon be a mob peeping in at the windows? It is true, these Roman
Catholics, priests and all, impress me as a people who have fallen far
behind the significance of their symbols. It is as if an ox had strayed
into a church and were trying to bethink himself. Nevertheless, they are
capable of reverence; but we Yankees are a people in whom this sentiment
has nearly died out, and in this respect we cannot bethink ourselves
even as oxen. I did not mind the pictures nor the candles, whether
tallow or tin. Those of the former which I looked at appeared tawdry. It
matters little to me whether the pictures are by a neophyte of the
Algonquin or the Italian tribe. But I was impressed by the quiet
religious atmosphere of the place. It was a great cave in the midst of a
city; and what were the altars and the tinsel but the sparkling
stalactics, into which you entered in a moment, and where the still
atmosphere and the sombre light disposed to serious and profitable
thought? Such a cave at hand, which you can enter any day, is worth a
thousand of our churches which are open only Sundays,—hardly long enough
for an airing,—and then filled with a bustling congregation,—a church
where the priest is the least part, where you do your own preaching,
where the universe preaches to you and can be heard. I am not sure but
this Catholic religion would be an admirable one if the priest were
quite omitted. I think that I might go to church myself sometimes some
Monday, if I lived in a city where there was such a one to go to. In
Concord, to be sure, we do not need such. Our forests are such a church,
far grander and more sacred. We dare not leave _our_ meeting-houses open
for fear they would be profaned. Such a cave, such a shrine, in one of
our groves, for instance, how long would it be respected? for what
purposes would it be entered, by such baboons as we are? I think of its
value not only to religion, but to philosophy and to poetry; besides a
reading-room, to have a thinking-room in every city! Perchance the time
will come when every house even will have not only its sleeping-rooms,
and dining-room, and talking-room or parlor, but its thinking-room also,
and the architects will put it into their plans. Let it be furnished and
ornamented with whatever conduces to serious and creative thought. I
should not object to the holy water, or any other simple symbol, if it
were consecrated by the imagination of the worshippers.

I heard that some Yankees bet that the candles were not wax, but tin. A
European assured them that they were wax; but, inquiring of the sexton,
he was surprised to learn that they were tin filled with oil. The church
was too poor to afford wax. As for the Protestant churches, here or
elsewhere, they did not interest me, for it is only as caves that
churches interest me at all, and in that respect they were inferior.

Montreal makes the impression of a larger city than you had expected to
find, though you may have heard that it contains nearly sixty thousand
inhabitants. In the newer parts it appeared to be growing fast like a
small New York, and to be considerably Americanized. The names of the
squares reminded you of Paris,—the Champ de Mars, the Place d’Armes, and
others, and you felt as if a French revolution might break out any
moment. Glimpses of Mount Royal rising behind the town, and the names of
some streets in that direction, make one think of Edinburgh. That hill
sets off this city wonderfully. I inquired at a principal bookstore for
books published in Montreal. They said that there were none but
school-books and the like; they got their books from the States. From
time to time we met a priest in the streets, for they are distinguished
by their dress, like the _civil_ police. Like clergymen generally, with
or without the gown, they made on us the impression of effeminacy. We
also met some Sisters of Charity, dressed in black, with Shaker-shaped
black bonnets and crosses, and cadaverous faces, who looked as if they
had almost cried their eyes out, their complexions parboiled with
scalding tears; insulting the daylight by their presence, having taken
an oath not to smile. By cadaverous I mean that their faces were like
the faces of those who have been dead and buried for a year, and then
untombed, with the life’s grief upon them, and yet, for some
unaccountable reason, the process of decay arrested.

           “Truth never fails her servant, sir, nor leaves him
            With the day’s shame upon him.”

They waited demurely on the sidewalk while a truck laden with raisins
was driven in at the seminary of St. Sulpice, never once lifting their
eyes from the ground.

The soldier here, as everywhere in Canada, appeared to be put forward,
and by his best foot. They were in the proportion of the soldiers to the
laborers in an African ant-hill. The inhabitants evidently rely on them
in a great measure for music and entertainment. You would meet with them
pacing back and forth before some guard-house or passage-way, guarding,
regarding, and disregarding all kinds of law by turns, apparently for
the sake of the discipline to themselves, and not because it was
important to exclude anybody from entering that way. They reminded me of
the men who are paid for piling up bricks and then throwing them down
again. On every prominent ledge you could see England’s hands holding
the Canadas, and I judged by the redness of her knuckles that she would
soon have to let go. In the rear of such a guard-house, in a large
gravelled square or parade-ground, called the Champ de Mars, we saw a
large body of soldiers being drilled, we being as yet the only
spectators. But they did not appear to notice us any more than the
devotees in the church, but were seemingly as indifferent to fewness of
spectators as the phenomena of nature are, whatever they might have been
thinking under their helmets of the Yankees that were to come. Each man
wore white kid gloves. It was one of the most interesting sights which I
saw in Canada. The problem appeared to be how to smooth down all
individual protuberances or idiosyncrasies, and make a thousand men move
as one man, animated by one central will; and there was some approach to
success. They obeyed the signals of a commander who stood at a great
distance, wand in hand; and the precision, and promptness, and harmony
of their movements could not easily have been matched. The harmony was
far more remarkable than that of any choir or band, and obtained, no
doubt, at a greater cost. They made on me the impression, not of many
individuals, but of one vast centipede of a man, good for all sorts of
pulling down; and why not then for some kinds of building up? If men
could combine thus earnestly, and patiently, and harmoniously to some
really worthy end, what might they not accomplish? They now put their
hands, and partially perchance their heads, together, and the result is
that they are the imperfect tools of an imperfect and tyrannical
government. But if they could put their hands and heads and hearts and
all together, such a co-operation and harmony would be the very end and
success for which government now exists in vain,—a government, as it
were, not only with tools, but stock to trade with.

I was obliged to frame some sentences that sounded like French in order
to deal with the market-women, who, for the most part, cannot speak
English. According to the guide-book the relative population of this
city stands nearly thus: two fifths are French Canadian; nearly one
fifth British Canadian; one and a half fifth English, Irish, and Scotch;
somewhat less than one half fifth Germans, United States people, and
others. I saw nothing like pie for sale, and no good cake to put in my
bundle, such as you can easily find in our towns, but plenty of
fair-looking apples, for which Montreal Island is celebrated, and also
pears, cheaper, and I thought better than ours, and peaches, which,
though they were probably brought from the South, were as cheap as they
commonly are with us. So imperative is the law of demand and supply
that, as I have been told, the market of Montreal is sometimes supplied
with green apples from the State of New York some weeks even before they
are ripe in the latter place. I saw here the spruce wax which the
Canadians chew, done up in little silvered papers, a penny a roll; also
a small and shrivelled fruit which they called _cerises_ mixed with many
little stems somewhat like raisins, but I soon returned what I had
bought, finding them rather insipid, only putting a sample in my pocket.
Since my return, I find on comparison that it is the fruit of the sweet
viburnum (_Viburnum Lentago_), which with us rarely holds on till it is

I stood on the deck of the steamer John Munn, late in the afternoon,
when the second and third ferry-boats arrived from La Prairie, bringing
the remainder of the Yankees. I never saw so many caleches, cabs,
charettes, and similar vehicles collected before, and doubt if New York
could easily furnish more. The handsome and substantial stone quay,
which stretches a mile along the river-side, and protects the street
from the ice, was thronged with the citizens who had turned out on foot
and in carriages to welcome or to behold the Yankees. It was interesting
to see the caleche drivers dash up and down the slope of the quay with
their active little horses. They drive much faster than in our cities. I
have been told that some of them come nine miles into the city every
morning and return every night, without changing their horses during the
day. In the midst of the crowd of carts, I observed one deep one loaded
with sheep with their legs tied together, and their bodies piled one
upon another, as if the driver had forgotten that they were sheep and
not yet mutton. A sight, I trust, peculiar to Canada, though I fear that
it is not.


                              CHAPTER II.

                        QUEBEC AND MONTMORENCI.

About six o’clock we started for Quebec, one hundred and eighty miles
distant by the river; gliding past Longueil and Boucherville on the
right, and _Pointe aux Trembles_, “so called from having been originally
covered with aspens,” and _Bout de l’Isle_, or the end of the island, on
the left. I repeat these names not merely for want of more substantial
facts to record, but because they sounded singularly poetic to my ears.
There certainly was no lie in them. They suggested that some simple,
and, perchance, heroic human life might have transpired there. There is
all the poetry in the world in a name. It is a poem which the mass of
men hear and read. What is poetry in the common sense, but a string of
such jingling names? I want nothing better than a good word. The name of
a thing may easily be more than the thing itself to me. Inexpressibly
beautiful appears the recognition by man of the least natural fact, and
the allying his life to it. All the world reiterating this slender
truth, that aspens once grew there; and the swift inference is, that men
were there to see them. And so it would be with the names of our native
and neighboring villages, if we had not profaned them.

The daylight now failed us, and we went below; but I endeavored to
console myself for being obliged to make this voyage by night, by
thinking that I did not lose a great deal, the shores being low and
rather unattractive, and that the river itself was much the more
interesting object. I heard something in the night about the boat being
at William Henry, Three Rivers, and in the Richelieu Rapids, but I was
still where I had been when I lost sight of _Pointe aux Trembles_. To
hear a man who has been waked up at midnight in the cabin of a
steamboat, inquiring, “Waiter, where are we now?” is, as if at any
moment of the earth’s revolution round the sun, or of the system round
its centre, one were to raise himself up and inquire of one of the deck
hands, “Where are we now?”

I went on deck at daybreak, when we were thirty or forty miles above
Quebec. The banks were now higher and more interesting. There was an
“uninterrupted succession of whitewashed cottages” on each side of the
river. This is what every traveller tells. But it is not to be taken as
an evidence of the populousness of the country in general, hardly even
of the river banks. They have presented a similar appearance for a
hundred years. The Swedish traveller and naturalist, Kalm, who descended
this river in 1749, says: “It could really be called a village,
beginning at Montreal and ending at Quebec, which is a distance of more
than one hundred and eighty miles; for the farm-houses are never above
five arpens, and sometimes but three asunder, a few places excepted.”
Even in 1684 Hontan said that the houses were not more than a gunshot
apart at most. Erelong we passed Cape Rouge, eight miles above Quebec,
the mouth of the Chaudière on the opposite or south side, New Liverpool
Cove with its lumber rafts and some shipping; then Sillery and Wolfe’s
Cove and the Heights of Abraham on the north, with now a view of Cape
Diamond, and the citadel in front. The approach to Quebec was very
imposing. It was about six o’clock in the morning when we arrived. There
is but a single street under the cliff on the south side of the cape,
which was made by blasting the rocks and filling up the river.
Three-story houses did not rise more than one fifth or one sixth the way
up the nearly perpendicular rock, whose summit is three hundred and
forty-five feet above the water. We saw, as we glided past, the sign on
the side of the precipice, part way up, pointing to the spot where
Montgomery was killed in 1775. Formerly it was the custom for those who
went to Quebec for the first time to be ducked, or else pay a fine. Not
even the Governor General escaped. But we were too many to be ducked,
even if the custom had not been abolished.[1]

Footnote 1:

  Hierosme Lalemant says in 1648, in his relation, he being Superior:
  “All those who come to New France know well enough the mountain of
  Notre Dame, because the pilots and sailors, being, arrived at that
  part of the Great River which is opposite to those high mountains,
  baptize ordinarily for sport the new passengers, if they do not turn
  aside by some present the inundation of this baptism which one makes
  flow plentifully on their heads.”

Here we were, in the harbor of Quebec, still three hundred and sixty
miles from the mouth of the St. Lawrence, in a basin two miles across,
where the greatest depth is twenty-eight fathoms, and though the water
is fresh, the tide rises seventeen to twenty-four feet,—a harbor “large
and deep enough,” says a British traveller, “to hold the English navy.”
I may as well state that, in 1844, the county of Quebec contained about
forty-five thousand inhabitants (the city and suburbs having about
forty-three thousand); about twenty-eight thousand being Canadians of
French origin; eight thousand British; over seven thousand natives of
Ireland; one thousand five hundred natives of England; the rest Scotch
and others. Thirty-six thousand belong to the Church of Rome.

Separating ourselves from the crowd, we walked up a narrow street,
thence ascended by some wooden steps, called the Break-neck Stairs, into
another steep, narrow, and zigzag street, blasted through the rock,
which last led through a low massive stone portal, called Prescott Gate,
the principal thoroughfare into the Upper Town. This passage was
defended by cannon, with a guard-house over it, a sentinel at his post,
and other soldiers at hand ready to relieve him. I rubbed my eyes to be
sure that I was in the nineteenth century, and was not entering one of
those portals which sometimes adorn the frontispieces of new editions of
old black-letter volumes. I thought it would be a good place to read
Froissart’s Chronicles. It was such a reminiscence of the Middle Ages as
Scott’s novels. Men apparently dwelt there for security. Peace be unto
them! As if the inhabitants of New York were to go over to Castle
William to live! What a place it must be to bring up children! Being
safe through the gate we naturally took the street which was steepest,
and after a few turns found ourselves on the Durham Terrace, a wooden
platform on the site of the old castle of St. Louis, still one hundred
and fifteen feet below the summit of the citadel, overlooking the Lower
Town, the wharf where we had landed, the harbor, the Isle of Orleans,
and the river and surrounding country to a great distance. It was
literally a _splendid_ view. We could see six or seven miles distant, in
the northeast, an indentation in the lofty shore of the northern
channel, apparently on one side of the harbor, which marked the mouth of
the Montmorenci, whose celebrated fall was only a few rods in the rear.

At a shoe-shop, whither we were directed for this purpose, we got some
of our American money changed into English. I found that American hard
money would have answered as well, excepting cents, which fell very fast
before their pennies, it taking two of the former to make one of the
latter, and often the penny, which had cost us two cents, did us the
service of one cent only. Moreover, our robust cents were compelled to
meet on even terms a crew of vile half-penny tokens, and bung-town
coppers, which had more brass in their composition, and so perchance
made their way in the world. Wishing to get into the citadel, we were
directed to the Jesuits’ Barracks,—a good part of the public buildings
here are barracks,—to get a pass of the Town Major. We did not heed the
sentries at the gate, nor did they us, and what under the sun they were
placed there for, unless to hinder a free circulation of the air, was
not apparent. There we saw soldiers eating their breakfasts in their
mess-room, from bare wooden tables in camp fashion. We were continually
meeting with soldiers in the streets, carrying funny little tin pails of
all shapes, even semicircular, as if made to pack conveniently. I
supposed that they contained their dinners,—so many slices of bread and
butter to each, perchance. Sometimes they were carrying some kind of
military chest on a sort of bier or hand-barrow, with a springy,
undulating, military step, all passengers giving way to them, even the
charette-drivers stopping for them to pass,—as if the battle were being
lost from an inadequate supply of powder. There was a regiment of
Highlanders, and, as I understood, of Royal Irish, in the city; and by
this time there was a regiment of Yankees also. I had already observed,
looking up even from the water, the head and shoulders of some General
Poniatowsky, with an enormous cocked hat and gun, peering over the roof
of a house, away up where the chimney caps commonly are with us, as it
were a caricature of war and military awfulness; but I had not gone far
up St. Louis Street before my riddle was solved, by the apparition of a
real live Highlander under a cocked hat, and with his knees out,
standing and marching sentinel on the ramparts, between St. Louis and
St. John’s Gate. (It must be a holy war that is waged there.) We stood
close by without fear and looked at him. His legs were somewhat tanned,
and the hair had begun to grow on them, as some of our wise men predict
that it will in such cases, but I did not think they were remarkable in
any respect. Notwithstanding all his warlike gear, when I inquired of
him the way to the Plains of Abraham, he could not answer me without
betraying some bashfulness through his broad Scotch. Soon after, we
passed another of these creatures standing sentry at the St. Louis Gate,
who let us go by without shooting us, or even demanding the countersign.
We then began to go through the gate, which was so thick and
tunnel-like, as to remind me of those lines in Claudian’s Old Man of
Verona, about the getting out of the gate being the greater part of a
journey;—as you might imagine yourself crawling through an architectural
vignette _at the end_ of a black-letter volume. We were then reminded
that we had been in a fortress, from which we emerged by numerous
zig-zags in a ditch-like road, going a considerable distance to advance
a few rods, where they could have shot us two or three times over, if
their minds had been disposed as their guns were. The greatest, or
rather the most prominent, part of this city was constructed with the
design to offer the deadest resistance to leaden and iron missiles that
might be cast against it. But it is a remarkable meteorological and
psychological fact, that it is rarely known to rain lead with much
violence, except on places so constructed. Keeping on about a mile we
came to the Plains of Abraham,—for having got through with the Saints,
we come next to the Patriarchs. Here the Highland regiment was being
reviewed, while the band stood on one side and played,—methinks it was
_La Claire Fontaine_, the national air of the Canadian French. This is
the site where a real battle once took place, to commemorate which they
have had a sham fight here almost every day since. The Highlanders
manœuvred very well, and if the precision of their movements was less
remarkable, they did not appear so stiffly erect as the English or Royal
Irish, but had a more elastic and graceful gait, like a herd of their
own red deer, or as if accustomed to stepping down the sides of
mountains. But they made a sad impression on the whole, for it was
obvious that all true manhood was in the process of being drilled out of
them. I have no doubt that soldiers well drilled are, as a class,
peculiarly destitute of originality and independence. The officers
appeared like men dressed above their condition. It is impossible to
give the soldier a good education, without making him a deserter. His
natural foe is the government that drills him. What would any
philanthropist, who felt an interest in these men’s welfare, naturally
do, but first of all teach them so to respect themselves, that they
could not be hired for this work, whatever might be the consequences to
this government or that;—not drill a few, but educate all. I observed
one older man among them, gray as a wharf-rat, and supple as the Devil,
marching lock-step with the rest who would have to pay for that elastic

We returned to the citadel along the heights, plucking such flowers as
grew there. There was an abundance of succory still in blossom,
broad-leaved golden-rod, buttercups, thorn bushes, Canada thistles, and
ivy, on the very summit of Cape Diamond. I also found the
bladder-campion in the neighborhood. We there enjoyed an extensive view,
which I will describe in another place. Our pass, which stated that all
the rules were “to be strictly enforced,” as if they were determined to
keep up the semblance of reality to the last gasp, opened to us the
Dalhousie Gate, and we were conducted over the citadel by a bare-legged
Highlander in cocked hat and full regimentals. He told us that he had
been here about three years, and had formerly been stationed at
Gibraltar. As if his regiment, having perchance been nestled amid the
rocks of Edinburgh Castle, must flit from rock to rock thenceforth over
the earth’s surface, like a bald eagle, or other bird of prey, from
eyrie to eyrie. As we were going out, we met the Yankees coming in, in a
body, headed by a red-coated officer called the commandant, and escorted
by many citizens, both English and French Canadian. I therefore
immediately fell into the procession, and went round the citadel again
with more intelligent guides, carrying, as before, all my effects with
me. Seeing that nobody walked with the red-coated commandant, I attached
myself to him, and though I was not what is called well-dressed, he did
not know whether to repel me or not, for I talked like one who was not
aware of any deficiency in that respect. Probably there was not one
among all the Yankees who went to Canada this time, who was not more
splendidly dressed than I was. It would have been a poor story if I had
not enjoyed some distinction. I had on my “bad-weather clothes,” like
Olaf Trygesson the Northman, when he went to the Thing in England,
where, by the way, he won his bride. As we stood by the
thirty-two-pounder on the summit of Cape Diamond, which is fired three
times a day, the commandant told me that it would carry to the Isle of
Orleans, four miles distant, and that no hostile vessel could come round
the island. I now saw the subterranean or, rather, “casemated barracks”
of the soldiers, which I had not noticed before, though I might have
walked over them. They had very narrow windows, serving as loop-holes
for musketry, and small iron chimneys rising above the ground. There we
saw the soldiers at home and in an undress, splitting wood,—I looked to
see whether with swords or axes,—and in various ways endeavoring to
realize that their nation was now at peace with this part of the world.
A part of each regiment, chiefly officers, are allowed to marry. A
grandfatherly, would-be witty Englishman could give a Yankee whom he was
patronizing no reason for the bare knees of the Highlanders, other than
oddity. The rock within the citadel is a little convex, so that shells
falling on it would roll toward the circumference, where the barracks of
the soldiers and officers are; it has been proposed, therefore, to make
it slightly concave, so that they may roll into the centre, where they
would be comparatively harmless; and it is estimated that to do this
would cost twenty thousand pounds sterling. It may be well to remember
this when I build my next house, and have the roof “all correct” for

At mid-afternoon we made haste down _Sault-au-Matelot_ street, towards
the Falls of Montmorenci, about eight miles down the St. Lawrence, on
the north side, leaving the further examination of Quebec till our
return. On our way, we saw men in the streets sawing logs pit-fashion,
and afterward, with a common wood-saw and horse, cutting the planks into
squares for paving the streets. This looked very shiftless, especially
in a country abounding in water-power, and reminded me that I was no
longer in Yankee land. I found, on inquiry, that the excuse for this
was, that labor was so cheap; and I thought, with some pain, how cheap
men are here! I have since learned that the English traveller,
Warburton, remarked, soon after landing at Quebec, that everything was
cheap there but men. That must be the difference between going thither
from New and from Old England. I had already observed the dogs harnessed
to their little milk-carts, which contain a single large can, lying
asleep in the gutters regardless of the horses, while they rested from
their labors, at different stages of the ascent in the Upper Town. I was
surprised at the regular and extensive use made of these animals for
drawing, not only milk, but groceries, wood, &c. It reminded me that the
dog commonly is not put to any use. Cats catch mice; but dogs only worry
the cats. Kalm, a hundred years ago, saw sledges here for ladies to ride
in, drawn by a pair of dogs. He says, “A middle-sized dog is sufficient
to draw a single person, when the roads are good”; and he was told by
old people, that horses were very scarce in their youth, and almost all
the land-carriage was then effected by dogs. They made me think of the
Esquimaux, who, in fact, are the next people on the north. Charlevoix
says, that the first horses were introduced in 1665.

We crossed Dorchester Bridge, over the St. Charles, the little river in
which Cartier, the discoverer of the St. Lawrence, put his ships, and
spent the winter of 1535, and found ourselves on an excellent
macadamized road, called _Le Chemin de Beauport_. We had left Concord
Wednesday morning, and we endeavored to realize that now, Friday
morning, we were taking a walk in Canada, in the Seigniory of Beauport,
a foreign country, which a few days before had seemed almost as far off
as England and France. Instead of rambling to Flint’s Pond or the
Sudbury Meadows, we found ourselves, after being a little detained in
cars and steamboats,—after spending half a night at Burlington, and half
a day at Montreal,—taking a walk down the bank of the St. Lawrence to
the Falls of Montmorenci and elsewhere. Well, I thought to myself, here
I am in a foreign country; let me have my eyes about me, and take it all
in. It already looked and felt a good deal colder than it had in New
England, as we might have expected it would. I realized fully that I was
four degrees nearer the pole, and shuddered at the thought; and I
wondered if it were possible that the peaches might not be all gone when
I returned. It was an atmosphere that made me think of the fur-trade,
which is so interesting a department in Canada, for I had for all
head-covering a thin palm-leaf hat without lining, that cost twenty-five
cents, and over my coat one of those unspeakably cheap, as well as thin,
brown linen sacks of the Oak Hall pattern, which every summer appear all
over New England, thick as the leaves upon the trees. It was a
thoroughly Yankee costume, which some of my fellow-travellers wore in
the cars to save their coats a dusting. I wore mine, at first, because
it looked better than the coat it covered, and last, because two coats
were warmer than one, though one was thin and dirty. I never wear my
best coat on a journey, though perchance I could show a certificate to
prove that I have a more costly one, at least, at home, if that were all
that a gentleman required. It is not wise for a traveller to go dressed.
I should no more think of it than of putting on a clean dicky and
blacking my shoes to go a-fishing; as if you were going out to dine,
when, in fact, the genuine traveller is going out to work hard, and fare
harder,—to eat a crust by the wayside whenever he can get it. Honest
travelling is about as dirty work as you can do, and a man needs a pair
of overalls for it. As for blacking my shoes in such a case, I should as
soon think of blacking my face. I carry a piece of tallow to preserve
the leather, and keep out the water; that’s all; and many an officious
shoe-black, who carried off my shoes when I was slumbering, mistaking me
for a gentleman, has had occasion to repent it before he produced a
gloss on them.

My pack, in fact, was soon made, for I keep a short list of those
articles which, from frequent experience, I have found indispensable to
the foot-traveller; and, when I am about to start, I have only to
consult that, to be sure that nothing is omitted, and, what is more
important, nothing superfluous inserted. Most of my fellow-travellers
carried carpet-bags, or valises. Sometimes one had two or three
ponderous yellow valises in his clutch, at each hitch of the cars, as if
we were going to have another rush for seats; and when there was a rush
in earnest, and there were not a few, I would see my man in the crowd,
with two or three affectionate lusty fellows along each side of his arm,
between his shoulder and his valises, which last held them tight to his
back, like the nut on the end of a screw. I could not help asking in my
mind, What so great cause for showing Canada to those valises, when
perhaps your very nieces had to stay at home for want of an escort? I
should have liked to be present when the custom-house officer came
aboard of him, and asked him to declare upon his honor if he had
anything but wearing apparel in them. Even the elephant carries but a
small trunk on his journeys. The perfection of travelling is to travel
without baggage. After considerable reflection and experience, I have
concluded that the best bag for the foot-traveller is made with a
handkerchief, or, if he study appearances, a piece of stiff brown paper,
well tied up, with a fresh piece within to put outside when the first is
torn. That is good for both town and country, and none will know but you
are carrying home the silk for a new gown for your wife, when it may be
a dirty shirt. A bundle which you can carry literally under your arm,
and which will shrink and swell with its contents. I never found the
carpet-bag of equal capacity, which was not a bundle of itself. We
styled ourselves the Knights of the Umbrella and the Bundle; for
wherever we went, whether to Notre Dame or Mount Royal, or the Champ de
Mars, to the Town Major’s or the Bishop’s Palace, to the Citadel, with a
bare-legged Highlander for our escort, or to the Plains of Abraham, to
dinner or to bed, the umbrella and the bundle went with us; for we
wished to be ready to digress at any moment. We made it our home nowhere
in particular, but everywhere where our umbrella and bundle were. It
would have been an amusing circumstance, if the Mayor of one of those
cities had politely asked us where we were staying. We could only have
answered, that we were staying with his Honor for the time being. I was
amused when, after our return, some green ones inquired if we found it
easy to get accommodated; as if we went abroad to get accommodated, when
we can get that at home.

We met with many charettes, bringing wood and stone to the city. The
most ordinary looking horses travelled faster than ours, or, perhaps
they were ordinary looking, because, as I am told, the Canadians do not
use the curry-comb. Moreover, it is said, that on the approach of winter
their horses acquire an increased quantity of hair, to protect them from
the cold. If this be true, some of our horses would make you think
winter were approaching, even in midsummer. We soon began to see women
and girls at work in the fields, digging potatoes alone, or bundling up
the grain which the men cut. They appeared in rude health, with a great
deal of color in their cheeks, and, if their occupation had made them
coarse, it impressed me as better in its effects than making shirts at
fourpence apiece, or doing nothing at all; unless it be chewing slate
pencils, with still smaller results. They were much more agreeable
objects, with their great broad-brimmed hats and flowing dresses, than
the men and boys. We afterwards saw them doing various other kinds of
work; indeed, I thought that we saw more women at work out of doors than
men. On our return, we observed in this town a girl with Indian boots,
nearly two feet high, taking the harness off a dog. The purity and
transparency of the atmosphere were wonderful. When we had been walking
an hour, we were surprised, on turning round, to see how near the city,
with its glittering tin roofs, still looked. A village ten miles off did
not appear to be more than three or four. I was convinced that you could
see objects distinctly there much farther than here. It is true the
villages are of a dazzling white, but the dazzle is to be referred,
perhaps, to the transparency of the atmosphere as much as to the

We were now fairly in the village of Beauport, though there was still
but one road. The houses stood close upon this, without any front-yards,
and at any angle with it, as if they had dropped down, being set with
more reference to the road which the sun travels. It being about
sundown, and the Falls not far off, we began to look round for a
lodging, for we preferred to put up at a private house, that we might
see more of the inhabitants. We inquired first at the most promising
looking houses, if, indeed, any were promising. When we knocked, they
shouted some French word for come in, perhaps _entrez_, and we asked for
a lodging in English; but we found, unexpectedly, that they spoke French
only. Then we went along and tried another house, being generally
saluted by a rush of two or three little curs, which readily
distinguished a foreigner, and which we were prepared now to hear bark
in French. Our first question would be, _Parlez-vous Anglais?_ but the
invariable answer was, _Non, monsieur_; and we soon found that the
inhabitants were exclusively French Canadians, and nobody spoke English
at all, any more than in France; that, in fact, we were in a foreign
country, where the inhabitants uttered not one familiar sound to us.
Then we tried by turns to talk French with them, in which we succeeded
sometimes pretty well, but for the most part, pretty ill. _Pouvez-vous
nous donner un lit cette nuit?_ we would ask, and then they would answer
with French volubility, so that we could catch only a word here and
there. We could understand the women and children generally better than
the men, and they us; and thus, after a while, we would learn that they
had no more beds than they used.

So we were compelled to inquire: _Y a-t-il une maison publique ici?_
(_auberge_ we should have said, perhaps, for they seemed never to have
heard of the other), and they answered at length that there was no
tavern, unless we could get lodgings at the mill, _le moulin_, which we
had passed; or they would direct us to a grocery, and almost every house
had a small grocery at one end of it. We called on the public notary or
village lawyer, but he had no more beds nor English than the rest. At
one house there was so good a misunderstanding at once established
through the politeness of all parties, that we were encouraged to walk
in and sit down, and ask for a glass of water; and having drank their
water, we thought it was as good as to have tasted their salt. When our
host and his wife spoke of their poor accommodations, meaning for
themselves, we assured them that they were good enough, for we thought
that they were only apologizing for the poorness of the accommodations
they were about to offer us, and we did not discover our mistake till
they took us up a ladder into a loft, and showed to our eyes what they
had been laboring in vain to communicate to our brains through our ears,
that they had but that one apartment with its few beds for the whole
family. We made our _a-dieus_ forthwith, and with gravity, perceiving
the literal signification of that word. We were finally taken in at a
sort of public-house, whose master worked for Patterson, the proprietor
of the extensive saw-mills driven by a portion of the Montmorenci stolen
from the fall, whose roar we now heard. We here talked, or murdered
French all the evening, with the master of the house and his family, and
probably had a more amusing time than if we had completely understood
one another. At length they showed us to a bed in their best chamber,
very high to get into, with a low wooden rail to it. It had no cotton
sheets, but coarse, home-made, dark colored, linen ones. Afterward, we
had to do with sheets still coarser than these, and nearly the color of
our blankets. There was a large open buffet loaded with crockery, in one
corner of the room, as if to display their wealth to travellers, and
pictures of Scripture scenes, French, Italian, and Spanish, hung around.
Our hostess came back directly to inquire if we would have brandy for
breakfast. The next morning, when I asked their names, she took down the
temperance pledges of herself and husband, and children, which were
hanging against the wall. They were Jean Baptiste Binet, and his wife,
Geneviève Binet. Jean Baptiste is the sobriquet of the French Canadians.

After breakfast we proceeded to the fall, which was within half a mile,
and at this distance its rustling sound, like the wind among the leaves,
filled all the air. We were disappointed to find that we were in some
measure shut out from the west side of the fall by the private grounds
and fences of Patterson, who appropriates not only a part of the water
for his mill, but a still larger part of the prospect, so that we were
obliged to trespass. This gentleman’s mansion-house and grounds were
formerly occupied by the Duke of Kent, father to Queen Victoria. It
appeared to me in bad taste for an individual, though he were the father
of Queen Victoria, to obtrude himself with his land titles, or at least
his fences, on so remarkable a natural phenomenon, which should, in
every sense, belong to mankind. Some falls should even be kept sacred
from the intrusion of mills and factories, as water privileges in
another than the millwright’s sense. This small river falls
perpendicularly nearly two hundred and fifty feet at one pitch. The St.
Lawrence falls only one hundred and sixty-four feet at Niagara. It is a
very simple and noble fall, and leaves nothing to be desired; but the
most that I could say of it would only have the force of one other
testimony to assure the reader that it is there. We looked directly down
on it from the point of a projecting rock, and saw far below us, on a
low promontory, the grass kept fresh and green by the perpetual drizzle,
looking like moss. The rock is a kind of slate, in the crevices of which
grew ferns and golden-rods. The prevailing trees on the shores were
spruce and arbor-vitæ,—the latter very large and now full of fruit,—also
aspens, alders, and the mountain-ash with its berries. Every emigrant
who arrives in this country by way of the St. Lawrence, as he opens a
point of the Isle of Orleans, sees the Montmorenci tumbling into the
Great River thus magnificently in a vast white sheet, making its
contribution with emphasis. Roberval’s pilot, Jean Alphonse, saw this
fall thus, and described it, in 1542. It is a splendid introduction to
the scenery of Quebec. Instead of an artificial fountain in its square,
Quebec has this magnificent natural waterfall to adorn one side of its
harbor. Within the mouth of the chasm below, which can be entered only
at ebb tide, we had a grand view at once of Quebec and of the fall. Kalm
says that the noise of the fall is sometimes heard at Quebec, about
eight miles distant, and is a sign of a northeast wind. The side of this
chasm, of soft and crumbling slate too steep to climb, was among the
memorable features of the scene. In the winter of 1829 the frozen spray
of the fall, descending on the ice of the St. Lawrence, made a hill one
hundred and twenty-six feet high. It is an annual phenomenon which some
think may help explain the formation of glaciers.

In the vicinity of the fall we began to notice what looked like our
red-fruited thorn bushes, grown to the size of ordinary apple-trees,
very common, and full of large red or yellow fruit, which the
inhabitants called _pommettes_, but I did not learn that they were put
to any use.


                              CHAPTER III.

                               ST. ANNE.

By the middle of the forenoon, though it was a rainy day, we were once
more on our way down the north bank of the St. Lawrence, in a
northeasterly direction, toward the Falls of St. Anne, which are about
thirty miles from Quebec. The settled, more level, and fertile portion
of Canada East may be described rudely as a triangle, with its apex
slanting toward the northeast, about one hundred miles wide at its base,
and from two to three, or even four hundred miles long, if you reckon
its narrow northeastern extremity; it being the immediate valley of the
St. Lawrence and its tributaries, rising by a single or by successive
terraces toward the mountains on either hand. Though the words Canada
East on the map stretch over many rivers and lakes and unexplored
wildernesses, the actual Canada, which might be the colored portion of
the map, is but a little clearing on the banks of the river, which one
of those syllables would more than cover. The banks of the St. Lawrence
are rather low from Montreal to the Richelieu Rapids, about forty miles
above Quebec. Thence they rise gradually to Cape Diamond, or Quebec.
Where we now were, eight miles northeast of Quebec, the mountains which
form the northern side of this triangle were only five or six miles
distant from the river, gradually departing farther and farther from it,
on the west, till they reach the Ottawa, and making haste to meet it on
the east, at Cape Tourmente, now in plain sight about twenty miles
distant. So that we were travelling in a very narrow and sharp triangle
between the mountains and the river, tilted up toward the mountains on
the north, never losing sight of our great fellow-traveller on our
right. According to Bouchette’s Topographical Description of the
Canadas, we were in the Seigniory of the Côte de Beaupré, in the county
of Montmorenci, and the district of Quebec; in that part of Canada which
was the first to be settled, and where the face of the country and the
population have undergone the least change from the beginning, where the
influence of the States and of Europe is least felt, and the inhabitants
see little or nothing of the world over the walls of Quebec. This
Seigniory was granted in 1636, and is now the property of the Seminary
of Quebec. It is the most mountainous one in the province. There are
some half a dozen parishes in it, each containing a church,
parsonage-house, grist-mill, and several saw-mills. We were now in the
most westerly parish called Ange Gardien, or the Guardian Angel, which
is bounded on the west by the Montmorenci. The north bank of the St.
Lawrence here is formed on a grand scale. It slopes gently, either
directly from the shore, or from the edge of an interval, till, at the
distance of about a mile, it attains the height of four or five hundred
feet. The single road runs along the side of the slope two or three
hundred feet above the river at first, and from a quarter of a mile to a
mile distant from it, and affords fine views of the north channel, which
is about a mile wide, and of the beautiful Isle of Orleans, about twenty
miles long by five wide, where grow the best apples and plums in the
Quebec District.

Though there was but this single road, it was a continuous village for
as far as we walked this day and the next, or about thirty miles down
the river, the houses being as near together all the way as in the
middle of one of our smallest straggling country villages, and we could
never tell by their number when we were on the skirts of a parish, for
the road never ran through the fields or woods. We were told that it was
just six miles from one parish church to another. I thought that we saw
every house in Ange Gardien. Therefore, as it was a muddy day, we never
got out of the mud, nor out of the village, unless we got over the
fence; then indeed, if it was on the north side, we were out of the
civilized world. There were sometimes a few more houses near the church,
it is true, but we had only to go a quarter of a mile from the road to
the top of the bank to find ourselves on the verge of the uninhabited,
and, for the most part, unexplored wilderness stretching toward Hudson’s
Bay. The farms accordingly were extremely long and narrow, each having a
frontage on the river. Bouchette accounts for this peculiar manner of
laying out a village by referring to “the social character of the
Canadian peasant, who is singularly fond of neighborhood,” also to the
advantage arising from a concentration of strength in Indian times. Each
farm, called _terre_, he says, is, in nine cases out of ten, three
arpents wide by thirty deep, that is, very nearly thirty-five by three
hundred and forty-nine of our rods; sometimes one half arpent by thirty,
or one to sixty; sometimes, in fact, a few yards by half a mile. Of
course it costs more for fences. A remarkable difference between the
Canadian and the New England character appears from the fact that in
1745, the French government were obliged to pass a law forbidding the
farmers or _censitaires_ building on land less than one and a half
arpents front by thirty or forty deep, under a certain penalty, in order
to compel emigration, and bring the seigneur’s estates all under
cultivation; and it is thought that they have now less reluctance to
leave the paternal roof than formerly, “removing beyond the sight of the
parish spire, or the sound of the parish bell.” But I find that in the
previous or seventeenth century, the complaint, often renewed, was of a
totally opposite character, namely, that the inhabitants dispersed and
exposed themselves to the Iroquois. Accordingly, about 1664, the king
was obliged to order that “they should make no more clearings except one
next to another, and that they should reduce their parishes to the form
of the parishes in France as much as possible.” The Canadians of those
days, at least, possessed a roving spirit of adventure which carried
them further, in exposure to hardship and danger, than ever the New
England colonist went, and led them, though not to clear and colonize
the wilderness, yet to range over it as _coureurs de bois_, or runners
of the woods, or as Hontan prefers to call them _coureurs de risques_,
runners of risks; to say nothing of their enterprising priesthood; and
Charlevoix thinks that if the authorities had taken the right steps to
prevent the youth from ranging the woods (_de courir les bois_) they
would have had an excellent militia to fight the Indians and English.

The road, in this clayey looking soil, was exceedingly muddy in
consequence of the night’s rain. We met an old woman directing her dog,
which was harnessed to a little cart, to the least muddy part of it. It
was a beggarly sight. But harnessed to the cart as he was, we heard him
barking after we had passed, though we looked anywhere but to the cart
to see where the dog was that barked. The houses commonly fronted the
south, whatever angle they might make with the road; and frequently they
had no door nor cheerful window on the roadside. Half the time they
stood fifteen to forty rods from the road, and there was no very obvious
passage to them, so that you would suppose that there must be another
road running by them. They were of stone, rather coarsely mortared, but
neatly whitewashed, almost invariably one story high and long in
proportion to their height, with a shingled roof, the shingles being
pointed, for ornament, at the eaves, like the pickets of a fence, and
also one row half-way up the roof. The gables sometimes projected a foot
or two at the ridge-pole only. Yet they were very humble and
unpretending dwellings. They commonly had the date of their erection on
them. The windows opened in the middle, like blinds, and were frequently
provided with solid shutters. Sometimes, when we walked along the back
side of a house which stood near the road, we observed stout stakes
leaning against it; by which the shutters, now pushed half open, were
fastened at night; within, the houses were neatly ceiled with wood not
painted. The oven was commonly out of doors, built of stone and mortar,
frequently on a raised platform of planks. The cellar was often on the
opposite side of the road, in front of or behind the houses, looking
like an ice-house with us with a lattice door for summer. The very few
mechanics whom we met had an old-Bettyish look, in their aprons and
_bonnets rouges_, like fools’ caps. The men wore commonly the same
_bonnet rouge_, or red woollen or worsted cap, or sometimes blue or
gray, looking to us as if they had got up with their night-caps on, and,
in fact, I afterwards found that they had. Their clothes were of the
cloth of the country, _étoffe du pays_, gray or some other plain color.
The women looked stout, with gowns that stood out stiffly, also, for the
most part, apparently of some home-made stuff. We also saw some
specimens of the more characteristic winter dress of the Canadian, and I
have since frequently detected him in New England by his coarse gray
homespun capote and picturesque red sash, and his well-furred cap, made
to protect his ears against the severity of his climate.

It drizzled all day, so that the roads did not improve. We began now to
meet with wooden crosses frequently, by the roadside, about a dozen feet
high, often old and toppling down, sometimes standing in a square wooden
platform, sometimes in a pile of stones, with a little niche containing
a picture of the Virgin and Child, or of Christ alone, sometimes with a
string of beads, and covered with a piece of glass to keep out the rain,
with the words, _pour la vierge_, or _Iniri_, on them. Frequently, on
the cross-bar, there would be quite a collection of symbolical
knickknacks, looking like an Italian’s board; the representation in wood
of a hand, a hammer, spikes, pincers, a flask of vinegar, a ladder, &c.,
the whole, perchance, surmounted by a weathercock; but I could not look
at an honest weathercock in this walk without mistrusting that there was
some covert reference in it to St. Peter. From time to time we passed a
little one-story chapel-like building, with a tin-roofed spire, a
shrine, perhaps it would be called, close to the pathside, with a
lattice door, through which we could see an altar, and pictures about
the walls; equally open, through rain and shine, though there was no
getting into it. At these places the inhabitants kneeled and perhaps
breathed a short prayer. We saw one school-house in our walk, and
listened to the sounds which issued from it; but it appeared like a
place where the process, not of enlightening, but of obfuscating the
mind was going on, and the pupils received only so much light as could
penetrate the shadow of the Catholic Church. The churches were very
picturesque, and their interior much more showy than the dwelling-houses
promised. They were of stone, for it was ordered, in 1699, that that
should be their material. They had tinned spires, and quaint ornaments.
That of l’Ange Gardien had a dial on it, with the Middle Age Roman
numerals on its face, and some images in niches on the outside. Probably
its counterpart has existed in Normandy for a thousand years. At the
church of Chateau Richer, which is the next parish to l’Ange Gardien, we
read, looking over the wall, the inscriptions in the adjacent
churchyard, which began with, “_Ici git_” or “_Repose_” and one over a
boy contained, “_Priez pour lui_.” This answered as well as Père la
Chaise. We knocked at the door of the curé’s house here, when a sleek
friar-like personage, in his sacerdotal robe, appeared. To our
_Parlez-vous Anglais?_ even he answered, “_Non, Monsieur_”; but at last
we made him understand what we wanted. It was to find the ruins of the
old _chateau_. “_Ah! oui! oui!_” he exclaimed, and, donning his coat,
hastened forth, and conducted us to a small heap of rubbish which we had
already examined. He said that fifteen years before, it was _plus
considérable_. Seeing at that moment three little red birds fly out of a
crevice in the ruins, up into an arbor-vitæ tree, which grew out of
them, I asked him their names, in such French as I could muster, but he
neither understood me nor ornithology; he only inquired where we had
_appris à parler Français_; we told him, _dans les États-Unis_; and so
we bowed him into his house again. I was surprised to find a man wearing
a black coat, and with apparently no work to do, even in that part of
the world.

The universal salutation from the inhabitants whom we met was _bon
jour_, at the same time touching the hat; with _bon jour_, and touching
your hat, you may go smoothly through all Canada East. A little boy,
meeting us, would remark, “_Bon jour, Monsieur; le chemin est mauvais_”
Good morning, sir; it is bad walking. Sir Francis Head says that the
immigrant is forward to “appreciate the happiness of living in a land in
which the old country’s servile custom of touching the hat does not
exist,” but he was thinking of Canada West, of course. It would, indeed,
be a serious bore to be obliged to touch your hat several times a day. A
Yankee has not leisure for it.

We saw peas, and even beans, collected into heaps in the fields. The
former are an important crop here, and, I suppose, are not so much
infested by the weevil as with us. There were plenty of apples, very
fair and sound, by the roadside, but they were so small as to suggest
the origin of the apple in the crab. There was also a small red fruit
which they called _snells_, and another, also red and very acid, whose
name a little boy wrote for me “_pinbéna_.” It is probably the same
with, or similar to, the _pembina_ of the voyageurs, a species of
viburnum, which, according to Richardson, has given its name to many of
the rivers of Rupert’s Land. The forest trees were spruce, arbor-vitæ,
firs, birches, beeches, two or three kinds of maple, bass-wood,
wild-cherry, aspens, &c, but no pitch pines (_Pinus rigida_). I saw very
few, if any, trees which had been set out for shade or ornament. The
water was commonly running streams or springs in the bank by the
roadside, and was excellent. The parishes are commonly separated by a
stream, and frequently the farms. I noticed that the fields were
furrowed or thrown into beds seven or eight feet wide to dry the soil.

At the _Rivière du Sault à la Puce_, which, I suppose, means the River
of the Fall of the Flea, was advertised in English, as the sportsmen are
English, “The best Snipe-shooting grounds,” over the door of a small
public-house. These words being English affected me as if I had been
absent now ten years from my country, and for so long had not heard the
sound of my native language, and every one of them was as interesting to
me as if I had been a snipe-shooter, and they had been snipes. The
prunella or self-heal, in the grass here, was an old acquaintance. We
frequently saw the inhabitants washing, or cooking for their pigs, and
in one place hackling flax by the roadside. It was pleasant to see these
usually domestic operations carried on out of doors, even in that cold

At twilight we reached a bridge over a little river, the boundary
between Chateau Richer and St. Anne, _le premier pont de St. Anne_, and
at dark the church of _La Bonne St. Anne_. Formerly vessels from France,
when they came in sight of this church, gave “a general discharge of
their artillery,” as a sign of joy that they had escaped all the dangers
of the river. Though all the while we had grand views of the adjacent
country far up and down the river, and, for the most part, when we
turned about, of Quebec in the horizon behind us, and we never beheld it
without new surprise and admiration; yet, throughout our walk, the Great
River of Canada on our right hand was the main feature in the landscape,
and this expands so rapidly below the Isle of Orleans, and creates such
a breadth of level horizon above its waters in that direction, that,
looking down the river as we approached the extremity of that island,
the St. Lawrence seemed to be opening into the ocean, though we were
still about three hundred and twenty-five miles from what can be called
its mouth.[2]

Footnote 2:

  From McCulloch’s Geographical Dictionary we learn that “immediately
  beyond the Island of Orleans it is a mile broad; where the Saguenay
  joins it, eighteen miles; at Point Peter, upwards of thirty; at the
  Bay of Seven Islands, seventy miles; and at the Island of Anticosti
  (about three hundred and fifty miles from Quebec) it rolls a flood
  into the ocean nearly one hundred miles across.”

When we inquired here for a _maison publique_ we were directed
apparently to that private house where we were most likely to find
entertainment. There were no guideboards where we walked, because there
was but one road; there were no shops nor signs, because there were no
artisans to speak of, and the people raised their own provisions; and
there were no taverns, because there were no travellers. We here bespoke
lodging and breakfast. They had, as usual, a large old-fashioned,
two-storied box-stove in the middle of the room, out of which, in due
time, there was sure to be forthcoming a supper, breakfast, or dinner.
The lower half held the fire, the upper the hot air, and as it was a
cool Canadian evening, this was a comforting sight to us. Being four or
five feet high it warmed the whole person as you stood by it. The stove
was plainly a very important article of furniture in Canada, and was not
set aside during the summer. Its size, and the respect which was paid to
it, told of the severe winters which it had seen and prevailed over. The
master of the house, in his long-pointed, red woollen cap, had a
thoroughly antique physiognomy of the old Norman stamp. He might have
come over with Jacques Cartier. His was the hardest French to understand
of any we had heard yet, for there was a great difference between one
speaker and another, and this man talked with a pipe in his mouth
beside, a kind of tobacco French. I asked him what he called his dog. He
shouted _Brock!_ (the name of the breed). We like to hear the cat called
_min_,—min! min! min! I inquired if we could cross the river here to the
Isle of Orleans, thinking to return that way when we had been to the
Falls. He answered, “_S’il ne fait pas un trop grand vent_,” If there is
not too much wind. They use small boats, or pirogues, and the waves are
often too high for them. He wore, as usual, something between a moccasin
and a boot, which he called _bottes Indiennes_, Indian boots, and had
made himself. The tops were of calf or sheep-skin, and the soles of
cowhide turned up like a moccasin. They were yellow or reddish, the
leather never having been tanned nor colored. The women wore the same.
He told us that he had travelled ten leagues due north into the bush. He
had been to the Falls of St. Anne, and said that they were more
beautiful, but not greater, than Montmorenci, _plus beau, mais non plus
grand que Montmorenci_. As soon as we had retired, the family commenced
their devotions. A little boy officiated, and for a long time we heard
him muttering over his prayers.

In the morning, after a breakfast of tea, maple-sugar, bread and butter,
and what I suppose is called _potage_ (potatoes and meat boiled with
flour), the universal dish as we found, perhaps the national one, I ran
over to the Church of La Bonne St. Anne, whose matin bell we had heard,
it being Sunday morning. Our book said that this church had “long been
an object of interest, from the miraculous cures said to have been
wrought on visitors to the shrine.” There was a profusion of gilding,
and I counted more than twenty-five crutches suspended on the walls,
some for grown persons, some for children, which it was to be inferred
so many sick had been able to dispense with; but they looked as if they
had been made to order by the carpenter who made the church. There were
one or two villagers at their devotions at that early hour, who did not
look up, but when they had sat a long time with their little book before
the picture of one saint, went to another. Our whole walk was through a
thoroughly Catholic country, and there was no trace of any other
religion. I doubt if there are any more simple and unsophisticated
Catholics anywhere. Emery de Caen, Champlain’s contemporary, told the
Huguenot sailors that “Monseigneur, the Duke de Ventadour (Viceroy), did
not wish that they should sing psalms in the Great River.”

On our way to the Falls, we met the habitans coming to the Church of La
Bonne St. Anne, walking or riding in charettes by families. I remarked
that they were universally of small stature. The toll-man at the bridge
over the St. Anne was the first man we had chanced to meet, since we
left Quebec, who could speak a word of English. How good French the
inhabitants of this part of Canada speak, I am not competent to say; I
only know that it is not made impure by being mixed with English. I do
not know why it should not be as good as is spoken in Normandy.
Charlevoix, who was here a hundred years ago, observes, “The French
language is nowhere spoken with greater purity, there being no accent
perceptible”; and Potherie said “they had no dialect, which, indeed, is
generally lost in a colony.”

The falls, which we were in search of, are three miles up the St. Anne.
We followed for a short distance a foot-path up the east bank of this
river, through handsome sugar-maple and arbor-vitæ groves. Having lost
the path which led to a house where we were to get further directions,
we dashed at once into the woods, steering by guess and by compass,
climbing directly through woods, a steep hill, or mountain, five or six
hundred feet high, which was, in fact, only the bank of the St.
Lawrence. Beyond this we by good luck fell into another path, and
following this or a branch of it, at our discretion, through a forest
consisting of large white pines,—the first we had seen in our walk,—we
at length heard the roar of falling water, and came out at the head of
the Falls of St. Anne. We had descended into a ravine or cleft in the
mountain, whose walls rose still a hundred feet above us, though we were
near its top, and we now stood on a very rocky shore, where the water
had lately flowed a dozen feet higher, as appeared by the stones and
drift-wood, and large birches twisted and splintered as a farmer twists
a withe. Here the river, one or two hundred feet wide, came flowing
rapidly over a rocky bed out of that interesting wilderness which
stretches toward Hudson’s Bay and Davis’s Straits. Ha-ha Bay, on the
Saguenay, was about one hundred miles north of where we stood. Looking
on the map, I find that the first country on the north which bears a
name is that part of Rupert’s Land called East Main. This river, called
after the holy Anne, flowing from such a direction, here tumbled over a
precipice, at present by three channels, how far down I do not know, but
far enough for all our purposes, and to as good a distance as if twice
as far. It matters little whether you call it one, or two, or three
hundred feet; at any rate, it was a sufficient Water-privilege for us. I
crossed the principal channel directly over the verge of the fall, where
it was contracted to about fifteen feet in width by a dead tree, which
had been dropped across and secured in a cleft of the opposite rock, and
a smaller one a few feet higher, which served for a hand-rail. This
bridge was rotten as well as small and slippery, being stripped of bark,
and I was obliged to seize a moment to pass when the falling water did
not surge over it, and mid-way, though at the expense of wet feet, I
looked down probably more than a hundred feet, into the mist and foam
below. This gave me the freedom of an island of precipitous rock, by
which I descended as by giant steps, the rock being composed of large
cubical masses, clothed with delicate close-hugging lichens of various
colors, kept fresh and bright by the moisture, till I viewed the first
fall from the front, and looked down still deeper to where the second
and third channels fell into a remarkably large circular basin worn in
the stone. The falling water seemed to jar the very rocks, and the noise
to be ever increasing. The vista down stream was through a narrow and
deep cleft in the mountain, all white suds at the bottom; but a sudden
angle in this gorge prevented my seeing through to the bottom of the
fall. Returning to the shore, I made my way down stream through the
forest to see how far the fall extended, and how the river came out of
that adventure. It was to clamber along the side of a precipitous
mountain of loose mossy rocks, covered with a damp primitive forest, and
terminating at the bottom in an abrupt precipice over the stream. This
was the east side of the fall. At length, after a quarter of a mile, I
got down to still water, and, on looking up through the winding gorge, I
could just see to the foot of the fall which I had before examined;
while from the opposite side of the stream, here much contracted, rose a
perpendicular wall, I will not venture to say how many hundred feet, but
only that it was the highest perpendicular wall of bare rock that I ever
saw. In front of me tumbled in from the summit of the cliff a tributary
stream, making a beautiful cascade, which was a remarkable fall in
itself, and there was a cleft in this precipice, apparently four or five
feet wide, perfectly straight up and down from top to bottom, which,
from its cavernous depth and darkness, appeared merely as _a black
streak_. This precipice is not sloped, nor is the material soft and
crumbling slate as at Montmorenci, but it rises perfectly perpendicular,
like the side of a mountain fortress, and is cracked into vast cubical
masses of gray and black rock shining with moisture, as if it were the
ruin of an ancient wall built by Titans. Birches, spruces,
mountain-ashes with their bright red berries, arbor-vitæs, white pines,
alders, &c., overhung this chasm on the very verge of the cliff and in
the crevices, and here and there were buttresses of rock supporting
trees part way down, yet so as to enhance, not injure, the effect of the
bare rock. Take it altogether, it was a most wild and rugged and
stupendous chasm, so deep and narrow where a river had worn itself a
passage through a mountain of rock, and all around was the comparatively
untrodden wilderness.

This was the limit of our walk down the St. Lawrence. Early in the
afternoon we began to retrace our steps, not being able to cross the
north channel and return by the Isle of Orleans, on account of the _trop
grand vent_, or too great wind. Though the waves did run pretty high, it
was evident that the inhabitants of Montmorenci County were no sailors,
and made but little use of the river. When we reached the bridge,
between St. Anne and Chateau Richer, I ran back a little way to ask a
man in the field the name of the river which we were crossing, but for a
long time I could not make out what he said, for he was one of the more
unintelligible Jacques Cartier men. At last it flashed upon me that it
was _La Rivière au Chien_, or the Dog River, which my eyes beheld, which
brought to my mind the life of the Canadian voyageur and _coureur de
bois_, a more western and wilder Arcadia, methinks, than the world has
ever seen; for the Greeks, with all their wood and river gods, were not
so qualified to name the natural features of a country, as the ancestors
of these French Canadians; and if any people had a right to substitute
their own for the Indian names, it was they. They have preceded the
pioneer on our own frontiers, and named the _prairie_ for us. _La
Rivière au Chien_ cannot, by any license of language, be translated into
Dog River, for that is not such a giving it to the dogs, and recognizing
their place in creation as the French implies. One of the tributaries of
the St. Anne is named _La Rivière de la Rose_; and farther east are, _La
Rivière de la Blondelle_, and _La Rivière de la Friponne_. Their very
_rivière_ meanders more than our _river_.

Yet the impression which this country made on me was commonly different
from this. To a traveller from the Old World, Canada East may appear
like a new country, and its inhabitants like colonists, but to me,
coming from New England, and being a very green traveller
withal,—notwithstanding what I have said about Hudson’s Bay,—it appeared
as old as Normandy itself, and realized much that I had heard of Europe
and the Middle Ages. Even the names of humble Canadian villages affected
me as if they had been those of the renowned cities of antiquity. To be
told by a habitan, when I asked the name of a village in sight, that it
is _St. Fereole_ or _St. Anne_, the _Guardian Angel_ or the _Holy
Joseph’s_; or of a mountain, that it was _Bélange_ or _St. Hyacinthe_!
As soon as you leave the States, these saintly names begin. _St. John_
is the first town you stop at (fortunately we did not see it), and
thenceforward, the names of the mountains, and streams, and villages
reel, if I may so speak, with the intoxication of poetry;—_Chambly_,
_Longueil_, _Pointe aux Trembles_, _Bartholomy_, &c., &c.; as if it
needed only a little foreign accent, a few more liquids and vowels
perchance in the language, to make us locate our ideals at once. I began
to dream of Provence and the Troubadours, and of places and things which
have no existence on the earth. They veiled the Indian and the primitive
forest, and the woods toward Hudson’s Bay, were only as the forests of
France and Germany. I could not at once bring myself to believe that the
inhabitants who pronounced daily those beautiful and, to me, significant
names, lead as prosaic lives as we of New England. In short, the Canada
which I saw was not merely a place for railroads to terminate in and for
criminals to run to.

When I asked the man to whom I have referred, if there were any falls on
the Rivière au Chien,—for I saw that it came over the same high bank
with the Montmorenci and St. Anne,—he answered that there were. How far?
I inquired. _Trois quatres lieue._ How high? _Je pense, quatre-vingt-dix
pieds_; that is, ninety feet. We turned aside to look at the falls of
the _Rivière du Sault à la Puce_, half a mile from the road, which
before we had passed in our haste and ignorance, and we pronounced them
as beautiful as any that we saw; yet they seemed to make no account of
them there, and, when first we inquired the way to the Falls, directed
us to Montmorenci, seven miles distant. It was evident that this was the
country for waterfalls; that every stream that empties into the St.
Lawrence, for some hundreds of miles, must have a great fall or cascade
on it, and in its passage through the mountains was, for a short
distance, a small Saguenay, with its upright walls. This fall of La
Puce, the least remarkable of the four which we visited in this
vicinity, we had never heard of till we came to Canada, and yet, so far
as I know, there is nothing of the kind in New England to be compared
with it. Most travellers in Canada would not hear of it, though they
might go so near as to hear it. Since my return I find that in the
topographical description of the country mention is made of “two or
three romantic falls” on this stream, though we saw and heard of but
this one. Ask the inhabitants respecting any stream, if there is a fall
on it, and they will perchance tell you of something as interesting as
Bashpish or the Catskill, which no traveller has ever seen, or if they
have not found it, you may possibly trace up the stream and discover it
yourself. Falls there are a drug; and we became quite dissipated in
respect to them. We had drank too much of them. Beside these which I
have referred to, there are a thousand other falls on the St. Lawrence
and its tributaries which I have not seen nor heard of; and above all
there is one which I have heard of, called Niagara, so that I think that
this river must be the most remarkable for its falls of any in the

At a house near the western boundary of Chateau Richer, whose master was
said to speak a very little English, having recently lived at Quebec, we
got lodging for the night. As usual, we had to go down a lane to get
round to the south side of the house where the door was, away from the
road. For these Canadian houses have no front door, properly speaking.
Every part is for the use of the occupant exclusively, and no part has
reference to the traveller or to travel. Every New England house, on the
contrary, has a front and principal door opening to the great world,
though it may be on the cold side, for it stands on the highway of
nations, and the road which runs by it comes from the Old World and goes
to the far West; but the Canadian’s door opens into his back-yard and
farm alone, and the road which runs behind his house leads only from the
church of one saint to that of another. We found a large family, hired
men, wife and children, just eating their supper. They prepared some for
us afterwards. The hired men were a merry crew of short, black-eyed
fellows, and the wife a thin-faced, sharp-featured French Canadian
woman. Our host’s English staggered us rather more than any French we
had heard yet; indeed, we found that even we spoke better French than he
did English, and we concluded that a less crime would be committed on
the whole if we spoke French with him, and in no respect aided or
abetted his attempts to speak English. We had a long and merry chat with
the family this Sunday evening in their spacious kitchen. While my
companion smoked a pipe and parlez-vous’d with one party, I parleyed and
gesticulated to another. The whole family was enlisted, and I kept a
little girl writing what was otherwise unintelligible. The geography
getting obscure, we called for chalk, and the greasy oiled table-cloth
having been wiped,—for it needed no French, but only a sentence from the
universal language of looks on my part, to indicate that it needed
it,—we drew the St. Lawrence, with its parishes, thereon, and
thenceforward went on swimmingly, by turns handling the chalk and
committing to the table-cloth what would otherwise have been left in a
limbo of unintelligibility. This was greatly to the entertainment of all
parties. I was amused to hear how much use they made of the word _oui_
in conversation with one another. After repeated single insertions of
it, one would suddenly throw back his head at the same time with his
chair, and exclaim rapidly, “_oui! oui! oui! oui!_” like a Yankee
driving pigs. Our host told us that the farms thereabouts were generally
two acres, or three hundred and sixty French feet wide, by one and a
half leagues, (?) or a little more than four and a half of our miles
deep. This use of the word _acre_ as long measure arises from the fact
that the French acre or arpent, the arpent of Paris, makes a square of
ten perches, of eighteen feet each on a side, a Paris foot being equal
to 1.06575 English feet. He said that the wood was cut off about one
mile from the river. The rest was “bush,” and beyond that the “Queen’s
bush.” Old as the country is, each landholder bounds on the primitive
forest, and fuel bears no price. As I had forgotten the French for
_sickle_, they went out in the evening to the barn and got one, and so
clenched the certainty of our understanding one another. Then, wishing
to learn if they used the cradle, and not knowing any French word for
this instrument, I set up the knives and forks on the blade of the
sickle to represent one; at which they all exclaimed that they knew and
had used it. When _snells_ were mentioned they went out in the dark and
plucked some. They were pretty good. They said they had three kinds of
plums growing wild,—blue, white, and red, the two former much alike and
the best. Also they asked me if I would have _des pommes_, some apples,
and got me some. They were exceedingly fair and glossy, and it was
evident that there was no worm in them; but they were as hard almost as
a stone, as if the season was too short to mellow them. We had seen no
soft and yellow apples by the roadside. I declined eating one, much as I
admired it, observing that it would be good _dans le printemps_, in the
spring. In the morning when the mistress had set the eggs a-frying she
nodded to a thick-set, jolly-looking fellow, who rolled up his sleeves,
seized the long-handled griddle, and commenced a series of revolutions
and evolutions with it, ever and anon tossing its contents into the air,
where they turned completely topsy-turvy and came down t’ other side up;
and this he repeated till they were done. That appeared to be his duty
when eggs were concerned. I did not chance to witness this performance,
but my companion did, and he pronounced it a master-piece in its way.
This man’s farm, with the buildings, cost seven hundred pounds; some
smaller ones, two hundred.

In 1827, Montmorenci County, to which the Isle of Orleans has since been
added, was nearly as large as Massachusetts, being the eighth county out
of forty (in Lower Canada) in extent; but by far the greater part still
must continue to be waste land, lying, as it were, under the walls of

I quote these old statistics, not merely because of the difficulty of
obtaining more recent ones, but also because I saw there so little
evidence of any recent growth. There were in this county, at the same
date, five Roman Catholic churches, and no others, five curés and five
presbyteries, two schools, two corn-mills, four saw-mills, one
carding-mill,—no medical man, or notary or lawyer,—five shopkeepers,
four taverns (we saw no sign of any, though, after a little hesitation,
we were sometimes directed to some undistinguished hut as such), thirty
artisans, and five river crafts, whose tonnage amounted to sixty-nine
tons! This, notwithstanding that it has a frontage of more than thirty
miles on the river, and the population is almost wholly confined to its
banks. This describes nearly enough what we saw. But double some of
these figures, which, however, its growth will not warrant, and you have
described a poverty which not even its severity of climate and
ruggedness of soil will suffice to account for. The principal
productions were wheat, potatoes, oats, hay, peas, flax, maple-sugar,
&c, &c.; linen, cloth, or _étoffe du pays_, flannel, and homespun, or
_petite étoffe_.

In Lower Canada, according to Bouchette, there are two tenures,—the
feudal and the socage. Tenanciers, censitaires, or holders of land _en
roture_, pay a small annual rent to the seigneurs, to which “is added
some article of provision, such as a couple of fowls, or a goose, or a
bushel of wheat.” “They are also bound to grind their corn at the
_moulin banal_, or the lord’s mill, where one fourteenth part of it is
taken for his use” as toll. He says that the toll is one twelfth in the
United States, where competition exists. It is not permitted to exceed
one sixteenth in Massachusetts. But worse than this monopolizing of mill
rents is what are called _lods et ventes_, or mutation fines. According
to which the seigneur has “a right to a twelfth part of the
purchase-money of every estate within his seigniory that changes its
owner by sale.” This is over and above the sum paid to the seller. In
such cases, moreover, “the lord possesses the _droit de retrait_, which
is the privilege of pre-emption at the highest bidden price within forty
days after the sale has taken place,”—a right which, however, is said to
be seldom exercised. “Lands held by Roman Catholics are further subject
to the payment to their curates of one twenty-sixth part of all the
grain produced upon them, and to occasional assessments for building and
repairing churches,” &c,—a tax to which they are not subject if the
proprietors change their faith; but they are not the less attached to
their church in consequence. There are, however, various modifications
of the feudal tenure. Under the socage tenure, which is that of the
townships or more recent settlements, English, Irish, Scotch, and
others, and generally of Canada West, the landholder is wholly
unshackled by such conditions as I have quoted, and “is bound to no
other obligations than those of allegiance to the king and obedience to
the laws.” Throughout Canada “a freehold of forty shillings yearly
value, or the payment of ten pounds rent annually, is the qualification
for voters.” In 1846 more than one sixth of the whole population of
Canada East were qualified to vote for members of Parliament,—a greater
proportion than enjoy a similar privilege in the United States.

The population which we had seen the last two days,—I mean the habitans
of Montmorenci County,—appeared very inferior, intellectually and even
physically, to that of New England. In some respects they were
incredibly filthy. It was evident that they had not advanced since the
settlement of the country, that they were quite behind the age, and
fairly represented their ancestors in Normandy a thousand years ago.
Even in respect to the common arts of life, they are not so far advanced
as a frontier town in the West three years old. They have no money
invested in railroad stock, and probably never will have. If they have
got a French phrase for a railroad, it is as much as you can expect of
them. They are very far from a revolution; have no quarrel with Church
or State, but their vice and their virtue is content. As for annexation,
they have never dreamed of it; indeed, they have not a clear idea what
or where the States are. The English government has been remarkably
liberal to its Catholic subjects in Canada, permitting them to wear
their own fetters, both political and religious, as far as was possible
for subjects. Their government is even too good for them. Parliament
passed “an act [in 1825] to provide for the extinction of feudal and
seigniorial rights and burdens on lands in Lower Canada, and for the
gradual conversion of those tenures into the tenure of free and common
socage,” &c. But as late as 1831, at least, the design of the act was
likely to be frustrated, owing to the reluctance of the seigniors and
peasants. It has been observed by another that the French Canadians do
not extend nor perpetuate their influence. The British, Irish, and other
immigrants, who have settled the townships, are found to have imitated
the American settlers, and not the French. They reminded me in this of
the Indians, whom they were slow to displace and to whose habits of life
they themselves more readily, conformed than the Indians to theirs. The
Governor General Denouville remarked, in 1685, that some had long
thought that it was necessary to bring the Indians near them in order to
Frenchify (_franciser_) them, but that they had every reason to think
themselves in an error; for those who had come near them and were even
collected in villages in the midst of the colony had not become French,
but the French, who had haunted them, had become savages. Kalm said:
“Though many nations imitate the French customs, yet I observed, on the
contrary, that the French in Canada, in many respects, follow the
customs of the Indians, with whom they converse every day. They make use
of the tobacco-pipes, shoes, garters, and girdles of the Indians. They
follow the Indian way of making war with exactness; they mix the same
things with tobacco (he might have said that both French and English
learned the use itself of this weed of the Indian); they make use of the
Indian bark-boats, and row them in the Indian way; they wrap square
pieces of cloth round their feet instead of stockings; and have adopted
many other Indian fashions.” Thus, while the descendants of the Pilgrims
are teaching the English to make pegged boots, the descendants of the
French in Canada are wearing the Indian moccasin still. The French, to
their credit be it said, to a certain extent respected the Indians as a
separate and independent people, and spoke of them and contrasted
themselves with them as the English have never done. They not only went
to war with them as allies, but they lived at home with them as
neighbors. In 1627 the French king declared “that the descendants of the
French, settled in” New France, “and the savages who should be brought
to the knowledge of the faith, and should make profession of it, should
be counted and reputed French born (_Naturels François_); and as such
could emigrate to France, when it seemed good to them, and there
acquire, will, inherit, &c, &c, without obtaining letters of
naturalization.” When the English had possession of Quebec, in 1630, the
Indians, attempting to practise the same familiarity with them that they
had with the French, were driven out of their houses with blows; which
accident taught them a difference between the two races, and attached
them yet more to the French. The impression made on me was, that the
French Canadians were even sharing the fate of the Indians, or at least
gradually disappearing in what is called the Saxon current.

The English did not come to America from a mere love of adventure, nor
to truck with or convert the savages, nor to hold offices under the
crown, as the French to a great extent did, but to live in earnest and
with freedom. The latter overran a great extent of country, selling
strong water, and collecting its furs, and converting its
inhabitants,—or at least baptizing its dying infants (_enfans
moribonds_),—without _improving_ it. First, went the _coureur de bois_
with the _eau de vie_; then followed, if he did not precede, the heroic
missionary with the _eau d’immortalité_. It was freedom to hunt, and
fish, and convert, not to work, that they sought. Hontan says that the
_coureurs de bois_ lived like sailors ashore. In no part of the
seventeenth century could the French be said to have had a foothold in
Canada; they held only by the fur of the wild animals which they were
exterminating. To enable the poor seigneurs to get their living, it was
permitted by a decree passed in the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, in
1685, “to all nobles and gentlemen settled in Canada, to engage in
commerce, without being called to account or reputed to have done
anything derogatory.” The reader can infer to what extent they had
engaged in agriculture, and how their farms must have shone by this
time. The New England youth, on the other hand, were never _coureurs de
bois_ nor _voyageurs_, but backwoodsmen and sailors rather. Of all
nations the English undoubtedly have proved hitherto that they had the
most business here.

Yet I am not sure but I have most sympathy with that spirit of adventure
which distinguished the French and Spaniards of those days, and made
them especially the explorers of the American Continent,—which so early
carried the former to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi on the north,
and the latter to the same river on the south. It was long before our
frontiers reached their settlements in the West. So far as inland
discovery was concerned, the adventurous spirit of the English was that
of sailors who land but for a day, and their enterprise the enterprise
of traders.

There was apparently a greater equality of condition among the habitans
of Montmorenci County than in New England. They are an almost
exclusively agricultural, and so far independent, population, each
family producing nearly all the necessaries of life for itself. If the
Canadian wants energy, perchance he possesses those virtues, social and
others, which the Yankee lacks, in which case he cannot be regarded as a
poor man.


                              CHAPTER IV.

                          THE WALLS OF QUEBEC.

After spending the night at a farm-house in Chateau Richer, about a
dozen miles northeast of Quebec, we set out on our return to the city.
We stopped at the next house, a picturesque old stone mill, over the
_Chipré_,—for so the name sounded,—such as you will nowhere see in the
States, and asked the millers the age of the mill. They went up stairs
to call the master; but the crabbed old miser asked why we wanted to
know, and would tell us only for some compensation. I wanted French to
give him a piece of my mind. I had got enough to talk on a pinch, but
not to quarrel; so I had to come away, looking all I would have said.
This was the utmost incivility we met with in Canada. In Beauport,
within a few miles of Quebec, we turned aside to look at a church which
was just being completed,—a very large and handsome edifice of stone,
with a green bough stuck in its gable, of some significance to
Catholics. The comparative wealth of the Church in this country was
apparent; for in this village we did not see one good house besides.
They were all humble cottages; and yet this appeared to me a more
imposing structure than any church in Boston. But I am no judge of these

Re-entering Quebec through St. John’s Gate, we took a caleche in Market
Square for the Falls of the Chaudière, about nine miles southwest of the
city, for which we were to pay so much, beside forty sous for tolls. The
driver, as usual, spoke French only. The number of these vehicles is
very great for so small a town. They are like one of our chaises that
has lost its top, only stouter and longer in the body, with a seat for
the driver where the dasher is with us, and broad leather ears on each
side to protect the riders from the wheel and keep children from falling
out. They had an easy jaunting look, which, as our hours were numbered,
persuaded us to be riders. We met with them on every road near Quebec
these days, each with its complement of two inquisitive-looking
foreigners and a Canadian driver, the former evidently enjoying their
novel experience, for commonly it is only the horse whose language you
do not understand; but they were one remove further from him by the
intervention of an equally unintelligible driver. We crossed the St.
Lawrence to Point Levi in a French-Canadian ferry-boat, which was
inconvenient and dirty, and managed with great noise and bustle. The
current was very strong and tumultuous, and the boat tossed enough to
make some sick, though it was only a mile across; yet the wind was not
to be compared with that of the day before, and we saw that the
Canadians had a good excuse for not taking us over to the Isle of
Orleans in a pirogue, however shiftless they may be for not having
provided any other conveyance. The route which we took to the Chaudière
did not afford us those views of Quebec which we had expected, and the
country and inhabitants appeared less interesting to a traveller than
those we had seen. The Falls of the Chaudière are three miles from its
mouth on the south side of the St. Lawrence. Though they were the
largest which I saw in Canada, I was not proportionately interested by
them, probably from satiety. I did not see any _peculiar_ propriety in
the name _Chaudière_, or cauldron. I saw here the most brilliant rainbow
that I ever imagined. It was just across the stream below the precipice,
formed on the mist which this tremendous fall produced; and I stood on a
level with the key-stone of its arch. It was not a few faint prismatic
colors merely, but a full semicircle, only four or five rods in
diameter, though as wide as usual, so intently bright as to pain the
eye, and apparently as substantial as an arch of stone. It changed its
position and colors as we moved, and was the brighter because the sun
shone so clearly and the mist was so thick. Evidently a picture painted
on mist for the men and animals that came to the falls to look at; but
for what special purpose beyond this, I know not. At the farthest point
in this ride, and when most inland, unexpectedly at a turn in the road
we descried the frowning citadel of Quebec in the horizon, like the beak
of a bird of prey. We returned by the river-road under the bank, which
is very high, abrupt, and rocky. When we were opposite to Quebec, I was
surprised to see that in the Lower Town, under the shadow of the rock,
the lamps were lit, twinkling not unlike crystals in a cavern, while the
citadel high above, and we, too, on the south shore, were in broad
daylight. As we were too late for the ferry-boat that night, we put up
at a _maison de pension_ at Point Levi. The usual two-story stove was
here placed against an opening in the partition shaped like a fireplace,
and so warmed several rooms. We could not understand their French here
very well, but the _potage_ was just like what we had had before. There
were many small chambers with doorways but no doors. The walls of our
chamber, all around and overhead, were neatly ceiled, and the timbers
cased with wood unpainted. The pillows were checkered and tasselled, and
the usual long-pointed red woollen or worsted night-cap was placed on
each. I pulled mine out to see how it was made. It was in the form of a
double cone, one end tucked into the other; just such, it appeared, as I
saw men wearing all day in the streets. Probably I should have put it on
if the cold had been then, as it is sometimes there, thirty or forty
degrees below zero.

When we landed at Quebec the next morning, a man lay on his back on the
wharf, apparently dying, in the midst of a crowd and directly in the
path of the horses, groaning, “_O ma conscience!_” I thought that he
pronounced his French more distinctly than any I heard, as if the dying
had already acquired the accents of a universal language. Having secured
the only unengaged berths in the Lord Sydenham steamer, which was to
leave Quebec before sundown, and being resolved, now that I had seen
somewhat of the country, to get an idea of the city, I proceeded to walk
round the Upper Town, or fortified portion, which is two miles and three
quarters in circuit, alone, as near as I could get to the cliff and the
walls, like a rat looking for a hole; going round by the southwest,
where there is but a single street between the cliff and the water, and
up the long, wooden stairs, through the suburbs northward to the King’s
Woodyard, which I thought must have been a long way from his fireplace,
and under the cliffs of the St. Charles, where the drains issue under
the walls, and the walls are loop-holed for musketry; so returning by
Mountain Street and Prescott Gate to the Upper Town. Having found my way
by an obscure passage near the St. Louis Gate to the glacis on the north
of the citadel proper,—I believe that I was the only visitor then in the
city who got in there,—I enjoyed a prospect nearly as good as from
within the citadel itself, which I had explored some days before. As I
walked on the glacis I heard the sound of a bagpipe from the soldiers’
dwellings in the rock, and was further soothed and affected by the sight
of a soldier’s cat walking up a cleeted plank into a high loop-hole,
designed for _mus-catry_, as serene as Wisdom herself, and with a
gracefully waving motion of her tail, as if her ways were ways of
pleasantness and all her paths were peace. Scaling a slat fence, where a
small force might have checked me, I got out of the esplanade into the
Governor’s Garden, and read the well-known inscription on Wolfe and
Montcalm’s monument, which for saying much in little, and that to the
purpose, undoubtedly deserved the prize medal which it received:

                      MORTEM . VIRTUS . COMMUNEM .
                           FAMAM . HISTORIA .
                       MONUMENTUM . POSTERITAS .

Valor gave them one death, history one fame, posterity one monument. The
Government Garden has for nose-gays, amid kitchen vegetables, beside the
common garden flowers, the usual complement of cannon directed toward
some future and possible enemy. I then returned up St. Louis Street to
the esplanade and ramparts there, and went round the Upper Town once
more, though I was very tired, this time on the _inside_ of the wall;
for I knew that the wall was the main thing in Quebec, and had cost a
great deal of money, and therefore I must make the most of it. In fact,
these are the only remarkable walls we have in North America, though we
have a good deal of Virginia fence, it is true. Moreover, I cannot say
but I yielded in some measure to the soldier instinct, and, having but a
short time to spare, thought it best to examine the wall thoroughly,
that I might be the better prepared if I should ever be called that way
again in the service of my country. I committed all the gates to memory
in their order, which did not cost me so much trouble as it would have
done at the hundred-gated city, there being only five; nor were they so
hard to remember as those seven of Bœotian Thebes; and, moreover, I
thought that, if seven champions were enough against the latter, one
would be enough against Quebec, though he bore for all armor and device
only an umbrella and a bundle. I took the nunneries as I went, for I had
learned to distinguish them by the blinds; and I observed also the
foundling hospitals and the convents, and whatever was attached to, or
in the vicinity of the walls. All the rest I omitted, as naturally as
one would the inside of an inedible shell-fish. These were the only
pearls, and the wall the only mother-of-pearl for me. Quebec is chiefly
famous for the thickness of its parietal bones. The technical terms of
its conchology may stagger a beginner a little at first, such as
_banlieue_, _esplanade_, _glacis_, _ravelin_, _cavalier_, &c., &c., but
with the aid of a comprehensive dictionary you soon learn the nature of
your ground. I was surprised at the extent of the artillery barracks,
built so long ago,—_Casernes Nouvelles_, they used to be called,—nearly
six hundred feet in length by forty in depth, where the sentries, like
peripatetic philosophers, were so absorbed in thought, as not to notice
me when I passed in and out at the gates. Within, are “small arms of
every description, sufficient for the equipment of twenty thousand men,”
so arranged as to give a startling _coup d’œil_ to strangers. I did not
enter, not wishing to get a black eye; for they are said to be “in a
state of complete repair and readiness for immediate use.” Here, for a
short time, I lost sight of the wall, but I recovered it again on
emerging from the barrack yard. There I met with a Scotchman who
appeared to have business with the wall, like myself; and, being thus
mutually drawn together by a similarity of tastes, we had a little
conversation _sub mœnibus_, that is, by an angle of the wall which
sheltered us. He lived about thirty miles northwest of Quebec; had been
nineteen years in the country; said he was disappointed that he was not
brought to America after all, but found himself still under British rule
and where his own language was not spoken; that many Scotch, Irish, and
English were disappointed in like manner, and either went to the States,
or pushed up the river to Canada West, nearer to the States, and where
their language was spoken. He talked of visiting the States some time;
and, as he seemed ignorant of geography, I warned him that it was one
thing to visit the State of Massachusetts, and another to visit the
State of California. He said it was colder there than usual at that
season, and he was lucky to have brought his thick togue, or frock-coat,
with him; thought it would snow, and then be pleasant and warm. That is
the way we are always thinking. However, his words were music to me in
my thin hat and sack.

At the ramparts on the cliff near the old Parliament House I counted
twenty-four thirty-two-pounders in a row, pointed over the harbor, with
their balls piled pyramid-wise between them,—there are said to be in all
about one hundred and eighty guns mounted at Quebec,—all which were
faithfully kept dusted by officials, in accordance with the motto, “In
time of peace prepare for war”; but I saw no preparations for peace: she
was plainly an uninvited guest.

Having thus completed the circuit of this fortress, both within and
without, I went no farther by the wall for fear that I should become
wall-eyed. However, I think that I deserve to be made a member of the
Royal Sappers and Miners.

In short, I observed everywhere the most perfect arrangements for
keeping a wall in order, not even permitting the lichens to grow on it,
which some think an ornament; but then I saw no cultivation nor
pasturing within it to pay for the outlay, and cattle were strictly
forbidden to feed on the glacis under the severest penalties. Where the
dogs get their milk I don’t know, and I fear it is bloody at best.

The citadel of Quebec says, “I _will_ live here, and you sha’n’t prevent
me.” To which you return, that you have not the slightest objection;
live and let live. The Martello towers looked, for all the world,
exactly like abandoned wind-mills which had not had a grist to grind
these hundred years. Indeed, the whole castle here was a
“folly,”—England’s folly,—and, in more senses than one, a castle in the
air. The inhabitants and the government are gradually waking up to a
sense of this truth; for I heard something said about their abandoning
the wall around the Upper Town, and confining the fortifications to the
citadel of forty acres. Of course they will finally reduce their
intrenchments to the circumference of their own brave hearts.

The most modern fortifications have an air of antiquity about them; they
have the aspect of ruins in better or worse repair from the day they are
built, because they are not really the work of this age. The very place
where the soldier resides has a peculiar tendency to become old and
dilapidated, as the word _barrack_ implies. I couple all fortifications
in my mind with the dismantled Spanish forts to be found in so many
parts of the world; and if in any place they are not actually
dismantled, it is because that there the intellect of the inhabitants is
dismantled. The commanding officer of an old fort near Valdivia in South
America, when a traveller remarked to him that, with one discharge, his
gun-carriages would certainly fall to pieces, gravely replied, “No, I am
sure, sir, they would stand two.” Perhaps the guns of Quebec would stand
three. Such structures carry us back to the Middle Ages, the siege of
Jerusalem, and St. Jean d’Acre, and the days of the Buccaneers. In the
armory of the citadel they showed me a clumsy implement, long since
useless, which they called a Lombard gun. I thought that their whole
citadel was such a Lombard gun, fit object for the museums of the
curious. Such works do not consist with the development of the
intellect. Huge stone structures of all kinds, both in their erection
and by their influence when erected, rather oppress than liberate the
mind. They are tombs for the souls of men, as frequently for their
bodies also. The sentinel with his musket beside a man with his umbrella
is spectral. There is not sufficient reason for his existence. Does my
friend there, with a bullet resting on half an ounce of powder, think
that he needs that argument in conversing with me? The fort was the
first institution that was founded here, and it is amusing to read in
Champlain how assiduously they worked at it almost from the first day of
the settlement. The founders of the colony thought this an excellent
site for a wall,—and no doubt it was a better site, in some respects,
for a wall than for a city,—but it chanced that a city got behind it. It
chanced, too, that a Lower Town got before it, and clung like an oyster
to the outside of the crags, as you may see at low tide. It is as if you
were to come to a country village surrounded by palisades in the old
Indian fashion,—interesting only as a relic of antiquity and barbarism.
A fortified town is like a man cased in the heavy armor of antiquity,
with a horse-load of broadswords and small arms slung to him,
endeavoring to go about his business. Or is this an indispensable
machinery for the good government of the country? The inhabitants of
California succeed pretty well, and are doing better and better every
day, without any such institution. What use has this fortress served, to
look at it even from the soldiers’ point of view? At first the French
took care of it; yet Wolfe sailed by it with impunity, and took the town
of Quebec without experiencing any hindrance at last from its
fortifications. They were only the bone for which the parties fought.
Then the English began to take care of it. So of any fort in the
world,—that in Boston harbor, for instance. We shall at length hear that
an enemy sailed by it in the night, for it cannot sail itself, and both
it and its inhabitants are always benighted. How often we read that the
enemy occupied a position which commanded the old, and so the fort was
evacuated. Have not the school-house and the printing-press occupied a
position which commands such a fort as this?

However, this is a ruin kept in remarkably good repair. There are some
eight hundred or thousand men there to exhibit it. One regiment goes
bare-legged to increase the attraction. If you wish to study the muscles
of the leg about the knee, repair to Quebec. This universal exhibition
in Canada of the tools and sinews of war reminded me of the keeper of a
menagerie showing his animals’ claws. It was the English leopard showing
his claws. Always the _royal_ something or other; as, at the menagerie,
the Royal Bengal Tiger. Silliman states that “the cold is so intense in
the winter nights, particularly on Cape Diamond, that the sentinels
cannot stand it more than one hour, and are relieved at the expiration
of that time”; “and even, as it is said, at much shorter intervals, in
case of the most extreme cold.” What a natural or unnatural fool must
that soldier be,—to say nothing of his government,—who, when quicksilver
is freezing and blood is ceasing to be quick, will stand to have his
face frozen, watching the walls of Quebec, though, so far as they are
concerned, both honest and dishonest men all the world over have been in
their beds nearly half a century,—or at least for that space travellers
have visited Quebec only as they would read history. I shall never again
wake up in a colder night than usual, but I shall think how rapidly the
sentinels are relieving one another on the walls of Quebec, their
quicksilver being all frozen, as if apprehensive that some hostile Wolfe
may even then be scaling the Heights of Abraham, or some persevering
Arnold about to issue from the wilderness; some Malay or Japanese,
perchance, coming round by the northwest coast, have chosen that moment
to assault the citadel! Why I should as soon expect to find the
sentinels still relieving one another on the walls of Nineveh, which
have so long been buried to the world! What a troublesome thing a wall
is! I thought it was to defend me, and not I it. Of course, if they had
no wall they would not need to have any sentinels.

You might venture to advertise this farm as well fenced with substantial
stone walls (saying nothing about the eight hundred Highlanders and
Royal Irish who are required to keep them from toppling down); stock and
tools to go with the land if desired. But it would not be wise for the
seller to exhibit his farm-book.

Why should Canada, wild and unsettled as it is, impress us as an older
country than the States, unless because her institutions are old? All
things appeared to contend there, as I have implied, with a certain rust
of antiquity,—such as forms on old armor and iron guns,—the rust of
conventions and formalities. It is said that the metallic roofs of
Montreal and Quebec keep sound and bright for forty years in some cases.
But if the rust was not on the tinned roofs and spires, it was on the
inhabitants and their institutions. Yet the work of burnishing goes
briskly forward. I imagined that the government vessels at the wharves
were laden with rotten-stone and oxalic acid,—that is what the first
ship from England in the spring comes freighted with,—and the hands of
the colonial legislature are cased in wash-leather. The principal
exports must be _gun_ny bags, verdigrease, and iron rust. Those who
first built this fort, coming from Old France with the memory and
tradition of feudal days and customs weighing on them, were
unquestionably behind their age; and those who now inhabit and repair it
are behind their ancestors or predecessors. Those old chevaliers thought
that they could transplant the feudal system to America. It has been set
out, but it has not thriven. Notwithstanding that Canada was settled
first, and, unlike New England, for a long series of years enjoyed the
fostering care of the mother country,—notwithstanding that, as
Charlevoix tells us, it had more of the ancient _noblesse_ among its
early settlers than any other of the French colonies, and perhaps than
all the others together,—there are in both the Canadas but 600,000 of
French descent to-day,—about half so many as the population of
Massachusetts. The whole population of both Canadas is but about
1,700,000 Canadians, English, Irish, Scotch, Indians, and all, put
together! Samuel Laing, in his essay on the Northmen, to whom
especially, rather than the Saxons, he refers the energy and indeed the
excellence of the English character, observes that, when they occupied
Scandinavia, “each man possessed his lot of land without reference to,
or acknowledgment of, any other man,—without any local chief to whom his
military service or other quit-rent for his land was due,—without tenure
from, or duty or obligation to, any superior, real or fictitious, except
the general sovereign. The individual settler held his land, as his
descendants in Norway still express it, by the same right as the king
held his crown,—by udal right, or adel,—that is, noble right.” The
French have occupied Canada, not _udally_, or by noble right, but
_feudally_, or by ignoble right. They are a nation of peasants.

It was evident that, both on account of the feudal system and the
aristocratic government, a private man was not worth so much in Canada
as in the United States; and, if your wealth in any measure consists in
manliness, in originality, and independence, you had better stay here.
How could a peaceable, freethinking man live neighbor to the Forty-ninth
Regiment? A New-Englander would naturally be a bad citizen, probably a
rebel, there,—certainly if he were already a rebel at home. I suspect
that a poor man who is not servile is a much rarer phenomenon there and
in England than in the Northern United States. An Englishman,
methinks,—not to speak of other European nations,—habitually regards
himself merely as a constituent part of the English nation; he is a
member of the royal regiment of Englishmen, and is proud of his company,
as he has reason to be proud of it. But an American,—one who has made a
tolerable use of his opportunities,—cares, comparatively, little about
such things, and is advantageously nearer to the primitive and the
ultimate condition of man in these respects. It is a government, that
English one,—like most other European ones,—that cannot afford to be
forgotten, as you would naturally forget it; under which one cannot be
wholesomely neglected, and grow up a man and not an Englishman
merely,—cannot be a poet even without danger of being made
poet-laureate! Give me a country where it is the most natural thing in
the world for a government that does not understand you to let you
alone. One would say that a true Englishman could speculate only within
bounds. (It is true the Americans have proved that they, in more than
one sense, can _speculate_ without bounds.) He has to pay his respects
to so many things, that, before he knows it, he _may_ have paid away all
he is worth. What makes the United States government, on the whole, more
tolerable,—I mean for us lucky white men,—is the fact that there is so
much less of government with us. Here it is only once in a month or a
year that a man _needs_ remember that institution; and those who go to
Congress can play the game of the Kilkenny cats there without fatal
consequences to those who stay at home,—their term is so short: but in
Canada you are reminded of the government every day. It parades itself
before you. It is not content to be the servant, but will be the master;
and every day it goes out to the Plains of Abraham or to the Champ de
Mars and exhibits itself and its tools. Everywhere there appeared an
attempt to make and to preserve trivial and otherwise transient
distinctions. In the streets of Montreal and Quebec you met not only
with soldiers in red, and shuffling priests in unmistakable black and
white, with Sisters of Charity gone into mourning for their deceased
relative,—not to mention the nuns of various orders depending on the
fashion of a tear, of whom you heard,—but youths belonging to some
seminary or other, wearing coats edged with white, who looked as if
their expanding hearts were already repressed with a piece of tape. In
short, the inhabitants of Canada appeared to be suffering between two
fires,—the soldiery and the priesthood.


                               CHAPTER V.


About twelve o’clock this day, being in the Lower Town, I looked up at
the signal-gun by the flag-staff on Cape Diamond, and saw a soldier up
in the heavens there making preparations to fire it,—both he and the gun
in bold relief against the sky. Soon after, being warned by the boom of
the gun to look up again, there was only the cannon in the sky, the
smoke just blowing away from it, as if the soldier, having touched it
off, had concealed himself for effect, leaving the sound to echo grandly
from shore to shore, and far up and down the river. This answered the
purpose of a dinner-horn.

There are no such restaurateurs in Quebec or Montreal as there are in
Boston. I hunted an hour or two in vain in this town to find one, till I
lost my appetite. In one house, called a restaurateur, where lunches
were advertised, I found only tables covered with bottles and glasses
innumerable, containing apparently a sample of every liquid that has
been known since the earth dried up after the flood, but no scent of
solid food did I perceive gross enough to excite a hungry mouse. In
short, I saw nothing to tempt me there, but a large map of Canada
against the wall. In another place I once more got as far as the
bottles, and then asked for a bill of fare; was told to walk up stairs;
had no bill of fare, nothing but fare. “Have you any pies or puddings?”
I inquired, for I am obliged to keep my savageness in check by a low
diet. “No, sir; we’ve nice mutton-chop, roast beef, beef-steak,
cutlets,” and so on. A burly Englishman, who was in the midst of the
siege of a piece of roast beef, and of whom I have never had a front
view to this day, turned half round, with his mouth half full, and
remarked, “You’ll find no pies nor puddings in Quebec, sir; they don’t
make any here.” I found that it was even so, and therefore bought some
musty cake and some fruit in the open market-place. This market-place by
the water-side, where the old women sat by their tables in the open air,
amid a dense crowd jabbering all languages, was the best place in Quebec
to observe the people; and the ferry-boats, continually coming and going
with their motley crews and cargoes, added much to the entertainment. I
also saw them getting water from the river, for Quebec is supplied with
water by cart and barrel. This city impressed me as wholly foreign and
French, for I scarcely heard the sound of the English language in the
streets. More than three fifths of the inhabitants are of French origin;
and if the traveller did not visit the fortifications particularly, he
might not be reminded that the English have any foothold here; and, in
any case, if he looked no farther than Quebec, they would appear to have
planted themselves in Canada only as they have in Spain at Gibraltar;
and he who plants upon a rock cannot expect much increase. The novel
sights and sounds by the water-side made me think of such ports as
Boulogne, Dieppe, Rouen, and Havre de Grace, which I have never seen;
but I have no doubt that they present similar scenes. I was much amused
from first to last with the sounds made by the charette and caleche
drivers. It was that part of their foreign language that you heard the
most of,—the French they talked to their horses,—and which they talked
the loudest. It was a more novel sound to me than the French of
conversation. The streets resounded with the cries, _“Qui donc!_”
“_March tôt!_” I suspect that many of our horses which came from Canada
would prick up their ears at these sounds. Of the shops, I was most
attracted by those where furs and Indian works were sold, as containing
articles of genuine Canadian manufacture. I have been told that two
townsmen of mine, who were interested in horticulture, travelling once
in Canada, and being in Quebec, thought it would be a good opportunity
to obtain seeds of the real Canada crook-neck squash. So they went into
a shop where such things were advertised, and inquired for the same. The
shopkeeper had the very thing they wanted. “But are you sure,” they
asked, “that these are the genuine Canada crook-neck?” “O yes,
gentlemen,” answered he, “they are a lot which I have received directly
from Boston.” I resolved that my Canada crook-neck seeds should be such
as had grown in Canada.

Too much has not been said about the scenery of Quebec. The
fortifications of Cape Diamond are omnipresent. They preside, they frown
over the river and surrounding country. You travel ten, twenty, thirty
miles up or down the river’s banks, you ramble fifteen miles amid the
hills on either side, and then, when you have long since forgotten them,
perchance slept on them by the way, at a turn of the road or of your
body, there they are still, with their geometry against the sky. The
child that is born and brought up thirty miles distant, and has never
travelled to the city, reads his country’s history, sees the level lines
of the citadel amid the cloud-built citadels in the western horizon, and
is told that that is Quebec. No wonder if Jacques Cartier’s pilot
exclaimed in Norman French, _Que bec!_—“What a beak!”—when he saw this
cape, as some suppose. Every modern traveller involuntarily uses a
similar expression. Particularly it is said that its sudden apparition
on turning Point Levi makes a memorable impression on him who arrives by
water. The view from Cape Diamond has been compared by European
travellers with the most remarkable views of a similar kind in Europe,
such as from Edinburgh Castle, Gibraltar, Cintra, and others, and
preferred by many. A main peculiarity in this, compared with other views
which I have beheld, is that it is from the ramparts of a fortified
city, and not from a solitary and majestic river cape alone that this
view is obtained. I associate the beauty of Quebec with the steel-like
and flashing air, which may be peculiar to that season of the year, in
which the blue flowers of the succory and some late golden-rods and
buttercups on the summit of Cape Diamond were almost my only
companions,—the former bluer than the heavens they faced. Yet even I
yielded in some degree to the influence of historical associations, and
found it hard to attend to the geology of Cape Diamond or the botany of
the Plains of Abraham. I still remember the harbor far beneath me,
sparkling like silver in the sun,—the answering highlands of Point Levi
on the southeast,—the frowning Cap Tourmente abruptly bounding the
seaward view far in the northeast,—the villages of Lorette and
Charlesbourg on the north,—and further west the distant Val Cartier,
sparkling with white cottages, hardly removed by distance through the
clear air,—not to mention a few blue mountains along the horizon in that
direction. You look out from the ramparts of the citadel beyond the
frontiers of civilization. Yonder small group of hills, according to the
guide-book, forms “the portal of the wilds which are trodden only by the
feet of the Indian hunters as far as Hudson’s Bay.” It is but a few
years since Bouchette declared that the country ten leagues north of the
British capital of North America was as little known as the middle of
Africa. Thus the citadel under my feet, and all historical associations,
were swept away again by an influence from the wilds and from nature, as
if the beholder had read her history,—an influence which, like the Great
River itself, flowed from the Arctic fastnesses and Western forests with
irresistible tide over all.

The most interesting object in Canada to me was the River St. Lawrence,
known far and wide, and for centuries, as the Great River. Cartier, its
discoverer, sailed up it as far as Montreal in 1535,—nearly a century
before the coming of the Pilgrims; and I have seen a pretty accurate map
of it so far, containing the city of “Hochelaga” and the river
“Saguenay,” in Ortelius’s _Theatrum Orbis Terrarum_, printed at Antwerp
in 1575,—the first edition having appeared in 1570,—in which the famous
cities of “Norumbega” and “Orsinora” stand on the rough-blocked
continent where New England is to-day, and the fabulous but unfortunate
Isle of Demons, and Frislant, and others, lie off and on in the
unfrequented sea, some of them prowling near what is now the course of
the Cunard steamers. In this ponderous folio of the “Ptolemy of his
age,” said to be the first general atlas published after the revival of
the sciences in Europe, only one page of which is devoted to the
topography of the _Novus Orbis_, the St. Lawrence is the only large
river, whether drawn from fancy or from observation, on the east side of
North America. It was famous in Europe before the other rivers of North
America were heard of, notwithstanding that the mouth of the Mississippi
is said to have been discovered first, and its stream was reached by
Soto not long after; but the St. Lawrence had attracted settlers to its
cold shores long before the Mississippi, or even the Hudson, was known
to the world. Schoolcraft was misled by Gallatin into saying that
Narvaez discovered the Mississippi. De Vega does _not_ say so. The first
explorers declared that the summer in that country was as warm as
France, and they named one of the bays in the Gulf of St. Lawrence the
Bay of Chaleur, or of warmth; but they said nothing about the winter
being as cold as Greenland. In the manuscript account of Cartier’s
second voyage, attributed by some to that navigator himself, it is
called “the greatest river, without comparison, that is known to have
ever been seen.” The savages told him that it was the “_chemin du
Canada_,”—the highway to Canada,—“which goes so far that no man had ever
been to the end that they had heard.” The Saguenay, one of its
tributaries, which the panorama has made known to New England within
three years, is described by Cartier, in 1535, and still more
particularly by Jean Alphonse, in 1542, who adds, “I think that this
river comes from the sea of Cathay, for in this place there issues a
strong current, and there runs there a terrible tide.” The early
explorers saw many whales and other sea-monsters far up the St.
Lawrence. Champlain, in his map, represents a whale spouting in the
harbor of Quebec, three hundred and sixty miles from what is called the
mouth of the river; and Charlevoix takes his reader to the summit of
Cape Diamond to see the “porpoises, white as snow,” sporting on the
surface of the harbor of Quebec. And Boucher says in 1664, “from there
(Tadoussac) to Montreal is found a great quantity of _Marsouins
blancs_.” Several whales have been taken pretty high up the river since
I was there. P. A. Gosse, in his “Canadian Naturalist,” p. 171 (London,
1840), speaks of “the white dolphin of the St. Lawrence (_Delphinus
Canadensis_),” as considered different from those of the sea. “The
Natural History Society of Montreal offered a prize, a few years ago,
for an essay on the _Cetacea_ of the St. Lawrence, which was, I believe,
handed in.” In Champlain’s day it was commonly called “the Great River
of Canada.” More than one nation has claimed it. In Ogilby’s “America of
1670,” in the map _Novi Belgii_, it is called “De Groote Rivier van Niew
Nederlandt.” It bears different names in different parts of its course,
as it flows through what were formerly the territories of different
nations. From the Gulf to Lake Ontario it is called at present the St.
Lawrence; from Montreal to the same place it is frequently called the
Cateraqui; and higher up it is known successively as the Niagara,
Detroit, St. Clair, St. Mary’s, and St. Louis rivers. Humboldt, speaking
of the Orinoco, says that this name is unknown in the interior of the
country; so likewise the tribes that dwell about the sources of the St.
Lawrence have never heard the name which it bears in the lower part of
its course. It rises near another father of waters,—the
Mississippi,—issuing from a remarkable spring far up in the woods,
called Lake Superior, fifteen hundred miles in circumference; and
several other springs there are thereabouts which feed it. It makes such
a noise in its tumbling down at one place as is heard all round the
world. Bouchette, the Surveyor-General of the Canadas, calls it “the
most splendid river on the globe”; says that it is two thousand statute
miles long (more recent geographers make it four or five hundred miles
longer); that at the Rivière du Sud it is eleven miles wide; at the
Traverse, thirteen; at the Paps of Matane, twenty-five; at the Seven
Islands, seventy-three; and at its mouth, from Cape Rosier to the Mingan
Settlements in Labrador, near one hundred and five (?) miles wide.
According to Captain Bayfield’s recent chart it is about _ninety-six_
geographical miles wide at the latter place, measuring at right angles
with the stream. It has much the largest estuary, regarding both length
and breadth, of any river on the globe. Humboldt says that the river
Plate, which has the broadest estuary of the South American rivers, is
ninety-two geographical miles wide at its mouth; also he found the
Orinoco to be more than three miles wide at five hundred and sixty miles
from its mouth; but he does not tell us that ships of six hundred tons
can sail up it so far, as they can up the St. Lawrence to Montreal,—an
equal distance. If he had described a fleet of such ships at anchor in a
city’s port so far inland, we should have got a very different idea of
the Orinoco. Perhaps Charlevoix describes the St. Lawrence truly as the
most _navigable_ river in the world. Between Montreal and Quebec it
averages about two miles wide. The tide is felt as far up as Three
Rivers, four hundred and thirty-two miles, which is as far as from
Boston to Washington. As far up as Cap aux Oyes, sixty or seventy miles
below Quebec, Kalm found a great part of the plants near the shore to be
marine, as glass-wort (_Salicornia_), seaside pease (_Pisum maritimum_),
sea-milkwort (_Glaux_), beach-grass (_Psamma arenarium_), seaside
plantain (_Plantago maritima_), the sea-rocket (_Bunias cakile_), &c.

The geographer Guyot observes that the Maranon is three thousand miles
long, and gathers its waters from a surface of a million and a half
square miles; that the Mississippi is also three thousand miles long,
but its basin covers only from eight to nine hundred thousand square
miles; that the St. Lawrence is eighteen hundred miles long, and its
basin covers more than a million square miles (Darby says five hundred
thousand); and speaking of the lakes, he adds, “These vast fresh-water
seas, together with the St. Lawrence, cover a surface of nearly one
hundred thousand square miles, and it has been calculated that they
contain about one half of all the fresh water on the surface of our
planet.” But all these calculations are necessarily very rude and
inaccurate. Its tributaries, the Ottawa, St. Maurice, and Saguenay, are
great rivers themselves. The latter is said to be more than one thousand
(?) feet deep at its mouth, while its cliffs rise perpendicularly an
equal distance above its surface. Pilots say there are no soundings till
one hundred and fifty miles up the St. Lawrence. The greatest sounding
in the river, given on Bayfield’s chart of the gulf and river, is two
hundred and twenty-eight fathoms. McTaggart, an engineer, observes that
“the Ottawa is larger than all the rivers in Great Britain, were they
running in one.” The traveller Grey writes: “A dozen Danubes, Rhines,
Taguses, and Thameses would be nothing to twenty miles of fresh water in
breadth (as where he happened to be), from ten to forty fathoms in
depth.” And again: “There is not perhaps in the whole extent of this
immense continent so fine an approach to it as by the river St.
Lawrence. In the Southern States you have, in general, a level country
for many miles inland; here you are introduced at once into a majestic
scenery, where everything is on a grand scale,—mountains, woods, lakes,
rivers, precipices, waterfalls.”

We have not yet the data for a minute comparison of the St. Lawrence
with the South American rivers; but it is obvious that, taking it in
connection with its lakes, its estuary, and its falls, it easily bears
off the palm from all the rivers on the globe; for though, as Bouchette
observes, it may not carry to the ocean a greater volume of water than
the Amazon and Mississippi, its surface and cubic mass are far greater
than theirs. But, unfortunately, this noble river is closed by ice from
the beginning of December to the middle of April. The arrival of the
first vessel from England when the ice breaks up is, therefore, a great
event, as when the salmon, shad, and alewives come up a river in the
spring to relieve the famishing inhabitants on its banks. Who can say
what would have been the history of this continent if, as has been
suggested, this river had emptied into the sea where New York stands!

After visiting the Museum and taking one more look at the wall, I made
haste to the Lord Sydenham steamer, which at five o’clock was to leave
for Montreal. I had already taken a seat on deck, but finding that I had
still an hour and a half to spare, and remembering that large map of
Canada which I had seen in the parlor of the restaurateur in my search
after pudding, and realizing that I might never see the like out of the
country, I returned thither, asked liberty to look at the map, rolled up
the mahogany table, put my handkerchief on it, stood on it, and copied
all I wanted before the maid came in and said to me standing on the
table, “Some gentlemen want the room, sir”; and I retreated without
having broken the neck of a single bottle, or my own, very thankful and
willing to pay for all the solid food I had got. We were soon abreast of
Cap Rouge, eight miles above Quebec, after we got underway. It was in
this place, then called “_Fort du France Roy_,” that the Sieur de
Roberval with his company, having sent home two of his three ships,
spent the winter of 1542-43. It appears that they fared in the following
manner (I translate from the original): “Each mess had only two loaves,
weighing each a pound, and half a pound of beef. They ate pork for
dinner, with half a pound of butter, and beef for supper, with about two
handfuls of beans, without butter. Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
they ate salted cod, and sometimes green, for dinner, with butter; and
porpoise and beans for supper. Monsieur Roberval administered good
justice, and punished each according to his offence. One, named Michel
Gaillon, was hung for theft; John of Nantes was put in irons and
imprisoned for his fault; and others were likewise put in irons; and
many were whipped, both men and women; by which means they lived in
peace and tranquillity.” In an account of a voyage up this river,
printed in the Jesuit Relations in the year 1664, it is said: “It was an
interesting navigation for us in ascending the river from Cap Tourment
to Quebec, to see on this side and on that, for the space of eight
leagues, the farms and the houses of the company, built by our French,
all along these shores. On the right, the seigniories of Beauport, of
Notre Dames des Anges; and on the left, this beautiful Isle of Orleans.”
The same traveller names among the fruits of the country observed at the
Isles of Richelieu, at the head of Lake St. Peter, “kinds (_des
espèces_) of little apples or haws (_semelles_), and of pears, which
only ripen with the frost.”

Night came on before we had passed the high banks. We had come from
Montreal to Quebec in one night. The return voyage, against the stream,
takes but an hour longer. Jacques Cartier, the first white man who is
known to have ascended this river, thus speaks of his voyage from what
is now Quebec to the foot of Lake St. Peter, or about half-way to
Montreal: “From the said day, the 19th, even to the 28th of the said
month, [September, 1535] we had been navigating up the said river
without losing hour or day, during which time we had seen and found as
much country and lands as level as we could desire, full of the most
beautiful trees in the world,” which he goes on to describe. But we
merely slept and woke again to find that we had passed through all that
country which he was eight days in sailing through. He must have had a
troubled sleep. We were not long enough on the river to realize that it
had length; we got only the impression of its breadth, as if we had
passed over a lake a mile or two in breadth and several miles long,
though we might thus have slept through a European kingdom. Being at the
head of Lake St. Peter, on the above-mentioned 28th of September,
dealing with the natives, Carrier says: “We inquired of them by signs if
this was the route to Hochelaga [Montreal]; and they answered that it
was, and that there were yet three days’ journeys to go there.” He
finally arrived at Hochelaga on the 2d of October.

When I went on deck at dawn we had already passed through Lake St.
Peter, and saw islands ahead of us. Our boat advancing with a strong and
steady pulse over the calm surface, we felt as if we were permitted to
be awake in the scenery of a dream. Many vivacious Lombardy poplars
along the distant shores gave them a novel and lively, though
artificial, look, and contrasted strangely with the slender and graceful
elms on both shores and islands. The church of Varennes, fifteen miles
from Montreal, was conspicuous at a great distance before us, appearing
to belong to, and rise out of, the river; and now, and before, Mount
Royal indicated where the city was. We arrived about seven o’clock, and
set forth immediately to ascend the mountain, two miles distant, going
across lots in spite of numerous signs threatening the severest
penalties to trespassers, past an old building known as the Mac Tavish
property,—Simon Mac Tavish, I suppose, whom Silliman refers to as “in a
sense the founder of the Northwestern Company.” His tomb was behind in
the woods, with a remarkably high wall and higher monument. The family
returned to Europe. He could not have imagined how dead he would be in a
few years, and all the more dead and forgotten for being buried under
such a mass of gloomy stone, where not even memory could get at him
without a crowbar. Ah! poor man, with that last end of his! However, he
may have been the worthiest of mortals for aught that I know. From the
mountain-top we got a view of the whole city; the flat, fertile,
extensive island; the noble sea of the St. Lawrence swelling into lakes;
the mountains about St. Hyacinth, and in Vermont and New York; and the
mouth of the Ottawa in the west, overlooking that St. Ann’s where the
voyageur sings his “parting hymn,” and bids adieu to civilization,—a
name, thanks to Moore’s verses, the most suggestive of poetic
associations of any in Canada. We, too, climbed the hill which Cartier,
first of white men, ascended, and named Mont-real, (the 3d of October,
O. S., 1535,) and, like him, “we saw the said river as far as we could
see, _grand_, _large_, _et spacieux_, going to the southwest,” toward
that land whither Donnacona had told the discoverer that he had been a
month’s journey from Canada, where there grew “_force Canelle et
Girofle_,” much cinnamon and cloves, and where also, as the natives told
him, were three great lakes and afterward _une mer douce_,—a sweet
sea,—_de laquelle n’est mention avoir vu le bout_, of which there is no
mention to have seen the end. But instead of an Indian town far in the
interior of a new world, with guides to show us where the river came
from, we found a splendid and bustling stone-built city of white men,
and only a few squalid Indians offered to sell us baskets at the Lachine
Railroad Depot, and Hochelaga is, perchance, but the fancy name of an
engine company or an eating-house.

We left Montreal Wednesday, the 2d of October, late in the afternoon. In
the La Prairie cars the Yankees made themselves merry, imitating the
cries of the charette-drivers to perfection, greatly to the amusement of
some French-Canadian travellers, and they kept it up all the way to
Boston. I saw one person on board the boat at St. John’s, and one or two
more elsewhere in Canada, wearing homespun gray great-coats, or capotes,
with conical and comical hoods, which fell back between their shoulders
like small bags, ready to be turned up over the head when occasion
required, though a hat usurped that place now. They looked as if they
would be convenient and proper enough as long as the coats were new and
tidy, but would soon come to have a beggarly and unsightly look, akin to
rags and dust-holes. We reached Burlington early in the morning, where
the Yankees tried to pass off their Canada coppers, but the news-boys
knew better. Returning through the Green Mountains, I was reminded that
I had not seen in Canada such brilliant autumnal tints as I had
previously seen in Vermont. Perhaps there was not yet so great and
sudden a contrast with the summer heats in the former country as in
these mountain valleys. As we were passing through Ashburnham, by a new
white house which stood at some distance in a field, one passenger
exclaimed, so that all in the car could hear him, “There, there’s not so
good a house as that in all Canada!” I did not much wonder at his
remark, for there is a neatness, as well as evident prosperity, a
certain elastic easiness of circumstances, so to speak, when not rich,
about a New England house, as if the proprietor could at least afford to
make repairs in the spring, which the Canadian houses do not suggest.
Though of stone, they are no better constructed than a stone barn would
be with us; the only building, except the chateau, on which money and
taste are expended, being the church. In Canada an ordinary New England
house would be mistaken for the chateau, and while every village here
contains at least several gentlemen or “squires,” _there_ there is but
one to a seigniory.

I got home this Thursday evening, having spent just one week in Canada
and travelled eleven hundred miles. The whole expense of this journey,
including two guide-books and a map, which cost one dollar twelve and a
half cents, was twelve dollars seventy-five cents. I do not suppose that
I have seen all British America; that could not be done by a cheap
excursion, unless it were a cheap excursion to the Icy Sea, as seen by
Hearne or McKenzie, and then, no doubt, some interesting features would
be omitted. I wished to go a little way behind that word _Canadense_, of
which naturalists make such frequent use; and I should like still right
well to make a longer excursion on foot through the wilder parts of
Canada, which perhaps might be called _Iter Canadense_.




                      SLAVERY IN MASSACHUSETTS.[3]

Footnote 3:

  An Address, delivered at the Anti-Slavery Celebration at Framingham,
  July 4th, 1854.

I lately attended a meeting of the citizens of Concord, expecting, as
one among many, to speak on the subject of slavery in Massachusetts; but
I was surprised and disappointed to find that what had called my
townsmen together was the destiny of Nebraska, and not of Massachusetts,
and that what I had to say would be entirely out of order. I had thought
that the house was on fire, and not the prairie; but though several of
the citizens of Massachusetts are now in prison for attempting to rescue
a slave from her own clutches, not one of the speakers at that meeting
expressed regret for it, not one even referred to it. It was only the
disposition of some wild lands a thousand miles off, which appeared to
concern them. The inhabitants of Concord are not prepared to stand by
one of their own bridges, but talk only of taking up a position on the
highlands beyond the Yellowstone River. Our Buttricks and Davises and
Hosmers are retreating thither, and I fear that they will leave no
Lexington Common between them and the enemy. There is not one slave in
Nebraska; there are perhaps a million slaves in Massachusetts.

They who have been bred in the school of politics fail now and always to
face the facts. Their measures are half measures and make-shifts merely.
They put off the day of settlement indefinitely, and meanwhile the debt
accumulates. Though the Fugitive Slave Law had not been the subject of
discussion on that occasion, it was at length faintly resolved by my
townsmen, at an adjourned meeting, as I learn, that the compromise
compact of 1820 having been repudiated by one of the parties,
“Therefore, ... the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 must be repealed.” But
this is not the reason why an iniquitous law should be repealed. The
fact which the politician faces is merely, that there is less honor
among thieves than was supposed, and not the fact that they are thieves.

As I had no opportunity to express my thoughts at that meeting, will you
allow me to do so here?

Again it happens that the Boston Court-House is full of armed men,
holding prisoner and trying a MAN, to find out if he is not really a
SLAVE. Does any one think that justice or God awaits Mr. Loring’s
decision? For him to sit there deciding still, when this question is
already decided from eternity to eternity, and the unlettered slave
himself, and the multitude around have long since heard and assented to
the decision, is simply to make himself ridiculous. We may be tempted to
ask from whom he received his commission, and who he is that received
it; what novel statutes he obeys, and what precedents are to him of
authority. Such an arbiter’s very existence is an impertinence. We do
not ask him to make up his mind, but to make up his pack.

I listen to hear the voice of a Governor, Commander-in-Chief of the
forces of Massachusetts. I hear only the creaking of crickets and the
hum of insects which now fill the summer air. The Governor’s exploit is
to review the troops on muster days. I have seen him on horseback, with
his hat off, listening to a chaplain’s prayer. It chances that that is
all I have ever seen of a Governor. I think that I could manage to get
along without one. If _he_ is not of the least use to prevent my being
kidnapped, pray of what important use is he likely to be to me? When
freedom is most endangered, he dwells in the deepest obscurity. A
distinguished clergyman told me that he chose the profession of a
clergyman, because it afforded the most leisure for literary pursuits. I
would recommend to him the profession of a governor.

Three years ago, also, when the Simms tragedy was acted, I said to
myself, there is such an officer, if not such a man, as the Governor of
Massachusetts,—what has he been about the last fortnight? Has he had as
much as he could do to keep on the fence during this moral earthquake?
It seemed to me that no keener satire could have been aimed at, no more
cutting insult have been offered to that man, than just what
happened,—the absence of all inquiry after him in that crisis. The worst
and the most I chance to know of him is, that he did not improve that
opportunity to make himself known, and worthily known. He could at least
have _resigned_ himself into fame. It appeared to be forgotten that
there was such a man or such an office. Yet no doubt he was endeavoring
to fill the gubernatorial chair all the while. He was no Governor of
mine. He did not govern me.

But at last, in the present case, the Governor was heard from. After he
and the United States government had perfectly succeeded in robbing a
poor innocent black man of his liberty for life, and, as far as they
could, of his Creator’s likeness in his breast, he made a speech to his
accomplices, at a congratulatory supper!

I have read a recent law of this State, making it penal for any officer
of the “Commonwealth” to “detain or aid in the ... detention,” anywhere
within its limits, “of any person, for the reason that he is claimed as
a fugitive slave.” Also, it was a matter of notoriety that a writ of
replevin to take the fugitive out of the custody of the United States
Marshal could not be served, for want of sufficient force to aid the

I had thought that the Governor was, in some sense, the executive
officer of the State; that it was his business, as a Governor, to see
that the laws of the State were executed; while, as a man, he took care
that he did not, by so doing, break the laws of humanity; but when there
is any special important use for him, he is useless, or worse than
useless, and permits the laws of the State to go unexecuted. Perhaps I
do not know what are the duties of a Governor; but if to be a Governor
requires to subject one’s self to so much ignominy without remedy, if it
is to put a restraint upon my manhood, I shall take care never to be
Governor of Massachusetts. I have not read far in the statutes of this
Commonwealth. It is not profitable reading. They do not always say what
is true; and they do not always mean what they say. What I am concerned
to know is, that that man’s influence and authority were on the side of
the slaveholder, and not of the slave,—of the guilty, and not of the
innocent,—of injustice, and not of justice. I never saw him of whom I
speak; indeed, I did not know that he was Governor until this event
occurred I heard of him and Anthony Burns at the same time, and thus,
undoubtedly, most will hear of him. So far am I from being governed by
him. I do not mean that it was anything to his discredit that I had not
heard of him, only that I heard what I did. The worst I shall say of him
is, that he proved no better than the majority of his constituents would
be likely to prove. In my opinion, he was not equal to the occasion.

The whole military force of the State is at the service of a Mr. Suttle,
a slaveholder from Virginia, to enable him to catch a man whom he calls
his property; but not a soldier is offered to save a citizen of
Massachusetts from being kidnapped! Is this what all these soldiers, all
this _training_, has been for these seventy-nine years past? Have they
been trained merely to rob Mexico and carry back fugitive slaves to
their masters?

These very nights, I heard the sound of a drum in our streets. There
were men _training_ still; and for what? I could with an effort pardon
the cockerels of Concord for crowing still, for they, perchance, had not
been beaten that morning; but I could not excuse this rub-a-dub of the
“trainers.” The slave was carried back by exactly such as these; i. e.
by the soldier, of whom the best you can say in this connection is, that
he is a fool made conspicuous by a painted coat.

Three years ago, also, just a week after the authorities of Boston
assembled to carry back a perfectly innocent man, and one whom they knew
to be innocent, into slavery, the inhabitants of Concord caused the
bells to be rung and the cannons to be fired, to celebrate their
liberty,—and the courage and love of liberty of their ancestors who
fought at the bridge. As if _those_ three millions had fought for the
right to be free themselves, but to hold in slavery three millions
others. Now-a-days, men wear a fool’s-cap, and call it a liberty-cap. I
do not know but there are some, who, if they were tied to a
whipping-post, and could but get one hand free, would use it to ring the
bells and fire the cannons to celebrate _their_ liberty. So some of my
townsmen took the liberty to ring and fire. That was the extent of their
freedom; and when the sound of the bells died away, their liberty died
away also; when the powder was all expended, their liberty went off with
the smoke.

The joke could be no broader, if the inmates of the prisons were to
subscribe for all the powder to be used in such salutes, and hire the
jailers to do the firing and ringing for them, while they enjoyed it
through the grating.

This is what I thought about my neighbors.

Every humane and intelligent inhabitant of Concord, when he or she heard
those bells and those cannons, thought not with pride of the events of
the 19th of April, 1775, but with shame of the events of the 12th of
April, 1851. But now we have half buried that old shame under a new one.

Massachusetts sat waiting Mr. Loring’s decision, as if it could in any
way affect her own criminality. Her crime, the most conspicuous and
fatal crime of all, was permitting him to be the umpire in such a case.
It was really the trial of Massachusetts. Every moment that she
hesitated to set this man free, every moment that she now hesitates to
atone for her crime, she is convicted. The Commissioner on her case is
God; not Edward G. God, but simple God.

I wish my countrymen to consider, that whatever the human law may be,
neither an individual nor a nation can ever commit the least act of
injustice against the obscurest individual, without having to pay the
penalty for it. A government which deliberately enacts injustice, and
persists in it, will at length even become the laughing-stock of the

Much has been said about American slavery, but I think that we do not
even yet realize what slavery is. If I were seriously to propose to
Congress to make mankind into sausages, I have no doubt that most of the
members would smile at my proposition, and if any believed me to be in
earnest, they would think that I proposed something much worse than
Congress had ever done. But if any of them will tell me that to make a
man into a sausage would be much worse,—would be any worse,—than to make
him into a slave,—than it was to enact the Fugitive Slave Law,—I will
accuse him of foolishness, of intellectual incapacity, of making a
distinction without a difference. The one is just as sensible a
proposition as the other.

I hear a good deal said about trampling this law under foot. Why, one
need not go out of his way to do that. This law rises not to the level
of the head or the reason; its natural habitat is in the dirt. It was
born and bred, and has its life, only in the dust and mire, on a level
with the feet; and he who walks with freedom, and does not with Hindoo
mercy avoid treading on every venomous reptile, will inevitably tread on
it, and so trample it under foot,—and Webster, its maker, with it, like
the dirt-bug and its ball.

Recent events will be valuable as a criticism on the administration of
justice in our midst, or, rather, as showing what are the true resources
of justice in any community. It has come to this, that the friends of
liberty, the friends of the slave, have shuddered when they have
understood that his fate was left to the legal tribunals of the country
to be decided. Free men have no faith that justice will be awarded in
such a case. The judge may decide this way or that; it is a kind of
accident, at best. It is evident that he is not a competent authority in
so important a case. It is no time, then, to be judging according to his
precedents, but to establish a precedent for the future. I would much
rather trust to the sentiment of the people. In their vote, you would
get something of some value, at least, however small; but in the other
case, only the trammelled judgment of an individual, of no significance,
be it which way it might.

It is, to some extent, fatal to the courts, when the people are
compelled to go behind them. I do not wish to believe that the courts
were made for fair weather, and for very civil cases merely; but think
of leaving it to any court in the land to decide whether more than three
millions of people, in this case, a sixth part of a nation, have a right
to be freemen or not? But it has been left to the courts of _justice_,
so called,—to the Supreme Court of the land,—and, as you all know,
recognizing no authority but the Constitution, it has decided that the
three millions are, and shall continue to be slaves. Such judges as
these are merely the inspectors of a pick-lock and murderer’s tools, to
tell him whether they are in working order or not, and there they think
that their responsibility ends. There was a prior case on the docket,
which they, as judges appointed by God, had no right to skip; which
having been justly settled, they would have been saved from this
humiliation. It was the case of the murderer himself.

The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law
free. They are the lovers of law and order, who observe the law when the
government breaks it.

Among human beings, the judge whose words seal the fate of a man
furthest into eternity is not he who merely pronounces the verdict of
the law, but he, whoever he may be, who, from a love of truth, and
unprejudiced by any custom or enactment of men, utters a true opinion or
_sentence_ concerning him. He it is that _sentences_ him. Whoever can
discern truth has received his commission from a higher source than the
chiefest justice in the world, who can discern only law. He finds
himself constituted judge of the judge. Strange that it should be
necessary to state such simple truths!

I am more and more convinced that, with reference to any public
question, it is more important to know what the country thinks of it,
than what the city thinks. The city does not _think_ much. On any moral
question, I would rather have the opinion of Boxboro than of Boston and
New York put together. When the former speaks, I feel as if somebody
_had_ spoken, as if _humanity_ was yet, and a reasonable being had
asserted its rights,—as if some unprejudiced men among the country’s
hills had at length turned their attention to the subject, and by a few
sensible words redeemed the reputation of the race. When, in some
obscure country town, the farmers come together to a special
town-meeting, to express their opinion on some subject which is vexing
the land, that, I think, is the true Congress, and the most respectable
one that is ever assembled in the United States.

It is evident that there are, in this Commonwealth at least, two
parties, becoming more and more distinct,—the party of the city, and the
party of the country. I know that the country is mean enough, but I am
glad to believe that there is a slight difference in her favor. But as
yet, she has few, if any organs, through which to express herself. The
editorials which she reads, like the news, come from the seaboard. Let
us, the inhabitants of the country, cultivate self-respect. Let us not
send to the city for aught more essential than our broadcloths and
groceries; or, if we read the opinions of the city, let us entertain
opinions of our own.

Among measures to be adopted, I would suggest to make as earnest and
vigorous an assault on the press as has already been made, and with
effect, on the church. The church has much improved within a few years;
but the press is almost, without exception, corrupt. I believe that, in
this country, the press exerts a greater and a more pernicious influence
than the church did in its worst period. We are not a religious people,
but we are a nation of politicians. We do not care for the Bible, but we
do care for the newspaper. At any meeting of politicians,—like that at
Concord the other evening, for instance,—how impertinent it would be to
quote from the Bible! how pertinent to quote from a newspaper or from
the Constitution! The newspaper is a Bible which we read every morning
and every afternoon, standing and sitting, riding and walking. It is a
Bible which every man carries in his pocket, which lies on every table
and counter, and which the mail, and thousands of missionaries, are
continually dispersing. It is, in short, the only book which America has
printed, and which America reads. So wide is its influence. The editor
is a preacher whom you voluntarily support. Your tax is commonly one
cent daily, and it costs nothing for pew hire. But how many of these
preachers preach the truth? I repeat the testimony of many an
intelligent foreigner, as well as my own convictions, when I say, that
probably no country was ever ruled by so mean a class of tyrants as,
with a few noble exceptions, are the editors of the periodical press in
_this_ country. And as they live and rule only by their servility, and
appealing to the worse, and not the better, nature of man, the people
who read them are in the condition of the dog that returns to his vomit.

The _Liberator_ and the _Commonwealth_ were the only papers in Boston,
as far as I know, which made themselves heard in condemnation of the
cowardice and meanness of the authorities of that city, as exhibited in
’51. The other journals, almost without exception, by their manner of
referring to and speaking of the Fugitive Slave Law, and the carrying
back of the slave Simms, insulted the common sense of the country, at
least. And, for the most part, they did this, one would say, because
they thought so to secure the approbation of their patrons, not being
aware that a sounder sentiment prevailed to any extent in the heart of
the Commonwealth. I am told that some of them have improved of late; but
they are still eminently time-serving. Such is the character they have

But, thank fortune, this preacher can be even more easily reached by the
weapons of the reformer than could the recreant priest. The free men of
New England have only to refrain from purchasing and reading these
sheets, have only to withhold their cents, to kill a score of them at
once. One whom I respect told me that he purchased Mitchell’s _Citizen_
in the cars, and then threw it out the window. But would not his
contempt have been more fatally expressed if he had not bought it?

Are they Americans? are they New-Englanders? are they inhabitants of
Lexington and Concord and Framingham, who read and support the Boston
_Post, Mail, Journal, Advertiser, Courier_, and _Times?_ Are these the
Flags of our Union? I am not a newspaper reader, and may omit to name
the worst.

Could slavery suggest a more complete servility than some of these
journals exhibit? Is there any dust which their conduct does not lick,
and make fouler still with its slime? I do not know whether the Boston
_Herald_ is still in existence, but I remember to have seen it about the
streets when Simms was carried off. Did it not act its part well,—serve
its master faithfully? How could it have gone lower on its belly? How
can a man stoop lower than he is low? do more than put his extremities
in the place of the head he has? than make his head his lower extremity?
When I have taken up this paper with my cuffs turned up, I have heard
the gurgling of the sewer through every column. I have felt that I was
handling a paper picked out of the public gutters, a leaf from the
gospel of the gambling-house, the groggery, and the brothel, harmonizing
with the gospel of the Merchants’ Exchange.

The majority of the men of the North, and of the South and East and
West, are not men of principle. If they vote, they do not send men to
Congress on errands of humanity; but while their brothers and sisters
are being scourged and hung for loving liberty, while—I might here
insert all that slavery implies and is,—it is the mismanagement of wood
and iron and stone and gold which concerns them. Do what you will, O
Government, with my wife and children, my mother and brother, my father
and sister, I will obey your commands to the letter. It will indeed
grieve me if you hurt them, if you deliver them to overseers to be
hunted by hounds or to be whipped to death; but, nevertheless, I will
peaceably pursue my chosen calling on this fair earth, until perchance,
one day, when I have put on mourning for them dead, I shall have
persuaded you to relent. Such is the attitude, such are the words of

Rather than do thus, I need not say what match I would touch, what
system endeavor to blow up; but as I love my life, I would side with the
light, and let the dark earth roll from under me, calling my mother and
my brother to follow.

I would remind my countrymen, that they are to be men first, and
Americans only at a late and convenient hour. No matter how valuable law
may be to protect your property, even to keep soul and body together, if
it do not keep you and humanity together.

I am sorry to say, that I doubt if there is a judge in Massachusetts who
is prepared to resign his office, and get his living innocently,
whenever it is required of him to pass sentence under a law which is
merely contrary to the law of God. I am compelled to see that they put
themselves, or rather, are by character, in this respect, exactly on a
level with the marine who discharges his musket in any direction he is
ordered to. They are just as much tools, and as little men. Certainly,
they are not the more to be respected, because their master enslaves
their understandings and consciences, instead of their bodies.

The judges and lawyers,—simply as such, I mean,—and all men of
expediency, try this case by a very low and incompetent standard. They
consider, not whether the Fugitive Slave Law is right, but whether it is
what they call _constitutional_. Is virtue constitutional, or vice? Is
equity constitutional, or iniquity? In important moral and vital
questions, like this, it is just as impertinent to ask whether a law is
constitutional or not, as to ask whether it is profitable or not. They
persist in being the servants of the worst of men, and not the servants
of humanity. The question is, not whether you or your grandfather,
seventy years ago, did not enter into an agreement to serve the Devil,
and that service is not accordingly now due; but whether you will not
now, for once and at last, serve God,—in spite of your own past
recreancy, or that of your ancestor,—by obeying that eternal and only
just CONSTITUTION, which He, and not any Jefferson or Adams, has written
in your being.

The amount of it is, if the majority vote the Devil to be God, the
minority will live and behave accordingly,—and obey the successful
candidate, trusting that, some time or other, by some Speaker’s
casting-vote, perhaps, they may reinstate God. This is the highest
principle I can get out or invent for my neighbors. These men act as if
they believed that they could safely slide down a hill a little way—or a
good way—and would surely come to a place, by and by, where they could
begin to slide up again. This is expediency, or choosing that course
which offers the slightest obstacles to the feet, that is, a down-hill
one. But there is no such thing as accomplishing a righteous reform by
the use of “expediency.” There is no such thing as sliding up hill. In
morals, the only sliders are backsliders.

Thus we steadily worship Mammon, both school and state and church, and
on the seventh day curse God with a tintamar from one end of the Union
to the other.

Will mankind never learn that policy is not morality,—that it never
secures any moral right, but considers merely what is expedient? chooses
the available candidate,—who is invariably the Devil,—and what right
have his constituents to be surprised, because the Devil does not behave
like an angel of light? What is wanted is men, not of policy, but of
probity,—who recognize a higher law than the Constitution, or the
decision of the majority. The fate of the country does not depend on how
you vote at the polls,—the worst man is as strong as the best at that
game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the
ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your
chamber into the street every morning.

What should concern Massachusetts is not the Nebraska Bill, nor the
Fugitive Slave Bill, but her own slaveholding and servility. Let the
State dissolve her union with the slaveholder. She may wriggle and
hesitate, and ask leave to read the Constitution once more; but she can
find no respectable law or precedent which sanctions the continuance of
such a Union for an instant.

Let each inhabitant of the State dissolve his union with her, as long as
she delays to do her duty.

The events of the past month teach me to distrust Fame. I see that she
does not finely discriminate, but coarsely hurrahs. She considers not
the simple heroism of an action, but only as it is connected with its
apparent consequences. She praises till she is hoarse the easy exploit
of the Boston tea party, but will be comparatively silent about the
braver and more disinterestedly heroic attack on the Boston Court-House,
simply because it was unsuccessful!

Covered with disgrace, the State has sat down coolly to try for their
lives and liberties the men who attempted to do its duty for it. And
this is called _justice_! They who have shown that they can behave
particularly well may perchance be put under bonds for _their good
behavior_. They whom truth requires at present to plead guilty are, of
all the inhabitants of the State, pre-eminently innocent. While the
Governor, and the Mayor, and countless officers of the Commonwealth are
at large, the champions of liberty are imprisoned.

Only they are guiltless, who commit the crime of contempt of such a
court. It behooves every man to see that his influence is on the side of
justice, and let the courts make their own characters. My sympathies in
this case are wholly with the accused, and wholly against their accusers
and judges. Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and
discordant. The judge still sits grinding at his organ, but it yields no
music, and we hear only the sound of the handle. He believes that all
the music resides in the handle, and the crowd toss him their coppers
the same as before.

Do you suppose that that Massachusetts which is now doing these
things,—which hesitates to crown these men, some of whose lawyers, and
even judges, perchance, may be driven to take refuge in some poor
quibble, that they may not wholly outrage their instinctive sense of
justice,—do you suppose that she is anything but base and servile? that
she is the champion of liberty?

Show me a free state, and a court truly of justice, and I will fight for
them, if need be; but show me Massachusetts, and I refuse her my
allegiance, and express contempt for her courts.

The effect of a good government is to make life more valuable,—of a bad
one, to make it less valuable. We can afford that railroad, and all
merely material stock, should lose some of its value, for that only
compels us to live more simply and economically; but suppose that the
value of life itself should be diminished! How can we make a less demand
on man and nature, how live more economically in respect to virtue and
all noble qualities, than we do? I have lived for the last month,—and I
think that every man in Massachusetts capable of the sentiment of
patriotism must have had a similar experience,—with the sense of having
suffered a vast and indefinite loss. I did not know at first what ailed
me. At last it occurred to me that what I had lost was a country. I had
never respected the government near to which I lived, but I had
foolishly thought that I might manage to live here, minding my private
affairs, and forget it. For my part, my old and worthiest pursuits have
lost I cannot say how much of their attraction, and I feel that my
investment in life here is worth many per cent less since Massachusetts
last deliberately sent back an innocent man, Anthony Burns, to slavery.
I dwelt before, perhaps, in the illusion that my life passed somewhere
only _between_ heaven and hell, but now I cannot persuade myself that I
do not dwell _wholly within_ hell. The site of that political
organization called Massachusetts is to me morally covered with volcanic
scoriæ and cinders, such as Milton describes in the infernal regions. If
there is any hell more unprincipled than our rulers, and we, the ruled,
I feel curious to see it. Life itself being worth less, all things with
it, which minister to it, are worth less. Suppose you have a small
library, with pictures to adorn the walls,—a garden laid out around,—and
contemplate scientific and literary pursuits, and discover all at once
that your villa, with all its contents, is located in hell, and that the
justice of the peace has a cloven foot and a forked tail,—do not these
things suddenly lose their value in your eyes?

I feel that, to some extent, the State has fatally interfered with my
lawful business. It has not only interrupted me in my passage through
Court Street on errands of trade, but it has interrupted me and every
man on his onward and upward path, on which he had trusted soon to leave
Court Street far behind. What right had it to remind me of Court Street?
I have found that hollow which even I had relied on for solid.

I am surprised to see men going about their business as if nothing had
happened. I say to myself, “Unfortunates! they have not heard the news.”
I am surprised that the man whom I just met on horseback should be so
earnest to overtake his newly bought cows running away,—since all
property is insecure, and if they do not run away again, they may be
taken away from him when he gets them. Fool! does he not know that his
seed-corn is worth less this year,—that all beneficent harvests fail as
you approach the empire of hell? No prudent man will build a stone house
under these circumstances, or engage in any peaceful enterprise which it
requires a long time to accomplish. Art is as long as ever, but life is
more interrupted and less available for a man’s proper pursuits. It is
not an era of repose. We have used up all our inherited freedom. If we
would save our lives, we must fight for them.

I walk toward one of our ponds; but what signifies the beauty of nature
when men are base? We walk to lakes to see our serenity reflected in
them; when we are not serene, we go not to them. Who can be serene in a
country where both the rulers and the ruled are without principle? The
remembrance of my country spoils my walk. My thoughts are murder to the
State, and involuntarily go plotting against her.

But it chanced the other day that I scented a white water-lily, and a
season I had waited for had arrived. It is the emblem of purity. It
bursts up so pure and fair to the eye, and so sweet to the scent, as if
to show us what purity and sweetness reside in, and can be extracted
from, the slime and muck of earth. I think I have plucked the first one
that has opened for a mile. What confirmation of our hopes is in the
fragrance of this flower! I shall not so soon despair of the world for
it, notwithstanding slavery, and the cowardice and want of principle of
Northern men. It suggests what kind of laws have prevailed longest and
widest, and still prevail, and that the time may come when man’s deeds
will smell as sweet. Such is the odor which the plant emits. If Nature
can compound this fragrance still annually, I shall believe her still
young and full of vigor, her integrity and genius unimpaired, and that
there is virtue even in man, too, who is fitted to perceive and love it.
It reminds me that Nature has been partner to no Missouri Compromise. I
scent no compromise in the fragrance of the water-lily. It is not a
_Nymphæa_ DOUGLASSII. In it, the sweet, and pure, and innocent are
wholly sundered from the obscene and baleful. I do not scent in this the
time-serving irresolution of a Massachusetts Governor, nor of a Boston
Mayor. So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general
sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we
may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all
odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair
actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet. The foul
slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the
fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which
are immortal.

Slavery and servility have produced no sweet-scented flower annually, to
charm the senses of men, for they have no real life: they are merely a
decaying and a death, offensive to all healthy nostrils. We do not
complain that they _live_, but that they do not _get buried_. Let the
living bury them; even they are good for manure.



              Not with fond shekels of the tested gold,
              Nor gems whose rates are either rich or poor,
              As fancy values them: but with true prayers,
              That shall be up at heaven, and enter there
              Ere sunrise; prayers from preserved souls,
              From fasting maids, whose minds are dedicate
              To nothing temporal.

Pythagoras said that the time when men are honestest, is when they
present themselves before the gods. If we can overhear the prayer, we
shall know the man. But prayers are not made to be overheard, or to be
printed, so that we seldom have the prayer otherwise than it can be
inferred from the man and his fortunes, which are the answer to the
prayer, and always accord with it. Yet there are scattered about in the
earth a few records of these devout hours, which it would edify us to
read, could they be collected in a more catholic spirit than the
wretched and repulsive volumes which usurp that name. Let us not have
the prayers of one sect, nor of the Christian Church, but of men in all
ages and religions, who have prayed well. The prayer of Jesus is, as it
deserves, become a form for the human race. Many men have contributed a
single expression, a single word to the language of devotion, which is
immediately caught and stereotyped in the prayers of their church and
nation. Among the remains of Euripides, we have this prayer: “Thou God
of all! infuse light into the souls of men, whereby they may be enabled
to know what is the root from whence all their evils spring, and by what
means they may avoid them.” In the Phædrus of Plato, we find this
petition in the mouth of Socrates: “O gracious Pan! and ye other gods
who preside over this place! grant that I may be beautiful within; and
that those external things which I have may be such as may best agree
with a right internal disposition of mind; and that I may account him to
be rich, who is wise and just.” Wacic the Caliph, who died A. D. 845,
ended his life, the Arabian historians tell us, with these words: “O
thou whose kingdom never passes away, pity one whose dignity is so
transient.” But what led us to these remembrances was the happy accident
which, in this undevout age, lately brought us acquainted with two or
three diaries, which attest, if there be need of attestation, the
eternity of the sentiment and its equality to itself through all the
variety of expression. The first is the prayer of a deaf and dumb boy.

    “When my long-attached friend comes to me, I have pleasure to
    converse with him, and I rejoice to pass my eyes over his
    countenance; but soon I am weary of spending my time causelessly
    and unimproved, and I desire to leave him (_but not in
    rudeness_), because I wish to be engaged in my business. But
    thou, O my Father, knowest I always delight to commune with thee
    in my lone and silent heart; I am never full of thee; I am never
    weary of thee; I am always desiring thee. I hunger with strong
    hope and affection for thee, and I thirst for thy grace and

    “When I go to visit my friends, I must put on my best garments,
    and I must think of my manner to please them. I am tired to stay
    long, because my mind is not free, and they sometimes talk
    gossip with me. But, O my Father, thou visitest me in my work,
    and I can lift up my desires to thee, and my heart is cheered
    and at rest with thy presence, and I am always alone with thee,
    _and thou dost not steal my time by foolishness_. I always ask
    in my heart, Where can I find thee?”

The next is a voice out of a solitude as strict and sacred as that in
which nature had isolated this eloquent mute.

    “My Father, when I cannot be cheerful or happy, I can be true
    and obedient, and I will not forget that joy has been, and may
    still be. If there is no hour of solitude granted me, still I
    will commune with thee. If I may not search out and pierce my
    thought, so much the more may my living praise thee. At whatever
    price, I must be alone with thee; this must be the demand I
    make. These _duties_ are not the life, but the means which
    enable us to show forth the life. So must I take up this cross,
    and bear it willingly. Why should I feel reproved when a busy
    one enters the room? I am not idle, though I sit with folded
    hands; but instantly I must seek some cover. For that shame I
    reprove myself. Are they only the valuable members of society
    who labor to dress and feed it? Shall we never ask the aim of
    all this hurry and foam, of this aimless activity? Let the
    purpose for which I live be always before me; let every thought
    and word go to confirm and illuminate that end; namely, that I
    must become near and dear to thee; that now I am beyond the
    reach of all but thee.

    “How can we not be reconciled to thy will? I will know the joy
    of giving to my friend the dearest treasure I have. I know that
    sorrow comes not at once only. We cannot meet it, and say, now
    it is overcome, but again, and yet again its flood pours over
    us, and as full as at first.

            “If but this tedious battle could be fought,
             Like Sparta’s heroes at one rocky pass,
             ‘One day be spent in dying,’ men had sought
             The spot and been cut down like mower’s grass.”

The next is all in metrical form. It is the aspiration of a different
mind, in quite other regions of power and duty, yet they all accord at

            “Great God, I ask thee for no meaner pelf
             Than that I may not disappoint myself,
             That in my action I may soar as high
             As I can now discern with this clear eye.

            “And next in value, which thy kindness lends,
             That I may greatly disappoint my friends,
             Howe’er they think or hope that it may be,
             They may not dream how thou’st distinguished me.

            “That my weak hand may equal my firm faith,
             And my life practise more than my tongue saith;
             That my low conduct may not show,
             Nor my relenting lines,
             That I thy purpose did not know,
             Or overrated thy designs.”

The last of the four orisons is written in a singularly calm and
healthful spirit, and contains this petition:—

    “My Father! I now come to thee with a desire to thank thee for
    the continuance of our love, the one for the other. I feel that
    without thy love in me, I should be alone here in the flesh. I
    cannot express my gratitude for what thou hast been and
    continuest to be to me. But thou knowest what my feelings are.
    When naught on earth seemeth pleasant to me, thou dost make
    thyself known to me, and teach me that which is needful for me,
    and dost cheer my travels on. I know that thou hast not created
    me and placed me here on earth, amidst its toils and troubles,
    and the follies of those around me, and told me to be like
    thyself, when I see so little of thee here to profit by; thou
    hast not done this, and then left me to myself, a poor, weak
    man, scarcely able to earn my bread. No; thou art my Father, and
    I will love thee, for thou didst first love me, and lovest me
    still. We will ever be parent and child. Wilt thou give me
    strength to persevere in this great work of redemption. Wilt
    thou show me the true means of accomplishing it.... I thank thee
    for the knowledge that I have attained of thee by thy sons who
    have been before me, and especially for him who brought me so
    perfect a type of thy goodness and love to men.... I know that
    thou wilt deal with me as I deserve. I place myself, therefore
    in thy hand, knowing that thou wilt keep me from all harm so
    long as I consent to live under thy protecting care.”

Let these few scattered leaves, which a chance, as men say, but which to
us shall be holy, brought under our eye nearly at the same moment, stand
as an example of innumerable similar expressions which no mortal witness
has reported, and be a sign of the times. Might they be suggestion to
many a heart of yet higher secret experiences which are ineffable! But
we must not tie up the rosary on which we have strung these few white
beads, without adding a pearl of great price from that book of prayer,
the “Confessions of Saint Augustine.”

    “And being admonished to reflect upon myself, I entered into the
    very inward parts of my soul, by thy conduct; and I was able to
    do it, because now thou wert become my helper. I entered and
    discerned with the eye of my soul (such as it was), even beyond
    my soul and mind itself the Light unchangeable. Not this vulgar
    light which all flesh may look upon, nor as it were a greater of
    the same kind, as though the brightness of this should be
    manifold greater and with its greatness take up all space. Not
    such was this light, but other, yea, far other from all these.
    Neither was it so above my understanding, as oil swims above
    water, or as the heaven is above the earth. But it is above me,
    because it made me; and I am under it, because I was made by it.
    He that knows truth or verity, knows what that Light is, and he
    that knows it, knows eternity, and it is known by charity. O
    eternal Verity! and true Charity! and dear Eternity! thou art my
    God, to thee do I sigh day and night. Thee when I first knew,
    thou liftedst me up that I might see there was what I might see,
    and that I was not yet such as to see. And thou didst beat back
    my weak sight upon myself, shooting out beams upon me after a
    vehement manner, and I even trembled between love and horror,
    and I found myself to be far off, and even in the very region of
    dissimilitude from thee.”


                         CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.[4]

Footnote 4:

  Æsthetic Papers, No. I. Boston, 1849.

I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs
least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and
systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I
believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all”; and when
men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they
will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments
are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The
objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are
many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought
against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the
standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which
the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be
abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the
present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using
the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people
would not have consented to this measure.

This American government,—what is it but a tradition, though a recent
one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each
instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force
of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is
a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less
necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery
or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which
they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on,
even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we
must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any
enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. _It_
does not keep the country free. _It_ does not settle the West. _It_ does
not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all
that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the
government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an
expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone;
and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most
let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of
India-rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which
legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to
judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by
their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with
those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call
themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but
_at once_ a better government. Let every man make known what kind of
government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward
obtaining it.

After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands
of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue,
to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor
because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are
physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in
all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it.
Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually
decide right and wrong, but conscience?—in which majorities decide only
those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the
citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience
to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we
should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to
cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only
obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I
think right. It is truly enough said, that a corporation has no
conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation
_with_ a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means
of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the
agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for
law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal,
privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill
and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common
sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and
produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a
damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably
inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and
magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the
Navy-Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can
make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts,—a mere shadow
and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and
already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniments,
though it may be,—

              “Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
                 As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
               Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
                 O’er the grave where our hero we buried.”

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as
machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the
militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, &c. In most cases there
is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but
they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and
wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as
well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt.
They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as
these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others,—as most
legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders,—serve
the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral
distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without _intending_
it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the
great sense, and _men_, serve the state with their consciences also, and
so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly
treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and
will not submit to be “clay,” and “stop a hole to keep the wind away,”
but leave that office to his dust at least:—

             “I am too high-born to be propertied,
              To be a secondary at control,
              Or useful serving-man and instrument
              To any sovereign state throughout the world.”

He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless
and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a
benefactor and philanthropist.

How does it become a man to behave toward this American government
to-day? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.
I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as _my_
government which is the _slave’s_ government also.

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse
allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its
inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is
not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution
of ’75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it
taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most
probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without
them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough
good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make
a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and
oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a
machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a
nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and
a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and
subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest
men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is
the fact, that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the
invading army.

Paley, a common authority with many on moral questions, in his chapter
on the “Duty of Submission to Civil Government,” resolves all civil
obligation into expediency; and he proceeds to say, “that so long as the
interest of the whole society requires it, that is, so long as the
established government cannot be resisted or changed without public
inconveniency, it is the will of God that the established government be
obeyed, and no longer..... This principle being admitted, the justice of
every particular case of resistance is reduced to a computation of the
quantity of the danger and grievance on the one side, and of the
probability and expense of redressing it on the other.” Of this, he
says, every man shall judge for himself. But Paley appears never to have
contemplated those cases to which the rule of expediency does not apply,
in which a people, as well as an individual, must do justice, cost what
it may. If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must
restore it to him though I drown myself. This, according to Paley, would
be inconvenient. But he that would save his life, in such a case, shall
lose it. This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on
Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people.

In their practice, nations agree with Paley; but does any one think that
Massachusetts does exactly what is right at the present crisis?

      “A drab of state, a cloth-o’-silver slut,
       To have her train borne up, and her soul trail in the dirt.”

Practically speaking, the opponents to a reform in Massachusetts are not
a hundred thousand politicians at the South, but a hundred thousand
merchants and farmers here, who are more interested in commerce and
agriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do
justice to the slave and to Mexico, _cost what it may_. I quarrel not
with far-off foes, but with those who, near at home, co-operate with,
and do the bidding of, those far away, and without whom the latter would
be harmless. We are accustomed to say, that the mass of men are
unprepared; but improvement is slow, because the few are not materially
wiser or better than the many. It is not so important that many should
be as good as you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere;
for that will leaven the whole lump. There are thousands who are _in
opinion_ opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing
to put an end to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington
and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that
they know not what to do, and do nothing; who even postpone the question
of freedom to the question of free-trade, and quietly read the
prices-current along with the latest advices from Mexico, after dinner,
and, it may be, fall asleep over them both. What is the price-current of
an honest man and patriot to-day? They hesitate, and they regret, and
sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect.
They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they
may no longer have it to regret. At most, they give only a cheap vote,
and a feeble countenance and God-speed, to the right, as it goes by
them. There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one
virtuous man. But it is easier to deal with the real possessor of a
thing than with the temporary guardian of it.

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a
slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral
questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the
voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I
am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to
leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that
of expediency. Even voting _for the right_ is _doing_ nothing for it. It
is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A
wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to
prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in
the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for
the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to
slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by
their vote. _They_ will then be the only slaves. Only _his_ vote can
hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote.

I hear of a convention to be held at Baltimore, or elsewhere, for the
selection of a candidate for the Presidency, made up chiefly of editors,
and men who are politicians by profession; but I think, what is it to
any independent, intelligent, and respectable man what decision they may
come to? Shall we not have the advantage of his wisdom and honesty,
nevertheless? Can we not count upon some independent votes? Are there
not many individuals in the country who do not attend conventions? But
no: I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted
from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has
more reason to despair of him. He forthwith adopts one of the candidates
thus selected as the only _available_ one, thus proving that he is
himself _available_ for any purposes of the demagogue. His vote is of no
more worth than that of any unprincipled foreigner or hireling native,
who may have been bought. O for a man who is a _man_, and, as my
neighbor says, has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand
through! Our statistics are at fault: the population has been returned
too large. How many _men_ are there to a square thousand miles in this
country? Hardly one. Does not America offer any inducement for men to
settle here? The American has dwindled into an Odd Fellow,—one who may
be known by the development of his organ of gregariousness, and a
manifest lack of intellect and cheerful self-reliance; whose first and
chief concern, on coming into the world, is to see that the Almshouses
are in good repair; and, before yet he has lawfully donned the virile
garb, to collect a fund for the support of the widows and orphans that
may be; who, in short, ventures to live only by the aid of the Mutual
Insurance company, which has promised to bury him decently.

It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the
eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly
have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash
his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it
practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and
contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them
sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he
may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is
tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, “I should like to have
them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to
march to Mexico;—see if I would go”; and yet these very men have each,
directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their
money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refuses to
serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust
government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and
authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the State were
penitent to that degree that it hired one to scourge it while it sinned,
but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus,
under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to
pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin
comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were,
_un_moral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.

The broadest and most prevalent error requires the most disinterested
virtue to sustain it. The slight reproach to which the virtue of
patriotism is commonly liable, the noble are most likely to incur. Those
who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a
government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly
its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious
obstacles to reform. Some are petitioning the State to dissolve the
Union, to disregard the requisitions of the President. Why do they not
dissolve it themselves,—the union between themselves and the State,—and
refuse to pay their quota into its treasury? Do not they stand in the
same relation to the State, that the State does to the Union? And have
not the same reasons prevented the State from resisting the Union, which
have prevented them from resisting the State?

How can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoy
_it_? Is there any enjoyment in it, if his opinion is that he is
aggrieved? If you are cheated out of a single dollar by your neighbor,
you do not rest satisfied with knowing that you are cheated, or with
saying that you are cheated, or even with petitioning him to pay you
your due; but you take effectual steps at once to obtain the full
amount, and see that you are never cheated again. Action from principle,
the perception and the performance of right, changes things and
relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly
with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it
divides families; ay, it divides the _individual_, separating the
diabolical in him from the divine.

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we
endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall
we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as
this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the
majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the
remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the
government itself that the remedy _is_ worse than the evil. _It_ makes
it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform?
Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist
before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the
alert to point out its faults, and _do_ better than it would have them?
Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and
Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?

One would think, that a deliberate and practical denial of its authority
was the only offence never contemplated by government; else, why has it
not assigned its definite, its suitable and proportionate penalty? If a
man who has no property refuses but once to earn nine shillings for the
State, he is put in prison for a period unlimited by any law that I
know, and determined only by the discretion of those who placed him
there; but if he should steal ninety times nine shillings from the
State, he is soon permitted to go at large again.

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of
government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear
smooth,—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a
spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then
perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the
evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent
of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a
counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at
any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.

As for adopting the ways which the State has provided for remedying the
evil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man’s life
will be gone. I have other affairs to attend to. I came into this world,
not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be
it good or bad. A man has not everything to do, but something; and
because he cannot do _everything_, it is not necessary that he should do
_something_ wrong. It is not my business to be petitioning the Governor
or the Legislature any more than it is theirs to petition me; and, if
they should not hear my petition, what should I do then? But in this
case the State has provided no way: its very Constitution is the evil.
This may seem to be harsh and stubborn and unconciliatory; but it is to
treat with the utmost kindness and consideration the only spirit that
can appreciate or deserves it. So is all change for the better, like
birth and death, which convulse the body.

I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists
should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and
property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they
constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail
through them. I think that it is enough if they have God on their side,
without waiting for that other one. Moreover, any man more right than
his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.

I meet this American government, or its representative, the State
government, directly, and face to face, once a-year—no more—in the
person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man
situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly,
Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the present
posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this
head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to
deny it then. My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I
have to deal with,—for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment
that I quarrel,—and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the
government. How shall he ever know well what he is and does as an
officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider
whether he shall treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a
neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the
peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness
without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with
his action. I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if
ten men whom I could name,—if ten _honest_ men only,—ay, if _one_ HONEST
man, in this State of Massachusetts, _ceasing to hold slaves_, were
actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the
county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America.
For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once
well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we
say is our mission. Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its
service, but not one man. If my esteemed neighbor, the State’s
ambassador, who will devote his days to the settlement of the question
of human rights in the Council Chamber, instead of being threatened with
the prisons of Carolina, were to sit down the prisoner of Massachusetts,
that State which is so anxious to foist the sin of slavery upon her
sister,—though at present she can discover only an act of inhospitality
to be the ground of a quarrel with her,—the Legislature would not wholly
waive the subject the following winter.

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a
just man is also a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which
Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is
in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own
act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is
there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and
the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on
that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State
places those who are not _with_ her, but _against_ her,—the only house
in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think
that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer
afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within
its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error,
nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who
has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a
strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless
while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but
it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative
is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State
will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay
their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody
measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit
violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a
peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. If the tax-gatherer, or
any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, “But what shall I
do?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do anything, resign your
office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has
resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished. But even
suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the
conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man’s real manhood and
immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this
blood flowing now.

I have contemplated the imprisonment of the offender, rather than the
seizure of his goods,—though both will serve the same purpose,—because
they who assert the purest right, and consequently are most dangerous to
a corrupt State, commonly have not spent much time in accumulating
property. To such the State renders comparatively small service, and a
slight tax is wont to appear exorbitant, particularly if they are
obliged to earn it by special labor with their hands. If there were one
who lived wholly without the use of money, the State itself would
hesitate to demand it of him. But the rich man,—not to make any
invidious comparison,—is always sold to the institution which makes him
rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue; for money
comes between a man and his objects, and obtains them for him; and it
was certainly no great virtue to obtain it. It puts to rest many
questions which he would otherwise be taxed to answer; while the only
new question which it puts is the hard but superfluous one, how to spend
it. Thus his moral ground is taken from under his feet. The
opportunities of living are diminished in proportion as what are called
the “means” are increased. The best thing a man can do for his culture
when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he
entertained when he was poor. Christ answered the Herodians according to
their condition. “Show me the tribute-money,” said he;—and one took a
penny out of his pocket;—if you use money which has the image of Cæsar
on it, and which he has made current and valuable, that is, _if you are
men of the State_, and gladly enjoy the advantages of Cæsar’s
government, then pay him back some of his own when he demands it;
“Render therefore to Cæsar that which is Cæsar’s, and to God those
things which are God’s,”—leaving them no wiser than before as to which
was which; for they did not wish to know.

When I converse with the freest of my neighbors, I perceive that,
whatever they may say about the magnitude and seriousness of the
question, and their regard for the public tranquillity, the long and the
short of the matter is, that they cannot spare the protection of the
existing government, and they dread the consequences to their property
and families of disobedience to it. For my own part, I should not like
to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State. But, if I deny
the authority of the State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon
take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without
end. This is hard. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly,
and at the same time comfortably, in outward respects. It will not be
worth the while to accumulate property; that would be sure to go again.
You must hire or squat somewhere, and raise but a small crop, and eat
that soon. You must live within yourself, and depend upon yourself
always tucked up and ready for a start, and not have many affairs. A man
may grow rich in Turkey even, if he will be in all respects a good
subject of the Turkish government. Confucius said: “If a state is
governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of
shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches
and honors are the subjects of shame.” No: until I want the protection
of Massachusetts to be extended to me in some distant Southern port,
where my liberty is endangered, or until I am bent solely on building up
an estate at home by peaceful enterprise, I can afford to refuse
allegiance to Massachusetts, and her right to my property and life. It
costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the
State, than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in
that case.

Some years ago, the State met me in behalf of the Church, and commanded
me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose
preaching my father attended, but never I myself. “Pay,” it said, “or be
locked up in the jail.” I declined to pay. But, unfortunately, another
man saw fit to pay it. I did not see why the schoolmaster should be
taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster; for I
was not the State’s schoolmaster, but I supported myself by voluntary
subscription. I did not see why the lyceum should not present its
tax-bill, and have the State to back its demand, as well as the Church.
However, at the request of the selectmen, I condescended to make some
such statement as this in writing:—“Know all men by these presents, that
I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any
incorporated society which I have not joined.” This I gave to the town
clerk; and he has it. The State, having thus learned that I did not wish
to be regarded as a member of that church, has never made a like demand
on me since; though it said that it must adhere to its original
presumption that time. If I had known how to name them, I should then
have signed off in detail from all the societies which I never signed on
to; but I did not know where to find a complete list.

I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on
this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of
solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot
thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help
being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me
as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered
that it should have concluded at length that this was the best use it
could put me to, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in
some way. I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my
townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break
through, before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a
moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and
mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax. They
plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are
underbred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder;
for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of
that stone wall. I could not but smile to see how industriously they
locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without
let or hindrance, and _they_ were really all that was dangerous. As they
could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys,
if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will
abuse his dog. I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid
as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its
friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and
pitied it.

Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual
or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior
wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to
be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the
strongest. What force has a multitude? They only can force me who obey a
higher law than I. They force me to become like themselves. I do not
hear of _men_ being _forced_ to live this way or that by masses of men.
What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a government which says
to me, “Your money or your life,” why should I be in haste to give it my
money? It may be in a great strait, and not know what to do: I cannot
help that. It must help itself; do as I do. It is not worth the while to
snivel about it. I am not responsible for the successful working of the
machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer. I perceive that,
when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain
inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and
spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance,
overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to
its nature, it dies; and so a man.

    The night in prison was novel and interesting enough. The
    prisoners in their shirt-sleeves were enjoying a chat and the
    evening air in the doorway, when I entered. But the jailer said,
    “Come, boys, it is time to lock up”; and so they dispersed, and
    I heard the sound of their steps returning into the hollow
    apartments. My room-mate was introduced to me by the jailer, as
    “a first-rate fellow and a clever man.” When the door was
    locked, he showed me where to hang my hat, and how he managed
    matters there. The rooms were whitewashed once a month; and this
    one, at least, was the whitest, most simply furnished, and
    probably the neatest apartment in the town. He naturally wanted
    to know where I came from, and what brought me there; and, when
    I had told him, I asked him in my turn how he came there,
    presuming him to be an honest man, of course; and, as the world
    goes, I believe he was. “Why,” said he, “they accuse me of
    burning a barn; but I never did it.” As near as I could
    discover, he had probably gone to bed in a barn when drunk, and
    smoked his pipe there; and so a barn was burnt. He had the
    reputation of being a clever man, had been there some three
    months waiting for his trial to come on, and would have to wait
    as much longer; but he was quite domesticated and contented,
    since he got his board for nothing, and thought that he was well

    He occupied one window, and I the other; and I saw, that, if one
    stayed there long, his principal business would be to look out
    the window. I had soon read all the tracts that were left there,
    and examined where former prisoners had broken out, and where a
    grate had been sawed off, and heard the history of the various
    occupants of that room; for I found that even here there was a
    history and a gossip which never circulated beyond the walls of
    the jail. Probably this is the only house in the town where
    verses are composed, which are afterward printed in a circular
    form, but not published. I was shown quite a long list of verses
    which were composed by some young men who had been detected in
    an attempt to escape, who avenged themselves by singing them.

    I pumped my fellow-prisoner as dry as I could, for fear I should
    never see him again; but at length he showed me which was my
    bed, and left me to blow out the lamp.

    It was like travelling into a far country, such as I had never
    expected to behold, to lie there for one night. It seemed to me
    that I never had heard the town-clock strike before, nor the
    evening sounds of the village; for we slept with the windows
    open, which were inside the grating. It was to see my native
    village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord was
    turned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and castles
    passed before me. They were the voices of old burghers that I
    heard in the streets. I was an involuntary spectator and auditor
    of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent
    village-inn,—a wholly new and rare experience to me. It was a
    closer view of my native town. I was fairly inside of it. I
    never had seen its institutions before. This is one of its
    peculiar institutions; for it is a shire town. I began to
    comprehend what its inhabitants were about.

    In the morning, our breakfasts were put through the hole in the
    door, in small oblong-square tin pans, made to fit, and holding
    a pint of chocolate, with brown bread, and an iron spoon. When
    they called for the vessels again, I was green enough to return
    what bread I had left; but my comrade seized it, and said that I
    should lay that up for lunch or dinner. Soon after he was let
    out to work at haying in a neighboring field, whither he went
    every day, and would not be back till noon; so he bade me
    good-day, saying that he doubted if he should see me again.

    When I came out of prison,—for some one interfered, and paid
    that tax,—I did not perceive that great changes had taken place
    on the common, such as he observed who went in a youth, and
    emerged a tottering and gray-headed man; and yet a change had to
    my eyes come over the scene,—the town, and State, and
    country,—greater than any that mere time could effect. I saw yet
    more distinctly the State in which I lived. I saw to what extent
    the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors
    and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only;
    that they did not greatly propose to do right; that they were a
    distinct race from me by their prejudices and superstitions, as
    the Chinamen and Malays are; that, in their sacrifices to
    humanity, they ran no risks, not even to their property; that,
    after all, they were not so noble but they treated the thief as
    he had treated them, and hoped, by a certain outward observance
    and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight
    though useless path from time to time, to save their souls. This
    may be to judge my neighbors harshly; for I believe that many of
    them are not aware that they have such an institution as the
    jail in their village.

    It was formerly the custom in our village, when a poor debtor
    came out of jail, for his acquaintances to salute him, looking
    through their fingers, which were crossed to represent the
    grating of a jail window, “How do ye do?” My neighbors did not
    thus salute me, but first looked at me, and then at one another,
    as if I had returned from a long journey. I was put into jail as
    I was going to the shoemaker’s to get a shoe which was mended.
    When I was let out the next morning, I proceeded to finish my
    errand, and having put on my mended shoe, joined a huckleberry
    party, who were impatient to put themselves under my conduct;
    and in half an hour,—for the horse was soon tackled,—was in the
    midst of a huckleberry field, on one of our highest hills, two
    miles off, and then the State was nowhere to be seen.

    This is the whole history of “My Prisons.”

I have never declined paying the highway tax, because I am as desirous
of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject; and, as for
supporting schools, I am doing my part to educate my fellow-countrymen
now. It is for no particular item in the tax-bill that I refuse to pay
it. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and
stand aloof from it effectually. I do not care to trace the course of my
dollar, if I could, till it buys a man or a musket to shoot one
with,—the dollar is innocent,—but I am concerned to trace the effects of
my allegiance. In fact, I quietly declare war with the State, after my
fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her
I can, as is usual in such cases.

If others pay the tax which is demanded of me, from a sympathy with the
State, they do but what they have already done in their own case, or
rather they abet injustice to a greater extent than the State requires.
If they pay the tax from a mistaken interest in the individual taxed, to
save his property, or prevent his going to jail, it is because they have
not considered wisely how far they let their private feelings interfere
with the public good.

This, then, is my position at present. But one cannot be too much on his
guard in such a case, lest his action be biassed by obstinacy, or an
undue regard for the opinions of men. Let him see that he does only what
belongs to himself and to the hour.

I think sometimes, Why, this people mean well; they are only ignorant;
they would do better if they knew how: why give your neighbors this pain
to treat you as they are not inclined to? But I think again, this is no
reason why I should do as they do, or permit others to suffer much
greater pain of a different kind. Again, I sometimes say to myself, When
many millions of men, without heat, without ill will, without personal
feeling of any kind, demand of you a few shillings only, without the
possibility, such is their constitution, of retracting or altering their
present demand, and without the possibility, on your side, of appeal to
any other millions, why expose yourself to this overwhelming brute
force? You do not resist cold and hunger, the winds and the waves, thus
obstinately; you quietly submit to a thousand similar necessities. You
do not put your head into the fire. But just in proportion as I regard
this as not wholly a brute force, but partly a human force, and consider
that I have relations to those millions as to so many millions of men,
and not of mere brute or inanimate things, I see that appeal is
possible, first and instantaneously, from them to the Maker of them,
and, secondly, from them to themselves. But, if I put my head
deliberately into the fire, there is no appeal to fire or to the Maker
of fire, and I have only myself to blame. If I could convince myself
that I have any right to be satisfied with men as they are, and to treat
them accordingly, and not according, in some respects, to my
requisitions and expectations of what they and I ought to be, then, like
a good Mussulman and fatalist, I should endeavor to be satisfied with
things as they are, and say it is the will of God. And, above all, there
is this difference between resisting this and a purely brute or natural
force, that I can resist this with some effect; but I cannot expect,
like Orpheus, to change the nature of the rocks and trees and beasts.

I do not wish to quarrel with any man or nation. I do not wish to split
hairs, to make fine distinctions, or set myself up as better than my
neighbors. I seek rather, I may say, even an excuse for conforming to
the laws of the land. I am but too ready to conform to them. Indeed, I
have reason to suspect myself on this head; and each year, as the
tax-gatherer comes round, I find myself disposed to review the acts and
position of the general and State governments, and the spirit of the
people, to discover a pretext for conformity.

               “We must affect our country as our parents;
                And if at any time we alienate
                Our love or industry from doing it honor,
                We must respect effects and teach the soul
                Matter of conscience and religion,
                And not desire of rule or benefit.”

I believe that the State will soon be able to take all my work of this
sort out of my hands, and then I shall be no better a patriot than my
fellow-countrymen. Seen from a lower point of view, the Constitution,
with all its faults, is very good; the law and the courts are very
respectable; even this State and this American government are, in many
respects, very admirable and rare things, to be thankful for, such as a
great many have described them; but seen from a point of view a little
higher, they are what I have described them; seen from a higher still,
and the highest, who shall say what they are, or that they are worth
looking at or thinking of at all?

However, the government does not concern me much, and I shall bestow the
fewest possible thoughts on it. It is not many moments that I live under
a government, even in this world. If a man is thought-free, fancy-free,
imagination-free, that which _is not_ never for a long time appearing
_to be_ to him, unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupt him.

I know that most men think differently from myself; but those whose
lives are by profession devoted to the study of these or kindred
subjects, content me as little as any. Statesmen and legislators,
standing so completely within the institution, never distinctly and
nakedly behold it. They speak of moving society, but have no
resting-place without it. They may be men of a certain experience and
discrimination, and have no doubt invented ingenious and even useful
systems, for which we sincerely thank them; but all their wit and
usefulness lie within certain not very wide limits. They are wont to
forget that the world is not governed by policy and expediency. Webster
never goes behind government, and so cannot speak with authority about
it. His words are wisdom to those legislators who contemplate no
essential reform in the existing government; but for thinkers, and those
who legislate for all time, he never once glances at the subject. I know
of those whose serene and wise speculations on this theme would soon
reveal the limits of his mind’s range and hospitality. Yet, compared
with the cheap professions of most reformers, and the still cheaper
wisdom and eloquence of politicians in general, his are almost the only
sensible and valuable words, and we thank Heaven for him. Comparatively,
he is always strong, original, and, above all, practical. Still his
quality is not wisdom, but prudence. The lawyer’s truth is not Truth,
but consistency, or a consistent expediency. Truth is always in harmony
with herself, and is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that
may consist with wrong-doing. He well deserves to be called, as he has
been called, the Defender of the Constitution. There are really no blows
to be given by him but defensive ones. He is not a leader, but a
follower. His leaders are the men of ’87. “I have never made an effort,”
he says, “and never propose to make an effort; I have never countenanced
an effort, and never mean to countenance an effort, to disturb the
arrangement as originally made, by which the various States came into
the Union.” Still thinking of the sanction which the Constitution gives
to slavery, he says, “Because it was a part of the original compact,—let
it stand.” Notwithstanding his special acuteness and ability, he is
unable to take a fact out of its merely political relations, and behold
it as it lies absolutely to be disposed of by the intellect,—what, for
instance, it behooves a man to do here in America to-day with regard to
slavery, but ventures, or is driven, to make some such desperate answer
as the following, while professing to speak absolutely, and as a private
man,—from which what new and singular code of social duties might be
inferred? “The manner,” says he, “in which the governments of those
States where slavery exists are to regulate it, is for their own
consideration, under their responsibility to their constituents, to the
general laws of propriety, humanity, and justice, and to God.
Associations formed elsewhere, springing from a feeling of humanity, or
any other cause, have nothing whatever to do with it. They have never
received any encouragement from me, and they never will.”[5]

Footnote 5:

  These extracts have been inserted since the Lecture was read.

They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its
stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the
Constitution, and drink at it there with reverence and humility; but
they who behold where it comes trickling into this lake or that pool,
gird up their loins once more, and continue their pilgrimage toward its

No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They are
rare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, and
eloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his
mouth to speak, who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of
the day. We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which
it may utter, or any heroism it may inspire. Our legislators have not
yet learned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of
union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for
comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and
manufactures and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of
legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable
experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not
long retain her rank among the nations. For eighteen hundred years,
though perchance I have no right to say it, the New Testament has been
written; yet where is the legislator who has wisdom and practical talent
enough to avail himself of the light which it sheds on the science of

The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to,—for
I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in
many things even those who neither know nor can do so well,—is still an
impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent
of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property
but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited
monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a
true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise
enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a
democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in
government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards
recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a
really free and enlightened State, until the State comes to recognize
the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own
power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please
myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all
men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even
would not think it inconsistent with its own repose, if a few were to
live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who
fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore
this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened,
would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which
also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.


                   A PLEA FOR CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN.[6]

Footnote 6:

  Read to the citizens of Concord, Mass., Sunday Evening, October 30,

I trust that you will pardon me for being here. I do not wish to force
my thoughts upon you, but I feel forced myself. Little as I know of
Captain Brown, I would fain do my part to correct the tone and the
statements of the newspapers, and of my countrymen generally, respecting
his character and actions. It costs us nothing to be just. We can at
least express our sympathy with, and admiration of, him and his
companions, and that is what I now propose to do.

First, as to his history. I will endeavor to omit, as much as possible,
what you have already read. I need not describe his person to you, for
probably most of you have seen and will not soon forget him. I am told
that his grandfather, John Brown, was an officer in the Revolution; that
he himself was born in Connecticut about the beginning of this century,
but early went with his father to Ohio. I heard him say that his father
was a contractor who furnished beef to the army there, in the war of
1812; that he accompanied him to the camp, and assisted him in that
employment, seeing a good deal of military life,—more, perhaps, than if
he had been a soldier; for he was often present at the councils of the
officers. Especially, he learned by experience how armies are supplied
and maintained in the field,—a work which, he observed, requires at
least as much experience and skill as to lead them in battle. He said
that few persons had any conception of the cost, even the pecuniary
cost, of firing a single bullet in war. He saw enough, at any rate, to
disgust him with a military life; indeed, to excite in him a great
abhorrence of it; so much so, that though he was tempted by the offer of
some petty office in the army, when he was about eighteen, he not only
declined that, but he also refused to train when warned, and was fined
for it. He then resolved that he would never have anything to do with
any war, unless it were a war for liberty.

When the troubles in Kansas began, he sent several of his sons thither
to strengthen the party of the Free State men, fitting them out with
such weapons as he had; telling them that if the troubles should
increase, and there should be need of him, he would follow, to assist
them with his hand and counsel. This, as you all know, he soon after
did; and it was through his agency, far more than any other’s, that
Kansas was made free.

For a part of his life he was a surveyor, and at one time he was engaged
in wool-growing, and he went to Europe as an agent about that business.
There, as everywhere, he had his eyes about him, and made many original
observations. He said, for instance, that he saw why the soil of England
was so rich, and that of Germany (I think it was) so poor, and he
thought of writing to some of the crowned heads about it. It was because
in England the peasantry live on the soil which they cultivate, but in
Germany they are gathered into villages, at night. It is a pity that he
did not make a book of his observations.

I should say that he was an old-fashioned man in his respect for the
Constitution, and his faith in the permanence of this Union. Slavery he
deemed to be wholly opposed to these, and he was its determined foe.

He was by descent and birth a New England farmer, a man of great common
sense, deliberate and practical as that class is, and tenfold more so.
He was like the best of those who stood at Concord Bridge once, on
Lexington Common, and on Bunker Hill, only he was firmer and higher
principled than any that I have chanced to hear of as there. It was no
abolition lecturer that converted him. Ethan Allen and Stark, with whom
he may in some respects be compared, were rangers in a lower and less
important field. They could bravely face their country’s foes, but he
had the courage to face his country herself, when she was in the wrong.
A Western writer says, to account for his escape from so many perils,
that he was concealed under a “rural exterior”; as if, in that prairie
land, a hero should, by good rights, wear a citizen’s dress only.

He did not go to the college called Harvard, good old Alma Mater as she
is. He was not fed on the pap that is there furnished. As he phrased it,
“I know no more of grammar than one of your calves.” But he went to the
great university of the West, where he sedulously pursued the study of
Liberty, for which he had early betrayed a fondness, and having taken
many degrees, he finally commenced the public practice of Humanity in
Kansas, as you all know. Such were _his humanities_ and not any study of
grammar. He would have left a Greek accent slanting the wrong way, and
righted up a falling man.

He was one of that class of whom we hear a great deal, but, for the most
part, see nothing at all,—the Puritans. It would be in vain to kill him.
He died lately in the time of Cromwell, but he reappeared here. Why
should he not? Some of the Puritan stock are said to have come over and
settled in New England. They were a class that did something else than
celebrate their forefathers’ day, and eat parched corn in remembrance of
that time. They were neither Democrats nor Republicans, but men of
simple habits, straightforward, prayerful; not thinking much of rulers
who did not fear God, not making many compromises, nor seeking after
available candidates.

“In his camp,” as one has recently written, and as I have myself heard
him state, “he permitted no profanity; no man of loose morals was
suffered to remain there, unless, indeed, as a prisoner of war. ‘I would
rather,’ said he, ‘have the small-pox, yellow-fever, and cholera, all
together in my camp, than a man without principle.... It is a mistake,
sir, that our people make, when they think that bullies are the best
fighters, or that they are the fit men to oppose these Southerners. Give
me men of good principles,—God-fearing men,—men who respect themselves,
and with a dozen of them I will oppose any hundred such men as these
Buford ruffians.’” He said that if one offered himself to be a soldier
under him, who was forward to tell what he could or would do, if he
could only get sight of the enemy, he had but little confidence in him.

He was never able to find more than a score or so of recruits whom he
would accept, and only about a dozen, among them his sons, in whom he
had perfect faith. When he was here, some years ago, he showed to a few
a little manuscript book,—his “orderly book” I think he called
it,—containing the names of his company in Kansas, and the rules by
which they bound themselves; and he stated that several of them had
already sealed the contract with their blood. When some one remarked
that, with the addition of a chaplain, it would have been a perfect
Cromwellian troop, he observed that he would have been glad to add a
chaplain to the list, if he could have found one who could fill that
office worthily. It is easy enough to find one for the United States
army. I believe that he had prayers in his camp morning and evening,

He was a man of Spartan habits, and at sixty was scrupulous about his
diet at your table, excusing himself by saying that he must eat
sparingly and fare hard, as became a soldier, or one who was fitting
himself for difficult enterprises, a life of exposure.

A man of rare common sense and directness of speech, as of action; a
transcendentalist above all, a man of ideas and principles,—that was
what distinguished him. Not yielding to a whim or transient impulse, but
carrying out the purpose of a life. I noticed that he did not overstate
anything, but spoke within bounds. I remember, particularly, how, in his
speech here, he referred to what his family had suffered in Kansas,
without ever giving the least vent to his pent-up fire. It was a volcano
with an ordinary chimney-flue. Also referring to the deeds of certain
Border Ruffians, he said, rapidly paring away his speech, like an
experienced soldier, keeping a reserve of force and meaning, “They had a
perfect right to be hung.” He was not in the least a rhetorician, was
not talking to Buncombe or his constituents anywhere, had no need to
invent anything but to tell the simple truth, and communicate his own
resolution; therefore he appeared incomparably strong, and eloquence in
Congress and elsewhere seemed to me at a discount. It was like the
speeches of Cromwell compared with those of an ordinary king.

As for his tact and prudence, I will merely say, that at a time when
scarcely a man from the Free States was able to reach Kansas by any
direct route, at least without having his arms taken from him, he,
carrying what imperfect guns and other weapons he could collect, openly
and slowly drove an ox-cart through Missouri, apparently in the capacity
of a surveyor, with his surveying compass exposed in it, and so passed
unsuspected, and had ample opportunity to learn the designs of the
enemy. For some time after his arrival he still followed the same
profession. When, for instance, he saw a knot of the ruffians on the
prairie, discussing, of course, the single topic which then occupied
their minds, he would, perhaps, take his compass and one of his sons,
and proceed to run an imaginary line right through the very spot on
which that conclave had assembled, and when he came up to them, he would
naturally pause and have some talk with them, learning their news, and,
at last, all their plans perfectly; and having thus completed his real
survey he would resume his imaginary one, and run on his line till he
was out of sight.

When I expressed surprise that he could live in Kansas at all, with a
price set upon his head, and so large a number, including the
authorities, exasperated against him, he accounted for it by saying, “It
is perfectly well understood that I will not be taken.” Much of the time
for some years he has had to skulk in swamps, suffering from poverty and
from sickness, which was the consequence of exposure, befriended only by
Indians and a few whites. But though it might be known that he was
lurking in a particular swamp, his foes commonly did not care to go in
after him. He could even come out into a town where there were more
Border Ruffians than Free State men, and transact some business, without
delaying long, and yet not be molested; for, said he, “No little handful
of men were willing to undertake it, and a large body could not be got
together in season.”

As for his recent failure, we do not know the facts about it. It was
evidently far from being a wild and desperate attempt. His enemy, Mr.
Vallandigham, is compelled to say, that “it was among the best planned
and executed conspiracies that ever failed.”

Not to mention his other successes, was it a failure, or did it show a
want of good management, to deliver from bondage a dozen human beings,
and walk off with them by broad daylight, for weeks if not months, at a
leisurely pace, through one State after another, for half the length of
the North, conspicuous to all parties, with a price set upon his head,
going into a court-room on his way and telling what he had done, thus
convincing Missouri that it was not profitable to try to hold slaves in
his neighborhood?—and this, not because the government menials were
lenient, but because they were afraid of him.

Yet he did not attribute his success, foolishly, to “his star,” or to
any magic. He said, truly, that the reason why such greatly superior
numbers quailed before him was, as one of his prisoners confessed,
because they _lacked a cause_,—a kind of armor which he and his party
never lacked. When the time came, few men were found willing to lay down
their lives in defence of what they knew to be wrong; they did not like
that this should be their last act in this world.

But to make haste to _his_ last act, and its effects.

The newspapers seem to ignore, or perhaps are really ignorant of the
fact, that there are at least as many as two or three individuals to a
town throughout the North who think much as the present speaker does
about him and his enterprise. I do not hesitate to say that they are an
important and growing party. We aspire to be something more than stupid
and timid chattels, pretending to read history and our Bibles, but
desecrating every house and every day we breathe in. Perhaps anxious
politicians may prove that only seventeen white men and five negroes
were concerned in the late enterprise; but their very anxiety to prove
this might suggest to themselves that all is not told. Why do they still
dodge the truth? They are so anxious because of a dim consciousness of
the fact, which they do not distinctly face, that at least a million of
the free inhabitants of the United States would have rejoiced if it had
succeeded. They at most only criticise the tactics. Though we wear no
crape, the thought of that man’s position and probable fate is spoiling
many a man’s day here at the North for other thinking. If any one who
has seen him here can pursue successfully any other train of thought, I
do not know what he is made of. If there is any such who gets his usual
allowance of sleep, I will warrant him to fatten easily under any
circumstances which do not touch his body or purse. I put a piece of
paper and a pencil under my pillow, and when I could not sleep, I wrote
in the dark.

On the whole, my respect for my fellow-men, except as one may outweigh a
million, is not being increased these days. I have noticed the
cold-blooded way in which newspaper writers and men generally speak of
this event, as if an ordinary malefactor, though one of unusual
“pluck,”—as the Governor of Virginia is reported to have said, using the
language of the cock-pit, “the gamest man he ever saw,”—had been caught,
and were about to be hung. He was not dreaming of his foes when the
governor thought he looked so brave. It turns what sweetness I have to
gall, to hear, or hear of, the remarks of some of my neighbors. When we
heard at first that he was dead, one of my townsmen observed that “he
died as the fool dieth”; which, pardon me, for an instant suggested a
likeness in him dying to my neighbor living. Others, craven-hearted,
said disparagingly, that “he threw his life away,” because he resisted
the government. Which way have they thrown _their_ lives, pray?—such as
would praise a man for attacking singly an ordinary band of thieves or
murderers. I hear another ask, Yankee-like, “What will he gain by it?”
as if he expected to fill his pockets by this enterprise. Such a one has
no idea of gain but in this worldly sense. If it does not lead to a
“surprise” party, if he does not get a new pair of boots, or a vote of
thanks, it must be a failure. “But he won’t gain anything by it.” Well,
no, I don’t suppose he could get four-and-sixpence a day for being hung,
take the year round; but then he stands a chance to save a considerable
part of his soul,—and _such_ a soul!—when _you_ do not. No doubt you can
get more in your market for a quart of milk than for a quart of blood,
but that is not the market that heroes carry their blood to.

Such do not know that like the seed is the fruit, and that, in the moral
world, when good seed is planted, good fruit is inevitable, and does not
depend on our watering and cultivating; that when you plant, or bury, a
hero in his field, a crop of heroes is sure to spring up. This is a seed
of such force and vitality, that it does not ask our leave to germinate.

The momentary charge at Balaclava, in obedience to a blundering command,
proving what a perfect machine the soldier is, has, properly enough,
been celebrated by a poet-laureate; but the steady, and for the most
part successful, charge of this man, for some years, against the legions
of Slavery, in obedience to an infinitely higher command, is as much
more memorable than that, as an intelligent and conscientious man is
superior to a machine. Do you think that that will go unsung?

“Served him right,”—“A dangerous man,”—“He is undoubtedly insane.” So
they proceed to live their sane, and wise, and altogether admirable
lives, reading their Plutarch a little, but chiefly pausing at that feat
of Putnam, who was let down into a wolf’s den; and in this wise they
nourish themselves for brave and patriotic deeds some time or other. The
Tract Society could afford to print that story of Putnam. You might open
the district schools with the reading of it, for there is nothing about
Slavery or the Church in it; unless it occurs to the reader that some
pastors are _wolves_ in sheep’s clothing. “The American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions” even, might dare to protest against
_that_ wolf. I have heard of boards, and of American boards, but it
chances that I never heard of this particular lumber till lately. And
yet I hear of Northern men, and women, and children, by families, buying
a “life membership” in such societies as these. A life membership in the
grave! You can get buried cheaper than that.

Our foes are in our midst and all about us. There is hardly a house but
is divided against itself, for our foe is the all but universal
woodenness of both head and heart, the want of vitality in man, which is
the effect of our vice; and hence are begotten fear, superstition,
bigotry, persecution, and slavery of all kinds. We are mere figure-heads
upon a hulk, with livers in the place of hearts. The curse is the
worship of idols, which at length changes the worshipper into a stone
image himself; and the New-Englander is just as much an idolater as the
Hindoo. This man was an exception, for he did not set up even a
political graven image between him and his God.

A church that can never have done with excommunicating Christ while it
exists! Away with your broad and flat churches, and your narrow and tall
churches! Take a step forward, and invent a new style of out-houses.
Invent a salt that will save you, and defend our nostrils.

The modern Christian is a man who has consented to say all the prayers
in the liturgy, provided you will let him go straight to bed and sleep
quietly afterward. All his prayers begin with “Now I lay me down to
sleep,” and he is forever looking forward to the time when he shall go
to his “_long_ rest.” He has consented to perform certain
old-established charities, too, after a fashion, but he does not wish to
hear of any new-fangled ones; he doesn’t wish to have any supplementary
articles added to the contract, to fit it to the present time. He shows
the whites of his eyes on the Sabbath, and the blacks all the rest of
the week. The evil is not merely a stagnation of blood, but a stagnation
of spirit. Many, no doubt, are well disposed, but sluggish by
constitution and by habit, and they cannot conceive of a man who is
actuated by higher motives than they are. Accordingly they pronounce
this man insane, for they know that _they_ could never act as he does,
as long as they are themselves.

We dream of foreign countries, of other times and races of men, placing
them at a distance in history or space; but let some significant event
like the present occur in our midst, and we discover, often, this
distance and this strangeness between us and our nearest neighbors.
_They_ are our Austrias, and Chinas, and South Sea Islands. Our crowded
society becomes well spaced all at once, clean and handsome to the
eye,—a city of magnificent distances. We discover why it was that we
never got beyond compliments and surfaces with them before; we become
aware of as many versts between us and them as there are between a
wandering Tartar and a Chinese town. The thoughtful man becomes a hermit
in the thoroughfares of the market-place. Impassable seas suddenly find
their level between us, or dumb steppes stretch themselves out there. It
is the difference of constitution, of intelligence, and faith, and not
streams and mountains, that make the true and impassable boundaries
between individuals and between states. None but the like-minded can
come plenipotentiary to our court.

I read all the newspapers I could get within a week after this event,
and I do not remember in them a single expression of sympathy for these
men. I have since seen one noble statement, in a Boston paper, not
editorial. Some voluminous sheets decided not to print the full report
of Brown’s words to the exclusion of other matter. It was as if a
publisher should reject the manuscript of the New Testament, and print
Wilson’s last speech. The same journal which contained this pregnant
news, was chiefly filled, in parallel columns, with the reports of the
political conventions that were being held. But the descent to them was
too steep. They should have been spared this contrast,—been printed in
an extra, at least. To turn from the voices and deeds of earnest men to
the _cackling_ of political conventions! Office-seekers and
speech-makers, who do not so much as lay an honest egg, but wear their
breasts bare upon an egg of chalk! Their great game is the game of
straws, or rather that universal aboriginal game of the platter, at
which the Indians cried _hub, bub!_ Exclude the reports of religious and
political conventions, and publish the words of a living man.

But I object not so much to what they have omitted, as to what they have
inserted. Even the _Liberator_ called it “a misguided, wild, and
apparently insane—effort.” As for the herd of newspapers and magazines,
I do not chance to know an editor in the country who will deliberately
print anything which he knows will ultimately and permanently reduce the
number of his subscribers. They do not believe that it would be
expedient. How then can they print truth? If we do not say pleasant
things, they argue, nobody will attend to us. And so they do like some
travelling auctioneers, who sing an obscene song, in order to draw a
crowd around them. Republican editors, obliged to get their sentences
ready for the morning edition, and accustomed to look at everything by
the twilight of politics, express no admiration, nor true sorrow even,
but call these men “deluded fanatics,”—“mistaken men,”—“insane,” or
“crazed.” It suggests what a _sane_ set of editors we are blessed with,
_not_ “mistaken men”; who know very well on which side their bread is
buttered, at least.

A man does a brave and humane deed, and at once, on all sides, we hear
people and parties declaring, “I didn’t do it, nor countenance _him_ to
do it, in any conceivable way. It can’t be fairly inferred from my past
career.” I, for one, am not interested to hear you define your position.
I don’t know that I ever was, or ever shall be. I think it is mere
egotism, or impertinent at this time. Ye needn’t take so much pains to
wash your skirts of him. No intelligent man will ever be convinced that
he was any creature of yours. He went and came, as he himself informs
us, “under the auspices of John Brown and nobody else.” The Republican
party does not perceive how many his _failure_ will make to vote more
correctly than they would have them. They have counted the votes of
Pennsylvania & Co., but they have not correctly counted Captain Brown’s
vote. He has taken the wind out of their sails,—the little wind they
had,—and they may as well lie to and repair.

What though he did not belong to your clique! Though you may not approve
of his method or his principles, recognize his magnanimity. Would you
not like to claim kindredship with him in that, though in no other thing
he is like, or likely, to you? Do you think that you would lose your
reputation so? What you lost at the spile, you would gain at the bung.

If they do not mean all this, then they do not speak the truth, and say
what they mean. They are simply at their old tricks still.

“It was always conceded to him,” _says one who calls him crazy_, “that
he was a conscientious man, very modest in his demeanor, apparently
inoffensive, until the subject of Slavery was introduced, when he would
exhibit a feeling of indignation unparalleled.”

The slave-ship is on her way, crowded with its dying victims; new
cargoes are being added in mid-ocean; a small crew of slaveholders,
countenanced by a large body of passengers, is smothering four millions
under the hatches, and yet the politician asserts that the only proper
way by which deliverance is to be obtained, is by “the quiet diffusion
of the sentiments of humanity,” without any “outbreak.” As if the
sentiments of humanity were ever found unaccompanied by its deeds, and
you could disperse them, all finished to order, the pure article, as
easily as water with a watering-pot, and so lay the dust. What is that
that I hear cast overboard? The bodies of the dead that have found
deliverance. That is the way we are “diffusing” humanity, and its
sentiments with it.

Prominent and influential editors, accustomed to deal with politicians,
men of an infinitely lower grade, say, in their ignorance, that he acted
“on the principle of revenge.” They do not know the man. They must
enlarge themselves to conceive of him. I have no doubt that the time
will come when they will begin to see him as he was. They have got to
conceive of a man of faith and of religious principle, and not a
politician or an Indian; of a man who did not wait till he was
personally interfered with or thwarted in some harmless business before
he gave his life to the cause of the oppressed.

If Walker may be considered the representative of the South, I wish I
could say that Brown was the representative of the North. He was a
superior man. He did not value his bodily life in comparison with ideal
things. He did not recognize unjust human laws, but resisted them as he
was bid. For once we are lifted out of the trivialness and dust of
politics into the region of truth and manhood. No man in America has
ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human
nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all
governments. In that sense he was the most American of us all. He needed
no babbling lawyer, making false issues, to defend him. He was more than
a match for all the judges that American voters, or office-holders of
whatever grade, can create. He could not have been tried by a jury of
his peers, because his peers did not exist. When a man stands up
serenely against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind, rising above
them literally _by a whole body_,—even though he were of late the vilest
murderer, who has settled that matter with himself,—the spectacle is a
sublime one,—didn’t ye know it, ye _Liberators_, ye _Tribunes_, ye
_Republicans?_—and we become criminal in comparison. Do yourselves the
honor to recognize him. He needs none of your respect.

As for the Democratic journals, they are not human enough to affect me
at all. I do not feel indignation at anything they may say.

I am aware that I anticipate a little,—that he was still, at the last
accounts, alive in the hands of his foes; but that being the case, I
have all along found myself thinking and speaking of him as physically

I do not believe in erecting statues to those who still live in our
hearts, whose bones have not yet crumbled in the earth around us, but I
would rather see the statue of Captain Brown in the Massachusetts
State-House yard, than that of any other man whom I know. I rejoice that
I live in this age, that I am his contemporary.

What a contrast, when we turn to that political party which is so
anxiously shuffling him and his plot out of its way, and looking around
for some available slaveholder, perhaps, to be its candidate, at least
for one who will execute the Fugitive Slave Law, and all those other
unjust laws which he took up arms to annul!

Insane! A father and six sons, and one son-in-law, and several more men
besides,—as many at least as twelve disciples,—all struck with insanity
at once; while the same tyrant holds with a firmer gripe than ever his
four millions of slaves, and a thousand sane editors, his abettors, are
saving their country and their bacon! Just as insane were his efforts in
Kansas. Ask the tyrant who is his most dangerous foe, the sane man or
the insane? Do the thousands who know him best, who have rejoiced at his
deeds in Kansas, and have afforded him material aid there, think him
insane? Such a use of this word is a mere trope with most who persist in
using it, and I have no doubt that many of the rest have already in
silence retracted their words.

Read his admirable answers to Mason and others. How they are dwarfed and
defeated by the contrast! On the one side, half-brutish, half-timid
questioning; on the other, truth, clear as lightning, crashing into
their obscene temples. They are made to stand with Pilate, and Gesler,
and the Inquisition. How ineffectual their speech and action! and what a
void their silence! They are but helpless tools in this great work. It
was no human power that gathered them about this preacher.

What have Massachusetts and the North sent a few _sane_ representatives
to Congress for, of late years?—to declare with effect what kind of
sentiments? All their speeches put together and boiled down,—and
probably they themselves will confess it,—do not match for manly
directness and force, and for simple truth, the few casual remarks of
crazy John Brown, on the floor of the Harper’s Ferry engine-house,—that
man whom you are about to hang, to send to the other world, though not
to represent _you_ there. No, he was not our representative in any
sense. He was too fair a specimen of a man to represent the like of us.
Who, then, _were_ his constituents? If you read his words
understandingly you will find out. In his case there is no idle
eloquence, no made, nor maiden speech, no compliments to the oppressor.
Truth is his inspirer, and earnestness the polisher of his sentences. He
could afford to lose his Sharpe’s rifles, while he retained his faculty
of speech,—a Sharpe’s rifle of infinitely surer and longer range.

And the New York _Herald_ reports the conversation _verbatim_! It does
not know of what undying words it is made the vehicle.

I have no respect for the penetration of any man who can read the report
of that conversation, and still call the principal in it insane. It has
the ring of a saner sanity than an ordinary discipline and habits of
life, than an ordinary organization, secure. Take any sentence of
it,—“Any questions that I can honorably answer, I will; not otherwise.
So far as I am myself concerned, I have told everything truthfully. I
value my word, sir.” The few who talk about his vindictive spirit, while
they really admire his heroism, have no test by which to detect a noble
man, no amalgam to combine with his pure gold. They mix their own dross
with it.

It is a relief to turn from these slanders to the testimony of his more
truthful, but frightened jailers and hangmen. Governor Wise speaks far
more justly and appreciatingly of him than any Northern editor, or
politician, or public personage, that I chance to have heard from. I
know that you can afford to hear him again on this subject. He says:
“They are themselves mistaken who take him to be a madman..... He is
cool, collected, and indomitable, and it is but just to him to say, that
he was humane to his prisoners..... And he inspired me with great trust
in his integrity as a man of truth. He is a fanatic, vain and
garrulous,” (I leave that part to Mr. Wise,) “but firm, truthful, and
intelligent. His men, too, who survive, are like him..... Colonel
Washington says that he was the coolest and firmest man he ever saw in
defying danger and death. With one son dead by his side, and another
shot through, he felt the pulse of his dying son with one hand, and held
his rifle with the other, and commanded his men with the utmost
composure, encouraging them to be firm, and to sell their lives as dear
as they could. Of the three white prisoners, Brown, Stephens, and
Coppic, it was hard to say which was most firm.”

Almost the first Northern men whom the slaveholder has learned to

The testimony of Mr. Vallandigham, though less valuable, is of the same
purport, that “it is vain to underrate either the man or his
conspiracy..... He is the farthest possible removed from the ordinary
ruffian, fanatic, or madman.”

“All is quiet at Harper’s Ferry,” say the journals. What is the
character of that calm which follows when the law and the slaveholder
prevail? I regard this event as a touchstone designed to bring out, with
glaring distinctness, the character of this government. We needed to be
thus assisted to see it by the light of history. It needed to see
itself. When a government puts forth its strength on the side of
injustice, as ours to maintain slavery and kill the liberators of the
slave, it reveals itself a merely brute force, or worse, a demoniacal
force. It is the head of the Plug-Uglies. It is more manifest than ever
that tyranny rules. I see this government to be effectually allied with
France and Austria in oppressing mankind. There sits a tyrant holding
fettered four millions of slaves; here comes their heroic liberator.
This most hypocritical and diabolical government looks up from its seat
on the gasping four millions, and inquires with an assumption of
innocence: “What do you assault me for? Am I not an honest man? Cease
agitation on this subject, or I will make a slave of you, too, or else
hang you.”

We talk about a _representative_ government; but what a monster of a
government is that where the noblest faculties of the mind, and the
_whole_ heart, are not _represented_. A semi-human tiger or ox, stalking
over the earth, with its heart taken out and the top of its brain shot
away. Heroes have fought well on their stumps when their legs were shot
off, but I never heard of any good done by such a government as that.

The only government that I recognize,—and it matters not how few are at
the head of it, or how small its army,—is that power that establishes
justice in the land, never that which establishes injustice. What shall
we think of a government to which all the truly brave and just men in
the land are enemies, standing between it and those whom it oppresses? A
government that pretends to be Christian and crucifies a million Christs
every day!

Treason! Where does such treason take its rise? I cannot help thinking
of you as you deserve, ye governments. Can you dry up the fountains of
thought? High treason, when it is resistance to tyranny here below, has
its origin in, and is first committed by, the power that makes and
forever recreates man. When you have caught and hung all these human
rebels, you have accomplished nothing but your own guilt, for you have
not struck at the fountain-head. You presume to contend with a foe
against whom West Point cadets and rifled cannon _point_ not. Can all
the art of the cannon-founder tempt matter to turn against its maker? Is
the form in which the founder thinks he casts it more essential than the
constitution of it and of himself?

The United States have a coffle of four millions of slaves. They are
determined to keep them in this condition; and Massachusetts is one of
the confederated overseers to prevent their escape. Such are not all the
inhabitants of Massachusetts, but such are they who rule and are obeyed
here. It was Massachusetts, as well as Virginia, that put down this
insurrection at Harper’s Ferry. She sent the marines there, and she will
have _to pay the penalty of her sin_.

Suppose that there is a society in this State that out of its own purse
and magnanimity saves all the fugitive slaves that run to us, and
protects our colored fellow-citizens, and leaves the other work to the
government, so-called. Is not that government fast losing its
occupation, and becoming contemptible to mankind? If private men are
obliged to perform the offices of government, to protect the weak and
dispense justice, then the government becomes only a hired man, or
clerk, to perform menial or indifferent services. Of course, that is but
the shadow of a government whose existence necessitates a Vigilant
Committee. What should we think of the Oriental Cadi even, behind whom
worked in secret a vigilant committee? But such is the character of our
Northern States generally; each has its Vigilant Committee. And, to a
certain extent, these crazy governments recognize and accept this
relation. They say, virtually, “We’ll be glad to work for you on these
terms, only don’t make a noise about it.” And thus the government, its
salary being insured, withdraws into the back shop, taking the
Constitution with it, and bestows most of its labor on repairing that.
When I hear it at work sometimes, as I go by, it reminds me, at best, of
those farmers who in winter contrive to turn a penny by following the
coopering business. And what kind of spirit is their barrel made to
hold? They speculate in stocks, and bore holes in mountains, but they
are not competent to lay out even a decent highway. The only _free_
road, the Underground Railroad, is owned and managed by the Vigilant
Committee. _They_ have tunnelled under the whole breadth of the land.
Such a government is losing its power and respectability as surely as
water runs out of a leaky vessel, and is held by one that can contain

I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the
good and the brave ever in a majority? Would you have had him wait till
that time came?—till you and I came over to him? The very fact that he
had no rabble or troop of hirelings about him would alone distinguish
him from ordinary heroes. His company was small indeed, because few
could be found worthy to pass muster. Each one who there laid down his
life for the poor and oppressed was a picked man, culled out of many
thousands, if not millions; apparently a man of principle, of rare
courage, and devoted humanity; ready to sacrifice his life at any moment
for the benefit of his fellow-man. It may be doubted if there were as
many more their equals in these respects in all the country;—I speak of
his followers only;—for their leader, no doubt, scoured the land far and
wide, seeking to swell his troop. These alone were ready to step between
the oppressor and the oppressed. Surely they were the very best men you
could select to be hung. That was the greatest compliment which this
country could pay them. They were ripe for her gallows. She has tried a
long time, she has hung a good many, but never found the right one

When I think of him, and his six sons, and his son-in-law, not to
enumerate the others, enlisted for this fight, proceeding coolly,
reverently, humanely to work, for months if not years, sleeping and
waking upon it, summering and wintering the thought, without expecting
any reward but a good conscience, while almost all America stood ranked
on the other side,—I say again that it affects me as a sublime
spectacle. If he had had any journal advocating “_his cause_,” any
organ, as the phrase is, monotonously and wearisomely playing the same
old tune, and then passing round the hat, it would have been fatal to
his efficiency. If he had acted in any way so as to be let alone by the
government, he might have been suspected. It was the fact that the
tyrant must give place to him, or he to the tyrant, that distinguished
him from all the reformers of the day that I know.

It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere
by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree
with him. They who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to
be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder, but no others. Such
will be more shocked by his life than by his death. I shall not be
forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to
liberate the slave. I speak for the slave when I say, that I prefer the
philanthropy of Captain Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots
me nor liberates me. At any rate, I do not think it is quite sane for
one to spend his whole life in talking or writing about this matter,
unless he is continuously inspired, and I have not done so. A man may
have other affairs to attend to. I do not wish to kill nor to be killed,
but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by
me unavoidable. We preserve the so-called peace of our community by
deeds of petty violence every day. Look at the policeman’s billy and
handcuffs! Look at the jail! Look at the gallows! Look at the chaplain
of the regiment! We are hoping only to live safely on the outskirts of
_this_ provisional army. So we defend ourselves and our hen-roosts, and
maintain slavery. I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the
only righteous use that can be made of Sharpe’s rifles and revolvers is
to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to
hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think
that for once the Sharpe’s rifles and the revolvers were employed in a
righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them.

The same indignation that is said to have cleared the temple once will
clear it again. The question is not about the weapon, but the spirit in
which you use it. No man has appeared in America, as yet, who loved his
fellow-man so well, and treated him so tenderly. He lived for him. He
took up his life and he laid it down for him. What sort of violence is
that which is encouraged, not by soldiers, but by peaceable citizens,
not so much by laymen as by ministers of the Gospel, not so much by the
fighting sects as by the Quakers, and not so much by Quaker men as by
Quaker women?

This event advertises me that there is such a fact as death,—the
possibility of a man’s dying. It seems as if no man had ever died in
America before; for in order to die you must first have lived. I don’t
believe in the hearses, and palls, and funerals that they have had.
There was no death in the case, because there had been no life; they
merely rotted or sloughed off, pretty much as they had rotted or
sloughed along. No temple’s veil was rent, only a hole dug somewhere.
Let the dead bury their dead. The best of them fairly ran down like a
clock. Franklin,—Washington,—they were let off without dying; they were
merely missing one day. I hear a good many pretend that they are going
to die; or that they have died, for aught that I know. Nonsense! I’ll
defy them to do it. They haven’t got life enough in them. They’ll
deliquesce like fungi, and keep a hundred eulogists mopping the spot
where they left off. Only half a dozen or so have died since the world
began. Do you think that you are going to die, sir? No! there’s no hope
of you. You haven’t got your lesson yet. You’ve got to stay after
school. We make a needless ado about capital punishment,—taking lives,
when there is no life to take. _Memento mori!_ We don’t understand that
sublime sentence which some worthy got sculptured on his gravestone
once. We’ve interpreted it in a grovelling and snivelling sense; we’ve
wholly forgotten how to die.

But be sure you do die nevertheless. Do your work, and finish it. If you
know how to begin, you will know when to end.

These men, in teaching us how to die, have at the same time taught us
how to live. If this man’s acts and words do not create a revival, it
will be the severest possible satire on the acts and words that do. It
is the best news that America has ever heard. It has already quickened
the feeble pulse of the North, and infused more and more generous blood
into her veins and heart, than any number of years of what is called
commercial and political prosperity could. How many a man who was lately
contemplating suicide has now something to live for!

One writer says that Brown’s peculiar monomania made him to be “dreaded
by the Missourians as a super natural being.” Sure enough, a hero in the
midst of us cowards is always so dreaded. He is just that thing. He
shows himself superior to nature. He has a spark of divinity in him.

                          “Unless above himself he can
                Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!”

Newspaper editors argue also that it is a proof of his _insanity_ that
he thought he was appointed to do this work which he did,—that he did
not suspect himself for a moment! They talk as if it were impossible
that a man could be “divinely appointed” in these days to do any work
whatever; as if vows and religion were out of date as connected with any
man’s daily work; as if the agent to abolish slavery could only be
somebody appointed by the President, or by some political party. They
talk as if a man’s death were a failure, and his continued life, be it
of whatever character, were a success.

When I reflect to what a cause this man devoted himself, and how
religiously, and then reflect to what cause his judges and all who
condemn him so angrily and fluently devote themselves, I see that they
are as far apart as the heavens and earth are asunder.

The amount of it is, our “_leading men_” are a harmless kind of folk,
and they know _well enough_ that _they_ were not divinely appointed, but
elected by the votes of their party.

Who is it whose safety requires that Captain Brown be hung? Is it
indispensable to any Northern man? Is there no resource but to cast this
man also to the Minotaur? If you do not wish it, say so distinctly.
While these things are being done, beauty stands veiled and music is a
screeching lie. Think of him,—of his rare qualities!—such a man as it
takes ages to make, and ages to understand; no mock hero, nor the
representative of any party. A man such as the sun may not rise upon
again in this benighted land. To whose making went the costliest
material, the finest adamant; sent to be the redeemer of those in
captivity; and the only use to which you can put him is to hang him at
the end of a rope! You who pretend to care for Christ crucified,
consider what you are about to do to him who offered himself to be the
savior of four millions of men.

Any man knows when he is justified, and all the wits in the world cannot
enlighten him on that point. The murderer always knows that he is justly
punished; but when a government takes the life of a man without the
consent of his conscience, it is an audacious government, and is taking
a step towards its own dissolution. Is it not possible that an
individual may be right and a government wrong? Are laws to be enforced
simply because they were made? or declared by any number of men to be
good, if they are _not_ good? Is there any necessity for a man’s being a
tool to perform a deed of which his better nature disapproves? Is it the
intention of law-makers that _good_ men shall be hung ever? Are judges
to interpret the law according to the letter, and not the spirit? What
right have _you_ to enter into a compact with yourself that you _will_
do thus or so, against the light within you? Is it for _you_ to _make
up_ your mind,—to form any resolution whatever,—and not accept the
convictions that are forced upon you, and which ever pass your
understanding? I do not believe in lawyers, in that mode of attacking or
defending a man, because you descend to meet the judge on his own
ground, and, in cases of the highest importance, it is of no consequence
whether a man breaks a human law or not. Let lawyers decide trivial
cases. Business men may arrange that among themselves. If they were the
interpreters of the everlasting laws which rightfully bind man, that
would be another thing. A counterfeiting law-factory, standing half in a
slave land and half in a free! What kind of laws for free men can you
expect from that?

I am here to plead his cause with you. I plead not for his life, but for
his character,—his immortal life; and so it becomes your cause wholly,
and is not his in the least. Some eighteen hundred years ago Christ was
crucified; this morning, perchance, Captain Brown was hung. These are
the two ends of a chain which is not without its links. He is not Old
Brown any longer; he is an angel of light.

I see now that it was necessary that the bravest and humanest man in all
the country should be hung. Perhaps he saw it himself. I _almost fear_
that I may yet hear of his deliverance, doubting if a prolonged life, if
_any_ life, can do as much good as his death.

“Misguided”! “Garrulous”! “Insane”! “Vindictive”! So ye write in your
easy-chairs, and thus he wounded responds from the floor of the Armory,
clear as a cloudless sky, true as the voice of nature is: “No man sent
me here; it was my own prompting and that of my Maker. I acknowledge no
master in human form.”

And in what a sweet and noble strain he proceeds, addressing his
captors, who stand over him: “I think, my friends, you are guilty of a
great wrong against God and humanity, and it would be perfectly right
for any one to interfere with you so far as to free those you wilfully
and wickedly hold in bondage.”

And, referring to his movement: “It is, in my opinion, the greatest
service a man can render to God.”

“I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them; that is why I
am here; not to gratify any personal animosity, revenge, or vindictive
spirit. It is my sympathy with the oppressed and the wronged, that are
as good as you, and as precious in the sight of God.”

You don’t know your testament when you see it.

“I want you to understand that I respect the rights of the poorest and
weakest of colored people, oppressed by the slave power, just as much as
I do those of the most wealthy and powerful.”

“I wish to say, furthermore, that you had better, all you people at the
South, prepare yourselves for a settlement of that question, that must
come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for it. The sooner
you are prepared the better. You may dispose of me very easily. I am
nearly disposed of now; but this question is still to be settled,—this
negro question, I mean; the end of that is not yet.”

I foresee the time when the painter will paint that scene, no longer
going to Rome for a subject; the poet will sing it; the historian record
it; and, with the Landing of the Pilgrims and the Declaration of
Independence, it will be the ornament of some future national gallery,
when at least the present form of slavery shall be no more here. We
shall then be at liberty to weep for Captain Brown. Then, and not till
then, we will take our revenge.


                     PARADISE (TO BE) REGAINED.[7]

            [“Democratic Review,” New York, November, 1843.]

Footnote 7:

  The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of
  Nature and Machinery. An Address to all intelligent Men. In Two Parts.
  By J. A. Etzler. Part First. Second English Edition. London. 1842. pp.

We learn that Mr. Etzler is a native of Germany, and originally
published his book in Pennsylvania, ten or twelve years ago; and now a
second English edition, from the original American one, is demanded by
his readers across the water, owing, we suppose, to the recent spread of
Fourier’s doctrines. It is one of the signs of the times. We confess
that we have risen from reading this book with enlarged ideas, and
grander conceptions of our duties in this world. It did expand us a
little. It is worth attending to, if only that it entertains large
questions. Consider what Mr. Etzler proposes:

“Fellow-men! I promise to show the means of creating a paradise within
ten years, where everything desirable for human life may be had by every
man in superabundance, without labor, and without pay; where the whole
face of nature shall be changed into the most beautiful forms, and man
may live in the most magnificent palaces, in all imaginable refinements
of luxury, and in the most delightful gardens; where he may accomplish,
without labor, in one year, more than hitherto could be done in
thousands of years; may level mountains, sink valleys, create lakes,
drain lakes and swamps, and intersect the land everywhere with beautiful
canals, and roads for transporting heavy loads of many thousand tons,
and for travelling one thousand miles in twenty-four hours; may cover
the ocean with floating islands movable in any desired direction with
immense power and celerity, in perfect security, and with all comforts
and luxuries, bearing gardens and palaces, with thousands of families,
and provided with rivulets of sweet water; may explore the interior of
the globe, and travel from pole to pole in a fortnight; provide himself
with means, unheard of yet, for increasing his knowledge of the world,
and so his intelligence; lead a life of continual happiness, of
enjoyments yet unknown; free himself from almost all the evils that
afflict mankind, except death, and even put death far beyond the common
period of human life, and finally render it less afflicting. Mankind may
thus live in and enjoy a new world, far superior to the present, and
raise themselves far higher in the scale of being.”

It would seem from this and various indications beside, that there is a
transcendentalism in mechanics as well as in ethics. While the whole
field of the one reformer lies beyond the boundaries of space, the other
is pushing his schemes for the elevation of the race to its utmost
limits. While one scours the heavens, the other sweeps the earth. One
says he will reform himself, and then nature and circumstances will be
right. Let us not obstruct ourselves, for that is the greatest friction.
It is of little importance though a cloud obstruct the view of the
astronomer compared with his own blindness. The other will reform nature
and circumstances, and then man will be right. Talk no more vaguely,
says he, of reforming the world,—I will reform the globe itself. What
matters it whether I remove this humor out of my flesh, or this
pestilent humor from the fleshy part of the globe? Nay, is not the
latter the more generous course? At present the globe goes with a
shattered constitution in its orbit. Has it not asthma, and ague, and
fever, and dropsy, and flatulence, and pleurisy, and is it not afflicted
with vermin? Has it not its healthful laws counteracted, and its vital
energy which will yet redeem it? No doubt the simple powers of nature,
properly directed by man, would make it healthy and a paradise; as the
laws of man’s own constitution but wait to be obeyed, to restore him to
health and happiness. Our panaceas cure but few ails, our general
hospitals are private and exclusive. We must set up another Hygeia than
is now worshipped. Do not the quacks even direct small doses for
children, larger for adults, and larger still for oxen and horses? Let
us remember that we are to prescribe for the globe itself.

This fair homestead has fallen to us, and how little have we done to
improve it, how little have we cleared and hedged and ditched! We are
too inclined to go hence to a “better land,” without lifting a finger,
as our farmers are moving to the Ohio soil; but would it not be more
heroic and faithful to till and redeem this New England soil of the
world? The still youthful energies of the globe have only to be directed
in their proper channel. Every gazette brings accounts of the untutored
freaks of the wind,—shipwrecks and hurricanes which the mariner and
planter accept as special or general providences; but they touch our
consciences, they remind us of our sins. Another deluge would disgrace
mankind. We confess we never had much respect for that antediluvian
race. A thoroughbred business man cannot enter heartily upon the
business of life without first looking into his accounts. How many
things are now at loose ends. Who knows which way the wind will blow
to-morrow? Let us not succumb to nature. We will marshal the clouds and
restrain tempests; we will bottle up pestilent exhalations; we will
probe for earthquakes, grub them up, and give vent to the dangerous gas;
we will disembowel the volcano, and extract its poison, take its seed
out. We will wash water, and warm fire, and cool ice, and underprop the
earth. We will teach birds to fly, and fishes to swim, and ruminants to
chew the cud. It is time we had looked into these things.

And it becomes the moralist, too, to inquire what man might do to
improve and beautify the system; what to make the stars shine more
brightly, the sun more cheery and joyous, the moon more placid and
content. Could he not heighten the tints of flowers and the melody of
birds? Does he perform his duty to the inferior races? Should he not be
a god to them? What is the part of magnanimity to the whale and the
beaver? Should we not fear to exchange places with them for a day, lest
by their behavior they should shame us? Might we not treat with
magnanimity the shark and the tiger, not descend to meet them on their
own level, with spears of sharks’ teeth and bucklers of tiger’s skin? We
slander the hyena; man is the fiercest and cruellest animal. Ah! he is
of little faith; even the erring comets and meteors would thank him, and
return his kindness in their kind.

How meanly and grossly do we deal with nature! Could we not have a less
gross labor? What else do these fine inventions suggest,—magnetism, the
daguerreotype, electricity? Can we not do more than cut and trim the
forest,—can we not assist in its interior economy, in the circulation of
the sap? Now we work superficially and violently. We do not suspect how
much might be done to improve our relation to animated nature even; what
kindness and refined courtesy there might be.

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at
least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The
keeping of bees, for instance, is a very slight interference. It is like
directing the sunbeams. All nations, from the remotest antiquity, have
thus fingered nature. There are Hymettus and Hybla, and how many
bee-renowned spots beside? There is nothing gross in the idea of these
little herds,—their hum like the faintest low of kine in the meads. A
pleasant reviewer has lately reminded us that in some places they are
led out to pasture where the flowers are most abundant. “Columella tells
us,” says he, “that the inhabitants of Arabia sent their hives into
Attica to benefit by the later-blowing flowers.” Annually are the hives,
in immense pyramids, carried up the Nile in boats, and suffered to float
slowly down the stream by night, resting by day, as the flowers put
forth along the banks; and they determine the richness of any locality,
and so the profitableness of delay, by the sinking of the boat in the
water. We are told, by the same reviewer, of a man in Germany, whose
bees yielded more honey than those of his neighbors, with no apparent
advantage; but at length he informed them, that he had turned his hives
one degree more to the east, and so his bees, having two hours the start
in the morning, got the first sip of honey. True, there is treachery and
selfishness behind all this; but these things suggest to the poetic mind
what might be done.

Many examples there are of a grosser interference, yet not without their
apology. We saw last summer, on the side of a mountain, a dog employed
to churn for a farmer’s family, travelling upon a horizontal wheel, and
though he had sore eyes, an alarming cough, and withal a demure aspect,
yet their bread did get buttered for all that. Undoubtedly, in the most
brilliant successes, the first rank is always sacrificed. Much useless
travelling of horses, _in extenso_, has of late years been improved for
man’s behoof, only two forces being taken advantage of,—the gravity of
the horse, which is the centripetal, and his centrifugal inclination to
go ahead. Only these two elements in the calculation. And is not the
creature’s whole economy better economized thus? Are not all finite
beings better pleased with motions relative than absolute? And what is
the great globe itself but such a wheel,—a larger treadmill,—so that our
horse’s freest steps over prairies are oftentimes balked and rendered of
no avail by the earth’s motion on its axis? But here he is the central
agent and motive-power; and, for variety of scenery, being provided with
a window in front, do not the ever-varying activity and fluctuating
energy of the creature himself work the effect of the most varied
scenery on a country road? It must be confessed that horses at present
work too exclusively for men, rarely men for horses; and the brute
degenerates in man’s society.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It will be seen that we contemplate a time when man’s will shall be law
to the physical world, and he shall no longer be deterred by such
abstractions as time and space, height and depth, weight and hardness,
but shall indeed be the lord of creation. “Well,” says the faithless
reader, “‘life is short, but art is long’; where is the power that will
effect all these changes?” This it is the very object of Mr. Etzler’s
volume to show. At present, he would merely remind us that there are
innumerable and immeasurable powers already existing in nature,
unimproved on a large scale, or for generous and universal ends, amply
sufficient for these purposes. He would only indicate their existence,
as a surveyor makes known the existence of a water-power on any stream;
but for their application he refers us to a sequel to this book, called
the “Mechanical System.” A few of the most obvious and familiar of these
powers are, the Wind, the Tide, the Waves, the Sunshine. Let us consider
their value.

First, there is the power of the Wind, constantly exerted over the
globe. It appears from observation of a sailing-vessel, and from
scientific tables, that the average power of the wind is equal to that
of one horse for every one hundred square feet. We do not attach much
value to this statement of the comparative power of the wind and horse,
for no common ground is mentioned on which they can be compared.
Undoubtedly, each is incomparably excellent in its way, and every
general comparison made for such practical purposes as are contemplated,
which gives a preference to the one, must be made with some unfairness
to the other. The scientific tables are, for the most part, true only in
a tabular sense. We suspect that a loaded wagon, with a light sail, ten
feet square, would not have been blown so far by the end of the year,
under equal circumstances, as a common racer or dray horse would have
drawn it. And how many crazy structures on our globe’s surface, of the
same dimensions, would wait for dry-rot if the traces of one horse were
hitched to them, even to their windward side? Plainly, this is not the
principle of comparison. But even the steady and constant force of the
horse may be rated as equal to his weight at least. Yet we should prefer
to let the zephyrs and gales bear, with all their weight, upon our
fences, than that Dobbin, with feet braced, should lean ominously
against them for a season.

Nevertheless, here is an almost incalculable power at our disposal, yet
how trifling the use we make of it. It only serves to turn a few mills,
blow a few vessels across the ocean, and a few trivial ends besides.
What a poor compliment do we pay to our indefatigable and energetic

Men having discovered the power of falling water, which, after all, is
comparatively slight, how eagerly do they seek out and improve these
_privileges_? Let a difference of but a few feet in level be discovered
on some stream near a populous town, some slight occasion for gravity to
act, and the whole economy of the neighborhood is changed at once. Men
do indeed speculate about and with this power as if it were the only
privilege. But meanwhile this aerial stream is falling from far greater
heights with more constant flow, never shrunk by drought, offering
mill-sites wherever the wind blows; a Niagara in the air, with no Canada
side;—only the application is hard.

There are the powers, too, of the Tide and Waves, constantly ebbing and
flowing, lapsing and relapsing, but they serve man in but few ways. They
turn a few tide-mills, and perform a few other insignificant and
accidental services only. We all perceive the effect of the tide; how
imperceptibly it creeps up into our harbors and rivers, and raises the
heaviest navies as easily as the lightest chip. Everything that floats
must yield to it. But man, slow to take nature’s constant hint of
assistance, makes slight and irregular use of this power, in careening
ships and getting them afloat when aground.

This power may be applied in various ways. A large body, of the heaviest
materials that will float, may first be raised by it, and being attached
to the end of a balance reaching from the land, or from a stationary
support, fastened to the bottom, when the tide falls, the whole weight
will be brought to bear upon the end of the balance. Also, when the tide
rises, it may be made to exert a nearly equal force in the opposite
direction. It can be employed wherever a _point d’appui_ can be

Verily, the land would wear a busy aspect at the spring and neap tide,
and these island ships, these _terræ infirmæ_, which realize the fables
of antiquity, affect our imagination. We have often thought that the
fittest locality for a human dwelling was on the edge of the land, that
there the constant lesson and impression of the sea might sink deep into
the life and character of the landsman, and perhaps impart a marine tint
to his imagination. It is a noble word, that _mariner_,—one who is
conversant with the sea. There should be more of what it signifies in
each of us. It is a worthy country to belong to,—we look to see him not
disgrace it. Perhaps we should be equally mariners and terreners, and
even our Green Mountains need some of that sea-green to be mixed with

The computation of the power of the Waves is less satisfactory. While
only the average power of the wind, and the average height of the tide,
were taken before, now the extreme height of the waves is used, for they
are made to rise ten feet above the level of the sea, to which, adding
ten more for depression, we have twenty feet, or the extreme height of a
wave. Indeed, the power of the waves, which is produced by the wind
blowing obliquely and at disadvantage upon the water, is made to be, not
only three thousand times greater than that of the tide, but one hundred
times greater than that of the wind itself, meeting its object at right
angles. Moreover, this power is measured by the area of the vessel, and
not by its length mainly, and it seems to be forgotten that the motion
of the waves is chiefly undulatory, and exerts a power only within the
limits of a vibration, else the very continents, with their extensive
coasts, would soon be set adrift.

Finally, there is the power to be derived from Sunshine, by the
principle on which Archimedes contrived his burning-mirrors, a
multiplication of mirrors reflecting the rays of the sun upon the same
spot, till the requisite degree of heat is obtained. The principal
application of this power will be to the boiling of water and production
of steam. So much for these few and more obvious powers, already used to
a trifling extent. But there are innumerable others in nature, not
described nor discovered. These, however, will do for the present. This
would be to make the sun and the moon equally our satellites. For, as
the moon is the cause of the tides, and the sun the cause of the wind,
which, in turn, is the cause of the waves, all the work of this planet
would be performed by these far influences.

“We may store up water in some eminent pond, and take out of this store,
at any time, as much water through the outlet as we want to employ, by
which means the original power may react for many days after it has
ceased.... Such reservoirs of moderate elevation or size need not be
made artificially, but will be found made by nature very frequently,
requiring but little aid for their completion. They require no
regularity of form. Any valley, with lower grounds in its vicinity,
would answer the purpose. Small crevices may be filled up. Such places
may be eligible for the beginning of enterprises of this kind.”

The greater the height, of course, the less water required. But suppose
a level and dry country; then hill and valley, and “eminent pond,” are
to be constructed by main force; or, if the springs are unusually low,
then dirt and stones may be used, and the disadvantage arising from
friction will be counterbalanced by their greater gravity. Nor shall a
single rood of dry land be sunk in such artificial ponds as may be
wanted, but their surfaces “may be covered with rafts decked with
fertile earth, and all kinds of vegetables which may grow there as well
as anywhere else.”

And, finally, by the use of thick envelopes retaining the heat, and
other contrivances, “the power of steam caused by sunshine may react at
will, and thus be rendered perpetual, no matter how often or how long
the sunshine may be interrupted.”

Here is power enough, one would think, to accomplish somewhat. These are
the Powers below. O ye millwrights, ye engineers, ye operatives and
speculators of every class, never again complain of a want of power: it
is the grossest form of infidelity. The question is, not how we shall
execute, but what. Let us not use in a niggardly manner what is thus
generously offered.

Consider what revolutions are to be effected in agriculture. First, in
the new country a machine is to move along, taking out trees and stones
to any required depth, and piling them up in convenient heaps; then the
same machine, “with a little alteration,” is to plane the ground
perfectly, till there shall be no hills nor valleys, making the
requisite canals, ditches, and roads as it goes along. The same machine,
“with some other little alterations,” is then to sift the ground
thoroughly, supply fertile soil from other places if wanted, and plant
it; and finally the same machine, “with a little addition,” is to reap
and gather in the crop, thresh and grind it, or press it to oil, or
prepare it any way for final use. For the description of these machines
we are referred to “Etzler’s Mechanical System,” pages 11 to 27. We
should be pleased to see that “Mechanical System.” We have great faith
in it. But we cannot stop for applications now.

Who knows but by accumulating the power until the end of the present
century, using meanwhile only the smallest allowance, reserving all that
blows, all that shines, all that ebbs and flows, all that dashes, we may
have got such a reserved accumulated power as to run the earth off its
track into a new orbit, some summer, and so change the tedious
vicissitude of the seasons? Or, perchance, coming generations will not
abide the dissolution of the globe, but, availing themselves of future
inventions in aerial locomotion, and the navigation of space, the entire
race may migrate from the earth, to settle some vacant and more western
planet, it may be still healthy, perchance unearthy, not composed of
dirt and stones, whose primary strata only are strewn, and where no
weeds are sown. It took but little art, a simple application of natural
laws, a canoe, a paddle, and a sail of matting, to people the isles of
the Pacific, and a little more will people the shining isles of space.
Do we not see in the firmament the lights carried along the shore by
night, as Columbus did? Let us not despair nor mutiny.

“The dwellings also ought to be very different from what is known, if
the full benefit of our means is to be enjoyed. They are to be of a
structure for which we have no name yet. They are to be neither palaces,
nor temples, nor cities, but a combination of all, superior to whatever
is known.

“Earth may be baked into bricks, or even vitrified stone by heat,—we may
bake large masses of any size and form, into stone and vitrified
substance of the greatest durability, lasting even thousand of years,
out of clayey earth, or of stones ground to dust, by the application of
burning-mirrors. This is to be done in the open air, without other
preparation than gathering the substance, grinding and mixing it with
water and cement, moulding or casting it, and bringing the focus of the
burning-mirrors of proper size upon the same.”

The character of the architecture is to be quite different from what it
ever has been hitherto; large solid masses are to be baked or cast in
one piece, ready shaped in any form that may be desired. The building
may, therefore, consist of columns two hundred feet high and upwards, of
proportionate thickness, and of one entire piece of vitrified substance;
huge pieces are to be moulded so as to join and hook on to each other
firmly, by proper joints and folds, and not to yield in any way without

“Foundries, of any description, are to be heated by burning-mirrors, and
will require no labor, except the making of the first moulds and the
superintendence for gathering the metal and taking the finished articles

Alas! in the present state of science, we must take the finished
articles away; but think not that man will always be the victim of

The countryman who visited the city, and found the streets cluttered
with bricks and lumber, reported that it was not yet finished; and one
who considers the endless repairs and reforming of our houses might well
wonder when they will be done. But why may not the dwellings of men on
this earth be built, once for all, of some durable material, some Roman
or Etruscan masonry, which will stand, so that time shall only adorn and
beautify them? Why may we not finish the outward world for posterity,
and leave them leisure to attend to the inner? Surely, all the gross
necessities and economies might be cared for in a few years. All might
be built and baked and stored up, during this, the term-time of the
world, against the vacant eternity, and the globe go provisioned and
furnished, like our public vessels, for its voyage through space, as
through some Pacific Ocean, while we would “tie up the rudder and sleep
before the wind,” as those who sail from Lima to Manilla.

But, to go back a few years in imagination, think not that life in these
crystal palaces is to bear any analogy to life in our present humble
cottages. Far from it. Clothed, once for all, in some “flexible stuff,”
more durable than George Fox’s suit of leather, composed of “fibres of
vegetables,” “glutinated” together by some “cohesive substances,” and
made into sheets, like paper, of any size or form, man will put far from
him corroding care and the whole host of ills.

“The twenty-five halls in the inside of the square are to be each two
hundred feet square and high; the forty corridors, each one hundred feet
long and twenty wide; the eighty galleries, each from 1,000 to 1,250
feet long; about 7,000 private rooms, the whole surrounded and
intersected by the grandest and most splendid colonnades imaginable;
floors, ceilings, columns, with their various beautiful and fanciful
intervals, all shining, and reflecting to infinity all objects and
persons, with splendid lustre of all beautiful colors, and fanciful
shapes and pictures.

“All galleries, outside and within the halls, are to be provided with
many thousand commodious and most elegant vehicles, in which persons may
move up and down like birds, in perfect security, and without
exertion.... Any member may procure himself all the common articles of
his daily wants, by a short turn of some crank, without leaving his

“One or two persons are sufficient to direct the kitchen business. They
have nothing else to do but to superintend the cookery, and to watch the
time of the victuals being done, and then to remove them, with the table
and vessels, into the dining-hall, or to the respective private
apartments, by a slight motion of the hand at some crank.... _Any very
extraordinary desire of any person may be satisfied by going to the
place where the thing is to be had; and anything that requires a
particular preparation in cooking or baking may be done by the person
who desires it._”

This is one of those instances in which the individual genius is found
to consent, as indeed it always does, at last, with the universal. This
last sentence has a certain sad and sober truth, which reminds us of the
scripture of all nations. All expression of truth does at length take
this deep ethical form. Here is hint of a place the most eligible of any
in space, and of a servitor, in comparison with whom all other helps
dwindle into insignificance. We hope to hear more of him anon, for even
a Crystal Palace would be deficient without his invaluable services.

And as for the environs of the establishment:—

“There will be afforded the most enrapturing views to be fancied, out of
the private apartments, from the galleries, from the roof, from its
turrets and cupolas,—gardens, as far as the eye can see, full of fruits
and flowers, arranged in the most beautiful order, with walks,
colonnades, aqueducts, canals, ponds, plains, amphitheatres, terraces,
fountains, sculptural works, pavilions, gondolas, places for public
amusement, etc., to delight the eye and fancy, the taste and smell....
The walks and roads are to be paved with hard vitrified large plates, so
as to be always clean from all dirt in any weather or season....

“The walks may be covered with porticos adorned with magnificent
columns, statues, and sculptural works; all of vitrified substance, and
lasting forever. At night the roof, and the inside and outside of the
whole square, are illuminated by gas-light, which, in the mazes of
many-colored crystal-like colonnades and vaultings, is reflected with a
brilliancy that gives to the whole a lustre of precious stones, as far
as the eye can see. Such are the future abodes of men.... Such is the
life reserved to true intelligence, but withheld from ignorance,
prejudice, and stupid adherence to custom.”

Thus is Paradise to be Regained, and that old and stern decree at length
reversed. Man shall no more earn his living by the sweat of his brow.
All labor shall be reduced to “a short turn of some crank,” and “taking
the finished articles away.” But there is a crank,—O, how hard to be
turned! Could there not be a crank upon a crank,—an infinitely small
crank?—we would fain inquire. No,—alas! not. But there is a certain
divine energy in every man, but sparingly employed as yet, which may be
called the crank within,—the crank after all,—the prime mover in all
machinery,—quite indispensable to all work. Would that we might get our
hands on its handle! In fact, no work can be shirked. It may be
postponed indefinitely, but not infinitely. Nor can any really important
work be made easier by co-operation or machinery. Not one particle of
labor now threatening any man can be routed without being performed. It
cannot be hunted out of the vicinity like jackals and hyenas. It will
not run. You may begin by sawing the little sticks, or you may saw the
great sticks first, but sooner or later you must saw them both.

We will not be imposed upon by this vast application of forces. We
believe that most things will have to be accomplished still by the
application called Industry. We are rather pleased after all to consider
the small private, but both constant and accumulated force, which,
stands behind every spade in the field. This it is that makes the
valleys shine, and the deserts really bloom. Sometimes, we confess, we
are so degenerate as to reflect with pleasure on the days when men were
yoked liked cattle, and drew a crooked stick for a plough. After all,
the great interests and methods were the same.

It is a rather serious objection to Mr. Etzler’s schemes, that they
require time, men, and money, three very superfluous and inconvenient
things for an honest and well-disposed man to deal with. “The whole
world,” he tells us, “might therefore be really changed into a paradise,
within less than ten years, commencing from the first year of an
association for the purpose of constructing and applying the machinery.”
We are sensible of a startling incongruity when time and money are
mentioned in this connection. The ten years which are proposed would be
a tedious while to wait, if every man were at his post and did his duty,
but quite too short a period, if we are to take time for it. But this
fault is by no means peculiar to Mr. Etzler’s schemes. There is far too
much hurry and bustle, and too little patience and privacy, in all our
methods, as if something were to be accomplished in centuries. The true
reformer does not want time, nor money, nor co-operation, nor advice.
What is time but the stuff delay is made of? And depend upon it, our
virtue will not live on the interest of our money. He expects no income,
but outgoes; so soon as we begin to count the cost, the cost begins. And
as for advice, the information floating in the atmosphere of society is
as evanescent and unserviceable to him as gossamer for clubs of
Hercules. There is absolutely no common sense; it is common nonsense. If
we are to risk a cent or a drop of our blood, who then shall advise us?
For ourselves, we are too young for experience. Who is old enough? We
are older by faith than by experience. In the unbending of the arm to do
the deed there is experience worth all the maxims in the world.

“It will now be plainly seen that the execution of the proposals is not
proper for individuals. Whether it be proper for government at this
time, before the subject has become popular, is a question to be
decided; all that is to be done is to step forth, after mature
reflection, to confess loudly one’s conviction, and to constitute
societies. Man is powerful but in union with many. Nothing great, for
the improvement of his own condition, or that of his fellow-men, can
ever be effected by individual enterprise.”

Alas! this is the crying sin of the age, this want of faith in the
prevalence of a man. Nothing can be effected but by one man. He who
wants help wants everything. True, this is the condition of our
weakness, but it can never be the means of our recovery. We must first
succeed alone, that we may enjoy our success together. We trust that the
social movements which we witness indicate an aspiration not to be thus
cheaply satisfied. In this matter of reforming the world, we have little
faith in corporations; not thus was it first formed.

But our author is wise enough to say, that the raw materials for the
accomplishment of his purposes are “iron, copper, wood, earth chiefly,
and a union of men whose eyes and understanding are not shut up by
preconceptions.” Ay, this last may be what we want mainly,—a company of
“odd fellows” indeed.

“Small shares of twenty dollars will be sufficient,”—in all, from
“200,000 to 300,000,”—“to create the first establishment for a whole
community of from 3,000 to 4,000 individuals,”—at the end of five years
we shall have a principal of 200 millions of dollars, and so paradise
will be wholly regained at the end of the tenth year. But, alas, the ten
years have already elapsed, and there are no signs of Eden yet, for want
of the requisite funds to begin the enterprise in a hopeful manner. Yet
it seems a safe investment. Perchance they could be hired at a low rate,
the property being mortgaged for security, and, if necessary, it could
be given up in any stage of the enterprise, without loss, with the

But we see two main difficulties in the way. First, the successful
application of the powers by machinery, (we have not yet seen the
“Mechanical System,”) and, secondly, which is infinitely harder, the
application of man to the work by faith. This it is, we fear, which will
prolong the ten years to ten thousand at least. It will take a power
more than “80,000 times greater than all the men on earth could effect
with their nerves,” to persuade men to use that which is already offered
them. Even a greater than this physical power must be brought to bear
upon that moral power. Faith, indeed, is all the reform that is needed;
it is itself a reform. Doubtless, we are as slow to conceive of Paradise
as of Heaven, of a perfect natural as of a perfect spiritual world. We
see how past ages have loitered and erred; “Is perhaps our generation
free from irrationality and error? Have we perhaps reached now the
summit of human wisdom, and need no more to look out for mental or
physical improvement?” Undoubtedly, we are never so visionary as to be
prepared for what the next hour may bring forth.

                 Μελλει τὸ θεῖον δ ἔστι τοιοῦτον φύσει.

The Divine is about to be, and such is its nature. In our wisest moments
we are secreting a matter, which, like the lime of the shell-fish,
incrusts us quite over, and well for us if, like it, we cast our shells
from time to time, though they be pearl and of fairest tint. Let us
consider under what disadvantages Science has hitherto labored before we
pronounce thus confidently on her progress.

Mr. Etzler is not one of the enlightened practical men, the pioneers of
the actual, who move with the slow, deliberate tread of science,
conserving the world; who execute the dreams of the last century, though
they have no dreams of their own; yet he deals in the very raw but still
solid material of all inventions. He has more of the practical than
usually belongs to so bold a schemer, so resolute a dreamer. Yet his
success is in theory, and not in practice, and he feeds our faith rather
than contents our understanding. His book wants order, serenity,
dignity, everything,—but it does not fail to impart what only man can
impart to man of much importance, his own faith. It is true his dreams
are not thrilling nor bright enough, and he leaves off to dream where he
who dreams just before the dawn begins. His castles in the air fall to
the ground, because they are not built lofty enough; they should be
secured to heaven’s roof. After all, the theories and speculations of
men concern us more than their puny accomplishment. It is with a certain
coldness and languor that we loiter about the actual and so-called
practical. How little do the most wonderful inventions of modern times
detain us. They insult nature. Every machine, or particular application,
seems a slight outrage against universal laws. How many fine inventions
are there which do not clutter the ground? We think that those only
succeed which minister to our sensible and animal wants, which bake or
brew, wash or warm, or the like. But are those of no account which are
patented by fancy and imagination, and succeed so admirably in our
dreams that they give the tone still to our waking thoughts? Already
nature is serving all those uses which science slowly derives on a much
higher and grander scale to him that will be served by her. When the
sunshine falls on the path of the poet, he enjoys all those pure
benefits and pleasures which the arts slowly and partially realize from
age to age. The winds which fan his cheek waft him the sum of that
profit and happiness which their lagging inventions supply.

The chief fault of this book is, that it aims to secure the greatest
degree of gross comfort and pleasure merely. It paints a Mahometan’s
heaven, and stops short with singular abruptness when we think it is
drawing near to the precincts of the Christian’s,—and we trust we have
not made here a distinction without a difference. Undoubtedly if we were
to reform this outward life truly and thoroughly, we should find no duty
of the inner omitted. It would be employment for our whole nature; and
what we should do thereafter would be as vain a question as to ask the
bird what it will do when its nest is built and its brood reared. But a
moral reform must take place first, and then the necessity of the other
will be superseded, and we shall sail and plough by its force alone.
There is a speedier way than the “Mechanical System” can show to fill up
marshes, to drown the roar of the waves, to tame hyenas, secure
agreeable environs, diversify the land, and refresh it with “rivulets of
sweet water,” and that is by the power of rectitude and true behavior.
It is only for a little while, only occasionally, methinks, that we want
a garden. Surely a good man need not be at the labor to level a hill for
the sake of a prospect, or raise fruits and flowers, and construct
floating islands, for the sake of a paradise. He enjoys better prospects
than lie behind any hill. Where an angel travels it will be paradise all
the way, but where Satan travels it will be burning marl and cinders.
What says Veeshnoo Sarma? “He whose mind is at ease is possessed of all
riches. Is it not the same to one whose foot is enclosed in a shoe, as
if the whole surface of the earth were covered with leather?”

He who is conversant with the supernal powers will not worship these
inferior deities of the wind, waves, tide, and sunshine. But we would
not disparage the importance of such calculations as we have described.
They are truths in physics, because they are true in ethics. The moral
powers no one would presume to calculate. Suppose we could compare the
moral with the physical, and say how many horse-power the force of love,
for instance, blowing on every square foot of a man’s soul, would equal.
No doubt we are well aware of this force; figures would not increase our
respect for it; the sunshine is equal to but one ray of its heat. The
light of the sun is but the shadow of love. “The souls of men loving and
fearing God,” says Raleigh, “receive influence from that divine light
itself, whereof the sun’s clarity, and that of the stars, is by Plato
called but a shadow. _Lumen est umbra Dei, Deus est Lumen Luminis._
Light is the shadow of God’s brightness, who is the light of light,”
and, we may add, the heat of heat. Love is the wind, the tide, the
waves, the sunshine. Its power is incalculable; it is many horse-power.
It never ceases, it never slacks; it can move the globe without a
resting-place; it can warm without fire; it can feed without meat; it
can clothe without garments; it can shelter without roof; it can make a
paradise within which will dispense with a paradise without. But though
the wisest men in all ages have labored to publish this force, and every
human heart is, sooner or later, more or less, made to feel it, yet how
little is actually applied to social ends. True, it is the motive-power
of all successful social machinery; but, as in physics, we have made the
elements do only a little drudgery for us, steam to take the place of a
few horses, wind of a few oars, water of a few cranks and hand-mills; as
the mechanical forces have not yet been generously and largely applied
to make the physical world answer to the ideal, so the power of love has
been but meanly and sparingly applied, as yet. It has patented only such
machines as the almshouse, the hospital, and the Bible Society, while
its infinite wind is still blowing, and blowing down these very
structures too, from time to time. Still less are we accumulating its
power, and preparing to act with greater energy at a future time. Shall
we not contribute our shares to this enterprise, then?


                         HERALD OF FREEDOM.[8]

                [From “The Dial,” Boston, April, 1844.]

Footnote 8:

  Herald of Freedom. Published weekly by the New Hampshire Anti-Slavery
  Society, Concord, N. H., Vol. X. No. 4.

We had occasionally, for several years, met with a number of this
spirited journal, edited, as abolitionists need not to be informed, by
Nathaniel P. Rogers, once a counsellor at law in Plymouth, still farther
up the Merrimack, but now, in his riper years, come down the hills thus
far, to be the Herald of Freedom to these parts. We had been refreshed
not a little by the cheap cordial of his editorials, flowing like his
own mountain-torrents, now clear and sparkling, now foaming and gritty,
and always spiced with the essence of the fir and the Norway pine; but
never dark nor muddy, nor threatening with smothered murmurs, like the
rivers of the plain. The effect of one of his effusions reminds us of
what the hydropathists say about the electricity in fresh spring-water,
compared with that which has stood over night, to suit weak nerves. We
do not know of another notable and public instance of such pure,
youthful, and hearty indignation at all wrong. The Church itself must
love it, if it have any heart, though he is said to have dealt rudely
with its sanctity. His clean attachment to the right, however, sanctions
the severest rebuke we have read.

Mr. Rogers seems to us to have occupied an honorable and manly position
in these days, and in this country, making the press a living and
breathing organ to reach the hearts of men, and not merely “fine paper
and good type,” with its civil pilot sitting aft, and magnanimously
waiting for the news to arrive,—the vehicle of the earliest news, but
the _latest intelligence_,—recording the indubitable and last results,
the marriages and deaths, alone. This editor was wide awake, and
standing on the beak of his ship; not as a scientific explorer under
government, but a Yankee sealer rather, who makes those unexplored
continents his harbors in which to refit for more adventurous cruises.
He was a fund of news and freshness in himself,—had the gift of speech,
and the knack of writing; and if anything important took place in the
Granite State, we might be sure that we should hear of it in good
season. No other paper that we know kept pace so well with one forward
wave of the restless public thought and sentiment of New England, and
asserted so faithfully and ingenuously the largest liberty in all
things. There was beside more unpledged poetry in his prose than in the
verses of many an accepted rhymer; and we were occasionally advertised
by a mellow hunter’s note from his trumpet, that, unlike most reformers,
his feet were still where they should be, on the turf, and that he
looked out from a serener natural life into the turbid arena of
politics. Nor was slavery always a sombre theme with him, but invested
with the colors of his wit and fancy, and an evil to be abolished by
other means than sorrow and bitterness of complaint. He will fight this
fight with what cheer may be.

But to speak of his composition. It is a genuine Yankee style, without
fiction,—real guessing and calculating to some purpose, and reminds us
occasionally, as does all free, brave, and original writing, of its
great master in these days, Thomas Carlyle. It has a life above grammar,
and a meaning which need not be parsed to be understood. But like those
same mountain-torrents, there is rather too much slope to his channel,
and the rainbow sprays and evaporations go double-quick-time to heaven,
while the body of his water falls headlong to the plain. We would have
more pause and deliberation, occasionally, if only to bring his tide to
a head,—more frequent expansions of the stream,—still, bottomless,
mountain tarns, perchance inland seas, and at length the deep ocean

Some extracts will show in what sense he was a poet as well as a
reformer. He thus raises the anti-slavery “war-whoop” in New Hampshire,
when an important convention is to be held, sending the summons,—

    “To none but the whole-hearted, fully-committed,
    cross-the-Rubicon spirits.... From rich ‘old Cheshire,’ from
    Rockingham, with her horizon setting down away to the salt sea
    ... from where the sun sets behind Kearsarge, even to where he
    rises gloriously over _Moses Norris’s_ own town of
    _Pittsfield_,—and from Amoskeag to Ragged Mountains,—Coos—Upper
    Coos, home of the everlasting hills,—send out your bold
    advocates of human rights, wherever they lay, scattered by
    lonely lake, or Indian stream, or ‘Grant’ or ‘Location,’ from
    the trout-haunted brooks of the Amoriscoggin, and where the
    adventurous streamlet takes up its mountain march for the St.

    “Scattered and insulated men, wherever the light of philanthropy
    and liberty has beamed in upon your solitary spirits, come down
    to us like your streams and clouds; and our own Grafton, all
    about among your dear hills, and your mountain-flanked
    valleys,—whether you _home_ along the swift Ammonoosuck, the
    cold Pemigewassett, or the ox-bowed Connecticut....

    “We are slow, brethren, dishonorably slow, in a cause like ours.
    Our feet should be as ‘hinds’ feet.’ ‘Liberty lies bleeding.’
    The leaden-colored wing of slavery obscures the land with its
    baleful shadow. Let us come together, and inquire at the hand of
    the Lord, what is to be done.”

And again; on occasion of a New England Convention, in the Second-Advent
Tabernacle, in Boston, he desires to try one more blast, as it were, “on
Fabyan’s White Mountain horn.”

    “Ho, then, people of the Bay State,—men, women, and children;
    children, women, and men, scattered friends of the _friendless_,
    wheresoever ye inhabit,—if habitations ye have, as such friends
    have not _always_,—along the sea-beat border of Old Essex and
    the Puritan Landing, and up beyond sight of the sea-cloud, among
    the inland hills, where the sun rises and sets upon the dry
    land, in that vale of the Connecticut, too fair for human
    content and too fertile for virtuous industry,—where deepens the
    haughtiest of earth’s streams, on its seaward way, proud with
    the pride of old Massachusetts. Are there any friends of the
    friendless negro haunting such a valley as this? In God’s name,
    I fear there are none, or few; for the very scene looks apathy
    and oblivion to the genius of humanity. I blow you the summons,
    though. Come, if any of you are there.

    “And gallant little Rhode Island; _transcendent_ abolitionists
    of the tiny Commonwealth. I need not call you. You are _called_
    the year round, and, instead of sleeping in your tents, stand
    harnessed, and with trumpets in your hands,—every one!

    “Connecticut! yonder, the home of the Burleighs, the Monroes,
    and the Hudsons, and the native land of old George Benson! are
    you ready? ‘All ready!’

    “Maine here, off east, looking from my mountain post like an
    everglade. Where is your Sam. Fessenden, who stood storm-proof
    ’gainst New Organization in ’38? Has he too much name as a
    jurist and orator, to be found at a New England Convention in
    ’43? God forbid. Come one and all of you from ‘Down East’ to
    Boston, on the 30th, and let the sails of your coasters whiten
    all the sea-road. Alas! there are scarce enough of you to man a
    fishing boat. Come up mighty in your fewness.”

Such timely, pure, and unpremeditated expressions of a public sentiment,
such publicity of genuine indignation and humanity, as abound everywhere
in this journal, are the most generous gifts which a man can make.


                    THOMAS CARLYLE AND HIS WORKS.[9]

Footnote 9:

  Graham’s Magazine, Philadelphia, March, 1847.

Thomas Carlyle is a Scotchman, born about fifty years ago, “at
Ecclefechan, Annandale,” according to one authority. “His parents ‘good
farmer people,’ his father an elder in the Secession church there, and a
man of strong native sense, whose words were said to ‘nail a subject to
the wall.’” We also hear of his “excellent mother,” still alive, and of
“her fine old covenanting accents, concerting with his transcendental
tones.” He seems to have gone to school at Annan, on the shore of the
Solway Frith, and there, as he himself writes, “heard of famed
professors, of high matters classical, mathematical, a whole Wonderland
of Knowledge,” from Edward Irving, then a young man “fresh from
Edinburgh, with college prizes, ... come to see our schoolmaster, who
had also been his.” From this place, they say, you can look over into
Wordsworth’s country. Here first he may have become acquainted with
Nature, with woods, such as are there, and rivers and brooks, some of
whose names we have heard, and the last lapses of Atlantic billows. He
got some of his education, too, more or less liberal, out of the
University of Edinburgh, where, according to the same authority, he had
to “support himself,” partly by “private tuition, translations for the
booksellers, &c.,” and afterward, as we are glad to hear, “taught an
academy in Dysart, at the same time that Irving was teaching in
Kirkaldy,” the usual middle passage of a literary life. He was destined
for the Church, but not by the powers that rule man’s life; made his
literary _début_ in Fraser’s Magazine, long ago; read here and there in
English and French, with more or less profit, we may suppose, such of us
at least as are not particularly informed, and at length found some
words which spoke to his condition in the German language, and set
himself earnestly to unravel that mystery,—with what success many
readers know.

After his marriage he “resided partly at Comely Bank, Edinburgh; and for
a year or two at Craigenputtock, a wild and solitary farm-house in the
upper part of Dumfriesshire,” at which last place, amid barren heather
hills, he was visited by our countryman, Emerson. With Emerson he still
corresponds. He was early intimate with Edward Irving, and continued to
be his friend until the latter’s death. Concerning this “freest,
brotherliest, bravest human soul,” and Carlyle’s relation to him, those
whom it concerns will do well to consult a notice of his death in
Fraser’s Magazine for 1835, reprinted in the Miscellanies. He also
corresponded with Goethe. Latterly, we hear, the poet Sterling was his
only intimate acquaintance in England.

He has spent the last quarter of his life in London, writing books; has
the fame, as all readers know, of having made England acquainted with
Germany, in late years, and done much else that is novel and remarkable
in literature. He especially is the literary man of those parts. You may
imagine him living in altogether a retired and simple way, with small
family, in a quiet part of London, called Chelsea, a little out of the
din of commerce, in “Cheyne Row,” there, not far from the “Chelsea
Hospital.” “A little past this, and an old ivy-clad church, with its
buried generations lying around it,” writes one traveller, “you come to
an antique street running at right angles with the Thames, and, a few
steps from the river, you find Carlyle’s name on the door.” “A Scotch
lass ushers you into the second story front chamber, which is the
spacious workshop of the world maker.” Here he sits a long time
together, with many books and papers about him; many new books, we have
been told, on the upper shelves, uncut, with the “author’s respects” in
them; in late months, with many manuscripts in an old English hand, and
innumerable pamphlets, from the public libraries, relating to the
Cromwellian period; now, perhaps, looking out into the street on brick
and pavement, for a change, and now upon some rod of grass ground in the
rear; or, perchance, he steps over to the British Museum, and makes that
his studio for the time. This is the fore part of the day; that is the
way with literary men commonly; and then in the afternoon, we presume,
he takes a short run of a mile or so through the suburbs out into the
country; we think he would run that way, though so short a trip might
not take him to very sylvan or rustic places. In the mean while, people
are calling to _see_ him, from various quarters, few very worthy of
being _seen_ by him; “distinguished travellers from America,” not a few;
to all and sundry of whom he gives freely of his yet unwritten rich and
flashing soliloquy, in exchange for whatever they may have to offer;
speaking his English, as they say, with a “broad Scotch accent,”
talking, to their astonishment and to ours, very much as he writes, a
sort of Carlylese, his discourse “coming to its climaxes, ever and anon,
in long, deep, chest-shaking bursts of laughter.”

He goes to Scotland sometimes, to visit his native heath-clad hills,
having some interest still in the earth there; such names as
Craigenputtock and Ecclefechan, which we have already quoted, stand for
habitable places there to him; or he rides to the seacoast of England in
his vacations, upon his horse Yankee, bought by the sale of his books
here, as we have been told.

How, after all, he gets his living; what proportion of his daily bread
he earns by day-labor or job-work with his pen, what he inherits, what
steals,—questions whose answers are so significant, and not to be
omitted in his biography,—we, alas! are unable to answer here. It may be
worth the while to state that he is not a Reformer in our sense of the
term,—eats, drinks, and sleeps, thinks and believes, professes and
practises, not according to the New England standard, nor to the Old
English wholly. Nevertheless, we are told that he is a sort of lion in
certain quarters there, “an amicable centre for men of the most opposite
opinions,” and “listened to as an oracle,” “smoking his perpetual pipe.”

A rather tall, gaunt figure, with intent face, dark hair and complexion,
and the air of a student; not altogether well in body, from sitting too
long in his workhouse,—he, born in the border country and descended from
moss-troopers, it may be. We have seen several pictures of him here;
one, a full-length portrait, with hat and overall, if it did not tell us
much, told the fewest lies; another, we remember, was well said to have
“too combed a look”; one other also we have seen in which we discern
some features of the man we are thinking of; but the only ones worth
remembering, after all, are those which he has unconsciously drawn of

When we remember how these volumes came over to us, with their
encouragement and provocation from month to month, and what commotion
they created in many private breasts, we wonder that the country did not
ring, from shore to shore, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with its
greeting; and the Boones and Crockets of the West make haste to hail
him, whose wide humanity embraces them too. Of all that the packets have
brought over to us, has there been any richer cargo than this? What else
has been English news for so long a season? What else, of late years,
has been England to us,—to us who read books, we mean? Unless we
remembered it as the scene where the age of Wordsworth was spending
itself, and a few younger muses were trying their wings, and from time
to time, as the residence of Landor, Carlyle alone, since the death of
Coleridge, has kept the promise of England. It is the best apology for
all the bustle and the sin of commerce, that it has made us acquainted
with the thoughts of this man. Commerce would not concern us much if it
were not for such results as this. New England owes him a debt which she
will be slow to recognize. His earlier essays reached us at a time when
Coleridge’s were the only recent words which had made any notable
impression so far, and they found a field unoccupied by him, before yet
any words of moment had been uttered in our midst. He had this
advantage, too, in a teacher, that he stood near to his pupils; and he
has no doubt afforded reasonable encouragement and sympathy to many an
independent but solitary thinker.

It is remarkable, but on the whole, perhaps, not to be lamented, that
the world is so unkind to a new book. Any distinguished traveller who
comes to our shores is likely to get more dinners and speeches of
welcome than he can well dispose of, but the best books, if noticed at
all, meet with coldness and suspicion, or, what is worse, gratuitous,
off-hand criticism. It is plain that the reviewers, both here and
abroad, do not know how to dispose of this man. They approach him too
easily, as if he were one of the men of letters about town, who grace
Mr. Somebody’s administration, merely; but he already belongs to
literature, and depends neither on the favor of reviewers, nor the
honesty of booksellers, nor the pleasure of readers for his success. He
has more to impart than to receive from his generation. He is another
such a strong and finished workman in his craft as Samuel Johnson was,
and, like him, makes the literary class respectable. Since few are yet
out of their apprenticeship, or, even if they learn to be able writers,
are at the same time able and valuable thinkers. The aged and critical
eye, especially, is incapacitated to appreciate the works of this
author. To such their meaning is impalpable and evanescent, and they
seem to abound only in obstinate mannerisms, Germanisms, and whimsical
ravings of all kinds, with now and then an unaccountably true and
sensible remark. On the strength of this last, Carlyle is admitted to
have what is called genius. We hardly know an old man to whom these
volumes are not hopelessly sealed. The language, they say, is
foolishness and a stumbling-block to them; but to many a clear-headed
boy, they are plainest English, and despatched with such hasty relish as
his bread and milk. The fathers wonder how it is that the children take
to this diet so readily, and digest it with so little difficulty. They
shake their heads with mistrust at their free and easy delight, and
remark that “Mr. Carlyle is a very learned man”; for they, too, not to
be out of fashion, have got grammar and dictionary, if the truth were
known, and with the best faith cudgelled their brains to get a little
way into the jungle, and they could not but confess, as often as they
found the clew, that it was as intricate as Blackstone to follow, if you
read it honestly. But merely reading, even with the best intentions, is
not enough: you must almost have written these books yourself. Only he
who has had the good fortune to read them in the nick of time, in the
most perceptive and recipient season of life, can give any adequate
account of them.

Many have tasted of this well with an odd suspicion, as if it were some
fountain Arethuse which had flowed under the sea from Germany, as if the
materials of his books had lain in some garret there, in danger of being
appropriated for waste-paper. Over what German ocean, from what
Hercynian forest, he has been imported, piecemeal, into England, or
whether he has now all arrived, we are not informed. This article is not
invoiced in Hamburg nor in London. Perhaps it was contraband. However,
we suspect that this sort of goods cannot be imported in this way. No
matter how skilful the stevedore, all things being got into sailing
trim, wait for a Sunday, and aft wind, and then weigh anchor, and run up
the main-sheet,—straightway what of transcendent and permanent value is
there resists the aft wind, and will doggedly stay behind that
Sunday,—it does not travel Sundays; while biscuit and pork make headway,
and sailors cry heave-yo! It must part company, if it open a seam. It is
not quite safe to send out a venture in this kind, unless yourself go
supercargo. Where a man goes, there he is; but the slightest virtue is
immovable,—it is real estate, not personal; who would keep it, must
consent to be bought and sold with it.

However, we need not dwell on this charge of a German extraction, it
being generally admitted, by this time, that Carlyle is English, and an
inhabitant of London. He has the English for his mother-tongue, though
with a Scotch accent, or never so many accents, and thoughts also, which
are the legitimate growth of native soil, to utter therewith. His style
is eminently colloquial, and no wonder it is strange to meet with in a
book. It is not literary or classical; it has not the music of poetry,
nor the pomp of philosophy, but the rhythms and cadences of conversation
endlessly repeated. It resounds with emphatic, natural, lively, stirring
tones, muttering, rattling, exploding, like shells and shot, and with
like execution. So far as it is a merit in composition, that the written
answer to the spoken word, and the spoken word to a fresh and pertinent
thought in the mind, as well as to the half thoughts, the tumultuary
misgivings and expectancies, this author is, perhaps, not to be matched
in literature.

He is no mystic, either, more than Newton or Arkwright or Davy, and
tolerates none. Not one obscure line, or half line, did he ever write.
His meaning lies plain as the daylight, and he who runs may read;
indeed, only he who runs _can_ read, and keep up with the meaning. It
has the distinctness of picture to his mind, and he tells us only what
he sees printed in largest English type upon the face of things. He
utters substantial English thoughts in plainest English dialects; for it
must be confessed, he speaks more than one of these. All the shires of
England, and all the shires of Europe, are laid under contribution to
his genius; for to be English does not mean to be exclusive and narrow,
and adapt one’s self to the apprehension of his nearest neighbor only.
And yet no writer is more thoroughly Saxon. In the translation of those
fragments of Saxon poetry, we have met with the same rhythm that occurs
so often in his poem on the French Revolution. And if you would know
where many of those obnoxious Carlyleisms and Germanisms came from, read
the best of Milton’s prose, read those speeches of Cromwell which he has
brought to light, or go and listen once more to your mother’s tongue. So
much for his German extraction.

Indeed, for fluency and skill in the use of the English tongue, he is a
master unrivalled. His felicity and power of expression surpass even his
special merits as historian and critic. Therein his experience has not
failed him, but furnished him with such a store of winged, ay and legged
words, as only a London life, perchance, could give account of. We had
not understood the wealth of the language before. Nature is ransacked,
and all the resorts and purlieus of humanity are taxed, to furnish the
fittest symbol for his thought. He does not go to the dictionary, the
word-book, but to the word-manufactory itself, and has made endless work
for the lexicographers. Yes, he has that same English for his
mother-tongue that you have, but with him it is no dumb, muttering,
mumbling faculty, concealing the thoughts, but a keen, unwearied,
resistless weapon. He has such command of it as neither you nor I have;
and it would be well for any who have a lost horse to advertise, or a
town-meeting warrant, or a sermon, or a letter to write, to study this
universal letter-writer, for he knows more than the grammar or the

The style is worth attending to, as one of the most important features
of the man which we at this distance can discern. It is for once quite
equal to the matter. It can carry all its load, and never breaks down
nor staggers. His books are solid and workmanlike, as all that England
does; and they are graceful and readable also. They tell of huge labor
done, well done, and all the rubbish swept away, like the bright cutlery
which glitters in shop windows, while the coke and ashes, the turnings,
filings, dust, and borings lie far away at Birmingham, unheard of. He is
a masterly clerk, scribe, reporter, writer. He can reduce to writing
most things,—gestures, winks, nods, significant looks, patois, brogue,
accent, pantomime, and how much that had passed for silence before, does
he represent by written words. The countryman who puzzled the city
lawyer, requiring him to write, among other things, his call to his
horses, would hardly have puzzled him; he would have found a word for
it, all right and classical, that would have started his team for him.
Consider the ceaseless tide of speech forever flowing in countless
cellars, garrets, _parlors_; that of the French, says Carlyle, “only
ebbs toward the short hours of night,” and what a drop in the bucket is
the printed word. Feeling, thought, speech, writing, and, we might add,
poetry, inspiration,—for so the circle is completed; how they gradually
dwindle at length, passing through successive colanders, into your
history and classics, from the roar of the ocean, the murmur of the
forest, to the squeak of a mouse; so much only parsed and spelt out, and
punctuated, at last. The few who can talk like a book, they only get
reported commonly. But this writer reports a new “Lieferung.”

One wonders how so much, after all, was expressed in the old way, so
much here depends upon the emphasis, tone, pronunciation, style, and
spirit of the reading. No writer uses so profusely all the aids to
intelligibility which the printer’s art affords. You wonder how others
had contrived to write so many pages without emphatic or italicized
words, they are so expressive, so natural, so indispensable here, as if
none had ever used the demonstrative pronouns demonstratively before. In
another’s sentences the thought, though it may be immortal, is as it
were embalmed, and does not _strike_ you, but here it is so freshly
living, even the body of it not having passed through the ordeal of
death, that it stirs in the very extremities, and the smallest particles
and pronouns are all alive with it. It is not simple dictionary _it_,
yours or mine, but IT. The words did not come at the command of grammar,
but of a tyrannous, inexorable meaning; not like standing soldiers, by
vote of Parliament, but any able-bodied countryman pressed into the
service, for “Sire, it is not a revolt, it is a revolution.”

We have never heard him speak, but we should say that Carlyle was a rare
talker. He has broken the ice, and streams freely forth like a spring
torrent. He does not trace back the stream of his thought, silently
adventurous, up to its fountain-head, but is borne away with it, as it
rushes through his brain like a torrent to overwhelm and fertilize. He
holds a talk with you. His audience is such a tumultuous mob of thirty
thousand, as assembled at the University of Paris, before printing was
invented. Philosophy, on the other hand, does not talk, but write, or,
when it comes personally before an audience, lecture or read; and
therefore it must be read to-morrow, or a thousand years hence. But the
talker must naturally be attended to at once; he does not talk on
without an audience; the winds do not long bear the sound of his voice.
Think of Carlyle reading his French Revolution to any audience. One
might say it was never written, but spoken; and thereafter reported and
printed, that those not within sound of his voice might know something
about it. Some men read to you something which they have written in a
dead _language_, of course, but it may be in a living _letter_, in a
Syriac, or Roman, or Runic character. Men must _speak_ English who can
_write_ Sanscrit; they must speak a modern language who write,
perchance, an ancient and universal one. We do not live in those days
when the learned used a learned language. There is no writing of Latin
with Carlyle; but as Chaucer, with all reverence to Homer, and Virgil,
and Messieurs the Normans, sung his poetry in the homely Saxon
tongue,—and Locke has at least the merit of having done philosophy into
English,—so Carlyle has done a different philosophy still further into
English, and thrown open the doors of literature and criticism to the

Such a style,—so diversified and variegated! It is like the face of a
country; it is like a New England landscape, with farm-houses and
villages, and cultivated spots, and belts of forests and
blueberry-swamps round about, with the fragrance of shad-blossoms and
violets on certain winds. And as for the reading of it, it is novel
enough to the reader who has used only the diligence, and old line
mail-coach. It is like travelling, sometimes on foot, sometimes in a gig
tandem; sometimes in a full coach, over highways, mended and unmended,
for which you will prosecute the town; on level roads, through French
departments, by Simplon roads over the Alps, and now and then he hauls
up for a relay, and yokes in an unbroken colt of a Pegasus for a leader,
driving off by cart-paths, and across lots, by corduroy roads and
gridiron bridges; and where the bridges are gone, not even a
string-piece left, and the reader has to set his breast and swim. You
have got an expert driver this time, who has driven ten thousand miles,
and was never known to upset; can drive six in hand on the edge of a
precipice, and touch the leaders anywhere with his snapper.

With wonderful art he grinds into paint for his picture all his moods
and experiences, so that all his forces may be brought to the encounter.
Apparently writing without a particular design or responsibility,
setting down his soliloquies from time to time, taking advantage of all
his humors, when at length the hour comes to declare himself, he puts
down in plain English, without quotation-marks, what he, Thomas Carlyle,
is ready to defend in the face of the world, and fathers the rest, often
quite as defensible, only more modest, or plain spoken, or insinuating,
upon “Sauerteig,” or some other gentleman long employed on the subject.
Rolling his subject how many ways in his mind, he meets it now face to
face, wrestling with it at arm’s length, and striving to get it down, or
throw it over his head; and if that will not do, or whether it will do
or not, tries the back-stitch and side-hug with it, and downs it again,
scalps it, draws and quarters it, hangs it in chains, and leaves it to
the winds and dogs. With his brows knit, his mind made up, his will
resolved and resistless, he advances, crashing his way through the host
of weak, half-formed, _dilettante_ opinions, honest and dishonest ways
of thinking, with their standards raised, sentimentalities and
conjectures, and tramples them all into dust. See how he prevails; you
don’t even hear the groans of the wounded and dying. Certainly it is not
so well worth the while to look through any man’s eyes at history, for
the time, as through his; and his way of looking at things is fastest
getting adopted by his generation.

It is not in man to determine what his style shall be. He might as well
determine what his thoughts shall be. We would not have had him write
always as in the chapter on Burns, and the Life of Schiller, and
elsewhere. No; his thoughts were ever irregular and impetuous. Perhaps
as he grows older and writes more he acquires a truer expression; it is
in some respects manlier, freer, struggling up to a level with its
fountain-head. We think it is the richest prose style we know of.

Who cares what a man’s style is, so it is intelligible,—as intelligible
as his thought. Literally and really, the style is no more than the
_stylus_, the pen he writes with; and it is not worth scraping and
polishing, and gilding, unless it will write his thoughts the better for
it. It is something for use, and not to look at. The question for us is,
not whether Pope had a fine style, wrote with a peacock’s feather, but
whether he uttered useful thoughts. Translate a book a dozen times from
one language to another, and what becomes of its style? Most books would
be worn out and disappear in this ordeal. The pen which wrote it is soon
destroyed, but the poem survives. We believe that Carlyle has, after
all, more readers, and is better known to-day for this very originality
of style, and that posterity will have reason to thank him for
emancipating the language, in some measure, from the fetters which a
merely conservative, aimless, and pedantic literary class had imposed
upon it, and setting an example of greater freedom and naturalness. No
man’s thoughts are new, but the style of their expression is the
never-failing novelty which cheers and refreshes men. If we were to
answer the question, whether the mass of men, as we know them, talk as
the standard authors and reviewers write, or rather as this man writes,
we should say that he alone begins to write their language at all, and
that the former is, for the most part, the mere effigies of a language,
not the best method of concealing one’s thoughts even, but frequently a
method of doing without thoughts at all.

In his graphic description of Richter’s style, Carlyle describes his own
pretty nearly; and no doubt he first got his own tongue loosened at that
fountain, and was inspired by it to equal freedom and originality. “The
language,” as he says of Richter, “groans with indescribable metaphors
and allusions to all things, human and divine, flowing onward, not like
a river, but like an inundation; circling in complex eddies, chafing and
gurgling, now this way, now that”; but in Carlyle, “the proper current”
never “sinks out of sight amid the boundless uproar.” Again: “His very
language is Titanian,—deep, strong, tumultuous, shining with a thousand
hues, fused from a thousand elements, and winding in labyrinthic mazes.”

In short, if it is desirable that a man be eloquent, that he talk much,
and address himself to his own age mainly, then this is not a bad style
of doing it. But if it is desired rather that he pioneer into unexplored
regions of thought, and speak to silent centuries to come, then, indeed,
we could wish that he had cultivated the style of Goethe more, that of
Richter less; not that Goethe’s is the kind of utterance most to be
prized by mankind, but it will serve for a model of the best that can be
successfully cultivated.

But for style, and fine writing, and Augustan ages, that is but a poor
style, and vulgar writing, and a degenerate age, which allows us to
remember these things. This man has something to communicate. Carlyle’s
are not, in the common sense, works of art in their origin and aim; and
yet, perhaps, no living English writer evinces an equal literary talent.
They are such works of art only as the plough and corn-mill and
steam-engine,—not as pictures and statues. Others speak with greater
emphasis to scholars, as such, but none so earnestly and effectually to
all who can read. Others give their advice, he gives his sympathy also.
It is no small praise that he does not take upon himself the airs, has
none of the whims, none of the pride, the nice vulgarities, the
starched, impoverished isolation, and cold glitter of the spoiled
children of genius. He does not need to husband his pearl, but excels by
a greater humanity and sincerity.

He is singularly serious and untrivial. We are everywhere impressed by
the rugged, unwearied, and rich sincerity of the man. We are sure that
he never sacrificed one jot of his honest thought to art or whim, but to
utter himself in the most direct and effectual way,—that is the
endeavor. These are merits which will wear well. When time has worn
deeper into the substance of these books, this grain will appear. No
such sermons have come to us here out of England, in late years, as
those of this preacher,—sermons to kings, and sermons to peasants, and
sermons to all intermediate classes. It is in vain that John Bull, or
any of his cousins, turns a deaf ear, and pretends not to hear them:
nature will not soon be weary of repeating them. There are words less
obviously true, more for the ages to hear, perhaps, but none so
impossible for this age not to hear. What a cutting cimeter was that
“Past and Present,” going through heaps of silken stuffs, and glibly
through the necks of men, too, without their knowing it, leaving no
trace. He has the earnestness of a prophet. In an age of pedantry and
dilettantism, he has no grain of these in his composition. There is
nowhere else, surely, in recent readable English, or other books, such
direct and effectual teaching, reproving, encouraging, stimulating,
earnestly, vehemently, almost like Mahomet, like Luther; not looking
behind him to see how his _Opera Omnia_ will look, but forward to other
work to be done. His writings are a gospel to the young of this
generation; they will hear his manly, brotherly speech with responsive
joy, and press forward to older or newer gospels.

                  *       *       *       *       *

We should omit a main attraction in these books, if we said nothing of
their humor. Of this indispensable pledge of sanity, without some
leaven, of which the abstruse thinker may justly be suspected of
mysticism, fanaticism, or insanity, there is a superabundance in
Carlyle. Especially the transcendental philosophy needs the leaven of
humor to render it light and digestible. In his later and longer works
it is an unfailing accompaniment, reverberating through pages and
chapters, long sustained without effort. The very punctuation, the
italics, the quotation-marks, the blank spaces and dashes, and the
capitals, each and all are pressed into its service.

Carlyle’s humor is vigorous and Titanic, and has more sense in it than
the sober philosophy of many another. It is not to be disposed of by
laughter and smiles merely; it gets to be too serious for that: only
they may laugh who are not hit by it. For those who love a merry jest,
this is a strange kind of fun,—rather too practical joking, if they
understand it. The pleasant humor which the public loves is but the
innocent pranks of the ball-room, harmless flow of animal spirits, the
light plushy pressure of dandy pumps, in comparison. But when an
elephant takes to treading on your corns, why then you are lucky if you
sit high, or wear cowhide. His humor is always subordinate to a serious
purpose, though often the real charm for the reader is not so much in
the essential progress and final upshot of the chapter, as in this
indirect side-light illustration of every hue. He sketches first, with
strong, practical English pencil, the essential features in outline,
black on white, more faithfully than Dryasdust would have done, telling
us wisely whom and what to mark, to save time, and then with brush of
camel’s hair, or sometimes with more expeditious swab, he lays on the
bright and fast colors of his humor everywhere. One piece of solid work,
be it known, we have determined to do, about which let there be no
jesting, but all things else under the heavens, to the right and left of
that, are for the time fair game. To us this humor is not wearisome, as
almost every other is. Rabelais, for instance, is intolerable; one
chapter is better than a volume,—it may be sport to him, but it is death
to us. A mere humorist, indeed, is a most unhappy man; and his readers
are most unhappy also.

Humor is not so distinct a quality as, for the purposes of criticism, it
is commonly regarded, but allied to every, even the divinest faculty.
The familiar and cheerful conversation about every hearthside, if it be
analyzed, will be found to be sweetened by this principle. There is not
only a never-failing, pleasant, and earnest humor kept up there,
embracing the domestic affairs, the dinner, and the scolding, but there
is also a constant run upon the neighbors, and upon Church and State,
and to cherish and maintain this, in a great measure, the fire is kept
burning, and the dinner provided. There will be neighbors, parties to a
very genuine, even romantic friendship, whose whole audible salutation
and intercourse, abstaining from the usual cordial expressions, grasping
of hands, or affectionate farewells, consists in the mutual play and
interchange of a genial and healthy humor, which excepts nothing, not
even themselves, in its lawless range. The child plays continually, if
you will let it, and all its life is a sort of practical humor of a very
pure kind, often of so fine and ethereal a nature, that its parents, its
uncles and cousins, can in no wise participate in it, but must stand
aloof in silent admiration, and reverence even. The more quiet the more
profound it is. Even Nature is observed to have her playful moods or
aspects, of which man seems sometimes to be the sport.

But, after all, we could sometimes dispense with the humor, though
unquestionably incorporated in the blood, if it were replaced by this
author’s gravity. We should not apply to himself, without qualification,
his remarks on the humor of Richter. With more repose in his inmost
being, his humor would become more thoroughly genial and placid. Humor
is apt to imply but a half satisfaction at best. In his pleasantest and
most genial hour, man smiles but as the globe smiles, and the works of
nature. The fruits _dry_ ripe, and much as we relish some of them in
their green and pulpy state, we lay up for our winter store, not out of
these, but the rustling autumnal harvests. Though we never weary of this
vivacious wit, while we are perusing its work, yet when we remember it
from afar, we sometimes feel balked and disappointed, missing the
security, the simplicity, and frankness, even the occasional magnanimity
of acknowledged dulness and bungling. This never-failing success and
brilliant talent become a reproach.

Besides, humor does not wear well. It is commonly enough said, that a
joke will not bear repeating. The deepest humor will not keep. Humors do
not circulate but stagnate, or circulate partially. In the oldest
literature, in the Hebrew, the Hindoo, the Persian, the Chinese, it is
rarely humor, even the most divine, which still survives, but the most
sober and private, painful or joyous thoughts, maxims of duty, to which
the life of all men may be referred. After time has sifted the
literature of a people, there is left only their SCRIPTURE, for that is
WRITING, _par excellence_. This is as true of the poets, as of the
philosophers and moralists by profession; for what subsides in any of
these is the moral only, to reappear as dry land at some remote epoch.

We confess that Carlyle’s humor is rich, deep, and variegated, in direct
communication with the backbone and risible muscles of the globe,—and
there is nothing like it; but much as we relish this jovial, this rapid
and delugeous way of conveying one’s views and impressions, when we
would not converse but meditate, we pray for a man’s diamond edition of
his thought, without the colored illuminations in the margin,—the fishes
and dragons, and unicorns, the red or the blue ink, but its initial
letter in distinct skeleton type, and the whole so clipped and condensed
down to the very essence of it, that time will have little to do. We
know not but we shall immigrate soon, and would fain take with us all
the treasures of the East; and all kinds of _dry_, portable soups, in
small tin canisters, which contain whole herds of English beeves boiled
down, will be acceptable.

The difference between this flashing, fitful writing and pure philosophy
is the difference between flame and light. The flame, indeed, yields
light; but when we are so near as to observe the flame, we are apt to be
incommoded by the heat and smoke. But the sun, that old Platonist, is
set so far off in the heavens, that only a genial summer-heat and
ineffable daylight can reach us. But many a time, we confess, in wintry
weather, we have been glad to forsake the sunlight, and warm us by these
Promethean flames. Carlyle must undoubtedly plead guilty to the charge
of mannerism. He not only has his vein, but his peculiar manner of
working it. He has a style which can be imitated, and sometimes is an
imitator of himself.

Certainly, no critic has anywhere said what is more to the purpose, than
this which Carlyle’s own writings furnish, which we quote, as well for
its intrinsic merit as for its pertinence here. “It is true,” says he,
thinking of Richter, “the beaten paths of literature lead the safeliest
to the goal; and the talent pleases us most which submits to shine with
new gracefulness through old forms. Nor is the noblest and most peculiar
mind too noble or peculiar for working by prescribed laws; Sophocles,
Shakespeare, Cervantes, and in Richter’s own age, Goethe, how little did
they innovate on the given forms of composition, how much in the spirit
they breathed into them! All this is true; and Richter must lose of our
esteem in proportion.” And again, in the chapter on Goethe, “We read
Goethe for years before we come to see wherein the distinguishing
peculiarity of his understanding, of his disposition, even of his way of
writing, consists! It seems quite a simple style, [that of his?]
remarkable chiefly for its calmness, its perspicuity, in short, its
commonness; and yet it is the most uncommon of all styles.” And this,
too, translated for us by the same pen from Schiller, which we will
apply not merely to the outward form of his works, but to their inner
form and substance. He is speaking of the artist. “Let some beneficent
divinity snatch him, when a suckling, from the breast of his mother, and
nurse him with the milk of a better time, that he may ripen to his full
stature beneath a distant Grecian sky. And having grown to manhood, let
him return, a foreign shape, into his century; not, however, to delight
it by his presence, but, dreadful, like the son of Agamemnon, to purify
it. The matter of his works he will take from the present, but their
form he will derive from a nobler time; nay, from beyond all time, from
the absolute unchanging unity of his own nature.”

But enough of this. Our complaint is already out of all proportion to
our discontent.

Carlyle’s works, it is true, have not the stereotyped success which we
call classic. They are a rich but inexpensive entertainment, at which we
are not concerned lest the host has strained or impoverished himself to
feed his guests. It is not the most lasting word, nor the loftiest
wisdom, but rather the word which comes last. For his genius it was
reserved to give expression to the thoughts which were throbbing in a
million breasts. He has plucked the ripest fruit in the public garden;
but this fruit already least concerned the tree that bore it, which was
rather perfecting the bud at the foot of the leaf-stalk. His works are
not to be studied, but read with a swift satisfaction. Their flavor and
gust is like what poets tell of the froth of wine, which can only be
tasted once and hastily. On a review we can never find the pages we had
read. Yet they are in some degree true natural products in this respect.
All things are but once, and never repeated. These works were designed
for such complete success that they serve but for a single occasion.

But he is wilfully and pertinaciously unjust, even scurrilous, impolite,
ungentlemanly; calls us “Imbeciles,” “Dilettants,” “Philistines,”
implying sometimes what would not sound well expressed. If he would
adopt the newspaper style, and take back these hard names—But where is
the reader who does not derive some benefit from these epithets,
applying them to himself?

He is, in fact, the best tempered, and not the least impartial of
reviewers. He goes out of his way to do justice to profligates and
quacks. There is somewhat even Christian, in the rarest and most
peculiar sense, in his universal brotherliness, his simple, child-like
endurance, and earnest, honest endeavor, with sympathy for the like.
Carlyle, to adopt his own classification, is himself the hero as
literary man. There is no more notable workingman in England, in
Manchester or Birmingham, or the mines round about. We know not how many
hours a day he toils, nor for what wages, exactly: we only know the
results for us.

Notwithstanding the very genuine, admirable, and loyal tributes to
Burns, Schiller, Goethe, and others, Carlyle is not a critic of poetry.
In the book of heroes, Shakespeare, the hero as poet, comes off rather
slimly. His sympathy, as we said, is with the men of endeavor; not using
the life got, but still bravely getting their life. “In fact,” as he
says of Cromwell, “everywhere we have to notice the decisive practical
_eye_ of this man; how he drives toward the practical and practicable;
has a genuine insight into what _is_ fact.” You must have very stout
legs to get noticed at all by him. He is thoroughly English in his love
of practical men, and dislike for cant, and ardent enthusiastic heads
that are not supported by any legs. He would kindly knock them down that
they may regain some vigor by touching their mother earth. We have often
wondered how he ever found out Burns, and must still refer a good share
of his delight in him to neighborhood and early association. The Lycidas
and Comus, appearing in Blackwood’s Magazine, would probably go unread
by him, nor lead him to expect a Paradise Lost. The condition-of-England
question is a practical one. The condition-of-England demands a hero,
not a poet. Other things demand a poet; the poet answers other demands.
Carlyle in London, with this question pressing on him so urgently, sees
no occasion for minstrels and rhapsodists there. Kings may have their
bards when there are any kings. Homer would _certainly_ go a-begging
there. He lives in Chelsea, not on the plains of Hindostan, nor on the
prairies of the West, where settlers are scarce, and a man must at least
go _whistling_ to himself.

What he says of poetry is rapidly uttered, and suggestive of a thought,
rather than the deliberate development of any. He answers your question,
What is poetry? by writing a special poem, as that Norse one, for
instance, in the Book of Heroes, altogether wild and original;—answers
your question, What is light? by kindling a blaze which dazzles you, and
pales sun and moon, and not as a peasant might, by opening a shutter.

Carlyle is not a _seer_, but a brave looker-on and _reviewer_; not the
most free and catholic observer of men and events, for they are likely
to find him preoccupied, but unexpectedly free and catholic when they
fall within the focus of his lens. He does not live in the present hour,
and read men and books as they occur for his theme, but having chosen
this, he directs his studies to this end. If we look again at his page,
we are apt to retract somewhat that we have said. Often a genuine poetic
feeling dawns through it, like the texture of the earth seen through the
dead grass and leaves in the spring. The History of the French
Revolution is a poem, at length translated into prose,—an Iliad, indeed,
as he himself has it,—“The destructive wrath of Sansculotism: this is
what we speak, having unhappily no voice for singing.”

One improvement we could suggest in this last, as indeed in most
epics,—that he should let in the sun oftener upon his picture. It does
not often enough appear, but it is all revolution, the old way of human
life turned simply bottom upward, so that when at length we are
inadvertently reminded of the “Brest Shipping,” a St. Domingo colony,
and that anybody thinks of owning plantations, and simply turning up the
soil there, and that now at length, after some years of this revolution,
there is a falling off in the importation of sugar, we feel a queer
surprise. Had they not sweetened their water with revolution then? It
would be well if there were several chapters headed “Work for the
Month,”—Revolution-work inclusive, of course,—“Altitude of the Sun,”
“State of the Crops and Markets,” “Meteorological Observations,”
“Attractive Industry,” “Day-Labor,” &c., just to remind the reader that
the French peasantry did something beside go without breeches, burn
châteaus, get ready knotted cords, and embrace and throttle one another
by turns. These things are sometimes hinted at, but they deserve a
notice more in proportion to their importance. We want not only a
background to the picture, but a ground under the feet also. We remark,
too, occasionally, an unphilosophical habit, common enough elsewhere, in
Alison’s History of Modern Europe, for instance, of saying, undoubtedly
with effect, that if a straw had not fallen this way or that, why
then—but, of course, it is as easy in philosophy to make kingdoms rise
and fall as straws.

The poet is blithe and cheery ever, and as well as nature. Carlyle has
not the simple Homeric health of Wordsworth, nor the deliberate
philosophic turn of Coleridge, nor the scholastic taste of Landor, but,
though sick and under restraint, the constitutional vigor of one of his
old Norse heroes, struggling in a lurid light, with Jötuns still,
striving to throw the old woman, and “she was Time,”—striving to lift
the big cat, and that was “the Great World-Serpent, which, tail in
mouth, girds and keeps up the whole created world.” The smith, though so
brawny and tough, I should not call the healthiest man. There is too
much shop-work, too great extremes of heat and cold, and incessant
ten-pound-ten and thrashing of the anvil, in his life. But the
haymaker’s is a true sunny perspiration, produced by the extreme of
summer heat only, and conversant with the blast of the zephyr, not of
the forge-bellows. We know very well the nature of this man’s sadness,
but we do not know the nature of his gladness.

The poet will maintain serenity in spite of all disappointments. He is
expected to preserve an unconcerned and healthy outlook over the world,
while he lives. _Philosophia practica est eruditionis meta_,—Philosophy
practised is the goal of learning; and for that other, _Oratoris est
celare artem_, we might read, _Herois est celare pugnam_,—the hero will
conceal his struggles. Poetry is the only life got, the only work done,
the only pure product and free labor of man, performed only when he has
put all the world under his feet, and conquered the last of his foes.

Carlyle speaks of Nature with a certain unconscious pathos for the most
part. She is to him a receded but ever memorable splendor, casting still
a reflected light over all his scenery. As we read his books here in New
England, where there are potatoes enough, and every man can get his
living peacefully and sportively as the birds and bees, and need think
no more of that, it seems to us as if by the world he often meant
London, at the head of the tide upon the Thames, the sorest place on the
face of the earth, the very citadel of conservatism.

In his writings, we should say that he, as conspicuously as any, though
with little enough expressed or even conscious sympathy, represents the
Reformer class, and all the better for not being the acknowledged leader
of any. In him the universal plaint is most settled, unappeasable, and
serious. Until a thousand named and nameless grievances are righted,
there will be no repose for him in the lap of nature, or the seclusion
of science and literature. By foreseeing it, he hastens the crisis in
the affairs of England, and is as good as many years added to her

To do himself justice, and set some of his readers right, he should give
us some transcendent hero at length, to rule his demigods and Titans;
develop, perhaps, his reserved and dumb reverence for Christ, not
speaking to a London or Church of England audience merely. Let _not_
“sacred silence meditate that sacred matter” forever, but let us have
sacred speech and sacred scripture thereon.

Every man will include in his list of worthies those whom he himself
best represents. Carlyle, and our countryman Emerson, whose place and
influence must erelong obtain a more distinct recognition, are, to a
certain extent, the complement of each other. The age could not do with
one of them, it cannot do with both. To make a broad and rude
distinction, to suit our present purpose, the former, as critic, deals
with the men of action,—Mahomet, Luther, Cromwell; the latter with the
thinkers,—Plato, Shakespeare, Goethe; for, though both have written upon
Goethe, they do not meet in him. The one has more sympathy with the
heroes, or practical reformers, the other with the observers, or
philosophers. Put their worthies together, and you will have a pretty
fair representation of mankind; yet with one or more memorable
exceptions. To say nothing of Christ, who yet awaits a just appreciation
from literature, the peacefully practical hero, whom Columbus may
represent, is obviously slighted; but above and after all, the Man of
the Age, come to be called workingman, it is obvious that none yet
speaks to his condition, for the speaker is not yet in his condition.

Like speaks to like only; labor to labor, philosophy to philosophy,
criticism to criticism, poetry to poetry. Literature speaks how much
still to the past, how little to the future, how much to the East, how
little to the West,—

                       In the East fames are won,
                       In the West deeds are done.

One merit in Carlyle, let the subject be what it may, is the freedom of
prospect he allows, the entire absence of cant and dogma. He removes
many cart-loads of rubbish, and leaves open a broad highway. His
writings are all unfenced on the side of the future and the possible.
Though he does but inadvertently direct our eyes to the open heavens,
nevertheless he lets us wander broadly underneath, and shows them to us
reflected in innumerable pools and lakes.

                  *       *       *       *       *

These volumes contain not the highest, but a very practicable wisdom,
which startles and provokes, rather than informs us. Carlyle does not
oblige us to think; we have thought enough for him already, but he
compels us to act. We accompany him rapidly through an endless gallery
of pictures, and glorious reminiscences of experiences unimproved. “Have
you not had Moses and the prophets? Neither will ye be persuaded if one
should rise from the dead.” There is no calm philosophy of life here,
such as you might put at the end of the Almanac, to hang over the
farmer’s hearth, how men shall live in these winter, in these summer
days. No philosophy, properly speaking, of love, or friendship, or
religion, or politics, or education, or nature, or spirit; perhaps a
nearer approach to a philosophy of kingship, and of the place of the
literary man, than of anything else. A rare preacher, with prayer, and
psalm, and sermon, and benediction, but no contemplation of man’s life
from the serene oriental ground, nor yet from the stirring occidental.
No thanksgiving sermon for the holydays, or the Easter vacations, when
all men submit to float on the full currents of life. When we see with
what spirits, though with little heroism enough, wood-choppers, drovers,
and apprentices take and spend life, playing all day long, sunning
themselves, shading themselves, eating, drinking, sleeping, we think
that the philosophy of their life written would be such a level natural
history as the Gardener’s Calendar and the works of the early botanists,
inconceivably slow to come to practical conclusions.

There is no philosophy here for philosophers, only as every man is said
to have his philosophy. No system but such as is the man himself; and,
indeed, he stands compactly enough; no progress beyond the first
assertion and challenge, as it were, with trumpet blast. One thing is
certain,—that we had best be doing something in good earnest henceforth
forever; that’s an indispensable philosophy. The before impossible
precept, “_know thyself_,” he translates into the partially possible
one, “_know what thou canst work at_.” Sartor Resartus is, perhaps, the
sunniest and most philosophical, as it is the most autobiographical of
his works, in which he drew most largely on the experience of his youth.
But we miss everywhere a calm depth, like a lake, even stagnant, and
must submit to rapidity and whirl, as on skates, with all kinds of
skilful and antic motions, sculling, sliding, cutting punch-bowls and
rings, forward and backward. The talent is very nearly equal to the
genius. Sometimes it would be preferable to wade slowly through a
Serbonian bog, and feel the juices of the meadow.

Beside some philosophers of larger vision, Carlyle stands like an
honest, half-despairing boy, grasping at some details only of their
world systems. Philosophy, certainly, is some account of truths, the
fragments and very insignificant parts of which man will practise in
this workshop; truths infinite and in harmony with infinity; in
respect to which the very objects and ends of the so-called practical
philosopher will be mere propositions, like the rest. It would be no
reproach to a philosopher, that he knew the future better than the
past, or even than the present. It is better worth knowing. He will
prophesy, tell what is to be, or in other words, what alone is, under
appearances, laying little stress on the boiling of the pot, or the
condition-of-England question. He has no more to do with the condition
of England than with her national debt, which a vigorous generation
would not inherit. The philosopher’s conception of things will, above
all, be truer than other men’s, and his philosophy will subordinate
all the circumstances of life. To live like a philosopher is to live,
not foolishly, like other men, but wisely and according to universal
laws. If Carlyle does not take two steps in philosophy, are there any
who take three? Philosophy having crept clinging to the rocks, so far,
puts out its feelers many ways in vain. It would be hard to surprise
him by the relation of any important human experience, but in some
nook or corner of his works you will find that this, too, was
sometimes dreamed of in his philosophy.

To sum up our most serious objections in a few words, we should say that
Carlyle indicates a depth,—and we mean not impliedly, but
distinctly,—which he neglects to fathom. We want to know more about that
which he wants to know as well. If any luminous star or undissolvable
nebula is visible from his station which is not visible from ours, the
interests of science require that the fact be communicated to us. The
universe expects every man to do his duty in his parallel of latitude.
We want to hear more of his inmost life; his hymn and prayer more; his
elegy and eulogy less; that he should speak more from his character, and
less from his talent; communicate centrally with his readers, and not by
a side; that he should say what he believes, without suspecting that men
disbelieve it, out of his never-misunderstood nature. His genius can
cover all the land with gorgeous palaces, but the reader does not abide
in them, but pitches his tent rather in the desert and on the

When we look about for something to quote, as the fairest specimen of
the man, we confess that we labor under an unusual difficulty; for his
philosophy is so little of the proverbial or sentential kind, and opens
so gradually, rising insensibly from the reviewer’s level, and
developing its thought completely and in detail, that we look in vain
for the brilliant passages, for point and antithesis, and must end by
quoting his works entire. What in a writer of less breadth would have
been the proposition which would have bounded his discourse, his column
of victory, his Pillar of Hercules, and _ne plus ultra_, is in Carlyle
frequently the same thought unfolded; no Pillar of Hercules, but a
considerable prospect, north and south, along the Atlantic coast. There
are other pillars of Hercules, like beacons and light-houses, still
further in the horizon, toward Atlantis, set up by a few ancient and
modern travellers; but, so far as this traveller goes, he clears and
colonizes, and all the surplus population of London is bound thither at
once. What we would quote is, in fact, his vivacity, and not any
particular wisdom or sense, which last is ever synonymous with sentence
[_sententia_], as in his contemporaries Coleridge, Landor, and
Wordsworth. We have not attempted to discriminate between his works, but
have rather regarded them all as one work, as is the man himself. We
have not examined so much as remembered them. To do otherwise would have
required a more indifferent, and perhaps even less just review, than the

All his works might well enough be embraced under the title of one of
them, a good specimen brick, “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in
History.” Of this department he is the Chief Professor in the World’s
University, and even leaves Plutarch behind. Such intimate and living,
such loyal and generous sympathy with the heroes of history, not one in
one age only, but forty in forty ages, such an unparalleled reviewing
and greeting of all past worth, with exceptions, to be sure,—but
exceptions were the rule before,—it was, indeed, to make this the age of
review writing, as if now one period of the human story were completing
itself, and getting its accounts settled. This soldier has told the
stories with new emphasis, and will be a memorable hander-down of fame
to posterity. And with what wise discrimination he has selected his men,
with reference both to his own genius and to theirs,—Mahomet, Dante,
Cromwell, Voltaire, Johnson, Burns, Goethe, Richter, Schiller,
Mirabeau,—could any of these have been spared? These we wanted to hear
about. We have not as commonly the cold and refined judgment of the
scholar and critic merely, but something more human and affecting. These
eulogies have the glow and warmth of friendship. There is sympathy, not
with mere fames, and formless, incredible things, but with kindred
men,—not transiently, but life long he has walked with them.

No doubt, some of Carlyle’s worthies, should they ever return to earth,
would find themselves unpleasantly put upon their good behavior, to
sustain their characters; but if he can return a man’s life more perfect
to our hands than it was left at his death, following out the design of
its author, we shall have no great cause to complain. We do not want a
daguerreotype likeness. All biography is the life of Adam,—a
much-experienced man,—and time withdraws something partial from the
story of every individual, that the historian may supply something
general. If these virtues were not in this man, perhaps they are in his
biographer,—no fatal mistake. Really, in any other sense, we never do,
nor desire to, come at the historical man,—unless we rob his grave, that
is the nearest approach. Why did he die, then? _He_ is with his bones,

No doubt Carlyle has a propensity to _exaggerate_ the heroic in history,
that is, he creates you an ideal hero rather than another thing: he has
most of that material. This we allow in all its senses, and in one
narrower sense it is not so convenient. Yet what were history if he did
not exaggerate it? How comes it that history never has to wait for
facts, but for a man to write it? The ages may go on forgetting the
facts never so long, he can remember two for every one forgotten. The
musty records of history, like the catacombs, contain the perishable
remains, but only in the breast of genius are embalmed the souls of
heroes. There is very little of what is called criticism here; it is
love and reverence, rather, which deal with qualities not relatively,
but absolutely great; for whatever is admirable in a man is something
infinite, to which we cannot set bounds. These sentiments allow the
mortal to die, the immortal and divine to survive. There is something
antique, even, in his style of treating his subject, reminding us that
Heroes and Demi-gods, Fates and Furies, still exist; the common man is
nothing to him, but after death the hero is apotheosized and has a place
in heaven, as in the religion of the Greeks.

Exaggeration! was ever any virtue attributed to a man without
exaggeration? was ever any vice, without infinite exaggeration? Do we
not exaggerate ourselves to ourselves, or do we recognize ourselves for
the actual men we are? Are we not all great men? Yet what are we
actually to speak of? We live by exaggeration. What else is it to
anticipate more than we enjoy? The lightning is an exaggeration of the
light. Exaggerated history is poetry, and truth referred to a new
standard. To a small man every greater is an exaggeration. He who cannot
exaggerate is not qualified to utter truth. No truth, we think, was ever
expressed but with this sort of emphasis, so that for the time there
seemed to be no other. Moreover, you must speak loud to those who are
hard of hearing, and so you acquire a habit of shouting to those who are
not. By an immense exaggeration we appreciate our Greek poetry and
philosophy, and Egyptian ruins; our Shakespeares and Miltons, our
Liberty and Christianity. We give importance to this hour over all other
hours. We do not live by justice, but by grace. As the sort of justice
which concerns us in our daily intercourse is not that administered by
the judge, so the historical justice which we prize is not arrived at by
nicely balancing the evidence. In order to appreciate any, even the
humblest man, you must first, by some good fortune, have acquired a
sentiment of admiration, even of reverence, for him, and there never
were such exaggerators as these.

To try him by the German rule of referring an author to his own
standard, we will quote the following from Carlyle’s remarks on history,
and leave the reader to consider how far his practice has been
consistent with his theory. “Truly, if History is Philosophy teaching by
Experience, the writer fitted to compose history is hitherto an unknown
man. The Experience itself would require All-knowledge to record it,
were the All-wisdom, needful for such Philosophy as would interpret it,
to be had for asking. Better were it that mere earthly Historians should
lower such pretensions, more suitable for Omniscience than for human
science; and aiming only at some picture of the things acted, which
picture itself will at best be a poor approximation, leave the
inscrutable purport of them an acknowledged secret; or, at most, in
reverent faith, far different from that teaching of Philosophy, pause
over the mysterious vestiges of Him whose path is in the great deep of
Time, whom History indeed reveals, but only all History, and in
Eternity, will clearly reveal.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Carlyle is a critic who lives in London to tell this generation who have
been the great men of our race. We have read that on some exposed place
in the city of Geneva, they have fixed a brazen indicator for the use of
travellers, with the names of the mountain summits in the horizon marked
upon it, “so that by taking sight across the index you can distinguish
them at once. You will not mistake Mont Blanc, if you see him, but until
you get accustomed to the panorama, you may easily mistake one of his
court for the king.” It stands there a piece of mute brass, that seems
nevertheless to know in what vicinity it is: and there perchance it will
stand, when the nation that placed it there has passed away, still in
sympathy with the mountains, forever discriminating in the desert.

So, we may say, stands this man, pointing as long as he lives, in
obedience to some spiritual magnetism, to the summits in the historical
horizon, for the guidance of his fellows.

Truly, our greatest blessings are very cheap. To have our sunlight
without paying for it, without any duty levied,—to have our poet there
in England, to furnish us entertainment, and, what is better,
provocation, from year to year, all our lives long, to make the world
seem richer for us, the age more respectable, and life better worth the
living,—all without expense of acknowledgment even, but silently
accepted out of the east, like morning light as a matter of course.


                      LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE.[10]

Footnote 10:

  Atlantic Monthly, Boston, October, 1863.

At a lyceum, not long since, I felt that the lecturer had chosen a theme
too foreign to himself, and so failed to interest me as much as he might
have done. He described things not in or near to his heart, but toward
his extremities and superficies. There was, in this sense, no truly
central or centralizing thought in the lecture. I would have had him
deal with his privatest experience, as the poet does. The greatest
compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what _I thought_,
and attended to my answer. I am surprised, as well as delighted, when
this happens, it is such a rare use he would make of me, as if he were
acquainted with the tool. Commonly, if men want anything of me, it is
only to know how many acres I make of their land,—since I am a
surveyor,—or, at most, what trivial news I have burdened myself with.
They never will go to law for my meat; they prefer the shell. A man once
came a considerable distance to ask me to lecture on Slavery; but on
conversing with him, I found that he and his clique expected seven
eighths of the lecture to be theirs, and only one eighth mine; so I
declined. I take it for granted, when I am invited to lecture
anywhere,—for I have had a little experience in that business,—that
there is a desire to hear what _I think_ on some subject, though I may
be the greatest fool in the country,—and not that I should say pleasant
things merely, or such as the audience will assent to; and I resolve,
accordingly, that I will give them a strong dose of myself. They have
sent for me, and engaged to pay for me, and I am determined that they
shall have me, though I bore them beyond all precedent.

So now I would say something similar to you, my readers. Since _you_ are
my readers, and I have not been much of a traveller, I will not talk
about people a thousand miles off, but come as near home as I can. As
the time is short, I will leave out all the flattery, and retain all the

Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.

This world is a place of business. What an infinite bustle! I am awaked
almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my
dreams. There is no sabbath. It would be glorious to see mankind at
leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work. I cannot easily
buy a blank-book to write thoughts in; they are commonly ruled for
dollars and cents. An Irishman, seeing me making a minute in the fields,
took it for granted that I was calculating my wages. If a man was tossed
out of a window when an infant, and so made a cripple for life, or
scared out of his wits by the Indians, it is regretted chiefly because
he was thus incapacitated for—business! I think that there is nothing,
not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life
itself, than this incessant business.

There is a coarse and boisterous money-making fellow in the outskirts of
our town, who is going to build a bank-wall under the hill along the
edge of his meadow. The powers have put this into his head to keep him
out of mischief, and he wishes me to spend three weeks digging there
with him. The result will be that he will perhaps get some more money to
hoard, and leave for his heirs to spend foolishly. If I do this, most
will commend me as an industrious and hard-working man; but if I choose
to devote myself to certain labors which yield more real profit, though
but little money, they may be inclined to look on me as an idler.
Nevertheless, as I do not need the police of meaningless labor to
regulate me, and do not see anything absolutely praise-worthy in this
fellow’s undertaking, any more than in many an enterprise of our own or
foreign governments, however amusing it may be to him or them, I prefer
to finish my education at a different school.

If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in
danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as
a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her
time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if a
town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down!

Most men would feel insulted, if it were proposed to employ them in
throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that
they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now.
For instance: just after sunrise, one summer morning, I noticed one of
my neighbors walking beside his team, which was slowly drawing a heavy
hewn stone swung under the axle, surrounded by an atmosphere of
industry,—his day’s work begun,—his brow commenced to sweat,—a reproach
to all sluggards and idlers,—pausing abreast the shoulders of his oxen,
and half turning round with a flourish of his merciful whip, while they
gained their length on him. And I thought, Such is the labor which the
American Congress exists to protect,—honest, manly toil,—honest as the
day is long,—that makes his bread taste sweet, and keeps society
sweet,—which all men respect and have consecrated: one of the sacred
band, doing the needful but irksome drudgery. Indeed, I felt a slight
reproach, because I observed this from a window, and was not abroad and
stirring about a similar business. The day went by, and at evening I
passed the yard of another neighbor, who keeps many servants, and spends
much money foolishly, while he adds nothing to the common stock, and
there I saw the stone of the morning lying beside a whimsical structure
intended to adorn this Lord Timothy Dexter’s premises, and the dignity
forthwith departed from the teamster’s labor, in my eyes. In my opinion,
the sun was made to light worthier toil than this. I may add, that his
employer has since run off, in debt to a good part of the town, and,
after passing through Chancery, has settled somewhere else, there to
become once more a patron of the arts.

The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead
downward. To have done anything by which you earned money _merely_ is to
have been truly idle or worse. If the laborer gets no more than the
wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself. If
you would get money as a writer or lecturer, you must be popular, which
is to go down perpendicularly. Those services which the community will
most readily pay for, it is most disagreeable to render. You are paid
for being something less than a man. The State does not commonly reward
a genius any more wisely. Even the poet-laureate would rather not have
to celebrate the accidents of royalty. He must be bribed with a pipe of
wine; and perhaps another poet is called away from his muse to gauge
that very pipe. As for my own business, even that kind of surveying
which I could do with most satisfaction, my employers do not want. They
would prefer that I should do my work coarsely and not too well, ay, not
well enough. When I observe that there are different ways of surveying,
my employer commonly asks which will give him the most land, not which
is most correct. I once invented a rule for measuring cord-wood, and
tried to introduce it in Boston; but the measurer there told me that the
sellers did not wish to have their wood measured correctly,—that he was
already too accurate for them, and therefore they commonly got their
wood measured in Charlestown before crossing the bridge.

The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living, to get “a good
job,” but to perform well a certain work; and, even in a pecuniary
sense, it would be economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that
they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a
livelihood merely, but for scientific, or even moral ends. Do not hire a
man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.

It is remarkable that there are few men so well employed, so much to
their minds, but that a little money or fame would commonly buy them off
from their present pursuit. I see advertisements for _active_ young men,
as if activity were the whole of a young man’s capital. Yet I have been
surprised when one has with confidence proposed to me, a grown man, to
embark in some enterprise of his, as if I had absolutely nothing to do,
my life having been a complete failure hitherto. What a doubtful
compliment this is to pay me! As if he had met me half-way across the
ocean beating up against the wind, but bound nowhere, and proposed to me
to go along with him! If I did, what do you think the underwriters would
say? No, no! I am not without employment at this stage of the voyage. To
tell the truth, I saw an advertisement for able-bodied seamen, when I
was a boy, sauntering in my native port, and as soon as I came of age I

The community has no bribe that will tempt a wise man. You may raise
money enough to tunnel a mountain, but you cannot raise money enough to
hire a man who is minding _his own_ business. An efficient and valuable
man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not. The
inefficient offer their inefficiency to the highest bidder, and are
forever expecting to be put into office. One would suppose that they
were rarely disappointed.

Perhaps I am more than usually jealous with respect to my freedom. I
feel that my connection with and obligation to society are still very
slight and transient. Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood,
and by which it is allowed that I am to some extent serviceable to my
contemporaries, are as yet commonly a pleasure to me, and I am not often
reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful. But I
foresee, that, if my wants should be much increased, the labor required
to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my
forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure,
that for me there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I
shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage. I wish to
suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time
well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater
part of his life getting his living. All great enterprises are
self-supporting. The poet, for instance, must sustain his body by his
poetry, as a steam planing-mill feeds its boilers with the shavings it
makes. You must get your living by loving. But as it is said of the
merchants that ninety-seven in a hundred fail, so the life of men
generally, tried by this standard, is a failure, and bankruptcy may be
surely prophesied.

Merely to come into the world the heir of a fortune is not to be born,
but to be still-born, rather. To be supported by the charity of friends,
or a government-pension,—provided you continue to breathe,—by whatever
fine synonymes you describe these relations, is to go into the
almshouse. On Sundays the poor debtor goes to church to take an account
of stock, and finds, of course, that his outgoes have been greater than
his income. In the Catholic Church, especially, they go into Chancery,
make a clean confession, give up all, and think to start again. Thus men
will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make
an effort to get up.

As for the comparative demand which men make on life, it is an important
difference between two, that the one is satisfied with a level success,
that his marks can all be hit by point-blank shots, but the other,
however low and unsuccessful his life may be, constantly elevates his
aim, though at a very slight angle to the horizon. I should much rather
be the last man,—though, as the Orientals say, “Greatness doth not
approach him who is forever looking down; and all those who are looking
high are growing poor.”

It is remarkable that there is little or nothing to be remembered
written on the subject of getting a living: how to make getting a living
not merely honest and honorable, but altogether inviting and glorious;
for if _getting_ a living is not so, then living is not. One would
think, from looking at literature, that this question had never
disturbed a solitary individual’s musings. Is it that men are too much
disgusted with their experience to speak of it? The lesson of value
which money teaches, which the Author of the Universe has taken so much
pains to teach us, we are inclined to skip altogether. As for the means
of living, it is wonderful how indifferent men of all classes are about
it, even reformers, so called,—whether they inherit, or earn, or steal
it. I think that Society has done nothing for us in this respect, or at
least has undone what she has done. Cold and hunger seem more friendly
to my nature than those methods which men have adopted and advise to
ward them off.

The title _wise_ is, for the most part, falsely applied. How can one be
a wise man, if he does not know any better how to live than other
men?—if he is only more cunning and intellectually subtle? Does Wisdom
work in a tread-mill? or does she teach how to succeed _by her example_?
Is there any such thing as wisdom not applied to life? Is she merely the
miller who grinds the finest logic? It is pertinent to ask if Plato got
his _living_ in a better way or more successfully than his
contemporaries,—or did he succumb to the difficulties of life like other
men? Did he seem to prevail over some of them merely by indifference, or
by assuming grand airs? or find it easier to live, because his aunt
remembered him in her will? The ways in which most men get their living,
that is, live, are mere make-shifts, and a shirking of the real business
of life,—chiefly because they do not know, but partly because they do
not mean, any better.

The rush to California, for instance, and the attitude, not merely of
merchants, but of philosophers and prophets, so called, in relation to
it, reflect the greatest disgrace on mankind. That so many are ready to
live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others
less lucky, without contributing any value to society! And that is
called enterprise! I know of no more startling development of the
immorality of trade, and all the common modes of getting a living. The
philosophy and poetry and religion of such a mankind are not worth the
dust of a puff-ball. The hog that gets his living by rooting, stirring
up the soil so, would be ashamed of such company. If I could command the
wealth of all the worlds by lifting my finger, I would not pay _such_ a
price for it. Even Mahomet knew that God did not make this world in
jest. It makes God to be a moneyed gentleman who scatters a handful of
pennies in order to see mankind scramble for them. The world’s raffle! A
subsistence in the domains of Nature a thing to be raffled for! What a
comment, what a satire, on our institutions! The conclusion will be,
that mankind will hang itself upon a tree. And have all the precepts in
all the Bibles taught men only this? and is the last and most admirable
invention of the human race only an improved muckrake? Is this the
ground on which Orientals and Occidentals meet? Did God direct us so to
get our living, digging where we never planted,—and He would, perchance,
reward us with lumps of gold?

God gave the righteous man a certificate entitling him to food and
raiment, but the unrighteous man found a _fac-simile_ of the same in
God’s coffers, and appropriated it, and obtained food and raiment like
the former. It is one of the most extensive systems of counterfeiting
that the world has seen. I did not know that mankind were suffering for
want of gold. I have seen a little of it. I know that it is very
malleable, but not so malleable as wit. A grain of gold will gild a
great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom.

The gold-digger in the ravines of the mountains is as much a gambler as
his fellow in the saloons of San Francisco. What difference does it
make, whether you shake dirt or shake dice? If you win, society is the
loser. The gold-digger is the enemy of the honest laborer, whatever
checks and compensations there may be. It is not enough to tell me that
you worked hard to get your gold. So does the Devil work hard. The way
of transgressors may be hard in many respects. The humblest observer who
goes to the mines sees and says that gold-digging is of the character of
a lottery; the gold thus obtained is not the same thing with the wages
of honest toil. But, practically, he forgets what he has seen, for he
has seen only the fact, not the principle, and goes into trade there,
that is, buys a ticket in what commonly proves another lottery, where
the fact is not so obvious.

After reading Howitt’s account of the Australian gold-diggings one
evening, I had in my mind’s eye, all night, the numerous valleys, with
their streams, all cut up with foul pits, from ten to one hundred feet
deep, and half a dozen feet across, as close as they can be dug, and
partly filled with water,—the locality to which men furiously rush to
probe for their fortunes,—uncertain where they shall break ground,—not
knowing but the gold is under their camp itself,—sometimes digging one
hundred and sixty feet before they strike the vein, or then missing it
by a foot,—turned into demons, and regardless of each other’s rights, in
their thirst for riches,—whole valleys, for thirty miles, suddenly
honeycombed by the pits of the miners, so that even hundreds are drowned
in them,—standing in water, and covered with mud and clay, they work
night and day, dying of exposure and disease. Having read this, and
partly forgotten it, I was thinking, accidentally, of my own
unsatisfactory life, doing as others do; and with that vision of the
diggings still before me, I asked myself, why _I_ might not be washing
some gold daily, though it were only the finest particles,—why _I_ might
not sink a shaft down to the gold within me, and work that mine. _There_
is a Ballarat, a Bendigo for you,—what though it were a sulky-gully? At
any rate, I might pursue some path, however solitary and narrow and
crooked, in which I could walk with love and reverence. Wherever a man
separates from the multitude, and goes his own way in this mood, there
indeed is a fork in the road, though ordinary travellers may see only a
gap in the paling. His solitary path across lots will turn out the
_higher way_ of the two.

Men rush to California and Australia as if the true gold were to be
found in that direction; but that is to go to the very opposite extreme
to where it lies. They go prospecting farther and farther away from the
true lead, and are most unfortunate when they think themselves most
successful. Is not our _native_ soil auriferous? Does not a stream from
the golden mountains flow through our native valley? and has not this
for more than geologic ages been bringing down the shining particles and
forming the nuggets for us? Yet, strange to tell, if a digger steal
away, prospecting for this true gold, into the unexplored solitudes
around us, there is no danger that any will dog his steps, and endeavor
to supplant him. He may claim and undermine the whole valley even, both
the cultivated and the uncultivated portions, his whole life long in
peace, for no one will ever dispute his claim. They will not mind his
cradles or his toms. He is not confined to a claim twelve feet square,
as at Ballarat, but may mine anywhere, and wash the whole wide world in
his tom.

Howitt says of the man who found the great nugget which weighed
twenty-eight pounds, at the Bendigo diggings in Australia: “He soon
began to drink; got a horse, and rode all about, generally at full
gallop, and, when he met people, called out to inquire if they knew who
he was, and then kindly informed them that he was ‘the bloody wretch
that had found the nugget.’ At last he rode full speed against a tree,
and nearly knocked his brains out.” I think, however, there was no
danger of that, for he had already knocked his brains out against the
nugget. Howitt adds, “He is a hopelessly ruined man.” But he is a type
of the class. They are all fast men. Hear some of the names of the
places where they dig: “Jackass Flat,”—“Sheep’s-Head Gully,”—“Murderer’s
Bar,” etc. Is there no satire in these names? Let them carry their
ill-gotten wealth where they will, I am thinking it will still be
“Jackass Flat,” if not “Murderer’s Bar,” where they live.

The last resource of our energy has been the robbing of graveyards on
the Isthmus of Darien, an enterprise which appears to be but in its
infancy; for, according to late accounts, an act has passed its second
reading in the legislature of New Granada, regulating this kind of
mining; and a correspondent of the “Tribune” writes: “In the dry season,
when the weather will permit of the country being properly prospected,
no doubt other rich. _guacas_ [that is, graveyards] will be found.” To
emigrants he says: “Do not come before December; take the Isthmus route
in preference to the Boca del Toro one; bring no useless baggage, and do
not cumber yourself with a tent; but a good pair of blankets will be
necessary; a pick, shovel, and axe of good material will be almost all
that is required”: advice which might have been taken from the “Burker’s
Guide.” And he concludes with this line in Italics and small capitals:
“_If you are doing well at home_, STAY THERE,” which may fairly be
interpreted to mean, “If you are getting a good living by robbing
graveyards at home, stay there.”

But why go to California for a text? She is the child of New England,
bred at her own school and church.

It is remarkable that among all the preachers there are so few moral
teachers. The prophets are employed in excusing the ways of men. Most
reverend seniors, the _illuminati_ of the age, tell me, with a gracious,
reminiscent smile, betwixt an aspiration and a shudder, not to be too
tender about these things,—to lump all that, that is, make a lump of
gold of it. The highest advice I have heard on these subjects was
grovelling. The burden of it was,—It is not worth your while to
undertake to reform the world in this particular. Do not ask how your
bread is buttered; it will make you sick, if you do,—and the like. A man
had better starve at once than lose his innocence in the process of
getting his bread. If within the sophisticated man there is not an
unsophisticated one, then he is but one of the Devil’s angels. As we
grow old, we live more coarsely, we relax a little in our disciplines,
and, to some extent, cease to obey our finest instincts. But we should
be fastidious to the extreme of sanity, disregarding the gibes of those
who are more unfortunate than ourselves.

In our science and philosophy, even, there is commonly no true and
absolute account of things. The spirit of sect and bigotry has planted
its hoof amid the stars. You have only to discuss the problem, whether
the stars are inhabited or not, in order to discover it. Why must we
daub the heavens as well as the earth? It was an unfortunate discovery
that Dr. Kane was a Mason, and that Sir John Franklin was another. But
it was a more cruel suggestion that possibly that was the reason why the
former went in search of the latter. There is not a popular magazine in
this country that would dare to print a child’s thought on important
subjects without comment. It must be submitted to the D. D.s. I would it
were the chickadee-dees.

You come from attending the funeral of mankind to attend to a natural
phenomenon. A little thought is sexton to all the world.

I hardly know an _intellectual_ man, even, who is so broad and truly
liberal that you can think aloud in his society. Most with whom you
endeavor to talk soon come to a stand against some institution in which
they appear to hold stock,—that is, some particular, not universal, way
of viewing things. They will continually thrust their own low roof, with
its narrow skylight, between you and the sky, when it is the
unobstructed heavens you would view. Get out of the way with your
cobwebs, wash your windows, I say! In some lyceums they tell me that
they have voted to exclude the subject of religion. But how do I know
what their religion is, and when I am near to or far from it? I have
walked into such an arena and done my best to make a clean breast of
what religion I have experienced, and the audience never suspected what
I was about. The lecture was as harmless as moonshine to them. Whereas,
if I had read to them the biography of the greatest scamps in history,
they might have thought that I had written the lives of the deacons of
their church. Ordinarily, the inquiry is, Where did you come from? or,
Where are you going? That was a more pertinent question which I
overheard one of my auditors put to another once,—“What does he lecture
for?” It made me quake in my shoes.

To speak impartially, the best men that I know are not serene, a world
in themselves. For the most part, they dwell in forms, and flatter and
study effect only more finely than the rest. We select granite for the
underpinning of our houses and barns; we build fences of stone; but we
do not ourselves rest on an underpinning of granitic truth, the lowest
primitive rock. Our sills are rotten. What stuff is the man made of who
is not coexistent in our thought with the purest and subtilest truth? I
often accuse my finest acquaintances of an immense frivolity; for, while
there are manners and compliments we do not meet, we do not teach one
another the lessons of honesty and sincerity that the brutes do, or of
steadiness and solidity that the rocks do. The fault is commonly mutual,
however; for we do not habitually demand any more of each other.

That excitement about Kossuth, consider how characteristic, but
superficial, it was!—only another kind of politics or dancing. Men were
making speeches to him all over the country, but each expressed only the
thought, or the want of thought, of the multitude. No man stood on
truth. They were merely banded together, as usual, one leaning on
another, and all together on nothing; as the Hindoos made the world rest
on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on a
serpent, and had nothing to put under the serpent. For all fruit of that
stir we have the Kossuth hat.

Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary
conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward
and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a
man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or
been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference
between us and our fellow is, that he has seen the newspaper, or been
out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we
go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on
it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of
letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from
himself this long while.

I do not know but it is too much to read one newspaper a week. I have
tried it recently, and for so long it seems to me that I have not dwelt
in my native region. The sun, the clouds, the snow, the trees say not so
much to me. You cannot serve two masters. It requires more than a day’s
devotion to know and to possess the wealth of a day.

We may well be ashamed to tell what things we have read or heard in our
day. I do not know why my news should be so trivial,—considering what
one’s dreams and expectations are, why the developments should be so
paltry. The news we hear, for the most part, is not news to our genius.
It is the stalest repetition. You are often tempted to ask, why such
stress is laid on a particular experience which you have had,—that,
after twenty-five years, you should meet Hobbins, Registrar of Deeds,
again on the sidewalk. Have you not budged an inch, then? Such is the
daily news. Its facts appear to float in the atmosphere, insignificant
as the sporules of fungi, and impinge on some neglected _thallus_, or
surface of our minds, which affords a basis for them, and hence a
parasitic growth. We should wash ourselves clean of such news. Of what
consequence, though our planet explode, if there is no character
involved in the explosion? In health we have not the least curiosity
about such events. We do not live for idle amusement. I would not run
round a corner to see the world blow up.

All summer, and far into the autumn, perchance, you unconsciously went
by the newspapers and the news, and now you find it was because the
morning and the evening were full of news to you. Your walks were full
of incidents. You attended, not to the affairs of Europe, but to your
own affairs in Massachusetts fields. If you chance to live and move and
have your being in that thin stratum in which the events that make the
news transpire,—thinner than the paper on which it is printed,—then
these things will fill the world for you; but if you soar above or dive
below that plane, you cannot remember nor be reminded of them. Really to
see the sun rise or go down every day, so to relate ourselves to a
universal fact, would preserve us sane forever. Nations! What are
nations? Tartars, and Huns, and Chinamen! Like insects, they swarm. The
historian strives in vain to make them memorable. It is for want of a
man that there are so many men. It is individuals that populate the
world. Any man thinking may say with the Spirit of Lodin,—

               “I look down from my height on nations,
                And they become ashes before me;—
                Calm is my dwelling in the clouds;
                Pleasant are the great fields of my rest.”

Pray, let us live without being drawn by dogs, Esquimaux-fashion,
tearing over hill and dale, and biting each other’s ears.

Not without a slight shudder at the danger, I often perceive how near I
had come to admitting into my mind the details of some trivial
affair,—the news of the street; and I am astonished to observe how
willing men are to lumber their minds with such rubbish,—to permit idle
rumors and incidents of the most insignificant kind to intrude on ground
which should be sacred to thought. Shall the mind be a public arena,
where the affairs of the street and the gossip of the tea-table chiefly
are discussed? Or shall it be a quarter of heaven itself,—an hypæthral
temple, consecrated to the service of the gods? I find it so difficult
to dispose of the few facts which to me are significant that I hesitate
to burden my attention with those which are insignificant, which only a
divine mind could illustrate. Such is, for the most part, the news in
newspapers and conversation. It is important to preserve the mind’s
chastity in this respect. Think of admitting the details of a single
case of the criminal court into our thoughts, to stalk profanely through
their very _sanctum sanctorum_ for an hour, ay, for many hours! to make
a very bar-room of the mind’s inmost apartment, as if for so long the
dust of the street had occupied us,—the very street itself, with all its
travel, its bustle, and filth, had passed through our thoughts’ shrine!
Would it not be an intellectual and moral suicide? When I have been
compelled to sit spectator and auditor in a court-room for some hours,
and have seen my neighbors, who were not compelled, stealing in from
time to time, and tiptoeing about with washed hands and faces, it has
appeared to my mind’s eye, that, when they took off their hats, their
ears suddenly expanded into vast hoppers for sound, between which even
their narrow heads were crowded. Like the vanes of windmills, they
caught the broad, but shallow stream of sound, which, after a few
titillating gyrations in their coggy brains, passed out the other side.
I wondered if, when they got home, they were as careful to wash their
ears as before their hands and faces. It has seemed to me, at such a
time, that the auditors and the witnesses, the jury and the counsel, the
judge and the criminal at the bar,—if I may presume him guilty before he
is convicted,—were all equally criminal, and a thunderbolt might be
expected to descend and consume them all together.

By all kinds of traps and signboards, threatening the extreme penalty of
the divine law, exclude such trespassers from the only ground which can
be sacred to you. It is so hard to forget what it is worse than useless
to remember! If I am to be a thoroughfare, I prefer that it be of the
mountain-brooks, the Parnassian streams, and not the town-sewers. There
is inspiration, that gossip which comes to the ear of the attentive mind
from the courts of heaven. There is the profane and stale revelation of
the bar-room and the police court. The same ear is fitted to receive
both communications. Only the character of the hearer determines to
which it shall be open, and to which closed. I believe that the mind can
be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so
that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality. Our very
intellect shall be macadamized, as it were,—its foundation broken into
fragments for the wheels of travel to roll over; and if you would know
what will make the most durable pavement, surpassing rolled stones,
spruce blocks, and asphaltum, you have only to look into some of our
minds which have been subjected to this treatment so long.

If we have thus desecrated ourselves,—as who has not?—the remedy will be
by wariness and devotion to reconsecrate ourselves, and make once more a
fane of the mind. We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as
innocent and ingenuous children, whose guardians we are, and be careful
what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention. Read not
the Times. Read the Eternities. Conventionalities are at length as bad
as impurities. Even the facts of science may dust the mind by their
dryness, unless they are in a sense effaced each morning, or rather
rendered fertile by the dews of fresh and living truth. Knowledge does
not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven. Yes,
every thought that passes through the mind helps to wear and tear it,
and to deepen the ruts, which, as in the streets of Pompeii, evince how
much it has been used. How many things there are concerning which we
might well deliberate whether we had better know them,—had better let
their peddling-carts be driven, even at the slowest trot or walk, over
that bridge of glorious span by which we trust to pass at last from the
farthest brink of time to the nearest shore of eternity! Have we no
culture, no refinement,—but skill only to live coarsely and serve the
Devil?—to acquire a little worldly wealth, or fame, or liberty, and make
a false show with it, as if we were all husk and shell, with no tender
and living kernel to us? Shall our institutions be like those
chestnut-burrs which contain abortive nuts, perfect only to prick the

America is said to be the arena on which the battle of freedom is to be
fought; but surely it cannot be freedom in a merely political sense that
is meant. Even if we grant that the American has freed himself from a
political tyrant, he is still the slave of an economical and moral
tyrant. Now that the republic,—the _res-publica_,—has been settled, it
is time to look after the _res-privata_,—the private state,—to see, as
the Roman senate charged its consuls, “_ne quid res_-PRIVATA _detrimenti
caperet_,” that the _private_ state receive no detriment.

Do we call this the land of the free? What is it to be free from King
George and continue the slaves of King Prejudice? What is it to be born
free and not to live free? What is the value of any political freedom,
but as a means to moral freedom? Is it a freedom to be slaves, or a
freedom to be free, of which we boast? We are a nation of politicians,
concerned about the out-most defences only of freedom. It is our
children’s children who may perchance be really free. We tax ourselves
unjustly. There is a part of us which is not represented. It is taxation
without representation. We quarter troops, we quarter fools and cattle
of all sorts upon ourselves. We quarter our gross bodies on our poor
souls, till the former eat up all the latter’s substance.

With respect to a true culture and manhood, we are essentially
provincial still, not metropolitan,—mere Jonathans. We are provincial,
because we do not find at home our standards,—because we do not worship
truth, but the reflection of truth,—because we are warped and narrowed
by an exclusive devotion to trade and commerce and manufactures and
agriculture and the like, which are but means, and not the end.

So is the English Parliament provincial. Mere country-bumpkins, they
betray themselves, when any more important question arises for them to
settle, the Irish question, for instance,—the English question why did I
not say? Their natures are subdued to what they work in. Their “good
breeding” respects only secondary objects. The finest manners in the
world are awkwardness and fatuity, when contrasted with a finer
intelligence. They appear but as the fashions of past days,—mere
courtliness, knee-buckles and small-clothes, out of date. It is the
vice, but not the excellence of manners, that they are continually being
deserted by the character; they are cast-off clothes or shells, claiming
the respect which belonged to the living creature. You are presented
with the shells instead of the meat, and it is no excuse generally,
that, in the case of some fishes, the shells are of more worth than the
meat. The man who thrusts his manners upon me does as if he were to
insist on introducing me to his cabinet of curiosities, when I wished to
see himself. It was not in this sense that the poet Decker called Christ
“the first true gentleman that ever breathed.” I repeat, that in this
sense the most splendid court in Christendom is provincial, having
authority to consult about Transalpine interests only, and not the
affairs of Rome. A prætor or proconsul would suffice to settle the
questions which absorb the attention of the English Parliament and the
American Congress.

Government and legislation! these I thought were respectable
professions. We have heard of heaven-born Numas, Lyeurguses, and Solons,
in the history of the world, whose _names_ at least may stand for ideal
legislators; but think of legislating to _regulate_ the breeding of
slaves, or the exportation of tobacco! What have divine legislators to
do with the exportation or the importation of tobacco? what humane ones
with the breeding of slaves? Suppose you were to submit the question to
any son of God,—and has He no children in the nineteenth century? is it
a family which is extinct?—in what condition would you get it again?
What shall a State like Virginia say for itself at the last day, in
which these have been the principal, the staple productions? What ground
is there for patriotism in such a State? I derive my facts from
statistical tables which the States themselves have published.

A commerce that whitens every sea in quest of nuts and raisins, and
makes slaves of its sailors for this purpose! I saw, the other day, a
vessel which had been wrecked, and many lives lost, and her cargo of
rags, juniper-berries, and bitter almonds were strewn along the shore.
It seemed hardly worth the while to tempt the dangers of the sea between
Leghorn and New York for the sake of a cargo of juniper-berries and
bitter almonds. America sending to the Old World for her bitters! Is not
the sea-brine, is not shipwreck, bitter enough to make the cup of life
go down here? Yet such, to a great extent, is our boasted commerce; and
there are those who style themselves statesmen and philosophers who are
so blind as to think that progress and civilization depend on precisely
this kind of interchange and activity,—the activity of flies about a
molasses-hogshead. Very well, observes one, if men were oysters. And
very well, answer I, if men were mosquitoes.

Lieutenant Herndon, whom our Government sent to explore the Amazon, and,
it is said, to extend the area of slavery, observed that there was
wanting there “an industrious and active population, who know what the
comforts of life are, and who have artificial wants to draw out the
great resources of the country.” But what are the “artificial wants” to
be encouraged? Not the love of luxuries, like the tobacco and slaves of,
I believe, his native Virginia, nor the ice and granite and other
material wealth of our native New England; nor are “the great resources
of a country” that fertility or barrenness of soil which produces these.
The chief want, in every State that I have been into, was a high and
earnest purpose in its inhabitants. This alone draws out “the great
resources” of Nature, and at last taxes her beyond her resources; for
man naturally dies out of her. When we want culture more than potatoes,
and illumination more than sugar-plums, then the great resources of a
world are taxed and drawn out, and the result, or staple production, is,
not slaves, nor operatives, but men,—those rare fruits called heroes,
saints, poets, philosophers, and redeemers.

In short, as a snow-drift is formed where there is a lull in the wind,
so, one would say, where there is a lull of truth, an institution
springs up. But the truth blows right on over it, nevertheless, and at
length blows it down.

What is called politics is comparatively something so superficial and
inhuman, that, practically, I have never fairly recognized that it
concerns me at all. The newspapers, I perceive, devote some of their
columns specially to politics or government without charge; and this,
one would say, is all that saves it; but, as I love literature, and, to
some extent, the truth also, I never read those columns at any rate. I
do not wish to blunt my sense of right so much. I have not got to answer
for having read a single President’s Message. A strange age of the world
this, when empires, kingdoms, and republics come a-begging to a private
man’s door, and utter their complaints at his elbow! I cannot take up a
newspaper but I find that some wretched government or other, hard
pushed, and on its last legs, is interceding with me, the reader, to
vote for it,—more importunate than an Italian beggar; and if I have a
mind to look at its certificate, made, perchance, by some benevolent
merchant’s clerk, or the skipper that brought it over, for it cannot
speak a word of English itself, I shall probably read of the eruption of
some Vesuvius, or the overflowing of some Po, true or forged, which
brought it into this condition. I do not hesitate, in such a case, to
suggest work, or the almshouse; or why not keep its castle in silence,
as I do commonly? The poor President, what with preserving his
popularity and doing his duty, is completely bewildered. The newspapers
are the ruling power. Any other government is reduced to a few marines
at Fort Independence. If a man neglects to read the Daily Times,
government will go down on its knees to him, for this is the only
treason in these days.

Those things which now most engage the attention of men, as politics and
the daily routine, are, it is true, vital functions of human society,
but should be unconsciously performed, like the corresponding functions
of the physical body. They are _infra_-human, a kind of vegetation. I
sometimes awake to a half-consciousness of them going on about me, as a
man may become conscious of some of the processes of digestion in a
morbid state, and so have the dyspepsia, as it is called. It is as if a
thinker submitted himself to be rasped by the great gizzard of creation.
Politics is, as it were, the gizzard of society, full of grit and
gravel, and the two political parties are its two opposite
halves,—sometimes split into quarters, it may be, which grind on each
other. Not only individuals, but states, have thus a confirmed
dyspepsia, which expresses itself, you can imagine by what sort of
eloquence. Thus our life is not altogether a forgetting, but also, alas!
to a great extent, a remembering, of that which we should never have
been conscious of, certainly not in our waking hours. Why should we not
meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as
_eu_peptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? I
do not make an exorbitant demand, surely.



Footnote 11:

  From “The Liberator,” March 28, 1845.

                                            CONCORD, MASS., March
    12, 1845.

    MR. EDITOR:—

    We have now, for the third winter, had our spirits refreshed,
    and our faith in the destiny of the Commonwealth strengthened,
    by the presence and the eloquence of Wendell Phillips; and we
    wish to tender to him our thanks and our sympathy. The admission
    of this gentleman into the Lyceum has been strenuously opposed
    by a respectable portion of our fellow-citizens, who themselves,
    we trust,—whose descendants, at least, we know,—will be as
    faithful conservers of the true order, whenever that shall be
    the order of the day,—and in each instance the people have voted
    that they _would hear him_, by coming themselves and bringing
    their friends to the lecture-room, and being very silent that
    they _might_ hear. We saw some men and women, who had long ago
    _come out_, _going in_ once more through the free and hospitable
    portals of the Lyceum; and many of our neighbors confessed, that
    they had had a “sound season” this once.

    It was the speaker’s aim to show what the State, and above all
    the Church, had to do, and now, alas! have done, with Texas and
    slavery, and how much, on the other hand, the individual should
    have to do with Church and State. These were fair themes, and
    not mistimed; and his words were addressed to “fit, audience,
    _and not_ few.”

    We must give Mr. Phillips the credit of being a clean, erect,
    and what was once called a consistent man. He at least is not
    responsible for slavery, nor for American Independence; for the
    hypocrisy and superstition of the Church, nor the timidity and
    selfishness of the State; nor for the indifference and willing
    ignorance of any. He stands so distinctly, so firmly, and so
    effectively alone, and one honest man is so much more than a
    host, that we cannot but feel that he does himself injustice
    when he reminds us of “the American Society, which he
    represents.” It is rare that we have the pleasure of listening
    to so clear and orthodox a speaker, who obviously has so few
    cracks or flaws in his moral nature,—who, having words at his
    command in a remarkable degree, has much more than words, if
    these should fail, in his unquestionable earnestness and
    integrity,—and, aside from their admiration at his rhetoric,
    secures the genuine respect of his audience. He unconsciously
    tells his biography as he proceeds, and we see him early and
    earnestly deliberating on these subjects, and wisely and
    bravely, without counsel or consent of any, occupying a ground
    at first from which the varying tides of public opinion cannot
    drive him.

    No one could mistake the genuine modesty and truth with which he
    affirmed, when speaking of the framers of the Constitution, “I
    am wiser than they,” who with him has improved these sixty
    years’ experience of its working; or the uncompromising
    consistency and frankness of the prayer which concluded, not
    like the Thanksgiving proclamations, with—“God save the
    Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” but—God dash it into a thousand
    pieces, till there shall not remain a fragment on which a man
    can stand, and dare not tell his name,—referring to the case of
    Frederick ——; to our disgrace we know not what to call him,
    unless Scotland will lend us the spoils of one of her
    Douglasses, out of history or fiction, for a season, till we be
    hospitable and brave enough to hear his proper name,—a fugitive
    slave in one more sense than we; who has proved himself the
    possessor of a _fair_ intellect, and has won a colorless
    reputation in these parts; and who, we trust, will be as
    superior to degradation from the sympathies of Freedom, as from
    the antipathies of Slavery. When, said Mr. Phillips, he
    communicated to a New Bedford audience, the other day, his
    purpose of writing his life, and telling his name, and the name
    of his master, and the place he ran from, the murmur ran round
    the room, and was anxiously whispered by the sons of the
    Pilgrims, “He had better not!” and it was echoed under the
    shadow of Concord monument, “He had better not!”

    We would fain express our appreciation of the freedom and steady
    wisdom, so rare in the reformer, with which he declared that he
    was not born to abolish slavery, but to do right. We have heard
    a few, a very few, good political speakers, who afforded us the
    pleasure of great intellectual power and acuteness, of
    soldier-like steadiness, and of a graceful and natural oratory;
    but in this man the audience might detect a sort of moral
    principle and integrity, which was more stable than their
    firmness, more discriminating than his own intellect, and more
    graceful than his rhetoric, which was not working for temporary
    or trivial ends. It is so rare and encouraging to listen to an
    orator who is content with another alliance than with the
    popular party, or even with the sympathizing school of the
    martyrs, who can afford sometimes to be his own auditor if the
    mob stay away, and hears himself without reproof, that we feel
    ourselves in danger of slandering all mankind by affirming, that
    here is one, who is at the same time an eloquent speaker and a
    righteous man.

    Perhaps, on the whole, the most interesting fact elicited by
    these addresses, is the readiness of the people at large, of
    whatever sect or party, to entertain, with good will and
    hospitality, the most revolutionary and heretical opinions, when
    frankly and adequately, and in some sort cheerfully, expressed.
    Such clear and candid declaration of opinion served like an
    electuary to whet and clarify the intellect of all parties, and
    furnished each one with an additional argument for that right he

    We consider Mr. Phillips one of the most conspicuous and
    efficient champions of a true Church and State now in the field,
    and would say to him, and such as are like him, “God speed you.”
    If you know of any champion in the ranks of his opponents, who
    has the valor and courtesy even of Paynim chivalry, if not the
    Christian graces and refinement of this knight, you will do us a
    service by directing him to these fields forthwith, where the
    lists are now open, and he shall be hospitably entertained. For
    as yet the Red-cross knight has shown us only the gallant device
    upon his shield, and his admirable command of his steed,
    prancing and curvetting in the empty lists; but we wait to see
    who, in the actual breaking of lances, will come tumbling upon
    the plain.


                    THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN BROWN.[12]

Footnote 12:

  Read at North Elba, July 4, 1860.

John Brown’s career for the last six weeks of his life was meteor-like,
flashing through the darkness in which we live. I know of nothing so
miraculous in our history.

If any person, in a lecture or conversation at that time, cited any
ancient example of heroism, such as Cato or Tell or Winkelried, passing
over the recent deeds and words of Brown, it was felt by any intelligent
audience of Northern men to be tame and inexcusably far-fetched.

For my own part, I commonly attend more to nature than to man, but any
affecting human event may blind our eyes to natural objects. I was so
absorbed in him as to be surprised whenever I detected the routine of
the natural world surviving still, or met persons going about their
affairs indifferent. It appeared strange to me that the “little dipper”
should be still diving quietly in the river, as of yore; and it
suggested that this bird might continue to dive here when Concord should
be no more.

I felt that he, a prisoner in the midst of his enemies, and under
sentence of death, if consulted as to his next step or resource, could
answer more wisely than all his countrymen beside. He best understood
his position; he contemplated it most calmly. Comparatively, all other
men, North and South, were beside themselves. Our thoughts could not
revert to any greater or wiser or better man with whom to contrast him,
for he, then and there, was above them all. The man this country was
about to hang appeared the greatest and best in it.

Years were not required for a revolution of public opinion; days, nay
hours, produced marked changes in this case. Fifty who were ready to say
on going into our meeting in honor of him in Concord, that he ought to
be hung, would not say it when they came out. They heard his words read;
they saw the earnest faces of the congregation; and perhaps they joined
at last in singing the hymn in his praise.

The order of instructors was reversed. I heard that one preacher, who at
first was shocked and stood aloof, felt obliged at last, after he was
hung, to make him the subject of a sermon, in which, to some extent, he
eulogized the man, but said that his act was a failure. An influential
class-teacher thought it necessary, after the services, to tell his
grown-up pupils, that at first he thought as the preacher did then, but
now he thought that John Brown was right. But it was understood that his
pupils were as much ahead of the teacher as he was ahead of the priest;
and I know for a certainty, that very little boys at home had already
asked their parents, in a tone of surprise, why God did not interfere to
save him. In each case, the constituted teachers were only half
conscious that they were not _leading_, but being _dragged_, with some
loss of time and power.

The more conscientious preachers, the Bible men, they who talk about
principle, and doing to others as you would that they should do unto
you,—how could they fail to recognize him, by far the greatest preacher
of them all, with the Bible in his life and in his acts, the embodiment
of principle, who actually carried out the golden rule? All whose moral
sense had been aroused, who had a calling from on high to preach, sided
with him. What confessions he extracted from the cold and conservative!
It is remarkable, but on the whole it is well, that it did not prove the
occasion for a new sect of _Brownites_ being formed in our midst.

They, whether within the Church or out of it, who adhere to the spirit
and let go the letter, and are accordingly called infidel, were as usual
foremost to recognize him. Men have been hung in the South before for
attempting to rescue slaves, and the North was not much stirred by it.
Whence, then, this wonderful difference? We were not so sure of _their_
devotion to principle. We made a subtle distinction, forgot human laws,
and did homage to an idea. The North, I mean the _living_ North, was
suddenly all transcendental. It went behind the human law, it went
behind the apparent failure, and recognized eternal justice and glory.
Commonly, men live according to a formula, and are satisfied if the
order of law is observed, but in this instance they, to some extent,
returned to original perceptions, and there was a slight revival of old
religion. They saw that what was called order was confusion, what was
called justice, injustice, and that the best was deemed the worst. This
attitude suggested a more intelligent and generous spirit than that
which actuated our forefathers, and the possibility, in the course of
ages, of a revolution in behalf of another and an oppressed people.

Most Northern men, and a few Southern ones, were wonderfully stirred by
Brown’s behavior and words. They saw and felt that they were heroic and
noble, and that there had been nothing quite equal to them in their kind
in this country, or in the recent history of the world. But the minority
were unmoved by them. They were only surprised and provoked by the
attitude of their neighbors. They saw that Brown was brave, and that he
believed that he had done right, but they did not detect any further
peculiarity in him. Not being accustomed to make fine distinctions, or
to appreciate magnanimity, they read his letters and speeches as if they
read them not. They were not aware when they approached a heroic
statement,—they did not know when they _burned_. They did not feel that
he spoke with authority, and hence they only remembered that the _law_
must be executed. They remembered the old formula, but did not hear the
new revelation. The man who does not recognize in Brown’s words a wisdom
and nobleness, and therefore an authority, superior to our laws, is a
modern Democrat. This is the test by which to discover him. He is not
wilfully but constitutionally blind on this side, and he is consistent
with himself. Such has been his past life; no doubt of it. In like
manner he has read history and his Bible, and he accepts, or seems to
accept, the last only as an established formula, and not because he has
been convicted by it. You will not find kindred sentiments in his
common-place book, if he has one.

When a noble deed is done, who is likely to appreciate it? They who are
noble themselves. I was not surprised that certain of my neighbors spoke
of John Brown as an ordinary felon, for who are they? They have either
much flesh, or much office, or much coarseness of some kind. They are
not ethereal natures in any sense. The dark qualities predominate in
them. Several of them are decidedly pachydermatous. I say it in sorrow,
not in anger. How can a man behold the light, who has no answering
inward light? They are true to their _right_, but when they look this
way they _see_ nothing, they are blind. For the children of the light to
contend with them is as if there should be a contest between eagles and
owls. Show me a man who feels bitterly toward John Brown, and let me
hear what noble verse he can repeat. He’ll be as dumb as if his lips
were stone.

It is not every man who can be a Christian, even in a very moderate
sense, whatever education you give him. It is a matter of constitution
and temperament, after all. He may have to be born again many times. I
have known many a man who pretended to be a Christian, in whom it was
ridiculous, for he had no genius for it. It is not every man who can be
a freeman, even.

Editors persevered for a good while in saying that Brown was crazy; but
at last they said only that it was “a crazy scheme,” and the only
evidence brought to prove it was that it cost him his life. I have no
doubt that if he had gone with five thousand men, liberated a thousand
slaves, killed a hundred or two slaveholders, and had as many more
killed on his own side, but not lost his own life, these same editors
would have called it by a more respectable name. Yet he has been far
more successful than that. He has liberated many thousands of slaves,
both North and South. They seem to have known nothing about living or
dying for a principle. They all called him crazy then; who calls him
crazy now?

All through the excitement occasioned by his remarkable attempt and
subsequent behavior, the Massachusetts Legislature, not taking any steps
for the defence of her citizens who were likely to be carried to
Virginia as witnesses and exposed to the violence of a slaveholding mob,
was wholly absorbed in a liquor-agency question, and indulging in poor
jokes on the word “extension.” Bad spirits occupied their thoughts. I am
sure that no statesman up to the occasion could have attended to that
question at all at that time,—a very vulgar question to attend to at any

When I looked into a liturgy of the Church of England, printed near the
end of the last century, in order to find a service applicable to the
case of Brown, I found that the only martyr recognized and provided for
by it was King Charles the First, an eminent scamp. Of all the
inhabitants of England and of the world, he was the only one, according
to this authority, whom that church had made a martyr and saint of; and
for more than a century it had celebrated his martyrdom, so called, by
an annual service. What a satire on the Church is that!

Look not to legislatures and churches for your guidance, nor to any
soulless _incorporated_ bodies, but to _in-spirited_ or inspired ones.

What avail all your scholarly accomplishments and learning, compared
with wisdom and manhood? To omit his other behavior, see what a work
this comparatively unread and unlettered man wrote within six weeks.
Where is our professor of _belles-lettres_ or of logic and rhetoric, who
can write so well? He wrote in prison, not a History of the World, like
Raleigh, but an American book which I think will live longer than that.
I do not know of such words, uttered under such circumstances, and so
copiously withal, in Roman or English or any history. What a variety of
themes he touched on in that short space! There are words in that letter
to his wife, respecting the education of his daughters, which deserve to
be framed and hung over every mantel-piece in the land. Compare this
earnest wisdom with that of Poor Richard.

The death of Irving, which at any other time would have attracted
universal attention, having occurred while these things were
transpiring, went almost unobserved. I shall have to read of it in the
biography of authors.

Literary gentlemen, editors, and critics, think that they know how to
write, because they have studied grammar and rhetoric; but they are
egregiously mistaken. The _art_ of composition is as simple as the
discharge of a bullet from a rifle, and its masterpieces imply an
infinitely greater force behind them. This unlettered man’s speaking and
writing are standard English. Some words and phrases deemed vulgarisms
and Americanisms before, he has made standard American; such as “_It
will pay_.” It suggests that the one great rule of composition,—and if I
were a professor of rhetoric I should insist on this,—is, to _speak the
truth_. This first, this second, this third; pebbles in your mouth or
not. This demands earnestness and manhood chiefly.

We seem to have forgotten that the expression, a _liberal_ education,
originally meant among the Romans one worthy of _free_ men; while the
learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood
merely was considered worthy of _slaves_ only. But taking a hint from
the word, I would go a step further, and say, that it is not the man of
wealth and leisure simply, though devoted to art, or science, or
literature, who, in a true sense, is _liberally_ educated, but only the
earnest and free man. In a slaveholding country like this, there can be
no such thing as a _liberal_ education tolerated by the State; and those
scholars of Austria and France who, however learned they may be, are
contented under their tyrannies, have received only a _servile_

Nothing could his enemies do, but it redounded to his infinite
advantage,—that is, to the advantage of his cause. They did not hang him
at once, but reserved him to preach to them. And then there was another
great blunder. They did not hang his four followers with him; that scene
was still postponed; and so his victory was prolonged and completed. No
theatrical manager could have arranged things so wisely to give effect
to his behavior and words. And who, think you, _was_ the manager? _Who_
placed the slave-woman and her child, whom he stooped to kiss for a
symbol, between his prison and the gallows?

We soon saw, as he saw, that he was not to be pardoned or rescued by
men. That would have been to disarm him, to restore to him a material
weapon, a Sharpe’s rifle, when he had taken up the sword of the
spirit,—the sword with which he has really won his greatest and most
memorable victories. Now he has not laid aside the sword of the spirit,
for he is pure spirit himself, and his sword is pure spirit also.

                 “He nothing common did or mean
                  Upon that memorable scene,
                  Nor called the gods with vulgar spite,
                  To vindicate his helpless right;
                  But bowed his comely head
                  Down as upon a bed.”

What a transit was that of his horizontal body alone, but just cut down
from the gallows-tree! We read, that at such a time it passed through
Philadelphia, and by Saturday night had reached New York. Thus, like a
meteor it shot through the Union from the Southern regions toward the
North! No such freight had the cars borne since they carried him
Southward alive.

On the day of his translation, I heard, to be sure, that he was _hung_,
but I did not know what that meant; I felt no sorrow on that account;
but not for a day or two did I even _hear_ that he was _dead_, and not
after any number of days shall I believe it. Of all the men who were
said to be my contemporaries, it seemed to me that John Brown was the
only one who _had not died_. I never hear of a man named Brown now,—and
I hear of them pretty often,—I never hear of any particularly brave and
earnest man, but my first thought is of John Brown, and what relation he
may be to him. I meet him at every turn. He is more alive than ever he
was. He has earned immortality. He is not confined to North Elba nor to
Kansas. He is no longer working in secret. He works in public, and in
the clearest light that shines on this land.

                                THE END.

      Cambridge: Stereotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.


 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that:
      was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_); had extra
      character spacing by “plus” signs (+stretched+).

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