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´╗┐Title: The Education of Henry Adams
Author: Adams, Henry, 1838-1918
Language: English
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The Education of Henry Adams

by Henry Adams



THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS

        CONTENTS
        EDITOR'S PREFACE
        PREFACE
     I. QUINCY (1838-1848)
    II. BOSTON (1848-1854)
   III. WASHINGTON (1850-1854)
    IV. HARVARD COLLEGE (1854-1858)
     V. BERLIN (1858-1859)
    VI. ROME (1859-1860)
   VII. TREASON (1860-1861)
  VIII. DIPLOMACY (1861)
    IX. FOES OR FRIENDS (1862)
     X. POLITICAL MORALITY (1862)
    XI. THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS (1863)
   XII. ECCENTRICITY (1863)
  XIII. THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY (1864)
   XIV. DILETTANTISM (1865-1866)
    XV. DARWINISM (1867-1868)
   XVI. THE PRESS (1868)
  XVII. PRESIDENT GRANT (1869)
 XVIII. FREE FIGHT (1869-1870)
   XIX. CHAOS (1870)
    XX. FAILURE (1871)
   XXI. TWENTY YEARS AFTER (1892)
  XXII. CHICAGO (1893)
 XXIII. SILENCE (1894-1898)
  XXIV. INDIAN SUMMER (1898-1899)
   XXV. THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN (1900)
  XXVI. TWILIGHT (1901)
 XXVII. TEUFELSDROCKH (1901)
XXVIII. THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE (1902)
  XXIX. THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE (1902)
   XXX. VIS INERTIAE (1903)
  XXXI. THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE (1903)
 XXXII. VIS NOVA (1903-1904)
XXXIII. A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY (1904)
 XXXIV. A LAW OF ACCELERATION (1904)
  XXXV. NUNC AGE (1905)


EDITOR'S PREFACE

  THIS volume, written in 1905 as a sequel to the same author's
"Mont Saint Michel and Chartres," was privately printed, to the number
of one hundred copies, in 1906, and sent to the persons interested, for
their assent, correction, or suggestion. The idea of the two books was
thus explained at the end of Chapter XXIX: --

  "Any schoolboy could see that man as a force must be measured
by motion from a fixed point. Psychology helped here by suggesting a
unit--the point of history when man held the highest idea of himself as
a unit in a unified universe. Eight or ten years of study had led Adams
to think he might use the century 1150-1250, expressed in Amiens
Cathedral and the Works of Thomas Aquinas, as the unit from which he
might measure motion down to his own time, without assuming anything as
true or untrue, except relation. The movement might be studied at once
in philosophy and mechanics. Setting himself to the task, he began a
volume which he mentally knew as 'Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres: a
Study of Thirteenth-Century Unity.' From that point he proposed to fix
a position for himself, which he could label: 'The Education of Henry
Adams: a Study of Twentieth-Century Multiplicity.' With the help of
these two points of relation, he hoped to project his lines forward and
backward indefinitely, subject to correction from any one who should
know better."

  The "Chartres" was finished and privately printed in 1904. The
"Education" proved to be more difficult. The point on which the author
failed to please himself, and could get no light from readers or
friends, was the usual one of literary form. Probably he saw it in
advance, for he used to say, half in jest, that his great ambition was
to complete St. Augustine's "Confessions," but that St. Augustine, like
a great artist, had worked from multiplicity to unity, while he, like a
small one, had to reverse the method and work back from unity to
multiplicity. The scheme became unmanageable as he approached his end.

  Probably he was, in fact, trying only to work into it his
favorite theory of history, which now fills the last three or four
chapters of the "Education," and he could not satisfy himself with his
workmanship. At all events, he was still pondering over the problem in
1910, when he tried to deal with it in another way which might be more
intelligible to students. He printed a small volume called "A Letter to
American Teachers," which he sent to his associates in the American
Historical Association, hoping to provoke some response. Before he
could satisfy himself even on this minor point, a severe illness in the
spring of 1912 put an end to his literary activity forever.

  The matter soon passed beyond his control. In 1913 the
Institute of Architects published the "Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres."
Already the "Education" had become almost as well known as the
"Chartres," and was freely quoted by every book whose author requested
it. The author could no longer withdraw either volume; he could no
longer rewrite either, and he could not publish that which he thought
unprepared and unfinished, although in his opinion the other was
historically purposeless without its sequel. In the end, he preferred
to leave the "Education" unpublished, avowedly incomplete, trusting
that it might quietly fade from memory. According to his theory of
history as explained in Chapters XXXIII and XXXIV, the teacher was at
best helpless, and, in the immediate future, silence next to
good-temper was the mark of sense. After midsummer, 1914, the rule was
made absolute.

  The Massachusetts Historical Society now publishes the
"Education" as it was printed in 1907, with only such marginal
corrections as the author made, and it does this, not in opposition to
the author's judgment, but only to put both volumes equally within
reach of students who have occasion to consult them.

HENRY CABOT LODGE

September, 1918



PREFACE

  JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU began his famous Confessions by a
vehement appeal to the Deity: "I have shown myself as I was;
contemptible and vile when I was so; good, generous, sublime when I was
so; I have unveiled my interior such as Thou thyself hast seen it,
Eternal Father! Collect about me the innumerable swarm of my fellows;
let them hear my confessions; let them groan at my unworthiness; let
them blush at my meannesses! Let each of them discover his heart in his
turn at the foot of thy throne with the same sincerity; and then let
any one of them tell thee if he dares: 'I was a better man!'"

  Jean Jacques was a very great educator in the manner of the
eighteenth century, and has been commonly thought to have had more
influence than any other teacher of his time; but his peculiar method
of improving human nature has not been universally admired. Most
educators of the nineteenth century have declined to show themselves
before their scholars as objects more vile or contemptible than
necessary, and even the humblest teacher hides, if possible, the faults
with which nature has generously embellished us all, as it did Jean
Jacques, thinking, as most religious minds are apt to do, that the
Eternal Father himself may not feel unmixed pleasure at our thrusting
under his eyes chiefly the least agreeable details of his creation.

  As an unfortunate result the twentieth century finds few recent
guides to avoid, or to follow. American literature offers scarcely one
working model for high education. The student must go back, beyond Jean
Jacques, to Benjamin Franklin, to find a model even of self-teaching.
Except in the abandoned sphere of the dead languages, no one has
discussed what part of education has, in his personal experience,
turned out to be useful, and what not. This volume attempts to discuss
it.

  As educator, Jean Jacques was, in one respect, easily first; he
erected a monument of warning against the Ego. Since his time, and
largely thanks to him, the Ego has steadily tended to efface itself,
and, for purposes of model, to become a manikin on which the toilet of
education is to be draped in order to show the fit or misfit of the
clothes. The object of study is the garment, not the figure. The tailor
adapts the manikin as well as the clothes to his patron's wants. The
tailor's object, in this volume, is to fit young men, in universities
or elsewhere, to be men of the world, equipped for any emergency; and
the garment offered to them is meant to show the faults of the
patchwork fitted on their fathers.

  At the utmost, the active-minded young man should ask of his
teacher only mastery of his tools. The young man himself, the subject
of education, is a certain form of energy; the object to be gained is
economy of his force; the training is partly the clearing away of
obstacles, partly the direct application of effort. Once acquired, the
tools and models may be thrown away.

  The manikin, therefore, has the same value as any other
geometrical figure of three or more dimensions, which is used for the
study of relation. For that purpose it cannot be spared; it is the only
measure of motion, of proportion, of human condition; it must have the
air of reality; must be taken for real; must be treated as though it
had life. Who knows? Possibly it had!

February 16, 1907



THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS



CHAPTER I

QUINCY (1838-1848)

  UNDER the shadow of Boston State House, turning its back on the
house of John Hancock, the little passage called Hancock Avenue runs,
or ran, from Beacon Street, skirting the State House grounds, to Mount
Vernon Street, on the summit of Beacon Hill; and there, in the third
house below Mount Vernon Place, February 16, 1838, a child was born,
and christened later by his uncle, the minister of the First Church
after the tenets of Boston Unitarianism, as Henry Brooks Adams.

  Had he been born in Jerusalem under the shadow of the Temple
and circumcised in the Synagogue by his uncle the high priest, under
the name of Israel Cohen, he would scarcely have been more distinctly
branded, and not much more heavily handicapped in the races of the
coming century, in running for such stakes as the century was to offer;
but, on the other hand, the ordinary traveller, who does not enter the
field of racing, finds advantage in being, so to speak, ticketed
through life, with the safeguards of an old, established traffic.
Safeguards are often irksome, but sometimes convenient, and if one
needs them at all, one is apt to need them badly. A hundred years
earlier, such safeguards as his would have secured any young man's
success; and although in 1838 their value was not very great compared
with what they would have had in 1738, yet the mere accident of
starting a twentieth-century career from a nest of associations so
colonial,--so troglodytic--as the First Church, the Boston State House,
Beacon Hill, John Hancock and John Adams, Mount Vernon Street and
Quincy, all crowding on ten pounds of unconscious babyhood, was so
queer as to offer a subject of curious speculation to the baby long
after he had witnessed the solution. What could become of such a child
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when he should wake up to
find himself required to play the game of the twentieth? Had he been
consulted, would he have cared to play the game at all, holding such
cards as he held, and suspecting that the game was to be one of which
neither he nor any one else back to the beginning of time knew the
rules or the risks or the stakes? He was not consulted and was not
responsible, but had he been taken into the confidence of his parents,
he would certainly have told them to change nothing as far as concerned
him. He would have been astounded by his own luck. Probably no child,
born in the year, held better cards than he. Whether life was an honest
game of chance, or whether the cards were marked and forced, he could
not refuse to play his excellent hand. He could never make the usual
plea of irresponsibility. He accepted the situation as though he had
been a party to it, and under the same circumstances would do it again,
the more readily for knowing the exact values. To his life as a whole
he was a consenting, contracting party and partner from the moment he
was born to the moment he died. Only with that understanding--as a
consciously assenting member in full partnership with the society of
his age--had his education an interest to himself or to others.

  As it happened, he never got to the point of playing the game
at all; he lost himself in the study of it, watching the errors of the
players; but this is the only interest in the story, which otherwise
has no moral and little incident. A story of education--seventy years
of it--the practical value remains to the end in doubt, like other
values about which men have disputed since the birth of Cain and Abel;
but the practical value of the universe has never been stated in
dollars. Although every one cannot be a Gargantua-Napoleon-Bismarck and
walk off with the great bells of Notre Dame, every one must bear his
own universe, and most persons are moderately interested in learning
how their neighbors have managed to carry theirs.

  This problem of education, started in 1838, went on for three
years, while the baby grew, like other babies, unconsciously, as a
vegetable, the outside world working as it never had worked before, to
get his new universe ready for him. Often in old age he puzzled over
the question whether, on the doctrine of chances, he was at liberty to
accept himself or his world as an accident. No such accident had ever
happened before in human experience. For him, alone, the old universe
was thrown into the ash-heap and a new one created. He and his
eighteenth-century, troglodytic Boston were suddenly cut
apart--separated forever--in act if not in sentiment, by the opening of
the Boston and Albany Railroad; the appearance of the first Cunard
steamers in the bay; and the telegraphic messages which carried from
Baltimore to Washington the news that Henry Clay and James K. Polk were
nominated for the Presidency. This was in May, 1844; he was six years
old; his new world was ready for use, and only fragments of the old met
his eyes.

  Of all this that was being done to complicate his education, he
knew only the color of yellow. He first found himself sitting on a
yellow kitchen floor in strong sunlight. He was three years old when he
took this earliest step in education; a lesson of color. The second
followed soon; a lesson of taste. On December 3, 1841, he developed
scarlet fever. For several days he was as good as dead, reviving only
under the careful nursing of his family. When he began to recover
strength, about January 1, 1842, his hunger must have been stronger
than any other pleasure or pain, for while in after life he retained
not the faintest recollection of his illness, he remembered quite
clearly his aunt entering the sickroom bearing in her hand a saucer
with a baked apple.

  The order of impressions retained by memory might naturally be
that of color and taste, although one would rather suppose that the
sense of pain would be first to educate. In fact, the third
recollection of the child was that of discomfort. The moment he could
be removed, he was bundled up in blankets and carried from the little
house in Hancock Avenue to a larger one which his parents were to
occupy for the rest of their lives in the neighboring Mount Vernon
Street. The season was midwinter, January 10, 1842, and he never forgot
his acute distress for want of air under his blankets, or the noises of
moving furniture.

  As a means of variation from a normal type, sickness in
childhood ought to have a certain value not to be classed under any
fitness or unfitness of natural selection; and especially scarlet fever
affected boys seriously, both physically and in character, though they
might through life puzzle themselves to decide whether it had fitted or
unfitted them for success; but this fever of Henry Adams took greater
and greater importance in his eyes, from the point of view of
education, the longer he lived. At first, the effect was physical. He
fell behind his brothers two or three inches in height, and
proportionally in bone and weight. His character and processes of mind
seemed to share in this fining-down process of scale. He was not good
in a fight, and his nerves were more delicate than boys' nerves ought
to be. He exaggerated these weaknesses as he grew older. The habit of
doubt; of distrusting his own judgment and of totally rejecting the
judgment of the world; the tendency to regard every question as open;
the hesitation to act except as a choice of evils; the shirking of
responsibility; the love of line, form, quality; the horror of ennui;
the passion for companionship and the antipathy to society--all these
are well-known qualities of New England character in no way peculiar to
individuals but in this instance they seemed to be stimulated by the
fever, and Henry Adams could never make up his mind whether, on the
whole, the change of character was morbid or healthy, good or bad for
his purpose. His brothers were the type; he was the variation.

  As far as the boy knew, the sickness did not affect him at all,
and he grew up in excellent health, bodily and mental, taking life as
it was given; accepting its local standards without a difficulty, and
enjoying much of it as keenly as any other boy of his age. He seemed to
himself quite normal, and his companions seemed always to think him so.
Whatever was peculiar about him was education, not character, and came
to him, directly and indirectly, as the result of that
eighteenth-century inheritance which he took with his name.

  The atmosphere of education in which he lived was colonial,
revolutionary, almost Cromwellian, as though he were steeped, from his
greatest grandmother's birth, in the odor of political crime.
Resistance to something was the law of New England nature; the boy
looked out on the world with the instinct of resistance; for numberless
generations his predecessors had viewed the world chiefly as a thing to
be reformed, filled with evil forces to be abolished, and they saw no
reason to suppose that they had wholly succeeded in the abolition; the
duty was unchanged. That duty implied not only resistance to evil, but
hatred of it. Boys naturally look on all force as an enemy, and
generally find it so, but the New Englander, whether boy or man, in his
long struggle with a stingy or hostile universe, had learned also to
love the pleasure of hating; his joys were few.

  Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always
been the systematic organization of hatreds, and Massachusetts politics
had been as harsh as the climate. The chief charm of New England was
harshness of contrasts and extremes of sensibility--a cold that froze
the blood, and a heat that boiled it--so that the pleasure of
hating--one's self if no better victim offered--was not its rarest
amusement; but the charm was a true and natural child of the soil, not
a cultivated weed of the ancients. The violence of the contrast was
real and made the strongest motive of education. The double exterior
nature gave life its relative values. Winter and summer, cold and heat,
town and country, force and freedom, marked two modes of life and
thought, balanced like lobes of the brain. Town was winter confinement,
school, rule, discipline; straight, gloomy streets, piled with six feet
of snow in the middle; frosts that made the snow sing under wheels or
runners; thaws when the streets became dangerous to cross; society of
uncles, aunts, and cousins who expected children to behave themselves,
and who were not always gratified; above all else, winter represented
the desire to escape and go free. Town was restraint, law, unity.
Country, only seven miles away, was liberty, diversity, outlawry, the
endless delight of mere sense impressions given by nature for nothing,
and breathed by boys without knowing it.

  Boys are wild animals, rich in the treasures of sense, but the
New England boy had a wider range of emotions than boys of more equable
climates. He felt his nature crudely, as it was meant. To the boy Henry
Adams, summer was drunken. Among senses, smell was the strongest--smell
of hot pine-woods and sweet-fern in the scorching summer noon; of
new-mown hay; of ploughed earth; of box hedges; of peaches, lilacs,
syringas; of stables, barns, cow-yards; of salt water and low tide on
the marshes; nothing came amiss. Next to smell came taste, and the
children knew the taste of everything they saw or touched, from
pennyroyal and flagroot to the shell of a pignut and the letters of a
spelling-book--the taste of A-B, AB, suddenly revived on the boy's
tongue sixty years afterwards. Light, line, and color as sensual
pleasures, came later and were as crude as the rest. The New England
light is glare, and the atmosphere harshens color. The boy was a full
man before he ever knew what was meant by atmosphere; his idea of
pleasure in light was the blaze of a New England sun. His idea of color
was a peony, with the dew of early morning on its petals. The intense
blue of the sea, as he saw it a mile or two away, from the Quincy
hills; the cumuli in a June afternoon sky; the strong reds and greens
and purples of colored prints and children's picture-books, as the
American colors then ran; these were ideals. The opposites or
antipathies, were the cold grays of November evenings, and the thick,
muddy thaws of Boston winter. With such standards, the Bostonian could
not but develop a double nature. Life was a double thing. After a
January blizzard, the boy who could look with pleasure into the violent
snow-glare of the cold white sunshine, with its intense light and
shade, scarcely knew what was meant by tone. He could reach it only by
education.

  Winter and summer, then, were two hostile lives, and bred two
separate natures. Winter was always the effort to live; summer was
tropical license. Whether the children rolled in the grass, or waded in
the brook, or swam in the salt ocean, or sailed in the bay, or fished
for smelts in the creeks, or netted minnows in the salt-marshes, or
took to the pine-woods and the granite quarries, or chased muskrats and
hunted snapping-turtles in the swamps, or mushrooms or nuts on the
autumn hills, summer and country were always sensual living, while
winter was always compulsory learning. Summer was the multiplicity of
nature; winter was school.

  The bearing of the two seasons on the education of Henry Adams
was no fancy; it was the most decisive force he ever knew; it ran
though life, and made the division between its perplexing, warring,
irreconcilable problems, irreducible opposites, with growing emphasis
to the last year of study. From earliest childhood the boy was
accustomed to feel that, for him, life was double. Winter and summer,
town and country, law and liberty, were hostile, and the man who
pretended they were not, was in his eyes a schoolmaster--that is, a man
employed to tell lies to little boys. Though Quincy was but two hours'
walk from Beacon Hill, it belonged in a different world. For two
hundred years, every Adams, from father to son, had lived within sight
of State Street, and sometimes had lived in it, yet none had ever taken
kindly to the town, or been taken kindly by it. The boy inherited his
double nature. He knew as yet nothing about his great-grandfather, who
had died a dozen years before his own birth: he took for granted that
any great-grandfather of his must have always been good, and his
enemies wicked; but he divined his great-grandfather's character from
his own. Never for a moment did he connect the two ideas of Boston and
John Adams; they were separate and antagonistic; the idea of John Adams
went with Quincy. He knew his grandfather John Quincy Adams only as an
old man of seventy-five or eighty who was friendly and gentle with him,
but except that he heard his grandfather always called "the President,"
and his grandmother "the Madam," he had no reason to suppose that his
Adams grandfather differed in character from his Brooks grandfather who
was equally kind and benevolent. He liked the Adams side best, but for
no other reason than that it reminded him of the country, the summer,
and the absence of restraint. Yet he felt also that Quincy was in a way
inferior to Boston, and that socially Boston looked down on Quincy. The
reason was clear enough even to a five-year old child. Quincy had no
Boston style. Little enough style had either; a simpler manner of life
and thought could hardly exist, short of cave-dwelling. The
flint-and-steel with which his grandfather Adams used to light his own
fires in the early morning was still on the mantelpiece of his study.
The idea of a livery or even a dress for servants, or of an evening
toilette, was next to blasphemy. Bathrooms, water-supplies, lighting,
heating, and the whole array of domestic comforts, were unknown at
Quincy. Boston had already a bathroom, a water-supply, a furnace, and
gas. The superiority of Boston was evident, but a child liked it no
better for that.

  The magnificence of his grandfather Brooks's house in Pearl
Street or South Street has long ago disappeared, but perhaps his
country house at Medford may still remain to show what impressed the
mind of a boy in 1845 with the idea of city splendor. The President's
place at Quincy was the larger and older and far the more interesting
of the two; but a boy felt at once its inferiority in fashion. It
showed plainly enough its want of wealth. It smacked of colonial age,
but not of Boston style or plush curtains. To the end of his life he
never quite overcame the prejudice thus drawn in with his childish
breath. He never could compel himself to care for nineteenth-century
style. He was never able to adopt it, any more than his father or
grandfather or great-grandfather had done. Not that he felt it as
particularly hostile, for he reconciled himself to much that was worse;
but because, for some remote reason, he was born an eighteenth-century
child. The old house at Quincy was eighteenth century. What style it
had was in its Queen Anne mahogany panels and its Louis Seize chairs
and sofas. The panels belonged to an old colonial Vassall who built the
house; the furniture had been brought back from Paris in 1789 or 1801
or 1817, along with porcelain and books and much else of old diplomatic
remnants; and neither of the two eighteenth-century styles--neither
English Queen Anne nor French Louis Seize--was comfortable for a boy,
or for any one else. The dark mahogany had been painted white to suit
daily life in winter gloom. Nothing seemed to favor, for a child's
objects, the older forms. On the contrary, most boys, as well as
grown-up people, preferred the new, with good reason, and the child
felt himself distinctly at a disadvantage for the taste.

  Nor had personal preference any share in his bias. The Brooks
grandfather was as amiable and as sympathetic as the Adams grandfather.
Both were born in 1767, and both died in 1848. Both were kind to
children, and both belonged rather to the eighteenth than to the
nineteenth centuries. The child knew no difference between them except
that one was associated with winter and the other with summer; one with
Boston, the other with Quincy. Even with Medford, the association was
hardly easier. Once as a very young boy he was taken to pass a few days
with his grandfather Brooks under charge of his aunt, but became so
violently homesick that within twenty-four hours he was brought back in
disgrace. Yet he could not remember ever being seriously homesick again.

  The attachment to Quincy was not altogether sentimental or
wholly sympathetic. Quincy was not a bed of thornless roses. Even there
the curse of Cain set its mark. There as elsewhere a cruel universe
combined to crush a child. As though three or four vigorous brothers
and sisters, with the best will, were not enough to crush any child,
every one else conspired towards an education which he hated. From
cradle to grave this problem of running order through chaos, direction
through space, discipline through freedom, unity through multiplicity,
has always been, and must always be, the task of education, as it is
the moral of religion, philosophy, science, art, politics, and economy;
but a boy's will is his life, and he dies when it is broken, as the
colt dies in harness, taking a new nature in becoming tame. Rarely has
the boy felt kindly towards his tamers. Between him and his master has
always been war. Henry Adams never knew a boy of his generation to like
a master, and the task of remaining on friendly terms with one's own
family, in such a relation, was never easy.

  All the more singular it seemed afterwards to him that his
first serious contact with the President should have been a struggle of
will, in which the old man almost necessarily defeated the boy, but
instead of leaving, as usual in such defeats, a lifelong sting, left
rather an impression of as fair treatment as could be expected from a
natural enemy. The boy met seldom with such restraint. He could not
have been much more than six years old at the time--seven at the
utmost--and his mother had taken him to Quincy for a long stay with the
President during the summer. What became of the rest of the family he
quite forgot; but he distinctly remembered standing at the house door
one summer morning in a passionate outburst of rebellion against going
to school. Naturally his mother was the immediate victim of his rage;
that is what mothers are for, and boys also; but in this case the boy
had his mother at unfair disadvantage, for she was a guest, and had no
means of enforcing obedience. Henry showed a certain tactical ability
by refusing to start, and he met all efforts at compulsion by
successful, though too vehement protest. He was in fair way to win, and
was holding his own, with sufficient energy, at the bottom of the long
staircase which led up to the door of the President's library, when the
door opened, and the old man slowly came down. Putting on his hat, he
took the boy's hand without a word, and walked with him, paralyzed by
awe, up the road to the town. After the first moments of consternation
at this interference in a domestic dispute, the boy reflected that an
old gentleman close on eighty would never trouble himself to walk near
a mile on a hot summer morning over a shadeless road to take a boy to
school, and that it would be strange if a lad imbued with the passion
of freedom could not find a corner to dodge around, somewhere before
reaching the school door. Then and always, the boy insisted that this
reasoning justified his apparent submission; but the old man did not
stop, and the boy saw all his strategical points turned, one after
another, until he found himself seated inside the school, and obviously
the centre of curious if not malevolent criticism. Not till then did
the President release his hand and depart.

  The point was that this act, contrary to the inalienable rights
of boys, and nullifying the social compact, ought to have made him
dislike his grandfather for life. He could not recall that it had this
effect even for a moment. With a certain maturity of mind, the child
must have recognized that the President, though a tool of tyranny, had
done his disreputable work with a certain intelligence. He had shown no
temper, no irritation, no personal feeling, and had made no display of
force. Above all, he had held his tongue. During their long walk he had
said nothing; he had uttered no syllable of revolting cant about the
duty of obedience and the wickedness of resistance to law; he had shown
no concern in the matter; hardly even a consciousness of the boy's
existence. Probably his mind at that moment was actually troubling
itself little about his grandson's iniquities, and much about the
iniquities of President Polk, but the boy could scarcely at that age
feel the whole satisfaction of thinking that President Polk was to be
the vicarious victim of his own sins, and he gave his grandfather
credit for intelligent silence. For this forbearance he felt
instinctive respect. He admitted force as a form of right; he admitted
even temper, under protest; but the seeds of a moral education would at
that moment have fallen on the stoniest soil in Quincy, which is, as
every one knows, the stoniest glacial and tidal drift known in any
Puritan land.

  Neither party to this momentary disagreement can have felt
rancor, for during these three or four summers the old President's
relations with the boy were friendly and almost intimate. Whether his
older brothers and sisters were still more favored he failed to
remember, but he was himself admitted to a sort of familiarity which,
when in his turn he had reached old age, rather shocked him, for it
must have sometimes tried the President's patience. He hung about the
library; handled the books; deranged the papers; ransacked the drawers;
searched the old purses and pocket-books for foreign coins; drew the
sword-cane; snapped the travelling-pistols; upset everything in the
corners, and penetrated the President's dressing-closet where a row of
tumblers, inverted on the shelf, covered caterpillars which were
supposed to become moths or butterflies, but never did. The Madam bore
with fortitude the loss of the tumblers which her husband purloined for
these hatcheries; but she made protest when he carried off her best
cut-glass bowls to plant with acorns or peachstones that he might see
the roots grow, but which, she said, he commonly forgot like the
caterpillars.

  At that time the President rode the hobby of tree-culture, and
some fine old trees should still remain to witness it, unless they have
been improved off the ground; but his was a restless mind, and although
he took his hobbies seriously and would have been annoyed had his
grandchild asked whether he was bored like an English duke, he probably
cared more for the processes than for the results, so that his grandson
was saddened by the sight and smell of peaches and pears, the best of
their kind, which he brought up from the garden to rot on his shelves
for seed. With the inherited virtues of his Puritan ancestors, the
little boy Henry conscientiously brought up to him in his study the
finest peaches he found in the garden, and ate only the less perfect.
Naturally he ate more by way of compensation, but the act showed that
he bore no grudge. As for his grandfather, it is even possible that he
may have felt a certain self-reproach for his temporary role of
schoolmaster--seeing that his own career did not offer proof of the
worldly advantages of docile obedience--for there still exists
somewhere a little volume of critically edited Nursery Rhymes with the
boy's name in full written in the President's trembling hand on the
fly-leaf. Of course there was also the Bible, given to each child at
birth, with the proper inscription in the President's hand on the
fly-leaf; while their grandfather Brooks supplied the silver mugs.

  So many Bibles and silver mugs had to be supplied, that a new
house, or cottage, was built to hold them. It was "on the hill," five
minutes' walk above "the old house," with a far view eastward over
Quincy Bay, and northward over Boston. Till his twelfth year, the child
passed his summers there, and his pleasures of childhood mostly centred
in it. Of education he had as yet little to complain. Country schools
were not very serious. Nothing stuck to the mind except home
impressions, and the sharpest were those of kindred children; but as
influences that warped a mind, none compared with the mere effect of
the back of the President's bald head, as he sat in his pew on Sundays,
in line with that of President Quincy, who, though some ten years
younger, seemed to children about the same age. Before railways entered
the New England town, every parish church showed half-a-dozen of these
leading citizens, with gray hair, who sat on the main aisle in the best
pews, and had sat there, or in some equivalent dignity, since the time
of St. Augustine, if not since the glacial epoch. It was unusual for
boys to sit behind a President grandfather, and to read over his head
the tablet in memory of a President great-grandfather, who had "pledged
his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor" to secure the independence
of his country and so forth; but boys naturally supposed, without much
reasoning, that other boys had the equivalent of President
grandfathers, and that churches would always go on, with the
bald-headed leading citizens on the main aisle, and Presidents or their
equivalents on the walls. The Irish gardener once said to the child:
"You'll be thinkin' you'll be President too!" The casuality of the
remark made so strong an impression on his mind that he never forgot
it. He could not remember ever to have thought on the subject; to him,
that there should be a doubt of his being President was a new idea.
What had been would continue to be. He doubted neither about Presidents
nor about Churches, and no one suggested at that time a doubt whether a
system of society which had lasted since Adam would outlast one Adams
more.

  The Madam was a little more remote than the President, but more
decorative. She stayed much in her own room with the Dutch tiles,
looking out on her garden with the box walks, and seemed a fragile
creature to a boy who sometimes brought her a note or a message, and
took distinct pleasure in looking at her delicate face under what
seemed to him very becoming caps. He liked her refined figure; her
gentle voice and manner; her vague effect of not belonging there, but
to Washington or to Europe, like her furniture, and writing-desk with
little glass doors above and little eighteenth-century volumes in old
binding, labelled "Peregrine Pickle" or "Tom Jones" or "Hannah More."
Try as she might, the Madam could never be Bostonian, and it was her
cross in life, but to the boy it was her charm. Even at that age, he
felt drawn to it. The Madam's life had been in truth far from Boston.
She was born in London in 1775, daughter of Joshua Johnson, an American
merchant, brother of Governor Thomas Johnson of Maryland; and Catherine
Nuth, of an English family in London. Driven from England by the
Revolutionary War, Joshua Johnson took his family to Nantes, where they
remained till the peace. The girl Louisa Catherine was nearly ten years
old when brought back to London, and her sense of nationality must have
been confused; but the influence of the Johnsons and the services of
Joshua obtained for him from President Washington the appointment of
Consul in London on the organization of the Government in 1790. In 1794
President Washington appointed John Quincy Adams Minister to The Hague.
He was twenty-seven years old when he returned to London, and found the
Consul's house a very agreeable haunt. Louisa was then twenty.

  At that time, and long afterwards, the Consul's house, far more
than the Minister's, was the centre of contact for travelling
Americans, either official or other. The Legation was a shifting point,
between 1785 and 1815; but the Consulate, far down in the City, near
the Tower, was convenient and inviting; so inviting that it proved
fatal to young Adams. Louisa was charming, like a Romney portrait, but
among her many charms that of being a New England woman was not one.
The defect was serious. Her future mother-in-law, Abigail, a famous New
England woman whose authority over her turbulent husband, the second
President, was hardly so great as that which she exercised over her
son, the sixth to be, was troubled by the fear that Louisa might not be
made of stuff stern enough, or brought up in conditions severe enough,
to suit a New England climate, or to make an efficient wife for her
paragon son, and Abigail was right on that point, as on most others
where sound judgment was involved; but sound judgment is sometimes a
source of weakness rather than of force, and John Quincy already had
reason to think that his mother held sound judgments on the subject of
daughters-in-law which human nature, since the fall of Eve, made Adams
helpless to realize. Being three thousand miles away from his mother,
and equally far in love, he married Louisa in London, July 26, 1797,
and took her to Berlin to be the head of the United States Legation.
During three or four exciting years, the young bride lived in Berlin;
whether she was happy or not, whether she was content or not, whether
she was socially successful or not, her descendants did not surely
know; but in any case she could by no chance have become educated there
for a life in Quincy or Boston. In 1801 the overthrow of the Federalist
Party drove her and her husband to America, and she became at last a
member of the Quincy household, but by that time her children needed
all her attention, and she remained there with occasional winters in
Boston and Washington, till 1809. Her husband was made Senator in 1803,
and in 1809 was appointed Minister to Russia. She went with him to St.
Petersburg, taking her baby, Charles Francis, born in 1807; but
broken-hearted at having to leave her two older boys behind. The life
at St. Petersburg was hardly gay for her; they were far too poor to
shine in that extravagant society; but she survived it, though her
little girl baby did not, and in the winter of 1814-15, alone with the
boy of seven years old, crossed Europe from St. Petersburg to Paris, in
her travelling-carriage, passing through the armies, and reaching Paris
in the Cent Jours after Napoleon's return from Elba. Her husband next
went to England as Minister, and she was for two years at the Court of
the Regent. In 1817 her husband came home to be Secretary of State, and
she lived for eight years in F Street, doing her work of entertainer
for President Monroe's administration. Next she lived four miserable
years in the White House. When that chapter was closed in 1829, she had
earned the right to be tired and delicate, but she still had fifteen
years to serve as wife of a Member of the House, after her husband went
back to Congress in 1833. Then it was that the little Henry, her
grandson, first remembered her, from 1843 to 1848, sitting in her
panelled room, at breakfast, with her heavy silver teapot and
sugar-bowl and cream-jug, which still exist somewhere as an heirloom of
the modern safety-vault. By that time she was seventy years old or
more, and thoroughly weary of being beaten about a stormy world. To the
boy she seemed singularly peaceful, a vision of silver gray, presiding
over her old President and her Queen Anne mahogany; an exotic, like her
Sevres china; an object of deference to every one, and of great
affection to her son Charles; but hardly more Bostonian than she had
been fifty years before, on her wedding-day, in the shadow of the Tower
of London.

  Such a figure was even less fitted than that of her old
husband, the President, to impress on a boy's mind, the standards of
the coming century. She was Louis Seize, like the furniture. The boy
knew nothing of her interior life, which had been, as the venerable
Abigail, long since at peace, foresaw, one of severe stress and little
pure satisfaction. He never dreamed that from her might come some of
those doubts and self-questionings, those hesitations, those rebellions
against law and discipline, which marked more than one of her
descendants; but he might even then have felt some vague instinctive
suspicion that he was to inherit from her the seeds of the primal sin,
the fall from grace, the curse of Abel, that he was not of pure New
England stock, but half exotic. As a child of Quincy he was not a true
Bostonian, but even as a child of Quincy he inherited a quarter taint
of Maryland blood. Charles Francis, half Marylander by birth, had
hardly seen Boston till he was ten years old, when his parents left him
there at school in 1817, and he never forgot the experience. He was to
be nearly as old as his mother had been in 1845, before he quite
accepted Boston, or Boston quite accepted him.

  A boy who began his education in these surroundings, with
physical strength inferior to that of his brothers, and with a certain
delicacy of mind and bone, ought rightly to have felt at home in the
eighteenth century and should, in proper self-respect, have rebelled
against the standards of the nineteenth. The atmosphere of his first
ten years must have been very like that of his grandfather at the same
age, from 1767 till 1776, barring the battle of Bunker Hill, and even
as late as 1846, the battle of Bunker Hill remained actual. The tone of
Boston society was colonial. The true Bostonian always knelt in
self-abasement before the majesty of English standards; far from
concealing it as a weakness, he was proud of it as his strength. The
eighteenth century ruled society long after 1850. Perhaps the boy began
to shake it off rather earlier than most of his mates.

  Indeed this prehistoric stage of education ended rather
abruptly with his tenth year. One winter morning he was conscious of a
certain confusion in the house in Mount Vernon Street, and gathered,
from such words as he could catch, that the President, who happened to
be then staying there, on his way to Washington, had fallen and hurt
himself. Then he heard the word paralysis. After that day he came to
associate the word with the figure of his grandfather, in a
tall-backed, invalid armchair, on one side of the spare bedroom
fireplace, and one of his old friends, Dr. Parkman or P. P. F. Degrand,
on the other side, both dozing.

  The end of this first, or ancestral and Revolutionary, chapter
came on February 21, 1848--and the month of February brought life and
death as a family habit--when the eighteenth century, as an actual and
living companion, vanished. If the scene on the floor of the House,
when the old President fell, struck the still simple-minded American
public with a sensation unusually dramatic, its effect on a
ten-year-old boy, whose boy-life was fading away with the life of his
grandfather, could not be slight. One had to pay for Revolutionary
patriots; grandfathers and grandmothers; Presidents; diplomats; Queen
Anne mahogany and Louis Seize chairs, as well as for Stuart portraits.
Such things warp young life. Americans commonly believed that they
ruined it, and perhaps the practical common-sense of the American mind
judged right. Many a boy might be ruined by much less than the emotions
of the funeral service in the Quincy church, with its surroundings of
national respect and family pride. By another dramatic chance it
happened that the clergyman of the parish, Dr. Lunt, was an unusual
pulpit orator, the ideal of a somewhat austere intellectual type, such
as the school of Buckminster and Channing inherited from the old
Congregational clergy. His extraordinarily refined appearance, his
dignity of manner, his deeply cadenced voice, his remarkable English
and his fine appreciation, gave to the funeral service a character that
left an overwhelming impression on the boy's mind. He was to see many
great functions--funerals and festival--in after-life, till his only
thought was to see no more, but he never again witnessed anything
nearly so impressive to him as the last services at Quincy over the
body of one President and the ashes of another.

  The effect of the Quincy service was deepened by the official
ceremony which afterwards took place in Faneuil Hall, when the boy was
taken to hear his uncle, Edward Everett, deliver a Eulogy. Like all Mr.
Everett's orations, it was an admirable piece of oratory, such as only
an admirable orator and scholar could create; too good for a
ten-year-old boy to appreciate at its value; but already the boy knew
that the dead President could not be in it, and had even learned why he
would have been out of place there; for knowledge was beginning to come
fast. The shadow of the War of 1812 still hung over State Street; the
shadow of the Civil War to come had already begun to darken Faneuil
Hall. No rhetoric could have reconciled Mr. Everett's audience to his
subject. How could he say there, to an assemblage of Bostonians in the
heart of mercantile Boston, that the only distinctive mark of all the
Adamses, since old Sam Adams's father a hundred and fifty years before,
had been their inherited quarrel with State Street, which had again and
again broken out into riot, bloodshed, personal feuds, foreign and
civil war, wholesale banishments and confiscations, until the history
of Florence was hardly more turbulent than that of Boston? How could he
whisper the word Hartford Convention before the men who had made it?
What would have been said had he suggested the chance of Secession and
Civil War?

  Thus already, at ten years old, the boy found himself standing
face to face with a dilemma that might have puzzled an early Christian.
What was he?--where was he going? Even then he felt that something was
wrong, but he concluded that it must be Boston. Quincy had always been
right, for Quincy represented a moral principle--the principle of
resistance to Boston. His Adams ancestors must have been right, since
they were always hostile to State Street. If State Street was wrong,
Quincy must be right! Turn the dilemma as he pleased, he still came
back on the eighteenth century and the law of Resistance; of Truth; of
Duty, and of Freedom. He was a ten-year-old priest and politician. He
could under no circumstances have guessed what the next fifty years had
in store, and no one could teach him; but sometimes, in his old age, he
wondered--and could never decide--whether the most clear and certain
knowledge would have helped him. Supposing he had seen a New York
stock-list of 1900, and had studied the statistics of railways,
telegraphs, coal, and steel--would he have quitted his
eighteenth-century, his ancestral prejudices, his abstract ideals, his
semi-clerical training, and the rest, in order to perform an expiatory
pilgrimage to State Street, and ask for the fatted calf of his
grandfather Brooks and a clerkship in the Suffolk Bank?

  Sixty years afterwards he was still unable to make up his mind.
Each course had its advantages, but the material advantages, looking
back, seemed to lie wholly in State Street.



CHAPTER II

BOSTON (1848-1854)

  PETER CHARDON BROOKS, the other grandfather, died January 1,
1849, bequeathing what was supposed to be the largest estate in Boston,
about two million dollars, to his seven surviving children: four
sons--Edward, Peter Chardon, Gorham, and Sydney; three
daughters--Charlotte, married to Edward Everett; Ann, married to
Nathaniel Frothingham, minister of the First Church; and Abigail Brown,
born April 25, 1808, married September 3, 1829, to Charles Francis
Adams, hardly a year older than herself. Their first child, born in
1830, was a daughter, named Louisa Catherine, after her Johnson
grandmother; the second was a son, named John Quincy, after his
President grandfather; the third took his father's name, Charles
Francis; while the fourth, being of less account, was in a way given to
his mother, who named him Henry Brooks, after a favorite brother just
lost. More followed, but these, being younger, had nothing to do with
the arduous process of educating.

  The Adams connection was singularly small in Boston, but the
family of Brooks was singularly large and even brilliant, and almost
wholly of clerical New England stock. One might have sought long in
much larger and older societies for three brothers-in-law more
distinguished or more scholarly than Edward Everett, Dr. Frothingham,
and Mr. Adams. One might have sought equally long for seven
brothers-in-law more unlike. No doubt they all bore more or less the
stamp of Boston, or at least of Massachusetts Bay, but the shades of
difference amounted to contrasts. Mr. Everett belonged to Boston hardly
more than Mr. Adams. One of the most ambitious of Bostonians, he had
broken bounds early in life by leaving the Unitarian pulpit to take a
seat in Congress where he had given valuable support to J. Q. Adams's
administration; support which, as a social consequence, led to the
marriage of the President's son, Charles Francis, with Mr. Everett's
youngest sister-in-law, Abigail Brooks. The wreck of parties which
marked the reign of Andrew Jackson had interfered with many promising
careers, that of Edward Everett among the rest, but he had risen with
the Whig Party to power, had gone as Minister to England, and had
returned to America with the halo of a European reputation, and
undisputed rank second only to Daniel Webster as the orator and
representative figure of Boston. The other brother-in-law, Dr.
Frothingham, belonged to the same clerical school, though in manner
rather the less clerical of the two. Neither of them had much in common
with Mr. Adams, who was a younger man, greatly biassed by his father,
and by the inherited feud between Quincy and State Street; but personal
relations were friendly as far as a boy could see, and the innumerable
cousins went regularly to the First Church every Sunday in winter, and
slept through their uncle's sermons, without once thinking to ask what
the sermons were supposed to mean for them. For two hundred years the
First Church had seen the same little boys, sleeping more or less
soundly under the same or similar conditions, and dimly conscious of
the same feuds; but the feuds had never ceased, and the boys had always
grown up to inherit them. Those of the generation of 1812 had mostly
disappeared in 1850; death had cleared that score; the quarrels of John
Adams, and those of John Quincy Adams were no longer acutely personal;
the game was considered as drawn; and Charles Francis Adams might then
have taken his inherited rights of political leadership in succession
to Mr. Webster and Mr. Everett, his seniors. Between him and State
Street the relation was more natural than between Edward Everett and
State Street; but instead of doing so, Charles Francis Adams drew
himself aloof and renewed the old war which had already lasted since
1700. He could not help it. With the record of J. Q. Adams fresh in the
popular memory, his son and his only representative could not make
terms with the slave-power, and the slave-power overshadowed all the
great Boston interests. No doubt Mr. Adams had principles of his own,
as well as inherited, but even his children, who as yet had no
principles, could equally little follow the lead of Mr. Webster or even
of Mr. Seward. They would have lost in consideration more than they
would have gained in patronage. They were anti-slavery by birth, as
their name was Adams and their home was Quincy. No matter how much they
had wished to enter State Street, they felt that State Street never
would trust them, or they it. Had State Street been Paradise, they must
hunger for it in vain, and it hardly needed Daniel Webster to act as
archangel with the flaming sword, to order them away from the door.

  Time and experience, which alter all perspectives, altered this
among the rest, and taught the boy gentler judgment, but even when only
ten years old, his face was already fixed, and his heart was stone,
against State Street; his education was warped beyond recovery in the
direction of Puritan politics. Between him and his patriot grandfather
at the same age, the conditions had changed little. The year 1848 was
like enough to the year 1776 to make a fair parallel. The parallel, as
concerned bias of education, was complete when, a few months after the
death of John Quincy Adams, a convention of anti-slavery delegates met
at Buffalo to organize a new party and named candidates for the general
election in November: for President, Martin Van Buren; for
Vice-President, Charles Francis Adams.

  For any American boy the fact that his father was running for
office would have dwarfed for the time every other excitement, but even
apart from personal bias, the year 1848, for a boy's road through life,
was decisive for twenty years to come. There was never a side-path of
escape. The stamp of 1848 was almost as indelible as the stamp of 1776,
but in the eighteenth or any earlier century, the stamp mattered less
because it was standard, and every one bore it; while men whose lives
were to fall in the generation between 1865 and 1900 had, first of all,
to get rid of it, and take the stamp that belonged to their time. This
was their education. To outsiders, immigrants, adventurers, it was
easy, but the old Puritan nature rebelled against change. The reason it
gave was forcible. The Puritan thought his thought higher and his moral
standards better than those of his successors. So they were. He could
not be convinced that moral standards had nothing to do with it, and
that utilitarian morality was good enough for him, as it was for the
graceless. Nature had given to the boy Henry a character that, in any
previous century, would have led him into the Church; he inherited
dogma and a priori thought from the beginning of time; and he scarcely
needed a violent reaction like anti-slavery politics to sweep him back
into Puritanism with a violence as great as that of a religious war.

  Thus far he had nothing to do with it; his education was
chiefly inheritance, and during the next five or six years, his father
alone counted for much. If he were to worry successfully through life's
quicksands, he must depend chiefly on his father's pilotage; but, for
his father, the channel lay clear, while for himself an unknown ocean
lay beyond. His father's business in life was to get past the dangers
of the slave-power, or to fix its bounds at least. The task done, he
might be content to let his sons pay for the pilotage; and it mattered
little to his success whether they paid it with their lives wasted on
battle-fields or in misdirected energies and lost opportunity. The
generation that lived from 1840 to 1870 could do very well with the old
forms of education; that which had its work to do between 1870 and 1900
needed something quite new.

  His father's character was therefore the larger part of his
education, as far as any single person affected it, and for that
reason, if for no other, the son was always a much interested critic of
his father's mind and temper. Long after his death as an old man of
eighty, his sons continued to discuss this subject with a good deal of
difference in their points of view. To his son Henry, the quality that
distinguished his father from all the other figures in the family
group, was that, in his opinion, Charles Francis Adams possessed the
only perfectly balanced mind that ever existed in the name. For a
hundred years, every newspaper scribbler had, with more or less obvious
excuse, derided or abused the older Adamses for want of judgment. They
abused Charles Francis for his judgment. Naturally they never attempted
to assign values to either; that was the children's affair; but the
traits were real. Charles Francis Adams was singular for mental
poise--absence of self-assertion or self-consciousness--the faculty of
standing apart without seeming aware that he was alone--a balance of
mind and temper that neither challenged nor avoided notice, nor
admitted question of superiority or inferiority, of jealousy, of
personal motives, from any source, even under great pressure. This
unusual poise of judgment and temper, ripened by age, became the more
striking to his son Henry as he learned to measure the mental faculties
themselves, which were in no way exceptional either for depth or range.
Charles Francis Adams's memory was hardly above the average; his mind
was not bold like his grandfather's or restless like his father's, or
imaginative or oratorical--still less mathematical; but it worked with
singular perfection, admirable self-restraint, and instinctive mastery
of form. Within its range it was a model.

  The standards of Boston were high, much affected by the old
clerical self-respect which gave the Unitarian clergy unusual social
charm. Dr. Channing, Mr. Everett, Dr. Frothingham. Dr. Palfrey,
President Walker, R. W. Emerson, and other Boston ministers of the same
school, would have commanded distinction in any society; but the
Adamses had little or no affinity with the pulpit, and still less with
its eccentric offshoots, like Theodore Parker, or Brook Farm, or the
philosophy of Concord. Besides its clergy, Boston showed a literary
group, led by Ticknor, Prescott, Longfellow, Motley, O. W. Holmes; but
Mr. Adams was not one of them; as a rule they were much too Websterian.
Even in science Boston could claim a certain eminence, especially in
medicine, but Mr. Adams cared very little for science. He stood alone.
He had no master--hardly even his father. He had no scholars--hardly
even his sons.

  Almost alone among his Boston contemporaries, he was not
English in feeling or in sympathies. Perhaps a hundred years of acute
hostility to England had something to do with this family trait; but in
his case it went further and became indifference to social distinction.
Never once in forty years of intimacy did his son notice in him a trace
of snobbishness. He was one of the exceedingly small number of
Americans to whom an English duke or duchess seemed to be indifferent,
and royalty itself nothing more than a slightly inconvenient presence.
This was, it is true, rather the tone of English society in his time,
but Americans were largely responsible for changing it, and Mr. Adams
had every possible reason for affecting the manner of a courtier even
if he did not feel the sentiment. Never did his son see him flatter or
vilify, or show a sign of envy or jealousy; never a shade of vanity or
self-conceit. Never a tone of arrogance! Never a gesture of pride!

  The same thing might perhaps have been said of John Quincy
Adams, but in him his associates averred that it was accompanied by
mental restlessness and often by lamentable want of judgment. No one
ever charged Charles Francis Adams with this fault. The critics charged
him with just the opposite defect. They called him cold. No doubt, such
perfect poise--such intuitive self-adjustment--was not maintained by
nature without a sacrifice of the qualities which would have upset it.
No doubt, too, that even his restless-minded, introspective,
self-conscious children who knew him best were much too ignorant of the
world and of human nature to suspect how rare and complete was the
model before their eyes. A coarser instrument would have impressed them
more. Average human nature is very coarse, and its ideals must
necessarily be average. The world never loved perfect poise. What the
world does love is commonly absence of poise, for it has to be amused.
Napoleons and Andrew Jacksons amuse it, but it is not amused by perfect
balance. Had Mr. Adams's nature been cold, he would have followed Mr.
Webster, Mr. Everett, Mr. Seward, and Mr. Winthrop in the lines of
party discipline and self-interest. Had it been less balanced than it
was, he would have gone with Mr. Garrison, Mr. Wendell Phillips, Mr.
Edmund Quincy, and Theodore Parker, into secession. Between the two
paths he found an intermediate one, distinctive and characteristic--he
set up a party of his own.

  This political party became a chief influence in the education
of the boy Henry in the six years 1848 to 1854, and violently affected
his character at the moment when character is plastic. The group of men
with whom Mr. Adams associated himself, and whose social centre was the
house in Mount Vernon Street, numbered only three: Dr. John G. Palfrey,
Richard H. Dana, and Charles Sumner. Dr. Palfrey was the oldest, and in
spite of his clerical education, was to a boy often the most agreeable,
for his talk was lighter and his range wider than that of the others;
he had wit, or humor, and the give-and-take of dinner-table exchange.
Born to be a man of the world, he forced himself to be clergyman,
professor, or statesman, while, like every other true Bostonian, he
yearned for the ease of the Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall or the
Combination Room at Trinity. Dana at first suggested the opposite; he
affected to be still before the mast, a direct, rather bluff, vigorous
seaman, and only as one got to know him better one found the man of
rather excessive refinement trying with success to work like a
day-laborer, deliberately hardening his skin to the burden, as though
he were still carrying hides at Monterey. Undoubtedly he succeeded, for
his mind and will were robust, but he might have said what his lifelong
friend William M. Evarts used to say: "I pride myself on my success in
doing not the things I like to do, but the things I don't like to do."
Dana's ideal of life was to be a great Englishman, with a seat on the
front benches of the House of Commons until he should be promoted to
the woolsack; beyond all, with a social status that should place him
above the scuffle of provincial and unprofessional annoyances; but he
forced himself to take life as it came, and he suffocated his longings
with grim self-discipline, by mere force of will. Of the four men, Dana
was the most marked. Without dogmatism or self-assertion, he seemed
always to be fully in sight, a figure that completely filled a
well-defined space. He, too, talked well, and his mind worked close to
its subject, as a lawyer's should; but disguise and silence it as he
liked, it was aristocratic to the tenth generation.

  In that respect, and in that only, Charles Sumner was like him,
but Sumner, in almost every other quality, was quite different from his
three associates--altogether out of line. He, too, adored English
standards, but his ambition led him to rival the career of Edmund
Burke. No young Bostonian of his time had made so brilliant a start,
but rather in the steps of Edward Everett than of Daniel Webster. As an
orator he had achieved a triumph by his oration against war; but Boston
admired him chiefly for his social success in England and on the
Continent; success that gave to every Bostonian who enjoyed it a halo
never acquired by domestic sanctity. Mr. Sumner, both by interest and
instinct, felt the value of his English connection, and cultivated it
the more as he became socially an outcast from Boston society by the
passions of politics. He was rarely without a pocket-full of letters
from duchesses or noblemen in England. Having sacrificed to principle
his social position in America, he clung the more closely to his
foreign attachments. The Free Soil Party fared ill in Beacon Street.
The social arbiters of Boston--George Ticknor and the rest--had to
admit, however unwillingly, that the Free Soil leaders could not mingle
with the friends and followers of Mr. Webster. Sumner was socially
ostracized, and so, for that matter, were Palfrey, Dana, Russell,
Adams, and all the other avowed anti-slavery leaders, but for them it
mattered less, because they had houses and families of their own; while
Sumner had neither wife nor household, and, though the most socially
ambitious of all, and the most hungry for what used to be called polite
society, he could enter hardly half-a-dozen houses in Boston.
Longfellow stood by him in Cambridge, and even in Beacon Street he
could always take refuge in the house of Mr. Lodge, but few days passed
when he did not pass some time in Mount Vernon Street. Even with that,
his solitude was glacial, and reacted on his character. He had nothing
but himself to think about. His superiority was, indeed, real and
incontestable; he was the classical ornament of the anti-slavery party;
their pride in him was unbounded, and their admiration outspoken.

  The boy Henry worshipped him, and if he ever regarded any older
man as a personal friend, it was Mr. Sumner. The relation of Mr. Sumner
in the household was far closer than any relation of blood. None of the
uncles approached such intimacy. Sumner was the boy's ideal of
greatness; the highest product of nature and art. The only fault of
such a model was its superiority which defied imitation. To the
twelve-year-old boy, his father, Dr. Palfrey, Mr. Dana, were men, more
or less like what he himself might become; but Mr. Sumner was a
different order--heroic.

  As the boy grew up to be ten or twelve years old, his father
gave him a writing-table in one of the alcoves of his Boston library,
and there, winter after winter, Henry worked over his Latin Grammar and
listened to these four gentlemen discussing the course of anti-slavery
politics. The discussions were always serious; the Free Soil Party took
itself quite seriously; and they were habitual because Mr. Adams had
undertaken to edit a newspaper as the organ of these gentlemen, who
came to discuss its policy and expression. At the same time Mr. Adams
was editing the "Works" of his grandfather John Adams, and made the boy
read texts for proof-correction. In after years his father sometimes
complained that, as a reader of Novanglus and Massachusettensis, Henry
had shown very little consciousness of punctuation; but the boy
regarded this part of school life only as a warning, if he ever grew up
to write dull discussions in the newspapers, to try to be dull in some
different way from that of his great-grandfather. Yet the discussions
in the Boston Whig were carried on in much the same style as those of
John Adams and his opponent, and appealed to much the same society and
the same habit of mind. The boy got as little education, fitting him
for his own time, from the one as from the other, and he got no more
from his contact with the gentlemen themselves who were all types of
the past.

  Down to 1850, and even later, New England society was still
directed by the professions. Lawyers, physicians, professors, merchants
were classes, and acted not as individuals, but as though they were
clergymen and each profession were a church. In politics the system
required competent expression; it was the old Ciceronian idea of
government by the best that produced the long line of New England
statesmen. They chose men to represent them because they wanted to be
well represented, and they chose the best they had. Thus Boston chose
Daniel Webster, and Webster took, not as pay, but as honorarium, the
cheques raised for him by Peter Harvey from the Appletons, Perkinses,
Amorys, Searses, Brookses, Lawrences, and so on, who begged him to
represent them. Edward Everett held the rank in regular succession to
Webster. Robert C. Winthrop claimed succession to Everett. Charles
Sumner aspired to break the succession, but not the system. The Adamses
had never been, for any length of time, a part of this State
succession; they had preferred the national service, and had won all
their distinction outside the State, but they too had required State
support and had commonly received it. The little group of men in Mount
Vernon Street were an offshoot of this system; they were statesmen, not
politicians; they guided public opinion, but were little guided by it.

  The boy naturally learned only one lesson from his saturation
in such air. He took for granted that this sort of world, more or less
the same that had always existed in Boston and Massachusetts Bay, was
the world which he was to fit. Had he known Europe he would have
learned no better. The Paris of Louis Philippe, Guizot, and de
Tocqueville, as well as the London of Robert Peel, Macaulay, and John
Stuart Mill, were but varieties of the same upper-class bourgeoisie
that felt instinctive cousinship with the Boston of Ticknor, Prescott,
and Motley. Even the typical grumbler Carlyle, who cast doubts on the
real capacity of the middle class, and who at times thought himself
eccentric, found friendship and alliances in Boston--still more in
Concord. The system had proved so successful that even Germany wanted
to try it, and Italy yearned for it. England's middle-class government
was the ideal of human progress.

  Even the violent reaction after 1848, and the return of all
Europe to military practices, never for a moment shook the true faith.
No one, except Karl Marx, foresaw radical change. What announced it?
The world was producing sixty or seventy million tons of coal, and
might be using nearly a million steam-horsepower, just beginning to
make itself felt. All experience since the creation of man, all divine
revelation or human science, conspired to deceive and betray a
twelve-year-old boy who took for granted that his ideas, which were
alone respectable, would be alone respected.

  Viewed from Mount Vernon Street, the problem of life was as
simple as it was classic. Politics offered no difficulties, for there
the moral law was a sure guide. Social perfection was also sure,
because human nature worked for Good, and three instruments were all
she asked--Suffrage, Common Schools, and Press. On these points doubt
was forbidden. Education was divine, and man needed only a correct
knowledge of facts to reach perfection:

  "Were half the power that fills the world with terror,
    Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,
  Given to redeem the human mind from error,
    There were no need of arsenals nor forts."

Nothing quieted doubt so completely as the mental calm of the Unitarian
clergy. In uniform excellence of life and character, moral and
intellectual, the score of Unitarian clergymen about Boston, who
controlled society and Harvard College, were never excelled. They
proclaimed as their merit that they insisted on no doctrine, but
taught, or tried to teach, the means of leading a virtuous, useful,
unselfish life, which they held to be sufficient for salvation. For
them, difficulties might be ignored; doubts were waste of thought;
nothing exacted solution. Boston had solved the universe; or had
offered and realized the best solution yet tried. The problem was
worked out.

  Of all the conditions of his youth which afterwards puzzled the
grown-up man, this disappearance of religion puzzled him most. The boy
went to church twice every Sunday; he was taught to read his Bible, and
he learned religious poetry by heart; he believed in a mild deism; he
prayed; he went through all the forms; but neither to him nor to his
brothers or sisters was religion real. Even the mild discipline of the
Unitarian Church was so irksome that they all threw it off at the first
possible moment, and never afterwards entered a church. The religious
instinct had vanished, and could not be revived, although one made in
later life many efforts to recover it. That the most powerful emotion
of man, next to the sexual, should disappear, might be a personal
defect of his own; but that the most intelligent society, led by the
most intelligent clergy, in the most moral conditions he ever knew,
should have solved all the problems of the universe so thoroughly as to
have quite ceased making itself anxious about past or future, and
should have persuaded itself that all the problems which had convulsed
human thought from earliest recorded time, were not worth discussing,
seemed to him the most curious social phenomenon he had to account for
in a long life. The faculty of turning away one's eyes as one
approaches a chasm is not unusual, and Boston showed, under the lead of
Mr. Webster, how successfully it could be done in politics; but in
politics a certain number of men did at least protest. In religion and
philosophy no one protested. Such protest as was made took forms more
simple than the silence, like the deism of Theodore Parker, and of the
boy's own cousin Octavius Frothingham, who distressed his father and
scandalized Beacon Street by avowing scepticism that seemed to solve no
old problems, and to raise many new ones. The less aggressive protest
of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was, from an old-world point of view, less
serious. It was naif.

  The children reached manhood without knowing religion, and with
the certainty that dogma, metaphysics, and abstract philosophy were not
worth knowing. So one-sided an education could have been possible in no
other country or time, but it became, almost of necessity, the more
literary and political. As the children grew up, they exaggerated the
literary and the political interests. They joined in the dinner-table
discussions and from childhood the boys were accustomed to hear, almost
every day, table-talk as good as they were ever likely to hear again.
The eldest child, Louisa, was one of the most sparkling creatures her
brother met in a long and varied experience of bright women. The oldest
son, John, was afterwards regarded as one of the best talkers in Boston
society, and perhaps the most popular man in the State, though apt to
be on the unpopular side. Palfrey and Dana could be entertaining when
they pleased, and though Charles Sumner could hardly be called light in
hand, he was willing to be amused, and smiled grandly from time to
time; while Mr. Adams, who talked relatively little, was always a good
listener, and laughed over a witticism till he choked.

  By way of educating and amusing the children, Mr. Adams read
much aloud, and was sure to read political literature, especially when
it was satirical, like the speeches of Horace Mann and the "Epistles"
of "Hosea Biglow," with great delight to the youth. So he read
Longfellow and Tennyson as their poems appeared, but the children took
possession of Dickens and Thackeray for themselves. Both were too
modern for tastes founded on Pope and Dr. Johnson. The boy Henry soon
became a desultory reader of every book he found readable, but these
were commonly eighteenth-century historians because his father's
library was full of them. In the want of positive instincts, he drifted
into the mental indolence of history. So too, he read shelves of
eighteenth-century poetry, but when his father offered his own set of
Wordsworth as a gift on condition of reading it through, he declined.
Pope and Gray called for no mental effort; they were easy reading; but
the boy was thirty years old before his education reached Wordsworth.

  This is the story of an education, and the person or persons
who figure in it are supposed to have values only as educators or
educated. The surroundings concern it only so far as they affect
education. Sumner, Dana, Palfrey, had values of their own, like Hume,
Pope, and Wordsworth, which any one may study in their works; here all
appear only as influences on the mind of a boy very nearly the average
of most boys in physical and mental stature. The influence was wholly
political and literary. His father made no effort to force his mind,
but left him free play, and this was perhaps best. Only in one way his
father rendered him a great service by trying to teach him French and
giving him some idea of a French accent. Otherwise the family was
rather an atmosphere than an influence. The boy had a large and
overpowering set of brothers and sisters, who were modes or replicas of
the same type, getting the same education, struggling with the same
problems, and solving the question, or leaving it unsolved much in the
same way. They knew no more than he what they wanted or what to do for
it, but all were conscious that they would like to control power in
some form; and the same thing could be said of an ant or an elephant.
Their form was tied to politics or literature. They amounted to one
individual with half-a-dozen sides or facets; their temperaments
reacted on each other and made each child more like the other. This was
also education, but in the type, and the Boston or New England type was
well enough known. What no one knew was whether the individual who
thought himself a representative of this type, was fit to deal with
life.

  As far as outward bearing went, such a family of turbulent
children, given free rein by their parents, or indifferent to check,
should have come to more or less grief. Certainly no one was strong
enough to control them, least of all their mother, the queen-bee of the
hive, on whom nine-tenths of the burden fell, on whose strength they
all depended, but whose children were much too self-willed and
self-confident to take guidance from her, or from any one else, unless
in the direction they fancied. Father and mother were about equally
helpless. Almost every large family in those days produced at least one
black sheep, and if this generation of Adamses escaped, it was as much
a matter of surprise to them as to their neighbors. By some happy
chance they grew up to be decent citizens, but Henry Adams, as a brand
escaped from the burning, always looked back with astonishment at their
luck. The fact seemed to prove that they were born, like birds, with a
certain innate balance. Home influences alone never saved the New
England boy from ruin, though sometimes they may have helped to ruin
him; and the influences outside of home were negative. If school
helped, it was only by reaction. The dislike of school was so strong as
to be a positive gain. The passionate hatred of school methods was
almost a method in itself. Yet the day-school of that time was
respectable, and the boy had nothing to complain of. In fact, he never
complained. He hated it because he was here with a crowd of other boys
and compelled to learn by memory a quantity of things that did not
amuse him. His memory was slow, and the effort painful. For him to
conceive that his memory could compete for school prizes with machines
of two or three times its power, was to prove himself wanting not only
in memory, but flagrantly in mind. He thought his mind a good enough
machine, if it were given time to act, but it acted wrong if hurried.
Schoolmasters never gave time.

  In any and all its forms, the boy detested school, and the
prejudice became deeper with years. He always reckoned his school-days,
from ten to sixteen years old, as time thrown away. Perhaps his needs
turned out to be exceptional, but his existence was exceptional.
Between 1850 and 1900 nearly every one's existence was exceptional. For
success in the life imposed on him he needed, as afterwards appeared,
the facile use of only four tools: Mathematics, French, German, and
Spanish. With these, he could master in very short time any special
branch of inquiry, and feel at home in any society. Latin and Greek, he
could, with the help of the modern languages, learn more completely by
the intelligent work of six weeks than in the six years he spent on
them at school. These four tools were necessary to his success in life,
but he never controlled any one of them.

  Thus, at the outset, he was condemned to failure more or less
complete in the life awaiting him, but not more so than his companions.
Indeed, had his father kept the boy at home, and given him half an
hour's direction every day, he would have done more for him than school
ever could do for them. Of course, school-taught men and boys looked
down on home-bred boys, and rather prided themselves on their own
ignorance, but the man of sixty can generally see what he needed in
life, and in Henry Adams's opinion it was not school.

  Most school experience was bad. Boy associations at fifteen
were worse than none. Boston at that time offered few healthy resources
for boys or men. The bar-room and billiard-room were more familiar than
parents knew. As a rule boys could skate and swim and were sent to
dancing-school; they played a rudimentary game of baseball, football,
and hockey; a few could sail a boat; still fewer had been out with a
gun to shoot yellow-legs or a stray wild duck; one or two may have
learned something of natural history if they came from the neighborhood
of Concord; none could ride across country, or knew what shooting with
dogs meant. Sport as a pursuit was unknown. Boat-racing came after
1850. For horse-racing, only the trotting-course existed. Of all
pleasures, winter sleighing was still the gayest and most popular. From
none of these amusements could the boy learn anything likely to be of
use to him in the world. Books remained as in the eighteenth century,
the source of life, and as they came out--Thackeray, Dickens, Bulwer,
Tennyson, Macaulay, Carlyle, and the rest--they were devoured; but as
far as happiness went, the happiest hours of the boy's education were
passed in summer lying on a musty heap of Congressional Documents in
the old farmhouse at Quincy, reading "Quentin Durward," "Ivanhoe," and
"The Talisman," and raiding the garden at intervals for peaches and
pears. On the whole he learned most then.



CHAPTER III

WASHINGTON (1850-1854)

  EXCEPT for politics, Mount Vernon Street had the merit of
leaving the boy-mind supple, free to turn with the world, and if one
learned next to nothing, the little one did learn needed not to be
unlearned. The surface was ready to take any form that education should
cut into it, though Boston, with singular foresight, rejected the old
designs. What sort of education was stamped elsewhere, a Bostonian had
no idea, but he escaped the evils of other standards by having no
standard at all; and what was true of school was true of society.
Boston offered none that could help outside. Every one now smiles at
the bad taste of Queen Victoria and Louis Philippe--the society of the
forties--but the taste was only a reflection of the social slack-water
between a tide passed, and a tide to come. Boston belonged to neither,
and hardly even to America. Neither aristocratic nor industrial nor
social, Boston girls and boys were not nearly as unformed as English
boys and girls, but had less means of acquiring form as they grew
older. Women counted for little as models. Every boy, from the age of
seven, fell in love at frequent intervals with some girl--always more
or less the same little girl--who had nothing to teach him, or he to
teach her, except rather familiar and provincial manners, until they
married and bore children to repeat the habit. The idea of attaching
one's self to a married woman, or of polishing one's manners to suit
the standards of women of thirty, could hardly have entered the mind of
a young Bostonian, and would have scandalized his parents. From women
the boy got the domestic virtues and nothing else. He might not even
catch the idea that women had more to give. The garden of Eden was
hardly more primitive.

  To balance this virtue, the Puritan city had always hidden a
darker side. Blackguard Boston was only too educational, and to most
boys much the more interesting. A successful blackguard must enjoy
great physical advantages besides a true vocation, and Henry Adams had
neither; but no boy escaped some contact with vice of a very low form.
Blackguardism came constantly under boys' eyes, and had the charm of
force and freedom and superiority to culture or decency. One might fear
it, but no one honestly despised it. Now and then it asserted itself as
education more roughly than school ever did. One of the commonest
boy-games of winter, inherited directly from the eighteenth-century,
was a game of war on Boston Common. In old days the two hostile forces
were called North-Enders and South-Enders. In 1850 the North-Enders
still survived as a legend, but in practice it was a battle of the
Latin School against all comers, and the Latin School, for snowball,
included all the boys of the West End. Whenever, on a half-holiday, the
weather was soft enough to soften the snow, the Common was apt to be
the scene of a fight, which began in daylight with the Latin School in
force, rushing their opponents down to Tremont Street, and which
generally ended at dark by the Latin School dwindling in numbers and
disappearing. As the Latin School grew weak, the roughs and young
blackguards grew strong. As long as snowballs were the only weapon, no
one was much hurt, but a stone may be put in a snowball, and in the
dark a stick or a slungshot in the hands of a boy is as effective as a
knife. One afternoon the fight had been long and exhausting. The boy
Henry, following, as his habit was, his bigger brother Charles, had
taken part in the battle, and had felt his courage much depressed by
seeing one of his trustiest leaders, Henry Higginson--"Bully Hig," his
school name--struck by a stone over the eye, and led off the field
bleeding in rather a ghastly manner. As night came on, the Latin School
was steadily forced back to the Beacon Street Mall where they could
retreat no further without disbanding, and by that time only a small
band was left, headed by two heroes, Savage and Marvin. A dark mass of
figures could be seen below, making ready for the last rush, and rumor
said that a swarm of blackguards from the slums, led by a grisly terror
called Conky Daniels, with a club and a hideous reputation, was going
to put an end to the Beacon Street cowards forever. Henry wanted to run
away with the others, but his brother was too big to run away, so they
stood still and waited immolation. The dark mass set up a shout, and
rushed forward. The Beacon Street boys turned and fled up the steps,
except Savage and Marvin and the few champions who would not run. The
terrible Conky Daniels swaggered up, stopped a moment with his
body-guard to swear a few oaths at Marvin, and then swept on and chased
the flyers, leaving the few boys untouched who stood their ground. The
obvious moral taught that blackguards were not so black as they were
painted; but the boy Henry had passed through as much terror as though
he were Turenne or Henri IV, and ten or twelve years afterwards when
these same boys were fighting and falling on all the battle-fields of
Virginia and Maryland, he wondered whether their education on Boston
Common had taught Savage and Marvin how to die.

  If violence were a part of complete education, Boston was not
incomplete. The idea of violence was familiar to the anti-slavery
leaders as well as to their followers. Most of them suffered from it.
Mobs were always possible. Henry never happened to be actually
concerned in a mob, but he, like every other boy, was sure to be on
hand wherever a mob was expected, and whenever he heard Garrison or
Wendell Phillips speak, he looked for trouble. Wendell Phillips on a
platform was a model dangerous for youth. Theodore Parker in his pulpit
was not much safer. Worst of all, the execution of the Fugitive Slave
Law in Boston--the sight of Court Square packed with bayonets, and his
own friends obliged to line the streets under arms as State militia, in
order to return a negro to slavery--wrought frenzy in the brain of a
fifteen-year-old, eighteenth-century boy from Quincy, who wanted to
miss no reasonable chance of mischief.

  One lived in the atmosphere of the Stamp Act, the Tea Tax, and
the Boston Massacre. Within Boston, a boy was first an
eighteenth-century politician, and afterwards only a possibility;
beyond Boston the first step led only further into politics. After
February, 1848, but one slight tie remained of all those that, since
1776, had connected Quincy with the outer world. The Madam stayed in
Washington, after her husband's death, and in her turn was struck by
paralysis and bedridden. From time to time her son Charles, whose
affection and sympathy for his mother in her many tribulations were
always pronounced, went on to see her, and in May, 1850, he took with
him his twelve-year-old son. The journey was meant as education, and as
education it served the purpose of fixing in memory the stage of a
boy's thought in 1850. He could not remember taking special interest in
the railroad journey or in New York; with railways and cities he was
familiar enough. His first impression was the novelty of crossing New
York Bay and finding an English railway carriage on the Camden and
Amboy Railroad. This was a new world; a suggestion of corruption in the
simple habits of American life; a step to exclusiveness never
approached in Boston; but it was amusing. The boy rather liked it. At
Trenton the train set him on board a steamer which took him to
Philadelphia where he smelt other varieties of town life; then again by
boat to Chester, and by train to Havre de Grace; by boat to Baltimore
and thence by rail to Washington. This was the journey he remembered.
The actual journey may have been quite different, but the actual
journey has no interest for education. The memory was all that
mattered; and what struck him most, to remain fresh in his mind all his
lifetime, was the sudden change that came over the world on entering a
slave State. He took education politically. The mere raggedness of
outline could not have seemed wholly new, for even Boston had its
ragged edges, and the town of Quincy was far from being a vision of
neatness or good-repair; in truth, he had never seen a finished
landscape; but Maryland was raggedness of a new kind. The railway,
about the size and character of a modern tram, rambled through unfenced
fields and woods, or through village streets, among a haphazard variety
of pigs, cows, and negro babies, who might all have used the cabins for
pens and styes, had the Southern pig required styes, but who never
showed a sign of care. This was the boy's impression of what slavery
caused, and, for him, was all it taught. Coming down in the early
morning from his bedroom in his grandmother's house--still called the
Adams Building in--F Street and venturing outside into the air reeking
with the thick odor of the catalpa trees, he found himself on an
earth-road, or village street, with wheel-tracks meandering from the
colonnade of the Treasury hard by, to the white marble columns and
fronts of the Post Office and Patent Office which faced each other in
the distance, like white Greek temples in the abandoned gravel-pits of
a deserted Syrian city. Here and there low wooden houses were scattered
along the streets, as in other Southern villages, but he was chiefly
attracted by an unfinished square marble shaft, half-a-mile below, and
he walked down to inspect it before breakfast. His aunt drily remarked
that, at this rate, he would soon get through all the sights; but she
could not guess--having lived always in Washington--how little the
sights of Washington had to do with its interest.

  The boy could not have told her; he was nowhere near an
understanding of himself. The more he was educated, the less he
understood. Slavery struck him in the face; it was a nightmare; a
horror; a crime; the sum of all wickedness! Contact made it only more
repulsive. He wanted to escape, like the negroes, to free soil. Slave
States were dirty, unkempt, poverty-stricken, ignorant, vicious! He had
not a thought but repulsion for it; and yet the picture had another
side. The May sunshine and shadow had something to do with it; the
thickness of foliage and the heavy smells had more; the sense of
atmosphere, almost new, had perhaps as much again; and the brooding
indolence of a warm climate and a negro population hung in the
atmosphere heavier than the catalpas. The impression was not simple,
but the boy liked it: distinctly it remained on his mind as an
attraction, almost obscuring Quincy itself. The want of barriers, of
pavements, of forms; the looseness, the laziness; the indolent Southern
drawl; the pigs in the streets; the negro babies and their mothers with
bandanas; the freedom, openness, swagger, of nature and man, soothed
his Johnson blood. Most boys would have felt it in the same way, but
with him the feeling caught on to an inheritance. The softness of his
gentle old grandmother as she lay in bed and chatted with him, did not
come from Boston. His aunt was anything rather than Bostonian. He did
not wholly come from Boston himself. Though Washington belonged to a
different world, and the two worlds could not live together, he was not
sure that he enjoyed the Boston world most. Even at twelve years old he
could see his own nature no more clearly than he would at twelve
hundred, if by accident he should happen to live so long.

  His father took him to the Capitol and on the floor of the
Senate, which then, and long afterwards, until the era of tourists, was
freely open to visitors. The old Senate Chamber resembled a pleasant
political club. Standing behind the Vice-President's chair, which is
now the Chief Justice's, the boy was presented to some of the men whose
names were great in their day, and as familiar to him as his own. Clay
and Webster and Calhoun were there still, but with them a Free Soil
candidate for the Vice-Presidency had little to do; what struck boys
most was their type. Senators were a species; they all wore an air, as
they wore a blue dress coat or brass buttons; they were Roman. The type
of Senator in 1850 was rather charming at its best, and the Senate,
when in good temper, was an agreeable body, numbering only some sixty
members, and affecting the airs of courtesy. Its vice was not so much a
vice of manners or temper as of attitude. The statesman of all periods
was apt to be pompous, but even pomposity was less offensive than
familiarity--on the platform as in the pulpit--and Southern pomposity,
when not arrogant, was genial and sympathetic, almost quaint and
childlike in its simple-mindedness; quite a different thing from the
Websterian or Conklinian pomposity of the North. The boy felt at ease
there, more at home than he had ever felt in Boston State House, though
his acquaintance with the codfish in the House of Representatives went
back beyond distinct recollection. Senators spoke kindly to him, and
seemed to feel so, for they had known his family socially; and, in
spite of slavery, even J. Q. Adams in his later years, after he ceased
to stand in the way of rivals, had few personal enemies. Decidedly the
Senate, pro-slavery though it were, seemed a friendly world.

  This first step in national politics was a little like the walk
before breakfast; an easy, careless, genial, enlarging stride into a
fresh and amusing world, where nothing was finished, but where even the
weeds grew rank. The second step was like the first, except that it led
to the White House. He was taken to see President Taylor. Outside, in a
paddock in front, "Old Whitey," the President's charger, was grazing,
as they entered; and inside, the President was receiving callers as
simply as if he were in the paddock too. The President was friendly,
and the boy felt no sense of strangeness that he could ever recall. In
fact, what strangeness should he feel? The families were intimate; so
intimate that their friendliness outlived generations, civil war, and
all sorts of rupture. President Taylor owed his election to Martin Van
Buren and the Free Soil Party. To him, the Adamses might still be of
use. As for the White House, all the boy's family had lived there, and,
barring the eight years of Andrew Jackson's reign, had been more or
less at home there ever since it was built. The boy half thought he
owned it, and took for granted that he should some day live in it. He
felt no sensation whatever before Presidents. A President was a matter
of course in every respectable family; he had two in his own; three, if
he counted old Nathaniel Gorham, who, was the oldest and first in
distinction. Revolutionary patriots, or perhaps a Colonial Governor,
might be worth talking about, but any one could be President, and some
very shady characters were likely to be. Presidents, Senators,
Congressmen, and such things were swarming in every street.

  Every one thought alike whether they had ancestors or not. No
sort of glory hedged Presidents as such, and, in the whole country, one
could hardly have met with an admission of respect for any office or
name, unless it were George Washington. That was--to all appearance
sincerely--respected. People made pilgrimages to Mount Vernon and made
even an effort to build Washington a monument. The effort had failed,
but one still went to Mount Vernon, although it was no easy trip. Mr.
Adams took the boy there in a carriage and pair, over a road that gave
him a complete Virginia education for use ten years afterwards. To the
New England mind, roads, schools, clothes, and a clean face were
connected as part of the law of order or divine system. Bad roads meant
bad morals. The moral of this Virginia road was clear, and the boy
fully learned it. Slavery was wicked, and slavery was the cause of this
road's badness which amounted to social crime--and yet, at the end of
the road and product of the crime stood Mount Vernon and George
Washington.

  Luckily boys accept contradictions as readily as their elders
do, or this boy might have become prematurely wise. He had only to
repeat what he was told--that George Washington stood alone. Otherwise
this third step in his Washington education would have been his last.
On that line, the problem of progress was not soluble, whatever the
optimists and orators might say--or, for that matter, whatever they
might think. George Washington could not be reached on Boston lines.
George Washington was a primary, or, if Virginians liked it better, an
ultimate relation, like the Pole Star, and amid the endless restless
motion of every other visible point in space, he alone remained steady,
in the mind of Henry Adams, to the end. All the other points shifted
their bearings; John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, even John
Marshall, took varied lights, and assumed new relations, but Mount
Vernon always remained where it was, with no practicable road to reach
it; and yet, when he got there, Mount Vernon was only Quincy in a
Southern setting. No doubt it was much more charming, but it was the
same eighteenth-century, the same old furniture, the same old patriot,
and the same old President.

  The boy took to it instinctively. The broad Potomac and the
coons in the trees, the bandanas and the box-hedges, the bedrooms
upstairs and the porch outside, even Martha Washington herself in
memory, were as natural as the tides and the May sunshine; he had only
enlarged his horizon a little; but he never thought to ask himself or
his father how to deal with the moral problem that deduced George
Washington from the sum of all wickedness. In practice, such trifles as
contradictions in principle are easily set aside; the faculty of
ignoring them makes the practical man; but any attempt to deal with
them seriously as education is fatal. Luckily Charles Francis Adams
never preached and was singularly free from cant. He may have had views
of his own, but he let his son Henry satisfy himself with the simple
elementary fact that George Washington stood alone.

  Life was not yet complicated. Every problem had a solution,
even the negro. The boy went back to Boston more political than ever,
and his politics were no longer so modern as the eighteenth century,
but took a strong tone of the seventeenth. Slavery drove the whole
Puritan community back on its Puritanism. The boy thought as
dogmatically as though he were one of his own ancestors. The Slave
power took the place of Stuart kings and Roman popes. Education could
go no further in that course, and ran off into emotion; but, as the boy
gradually found his surroundings change, and felt himself no longer an
isolated atom in a hostile universe, but a sort of herring-fry in a
shoal of moving fish, he began to learn the first and easier lessons of
practical politics. Thus far he had seen nothing but eighteenth-century
statesmanship. America and he began, at the same time, to become aware
of a new force under the innocent surface of party machinery. Even at
that early moment, a rather slow boy felt dimly conscious that he might
meet some personal difficulties in trying to reconcile
sixteenth-century principles and eighteenth-century statesmanship with
late nineteenth-century party organization. The first vague sense of
feeling an unknown living obstacle in the dark came in 185l.

  The Free Soil conclave in Mount Vernon Street belonged, as
already said, to the statesman class, and, like Daniel Webster, had
nothing to do with machinery. Websters or Sewards depended on others
for machine work and money--on Peter Harveys and Thurlow Weeds, who
spent their lives in it, took most of the abuse, and asked no reward.
Almost without knowing it, the subordinates ousted their employers and
created a machine which no one but themselves could run. In 1850 things
had not quite reached that point. The men who ran the small Free Soil
machine were still modest, though they became famous enough in their
own right. Henry Wilson, John B. Alley, Anson Burlingame, and the other
managers, negotiated a bargain with the Massachusetts Democrats giving
the State to the Democrats and a seat in the Senate to the Free
Soilers. With this bargain Mr. Adams and his statesman friends would
have nothing to do, for such a coalition was in their eyes much like
jockeys selling a race. They did not care to take office as pay for
votes sold to pro-slavery Democrats. Theirs was a correct, not to say
noble, position; but, as a matter of fact, they took the benefit of the
sale, for the coalition chose Charles Sumner as its candidate for the
Senate, while George S. Boutwell was made Governor for the Democrats.
This was the boy's first lesson in practical politics, and a sharp one;
not that he troubled himself with moral doubts, but that he learned the
nature of a flagrantly corrupt political bargain in which he was too
good to take part, but not too good to take profit. Charles Sumner
happened to be the partner to receive these stolen goods, but between
his friend and his father the boy felt no distinction, and, for him,
there was none. He entered into no casuistry on the matter. His friend
was right because his friend, and the boy shared the glory. The
question of education did not rise while the conflict lasted. Yet every
one saw as clearly then as afterwards that a lesson of some sort must
be learned and understood, once for all. The boy might ignore, as a
mere historical puzzle, the question how to deduce George Washington
from the sum of all wickedness, but he had himself helped to deduce
Charles Sumner from the sum of political corruption. On that line, too,
education could go no further. Tammany Hall stood at the end of the
vista.

  Mr. Alley, one of the strictest of moralists, held that his
object in making the bargain was to convert the Democratic Party to
anti-slavery principles, and that he did it. Henry Adams could rise to
no such moral elevation. He was only a boy, and his object in
supporting the coalition was that of making his friend a Senator. It
was as personal as though he had helped to make his friend a
millionaire. He could never find a way of escaping immoral conclusions,
except by admitting that he and his father and Sumner were wrong, and
this he was never willing to do, for the consequences of this admission
were worse than those of the other. Thus, before he was fifteen years
old, he had managed to get himself into a state of moral confusion from
which he never escaped. As a politician, he was already corrupt, and he
never could see how any practical politician could be less corrupt than
himself.

  Apology, as he understood himself, was cant or cowardice. At
the time he never even dreamed that he needed to apologize, though the
press shouted it at him from every corner, and though the Mount Vernon
Street conclave agreed with the press; yet he could not plead
ignorance, and even in the heat of the conflict, he never cared to
defend the coalition. Boy as he was, he knew enough to know that
something was wrong, but his only interest was the election. Day after
day, the General Court balloted; and the boy haunted the gallery,
following the roll-call, and wondered what Caleb Cushing meant by
calling Mr. Sumner a "one-eyed abolitionist." Truly the difference in
meaning with the phrase "one-ideaed abolitionist," which was Mr.
Cushing's actual expression, is not very great, but neither the one nor
the other seemed to describe Mr. Sumner to the boy, who never could
have made the error of classing Garrison and Sumner together, or
mistaking Caleb Cushing's relation to either. Temper ran high at that
moment, while Sumner every day missed his election by only one or two
votes. At last, April 24, 1851, standing among the silent crowd in the
gallery, Henry heard the vote announced which gave Sumner the needed
number. Slipping under the arms of the bystanders, he ran home as hard
as he could, and burst into the dining-room where Mr. Sumner was seated
at table with the family. He enjoyed the glory of telling Sumner that
he was elected; it was probably the proudest moment in the life of
either.

  The next day, when the boy went to school, he noticed numbers
of boys and men in the streets wearing black crepe on their arm. He
knew few Free Soil boys in Boston; his acquaintances were what he
called pro-slavery; so he thought proper to tie a bit of white silk
ribbon round his own arm by way of showing that his friend Mr. Sumner
was not wholly alone. This little piece of bravado passed unnoticed; no
one even cuffed his ears; but in later life he was a little puzzled to
decide which symbol was the more correct. No one then dreamed of four
years' war, but every one dreamed of secession. The symbol for either
might well be matter of doubt.

  This triumph of the Mount Vernon Street conclave capped the
political climax. The boy, like a million other American boys, was a
politician, and what was worse, fit as yet to be nothing else. He
should have been, like his grandfather, a protege of George Washington,
a statesman designated by destiny, with nothing to do but look directly
ahead, follow orders, and march. On the contrary, he was not even a
Bostonian; he felt himself shut out of Boston as though he were an
exile; he never thought of himself as a Bostonian; he never looked
about him in Boston, as boys commonly do wherever they are, to select
the street they like best, the house they want to live in, the
profession they mean to practise. Always he felt himself somewhere
else; perhaps in Washington with its social ease; perhaps in Europe;
and he watched with vague unrest from the Quincy hills the smoke of the
Cunard steamers stretching in a long line to the horizon, and
disappearing every other Saturday or whatever the day might be, as
though the steamers were offering to take him away, which was precisely
what they were doing.

  Had these ideas been unreasonable, influences enough were at
hand to correct them; but the point of the whole story, when Henry
Adams came to look back on it, seemed to be that the ideas were more
than reasonable; they were the logical, necessary, mathematical result
of conditions old as history and fixed as fate--invariable sequence in
man's experience. The only idea which would have been quite
unreasonable scarcely entered his mind. This was the thought of going
westward and growing up with the country. That he was not in the least
fitted for going West made no objection whatever, since he was much
better fitted than most of the persons that went. The convincing reason
for staying in the East was that he had there every advantage over the
West. He could not go wrong. The West must inevitably pay an enormous
tribute to Boston and New York. One's position in the East was the best
in the world for every purpose that could offer an object for going
westward. If ever in history men had been able to calculate on a
certainty for a lifetime in advance, the citizens of the great Eastern
seaports could do it in 1850 when their railway systems were already
laid out. Neither to a politician nor to a business-man nor to any of
the learned professions did the West promise any certain advantage,
while it offered uncertainties in plenty.

  At any other moment in human history, this education, including
its political and literary bias, would have been not only good, but
quite the best. Society had always welcomed and flattered men so
endowed. Henry Adams had every reason to be well pleased with it, and
not ill-pleased with himself. He had all he wanted. He saw no reason
for thinking that any one else had more. He finished with school, not
very brilliantly, but without finding fault with the sum of his
knowledge. Probably he knew more than his father, or his grandfather,
or his great-grandfather had known at sixteen years old. Only on
looking back, fifty years later, at his own figure in 1854, and
pondering on the needs of the twentieth century, he wondered whether,
on the whole the boy of 1854 stood nearer to the thought of 1904, or to
that of the year 1. He found himself unable to give a sure answer. The
calculation was clouded by the undetermined values of twentieth-century
thought, but the story will show his reasons for thinking that, in
essentials like religion, ethics, philosophy; in history, literature,
art; in the concepts of all science, except perhaps mathematics, the
American boy of 1854 stood nearer the year 1 than to the year 1900. The
education he had received bore little relation to the education he
needed. Speaking as an American of 1900, he had as yet no education at
all. He knew not even where or how to begin.



CHAPTER IV

HARVARD COLLEGE (1854-1858)

  ONE day in June, 1854, young Adams walked for the last time
down the steps of Mr. Dixwell's school in Boylston Place, and felt no
sensation but one of unqualified joy that this experience was ended.
Never before or afterwards in his life did he close a period so long as
four years without some sensation of loss--some sentiment of habit--but
school was what in after life he commonly heard his friends denounce as
an intolerable bore. He was born too old for it. The same thing could
be said of most New England boys. Mentally they never were boys. Their
education as men should have begun at ten years old. They were fully
five years more mature than the English or European boy for whom
schools were made. For the purposes of future advancement, as
afterwards appeared, these first six years of a possible education were
wasted in doing imperfectly what might have been done perfectly in one,
and in any case would have had small value. The next regular step was
Harvard College. He was more than glad to go. For generation after
generation, Adamses and Brookses and Boylstons and Gorhams had gone to
Harvard College, and although none of them, as far as known, had ever
done any good there, or thought himself the better for it, custom,
social ties, convenience, and, above all, economy, kept each generation
in the track. Any other education would have required a serious effort,
but no one took Harvard College seriously. All went there because their
friends went there, and the College was their ideal of social
self-respect.

  Harvard College, as far as it educated at all, was a mild and
liberal school, which sent young men into the world with all they
needed to make respectable citizens, and something of what they wanted
to make useful ones. Leaders of men it never tried to make. Its ideals
were altogether different. The Unitarian clergy had given to the
College a character of moderation, balance, judgment, restraint, what
the French called mesure; excellent traits, which the College attained
with singular success, so that its graduates could commonly be
recognized by the stamp, but such a type of character rarely lent
itself to autobiography. In effect, the school created a type but not a
will. Four years of Harvard College, if successful, resulted in an
autobiographical blank, a mind on which only a water-mark had been
stamped.

  The stamp, as such things went, was a good one. The chief
wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned in it,
teachers and taught. Sometimes in after life, Adams debated whether in
fact it had not ruined him and most of his companions, but,
disappointment apart, Harvard College was probably less hurtful than
any other university then in existence. It taught little, and that
little ill, but it left the mind open, free from bias, ignorant of
facts, but docile. The graduate had few strong prejudices. He knew
little, but his mind remained supple, ready to receive knowledge.

  What caused the boy most disappointment was the little he got
from his mates. Speaking exactly, he got less than nothing, a result
common enough in education. Yet the College Catalogue for the years
1854 to 1861 shows a list of names rather distinguished in their time.
Alexander Agassiz and Phillips Brooks led it; H. H. Richardson and O.
W. Holmes helped to close it. As a rule the most promising of all die
early, and never get their names into a Dictionary of Contemporaries,
which seems to be the only popular standard of success. Many died in
the war. Adams knew them all, more or less; he felt as much regard, and
quite as much respect for them then, as he did after they won great
names and were objects of a vastly wider respect; but, as help towards
education, he got nothing whatever from them or they from him until
long after they had left college. Possibly the fault was his, but one
would like to know how many others shared it. Accident counts for much
in companionship as in marriage. Life offers perhaps only a score of
possible companions, and it is mere chance whether they meet as early
as school or college, but it is more than a chance that boys brought up
together under like conditions have nothing to give each other. The
Class of 1858, to which Henry Adams belonged, was a typical collection
of young New Englanders, quietly penetrating and aggressively
commonplace; free from meannesses, jealousies, intrigues, enthusiasms,
and passions; not exceptionally quick; not consciously skeptical;
singularly indifferent to display, artifice, florid expression, but not
hostile to it when it amused them; distrustful of themselves, but
little disposed to trust any one else; with not much humor of their
own, but full of readiness to enjoy the humor of others; negative to a
degree that in the long run became positive and triumphant. Not harsh
in manners or judgment, rather liberal and open-minded, they were still
as a body the most formidable critics one would care to meet, in a long
life exposed to criticism. They never flattered, seldom praised; free
from vanity, they were not intolerant of it; but they were
objectiveness itself; their attitude was a law of nature; their
judgment beyond appeal, not an act either of intellect or emotion or of
will, but a sort of gravitation.

  This was Harvard College incarnate, but even for Harvard
College, the Class of 1858 was somewhat extreme. Of unity this band of
nearly one hundred young men had no keen sense, but they had equally
little energy of repulsion. They were pleasant to live with, and above
the average of students--German, French, English, or what not--but
chiefly because each individual appeared satisfied to stand alone. It
seemed a sign of force; yet to stand alone is quite natural when one
has no passions; still easier when one has no pains.

  Into this unusually dissolvent medium, chance insisted on
enlarging Henry Adams's education by tossing a trio of Virginians as
little fitted for it as Sioux Indians to a treadmill. By some further
affinity, these three outsiders fell into relation with the Bostonians
among whom Adams as a schoolboy belonged, and in the end with Adams
himself, although they and he knew well how thin an edge of friendship
separated them in 1856 from mortal enmity. One of the Virginians was
the son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, of the Second United States Cavalry;
the two others who seemed instinctively to form a staff for Lee, were
town-Virginians from Petersburg. A fourth outsider came from Cincinnati
and was half Kentuckian, N. L. Anderson, Longworth on the mother's
side. For the first time Adams's education brought him in contact with
new types and taught him their values. He saw the New England type
measure itself with another, and he was part of the process.

  Lee, known through life as "Roony," was a Virginian of the
eighteenth century, much as Henry Adams was a Bostonian of the same
age. Roony Lee had changed little from the type of his grandfather,
Light Horse Harry. Tall, largely built, handsome, genial, with liberal
Virginian openness towards all he liked, he had also the Virginian
habit of command and took leadership as his natural habit. No one cared
to contest it. None of the New Englanders wanted command. For a year,
at least, Lee was the most popular and prominent young man in his
class, but then seemed slowly to drop into the background. The habit of
command was not enough, and the Virginian had little else. He was
simple beyond analysis; so simple that even the simple New England
student could not realize him. No one knew enough to know how ignorant
he was; how childlike; how helpless before the relative complexity of a
school. As an animal, the Southerner seemed to have every advantage,
but even as an animal he steadily lost ground.

  The lesson in education was vital to these young men, who,
within ten years, killed each other by scores in the act of testing
their college conclusions. Strictly, the Southerner had no mind; he had
temperament He was not a scholar; he had no intellectual training; he
could not analyze an idea, and he could not even conceive of admitting
two; but in life one could get along very well without ideas, if one
had only the social instinct. Dozens of eminent statesmen were men of
Lee's type, and maintained themselves well enough in the legislature,
but college was a sharper test. The Virginian was weak in vice itself,
though the Bostonian was hardly a master of crime. The habits of
neither were good; both were apt to drink hard and to live low lives;
but the Bostonian suffered less than the Virginian. Commonly the
Bostonian could take some care of himself even in his worst stages,
while the Virginian became quarrelsome and dangerous. When a Virginian
had brooded a few days over an imaginary grief and substantial whiskey,
none of his Northern friends could be sure that he might not be
waiting, round the corner, with a knife or pistol, to revenge insult by
the dry light of delirium tremens; and when things reached this
condition, Lee had to exhaust his authority over his own staff. Lee was
a gentleman of the old school, and, as every one knows, gentlemen of
the old school drank almost as much as gentlemen of the new school; but
this was not his trouble. He was sober even in the excessive violence
of political feeling in those years; he kept his temper and his friends
under control.

  Adams liked the Virginians. No one was more obnoxious to them,
by name and prejudice; yet their friendship was unbroken and even warm.
At a moment when the immediate future posed no problem in education so
vital as the relative energy and endurance of North and South, this
momentary contact with Southern character was a sort of education for
its own sake; but this was not all. No doubt the self-esteem of the
Yankee, which tended naturally to self-distrust, was flattered by
gaining the slow conviction that the Southerner, with his slave-owning
limitations, was as little fit to succeed in the struggle of modern
life as though he were still a maker of stone axes, living in caves,
and hunting the bos primigenius, and that every quality in which he was
strong, made him weaker; but Adams had begun to fear that even in this
respect one eighteenth-century type might not differ deeply from
another. Roony Lee had changed little from the Virginian of a century
before; but Adams was himself a good deal nearer the type of his
great-grandfather than to that of a railway superintendent. He was
little more fit than the Virginians to deal with a future America which
showed no fancy for the past. Already Northern society betrayed a
preference for economists over diplomats or soldiers--one might even
call it a jealousy--against which two eighteenth-century types had
little chance to live, and which they had in common to fear.

  Nothing short of this curious sympathy could have brought into
close relations two young men so hostile as Roony Lee and Henry Adams,
but the chief difference between them as collegians consisted only in
their difference of scholarship: Lee was a total failure; Adams a
partial one. Both failed, but Lee felt his failure more sensibly, so
that he gladly seized the chance of escape by accepting a commission
offered him by General Winfield Scott in the force then being organized
against the Mormons. He asked Adams to write his letter of acceptance,
which flattered Adams's vanity more than any Northern compliment could
do, because, in days of violent political bitterness, it showed a
certain amount of good temper. The diplomat felt his profession.

  If the student got little from his mates, he got little more
from his masters. The four years passed at college were, for his
purposes, wasted. Harvard College was a good school, but at bottom what
the boy disliked most was any school at all. He did not want to be one
in a hundred--one per cent of an education. He regarded himself as the
only person for whom his education had value, and he wanted the whole
of it. He got barely half of an average. Long afterwards, when the
devious path of life led him back to teach in his turn what no student
naturally cared or needed to know, he diverted some dreary hours of
faculty-meetings by looking up his record in the class-lists, and found
himself graded precisely in the middle. In the one branch he most
needed--mathematics--barring the few first scholars, failure was so
nearly universal that no attempt at grading could have had value, and
whether he stood fortieth or ninetieth must have been an accident or
the personal favor of the professor. Here his education failed
lamentably. At best he could never have been a mathematician; at worst
he would never have cared to be one; but he needed to read mathematics,
like any other universal language, and he never reached the alphabet.

  Beyond two or three Greek plays, the student got nothing from
the ancient languages. Beyond some incoherent theories of free-trade
and protection, he got little from Political Economy. He could not
afterwards remember to have heard the name of Karl Marx mentioned, or
the title of "Capital." He was equally ignorant of Auguste Comte. These
were the two writers of his time who most influenced its thought. The
bit of practical teaching he afterwards reviewed with most curiosity
was the course in Chemistry, which taught him a number of theories that
befogged his mind for a lifetime. The only teaching that appealed to
his imagination was a course of lectures by Louis Agassiz on the
Glacial Period and Paleontology, which had more influence on his
curiosity than the rest of the college instruction altogether. The
entire work of the four years could have been easily put into the work
of any four months in after life.

  Harvard College was a negative force, and negative forces have
value. Slowly it weakened the violent political bias of childhood, not
by putting interests in its place, but by mental habits which had no
bias at all. It would also have weakened the literary bias, if Adams
had been capable of finding other amusement, but the climate kept him
steady to desultory and useless reading, till he had run through
libraries of volumes which he forgot even to their title-pages. Rather
by instinct than by guidance, he turned to writing, and his professors
or tutors occasionally gave his English composition a hesitating
approval; but in that branch, as in all the rest, even when he made a
long struggle for recognition, he never convinced his teachers that his
abilities, at their best, warranted placing him on the rank-list, among
the first third of his class. Instructors generally reach a fairly
accurate gauge of their scholars' powers. Henry Adams himself held the
opinion that his instructors were very nearly right, and when he became
a professor in his turn, and made mortifying mistakes in ranking his
scholars, he still obstinately insisted that on the whole, he was not
far wrong. Student or professor, he accepted the negative standard
because it was the standard of the school.

  He never knew what other students thought of it, or what they
thought they gained from it; nor would their opinion have much affected
his. From the first, he wanted to be done with it, and stood watching
vaguely for a path and a direction. The world outside seemed large, but
the paths that led into it were not many and lay mostly through Boston,
where he did not want to go. As it happened, by pure chance, the first
door of escape that seemed to offer a hope led into Germany, and James
Russell Lowell opened it.

  Lowell, on succeeding Longfellow as Professor of
Belles-Lettres, had duly gone to Germany, and had brought back whatever
he found to bring. The literary world then agreed that truth survived
in Germany alone, and Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Renan, Emerson, with
scores of popular followers, taught the German faith. The literary
world had revolted against the yoke of coming capitalism--its
money-lenders, its bank directors, and its railway magnates. Thackeray
and Dickens followed Balzac in scratching and biting the unfortunate
middle class with savage ill-temper, much as the middle class had
scratched and bitten the Church and Court for a hundred years before.
The middle class had the power, and held its coal and iron well in
hand, but the satirists and idealists seized the press, and as they
were agreed that the Second Empire was a disgrace to France and a
danger to England, they turned to Germany because at that moment
Germany was neither economical nor military, and a hundred years behind
western Europe in the simplicity of its standard. German thought,
method, honesty, and even taste, became the standards of scholarship.
Goethe was raised to the rank of Shakespeare--Kant ranked as a
law-giver above Plato. All serious scholars were obliged to become
German, for German thought was revolutionizing criticism. Lowell had
followed the rest, not very enthusiastically, but with sufficient
conviction, and invited his scholars to join him. Adams was glad to
accept the invitation, rather for the sake of cultivating Lowell than
Germany, but still in perfect good faith. It was the first serious
attempt he had made to direct his own education, and he was sure of
getting some education out of it; not perhaps anything that he
expected, but at least a path.

  Singularly circuitous and excessively wasteful of energy the
path proved to be, but the student could never see what other was open
to him. He could have done no better had he foreseen every stage of his
coming life, and he would probably have done worse. The preliminary
step was pure gain. James Russell Lowell had brought back from Germany
the only new and valuable part of its universities, the habit of
allowing students to read with him privately in his study. Adams asked
the privilege, and used it to read a little, and to talk a great deal,
for the personal contact pleased and flattered him, as that of older
men ought to flatter and please the young even when they altogether
exaggerate its value. Lowell was a new element in the boy's life. As
practical a New Englander as any, he leaned towards the Concord faith
rather than towards Boston where he properly belonged; for Concord, in
the dark days of 1856, glowed with pure light. Adams approached it in
much the same spirit as he would have entered a Gothic Cathedral, for
he well knew that the priests regarded him as only a worm. To the
Concord Church all Adamses were minds of dust and emptiness, devoid of
feeling, poetry or imagination; little higher than the common scourings
of State Street; politicians of doubtful honesty; natures of narrow
scope; and already, at eighteen years old, Henry had begun to feel
uncertainty about so many matters more important than Adamses that his
mind rebelled against no discipline merely personal, and he was ready
to admit his unworthiness if only he might penetrate the shrine. The
influence of Harvard College was beginning to have its effect. He was
slipping away from fixed principles; from Mount Vernon Street; from
Quincy; from the eighteenth century; and his first steps led toward
Concord.

  He never reached Concord, and to Concord Church he, like the
rest of mankind who accepted a material universe, remained always an
insect, or something much lower--a man. It was surely no fault of his
that the universe seemed to him real; perhaps--as Mr. Emerson justly
said--it was so; in spite of the long-continued effort of a lifetime,
he perpetually fell back into the heresy that if anything universal was
unreal, it was himself and not the appearances; it was the poet and not
the banker; it was his own thought, not the thing that moved it. He did
not lack the wish to be transcendental. Concord seemed to him, at one
time, more real than Quincy; yet in truth Russell Lowell was as little
transcendental as Beacon Street. From him the boy got no revolutionary
thought whatever--objective or subjective as they used to call it--but
he got good-humored encouragement to do what amused him, which
consisted in passing two years in Europe after finishing the four years
of Cambridge.

  The result seemed small in proportion to the effort, but it was
the only positive result he could ever trace to the influence of
Harvard College, and he had grave doubts whether Harvard College
influenced even that. Negative results in plenty he could trace, but he
tended towards negation on his own account, as one side of the New
England mind had always done, and even there he could never feel sure
that Harvard College had more than reflected a weakness. In his opinion
the education was not serious, but in truth hardly any Boston student
took it seriously, and none of them seemed sure that President Walker
himself, or President Felton after him, took it more seriously than the
students. For them all, the college offered chiefly advantages vulgarly
called social, rather than mental.

  Unluckily for this particular boy, social advantages were his
only capital in life. Of money he had not much, of mind not more, but
he could be quite certain that, barring his own faults, his social
position would never be questioned. What he needed was a career in
which social position had value. Never in his life would he have to
explain who he was; never would he have need of acquaintance to
strengthen his social standing; but he needed greatly some one to show
him how to use the acquaintance he cared to make. He made no
acquaintance in college which proved to have the smallest use in after
life. All his Boston friends he knew before, or would have known in any
case, and contact of Bostonian with Bostonian was the last education
these young men needed. Cordial and intimate as their college relations
were, they all flew off in different directions the moment they took
their degrees. Harvard College remained a tie, indeed, but a tie little
stronger than Beacon Street and not so strong as State Street.
Strangers might perhaps gain something from the college if they were
hard pressed for social connections. A student like H. H. Richardson,
who came from far away New Orleans, and had his career before him to
chase rather than to guide, might make valuable friendships at college.
Certainly Adams made no acquaintance there that he valued in after life
so much as Richardson, but still more certainly the college relation
had little to do with the later friendship. Life is a narrow valley,
and the roads run close together. Adams would have attached himself to
Richardson in any case, as he attached himself to John LaFarge or
Augustus St. Gaudens or Clarence King or John Hay, none of whom were at
Harvard College. The valley of life grew more and more narrow with
years, and certain men with common tastes were bound to come together.
Adams knew only that he would have felt himself on a more equal footing
with them had he been less ignorant, and had he not thrown away ten
years of early life in acquiring what he might have acquired in one.

  Socially or intellectually, the college was for him negative
and in some ways mischievous. The most tolerant man of the world could
not see good in the lower habits of the students, but the vices were
less harmful than the virtues. The habit of drinking--though the mere
recollection of it made him doubt his own veracity, so fantastic it
seemed in later life--may have done no great or permanent harm; but the
habit of looking at life as a social relation--an affair of
society--did no good. It cultivated a weakness which needed no
cultivation. If it had helped to make men of the world, or give the
manners and instincts of any profession--such as temper, patience,
courtesy, or a faculty of profiting by the social defects of
opponents--it would have been education better worth having than
mathematics or languages; but so far as it helped to make anything, it
helped only to make the college standard permanent through life. The
Bostonian educated at Harvard College remained a collegian, if he stuck
only to what the college gave him. If parents went on generation after
generation, sending their children to Harvard College for the sake of
its social advantages, they perpetuated an inferior social type, quite
as ill-fitted as the Oxford type for success in the next generation.

  Luckily the old social standard of the college, as President
Walker or James Russell Lowell still showed it, was admirable, and if
it had little practical value or personal influence on the mass of
students, at least it preserved the tradition for those who liked it.
The Harvard graduate was neither American nor European, nor even wholly
Yankee; his admirers were few, and his many; perhaps his worst weakness
was his self-criticism and self-consciousness; but his ambitions,
social or intellectual, were necessarily cheap even though they might
be negative. Afraid of such serious risks, and still more afraid of
personal ridicule, he seldom made a great failure of life, and nearly
always led a life more or less worth living. So Henry Adams, well aware
that he could not succeed as a scholar, and finding his social position
beyond improvement or need of effort, betook himself to the single
ambition which otherwise would scarcely have seemed a true outcome of
the college, though it was the last remnant of the old Unitarian
supremacy. He took to the pen. He wrote.

  The College Magazine printed his work, and the College
Societies listened to his addresses. Lavish of praise the readers were
not; the audiences, too, listened in silence; but this was all the
encouragement any Harvard collegian had a reasonable hope to receive;
grave silence was a form of patience that meant possible future
acceptance; and Henry Adams went on writing. No one cared enough to
criticise, except himself who soon began to suffer from reaching his
own limits. He found that he could not be this--or that--or the other;
always precisely the things he wanted to be. He had not wit or scope or
force. Judges always ranked him beneath a rival, if he had any; and he
believed the judges were right. His work seemed to him thin,
commonplace, feeble. At times he felt his own weakness so fatally that
he could not go on; when he had nothing to say, he could not say it,
and he found that he had very little to say at best. Much that he then
wrote must be still in existence in print or manuscript, though he
never cared to see it again, for he felt no doubt that it was in
reality just what he thought it. At best it showed only a feeling for
form; an instinct of exclusion. Nothing shocked--not even its weakness.

  Inevitably an effort leads to an ambition--creates it--and
at that time the ambition of the literary student, which almost took
place of the regular prizes of scholarship, was that of being chosen as
the representative of his class--Class Orator--at the close of their
course. This was political as well as literary success, and precisely
the sort of eighteenth-century combination that fascinated an
eighteenth century boy. The idea lurked in his mind, at first as a
dream, in no way serious or even possible, for he stood outside the
number of what were known as popular men. Year by year, his position
seemed to improve, or perhaps his rivals disappeared, until at last, to
his own great astonishment, he found himself a candidate. The habits of
the college permitted no active candidacy; he and his rivals had not a
word to say for or against themselves, and he was never even consulted
on the subject; he was not present at any of the proceedings, and how
it happened he never could quite divine, but it did happen, that one
evening on returning from Boston he received notice of his election,
after a very close contest, as Class Orator over the head of the first
scholar, who was undoubtedly a better orator and a more popular man. In
politics the success of the poorer candidate is common enough, and
Henry Adams was a fairly trained politician, but he never understood
how he managed to defeat not only a more capable but a more popular
rival.

  To him the election seemed a miracle. This was no mock-modesty;
his head was as clear as ever it was in an indifferent canvass, and he
knew his rivals and their following as well as he knew himself. What he
did not know, even after four years of education, was Harvard College.
What he could never measure was the bewildering impersonality of the
men, who, at twenty years old, seemed to set no value either on
official or personal standards. Here were nearly a hundred young men
who had lived together intimately during four of the most
impressionable years of life, and who, not only once but again and
again, in different ways, deliberately, seriously, dispassionately,
chose as their representatives precisely those of their companions who
seemed least to represent them. As far as these Orators and Marshals
had any position at all in a collegiate sense, it was that of
indifference to the college. Henry Adams never professed the smallest
faith in universities of any kind, either as boy or man, nor had he the
faintest admiration for the university graduate, either in Europe or in
America; as a collegian he was only known apart from his fellows by his
habit of standing outside the college; and yet the singular fact
remained that this commonplace body of young men chose him repeatedly
to express his and their commonplaces. Secretly, of course, the
successful candidate flattered himself--and them--with the hope that
they might perhaps not be so commonplace as they thought themselves;
but this was only another proof that all were identical. They saw in
him a representative--the kind of representative they wanted--and he
saw in them the most formidable array of judges he could ever meet,
like so many mirrors of himself, an infinite reflection of his own
shortcomings.

  All the same, the choice was flattering; so flattering that it
actually shocked his vanity; and would have shocked it more, if
possible, had he known that it was to be the only flattery of the sort
he was ever to receive. The function of Class Day was, in the eyes of
nine-tenths of the students, altogether the most important of the
college, and the figure of the Orator was the most conspicuous in the
function. Unlike the Orators at regular Commencements, the Class Day
Orator stood alone, or had only the Poet for rival. Crowded into the
large church, the students, their families, friends, aunts, uncles and
chaperones, attended all the girls of sixteen or twenty who wanted to
show their summer dresses or fresh complexions, and there, for an hour
or two, in a heat that might have melted bronze, they listened to an
Orator and a Poet in clergyman's gowns, reciting such platitudes as
their own experience and their mild censors permitted them to utter.
What Henry Adams said in his Class Oration of 1858 he soon forgot to
the last word, nor had it the least value for education; but he
naturally remembered what was said of it. He remembered especially one
of his eminent uncles or relations remarking that, as the work of so
young a man, the oration was singularly wanting in enthusiasm. The
young man--always in search of education--asked himself whether,
setting rhetoric aside, this absence of enthusiasm was a defect or a
merit, since, in either case, it was all that Harvard College taught,
and all that the hundred young men, whom he was trying to represent,
expressed. Another comment threw more light on the effect of the
college education. One of the elderly gentlemen noticed the orator's
"perfect self-possession." Self-possession indeed! If Harvard College
gave nothing else, it gave calm. For four years each student had been
obliged to figure daily before dozens of young men who knew each other
to the last fibre. One had done little but read papers to Societies, or
act comedy in the Hasty Pudding, not to speak of regular exercises, and
no audience in future life would ever be so intimately and terribly
intelligent as these. Three-fourths of the graduates would rather have
addressed the Council of Trent or the British Parliament than have
acted Sir Anthony Absolute or Dr. Ollapod before a gala audience of the
Hasty Pudding. Self-possession was the strongest part of Harvard
College, which certainly taught men to stand alone, so that nothing
seemed stranger to its graduates than the paroxysms of terror before
the public which often overcame the graduates of European universities.
Whether this was, or was not, education, Henry Adams never knew. He was
ready to stand up before any audience in America or Europe, with nerves
rather steadier for the excitement, but whether he should ever have
anything to say, remained to be proved. As yet he knew nothing
Education had not begun.



CHAPTER V

BERLIN (1858-1859)

  A FOURTH child has the strength of his weakness. Being of no
great value, he may throw himself away if he likes, and never be
missed. Charles Francis Adams, the father, felt no love for Europe,
which, as he and all the world agreed, unfitted Americans for America.
A captious critic might have replied that all the success he or his
father or his grandfather achieved was chiefly due to the field that
Europe gave them, and it was more than likely that without the help of
Europe they would have all remained local politicians or lawyers, like
their neighbors, to the end. Strictly followed, the rule would have
obliged them never to quit Quincy; and, in fact, so much more timid are
parents for their children than for themselves, that Mr. and Mrs. Adams
would have been content to see their children remain forever in Mount
Vernon Street, unexposed to the temptations of Europe, could they have
relied on the moral influences of Boston itself. Although the parents
little knew what took place under their eyes, even the mothers saw
enough to make them uneasy. Perhaps their dread of vice, haunting past
and present, worried them less than their dread of daughters-in-law or
sons-in-law who might not fit into the somewhat narrow quarters of
home. On all sides were risks. Every year some young person alarmed the
parental heart even in Boston, and although the temptations of Europe
were irresistible, removal from the temptations of Boston might be
imperative. The boy Henry wanted to go to Europe; he seemed well
behaved, when any one was looking at him; he observed conventions, when
he could not escape them; he was never quarrelsome, towards a superior;
his morals were apparently good, and his moral principles, if he had
any, were not known to be bad. Above all, he was timid and showed a
certain sense of self-respect, when in public view. What he was at
heart, no one could say; least of all himself; but he was probably
human, and no worse than some others. Therefore, when he presented to
an exceedingly indulgent father and mother his request to begin at a
German university the study of the Civil Law--although neither he nor
they knew what the Civil Law was, or any reason for his studying
it--the parents dutifully consented, and walked with him down to the
railway-station at Quincy to bid him good-bye, with a smile which he
almost thought a tear.

  Whether the boy deserved such indulgence, or was worth it, he
knew no more than they, or than a professor at Harvard College; but
whether worthy or not, he began his third or fourth attempt at
education in November, 1858, by sailing on the steamer Persia, the
pride of Captain Judkins and the Cunard Line; the newest, largest and
fastest steamship afloat. He was not alone. Several of his college
companions sailed with him, and the world looked cheerful enough until,
on the third day, the world--as far as concerned the young man--ran
into a heavy storm. He learned then a lesson that stood by him better
than any university teaching ever did--the meaning of a November gale
on the mid-Atlantic--which, for mere physical misery, passed endurance.
The subject offered him material for none but serious treatment; he
could never see the humor of sea-sickness; but it united itself with a
great variety of other impressions which made the first month of travel
altogether the rapidest school of education he had yet found. The
stride in knowledge seemed gigantic. One began a to see that a great
many impressions were needed to make very little education, but how
many could be crowded into one day without making any education at all,
became the pons asinorum of tourist mathematics. How many would turn
out to be wrong whether any could turn out right, was ultimate wisdom.

  The ocean, the Persia, Captain Judkins, and Mr. G. P. R. James,
the most distinguished passenger, vanished one Sunday morning in a
furious gale in the Mersey, to make place for the drearier picture of a
Liverpool street as seen from the Adelphi coffee-room in November murk,
followed instantly by the passionate delights of Chester and the
romance of red-sandstone architecture. Millions of Americans have felt
this succession of emotions. Possibly very young and ingenuous tourists
feel them still, but in days before tourists, when the romance was a
reality, not a picture, they were overwhelming. When the boys went out
to Eaton Hall, they were awed, as Thackeray or Dickens would have felt
in the presence of a Duke. The very name of Grosvenor struck a note of
grandeur. The long suite of lofty, gilded rooms with their gilded
furniture; the portraits; the terraces; the gardens, the landscape; the
sense of superiority in the England of the fifties, actually set the
rich nobleman apart, above Americans and shopkeepers. Aristocracy was
real. So was the England of Dickens. Oliver Twist and Little Nell
lurked in every churchyard shadow, not as shadow but alive. Even
Charles the First was not very shadowy, standing on the tower to see
his army defeated. Nothing thereabouts had very much changed since he
lost his battle and his head. An eighteenth-century American boy fresh
from Boston naturally took it all for education, and was amused at this
sort of lesson. At least he thought he felt it.

  Then came the journey up to London through Birmingham and the
Black District, another lesson, which needed much more to be rightly
felt. The plunge into darkness lurid with flames; the sense of unknown
horror in this weird gloom which then existed nowhere else, and never
had existed before, except in volcanic craters; the violent contrast
between this dense, smoky, impenetrable darkness, and the soft green
charm that one glided into, as one emerged--the revelation of an
unknown society of the pit--made a boy uncomfortable, though he had no
idea that Karl Marx was standing there waiting for him, and that sooner
or later the process of education would have to deal with Karl Marx
much more than with Professor Bowen of Harvard College or his Satanic
free-trade majesty John Stuart Mill. The Black District was a practical
education, but it was infinitely far in the distance. The boy ran away
from it, as he ran away from everything he disliked.

  Had he known enough to know where to begin he would have seen
something to study, more vital than the Civil Law, in the long, muddy,
dirty, sordid, gas-lit dreariness of Oxford Street as his dingy
four-wheeler dragged its weary way to Charing Cross. He did notice one
peculiarity about it worth remembering. London was still London. A
certain style dignified its grime; heavy, clumsy, arrogant,
purse-proud, but not cheap; insular but large; barely tolerant of an
outside world, and absolutely self-confident. The boys in the streets
made such free comments on the American clothes and figures, that the
travellers hurried to put on tall hats and long overcoats to escape
criticism. No stranger had rights even in the Strand. The eighteenth
century held its own. History muttered down Fleet Street, like Dr.
Johnson, in Adams's ear; Vanity Fair was alive on Piccadilly in yellow
chariots with coachmen in wigs, on hammer-cloths; footmen with canes,
on the footboard, and a shrivelled old woman inside; half the great
houses, black with London smoke, bore large funereal hatchments; every
one seemed insolent, and the most insolent structures in the world were
the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England. In November, 1858, London
was still vast, but it was the London of the eighteenth century that an
American felt and hated.

  Education went backward. Adams, still a boy, could not guess
how intensely intimate this London grime was to become to him as a man,
but he could still less conceive himself returning to it fifty years
afterwards, noting at each turn how the great city grew smaller as it
doubled in size; cheaper as it quadrupled its wealth; less imperial as
its empire widened; less dignified as it tried to be civil. He liked it
best when he hated it. Education began at the end, or perhaps would end
at the beginning. Thus far it had remained in the eighteenth century,
and the next step took it back to the sixteenth. He crossed to Antwerp.
As the Baron Osy steamed up the Scheldt in the morning mists, a
travelling band on deck began to play, and groups of peasants, working
along the fields, dropped their tools to join in dancing. Ostade and
Teniers were as much alive as they ever were, and even the Duke of Alva
was still at home. The thirteenth-century cathedral towered above a
sixteenth-century mass of tiled roofs, ending abruptly in walls and a
landscape that had not changed. The taste of the town was thick, rich,
ripe, like a sweet wine; it was mediaeval, so that Rubens seemed
modern; it was one of the strongest and fullest flavors that ever
touched the young man's palate; but he might as well have drunk out his
excitement in old Malmsey, for all the education he got from it. Even
in art, one can hardly begin with Antwerp Cathedral and the Descent
from the Cross. He merely got drunk on his emotions, and had then to
get sober as he best could. He was terribly sober when he saw Antwerp
half a century afterwards. One lesson he did learn without suspecting
that he must immediately lose it. He felt his middle ages and the
sixteenth century alive. He was young enough, and the towns were dirty
enough--unimproved, unrestored, untouristed--to retain the sense of
reality. As a taste or a smell, it was education, especially because it
lasted barely ten years longer; but it was education only sensual. He
never dreamed of trying to educate himself to the Descent from the
Cross. He was only too happy to feel himself kneeling at the foot of
the Cross; he learned only to loathe the sordid necessity of getting up
again, and going about his stupid business.

  This was one of the foreseen dangers of Europe, but it vanished
rapidly enough to reassure the most anxious of parents. Dropped into
Berlin one morning without guide or direction, the young man in search
of education floundered in a mere mess of misunderstandings. He could
never recall what he expected to find, but whatever he expected, it had
no relation with what it turned out to be. A student at twenty takes
easily to anything, even to Berlin, and he would have accepted the
thirteenth century pure and simple since his guides assured him that
this was his right path; but a week's experience left him dazed and
dull. Faith held out, but the paths grew dim. Berlin astonished him,
but he had no lack of friends to show him all the amusement it had to
offer. Within a day or two he was running about with the rest to
beer-cellars and music-halls and dance-rooms, smoking bad tobacco,
drinking poor beer, and eating sauerkraut and sausages as though he
knew no better. This was easy. One can always descend the social
ladder. The trouble came when he asked for the education he was
promised. His friends took him to be registered as a student of the
university; they selected his professors and courses; they showed him
where to buy the Institutes of Gaius and several German works on the
Civil Law in numerous volumes; and they led him to his first lecture.

  His first lecture was his last. The young man was not very
quick, and he had almost religious respect for his guides and advisers;
but he needed no more than one hour to satisfy him that he had made
another failure in education, and this time a fatal one. That the
language would require at least three months' hard work before he could
touch the Law was an annoying discovery; but the shock that upset him
was the discovery of the university itself. He had thought Harvard
College a torpid school, but it was instinct with life compared with
all that he could see of the University of Berlin. The German students
were strange animals, but their professors were beyond pay. The mental
attitude of the university was not of an American world. What sort of
instruction prevailed in other branches, or in science, Adams had no
occasion to ask, but in the Civil Law he found only the lecture system
in its deadliest form as it flourished in the thirteenth century. The
professor mumbled his comments; the students made, or seemed to make,
notes; they could have learned from books or discussion in a day more
than they could learn from him in a month, but they must pay his fees,
follow his course, and be his scholars, if they wanted a degree. To an
American the result was worthless. He could make no use of the Civil
Law without some previous notion of the Common Law; but the student who
knew enough of the Common Law to understand what he wanted, had only to
read the Pandects or the commentators at his ease in America, and be
his own professor. Neither the method nor the matter nor the manner
could profit an American education.

  This discovery seemed to shock none of the students. They went
to the lectures, made notes, and read textbooks, but never pretended to
take their professor seriously. They were much more serious in reading
Heine. They knew no more than Heine what good they were getting, beyond
the Berlin accent--which was bad; and the beer--which was not to
compare with Munich; and the dancing--which was better at Vienna. They
enjoyed the beer and music, but they refused to be responsible for the
education. Anyway, as they defended themselves, they were learning the
language.

  So the young man fell back on the language, and being slow at
languages, he found himself falling behind all his friends, which
depressed his spirits, the more because the gloom of a Berlin winter
and of Berlin architecture seemed to him a particular sort of gloom
never attained elsewhere. One day on the Linden he caught sight of
Charles Sumner in a cab, and ran after him. Sumner was then recovering
from the blows of the South Carolinian cane or club, and he was pleased
to find a young worshipper in the remote Prussian wilderness. They
dined together and went to hear "William Tell" at the Opera. Sumner
tried to encourage his friend about his difficulties of language: "I
came to Berlin," or Rome, or whatever place it was, as he said with his
grand air of mastery, "I came to Berlin, unable to say a word in the
language; and three months later when I went away, I talked it to my
cabman." Adams felt himself quite unable to attain in so short a time
such social advantages, and one day complained of his trials to Mr.
Robert Apthorp, of Boston, who was passing the winter in Berlin for the
sake of its music. Mr. Apthorp told of his own similar struggle, and
how he had entered a public school and sat for months with
ten-year-old-boys, reciting their lessons and catching their phrases.
The idea suited Adams's desperate frame of mind. At least it ridded him
of the university and the Civil Law and American associations in
beer-cellars. Mr. Apthorp took the trouble to negotiate with the
head-master of the Friedrichs-Wilhelm-Werdersches Gymnasium for
permission to Henry Adams to attend the school as a member of the
Ober-tertia, a class of boys twelve or thirteen years old, and there
Adams went for three months as though he had not always avoided high
schools with singular antipathy. He never did anything else so foolish
but he was given a bit of education which served him some purpose in
life.

  It was not merely the language, though three months passed in
such fashion would teach a poodle enough to talk with a cabman, and
this was all that foreign students could expect to do, for they never
by any chance would come in contact with German society, if German
society existed, about which they knew nothing. Adams never learned to
talk German well, but the same might be said of his English, if he
could believe Englishmen. He learned not to annoy himself on this
account. His difficulties with the language gradually ceased. He
thought himself quite Germanized in 1859. He even deluded himself with
the idea that he read it as though it were English, which proved that
he knew little about it; but whatever success he had in his own
experiment interested him less than his contact with German education.

  He had revolted at the American school and university; he had
instantly rejected the German university; and as his last experience of
education he tried the German high school. The experiment was
hazardous. In 1858 Berlin was a poor, keen-witted, provincial town,
simple, dirty, uncivilized, and in most respects disgusting. Life was
primitive beyond what an American boy could have imagined. Overridden
by military methods and bureaucratic pettiness, Prussia was only
beginning to free her hands from internal bonds. Apart from discipline,
activity scarcely existed. The future Kaiser Wilhelm I, regent for his
insane brother King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, seemed to pass his time
looking at the passers-by from the window of his modest palace on the
Linden. German manners, even at Court, were sometimes brutal, and
German thoroughness at school was apt to be routine. Bismarck himself
was then struggling to begin a career against the inertia of the German
system. The condition of Germany was a scandal and nuisance to every
earnest German, all whose energies were turned to reforming it from top
to bottom; and Adams walked into a great public school to get educated,
at precisely the time when the Germans wanted most to get rid of the
education they were forced to follow. As an episode in the search for
education, this adventure smacked of Heine.

  The school system has doubtless changed, and at all events the
schoolmasters are probably long ago dead; the story has no longer a
practical value, and had very little even at the time; one could at
least say in defence of the German school that it was neither very
brutal nor very immoral. The head-master was excellent in his Prussian
way, and the other instructors were not worse than in other schools; it
was their system that struck the systemless American with horror. The
arbitrary training given to the memory was stupefying; the strain that
the memory endured was a form of torture; and the feats that the boys
performed, without complaint, were pitiable. No other faculty than the
memory seemed to be recognized. Least of all was any use made of
reason, either analytic, synthetic, or dogmatic. The German government
did not encourage reasoning.

  All State education is a sort of dynamo machine for polarizing
the popular mind; for turning and holding its lines of force in the
direction supposed to be most effective for State purposes. The German
machine was terribly efficient. Its effect on the children was
pathetic. The Friedrichs-Wilhelm-Werdersches Gymnasium was an old
building in the heart of Berlin which served the educational needs of
the small tradesmen or bourgeoisie of the neighborhood; the children
were Berliner-kinder if ever there were such, and of a class suspected
of sympathy and concern in the troubles of 1848. None was noble or
connected with good society. Personally they were rather sympathetic
than not, but as the objects of education they were proofs of nearly
all the evils that a bad system could give. Apparently Adams, in his
rigidly illogical pursuit, had at last reached his ideal of a viciously
logical education. The boys' physique showed it first, but their
physique could not be wholly charged to the school. German food was bad
at best, and a diet of sauerkraut, sausage, and beer could never be
good; but it was not the food alone that made their faces white and
their flesh flabby. They never breathed fresh air; they had never heard
of a playground; in all Berlin not a cubic inch of oxygen was admitted
in winter into an inhabited building; in the school every room was
tightly closed and had no ventilation; the air was foul beyond all
decency; but when the American opened a window in the five minutes
between hours, he violated the rules and was invariably rebuked. As
long as cold weather lasted, the windows were shut. If the boys had a
holiday, they were apt to be taken on long tramps in the Thiergarten or
elsewhere, always ending in over-fatigue, tobacco-smoke, sausages, and
beer. With this, they were required to prepare daily lessons that would
have quickly broken down strong men of a healthy habit, and which they
could learn only because their minds were morbid. The German university
had seemed a failure, but the German high school was something very
near an indictable nuisance.

  Before the month of April arrived, the experiment of German
education had reached this point. Nothing was left of it except the
ghost of the Civil Law shut up in the darkest of closets, never to
gibber again before any one who could repeat the story. The derisive
Jew laughter of Heine ran through the university and everything else in
Berlin. Of course, when one is twenty years old, life is bound to be
full, if only of Berlin beer, although German student life was on the
whole the thinnest of beer, as an American looked on it, but though
nothing except small fragments remained of the education that had been
so promising--or promised--this is only what most often happens in
life, when by-products turn out to be more valuable than staples. The
German university and German law were failures; German society, in an
American sense, did not exist, or if it existed, never showed itself to
an American; the German theatre, on the other hand, was excellent, and
German opera, with the ballet, was almost worth a journey to Berlin;
but the curious and perplexing result of the total failure of German
education was that the student's only clear gain--his single step to a
higher life--came from time wasted; studies neglected; vices indulged;
education reversed;--it came from the despised beer-garden and
music-hall; and it was accidental, unintended, unforeseen.

  When his companions insisted on passing two or three afternoons
in the week at music-halls, drinking beer, smoking German tobacco, and
looking at fat German women knitting, while an orchestra played dull
music, Adams went with them for the sake of the company, but with no
presence of enjoyment; and when Mr. Apthorp gently protested that he
exaggerated his indifference, for of course he enjoyed Beethoven, Adams
replied simply that he loathed Beethoven; and felt a slight surprise
when Mr. Apthorp and the others laughed as though they thought it
humor. He saw no humor in it. He supposed that, except musicians, every
one thought Beethoven a bore, as every one except mathematicians
thought mathematics a bore. Sitting thus at his beer-table, mentally
impassive, he was one day surprised to notice that his mind followed
the movement of a Sinfonie. He could not have been more astonished had
he suddenly read a new language. Among the marvels of education, this
was the most marvellous. A prison-wall that barred his senses on one
great side of life, suddenly fell, of its own accord, without so much
as his knowing when it happened. Amid the fumes of coarse tobacco and
poor beer, surrounded by the commonest of German Haus-frauen, a new
sense burst out like a flower in his life, so superior to the old
senses, so bewildering, so astonished at its own existence, that he
could not credit it, and watched it as something apart, accidental, and
not to be trusted. He slowly came to admit that Beethoven had partly
become intelligible to him, but he was the more inclined to think that
Beethoven must be much overrated as a musician, to be so easily
followed. This could not be called education, for he had never so much
as listened to the music. He had been thinking of other things. Mere
mechanical repetition of certain sounds had stuck to his unconscious
mind. Beethoven might have this power, but not Wagner, or at all events
not the Wagner later than "Tannhauser." Near forty years passed before
he reached the "Gotterdammerung."

  One might talk of the revival of an atrophied sense--the
mechanical reaction of a sleeping consciousness--but no other sense
awoke. His sense of line and color remained as dull as ever, and as far
as ever below the level of an artist. His metaphysical sense did not
spring into life, so that his mind could leap the bars of German
expression into sympathy with the idealities of Kant and Hegel.
Although he insisted that his faith in German thought and literature
was exalted, he failed to approach German thought, and he shed never a
tear of emotion over the pages of Goethe and Schiller. When his father
rashly ventured from time to time to write him a word of common sense,
the young man would listen to no sense at all, but insisted that Berlin
was the best of educations in the best of Germanies; yet, when, at
last, April came, and some genius suggested a tramp in Thuringen, his
heart sang like a bird; he realized what a nightmare he had suffered,
and he made up his mind that, wherever else he might, in the infinities
of space and time, seek for education, it should not be again in Berlin.



CHAPTER VI

ROME (1859-1860)

  THE tramp in Thuringen lasted four-and-twenty hours. By the end
of the first walk, his three companions--John Bancroft, James J.
Higginson, and B. W. Crowninshield, all Boston and Harvard College like
himself--were satisfied with what they had seen, and when they sat down
to rest on the spot where Goethe had written--

                "Warte nur! balde
          Rubest du auch!"--

the profoundness of the thought and the wisdom of the advice affected
them so strongly that they hired a wagon and drove to Weimar the same
night. They were all quite happy and lighthearted in the first fresh
breath of leafless spring, and the beer was better than at Berlin, but
they were all equally in doubt why they had come to Germany, and not
one of them could say why they stayed. Adams stayed because he did not
want to go home, and he had fears that his father's patience might be
exhausted if he asked to waste time elsewhere.

  They could not think that their education required a return to
Berlin. A few days at Dresden in the spring weather satisfied them that
Dresden was a better spot for general education than Berlin, and
equally good for reading Civil Law. They were possibly right. There was
nothing to study in Dresden, and no education to be gained, but the
Sistine Madonna and the Correggios were famous; the theatre and opera
were sometimes excellent, and the Elbe was prettier than the Spree.
They could always fall back on the language. So he took a room in the
household of the usual small government clerk with the usual plain
daughters, and continued the study of the language. Possibly one might
learn something more by accident, as one had learned something of
Beethoven. For the next eighteen months the young man pursued
accidental education, since he could pursue no other; and by great good
fortune, Europe and America were too busy with their own affairs to
give much attention to his. Accidental education had every chance in
its favor, especially because nothing came amiss.

  Perhaps the chief obstacle to the youth's education, now that
he had come of age, was his honesty; his simple-minded faith in his
intentions. Even after Berlin had become a nightmare, he still
persuaded himself that his German education was a success. He loved, or
thought he loved the people, but the Germany he loved was the
eighteenth-century which the Germans were ashamed of, and were
destroying as fast as they could. Of the Germany to come, he knew
nothing. Military Germany was his abhorrence. What he liked was the
simple character; the good-natured sentiment; the musical and
metaphysical abstraction; the blundering incapacity of the German for
practical affairs. At that time everyone looked on Germany as incapable
of competing with France, England or America in any sort of organized
energy. Germany had no confidence in herself, and no reason to feel it.
She had no unity, and no reason to want it. She never had unity. Her
religious and social history, her economical interests, her military
geography, her political convenience, had always tended to eccentric
rather than concentric motion. Until coal-power and railways were
created, she was mediaeval by nature and geography, and this was what
Adams, under the teachings of Carlyle and Lowell, liked.

  He was in a fair way to do himself lasting harm, floundering
between worlds passed and worlds coming, which had a habit of crushing
men who stayed too long at the points of contact. Suddenly the Emperor
Napoleon declared war on Austria and raised a confused point of morals
in the mind of Europe. France was the nightmare of Germany, and even at
Dresden one looked on the return of Napoleon to Leipsic as the most
likely thing in the world. One morning the government clerk, in whose
family Adams was staying, rushed into his room to consult a map in
order that he might measure the distance from Milan to Dresden. The
third Napoleon had reached Lombardy, and only fifty or sixty years had
passed since the first Napoleon had begun his military successes from
an Italian base.

  An enlightened young American, with eighteenth-century tastes
capped by fragments of a German education and the most excellent
intentions, had to make up his mind about the moral value of these
conflicting forces. France was the wicked spirit of moral politics, and
whatever helped France must be so far evil. At that time Austria was
another evil spirit. Italy was the prize they disputed, and for at
least fifteen hundred years had been the chief object of their greed.
The question of sympathy had disturbed a number of persons during that
period. The question of morals had been put in a number of
cross-lights. Should one be Guelph or Ghibelline? No doubt, one was
wiser than one's neighbors who had found no way of settling this
question since the days of the cave-dwellers, but ignorance did better
to discard the attempt to be wise, for wisdom had been singularly
baffled by the problem. Better take sides first, and reason about it
for the rest of life.

  Not that Adams felt any real doubt about his sympathies or
wishes. He had not been German long enough for befogging his mind to
that point, but the moment was decisive for much to come, especially
for political morals. His morals were the highest, and he clung to them
to preserve his self-respect; but steam and electricity had brought
about new political and social concentrations, or were making them
necessary in the line of his moral principles--freedom, education,
economic development and so forth--which required association with
allies as doubtful as Napoleon III, and robberies with violence on a
very extensive scale. As long as he could argue that his opponents were
wicked, he could join in robbing and killing them without a qualm; but
it might happen that the good were robbed. Education insisted on
finding a moral foundation for robbery. He could hope to begin life in
the character of no animal more moral than a monkey unless he could
satisfy himself when and why robbery and murder were a virtue and duty.
Education founded on mere self-interest was merely Guelph and
Ghibelline over again--Machiavelli translated into American.

Luckily for him he had a sister much brighter than he ever was--though
he thought himself a rather superior person--who after marrying Charles
Kuhn, of Philadelphia, had come to Italy, and, like all good Americans
and English, was hotly Italian. In July, 1859, she was at Thun in
Switzerland, and there Henry Adams joined them. Women have, commonly, a
very positive moral sense; that which they will, is right; that which
they reject, is wrong; and their will, in most cases, ends by settling
the moral. Mrs. Kuhn had a double superiority. She not only adored
Italy, but she cordially disliked Germany in all its varieties. She saw
no gain in helping her brother to be Germanized, and she wanted him
much to be civilized. She was the first young woman he was ever
intimate with--quick, sensitive, wilful, or full of will, energetic,
sympathetic and intelligent enough to supply a score of men with
ideas--and he was delighted to give her the reins--to let her drive him
where she would. It was his first experiment in giving the reins to a
woman, and he was so much pleased with the results that he never wanted
to take them back. In after life he made a general law of
experience--no woman had ever driven him wrong; no man had ever driven
him right.

  Nothing would satisfy Mrs. Kuhn but to go to the seat of war as
soon as the armistice was declared. Wild as the idea seemed, nothing
was easier. The party crossed the St. Gothard and reached Milan,
picturesque with every sort of uniform and every sign of war. To young
Adams this first plunge into Italy passed Beethoven as a piece of
accidental education. Like music, it differed from other education in
being, not a means of pursuing life, but one of the ends attained.
Further, on these lines, one could not go. It had but one defect--that
of attainment. Life had no richer impression to give; it offers barely
half-a-dozen such, and the intervals seem long. Exactly what they teach
would puzzle a Berlin jurist; yet they seem to have an economic value,
since most people would decline to part with even their faded memories
except at a valuation ridiculously extravagant. They were also what men
pay most for; but one's ideas become hopelessly mixed in trying to
reduce such forms of education to a standard of exchangeable value,
and, as in political economy, one had best disregard altogether what
cannot be stated in equivalents. The proper equivalent of pleasure is
pain, which is also a form of education.

  Not satisfied with Milan, Mrs. Kuhn insisted on invading the
enemy's country, and the carriage was chartered for Innsbruck by way of
the Stelvio Pass. The Valtellina, as the carriage drove up it, showed
war. Garibaldi's Cacciatori were the only visible inhabitants. No one
could say whether the pass was open, but in any case no carriage had
yet crossed. At the inns the handsome young officers in command of the
detachments were delighted to accept invitations to dinner and to talk
all the evening of their battles to the charming patriot who sparkled
with interest and flattery, but not one of them knew whether their
enemies, the abhorred Austrian Jagers, would let the travellers through
their lines. As a rule, gaiety was not the character failing in any
party that Mrs. Kuhn belonged to, but when at last, after climbing what
was said to be the finest carriage-pass in Europe, the carriage turned
the last shoulder, where the glacier of the Ortler Spitze tumbled its
huge mass down upon the road, even Mrs. Kuhn gasped when she was driven
directly up to the barricade and stopped by the double line of sentries
stretching on either side up the mountains, till the flash of the gun
barrels was lost in the flash of the snow. For accidental education the
picture had its value. The earliest of these pictures count for most,
as first impressions must, and Adams never afterwards cared much for
landscape education, except perhaps in the tropics for the sake of the
contrast. As education, that chapter, too, was read, and set aside.

  The handsome blond officers of the Jagers were not to be beaten
in courtesy by the handsome young olive-toned officers of the
Cacciatori. The eternal woman as usual, when she is young, pretty, and
engaging, had her way, and the barricade offered no resistance. In
fifteen minutes the carriage was rolling down to Mals, swarming with
German soldiers and German fleas, worse than the Italian; and German
language, thought, and atmosphere, of which young Adams, thanks to his
glimpse of Italy, never again felt quite the old confident charm.

  Yet he could talk to his cabman and conscientiously did his
cathedrals, his Rhine, and whatever his companions suggested. Faithful
to his self-contracted scheme of passing two winters in study of the
Civil Law, he went back to Dresden with a letter to the Frau Hofrathin
von Reichenbach, in whose house Lowell and other Americans had pursued
studies more or less serious. In those days, "The Initials" was a new
book. The charm which its clever author had laboriously woven over
Munich gave also a certain reflected light to Dresden. Young Adams had
nothing to do but take fencing-lessons, visit the galleries and go to
the theatre; but his social failure in the line of "The Initials," was
humiliating and he succumbed to it. The Frau Hofrathin herself was
sometimes roused to huge laughter at the total discomfiture and
helplessness of the young American in the face of her society. Possibly
an education may be the wider and the richer for a large experience of
the world; Raphael Pumpelly and Clarence King, at about the same time,
were enriching their education by a picturesque intimacy with the
manners of the Apaches and Digger Indians. All experience is an arch,
to build upon. Yet Adams admitted himself unable to guess what use his
second winter in Germany was to him, or what he expected it to be. Even
the doctrine of accidental education broke down. There were no
accidents in Dresden. As soon as the winter was over, he closed and
locked the German door with a long breath of relief, and took the road
to Italy. He had then pursued his education, as it pleased him, for
eighteen months, and in spite of the infinite variety of new
impressions which had packed themselves into his mind, he knew no more,
for his practical purposes, than the day he graduated. He had made no
step towards a profession. He was as ignorant as a schoolboy of
society. He was unfit for any career in Europe, and unfitted for any
career in America, and he had not natural intelligence enough to see
what a mess he had thus far made of his education.

  By twisting life to follow accidental and devious paths, one
might perhaps find some use for accidental and devious knowledge, but
this had been no part of Henry Adams's plan when he chose the path most
admired by the best judges, and followed it till he found it led
nowhere. Nothing had been further from his mind when he started in
November, 1858, than to become a tourist, but a mere tourist, and
nothing else, he had become in April, 1860, when he joined his sister
in Florence. His father had been in the right. The young man felt a
little sore about it. Supposing his father asked him, on his return,
what equivalent he had brought back for the time and money put into his
experiment! The only possible answer would be: "Sir, I am a tourist!"

  The answer was not what he had meant it to be, and he was not
likely to better it by asking his father, in turn, what equivalent his
brothers or cousins or friends at home had got out of the same time and
money spent in Boston. All they had put into the law was certainly
thrown away, but were they happier in science? In theory one might say,
with some show of proof, that a pure, scientific education was alone
correct; yet many of his friends who took it, found reason to complain
that it was anything but a pure, scientific world in which they lived.

  Meanwhile his father had quite enough perplexities of his own,
without seeking more in his son's errors. His Quincy district had sent
him to Congress, and in the spring of 1860 he was in the full confusion
of nominating candidates for the Presidential election in November. He
supported Mr. Seward. The Republican Party was an unknown force, and
the Democratic Party was torn to pieces. No one could see far into the
future. Fathers could blunder as well as sons, and, in 1860, every one
was conscious of being dragged along paths much less secure than those
of the European tourist. For the time, the young man was safe from
interference, and went on his way with a light heart to take whatever
chance fragments of education God or the devil was pleased to give him,
for he knew no longer the good from the bad.

  He had of both sorts more than he knew how to use. Perhaps the
most useful purpose he set himself to serve was that of his pen, for he
wrote long letters, during the next three months, to his brother
Charles, which his brother caused to be printed in the Boston Courier;
and the exercise was good for him. He had little to say, and said it
not very well, but that mattered less. The habit of expression leads to
the search for something to express. Something remains as a residuum of
the commonplace itself, if one strikes out every commonplace in the
expression. Young men as a rule saw little in Italy, or anywhere else,
and in after life when Adams began to learn what some men could see, he
shrank into corners of shame at the thought that he should have
betrayed his own inferiority as though it were his pride, while he
invited his neighbors to measure and admire; but it was still the
nearest approach he had yet made to an intelligent act.

  For the rest, Italy was mostly an emotion and the emotion
naturally centred in Rome. The American parent, curiously enough, while
bitterly hostile to Paris, seemed rather disposed to accept Rome as
legitimate education, though abused; but to young men seeking education
in a serious spirit, taking for granted that everything had a cause,
and that nature tended to an end, Rome was altogether the most violent
vice in the world, and Rome before 1870 was seductive beyond
resistance. The month of May, 1860, was divine. No doubt other young
men, and occasionally young women, have passed the month of May in Rome
since then, and conceive that the charm continues to exist. Possibly it
does--in them--but in 1860 the lights and shadows were still mediaeval,
and mediaeval Rome was alive; the shadows breathed and glowed, full of
soft forms felt by lost senses. No sand-blast of science had yet
skinned off the epidermis of history, thought, and feeling. The
pictures were uncleaned, the churches unrestored, the ruins
unexcavated. Mediaeval Rome was sorcery. Rome was the worst spot on
earth to teach nineteenth-century youth what to do with a
twentieth-century world. One's emotions in Rome were one's private
affair, like one's glass of absinthe before dinner in the Palais Royal;
they must be hurtful, else they could not have been so intense; and
they were surely immoral, for no one, priest or politician, could
honestly read in the ruins of Rome any other certain lesson than that
they were evidence of the just judgments of an outraged God against all
the doings of man. This moral unfitted young men for every sort of
useful activity; it made Rome a gospel of anarchy and vice; the last
place under the sun for educating the young; yet it was, by common
consent, the only spot that the young--of either sex and every
race--passionately, perversely, wickedly loved.

  Boys never see a conclusion; only on the edge of the grave can
man conclude anything; but the first impulse given to the boy is apt to
lead or drive him for the rest of his life into conclusion after
conclusion that he never dreamed of reaching. One looked idly enough at
the Forum or at St. Peter's, but one never forgot the look, and it
never ceased reacting. To a young Bostonian, fresh from Germany, Rome
seemed a pure emotion, quite free from economic or actual values, and
he could not in reason or common sense foresee that it was mechanically
piling up conundrum after conundrum in his educational path, which
seemed unconnected but that he had got to connect; that seemed
insoluble but had got to be somehow solved. Rome was not a beetle to be
dissected and dropped; not a bad French novel to be read in a railway
train and thrown out of the window after other bad French novels, the
morals of which could never approach the immorality of Roman history.
Rome was actual; it was England; it was going to be America. Rome could
not be fitted into an orderly, middle-class, Bostonian, systematic
scheme of evolution. No law of progress applied to it. Not even
time-sequences--the last refuge of helpless historians--had value for
it. The Forum no more led to the Vatican than the Vatican to the Forum.
Rienzi, Garibaldi, Tiberius Gracchus, Aurelian might be mixed up in any
relation of time, along with a thousand more, and never lead to a
sequence. The great word Evolution had not yet, in 1860, made a new
religion of history, but the old religion had preached the same
doctrine for a thousand years without finding in the entire history of
Rome anything but flat contradiction.

  Of course both priests and evolutionists bitterly denied this
heresy, but what they affirmed or denied in 1860 had very little
importance indeed for 1960. Anarchy lost no ground meanwhile. The
problem became only the more fascinating. Probably it was more vital in
May, 1860, than it had been in October, 1764, when the idea of writing
the Decline and Fall of the city first started to the mind of Gibbon,
"in the close of the evening, as I sat musing in the Church of the
Zoccolanti or Franciscan Friars, while they were singing Vespers in the
Temple of Jupiter, on the ruins of the Capitol." Murray's Handbook had
the grace to quote this passage from Gibbon's "Autobiography," which
led Adams more than once to sit at sunset on the steps of the Church of
Santa Maria di Ara Coeli, curiously wondering that not an inch had been
gained by Gibbon--or all the historians since--towards explaining the
Fall. The mystery remained unsolved; the charm remained intact. Two
great experiments of Western civilization had left there the chief
monuments of their failure, and nothing proved that the city might not
still survive to express the failure of a third.

  The young man had no idea what he was doing. The thought of
posing for a Gibbon never entered his mind. He was a tourist, even to
the depths of his sub-consciousness, and it was well for him that he
should be nothing else, for even the greatest of men cannot sit with
dignity, "in the close of evening, among the ruins of the Capitol,"
unless they have something quite original to say about it. Tacitus
could do it; so could Michael Angelo; and so, at a pinch, could Gibbon,
though in figure hardly heroic; but, in sum, none of them could say
very much more than the tourist, who went on repeating to himself the
eternal question:--Why! Why!! Why!!!--as his neighbor, the blind
beggar, might do, sitting next him, on the church steps. No one ever
had answered the question to the satisfaction of any one else; yet
every one who had either head or heart, felt that sooner or later he
must make up his mind what answer to accept. Substitute the word
America for the word Rome, and the question became personal.

  Perhaps Henry learned something in Rome, though he never knew
it, and never sought it. Rome dwarfs teachers. The greatest men of the
age scarcely bore the test of posing with Rome for a background.
Perhaps Garibaldi--possibly even Cavour--could have sat "in the close
of the evening, among the ruins of the Capitol," but one hardly saw
Napoleon III there, or Palmerston or Tennyson or Longfellow. One
morning, Adams happened to be chatting in the studio of Hamilton Wilde,
when a middle-aged Englishman came in, evidently excited, and told of
the shock he had just received, when riding near the Circus Maximus, at
coming unexpectedly on the guillotine, where some criminal had been put
to death an hour or two before. The sudden surprise had quite overcome
him; and Adams, who seldom saw the point of a story till time had
blunted it, listened sympathetically to learn what new form of grim
horror had for the moment wiped out the memory of two thousand years of
Roman bloodshed, or the consolation, derived from history and
statistics, that most citizens of Rome seemed to be the better for
guillotining. Only by slow degrees, he grappled the conviction that the
victim of the shock was Robert Browning; and, on the background of the
Circus Maximus, the Christian martyrs flaming as torches, and the
morning's murderer on the block, Browning seemed rather in place, as a
middle-aged gentlemanly English Pippa Passes; while afterwards, in the
light of Belgravia dinner-tables, he never made part of his background
except by effacement. Browning might have sat with Gibbon, among the
ruins, and few Romans would have smiled.

  Yet Browning never revealed the poetic depths of Saint Francis;
William Story could not touch the secret of Michael Angelo, and Mommsen
hardly said all that one felt by instinct in the lives of Cicero and
Caesar. They taught what, as a rule, needed no teaching, the lessons of
a rather cheap imagination and cheaper politics. Rome was a bewildering
complex of ideas, experiments, ambitions, energies; without her, the
Western world was pointless and fragmentary; she gave heart and unity
to it all; yet Gibbon might have gone on for the whole century, sitting
among the ruins of the Capitol, and no one would have passed, capable
of telling him what it meant. Perhaps it meant nothing.

  So it ended; the happiest month of May that life had yet
offered, fading behind the present, and probably beyond the past,
somewhere into abstract time, grotesquely out of place with the Berlin
scheme or a Boston future. Adams explained to himself that he was
absorbing knowledge. He would have put it better had he said that
knowledge was absorbing him. He was passive. In spite of swarming
impressions he knew no more when he left Rome than he did when he
entered it. As a marketable object, his value was less. His next step
went far to convince him that accidental education, whatever its
economical return might be, was prodigiously successful as an object in
itself. Everything conspired to ruin his sound scheme of life, and to
make him a vagrant as well as pauper. He went on to Naples, and there,
in the hot June, heard rumors that Garibaldi and his thousand were
about to attack Palermo. Calling on the American Minister, Chandler of
Pennsylvania, he was kindly treated, not for his merit, but for his
name, and Mr. Chandler amiably consented to send him to the seat of war
as bearer of despatches to Captain Palmer of the American sloop of war
Iroquois. Young Adams seized the chance, and went to Palermo in a
government transport filled with fleas, commanded by a charming Prince
Caracciolo.

  He told all about it to the Boston Courier; where the narrative
probably exists to this day, unless the files of the Courier have
wholly perished; but of its bearing on education the Courier did not
speak. He himself would have much liked to know whether it had any
bearing whatever, and what was its value as a post-graduate course.
Quite apart from its value as life attained, realized, capitalized, it
had also a certain value as a lesson in something, though Adams could
never classify the branch of study. Loosely, the tourist called it
knowledge of men, but it was just the reverse; it was knowledge of
one's ignorance of men. Captain Palmer of the Iroquois, who was a
friend of the young man's uncle, Sydney Brooks, took him with the
officers of the ship to make an evening call on Garibaldi, whom they
found in the Senate House towards sunset, at supper with his
picturesque and piratic staff, in the full noise and color of the
Palermo revolution. As a spectacle, it belonged to Rossini and the
Italian opera, or to Alexandre Dumas at the least, but the spectacle
was not its educational side. Garibaldi left the table, and, sitting
down at the window, had a few words of talk with Captain Palmer and
young Adams. At that moment, in the summer of 1860, Garibaldi was
certainly the most serious of the doubtful energies in the world; the
most essential to gauge rightly. Even then society was dividing between
banker and anarchist. One or the other, Garibaldi must serve. Himself a
typical anarchist, sure to overshadow Europe and alarm empires bigger
than Naples, his success depended on his mind; his energy was beyond
doubt.

  Adams had the chance to look this sphinx in the eyes, and, for
five minutes, to watch him like a wild animal, at the moment of his
greatest achievement and most splendid action. One saw a
quiet-featured, quiet-voiced man in a red flannel shirt; absolutely
impervious; a type of which Adams knew nothing. Sympathetic it was, and
one felt that it was simple; one suspected even that it might be
childlike, but could form no guess of its intelligence. In his own eyes
Garibaldi might be a Napoleon or a Spartacus; in the hands of Cavour he
might become a Condottiere; in the eyes of history he might, like the
rest of the world, be only the vigorous player in the game he did not
understand. The student was none the wiser.

  This compound nature of patriot and pirate had illumined
Italian history from the beginning, and was no more intelligible to
itself than to a young American who had no experience in double
natures. In the end, if the "Autobiography" tells truth, Garibaldi saw
and said that he had not understood his own acts; that he had been an
instrument; that he had served the purposes of the class he least
wanted to help; yet in 1860 he thought himself the revolution anarchic,
Napoleonic, and his ambition was unbounded. What should a young
Bostonian have made of a character like this, internally alive with
childlike fancies, and externally quiet, simple, almost innocent;
uttering with apparent conviction the usual commonplaces of popular
politics that all politicians use as the small change of their
intercourse with the public; but never betraying a thought?

  Precisely this class of mind was to be the toughest problem of
Adams's practical life, but he could never make anything of it. The
lesson of Garibaldi, as education, seemed to teach the extreme
complexity of extreme simplicity; but one could have learned this from
a glow-worm. One did not need the vivid recollection of the low-voiced,
simple-mannered, seafaring captain of Genoese adventurers and Sicilian
brigands, supping in the July heat and Sicilian dirt and revolutionary
clamor, among the barricaded streets of insurgent Palermo, merely in
order to remember that simplicity is complex.

  Adams left the problem as he found it, and came north to
stumble over others, less picturesque but nearer. He squandered two or
three months on Paris. From the first he had avoided Paris, and had
wanted no French influence in his education. He disapproved of France
in the lump. A certain knowledge of the language one must have; enough
to order dinner and buy a theatre ticket; but more he did not seek. He
disliked the Empire and the Emperor particularly, but this was a
trifle; he disliked most the French mind. To save himself the trouble
of drawing up a long list of all that he disliked, he disapproved of
the whole, once for all, and shut them figuratively out of his life.
France was not serious, and he was not serious in going there.

  He did this in good faith, obeying the lessons his teachers had
taught him; but the curious result followed that, being in no way
responsible for the French and sincerely disapproving them, he felt
quite at liberty to enjoy to the full everything he disapproved. Stated
thus crudely, the idea sounds derisive; but, as a matter of fact,
several thousand Americans passed much of their time there on this
understanding. They sought to take share in every function that was
open to approach, as they sought tickets to the opera, because they
were not a part of it. Adams did like the rest. All thought of serious
education had long vanished. He tried to acquire a few French idioms,
without even aspiring to master a subjunctive, but he succeeded better
in acquiring a modest taste for Bordeaux and Burgundy and one or two
sauces; for the Trois Freres Provencaux and Voisin's and Philippe's and
the Cafe Anglais; for the Palais Royal Theatre, and the Varietes and
the Gymnase; for the Brohans and Bressant, Rose Cheri and Gil Perez,
and other lights of the stage. His friends were good to him. Life was
amusing. Paris rapidly became familiar. In a month or six weeks he
forgot even to disapprove of it; but he studied nothing, entered no
society, and made no acquaintance. Accidental education went far in
Paris, and one picked up a deal of knowledge that might become useful;
perhaps, after all, the three months passed there might serve better
purpose than the twenty-one months passed elsewhere; but he did not
intend it--did not think it--and looked at it as a momentary and
frivolous vacation before going home to fit himself for life.
Therewith, after staying as long as he could and spending all the money
he dared, he started with mixed emotions but no education, for home.



CHAPTER VII

TREASON (1860-1861)

  WHEN, forty years afterwards, Henry Adams looked back over his
adventures in search of knowledge, he asked himself whether fortune or
fate had ever dealt its cards quite so wildly to any of his known
antecessors as when it led him to begin the study of law and to vote
for Abraham Lincoln on the same day.

  He dropped back on Quincy like a lump of lead; he rebounded
like a football, tossed into space by an unknown energy which played
with all his generation as a cat plays with mice. The simile is none
too strong. Not one man in America wanted the Civil War, or expected or
intended it. A small minority wanted secession. The vast majority
wanted to go on with their occupations in peace. Not one, however
clever or learned, guessed what happened. Possibly a few Southern
loyalists in despair might dream it as an impossible chance; but none
planned it.

  As for Henry Adams, fresh from Europe and chaos of another
sort, he plunged at once into a lurid atmosphere of politics, quite
heedless of any education or forethought. His past melted away. The
prodigal was welcomed home, but not even his father asked a malicious
question about the Pandects. At the utmost, he hinted at some shade of
prodigality by quietly inviting his son to act as private secretary
during the winter in Washington, as though any young man who could
afford to throw away two winters on the Civil Law could afford to read
Blackstone for another winter without a master. The young man was
beyond satire, and asked only a pretext for throwing all education to
the east wind. November at best is sad, and November at Quincy had been
from earliest childhood the least gay of seasons. Nowhere else does the
uncharitable autumn wreak its spite so harshly on the frail wreck of
the grasshopper summer; yet even a Quincy November seemed temperate
before the chill of a Boston January.

  This was saying much, for the November of 1860 at Quincy stood
apart from other memories as lurid beyond description. Although no one
believed in civil war, the air reeked of it, and the Republicans
organized their clubs and parades as Wide-Awakes in a form military in
all things except weapons. Henry reached home in time to see the last
of these processions, stretching in ranks of torches along the
hillside, file down through the November night; to the Old House, where
Mr. Adams, their Member of Congress, received them, and, let them
pretend what they liked, their air was not that of innocence.

  Profoundly ignorant, anxious, and curious, the young man packed
his modest trunk again, which had not yet time to be unpacked, and
started for Washington with his family. Ten years had passed since his
last visit, but very little had changed. As in 1800 and 1850, so in
1860, the same rude colony was camped in the same forest, with the same
unfinished Greek temples for work rooms, and sloughs for roads. The
Government had an air of social instability and incompleteness that
went far to support the right of secession in theory as in fact; but
right or wrong, secession was likely to be easy where there was so
little to secede from. The Union was a sentiment, but not much more,
and in December, 1860, the sentiment about the Capitol was chiefly
hostile, so far as it made itself felt. John Adams was better off in
Philadelphia in 1776 than his great-grandson Henry in 1860 in
Washington.

  Patriotism ended by throwing a halo over the Continental
Congress, but over the close of the Thirty-sixth Congress in 1860-61,
no halo could be thrown by any one who saw it. Of all the crowd
swarming in Washington that winter, young Adams was surely among the
most ignorant and helpless, but he saw plainly that the knowledge
possessed by everybody about him was hardly greater than his own. Never
in a long life did he seek to master a lesson so obscure. Mr. Sumner
was given to saying after Oxenstiern: "Quantula sapientia mundus
regitur!" Oxenstiern talked of a world that wanted wisdom; but Adams
found himself seeking education in a world that seemed to him both
unwise and ignorant. The Southern secessionists were certainly
unbalanced in mind--fit for medical treatment, like other victims of
hallucination--haunted by suspicion, by idees fixes, by violent morbid
excitement; but this was not all. They were stupendously ignorant of
the world. As a class, the cotton-planters were mentally one-sided,
ill-balanced, and provincial to a degree rarely known. They were a
close society on whom the new fountains of power had poured a stream of
wealth and slaves that acted like oil on flame. They showed a young
student his first object-lesson of the way in which excess of power
worked when held by inadequate hands.

  This might be a commonplace of 1900, but in 1860 it was
paradox. The Southern statesmen were regarded as standards of
statesmanship, and such standards barred education. Charles Sumner's
chief offence was his insistence on Southern ignorance, and he stood a
living proof of it. To this school, Henry Adams had come for a new
education, and the school was seriously, honestly, taken by most of the
world, including Europe, as proper for the purpose, although the Sioux
Indians would have taught less mischief. From such contradictions among
intelligent people, what was a young man to learn?

  He could learn nothing but cross-purpose. The old and typical
Southern gentleman developed as cotton-planter had nothing to teach or
to give, except warning. Even as example to be avoided, he was too
glaring in his defiance of reason, to help the education of a
reasonable being. No one learned a useful lesson from the Confederate
school except to keep away from it. Thus, at one sweep, the whole field
of instruction south of the Potomac was shut off; it was overshadowed
by the cotton planters, from whom one could learn nothing but bad
temper, bad manners, poker, and treason.

  Perforce, the student was thrown back on Northern precept and
example; first of all, on his New England surroundings. Republican
houses were few in Washington, and Mr. and Mrs. Adams aimed to create a
social centre for New Englanders. They took a house on I Street,
looking over Pennsylvania Avenue, well out towards Georgetown--the
Markoe house--and there the private secretary began to learn his social
duties, for the political were confined to committee-rooms and lobbies
of the Capitol. He had little to do, and knew not how to do it rightly,
but he knew of no one who knew more.

  The Southern type was one to be avoided; the New England type
was one's self. It had nothing to show except one's own features.
Setting aside Charles Sumner, who stood quite alone and was the boy's
oldest friend, all the New Englanders were sane and steady men,
well-balanced, educated, and free from meanness or intrigue--men whom
one liked to act with, and who, whether graduates or not, bore the
stamp of Harvard College. Anson Burlingame was one exception, and
perhaps Israel Washburn another; but as a rule the New Englander's
strength was his poise which almost amounted to a defect. He offered no
more target for love than for hate; he attracted as little as he
repelled; even as a machine, his motion seemed never accelerated. The
character, with its force or feebleness, was familiar; one knew it to
the core; one was it--had been run in the same mould.

  There remained the Central and Western States, but there the
choice of teachers was not large and in the end narrowed itself to
Preston King, Henry Winter Davis, Owen Lovejoy, and a few other men
born with social faculty. Adams took most kindly to Henry J. Raymond,
who came to view the field for the New York Times, and who was a man of
the world. The average Congressman was civil enough, but had nothing to
ask except offices, and nothing to offer but the views of his district.
The average Senator was more reserved, but had not much more to say,
being always excepting one or two genial natures, handicapped by his
own importance.

  Study it as one might, the hope of education, till the arrival
of the President-elect, narrowed itself to the possible influence of
only two men--Sumner and Seward.

  Sumner was then fifty years old. Since his election as Senator
in 1851 he had passed beyond the reach of his boy friend, and, after
his Brooks injuries, his nervous system never quite recovered its tone;
but perhaps eight or ten years of solitary existence as Senator had
most to do with his development. No man, however strong, can serve ten
years as schoolmaster, priest, or Senator, and remain fit for anything
else. All the dogmatic stations in life have the effect of fixing a
certain stiffness of attitude forever, as though they mesmerized the
subject. Yet even among Senators there were degrees in dogmatism, from
the frank South Carolinian brutality, to that of Webster, Benton, Clay,
or Sumner himself, until in extreme cases, like Conkling, it became
Shakespearian and bouffe--as Godkin used to call it--like Malvolio.
Sumner had become dogmatic like the rest, but he had at least the merit
of qualities that warranted dogmatism. He justly thought, as Webster
had thought before him, that his great services and sacrifices, his
superiority in education, his oratorical power, his political
experience, his representative character at the head of the whole New
England contingent, and, above all, his knowledge of the world, made
him the most important member of the Senate; and no Senator had ever
saturated himself more thoroughly with the spirit and temper of the
body.

  Although the Senate is much given to admiring in its members a
superiority less obvious or quite invisible to outsiders, one Senator
seldom proclaims his own inferiority to another, and still more seldom
likes to be told of it. Even the greatest Senators seemed to inspire
little personal affection in each other, and betrayed none at all.
Sumner had a number of rivals who held his judgment in no high esteem,
and one of these was Senator Seward. The two men would have disliked
each other by instinct had they lived in different planets. Each was
created only for exasperating the other; the virtues of one were the
faults of his rival, until no good quality seemed to remain of either.
That the public service must suffer was certain, but what were the
sufferings of the public service compared with the risks run by a young
mosquito--a private secretary--trying to buzz admiration in the ears of
each, and unaware that each would impatiently slap at him for belonging
to the other? Innocent and unsuspicious beyond what was permitted even
in a nursery, the private secretary courted both.

  Private secretaries are servants of a rather low order, whose
business is to serve sources of power. The first news of a professional
kind, imparted to private secretary Adams on reaching Washington, was
that the President-elect, Abraham Lincoln, had selected Mr. Seward for
his Secretary of State, and that Seward was to be the medium for
communicating his wishes to his followers. Every young man naturally
accepted the wishes of Mr. Lincoln as orders, the more because he could
see that the new President was likely to need all the help that several
million young men would be able to give, if they counted on having any
President at all to serve. Naturally one waited impatiently for the
first meeting with the new Secretary of State.

  Governor Seward was an old friend of the family. He professed
to be a disciple and follower of John Quincy Adams. He had been Senator
since 1849, when his responsibilities as leader had separated him from
the Free Soil contingent, for, in the dry light of the first Free Soil
faith, the ways of New York politics Thurlow Weed had not won favor;
but the fierce heat which welded the Republican Party in 1856 melted
many such barriers, and when Mr. Adams came to Congress in December,
1859, Governor Seward instantly renewed his attitude of family friend,
became a daily intimate in the household, and lost no chance of forcing
his fresh ally to the front.

  A few days after their arrival in December, 1860, the Governor,
as he was always called, came to dinner, alone, as one of the family,
and the private secretary had the chance he wanted to watch him as
carefully as one generally watches men who dispose of one's future. A
slouching, slender figure; a head like a wise macaw; a beaked nose;
shaggy eyebrows; unorderly hair and clothes; hoarse voice; offhand
manner; free talk, and perpetual cigar, offered a new type--of western
New York--to fathom; a type in one way simple because it was only
double--political and personal; but complex because the political had
become nature, and no one could tell which was the mask and which the
features. At table, among friends, Mr. Seward threw off restraint, or
seemed to throw it off, in reality, while in the world he threw it off,
like a politician, for effect. In both cases he chose to appear as a
free talker, who loathed pomposity and enjoyed a joke; but how much was
nature and how much was mask, he was himself too simple a nature to
know. Underneath the surface he was conventional after the conventions
of western New York and Albany. Politicians thought it
unconventionality. Bostonians thought it provincial. Henry Adams
thought it charming. From the first sight, he loved the Governor, who,
though sixty years old, had the youth of his sympathies. He noticed
that Mr. Seward was never petty or personal; his talk was large; he
generalized; he never seemed to pose for statesmanship; he did not
require an attitude of prayer. What was more unusual--almost singular
and quite eccentric--he had some means, unknown to other Senators, of
producing the effect of unselfishness.

  Superficially Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams were contrasts;
essentially they were much alike. Mr. Adams was taken to be rigid, but
the Puritan character in all its forms could be supple enough when it
chose; and in Massachusetts all the Adamses had been attacked in
succession as no better than political mercenaries. Mr. Hildreth, in
his standard history, went so far as to echo with approval the charge
that treachery was hereditary in the family. Any Adams had at least to
be thick-skinned, hardened to every contradictory epithet that virtue
could supply, and, on the whole, armed to return such attentions; but
all must have admitted that they had invariably subordinated local to
national interests, and would continue to do so, whenever forced to
choose. C. F. Adams was sure to do what his father had done, as his
father had followed the steps of John Adams, and no doubt thereby
earned his epithets.

  The inevitable followed, as a child fresh from the nursery
should have had the instinct to foresee, but the young man on the edge
of life never dreamed. What motives or emotions drove his masters on
their various paths he made no pretence of guessing; even at that age
he preferred to admit his dislike for guessing motives; he knew only
his own infantile ignorance, before which he stood amazed, and his
innocent good-faith, always matter of simple-minded surprise. Critics
who know ultimate truth will pronounce judgment on history; all that
Henry Adams ever saw in man was a reflection of his own ignorance, and
he never saw quite so much of it as in the winter of 1860-61. Every one
knows the story; every one draws what conclusion suits his temper, and
the conclusion matters now less than though it concerned the merits of
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; but in 1861 the conclusion made the
sharpest lesson of life; it was condensed and concentrated education.

  Rightly or wrongly the new President and his chief advisers in
Washington decided that, before they could administer the Government,
they must make sure of a government to administer, and that this chance
depended on the action of Virginia. The whole ascendancy of the winter
wavered between the effort of the cotton States to drag Virginia out,
and the effort of the new President to keep Virginia in. Governor
Seward representing the Administration in the Senate took the lead; Mr.
Adams took the lead in the House; and as far as a private secretary
knew, the party united on its tactics. In offering concessions to the
border States, they had to run the risk, or incur the certainty, of
dividing their own party, and they took this risk with open eyes. As
Seward himself, in his gruff way, said at dinner, after Mr. Adams and
he had made their speeches: "If there's no secession now, you and I are
ruined."

  They won their game; this was their affair and the affair of
the historians who tell their story; their private secretaries had
nothing to do with it except to follow their orders. On that side a
secretary learned nothing and had nothing to learn. The sudden arrival
of Mr. Lincoln in Washington on February 23, and the language of his
inaugural address, were the final term of the winter's tactics, and
closed the private secretary's interest in the matter forever. Perhaps
he felt, even then, a good deal more interest in the appearance of
another private secretary, of his own age, a young man named John Hay,
who lighted on LaFayette Square at the same moment. Friends are born,
not made, and Henry never mistook a friend except when in power. From
the first slight meeting in February and March, 1861, he recognized Hay
as a friend, and never lost sight of him at the future crossing of
their paths; but, for the moment, his own task ended on March 4 when
Hay's began. The winter's anxieties were shifted upon new shoulders,
and Henry gladly turned back to Blackstone. He had tried to make
himself useful, and had exerted energy that seemed to him portentous,
acting in secret as newspaper correspondent, cultivating a large
acquaintance and even haunting ballrooms where the simple,
old-fashioned, Southern tone was pleasant even in the atmosphere of
conspiracy and treason. The sum was next to nothing for education,
because no one could teach; all were as ignorant as himself; none knew
what should be done, or how to do it; all were trying to learn and were
more bent on asking than on answering questions. The mass of ignorance
in Washington was lighted up by no ray of knowledge. Society, from top
to bottom, broke down.

  From this law there was no exception, unless, perhaps, that of
old General Winfield Scott, who happened to be the only military figure
that looked equal to the crisis. No one else either looked it, or was
it, or could be it, by nature or training. Had young Adams been told
that his life was to hang on the correctness of his estimate of the new
President, he would have lost. He saw Mr. Lincoln but once; at the
melancholy function called an Inaugural Ball. Of course he looked
anxiously for a sign of character. He saw a long, awkward figure; a
plain, ploughed face; a mind, absent in part, and in part evidently
worried by white kid gloves; features that expressed neither
self-satisfaction nor any other familiar Americanism, but rather the
same painful sense of becoming educated and of needing education that
tormented a private secretary; above all a lack of apparent force. Any
private secretary in the least fit for his business would have thought,
as Adams did, that no man living needed so much education as the new
President but that all the education he could get would not be enough.

  As far as a young man of anxious temperament could see, no one
in Washington was fitted for his duties; or rather, no duties in March
were fitted for the duties in April. The few people who thought they
knew something were more in error than those who knew nothing.
Education was matter of life and death, but all the education in the
world would have helped nothing. Only one man in Adams's reach seemed
to him supremely fitted by knowledge and experience to be an adviser
and friend. This was Senator Sumner; and there, in fact, the young
man's education began; there it ended.

  Going over the experience again, long after all the great
actors were dead, he struggled to see where he had blundered. In the
effort to make acquaintances, he lost friends, but he would have liked
much to know whether he could have helped it. He had necessarily
followed Seward and his father; he took for granted that his business
was obedience, discipline, and silence; he supposed the party to
require it, and that the crisis overruled all personal doubts. He was
thunderstruck to learn that Senator Sumner privately denounced the
course, regarded Mr. Adams as betraying the principles of his life, and
broke off relations with his family.

  Many a shock was Henry Adams to meet in the course of a long
life passed chiefly near politics and politicians, but the profoundest
lessons are not the lessons of reason; they are sudden strains that
permanently warp the mind. He cared little or nothing about the point
in discussion; he was even willing to admit that Sumner might be right,
though in all great emergencies he commonly found that every one was
more or less wrong; he liked lofty moral principle and cared little for
political tactics; he felt a profound respect for Sumner himself; but
the shock opened a chasm in life that never closed, and as long as life
lasted, he found himself invariably taking for granted, as a political
instinct, with out waiting further experiment--as he took for granted
that arsenic poisoned--the rule that a friend in power is a friend lost.

  On his own score, he never admitted the rupture, and never
exchanged a word with Mr. Sumner on the subject, then or afterwards,
but his education--for good or bad--made an enormous stride. One has to
deal with all sorts of unexpected morals in life, and, at this moment,
he was looking at hundreds of Southern gentlemen who believed
themselves singularly honest, but who seemed to him engaged in the
plainest breach of faith and the blackest secret conspiracy, yet they
did not disturb his education. History told of little else; and not one
rebel defection--not even Robert E. Lee's--cost young Adams a personal
pang; but Sumner's struck home.

  This, then, was the result of the new attempt at education,
down to March 4, 1861; this was all; and frankly, it seemed to him
hardly what he wanted. The picture of Washington in March, 1861,
offered education, but not the kind of education that led to good. The
process that Matthew Arnold described as wandering between two worlds,
one dead, the other powerless to be born, helps nothing. Washington was
a dismal school. Even before the traitors had flown, the vultures
descended on it in swarms that darkened the ground, and tore the
carrion of political patronage into fragments and gobbets of fat and
lean, on the very steps of the White House. Not a man there knew what
his task was to be, or was fitted for it; every one without exception,
Northern or Southern, was to learn his business at the cost of the
public. Lincoln, Seward, Sumner, and the rest, could give no help to
the young man seeking education; they knew less than he; within six
weeks they were all to be taught their duties by the uprising of such
as he, and their education was to cost a million lives and ten thousand
million dollars, more or less, North and South, before the country
could recover its balance and movement. Henry was a helpless victim,
and, like all the rest, he could only wait for he knew not what, to
send him he knew not where.

  With the close of the session, his own functions ended. Ceasing
to be private secretary he knew not what else to do but return with his
father and mother to Boston in the middle of March, and, with childlike
docility, sit down at a desk in the law-office of Horace Gray in Court
Street, to begin again: "My Lords and Gentlemen"; dozing after a two
o'clock dinner, or waking to discuss politics with the future Justice.
There, in ordinary times, he would have remained for life, his attempt
at education in treason having, like all the rest, disastrously failed.



CHAPTER VIII

DIPLOMACY (1861)

  HARDLY a week passed when the newspapers announced that
President Lincoln had selected Charles Francis Adams as his Minister to
England. Once more, silently, Henry put Blackstone back on its shelf.
As Friar Bacon's head sententiously announced many centuries before:
Time had passed! The Civil Law lasted a brief day; the Common Law
prolonged its shadowy existence for a week. The law, altogether, as
path of education, vanished in April, 1861, leaving a million young men
planted in the mud of a lawless world, to begin a new life without
education at all. They asked few questions, but if they had asked
millions they would have got no answers. No one could help. Looking
back on this moment of crisis, nearly fifty years afterwards, one could
only shake one's white beard in silent horror. Mr. Adams once more
intimated that he thought himself entitled to the services of one of
his sons, and he indicated Henry as the only one who could be spared
from more serious duties. Henry packed his trunk again without a word.
He could offer no protest. Ridiculous as he knew himself about to be in
his new role, he was less ridiculous than his betters. He was at least
no public official, like the thousands of improvised secretaries and
generals who crowded their jealousies and intrigues on the President.
He was not a vulture of carrion--patronage. He knew that his father's
appointment was the result of Governor Seward's personal friendship; he
did not then know that Senator Sumner had opposed it, or the reasons
which Sumner alleged for thinking it unfit; but he could have supplied
proofs enough had Sumner asked for them, the strongest and most
decisive being that, in his opinion, Mr. Adams had chosen a private
secretary far more unfit than his chief. That Mr. Adams was unfit might
well be, since it was hard to find a fit appointment in the list of
possible candidates, except Mr. Sumner himself; and no one knew so well
as this experienced Senator that the weakest of all Mr. Adams's proofs
of fitness was his consent to quit a safe seat in Congress for an
exceedingly unsafe seat in London with no better support than Senator
Sumner, at the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, was likely to
give him. In the family history, its members had taken many a dangerous
risk, but never before had they taken one so desperate.

  The private secretary troubled himself not at all about the
unfitness of any one; he knew too little; and, in fact, no one, except
perhaps Mr. Sumner, knew more. The President and Secretary of State
knew least of all. As Secretary of Legation the Executive appointed the
editor of a Chicago newspaper who had applied for the Chicago
Post-Office; a good fellow, universally known as Charley Wilson, who
had not a thought of staying in the post, or of helping the Minister.
The Assistant Secretary was inherited from Buchanan's time, a hard
worker, but socially useless. Mr. Adams made no effort to find
efficient help; perhaps he knew no name to suggest; perhaps he knew too
much of Washington, but he could hardly have hoped to find a staff of
strength in his son.

  The private secretary was more passive than his father, for he
knew not where to turn. Sumner alone could have smoothed his path by
giving him letters of introduction, but if Sumner wrote letters, it was
not with the effect of smoothing paths. No one, at that moment, was
engaged in smoothing either paths or people. The private secretary was
no worse off than his neighbors except in being called earlier into
service. On April 13 the storm burst and rolled several hundred
thousand young men like Henry Adams into the surf of a wild ocean, all
helpless like himself, to be beaten about for four years by the waves
of war. Adams still had time to watch the regiments form ranks before
Boston State House in the April evenings and march southward, quietly
enough, with the air of business they wore from their cradles, but with
few signs or sounds of excitement. He had time also to go down the
harbor to see his brother Charles quartered in Fort Independence before
being thrown, with a hundred thousand more, into the furnace of the
Army of the Potomac to get educated in a fury of fire. Few things were
for the moment so trivial in importance as the solitary private
secretary crawling down to the wretched old Cunard steamer Niagara at
East Boston to start again for Liverpool. This time the pitcher of
education had gone to the fountain once too often; it was fairly
broken; and the young man had got to meet a hostile world without
defence--or arms.

  The situation did not seem even comic, so ignorant was the
world of its humors; yet Minister Adams sailed for England, May 1,
1861, with much the same outfit as Admiral Dupont would have enjoyed if
the Government had sent him to attack Port Royal with one cabin-boy in
a rowboat. Luckily for the cabin-boy, he was alone. Had Secretary
Seward and Senator Sumner given to Mr. Adams the rank of Ambassador and
four times his salary, a palace in London, a staff of trained
secretaries, and personal letters of introduction to the royal family
and the whole peerage, the private secretary would have been cabin-boy
still, with the extra burden of many masters; he was the most fortunate
person in the party, having for master only his father who never
fretted, never dictated, never disciplined, and whose idea of American
diplomacy was that of the eighteenth century. Minister Adams remembered
how his grandfather had sailed from Mount Wollaston in midwinter, 1778,
on the little frigate Boston, taking his eleven-year-old son John
Quincy with him, for secretary, on a diplomacy of adventure that had
hardly a parallel for success. He remembered how John Quincy, in 1809,
had sailed for Russia, with himself, a baby of two years old, to cope
with Napoleon and the Czar Alexander single-handed, almost as much of
an adventurer as John Adams before him, and almost as successful. He
thought it natural that the Government should send him out as an
adventurer also, with a twenty-three-year-old son, and he did not even
notice that he left not a friend behind him. No doubt he could depend
on Seward, but on whom could Seward depend? Certainly not on the
Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Relations. Minister Adams had no
friend in the Senate; he could hope for no favors, and he asked none.
He thought it right to play the adventurer as his father and
grandfather had done before him, without a murmur. This was a lofty
view, and for him answered his objects, but it bore hard on cabin-boys,
and when, in time, the young man realized what had happened, he felt it
as a betrayal. He modestly thought himself unfit for the career of
adventurer, and judged his father to be less fit than himself. For the
first time America was posing as the champion of legitimacy and order.
Her representatives should know how to play their role; they should
wear the costume; but, in the mission attached to Mr. Adams in 1861,
the only rag of legitimacy or order was the private secretary, whose
stature was not sufficient to impose awe on the Court and Parliament of
Great Britain.

  One inevitable effect of this lesson was to make a victim of
the scholar and to turn him into a harsh judge of his masters. If they
overlooked him, he could hardly overlook them, since they stood with
their whole weight on his body. By way of teaching him quickly, they
sent out their new Minister to Russia in the same ship. Secretary
Seward had occasion to learn the merits of Cassius M. Clay in the
diplomatic service, but Mr. Seward's education profited less than the
private secretary's, Cassius Clay as a teacher having no equal though
possibly some rivals. No young man, not in Government pay, could be
asked to draw, from such lessons, any confidence in himself, and it was
notorious that, for the next two years, the persons were few indeed who
felt, or had reason to feel, any sort of confidence in the Government;
fewest of all among those who were in it. At home, for the most part,
young men went to the war, grumbled and died; in England they might
grumble or not; no one listened.

  Above all, the private secretary could not grumble to his
chief. He knew surprisingly little, but that much he did know. He never
labored so hard to learn a language as he did to hold his tongue, and
it affected him for life. The habit of reticence--of talking without
meaning--is never effaced. He had to begin it at once. He was already
an adept when the party landed at Liverpool, May 13, 1861, and went
instantly up to London: a family of early Christian martyrs about to be
flung into an arena of lions, under the glad eyes of Tiberius
Palmerston. Though Lord Palmerston would have laughed his peculiar
Palmerston laugh at figuring as Tiberius, he would have seen only
evident resemblance in the Christian martyrs, for he had already
arranged the ceremony.

  Of what they had to expect, the Minister knew no more than his
son. What he or Mr. Seward or Mr. Sumner may have thought is the affair
of history and their errors concern historians. The errors of a private
secretary concerned no one but himself, and were a large part of his
education. He thought on May 12 that he was going to a friendly
Government and people, true to the anti-slavery principles which had
been their steadiest profession. For a hundred years the chief effort
of his family had aimed at bringing the Government of England into
intelligent cooperation with the objects and interests of America. His
father was about to make a new effort, and this time the chance of
success was promising. The slave States had been the chief apparent
obstacle to good understanding. As for the private secretary himself,
he was, like all Bostonians, instinctively English. He could not
conceive the idea of a hostile England. He supposed himself, as one of
the members of a famous anti-slavery family, to be welcome everywhere
in the British Islands.

  On May 13, he met the official announcement that England
recognized the belligerency of the Confederacy. This beginning of a new
education tore up by the roots nearly all that was left of Harvard
College and Germany. He had to learn--the sooner the better--that his
ideas were the reverse of truth; that in May, 1861, no one in
England--literally no one--doubted that Jefferson Davis had made or
would make a nation, and nearly all were glad of it, though not often
saying so. They mostly imitated Palmerston who, according to Mr.
Gladstone, "desired the severance as a diminution of a dangerous power,
but prudently held his tongue." The sentiment of anti-slavery had
disappeared. Lord John Russell, as Foreign Secretary, had received the
rebel emissaries, and had decided to recognize their belligerency
before the arrival of Mr. Adams in order to fix the position of the
British Government in advance. The recognition of independence would
then become an understood policy; a matter of time and occasion.

  Whatever Minister Adams may have felt, the first effect of this
shock upon his son produced only a dullness of comprehension--a sort of
hazy inability to grasp the missile or realize the blow. Yet he
realized that to his father it was likely to be fatal. The chances were
great that the whole family would turn round and go home within a few
weeks. The horizon widened out in endless waves of confusion. When he
thought over the subject in the long leisure of later life, he grew
cold at the idea of his situation had his father then shown himself
what Sumner thought him to be--unfit for his post. That the private
secretary was unfit for his--trifling though it were--was proved by his
unreflecting confidence in his father. It never entered his mind that
his father might lose his nerve or his temper, and yet in a subsequent
knowledge of statesmen and diplomats extending over several
generations, he could not certainly point out another who could have
stood such a shock without showing it. He passed this long day, and
tedious journey to London, without once thinking of the possibility
that his father might make a mistake. Whatever the Minister thought,
and certainly his thought was not less active than his son's, he showed
no trace of excitement. His manner was the same as ever; his mind and
temper were as perfectly balanced; not a word escaped; not a nerve
twitched.

  The test was final, for no other shock so violent and sudden
could possibly recur. The worst was in full sight. For once the private
secretary knew his own business, which was to imitate his father as
closely as possible and hold his tongue. Dumped thus into Maurigy's
Hotel at the foot of Regent Street, in the midst of a London season,
without a friend or even an acquaintance, he preferred to laugh at his
father's bewilderment before the waiter's "'amhandheggsir" for
breakfast, rather than ask a question or express a doubt. His
situation, if taken seriously, was too appalling to face. Had he known
it better, he would only have thought it worse.

  Politically or socially, the outlook was desperate, beyond
retrieving or contesting. Socially, under the best of circumstances, a
newcomer in London society needs years to establish a position, and
Minister Adams had not a week or an hour to spare, while his son had
not even a remote chance of beginning. Politically the prospect looked
even worse, and for Secretary Seward and Senator Sumner it was so; but
for the Minister, on the spot, as he came to realize exactly where he
stood, the danger was not so imminent. Mr. Adams was always one of the
luckiest of men, both in what he achieved and in what he escaped. The
blow, which prostrated Seward and Sumner, passed over him. Lord John
Russell had acted--had probably intended to act--kindly by him in
forestalling his arrival. The blow must have fallen within three
months, and would then have broken him down. The British Ministers were
a little in doubt still--a little ashamed of themselves--and certain to
wait the longer for their next step in proportion to the haste of their
first.

  This is not a story of the diplomatic adventures of Charles
Francis Adams, but of his son Henry's adventures in search of an
education, which, if not taken too seriously, tended to humor. The
father's position in London was not altogether bad; the son's was
absurd. Thanks to certain family associations, Charles Francis Adams
naturally looked on all British Ministers as enemies; the only public
occupation of all Adamses for a hundred and fifty years at least, in
their brief intervals of quarrelling with State Street, had been to
quarrel with Downing Street; and the British Government, well used to a
liberal unpopularity abroad, even when officially rude liked to be
personally civil. All diplomatic agents are liable to be put, so to
speak, in a corner, and are none the worse for it. Minister Adams had
nothing in especial to complain of; his position was good while it
lasted, and he had only the chances of war to fear. The son had no such
compensations. Brought over in order to help his father, he could
conceive no way of rendering his father help, but he was clear that his
father had got to help him. To him, the Legation was social ostracism,
terrible beyond anything he had known. Entire solitude in the great
society of London was doubly desperate because his duties as private
secretary required him to know everybody and go with his father and
mother everywhere they needed escort. He had no friend, or even enemy,
to tell him to be patient. Had any one done it, he would surely have
broken out with the reply that patience was the last resource of fools
as well as of sages; if he was to help his father at all, he must do it
at once, for his father would never so much need help again. In fact he
never gave his father the smallest help, unless it were as a footman,
clerk, or a companion for the younger children.

  He found himself in a singular situation for one who was to be
useful. As he came to see the situation closer, he began to doubt
whether secretaries were meant to be useful. Wars were too common in
diplomacy to disturb the habits of the diplomat. Most secretaries
detested their chiefs, and wished to be anything but useful. At the St.
James's Club, to which the Minister's son could go only as an invited
guest, the most instructive conversation he ever heard among the young
men of his own age who hung about the tables, more helpless than
himself, was: "Quel chien de pays!" or, "Que tu es beau aujourd'hui,
mon cher!" No one wanted to discuss affairs; still less to give or get
information. That was the affair of their chiefs, who were also slow to
assume work not specially ordered from their Courts. If the American
Minister was in trouble to-day, the Russian Ambassador was in trouble
yesterday, and the Frenchman would be in trouble to-morrow. It would
all come in the day's work. There was nothing professional in worry.
Empires were always tumbling to pieces and diplomats were always
picking them up.

  This was his whole diplomatic education, except that he found
rich veins of jealousy running between every chief and his staff. His
social education was more barren still, and more trying to his vanity.
His little mistakes in etiquette or address made him writhe with
torture. He never forgot the first two or three social functions he
attended: one an afternoon at Miss Burdett Coutts's in Stratton Place,
where he hid himself in the embrasure of a window and hoped that no one
noticed him; another was a garden-party given by the old anti-slavery
Duchess Dowager of Sutherland at Chiswick, where the American Minister
and Mrs. Adams were kept in conversation by the old Duchess till every
one else went away except the young Duke and his cousins, who set to
playing leap-frog on the lawn. At intervals during the next thirty
years Henry Adams continued to happen upon the Duke, who, singularly
enough, was always playing leap-frog. Still another nightmare he
suffered at a dance given by the old Duchess Dowager of Somerset, a
terrible vision in castanets, who seized him and forced him to perform
a Highland fling before the assembled nobility and gentry, with the
daughter of the Turkish Ambassador for partner. This might seem
humorous to some, but to him the world turned to ashes.

  When the end of the season came, the private secretary had not
yet won a private acquaintance, and he hugged himself in his solitude
when the story of the battle of Bull Run appeared in the Times. He felt
only the wish to be more private than ever, for Bull Run was a worse
diplomatic than military disaster. All this is history and can be read
by public schools if they choose; but the curious and unexpected
happened to the Legation, for the effect of Bull Run on them was almost
strengthening. They no longer felt doubt. For the next year they went
on only from week to week, ready to leave England at once, and never
assuming more than three months for their limit. Europe was waiting to
see them go. So certain was the end that no one cared to hurry it.

  So far as a private secretary could see, this was all that saved
his father. For many months he looked on himself as lost or finished in
the character of private secretary; and as about to begin, without
further experiment, a final education in the ranks of the Army of the
Potomac where he would find most of his friends enjoying a much
pleasanter life than his own. With this idea uppermost in his mind, he
passed the summer and the autumn, and began the winter. Any winter in
London is a severe trial; one's first winter is the most trying; but
the month of December, 1861, in Mansfield Street, Portland Place, would
have gorged a glutton of gloom.

  One afternoon when he was struggling to resist complete nervous
depression in the solitude of Mansfield Street, during the absence of
the Minister and Mrs. Adams on a country visit, Reuter's telegram
announcing the seizure of Mason and Slidell from a British mail-steamer
was brought to the office. All three secretaries, public and private
were there--nervous as wild beasts under the long strain on their
endurance--and all three, though they knew it to be not merely their
order of departure--not merely diplomatic rupture--but a declaration of
war--broke into shouts of delight. They were glad to face the end. They
saw it and cheered it! Since England was waiting only for its own
moment to strike, they were eager to strike first.

  They telegraphed the news to the Minister, who was staying with
Monckton Milnes at Fryston in Yorkshire. How Mr. Adams took it, is told
in the "Lives" of Lord Houghton and William E. Forster who was one of
the Fryston party. The moment was for him the crisis of his diplomatic
career; for the secretaries it was merely the beginning of another
intolerable delay, as though they were a military outpost waiting
orders to quit an abandoned position. At the moment of sharpest
suspense, the Prince Consort sickened and died. Portland Place at
Christmas in a black fog was never a rosy landscape, but in 1861 the
most hardened Londoner lost his ruddiness. The private secretary had
one source of comfort denied to them--he should not be private
secretary long.

  He was mistaken--of course! He had been mistaken at every
point of his education, and, on this point, he kept up the same mistake
for nearly seven years longer, always deluded by the notion that the
end was near. To him the Trent Affair was nothing but one of many
affairs which he had to copy in a delicate round hand into his books,
yet it had one or two results personal to him which left no trace on
the Legation records. One of these, and to him the most important, was
to put an end forever to the idea of being "useful." Hitherto, as an
independent and free citizen, not in the employ of the Government, he
had kept up his relations with the American press. He had written
pretty frequently to Henry J. Raymond, and Raymond had used his letters
in the New York Times. He had also become fairly intimate with the two
or three friendly newspapers in London, the Daily News, the Star, the
weekly Spectator; and he had tried to give them news and views that
should have a certain common character, and prevent clash. He had even
gone down to Manchester to study the cotton famine, and wrote a long
account of his visit which his brother Charles had published in the
Boston Courier. Unfortunately it was printed with his name, and
instantly came back upon him in the most crushing shape possible--that
of a long, satirical leader in the London Times. Luckily the Times did
not know its victim to be a part, though not an official, of the
Legation, and lost the chance to make its satire fatal; but he
instantly learned the narrowness of his escape from old Joe Parkes, one
of the traditional busy-bodies of politics, who had haunted London
since 1830, and who, after rushing to the Times office, to tell them
all they did not know about Henry Adams, rushed to the Legation to tell
Adams all he did not want to know about the Times. For a moment Adams
thought his "usefulness" at an end in other respects than in the press,
but a day or two more taught him the value of obscurity. He was totally
unknown; he had not even a club; London was empty; no one thought twice
about the Times article; no one except Joe Parkes ever spoke of it; and
the world had other persons--such as President Lincoln, Secretary
Seward, and Commodore Wilkes--for constant and favorite objects of
ridicule. Henry Adams escaped, but he never tried to be useful again.
The Trent Affair dwarfed individual effort. His education at least had
reached the point of seeing its own proportions. "Surtout point de
zele!" Zeal was too hazardous a profession for a Minister's son to
pursue, as a volunteer manipulator, among Trent Affairs and rebel
cruisers. He wrote no more letters and meddled with no more newspapers,
but he was still young, and felt unkindly towards the editor of the
London Times.

  Mr. Delane lost few opportunities of embittering him, and he
felt little or no hope of repaying these attentions; but the Trent
Affair passed like a snowstorm, leaving the Legation, to its surprise,
still in place. Although the private secretary saw in this delay--which
he attributed to Mr. Seward's good sense--no reason for changing his
opinion about the views of the British Government, he had no choice but
to sit down again at his table, and go on copying papers, filing
letters, and reading newspaper accounts of the incapacity of Mr.
Lincoln and the brutality of Mr. Seward--or vice versa. The heavy
months dragged on and winter slowly turned to spring without improving
his position or spirits. Socially he had but one relief; and, to the
end of life, he never forgot the keen gratitude he owed for it. During
this tedious winter and for many months afterwards, the only gleams of
sunshine were on the days he passed at Walton-on-Thames as the guest of
Mr. and Mrs. Russell Sturgis at Mount Felix.

  His education had unfortunately little to do with bankers,
although old George Peabody and his partner, Junius Morgan, were strong
allies. Joshua Bates was devoted, and no one could be kinder than
Thomas Baring, whose little dinners in Upper Grosvenor Street were
certainly the best in London; but none offered a refuge to compare with
Mount Felix, and, for the first time, the refuge was a liberal
education. Mrs. Russell Sturgis was one of the women to whom an
intelligent boy attaches himself as closely as he can. Henry Adams was
not a very intelligent boy, and he had no knowledge of the world, but
he knew enough to understand that a cub needed shape. The kind of
education he most required was that of a charming woman, and Mrs.
Russell Sturgis, a dozen years older than himself, could have
good-naturedly trained a school of such, without an effort, and with
infinite advantage to them. Near her he half forgot the anxieties of
Portland Place. During two years of miserable solitude, she was in this
social polar winter, the single source of warmth and light.

  Of course the Legation itself was home, and, under such
pressure, life in it could be nothing but united. All the inmates made
common cause, but this was no education. One lived, but was merely
flayed alive. Yet, while this might be exactly true of the younger
members of the household, it was not quite so with the Minister and
Mrs. Adams. Very slowly, but quite steadily, they gained foothold. For
some reason partly connected with American sources, British society had
begun with violent social prejudice against Lincoln, Seward, and all
the Republican leaders except Sumner. Familiar as the whole tribe of
Adamses had been for three generations with the impenetrable stupidity
of the British mind, and weary of the long struggle to teach it its own
interests, the fourth generation could still not quite persuade itself
that this new British prejudice was natural. The private secretary
suspected that Americans in New York and Boston had something to do
with it. The Copperhead was at home in Pall Mall. Naturally the
Englishman was a coarse animal and liked coarseness. Had Lincoln and
Seward been the ruffians supposed, the average Englishman would have
liked them the better. The exceedingly quiet manner and the
unassailable social position of Minister Adams in no way conciliated
them. They chose to ignore him, since they could not ridicule him. Lord
John Russell set the example. Personally the Minister was to be kindly
treated; politically he was negligible; he was there to be put aside.
London and Paris imitated Lord John. Every one waited to see Lincoln
and his hirelings disappear in one vast debacle. All conceived that the
Washington Government would soon crumble, and that Minister Adams would
vanish with the rest.

  This situation made Minister Adams an exception among
diplomats. European rulers for the most part fought and treated as
members of one family, and rarely had in view the possibility of total
extinction; but the Governments and society of Europe, for a year at
least, regarded the Washington Government as dead, and its Ministers as
nullities. Minister Adams was better received than most nullities
because he made no noise. Little by little, in private, society took
the habit of accepting him, not so much as a diplomat, but rather as a
member of opposition, or an eminent counsel retained for a foreign
Government. He was to be received and considered; to be cordially
treated as, by birth and manners, one of themselves. This curiously
English way of getting behind a stupidity gave the Minister every
possible advantage over a European diplomat. Barriers of race,
language, birth, habit, ceased to exist. Diplomacy held diplomats apart
in order to save Governments, but Earl Russell could not hold Mr. Adams
apart. He was undistinguishable from a Londoner. In society few
Londoners were so widely at home. None had such double personality and
corresponding double weight.

  The singular luck that took him to Fryston to meet the shock of
the Trent Affair under the sympathetic eyes of Monckton Milnes and
William E. Forster never afterwards deserted him. Both Milnes and
Forster needed support and were greatly relieved to be supported. They
saw what the private secretary in May had overlooked, the hopeless
position they were in if the American Minister made a mistake, and,
since his strength was theirs, they lost no time in expressing to all
the world their estimate of the Minister's character. Between them the
Minister was almost safe.

  One might discuss long whether, at that moment, Milnes or
Forster were the more valuable ally, since they were influences of
different kinds. Monckton Milnes was a social power in London, possibly
greater than Londoners themselves quite understood, for in London
society as elsewhere, the dull and the ignorant made a large majority,
and dull men always laughed at Monckton Milnes. Every bore was used to
talk familiarly about "Dicky Milnes," the "cool of the evening"; and of
course he himself affected social eccentricity, challenging ridicule
with the indifference of one who knew himself to be the first wit in
London, and a maker of men--of a great many men. A word from him went
far. An invitation to his breakfast-table went farther. Behind his
almost Falstaffian mask and laugh of Silenus, he carried a fine, broad,
and high intelligence which no one questioned. As a young man he had
written verses, which some readers thought poetry, and which were
certainly not altogether prose. Later, in Parliament he made speeches,
chiefly criticised as too good for the place and too high for the
audience. Socially, he was one of two or three men who went everywhere,
knew everybody, talked of everything, and had the ear of Ministers; but
unlike most wits, he held a social position of his own that ended in a
peerage, and he had a house in Upper Brook Street to which most clever
people were exceedingly glad of admission. His breakfasts were famous,
and no one liked to decline his invitations, for it was more dangerous
to show timidity than to risk a fray. He was a voracious reader, a
strong critic, an art connoisseur in certain directions, a collector of
books, but above all he was a man of the world by profession, and loved
the contacts--perhaps the collisions--of society. Not even Henry
Brougham dared do the things he did, yet Brougham defied rebuff. Milnes
was the good-nature of London; the Gargantuan type of its refinement
and coarseness; the most universal figure of May Fair.

  Compared with him, figures like Hayward, or Delane, or
Venables, or Henry Reeve were quite secondary, but William E. Forster
stood in a different class. Forster had nothing whatever to do with May
Fair. Except in being a Yorkshireman he was quite the opposite of
Milnes. He had at that time no social or political position; he never
had a vestige of Milnes's wit or variety; he was a tall, rough,
ungainly figure, affecting the singular form of self-defense which the
Yorkshiremen and Lancashiremen seem to hold dear--the exterior
roughness assumed to cover an internal, emotional, almost sentimental
nature. Kindly he had to be, if only by his inheritance from a Quaker
ancestry, but he was a Friend one degree removed. Sentimental and
emotional he must have been, or he could never have persuaded a
daughter of Dr. Arnold to marry him. Pure gold, without a trace of base
metal; honest, unselfish, practical; he took up the Union cause and
made himself its champion, as a true Yorkshireman was sure to do,
partly because of his Quaker anti-slavery convictions, and partly
because it gave him a practical opening in the House. As a new member,
he needed a field.

  Diffidence was not one of Forster's weaknesses. His practical
sense and his personal energy soon established him in leadership, and
made him a powerful champion, not so much for ornament as for work.
With such a manager, the friends of the Union in England began to take
heart. Minister Adams had only to look on as his true champions, the
heavy-weights, came into action, and even the private secretary caught
now and then a stray gleam of encouragement as he saw the ring begin to
clear for these burly Yorkshiremen to stand up in a prize-fight likely
to be as brutal as ever England had known. Milnes and Forster were not
exactly light-weights, but Bright and Cobden were the hardest hitters
in England, and with them for champions the Minister could tackle even
Lord Palmerston without much fear of foul play.

  In society John Bright and Richard Cobden were never seen, and
even in Parliament they had no large following. They were classed as
enemies of order,--anarchists,--and anarchists they were if hatred of
the so-called established orders made them so. About them was no sort
of political timidity. They took bluntly the side of the Union against
Palmerston whom they hated. Strangers to London society, they were at
home in the American Legation, delightful dinner-company, talking
always with reckless freedom. Cobden was the milder and more
persuasive; Bright was the more dangerous to approach; but the private
secretary delighted in both, and nourished an ardent wish to see them
talk the same language to Lord John Russell from the gangway of the
House.

  With four such allies as these, Minister Adams stood no longer
quite helpless. For the second time the British Ministry felt a little
ashamed of itself after the Trent Affair, as well it might, and
disposed to wait before moving again. Little by little, friends
gathered about the Legation who were no fair-weather companions. The
old anti-slavery, Exeter Hall, Shaftesbury clique turned out to be an
annoying and troublesome enemy, but the Duke of Argyll was one of the
most valuable friends the Minister found, both politically and
socially, and the Duchess was as true as her mother. Even the private
secretary shared faintly in the social profit of this relation, and
never forgot dining one night at the Lodge, and finding himself after
dinner engaged in instructing John Stuart Mill about the peculiar
merits of an American protective system. In spite of all the
probabilities, he convinced himself that it was not the Duke's claret
which led him to this singular form of loquacity; he insisted that it
was the fault of Mr. Mill himself who led him on by assenting to his
point of view. Mr. Mill took no apparent pleasure in dispute, and in
that respect the Duke would perhaps have done better; but the secretary
had to admit that though at other periods of life he was sufficiently
and even amply snubbed by Englishmen, he could never recall a single
occasion during this trying year, when he had to complain of rudeness.

  Friendliness he found here and there, but chiefly among his
elders; not among fashionable or socially powerful people, either men
or women; although not even this rule was quite exact, for Frederick
Cavendish's kindness and intimate relations made Devonshire House
almost familiar, and Lyulph Stanley's ardent Americanism created a
certain cordiality with the Stanleys of Alderley whose house was one of
the most frequented in London. Lorne, too, the future Argyll, was
always a friend. Yet the regular course of society led to more literary
intimacies. Sir Charles Trevelyan's house was one of the first to which
young Adams was asked, and with which his friendly relations never
ceased for near half a century, and then only when death stopped them.
Sir Charles and Lady Lyell were intimates. Tom Hughes came into close
alliance. By the time society began to reopen its doors after the death
of the Prince Consort, even the private secretary occasionally saw a
face he knew, although he made no more effort of any kind, but silently
waited the end. Whatever might be the advantages of social relations to
his father and mother, to him the whole business of diplomacy and
society was futile. He meant to go home.



CHAPTER IX

FOES OR FRIENDS (1862)

  OF the year 1862 Henry Adams could never think without a
shudder. The war alone did not greatly distress him; already in his
short life he was used to seeing people wade in blood, and he could
plainly discern in history, that man from the beginning had found his
chief amusement in bloodshed; but the ferocious joy of destruction at
its best requires that one should kill what one hates, and young Adams
neither hated nor wanted to kill his friends the rebels, while he
wanted nothing so much as to wipe England off the earth. Never could
any good come from that besotted race! He was feebly trying to save his
own life. Every day the British Government deliberately crowded him one
step further into the grave. He could see it; the Legation knew it; no
one doubted it; no one thought of questioning it. The Trent Affair
showed where Palmerston and Russell stood. The escape of the rebel
cruisers from Liverpool was not, in a young man's eyes, the sign of
hesitation, but the proof of their fixed intention to intervene. Lord
Russell's replies to Mr. Adams's notes were discourteous in their
indifference, and, to an irritable young private secretary of
twenty-four, were insolent in their disregard of truth. Whatever forms
of phrase were usual in public to modify the harshness of invective, in
private no political opponent in England, and few political friends,
hesitated to say brutally of Lord John Russell that he lied. This was
no great reproach, for, more or less, every statesman lied, but the
intensity of the private secretary's rage sprang from his belief that
Russell's form of defence covered intent to kill. Not for an instant
did the Legation draw a free breath. The suspense was hideous and
unendurable.

  The Minister, no doubt, endured it, but he had support and
consideration, while his son had nothing to think about but his friends
who were mostly dying under McClellan in the swamps about Richmond, or
his enemies who were exulting in Pall Mall. He bore it as well as he
could till midsummer, but, when the story of the second Bull Run
appeared, he could bear it no longer, and after a sleepless night,
walking up and down his room without reflecting that his father was
beneath him, he announced at breakfast his intention to go home into
the army. His mother seemed to be less impressed by the announcement
than by the walking over her head, which was so unlike her as to
surprise her son. His father, too, received the announcement quietly.
No doubt they expected it, and had taken their measures in advance. In
those days, parents got used to all sorts of announcements from their
children. Mr. Adams took his son's defection as quietly as he took Bull
Run; but his son never got the chance to go. He found obstacles
constantly rising in his path. The remonstrances of his brother
Charles, who was himself in the Army of the Potomac, and whose opinion
had always the greatest weight with Henry, had much to do with delaying
action; but he felt, of his own accord, that if he deserted his post in
London, and found the Capuan comforts he expected in Virginia where he
would have only bullets to wound him, he would never forgive himself
for leaving his father and mother alone to be devoured by the wild
beasts of the British amphitheatre. This reflection might not have
stopped him, but his father's suggestion was decisive. The Minister
pointed out that it was too late for him to take part in the actual
campaign, and that long before next spring they would all go home
together.


  The young man had copied too many affidavits about rebel
cruisers to miss the point of this argument, so he sat down again to
copy some more. Consul Dudley at Liverpool provided a continuous
supply. Properly, the affidavits were no business of the private
secretary, but practically the private secretary did a second
secretary's work, and was glad to do it, if it would save Mr. Seward
the trouble of sending more secretaries of his own selection to help
the Minister. The work was nothing, and no one ever complained of it;
not even Moran, the Secretary of Legation after the departure of
Charley Wilson, though he might sit up all night to copy. Not the work,
but the play exhausted. The effort of facing a hostile society was bad
enough, but that of facing friends was worse. After terrific disasters
like the seven days before Richmond and the second Bull Run, friends
needed support; a tone of bluff would have been fatal, for the average
mind sees quickest through a bluff; nothing answers but candor; yet
private secretaries never feel candid, however much they feel the
reverse, and therefore they must affect candor; not always a simple act
when one is exasperated, furious, bitter, and choking with tears over
the blunders and incapacity of one's Government. If one shed tears,
they must be shed on one's pillow. Least of all, must one throw extra
strain on the Minister, who had all he could carry without being
fretted in his family. One must read one's Times every morning over
one's muffin without reading aloud--"Another disastrous Federal
Defeat"; and one might not even indulge in harmless profanity.
Self-restraint among friends required much more effort than keeping a
quiet face before enemies. Great men were the worst blunderers. One day
the private secretary smiled, when standing with the crowd in the
throne-room while the endless procession made bows to the royal family,
at hearing, behind his shoulder, one Cabinet Minister remark gaily to
another: "So the Federals have got another licking!" The point of the
remark was its truth. Even a private secretary had learned to control
his tones and guard his features and betray no joy over the "lickings"
of an enemy--in the enemy's presence.

  London was altogether beside itself on one point, in especial;
it created a nightmare of its own, and gave it the shape of Abraham
Lincoln. Behind this it placed another demon, if possible more
devilish, and called it Mr. Seward. In regard to these two men, English
society seemed demented. Defence was useless; explanation was vain; one
could only let the passion exhaust itself. One's best friends were as
unreasonable as enemies, for the belief in poor Mr. Lincoln's brutality
and Seward's ferocity became a dogma of popular faith. The last time
Henry Adams saw Thackeray, before his sudden death at Christmas in
1863, was in entering the house of Sir Henry Holland for an evening
reception. Thackeray was pulling on his coat downstairs, laughing
because, in his usual blind way, he had stumbled into the wrong house
and not found it out till he shook hands with old Sir Henry, whom he
knew very well, but who was not the host he expected. Then his tone
changed as he spoke of his--and Adams's--friend, Mrs. Frank Hampton, of
South Carolina, whom he had loved as Sally Baxter and painted as Ethel
Newcome. Though he had never quite forgiven her marriage, his warmth of
feeling revived when he heard that she had died of consumption at
Columbia while her parents and sister were refused permission to pass
through the lines to see her. In speaking of it, Thackeray's voice
trembled and his eyes filled with tears. The coarse cruelty of Lincoln
and his hirelings was notorious. He never doubted that the Federals
made a business of harrowing the tenderest feelings of
women--particularly of women--in order to punish their opponents. On
quite insufficient evidence he burst into violent reproach. Had Adams
carried in his pocket the proofs that the reproach was unjust, he would
have gained nothing by showing them. At that moment Thackeray, and all
London society with him, needed the nervous relief of expressing
emotion; for if Mr. Lincoln was not what they said he--was what were
they?

  For like reason, the members of the Legation kept silence, even
in private, under the boorish Scotch jibes of Carlyle. If Carlyle was
wrong, his diatribes would give his true measure, and this measure
would be a low one, for Carlyle was not likely to be more sincere or
more sound in one thought than in another. The proof that a philosopher
does not know what he is talking about is apt to sadden his followers
before it reacts on himself. Demolition of one's idols is painful, and
Carlyle had been an idol. Doubts cast on his stature spread far into
general darkness like shadows of a setting sun. Not merely the idols
fell, but also the habit of faith. If Carlyle, too, was a fraud, what
were his scholars and school?

  Society as a rule was civil, and one had no more reason to
complain than every other diplomatist has had, in like conditions, but
one's few friends in society were mere ornament. The Legation could not
dream of contesting social control. The best they could do was to
escape mortification, and by this time their relations were good enough
to save the Minister's family from that annoyance. Now and then, the
fact could not be wholly disguised that some one had refused to
meet--or to receive--the Minister; but never an open insult, or any
expression of which the Minister had to take notice. Diplomacy served
as a buffer in times of irritation, and no diplomat who knew his
business fretted at what every diplomat--and none more commonly than
the English--had to expect; therefore Henry Adams, though not a
diplomat and wholly unprotected, went his way peacefully enough, seeing
clearly that society cared little to make his acquaintance, but seeing
also no reason why society should discover charms in him of which he
was himself unconscious. He went where he was asked; he was always
courteously received; he was, on the whole, better treated than at
Washington; and he held his tongue.

  For a thousand reasons, the best diplomatic house in London was
Lord Palmerston's, while Lord John Russell's was one of the worst. Of
neither host could a private secretary expect to know anything. He
might as well have expected to know the Grand Lama. Personally Lord
Palmerston was the last man in London that a cautious private secretary
wanted to know. Other Prime Ministers may perhaps have lived who
inspired among diplomatists as much distrust as Palmerston, and yet
between Palmerston's word and Russell's word, one hesitated to decide,
and gave years of education to deciding, whether either could be
trusted, or how far. The Queen herself in her famous memorandum of
August 12, 1850, gave her opinion of Palmerston in words that differed
little from words used by Lord John Russell, and both the Queen and
Russell said in substance only what Cobden and Bright said in private.
Every diplomatist agreed with them, yet the diplomatic standard of
trust seemed to be other than the parliamentarian No professional
diplomatists worried about falsehoods. Words were with them forms of
expression which varied with individuals, but falsehood was more or
less necessary to all. The worst liars were the candid. What
diplomatists wanted to know was the motive that lay beyond the
expression. In the case of Palmerston they were unanimous in warning
new colleagues that they might expect to be sacrificed by him to any
momentary personal object. Every new Minister or Ambassador at the
Court of St. James received this preliminary lesson that he must, if
possible, keep out of Palmerston's reach. The rule was not secret or
merely diplomatic. The Queen herself had emphatically expressed the
same opinion officially. If Palmerston had an object to gain, he would
go down to the House of Commons and betray or misrepresent a foreign
Minister, without concern for his victim. No one got back on him with a
blow equally mischievous--not even the Queen--for, as old Baron Brunnow
described him: "C'est une peau de rhinocere!" Having gained his point,
he laughed, and his public laughed with him, for the usual British--or
American--public likes to be amused, and thought it very amusing to see
these beribboned and bestarred foreigners caught and tossed and gored
on the horns of this jovial, slashing, devil-may-care British bull.

  Diplomatists have no right to complain of mere lies; it is
their own fault, if, educated as they are, the lies deceive them; but
they complain bitterly of traps. Palmerston was believed to lay traps.
He was the enfant terrible of the British Government. On the other
hand, Lady Palmerston was believed to be good and loyal. All the
diplomats and their wives seemed to think so, and took their troubles
to her, believing that she would try to help them. For this reason
among others, her evenings at home--Saturday Reviews, they were
called--had great vogue. An ignorant young American could not be
expected to explain it. Cambridge House was no better for entertaining
than a score of others. Lady Palmerston was no longer young or
handsome, and could hardly at any age have been vivacious. The people
one met there were never smart and seldom young; they were largely
diplomatic, and diplomats are commonly dull; they were largely
political, and politicians rarely decorate or beautify an evening
party; they were sprinkled with literary people, who are notoriously
unfashionable; the women were of course ill-dressed and middle-aged;
the men looked mostly bored or out of place; yet, beyond a doubt,
Cambridge House was the best, and perhaps the only political house in
London, and its success was due to Lady Palmerston, who never seemed to
make an effort beyond a friendly recognition. As a lesson in social
education, Cambridge House gave much subject for thought. First or
last, one was to know dozens of statesmen more powerful and more
agreeable than Lord Palmerston; dozens of ladies more beautiful and
more painstaking than Lady Palmerston; but no political house so
successful as Cambridge House. The world never explains such riddles.
The foreigners said only that Lady Palmerston was "sympathique."

  The small fry of the Legations were admitted there, or
tolerated, without a further effort to recognize their existence, but
they were pleased because rarely tolerated anywhere else, and there
they could at least stand in a corner and look at a bishop or even a
duke. This was the social diversion of young Adams. No one knew
him--not even the lackeys. The last Saturday evening he ever attended,
he gave his name as usual at the foot of the staircase, and was rather
disturbed to hear it shouted up as "Mr. Handrew Hadams!" He tried to
correct it, and the footman shouted more loudly: "Mr. Hanthony Hadams!"
With some temper he repeated the correction, and was finally announced
as "Mr. Halexander Hadams," and under this name made his bow for the
last time to Lord Palmerston who certainly knew no better.

  Far down the staircase one heard Lord Palmerston's laugh as he
stood at the door receiving his guests, talking probably to one of his
henchmen, Delane, Borthwick, or Hayward, who were sure to be near. The
laugh was singular, mechanical, wooden, and did not seem to disturb his
features. "Ha! ... Ha! ... Ha!" Each was a slow, deliberate
ejaculation, and all were in the same tone, as though he meant to say:
"Yes! ... Yes! ... Yes!" by way of assurance. It was a laugh of 1810
and the Congress of Vienna. Adams would have much liked to stop a
moment and ask whether William Pitt and the Duke of Wellington had
laughed so; but young men attached to foreign Ministers asked no
questions at all of Palmerston and their chiefs asked as few as
possible. One made the usual bow and received the usual glance of
civility; then passed on to Lady Palmerston, who was always kind in
manner, but who wasted no remarks; and so to Lady Jocelyn with her
daughter, who commonly had something friendly to say; then went through
the diplomatic corps, Brunnow, Musurus, Azeglio, Apponyi, Van de Weyer,
Bille, Tricoupi, and the rest, finally dropping into the hands of some
literary accident as strange there as one's self. The routine varied
little. There was no attempt at entertainment. Except for the desperate
isolation of these two first seasons, even secretaries would have found
the effort almost as mechanical as a levee at St. James's Palace.

  Lord Palmerston was not Foreign Secretary; he was Prime
Minister, but he loved foreign affairs and could no more resist scoring
a point in diplomacy than in whist. Ministers of foreign powers,
knowing his habits, tried to hold him at arms'-length, and, to do this,
were obliged to court the actual Foreign Secretary, Lord John Russell,
who, on July 30, 1861, was called up to the House of Lords as an earl.
By some process of personal affiliation, Minister Adams succeeded in
persuading himself that he could trust Lord Russell more safely than
Lord Palmerston. His son, being young and ill-balanced in temper,
thought there was nothing to choose. Englishmen saw little difference
between them, and Americans were bound to follow English experience in
English character. Minister Adams had much to learn, although with him
as well as with his son, the months of education began to count as
aeons.

  Just as Brunnow predicted, Lord Palmerston made his rush at
last, as unexpected as always, and more furiously than though still a
private secretary of twenty-four. Only a man who had been young with
the battle of Trafalgar could be fresh and jaunty to that point, but
Minister Adams was not in a position to sympathize with octogenarian
youth and found himself in a danger as critical as that of his numerous
predecessors. It was late one after noon in June, 1862, as the private
secretary returned, with the Minister, from some social function, that
he saw his father pick up a note from his desk and read it in silence.
Then he said curtly: "Palmerston wants a quarrel!" This was the point
of the incident as he felt it. Palmerston wanted a quarrel; he must not
be gratified; he must be stopped. The matter of quarrel was General
Butler's famous woman-order at New Orleans, but the motive was the
belief in President Lincoln's brutality that had taken such deep root
in the British mind. Knowing Palmerston's habits, the Minister took for
granted that he meant to score a diplomatic point by producing this
note in the House of Commons. If he did this at once, the Minister was
lost; the quarrel was made; and one new victim to Palmerston's passion
for popularity was sacrificed.

  The moment was nervous--as far as the private secretary knew,
quite the most critical moment in the records of American
diplomacy--but the story belongs to history, not to education, and can
be read there by any one who cares to read it. As a part of Henry
Adams's education it had a value distinct from history. That his father
succeeded in muzzling Palmerston without a public scandal, was well
enough for the Minister, but was not enough for a private secretary who
liked going to Cambridge House, and was puzzled to reconcile
contradictions. That Palmerston had wanted a quarrel was obvious; why,
then, did he submit so tamely to being made the victim of the quarrel?
The correspondence that followed his note was conducted feebly on his
side, and he allowed the United States Minister to close it by a
refusal to receive further communications from him except through Lord
Russell. The step was excessively strong, for it broke off private
relations as well as public, and cost even the private secretary his
invitations to Cambridge House. Lady Palmerston tried her best, but the
two ladies found no resource except tears. They had to do with American
Minister perplexed in the extreme. Not that Mr. Adams lost his temper,
for he never felt such a weight of responsibility, and was never more
cool; but he could conceive no other way of protecting his Government,
not to speak of himself, than to force Lord Russell to interpose. He
believed that Palmerston's submission and silence were due to Russell.
Perhaps he was right; at the time, his son had no doubt of it, though
afterwards he felt less sure. Palmerston wanted a quarrel; the motive
seemed evident; yet when the quarrel was made, he backed out of it; for
some reason it seemed that he did not want it--at least, not then. He
never showed resentment against Mr. Adams at the time or afterwards. He
never began another quarrel. Incredible as it seemed, he behaved like a
well-bred gentleman who felt himself in the wrong. Possibly this change
may have been due to Lord Russell's remonstrances, but the private
secretary would have felt his education in politics more complete had
he ever finally made up his mind whether Palmerston was more angry with
General Butler, or more annoyed at himself, for committing what was in
both cases an unpardonable betise.

  At the time, the question was hardly raised, for no one doubted
Palmerston's attitude or his plans. The season was near its end, and
Cambridge House was soon closed. The Legation had troubles enough
without caring to publish more. The tide of English feeling ran so
violently against it that one could only wait to see whether General
McClellan would bring it relief. The year 1862 was a dark spot in Henry
Adams's life, and the education it gave was mostly one that he gladly
forgot. As far as he was aware, he made no friends; he could hardly
make enemies; yet towards the close of the year he was flattered by an
invitation from Monckton Milnes to Fryston, and it was one of many acts
of charity towards the young that gave Milnes immortality. Milnes made
it his business to be kind. Other people criticised him for his manner
of doing it, but never imitated him. Naturally, a dispirited,
disheartened private secretary was exceedingly grateful, and never
forgot the kindness, but it was chiefly as education that this first
country visit had value. Commonly, country visits are much alike, but
Monckton Milnes was never like anybody, and his country parties served
his purpose of mixing strange elements. Fryston was one of a class of
houses that no one sought for its natural beauties, and the winter
mists of Yorkshire were rather more evident for the absence of the
hostess on account of them, so that the singular guests whom Milnes
collected to enliven his December had nothing to do but astonish each
other, if anything could astonish such men. Of the five, Adams alone
was tame; he alone added nothing to the wit or humor, except as a
listener; but they needed a listener and he was useful. Of the
remaining four, Milnes was the oldest, and perhaps the sanest in spite
of his superficial eccentricities, for Yorkshire sanity was true to a
standard of its own, if not to other conventions; yet even Milnes
startled a young American whose Boston and Washington mind was still
fresh. He would not have been startled by the hard-drinking,
horse-racing Yorkshireman of whom he had read in books; but Milnes
required a knowledge of society and literature that only himself
possessed, if one were to try to keep pace with him. He had sought
contact with everybody and everything that Europe could offer. He knew
it all from several points of view, and chiefly as humorous.

  The second of the party was also of a certain age; a quiet,
well-mannered, singularly agreeable gentleman of the literary class.
When Milnes showed Adams to his room to dress for dinner, he stayed a
moment to say a word about this guest, whom he called Stirling of Keir.
His sketch closed with the hint that Stirling was violent only on one
point--hatred of Napoleon III. On that point, Adams was himself
sensitive, which led him to wonder how bad the Scotch gentleman might
be. The third was a man of thirty or thereabouts, whom Adams had
already met at Lady Palmerston's carrying his arm in a sling. His
figure and bearing were sympathetic--almost pathetic--with a certain
grave and gentle charm, a pleasant smile, and an interesting story. He
was Lawrence Oliphant, just from Japan, where he had been wounded in
the fanatics' attack on the British Legation. He seemed exceptionally
sane and peculiarly suited for country houses, where every man would
enjoy his company, and every woman would adore him. He had not then
published "Piccadilly"; perhaps he was writing it; while, like all the
young men about the Foreign Office, he contributed to The Owl.

  The fourth was a boy, or had the look of one, though in fact a
year older than Adams himself. He resembled in action--and in this
trait, was remotely followed, a generation later, by another famous
young man, Robert Louis Stevenson--a tropical bird, high-crested,
long-beaked, quick-moving, with rapid utterance and screams of humor,
quite unlike any English lark or nightingale. One could hardly call him
a crimson macaw among owls, and yet no ordinary contrast availed.
Milnes introduced him as Mr. Algernon Swinburne. The name suggested
nothing. Milnes was always unearthing new coins and trying to give them
currency. He had unearthed Henry Adams who knew himself to be worthless
and not current. When Milnes lingered a moment in Adams's room to add
that Swinburne had written some poetry, not yet published, of really
extraordinary merit, Adams only wondered what more Milnes would
discover, and whether by chance he could discover merit in a private
secretary. He was capable of it.

  In due course this party of five men sat down to dinner with
the usual club manners of ladyless dinner-tables, easy and formal at
the same time. Conversation ran first to Oliphant who told his dramatic
story simply, and from him the talk drifted off into other channels,
until Milnes thought it time to bring Swinburne out. Then, at last, if
never before, Adams acquired education. What he had sought so long, he
found; but he was none the wiser; only the more astonished. For once,
too, he felt at ease, for the others were no less astonished than
himself, and their astonishment grew apace. For the rest of the evening
Swinburne figured alone; the end of dinner made the monologue only
freer, for in 1862, even when ladies were not in the house, smoking was
forbidden, and guests usually smoked in the stables or the kitchen; but
Monckton Milnes was a licensed libertine who let his guests smoke in
Adams's bedroom, since Adams was an American-German barbarian ignorant
of manners; and there after dinner all sat--or lay--till far into the
night, listening to the rush of Swinburne's talk. In a long experience,
before or after, no one ever approached it; yet one had heard accounts
of the best talking of the time, and read accounts of talkers in all
time, among the rest, of Voltaire, who seemed to approach nearest the
pattern.

  That Swinburne was altogether new to the three types of
men-of-the-world before him; that he seemed to them quite original,
wildly eccentric, astonishingly gifted, and convulsingly droll, Adams
could see; but what more he was, even Milnes hardly dared say. They
could not believe his incredible memory and knowledge of literature,
classic, mediaeval, and modern; his faculty of reciting a play of
Sophocles or a play of Shakespeare, forward or backward, from end to
beginning; or Dante, or Villon, or Victor Hugo. They knew not what to
make of his rhetorical recitation of his own unpublished
ballads--"Faustine"; the "Four Boards of the Coffin Lid"; the "Ballad
of Burdens"--which he declaimed as though they were books of the Iliad.
It was singular that his most appreciative listener should have been
the author only of pretty verses like "We wandered by the brook-side,"
and "She seemed to those that saw them meet"; and who never cared to
write in any other tone; but Milnes took everything into his
sympathies, including Americans like young Adams whose standards were
stiffest of all, while Swinburne, though millions of ages far from
them, united them by his humor even more than by his poetry. The story
of his first day as a member of Professor Stubbs's household was
professionally clever farce, if not high comedy, in a young man who
could write a Greek ode or a Proven├žal chanson as easily as an English
quatrain.

  Late at night when the symposium broke up, Stirling of Keir
wanted to take with him to his chamber a copy of "Queen Rosamund," the
only volume Swinburne had then published, which was on the library
table, and Adams offered to light him down with his solitary bedroom
candle. All the way, Stirling was ejaculating explosions of wonder,
until at length, at the foot of the stairs and at the climax of his
imagination, he paused, and burst out: "He's a cross between the devil
and the Duke of Argyll!"

  To appreciate the full merit of this description, a judicious
critic should have known both, and Henry Adams knew only one--at least
in person--but he understood that to a Scotchman the likeness meant
something quite portentous, beyond English experience, supernatural,
and what the French call moyenageux, or mediaeval with a grotesque
turn. That Stirling as well as Milnes should regard Swinburne as a
prodigy greatly comforted Adams, who lost his balance of mind at first
in trying to imagine that Swinburne was a natural product of Oxford, as
muffins and pork-pies of London, at once the cause and effect of
dyspepsia. The idea that one has actually met a real genius dawns
slowly on a Boston mind, but it made entry at last.

  Then came the sad reaction, not from Swinburne whose genius
never was in doubt, but from the Boston mind which, in its uttermost
flights, was never moyenageux. One felt the horror of Longfellow and
Emerson, the doubts of Lowell and the humor of Holmes, at the wild
Walpurgis-night of Swinburne's talk. What could a shy young private
secretary do about it? Perhaps, in his good nature, Milnes thought that
Swinburne might find a friend in Stirling or Oliphant, but he could
hardly have fancied Henry Adams rousing in him even an interest. Adams
could no more interest Algernon Swinburne than he could interest
Encke's comet. To Swinburne he could be no more than a worm. The
quality of genius was an education almost ultimate, for one touched
there the limits of the human mind on that side; but one could only
receive; one had nothing to give--nothing even to offer.

  Swinburne tested him then and there by one of his favorite
tests--Victor Hugo for to him the test of Victor Hugo was the surest
and quickest of standards. French poetry is at best a severe exercise
for foreigners; it requires extraordinary knowledge of the language and
rare refinement of ear to appreciate even the recitation of French
verse; but unless a poet has both, he lacks something of poetry. Adams
had neither. To the end of his life he never listened to a French
recitation with pleasure, or felt a sense of majesty in French verse;
but he did not care to proclaim his weakness, and he tried to evade
Swinburne's vehement insistence by parading an affection for Alfred de
Musset. Swinburne would have none of it; de Musset was unequal; he did
not sustain himself on the wing.

  Adams would have given a world or two, if he owned one, to
sustain himself on the wing like de Musset, or even like Hugo; but his
education as well as his ear was at fault, and he succumbed. Swinburne
tried him again on Walter Savage Landor. In truth the test was the
same, for Swinburne admired in Landor's English the qualities that he
felt in Hugo's French; and Adams's failure was equally gross, for, when
forced to despair, he had to admit that both Hugo and Landor bored him.
Nothing more was needed. One who could feel neither Hugo nor Landor was
lost.

  The sentence was just and Adams never appealed from it. He knew
his inferiority in taste as he might know it in smell. Keenly mortified
by the dullness of his senses and instincts, he knew he was no
companion for Swinburne; probably he could be only an annoyance; no
number of centuries could ever educate him to Swinburne's level, even
in technical appreciation; yet he often wondered whether there was
nothing he had to offer that was worth the poet's acceptance. Certainly
such mild homage as the American insect would have been only too happy
to bring, had he known how, was hardly worth the acceptance of any one.
Only in France is the attitude of prayer possible; in England it became
absurd. Even Monckton Milnes, who felt the splendors of Hugo and
Landor, was almost as helpless as an American private secretary in
personal contact with them. Ten years afterwards Adams met him at the
Geneva Conference, fresh from Paris, bubbling with delight at a call he
had made on Hugo: "I was shown into a large room," he said, "with women
and men seated in chairs against the walls, and Hugo at one end
throned. No one spoke. At last Hugo raised his voice solemnly, and
uttered the words: 'Quant a moi, je crois en Dieu!' Silence followed.
Then a woman responded as if in deep meditation: 'Chose sublime! un
Dieu qui croft en Dieu!"'

  With the best of will, one could not do this in London; the
actors had not the instinct of the drama; and yet even a private
secretary was not wholly wanting in instinct. As soon as he reached
town he hurried to Pickering's for a copy of "Queen Rosamund," and at
that time, if Swinburne was not joking, Pickering had sold seven
copies. When the "Poems and Ballads" came out, and met their great
success and scandal, he sought one of the first copies from Moxon. If
he had sinned and doubted at all, he wholly repented and did penance
before "Atalanta in Calydon," and would have offered Swinburne a solemn
worship as Milnes's female offered Hugo, if it would have pleased the
poet. Unfortunately it was worthless.

  The three young men returned to London, and each went his own
way. Adams's interest in making friends was something desperate, but
"the London season," Milnes used to say, "is a season for making
acquaintances and losing friends"; there was no intimate life. Of
Swinburne he saw no more till Monckton Milnes summoned his whole array
of Frystonians to support him in presiding at the dinner of the
Authors' Fund, when Adams found himself seated next to Swinburne,
famous then, but no nearer. They never met again. Oliphant he met
oftener; all the world knew and loved him; but he too disappeared in
the way that all the world knows. Stirling of Keir, after one or two
efforts, passed also from Adams's vision into Sir William
Stirling-Maxwell. The only record of his wonderful visit to Fryston may
perhaps exist still in the registers of the St. James's Club, for
immediately afterwards Milnes proposed Henry Adams for membership, and
unless his memory erred, the nomination was seconded by Tricoupi and
endorsed by Laurence Oliphant and Evelyn Ashley. The list was a little
singular for variety, but on the whole it suggested that the private
secretary was getting on.



CHAPTER X

POLITICAL MORALITY (1862)

  ON Moran's promotion to be Secretary, Mr. Seward inquired
whether Minister Adams would like the place of Assistant Secretary for
his son. It was the first--and last--office ever offered him, if indeed
he could claim what was offered in fact to his father. To them both,
the change seemed useless. Any young man could make some sort of
Assistant Secretary; only one, just at that moment, could make an
Assistant Son. More than half his duties were domestic; they sometimes
required long absences; they always required independence of the
Government service. His position was abnormal. The British Government
by courtesy allowed the son to go to Court as Attache, though he was
never attached, and after five or six years' toleration, the decision
was declared irregular. In the Legation, as private secretary, he was
liable to do Secretary's work. In society, when official, he was
attached to the Minister; when unofficial, he was a young man without
any position at all. As the years went on, he began to find advantages
in having no position at all except that of young man. Gradually he
aspired to become a gentleman; just a member of society like the rest.
The position was irregular; at that time many positions were irregular;
yet it lent itself to a sort of irregular education that seemed to be
the only sort of education the young man was ever to get.

  Such as it was, few young men had more. The spring and summer
of 1863 saw a great change in Secretary Seward's management of foreign
affairs. Under the stimulus of danger, he too got education. He felt,
at last, that his official representatives abroad needed support.
Officially he could give them nothing but despatches, which were of no
great value to any one; and at best the mere weight of an office had
little to do with the public. Governments were made to deal with
Governments, not with private individuals or with the opinions of
foreign society. In order to affect European opinion, the weight of
American opinion had to be brought to bear personally, and had to be
backed by the weight of American interests. Mr. Seward set vigorously
to work and sent over every important American on whom he could lay his
hands. All came to the Legation more or less intimately, and Henry
Adams had a chance to see them all, bankers or bishops, who did their
work quietly and well, though, to the outsider, the work seemed wasted
and the "influential classes" more indurated with prejudice than ever.
The waste was only apparent; the work all told in the end, and
meanwhile it helped education.

  Two or three of these gentlemen were sent over to aid the
Minister and to cooperate with him. The most interesting of these was
Thurlow Weed, who came to do what the private secretary himself had
attempted two years before, with boyish ignorance of his own powers.
Mr. Weed took charge of the press, and began, to the amused
astonishment of the secretaries, by making what the Legation had
learned to accept as the invariable mistake of every amateur diplomat;
he wrote letters to the London Times. Mistake or not, Mr. Weed soon got
into his hands the threads of management, and did quietly and smoothly
all that was to be done. With his work the private secretary had no
connection; it was he that interested. Thurlow Weed was a complete
American education in himself. His mind was naturally strong and
beautifully balanced; his temper never seemed ruffled; his manners were
carefully perfect in the style of benevolent simplicity, the tradition
of Benjamin Franklin. He was the model of political management and
patient address; but the trait that excited enthusiasm in a private
secretary was his faculty of irresistibly conquering confidence. Of all
flowers in the garden of education, confidence was becoming the rarest;
but before Mr. Weed went away, young Adams followed him about not only
obediently--for obedience had long since become a blind instinct--but
rather with sympathy and affection, much like a little dog.

  The sympathy was not due only to Mr. Weed's skill of
management, although Adams never met another such master, or any one
who approached him; nor was the confidence due to any display of
professions, either moral or social, by Mr. Weed. The trait that
astounded and confounded cynicism was his apparent unselfishness.
Never, in any man who wielded such power, did Adams meet anything like
it. The effect of power and publicity on all men is the aggravation of
self, a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim's sympathies; a
diseased appetite, like a passion for drink or perverted tastes; one
can scarcely use expressions too strong to describe the violence of
egotism it stimulates; and Thurlow Weed was one of the exceptions; a
rare immune. He thought apparently not of himself, but of the person he
was talking with. He held himself naturally in the background. He was
not jealous. He grasped power, but not office. He distributed offices
by handfuls without caring to take them. He had the instinct of empire:
he gave, but he did not receive. This rare superiority to the
politicians he controlled, a trait that private secretaries never met
in the politicians themselves, excited Adams's wonder and curiosity,
but when he tried to get behind it, and to educate himself from the
stores of Mr. Weed's experience, he found the study still more
fascinating. Management was an instinct with Mr. Weed; an object to be
pursued for its own sake, as one plays cards; but he appeared to play
with men as though they were only cards; he seemed incapable of feeling
himself one of them. He took them and played them for their face-value;
but once, when he had told, with his usual humor, some stories of his
political experience which were strong even for the Albany lobby, the
private secretary made bold to ask him outright: "Then, Mr. Weed, do
you think that no politician can be trusted?" Mr. Weed hesitated for a
moment; then said in his mild manner: "I never advise a young man to
begin by thinking so."

  This lesson, at the time, translated itself to Adams in a moral
sense, as though Mr. Weed had said: "Youth needs illusions!" As he grew
older he rather thought that Mr. Weed looked on it as a question of how
the game should be played. Young men most needed experience. They could
not play well if they trusted to a general rule. Every card had a
relative value. Principles had better be left aside; values were
enough. Adams knew that he could never learn to play politics in so
masterly a fashion as this: his education and his nervous system
equally forbade it, although he admired all the more the impersonal
faculty of the political master who could thus efface himself and his
temper in the game. He noticed that most of the greatest politicians in
history had seemed to regard men as counters. The lesson was the more
interesting because another famous New Yorker came over at the same
time who liked to discuss the same problem. Secretary Seward sent
William M. Evarts to London as law counsel, and Henry began an
acquaintance with Mr. Evarts that soon became intimate. Evarts was as
individual as Weed was impersonal; like most men, he cared little for
the game, or how it was played, and much for the stakes, but he played
it in a large and liberal way, like Daniel Webster, "a great advocate
employed in politics." Evarts was also an economist of morals, but with
him the question was rather how much morality one could afford. "The
world can absorb only doses of truth," he said; "too much would kill
it." One sought education in order to adjust the dose.

  The teachings of Weed and Evarts were practical, and the
private secretary's life turned on their value. England's power of
absorbing truth was small. Englishmen, such as Palmerston, Russell,
Bethell, and the society represented by the Times and Morning Post, as
well as the Tories represented by Disraeli, Lord Robert Cecil, and the
Standard, offered a study in education that sickened a young student
with anxiety. He had begun--contrary to Mr. Weed's advice--by taking
their bad faith for granted. Was he wrong? To settle this point became
the main object of the diplomatic education so laboriously pursued, at
a cost already stupendous, and promising to become ruinous. Life
changed front, according as one thought one's self dealing with honest
men or with rogues.

  Thus far, the private secretary felt officially sure of
dishonesty. The reasons that satisfied him had not altogether satisfied
his father, and of course his father's doubts gravely shook his own
convictions, but, in practice, if only for safety, the Legation put
little or no confidence in Ministers, and there the private secretary's
diplomatic education began. The recognition of belligerency, the
management of the Declaration of Paris, the Trent Affair, all
strengthened the belief that Lord Russell had started in May, 1861,
with the assumption that the Confederacy was established; every step he
had taken proved his persistence in the same idea; he never would
consent to put obstacles in the way of recognition; and he was waiting
only for the proper moment to interpose. All these points seemed so
fixed--so self-evident--that no one in the Legation would have doubted
or even discussed them except that Lord Russell obstinately denied the
whole charge, and persisted in assuring

  Minister Adams of his honest and impartial neutrality.
With the insolence of youth and zeal, Henry Adams jumped at once to the
conclusion that Earl Russell--like other statesmen--lied; and, although
the Minister thought differently, he had to act as though Russell were
false. Month by month the demonstration followed its mathematical
stages; one of the most perfect educational courses in politics and
diplomacy that a young man ever had a chance to pursue. The most costly
tutors in the world were provided for him at public expense--Lord
Palmerston, Lord Russell, Lord Westbury, Lord Selborne, Mr. Gladstone,
Lord Granville, and their associates, paid by the British Government;
William H. Seward, Charles Francis Adams, William Maxwell Evarts,
Thurlow Weed, and other considerable professors employed by the
American Government; but there was only one student to profit by this
immense staff of teachers. The private secretary alone sought education.

  To the end of his life he labored over the lessons then taught.
Never was demonstration more tangled. Hegel's metaphysical doctrine of
the identity of opposites was simpler and easier to understand. Yet the
stages of demonstration were clear. They began in June, 1862, after the
escape of one rebel cruiser, by the remonstrances of the Minister
against the escape of "No. 290," which was imminent. Lord Russell
declined to act on the evidence. New evidence was sent in every few
days, and with it, on July 24, was included Collier's legal opinion:
"It appears difficult to make out a stronger case of infringement of
the Foreign Enlistment Act, which, if not enforced on this occasion, is
little better than a dead letter." Such language implied almost a
charge of collusion with the rebel agents--an intent to aid the
Confederacy. In spite of the warning, Earl Russell let the ship, four
days afterwards, escape.

  Young Adams had nothing to do with law; that was business of
his betters. His opinion of law hung on his opinion of lawyers. In
spite of Thurlow Weed's advice, could one afford to trust human nature
in politics? History said not. Sir Robert Collier seemed to hold that
Law agreed with History. For education the point was vital. If one
could not trust a dozen of the most respected private characters in the
world, composing the Queen's Ministry, one could trust no mortal man.

  Lord Russell felt the force of this inference, and undertook to
disprove it. His effort lasted till his death. At first he excused
himself by throwing the blame on the law officers. This was a
politician's practice, and the lawyers overruled it. Then he pleaded
guilty to criminal negligence, and said in his "Recollections":--"I
assent entirely to the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice of England
that the Alabama ought to have been detained during the four days I was
waiting for the opinion of the law officers. But I think that the fault
was not that of the commissioners of customs, it was my fault as
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs." This concession brought all
parties on common ground. Of course it was his fault! The true issue
lay not in the question of his fault, but of his intent. To a young
man, getting an education in politics, there could be no sense in
history unless a constant course of faults implied a constant motive.

  For his father the question was not so abstruse; it was a
practical matter of business to be handled as Weed or Evarts handled
their bargains and jobs. Minister Adams held the convenient belief
that, in the main, Russell was true, and the theory answered his
purposes so well that he died still holding it. His son was seeking
education, and wanted to know whether he could, in politics, risk
trusting any one. Unfortunately no one could then decide; no one knew
the facts. Minister Adams died without knowing them. Henry Adams was an
older man than his father in 1862, before he learned a part of them.
The most curious fact, even then, was that Russell believed in his own
good faith and that Argyll believed in it also.

  Argyll betrayed a taste for throwing the blame on Bethell, Lord
Westbury, then Lord Chancellor, but this escape helped Adams not at
all. On the contrary, it complicated the case of Russell. In England,
one half of society enjoyed throwing stones at Lord Palmerston, while
the other half delighted in flinging mud at Earl Russell, but every one
of every party united in pelting Westbury with every missile at hand.
The private secretary had no doubts about him, for he never professed
to be moral. He was the head and heart of the whole rebel contention,
and his opinions on neutrality were as clear as they were on morality.
The private secretary had nothing to do with him, and regretted it, for
Lord Westbury's wit and wisdom were great; but as far as his authority
went he affirmed the law that in politics no man should be trusted.

  Russell alone insisted on his honesty of intention and
persuaded both the Duke and the Minister to believe him. Every one in
the Legation accepted his assurances as the only assertions they could
venture to trust. They knew he expected the rebels to win in the end,
but they believed he would not actively interpose to decide it. On
that--on nothing else--they rested their frail hopes of remaining a day
longer in England. Minister Adams remained six years longer in England;
then returned to America to lead a busy life till he died in 1886 still
holding the same faith in Earl Russell, who had died in 1878. In 1889,
Spencer Walpole published the official life of Earl Russell, and told a
part of the story which had never been known to the Minister and which
astounded his son, who burned with curiosity to know what his father
would have said of it.

  The story was this: The Alabama escaped, by Russell's confessed
negligence, on July 28, 1862. In America the Union armies had suffered
great disasters before Richmond and at the second Bull Run, August
29-30, followed by Lee's invasion of Maryland, September 7, the news of
which, arriving in England on September 14, roused the natural idea
that the crisis was at hand. The next news was expected by the
Confederates to announce the fall of Washington or Baltimore.
Palmerston instantly, September 14, wrote to Russell: "If this should
happen, would it not be time for us to consider whether in such a state
of things England and France might not address the contending parties
and recommend an arrangement on the basis of separation?"

  This letter, quite in the line of Palmerston's supposed
opinions, would have surprised no one, if it had been communicated to
the Legation; and indeed, if Lee had captured Washington, no one could
have blamed Palmerston for offering intervention. Not Palmerston's
letter but Russell's reply, merited the painful attention of a young
man seeking a moral standard for judging politicians:--

GOTHA, September, 17, 1862

  MY DEAR PALMERSTON:--

    Whether the Federal army is destroyed or not, it is clear
  that it is driven back to Washington and has made no progress
  in subduing the insurgent States. Such being the case, I agree
  with you that the time is come for offering mediation to the
  United States Government with a view to the recognition of the
  independence of the Confederates. I agree further that in case
  of failure, we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern States
  as an independent State. For the purpose of taking so important
  a step, I think we must have a meeting of the Cabinet. The 23d
  or 30th would suit me for the meeting.

    We ought then, if we agree on such a step, to propose it
  first to France, and then on the part of England and France, to
  Russia and other powers, as a measure decided upon by us.

    We ought to make ourselves safe in Canada, not by sending
  more troops there, but by concentrating those we have in a few
  defensible posts before the winter sets in....

  Here, then, appeared in its fullest force, the practical
difficulty in education which a mere student could never overcome; a
difficulty not in theory, or knowledge, or even want of experience, but
in the sheer chaos of human nature. Lord Russell's course had been
consistent from the first, and had all the look of rigid determination
to recognize the Southern Confederacy "with a view" to breaking up the
Union. His letter of September 17 hung directly on his encouragement of
the Alabama and his protection of the rebel navy; while the whole of
his plan had its root in the Proclamation of Belligerency, May 13,
1861. The policy had every look of persistent forethought, but it took
for granted the deliberate dishonesty of three famous men: Palmerston,
Russell, and Gladstone. This dishonesty, as concerned Russell, was
denied by Russell himself, and disbelieved by Argyll, Forster, and most
of America's friends in England, as well as by Minister Adams. What the
Minister would have thought had he seen this letter of September 17,
his son would have greatly liked to know, but he would have liked still
more to know what the Minister would have thought of Palmerston's
answer, dated September 23:--

   ... It is evident that a great conflict is taking place to
  the northwest of Washington, and its issue must have a great
  effect on the state of affairs. If the Federals sustain a great
  defeat, they may be at once ready for mediation, and the iron
  should be struck while it is hot. If, on the other hand, they
  should have the best of it, we may wait a while and see what
  may follow...

  The roles were reversed. Russell wrote what was expected from
Palmerston, or even more violently; while Palmerston wrote what was
expected from Russell, or even more temperately. The private
secretary's view had been altogether wrong, which would not have much
surprised even him, but he would have been greatly astonished to learn
that the most confidential associates of these men knew little more
about their intentions than was known in the Legation. The most trusted
member of the Cabinet was Lord Granville, and to him Russell next
wrote. Granville replied at once decidedly opposing recognition of the
Confederacy, and Russell sent the reply to Palmerston, who returned it
October 2, with the mere suggestion of waiting for further news from
America. At the same time Granville wrote to another member of the
Cabinet, Lord Stanley of Alderley, a letter published forty years
afterwards in Granville's "Life" (I, 442) to the private secretary
altogether the most curious and instructive relic of the whole lesson
in politics:

  ... I have written to Johnny my reasons for thinking it
  decidedly premature. I, however, suspect you will settle to do
  so. Pam., Johnny, and Gladstone would be in favor of it, and
  probably Newcastle. I do not know about the others. It appears
  to me a great mistake....

  Out of a Cabinet of a dozen members, Granville, the best
informed of them all, could pick only three who would favor
recognition. Even a private secretary thought he knew as much as this,
or more. Ignorance was not confined to the young and insignificant, nor
were they the only victims of blindness. Granville's letter made only
one point clear. He knew of no fixed policy or conspiracy. If any
existed, it was confined to Palmerston, Russell, Gladstone, and perhaps
Newcastle. In truth, the Legation knew, then, all that was to be known,
and the true fault of education was to suspect too much.

  By that time, October 3, news of Antietam and of Lee's retreat
into Virginia had reached London. The Emancipation Proclamation
arrived. Had the private secretary known all that Granville or
Palmerston knew, he would surely have thought the danger past, at least
for a time, and any man of common sense would have told him to stop
worrying over phantoms. This healthy lesson would have been worth much
for practical education, but it was quite upset by the sudden rush of a
new actor upon the stage with a rhapsody that made Russell seem sane,
and all education superfluous.

  This new actor, as every one knows, was William Ewart
Gladstone, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. If, in the domain of the
world's politics, one point was fixed, one value ascertained, one
element serious, it was the British Exchequer; and if one man lived who
could be certainly counted as sane by overwhelming interest, it was the
man who had in charge the finances of England. If education had the
smallest value, it should have shown its force in Gladstone, who was
educated beyond all record of English training. From him, if from no
one else, the poor student could safely learn.

  Here is what he learned! Palmerston notified Gladstone,
September 24, of the proposed intervention: "If I am not mistaken, you
would be inclined to approve such a course." Gladstone replied the next
day: "He was glad to learn what the Prime Minister had told him; and
for two reasons especially he desired that the proceedings should be
prompt: the first was the rapid progress of the Southern arms and the
extension of the area of Southern feeling; the second was the risk of
violent impatience in the cotton-towns of Lancashire such as would
prejudice the dignity and disinterestedness of the proffered mediation."

  Had the puzzled student seen this letter, he must have
concluded from it that the best educated statesman England ever
produced did not know what he was talking about, an assumption which
all the world would think quite inadmissible from a private
secretary--but this was a trifle. Gladstone having thus arranged, with
Palmerston and Russell, for intervention in the American war, reflected
on the subject for a fortnight from September 25 to October 7, when he
was to speak on the occasion of a great dinner at Newcastle. He decided
to announce the Government's policy with all the force his personal and
official authority could give it. This decision was no sudden impulse;
it was the result of deep reflection pursued to the last moment. On the
morning of October 7, he entered in his diary: "Reflected further on
what I should say about Lancashire and America, for both these subjects
are critical." That evening at dinner, as the mature fruit of his long
study, he deliberately pronounced the famous phrase:--

  ... We know quite well that the people of the Northern States
  have not yet drunk of the cup--they are still trying to hold
  it far from their lips--which all the rest of the world see
  they nevertheless must drink of. We may have our own opinions
  about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is
  no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South
  have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and
  they have made, what is more than either, they have made a
  nation....

  Looking back, forty years afterwards, on this episode, one
asked one's self painfully what sort of a lesson a young man should
have drawn, for the purposes of his education, from this world-famous
teaching of a very great master. In the heat of passion at the moment,
one drew some harsh moral conclusions: Were they incorrect? Posed
bluntly as rules of conduct, they led to the worst possible practices.
As morals, one could detect no shade of difference between Gladstone
and Napoleon except to the advantage of Napoleon. The private secretary
saw none; he accepted the teacher in that sense; he took his lesson of
political morality as learned, his notice to quit as duly served, and
supposed his education to be finished.

  Every one thought so, and the whole City was in a turmoil. Any
intelligent education ought to end when it is complete. One would then
feel fewer hesitations and would handle a surer world. The
old-fashioned logical drama required unity and sense; the actual drama
is a pointless puzzle, without even an intrigue. When the curtain fell
on Gladstone's speech, any student had the right to suppose the drama
ended; none could have affirmed that it was about to begin; that one's
painful lesson was thrown away.

  Even after forty years, most people would refuse to believe it;
they would still insist that Gladstone, Russell, and Palmerston were
true villains of melodrama. The evidence against Gladstone in special
seemed overwhelming. The word "must" can never be used by a responsible
Minister of one Government towards another, as Gladstone used it. No
one knew so well as he that he and his own officials and friends at
Liverpool were alone "making" a rebel navy, and that Jefferson Davis
had next to nothing to do with it. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he
was the Minister most interested in knowing that Palmerston, Russell,
and himself were banded together by mutual pledge to make the
Confederacy a nation the next week, and that the Southern leaders had
as yet no hope of "making a nation" but in them. Such thoughts occurred
to every one at the moment and time only added to their force. Never in
the history of political turpitude had any brigand of modern
civilization offered a worse example. The proof of it was that it
outraged even Palmerston, who immediately put up Sir George Cornewall
Lewis to repudiate the Chancellor of the Exchequer, against whom he
turned his press at the same time. Palmerston had no notion of letting
his hand be forced by Gladstone.

  Russell did nothing of the kind; if he agreed with Palmerston,
he followed Gladstone. Although he had just created a new evangel of
non-intervention for Italy, and preached it like an apostle, he
preached the gospel of intervention in America as though he were a
mouthpiece of the Congress of Vienna. On October 13, he issued his call
for the Cabinet to meet, on October 23, for discussion of the "duty of
Europe to ask both parties, in the most friendly and conciliatory
terms, to agree to a suspension of arms." Meanwhile Minister Adams,
deeply perturbed and profoundly anxious, would betray no sign of alarm,
and purposely delayed to ask explanation. The howl of anger against
Gladstone became louder every day, for every one knew that the Cabinet
was called for October 23, and then could not fail to decide its policy
about the United States. Lord Lyons put off his departure for America
till October 25 expressly to share in the conclusions to be discussed
on October 23. When Minister Adams at last requested an interview,
Russell named October 23 as the day. To the last moment every act of
Russell showed that, in his mind, the intervention was still in doubt.

  When Minister Adams, at the interview, suggested that an
explanation was due him, he watched Russell with natural interest, and
reported thus:

   ... His lordship took my allusion at once, though not
  without a slight indication of embarrassment. He said that Mr.
  Gladstone had been evidently much misunderstood. I must have
  seen in the newspapers the letters which contained his later
  explanations. That he had certain opinions in regard to the
  nature of the struggle in America, as on all public questions,
  just as other Englishmen had, was natural enough. And it was
  the fashion here for public men to express such as they held in
  their public addresses. Of course it was not for him to disavow
  anything on the part of Mr. Gladstone; but he had no idea that
  in saying what he had, there was a serious intention to justify
  any of the inferences that had been drawn from it of a
  disposition in the Government now to adopt a new policy....

  A student trying to learn the processes of politics in a free
government could not but ponder long on the moral to be drawn from this
"explanation" of Mr. Gladstone by Earl Russell. The point set for study
as the first condition of political life, was whether any politician
could be believed or trusted. The question which a private secretary
asked himself, in copying this despatch of October 24, 1862, was
whether his father believed, or should believe, one word of Lord
Russell's "embarrassment." The "truth" was not known for thirty years,
but when published, seemed to be the reverse of Earl Russell's
statement. Mr. Gladstone's speech had been drawn out by Russell's own
policy of intervention and had no sense except to declare the
"disposition in the Government now to adopt" that new policy. Earl
Russell never disavowed Gladstone, although Lord Palmerston and Sir
George Cornewall Lewis instantly did so. As far as the curious student
could penetrate the mystery, Gladstone exactly expressed Earl Russell's
intent.

  As political education, this lesson was to be crucial; it would
decide the law of life. All these gentlemen were superlatively
honorable; if one could not believe them, Truth in politics might be
ignored as a delusion. Therefore the student felt compelled to reach
some sort of idea that should serve to bring the case within a general
law. Minister Adams felt the same compulsion. He bluntly told Russell
that while he was "willing to acquit" Gladstone of "any deliberate
intention to bring on the worst effects," he was bound to say that
Gladstone was doing it quite as certainly as if he had one; and to this
charge, which struck more sharply at Russell's secret policy than at
Gladstone's public defence of it, Russell replied as well as he could:--

  ... His lordship intimated as guardedly as possible that Lord
  Palmerston and other members of the Government regretted the
  speech, and`Mr. Gladstone himself was not disinclined to
  correct, as far as he could, the misinterpretation which had
  been made of it. It was still their intention to adhere to the
  rule of perfect neutrality in the struggle, and to let it come
  to its natural end without the smallest interference, direct or
  otherwise. But he could not say what circumstances might happen
  from month to month in the future. I observed that the policy
  he mentioned was satisfactory to us, and asked if I was to
  understand him as saying that no change of it was now proposed.
  To which he gave his assent....

Minister Adams never knew more. He retained his belief that Russell
could be trusted, but that Palmerston could not. This was the
diplomatic tradition, especially held by the Russian diplomats.
Possibly it was sound, but it helped in no way the education of a
private secretary. The cat's-paw theory offered no safer clue, than the
frank, old-fashioned, honest theory of villainy. Neither the one nor
the other was reasonable.

  No one ever told the Minister that Earl Russell, only a few
hours before, had asked the Cabinet to intervene, and that the Cabinet
had refused. The Minister was led to believe that the Cabinet meeting
was not held, and that its decision was informal. Russell's biographer
said that, "with this memorandum [of Russell's, dated October 13] the
Cabinet assembled from all parts of the country on October 23; but ...
members of the Cabinet doubted the policy of moving, or moving at that
time." The Duke of Newcastle and Sir George Grey joined Granville in
opposition. As far as known, Russell and Gladstone stood alone.
"Considerations such as these prevented the matter being pursued any
further."

  Still no one has distinctly said that this decision was formal;
perhaps the unanimity of opposition made the formal Cabinet
unnecessary; but it is certain that, within an hour or two before or
after this decision, "his lordship said [to the United States Minister]
that the policy of the Government was to adhere to a strict neutrality
and to leave this struggle to settle itself." When Mr. Adams, not
satisfied even with this positive assurance, pressed for a categorical
answer: "I asked him if I was to understand that policy as not now to
be changed; he said: Yes!"

  John Morley's comment on this matter, in the "Life of
Gladstone," forty years afterwards, would have interested the Minister,
as well as his private secretary: "If this relation be accurate," said
Morley of a relation officially published at the time, and never
questioned, "then the Foreign Secretary did not construe strict
neutrality as excluding what diplomatists call good offices." For a
vital lesson in politics, Earl Russell's construction of neutrality
mattered little to the student, who asked only Russell's intent, and
cared only to know whether his construction had any other object than
to deceive the Minister.

  In the grave one can afford to be lavish of charity, and
possibly Earl Russell may have been honestly glad to reassure his
personal friend Mr. Adams; but to one who is still in the world even if
not of it, doubts are as plenty as days. Earl Russell totally deceived
the private secretary, whatever he may have done to the Minister. The
policy of abstention was not settled on October 23. Only the next day,
October 24, Gladstone circulated a rejoinder to G. C. Lewis, insisting
on the duty of England, France, and Russia to intervene by
representing, "with moral authority and force, the opinion of the
civilized world upon the conditions of the case." Nothing had been
decided. By some means, scarcely accidental, the French Emperor was led
to think that his influence might turn the scale, and only ten days
after Russell's categorical "Yes!" Napoleon officially invited him to
say "No!" He was more than ready to do so. Another Cabinet meeting was
called for November 11, and this time Gladstone himself reports the
debate:

  Nov. 11. We have had our Cabinet to-day and meet again
  tomorrow. I am afraid we shall do little or nothing in the
  business of America. But I will send you definite intelligence.
  Both Lords Palmerston and Russell are right.

  Nov. 12. The United States affair has ended and not well. Lord
  Russell rather turned tail. He gave way without resolutely
  fighting out his battle. However, though we decline for the
  moment, the answer is put upon grounds and in terms which leave
  the matter very open for the future.

  Nov. 13. I think the French will make our answer about America
  public; at least it is very possible. But I hope they may not
  take it as a positive refusal, or at any rate that they may
  themselves act in the matter. It will be clear that we concur
  with them, that the war should cease. Palmerston gave to
  Russell's proposal a feeble and half-hearted support.

  Forty years afterwards, when every one except himself, who
looked on at this scene, was dead, the private secretary of 1862 read
these lines with stupor, and hurried to discuss them with John Hay, who
was more astounded than himself. All the world had been at
cross-purposes, had misunderstood themselves and the situation, had
followed wrong paths, drawn wrong conclusions, had known none of the
facts. One would have done better to draw no conclusions at all. One's
diplomatic education was a long mistake.

  These were the terms of this singular problem as they presented
themselves to the student of diplomacy in 1862: Palmerston, on
September 14, under the impression that the President was about to be
driven from Washington and the Army of the Potomac dispersed, suggested
to Russell that in such a case, intervention might be feasible. Russell
instantly answered that, in any case, he wanted to intervene and should
call a Cabinet for the purpose. Palmerston hesitated; Russell insisted;
Granville protested. Meanwhile the rebel army was defeated at Antietam,
September 17, and driven out of Maryland. Then Gladstone, October 7,
tried to force Palmerston's hand by treating the intervention as a fait
accompli. Russell assented, but Palmerston put up Sir George Cornewall
Lewis to contradict Gladstone and treated him sharply in the press, at
the very moment when Russell was calling a Cabinet to make Gladstone's
words good. On October 23, Russell assured Adams that no change in
policy was now proposed. On the same day he had proposed it, and was
voted down. Instantly Napoleon III appeared as the ally of Russell and
Gladstone with a proposition which had no sense except as a bribe to
Palmerston to replace America, from pole to pole, in her old dependence
on Europe, and to replace England in her old sovereignty of the seas,
if Palmerston would support France in Mexico. The young student of
diplomacy, knowing Palmerston, must have taken for granted that
Palmerston inspired this motion and would support it; knowing Russell
and his Whig antecedents, he would conceive that Russell must oppose
it; knowing Gladstone and his lofty principles, he would not doubt that
Gladstone violently denounced the scheme. If education was worth a
straw, this was the only arrangement of persons that a trained student
would imagine possible, and it was the arrangement actually assumed by
nine men out of ten, as history. In truth, each valuation was false.
Palmerston never showed favor to the scheme and gave it only "a feeble
and half-hearted support." Russell gave way without resolutely fighting
out "his battle." The only resolute, vehement, conscientious champion
of Russell, Napoleon, and Jefferson Davis was Gladstone.

  Other people could afford to laugh at a young man's blunders,
but to him the best part of life was thrown away if he learned such a
lesson wrong. Henry James had not yet taught the world to read a volume
for the pleasure of seeing the lights of his burning-glass turned on
alternate sides of the same figure. Psychological study was still
simple, and at worst--or at best--English character was never subtile.
Surely no one would believe that complexity was the trait that confused
the student of Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone. Under a very strong
light human nature will always appear complex and full of
contradictions, but the British statesman would appear, on the whole,
among the least complex of men.

  Complex these gentlemen were not. Disraeli alone might, by
contrast, be called complex, but Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone
deceived only by their simplicity. Russell was the most interesting to
a young man because his conduct seemed most statesmanlike. Every act of
Russell, from April, 1861, to November, 1862, showed the clearest
determination to break up the Union. The only point in Russell's
character about which the student thought no doubt to be possible was
its want of good faith. It was thoroughly dishonest, but strong.
Habitually Russell said one thing and did another. He seemed
unconscious of his own contradictions even when his opponents pointed
them out, as they were much in the habit of doing, in the strongest
language. As the student watched him deal with the Civil War in
America, Russell alone showed persistence, even obstinacy, in a
definite determination, which he supported, as was necessary, by the
usual definite falsehoods. The young man did not complain of the
falsehoods; on the contrary, he was vain of his own insight in
detecting them; but he was wholly upset by the idea that Russell should
think himself true.

  Young Adams thought Earl Russell a statesman of the old school,
clear about his objects and unscrupulous in his methods--dishonest but
strong. Russell ardently asserted that he had no objects, and that
though he might be weak he was above all else honest. Minister Adams
leaned to Russell personally and thought him true, but officially, in
practice, treated him as false. Punch, before 1862, commonly drew
Russell as a schoolboy telling lies, and afterwards as prematurely
senile, at seventy. Education stopped there. No one, either in or out
of England, ever offered a rational explanation of Earl Russell.

  Palmerston was simple--so simple as to mislead the student
altogether--but scarcely more consistent. The world thought him
positive, decided, reckless; the record proved him to be cautious,
careful, vacillating. Minister Adams took him for pugnacious and
quarrelsome; the "Lives" of Russell, Gladstone, and Granville show him
to have been good-tempered, conciliatory, avoiding quarrels. He
surprised the Minister by refusing to pursue his attack on General
Butler. He tried to check Russell. He scolded Gladstone. He discouraged
Napoleon. Except Disraeli none of the English statesmen were so
cautious as he in talking of America. Palmerston told no falsehoods;
made no professions; concealed no opinions; was detected in no
double-dealing. The most mortifying failure in Henry Adams's long
education was that, after forty years of confirmed dislike, distrust,
and detraction of Lord Palmerston, he was obliged at last to admit
himself in error, and to consent in spirit--for by that time he was
nearly as dead as any of them--to beg his pardon.

  Gladstone was quite another story, but with him a student's
difficulties were less because they were shared by all the world
including Gladstone himself. He was the sum of contradictions. The
highest education could reach, in this analysis, only a reduction to
the absurd, but no absurdity that a young man could reach in 1862 would
have approached the level that Mr. Gladstone admitted, avowed,
proclaimed, in his confessions of 1896, which brought all reason and
all hope of education to a still-stand:--

  I have yet to record an undoubted error, the most singular and
  palpable, I may add the least excusable of them all, especially
  since it was committed so late as in the year 1862 when I had
  outlived half a century ... I declared in the heat of the
  American struggle that Jefferson Davis had made a nation....
  Strange to say, this declaration, most unwarrantable to be made
  by a Minister of the Crown with no authority other than his
  own, was not due to any feeling of partisanship for the South
  or hostility to the North.... I really, though most
  strangely, believed that it was an act of friendliness to all
  America to recognize that the struggle was virtually at an end.
  ... That my opinion was founded upon a false estimate of the
  facts was the very least part of my fault. I did not perceive
  the gross impropriety of such an utterance from a Cabinet
  Minister of a power allied in blood and language, and bound to
  loyal neutrality; the case being further exaggerated by the
  fact that we were already, so to speak, under indictment before
  the world for not (as was alleged) having strictly enforced the
  laws of neutrality in the matter of the cruisers. My offence
  was indeed only a mistake, but one of incredible grossness, and
  with such consequences of offence and alarm attached to it,
  that my failing to perceive them justly exposed me to very
  severe blame. It illustrates vividly that incapacity which my
  mind so long retained, and perhaps still exhibits, an
  incapacity of viewing subjects all round....

  Long and patiently--more than patiently--sympathetically,
did the private secretary, forty years afterwards in the twilight of a
life of study, read and re-read and reflect upon this confession. Then,
it seemed, he had seen nothing correctly at the time. His whole theory
of conspiracy--of policy--of logic and connection in the affairs of
man, resolved itself into "incredible grossness." He felt no rancor,
for he had won the game; he forgave, since he must admit, the
"incapacity of viewing subjects all round" which had so nearly cost him
life and fortune; he was willing even to believe. He noted, without
irritation, that Mr. Gladstone, in his confession, had not alluded to
the understanding between Russell, Palmerston, and himself; had even
wholly left out his most "incredible" act, his ardent support of
Napoleon's policy, a policy which even Palmerston and Russell had
supported feebly, with only half a heart. All this was indifferent.
Granting, in spite of evidence, that Gladstone had no set plan of
breaking up the Union; that he was party to no conspiracy; that he saw
none of the results of his acts which were clear to every one else;
granting in short what the English themselves seemed at last to
conclude--that Gladstone was not quite sane; that Russell was verging
on senility; and that Palmerston had lost his nerve--what sort of
education should have been the result of it? How should it have
affected one's future opinions and acts?

  Politics cannot stop to study psychology. Its methods are
rough; its judgments rougher still. All this knowledge would not have
affected either the Minister or his son in 1862. The sum of the
individuals would still have seemed, to the young man, one
individual--a single will or intention--bent on breaking up the Union
"as a diminution of a dangerous power." The Minister would still have
found his interest in thinking Russell friendly and Palmerston hostile.
The individual would still have been identical with the mass. The
problem would have been the same; the answer equally obscure. Every
student would, like the private secretary, answer for himself alone.



CHAPTER XI

THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS (1863)

  MINISTER ADAMS troubled himself little about what he did not
see of an enemy. His son, a nervous animal, made life a terror by
seeing too much. Minister Adams played his hand as it came, and seldom
credited his opponents with greater intelligence than his own. Earl
Russell suited him; perhaps a certain personal sympathy united them;
and indeed Henry Adams never saw Russell without being amused by his
droll likeness to John Quincy Adams. Apart from this shadowy personal
relation, no doubt the Minister was diplomatically right; he had
nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a friend of the
Foreign Secretary, and whether Russell were true or false mattered
less, because, in either case, the American Legation could act only as
though he were false. Had the Minister known Russell's determined
effort to betray and ruin him in October, 1862, he could have scarcely
used stronger expressions than he did in 1863. Russell must have been
greatly annoyed by Sir Robert Collier's hint of collusion with the
rebel agents in the Alabama Case, but he hardened himself to hear the
same innuendo repeated in nearly every note from the Legation. As time
went on, Russell was compelled, though slowly, to treat the American
Minister as serious. He admitted nothing so unwillingly, for the
nullity or fatuity of the Washington Government was his idee fixe; but
after the failure of his last effort for joint intervention on November
12, 1862, only one week elapsed before he received a note from Minister
Adams repeating his charges about the Alabama, and asking in very plain
language for redress. Perhaps Russell's mind was naturally slow to
understand the force of sudden attack, or perhaps age had affected it;
this was one of the points that greatly interested a student, but young
men have a passion for regarding their elders as senile, which was only
in part warranted in this instance by observing that Russell's
generation were mostly senile from youth. They had never got beyond
1815 Both Palmerston and Russell were in this case. Their senility was
congenital, like Gladstone's Oxford training and High Church illusions,
which caused wild eccentricities in his judgment. Russell could not
conceive that he had misunderstood and mismanaged Minister Adams from
the start, and when after November 12 he found himself on the
defensive, with Mr Adams taking daily a stronger tone, he showed mere
confusion and helplessness.

  Thus, whatever the theory, the action of diplomacy had to be
the same. Minister Adams was obliged to imply collusion between Russell
and the rebels. He could not even stop at criminal negligence. If, by
an access of courtesy, the Minister were civil enough to admit that the
escape of the Alabama had been due to criminal negligence, he could
make no such concession in regard to the ironclad rams which the Lairds
were building; for no one could be so simple as to believe that two
armored ships-of-war could be built publicly, under the eyes of the
Government, and go to sea like the Alabama, without active and
incessant collusion. The longer Earl Russell kept on his mask of
assumed ignorance, the more violently in the end, the Minister would
have to tear it off. Whatever Mr. Adams might personally think of Earl
Russell, he must take the greatest possible diplomatic liberties with
him if this crisis were allowed to arrive.

  As the spring of 1863 drew on, the vast field cleared itself
for action. A campaign more beautiful--better suited for training the
mind of a youth eager for training--has not often unrolled itself for
study, from the beginning, before a young man perched in so commanding
a position. Very slowly, indeed, after two years of solitude, one began
to feel the first faint flush of new and imperial life. One was
twenty-five years old, and quite ready to assert it; some of one's
friends were wearing stars on their collars; some had won stars of a
more enduring kind. At moments one's breath came quick. One began to
dream the sensation of wielding unmeasured power. The sense came, like
vertigo, for an instant, and passed, leaving the brain a little dazed,
doubtful, shy. With an intensity more painful than that of any
Shakespearean drama, men's eyes were fastened on the armies in the
field. Little by little, at first only as a shadowy chance of what
might be, if things could be rightly done, one began to feel that,
somewhere behind the chaos in Washington power was taking shape; that
it was massed and guided as it had not been before. Men seemed to have
learned their business--at a cost that ruined--and perhaps too late. A
private secretary knew better than most people how much of the new
power was to be swung in London, and almost exactly when; but the
diplomatic campaign had to wait for the military campaign to lead. The
student could only study.

  Life never could know more than a single such climax. In that
form, education reached its limits. As the first great blows began to
fall, one curled up in bed in the silence of night, to listen with
incredulous hope. As the huge masses struck, one after another, with
the precision of machinery, the opposing mass, the world shivered. Such
development of power was unknown. The magnificent resistance and the
return shocks heightened the suspense. During the July days Londoners
were stupid with unbelief. They were learning from the Yankees how to
fight.

  An American saw in a flash what all this meant to England, for
one's mind was working with the acceleration of the machine at home;
but Englishmen were not quick to see their blunders. One had ample time
to watch the process, and had even a little time to gloat over the
repayment of old scores. News of Vicksburg and Gettysburg reached
London one Sunday afternoon, and it happened that Henry Adams was asked
for that evening to some small reception at the house of Monckton
Milnes. He went early in order to exchange a word or two of
congratulation before the rooms should fill, and on arriving he found
only the ladies in the drawing-room; the gentlemen were still sitting
over their wine. Presently they came in, and, as luck would have it,
Delane of the Times came first. When Milnes caught sight of his young
American friend, with a whoop of triumph he rushed to throw both arms
about his neck and kiss him on both cheeks. Men of later birth who knew
too little to realize the passions of 1863--backed by those of
1813--and reenforced by those of 1763--might conceive that such
publicity embarrassed a private secretary who came from Boston and
called himself shy; but that evening, for the first time in his life,
he happened not to be thinking of himself. He was thinking of Delane,
whose eye caught his, at the moment of Milnes's embrace. Delane
probably regarded it as a piece of Milnes's foolery; he had never heard
of young Adams, and never dreamed of his resentment at being ridiculed
in the Times; he had no suspicion of the thought floating in the mind
of the American Minister's son, for the British mind is the slowest of
all minds, as the files of the Times proved, and the capture of
Vicksburg had not yet penetrated Delane's thick cortex of fixed ideas.
Even if he had read Adams's thought, he would have felt for it only the
usual amused British contempt for all that he had not been taught at
school. It needed a whole generation for the Times to reach Milnes's
standpoint.

  Had the Minister's son carried out the thought, he would surely
have sought an introduction to Delane on the spot, and assured him that
he regarded his own personal score as cleared off--sufficiently
settled, then and there--because his father had assumed the debt, and
was going to deal with Mr. Delane himself. "You come next!" would have
been the friendly warning. For nearly a year the private secretary had
watched the board arranging itself for the collision between the
Legation and Delane who stood behind the Palmerston Ministry. Mr. Adams
had been steadily strengthened and reenforced from Washington in view
of the final struggle. The situation had changed since the Trent
Affair. The work was efficiently done; the organization was fairly
complete. No doubt, the Legation itself was still as weakly manned and
had as poor an outfit as the Legations of Guatemala or Portugal.
Congress was always jealous of its diplomatic service, and the Chairman
of the Committee of Foreign Relations was not likely to press
assistance on the Minister to England. For the Legation not an
additional clerk was offered or asked. The Secretary, the Assistant
Secretary, and the private secretary did all the work that the Minister
did not do. A clerk at five dollars a week would have done the work as
well or better, but the Minister could trust no clerk; without express
authority he could admit no one into the Legation; he strained a point
already by admitting his son. Congress and its committees were the
proper judges of what was best for the public service, and if the
arrangement seemed good to them, it was satisfactory to a private
secretary who profited by it more than they did. A great staff would
have suppressed him. The whole Legation was a sort of improvised,
volunteer service, and he was a volunteer with the rest. He was rather
better off than the rest, because he was invisible and unknown. Better
or worse, he did his work with the others, and if the secretaries made
any remarks about Congress, they made no complaints, and knew that none
would have received a moment's attention.

  If they were not satisfied with Congress, they were satisfied
with Secretary Seward. Without appropriations for the regular service,
he had done great things for its support. If the Minister had no
secretaries, he had a staff of active consuls; he had a well-organized
press; efficient legal support; and a swarm of social allies permeating
all classes. All he needed was a victory in the field, and Secretary
Stanton undertook that part of diplomacy. Vicksburg and Gettysburg
cleared the board, and, at the end of July, 1863, Minister Adams was
ready to deal with Earl Russell or Lord Palmerston or Mr. Gladstone or
Mr. Delane, or any one else who stood in his way; and by the necessity
of the case, was obliged to deal with all of them shortly.

  Even before the military climax at Vicksburg and Gettysburg,
the Minister had been compelled to begin his attack; but this was
history, and had nothing to do with education. The private secretary
copied the notes into his private books, and that was all the share he
had in the matter, except to talk in private.

  No more volunteer services were needed; the volunteers were in
a manner sent to the rear; the movement was too serious for
skirmishing. All that a secretary could hope to gain from the affair
was experience and knowledge of politics. He had a chance to measure
the motive forces of men; their qualities of character; their
foresight; their tenacity of purpose.

  In the Legation no great confidence was felt in stopping the
rams. Whatever the reason, Russell seemed immovable. Had his efforts
for intervention in September, 1862, been known to the Legation in
September, 1863 the Minister must surely have admitted that Russell
had, from the first, meant to force his plan of intervention on his
colleagues. Every separate step since April, 1861, led to this final
coercion. Although Russell's hostile activity of 1862 was still
secret--and remained secret for some five-and-twenty years--his animus
seemed to be made clear by his steady refusal to stop the rebel
armaments. Little by little, Minister Adams lost hope. With loss of
hope came the raising of tone, until at last, after stripping Russell
of every rag of defence and excuse, he closed by leaving him loaded
with connivance in the rebel armaments, and ended by the famous
sentence: "It would be superfluous in me to point out to your lordship
that this is war!"

What the Minister meant by this remark was his own affair; what the
private secretary understood by it, was a part of his education. Had
his father ordered him to draft an explanatory paragraph to expand the
idea as he grasped it, he would have continued thus:--

  "It would be superfluous: 1st. Because Earl Russell not only
knows it already, but has meant it from the start. 2nd Because it is
the only logical and necessary consequence of his unvarying action. 3d.
Because Mr. Adams is not pointing out to him that 'this is war,' but is
pointing it out to the world, to complete the record."

  This would have been the matter-of-fact sense in which the
private secretary copied into his books the matter-of-fact statement
with which, without passion or excitement, the Minister announced that
a state of war existed. To his copying eye, as clerk, the words, though
on the extreme verge of diplomatic propriety, merely stated a fact,
without novelty, fancy, or rhetoric. The fact had to be stated in order
to make clear the issue. The war was Russell's war--Adams only accepted
it.

  Russell's reply to this note of September 5 reached the
Legation on September 8, announcing at last to the anxious secretaries
that "instructions have been issued which will prevent the departure of
the two ironclad vessels from Liverpool." The members of the modest
Legation in Portland Place accepted it as Grant had accepted the
capitulation of Vicksburg. The private secretary conceived that, as
Secretary Stanton had struck and crushed by superior weight the rebel
left on the Mississippi, so Secretary Seward had struck and crushed the
rebel right in England, and he never felt a doubt as to the nature of
the battle. Though Minister Adams should stay in office till he were
ninety, he would never fight another campaign of life and death like
this; and though the private secretary should covet and attain every
office in the gift of President or people, he would never again find
education to compare with the life-and-death alternative of this
two-year-and-a-half struggle in London, as it had racked and
thumb-screwed him in its shifting phases; but its practical value as
education turned on his correctness of judgment in measuring the men
and their forces. He felt respect for Russell as for Palmerston because
they represented traditional England and an English policy, respectable
enough in itself, but which, for four generations, every Adams had
fought and exploited as the chief source of his political fortunes. As
he understood it, Russell had followed this policy steadily, ably, even
vigorously, and had brought it to the moment of execution. Then he had
met wills stronger than his own, and, after persevering to the last
possible instant, had been beaten. Lord North and George Canning had a
like experience. This was only the idea of a boy, but, as far as he
ever knew, it was also the idea of his Government. For once, the
volunteer secretary was satisfied with his Government. Commonly the
self-respect of a secretary, private or public, depends on, and is
proportional to, the severity of his criticism, but in this case the
English campaign seemed to him as creditable to the State Department as
the Vicksburg campaign to the War Department, and more decisive. It was
well planned, well prepared, and well executed. He could never discover
a mistake in it. Possibly he was biassed by personal interest, but his
chief reason for trusting his own judgment was that he thought himself
to be one of only half a dozen persons who knew something about it.
When others criticised Mr. Seward, he was rather indifferent to their
opinions because he thought they hardly knew what they were talking
about, and could not be taught without living over again the London
life of 1862. To him Secretary Seward seemed immensely strong and
steady in leadership; but this was no discredit to Russell or
Palmerston or Gladstone. They, too, had shown power, patience and
steadiness of purpose. They had persisted for two years and a half in
their plan for breaking up the Union, and had yielded at last only in
the jaws of war. After a long and desperate struggle, the American
Minister had trumped their best card and won the game.

  Again and again, in after life, he went back over the ground to
see whether he could detect error on either side. He found none. At
every stage the steps were both probable and proved. All the more he
was disconcerted that Russell should indignantly and with growing
energy, to his dying day, deny and resent the axiom of Adams's whole
contention, that from the first he meant to break up the Union. Russell
affirmed that he meant nothing of the sort; that he had meant nothing
at all; that he meant to do right; that he did not know what he meant.
Driven from one defence after another, he pleaded at last, like
Gladstone, that he had no defence. Concealing all he could
conceal--burying in profound secrecy his attempt to break up the Union
in the autumn of 1862--he affirmed the louder his scrupulous good
faith. What was worse for the private secretary, to the total derision
and despair of the lifelong effort for education, as the final result
of combined practice, experience, and theory--he proved it.

  Henry Adams had, as he thought, suffered too much from Russell
to admit any plea in his favor; but he came to doubt whether this
admission really favored him. Not until long after Earl Russell's death
was the question reopened. Russell had quitted office in 1866; he died
in 1878; the biography was published in 1889. During the Alabama
controversy and the Geneva Conference in 1872, his course as Foreign
Secretary had been sharply criticised, and he had been compelled to see
England pay more than L3,000,000 penalty for his errors. On the other
hand, he brought forward--or his biographer for him--evidence tending
to prove that he was not consciously dishonest, and that he had, in
spite of appearances, acted without collusion, agreement, plan, or
policy, as far as concerned the rebels. He had stood alone, as was his
nature. Like Gladstone, he had thought himself right.

  In the end, Russell entangled himself in a hopeless ball of
admissions, denials, contradictions, and resentments which led even his
old colleagues to drop his defence, as they dropped Gladstone's; but
this was not enough for the student of diplomacy who had made a certain
theory his law of life, and wanted to hold Russell up against himself;
to show that he had foresight and persistence of which he was unaware.
The effort became hopeless when the biography in 1889 published papers
which upset all that Henry Adams had taken for diplomatic education;
yet he sat down once more, when past sixty years old, to see whether he
could unravel the skein.

  Of the obstinate effort to bring about an armed intervention,
on the lines marked out by Russell's letter to Palmerston from Gotha,
17 September, 1862, nothing could be said beyond Gladstone's plea in
excuse for his speech in pursuance of the same effort, that it was "the
most singular and palpable error," "the least excusable," "a mistake of
incredible grossness," which passed defence; but while Gladstone threw
himself on the mercy of the public for his speech, he attempted no
excuse for Lord Russell who led him into the "incredible grossness" of
announcing the Foreign Secretary's intent. Gladstone's offence,
"singular and palpable," was not the speech alone, but its cause--the
policy that inspired the speech. "I weakly supposed ... I really,
though most strangely, believed that it was an act of friendliness."
Whatever absurdity Gladstone supposed, Russell supposed nothing of the
sort. Neither he nor Palmerston "most strangely believed" in any
proposition so obviously and palpably absurd, nor did Napoleon delude
himself with philanthropy. Gladstone, even in his confession, mixed up
policy, speech, motives, and persons, as though he were trying to
confuse chiefly himself.

  There Gladstone's activity seems to have stopped. He did not
reappear in the matter of the rams. The rebel influence shrank in 1863,
as far as is known, to Lord Russell alone, who wrote on September 1
that he could not interfere in any way with those vessels, and thereby
brought on himself Mr. Adams's declaration of war on September 5. A
student held that, in this refusal, he was merely following his policy
of September, 1862, and of every step he had taken since 1861.

  The student was wrong. Russell proved that he had been feeble,
timid, mistaken, senile, but not dishonest. The evidence is convincing.
The Lairds had built these ships in reliance on the known opinion of
the law-officers that the statute did not apply, and a jury would not
convict. Minister Adams replied that, in this case, the statute should
be amended, or the ships stopped by exercise of the political power.
Bethell rejoined that this would be a violation of neutrality; one must
preserve the status quo. Tacitly Russell connived with Laird, and, had
he meant to interfere, he was bound to warn Laird that the defect of
the statute would no longer protect him, but he allowed the builders to
go on till the ships were ready for sea. Then, on September 3, two days
before Mr. Adams's "superfluous" letter, he wrote to Lord Palmerston
begging for help; "The conduct of the gentlemen who have contracted for
the two ironclads at Birkenhead is so very suspicious,"--he began, and
this he actually wrote in good faith and deep confidence to Lord
Palmerston, his chief, calling "the conduct" of the rebel agents
"suspicious" when no one else in Europe or America felt any suspicion
about it, because the whole question turned not on the rams, but on the
technical scope of the Foreign Enlistment Act,--"that I have thought it
necessary to direct that they should be detained," not, of course,
under the statute, but on the ground urged by the American Minister, of
international obligation above the statute. "The Solicitor General has
been consulted and concurs in the measure as one of policy though not
of strict law. We shall thus test the law, and, if we have to pay
damages, we have satisfied the opinion which prevails here as well as
in America that that kind of neutral hostility should not be allowed to
go on without some attempt to stop it."

  For naivete that would be unusual in an unpaid attache of
Legation, this sudden leap from his own to his opponent's ground, after
two years and a half of dogged resistance, might have roused Palmerston
to inhuman scorn, but instead of derision, well earned by Russell's old
attacks on himself, Palmerston met the appeal with wonderful loyalty.
"On consulting the law officers he found that there was no lawful
ground for meddling with the ironclads," or, in unprofessional
language, that he could trust neither his law officers nor a Liverpool
jury; and therefore he suggested buying the ships for the British Navy.
As proof of "criminal negligence" in the past, this suggestion seemed
decisive, but Russell, by this time, was floundering in other troubles
of negligence, for he had neglected to notify the American Minister. He
should have done so at once, on September 3. Instead he waited till
September 4, and then merely said that the matter was under "serious
and anxious consideration." This note did not reach the Legation till
three o'clock on the afternoon of September 5--after the "superfluous"
declaration of war had been sent. Thus, Lord Russell had sacrificed the
Lairds: had cost his Ministry the price of two ironclads, besides the
Alabama Claims--say, in round numbers, twenty million dollars--and had
put himself in the position of appearing to yield only to a threat of
war. Finally he wrote to the Admiralty a letter which, from the
American point of view, would have sounded youthful from an Eton
schoolboy:--

September 14, 1863.
  MY DEAR DUKE:--

    It is of the utmost importance and urgency that the ironclads
  building at Birkenhead should not go to America to break the
  blockade. They belong to Monsieur Bravay of Paris. If you will
  offer to buy them on the part of the Admiralty you will get
  money's worth if he accepts your offer; and if he does not, it
  will be presumptive proof that they are already bought by the
  Confederates. I should state that we have suggested to the
  Turkish Government to buy them; but you can easily settle that
  matter with the Turks....

  The hilarity of the secretaries in Portland Place would have
been loud had they seen this letter and realized the muddle of
difficulties into which Earl Russell had at last thrown himself under
the impulse of the American Minister; but, nevertheless, these letters
upset from top to bottom the results of the private secretary's
diplomatic education forty years after he had supposed it complete.
They made a picture different from anything he had conceived and
rendered worthless his whole painful diplomatic experience.

  To reconstruct, when past sixty, an education useful for any
practical purpose, is no practical problem, and Adams saw no use in
attacking it as only theoretical. He no longer cared whether he
understood human nature or not; he understood quite as much of it as he
wanted; but he found in the "Life of Gladstone" (II, 464) a remark
several times repeated that gave him matter for curious thought. "I
always hold," said Mr. Gladstone, "that politicians are the men whom,
as a rule, it is most difficult to comprehend"; and he added, by way of
strengthening it: "For my own part, I never have thus understood, or
thought I understood, above one or two."

  Earl Russell was certainly not one of the two.

  Henry Adams thought he also had understood one or two; but the
American type was more familiar. Perhaps this was the sufficient result
of his diplomatic education; it seemed to be the whole.



CHAPTER XII

ECCENTRICITY (1863)

  KNOWLEDGE of human nature is the beginning and end of political
education, but several years of arduous study in the neighborhood of
Westminster led Henry Adams to think that knowledge of English human
nature had little or no value outside of England. In Paris, such a
habit stood in one's way; in America, it roused all the instincts of
native jealousy. The English mind was one-sided, eccentric,
systematically unsystematic, and logically illogical. The less one knew
of it, the better.

  This heresy, which scarcely would have been allowed to
penetrate a Boston mind--it would, indeed, have been shut out by
instinct as a rather foolish exaggeration--rested on an experience
which Henry Adams gravely thought he had a right to think
conclusive--for him. That it should be conclusive for any one else
never occurred to him, since he had no thought of educating anybody
else. For him--alone--the less English education he got, the better!

  For several years, under the keenest incitement to
watchfulness, he observed the English mind in contact with itself and
other minds. Especially with the American the contact was interesting
because the limits and defects of the American mind were one of the
favorite topics of the European. From the old-world point of view, the
American had no mind; he had an economic thinking-machine which could
work only on a fixed line. The American mind exasperated the European
as a buzz-saw might exasperate a pine forest. The English mind disliked
the French mind because it was antagonistic, unreasonable, perhaps
hostile, but recognized it as at least a thought. The American mind was
not a thought at all; it was a convention, superficial, narrow, and
ignorant; a mere cutting instrument, practical, economical, sharp, and
direct.

  The English themselves hardly conceived that their mind was
either economical, sharp, or direct; but the defect that most struck an
American was its enormous waste in eccentricity. Americans needed and
used their whole energy, and applied it with close economy; but English
society was eccentric by law and for sake of the eccentricity itself.

  The commonest phrase overheard at an English club or
dinner-table was that So-and-So "is quite mad." It was no offence to
So-and-So; it hardly distinguished him from his fellows; and when
applied to a public man, like Gladstone, it was qualified by epithets
much more forcible. Eccentricity was so general as to become hereditary
distinction. It made the chief charm of English society as well as its
chief terror.

  The American delighted in Thackeray as a satirist, but
Thackeray quite justly maintained that he was not a satirist at all,
and that his pictures of English society were exact and good-natured.
The American, who could not believe it, fell back on Dickens, who, at
all events, had the vice of exaggeration to extravagance, but Dickens's
English audience thought the exaggeration rather in manner or style,
than in types. Mr. Gladstone himself went to see Sothern act Dundreary,
and laughed till his face was distorted--not because Dundreary was
exaggerated, but because he was ridiculously like the types that
Gladstone had seen--or might have seen--in any club in Pall Mall.
Society swarmed with exaggerated characters; it contained little else.

  Often this eccentricity bore all the marks of strength; perhaps
it was actual exuberance of force, a birthmark of genius. Boston
thought so. The Bostonian called it national character--native
vigor--robustness--honesty--courage. He respected and feared it.
British self-assertion, bluff, brutal, blunt as it was, seemed to him a
better and nobler thing than the acuteness of the Yankee or the polish
of the Parisian. Perhaps he was right.

  These questions of taste, of feeling, of inheritance, need no
settlement. Every one carries his own inch-rule of taste, and amuses
himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels. Whatever
others thought, the cleverest Englishmen held that the national
eccentricity needed correction, and were beginning to correct it. The
savage satires of Dickens and the gentler ridicule of Matthew Arnold
against the British middle class were but a part of the rebellion, for
the middle class were no worse than their neighbors in the eyes of an
American in 1863; they were even a very little better in the sense that
one could appeal to their interests, while a university man, like
Gladstone, stood outside of argument. From none of them could a young
American afford to borrow ideas.

  The private secretary, like every other Bostonian, began by
regarding British eccentricity as a force. Contact with it, in the
shape of Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone, made him hesitate; he saw
his own national type--his father, Weed, Evarts, for instance--deal
with the British, and show itself certainly not the weaker; certainly
sometimes the stronger. Biassed though he were, he could hardly be
biassed to such a degree as to mistake the effects of force on others,
and while--labor as he might--Earl Russell and his state papers seemed
weak to a secretary, he could not see that they seemed strong to
Russell's own followers. Russell might be dishonest or he might be
merely obtuse--the English type might be brutal or might be only
stupid--but strong, in either case, it was not, nor did it seem strong
to Englishmen.

Eccentricity was not always a force; Americans were deeply interested
in deciding whether it was always a weakness. Evidently, on the
hustings or in Parliament, among eccentricities, eccentricity was at
home; but in private society the question was not easy to answer. That
English society was infinitely more amusing because of its
eccentricities, no one denied. Barring the atrocious insolence and
brutality which Englishmen and especially Englishwomen showed to each
other--very rarely, indeed, to foreigners--English society was much
more easy and tolerant than American. One must expect to be treated
with exquisite courtesy this week and be totally forgotten the next,
but this was the way of the world, and education consisted in learning
to turn one's back on others with the same unconscious indifference
that others showed among themselves. The smart of wounded vanity lasted
no long time with a young man about town who had little vanity to
smart, and who, in his own country, would have found himself in no
better position. He had nothing to complain of. No one was ever brutal
to him. On the contrary, he was much better treated than ever he was
likely to be in Boston--let alone New York or Washington--and if his
reception varied inconceivably between extreme courtesy and extreme
neglect, it merely proved that he had become, or was becoming, at home.
Not from a sense of personal griefs or disappointments did he labor
over this part of the social problem, but only because his education
was becoming English, and the further it went, the less it promised.

  By natural affinity the social eccentrics commonly sympathized
with political eccentricity. The English mind took naturally to
rebellion--when foreign--and it felt particular confidence in the
Southern Confederacy because of its combined attributes--foreign
rebellion of English blood--which came nearer ideal eccentricity than
could be reached by Poles, Hungarians, Italians or Frenchmen. All the
English eccentrics rushed into the ranks of rebel sympathizers, leaving
few but well-balanced minds to attach themselves to the cause of the
Union. None of the English leaders on the Northern side were marked
eccentrics. William E. Forster was a practical, hard-headed
Yorkshireman, whose chief ideals in politics took shape as working
arrangements on an economical base. Cobden, considering the one-sided
conditions of his life, was remarkably well balanced. John Bright was
stronger in his expressions than either of them, but with all his
self-assertion he stuck to his point, and his point was practical. He
did not, like Gladstone, box the compass of thought; "furiously
earnest," as Monckton Milnes said, "on both sides of every question";
he was rather, on the whole, a consistent conservative of the old
Commonwealth type, and seldom had to defend inconsistencies. Monckton
Milnes himself was regarded as an eccentric, chiefly by those who did
not know him, but his fancies and hobbies were only ideas a little in
advance of the time; his manner was eccentric, but not his mind, as any
one could see who read a page of his poetry. None of them, except
Milnes, was a university man. As a rule, the Legation was troubled very
little, if at all, by indiscretions, extravagances, or contradictions
among its English friends. Their work was largely judicious, practical,
well considered, and almost too cautious. The "cranks" were all rebels,
and the list was portentous. Perhaps it might be headed by old Lord
Brougham, who had the audacity to appear at a July 4th reception at the
Legation, led by Joe Parkes, and claim his old credit as "Attorney
General to Mr. Madison." The Church was rebel, but the dissenters were
mostly with the Union. The universities were rebel, but the university
men who enjoyed most public confidence--like Lord Granville, Sir George
Cornewall Lewis, Lord Stanley, Sir George Grey--took infinite pains to
be neutral for fear of being thought eccentric. To most observers, as
well as to the Times, the Morning Post, and the Standard, a vast
majority of the English people seemed to follow the professional
eccentrics; even the emotional philanthropists took that direction;
Lord Shaftesbury and Carlyle, Fowell Buxton, and Gladstone, threw their
sympathies on the side which they should naturally have opposed, and
did so for no reason except their eccentricity; but the "canny" Scots
and Yorkshiremen were cautious.

  This eccentricity did not mean strength. The proof of it was
the mismanagement of the rebel interests. No doubt the first cause of
this trouble lay in the Richmond Government itself. No one understood
why Jefferson Davis chose Mr. Mason as his agent for London at the same
time that he made so good a choice as Mr. Slidell for Paris. The
Confederacy had plenty of excellent men to send to London, but few who
were less fitted than Mason. Possibly Mason had a certain amount of
common sense, but he seemed to have nothing else, and in London society
he counted merely as one eccentric more. He enjoyed a great
opportunity; he might even have figured as a new Benjamin Franklin with
all society at his feet; he might have roared as lion of the season and
made the social path of the American Minister almost impassable; but
Mr. Adams had his usual luck in enemies, who were always his most
valuable allies if his friends only let them alone. Mason was his
greatest diplomatic triumph. He had his collision with Palmerston; he
drove Russell off the field; he swept the board before Cockburn; he
overbore Slidell; but he never lifted a finger against Mason, who
became his bulwark of defence.

  Possibly Jefferson Davis and Mr. Mason shared two defects in
common which might have led them into this serious mistake. Neither
could have had much knowledge of the world, and both must have been
unconscious of humor. Yet at the same time with Mason, President Davis
sent out Slidell to France and Mr. Lamar to Russia. Some twenty years
later, in the shifting search for the education he never found, Adams
became closely intimate at Washington with Lamar, then Senator from
Mississippi, who had grown to be one of the calmest, most reasonable
and most amiable Union men in the United States, and quite unusual in
social charm. In 1860 he passed for the worst of Southern fire-eaters,
but he was an eccentric by environment, not by nature; above all his
Southern eccentricities, he had tact and humor; and perhaps this was a
reason why Mr. Davis sent him abroad with the others, on a futile
mission to St. Petersburg. He would have done better in London, in
place of Mason. London society would have delighted in him; his stories
would have won success; his manners would have made him loved; his
oratory would have swept every audience; even Monckton Milnes could
never have resisted the temptation of having him to breakfast between
Lord Shaftesbury and the Bishop of Oxford.

  Lamar liked to talk of his brief career in diplomacy, but he
never spoke of Mason. He never alluded to Confederate management or
criticised Jefferson Davis's administration. The subject that amused
him was his English allies. At that moment--the early summer of
1863--the rebel party in England were full of confidence, and felt
strong enough to challenge the American Legation to a show of power.
They knew better than the Legation what they could depend upon: that
the law officers and commissioners of customs at Liverpool dared not
prosecute the ironclad ships; that Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone
were ready to recognize the Confederacy; that the Emperor Napoleon
would offer them every inducement to do it. In a manner they owned
Liverpool and especially the firm of Laird who were building their
ships. The political member of the Laird firm was Lindsay, about whom
the whole web of rebel interests clung--rams, cruisers, munitions, and
Confederate loan; social introductions and parliamentary tactics. The
firm of Laird, with a certain dignity, claimed to be champion of
England's navy; and public opinion, in the summer of 1863, still
inclined towards them.

  Never was there a moment when eccentricity, if it were a force,
should have had more value to the rebel interest; and the managers must
have thought so, for they adopted or accepted as their champion an
eccentric of eccentrics; a type of 1820; a sort of Brougham of
Sheffield, notorious for poor judgment and worse temper. Mr. Roebuck
had been a tribune of the people, and, like tribunes of most other
peoples, in growing old, had grown fatuous. He was regarded by the
friends of the Union as rather a comical personage--a favorite subject
for Punch to laugh at--with a bitter tongue and a mind enfeebled even
more than common by the political epidemic of egotism. In all England
they could have found no opponent better fitted to give away his own
case. No American man of business would have paid him attention; yet.
the Lairds, who certainly knew their own affairs best, let Roebuck
represent them and take charge of their interests.

  With Roebuck's doings, the private secretary had no concern
except that the Minister sent him down to the House of Commons on June
30, 1863, to report the result of Roebuck's motion to recognize the
Southern Confederacy. The Legation felt no anxiety, having Vicksburg
already in its pocket, and Bright and Forster to say so; but the
private secretary went down and was admitted under the gallery on the
left, to listen, with great content, while John Bright, with
astonishing force, caught and shook and tossed Roebuck, as a big
mastiff shakes a wiry, ill-conditioned, toothless, bad-tempered
Yorkshire terrier. The private secretary felt an artistic sympathy with
Roebuck, for, from time to time, by way of practice, Bright in a
friendly way was apt to shake him too, and he knew how it was done. The
manner counted for more than the words. The scene was interesting, but
the result was not in doubt.

  All the more sharply he was excited, near the year 1879, in
Washington, by hearing Lamar begin a story after dinner, which, little
by little, became dramatic, recalling the scene in the House of
Commons. The story, as well as one remembered, began with Lamar's
failure to reach St. Petersburg at all, and his consequent detention in
Paris waiting instructions. The motion to recognize the Confederacy was
about to be made, and, in prospect of the debate, Mr. Lindsay collected
a party at his villa on the Thames to bring the rebel agents into
relations with Roebuck. Lamar was sent for, and came. After much
conversation of a general sort, such as is the usual object or resource
of the English Sunday, finding himself alone with Roebuck, Lamar, by
way of showing interest, bethought himself of John Bright and asked
Roebuck whether he expected Bright to take part in the debate: "No,
sir!" said Roebuck sententiously; "Bright and I have met before. It was
the old story--the story of the sword-fish and the whale! NO, sir! Mr.
Bright will not cross swords with me again!"

  Thus assured, Lamar went with the more confidence to the House
on the appointed evening, and was placed under the gallery, on the
right, where he listened to Roebuck and followed the debate with such
enjoyment as an experienced debater feels in these contests, until, as
he said, he became aware that a man, with a singularly rich voice and
imposing manner, had taken the floor, and was giving Roebuck the most
deliberate and tremendous pounding he ever witnessed, "until at last,"
concluded Lamar, "it dawned on my mind that the sword-fish was getting
the worst of it."

  Lamar told the story in the spirit of a joke against himself
rather than against Roebuck; but such jokes must have been unpleasantly
common in the experience of the rebel agents. They were surrounded by
cranks of the worst English species, who distorted their natural
eccentricities and perverted their judgment. Roebuck may have been an
extreme case, since he was actually in his dotage, yet this did not
prevent the Lairds from accepting his lead, or the House from taking
him seriously. Extreme eccentricity was no bar, in England, to extreme
confidence; sometimes it seemed a recommendation; and unless it caused
financial loss, it rather helped popularity.

  The question whether British eccentricity was ever strength
weighed heavily in the balance of education. That Roebuck should
mislead the rebel agents on so strange a point as that of Bright's
courage was doubly characteristic because the Southern people
themselves had this same barbaric weakness of attributing want of
courage to opponents, and owed their ruin chiefly to such ignorance of
the world. Bright's courage was almost as irrational as that of the
rebels themselves. Every one knew that he had the courage of a
prize-fighter. He struck, in succession, pretty nearly every man in
England that could be reached by a blow, and when he could not reach
the individual he struck the class, or when the class was too small for
him, the whole people of England. At times he had the whole country on
his back. He could not act on the defensive; his mind required attack.
Even among friends at the dinner-table he talked as though he were
denouncing them, or someone else, on a platform; he measured his
phrases, built his sentences, cumulated his effects, and pounded his
opponents, real or imagined. His humor was glow, like iron at dull
heat; his blow was elementary, like the thrash of a whale.

  One day in early spring, March 26, 1863, the Minister requested
his private secretary to attend a Trades-Union Meeting at St. James's
Hall, which was the result of Professor Beesly's patient efforts to
unite Bright and the Trades-Unions on an American platform. The
secretary went to the meeting and made a report which reposes somewhere
on file in the State Department to this day, as harmless as such
reports should be; but it contained no mention of what interested young
Adams most--Bright's psychology. With singular skill and oratorical
power, Bright managed at the outset, in his opening paragraph, to
insult or outrage every class of Englishman commonly considered
respectable, and, for fear of any escaping, he insulted them repeatedly
under consecutive heads. The rhetorical effect was tremendous:--

  "Privilege thinks it has a great interest in the American
contest," he began in his massive, deliberate tones; "and every morning
with blatant voice, it comes into our streets and curses the American
Republic. Privilege has beheld an afflicting spectacle for many years
past. It has beheld thirty million of men happy and prosperous, without
emperors--without king (cheers)--without the surroundings of a court
(renewed cheers)--without nobles, except such as are made by eminence
in intellect and virtue--without State bishops and State priests, those
vendors of the love that works salvation (cheers)--without great armies
and great navies--without a great debt and great taxes--and Privilege
has shuddered at what might happen to old Europe if this great
experiment should succeed."

  An ingenious man, with an inventive mind, might have managed,
in the same number of lines, to offend more Englishmen than Bright
struck in this sentence; but he must have betrayed artifice and hurt
his oratory. The audience cheered furiously, and the private secretary
felt peace in his much troubled mind, for he knew how careful the
Ministry would be, once they saw Bright talk republican principles
before Trades-Unions; but, while he did not, like Roebuck, see reason
to doubt the courage of a man who, after quarrelling with the
Trades-Unions, quarreled with all the world outside the Trades-Unions,
he did feel a doubt whether to class Bright as eccentric or
conventional. Every one called Bright "un-English," from Lord
Palmerston to William E. Forster; but to an American he seemed more
English than any of his critics. He was a liberal hater, and what he
hated he reviled after the manner of Milton, but he was afraid of no
one. He was almost the only man in England, or, for that matter, in
Europe, who hated Palmerston and was not afraid of him, or of the press
or the pulpit, the clubs or the bench, that stood behind him. He
loathed the whole fabric of sham religion, sham loyalty, sham
aristocracy, and sham socialism. He had the British weakness of
believing only in himself and his own conventions. In all this, an
American saw, if one may make the distinction, much racial
eccentricity, but little that was personal. Bright was singularly well
poised; but he used singularly strong language.

  Long afterwards, in 1880, Adams happened to be living again in
London for a season, when James Russell Lowell was transferred there as
Minister; and as Adams's relations with Lowell had become closer and
more intimate with years, he wanted the new Minister to know some of
his old friends. Bright was then in the Cabinet, and no longer the most
radical member even there, but he was still a rare figure in society.
He came to dinner, along with Sir Francis Doyle and Sir Robert
Cunliffe, and as usual did most of the talking. As usual also, he
talked of the things most on his mind. Apparently it must have been
some reform of the criminal law which the Judges opposed, that excited
him, for at the end of dinner, over the wine, he took possession of the
table in his old way, and ended with a superb denunciation of the
Bench, spoken in his massive manner, as though every word were a
hammer, smashing what it struck:--

  "For two hundred years, the Judges of England sat on the Bench,
condemning to the penalty of death every man, woman, and child who
stole property to the value of five shillings; and, during all that
time, not one Judge ever remonstrated against the law. We English are a
nation of brutes, and ought to be exterminated to the last man."

  As the party rose from table and passed into the drawing-room,
Adams said to Lowell that Bright was very fine. "Yes!" replied Lowell,
"but too violent!"

  Precisely this was the point that Adams doubted. Bright knew
his Englishmen better than Lowell did--better than England did. He knew
what amount of violence in language was necessary to drive an idea into
a Lancashire or Yorkshire head. He knew that no violence was enough to
affect a Somersetshire or Wiltshire peasant. Bright kept his own head
cool and clear. He was not excited; he never betrayed excitement. As
for his denunciation of the English Bench, it was a very old story, not
original with him. That the English were a nation of brutes was a
commonplace generally admitted by Englishmen and universally accepted
by foreigners; while the matter of their extermination could be treated
only as unpractical, on their deserts, because they were probably not
very much worse than their neighbors. Had Bright said that the French,
Spaniards, Germans, or Russians were a nation of brutes and ought to be
exterminated, no one would have found fault; the whole human race,
according to the highest authority, has been exterminated once already
for the same reason, and only the rainbow protects them from a
repetition of it. What shocked Lowell was that he denounced his own
people.

  Adams felt no moral obligation to defend Judges, who, as far as
he knew, were the only class of society specially adapted to defend
themselves; but he was curious--even anxious--as a point of education,
to decide for himself whether Bright's language was violent for its
purpose. He thought not. Perhaps Cobden did better by persuasion, but
that was another matter. Of course, even Englishmen sometimes
complained of being so constantly told that they were brutes and
hypocrites, although they were told little else by their censors, and
bore it, on the whole, meekly; but the fact that it was true in the
main troubled the ten-pound voter much less than it troubled Newman,
Gladstone, Ruskin, Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold. Bright was personally
disliked by his victims, but not distrusted. They never doubted what he
would do next, as they did with John Russell, Gladstone, and Disraeli.
He betrayed no one, and he never advanced an opinion in practical
matters which did not prove to be practical.

  The class of Englishmen who set out to be the intellectual
opposites of Bright, seemed to an American bystander the weakest and
most eccentric of all. These were the trimmers, the political
economists, the anti-slavery and doctrinaire class, the followers of de
Tocqueville, and of John Stuart Mill. As a class, they were timid--with
good reason--and timidity, which is high wisdom in philosophy, sicklies
the whole cast of thought in action. Numbers of these men haunted
London society, all tending to free-thinking, but never venturing much
freedom of thought. Like the anti-slavery doctrinaires of the forties
and fifties, they became mute and useless when slavery struck them in
the face. For type of these eccentrics, literature seems to have chosen
Henry Reeve, at least to the extent of biography. He was a bulky figure
in society, always friendly, good-natured, obliging, and useful; almost
as universal as Milnes and more busy. As editor of the Edinburgh Review
he had authority and even power, although the Review and the whole Whig
doctrinaire school had begun--as the French say--to date; and of course
the literary and artistic sharpshooters of 1867--like Frank
Palgrave--frothed and foamed at the mere mention of Reeve's name.
Three-fourths of their fury was due only to his ponderous manner.
London society abused its rights of personal criticism by fixing on
every too conspicuous figure some word or phrase that stuck to it.
Every one had heard of Mrs. Grote as "the origin of the word
grotesque." Every one had laughed at the story of Reeve approaching
Mrs. Grote, with his usual somewhat florid manner, asking in his
literary dialect how her husband the historian was: "And how is the
learned Grotius?" "Pretty well, thank you, Puffendorf!" One winced at
the word, as though it were a drawing of Forain.

  No one would have been more shocked than Reeve had he been
charged with want of moral courage. He proved his courage afterwards by
publishing the "Greville Memoirs," braving the displeasure of the
Queen. Yet the Edinburgh Review and its editor avoided taking sides
except where sides were already fixed. Americanism would have been bad
form in the liberal Edinburgh Review; it would have seemed eccentric
even for a Scotchman, and Reeve was a Saxon of Saxons. To an American
this attitude of oscillating reserve seemed more eccentric than the
reckless hostility of Brougham or Carlyle, and more mischievous, for he
never could be sure what preposterous commonplace it might encourage.

  The sum of these experiences in 1863 left the conviction that
eccentricity was weakness. The young American who should adopt English
thought was lost. From the facts, the conclusion was correct, yet, as
usual, the conclusion was wrong. The years of Palmerston's last
Cabinet, 1859 to 1865, were avowedly years of truce--of arrested
development. The British system like the French, was in its last stage
of decomposition. Never had the British mind shown itself so
decousu--so unravelled, at sea, floundering in every sort of historical
shipwreck. Eccentricities had a free field. Contradictions swarmed in
State and Church. England devoted thirty years of arduous labor to
clearing away only a part of the debris. A young American in 1863 could
see little or nothing of the future. He might dream, but he could not
foretell, the suddenness with which the old Europe, with England in its
wake, was to vanish in 1870. He was in dead-water, and the
parti-colored, fantastic cranks swam about his boat, as though he were
the ancient mariner, and they saurians of the prime.



CHAPTER XIII

THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY (1864)

  MINISTER ADAMS'S success in stopping the rebel rams fixed his
position once for all in English society. From that moment he could
afford to drop the character of diplomatist, and assume what, for an
American Minister in London, was an exclusive diplomatic advantage, the
character of a kind of American Peer of the Realm. The British never
did things by halves. Once they recognized a man's right to social
privileges, they accepted him as one of themselves. Much as Lord Derby
and Mr. Disraeli were accepted as leaders of Her Majesty's domestic
Opposition, Minister Adams had a rank of his own as a kind of leader of
Her Majesty's American Opposition. Even the Times conceded it. The
years of struggle were over, and Minister Adams rapidly gained a
position which would have caused his father or grandfather to stare
with incredulous envy.

  This Anglo-American form of diplomacy was chiefly undiplomatic,
and had the peculiar effect of teaching a habit of diplomacy useless or
mischievous everywhere but in London. Nowhere else in the world could
one expect to figure in a role so unprofessional. The young man knew no
longer what character he bore. Private secretary in the morning, son in
the afternoon, young man about town in the evening, the only character
he never bore was that of diplomatist, except when he wanted a card to
some great function. His diplomatic education was at an end; he seldom
met a diplomat, and never had business with one; he could be of no use
to them, or they to him; but he drifted inevitably into society, and,
do what he might, his next education must be one of English social
life. Tossed between the horns of successive dilemmas, he reached his
twenty-sixth birthday without the power of earning five dollars in any
occupation. His friends in the army were almost as badly off, but even
army life ruined a young man less fatally than London society. Had he
been rich, this form of ruin would have mattered nothing; but the young
men of 1865 were none of them rich; all had to earn a living; yet they
had reached high positions of responsibility and power in camps and
Courts, without a dollar of their own and with no tenure of office.

  Henry Adams had failed to acquire any useful education; he
should at least have acquired social experience. Curiously enough, he
failed here also. From the European or English point of view, he had no
social experience, and never got it. Minister Adams happened on a
political interregnum owing to Lord Palmerston's personal influence
from 1860 to 1865; but this political interregnum was less marked than
the social still-stand during the same years. The Prince Consort was
dead; the Queen had retired; the Prince of Wales was still a boy. In
its best days, Victorian society had never been "smart." During the
forties, under the influence of Louis Philippe, Courts affected to be
simple, serious and middle class; and they succeeded. The taste of
Louis Philippe was bourgeois beyond any taste except that of Queen
Victoria. Style lingered in the background with the powdered footman
behind the yellow chariot, but speaking socially the Queen had no style
save what she inherited. Balmoral was a startling revelation of royal
taste. Nothing could be worse than the toilettes at Court unless it
were the way they were worn. One's eyes might be dazzled by jewels, but
they were heirlooms, and if any lady appeared well dressed, she was
either a foreigner or "fast." Fashion was not fashionable in London
until the Americans and the Jews were let loose. The style of London
toilette universal in 1864 was grotesque, like Monckton Milnes on
horseback in Rotten Row.

  Society of this sort might fit a young man in some degree for
editing Shakespeare or Swift, but had little relation with the society
of 1870, and none with that of 1900. Owing to other causes, young Adams
never got the full training of such style as still existed. The
embarrassments of his first few seasons socially ruined him. His own
want of experience prevented his asking introductions to the ladies who
ruled society; his want of friends prevented his knowing who these
ladies were; and he had every reason to expect snubbing if he put
himself in evidence. This sensitiveness was thrown away on English
society, where men and women treated each others' advances much more
brutally than those of strangers, but young Adams was son and private
secretary too; he could not be as thick-skinned as an Englishman. He
was not alone. Every young diplomat, and most of the old ones, felt
awkward in an English house from a certainty that they were not
precisely wanted there, and a possibility that they might be told so.

  If there was in those days a country house in England which had
a right to call itself broad in views and large in tastes, it was
Bretton in Yorkshire; and if there was a hostess who had a right to
consider herself fashionable as well as charming, it was Lady Margaret
Beaumont; yet one morning at breakfast there, sitting by her side--not
for his own merits--Henry Adams heard her say to herself in her languid
and liberal way, with her rich voice and musing manner, looking into
her tea-cup: "I don't think I care for foreigners!" Horror-stricken,
not so much on his own account as on hers, the young man could only
execute himself as gaily as he might: "But Lady Margaret, please make
one small exception for me!" Of course she replied what was evident,
that she did not call him a foreigner, and her genial Irish charm made
the slip of tongue a happy courtesy; but none the less she knew that,
except for his momentary personal introduction, he was in fact a
foreigner, and there was no imaginable reason why she should like him,
or any other foreigner, unless it were because she was bored by
natives. She seemed to feel that her indifference needed a reason to
excuse itself in her own eyes, and she showed the subconscious sympathy
of the Irish nature which never feels itself perfectly at home even in
England. She, too, was some shadowy shade un-English.

  Always conscious of this barrier, while the war lasted the
private secretary hid himself among the herd of foreigners till he
found his relations fixed and unchangeable. He never felt himself in
society, and he never knew definitely what was meant as society by
those who were in it. He saw far enough to note a score of societies
which seemed quite independent of each other. The smartest was the
smallest, and to him almost wholly strange. The largest was the
sporting world, also unknown to him except through the talk of his
acquaintances. Between or beyond these lay groups of nebulous
societies. His lawyer friends, like Evarts, frequented legal circles
where one still sat over the wine and told anecdotes of the bench and
bar; but he himself never set eyes on a judge except when his father
took him to call on old Lord Lyndhurst, where they found old Lord
Campbell, both abusing old Lord Brougham. The Church and the Bishops
formed several societies which no secretary ever saw except as an
interloper. The Army; the Navy; the Indian Service; the medical and
surgical professions; City people; artists; county families; the
Scotch, and indefinite other subdivisions of society existed, which
were as strange to each other as they were to Adams. At the end of
eight or ten seasons in London society he professed to know less about
it, or how to enter it, than he did when he made his first appearance
at Miss Burdett Coutts's in May, 1861.

  Sooner or later every young man dropped into a set or circle,
and frequented the few houses that were willing to harbor him. An
American who neither hunted nor raced, neither shot nor fished nor
gambled, and was not marriageable, had no need to think of society at
large. Ninety-nine houses in every hundred were useless to him, a
greater bore to him than he to them. Thus the question of getting
into--or getting out of--society which troubled young foreigners
greatly, settled itself after three or four years of painful
speculation. Society had no unity; one wandered about in it like a
maggot in cheese; it was not a hansom cab, to be got into, or out of,
at dinner-time.

  Therefore he always professed himself ignorant of society; he
never knew whether he had been in it or not, but from the accounts of
his future friends, like General Dick Taylor or George Smalley, and of
various ladies who reigned in the seventies, he inclined to think that
he knew very little about it. Certain great houses and certain great
functions of course he attended, like every one else who could get
cards, but even of these the number was small that kept an interest or
helped education. In seven years he could remember only two that seemed
to have any meaning for him, and he never knew what that meaning was.
Neither of the two was official; neither was English in interest; and
both were scandals to the philosopher while they scarcely enlightened
men of the world.

  One was at Devonshire House, an ordinary, unpremeditated
evening reception. Naturally every one went to Devonshire House if
asked, and the rooms that night were fairly full of the usual people.
The private secretary was standing among the rest, when Mme. de
Castiglione entered, the famous beauty of the Second Empire. How
beautiful she may have been, or indeed what sort of beauty she was,
Adams never knew, because the company, consisting of the most refined
and aristocratic society in the world, instantly formed a lane, and
stood in ranks to stare at her, while those behind mounted on chairs to
look over their neighbors' heads; so that the lady walked through this
polite mob, stared completely out of countenance, and fled the house at
once. This was all!

  The other strange spectacle was at Stafford House, April 13,
1864, when, in a palace gallery that recalled Paolo Veronese's pictures
of Christ in his scenes of miracle, Garibaldi, in his gray capote over
his red shirt, received all London, and three duchesses literally
worshipped at his feet. Here, at all events, a private secretary had
surely caught the last and highest touch of social experience; but what
it meant--what social, moral, or mental development it pointed out to
the searcher of truth--was not a matter to be treated fully by a leader
in the Morning Post or even by a sermon in Westminster Abbey. Mme. de
Castiglione and Garibaldi covered, between them, too much space for
simple measurement; their curves were too complex for mere arithmetic.
The task of bringing the two into any common relation with an ordered
social system tending to orderly development--in London or
elsewhere--was well fitted for Algernon Swinburne or Victor Hugo, but
was beyond any process yet reached by the education of Henry Adams, who
would probably, even then, have rejected, as superficial or
supernatural, all the views taken by any of the company who looked on
with him at these two interesting and perplexing sights.

  From the Court, or Court society, a mere private secretary got
nothing at all, or next to nothing, that could help him on his road
through life. Royalty was in abeyance. One was tempted to think in
these years, 1860-65, that the nicest distinction between the very best
society and the second-best, was their attitude towards royalty. The
one regarded royalty as a bore, and avoided it, or quietly said that
the Queen had never been in society. The same thing might have been
said of fully half the peerage. Adams never knew even the names of half
the rest; he never exchanged ten words with any member of the royal
family; he never knew any one in those years who showed interest in any
member of the royal family, or who would have given five shillings for
the opinion of any royal person on any subject; or cared to enter any
royal or noble presence, unless the house was made attractive by as
much social effort as would have been necessary in other countries
where no rank existed. No doubt, as one of a swarm, young Adams
slightly knew various gilded youth who frequented balls and led such
dancing as was most in vogue, but they seemed to set no value on rank;
their anxiety was only to know where to find the best partners before
midnight, and the best supper after midnight. To the American, as to
Arthur Pendennis or Barnes Newcome, the value of social position and
knowledge was evident enough; he valued it at rather more than it was
worth to him; but it was a shadowy thing which seemed to vary with
every street corner; a thing which had shifting standards, and which no
one could catch outright. The half-dozen leaders and beauties of his
time, with great names and of the utmost fashion, made some of the
poorest marriages, and the least showy careers.

  Tired of looking on at society from the outside, Adams grew to
loathe the sight of his Court dress; to groan at every announcement of
a Court ball; and to dread every invitation to a formal dinner. The
greatest social event gave not half the pleasure that one could buy for
ten shillings at the opera when Patti sang Cherubino or Gretchen, and
not a fourth of the education. Yet this was not the opinion of the best
judges. Lothrop Motley, who stood among the very best, said to him
early in his apprenticeship that the London dinner and the English
country house were the perfection of human society. The young man
meditated over it, uncertain of its meaning. Motley could not have
thought the dinner itself perfect, since there was not then--outside of
a few bankers or foreigners--a good cook or a good table in London, and
nine out of ten of the dinners that Motley ate came from Gunter's, and
all were alike. Every one, especially in young society, complained
bitterly that Englishmen did not know a good dinner when they ate it,
and could not order one if they were given carte blanche. Henry Adams
was not a judge, and knew no more than they, but he heard the
complaints, and he could not think that Motley meant to praise the
English cuisine.

  Equally little could Motley have meant that dinners were good
to look at. Nothing could be worse than the toilettes; nothing less
artistic than the appearance of the company. One's eyes might be
dazzled by family diamonds, but, if an American woman were present, she
was sure to make comments about the way the jewels were worn. If there
was a well-dressed lady at table, she was either an American or "fast."
She attracted as much notice as though she were on the stage. No one
could possibly admire an English dinner-table.

  Least of all did Motley mean that the taste or the manners were
perfect. The manners of English society were notorious, and the taste
was worse. Without exception every American woman rose in rebellion
against English manners. In fact, the charm of London which made most
impression on Americans was the violence of its contrasts; the extreme
badness of the worst, making background for the distinction,
refinement, or wit of a few, just as the extreme beauty of a few superb
women was more effective against the plainness of the crowd. The result
was mediaeval, and amusing; sometimes coarse to a degree that might
have startled a roustabout, and sometimes courteous and considerate to
a degree that suggested King Arthur's Round Table; but this artistic
contrast was surely not the perfection that Motley had in his mind. He
meant something scholarly, worldly, and modern; he was thinking of his
own tastes.

  Probably he meant that, in his favorite houses, the tone was
easy, the talk was good, and the standard of scholarship was high. Even
there he would have been forced to qualify his adjectives. No German
would have admitted that English scholarship was high, or that it was
scholarship at all, or that any wish for scholarship existed in
England. Nothing that seemed to smell of the shop or of the
lecture-room was wanted. One might as well have talked of Renan's
Christ at the table of the Bishop of London, as talk of German
philology at the table of an Oxford don. Society, if a small literary
class could be called society, wanted to be amused in its old way.
Sydney Smith, who had amused, was dead; so was Macaulay, who instructed
if he did not amuse; Thackeray died at Christmas, 1863; Dickens never
felt at home, and seldom appeared, in society; Bulwer Lytton was not
sprightly; Tennyson detested strangers; Carlyle was mostly detested by
them; Darwin never came to town; the men of whom Motley must have been
thinking were such as he might meet at Lord Houghton's breakfasts:
Grote, Jowett, Milman, or Froude; Browning, Matthew Arnold, or
Swinburne; Bishop Wilberforce, Venables, or Hayward; or perhaps
Gladstone, Robert Lowe, or Lord Granville. A relatively small class,
commonly isolated, suppressed, and lost at the usual London dinner,
such society as this was fairly familiar even to a private secretary,
but to the literary American it might well seem perfection since he
could find nothing of the sort in America. Within the narrow limits of
this class, the American Legation was fairly at home; possibly a score
of houses, all liberal, and all literary, but perfect only in the eyes
of a Harvard College historian. They could teach little worth learning,
for their tastes were antiquated and their knowledge was ignorance to
the next generation. What was altogether fatal for future purposes,
they were only English.

  A social education in such a medium was bound to be useless in
any other, yet Adams had to learn it to the bottom. The one thing
needful for a private secretary, was that he should not only seem, but
should actually be, at home. He studied carefully, and practised
painfully, what seemed to be the favorite accomplishments of society.
Perhaps his nervousness deceived him; perhaps he took for an ideal of
others what was only his reflected image; but he conceived that the
perfection of human society required that a man should enter a
drawing-room where he was a total stranger, and place himself on the
hearth-rug, his back to the fire, with an air of expectant benevolence,
without curiosity, much as though he had dropped in at a charity
concert, kindly disposed to applaud the performers and to overlook
mistakes. This ideal rarely succeeded in youth, and towards thirty it
took a form of modified insolence and offensive patronage; but about
sixty it mellowed into courtesy, kindliness, and even deference to the
young which had extraordinary charm both in women and in men.
Unfortunately Adams could not wait till sixty for education; he had his
living to earn; and the English air of patronage would earn no income
for him anywhere else.

  After five or six years of constant practice, any one can
acquire the habit of going from one strange company to another without
thinking much of one's self or of them, as though silently reflecting
that "in a world where we are all insects, no insect is alien; perhaps
they are human in parts"; but the dreamy habit of mind which comes from
solitude in crowds is not fitness for social success except in London.
Everywhere else it is injury. England was a social kingdom whose social
coinage had no currency elsewhere.

  Englishwomen, from the educational point of view, could give
nothing until they approached forty years old. Then they become very
interesting--very charming--to the man of fifty. The young American was
not worth the young Englishwoman's notice, and never received it.
Neither understood the other. Only in the domestic relation, in the
country--never in society at large--a young American might accidentally
make friends with an Englishwoman of his own age, but it never happened
to Henry Adams. His susceptible nature was left to the mercy of
American girls, which was professional duty rather than education as
long as diplomacy held its own.

  Thus he found himself launched on waters where he had never
meant to sail, and floating along a stream which carried him far from
his port. His third season in London society saw the end of his
diplomatic education, and began for him the social life of a young man
who felt at home in England--more at home there than anywhere else.
With this feeling, the mere habit of going to garden-parties, dinners,
receptions, and balls had nothing to do. One might go to scores without
a sensation of home. One might stay in no end of country houses without
forgetting that one was a total stranger and could never be anything
else. One might bow to half the dukes and duchesses in England, and
feel only the more strange. Hundreds of persons might pass with a nod
and never come nearer. Close relation in a place like London is a
personal mystery as profound as chemical affinity. Thousands pass, and
one separates himself from the mass to attach himself to another, and
so make, little by little, a group.

  One morning, April 27, 1863, he was asked to breakfast with Sir
Henry Holland, the old Court physician who had been acquainted with
every American Minister since Edward Everett, and was a valuable social
ally, who had the courage to try to be of use to everybody, and who,
while asking the private secretary to breakfast one day, was too
discreet to betray what he might have learned about rebel doings at his
breakfast-table the day before. He had been friendly with the Legation,
in the teeth of society, and was still bearing up against the weight of
opinion, so that young Adams could not decline his invitations,
although they obliged him to breakfast in Brook Street at nine o'clock
in the morning, alternately with Mr. James M. Mason. Old Dr. Holland
was himself as hale as a hawk, driving all day bare-headed about
London, and eating Welsh rarebit every night before bed; he thought
that any young man should be pleased to take his early muffin in Brook
Street, and supply a few crumbs of war news for the daily peckings of
eminent patients. Meekly, when summoned, the private secretary went,
and on reaching the front door, this particular morning, he found there
another young man in the act of rapping the knocker. They entered the
breakfastroom together, where they were introduced to each other, and
Adams learned that the other guest was a Cambridge undergraduate,
Charles Milnes Gaskell, son of James Milnes Gaskell, the Member for
Wenlock; another of the Yorkshire Milneses, from Thornes near
Wakefield. Fate had fixed Adams to Yorkshire. By another chance it
happened that young Milnes Gaskell was intimate at Cambridge with
William Everett who was also about to take his degree. A third chance
inspired Mr. Evarts with a fancy for visiting Cambridge, and led
William Everett to offer his services as host. Adams acted as courier
to Mr. Evarts, and at the end of May they went down for a few days,
when William Everett did the honors as host with a kindness and
attention that made his cousin sorely conscious of his own social
shortcomings. Cambridge was pretty, and the dons were kind. Mr. Evarts
enjoyed his visit but this was merely a part of the private secretary's
day's work. What affected his whole life was the intimacy then begun
with Milnes Gaskell and his circle of undergraduate friends, just about
to enter the world.

  Intimates are predestined. Adams met in England a thousand
people, great and small; jostled against every one, from royal princes
to gin-shop loafers; attended endless official functions and private
parties; visited every part of the United Kingdom and was not quite a
stranger at the Legations in Paris and Rome; he knew the societies of
certain country houses, and acquired habits of Sunday-afternoon calls;
but all this gave him nothing to do, and was life wasted. For him
nothing whatever could be gained by escorting American ladies to
drawing-rooms or American gentlemen to levees at St. James's Palace, or
bowing solemnly to people with great titles, at Court balls, or even by
awkwardly jostling royalty at garden-parties; all this was done for the
Government, and neither President Lincoln nor Secretary Seward would
ever know enough of their business to thank him for doing what they did
not know how to get properly done by their own servants; but for Henry
Adams--not private secretary--all the time taken up by such duties was
wasted. On the other hand, his few personal intimacies concerned him
alone, and the chance that made him almost a Yorkshireman was one that
must have started under the Heptarchy.

  More than any other county in England, Yorkshire retained a
sort of social independence of London. Scotland itself was hardly more
distinct. The Yorkshire type had always been the strongest of the
British strains; the Norwegian and the Dane were a different race from
the Saxon. Even Lancashire had not the mass and the cultivation of the
West Riding. London could never quite absorb Yorkshire, which, in its
turn had no great love for London and freely showed it. To a certain
degree, evident enough to Yorkshiremen, Yorkshire was not English--or
was all England, as they might choose to express it. This must have
been the reason why young Adams was drawn there rather than elsewhere.
Monckton Milnes alone took the trouble to draw him, and possibly Milnes
was the only man in England with whom Henry Adams, at that moment, had
a chance of calling out such an un-English effort. Neither Oxford nor
Cambridge nor any region south of the Humber contained a considerable
house where a young American would have been sought as a friend.
Eccentricity alone did not account for it. Monckton Milnes was a
singular type, but his distant cousin, James Milnes Gaskell, was
another, quite as marked, in an opposite sense. Milnes never seemed
willing to rest; Milnes Gaskell never seemed willing to move. In his
youth one of a very famous group--Arthur Hallam, Tennyson, Manning,
Gladstone, Francis Doyle--and regarded as one of the most promising; an
adorer of George Canning; in Parliament since coming of age; married
into the powerful connection of the Wynns of Wynstay; rich according to
Yorkshire standards; intimate with his political leaders; he was one of
the numerous Englishmen who refuse office rather than make the effort
of carrying it, and want power only to make it a source of indolence.
He was a voracious reader and an admirable critic; he had forty years
of parliamentary tradition on his memory; he liked to talk and to
listen; he liked his dinner and, in spite of George Canning, his dry
champagne; he liked wit and anecdote; but he belonged to the generation
of 1830, a generation which could not survive the telegraph and
railway, and which even Yorkshire could hardly produce again. To an
American he was a character even more unusual and more fascinating than
his distant cousin Lord Houghton.

  Mr. Milnes Gaskell was kind to the young American whom his son
brought to the house, and Mrs. Milnes Gaskell was kinder, for she
thought the American perhaps a less dangerous friend than some
Englishman might be, for her son, and she was probably right. The
American had the sense to see that she was herself one of the most
intelligent and sympathetic women in England; her sister, Miss
Charlotte Wynn, was another; and both were of an age and a position in
society that made their friendship a compliment as well as a pleasure.
Their consent and approval settled the matter. In England, the family
is a serious fact; once admitted to it, one is there for life. London
might utterly vanish from one's horizon, but as long as life lasted,
Yorkshire lived for its friends.

  In the year 1857, Mr. James Milnes Gaskell, who had sat for
thirty years in Parliament as one of the Members for the borough of
Wenlock in Shropshire, bought Wenlock Abbey and the estate that
included the old monastic buildings. This new, or old, plaything amused
Mrs. Milnes Gaskell. The Prior's house, a charming specimen of
fifteenth-century architecture, had been long left to decay as a
farmhouse. She put it in order, and went there to spend a part of the
autumn of 1864. Young Adams was one of her first guests, and drove
about Wenlock Edge and the Wrekin with her, learning the loveliness of
this exquisite country, and its stores of curious antiquity. It was a
new and charming existence; an experience greatly to be envied--ideal
repose and rural Shakespearian peace--but a few years of it were likely
to complete his education, and fit him to act a fairly useful part in
life as an Englishman, an ecclesiastic, and a contemporary of Chaucer.



CHAPTER XIV

DILETTANTISM (1865-1866)

  THE campaign of 1864 and the reelection of Mr. Lincoln in
November set the American Minister on so firm a footing that he could
safely regard his own anxieties as over, and the anxieties of Earl
Russell and the Emperor Napoleon as begun. With a few months more his
own term of four years would come to an end, and even though the
questions still under discussion with England should somewhat prolong
his stay, he might look forward with some confidence to his return home
in 1865. His son no longer fretted. The time for going into the army
had passed. If he were to be useful at all, it must be as a son, and as
a son he was treated with the widest indulgence and trust. He knew that
he was doing himself no good by staying in London, but thus far in life
he had done himself no good anywhere, and reached his twenty-seventh
birthday without having advanced a step, that he could see, beyond his
twenty-first. For the most part, his friends were worse off than he.
The war was about to end and they were to be set adrift in a world they
would find altogether strange.

  At this point, as though to cut the last thread of relation,
six months were suddenly dropped out of his life in England. The London
climate had told on some of the family; the physicians prescribed a
winter in Italy. Of course the private secretary was detached as their
escort, since this was one of his professional functions; and he passed
six months, gaining an education as Italian courier, while the Civil
War came to its end. As far as other education went, he got none, but
he was amused. Travelling in all possible luxury, at some one else's
expense, with diplomatic privileges and position, was a form of travel
hitherto untried. The Cornice in vettura was delightful; Sorrento in
winter offered hills to climb and grottoes to explore, and Naples near
by to visit; Rome at Easter was an experience necessary for the
education of every properly trained private secretary; the journey
north by vettura through Perugia and Sienna was a dream; the Splugen
Pass, if not equal to the Stelvio, was worth seeing; Paris had always
something to show. The chances of accidental education were not so
great as they had been, since one's field of experience had grown
large; but perhaps a season at Baden Baden in these later days of its
brilliancy offered some chances of instruction, if it were only the
sight of fashionable Europe and America on the race-course watching the
Duke of Hamilton, in the middle, improving his social advantages by the
conversation of Cora Pearl.

  The assassination of President Lincoln fell on the party while
they were at Rome, where it seemed singularly fitting to that nursery
of murderers and murdered, as though America were also getting
educated. Again one went to meditate on the steps of the Santa Maria in
Ara Coeli, but the lesson seemed as shallow as before. Nothing
happened. The travellers changed no plan or movement. The Minister did
not recall them to London. The season was over before they returned;
and when the private secretary sat down again at his desk in Portland
Place before a mass of copy in arrears, he saw before him a world so
changed as to be beyond connection with the past. His identity, if one
could call a bundle of disconnected memories an identity, seemed to
remain; but his life was once more broken into separate pieces; he was
a spider and had to spin a new web in some new place with a new
attachment.

  All his American friends and contemporaries who were still
alive looked singularly commonplace without uniforms, and hastened to
get married and retire into back streets and suburbs until they could
find employment. Minister Adams, too, was going home "next fall," and
when the fall came, he was going home "next spring," and when the
spring came, President Andrew Johnson was at loggerheads with the
Senate, and found it best to keep things unchanged. After the usual
manner of public servants who had acquired the habit of office and lost
the faculty of will, the members of the Legation in London continued
the daily routine of English society, which, after becoming a habit,
threatened to become a vice. Had Henry Adams shared a single taste with
the young Englishmen of his time, he would have been lost; but the
custom of pounding up and down Rotten Row every day, on a hack, was not
a taste, and yet was all the sport he shared. Evidently he must set to
work; he must get a new education he must begin a career of his own.

  Nothing was easier to say, but even his father admitted two
careers to be closed. For the law, diplomacy had unfitted him; for
diplomacy he already knew too much. Any one who had held, during the
four most difficult years of American diplomacy, a position at the
centre of action, with his hands actually touching the lever of power,
could not beg a post of Secretary at Vienna or Madrid in order to bore
himself doing nothing until the next President should do him the honor
to turn him out. For once all his advisers agreed that diplomacy was
not possible.

  In any ordinary system he would have been called back to serve
in the State Department, but, between the President and the Senate,
service of any sort became a delusion. The choice of career was more
difficult than the education which had proved impracticable. Adams saw
no road; in fact there was none. All his friends were trying one path
or another, but none went a way that he could have taken. John Hay
passed through London in order to bury himself in second-rate Legations
for years, before he drifted home again to join Whitelaw Reid and
George Smalley on the Tribune. Frank Barlow and Frank Bartlett carried
Major-Generals' commissions into small law business. Miles stayed in
the army. Henry Higginson, after a desperate struggle, was forced into
State Street; Charles Adams wandered about, with brevet-brigadier rank,
trying to find employment. Scores of others tried experiments more or
less unsuccessful. Henry Adams could see easy ways of making a hundred
blunders; he could see no likely way of making a legitimate success.
Such as it was, his so-called education was wanted nowhere.

  One profession alone seemed possible--the press. In 1860 he
would have said that he was born to be an editor, like at least a
thousand other young graduates from American colleges who entered the
world every year enjoying the same conviction; but in 1866 the
situation was altered; the possession of money had become doubly
needful for success, and double energy was essential to get money.
America had more than doubled her scale. Yet the press was still the
last resource of the educated poor who could not be artists and would
not be tutors. Any man who was fit for nothing else could write an
editorial or a criticism. The enormous mass of misinformation
accumulated in ten years of nomad life could always be worked off on a
helpless public, in diluted doses, if one could but secure a table in
the corner of a newspaper office. The press was an inferior pulpit; an
anonymous schoolmaster; a cheap boarding-school but it was still the
nearest approach to a career for the literary survivor of a wrecked
education. For the press, then, Henry Adams decided to fit himself, and
since he could not go home to get practical training, he set to work to
do what he could in London.

  He knew, as well as any reporter on the New York Herald, that
this was not an American way of beginning, and he knew a certain number
of other drawbacks which the reporter could not see so clearly. Do what
he might, he drew breath only in the atmosphere of English methods and
thoughts; he could breathe none other. His mother--who should have been
a competent judge, since her success and popularity in England exceeded
that of her husband--averred that every woman who lived a certain time
in England came to look and dress like an Englishwoman, no matter how
she struggled. Henry Adams felt himself catching an English tone of
mind and processes of thought, though at heart more hostile to them
than ever. As though to make him more helpless and wholly distort his
life, England grew more and more agreeable and amusing. Minister Adams
became, in 1866, almost a historical monument in London; he held a
position altogether his own. His old opponents disappeared. Lord
Palmerston died in October, 1865; Lord Russell tottered on six months
longer, but then vanished from power; and in July, 1866, the
conservatives came into office. Traditionally the Tories were easier to
deal with than the Whigs, and Minister Adams had no reason to regret
the change. His personal relations were excellent and his personal
weight increased year by year. On that score the private secretary had
no cares, and not much copy. His own position was modest, but it was
enough; the life he led was agreeable; his friends were all he wanted,
and, except that he was at the mercy of politics, he felt much at ease.
Of his daily life he had only to reckon so many breakfasts; so many
dinners; so many receptions, balls, theatres, and country-parties; so
many cards to be left; so many Americans to be escorted--the usual
routine of every young American in a Legation; all counting for nothing
in sum, because, even if it had been his official duty--which it was
not--it was mere routine, a single, continuous, unbroken act, which led
to nothing and nowhere except Portland Place and the grave.

  The path that led somewhere was the English habit of mind which
deepened its ruts every day. The English mind was like the London
drawing-room, a comfortable and easy spot, filled with bits and
fragments of incoherent furnitures, which were never meant to go
together, and could be arranged in any relation without making a whole,
except by the square room. Philosophy might dispute about innate ideas
till the stars died out in the sky, but about innate tastes no one,
except perhaps a collie dog, has the right to doubt; least of all, the
Englishman, for his tastes are his being; he drifts after them as
unconsciously as a honey-bee drifts after his flowers, and, in England,
every one must drift with him. Most young Englishmen drifted to the
race-course or the moors or the hunting-field; a few towards books; one
or two followed some form of science; and a number took to what, for
want of a better name, they called Art. Young Adams inherited a certain
taste for the same pursuit from his father who insisted that he had it
not, because he could not see what his son thought he saw in Turner.
The Minister, on the other hand, carried a sort of aesthetic rag-bag of
his own, which he regarded as amusement, and never called art. So he
would wander off on a Sunday to attend service successively in all the
city churches built by Sir Christopher Wren; or he would disappear from
the Legation day after day to attend coin sales at Sotheby's, where his
son attended alternate sales of drawings, engravings, or water-colors.
Neither knew enough to talk much about the other's tastes, but the only
difference between them was a slight difference of direction. The
Minister's mind like his writings showed a correctness of form and line
that his son would have been well pleased had he inherited.

  Of all supposed English tastes, that of art was the most
alluring and treacherous. Once drawn into it, one had small chance of
escape, for it had no centre or circumference, no beginning, middle, or
end, no origin, no object, and no conceivable result as education. In
London one met no corrective. The only American who came by, capable of
teaching, was William Hunt, who stopped to paint the portrait of the
Minister which now completes the family series at Harvard College. Hunt
talked constantly, and was, or afterwards became, a famous teacher, but
Henry Adams did not know enough to learn. Perhaps, too, he had
inherited or acquired a stock of tastes, as young men must, which he
was slow to outgrow. Hunt had no time to sweep out the rubbish of
Adams's mind. The portrait finished, he went.

  As often as he could, Adams ran over to Paris, for sunshine,
and there always sought out Richardson in his attic in the Rue du Bac,
or wherever he lived, and they went off to dine at the Palais Royal,
and talk of whatever interested the students of the Beaux Arts.
Richardson, too, had much to say, but had not yet seized his style.
Adams caught very little of what lay in his mind, and the less,
because, to Adams, everything French was bad except the restaurants,
while the continuous life in England made French art seem worst of all.
This did not prove that English art, in 1866, was good; far from it;
but it helped to make bric-a-brac of all art, after the manner of
England.

  Not in the Legation, or in London, but in Yorkshire at Thornes,
Adams met the man that pushed him furthest in this English garden of
innate disorder called taste. The older daughter of the Milnes Gaskells
had married Francis Turner Palgrave. Few Americans will ever ask
whether any one has described the Palgraves, but the family was one of
the most describable in all England at that day. Old Sir Francis, the
father, had been much the greatest of all the historians of early
England, the only one who was un-English; and the reason of his
superiority lay in his name, which was Cohen, and his mind which was
Cohen also, or at least not English. He changed his name to Palgrave in
order to please his wife. They had a band of remarkable sons: Francis
Turner, Gifford, Reginald, Inglis; all of whom made their mark. Gifford
was perhaps the most eccentric, but his "Travels" in Arabia were
famous, even among the famous travels of that generation. Francis
Turner--or, as he was commonly called, Frank Palgrave--unable to work
off his restlessness in travel like Gifford, and stifled in the
atmosphere of the Board of Education, became a critic. His art
criticisms helped to make the Saturday Review a terror to the British
artist. His literary taste, condensed into the "Golden Treasury,"
helped Adams to more literary education than he ever got from any taste
of his own. Palgrave himself held rank as one of the minor poets; his
hymns had vogue. As an art-critic he was too ferocious to be liked;
even Holman Hunt found his temper humorous; among many rivals, he may
perhaps have had a right to claim the much-disputed rank of being the
most unpopular man in London; but he liked to teach, and asked only for
a docile pupil. Adams was docile enough, for he knew nothing and liked
to listen. Indeed, he had to listen, whether he liked or not, for
Palgrave's voice was strident, and nothing could stop him. Literature,
painting, sculpture, architecture were open fields for his attacks,
which were always intelligent if not always kind, and when these
failed, he readily descended to meaner levels. John Richard Green, who
was Palgrave's precise opposite, and whose Irish charm of touch and
humor defended him from most assaults, used to tell with delight of
Palgrave's call on him just after he had moved into his new Queen Anne
house in Kensington Square: "Palgrave called yesterday, and the first
thing he said was, 'I've counted three anachronisms on your front
doorstep.'"

  Another savage critic, also a poet, was Thomas Woolner, a type
almost more emphatic than Palgrave in a society which resounded with
emphasis. Woolner's sculpture showed none of the rough assertion that
Woolner himself showed, when he was not making supernatural effort to
be courteous, but his busts were remarkable, and his work altogether
was, in Palgrave's clamorous opinion, the best of his day. He took the
matter of British art--or want of art--seriously, almost ferociously,
as a personal grievance and torture; at times he was rather terrifying
in the anarchistic wrath of his denunciation. As Henry Adams felt no
responsibility for English art, and had no American art to offer for
sacrifice, he listened with enjoyment to language much like Carlyle's,
and accepted it without a qualm. On the other hand, as a third member
of this critical group, he fell in with Stopford Brooke whose tastes
lay in the same direction, and whose expression was modified by
clerical propriety. Among these men, one wandered off into paths of
education much too devious and slippery for an American foot to follow.
He would have done better to go on the race-track, as far as concerned
a career.

  Fortunately for him he knew too little ever to be an
art-critic, still less an artist. For some things ignorance is good,
and art is one of them. He knew he knew nothing, and had not the
trained eye or the keen instinct that trusted itself; but he was
curious, as he went on, to find out how much others knew. He took
Palgrave's word as final about a drawing of Rembrandt or Michael
Angelo, and he trusted Woolner implicitly about a Turner; but when he
quoted their authority to any dealer, the dealer pooh-poohed it, and
declared that it had no weight in the trade. If he went to a sale of
drawings or paintings, at Sotheby's or Christie's, an hour afterwards,
he saw these same dealers watching Palgrave or Woolner for a point, and
bidding over them. He rarely found two dealers agree in judgment. He
once bought a water-color from the artist himself out of his studio,
and had it doubted an hour afterwards by the dealer to whose place he
took it for framing He was reduced to admit that he could not prove its
authenticity; internal evidence was against it.

  One morning in early July, 1867, Palgrave stopped at the
Legation in Portland Place on his way downtown, and offered to take
Adams to Sotheby's, where a small collection of old drawings was on
show. The collection was rather a curious one, said to be that of Sir
Anthony Westcomb, from Liverpool, with an undisturbed record of a
century, but with nothing to attract notice. Probably none but
collectors or experts examined the portfolios. Some dozens of these
were always on hand, following every sale, and especially on the
lookout for old drawings, which became rarer every year. Turning
rapidly over the numbers, Palgrave stopped at one containing several
small drawings, one marked as Rembrandt, one as Rafael; and putting his
finger on the Rafael, after careful examination; "I should buy this,"
he said; "it looks to me like one of those things that sell for five
shillings one day, and fifty pounds the next." Adams marked it for a
bid, and the next morning came down to the auction. The numbers sold
slowly, and at noon he thought he might safely go to lunch. When he
came back, half an hour afterwards, the drawing was gone. Much annoyed
at his own stupidity, since Palgrave had expressly said he wanted the
drawing for himself if he had not in a manner given it to Adams, the
culprit waited for the sale to close, and then asked the clerk for the
name of the buyer. It was Holloway, the art-dealer, near Covent Garden,
whom he slightly knew. Going at once to the shop he waited till young
Holloway came in, with his purchases under his arm, and without attempt
at preface, he said: "You bought to-day, Mr. Holloway, a number that I
wanted. Do you mind letting me have it?" Holloway took out the parcel,
looked over the drawings, and said that he had bought the number for
the sake of the Rembrandt, which he thought possibly genuine; taking
that out, Adams might have the rest for the price he paid for the
lot--twelve shillings.

  Thus, down to that moment, every expert in London had probably
seen these drawings. Two of them--only two--had thought them worth
buying at any price, and of these two, Palgrave chose the Rafael,
Holloway the one marked as Rembrandt. Adams, the purchaser of the
Rafael, knew nothing whatever on the subject, but thought he might
credit himself with education to the value of twelve shillings, and
call the drawing nothing. Such items of education commonly came higher.

  He took the drawing to Palgrave. It was closely pasted to an
old, rather thin, cardboard mount, and, on holding it up to the window,
one could see lines on the reverse. "Take it down to Reed at the
British Museum," said Palgrave; "he is Curator of the drawings, and, if
you ask him, he will have it taken off the mount." Adams amused himself
for a day or two by searching Rafael's works for the figure, which he
found at last in the Parnasso, the figure of Horace, of which, as it
happened--though Adams did not know it--the British Museum owned a much
finer drawing. At last he took the dirty, little, unfinished red-chalk
sketch to Reed whom he found in the Curator's room, with some of the
finest Rafael drawings in existence, hanging on the walls. "Yes!" said
Mr Reed; "I noticed this at the sale; but it's not Rafael!" Adams,
feeling himself incompetent to discuss this subject, reported the
result to Palgrave, who said that Reed knew nothing about it. Also this
point lay beyond Adams's competence; but he noted that Reed was in the
employ of the British Museum as Curator of the best--or nearly the
best--collection in the world, especially of Rafaels, and that he
bought for the Museum. As expert he had rejected both the Rafael and
the Rembrandt at first-sight, and after his attention was recalled to
the Rafael for a further opinion he rejected it again.

  A week later, Adams returned for the drawing, which Mr. Reed
took out of his drawer and gave him, saying with what seemed a little
doubt or hesitation: "I should tell you that the paper shows a
water-mark, which I kind the same as that of paper used by Marc
Antonio." A little taken back by this method of studying art, a method
which even a poor and ignorant American might use as well as Rafael
himself, Adams asked stupidly: "Then you think it genuine?" "Possibly!"
replied Reed; "but much overdrawn."

  Here was expert opinion after a second revise, with help of
water-marks! In Adams's opinion it was alone worth another twelve
shillings as education; but this was not all. Reed continued: "The
lines on the back seem to be writing, which I cannot read, but if you
will take it down to the manuscript-room, they will read it for you."

  Adams took the sheet down to the keeper of the manuscripts and
begged him to read the lines. The keeper, after a few minutes' study,
very obligingly said he could not: "It is scratched with an artist's
crayon, very rapidly, with many unusual abbreviations and old forms. If
any one in Europe can read it, it is the old man at the table yonder,
Libri! Take it to him!"

  This expert broke down on the alphabet! He could not even judge
a manuscript; but Adams had no right to complain, for he had nothing to
pay, not even twelve shillings, though he thought these experts worth
more, at least for his education. Accordingly he carried his paper to
Libri, a total stranger to him, and asked the old man, as deferentially
as possible, to tell him whether the lines had any meaning. Had Adams
not been an ignorant person he would have known all about Libri, but
his ignorance was vast, and perhaps was for the best. Libri looked at
the paper, and then looked again, and at last bade him sit down and
wait. Half an hour passed before he called Adams back and showed him
these lines:--

  "Or questo credo ben che una elleria
   Te offende tanto che te offese il core.
   Perche sei grande nol sei in tua volia;
   Tu vedi e gia non credi il tuo valore;
   Passate gia son tutte gelosie;
   Tu sei di sasso; non hai piu dolore."

  As far as Adams could afterwards recall it, this was Libri's
reading, but he added that the abbreviations were many and unusual;
that the writing was very ancient; and that the word he read as
"elleria" in the first line was not Italian at all.

  By this time, one had got too far beyond one's depth to ask
questions. If Libri could not read Italian, very clearly Adams had
better not offer to help him. He took the drawing, thanked everybody,
and having exhausted the experts of the British Museum, took a cab to
Woolner's studio, where he showed the figure and repeated Reed's
opinion. Woolner snorted: "Reed's a fool!" he said; "he knows nothing
about it; there maybe a rotten line or two, but the drawing's all
right."

  For forty years Adams kept this drawing on his mantelpiece,
partly for its own interest, but largely for curiosity to see whether
any critic or artist would ever stop to look at it. None ever did,
unless he knew the story. Adams himself never wanted to know more about
it. He refused to seek further light. He never cared to learn whether
the drawing was Rafael's, or whether the verse were Rafael's, or
whether even the water-mark was Rafael's. The experts--some scores of
them including the British Museum,--had affirmed that the drawing was
worth a certain moiety of twelve shillings. On that point, also, Adams
could offer no opinion, but he was clear that his education had
profited by it to that extent--his amusement even more.

  Art was a superb field for education, but at every turn he met
the same old figure, like a battered and illegible signpost that ought
to direct him to the next station but never did. There was no next
station. All the art of a thousand--or ten thousand--years had brought
England to stuff which Palgrave and Woolner brayed in their mortars;
derided, tore in tatters, growled at, and howled at, and treated in
terms beyond literary usage. Whistler had not yet made his appearance
in London, but the others did quite as well. What result could a
student reach from it? Once, on returning to London, dining with
Stopford Brooke, some one asked Adams what impression the Royal Academy
Exhibition made on him. With a little hesitation, he suggested that it
was rather a chaos, which he meant for civility; but Stopford Brooke
abruptly met it by asking whether chaos were not better than death.
Truly the question was worth discussion. For his own part, Adams
inclined to think that neither chaos nor death was an object to him as
a searcher of knowledge--neither would have vogue in America--neither
would help him to a career. Both of them led him away from his objects,
into an English dilettante museum of scraps, with nothing but a
wall-paper to unite them in any relation of sequence. Possibly English
taste was one degree more fatal than English scholarship, but even this
question was open to argument. Adams went to the sales and bought what
he was told to buy; now a classical drawing by Rafael or Rubens; now a
water-color by Girtin or Cotman, if possible unfinished because it was
more likely to be a sketch from nature; and he bought them not because
they went together--on the contrary, they made rather awkward spots on
the wall as they did on the mind--but because he could afford to buy
those, and not others. Ten pounds did not go far to buy a Michael
Angelo, but was a great deal of money to a private secretary. The
effect was spotty, fragmentary, feeble; and the more so because the
British mind was constructed in that way--boasted of it, and held it to
be true philosophy as well as sound method.

  What was worse, no one had a right to denounce the English as
wrong. Artistically their mind was scrappy, and every one knew it, but
perhaps thought itself, history, and nature, were scrappy, and ought to
be studied so. Turning from British art to British literature, one met
the same dangers. The historical school was a playground of traps and
pitfalls. Fatally one fell into the sink of history--antiquarianism.
For one who nourished a natural weakness for what was called history,
the whole of British literature in the nineteenth century was
antiquarianism or anecdotage, for no one except Buckle had tried to
link it with ideas, and commonly Buckle was regarded as having failed.
Macaulay was the English historian. Adams had the greatest admiration
for Macaulay, but he felt that any one who should even distantly
imitate Macaulay would perish in self-contempt. One might as well
imitate Shakespeare. Yet evidently something was wrong here, for the
poet and the historian ought to have different methods, and Macaulay's
method ought to be imitable if it were sound; yet the method was more
doubtful than the style. He was a dramatist; a painter; a poet, like
Carlyle. This was the English mind, method, genius, or whatever one
might call it; but one never could quite admit that the method which
ended in Froude and Kinglake could be sound for America where passion
and poetry were eccentricities. Both Froude and Kinglake, when one met
them at dinner, were very agreeable, very intelligent; and perhaps the
English method was right, and art fragmentary by essence. History, like
everything else, might be a field of scraps, like the refuse about a
Staffordshire iron-furnace. One felt a little natural reluctance to
decline and fall like Silas Wegg on the golden dust-heap of British
refuse; but if one must, one could at least expect a degree from Oxford
and the respect of the Athenaeum Club.

  While drifting, after the war ended, many old American friends
came abroad for a holiday, and among the rest, Dr. Palfrey, busy with
his "History of New England." Of all the relics of childhood, Dr.
Palfrey was the most sympathetic, and perhaps the more so because he,
too, had wandered into the pleasant meadows of antiquarianism, and had
forgotten the world in his pursuit of the New England Puritan. Although
America seemed becoming more and more indifferent to the Puritan except
as a slightly rococo ornament, he was only the more amusing as a study
for the Monkbarns of Boston Bay, and Dr. Palfrey took him seriously, as
his clerical education required. His work was rather an Apologia in the
Greek sense; a justification of the ways of God to Man, or, what was
much the same thing, of Puritans to other men; and the task of
justification was onerous enough to require the occasional relief of a
contrast or scapegoat. When Dr. Palfrey happened on the picturesque but
unpuritanic figure of Captain John Smith, he felt no call to beautify
Smith's picture or to defend his moral character; he became impartial
and penetrating. The famous story of Pocahontas roused his latent New
England scepticism. He suggested to Adams, who wanted to make a
position for himself, that an article in the North American Review on
Captain John Smith's relations with Pocahontas would attract as much
attention, and probably break as much glass, as any other stone that
could be thrown by a beginner. Adams could suggest nothing better. The
task seemed likely to be amusing. So he planted himself in the British
Museum and patiently worked over all the material he could find, until,
at last, after three or four months of labor, he got it in shape and
sent it to Charles Norton, who was then editing the North American. Mr.
Norton very civilly and even kindly accepted it. The article appeared
in January, 1867.

  Surely, here was something to ponder over, as a step in
education; something that tended to stagger a sceptic! In spite of
personal wishes, intentions, and prejudices; in spite of civil wars and
diplomatic education; in spite of determination to be actual, daily,
and practical, Henry Adams found himself, at twenty-eight, still in
English society, dragged on one side into English dilettantism, which
of all dilettantism he held the most futile; and, on the other, into
American antiquarianism, which of all antiquarianism he held the most
foolish. This was the result of five years in London. Even then he knew
it to be a false start. He had wholly lost his way. If he were ever to
amount to anything, he must begin a new education, in a new place, with
a new purpose.



CHAPTER XV

DARWINISM (1867-1868)

  POLITICS, diplomacy, law, art, and history had opened no outlet
for future energy or effort, but a man must do something, even in
Portland Place, when winter is dark and winter evenings are exceedingly
long. At that moment Darwin was convulsing society. The geological
champion of Darwin was Sir Charles Lyell, and the Lyells were intimate
at the Legation. Sir Charles constantly said of Darwin, what Palgrave
said of Tennyson, that the first time he came to town, Adams should be
asked to meet him, but neither of them ever came to town, or ever cared
to meet a young American, and one could not go to them because they
were known to dislike intrusion. The only Americans who were not
allowed to intrude were the half-dozen in the Legation. Adams was
content to read Darwin, especially his "Origin of Species" and his
"Voyage of the Beagle." He was a Darwinist before the letter; a
predestined follower of the tide; but he was hardly trained to follow
Darwin's evidences. Fragmentary the British mind might be, but in those
days it was doing a great deal of work in a very un-English way,
building up so many and such vast theories on such narrow foundations
as to shock the conservative, and delight the frivolous. The atomic
theory; the correlation and conservation of energy; the mechanical
theory of the universe; the kinetic theory of gases, and Darwin's Law
of Natural Selection, were examples of what a young man had to take on
trust. Neither he nor any one else knew enough to verify them; in his
ignorance of mathematics, he was particularly helpless; but this never
stood in his way. The ideas were new and seemed to lead somewhere--to
some great generalization which would finish one's clamor to be
educated. That a beginner should understand them all, or believe them
all, no one could expect, still less exact. Henry Adams was Darwinist
because it was easier than not, for his ignorance exceeded belief, and
one must know something in order to contradict even such triflers as
Tyndall and Huxley.

  By rights, he should have been also a Marxist but some narrow
trait of the New England nature seemed to blight socialism, and he
tried in vain to make himself a convert. He did the next best thing; he
became a Comteist, within the limits of evolution. He was ready to
become anything but quiet. As though the world had not been enough
upset in his time, he was eager to see it upset more. He had his wish,
but he lost his hold on the results by trying to understand them.

  He never tried to understand Darwin; but he still fancied he
might get the best part of Darwinism from the easier study of geology;
a science which suited idle minds as well as though it were history.
Every curate in England dabbled in geology and hunted for vestiges of
Creation. Darwin hunted only for vestiges of Natural Selection, and
Adams followed him, although he cared nothing about Selection, unless
perhaps for the indirect amusement of upsetting curates. He felt, like
nine men in ten, an instinctive belief in Evolution, but he felt no
more concern in Natural than in unnatural Selection, though he seized
with greediness the new volume on the "Antiquity of Man" which Sir
Charles Lyell published in 1863 in order to support Darwin by wrecking
the Garden of Eden. Sir Charles next brought out, in 1866, a new
edition of his "Principles," then the highest text-book of geology; but
here the Darwinian doctrine grew in stature. Natural Selection led back
to Natural Evolution, and at last to Natural Uniformity. This was a
vast stride. Unbroken Evolution under uniform conditions pleased every
one--except curates and bishops; it was the very best substitute for
religion; a safe, conservative practical, thoroughly Common-Law deity.
Such a working system for the universe suited a young man who had just
helped to waste five or ten thousand million dollars and a million
lives, more or less, to enforce unity and uniformity on people who
objected to it; the idea was only too seductive in its perfection; it
had the charm of art. Unity and Uniformity were the whole motive of
philosophy, and if Darwin, like a true Englishman, preferred to back
into it--to reach God a posteriori--rather than start from it, like
Spinoza, the difference of method taught only the moral that the best
way of reaching unity was to unite. Any road was good that arrived.
Life depended on it. One had been, from the first, dragged hither and
thither like a French poodle on a string, following always the
strongest pull, between one form of unity or centralization and
another. The proof that one had acted wisely because of obeying the
primordial habit of nature flattered one's self-esteem. Steady,
uniform, unbroken evolution from lower to higher seemed easy. So, one
day when Sir Charles came to the Legation to inquire about getting his
"Principles" properly noticed in America, young Adams found nothing
simpler than to suggest that he could do it himself if Sir Charles
would tell him what to say. Youth risks such encounters with the
universe before one succumbs to it, yet even he was surprised at Sir
Charles's ready assent, and still more so at finding himself, after
half an hour's conversation, sitting down to clear the minds of
American geologists about the principles of their profession. This was
getting on fast; Arthur Pendennis had never gone so far.

  The geologists were a hardy class, not likely to be much hurt
by Adams's learning, nor did he throw away much concern on their
account. He undertook the task chiefly to educate, not them, but
himself, and if Sir Isaac Newton had, like Sir Charles Lyell, asked him
to explain for Americans his last edition of the "Principia," Adams
would have jumped at the chance. Unfortunately the mere reading such
works for amusement is quite a different matter from studying them for
criticism. Ignorance must always begin at the beginning. Adams must
inevitably have begun by asking Sir Isaac for an intelligible reason
why the apple fell to the ground. He did not know enough to be
satisfied with the fact. The Law of Gravitation was so-and-so, but what
was Gravitation? and he would have been thrown quite off his base if
Sir Isaac had answered that he did not know.

  At the very outset Adams struck on Sir Charles's Glacial Theory
or theories. He was ignorant enough to think that the glacial epoch
looked like a chasm between him and a uniformitarian world. If the
glacial period were uniformity, what was catastrophe? To him the two or
three labored guesses that Sir Charles suggested or borrowed to explain
glaciation were proof of nothing, and were quite unsolid as support for
so immense a superstructure as geological uniformity. If one were at
liberty to be as lax in science as in theology, and to assume unity
from the start, one might better say so, as the Church did, and not
invite attack by appearing weak in evidence. Naturally a young man,
altogether ignorant, could not say this to Sir Charles Lyell or Sir
Isaac Newton; but he was forced to state Sir Charles's views, which he
thought weak as hypotheses and worthless as proofs. Sir Charles himself
seemed shy of them. Adams hinted his heresies in vain. At last he
resorted to what he thought the bold experiment of inserting a sentence
in the text, intended to provoke correction. "The introduction [by
Louis Agassiz] of this new geological agent seemed at first sight
inconsistent with Sir Charles's argument, obliging him to allow that
causes had in fact existed on the earth capable of producing more
violent geological changes than would be possible in our own day." The
hint produced no effect. Sir Charles said not a word; he let the
paragraph stand; and Adams never knew whether the great Uniformitarian
was strict or lax in his uniformitarian creed; but he doubted.

  Objections fatal to one mind are futile to another, and as far
as concerned the article, the matter ended there, although the glacial
epoch remained a misty region in the young man's Darwinism. Had it been
the only one, he would not have fretted about it; but uniformity often
worked queerly and sometimes did not work as Natural Selection at all.
Finding himself at a loss for some single figure to illustrate the Law
of Natural Selection, Adams asked Sir Charles for the simplest case of
uniformity on record. Much to his surprise Sir Charles told him that
certain forms, like Terebratula,  appeared to be identical from the
beginning to the end of geological time. Since this was altogether too
much uniformity and much too little selection, Adams gave up the
attempt to begin at the beginning, and tried starting at the
end--himself. Taking for granted that the vertebrates would serve his
purpose, he asked Sir Charles to introduce him to the first vertebrate.
Infinitely to his bewilderment, Sir Charles informed him that the first
vertebrate was a very respectable fish, among the earliest of all
fossils, which had lived, and whose bones were still reposing, under
Adams's own favorite Abbey on Wenlock Edge.

  By this time, in 1867 Adams had learned to know Shropshire
familiarly, and it was the part of his diplomatic education which he
loved best. Like Catherine Olney in "Northanger Abbey," he yearned for
nothing so keenly as to feel at home in a thirteenth-century Abbey,
unless it were to haunt a fifteenth-century Prior's House, and both
these joys were his at Wenlock. With companions or without, he never
tired of it. Whether he rode about the Wrekin, or visited all the
historical haunts from Ludlow Castle and Stokesay to Boscobel and
Uriconium; or followed the Roman road or scratched in the Abbey ruins,
all was amusing and carried a flavor of its own like that of the Roman
Campagna; but perhaps he liked best to ramble over the Edge on a summer
afternoon and look across the Marches to the mountains of Wales. The
peculiar flavor of the scenery has something to do with absence of
evolution; it was better marked in Egypt: it was felt wherever
time-sequences became interchangeable. One's instinct abhors time. As
one lay on the slope of the Edge, looking sleepily through the summer
haze towards Shrewsbury or Cader Idris or Caer Caradoc or Uriconium,
nothing suggested sequence. The Roman road was twin to the railroad;
Uriconium was well worth Shrewsbury; Wenlock and Buildwas were far
superior to Bridgnorth. The shepherds of Caractacus or Offa, or the
monks of Buildwas, had they approached where he lay in the grass, would
have taken him only for another and tamer variety of Welsh thief. They
would have seen little to surprise them in the modern landscape unless
it were the steam of a distant railway. One might mix up the terms of
time as one liked, or stuff the present anywhere into the past,
measuring time by Falstaff's Shrewsbury clock, without violent sense of
wrong, as one could do it on the Pacific Ocean; but the triumph of all
was to look south along the Edge to the abode of one's earliest
ancestor and nearest relative, the ganoid fish, whose name, according
to Professor Huxley, was Pteraspis, a cousin of the sturgeon, and whose
kingdom, according to Sir Roderick Murchison, was called Siluria. Life
began and ended there. Behind that horizon lay only the Cambrian,
without vertebrates or any other organism except a few shell-fish. On
the further verge of the Cambrian rose the crystalline rocks from which
every trace of organic existence had been erased.

  That here, on the Wenlock Edge of time, a young American,
seeking only frivolous amusement, should find a legitimate parentage as
modern as though just caught in the Severn below, astonished him as
much as though he had found Darwin himself. In the scale of evolution,
one vertebrate was as good as another. For anything he, or any one
else, knew, nine hundred and ninety nine parts of evolution out of a
thousand lay behind or below the Pteraspis. To an American in search of
a father, it mattered nothing whether the father breathed through
lungs, or walked on fins, or on feet. Evolution of mind was altogether
another matter and belonged to another science, but whether one traced
descent from the shark or the wolf was immaterial even in morals. This
matter had been discussed for ages without scientific result. La
Fontaine and other fabulists maintained that the wolf, even in morals,
stood higher than man; and in view of the late civil war, Adams had
doubts of his own on the facts of moral evolution:--

  "Tout bien considere, je te soutiens en somme,
     Que scelerat pour scelerat,
   Il vaut mieux etre un loup qu'un homme."

  It might well be! At all events, it did not enter into the
problem of Pteraspis,  for it was quite certain that no complete proof
of Natural Selection had occurred back to the time of Pteraspis,  and
that before Pteraspis was eternal void. No trace of any vertebrate had
been found there; only starfish, shell-fish, polyps, or trilobites
whose kindly descendants he had often bathed with, as a child on the
shores of Quincy Bay.

  That Pteraspis and shark were his cousins, great-uncles, or
grandfathers, in no way troubled him, but that either or both of them
should be older than evolution itself seemed to him perplexing; nor
could he at all simplify the problem by taking the sudden
back-somersault into Quincy Bay in search of the fascinating creature
he had called a horseshoe, whose huge dome of shell and sharp spur of
tail had so alarmed him as a child. In Siluria, he understood, Sir
Roderick Murchison called the horseshoe a Limulus, which helped
nothing. Neither in the Limulus  nor in the Terebratula, nor in the
Cestracion Philippi, any more than in the Pteraspis,  could one
conceive an ancestor, but, if one must, the choice mattered little.
Cousinship had limits but no one knew enough to fix them. When the
vertebrate vanished in Siluria, it disappeared instantly and forever.
Neither vertebra nor scale nor print reappeared, nor any trace of
ascent or descent to a lower type. The vertebrate began in the Ludlow
shale, as complete as Adams himself--in some respects more so--at the
top of the column of organic evolution: and geology offered no sort of
proof that he had ever been anything else. Ponder over it as he might,
Adams could see nothing in the theory of Sir Charles but pure
inference, precisely like the inference of Paley, that, if one found a
watch, one inferred a maker. He could detect no more evolution in life
since the Pteraspis than he could detect it in architecture since the
Abbey. All he could prove was change. Coal-power alone asserted
evolution--of power--and only by violence could be forced to assert
selection of type.

  All this seemed trivial to the true Darwinian, and to Sir
Charles it was mere defect in the geological record. Sir Charles
labored only to heap up the evidences of evolution; to cumulate them
till the mass became irresistible. With that purpose, Adams gladly
studied and tried to help Sir Charles, but, behind the lesson of the
day, he was conscious that, in geology as in theology, he could prove
only Evolution that did not evolve; Uniformity that was not uniform;
and Selection that did not select. To other Darwinians--except
Darwin--Natural Selection seemed a dogma to be put in the place of the
Athanasian creed; it was a form of religious hope; a promise of
ultimate perfection. Adams wished no better; he warmly sympathized in
the object; but when he came to ask himself what he truly thought, he
felt that he had no Faith; that whenever the next new hobby should be
brought out, he should surely drop off from Darwinism like a monkey
from a perch; that the idea of one Form, Law, Order, or Sequence had no
more value for him than the idea of none; that what he valued most was
Motion, and that what attracted his mind was Change.

  Psychology was to him a new study, and a dark corner of
education. As he lay on Wenlock Edge, with the sheep nibbling the grass
close about him as they or their betters had nibbled the grass--or
whatever there was to nibble--in the Silurian kingdom of Pteraspis, he
seemed to have fallen on an evolution far more wonderful than that of
fishes. He did not like it; he could not account for it; and he
determined to stop it. Never since the days of his Limulus ancestry had
any of his ascendants thought thus. Their modes of thought might be
many, but their thought was one. Out of his millions of millions of
ancestors, back to the Cambrian mollusks, every one had probably lived
and died in the illusion of Truths which did not amuse him, and which
had never changed. Henry Adams was the first in an infinite series to
discover and admit to himself that he really did not care whether truth
was, or was not, true. He did not even care that it should be proved
true, unless the process were new and amusing. He was a Darwinian for
fun.

  From the beginning of history, this attitude had been branded
as criminal--worse than crime--sacrilege! Society punished it
ferociously and justly, in self-defence. Mr. Adams, the father, looked
on it as moral weakness; it annoyed him; but it did not annoy him
nearly so much as it annoyed his son, who had no need to learn from
Hamlet the fatal effect of the pale cast of thought on enterprises
great or small. He had no notion of letting the currents of his action
be turned awry by this form of conscience. To him, the current of his
time was to be his current, lead where it might. He put psychology
under lock and key; he insisted on maintaining his absolute standards;
on aiming at ultimate Unity. The mania for handling all the sides of
every question, looking into every window, and opening every door, was,
as Bluebeard judiciously pointed out to his wives, fatal to their
practical usefulness in society. One could not stop to chase doubts as
though they were rabbits. One had no time to paint and putty the
surface of Law, even though it were cracked and rotten. For the young
men whose lives were cast in the generation between 1867 and 1900, Law
should be Evolution from lower to higher, aggregation of the atom in
the mass, concentration of multiplicity in unity, compulsion of anarchy
in order; and he would force himself to follow wherever it led, though
he should sacrifice five thousand millions more in money, and a million
more lives.

  As the path ultimately led, it sacrificed much more than this;
but at the time, he thought the price he named a high one, and he could
not foresee that science and society would desert him in paying it. He,
at least, took his education as a Darwinian in good faith. The Church
was gone, and Duty was dim, but Will should take its place, founded
deeply in interest and law. This was the result of five or six years in
England; a result so British as to be almost the equivalent of an
Oxford degree.

  Quite serious about it, he set to work at once. While confusing
his ideas about geology to the apparent satisfaction of Sir Charles who
left him his field-compass in token of it, Adams turned resolutely to
business, and attacked the burning question of specie payments. His
principles assured him that the honest way to resume payments was to
restrict currency. He thought he might win a name among financiers and
statesmen at home by showing how this task had been done by England,
after the classical suspension of 1797-1821. Setting himself to the
study of this perplexed period, he waded as well as he could through a
morass of volumes, pamphlets, and debates, until he learned to his
confusion that the Bank of England itself and all the best British
financial writers held that restriction was a fatal mistake, and that
the best treatment of a debased currency was to let it alone, as the
Bank had in fact done. Time and patience were the remedies.

  The shock of this discovery to his financial principles was
serious; much more serious than the shock of the Terebratula and
Pteraspis  to his principles of geology. A mistake about Evolution was
not fatal; a mistake about specie payments would destroy forever the
last hope of employment in State Street. Six months of patient labor
would be thrown away if he did not publish, and with it his whole
scheme of making himself a position as a practical man-of-business. If
he did publish, how could he tell virtuous bankers in State Street that
moral and absolute principles of abstract truth, such as theirs, had
nothing to do with the matter, and that they had better let it alone?
Geologists, naturally a humble and helpless class, might not revenge
impertinences offered to their science; but capitalists never forgot or
forgave.

  With labor and caution he made one long article on British
Finance in 1816, and another on the Bank Restriction of 1797-1821, and,
doing both up in one package, he sent it to the North American for
choice. He knew that two heavy, technical, financial studies thus
thrown at an editor's head, would probably return to crush the author;
but the audacity of youth is more sympathetic--when successful--than
his ignorance. The editor accepted both.

  When the post brought his letter, Adams looked at it as though
he were a debtor who had begged for an extension. He read it with as
much relief as the debtor, if it had brought him the loan. The letter
gave the new writer literary rank. Henceforward he had the freedom of
the press. These articles, following those on Pocahontas and Lyell,
enrolled him on the permanent staff of the North American Review.
Precisely what this rank was worth, no one could say; but, for fifty
years the North American Review had been the stage coach which carried
literary Bostonians to such distinction as they had achieved. Few
writers had ideas which warranted thirty pages of development, but for
such as thought they had, the Review alone offered space. An article
was a small volume which required at least three months' work, and was
paid, at best, five dollars a page. Not many men even in England or
France could write a good thirty-page article, and practically no one
in America read them; but a few score of people, mostly in search of
items to steal, ran over the pages to extract an idea or a fact, which
was a sort of wild game--a bluefish or a teal--worth anywhere from
fifty cents to five dollars. Newspaper writers had their eye on
quarterly pickings. The circulation of the Review  had never exceeded
three or four hundred copies, and the Review  had never paid its
reasonable expenses. Yet it stood at the head of American literary
periodicals; it was a source of suggestion to cheaper workers; it
reached far into societies that never knew its existence; it was an
organ worth playing on; and, in the fancy of Henry Adams, it led, in
some indistinct future, to playing on a New York daily newspaper.

  With the editor's letter under his eyes, Adams asked himself
what better he could have done. On the whole, considering his
helplessness, he thought he had done as well as his neighbors. No one
could yet guess which of his contemporaries was most likely to play a
part in the great world. A shrewd prophet in Wall Street might perhaps
have set a mark on Pierpont Morgan, but hardly on the Rockefellers or
William C. Whitney or Whitelaw Reid. No one would have picked out
William McKinley or John Hay or Mark Hanna for great statesmen. Boston
was ignorant of the careers in store for Alexander Agassiz and Henry
Higginson. Phillips Brooks was unknown; Henry James was unheard;
Howells was new; Richardson and LaFarge were struggling for a start.
Out of any score of names and reputations that should reach beyond the
century, the thirty-years-old who were starting in the year 1867 could
show none that was so far in advance as to warrant odds in its favor.
The army men had for the most part fallen to the ranks. Had Adams
foreseen the future exactly as it came, he would have been no wiser,
and could have chosen no better path.

  Thus it turned out that the last year in England was the
pleasantest. He was already old in society, and belonged to the
Silurian horizon. The Prince of Wales had come. Mr. Disraeli, Lord
Stanley, and the future Lord Salisbury had thrown into the background
the memories of Palmerston and Russell. Europe was moving rapidly, and
the conduct of England during the American Civil War was the last thing
that London liked to recall. The revolution since 1861 was nearly
complete, and, for the first time in history, the American felt himself
almost as strong as an Englishman. He had thirty years to wait before
he should feel himself stronger. Meanwhile even a private secretary
could afford to be happy. His old education was finished; his new one
was not begun; he still loitered a year, feeling himself near the end
of a very long, anxious, tempestuous, successful voyage, with another
to follow, and a summer sea between.

  He made what use he could of it. In February, 1868, he was back
in Rome with his friend Milnes Gaskell. For another season he wandered
on horseback over the campagna or on foot through the Rome of the
middle ages, and sat once more on the steps of Ara Coeli, as had become
with him almost a superstition, like the waters of the fountain of
Trevi. Rome was still tragic and solemn as ever, with its mediaeval
society, artistic, literary, and clerical, taking itself as seriously
as in the days of Byron and Shelley. The long ten years of accidental
education had changed nothing for him there. He knew no more in 1868
than in 1858. He had learned nothing whatever that made Rome more
intelligible to him, or made life easier to handle. The case was no
better when he got back to London and went through his last season.
London had become his vice. He loved his haunts, his houses, his
habits, and even his hansom cabs. He loved growling like an Englishman,
and going into society where he knew not a face, and cared not a straw.
He lived deep into the lives and loves and disappointments of his
friends. When at last he found himself back again at Liverpool, his
heart wrenched by the act of parting, he moved mechanically, unstrung,
but he had no more acquired education than when he first trod the steps
of the Adelphi Hotel in November, 1858. He could see only one great
change, and this was wholly in years. Eaton Hall no longer impressed
his imagination; even the architecture of Chester roused but a sleepy
interest; he felt no sensation whatever in the atmosphere of the
British peerage, but mainly an habitual dislike to most of the people
who frequented their country houses; he had become English to the point
of sharing their petty social divisions, their dislikes and prejudices
against each other; he took England no longer with the awe of American
youth, but with the habit of an old and rather worn suit of clothes. As
far as he knew, this was all that Englishmen meant by social education,
but in any case it was all the education he had gained from seven years
in London.



CHAPTER XVI

THE PRESS (1868)

  AT ten o'clock of a July night, in heat that made the tropical
rain-shower simmer, the Adams family and the Motley family clambered
down the side of their Cunard steamer into the government tugboat,
which set them ashore in black darkness at the end of some North River
pier. Had they been Tyrian traders of the year B.C. 1000 landing from a
galley fresh from Gibraltar, they could hardly have been stranger on
the shore of a world, so changed from what it had been ten years
before. The historian of the Dutch, no longer historian but
diplomatist, started up an unknown street, in company with the private
secretary who had become private citizen, in search of carriages to
convey the two parties to the Brevoort House. The pursuit was arduous
but successful. Towards midnight they found shelter once more in their
native land.

  How much its character had changed or was changing, they could
not wholly know, and they could but partly feel. For that matter, the
land itself knew no more than they. Society in America was always
trying, almost as blindly as an earthworm, to realize and understand
itself; to catch up with its own head, and to twist about in search of
its tail. Society offered the profile of a long, straggling caravan,
stretching loosely towards the prairies, its few score of leaders far
in advance and its millions of immigrants, negroes, and Indians far in
the rear, somewhere in archaic time. It enjoyed the vast advantage over
Europe that all seemed, for the moment, to move in one direction, while
Europe wasted most of its energy in trying several contradictory
movements at once; but whenever Europe or Asia should be polarized or
oriented towards the same point, America might easily lose her lead.
Meanwhile each newcomer needed to slip into a place as near the head of
the caravan as possible, and needed most to know where the leaders
could be found. One could divine pretty nearly where the force lay,
since the last ten years had given to the great mechanical
energies--coal, iron, steam--a distinct superiority in power over the
old industrial elements--agriculture, handwork, and learning; but the
result of this revolution on a survivor from the fifties resembled the
action of the earthworm; he twisted about, in vain, to recover his
starting-point; he could no longer see his own trail; he had become an
estray; a flotsam or jetsam of wreckage; a belated reveller, or a
scholar-gipsy like Matthew Arnold's. His world was dead. Not a Polish
Jew fresh from Warsaw or Cracow--not a furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still
reeking of the Ghetto, snarling a weird Yiddish to the officers of the
customs--but had a keener instinct, an intenser energy, and a freer
hand than he--American of Americans, with Heaven knew how many Puritans
and Patriots behind him, and an education that had cost a civil war. He
made no complaint and found no fault with his time; he was no worse off
than the Indians or the buffalo who had been ejected from their
heritage by his own people; but he vehemently insisted that he was not
himself at fault. The defeat was not due to him, nor yet to any
superiority of his rivals. He had been unfairly forced out of the
track, and must get back into it as best he could.

  One comfort he could enjoy to the full. Little as he might be
fitted for the work that was before him, he had only to look at his
father and Motley to see figures less fitted for it than he. All were
equally survivals from the forties--bric-a-brac from the time of Louis
Philippe; stylists; doctrinaires; ornaments that had been more or less
suited to the colonial architecture, but which never had much value in
Desbrosses Street or Fifth Avenue. They could scarcely have earned five
dollars a day in any modern industry. The men who commanded high pay
were as a rule not ornamental. Even Commodore Vanderbilt and Jay Gould
lacked social charm. Doubtless the country needed ornament--needed it
very badly indeed--but it needed energy still more, and capital most of
all, for its supply was ridiculously out of proportion to its wants. On
the new scale of power, merely to make the continent habitable for
civilized people would require an immediate outlay that would have
bankrupted the world. As yet, no portion of the world except a few
narrow stretches of western Europe had ever been tolerably provided
with the essentials of comfort and convenience; to fit out an entire
continent with roads and the decencies of life would exhaust the credit
of the entire planet. Such an estimate seemed outrageous to a Texan
member of Congress who loved the simplicity of nature's noblemen; but
the mere suggestion that a sun existed above him would outrage the
self-respect of a deep-sea fish that carried a lantern on the end of
its nose. From the moment that railways were introduced, life took on
extravagance.

  Thus the belated reveller who landed in the dark at the
Desbrosses Street ferry, found his energies exhausted in the effort to
see his own length. The new Americans, of whom he was to be one, must,
whether they were fit or unfit, create a world of their own, a science,
a society, a philosophy, a universe, where they had not yet created a
road or even learned to dig their own iron. They had no time for
thought; they saw, and could see, nothing beyond their day's work;
their attitude to the universe outside them was that of the deep-sea
fish. Above all, they naturally and intensely disliked to be told what
to do, and how to do it, by men who took their ideas and their methods
from the abstract theories of history, philosophy, or theology. They
knew enough to know that their world was one of energies quite new.

  All this, the newcomer understood and accepted, since he could
not help himself and saw that the American could help himself as little
as the newcomer; but the fact remained that the more he knew, the less
he was educated. Society knew as much as this, and seemed rather
inclined to boast of it, at least on the stump; but the leaders of
industry betrayed no sentiment, popular or other. They used, without
qualm, whatever instruments they found at hand. They had been obliged,
in 1861, to turn aside and waste immense energy in settling what had
been settled a thousand years before, and should never have been
revived. At prodigious expense, by sheer force, they broke resistance
down, leaving everything but the mere fact of power untouched, since
nothing else had a solution. Race and thought were beyond reach. Having
cleared its path so far, society went back to its work, and threw
itself on that which stood first--its roads. The field was vast;
altogether beyond its power to control offhand; and society dropped
every thought of dealing with anything more than the single fraction
called a railway system. This relatively small part of its task was
still so big as to need the energies of a generation, for it required
all the new machinery to be created--capital, banks, mines, furnaces,
shops, power-houses, technical knowledge, mechanical population,
together with a steady remodelling of social and political habits,
ideas, and institutions to fit the new scale and suit the new
conditions. The generation between 1865 and 1895 was already mortgaged
to the railways, and no one knew it better than the generation itself.

  Whether Henry Adams knew it or not, he knew enough to act as
though he did. He reached Quincy once more, ready for the new start.
His brother Charles had determined to strike for the railroads; Henry
was to strike for the press; and they hoped to play into each other's
hands. They had great need, for they found no one else to play with.
After discovering the worthlessness of a so-called education, they had
still to discover the worthlessness of so-called social connection. No
young man had a larger acquaintance and relationship than Henry Adams,
yet he knew no one who could help him. He was for sale, in the open
market. So were many of his friends. All the world knew it, and knew
too that they were cheap; to be bought at the price of a mechanic.
There was no concealment, no delicacy, and no illusion about it.
Neither he nor his friends complained; but he felt sometimes a little
surprised that, as far as he knew, no one, seeking in the labor market,
ever so much as inquired about their fitness. The want of solidarity
between old and young seemed American. The young man was required to
impose himself, by the usual business methods, as a necessity on his
elders, in order to compel them to buy him as an investment. As Adams
felt it, he was in a manner expected to blackmail. Many a young man
complained to him in after life of the same experience, which became a
matter of curious reflection as he grew old. The labor market of good
society was ill-organized.

  Boston seemed to offer no market for educated labor. A peculiar
and perplexing amalgam Boston always was, and although it had changed
much in ten years, it was not less perplexing. One no longer dined at
two o'clock; one could no longer skate on Back Bay; one heard talk of
Bostonians worth five millions or more as something not incredible. Yet
the place seemed still simple, and less restless-minded than ever
before. In the line that Adams had chosen to follow, he needed more
than all else the help of the press, but any shadow of hope on that
side vanished instantly. The less one meddled with the Boston press,
the better. All the newspapermen were clear on that point. The same was
true of politics. Boston meant business. The Bostonians were building
railways. Adams would have liked to help in building railways, but had
no education. He was not fit.

  He passed three or four months thus, visiting relations,
renewing friendships, and studying the situation. At thirty years old,
the man who has not yet got further than to study the situation, is
lost, or near it. He could see nothing in the situation that could be
of use to him. His friends had won no more from it than he. His brother
Charles, after three years of civil life, was no better off than
himself, except for being married and in greater need of income. His
brother John had become a brilliant political leader on the wrong side.
No one had yet regained the lost ground of the war.

  He went to Newport and tried to be fashionable, but even in the
simple life of 1868, he failed as fashion. All the style he had learned
so painfully in London was worse than useless in America where every
standard was different. Newport was charming, but it asked for no
education and gave none. What it gave was much gayer and pleasanter,
and one enjoyed it amazingly; but friendships in that society were a
kind of social partnership, like the classes at college; not education
but the subjects of education. All were doing the same thing, and
asking the same question of the future. None could help. Society seemed
founded on the law that all was for the best New Yorkers in the best of
Newports, and that all young people were rich if they could waltz. It
was a new version of the Ant and Grasshopper.

  At the end of three months, the only person, among the hundreds
he had met, who had offered him a word of encouragement or had shown a
sign of acquaintance with his doings, was Edward Atkinson. Boston was
cool towards sons, whether prodigals or other, and needed much time to
make up its mind what to do for them--time which Adams, at thirty years
old, could hardly spare. He had not the courage or self-confidence to
hire an office in State Street, as so many of his friends did, and doze
there alone, vacuity within and a snowstorm outside, waiting for
Fortune to knock at the door, or hoping to find her asleep in the
elevator; or on the staircase, since elevators were not yet in use.
Whether this course would have offered his best chance he never knew;
it was one of the points in practical education which most needed a
clear understanding, and he could never reach it. His father and mother
would have been glad to see him stay with them and begin reading
Blackstone again, and he showed no very filial tenderness by abruptly
breaking the tie that had lasted so long. After all, perhaps Beacon
Street was as good as any other street for his objects in life;
possibly his easiest and surest path was from Beacon Street to State
Street and back again, all the days of his years. Who could tell? Even
after life was over, the doubt could not be determined.

  In thus sacrificing his heritage, he only followed the path
that had led him from the beginning. Boston was full of his brothers.
He had reckoned from childhood on outlawry as his peculiar birthright.
The mere thought of beginning life again in Mount Vernon Street lowered
the pulsations of his heart. This is a story of education--not a mere
lesson of life--and, with education, temperament has in strictness
nothing to do, although in practice they run close together. Neither by
temperament nor by education was he fitted for Boston. He had drifted
far away and behind his companions there; no one trusted his
temperament or education; he had to go.

  Since no other path seemed to offer itself, he stuck to his
plan of joining the press, and selected Washington as the shortest road
to New York, but, in 1868, Washington stood outside the social pale. No
Bostonian had ever gone there. One announced one's self as an
adventurer and an office-seeker, a person of deplorably bad judgment,
and the charges were true. The chances of ending in the gutter were, at
best, even. The risk was the greater in Adams's case, because he had no
very clear idea what to do when he got there. That he must educate
himself over again, for objects quite new, in an air altogether hostile
to his old educations, was the only certainty; but how he was to do
it--how he was to convert the idler in Rotten Row into the lobbyist of
the Capital--he had not an idea, and no one to teach him. The question
of money is rarely serious for a young American unless he is married,
and money never troubled Adams more than others; not because he had it,
but because he could do without it, like most people in Washington who
all lived on the income of bricklayers; but with or without money he
met the difficulty that, after getting to Washington in order to go on
the press, it was necessary to seek a press to go on. For large work he
could count on the North American Review, but this was scarcely a
press. For current discussion and correspondence, he could depend on
the New York Nation; but what he needed was a New York daily, and no
New York daily needed him. He lost his one chance by the death of Henry
J. Raymond. The Tribune under Horace Greeley was out of the question
both for political and personal reasons, and because Whitelaw Reid had
already undertaken that singularly venturesome position, amid
difficulties that would have swamped Adams in four-and-twenty hours.
Charles A. Dana had made the Sun a very successful as well as a very
amusing paper, but had hurt his own social position in doing it; and
Adams knew himself well enough to know that he could never please
himself and Dana too; with the best intentions, he must always fail as
a blackguard, and at that time a strong dash of blackguardism was life
to the Sun. As for the New York Herald,  it was a despotic empire
admitting no personality but that of Bennett. Thus, for the moment, the
New York daily press offered no field except the free-trade Holy Land
of the Evening Post  under William Cullen Bryant, while beside it lay
only the elevated plateau of the New Jerusalem occupied by Godkin and
the Nation. Much as Adams liked Godkin, and glad as he was to creep
under the shelter of the Evening Post and the Nation, he was well aware
that he should find there only the same circle of readers that he
reached in the North American Review.

  The outlook was dim, but it was all he had, and at Washington,
except for the personal friendship of Mr. Evarts who was then Attorney
General and living there, he would stand in solitude much like that of
London in 1861. Evarts did what no one in Boston seemed to care for
doing; he held out a hand to the young man. Whether Boston, like Salem,
really shunned strangers, or whether Evarts was an exception even in
New York, he had the social instinct which Boston had not. Generous by
nature, prodigal in hospitality, fond of young people, and a born
man-of-the-world, Evarts gave and took liberally, without scruple, and
accepted the world without fearing or abusing it. His wit was the least
part of his social attraction. His talk was broad and free. He laughed
where he could; he joked if a joke was possible; he was true to his
friends, and never lost his temper or became ill-natured. Like all New
Yorkers he was decidedly not a Bostonian; but he was what one might
call a transplanted New Englander, like General Sherman; a variety,
grown in ranker soil. In the course of life, and in widely different
countries, Adams incurred heavy debts of gratitude to persons on whom
he had no claim and to whom he could seldom make return; perhaps
half-a-dozen such debts remained unpaid at last, although six is a
large number as lives go; but kindness seldom came more happily than
when Mr. Evarts took him to Washington in October, 1868.

  Adams accepted the hospitality of the sleeper, with deep
gratitude, the more because his first struggle with a sleeping-car made
him doubt the value--to him--of a Pullman civilization; but he was even
more grateful for the shelter of Mr. Evarts's house in H Street at the
corner of Fourteenth, where he abode in safety and content till he
found rooms in the roomless village. To him the village seemed
unchanged. Had he not known that a great war and eight years of
astonishing movement had passed over it, he would have noticed nothing
that betrayed growth. As of old, houses were few; rooms fewer; even the
men were the same. No one seemed to miss the usual comforts of
civilization, and Adams was glad to get rid of them, for his best
chance lay in the eighteenth century.

  The first step, of course, was the making of acquaintance, and
the first acquaintance was naturally the President, to whom an aspirant
to the press officially paid respect. Evarts immediately took him to
the White House and presented him to President Andrew Johnson. The
interview was brief and consisted in the stock remark common to
monarchs and valets, that the young man looked even younger than he
was. The younger man felt even younger than he looked. He never saw the
President again, and never felt a wish to see him, for Andrew Johnson
was not the sort of man whom a young reformer of thirty, with two or
three foreign educations, was likely to see with enthusiasm; yet,
musing over the interview as a matter of education, long years
afterwards, he could not help recalling the President's figure with a
distinctness that surprised him. The old-fashioned Southern Senator and
statesman sat in his chair at his desk with a look of self-esteem that
had its value. None doubted. All were great men; some, no doubt, were
greater than others; but all were statesmen and all were supported,
lifted, inspired by the moral certainty of rightness. To them the
universe was serious, even solemn, but it was their universe, a
Southern conception of right. Lamar used to say that he never
entertained a doubt of the soundness of the Southern system until he
found that slavery could not stand a war. Slavery was only a part of
the Southern system, and the life of it all--the vigor--the poetry--was
its moral certainty of self. The Southerner could not doubt; and this
self-assurance not only gave Andrew Johnson the look of a true
President, but actually made him one. When Adams came to look back on
it afterwards, he was surprised to realize how strong the Executive was
in 1868--perhaps the strongest he was ever to see. Certainly he never
again found himself so well satisfied, or so much at home.

  Seward was still Secretary of State. Hardly yet an old man,
though showing marks of time and violence, Mr. Seward seemed little
changed in these eight years. He was the same--with a difference.
Perhaps he--unlike Henry Adams--had at last got an education, and all
he wanted. Perhaps he had resigned himself to doing without it.
Whatever the reason, although his manner was as roughly kind as ever,
and his talk as free, he appeared to have closed his account with the
public; he no longer seemed to care; he asked nothing, gave nothing,
and invited no support; he talked little of himself or of others, and
waited only for his discharge. Adams was well pleased to be near him in
these last days of his power and fame, and went much to his house in
the evenings when he was sure to be at his whist. At last, as the end
drew near, wanting to feel that the great man--the only chief he ever
served even as a volunteer--recognized some personal relation, he asked
Mr. Seward to dine with him one evening in his rooms, and play his game
of whist there, as he did every night in his own house. Mr. Seward came
and had his whist, and Adams remembered his rough parting speech: "A
very sensible entertainment!" It was the only favor he ever asked of
Mr. Seward, and the only one he ever accepted.

  Thus, as a teacher of wisdom, after twenty years of example,
Governor Seward passed out of one's life, and Adams lost what should
have been his firmest ally; but in truth the State Department had
ceased to be the centre of his interest, and the Treasury had taken its
place. The Secretary of the Treasury was a man new to politics--Hugh
McCulloch--not a person of much importance in the eyes of practical
politicians such as young members of the press meant themselves to
become, but they all liked Mr. McCulloch, though they thought him a
stop-gap rather than a force. Had they known what sort of forces the
Treasury was to offer them for support in the generation to come, they
might have reflected a long while on their estimate of McCulloch. Adams
was fated to watch the flittings of many more Secretaries than he ever
cared to know, and he rather came back in the end to the idea that
McCulloch was the best of them, although he seemed to represent
everything that one liked least. He was no politician, he had no party,
and no power. He was not fashionable or decorative. He was a banker,
and towards bankers Adams felt the narrow prejudice which the serf
feels to his overerseer; for he knew he must obey, and he knew that the
helpless showed only their helplessness when they tempered obedience by
mockery. The world, after 1865, became a bankers' world, and no banker
would ever trust one who had deserted State Street, and had gone to
Washington with purposes of doubtful credit, or of no credit at all,
for he could not have put up enough collateral to borrow five thousand
dollars of any bank in America. The banker never would trust him, and
he would never trust the banker. To him, the banking mind was
obnoxious; and this antipathy caused him the more surprise at finding
McCulloch the broadest, most liberal, most genial, and most practical
public man in Washington.

  There could be no doubt of it. The burden of the Treasury at
that time was very great. The whole financial system was in chaos;
every part of it required reform; the utmost experience, tact, and
skill could not make the machine work smoothly. No one knew how well
McCulloch did it until his successor took it in charge, and tried to
correct his methods. Adams did not know enough to appreciate
McCulloch's technical skill, but he was struck at his open and generous
treatment of young men. Of all rare qualities, this was, in Adams's
experience, the rarest. As a rule, officials dread interference. The
strongest often resent it most. Any official who admits equality in
discussion of his official course, feels it to be an act of virtue;
after a few months or years he tires of the effort. Every friend in
power is a friend lost. This rule is so nearly absolute that it may be
taken in practice as admitting no exception. Apparent exceptions exist,
and McCulloch was one of them.

  McCulloch had been spared the gluttonous selfishness and
infantile jealousy which are the commoner results of early political
education. He had neither past nor future, and could afford to be
careless of his company. Adams found him surrounded by all the active
and intelligent young men in the country. Full of faith, greedy for
work, eager for reform, energetic, confident, capable, quick of study,
charmed with a fight, equally ready to defend or attack, they were
unselfish, and even--as young men went--honest. They came mostly from
the army, with the spirit of the volunteers. Frank Walker, Frank
Barlow, Frank Bartlett were types of the generation. Most of the press,
and much of the public, especially in the West, shared their ideas. No
one denied the need for reform. The whole government, from top to
bottom, was rotten with the senility of what was antiquated and the
instability of what was improvised. The currency was only one example;
the tariff was another; but the whole fabric required reconstruction as
much as in 1789, for the Constitution had become as antiquated as the
Confederation. Sooner or later a shock must come, the more dangerous
the longer postponed. The Civil War had made a new system in fact; the
country would have to reorganize the machinery in practice and theory.

  One might discuss indefinitely the question which branch of
government needed reform most urgently; all needed it enough, but no
one denied that the finances were a scandal, and a constant, universal
nuisance. The tariff was worse, though more interests upheld it.
McCulloch had the singular merit of facing reform with large
good-nature and willing sympathy--outside of parties, jobs, bargains,
corporations or intrigues--which Adams never was to meet again.

  Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. The Civil War
had bred life. The army bred courage. Young men of the volunteer type
were not always docile under control, but they were handy in a fight.
Adams was greatly pleased to be admitted as one of them. He found
himself much at home with them--more at home than he ever had been
before, or was ever to be again--in the atmosphere of the Treasury. He
had no strong party passion, and he felt as though he and his friends
owned this administration, which, in its dying days, had neither
friends nor future except in them.

  These were not the only allies; the whole government in all its
branches was alive with them. Just at that moment the Supreme Court was
about to take up the Legal Tender cases where Judge Curtis had been
employed to argue against the constitutional power of the Government to
make an artificial standard of value in time of peace. Evarts was
anxious to fix on a line of argument that should have a chance of
standing up against that of Judge Curtis, and was puzzled to do it. He
did not know which foot to put forward. About to deal with Judge
Curtis, the last of the strong jurists of Marshall's school, he could
risk no chances. In doubt, the quickest way to clear one's mind is to
discuss, and Evarts deliberately forced discussion. Day after day,
driving, dining, walking he provoked Adams to dispute his positions. He
needed an anvil, he said, to hammer his ideas on.

  Adams was flattered at being an anvil, which is, after all,
more solid than the hammer; and he did not feel called on to treat Mr.
Evarts's arguments with more respect than Mr. Evarts himself expressed
for them; so he contradicted with freedom. Like most young men, he was
much of a doctrinaire, and the question was, in any event, rather
historical or political than legal. He could easily maintain, by way of
argument, that the required power had never been given, and that no
sound constitutional reason could possibly exist for authorizing the
Government to overthrow the standard of value without necessity, in
time of peace. The dispute itself had not much value for him, even as
education, but it led to his seeking light from the Chief Justice
himself. Following up the subject for his letters to the Nation and his
articles in the North American Review, Adams grew to be intimate with
the Chief Justice, who, as one of the oldest and strongest leaders of
the Free Soil Party, had claims to his personal regard; for the old
Free Soilers were becoming few. Like all strong-willed and
self-asserting men, Mr. Chase had the faults of his qualities. He was
never easy to drive in harness, or light in hand. He saw vividly what
was wrong, and did not always allow for what was relatively right. He
loved power as though he were still a Senator. His position towards
Legal Tender was awkward. As Secretary of the Treasury he had been its
author; as Chief Justice he became its enemy. Legal Tender caused no
great pleasure or pain in the sum of life to a newspaper correspondent,
but it served as a subject for letters, and the Chief Justice was very
willing to win an ally in the press who would tell his story as he
wished it to be read. The intimacy in Mr. Chase's house grew rapidly,
and the alliance was no small help to the comforts of a struggling
newspaper adventurer in Washington. No matter what one might think of
his politics or temper, Mr. Chase was a dramatic figure, of high
senatorial rank, if also of certain senatorial faults; a valuable ally.

  As was sure, sooner or later, to happen, Adams one day met
Charles Sumner on the street, and instantly stopped to greet him. As
though eight years of broken ties were the natural course of
friendship, Sumner at once, after an exclamation of surprise, dropped
back into the relation of hero to the school boy. Adams enjoyed
accepting it. He was then thirty years old and Sumner was fifty-seven;
he had seen more of the world than Sumner ever dreamed of, and he felt
a sort of amused curiosity to be treated once more as a child. At best,
the renewal of broken relations is a nervous matter, and in this case
it bristled with thorns, for Sumner's quarrel with Mr. Adams had not
been the most delicate of his ruptured relations, and he was liable to
be sensitive in many ways that even Bostonians could hardly keep in
constant mind; yet it interested and fascinated Henry Adams as a new
study of political humanity. The younger man knew that the meeting
would have to come, and was ready for it, if only as a newspaper need;
but to Sumner it came as a surprise and a disagreeable one, as Adams
conceived. He learned something--a piece of practical education worth
the effort--by watching Sumner's behavior. He could see that many
thoughts--mostly unpleasant--were passing through his mind, since he
made no inquiry about any of Adams's family, or allusion to any of his
friends or his residence abroad. He talked only of the present. To him,
Adams in Washington should have seemed more or less of a critic,
perhaps a spy, certainly an intriguer or adventurer, like scores of
others; a politician without party; a writer without principles; an
office-seeker certain to beg for support. All this was, for his
purposes, true. Adams could do him no good, and would be likely to do
him all the harm in his power. Adams accepted it all; expected to be
kept at arm's length; admitted that the reasons were just. He was the
more surprised to see that Sumner invited a renewal of old relations.
He found himself treated almost confidentially. Not only was he asked
to make a fourth at Sumner's pleasant little dinners in the house on La
Fayette Square, but he found himself admitted to the Senator's study
and informed of his views, policy and purposes, which were sometimes
even more astounding than his curious gaps or lapses of omniscience.

  On the whole, the relation was the queerest that Henry Adams
ever kept up. He liked and admired Sumner, but thought his mind a
pathological study. At times he inclined to think that Sumner felt his
solitude, and, in the political wilderness, craved educated society;
but this hardly told the whole story. Sumner's mind had reached the
calm of water which receives and reflects images without absorbing
them; it contained nothing but itself. The images from without, the
objects mechanically perceived by the senses, existed by courtesy until
the mental surface was ruffled, but never became part of the thought.
Henry Adams roused no emotion; if he had roused a disagreeable one, he
would have ceased to exist. The mind would have mechanically rejected,
as it had mechanically admitted him. Not that Sumner was more
aggressively egoistic than other Senators--Conkling, for instance--but
that with him the disease had affected the whole mind; it was chronic
and absolute; while, with other Senators for the most part, it was
still acute.

  Perhaps for this very reason, Sumner was the more valuable
acquaintance for a newspaper-man. Adams found him most useful; perhaps
quite the most useful of all these great authorities who were the
stock-in-trade of the newspaper business; the accumulated capital of a
Silurian age. A few months or years more, and they were gone. In 1868,
they were like the town itself, changing but not changed. La Fayette
Square was society. Within a few hundred yards of Mr. Clark Mills's
nursery monument to the equestrian seat of Andrew Jackson, one found
all one's acquaintance as well as hotels, banks, markets and national
government. Beyond the Square the country began. No rich or fashionable
stranger had yet discovered the town. No literary or scientific man, no
artist, no gentleman without office or employment, had ever lived
there. It was rural, and its society was primitive. Scarcely a person
in it had ever known life in a great city. Mr. Evarts, Mr. Sam Hooper,
of Boston, and perhaps one or two of the diplomatists had alone mixed
in that sort of world. The happy village was innocent of a club. The
one-horse tram on F Street to the Capitol was ample for traffic. Every
pleasant spring morning at the Pennsylvania Station, society met to bid
good-bye to its friends going off on the single express. The State
Department was lodged in an infant asylum far out on Fourteenth Street
while Mr. Mullett was constructing his architectural infant asylum next
the White House. The value of real estate had not increased since 1800,
and the pavements were more impassable than the mud. All this favored a
young man who had come to make a name. In four-and-twenty hours he
could know everybody; in two days everybody knew him.

  After seven years' arduous and unsuccessful effort to explore
the outskirts of London society, the Washington world offered an easy
and delightful repose. When he looked round him, from the safe shelter
of Mr. Evarts's roof, on the men he was to work with--or against--he
had to admit that nine-tenths of his acquired education was useless,
and the other tenth harmful. He would have to begin again from the
beginning. He must learn to talk to the Western Congressman, and to
hide his own antecedents. The task was amusing. He could see nothing to
prevent him from enjoying it, with immoral unconcern for all that had
gone before and for anything that might follow. The lobby offered a
spectacle almost picturesque. Few figures on the Paris stage were more
entertaining and dramatic than old Sam Ward, who knew more of life than
all the departments of the Government together, including the Senate
and the Smithsonian. Society had not much to give, but what it had, it
gave with an open hand. For the moment, politics had ceased to disturb
social relations. All parties were mixed up and jumbled together in a
sort of tidal slack-water. The Government resembled Adams himself in
the matter of education. All that had gone before was useless, and some
of it was worse.



CHAPTER XVII

PRESIDENT GRANT (1869)

  THE first effect of this leap into the unknown was a fit of low
spirits new to the young man's education; due in part to the
overpowering beauty and sweetness of the Maryland autumn, almost
unendurable for its strain on one who had toned his life down to the
November grays and browns of northern Europe. Life could not go on so
beautiful and so sad. Luckily, no one else felt it or knew it. He bore
it as well as he could, and when he picked himself up, winter had come,
and he was settled in bachelor's quarters, as modest as those of a
clerk in the Departments, far out on G Street, towards Georgetown,
where an old Finn named Dohna, who had come out with the Russian
Minister Stoeckel long before, had bought or built a new house.
Congress had met. Two or three months remained to the old
administration, but all interest centred in the new one. The town began
to swarm with office-seekers, among whom a young writer was lost. He
drifted among them, unnoticed, glad to learn his work under cover of
the confusion. He never aspired to become a regular reporter; he knew
he should fail in trying a career so ambitious and energetic; but he
picked up friends on the press--Nordhoff, Murat Halstead, Henry
Watterson, Sam Bowles--all reformers, and all mixed and jumbled
together in a tidal wave of expectation, waiting for General Grant to
give orders. No one seemed to know much about it. Even Senators had
nothing to say. One could only make notes and study finance.

  In waiting, he amused himself as he could. In the amusements of
Washington, education had no part, but the simplicity of the amusements
proved the simplicity of everything else, ambitions, interests,
thoughts, and knowledge. Proverbially Washington was a poor place for
education, and of course young diplomats avoided or disliked it, but,
as a rule, diplomats disliked every place except Paris, and the world
contained only one Paris. They abused London more violently than
Washington; they praised no post under the sun; and they were merely
describing three-fourths of their stations when they complained that
there were no theatres, no restaurants, no monde, no demi-monde, no
drives, no splendor, and, as Mme. de Struve used to say, no grandezza.
This was all true; Washington was a mere political camp, as transient
and temporary as a camp-meeting for religious revival, but the
diplomats had least reason to complain, since they were more sought for
there than they would ever be elsewhere. For young men Washington was
in one way paradise, since they were few, and greatly in demand. After
watching the abject unimportance of the young diplomat in London
society, Adams found himself a young duke in Washington. He had ten
years of youth to make up, and a ravenous appetite. Washington was the
easiest society he had ever seen, and even the Bostonian became simple,
good-natured, almost genial, in the softness of a Washington spring.
Society went on excellently well without houses, or carriages, or
jewels, or toilettes, or pavements, or shops, or grandezza of any sort;
and the market was excellent as well as cheap. One could not stay there
a month without loving the shabby town. Even the Washington girl, who
was neither rich nor well-dressed nor well-educated nor clever, had
singular charm, and used it. According to Mr. Adams the father, this
charm dated back as far as Monroe's administration, to his personal
knowledge.

  Therefore, behind all the processes of political or financial
or newspaper training, the social side of Washington was to be taken
for granted as three-fourths of existence. Its details matter nothing.
Life ceased to be strenuous, and the victim thanked God for it.
Politics and reform became the detail, and waltzing the profession.
Adams was not alone. Senator Sumner had as private secretary a young
man named Moorfield Storey, who became a dangerous example of
frivolity. The new Attorney-General, E. R. Hoar, brought with him from
Concord a son, Sam Hoar, whose example rivalled that of Storey. Another
impenitent was named Dewey, a young naval officer. Adams came far down
in the list. He wished he had been higher. He could have spared a world
of superannuated history, science, or politics, to have reversed better
in waltzing.

  He had no adequate notion how little he knew, especially of
women, and Washington offered no standard of comparison. All were
profoundly ignorant together, and as indifferent as children to
education. No one needed knowledge. Washington was happier without
style. Certainly Adams was happier without it; happier than he had ever
been before; happier than any one in the harsh world of strenuousness
could dream of. This must be taken as background for such little
education as he gained; but the life belonged to the eighteenth
century, and in no way concerned education for the twentieth.

  In such an atmosphere, one made no great presence of hard work.
If the world wants hard work, the world must pay for it; and, if it
will not pay, it has no fault to find with the worker. Thus far, no one
had made a suggestion of pay for any work that Adams had done or could
do; if he worked at all, it was for social consideration, and social
pleasure was his pay. For this he was willing to go on working, as an
artist goes on painting when no one buys his pictures. Artists have
done it from the beginning of time, and will do it after time has
expired, since they cannot help themselves, and they find their return
in the pride of their social superiority as they feel it. Society
commonly abets them and encourages their attitude of contempt. The
society of Washington was too simple and Southern as yet, to feel
anarchistic longings, and it never read or saw what artists produced
elsewhere, but it good-naturedly abetted them when it had the chance,
and respected itself the more for the frailty. Adams found even the
Government at his service, and every one willing to answer his
questions. He worked, after a fashion; not very hard, but as much as
the Government would have required of him for nine hundred dollars a
year; and his work defied frivolity. He got more pleasure from writing
than the world ever got from reading him, for his work was not amusing,
nor was he. One must not try to amuse moneylenders or investors, and
this was the class to which he began by appealing. He gave three months
to an article on the finances of the United States, just then a subject
greatly needing treatment; and when he had finished it, he sent it to
London to his friend Henry Reeve, the ponderous editor of the Edinburgh
Review. Reeve probably thought it good; at all events, he said so; and
he printed it in April. Of course it was reprinted in America, but in
England such articles were still anonymous, and the author remained
unknown.

  The author was not then asking for advertisement, and made no
claim for credit. His object was literary. He wanted to win a place on
the staff of the Edinburgh Review, under the vast shadow of Lord
Macaulay; and, to a young American in 1868, such rank seemed
colossal--the highest in the literary world--as it had been only
five-and-twenty years before. Time and tide had flowed since then, but
the position still flattered vanity, though it brought no other
flattery or reward except the regular thirty pounds of pay--fifty
dollars a month, measured in time and labor.

  The Edinburgh article finished, he set himself to work on a
scheme for the North American Review. In England, Lord Robert Cecil had
invented for the London Quarterly an annual review of politics which he
called the "Session." Adams stole the idea and the name--he thought he
had been enough in Lord Robert's house, in days of his struggle with
adversity, to excuse the theft--and began what he meant for a permanent
series of annual political reviews which he hoped to make, in time, a
political authority. With his sources of information, and his social
intimacies at Washington, he could not help saying something that would
command attention. He had the field to himself, and he meant to give
himself a free hand, as he went on. Whether the newspapers liked it or
not, they would have to reckon with him; for such a power, once
established, was more effective than all the speeches in Congress or
reports to the President that could be crammed into the Government
presses.

  The first of these "Sessions" appeared in April, but it could
not be condensed into a single article, and had to be supplemented in
October by another which bore the title of "Civil Service Reform," and
was really a part of the same review. A good deal of authentic history
slipped into these papers. Whether any one except his press associates
ever read them, he never knew and never greatly cared. The difference
is slight, to the influence of an author, whether he is read by five
hundred readers, or by five hundred thousand; if he can select the five
hundred, he reaches the five hundred thousand. The fateful year 1870
was near at hand, which was to mark the close of the literary epoch,
when quarterlies gave way to monthlies; letter-press to illustration;
volumes to pages. The outburst was brilliant. Bret Harte led, and
Robert Louis Stevenson followed. Guy de Maupassant and Rudyard Kipling
brought up the rear, and dazzled the world. As usual, Adams found
himself fifty years behind his time, but a number of belated wanderers
kept him company, and they produced on each other the effect or
illusion of a public opinion. They straggled apart, at longer and
longer intervals, through the procession, but they were still within
hearing distance of each other. The drift was still superficially
conservative. Just as the Church spoke with apparent authority, of the
quarterlies laid down an apparent law, and no one could surely say
where the real authority, or the real law, lay. Science lid not know.
Truths a priori held their own against truths surely relative.
According to Lowell, Right was forever on the scaffold, Wrong was
forever on the Throne; and most people still thought they believed it.
Adams was not the only relic of the eighteenth century, and he could
still depend on a certain number of listeners--mostly respectable, and
some rich.

  Want of audience did not trouble him; he was well enough off in
that respect, and would have succeeded in all his calculations if this
had been his only hazard. Where he broke down was at a point where he
always suffered wreck and where nine adventurers out of ten make their
errors. One may be more or less certain of organized forces; one can
never be certain of men. He belonged to the eighteenth century, and the
eighteenth century upset all his plans. For the moment, America was
more eighteenth century than himself; it reverted to the stone age.

  As education--of a certain sort--the story had probably a
certain value, though he could never see it. One seldom can see much
education in the buck of a broncho; even less in the kick of a mule.
The lesson it teaches is only that of getting out of the animal's way.
This was the lesson that Henry Adams had learned over and over again in
politics since 1860.

  At least four-fifths of the American people--Adams among the
rest--had united in the election of General Grant to the Presidency,
and probably had been more or less affected in their choice by the
parallel they felt between Grant and Washington. Nothing could be more
obvious. Grant represented order. He was a great soldier, and the
soldier always represented order. He might be as partisan as he
pleased, but a general who had organized and commanded half a million
or a million men in the field, must know how to administer. Even
Washington, who was, in education and experience, a mere cave-dweller,
had known how to organize a government, and had found Jeffersons and
Hamiltons to organize his departments. The task of bringing the
Government back to regular practices, and of restoring moral and
mechanical order to administration, was not very difficult; it was
ready to do it itself, with a little encouragement. No doubt the
confusion, especially in the old slave States and in the currency, was
considerable, but, the general disposition was good, and every one had
echoed that famous phrase: "Let us have peace."

  Adams was young and easily deceived, in spite of his diplomatic
adventures, but even at twice his age he could not see that this
reliance on Grant was unreasonable. Had Grant been a Congressman one
would have been on one's guard, for one knew the type. One never
expected from a Congressman more than good intentions and public
spirit. Newspaper-men as a rule had no great respect for the lower
House; Senators had less; and Cabinet officers had none at all. Indeed,
one day when Adams was pleading with a Cabinet officer for patience and
tact in dealing with Representatives, the Secretary impatiently broke
out: "You can't use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog!
You must take a stick and hit him on the snout!" Adams knew far too
little, compared with the Secretary, to contradict him, though he
thought the phrase somewhat harsh even as applied to the average
Congressman of 1869--he saw little or nothing of later ones--but he
knew a shorter way of silencing criticism. He had but to ask: "If a
Congressman is a hog, what is a Senator?" This innocent question, put
in a candid spirit, petrified any executive officer that ever sat a
week in his office. Even Adams admitted that Senators passed belief.
The comic side of their egotism partly disguised its extravagance, but
faction had gone so far under Andrew Johnson that at times the whole
Senate seemed to catch hysterics of nervous bucking without apparent
reason. Great leaders, like Sumner and Conkling, could not be
burlesqued; they were more grotesque than ridicule could make them;
even Grant, who rarely sparkled in epigram, became witty on their
account; but their egotism and factiousness were no laughing matter.
They did permanent and terrible mischief, as Garfield and Blaine, and
even McKinley and John Hay, were to feel. The most troublesome task of
a reform President was that of bringing the Senate back to decency.

  Therefore no one, and Henry Adams less than most, felt hope
that any President chosen from the ranks of politics or politicians
would raise the character of government; and by instinct if not by
reason, all the world united on Grant. The Senate understood what the
world expected, and waited in silence for a struggle with Grant more
serious than that with Andrew Johnson. Newspaper-men were alive with
eagerness to support the President against the Senate. The
newspaper-man is, more than most men, a double personality; and his
person feels best satisfied in its double instincts when writing in one
sense and thinking in another. All newspaper-men, whatever they wrote,
felt alike about the Senate. Adams floated with the stream. He was
eager to join in the fight which he foresaw as sooner or later
inevitable. He meant to support the Executive in attacking the Senate
and taking away its two-thirds vote and power of confirmation, nor did
he much care how it should be done, for he thought it safer to effect
the revolution in 1870 than to wait till 1920..

  With this thought in his mind, he went to the Capitol to hear
the names announced which should reveal the carefully guarded secret of
Grant's Cabinet. To the end of his life, he wondered at the suddenness
of the revolution which actually, within five minutes, changed his
intended future into an absurdity so laughable as to make him ashamed
of it. He was to hear a long list of Cabinet announcements not much
weaker or more futile than that of Grant, and none of them made him
blush, while Grant's nominations had the singular effect of making the
hearer ashamed, not so much of Grant, as of himself. He had made
another total misconception of life--another inconceivable false start.
Yet, unlikely as it seemed, he had missed his motive narrowly, and his
intention had been more than sound, for the Senators made no secret of
saying with senatorial frankness that Grant's nominations betrayed his
intent as plainly as they betrayed his incompetence. A great soldier
might be a baby politician.

  Adams left the Capitol, much in the same misty mental condition
that he recalled as marking his railway journey to London on May 13,
1861; he felt in himself what Gladstone bewailed so sadly, "the
incapacity of viewing things all round." He knew, without absolutely
saying it, that Grant had cut short the life which Adams had laid out
for himself in the future. After such a miscarriage, no thought of
effectual reform could revive for at least one generation, and he had
no fancy for ineffectual politics. What course could he sail next? He
had tried so many, and society had barred them all! For the moment, he
saw no hope but in following the stream on which he had launched
himself. The new Cabinet, as individuals, were not hostile.
Subsequently Grant made changes in the list which were mostly welcome
to a Bostonian--or should have been--although fatal to Adams. The name
of Hamilton Fish, as Secretary of State, suggested extreme conservatism
and probable deference to Sumner. The name of George S. Boutwell, as
Secretary of the Treasury, suggested only a somewhat lugubrious joke;
Mr. Boutwell could be described only as the opposite of Mr. McCulloch,
and meant inertia; or, in plain words, total extinction for any one
resembling Henry Adams. On the other hand, the name of Jacob D. Cox, as
Secretary of the Interior, suggested help and comfort; while that of
Judge Hoar, as Attorney-General, promised friendship. On the whole, the
personal outlook, merely for literary purposes, seemed fairly cheerful,
and the political outlook, though hazy, still depended on Grant
himself. No one doubted that Grant's intention had been one of reform;
that his aim had been to place his administration above politics; and
until he should actually drive his supporters away, one might hope to
support him. One's little lantern must therefore be turned on Grant.
One seemed to know him so well, and really knew so little.

  By chance it happened that Adam Badeau took the lower suite of
rooms at Dohna's, and, as it was convenient to have one table, the two
men dined together and became intimate. Badeau was exceedingly social,
though not in appearance imposing. He was stout; his face was red, and
his habits were regularly irregular; but he was very intelligent, a
good newspaper-man, and an excellent military historian. His life of
Grant was no ordinary book. Unlike most newspaper-men, he was a
friendly critic of Grant, as suited an officer who had been on the
General's staff. As a rule, the newspaper correspondents in Washington
were unfriendly, and the lobby sceptical. From that side one heard
tales that made one's hair stand on end, and the old West Point army
officers were no more flattering. All described him as vicious, narrow,
dull, and vindictive. Badeau, who had come to Washington for a
consulate which was slow to reach him, resorted more or less to whiskey
for encouragement, and became irritable, besides being loquacious. He
talked much about Grant, and showed a certain artistic feeling for
analysis of character, as a true literary critic would naturally do.
Loyal to Grant, and still more so to Mrs. Grant, who acted as his
patroness, he said nothing, even when far gone, that was offensive
about either, but he held that no one except himself and Rawlins
understood the General. To him, Grant appeared as an intermittent
energy, immensely powerful when awake, but passive and plastic in
repose. He said that neither he nor the rest of the staff knew why
Grant succeeded; they believed in him because of his success. For
stretches of time, his mind seemed torpid. Rawlins and the others would
systematically talk their ideas into it, for weeks, not directly, but
by discussion among themselves, in his presence. In the end, he would
announce the idea as his own, without seeming conscious of the
discussion; and would give the orders to carry it out with all the
energy that belonged to his nature. They could never measure his
character or be sure when he would act. They could never follow a
mental process in his thought. They were not sure that he did think.

  In all this, Adams took deep interest, for although he was not,
like Badeau, waiting for Mrs. Grant's power of suggestion to act on the
General's mind in order to germinate in a consulate or a legation, his
portrait gallery of great men was becoming large, and it amused him to
add an authentic likeness of the greatest general the world had seen
since Napoleon. Badeau's analysis was rather delicate; infinitely
superior to that of Sam Ward or Charles Nordhoff.

  Badeau took Adams to the White House one evening and introduced
him to the President and Mrs. Grant. First and last, he saw a dozen
Presidents at the White House, and the most famous were by no means the
most agreeable, but he found Grant the most curious object of study
among them all. About no one did opinions differ so widely. Adams had
no opinion, or occasion to make one. A single word with Grant satisfied
him that, for his own good, the fewer words he risked, the better. Thus
far in life he had met with but one man of the same intellectual or
unintellectual type--Garibaldi. Of the two, Garibaldi seemed to him a
trifle the more intellectual, but, in both, the intellect counted for
nothing; only the energy counted. The type was pre-intellectual,
archaic, and would have seemed so even to the cave-dwellers. Adam,
according to legend, was such a man.

  In time one came to recognize the type in other men, with
differences and variations, as normal; men whose energies were the
greater, the less they wasted on thought; men who sprang from the soil
to power; apt to be distrustful of themselves and of others; shy;
jealous; sometimes vindictive; more or less dull in outward appearance;
always needing stimulants, but for whom action was the highest
stimulant--the instinct of fight. Such men were forces of nature,
energies of the prime, like the Pteraspis, but they made short work of
scholars. They had commanded thousands of such and saw no more in them
than in others. The fact was certain; it crushed argument and intellect
at once.

  Adams did not feel Grant as a hostile force; like Badeau he saw
only an uncertain one. When in action he was superb and safe to follow;
only when torpid he was dangerous. To deal with him one must stand
near, like Rawlins, and practice more or less sympathetic habits.
Simple-minded beyond the experience of Wall Street or State Street, he
resorted, like most men of the same intellectual calibre, to
commonplaces when at a loss for expression: "Let us have peace!" or,
"The best way to treat a bad law is to execute it"; or a score of such
reversible sentences generally to be gauged by their sententiousness;
but sometimes he made one doubt his good faith; as when he seriously
remarked to a particularly bright young woman that Venice would be a
fine city if it were drained. In Mark Twain, this suggestion would have
taken rank among his best witticisms; in Grant it was a measure of
simplicity not singular. Robert E. Lee betrayed the same intellectual
commonplace, in a Virginian form, not to the same degree, but quite
distinctly enough for one who knew the American. What worried Adams was
not the commonplace; it was, as usual, his own education. Grant fretted
and irritated him, like the Terebratula, as a defiance of first
principles. He had no right to exist. He should have been extinct for
ages. The idea that, as society grew older, it grew one-sided, upset
evolution, and made of education a fraud. That, two thousand years
after Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, a man like Grant should be
called--and should actually and truly be--the highest product of the
most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous. One must be as
commonplace as Grant's own commonplaces to maintain such an absurdity.
The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant,
was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.

  Education became more perplexing at every phase. No theory was
worth the pen that wrote it. America had no use for Adams because he
was eighteenth-century, and yet it worshipped Grant because he was
archaic and should have lived in a cave and worn skins. Darwinists
ought to conclude that America was reverting to the stone age, but the
theory of reversion was more absurd than that of evolution. Grant's
administration reverted to nothing. One could not catch a trait of the
past, still less of the future. It was not even sensibly American. Not
an official in it, except perhaps Rawlins whom Adams never met, and who
died in September, suggested an American idea.

  Yet this administration, which upset Adams's whole life, was
not unfriendly; it was made up largely of friends. Secretary Fish was
almost kind; he kept the tradition of New York social values; he was
human and took no pleasure in giving pain. Adams felt no prejudice
whatever in his favor, and he had nothing in mind or person to attract
regard; his social gifts were not remarkable; he was not in the least
magnetic; he was far from young; but he won confidence from the start
and remained a friend to the finish. As far as concerned Mr. Fish, one
felt rather happily suited, and one was still better off in the
Interior Department with J. D. Cox. Indeed, if Cox had been in the
Treasury and Boutwell in the Interior, one would have been quite
satisfied as far as personal relations went, while, in the
Attorney-General's Office, Judge Hoar seemed to fill every possible
ideal, both personal and political.

  The difficulty was not the want of friends, and had the whole
government been filled with them, it would have helped little without
the President and the Treasury. Grant avowed from the start a policy of
drift; and a policy of drift attaches only barnacles. At thirty, one
has no interest in becoming a barnacle, but even in that character
Henry Adams would have been ill-seen. His friends were reformers,
critics, doubtful in party allegiance, and he was himself an object of
suspicion. Grant had no objects, wanted no help, wished for no
champions. The Executive asked only to be let alone. This was his
meaning when he said: "Let us have peace!"

  No one wanted to go into opposition. As for Adams, all his
hopes of success in life turned on his finding an administration to
support. He knew well enough the rules of self-interest. He was for
sale. He wanted to be bought. His price was excessively cheap, for he
did not even ask an office, and had his eye, not on the Government, but
on New York. All he wanted was something to support; something that
would let itself be supported. Luck went dead against him. For once, he
was fifty years in advance of his time.



CHAPTER XVIII

FREE FIGHT (1869-1870)

  THE old New Englander was apt to be a solitary animal, but the
young New Englander was sometimes human. Judge Hoar brought his son Sam
to Washington, and Sam Hoar loved largely and well. He taught Adams the
charm of Washington spring. Education for education, none ever compared
with the delight of this. The Potomac and its tributaries squandered
beauty. Rock Creek was as wild as the Rocky Mountains. Here and there a
negro log cabin alone disturbed the dogwood and the judas-tree, the
azalea and the laurel. The tulip and the chestnut gave no sense of
struggle against a stingy nature. The soft, full outlines of the
landscape carried no hidden horror of glaciers in its bosom. The
brooding heat of the profligate vegetation; the cool charm of the
running water; the terrific splendor of the June thunder-gust in the
deep and solitary woods, were all sensual, animal, elemental. No
European spring had shown him the same intermixture of delicate grace
and passionate depravity that marked the Maryland May. He loved it too
much, as though it were Greek and half human. He could not leave it,
but loitered on into July, falling into the Southern ways of the summer
village about La Fayette Square, as one whose rights of inheritance
could not be questioned. Few Americans were so poor as to question them.

  In spite of the fatal deception--or undeception--about
Grant's political character, Adams's first winter in Washington had so
much amused him that he had not a thought of change. He loved it too
much to question its value. What did he know about its value, or what
did any one know? His father knew more about it than any one else in
Boston, and he was amused to find that his father, whose recollections
went back to 1820, betrayed for Washington much the same sentimental
weakness, and described the society about President Monroe much as his
son felt the society about President Johnson. He feared its effect on
young men, with some justice, since it had been fatal to two of his
brothers; but he understood the charm, and he knew that a life in
Quincy or Boston was not likely to deaden it.

  Henry was in a savage humor on the subject of Boston. He saw
Boutwells at every counter. He found a personal grief in every tree.
Fifteen or twenty years afterwards, Clarence King used to amuse him by
mourning over the narrow escape that nature had made in attaining
perfection. Except for two mistakes, the earth would have been a
success. One of these errors was the inclination of the ecliptic; the
other was the differentiation of the sexes, and the saddest thought
about the last was that it should have been so modern. Adams, in his
splenetic temper, held that both these unnecessary evils had wreaked
their worst on Boston. The climate made eternal war on society, and sex
was a species of crime. The ecliptic had inclined itself beyond
recovery till life was as thin as the elm trees. Of course he was in
the wrong. The thinness was in himself, not in Boston; but this is a
story of education, and Adams was struggling to shape himself to his
time. Boston was trying to do the same thing. Everywhere, except in
Washington, Americans were toiling for the same object. Every one
complained of surroundings, except where, as at Washington, there were
no surroundings to complain of. Boston kept its head better than its
neighbors did, and very little time was needed to prove it, even to
Adams's confusion.

  Before he got back to Quincy, the summer was already half over,
and in another six weeks the effects of President Grant's character
showed themselves. They were startling--astounding--terrifying. The
mystery that shrouded the famous, classical attempt of Jay Gould to
corner gold in September, 1869, has never been cleared up--at least so
far as to make it intelligible to Adams. Gould was led, by the change
at Washington, into the belief that he could safely corner gold without
interference from the Government. He took a number of precautions,
which he admitted; and he spent a large sum of money, as he also
testified, to obtain assurances which were not sufficient to have
satisfied so astute a gambler; yet he made the venture. Any criminal
lawyer must have begun investigation by insisting, rigorously, that no
such man, in such a position, could be permitted to plead that he had
taken, and pursued, such a course, without assurances which did satisfy
him. The plea was professionally inadmissible.

  This meant that any criminal lawyer would have been bound to
start an investigation by insisting that Gould had assurances from the
White House or the Treasury, since none other could have satisfied him.
To young men wasting their summer at Quincy for want of some one to
hire their services at three dollars a day, such a dramatic scandal was
Heaven-sent. Charles and Henry Adams jumped at it like salmon at a fly,
with as much voracity as Jay Gould, or his ame damnee Jim Fisk, had
ever shown for Erie; and with as little fear of consequences. They
risked something; no one could say what; but the people about the Erie
office were not regarded as lambs.

  The unravelling a skein so tangled as that of the Erie Railway
was a task that might have given months of labor to the most efficient
District Attorney, with all his official tools to work with. Charles
took the railway history; Henry took the so-called Gold Conspiracy; and
they went to New York to work it up. The surface was in full view. They
had no trouble in Wall Street, and they paid their respects in person
to the famous Jim Fisk in his Opera-House Palace; but the New York side
of the story helped Henry little. He needed to penetrate the political
mystery, and for this purpose he had to wait for Congress to meet. At
first he feared that Congress would suppress the scandal, but the
Congressional Investigation was ordered and took place. He soon knew
all that was to be known; the material for his essay was furnished by
the Government.

  Material furnished by a government seldom satisfies critics or
historians, for it lies always under suspicion. Here was a mystery, and
as usual, the chief mystery was the means of making sure that any
mystery existed. All Adams's great friends--Fish, Cox, Hoar, Evarts,
Sumner, and their surroundings--were precisely the persons most
mystified. They knew less than Adams did; they sought information, and
frankly admitted that their relations with the White House and the
Treasury were not confidential. No one volunteered advice. No one
offered suggestion. One got no light, even from the press, although
press agents expressed in private the most damning convictions with
their usual cynical frankness. The Congressional Committee took a
quantity of evidence which it dared not probe, and refused to analyze.
Although the fault lay somewhere on the Administration, and could lie
nowhere else, the trail always faded and died out at the point where
any member of the Administration became visible. Every one dreaded to
press inquiry. Adams himself feared finding out too much. He found out
too much already, when he saw in evidence that Jay Gould had actually
succeeded in stretching his net over Grant's closest surroundings, and
that Boutwell's incompetence was the bottom of Gould's calculation.
With the conventional air of assumed confidence, every one in public
assured every one else that the President himself was the savior of the
situation, and in private assured each other that if the President had
not been caught this time, he was sure to be trapped the next, for the
ways of Wall Street were dark and double. All this was wildly exciting
to Adams. That Grant should have fallen, within six months, into such a
morass--or should have let Boutwell drop him into it--rendered the
outlook for the next four years--probably eight--possibly
twelve--mysterious, or frankly opaque, to a young man who had hitched
his wagon, as Emerson told him, to the star of reform. The country
might outlive it, but not he. The worst scandals of the eighteenth
century were relatively harmless by the side of this, which smirched
executive, judiciary, banks, corporate systems, professions, and
people, all the great active forces of society, in one dirty cesspool
of vulgar corruption. Only six months before, this innocent young man,
fresh from the cynicism of European diplomacy, had expected to enter an
honorable career in the press as the champion and confidant of a new
Washington, and already he foresaw a life of wasted energy, sweeping
the stables of American society clear of the endless corruption which
his second Washington was quite certain to breed.

  By vigorously shutting one's eyes, as though one were an
Assistant Secretary, a writer for the press might ignore the Erie
scandal, and still help his friends or allies in the Government who
were doing their best to give it an air of decency; but a few weeks
showed that the Erie scandal was a mere incident, a rather vulgar Wall
Street trap, into which, according to one's point of view Grant had
been drawn by Jay Gould, or Jay Gould had been misled by Grant. One
could hardly doubt that both of them were astonished and disgusted by
the result; but neither Jay Gould nor any other astute American
mind--still less the complex Jew--could ever have accustomed itself to
the incredible and inexplicable lapses of Grant's intelligence; and
perhaps, on the whole, Gould was the less mischievous victim, if
victims they both were. The same laxity that led Gould into a trap
which might easily have become the penitentiary, led the United States
Senate, the Executive departments and the Judiciary into confusion,
cross-purposes, and ill-temper that would have been scandalous in a
boarding-school of girls. For satirists or comedians, the study was
rich and endless, and they exploited its corners with happy results,
but a young man fresh from the rustic simplicity of London noticed with
horror that the grossest satires on the American Senator and politician
never failed to excite the laughter and applause of every audience.
Rich and poor joined in throwing contempt on their own representatives.
Society laughed a vacant and meaningless derision over its own failure.
Nothing remained for a young man without position or power except to
laugh too.

  Yet the spectacle was no laughing matter to him, whatever it
might be to the public. Society is immoral and immortal; it can afford
to commit any kind of folly, and indulge in any sort of vice; it cannot
be killed, and the fragments that survive can always laugh at the dead;
but a young man has only one chance, and brief time to seize it. Any
one in power above him can extinguish the chance. He is horribly at the
mercy of fools and cowards. One dull administration can rapidly drive
out every active subordinate. At Washington, in 1869-70, every
intelligent man about the Government prepared to go. The people would
have liked to go too, for they stood helpless before the chaos; some
laughed and some raved; all were disgusted; but they had to content
themselves by turning their backs and going to work harder than ever on
their railroads and foundries. They were strong enough to carry even
their politics. Only the helpless remained stranded in Washington.

  The shrewdest statesman of all was Mr. Boutwell, who showed how
he understood the situation by turning out of the Treasury every one
who could interfere with his repose, and then locking himself up in it,
alone. What he did there, no one knew. His colleagues asked him in
vain. Not a word could they get from him, either in the Cabinet or out
of it, of suggestion or information on matters even of vital interest.
The Treasury as an active influence ceased to exist. Mr. Boutwell
waited with confidence for society to drag his department out of the
mire, as it was sure to do if he waited long enough.

  Warned by his friends in the Cabinet as well as in the Treasury
that Mr. Boutwell meant to invite no support, and cared to receive
none, Adams had only the State and Interior Departments left to serve.
He wanted no better than to serve them. Opposition was his horror; pure
waste of energy; a union with Northern Democrats and Southern rebels
who never had much in common with any Adams, and had never shown any
warm interest about them except to drive them from public life. If Mr.
Boutwell turned him out of the Treasury with the indifference or
contempt that made even a beetle helpless, Mr. Fish opened the State
Department freely, and seemed to talk with as much openness as any
newspaper-man could ask. At all events, Adams could cling to this last
plank of salvation, and make himself perhaps the recognized champion of
Mr. Fish in the New York press. He never once thought of his disaster
between Seward and Sumner in 1861. Such an accident could not occur
again. Fish and Sumner were inseparable, and their policy was sure to
be safe enough for support. No mosquito could be so unlucky as to be
caught a second time between a Secretary and a Senator who were both
his friends.

  This dream of security lasted hardly longer than that of 1861.
Adams saw Sumner take possession of the Department, and he approved; he
saw Sumner seize the British mission for Motley, and he was delighted;
but when he renewed his relations with Sumner in the winter of 1869-70,
he began slowly to grasp the idea that Sumner had a foreign policy of
his own which he proposed also to force on the Department. This was not
all. Secretary Fish seemed to have vanished. Besides the Department of
State over which he nominally presided in the Infant Asylum on
Fourteenth Street, there had risen a Department of Foreign Relations
over which Senator Sumner ruled with a high hand at the Capitol; and,
finally, one clearly made out a third Foreign Office in the War
Department, with President Grant himself for chief, pressing a policy
of extension in the West Indies which no Northeastern man ever
approved. For his life, Adams could not learn where to place himself
among all these forces. Officially he would have followed the
responsible Secretary of State, but he could not find the Secretary.
Fish seemed to be friendly towards Sumner, and docile towards Grant,
but he asserted as yet no policy of his own. As for Grant's policy,
Adams never had a chance to know fully what it was, but, as far as he
did know, he was ready to give it ardent support. The difficulty came
only when he heard Sumner's views, which, as he had reason to know,
were always commands, to be disregarded only by traitors.

  Little by little, Sumner unfolded his foreign policy, and Adams
gasped with fresh astonishment at every new article of the creed. To
his profound regret he heard Sumner begin by imposing his veto on all
extension within the tropics; which cost the island of St. Thomas to
the United States, besides the Bay of Samana as an alternative, and
ruined Grant's policy. Then he listened with incredulous stupor while
Sumner unfolded his plan for concentrating and pressing every possible
American claim against England, with a view of compelling the cession
of Canada to the United States.

  Adams did not then know--in fact, he never knew, or could
find any one to tell him--what was going on behind the doors of the
White House. He doubted whether Mr. Fish or Bancroft Davis knew much
more than he. The game of cross-purposes was as impenetrable in Foreign
Affairs as in the Gold Conspiracy. President Grant let every one go on,
but whom he supported, Adams could not be expected to divine. One point
alone seemed clear to a man--no longer so very young--who had lately
come from a seven years' residence in London. He thought he knew as
much as any one in Washington about England, and he listened with the
more perplexity to Mr. Sumner's talk, because it opened the gravest
doubts of Sumner's sanity. If war was his object, and Canada were worth
it, Sumner's scheme showed genius, and Adams was ready to treat it
seriously; but if he thought he could obtain Canada from England as a
voluntary set-off to the Alabama Claims, he drivelled. On the point of
fact, Adams was as peremptory as Sumner on the point of policy, but he
could only wonder whether Mr. Fish would dare say it. When at last Mr.
Fish did say it, a year later, Sumner publicly cut his acquaintance.
Adams was the more puzzled because he could not believe Sumner so mad
as to quarrel both with Fish and with Grant. A quarrel with Seward and
Andrew Johnson was bad enough, and had profited no one; but a quarrel
with General Grant was lunacy. Grant might be whatever one liked, as
far as morals or temper or intellect were concerned, but he was not a
man whom a light-weight cared to challenge for a fight; and Sumner,
whether he knew it or not, was a very light weight in the Republican
Party, if separated from his Committee of Foreign Relations. As a party
manager he had not the weight of half-a-dozen men whose very names were
unknown to him.

  Between these great forces, where was the Administration and
how was one to support it? One must first find it, and even then it was
not easily caught. Grant's simplicity was more disconcerting than the
complexity of a Talleyrand. Mr. Fish afterwards told Adams, with the
rather grim humor he sometimes indulged in, that Grant took a dislike
to Motley because he parted his hair in the middle. Adams repeated the
story to Godkin, who made much play with it in the Nation, till it was
denied. Adams saw no reason why it should be denied. Grant had as good
a right to dislike the hair as the head, if the hair seemed to him a
part of it. Very shrewd men have formed very sound judgments on less
material than hair--on clothes, for example, according to Mr. Carlyle,
or on a pen, according to Cardinal de Retz--and nine men in ten could
hardly give as good a reason as hair for their likes or dislikes. In
truth, Grant disliked Motley at sight, because they had nothing in
common; and for the same reason he disliked Sumner. For the same reason
he would be sure to dislike Adams if Adams gave him a chance. Even Fish
could not be quite sure of Grant, except for the powerful effect which
wealth had, or appeared to have, on Grant's imagination.

  The quarrel that lowered over the State Department did not
break in storm till July, 1870, after Adams had vanished, but another
quarrel, almost as fatal to Adams as that between Fish and Sumner,
worried him even more. Of all members of the Cabinet, the one whom he
had most personal interest in cultivating was Attorney General Hoar.
The Legal Tender decision, which had been the first stumbling-block to
Adams at Washington, grew in interest till it threatened to become
something more serious than a block; it fell on one's head like a
plaster ceiling, and could not be escaped. The impending battle between
Fish and Sumner was nothing like so serious as the outbreak between
Hoar and Chief Justice Chase. Adams had come to Washington hoping to
support the Executive in a policy of breaking down the Senate, but he
never dreamed that he would be required to help in breaking down the
Supreme Court. Although, step by step, he had been driven, like the
rest of the world, to admit that American society had outgrown most of
its institutions, he still clung to the Supreme Court, much as a
churchman clings to his bishops, because they are his only symbol of
unity; his last rag of Right. Between the Executive and the
Legislature, citizens could have no Rights; they were at the mercy of
Power. They had created the Court to protect them from unlimited Power,
and it was little enough protection at best. Adams wanted to save the
independence of the Court at least for his lifetime, and could not
conceive that the Executive should wish to overthrow it.

  Frank Walker shared this feeling, and, by way of helping the
Court, he had promised Adams for the North American Review an article
on the history of the Legal Tender Act, founded on a volume just then
published by Spaulding, the putative father of the legal-tender clause
in 1861. Secretary Jacob D. Cox, who alone sympathized with reform,
saved from Boutwell's decree of banishment such reformers as he could
find place for, and he saved Walker for a time by giving him the Census
of 1870. Walker was obliged to abandon his article for the North
American in order to devote himself to the Census. He gave Adams his
notes, and Adams completed the article.

  He had not toiled in vain over the Bank of England Restriction.
He knew enough about Legal Tender to leave it alone. If the banks and
bankers wanted fiat money, fiat money was good enough for a
newspaper-man; and if they changed about and wanted "intrinsic" value,
gold and silver came equally welcome to a writer who was paid half the
wages of an ordinary mechanic. He had no notion of attacking or
defending Legal Tender; his object was to defend the Chief Justice and
the Court. Walker argued that, whatever might afterwards have been the
necessity for legal tender, there was no necessity for it at the time
the Act was passed. With the help of the Chief Justice's recollections,
Adams completed the article, which appeared in the April number of the
North American. Its ferocity was Walker's, for Adams never cared to
abandon the knife for the hatchet, but Walker reeked of the army and
the Springfield Republican, and his energy ran away with Adams's
restraint. The unfortunate Spaulding complained loudly of this
treatment, not without justice, but the article itself had serious
historical value, for Walker demolished every shred of Spaulding's
contention that legal tender was necessary at the time; and the Chief
Justice told his part of the story with conviction. The Chief Justice
seemed to be pleased. The Attorney General, pleased or not, made no
sign. The article had enough historical interest to induce Adams to
reprint it in a volume of Essays twenty years afterwards; but its
historical value was not its point in education. The point was that, in
spite of the best intentions, the plainest self-interest, and the
strongest wish to escape further trouble, the article threw Adams into
opposition. Judge Hoar, like Boutwell, was implacable.

  Hoar went on to demolish the Chief Justice; while Henry Adams
went on, drifting further and further from the Administration. He did
this in common with all the world, including Hoar himself. Scarcely a
newspaper in the country kept discipline. The New York Tribune was one
of the most criminal. Dissolution of ties in every direction marked the
dissolution of temper, and the Senate Chamber became again a scene of
irritated egotism that passed ridicule. Senators quarrelled with each
other, and no one objected, but they picked quarrels also with the
Executive and threw every Department into confusion. Among others they
quarrelled with Hoar, and drove him from office.

  That Sumner and Hoar, the two New Englanders in great position
who happened to be the two persons most necessary for his success at
Washington, should be the first victims of Grant's lax rule, must have
had some meaning for Adams's education, if Adams could only have
understood what it was. He studied, but failed. Sympathy with him was
not their weakness. Directly, in the form of help, he knew he could
hope as little from them as from Boutwell. So far from inviting
attachment they, like other New Englanders, blushed to own a friend.
Not one of the whole delegation would ever, of his own accord, try to
help Adams or any other young man who did not beg for it, although they
would always accept whatever services they had not to pay for. The
lesson of education was not there. The selfishness of politics was the
earliest of all political education, and Adams had nothing to learn
from its study; but the situation struck him as curious--so curious
that he devoted years to reflecting upon it. His four most powerful
friends had matched themselves, two and two, and were fighting in pairs
to a finish; Sumner-Fish; Chase-Hoar; with foreign affairs and the
judiciary as prizes! What value had the fight in education?

  Adams was puzzled, and was not the only puzzled bystander. The
stage-type of statesman was amusing, whether as Roscoe Conkling or
Colonel Mulberry Sellers, but what was his value? The statesmen of the
old type, whether Sumners or Conklings or Hoars or Lamars, were
personally as honest as human nature could produce. They trod with
lofty contempt on other people's jobs, especially when there was good
in them. Yet the public thought that Sumner and Conkling cost the
country a hundred times more than all the jobs they ever trod on; just
as Lamar and the old Southern statesmen, who were also honest in
money-matters, cost the country a civil war. This painful moral doubt
worried Adams less than it worried his friends and the public, but it
affected the whole field of politics for twenty years. The newspapers
discussed little else than the alleged moral laxity of Grant, Garfield,
and Blaine. If the press were taken seriously, politics turned on jobs,
and some of Adams's best friends, like Godkin, ruined their influence
by their insistence on points of morals. Society hesitated, wavered,
oscillated between harshness and laxity, pitilessly sacrificing the
weak, and deferentially following the strong. In spite of all such
criticism, the public nominated Grant, Garfield, and Blaine for the
Presidency, and voted for them afterwards, not seeming to care for the
question; until young men were forced to see that either some new
standard must be created, or none could be upheld. The moral law had
expired--like the Constitution.

  Grant's administration outraged every rule of ordinary decency,
but scores of promising men, whom the country could not well spare,
were ruined in saying so. The world cared little for decency. What it
wanted, it did not know; probably a system that would work, and men who
could work it; but it found neither. Adams had tried his own little
hands on it, and had failed. His friends had been driven out of
Washington or had taken to fisticuffs. He himself sat down and stared
helplessly into the future.

  The result was a review of the Session for the July North
American into which he crammed and condensed everything he thought he
had observed and all he had been told. He thought it good history then,
and he thought it better twenty years afterwards; he thought it even
good enough to reprint. As it happened, in the process of his devious
education, this "Session" of 1869-70 proved to be his last study in
current politics, and his last dying testament as a humble member of
the press. As such, he stood by it. He could have said no more, had he
gone on reviewing every session in the rest of the century. The
political dilemma was as clear in 1870 as it was likely to be in 1970
The system of 1789 had broken down, and with it the eighteenth-century
fabric of a priori, or moral, principles. Politicians had tacitly given
it up. Grant's administration marked the avowal. Nine-tenths of men's
political energies must henceforth be wasted on expedients to piece
out--to patch--or, in vulgar language, to tinker--the political machine
as often as it broke down. Such a system, or want of system, might last
centuries, if tempered by an occasional revolution or civil war; but as
a machine, it was, or soon would be, the poorest in the world--the
clumsiest--the most inefficient.

  Here again was an education, but what it was worth he could not
guess. Indeed, when he raised his eyes to the loftiest and most
triumphant results of politics--to Mr. Boutwell, Mr. Conkling or even
Mr. Sumner--he could not honestly say that such an education, even when
it carried one up to these unattainable heights, was worth anything.
There were men, as yet standing on lower levels--clever and amusing men
like Garfield and Blaine--who took no little pleasure in making fun of
the senatorial demi-gods, and who used language about Grant himself
which the North American Review would not have admitted. One asked
doubtfully what was likely to become of these men in their turn. What
kind of political ambition was to result from this destructive
political education?

  Yet the sum of political life was, or should have been, the
attainment of a working political system. Society needed to reach it.
If moral standards broke down, and machinery stopped working, new
morals and machinery of some sort had to be invented. An eternity of
Grants, or even of Garfields or of Conklings or of Jay Goulds, refused
to be conceived as possible. Practical Americans laughed, and went
their way. Society paid them to be practical. Whenever society cared to
pay Adams, he too would be practical, take his pay, and hold his
tongue; but meanwhile he was driven to associate with Democratic
Congressmen and educate them. He served David Wells as an active
assistant professor of revenue reform, and turned his rooms into a
college. The Administration drove him, and thousands of other young
men, into active enmity, not only to Grant, but to the system or want
of system, which took possession of the President. Every hope or
thought which had brought Adams to Washington proved to be absurd. No
one wanted him; no one wanted any of his friends in reform; the
blackmailer alone was the normal product of politics as of business.

  All this was excessively amusing. Adams never had been so busy,
so interested, so much in the thick of the crowd. He knew Congressmen
by scores and newspaper-men by the dozen. He wrote for his various
organs all sorts of attacks and defences. He enjoyed the life
enormously, and found himself as happy as Sam Ward or Sunset Cox; much
happier than his friends Fish or J. D. Cox, or Chief Justice Chase or
Attorney General Hoar or Charles Sumner. When spring came, he took to
the woods, which were best of all, for after the first of April, what
Maurice de Guerin called "the vast maternity" of nature showed charms
more voluptuous than the vast paternity of the United States Senate.
Senators were less ornamental than the dogwood or even the judas-tree.
They were, as a rule, less good company. Adams astonished himself by
remarking what a purified charm was lent to the Capitol by the greatest
possible distance, as one caught glimpses of the dome over miles of
forest foliage. At such moments he pondered on the distant beauty of
St. Peter's and the steps of Ara Coeli.

  Yet he shortened his spring, for he needed to get back to
London for the season. He had finished his New York "Gold Conspiracy,"
which he meant for his friend Henry Reeve and the Edinburgh Review. It
was the best piece of work he had done, but this was not his reason for
publishing it in England. The Erie scandal had provoked a sort of
revolt among respectable New Yorkers, as well as among some who were
not so respectable; and the attack on Erie was beginning to promise
success. London was a sensitive spot for the Erie management, and it
was thought well to strike them there, where they were socially and
financially exposed. The tactics suited him in another way, for any
expression about America in an English review attracted ten times the
attention in America that the same article would attract in the North
American. Habitually the American dailies reprinted such articles in
full. Adams wanted to escape the terrors of copyright, his highest
ambition was to be pirated and advertised free of charge, since in any
case, his pay was nothing. Under the excitement of chase he was
becoming a pirate himself, and liked it.



CHAPTER XIX

CHAOS (1870)

  ONE fine May afternoon in 1870 Adams drove again up St. James's
Street wondering more than ever at the marvels of life. Nine years had
passed since the historic entrance of May, 1861. Outwardly London was
the same. Outwardly Europe showed no great change. Palmerston and
Russell were forgotten; but Disraeli and Gladstone were still much
alive. One's friends were more than ever prominent. John Bright was in
the Cabinet; W. E. Forster was about to enter it; reform ran riot.
Never had the sun of progress shone so fair. Evolution from lower to
higher raged like an epidemic. Darwin was the greatest of prophets in
the most evolutionary of worlds. Gladstone had overthrown the Irish
Church; was overthrowing the Irish landlords; was trying to pass an
Education Act. Improvement, prosperity, power, were leaping and
bounding over every country road. Even America, with her Erie scandals
and Alabama Claims, hardly made a discordant note.

  At the Legation, Motley ruled; the long Adams reign was
forgotten; the rebellion had passed into history. In society no one
cared to recall the years before the Prince of Wales. The smart set had
come to their own. Half the houses that Adams had frequented, from 1861
to 1865, were closed or closing in 1870. Death had ravaged one's circle
of friends. Mrs. Milnes Gaskell and her sister Miss Charlotte Wynn were
both dead, and Mr. James Milnes Gaskell was no longer in Parliament.
That field of education seemed closed too.

  One found one's self in a singular frame of mind--more
eighteenth-century than ever--almost rococo--and unable to catch
anywhere the cog-wheels of evolution. Experience ceased to educate.
London taught less freely than of old. That one bad style was leading
to another--that the older men were more amusing than the younger--that
Lord Houghton's breakfast-table showed gaps hard to fill--that there
were fewer men one wanted to meet--these, and a hundred more such
remarks, helped little towards a quicker and more intelligent activity.
For English reforms Adams cared nothing. The reforms were themselves
mediaeval. The Education Bill of his friend W. E. Forster seemed to him
a guaranty against all education he had use for. He resented change. He
would have kept the Pope in the Vatican and the Queen at Windsor Castle
as historical monuments. He did not care to Americanize Europe. The
Bastille or the Ghetto was a curiosity worth a great deal of money, if
preserved; and so was a Bishop; so was Napoleon III. The tourist was
the great conservative who hated novelty and adored dirt. Adams came
back to London without a thought of revolution or restlessness or
reform. He wanted amusement, quiet, and gaiety.

  Had he not been born in 1838 under the shadow of Boston State
House, and been brought up in the Early Victorian epoch, he would have
cast off his old skin, and made his court to Marlborough House, in
partnership with the American woman and the Jew banker. Common-sense
dictated it; but Adams and his friends were unfashionable by some law
of Anglo-Saxon custom--some innate atrophy of mind. Figuring himself as
already a man of action, and rather far up towards the front, he had no
idea of making a new effort or catching up with a new world. He saw
nothing ahead of him. The world was never more calm. He wanted to talk
with Ministers about the Alabama Claims, because he looked on the
Claims as his own special creation, discussed between him and his
father long before they had been discussed by Government; he wanted to
make notes for his next year's articles; but he had not a thought that,
within three months, his world was to be upset, and he under it. Frank
Palgrave came one day, more contentious, contemptuous, and paradoxical
than ever, because Napoleon III seemed to be threatening war with
Germany. Palgrave said that "Germany would beat France into scraps" if
there was war. Adams thought not. The chances were always against
catastrophes. No one else expected great changes in Europe. Palgrave
was always extreme; his language was incautious--violent!

  In this year of all years, Adams lost sight of education.
Things began smoothly, and London glowed with the pleasant sense of
familiarity and dinners. He sniffed with voluptuous delight the
coal-smoke of Cheapside and revelled in the architecture of Oxford
Street. May Fair never shone so fair to Arthur Pendennis as it did to
the returned American. The country never smiled its velvet smile of
trained and easy hostess as it did when he was so lucky as to be asked
on a country visit. He loved it all--everything--had always loved it!
He felt almost attached to the Royal Exchange. He thought he owned the
St. James's Club. He patronized the Legation.

  The first shock came lightly, as though Nature were playing
tricks on her spoiled child, though she had thus far not exerted
herself to spoil him. Reeve refused the Gold Conspiracy. Adams had
become used to the idea that he was free of the Quarterlies, and that
his writing would be printed of course; but he was stunned by the
reason of refusal. Reeve said it would bring half-a-dozen libel suits
on him. One knew that the power of Erie was almost as great in England
as in America, but one was hardly prepared to find it controlling the
Quarterlies. The English press professed to be shocked in 1870 by the
Erie scandal, as it had professed in 1860 to be shocked by the scandal
of slavery, but when invited to support those who were trying to abate
these scandals, the English press said it was afraid. To Adams, Reeve's
refusal seemed portentous. He and his brother and the North American
Review were running greater risks every day, and no one thought of
fear. That a notorious story, taken bodily from an official document,
should scare the Edinburgh Review into silence for fear of Jay Gould
and Jim Fisk, passed even Adams's experience of English eccentricity,
though it was large.

  He gladly set down Reeve's refusal of the Gold Conspiracy to
respectability and editorial law, but when he sent the manuscript on to
the Quarterly, the editor of the Quarterly also refused it. The
literary standard of the two Quarterlies was not so high as to suggest
that the article was illiterate beyond the power of an active and
willing editor to redeem it. Adams had no choice but to realize that he
had to deal in 1870 with the same old English character of 1860, and
the same inability in himself to understand it. As usual, when an ally
was needed, the American was driven into the arms of the radicals.
Respectability, everywhere and always, turned its back the moment one
asked to do it a favor. Called suddenly away from England, he
despatched the article, at the last moment, to the Westminster Review
and heard no more about it for nearly six months.

  He had been some weeks in London when he received a telegram
from his brother-in-law at the Bagni di Lucca telling him that his
sister had been thrown from a cab and injured, and that he had better
come on. He started that night, and reached the Bagni di Lucca on the
second day. Tetanus had already set in.

  The last lesson--the sum and term of education--began then.
He had passed through thirty years of rather varied experience without
having once felt the shell of custom broken. He had never seen
Nature--only her surface--the sugar-coating that she shows to youth.
Flung suddenly in his face, with the harsh brutality of chance, the
terror of the blow stayed by him thenceforth for life, until repetition
made it more than the will could struggle with; more than he could call
on himself to bear. He found his sister, a woman of forty, as gay and
brilliant in the terrors of lockjaw as she had been in the careless fun
of 1859, lying in bed in consequence of a miserable cab-accident that
had bruised her foot. Hour by hour the muscles grew rigid, while the
mind remained bright, until after ten days of fiendish torture she died
in convulsion.

  One had heard and read a great deal about death, and even seen
a little of it, and knew by heart the thousand commonplaces of religion
and poetry which seemed to deaden one's senses and veil the horror.
Society being immortal, could put on immortality at will. Adams being
mortal, felt only the mortality. Death took features altogether new to
him, in these rich and sensuous surroundings. Nature enjoyed it, played
with it, the horror added to her charm, she liked the torture, and
smothered her victim with caresses. Never had one seen her so winning.
The hot Italian summer brooded outside, over the market-place and the
picturesque peasants, and, in the singular color of the Tuscan
atmosphere, the hills and vineyards of the Apennines seemed bursting
with mid-summer blood. The sick-room itself glowed with the Italian joy
of life; friends filled it; no harsh northern lights pierced the soft
shadows; even the dying women shared the sense of the Italian summer,
the soft, velvet air, the humor, the courage, the sensual fulness of
Nature and man. She faced death, as women mostly do, bravely and even
gaily, racked slowly to unconsciousness, but yielding only to violence,
as a soldier sabred in battle. For many thousands of years, on these
hills and plains, Nature had gone on sabring men and women with the
same air of sensual pleasure.

  Impressions like these are not reasoned or catalogued in the
mind; they are felt as part of violent emotion; and the mind that feels
them is a different one from that which reasons; it is thought of a
different power and a different person. The first serious consciousness
of Nature's gesture--her attitude towards life--took form then as a
phantasm, a nightmare, an insanity of force. For the first time, the
stage-scenery of the senses collapsed; the human mind felt itself
stripped naked, vibrating in a void of shapeless energies, with
resistless mass, colliding, crushing, wasting, and destroying what
these same energies had created and labored from eternity to perfect.
Society became fantastic, a vision of pantomime with a mechanical
motion; and its so-called thought merged in the mere sense of life, and
pleasure in the sense. The usual anodynes of social medicine became
evident artifice. Stoicism was perhaps the best; religion was the most
human; but the idea that any personal deity could find pleasure or
profit in torturing a poor woman, by accident, with a fiendish cruelty
known to man only in perverted and insane temperaments, could not be
held for a moment. For pure blasphemy, it made pure atheism a comfort.
God might be, as the Church said, a Substance, but He could not be a
Person.

  With nerves strained for the first time beyond their power of
tension, he slowly travelled northwards with his friends, and stopped
for a few days at Ouchy to recover his balance in a new world; for the
fantastic mystery of coincidences had made the world, which he thought
real, mimic and reproduce the distorted nightmare of his personal
horror. He did not yet know it, and he was twenty years in finding it
out; but he had need of all the beauty of the Lake below and of the
Alps above, to restore the finite to its place. For the first time in
his life, Mont Blanc for a moment looked to him what it was--a chaos of
anarchic and purposeless forces--and he needed days of repose to see it
clothe itself again with the illusions of his senses, the white purity
of its snows, the splendor of its light, and the infinity of its
heavenly peace. Nature was kind; Lake Geneva was beautiful beyond
itself, and the Alps put on charms real as terrors; but man became
chaotic, and before the illusions of Nature were wholly restored, the
illusions of Europe suddenly vanished, leaving a new world to learn.

  On July 4, all Europe had been in peace; on July 14, Europe was
in full chaos of war. One felt helpless and ignorant, but one might
have been king or kaiser without feeling stronger to deal with the
chaos. Mr. Gladstone was as much astounded as Adams; the Emperor
Napoleon was nearly as stupefied as either, and Bismarck: himself
hardly knew how he did it. As education, the out-break of the war was
wholly lost on a man dealing with death hand-to-hand, who could not
throw it aside to look at it across the Rhine. Only when he got up to
Paris, he began to feel the approach of catastrophe. Providence set up
no affiches to announce the tragedy. Under one's eyes France cut
herself adrift, and floated off, on an unknown stream, towards a less
known ocean. Standing on the curb of the Boulevard, one could see as
much as though one stood by the side of the Emperor or in command of an
army corps. The effect was lurid. The public seemed to look on the war,
as it had looked on the wars of Louis XIV and Francis I, as a branch of
decorative art. The French, like true artists, always regarded war as
one of the fine arts. Louis XIV practiced it; Napoleon I perfected it;
and Napoleon III had till then pursued it in the same spirit with
singular success. In Paris, in July, 1870, the war was brought out like
an opera of Meyerbeer. One felt one's self a supernumerary hired to
fill the scene. Every evening at the theatre the comedy was interrupted
by order, and one stood up by order, to join in singing the
Marseillaise to order. For nearly twenty years one had been forbidden
to sing the Marseillaise under any circumstances, but at last regiment
after regiment marched through the streets shouting "Marchons!" while
the bystanders cared not enough to join. Patriotism seemed to have been
brought out of the Government stores, and distributed by grammes per
capita. One had seen one's own people dragged unwillingly into a war,
and had watched one's own regiments march to the front without sign of
enthusiasm; on the contrary, most serious, anxious, and conscious of
the whole weight of the crisis; but in Paris every one conspired to
ignore the crisis, which every one felt at hand. Here was education for
the million, but the lesson was intricate. Superficially Napoleon and
his Ministers and marshals were playing a game against Thiers and
Gambetta. A bystander knew almost as little as they did about the
result. How could Adams prophesy that in another year or two, when he
spoke of his Paris and its tastes, people would smile at his dotage?

  As soon as he could, he fled to England and once more took
refuge in the profound peace of Wenlock Abbey. Only the few remaining
monks, undisturbed by the brutalities of Henry VIII--three or four
young Englishmen--survived there, with Milnes Gaskell acting as Prior.
The August sun was warm; the calm of the Abbey was ten times secular;
not a discordant sound--hardly a sound of any sort except the cawing of
the ancient rookery at sunset--broke the stillness; and, after the
excitement of the last month, one felt a palpable haze of peace
brooding over the Edge and the Welsh Marches. Since the reign of
Pterspis, nothing had greatly changed; nothing except the monks. Lying
on the turf the ground littered with newspapers, the monks studied the
war correspondence. In one respect Adams had succeeded in educating
himself; he had learned to follow a campaign.

  While at Wenlock, he received a letter from President Eliot
inviting him to take an Assistant Professorship of History, to be
created shortly at Harvard College. After waiting ten or a dozen years
for some one to show consciousness of his existence, even a Terabratula
would be pleased and grateful for a compliment which implied that the
new President of Harvard College wanted his help; but Adams knew
nothing about history, and much less about teaching, while he knew more
than enough about Harvard College; and wrote at once to thank President
Eliot, with much regret that the honor should be above his powers. His
mind was full of other matters. The summer, from which he had expected
only amusement and social relations with new people, had ended in the
most intimate personal tragedy, and the most terrific political
convulsion he had ever known or was likely to know. He had failed in
every object of his trip. The Quarterlies had refused his best essay.
He had made no acquaintances and hardly picked up the old ones. He
sailed from Liverpool, on September 1, to begin again where he had
started two years before, but with no longer a hope of attaching
himself to a President or a party or a press. He was a free lance and
no other career stood in sight or mind. To that point education had
brought him.

  Yet he found, on reaching home, that he had not done quite so
badly as he feared. His article on the Session in the July North
American had made a success. Though he could not quite see what
partisan object it served, he heard with flattered astonishment that it
had been reprinted by the Democratic National Committee and circulated
as a campaign document by the hundred thousand copies. He was
henceforth in opposition, do what he might; and a Massachusetts
Democrat, say what he pleased; while his only reward or return for this
partisan service consisted in being formally answered by Senator
Timothy Howe, of Wisconsin, in a Republican campaign document, presumed
to be also freely circulated, in which the Senator, besides refuting
his opinions, did him the honor--most unusual and picturesque in a
Senator's rhetoric--of likening him to a begonia.

  The begonia is, or then was, a plant of such senatorial
qualities as to make the simile, in intention, most flattering. Far
from charming in its refinement, the begonia was remarkable for curious
and showy foliage; it was conspicuous; it seemed to have no useful
purpose; and it insisted on standing always in the most prominent
positions. Adams would have greatly liked to be a begonia in
Washington, for this was rather his ideal of the successful statesman,
and he thought about it still more when the Westminster Review for
October brought him his article on the Gold Conspiracy, which was also
instantly pirated on a great scale. Piratical he was himself henceforth
driven to be, and he asked only to be pirated, for he was sure not to
be paid; but the honors of piracy resemble the colors of the begonia;
they are showy but not useful. Here was a tour de force he had never
dreamed himself equal to performing: two long, dry, quarterly, thirty
or forty page articles, appearing in quick succession, and pirated for
audiences running well into the hundred thousands; and not one person,
man or woman, offering him so much as a congratulation, except to call
him a begonia.

  Had this been all, life might have gone on very happily as
before, but the ways of America to a young person of literary and
political tastes were such as the so-called evolution of civilized man
had not before evolved. No sooner had Adams made at Washington what he
modestly hoped was a sufficient success, than his whole family set on
him to drag him away. For the first time since 1861 his father
interposed; his mother entreated; and his brother Charles argued and
urged that he should come to Harvard College. Charles had views of
further joint operations in a new field. He said that Henry had done at
Washington all he could possibly do; that his position there wanted
solidity; that he was, after all, an adventurer; that a few years in
Cambridge would give him personal weight; that his chief function was
not to be that of teacher, but that of editing the North American
Review which was to be coupled with the professorship, and would lead
to the daily press. In short, that he needed the university more than
the university needed him.

  Henry knew the university well enough to know that the
department of history was controlled by one of the most astute and
ideal administrators in the world--Professor Gurney--and that it was
Gurney who had established the new professorship, and had cast his net
over Adams to carry the double load of mediaeval history and the
Review. He could see no relation whatever between himself and a
professorship. He sought education; he did not sell it. He knew no
history; he knew only a few historians; his ignorance was mischievous
because it was literary, accidental, indifferent. On the other hand he
knew Gurney, and felt much influenced by his advice. One cannot take
one's self quite seriously in such matters; it could not much affect
the sum of solar energies whether one went on dancing with girls in
Washington, or began talking to boys at Cambridge. The good people who
thought it did matter had a sort of right to guide. One could not
reject their advice; still less disregard their wishes.

  The sum of the matter was that Henry went out to Cambridge and
had a few words with President Eliot which seemed to him almost as
American as the talk about diplomacy with his father ten years before.
"But, Mr. President," urged Adams, "I know nothing about Mediaeval
History." With the courteous manner and bland smile so familiar for the
next generation of Americans Mr. Eliot mildly but firmly replied, "If
you will point out to me any one who knows more, Mr. Adams, I will
appoint him." The answer was neither logical nor convincing, but Adams
could not meet it without overstepping his privileges. He could not say
that, under the circumstances, the appointment of any professor at all
seemed to him unnecessary.

  So, at twenty-four hours' notice, he broke his life in halves
again in order to begin a new education, on lines he had not chosen, in
subjects for which he cared less than nothing; in a place he did not
love, and before a future which repelled. Thousands of men have to do
the same thing, but his case was peculiar because he had no need to do
it. He did it because his best and wisest friends urged it, and he
never could make up his mind whether they were right or not. To him
this kind of education was always false. For himself he had no doubts.
He thought it a mistake; but his opinion did not prove that it was one,
since, in all probability, whatever he did would be more or less a
mistake. He had reached cross-roads of education which all led astray.
What he could gain at Harvard College he did not know, but in any case
it was nothing he wanted. What he lost at Washington he could partly
see, but in any case it was not fortune. Grant's administration wrecked
men by thousands, but profited few. Perhaps Mr. Fish was the solitary
exception. One might search the whole list of Congress, Judiciary, and
Executive during the twenty-five years 1870 to 1895, and find little
but damaged reputation. The period was poor in purpose and barren in
results.

  Henry Adams, if not the rose, lived as near it as any
politician, and knew, more or less, all the men in any way prominent at
Washington, or knew all about them. Among them, in his opinion, the
best equipped, the most active-minded, and most industrious was Abram
Hewitt, who sat in Congress for a dozen years, between 1874 and 1886,
sometimes leading the House and always wielding influence second to
none. With nobody did Adams form closer or longer relations than with
Mr. Hewitt, whom he regarded as the most useful public man in
Washington; and he was the more struck by Hewitt's saying, at the end
of his laborious career as legislator, that he left behind him no
permanent result except the Act consolidating the Surveys. Adams knew
no other man who had done so much, unless Mr. Sherman's legislation is
accepted as an instance of success. Hewitt's nearest rival would
probably have been Senator Pendleton who stood father to civil service
reform in 1882, an attempt to correct a vice that should never have
been allowed to be born. These were the men who succeeded.

  The press stood in much the same light. No editor, no political
writer, and no public administrator achieved enough good reputation to
preserve his memory for twenty years. A number of them achieved bad
reputations, or damaged good ones that had been gained in the Civil
War. On the whole, even for Senators, diplomats, and Cabinet officers,
the period was wearisome and stale.

  None of Adams's generation profited by public activity unless
it were William C. Whitney, and even he could not be induced to return
to it. Such ambitions as these were out of one's reach, but supposing
one tried for what was feasible, attached one's self closely to the
Garfields, Arthurs, Frelinghuysens, Blaines, Bayards, or Whitneys, who
happened to hold office; and supposing one asked for the mission to
Belgium or Portugal, and obtained it; supposing one served a term as
Assistant Secretary or Chief of Bureau; or, finally, supposing one had
gone as sub-editor on the New York Tribune or Times--how much more
education would one have gained than by going to Harvard College? These
questions seemed better worth an answer than most of the questions on
examination papers at college or in the civil service; all the more
because one never found an answer to them, then or afterwards, and
because, to his mind, the value of American society altogether was
mixed up with the value of Washington.

  At first, the simple beginner, struggling with principles,
wanted throw off responsibility on the American people, whose bare and
toiling shoulders had to carry the load of every social or political
stupidity; but the American people had no more to do with it than with
the customs of Peking. American character might perhaps account for it,
but what accounted for American character? All Boston, all New England,
and all respectable New York, including Charles Francis Adams the
father and Charles Francis Adams the son, agreed that Washington was no
place for a respectable young man. All Washington, including
Presidents, Cabinet officers, Judiciary, Senators, Congressmen, and
clerks, expressed the same opinion, and conspired to drive away every
young man who happened to be there or tried to approach. Not one young
man of promise remained in the Government service. All drifted into
opposition. The Government did not want them in Washington. Adams's
case was perhaps the strongest because he thought he had done well. He
was forced to guess it, since he knew no one who would have risked so
extravagant a step as that of encouraging a young man in a literary
career, or even in a political one; society forbade it, as well as
residence in a political capital; but Harvard College must have seen
some hope for him, since it made him professor against his will; even
the publishers and editors of the North American Review must have felt
a certain amount of confidence in him, since they put the Review in his
hands. After all, the Review was the first literary power in America,
even though it paid almost as little in gold as the United States
Treasury. The degree of Harvard College might bear a value as ephemeral
as the commission of a President of the United States; but the
government of the college, measured by money alone, and patronage, was
a matter of more importance than that of some branches of the national
service. In social position, the college was the superior of them all
put together. In knowledge, she could assert no superiority, since the
Government made no claims, and prided itself on ignorance. The service
of Harvard College was distinctly honorable; perhaps the most honorable
in America; and if Harvard College thought Henry Adams worth employing
at four dollars a day, why should Washington decline his services when
he asked nothing? Why should he be dragged from a career he liked in a
place he loved, into a career he detested, in a place and climate he
shunned? Was it enough to satisfy him, that all America should call
Washington barren and dangerous? What made Washington more dangerous
than New York?

  The American character showed singular limitations which
sometimes drove the student of civilized man to despair. Crushed by his
own ignorance--lost in the darkness of his own gropings--the scholar
finds himself jostled of a sudden by a crowd of men who seem to him
ignorant that there is a thing called ignorance; who have forgotten how
to amuse themselves; who cannot even understand that they are bored.
The American thought of himself as a restless, pushing, energetic,
ingenious person, always awake and trying to get ahead of his
neighbors. Perhaps this idea of the national character might be correct
for New York or Chicago; it was not correct for Washington. There the
American showed himself, four times in five, as a quiet, peaceful, shy
figure, rather in the mould of Abraham Lincoln, somewhat sad, sometimes
pathetic, once tragic; or like Grant, inarticulate, uncertain,
distrustful of himself, still more distrustful of others, and awed by
money. That the American, by temperament, worked to excess, was true;
work and whiskey were his stimulants; work was a form of vice; but he
never cared much for money or power after he earned them. The amusement
of the pursuit was all the amusement he got from it; he had no use for
wealth. Jim Fisk alone seemed to know what he wanted; Jay Gould never
did. At Washington one met mostly such true Americans, but if one
wanted to know them better, one went to study them in Europe. Bored,
patient, helpless; pathetically dependent on his wife and daughters;
indulgent to excess; mostly a modest, decent, excellent, valuable
citizen; the American was to be met at every railway station in Europe,
carefully explaining to every listener that the happiest day of his
life would be the day he should land on the pier at New York. He was
ashamed to be amused; his mind no longer answered to the stimulus of
variety; he could not face a new thought. All his immense strength his
intense nervous energy, his keen analytic perceptions, were oriented in
one direction, and he could not change it. Congress was full of such
men; in the Senate, Sumner was almost the only exception; in the
Executive, Grant and Boutwell were varieties of the type--political
specimens--pathetic in their helplessness to do anything with power
when it came to them. They knew not how to amuse themselves; they could
not conceive how other people were amused. Work, whiskey, and cards
were life. The atmosphere of political Washington was theirs--or was
supposed by the outside world to be in their control--and this was the
reason why the outside world judged that Washington was fatal even for
a young man of thirty-two, who had passed through the whole variety of
temptations, in every capital of Europe, for a dozen years; who never
played cards, and who loathed whiskey.



CHAPTER XX

FAILURE (1871)

FAR back in childhood, among its earliest memories, Henry Adams could
recall his first visit to Harvard College. He must have been nine years
old when on one of the singularly gloomy winter afternoons which
beguiled Cambridgeport, his mother drove him out to visit his aunt,
Mrs. Everett. Edward Everett was then President of the college and
lived in the old President's House on Harvard Square. The boy
remembered the drawing-room, on the left of the hall door, in which
Mrs. Everett received them. He remembered a marble greyhound in the
corner. The house had an air of colonial self-respect that impressed
even a nine-year-old child.

  When Adams closed his interview with President Eliot, he asked
the Bursar about his aunt's old drawing-room, for the house had been
turned to base uses. The room and the deserted kitchen adjacent to it
were to let. He took them. Above him, his brother Brooks, then a law
student, had rooms, with a private staircase. Opposite was J. R.
Dennett, a young instructor almost as literary as Adams himself, and
more rebellious to conventions. Inquiry revealed a boarding-table,
somewhere in the neighborhood, also supposed to be superior in its
class. Chauncey Wright, Francis Wharton, Dennett, John Fiske, or their
equivalents in learning and lecture, were seen there, among three or
four law students like Brooks Adams. With these primitive arrangements,
all of them had to be satisfied. The standard was below that of
Washington, but it was, for the moment, the best.

  For the next nine months the Assistant Professor had no time to
waste on comforts or amusements. He exhausted all his strength in
trying to keep one day ahead of his duties. Often the stint ran on,
till night and sleep ran short. He could not stop to think whether he
were doing the work rightly. He could not get it done to please him,
rightly or wrongly, for he never could satisfy himself what to do.

  The fault he had found with Harvard College as an undergraduate
must have been more or less just, for the college was making a great
effort to meet these self-criticisms, and had elected President Eliot
in 1869 to carry out its reforms. Professor Gurney was one of the
leading reformers, and had tried his hand on his own department of
History. The two full Professors of History--Torrey and Gurney,
charming men both--could not cover the ground. Between Gurney's
classical courses and Torrey's modern ones, lay a gap of a thousand
years, which Adams was expected to fill. The students had already
elected courses numbered 1, 2, and 3, without knowing what was to be
taught or who was to teach. If their new professor had asked what idea
was in their minds, they must have replied that nothing at all was in
their minds, since their professor had nothing in his, and down to the
moment he took his chair and looked his scholars in the face, he had
given, as far as he could remember, an hour, more or less, to the
Middle Ages.

  Not that his ignorance troubled him! He knew enough to be
ignorant. His course had led him through oceans of ignorance; he had
tumbled from one ocean into another till he had learned to swim; but
even to him education was a serious thing. A parent gives life, but as
parent, gives no more. A murderer takes life, but his deed stops there.
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence
stops. A teacher is expected to teach truth, and may perhaps flatter
himself that he does so, if he stops with the alphabet or the
multiplication table, as a mother teaches truth by making her child eat
with a spoon; but morals are quite another truth and philosophy is more
complex still. A teacher must either treat history as a catalogue, a
record, a romance, or as an evolution; and whether he affirms or denies
evolution, he falls into all the burning faggots of the pit. He makes
of his scholars either priests or atheists, plutocrats or socialists,
judges or anarchists, almost in spite of himself. In essence incoherent
and immoral, history had either to be taught as such--or falsified.

  Adams wanted to do neither. He had no theory of evolution to
teach, and could not make the facts fit one. He had no fancy for
telling agreeable tales to amuse sluggish-minded boys, in order to
publish them afterwards as lectures. He could still less compel his
students to learn the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Venerable Bede by
heart. He saw no relation whatever between his students and the Middle
Ages unless it were the Church, and there the ground was particularly
dangerous. He knew better than though he were a professional historian
that the man who should solve the riddle of the Middle Ages and bring
them into the line of evolution from past to present, would be a
greater man than Lamarck or Linnaeus; but history had nowhere broken
down so pitiably, or avowed itself so hopelessly bankrupt, as there.
Since Gibbon, the spectacle was almost a scandal. History had lost even
the sense of shame. It was a hundred years behind the experimental
sciences. For all serious purpose, it was less instructive than Walter
Scott and Alexandre Dumas.

  All this was without offence to Sir Henry Maine, Tyler,
McLennan, Buckle, Auguste Comte, and the various philosophers who, from
time to time, stirred the scandal, and made it more scandalous. No
doubt, a teacher might make some use of these writers or their
theories; but Adams could fit them into no theory of his own. The
college expected him to pass at least half his time teaching the boys a
few elementary dates and relations, that they might not be a disgrace
to the university. This was formal; and he could frankly tell the boys
that, provided they passed their examinations, they might get their
facts where they liked, and use the teacher only for questions. The
only privilege a student had that was worth his claiming, was that of
talking to the professor, and the professor was bound to encourage it.
His only difficulty on that side was to get them to talk at all. He had
to devise schemes to find what they were thinking about, and induce
them to risk criticism from their fellows. Any large body of students
stifles the student. No man can instruct more than half-a-dozen
students at once. The whole problem of education is one of its cost in
money.

  The lecture system to classes of hundreds, which was very much
that of the twelfth century, suited Adams not at all. Barred from
philosophy and bored by facts, he wanted to teach his students
something not wholly useless. The number of students whose minds were
of an order above the average was, in his experience, barely one in
ten; the rest could not be much stimulated by any inducements a teacher
could suggest. All were respectable, and in seven years of contact,
Adams never had cause to complain of one; but nine minds in ten take
polish passively, like a hard surface; only the tenth sensibly reacts.

  Adams thought that, as no one seemed to care what he did, he
would try to cultivate this tenth mind, though necessarily at the
expense of the other nine. He frankly acted on the rule that a teacher,
who knew nothing of his subject, should not pretend to teach his
scholars what he did not know, but should join them in trying to find
the best way of learning it. The rather pretentious name of historical
method was sometimes given to this process of instruction, but the name
smacked of German pedagogy, and a young professor who respected neither
history nor method, and whose sole object of interest was his students'
minds, fell into trouble enough without adding to it a German parentage.

  The task was doomed to failure for a reason which he could not
control. Nothing is easier than to teach historical method, but, when
learned, it has little use. History is a tangled skein that one may
take up at any point, and break when one has unravelled enough; but
complexity precedes evolution. The Pteraspis grins horribly from the
closed entrance. One may not begin at the beginning, and one has but
the loosest relative truths to follow up. Adams found himself obliged
to force his material into some shape to which a method could be
applied. He could think only of law as subject; the Law School as end;
and he took, as victims of his experiment, half-a-dozen highly
intelligent young men who seemed willing to work. The course began with
the beginning, as far as the books showed a beginning in primitive man,
and came down through the Salic Franks to the Norman English. Since no
textbooks existed, the professor refused to profess, knowing no more
than his students, and the students read what they pleased and compared
their results. As pedagogy, nothing could be more triumphant. The boys
worked like rabbits, and dug holes all over the field of archaic
society; no difficulty stopped them; unknown languages yielded before
their attack, and customary law became familiar as the police court;
undoubtedly they learned, after a fashion, to chase an idea, like a
hare, through as dense a thicket of obscure facts as they were likely
to meet at the bar; but their teacher knew from his own experience that
his wonderful method led nowhere, and they would have to exert
themselves to get rid of it in the Law School even more than they
exerted themselves to acquire it in the college. Their science had no
system, and could have none, since its subject was merely antiquarian.
Try as hard as he might, the professor could not make it actual.

  What was the use of training an active mind to waste its
energy? The experiments might in time train Adams as a professor, but
this result was still less to his taste. He wanted to help the boys to
a career, but not one of his many devices to stimulate the intellectual
reaction of the student's mind satisfied either him or the students.
For himself he was clear that the fault lay in the system, which could
lead only to inertia. Such little knowledge of himself as he possessed
warranted him in affirming that his mind required conflict,
competition, contradiction even more than that of the student. He too
wanted a rank-list to set his name upon. His reform of the system would
have begun in the lecture-room at his own desk. He would have seated a
rival assistant professor opposite him, whose business should be
strictly limited to expressing opposite views. Nothing short of this
would ever interest either the professor or the student; but of all
university freaks, no irregularity shocked the intellectual atmosphere
so much as contradiction or competition between teachers. In that
respect the thirteenth-century university system was worth the whole
teaching of the modern school.

  All his pretty efforts to create conflicts of thought among his
students failed for want of system. None met the needs of instruction.
In spite of President Eliot's reforms and his steady, generous, liberal
support, the system remained costly, clumsy and futile. The
university--as far as it was represented by Henry Adams--produced at
great waste of time and money results not worth reaching.

  He made use of his lost two years of German schooling to
inflict their results on his students, and by a happy chance he was in
the full tide of fashion. The Germans were crowning their new emperor
at Versailles, and surrounding his head with a halo of Pepins and
Merwigs, Othos and Barbarossas. James Bryce had even discovered the
Holy Roman Empire. Germany was never so powerful, and the Assistant
Professor of History had nothing else as his stock in trade. He imposed
Germany on his scholars with a heavy hand. He was rejoiced; but he
sometimes doubted whether they should be grateful. On the whole, he was
content neither with what he had taught nor with the way he had taught
it. The seven years he passed in teaching seemed to him lost.

  The uses of adversity are beyond measure strange. As a
professor, he regarded himself as a failure. Without false modesty he
thought he knew what he meant. He had tried a great many experiments,
and wholly succeeded in none. He had succumbed to the weight of the
system. He had accomplished nothing that he tried to do. He regarded
the system as wrong; more mischievous to the teachers than to the
students; fallacious from the beginning to end. He quitted the
university at last, in 1877, with a feeling, that, if it had not been
for the invariable courtesy and kindness shown by every one in it, from
the President to the injured students, he should be sore at his failure.

  These were his own feelings, but they seemed not to be felt in
the college. With the same perplexing impartiality that had so much
disconcerted him in his undergraduate days, the college insisted on
expressing an opposite view. John Fiske went so far in his notice of
the family in "Appleton's Cyclopedia," as to say that Henry had left a
great reputation at Harvard College; which was a proof of John Fiske's
personal regard that Adams heartily returned; and set the kind
expression down to camaraderie. The case was different when President
Eliot himself hinted that Adams's services merited recognition. Adams
could have wept on his shoulder in hysterics, so grateful was he for
the rare good-will that inspired the compliment; but he could not allow
the college to think that he esteemed himself entitled to distinction.
He knew better, and his was among the failures which were respectable
enough to deserve self-respect. Yet nothing in the vanity of life
struck him as more humiliating than that Harvard College, which he had
persistently criticised, abused, abandoned, and neglected, should alone
have offered him a dollar, an office, an encouragement, or a kindness.
Harvard College might have its faults, but at least it redeemed
America, since it was true to its own.

  The only part of education that the professor thought a success
was the students. He found them excellent company. Cast more or less in
the same mould, without violent emotions or sentiment, and, except for
the veneer of American habits, ignorant of all that man had ever
thought or hoped, their minds burst open like flowers at the sunlight
of a suggestion. They were quick to respond; plastic to a mould; and
incapable of fatigue. Their faith in education was so full of pathos
that one dared not ask them what they thought they could do with
education when they got it. Adams did put the question to one of them,
and was surprised at the answer: "The degree of Harvard College is
worth money to me in Chicago." This reply upset his experience; for the
degree of Harvard College had been rather a drawback to a young man in
Boston and Washington. So far as it went, the answer was good, and
settled one's doubts. Adams knew no better, although he had given
twenty years to pursuing the same education, and was no nearer a result
than they. He still had to take for granted many things that they need
not--among the rest, that his teaching did them more good than harm. In
his own opinion the greatest good he could do them was to hold his
tongue. They needed much faith then; they were likely to need more if
they lived long.

  He never knew whether his colleagues shared his doubts about
their own utility. Unlike himself, they knew more or less their
business. He could not tell his scholars that history glowed with
social virtue; the Professor of Chemistry cared not a chemical atom
whether society was virtuous or not. Adams could not pretend that
mediaeval society proved evolution; the Professor of Physics smiled at
evolution. Adams was glad to dwell on the virtues of the Church and the
triumphs of its art: the Professor of Political Economy had to treat
them as waste of force. They knew what they had to teach; he did not.
They might perhaps be frauds without knowing it; but he knew certainly
nothing else of himself. He could teach his students nothing; he was
only educating himself at their cost.

  Education, like politics, is a rough affair, and every
instructor has to shut his eyes and hold his tongue as though he were a
priest. The students alone satisfied. They thought they gained
something. Perhaps they did, for even in America and in the twentieth
century, life could not be wholly industrial. Adams fervently hoped
that they might remain content; but supposing twenty years more to
pass, and they should turn on him as fiercely as he had turned on his
old instructors--what answer could he make? The college had pleaded
guilty, and tried to reform. He had pleaded guilty from the start, and
his reforms had failed before those of the college.

  The lecture-room was futile enough, but the faculty-room was
worse. American society feared total wreck in the maelstrom of
political and corporate administration, but it could not look for help
to college dons. Adams knew, in that capacity, both Congressmen and
professors, and he preferred Congressmen. The same failure marked the
society of a college. Several score of the best-educated, most
agreeable, and personally the most sociable people in America united in
Cambridge to make a social desert that would have starved a polar bear.
The liveliest and most agreeable of men--James Russell Lowell, Francis
J. Child, Louis Agassiz, his son Alexander, Gurney, John Fiske, William
James and a dozen others, who would have made the joy of London or
Paris--tried their best to break out and be like other men in Cambridge
and Boston, but society called them professors, and professors they had
to be. While all these brilliant men were greedy for companionship, all
were famished for want of it. Society was a faculty-meeting without
business. The elements were there; but society cannot be made up of
elements--people who are expected to be silent unless they have
observations to make--and all the elements are bound to remain apart if
required to make observations.

  Thus it turned out that of all his many educations, Adams
thought that of school-teacher the thinnest. Yet he was forced to admit
that the education of an editor, in some ways, was thinner still. The
editor had barely time to edit; he had none to write. If copy fell
short, he was obliged to scribble a book-review on the virtues of the
Anglo-Saxons or the vices of the Popes; for he knew more about Edward
the Confessor or Boniface VIII than he did about President Grant. For
seven years he wrote nothing; the Review lived on his brother Charles's
railway articles. The editor could help others, but could do nothing
for himself. As a writer, he was totally forgotten by the time he had
been an editor for twelve months. As editor he could find no writer to
take his place for politics and affairs of current concern. The Review
became chiefly historical. Russell Lowell and Frank Palgrave helped him
to keep it literary. The editor was a helpless drudge whose successes,
if he made any, belonged to his writers; but whose failures might
easily bankrupt himself. Such a Review may be made a sink of money with
captivating ease. The secrets of success as an editor were easily
learned; the highest was that of getting advertisements. Ten pages of
advertising made an editor a success; five marked him as a failure. The
merits or demerits of his literature had little to do with his results
except when they led to adversity.

  A year or two of education as editor satiated most of his
appetite for that career as a profession. After a very slight
experience, he said no more on the subject. He felt willing to let any
one edit, if he himself might write. Vulgarly speaking, it was a dog's
life when it did not succeed, and little better when it did. A
professor had at least the pleasure of associating with his students;
an editor lived the life of an owl. A professor commonly became a
pedagogue or a pedant; an editor became an authority on advertising. On
the whole, Adams preferred his attic in Washington. He was educated
enough. Ignorance paid better, for at least it earned fifty dollars a
month.

  With this result Henry Adams's education, at his entry into
life, stopped, and his life began. He had to take that life as he best
could, with such accidental education as luck had given him; but he
held that it was wrong, and that, if he were to begin again, he would
do it on a better system. He thought he knew nearly what system to
pursue. At that time Alexander Agassiz had not yet got his head above
water so far as to serve for a model, as he did twenty or thirty years
afterwards; but the editorship of the North American Review had one
solitary merit; it made the editor acquainted at a distance with almost
every one in the country who could write or who could be the cause of
writing. Adams was vastly pleased to be received among these clever
people as one of themselves, and felt always a little surprised at
their treating him as an equal, for they all had education; but among
them, only one stood out in extraordinary prominence as the type and
model of what Adams would have liked to be, and of what the American,
as he conceived, should have been and was not.

  Thanks to the article on Sir Charles Lyell, Adams passed for a
friend of geologists, and the extent of his knowledge mattered much
less to them than the extent of his friendship, for geologists were as
a class not much better off than himself, and friends were sorely few.
One of his friends from earliest childhood, and nearest neighbor in
Quincy, Frank Emmons, had become a geologist and joined the Fortieth
Parallel Survey under Government. At Washington in the winter of
1869-70, Emmons had invited Adams to go out with him on one of the
field-parties in summer. Of course when Adams took the Review he put it
at the service of the Survey, and regretted only that he could not do
more. When the first year of professing and editing was at last over,
and his July North American appeared, he drew a long breath of relief,
and took the next train for the West. Of his year's work he was no
judge. He had become a small spring in a large mechanism, and his work
counted only in the sum; but he had been treated civilly by everybody,
and he felt at home even in Boston. Putting in his pocket the July
number of the North American, with a notice of the Fortieth Parallel
Survey by Professor J. D. Whitney, he started for the plains and the
Rocky Mountains.

  In the year 1871, the West was still fresh, and the Union
Pacific was young. Beyond the Missouri River, one felt the atmosphere
of Indians and buffaloes. One saw the last vestiges of an old
education, worth studying if one would; but it was not that which Adams
sought; rather, he came out to spy upon the land of the future. The
Survey occasionally borrowed troopers from the nearest station in case
of happening on hostile Indians, but otherwise the topographers and
geologists thought more about minerals than about Sioux. They held
under their hammers a thousand miles of mineral country with all its
riddles to solve, and its stores of possible wealth to mark. They felt
the future in their hands.

  Emmons's party was out of reach in the Uintahs, but Arnold
Hague's had come in to Laramie for supplies, and they took charge of
Adams for a time. Their wanderings or adventures matter nothing to the
story of education. They were all hardened mountaineers and surveyors
who took everything for granted, and spared each other the most
wearisome bore of English and Scotch life, the stories of the big game
they killed. A bear was an occasional amusement; a wapiti was a
constant necessity; but the only wild animal dangerous to man was a
rattlesnake or a skunk. One shot for amusement, but one had other
matters to talk about.

  Adams enjoyed killing big game, but loathed the labor of
cutting it up; so that he rarely unslung the little carbine he was in a
manner required to carry. On the other hand, he liked to wander off
alone on his mule, and pass the day fishing a mountain stream or
exploring a valley. One morning when the party was camped high above
Estes Park, on the flank of Long's Peak, he borrowed a rod, and rode
down over a rough trail into Estes Park, for some trout. The day was
fine, and hazy with the smoke of forest fires a thousand miles away;
the park stretched its English beauties off to the base of its
bordering mountains in natural landscape and archaic peace; the stream
was just fishy enough to tempt lingering along its banks. Hour after
hour the sun moved westward and the fish moved eastward, or disappeared
altogether, until at last when the fisherman cinched his mule, sunset
was nearer than he thought. Darkness caught him before he could catch
his trail. Not caring to tumble into some fifty-foot hole, he "allowed"
he was lost, and turned back. In half-an-hour he was out of the hills,
and under the stars of Estes Park, but he saw no prospect of supper or
of bed.

  Estes Park was large enough to serve for a bed on a summer
night for an army of professors, but the supper question offered
difficulties. There was but one cabin in the Park, near its entrance,
and he felt no great confidence in finding it, but he thought his mule
cleverer than himself, and the dim lines of mountain crest against the
stars fenced his range of error. The patient mule plodded on without
other road than the gentle slope of the ground, and some two hours must
have passed before a light showed in the distance. As the mule came up
to the cabin door, two or three men came out to see the stranger.

  One of these men was Clarence King on his way up to the camp.
Adams fell into his arms. As with most friendships, it was never a
matter of growth or doubt. Friends are born in archaic horizons; they
were shaped with the Pteraspis in Siluria; they have nothing to do with
the accident of space. King had come up that day from Greeley in a
light four-wheeled buggy, over a trail hardly fit for a commissariat
mule, as Adams had reason to know since he went back in the buggy. In
the cabin, luxury provided a room and one bed for guests. They shared
the room and the bed, and talked till far towards dawn.

  King had everything to interest and delight Adams. He knew more
than Adams did of art and poetry; he knew America, especially west of
the hundredth meridian, better than any one; he knew the professor by
heart, and he knew the Congressman better than he did the professor. He
knew even women; even the American woman; even the New York woman,
which is saying much. Incidentally he knew more practical geology than
was good for him, and saw ahead at least one generation further than
the text-books. That he saw right was a different matter. Since the
beginning of time no man has lived who is known to have seen right; the
charm of King was that he saw what others did and a great deal more.
His wit and humor; his bubbling energy which swept every one into the
current of his interest; his personal charm of youth and manners; his
faculty of giving and taking, profusely, lavishly, whether in thought
or in money as though he were Nature herself, marked him almost alone
among Americans. He had in him something of the Greek--a touch of
Alcibiades or Alexander. One Clarence King only existed in the world.

  A new friend is always a miracle, but at thirty-three years
old, such a bird of paradise rising in the sage-brush was an avatar.
One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly
possible. Friendship needs a certain parallelism of life, a community
of thought, a rivalry of aim. King, like Adams, and all their
generation, was at that moment passing the critical point of his
career. The one, coming from the west, saturated with the sunshine of
the Sierras, met the other, drifting from the east, drenched in the
fogs of London, and both had the same problems to handle--the same
stock of implements--the same field to work in; above all, the same
obstacles to overcome.

As a companion, King's charm was great, but this was not the quality
that so much attracted Adams, nor could he affect even distant rivalry
on this ground. Adams could never tell a story, chiefly because he
always forgot it; and he was never guilty of a witticism, unless by
accident. King and the Fortieth Parallel influenced him in a way far
more vital. The lines of their lives converged, but King had moulded
and directed his life logically, scientifically, as Adams thought
American life should be directed. He had given himself education all of
a piece, yet broad. Standing in the middle of his career, where their
paths at last came together, he could look back and look forward on a
straight line, with scientific knowledge for its base. Adams's life,
past or future, was a succession of violent breaks or waves, with no
base at all. King's abnormal energy had already won him great success.
None of his contemporaries had done so much, single-handed, or were
likely to leave so deep a trail. He had managed to induce Congress to
adopt almost its first modern act of legislation. He had organized, as
a civil--not military--measure, a Government Survey. He had paralleled
the Continental Railway in Geology; a feat as yet unequalled by other
governments which had as a rule no continents to survey. He was
creating one of the classic scientific works of the century. The
chances were great that he could, whenever he chose to quit the
Government service, take the pick of the gold and silver, copper or
coal, and build up his fortune as he pleased. Whatever prize he wanted
lay ready for him--scientific social, literary, political--and he knew
how to take them in turn. With ordinary luck he would die at eighty the
richest and most many-sided genius of his day.

  So little egoistic he was that none of his friends felt envy of
his extraordinary superiority, but rather grovelled before it, so that
women were jealous of the power he had over men; but women were many
and Kings were one. The men worshipped not so much their friend, as the
ideal American they all wanted to be. The women were jealous because,
at heart, King had no faith in the American woman; he loved types more
robust.

  The young men of the Fortieth Parallel had Californian
instincts; they were brothers of Bret Harte. They felt no leanings
towards the simple uniformities of Lyell and Darwin; they saw little
proof of slight and imperceptible changes; to them, catastrophe was the
law of change; they cared little for simplicity and much for
complexity; but it was the complexity of Nature, not of New York or
even of the Mississippi Valley. King loved paradox; he started them
like rabbits, and cared for them no longer, when caught or lost; but
they delighted Adams, for they helped, among other things, to persuade
him that history was more amusing than science. The only question left
open to doubt was their relative money value.

  In Emmons's camp, far up in the Uintahs, these talks were
continued till the frosts became sharp in the mountains. History and
science spread out in personal horizons towards goals no longer far
away. No more education was possible for either man. Such as they were,
they had got to stand the chances of the world they lived in; and when
Adams started back to Cambridge, to take up again the humble tasks of
schoolmaster and editor he was harnessed to his cart. Education,
systematic or accidental, had done its worst. Henceforth, he went on,
submissive.



CHAPTER XXI

TWENTY YEARS AFTER (1892)

  ONCE more! this is a story of education, not of adventure! It
is meant to help young men--or such as have intelligence enough to seek
help--but it is not meant to amuse them. What one did--or did not
do--with one's education, after getting it, need trouble the inquirer
in no way; it is a personal matter only which would confuse him.
Perhaps Henry Adams was not worth educating; most keen judges incline
to think that barely one man in a hundred owns a mind capable of
reacting to any purpose on the forces that surround him, and fully half
of these react wrongly. The object of education for that mind should be
the teaching itself how to react with vigor and economy. No doubt the
world at large will always lag so far behind the active mind as to make
a soft cushion of inertia to drop upon, as it did for Henry Adams; but
education should try to lessen the obstacles, diminish the friction,
invigorate the energy, and should train minds to react, not at
haphazard, but by choice, on the lines of force that attract their
world. What one knows is, in youth, of little moment; they know enough
who know how to learn. Throughout human history the waste of mind has
been appalling, and, as this story is meant to show, society has
conspired to promote it. No doubt the teacher is the worst criminal,
but the world stands behind him and drags the student from his course.
The moral is stentorian. Only the most energetic, the most highly
fitted, and the most favored have overcome the friction or the
viscosity of inertia, and these were compelled to waste three-fourths
of their energy in doing it.

  Fit or unfit, Henry Adams stopped his own education in 1871,
and began to apply it for practical uses, like his neighbors. At the
end of twenty years, he found that he had finished, and could sum up
the result. He had no complaint to make against man or woman. They had
all treated him kindly; he had never met with ill-will, ill-temper, or
even ill-manners, or known a quarrel. He had never seen serious
dishonesty or ingratitude. He had found a readiness in the young to
respond to suggestion that seemed to him far beyond all he had reason
to expect. Considering the stock complaints against the world, he could
not understand why he had nothing to complain of.

  During these twenty years he had done as much work, in
quantity, as his neighbors wanted; more than they would ever stop to
look at, and more than his share. Merely in print, he thought
altogether ridiculous the number of volumes he counted on the shelves
of public libraries. He had no notion whether they served a useful
purpose; he had worked in the dark; but so had most of his friends,
even the artists, none of whom held any lofty opinion of their success
in raising the standards of society, or felt profound respect for the
methods or manners of their time, at home or abroad, but all of whom
had tried, in a way, to hold the standard up. The effort had been, for
the older generation, exhausting, as one could see in the Hunts; but
the generation after 1870 made more figure, not in proportion to public
wealth or in the census, but in their own self-assertion. A fair number
of the men who were born in the thirties had won names--Phillips
Brooks; Bret Harte; Henry James; H. H. Richardson; John La Farge; and
the list might be made fairly long if it were worth while; but from
their school had sprung others, like Augustus St. Gaudens, McKim,
Stanford White, and scores born in the forties, who counted as force
even in the mental inertia of sixty or eighty million people. Among all
these Clarence King, John Hay, and Henry Adams had led modest
existences, trying to fill in the social gaps of a class which, as yet,
showed but thin ranks and little cohesion. The combination offered no
very glittering prizes, but they pursued it for twenty years with as
much patience and effort as though it led to fame or power, until, at
last, Henry Adams thought his own duties sufficiently performed and his
account with society settled. He had enjoyed his life amazingly, and
would not have exchanged it for any other that came in his way; he was,
or thought he was, perfectly satisfied with it; but for reasons that
had nothing to do with education, he was tired; his nervous energy ran
low; and, like a horse that wears out, he quitted the race-course, left
the stable, and sought pastures as far as possible from the old.
Education had ended in 1871; life was complete in 1890; the rest
mattered so little!

  As had happened so often, he found himself in London when the
question of return imposed its verdict on him after much fruitless
effort to rest elsewhere. The time was the month of January, 1892; he
was alone, in hospital, in the gloom of midwinter. He was close on his
fifty-fourth birthday, and Pall Mall had forgotten him as completely as
it had forgotten his elders. He had not seen London for a dozen years,
and was rather amused to have only a bed for a world and a familiar
black fog for horizon. The coal-fire smelt homelike; the fog had a
fruity taste of youth; anything was better than being turned out into
the wastes of Wigmore Street. He could always amuse himself by living
over his youth, and driving once more down Oxford Street in 1858, with
life before him to imagine far less amusing than it had turned out to
be.

  The future attracted him less. Lying there for a week he
reflected on what he could do next. He had just come up from the South
Seas with John La Farge, who had reluctantly crawled away towards New
York to resume the grinding routine of studio-work at an age when life
runs low. Adams would rather, as choice, have gone back to the east, if
it were only to sleep forever in the trade-winds under the southern
stars, wandering over the dark purple ocean, with its purple sense of
solitude and void. Not that he liked the sensation, but that it was the
most unearthly he had felt. He had not yet happened on Rudyard
Kipling's "Mandalay," but he knew the poetry before he knew the poem,
like millions of wanderers, who have perhaps alone felt the world
exactly as it is. Nothing attracted him less than the idea of beginning
a new education. The old one had been poor enough; any new one could
only add to its faults. Life had been cut in halves, and the old half
had passed away, education and all, leaving no stock to graft on.

  The new world he faced in Paris and London seemed to him
fantastic Willing to admit it real in the sense of having some kind of
existence outside his own mind, he could not admit it reasonable. In
Paris, his heart sank to mere pulp before the dismal ballets at the
Grand Opera and the eternal vaudeville at the old Palais Royal; but,
except for them, his own Paris of the Second Empire was as extinct as
that of the first Napoleon. At the galleries and exhibitions, he was
racked by the effort of art to be original, and when one day, after
much reflection, John La Farge asked whether there might not still be
room for something simple in art, Adams shook his head. As he saw the
world, it was no longer simple and could not express itself simply. It
should express what it was; and this was something that neither Adams
nor La Farge understood.

  Under the first blast of this furnace-heat, the lights seemed
fairly to go out. He felt nothing in common with the world as it
promised to be. He was ready to quit it, and the easiest path led back
to the east; but he could not venture alone, and the rarest of animals
is a companion. He must return to America to get one. Perhaps, while
waiting, he might write more history, and on the chance as a last
resource, he gave orders for copying everything he could reach in
archives, but this was mere habit. He went home as a horse goes back to
his stable, because he knew nowhere else to go.

  Home was Washington. As soon as Grant's administration ended,
in 1877, and Evarts became Secretary of State, Adams went back there,
partly to write history, but chiefly because his seven years of
laborious banishment, in Boston, convinced him that, as far as he had a
function in life, it was as stable-companion to statesmen, whether they
liked it or not. At about the same time, old George Bancroft did the
same thing, and presently John Hay came on to be Assistant Secretary of
State for Mr. Evarts, and stayed there to write the "Life" of Lincoln.
In 1884 Adams joined him in employing Richardson to build them
adjoining houses on La Fayette Square. As far as Adams had a home this
was it. To the house on La Fayette Square he must turn, for he had no
other status--no position in the world.

  Never did he make a decision more reluctantly than this of
going back to his manger. His father and mother were dead. All his
family led settled lives of their own. Except for two or three friends
in Washington, who were themselves uncertain of stay, no one cared
whether he came or went, and he cared least. There was nothing to care
about. Every one was busy; nearly every one seemed contented. Since
1871 nothing had ruffled the surface of the American world, and even
the progress of Europe in her side-way track to dis-Europeaning herself
had ceased to be violent. After a dreary January in Paris, at last when
no excuse could be persuaded to offer itself for further delay, he
crossed the channel and passed a week with his old friend, Milnes
Gaskell, at Thornes, in Yorkshire, while the westerly gales raved a
warning against going home. Yorkshire in January is not an island in
the South Seas. It has few points of resemblance to Tahiti; not many to
Fiji or Samoa; but, as so often before, it was a rest between past and
future, and Adams was grateful for it.

  At last, on February 3, he drove, after a fashion, down the
Irish Channel, on board the Teutonic. He had not crossed the Atlantic
for a dozen years, and had never seen an ocean steamer of the new type.
He had seen nothing new of any sort, or much changed in France or
England. The railways made quicker time, but were no more comfortable.
The scale was the same. The Channel service was hardly improved since
1858, or so little as to make no impression. Europe seemed to have been
stationary for twenty years. To a man who had been stationary like
Europe, the Teutonic was a marvel. That he should be able to eat his
dinner through a week of howling winter gales was a miracle. That he
should have a deck stateroom, with fresh air, and read all night, if he
chose, by electric light, was matter for more wonder than life had yet
supplied, in its old forms. Wonder may be double--even treble. Adams's
wonder ran off into figures. As the Niagara was to the Teutonic--as
1860 was to 1890--so the Teutonic and 1890 must be to the next
term--and then? Apparently the question concerned only America. Western
Europe offered no such conundrum. There one might double scale and
speed indefinitely without passing bounds.

  Fate was kind on that voyage. Rudyard Kipling, on his wedding
trip to America, thanks to the mediation of Henry James, dashed over
the passenger his exuberant fountain of gaiety and wit--as though
playing a garden hose on a thirsty and faded begonia. Kipling could
never know what peace of mind he gave, for he could hardly ever need it
himself so much; and yet, in the full delight of his endless fun and
variety; one felt the old conundrum repeat itself. Somehow, somewhere,
Kipling and the American were not one, but two, and could not be glued
together. The American felt that the defect, if defect it were, was in
himself; he had felt it when he was with Swinburne, and, again, with
Robert Louis Stevenson, even under the palms of Vailima; but he did not
carry self-abasement to the point of thinking himself singular.
Whatever the defect might be, it was American; it belonged to the type;
it lived in the blood. Whatever the quality might be that held him
apart, it was English; it lived also in the blood; one felt it little
if at all, with Celts, and one yearned reciprocally among Fiji
cannibals. Clarence King used to say that it was due to discord between
the wave-lengths of the man-atoms; but the theory offered difficulties
in measurement. Perhaps, after all, it was only that genius soars; but
this theory, too, had its dark corners. All through life, one had seen
the American on his literary knees to the European; and all through
many lives back for some two centuries, one had seen the European snub
or patronize the American; not always intentionally, but effectually.
It was in the nature of things. Kipling neither snubbed nor patronized;
he was all gaiety and good-nature; but he would have been first to feel
what one meant. Genius has to pay itself that unwilling self-respect.

  Towards the middle of February, 1892, Adams found himself again
in Washington. In Paris and London he had seen nothing to make a return
to life worth while; in Washington he saw plenty of reasons for staying
dead. Changes had taken place there; improvements had been made; with
time--much time--the city might become habitable according to some
fashionable standard; but all one's friends had died or disappeared
several times over, leaving one almost as strange as in Boston or
London. Slowly, a certain society had built itself up about the
Government; houses had been opened and there was much dining; much
calling; much leaving of cards; but a solitary man counted for less
than in 1868. Society seemed hardly more at home than he. Both
Executive and Congress held it aloof. No one in society seemed to have
the ear of anybody in Government. No one in Government knew any reason
for consulting any one in society. The world had ceased to be wholly
political, but politics had become less social. A survivor of the Civil
War--like George Bancroft, or John Hay--tried to keep footing, but
without brilliant success. They were free to say or do what they liked;
but no one took much notice of anything said or done.

  A presidential election was to take place in November, and no
one showed much interest in the result. The two candidates were
singular persons, of whom it was the common saying that one of them had
no friends; the other, only enemies. Calvin Brice, who was at that time
altogether the wittiest and cleverest member of the Senate, was in the
habit of describing Mr. Cleveland in glowing terms and at great length,
as one of the loftiest natures and noblest characters of ancient or
modern time; "but," he concluded, "in future I prefer to look on at his
proceedings from the safe summit of some neighboring hill." The same
remark applied to Mr. Harrison. In this respect, they were the greatest
of Presidents, for, whatever harm they might do their enemies, was as
nothing when compared to the mortality they inflicted on their friends.
Men fled them as though they had the evil eye. To the American people,
the two candidates and the two parties were so evenly balanced that the
scales showed hardly a perceptible difference. Mr. Harrison was an
excellent President, a man of ability and force; perhaps the best
President the Republican Party had put forward since Lincoln's death;
yet, on the whole, Adams felt a shade of preference for President
Cleveland, not so much personally as because the Democrats represented
to him the last remnants of the eighteenth century; the survivors of
Hosea Biglow's Cornwallis; the sole remaining protestants against a
banker's Olympus which had become, for five-and-twenty years, more and
more despotic over Esop's frog-empire. One might no longer croak except
to vote for King Log, or--failing storks--for Grover Cleveland; and
even then could not be sure where King Banker lurked behind. The costly
education in politics had led to political torpor. Every one did not
share it. Clarence King and John Hay were loyal Republicans who never
for a moment conceived that there could be merit in other ideals. With
King, the feeling was chiefly love of archaic races; sympathy with the
negro and Indian and corresponding dislike of their enemies; but with
Hay, party loyalty became a phase of being, a little like the loyalty
of a highly cultivated churchman to his Church. He saw all the failings
of the party, and still more keenly those of the partisans; but he
could not live outside. To Adams a Western Democrat or a Western
Republican, a city Democrat or a city Republican, a W. C. Whitney or a
J. G. Blaine, were actually the same man, as far as their usefulness to
the objects of King, Hay, or Adams was concerned. They graded
themselves as friends or enemies not as Republicans or Democrats. To
Hay, the difference was that of being respectable or not.

  Since 1879, King, Hay, and Adams had been inseparable. Step by
step, they had gone on in the closest sympathy, rather shunning than
inviting public position, until, in 1892, none of them held any post at
all. With great effort, in Hayes's administration, all King's friends,
including Abram Hewitt and Carl Schurz, had carried the bill for
uniting the Surveys and had placed King at the head of the Bureau; but
King waited only to organize the service, and then resigned, in order
to seek his private fortune in the West. Hay, after serving as
Assistant Secretary of State under Secretary Evarts during a part of
Hayes's administration, then also insisted on going out, in order to
write with Nicolay the "Life" of Lincoln. Adams had held no office, and
when his friends asked the reason, he could not go into long
explanations, but preferred to answer simply that no President had ever
invited him to fill one. The reason was good, and was also conveniently
true, but left open an awkward doubt of his morals or capacity. Why had
no President ever cared to employ him? The question needed a volume of
intricate explanation. There never was a day when he would have refused
to perform any duty that the Government imposed on him, but the
American Government never to his knowledge imposed duties. The point
was never raised with regard to him, or to any one else. The Government
required candidates to offer; the business of the Executive began and
ended with the consent or refusal to confer. The social formula carried
this passive attitude a shade further. Any public man who may for years
have used some other man's house as his own, when promoted to a
position of patronage commonly feels himself obliged to inquire,
directly or indirectly, whether his friend wants anything; which is
equivalent to a civil act of divorce, since he feels awkward in the old
relation. The handsomest formula, in an impartial choice, was the
grandly courteous Southern phrase of Lamar: "Of course Mr. Adams knows
that anything in my power is at his service." A la disposicion de
Usted! The form must have been correct since it released both parties.
He was right; Mr. Adams did know all about it; a bow and a conventional
smile closed the subject forever, and every one felt flattered.

  Such an intimate, promoted to power, was always lost. His
duties and cares absorbed him and affected his balance of mind. Unless
his friend served some political purpose, friendship was an effort. Men
who neither wrote for newspapers nor made campaign speeches, who rarely
subscribed to the campaign fund, and who entered the White House as
seldom as possible, placed themselves outside the sphere of usefulness,
and did so with entirely adequate knowledge of what they were doing.
They never expected the President to ask for their services, and saw no
reason why he should do so. As for Henry Adams, in fifty years that he
knew Washington, no one would have been more surprised than himself had
any President ever asked him to perform so much of a service as to
cross the square. Only Texan Congressmen imagined that the President
needed their services in some remote consulate after worrying him for
months to find one.

  In Washington this law or custom is universally understood, and
no one's character necessarily suffered because he held no office. No
one took office unless he wanted it; and in turn the outsider was never
asked to do work or subscribe money. Adams saw no office that he
wanted, and he gravely thought that, from his point of view, in the
long run, he was likely to be a more useful citizen without office. He
could at least act as audience, and, in those days, a Washington
audience seldom filled even a small theatre. He felt quite well
satisfied to look on, and from time to time he thought he might risk a
criticism of the players; but though he found his own position regular,
he never quite understood that of John Hay. The Republican leaders
treated Hay as one of themselves; they asked his services and took his
money with a freedom that staggered even a hardened observer; but they
never needed him in equivalent office. In Washington Hay was the only
competent man in the party for diplomatic work. He corresponded in his
powers of usefulness exactly with Lord Granville in London, who had
been for forty years the saving grace of every Liberal administration
in turn. Had usefulness to the public service been ever a question, Hay
should have had a first-class mission under Hayes; should have been
placed in the Cabinet by Garfield, and should have been restored to it
by Harrison. These gentlemen were always using him; always invited his
services, and always took his money.

  Adams's opinion of politics and politicians, as he frankly
admitted, lacked enthusiasm, although never, in his severest temper,
did he apply to them the terms they freely applied to each other; and
he explained everything by his old explanation of Grant's character as
more or less a general type; but what roused in his mind more rebellion
was the patience and good-nature with which Hay allowed himself to be
used. The trait was not confined to politics. Hay seemed to like to be
used, and this was one of his many charms; but in politics this sort of
good-nature demands supernatural patience. Whatever astonishing lapses
of social convention the politicians betrayed, Hay laughed equally
heartily, and told the stories with constant amusement, at his own
expense. Like most Americans, he liked to play at making Presidents,
but, unlike most, he laughed not only at the Presidents he helped to
make, but also at himself for laughing.

  One must be rich, and come from Ohio or New York, to gratify an
expensive taste like this. Other men, on both political flanks, did the
same thing, and did it well, less for selfish objects than for the
amusement of the game; but Hay alone lived in Washington and in the
centre of the Ohio influences that ruled the Republican Party during
thirty years. On the whole, these influences were respectable, and
although Adams could not, under any circumstances, have had any value,
even financially, for Ohio politicians, Hay might have much, as he
showed, if they only knew enough to appreciate him. The American
politician was occasionally an amusing object; Hay laughed, and, for
want of other resource, Adams laughed too; but perhaps it was partly
irritation at seeing how President Harrison dealt his cards that made
Adams welcome President Cleveland back to the White House.

  At all events, neither Hay nor King nor Adams had much to gain
by reelecting Mr. Harrison in 1892, or by defeating him, as far as he
was concerned; and as far as concerned Mr. Cleveland, they seemed to
have even less personal concern. The whole country, to outward
appearance, stood in much the same frame of mind. Everywhere was
slack-water. Hay himself was almost as languid and indifferent as
Adams. Neither had occupation. Both had finished their literary work.
The "Life" of Lincoln had been begun, completed, and published hand in
hand with the "History" of Jefferson and Madison, so that between them
they had written nearly all the American history there was to write.
The intermediate period needed intermediate treatment; the gap between
James Madison and Abraham Lincoln could not be judicially filled by
either of them. Both were heartily tired of the subject, and America
seemed as tired as they. What was worse, the redeeming energy of
Americans which had generally served as the resource of minds otherwise
vacant, the creation of new force, the application of expanding power,
showed signs of check. Even the year before, in 1891, far off in the
Pacific, one had met everywhere in the East a sort of stagnation--a
creeping paralysis--complaints of shipping and producers--that spread
throughout the whole southern hemisphere. Questions of exchange and
silver-production loomed large. Credit was shaken, and a change of
party government might shake it even in Washington. The matter did not
concern Adams, who had no credit, and was always richest when the rich
were poor; but it helped to dull the vibration of society.

  However they studied it, the balance of profit and loss, on the
last twenty years, for the three friends, King, Hay, and Adams, was
exceedingly obscure in 1892. They had lost twenty years, but what had
they gained? They often discussed the question. Hay had a singular
faculty for remembering faces, and would break off suddenly the thread
of his talk, as he looked out of the window on La Fayette Square, to
notice an old corps commander or admiral of the Civil War, tottering
along to the club for his cards or his cocktail: "There is old Dash who
broke the rebel lines at Blankburg! Think of his having been a
thunderbolt of war!" Or what drew Adams's closer attention: "There goes
old Boutwell gambolling like the gambolling kid!" There they went! Men
who had swayed the course of empire as well as the course of Hay, King,
and Adams, less valued than the ephemeral Congressman behind them, who
could not have told whether the general was a Boutwell or Boutwell a
general. Theirs was the highest known success, and one asked what it
was worth to them. Apart from personal vanity, what would they sell it
for? Would any one of them, from President downwards, refuse ten
thousand a year in place of all the consideration he received from the
world on account of his success?

  Yet consideration had value, and at that time Adams enjoyed
lecturing Augustus St. Gaudens, in hours of depression, on its
economics: "Honestly you must admit that even if you don't pay your
expenses you get a certain amount of advantage from doing the best
work. Very likely some of the really successful Americans would be
willing you should come to dinner sometimes, if you did not come too
often, while they would think twice about Hay, and would never stand
me." The forgotten statesman had no value at all; the general and
admiral not much; the historian but little; on the whole, the artist
stood best, and of course, wealth rested outside the question, since it
was acting as judge; but, in the last resort, the judge certainly
admitted that consideration had some value as an asset, though hardly
as much as ten--or five--thousand a year.

  Hay and Adams had the advantage of looking out of their windows
on the antiquities of La Fayette Square, with the sense of having all
that any one had; all that the world had to offer; all that they wanted
in life, including their names on scores of title-pages and in one or
two biographical dictionaries; but this had nothing to do with
consideration, and they knew no more than Boutwell or St. Gaudens
whether to call it success. Hay had passed ten years in writing the
"Life" of Lincoln, and perhaps President Lincoln was the better for it,
but what Hay got from it was not so easy to see, except the privilege
of seeing popular book-makers steal from his book and cover the theft
by abusing the author. Adams had given ten or a dozen years to
Jefferson and Madison, with expenses which, in any mercantile business,
could hardly have been reckoned at less than a hundred thousand
dollars, on a salary of five thousand a year; and when he asked what
return he got from this expenditure, rather more extravagant in
proportion to his means than a racing-stable, he could see none
whatever. Such works never return money. Even Frank Parkman never
printed a first edition of his relatively cheap and popular volumes,
numbering more than seven hundred copies, until quite at the end of his
life. A thousand copies of a book that cost twenty dollars or more was
as much as any author could expect; two thousand copies was a visionary
estimate unless it were canvassed for subscription. As far as Adams
knew, he had but three serious readers--Abram Hewitt, Wayne McVeagh,
and Hay himself. He was amply satisfied with their consideration, and
could dispense with that of the other fifty-nine million, nine hundred
and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-seven; but neither he
nor Hay was better off in any other respect, and their chief title to
consideration was their right to look out of their windows on great
men, alive or dead, in La Fayette Square, a privilege which had nothing
to do with their writings.

  The world was always good-natured; civil; glad to be amused;
open-armed to any one who amused it; patient with every one who did not
insist on putting himself in its way, or costing it money; but this was
not consideration, still less power in any of its concrete forms, and
applied as well or better to a comic actor. Certainly a rare soprano or
tenor voice earned infinitely more applause as it gave infinitely more
pleasure, even in America; but one does what one can with one's means,
and casting up one's balance sheet, one expects only a reasonable
return on one's capital. Hay and Adams had risked nothing and never
played for high stakes. King had followed the ambitious course. He had
played for many millions. He had more than once come close to a great
success, but the result was still in doubt, and meanwhile he was
passing the best years of his life underground. For companionship he
was mostly lost.

  Thus, in 1892, neither Hay, King, nor Adams knew whether they
had attained success, or how to estimate it, or what to call it; and
the American people seemed to have no clearer idea than they. Indeed,
the American people had no idea at all; they were wandering in a
wilderness much more sandy than the Hebrews had ever trodden about
Sinai; they had neither serpents nor golden calves to worship. They had
lost the sense of worship; for the idea that they worshipped money
seemed a delusion. Worship of money was an old-world trait; a healthy
appetite akin to worship of the Gods, or to worship of power in any
concrete shape; but the American wasted money more recklessly than any
one ever did before; he spent more to less purpose than any extravagant
court aristocracy; he had no sense of relative values, and knew not
what to do with his money when he got it, except use it to make more,
or throw it away. Probably, since human society began, it had seen no
such curious spectacle as the houses of the San Francisco millionaires
on Nob Hill. Except for the railway system, the enormous wealth taken
out of the ground since 1840, had disappeared. West of the Alleghenies,
the whole country might have been swept clean, and could have been
replaced in better form within one or two years. The American mind had
less respect for money than the European or Asiatic mind, and bore its
loss more easily; but it had been deflected by its pursuit till it
could turn in no other direction. It shunned, distrusted, disliked, the
dangerous attraction of ideals, and stood alone in history for its
ignorance of the past.

  Personal contact brought this American trait close to Adams's
notice. His first step, on returning to Washington, took him out to the
cemetery known as Rock Creek, to see the bronze figure which St.
Gaudens had made for him in his absence. Naturally every detail
interested him; every line; every touch of the artist; every change of
light and shade; every point of relation; every possible doubt of St.
Gaudens's correctness of taste or feeling; so that, as the spring
approached, he was apt to stop there often to see what the figure had
to tell him that was new; but, in all that it had to say, he never once
thought of questioning what it meant. He supposed its meaning to be the
one commonplace about it--the oldest idea known to human thought. He
knew that if he asked an Asiatic its meaning, not a man, woman, or
child from Cairo to Kamtchatka would have needed more than a glance to
reply. From the Egyptian Sphinx to the Kamakura Daibuts; from
Prometheus to Christ; from Michael Angelo to Shelley, art had wrought
on this eternal figure almost as though it had nothing else to say. The
interest of the figure was not in its meaning, but in the response of
the observer. As Adams sat there, numbers of people came, for the
figure seemed to have become a tourist fashion, and all wanted to know
its meaning. Most took it for a portrait-statue, and the remnant were
vacant-minded in the absence of a personal guide. None felt what would
have been a nursery-instinct to a Hindu baby or a Japanese
jinricksha-runner. The only exceptions were the clergy, who taught a
lesson even deeper. One after another brought companions there, and,
apparently fascinated by their own reflection, broke out passionately
against the expression they felt in the figure of despair, of atheism,
of denial. Like the others, the priest saw only what he brought. Like
all great artists, St. Gaudens held up the mirror and no more. The
American layman had lost sight of ideals; the American priest had lost
sight of faith. Both were more American than the old, half-witted
soldiers who denounced the wasting, on a mere grave, of money which
should have been given for drink.

  Landed, lost, and forgotten, in the centre of this vast plain
of self-content, Adams could see but one active interest, to which all
others were subservient, and which absorbed the energies of some sixty
million people to the exclusion of every other force, real or
imaginary. The power of the railway system had enormously increased
since 1870. Already the coal output of 160,000,000 tons closely
approached the 180,000,000 of the British Empire, and one held one's
breath at the nearness of what one had never expected to see, the
crossing of courses, and the lead of American energies. The moment was
deeply exciting to a historian, but the railway system itself
interested one less than in 1868, since it offered less chance for
future profit. Adams had been born with the railway system; had grown
up with it; had been over pretty nearly every mile of it with curious
eyes, and knew as much about it as his neighbors; but not there could
he look for a new education. Incomplete though it was, the system
seemed on the whole to satisfy the wants of society better than any
other part of the social machine, and society was content with its
creation, for the time, and with itself for creating it. Nothing new
was to be done or learned there, and the world hurried on to its
telephones, bicycles, and electric trams. At past fifty, Adams solemnly
and painfully learned to ride the bicycle.

  Nothing else occurred to him as a means of new life. Nothing
else offered itself, however carefully he sought. He looked for no
change. He lingered in Washington till near July without noticing a new
idea. Then he went back to England to pass his summer on the Deeside.
In October he returned to Washington and there awaited the reelection
of Mr. Cleveland, which led to no deeper thought than that of taking up
some small notes that happened to be outstanding. He had seen enough of
the world to be a coward, and above all he had an uneasy distrust of
bankers. Even dead men allow themselves a few narrow prejudices.



CHAPTER XXII

CHICAGO (1893)

  DRIFTING in the dead-water of the fin-de-siecle--and during
this last decade every one talked, and seemed to feel
fin-de-siecle--where not a breath stirred the idle air of education or
fretted the mental torpor of self-content, one lived alone. Adams had
long ceased going into society. For years he had not dined out of his
own house, and in public his face was as unknown as that of an extinct
statesman. He had often noticed that six months' oblivion amounts to
newspaper-death, and that resurrection is rare. Nothing is easier, if a
man wants it, than rest, profound as the grave.

  His friends sometimes took pity on him, and came to share a
meal or pass a night on their passage south or northwards, but
existence was, on the whole, exceedingly solitary, or seemed so to him.
Of the society favorites who made the life of every dinner-table and of
the halls of Congress--Tom Reed, Bourke Cockran, Edward Wolcott--he
knew not one. Although Calvin Brice was his next neighbor for six
years, entertaining lavishly as no one had ever entertained before in
Washington, Adams never entered his house. W. C. Whitney rivalled
Senator Brice in hospitality, and was besides an old acquaintance of
the reforming era, but Adams saw him as little as he saw his chief,
President Cleveland, or President Harrison or Secretary Bayard or
Blaine or Olney. One has no choice but to go everywhere or nowhere. No
one may pick and choose between houses, or accept hospitality without
returning it. He loved solitude as little as others did; but he was
unfit for social work, and he sank under the surface.

  Luckily for such helpless animals as solitary men, the world is
not only good-natured but even friendly and generous; it loves to
pardon if pardon is not demanded as a right. Adams's social offences
were many, and no one was more sensitive to it than himself; but a few
houses always remained which he could enter without being asked, and
quit without being noticed. One was John Hay's; another was Cabot
Lodge's; a third led to an intimacy which had the singular effect of
educating him in knowledge of the very class of American politician who
had done most to block his intended path in life. Senator Cameron of
Pennsylvania had married in 1880 a young niece of Senator John Sherman
of Ohio, thus making an alliance of dynastic importance in politics,
and in society a reign of sixteen years, during which Mrs. Cameron and
Mrs. Lodge led a career, without precedent and without succession, as
the dispensers of sunshine over Washington. Both of them had been kind
to Adams, and a dozen years of this intimacy had made him one of their
habitual household, as he was of Hay's. In a small society, such ties
between houses become political and social force. Without intention or
consciousness, they fix one's status in the world. Whatever one's
preferences in politics might be, one's house was bound to the
Republican interest when sandwiched between Senator Cameron, John Hay,
and Cabot Lodge, with Theodore Roosevelt equally at home in them all,
and Cecil Spring-Rice to unite them by impartial variety. The relation
was daily, and the alliance undisturbed by power or patronage, since
Mr. Harrison, in those respects, showed little more taste than Mr.
Cleveland for the society and interests of this particular band of
followers, whose relations with the White House were sometimes comic,
but never intimate.

  In February, 1893, Senator Cameron took his family to South
Carolina, where he had bought an old plantation at Coffin's Point on
St. Helena Island, and Adams, as one of the family, was taken, with the
rest, to open the new experience. From there he went on to Havana, and
came back to Coffin's Point to linger till near April. In May the
Senator took his family to Chicago to see the Exposition, and Adams
went with them. Early in June, all sailed for England together, and at
last, in the middle of July, all found themselves in Switzerland, at
Prangins, Chamounix, and Zermatt. On July 22 they drove across the
Furka Pass and went down by rail to Lucerne.

  Months of close contact teach character, if character has
interest; and to Adams the Cameron type had keen interest, ever since
it had shipwrecked his career in the person of President Grant. Perhaps
it owed life to Scotch blood; perhaps to the blood of Adam and Eve, the
primitive strain of man; perhaps only to the blood of the cottager
working against the blood of the townsman; but whatever it was, one
liked it for its simplicity. The Pennsylvania mind, as minds go, was
not complex; it reasoned little and never talked; but in practical
matters it was the steadiest of all American types; perhaps the most
efficient; certainly the safest.

  Adams had printed as much as this in his books, but had never
been able to find a type to describe, the two great historical
Pennsylvanians having been, as every one had so often heard, Benjamin
Franklin of Boston and Albert Gallatin of Geneva. Of Albert Gallatin,
indeed, he had made a voluminous study and an elaborate picture, only
to show that he was, if American at all, a New Yorker, with a
Calvinistic strain--rather Connecticut than Pennsylvanian. The true
Pennsylvanian was a narrower type; as narrow as the kirk; as shy of
other people's narrowness as a Yankee; as self-limited as a Puritan
farmer. To him, none but Pennsylvanians were white. Chinaman, negro,
Dago, Italian, Englishman, Yankee--all was one in the depths of
Pennsylvanian consciousness. The mental machine could run only on what
it took for American lines. This was familiar, ever since one's study
of President Grant in 1869; but in 1893, as then, the type was
admirably strong and useful if one wanted only to run on the same
lines. Practically the Pennsylvanian forgot his prejudices when he
allied his interests. He then became supple in action and large in
motive, whatever he thought of his colleagues. When he happened to be
right--which was, of course, whenever one agreed with him--he was the
strongest American in America. As an ally he was worth all the rest,
because he understood his own class, who were always a majority; and
knew how to deal with them as no New Englander could. If one wanted
work done in Congress, one did wisely to avoid asking a New Englander
to do it. A Pennsylvanian not only could do it, but did it willingly,
practically, and intelligently.

  Never in the range of human possibilities had a Cameron
believed in an Adams--or an Adams in a Cameron--but they had curiously
enough, almost always worked together. The Camerons had what the
Adamses thought the political vice of reaching their objects without
much regard to their methods. The loftiest virtue of the Pennsylvania
machine had never been its scrupulous purity or sparkling professions.
The machine worked by coarse means on coarse interests, but its
practical success had been the most curious subject of study in
American history. When one summed up the results of Pennsylvanian
influence, one inclined to think that Pennsylvania set up the
Government in 1789; saved it in 1861; created the American system;
developed its iron and coal power; and invented its great railways.
Following up the same line, in his studies of American character, Adams
reached the result--to him altogether paradoxical--that Cameron's
qualities and defects united in equal share to make him the most useful
member of the Senate.

  In the interest of studying, at last, a perfect and favorable
specimen of this American type which had so persistently suppressed his
own, Adams was slow to notice that Cameron strongly influenced him, but
he could not see a trace of any influence which he exercised on
Cameron. Not an opinion or a view of his on any subject was ever
reflected back on him from Cameron's mind; not even an expression or a
fact. Yet the difference in age was trifling, and in education slight.
On the other hand, Cameron made deep impression on Adams, and in
nothing so much as on the great subject of discussion that year--the
question of silver.

  Adams had taken no interest in the matter, and knew nothing
about it, except as a very tedious hobby of his friend Dana Horton; but
inevitably, from the moment he was forced to choose sides, he was sure
to choose silver. Every political idea and personal prejudice he ever
dallied with held him to the silver standard, and made a barrier
between him and gold. He knew well enough all that was to be said for
the gold standard as economy, but he had never in his life taken
politics for a pursuit of economy. One might have a political or an
economical policy; one could not have both at the same time. This was
heresy in the English school, but it had always been law in the
American. Equally he knew all that was to be said on the moral side of
the question, and he admitted that his interests were, as Boston
maintained, wholly on the side of gold; but, had they been ten times as
great as they were, he could not have helped his bankers or croupiers
to load the dice and pack the cards to make sure his winning the
stakes. At least he was bound to profess disapproval--or thought he
was. From early childhood his moral principles had struggled blindly
with his interests, but he was certain of one law that ruled all
others--masses of men invariably follow interests in deciding morals.
Morality is a private and costly luxury. The morality of the silver or
gold standards was to be decided by popular vote, and the popular vote
would be decided by interests; but on which side lay the larger
interest? To him the interest was political; he thought it probably his
last chance of standing up for his eighteenth-century principles,
strict construction, limited powers, George Washington, John Adams, and
the rest. He had, in a half-hearted way, struggled all his life against
State Street, banks, capitalism altogether, as he knew it in old
England or new England, and he was fated to make his last resistance
behind the silver standard.

  For him this result was clear, and if he erred, he erred in
company with nine men out of ten in Washington, for there was little
difference on the merits. Adams was sure to learn backwards, but the
case seemed entirely different with Cameron, a typical Pennsylvanian, a
practical politician, whom all the reformers, including all the
Adamses, had abused for a lifetime for subservience to moneyed
interests and political jobbery. He was sure to go with the banks and
corporations which had made and sustained him. On the contrary, he
stood out obstinately as the leading champion of silver in the East.
The reformers, represented by the Evening Post and Godkin, whose
personal interests lay with the gold standard, at once assumed that
Senator Cameron had a personal interest in silver, and denounced his
corruption as hotly as though he had been convicted of taking a bribe.

  More than silver and gold, the moral standard interested Adams.
His own interests were with gold, but he supported silver; the Evening
Post's and Godkin's interests were with gold, and they frankly said so,
yet they avowedly pursued their interests even into politics; Cameron's
interests had always been with the corporations, yet he supported
silver. Thus morality required that Adams should be condemned for going
against his interests; that Godkin was virtuous in following his
interests; and that Cameron was a scoundrel whatever he did.

Granting that one of the three was a moral idiot, which was it:--Adams
or Godkin or Cameron? Until a Council or a Pope or a Congress or the
newspapers or a popular election has decided a question of doubtful
morality, individuals are apt to err, especially when putting money
into their own pockets; but in democracies, the majority alone gives
law. To any one who knew the relative popularity of Cameron and Godkin,
the idea of a popular vote between them seemed excessively humorous;
yet the popular vote in the end did decide against Cameron, for Godkin.

  The Boston moralist and reformer went on, as always, like Dr.
Johnson, impatiently stamping his foot and following his interests, or
his antipathies; but the true American, slow to grasp new and
complicated ideas, groped in the dark to discover where his greater
interest lay. As usual, the banks taught him. In the course of fifty
years the banks taught one many wise lessons for which an insect had to
be grateful whether it liked them or not; but of all the lessons Adams
learned from them, none compared in dramatic effect with that of July
22, 1893, when, after talking silver all the morning with Senator
Cameron on the top of their travelling-carriage crossing the Furka
Pass, they reached Lucerne in the afternoon, where Adams found letters
from his brothers requesting his immediate return to Boston because the
community was bankrupt and he was probably a beggar.

  If he wanted education, he knew no quicker mode of learning a
lesson than that of being struck on the head by it; and yet he was
himself surprised at his own slowness to understand what had struck
him. For several years a sufferer from insomnia, his first thought was
of beggary of nerves, and he made ready to face a sleepless night, but
although his mind tried to wrestle with the problem how any man could
be ruined who had, months before, paid off every dollar of debt he knew
himself to owe, he gave up that insoluble riddle in order to fall back
on the larger principle that beggary could be no more for him than it
was for others who were more valuable members of society, and, with
that, he went to sleep like a good citizen, and the next day started
for Quincy where he arrived August 7.

  As a starting-point for a new education at fifty-five years
old, the shock of finding one's self suspended, for several months,
over the edge of bankruptcy, without knowing how one got there, or how
to get away, is to be strongly recommended. By slow degrees the
situation dawned on him that the banks had lent him, among others, some
money--thousands of millions were--as bankruptcy--the same--for which
he, among others, was responsible and of which he knew no more than
they. The humor of this situation seemed to him so much more pointed
than the terror, as to make him laugh at himself with a sincerity he
had been long strange to. As far as he could comprehend, he had nothing
to lose that he cared about, but the banks stood to lose their
existence. Money mattered as little to him as to anybody, but money was
their life. For the first time he had the banks in his power; he could
afford to laugh; and the whole community was in the same position,
though few laughed. All sat down on the banks and asked what the banks
were going to do about it. To Adams the situation seemed farcical, but
the more he saw of it, the less he understood it. He was quite sure
that nobody understood it much better. Blindly some very powerful
energy was at work, doing something that nobody wanted done. When Adams
went to his bank to draw a hundred dollars of his own money on deposit,
the cashier refused to let him have more than fifty, and Adams accepted
the fifty without complaint because he was himself refusing to let the
banks have some hundreds or thousands that belonged to them. Each
wanted to help the other, yet both refused to pay their debts, and he
could find no answer to the question which was responsible for getting
the other into the situation, since lenders and borrowers were the same
interest and socially the same person. Evidently the force was one; its
operation was mechanical; its effect must be proportional to its power;
but no one knew what it meant, and most people dismissed it as an
emotion--a panic--that meant nothing.

  Men died like flies under the strain, and Boston grew suddenly
old, haggard, and thin. Adams alone waxed fat and was happy, for at
last he had got hold of his world and could finish his education,
interrupted for twenty years. He cared not whether it were worth
finishing, if only it amused; but he seemed, for the first time since
1870, to feel that something new and curious was about to happen to the
world. Great changes had taken place since 1870 in the forces at work;
the old machine ran far behind its duty; somewhere--somehow--it was
bound to break down, and if it happened to break precisely over one's
head, it gave the better chance for study.

  For the first time in several years he saw much of his brother
Brooks in Quincy, and was surprised to find him absorbed in the same
perplexities. Brooks was then a man of forty-five years old; a strong
writer and a vigorous thinker who irritated too many Boston conventions
ever to suit the atmosphere; but the two brothers could talk to each
other without atmosphere and were used to audiences of one. Brooks had
discovered or developed a law of history that civilization followed the
exchanges, and having worked it out for the Mediterranean was working
it out for the Atlantic. Everything American, as well as most things
European and Asiatic, became unstable by this law, seeking new
equilibrium and compelled to find it. Loving paradox, Brooks, with the
advantages of ten years' study, had swept away much rubbish in the
effort to build up a new line of thought for himself, but he found that
no paradox compared with that of daily events. The facts were
constantly outrunning his thoughts. The instability was greater than he
calculated; the speed of acceleration passed bounds. Among other
general rules he laid down the paradox that, in the social
disequilibrium between capital and labor, the logical outcome was not
collectivism, but anarchism; and Henry made note of it for study.

  By the time he got back to Washington on September 19, the
storm having partly blown over, life had taken on a new face, and one
so interesting that he set off to Chicago to study the Exposition
again, and stayed there a fortnight absorbed in it. He found matter of
study to fill a hundred years, and his education spread over chaos.
Indeed, it seemed to him as though, this year, education went mad. The
silver question, thorny as it was, fell into relations as simple as
words of one syllable, compared with the problems of credit and
exchange that came to complicate it; and when one sought rest at
Chicago, educational game started like rabbits from every building, and
ran out of sight among thousands of its kind before one could mark its
burrow. The Exposition itself defied philosophy. One might find fault
till the last gate closed, one could still explain nothing that needed
explanation. As a scenic display, Paris had never approached it, but
the inconceivable scenic display consisted in its being there at
all--more surprising, as it was, than anything else on the continent,
Niagara Falls, the Yellowstone Geysers, and the whole railway system
thrown in, since these were all natural products in their place; while,
since Noah's Ark, no such Babel of loose and ill joined, such vague and
ill-defined and unrelated thoughts and half-thoughts and experimental
outcries as the Exposition, had ever ruffled the surface of the Lakes.

  The first astonishment became greater every day. That the
Exposition should be a natural growth and product of the Northwest
offered a step in evolution to startle Darwin; but that it should be
anything else seemed an idea more startling still; and even granting it
were not--admitting it to be a sort of industrial, speculative growth
and product of the Beaux Arts artistically induced to pass the summer
on the shore of Lake Michigan--could it be made to seem at home there?
Was the American made to seem at home in it? Honestly, he had the air
of enjoying it as though it were all his own; he felt it was good; he
was proud of it; for the most part, he acted as though he had passed
his life in landscape gardening and architectural decoration. If he had
not done it himself, he had known how to get it done to suit him, as he
knew how to get his wives and daughters dressed at Worth's or Paquin's.
Perhaps he could not do it again; the next time he would want to do it
himself and would show his own faults; but for the moment he seemed to
have leaped directly from Corinth and Syracuse and Venice, over the
heads of London and New York, to impose classical standards on plastic
Chicago. Critics had no trouble in criticising the classicism, but all
trading cities had always shown traders' taste, and, to the stern
purist of religious faith, no art was thinner than Venetian Gothic. All
trader's taste smelt of bric-a-brac; Chicago tried at least to give her
taste a look of unity.

  One sat down to ponder on the steps beneath Richard Hunt's dome
almost as deeply as on the steps of Ara Coeli, and much to the same
purpose. Here was a breach of continuity--a rupture in historical
sequence! Was it real, or only apparent? One's personal universe hung
on the answer, for, if the rupture was real and the new American world
could take this sharp and conscious twist towards ideals, one's
personal friends would come in, at last, as winners in the great
American chariot-race for fame. If the people of the Northwest actually
knew what was good when they saw it, they would some day talk about
Hunt and Richardson, La Farge and St. Gaudens, Burnham and McKim, and
Stanford White when their politicians and millionaires were otherwise
forgotten. The artists and architects who had done the work offered
little encouragement to hope it; they talked freely enough, but not in
terms that one cared to quote; and to them the Northwest refused to
look artistic. They talked as though they worked only for themselves;
as though art, to the Western people, was a stage decoration; a diamond
shirt-stud; a paper collar; but possibly the architects of Paestum and
Girgenti had talked in the same way, and the Greek had said the same
thing of Semitic Carthage two thousand years ago.

  Jostled by these hopes and doubts, one turned to the exhibits
for help, and found it. The industrial schools tried to teach so much
and so quickly that the instruction ran to waste. Some millions of
other people felt the same helplessness, but few of them were seeking
education, and to them helplessness seemed natural and normal, for they
had grown up in the habit of thinking a steam-engine or a dynamo as
natural as the sun, and expected to understand one as little as the
other. For the historian alone the Exposition made a serious effort.
Historical exhibits were common, but they never went far enough; none
were thoroughly worked out. One of the best was that of the Cunard
steamers, but still a student hungry for results found himself obliged
to waste a pencil and several sheets of paper trying to calculate
exactly when, according to the given increase of power, tonnage, and
speed, the growth of the ocean steamer would reach its limits. His
figures brought him, he thought, to the year 1927; another generation
to spare before force, space, and time should meet. The ocean steamer
ran the surest line of triangulation into the future, because it was
the nearest of man's products to a unity; railroads taught less because
they seemed already finished except for mere increase in number;
explosives taught most, but needed a tribe of chemists, physicists, and
mathematicians to explain; the dynamo taught least because it had
barely reached infancy, and, if its progress was to be constant at the
rate of the last ten years, it would result in infinite costless energy
within a generation. One lingered long among the dynamos, for they were
new, and they gave to history a new phase. Men of science could never
understand the ignorance and naivete; of the historian, who, when he
came suddenly on a new power, asked naturally what it was; did it pull
or did it push? Was it a screw or thrust? Did it flow or vibrate? Was
it a wire or a mathematical line? And a score of such questions to
which he expected answers and was astonished to get none.

  Education ran riot at Chicago, at least for retarded minds
which had never faced in concrete form so many matters of which they
were ignorant. Men who knew nothing whatever--who had never run a
steam-engine, the simplest of forces--who had never put their hands on
a lever--had never touched an electric battery--never talked through a
telephone, and had not the shadow of a notion what amount of force was
meant by a watt or an ampere or an erg, or any other term of
measurement introduced within a hundred years--had no choice but to sit
down on the steps and brood as they had never brooded on the benches of
Harvard College, either as student or professor, aghast at what they
had said and done in all these years, and still more ashamed of the
childlike ignorance and babbling futility of the society that let them
say and do it. The historical mind can think only in historical
processes, and probably this was the first time since historians
existed, that any of them had sat down helpless before a mechanical
sequence. Before a metaphysical or a theological or a political
sequence, most historians had felt helpless, but the single clue to
which they had hitherto trusted was the unity of natural force.

  Did he himself quite know what he meant? Certainly not! If he
had known enough to state his problem, his education would have been
complete at once. Chicago asked in 1893 for the first time the question
whether the American people knew where they were driving. Adams
answered, for one, that he did not know, but would try to find out. On
reflecting sufficiently deeply, under the shadow of Richard Hunt's
architecture, he decided that the American people probably knew no more
than he did; but that they might still be driving or drifting
unconsciously to some point in thought, as their solar system was said
to be drifting towards some point in space; and that, possibly, if
relations enough could be observed, this point might be fixed. Chicago
was the first expression of American thought as a unity; one must start
there.

  Washington was the second. When he got back there, he fell
headlong into the extra session of Congress called to repeal the Silver
Act. The silver minority made an obstinate attempt to prevent it, and
most of the majority had little heart in the creation of a single gold
standard. The banks alone, and the dealers in exchange, insisted upon
it; the political parties divided according to capitalistic
geographical lines, Senator Cameron offering almost the only exception;
but they mixed with unusual good-temper, and made liberal allowance for
each others' actions and motives. The struggle was rather less
irritable than such struggles generally were, and it ended like a
comedy. On the evening of the final vote, Senator Cameron came back
from the Capitol with Senator Brice, Senator Jones, Senator Lodge, and
Moreton Frewen, all in the gayest of humors as though they were rid of
a heavy responsibility. Adams, too, in a bystander's spirit, felt light
in mind. He had stood up for his eighteenth century, his Constitution
of 1789, his George Washington, his Harvard College, his Quincy, and
his Plymouth Pilgrims, as long as any one would stand up with him. He
had said it was hopeless twenty years before, but he had kept on, in
the same old attitude, by habit and taste, until he found himself
altogether alone. He had hugged his antiquated dislike of bankers and
capitalistic society until he had become little better than a crank. He
had known for years that he must accept the regime, but he had known a
great many other disagreeable certainties--like age, senility, and
death--against which one made what little resistance one could. The
matter was settled at last by the people. For a hundred years, between
1793 and 1893, the American people had hesitated, vacillated, swayed
forward and back, between two forces, one simply industrial, the other
capitalistic, centralizing, and mechanical. In 1893, the issue came on
the single gold standard, and the majority at last declared itself,
once for all, in favor of the capitalistic system with all its
necessary machinery. All one's friends, all one's best citizens,
reformers, churches, colleges, educated classes, had joined the banks
to force submission to capitalism; a submission long foreseen by the
mere law of mass. Of all forms of society or government, this was the
one he liked least, but his likes or dislikes were as antiquated as the
rebel doctrine of State rights. A capitalistic system had been adopted,
and if it were to be run at all, it must be run by capital and by
capitalistic methods; for nothing could surpass the nonsensity of
trying to run so complex and so concentrated a machine by Southern and
Western farmers in grotesque alliance with city day-laborers, as had
been tried in 1800 and 1828, and had failed even under simple
conditions.

  There, education in domestic politics stopped. The rest was
question of gear; of running machinery; of economy; and involved no
disputed principle. Once admitted that the machine must be efficient,
society might dispute in what social interest it should be run, but in
any case it must work concentration. Such great revolutions commonly
leave some bitterness behind, but nothing in politics ever surprised
Henry Adams more than the ease with which he and his silver friends
slipped across the chasm, and alighted on the single gold standard and
the capitalistic system with its methods; the protective tariff; the
corporations and trusts; the trades-unions and socialistic paternalism
which necessarily made their complement; the whole mechanical
consolidation of force, which ruthlessly stamped out the life of the
class into which Adams was born, but created monopolies capable of
controlling the new energies that America adored.

  Society rested, after sweeping into the ash-heap these cinders
of a misdirected education. After this vigorous impulse, nothing
remained for a historian but to ask--how long and how far!



CHAPTER XXIII

SILENCE (1894-1898)

The convulsion of 1893 left its victims in dead-water, and closed much
education. While the country braced itself up to an effort such as no
one had thought within its powers, the individual crawled as he best
could, through the wreck, and found many values of life upset. But for
connecting the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the four years, 1893
to 1897, had no value in the drama of education, and might be left out.
Much that had made life pleasant between 1870 and 1890 perished in the
ruin, and among the earliest wreckage had been the fortunes of Clarence
King. The lesson taught whatever the bystander chose to read in it; but
to Adams it seemed singularly full of moral, if he could but understand
it. In 1871 he had thought King's education ideal, and his personal
fitness unrivalled. No other young American approached him for the
combination of chances--physical energy, social standing, mental scope
and training, wit, geniality, and science, that seemed superlatively
American and irresistibly strong. His nearest rival was Alexander
Agassiz, and, as far as their friends knew, no one else could be
classed with them in the running. The result of twenty years' effort
proved that the theory of scientific education failed where most theory
fails--for want of money. Even Henry Adams, who kept himself, as he
thought, quite outside of every possible financial risk, had been
caught in the cogs, and held for months over the gulf of bankruptcy,
saved only by the chance that the whole class of millionaires were more
or less bankrupt too, and the banks were forced to let the mice escape
with the rats; but, in sum, education without capital could always be
taken by the throat and forced to disgorge its gains, nor was it helped
by the knowledge that no one intended it, but that all alike suffered.
Whether voluntary or mechanical the result for education was the same.
The failure of the scientific scheme, without money to back it, was
flagrant.

  The scientific scheme in theory was alone sound, for science
should be equivalent to money; in practice science was helpless without
money. The weak holder was, in his own language, sure to be frozen out.
Education must fit the complex conditions of a new society, always
accelerating its movement, and its fitness could be known only from
success. One looked about for examples of success among the educated of
one's time--the men born in the thirties, and trained to professions.
Within one's immediate acquaintance, three were typical: John Hay,
Whitelaw Reid, and William C. Whitney; all of whom owed their free hand
to marriage, education serving only for ornament, but among whom, in
1893, William C. Whitney was far and away the most popular type.

  Newspapers might prate about wealth till commonplace print was
exhausted, but as matter of habit, few Americans envied the very rich
for anything the most of them got out of money. New York might
occasionally fear them, but more often laughed or sneered at them, and
never showed them respect. Scarcely one of the very rich men held any
position in society by virtue of his wealth, or could have been elected
to an office, or even into a good club. Setting aside the few, like
Pierpont Morgan, whose social position had little to do with greater or
less wealth, riches were in New York no object of envy on account of
the joys they brought in their train, and Whitney was not even one of
the very rich; yet in his case the envy was palpable. There was reason
for it. Already in 1893 Whitney had finished with politics after having
gratified every ambition, and swung the country almost at his will; he
had thrown away the usual objects of political ambition like the ashes
of smoked cigarettes; had turned to other amusements, satiated every
taste, gorged every appetite, won every object that New York afforded,
and, not yet satisfied, had carried his field of activity abroad, until
New York no longer knew what most to envy, his horses or his houses. He
had succeeded precisely where Clarence King had failed.

  Barely forty years had passed since all these men started in a
bunch to race for power, and the results were fixed beyond reversal;
but one knew no better in 1894 than in 1854 what an American education
ought to be in order to count as success. Even granting that it counted
as money, its value could not be called general. America contained
scores of men worth five millions or upwards, whose lives were no more
worth living than those of their cooks, and to whom the task of making
money equivalent to education offered more difficulties than to Adams
the task of making education equivalent to money. Social position
seemed to have value still, while education counted for nothing. A
mathematician, linguist, chemist, electrician, engineer, if fortunate
might average a value of ten dollars a day in the open market. An
administrator, organizer, manager, with mediaeval qualities of energy
and will, but no education beyond his special branch, would probably be
worth at least ten times as much. Society had failed to discover what
sort of education suited it best. Wealth valued social position and
classical education as highly as either of these valued wealth, and the
women still tended to keep the scales even. For anything Adams could
see he was himself as contented as though he had been educated; while
Clarence King, whose education was exactly suited to theory, had
failed; and Whitney, who was no better educated than Adams, had
achieved phenomenal success.

  Had Adams in 1894 been starting in life as he did in 1854, he
must have repeated that all he asked of education was the facile use of
the four old tools: Mathematics, French, German, and Spanish. With
these he could still make his way to any object within his vision, and
would have a decisive advantage over nine rivals in ten. Statesman or
lawyer, chemist or electrician, priest or professor, native or foreign,
he would fear none.

  King's breakdown, physical as well as financial, brought the
indirect gain to Adams that, on recovering strength, King induced him
to go to Cuba, where, in January, 1894, they drifted into the little
town of Santiago. The picturesque Cuban society, which King knew well,
was more amusing than any other that one had yet discovered in the
whole broad world, but made no profession of teaching anything unless
it were Cuban Spanish or the danza; and neither on his own nor on
King's account did the visitor ask any loftier study than that of the
buzzards floating on the trade-wind down the valley to Dos Bocas, or
the colors of sea and shore at sunrise from the height of the Gran
Piedra; but, as though they were still twenty years old and revolution
were as young as they, the decaying fabric, which had never been solid,
fell on their heads and drew them with it into an ocean of mischief. In
the half-century between 1850 and 1900, empires were always falling on
one's head, and, of all lessons, these constant political convulsions
taught least. Since the time of Rameses, revolutions have raised more
doubts than they solved, but they have sometimes the merit of changing
one's point of view, and the Cuban rebellion served to sever the last
tie that attached Adams to a Democratic administration. He thought that
President Cleveland could have settled the Cuban question, without war,
had he chosen to do his duty, and this feeling, generally held by the
Democratic Party, joined with the stress of economical needs and the
gold standard to break into bits the old organization and to leave no
choice between parties. The new American, whether consciously or not,
had turned his back on the nineteenth century before he was done with
it; the gold standard, the protective system, and the laws of mass
could have no other outcome, and, as so often before, the movement,
once accelerated by attempting to impede it, had the additional, brutal
consequence of crushing equally the good and the bad that stood in its
way.

  The lesson was old--so old that it became tedious. One had
studied nothing else since childhood, and wearied of it. For yet
another year Adams lingered on these outskirts of the vortex, among the
picturesque, primitive types of a world which had never been fairly
involved in the general motion, and were the more amusing for their
torpor. After passing the winter with King in the West Indies, he
passed the summer with Hay in the Yellowstone, and found there little
to study. The Geysers were an old story; the Snake River posed no vital
statistics except in its fordings; even the Tetons were as calm as they
were lovely; while the wapiti and bear, innocent of strikes and
corners, laid no traps. In return the party treated them with
affection. Never did a band less bloody or bloodthirsty wander over the
roof of the continent. Hay loved as little as Adams did, the labor of
skinning and butchering big game; he had even outgrown the sedate,
middle-aged, meditative joy of duck-shooting, and found the trout of
the Yellowstone too easy a prey. Hallett Phillips himself, who managed
the party loved to play Indian hunter without hunting so much as a
fieldmouse; Iddings the geologist was reduced to shooting only for the
table, and the guileless prattle of Billy Hofer alone taught the simple
life. Compared with the Rockies of 1871, the sense of wildness had
vanished; one saw no possible adventures except to break one's neck as
in chasing an aniseed fox. Only the more intelligent ponies scented an
occasional friendly and sociable bear.

  When the party came out of the Yellowstone, Adams went on alone
to Seattle and Vancouver to inspect the last American railway systems
yet untried. They, too, offered little new learning, and no sooner had
he finished this debauch of Northwestern geography than with desperate
thirst for exhausting the American field, he set out for Mexico and the
Gulf, making a sweep of the Caribbean and clearing up, in these six or
eight months, at least twenty thousand miles of American land and water.

  He was beginning to think, when he got back to Washington in
April, 1895, that he knew enough about the edges of life--tropical
islands, mountain solitudes, archaic law, and retrograde types.
Infinitely more amusing and incomparably more picturesque than
civilization, they educated only artists, and, as one's sixtieth year
approached, the artist began to die; only a certain intense cerebral
restlessness survived which no longer responded to sensual stimulants;
one was driven from beauty to beauty as though art were a
trotting-match. For this, one was in some degree prepared, for the old
man had been a stage-type since drama began; but one felt some
perplexity to account for failure on the opposite or mechanical side,
where nothing but cerebral action was needed.

  Taking for granted that the alternative to art was arithmetic,
plunged deep into statistics, fancying that education would find the
surest bottom there; and the study proved the easiest he had ever
approached. Even the Government volunteered unlimited statistics,
endless columns of figures, bottomless averages merely for the asking.
At the Statistical Bureau, Worthington Ford supplied any material that
curiosity could imagine for filling the vast gaps of ignorance, and
methods for applying the plasters of fact. One seemed for a while to be
winning ground, and one's averages projected themselves as laws into
the future. Perhaps the most perplexing part of the study lay in the
attitude of the statisticians, who showed no enthusiastic confidence in
their own figures. They should have reached certainty, but they talked
like other men who knew less. The method did not result faith. Indeed,
every increase of mass--of volume and velocity--seemed to bring in new
elements, and, at last, a scholar, fresh in arithmetic and ignorant of
algebra, fell into a superstitious terror of complexity as the sink of
facts. Nothing came out as it should. In principle, according to
figures, any one could set up or pull down a society. One could frame
no sort of satisfactory answer to the constructive doctrines of Adam
Smith, or to the destructive criticisms of Karl Marx or to the
anarchistic imprecations of Elisee Reclus. One revelled at will in the
ruin of every society in the past, and rejoiced in proving the
prospective overthrow of every society that seemed possible in the
future; but meanwhile these societies which violated every law, moral,
arithmetical, and economical, not only propagated each other, but
produced also fresh complexities with every propagation and developed
mass with every complexity.

  The human factor was worse still. Since the stupefying
discovery of Pteraspis in 1867, nothing had so confused the student as
the conduct of mankind in the fin-de-siecle. No one seemed very much
concerned about this world or the future, unless it might be the
anarchists, and they only because they disliked the present. Adams
disliked the present as much as they did, and his interest in future
society was becoming slight, yet he was kept alive by irritation at
finding his life so thin and fruitless. Meanwhile he watched mankind
march on, like a train of pack-horses on the Snake River, tumbling from
one morass into another, and at short intervals, for no reason but
temper, falling to butchery, like Cain. Since 1850, massacres had
become so common that society scarcely noticed them unless they summed
up hundreds of thousands, as in Armenia; wars had been almost
continuous, and were beginning again in Cuba, threatening in South
Africa, and possible in Manchuria; yet impartial judges thought them
all not merely unnecessary, but foolish--induced by greed of the
coarsest class, as though the Pharaohs or the Romans were still robbing
their neighbors. The robbery might be natural and inevitable, but the
murder seemed altogether archaic.

  At one moment of perplexity to account for this trait of
Pteraspis, or shark, which seemed to have survived every moral
improvement of society, he took to study of the religious press.
Possibly growth in human nature might show itself there. He found no
need to speak unkindly of it; but, as an agent of motion, he preferred
on the whole the vigor of the shark, with its chances of betterment;
and he very gravely doubted, from his aching consciousness of religious
void, whether any large fraction of society cared for a future life, or
even for the present one, thirty years hence. Not an act, or an
expression, or an image, showed depth of faith or hope.

  The object of education, therefore, was changed. For many years
it had lost itself in studying what the world had ceased to care for;
if it were to begin again, it must try to find out what the mass of
mankind did care for, and why. Religion, politics, statistics, travel
had thus far led to nothing. Even the Chicago Fair had only confused
the roads. Accidental education could go no further, for one's mind was
already littered and stuffed beyond hope with the millions of chance
images stored away without order in the memory. One might as well try
to educate a gravel-pit. The task was futile, which disturbed a student
less than the discovery that, in pursuing it, he was becoming himself
ridiculous. Nothing is more tiresome than a superannuated pedagogue.

  For the moment he was rescued, as often before, by a woman.
Towards midsummer, 1895, Mrs. Cabot Lodge bade him follow her to Europe
with the Senator and her two sons. The study of history is useful to
the historian by teaching him his ignorance of women; and the mass of
this ignorance crushes one who is familiar enough with what are called
historical sources to realize how few women have ever been known. The
woman who is known only through a man is known wrong, and excepting one
or two like Mme. de Sevigne, no woman has pictured herself. The
American woman of the nineteenth century will live only as the man saw
her; probably she will be less known than the woman of the eighteenth;
none of the female descendants of Abigail Adams can ever be nearly so
familiar as her letters have made her; and all this is pure loss to
history, for the American woman of the nineteenth century was much
better company than the American man; she was probably much better
company than her grandmothers. With Mrs. Lodge and her husband, Senator
since 1893, Adams's relations had been those of elder brother or uncle
since 1871 when Cabot Lodge had left his examination-papers on
Assistant Professor Adams's desk, and crossed the street to Christ
Church in Cambridge to get married. With Lodge himself, as scholar,
fellow instructor, co-editor of the North American Review, and
political reformer from 1873 to 1878, he had worked intimately, but
with him afterwards as politician he had not much relation; and since
Lodge had suffered what Adams thought the misfortune of becoming not
only a Senator but a Senator from Massachusetts--a singular social
relation which Adams had known only as fatal to friends--a
superstitious student, intimate with the laws of historical fatality,
would rather have recognized him only as an enemy; but apart from this
accident he valued Lodge highly, and in the waste places of average
humanity had been greatly dependent on his house. Senators can never be
approached with safety, but a Senator who has a very superior wife and
several superior children who feel no deference for Senators as such,
may be approached at times with relative impunity while they keep him
under restraint.

Where Mrs. Lodge summoned, one followed with gratitude, and so it
chanced that in August one found one's self for the first time at Caen,
Coutances, and Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. If history had a chapter
with which he thought himself familiar, it was the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries; yet so little has labor to do with knowledge that
these bare playgrounds of the lecture system turned into green and
verdurous virgin forests merely through the medium of younger eyes and
fresher minds. His German bias must have given his youth a terrible
twist, for the Lodges saw at a glance what he had thought unessential
because un-German. They breathed native air in the Normandy of 1200, a
compliment which would have seemed to the Senator lacking in taste or
even in sense when addressed to one of a class of men who passed life
in trying to persuade themselves and the public that they breathed
nothing less American than a blizzard; but this atmosphere, in the
touch of a real emotion, betrayed the unconscious humor of the
senatorial mind. In the thirteenth century, by an unusual chance, even
a Senator became natural, simple, interested, cultivated, artistic,
liberal--genial.

  Through the Lodge eyes the old problem became new and personal;
it threw off all association with the German lecture-room. One could
not at first see what this novelty meant; it had the air of mere
antiquarian emotion like Wenlock Abbey and Pteraspis; but it expelled
archaic law and antiquarianism once for all, without seeming conscious
of it; and Adams drifted back to Washington with a new sense of
history. Again he wandered south, and in April returned to Mexico with
the Camerons to study the charms of pulque and Churriguerresque
architecture. In May he ran through Europe again with Hay, as far south
as Ravenna. There came the end of the passage. After thus covering once
more, in 1896, many thousand miles of the old trails, Adams went home
October, with every one else, to elect McKinley President and start the
world anew.

  For the old world of public men and measures since 1870, Adams
wept no tears. Within or without, during or after it, as partisan or
historian, he never saw anything to admire in it, or anything he wanted
to save; and in this respect he reflected only the public mind which
balanced itself so exactly between the unpopularity of both parties as
to express no sympathy with either. Even among the most powerful men of
that generation he knew none who had a good word to say for it. No
period so thoroughly ordinary had been known in American politics since
Christopher Columbus first disturbed the balance of American society;
but the natural result of such lack of interest in public affairs, in a
small society like that of Washington, led an idle bystander to depend
abjectly on intimacy of private relation. One dragged one's self down
the long vista of Pennsylvania Avenue, by leaning heavily on one's
friends, and avoiding to look at anything else. Thus life had grown
narrow with years, more and more concentrated on the circle of houses
round La Fayette Square, which had no direct or personal share in power
except in the case of Mr. Blaine whose tumultuous struggle for
existence held him apart. Suddenly Mr. McKinley entered the White House
and laid his hand heavily on this special group. In a moment the whole
nest so slowly constructed, was torn to pieces and scattered over the
world. Adams found himself alone. John Hay took his orders for London.
Rockhill departed to Athens. Cecil Spring-Rice had been buried in
Persia. Cameron refused to remain in public life either at home or
abroad, and broke up his house on the Square. Only the Lodges and
Roosevelts remained, but even they were at once absorbed in the
interests of power. Since 1861, no such social convulsion had occurred.

  Even this was not quite the worst. To one whose interests lay
chiefly in foreign affairs, and who, at this moment, felt most strongly
the nightmare of Cuban, Hawaiian, and Nicaraguan chaos, the man in the
State Department seemed more important than the man in the White House.
Adams knew no one in the United States fit to manage these matters in
the face of a hostile Europe, and had no candidate to propose; but he
was shocked beyond all restraints of expression to learn that the
President meant to put Senator John Sherman in the State Department in
order to make a place for Mr. Hanna in the Senate. Grant himself had
done nothing that seemed so bad as this to one who had lived long
enough to distinguish between the ways of presidential jobbery, if not
between the jobs. John Sherman, otherwise admirably fitted for the
place, a friendly influence for nearly forty years, was notoriously
feeble and quite senile, so that the intrigue seemed to Adams the
betrayal of an old friend as well as of the State Department. One might
have shrugged one's shoulders had the President named Mr. Hanna his
Secretary of State, for Mr. Hanna was a man of force if not of
experience, and selections much worse than this had often turned out
well enough; but John Sherman must inevitably and tragically break down.

  The prospect for once was not less vile than the men. One can
bear coldly the jobbery of enemies, but not that of friends, and to
Adams this kind of jobbery seemed always infinitely worse than all the
petty money bribes ever exploited by the newspapers. Nor was the matter
improved by hints that the President might call John Hay to the
Department whenever John Sherman should retire. Indeed, had Hay been
even unconsciously party to such an intrigue, he would have put an end,
once for all, to further concern in public affairs on his friend's
part; but even without this last disaster, one felt that Washington had
become no longer habitable. Nothing was left there but solitary
contemplation of Mr. McKinley's ways which were not likely to be more
amusing than the ways of his predecessors; or of senatorial ways, which
offered no novelty of what the French language expressively calls
embetement; or of poor Mr. Sherman's ways which would surely cause
anguish to his friends. Once more, one must go!

  Nothing was easier! On and off, one had done the same thing
since the year 1858, at frequent intervals, and had now reached the
month of March, 1897; yet, as the whole result of six years' dogged
effort to begin a new education, one could not recommend it to the
young. The outlook lacked hope. The object of travel had become more
and more dim, ever since the gibbering ghost of the Civil Law had been
locked in its dark closet, as far back as 1860. Noah's dove had not
searched the earth for resting-places so carefully, or with so little
success. Any spot on land or water satisfies a dove who wants and finds
rest; but no perch suits a dove of sixty years old, alone and
uneducated, who has lost his taste even for olives. To this, also, the
young may be driven, as education, end the lesson fails in humor; but
it may be worth knowing to some of them that the planet offers hardly a
dozen places where an elderly man can pass a week alone without ennui,
and none at all where he can pass a year.

  Irritated by such complaints, the world naturally answers that
no man of sixty should live, which is doubtless true, though not
original. The man of sixty, with a certain irritability proper to his
years, retorts that the world has no business to throw on him the task
of removing its carrion, and that while he remains he has a right to
require amusement--or at least education, since this costs nothing to
any one--and that a world which cannot educate, will not amuse, and is
ugly besides, has even less right to exist than he. Both views seem
sound; but the world wearily objects to be called by epithets what
society always admits in practice; for no one likes to be told that he
is a bore, or ignorant, or even ugly; and having nothing to say in its
defence, it rejoins that, whatever license is pardonable in youth, the
man of sixty who wishes consideration had better hold his tongue. This
truth also has the defect of being too true. The rule holds equally for
men of half that age Only the very young have the right to betray their
ignorance or ill-breeding. Elderly people commonly know enough not to
betray themselves.

  Exceptions are plenty on both sides, as the Senate knew to its
acute suffering; but young or old, women or men, seemed agreed on one
point with singular unanimity; each praised silence in others. Of all
characteristics in human nature, this has been one of the most abiding.
Mere superficial gleaning of what, in the long history of human
expression, has been said by the fool or unsaid by the wise, shows
that, for once, no difference of opinion has ever existed on this.
"Even a fool," said the wisest of men, "when he holdeth his peace, is
counted wise," and still more often, the wisest of men, when he spoke
the highest wisdom, has been counted a fool. They agreed only on the
merits of silence in others. Socrates made remarks in its favor, which
should have struck the Athenians as new to them; but of late the
repetition had grown tiresome. Thomas Carlyle vociferated his
admiration of it. Matthew Arnold thought it the best form of
expression; and Adams thought Matthew Arnold the best form of
expression in his time. Algernon Swinburne called it the most noble to
the end. Alfred de Vigny's dying wolf remarked:--

    "A voir ce que l'on fut sur terre et ce qu'on laisse,
     Seul le silence est grand; tout le reste est faiblesse."
    "When one thinks what one leaves in the world when one dies,
  Only silence is strong,--all the rest is but lies."

Even Byron, whom a more brilliant era of genius seemed to have decided
to be but an indifferent poet, had ventured to affirm that--

  "The Alp's snow summit nearer heaven is seen
   Than the volcano's fierce eruptive crest;"

with other verses, to the effect that words are but a "temporary
torturing flame"; of which no one knew more than himself. The evidence
of the poets could not be more emphatic:--

  "Silent, while years engrave the brow!
   Silent,--the best are silent now!"

  Although none of these great geniuses had shown faith in
silence as a cure for their own ills or ignorance, all of them, and all
philosophy after them, affirmed that no man, even at sixty, had ever
been known to attain knowledge; but that a very few were believed to
have attained ignorance, which was in result the same. More than this,
in every society worth the name, the man of sixty had been encouraged
to ride this hobby--the Pursuit of Ignorance in Silence--as though it
were the easiest way to get rid of him. In America the silence was more
oppressive than the ignorance; but perhaps elsewhere the world might
still hide some haunt of futilitarian silence where content
reigned--although long search had not revealed it--and so the
pilgrimage began anew!

  The first step led to London where John Hay was to be
established. One had seen so many American Ministers received in London
that the Lord Chamberlain himself scarcely knew more about it;
education could not be expected there; but there Adams arrived, April
21, 1897, as though thirty-six years were so many days, for Queen
Victoria still reigned and one saw little change in St. James's Street.
True, Carlton House Terrace, like the streets of Rome, actually
squeaked and gibbered with ghosts, till one felt like Odysseus before
the press of shadows, daunted by a "bloodless fear"; but in spring
London is pleasant, and it was more cheery than ever in May, 1897, when
every one was welcoming the return of life after the long winter since
1893. One's fortunes, or one's friends' fortunes, were again in flood.

  This amusement could not be prolonged, for one found one's self
the oldest Englishman in England, much too familiar with family jars
better forgotten, and old traditions better unknown. No wrinkled
Tannhauser, returning to the Wartburg, needed a wrinkled Venus to show
him that he was no longer at home, and that even penitence was a sort
of impertinence. He slipped away to Paris, and set up a household at
St. Germain where he taught and learned French history for nieces who
swarmed under the venerable cedars of the Pavillon d'Angouleme, and
rode about the green forest-alleys of St. Germain and Marly. From time
to time Hay wrote humorous laments, but nothing occurred to break the
summer-peace of the stranded Tannhauser, who slowly began to feel at
home in France as in other countries he had thought more homelike. At
length, like other dead Americans, he went to Paris because he could go
nowhere else, and lingered there till the Hays came by, in January,
1898; and Mrs. Hay, who had been a stanch and strong ally for twenty
years, bade him go with them to Egypt.

  Adams cared little to see Egypt again, but he was glad to see
Hay, and readily drifted after him to the Nile. What they saw and what
they said had as little to do with education as possible, until one
evening, as they were looking at the sun set across the Nile from
Assouan, Spencer Eddy brought them a telegram to announce the sinking
of the Maine in Havana Harbor. This was the greatest stride in
education since 1865, but what did it teach? One leant on a fragment of
column in the great hall at Karnak and watched a jackal creep down the
debris of ruin. The jackal's ancestors had surely crept up the same
wall when it was building. What was his view about the value of
silence? One lay in the sands and watched the expression of the Sphinx.
Brooks Adams had taught him that the relation between civilizations was
that of trade. Henry wandered, or was storm-driven, down the coast. He
tried to trace out the ancient harbor of Ephesus. He went over to
Athens, picked up Rockhill, and searched for the harbor of Tiryns;
together they went on to Constantinople and studied the great walls of
Constantine and the greater domes of Justinian. His hobby had turned
into a camel, and he hoped, if he rode long enough in silence, that at
last he might come on a city of thought along the great highways of
exchange.



CHAPTER XXIV

INDIAN SUMMER (1898-1899)

  The summer of the Spanish War began the Indian summer of life
to one who had reached sixty years of age, and cared only to reap in
peace such harvest as these sixty years had yielded. He had reason to
be more than content with it. Since 1864 he had felt no such sense of
power and momentum, and had seen no such number of personal friends
wielding it. The sense of solidarity counts for much in one's
contentment, but the sense of winning one's game counts for more; and
in London, in 1898, the scene was singularly interesting to the last
survivor of the Legation of 1861. He thought himself perhaps the only
person living who could get full enjoyment of the drama. He carried
every scene of it, in a century and a half since the Stamp Act, quite
alive in his mind--all the interminable disputes of his disputatious
ancestors as far back as the year 1750--as well as his own
insignificance in the Civil War, every step in which had the object of
bringing England into an American system. For this they had written
libraries of argument and remonstrance, and had piled war on war,
losing their tempers for life, and souring the gentle and patient
Puritan nature of their descendants, until even their private
secretaries at times used language almost intemperate; and suddenly, by
pure chance, the blessing fell on Hay. After two hundred years of
stupid and greedy blundering, which no argument and no violence
affected, the people of England learned their lesson just at the moment
when Hay would otherwise have faced a flood of the old anxieties. Hay
himself scarcely knew how grateful he should be, for to him the change
came almost of course. He saw only the necessary stages that had led to
it, and to him they seemed natural; but to Adams, still living in the
atmosphere of Palmerston and John Russell, the sudden appearance of
Germany as the grizzly terror which, in twenty years effected what
Adamses had tried for two hundred in vain--frightened England into
America's arms--seemed as melodramatic as any plot of Napoleon the
Great. He could feel only the sense of satisfaction at seeing the
diplomatic triumph of all his family, since the breed existed, at last
realized under his own eyes for the advantage of his oldest and closest
ally.

  This was history, not education, yet it taught something
exceedingly serious, if not ultimate, could one trust the lesson. For
the first time in his life, he felt a sense of possible purpose working
itself out in history. Probably no one else on this earthly planet--not
even Hay--could have come out on precisely such extreme personal
satisfaction, but as he sat at Hay's table, listening to any member of
the British Cabinet, for all were alike now, discuss the Philippines as
a question of balance of power in the East, he could see that the
family work of a hundred and fifty years fell at once into the grand
perspective of true empire-building, which Hay's work set off with
artistic skill. The roughness of the archaic foundations looked
stronger and larger in scale for the refinement and certainty of the
arcade. In the long list of famous American Ministers in London, none
could have given the work quite the completeness, the harmony, the
perfect ease of Hay.

  Never before had Adams been able to discern the working of law
in history, which was the reason of his failure in teaching it, for
chaos cannot be taught; but he thought he had a personal property by
inheritance in this proof of sequence and intelligence in the affairs
of man--a property which no one else had right to dispute; and this
personal triumph left him a little cold towards the other diplomatic
results of the war. He knew that Porto Rico must be taken, but he would
have been glad to escape the Philippines. Apart from too intimate an
acquaintance with the value of islands in the South Seas, he knew the
West Indies well enough to be assured that, whatever the American
people might think or say about it, they would sooner or later have to
police those islands, not against Europe, but for Europe, and America
too. Education on the outskirts of civilized life teaches not very
much, but it taught this; and one felt no call to shoulder the load of
archipelagoes in the antipodes when one was trying painfully to pluck
up courage to face the labor of shouldering archipelagoes at home. The
country decided otherwise, and one acquiesced readily enough since the
matter concerned only the public willingness to carry loads; in London,
the balance of power in the East came alone into discussion; and in
every point of view one had as much reason to be gratified with the
result as though one had shared in the danger, instead of being
vigorously employed in looking on from a great distance. After all,
friends had done the work, if not one's self, and he too serves a
certain purpose who only stands and cheers.

  In June, at the crisis of interest, the Camerons came over, and
took the fine old house of Surrenden Dering in Kent which they made a
sort of country house to the Embassy. Kent has charms rivalling those
of Shropshire, and, even compared with the many beautiful places
scattered along the Welsh border, few are nobler or more genial than
Surrenden with its unbroken descent from the Saxons, its avenues, its
terraces, its deer-park, its large repose on the Kentish hillside, and
its broad outlook over whet was once the forest of Anderida. Filled
with a constant stream of guests, the house seemed to wait for the
chance to show its charms to the American, with whose activity the
whole world was resounding; and never since the battle of Hastings
could the little telegraph office of the Kentish village have done such
work. There, on a hot July 4, 1898, to an expectant group under the
shady trees, came the telegram announcing the destruction of the
Spanish Armada, as it might have come to Queen Elizabeth in 1588; and
there, later in the season, came the order summoning Hay to the State
Department.

  Hay had no wish to be Secretary of State. He much preferred to
remain Ambassador, and his friends were quite as cold about it as he.
No one knew so well what sort of strain falls on Secretaries of State,
or how little strength he had in reserve against it. Even at Surrenden
he showed none too much endurance, and he would gladly have found a
valid excuse for refusing. The discussion on both sides was earnest,
but the decided voice of the conclave was that, though if he were a
mere office-seeker he might certainly decline promotion, if he were a
member of the Government he could not. No serious statesman could
accept a favor and refuse a service. Doubtless he might refuse, but in
that case he must resign. The amusement of making Presidents has keen
fascination for idle American hands, but these black arts have the old
drawback of all deviltry; one must serve the spirit one evokes, even
though the service were perdition to body and soul. For him, no doubt,
the service, though hard, might bring some share of profit, but for the
friends who gave this unselfish decision, all would prove loss. For
one, Adams on that subject had become a little daft. No one in his
experience had ever passed unscathed through that malarious marsh. In
his fancy, office was poison; it killed--body and soul--physically and
socially. Office was more poisonous than priestcraft or pedagogy in
proportion as it held more power; but the poison he complained of was
not ambition; he shared none of Cardinal Wolsey's belated penitence for
that healthy stimulant, as he had shared none of the fruits; his poison
was that of the will--the distortion of sight--the warping of mind--the
degradation of tissue--the coarsening of taste--the narrowing of
sympathy to the emotions of a caged rat. Hay needed no office in order
to wield influence. For him, influence lay about the streets, waiting
for him to stoop to it; he enjoyed more than enough power without
office; no one of his position, wealth, and political experience,
living at the centre of politics in contact with the active party
managers, could escape influence. His only ambition was to escape
annoyance, and no one knew better than he that, at sixty years of age,
sensitive to physical strain, still more sensitive to brutality,
vindictiveness, or betrayal, he took office at cost of life.

  Neither he nor any of the Surrenden circle made presence of
gladness at the new dignity for, with all his gaiety of manner and
lightness of wit, he took dark views of himself, none the lighter for
their humor, and his obedience to the President's order was the
gloomiest acquiescence he had ever smiled. Adams took dark views, too,
not so much on Hay's account as on his own, for, while Hay had at least
the honors of office, his friends would share only the ennuis of it;
but, as usual with Hay, nothing was gained by taking such matters
solemnly, and old habits of the Civil War left their mark of military
drill on every one who lived through it. He shouldered his pack and
started for home. Adams had no mind to lose his friend without a
struggle, though he had never known such sort of struggle to avail. The
chance was desperate, but he could not afford to throw it away; so, as
soon as the Surrenden establishment broke up, on October 17, he
prepared for return home, and on November 13, none too gladly, found
himself again gazing into La Fayette Square.

  He had made another false start and lost two years more of
education; nor had he excuse; for, this time, neither politics nor
society drew him away from his trail. He had nothing to do with Hay's
politics at home or abroad, and never affected agreement with his views
or his methods, nor did Hay care whether his friends agreed or
disagreed. They all united in trying to help each other to get along
the best way they could, and all they tried to save was the personal
relation. Even there, Adams would have been beaten had he not been
helped by Mrs. Hay, who saw the necessity of distraction, and led her
husband into the habit of stopping every afternoon to take his friend
off for an hour's walk, followed by a cup of tea with Mrs. Hay
afterwards, and a chat with any one who called.

  For the moment, therefore, the situation was saved, at least in
outward appearance, and Adams could go back to his own pursuits which
were slowly taking a direction. Perhaps they had no right to be called
pursuits, for in truth one consciously pursued nothing, but drifted as
attraction offered itself. The short session broke up the Washington
circle, so that, on March 22, Adams was able to sail with the Lodges
for Europe and to pass April in Sicily and Rome.

  With the Lodges, education always began afresh. Forty years had
left little of the Palermo that Garibaldi had shown to the boy of 1860,
but Sicily in all ages seems to have taught only catastrophe and
violence, running riot on that theme ever since Ulysses began its study
on the eye of Cyclops. For a lesson in anarchy, without a shade of
sequence, Sicily stands alone and defies evolution. Syracuse teaches
more than Rome. Yet even Rome was not mute, and the church of Ara Coeli
seemed more and more to draw all the threads of thought to a centre,
for every new journey led back to its steps--Karnak, Ephesus, Delphi,
Mycencae, Constantinople, Syracuse--all lying on the road to the
Capitol. What they had to bring by way of intellectual riches could not
yet be discerned, but they carried camel-loads of moral; and New York
sent most of all, for, in forty years, America had made so vast a
stride to empire that the world of 1860 stood already on a distant
horizon somewhere on the same plane with the republic of Brutus and
Cato, while schoolboys read of Abraham Lincoln as they did of Julius
Caesar. Vast swarms of Americans knew the Civil War only by school
history, as they knew the story of Cromwell or Cicero, and were as
familiar with political assassination as though they had lived under
Nero. The climax of empire could be seen approaching, year after year,
as though Sulla were a President or McKinley a Consul.

  Nothing annoyed Americans more than to be told this simple and
obvious--in no way unpleasant--truth; therefore one sat silent as ever
on the Capitol; but, by way of completing the lesson, the Lodges added
a pilgrimage to Assisi and an interview with St. Francis, whose
solution of historical riddles seemed the most satisfactory--or
sufficient--ever offered; worth fully forty years' more study, and
better worth it than Gibbon himself, or even St. Augustine, St.
Ambrose, or St. Jerome. The most bewildering effect of all these fresh
cross-lights on the old Assistant Professor of 1874 was due to the
astonishing contrast between what he had taught then and what he found
himself confusedly trying to learn five-and-twenty years
afterwards--between the twelfth century of his thirtieth and that of
his sixtieth years. At Harvard College, weary of spirit in the wastes
of Anglo-Saxon law, he had occasionally given way to outbursts of
derision at shedding his life-blood for the sublime truths of Sac and
Soc:--

     HIC JACET
HOMUNCULUS SCRIPTOR
 DOCTOR BARBARICUS
   HENRICUS ADAMS
 ADAE FILIUS ET EVAE
   PRIMO EXPLICUIT
       SOCNAM

  The Latin was as twelfth-century as the law, and he meant as
satire the claim that he had been first to explain the legal meaning of
Sac and Soc, although any German professor would have scorned it as a
shameless and presumptuous bid for immortality; but the whole point of
view had vanished in 1900. Not he, but Sir Henry Maine and Rudolph
Sohm, were the parents or creators of Sac and Soc. Convinced that the
clue of religion led to nothing, and that politics led to chaos, one
had turned to the law, as one's scholars turned to the Law School,
because one could see no other path to a profession.

  The law had proved as futile as politics or religion, or any
other single thread spun by the human spider; it offered no more
continuity than architecture or coinage, and no more force of its own.
St. Francis expressed supreme contempt for them all, and solved the
whole problem by rejecting it altogether. Adams returned to Paris with
a broken and contrite spirit, prepared to admit that his life had no
meaning, and conscious that in any case it no longer mattered. He
passed a summer of solitude contrasting sadly with the last at
Surrenden; but the solitude did what the society did not--it forced and
drove him into the study of his ignorance in silence. Here at last he
entered the practice of his final profession. Hunted by ennui, he could
no longer escape, and, by way of a summer school, he began a methodical
survey--a triangulation--of the twelfth century. The pursuit had a
singular French charm which France had long lost--a calmness, lucidity,
simplicity of expression, vigor of action, complexity of local color,
that made Paris flat. In the long summer days one found a sort of
saturated green pleasure in the forests, and gray infinity of rest in
the little twelfth-century churches that lined them, as unassuming as
their own mosses, and as sure of their purpose as their round arches;
but churches were many and summer was short, so that he was at last
driven back to the quays and photographs. For weeks he lived in silence.

  His solitude was broken in November by the chance arrival of
John La Farge. At that moment, contact with La Farge had a new value.
Of all the men who had deeply affected their friends since 1850 John La
Farge was certainly the foremost, and for Henry Adams, who had sat at
his feet since 1872, the question how much he owed to La Farge could be
answered only by admitting that he had no standard to measure it by. Of
all his friends La Farge alone owned a mind complex enough to contrast
against the commonplaces of American uniformity, and in the process had
vastly perplexed most Americans who came in contact with it. The
American mind--the Bostonian as well as the Southern or Western--likes
to walk straight up to its object, and assert or deny something that it
takes for a fact; it has a conventional approach, a conventional
analysis, and a conventional conclusion, as well as a conventional
expression, all the time loudly asserting its unconventionality. The
most disconcerting trait of John La Farge was his reversal of the
process. His approach was quiet and indirect; he moved round an object,
and never separated it from its surroundings; he prided himself on
faithfulness to tradition and convention; he was never abrupt and
abhorred dispute. His manners and attitude towards the universe were
the same, whether tossing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sketching
the trade-wind from a whale-boat in the blast of sea-sickness, or
drinking the cha-no-yu in the formal rites of Japan, or sipping his
cocoanut cup of kava in the ceremonial of Samoan chiefs, or reflecting
under the sacred bo-tree at Anaradjpura.

  One was never quite sure of his whole meaning until too late to
respond, for he had no difficulty in carrying different shades of
contradiction in his mind. As he said of his friend Okakura, his
thought ran as a stream runs through grass, hidden perhaps but always
there; and one felt often uncertain in what direction it flowed, for
even a contradiction was to him only a shade of difference, a
complementary color, about which no intelligent artist would dispute.
Constantly he repulsed argument: "Adams, you reason too much!" was one
of his standing reproaches even in the mild discussion of rice and
mangoes in the warm night of Tahiti dinners. He should have blamed
Adams for being born in Boston. The mind resorts to reason for want of
training, and Adams had never met a perfectly trained mind.

  To La Farge, eccentricity meant convention; a mind really
eccentric never betrayed it. True eccentricity was a tone--a shade--a
nuance--and the finer the tone, the truer the eccentricity. Of course
all artists hold more or less the same point of view in their art, but
few carry it into daily life, and often the contrast is excessive
between their art and their talk. One evening Humphreys Johnston, who
was devoted to La Farge, asked him to meet Whistler at dinner. La Farge
was ill--more ill than usual even for him--but he admired and liked
Whistler, and insisted on going. By chance, Adams was so placed as to
overhear the conversation of both, and had no choice but to hear that
of Whistler, which engrossed the table. At that moment the Boer War was
raging, and, as every one knows, on that subject Whistler raged worse
than the Boers. For two hours he declaimed against England--witty,
declamatory, extravagant, bitter, amusing, and noisy; but in substance
what he said was not merely commonplace--it was true! That is to say,
his hearers, including Adams and, as far as he knew, La Farge, agreed
with it all, and mostly as a matter of course; yet La Farge was silent,
and this difference of expression was a difference of art. Whistler in
his art carried the sense of nuance and tone far beyond any point
reached by La Farge, or even attempted; but in talk he showed, above or
below his color-instinct, a willingness to seem eccentric where no real
eccentricity, unless perhaps of temper, existed.

  This vehemence, which Whistler never betrayed in his painting,
La Farge seemed to lavish on his glass. With the relative value of La
Farge's glass in the history of glass-decoration, Adams was too
ignorant to meddle, and as a rule artists were if possible more
ignorant than he; but whatever it was, it led him back to the twelfth
century and to Chartres where La Farge not only felt at home, but felt
a sort of ownership. No other American had a right there, unless he too
were a member of the Church and worked in glass. Adams himself was an
interloper, but long habit led La Farge to resign himself to Adams as
one who meant well, though deplorably Bostonian; while Adams, though
near sixty years old before he knew anything either of glass or of
Chartres, asked no better than to learn, and only La Farge could help
him, for he knew enough at least to see that La Farge alone could use
glass like a thirteenth-century artist. In Europe the art had been dead
for centuries, and modern glass was pitiable. Even La Farge felt the
early glass rather as a document than as a historical emotion, and in
hundreds of windows at Chartres and Bourges and Paris, Adams knew
barely one or two that were meant to hold their own against a
color-scheme so strong as his. In conversation La Farge's mind was
opaline with infinite shades and refractions of light, and with color
toned down to the finest gradations. In glass it was insubordinate; it
was renaissance; it asserted his personal force with depth and
vehemence of tone never before seen. He seemed bent on crushing rivalry.

  Even the gloom of a Paris December at the Elysee Palace Hotel
was somewhat relieved by this companionship, and education made a step
backwards towards Chartres, but La Farge's health became more and more
alarming, and Adams was glad to get him safely back to New York,
January 15, 1900, while he himself went at once to Washington to find
out what had become of Hay. Nothing good could be hoped, for Hay's
troubles had begun, and were quite as great as he had foreseen. Adams
saw as little encouragement as Hay himself did, though he dared not say
so. He doubted Hay's endurance, the President's firmness in supporting
him, and the loyalty of his party friends; but all this worry on Hay's
account fretted him not nearly so much as the Boer War did on his own.
Here was a problem in his political education that passed all
experience since the Treason winter of 1860-61! Much to his
astonishment, very few Americans seemed to share his point of view;
their hostility to England seemed mere temper; but to Adams the war
became almost a personal outrage. He had been taught from childhood,
even in England, that his forbears and their associates in 1776 had
settled, once for all, the liberties of the British free colonies, and
he very strongly objected to being thrown on the defensive again, and
forced to sit down, a hundred and fifty years after John Adams had
begun the task, to prove, by appeal to law and fact, that George
Washington was not a felon, whatever might be the case with George III.
For reasons still more personal, he declined peremptorily to entertain
question of the felony of John Adams. He felt obliged to go even
further, and avow the opinion that if at any time England should take
towards Canada the position she took towards her Boer colonies, the
United States would be bound, by their record, to interpose, and to
insist on the application of the principles of 1776. To him the
attitude of Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues seemed exceedingly
un-American, and terribly embarrassing to Hay.

  Trained early, in the stress of civil war, to hold his tongue,
and to help make the political machine run somehow, since it could
never be made to run well, he would not bother Hay with theoretical
objections which were every day fretting him in practical forms. Hay's
chance lay in patience and good-temper till the luck should turn, and
to him the only object was time; but as political education the point
seemed vital to Adams, who never liked shutting his eyes or denying an
evident fact. Practical politics consists in ignoring facts, but
education and politics are two different and often contradictory
things. In this case, the contradiction seemed crude.

  With Hay's politics, at home or abroad, Adams had nothing
whatever to do. Hay belonged to the New York school, like Abram Hewitt,
Evarts, W. C. Whitney, Samuel J. Tilden--men who played the game for
ambition or amusement, and played it, as a rule, much better than the
professionals, but whose aims were considerably larger than those of
the usual player, and who felt no great love for the cheap drudgery of
the work. In return, the professionals felt no great love for them, and
set them aside when they could. Only their control of money made them
inevitable, and even this did not always carry their points. The story
of Abram Hewitt would offer one type of this statesman series, and that
of Hay another. President Cleveland set aside the one; President
Harrison set aside the other. "There is no politics in it," was his
comment on Hay's appointment to office. Hay held a different opinion
and turned to McKinley whose judgment of men was finer than common in
Presidents. Mr. McKinley brought to the problem of American government
a solution which lay very far outside of Henry Adams's education, but
which seemed to be at least practical and American. He undertook to
pool interests in a general trust into which every interest should be
taken, more or less at its own valuation, and whose mass should, under
his management, create efficiency. He achieved very remarkable results.
How much they cost was another matter; if the public is ever driven to
its last resources and the usual remedies of chaos, the result will
probably cost more.

  Himself a marvellous manager of men, McKinley found several
manipulators to help him, almost as remarkable as himself, one of whom
was Hay; but unfortunately Hay's strength was weakest and his task
hardest. At home, interests could be easily combined by simply paying
their price; but abroad whatever helped on one side, hurt him on
another. Hay thought England must be brought first into the combine;
but at that time Germany, Russia, and France were all combining against
England, and the Boer War helped them. For the moment Hay had no ally,
abroad or at home, except Pauncefote, and Adams always maintained that
Pauncefote alone pulled him through.

  Yet the difficulty abroad was far less troublesome than the
obstacles at home. The Senate had grown more and more unmanageable,
even since the time of Andrew Johnson, and this was less the fault of
the Senate than of the system. "A treaty of peace, in any normal state
of things," said Hay, "ought to be ratified with unanimity in
twenty-four hours. They wasted six weeks in wrangling over this one,
and ratified it with one vote to spare. We have five or six matters now
demanding settlement. I can settle them all, honorably and
advantageously to our own side; and I am assured by leading men in the
Senate that not one of these treaties, if negotiated, will pass the
Senate. I should have a majority in every case, but a malcontent third
would certainly dish every one of them. To such monstrous shape has the
original mistake of the Constitution grown in the evolution of our
politics. You must understand, it is not merely my solution the Senate
will reject. They will reject, for instance, any treaty, whatever, on
any subject, with England. I doubt if they would accept any treaty of
consequence with Russia or Germany. The recalcitrant third would be
differently composed, but it would be on hand. So that the real duties
of a Secretary of State seem to be three: to fight claims upon us by
other States; to press more or less fraudulent claims of our own
citizens upon other countries; to find offices for the friends of
Senators when there are none. Is it worth while--for me--to keep up
this useless labor?"

  To Adams, who, like Hay, had seen a dozen acquaintances
struggling with the same enemies, the question had scarcely the
interest of a new study. He had said all he had to say about it in a
dozen or more volumes relating to the politics of a hundred years
before. To him, the spectacle was so familiar as to be humorous. The
intrigue was too open to be interesting. The interference of the German
and Russian legations, and of the Clan-na-Gael, with the press and the
Senate was innocently undisguised. The charming Russian Minister, Count
Cassini, the ideal of diplomatic manners and training, let few days
pass without appealing through the press to the public against the
government. The German Minister, Von Holleben, more cautiously did the
same thing, and of course every whisper of theirs was brought instantly
to the Department. These three forces, acting with the regular
opposition and the natural obstructionists, could always stop action in
the Senate. The fathers had intended to neutralize the energy of
government and had succeeded, but their machine was never meant to do
the work of a twenty-million horse-power society in the twentieth
century, where much work needed to be quickly and efficiently done. The
only defence of the system was that, as Government did nothing well, it
had best do nothing; but the Government, in truth, did perfectly well
all it was given to do; and even if the charge were true, it applied
equally to human society altogether, if one chose to treat mankind from
that point of view. As a matter of mechanics, so much work must be
done; bad machinery merely added to friction.

  Always unselfish, generous, easy, patient, and loyal, Hay had
treated the world as something to be taken in block without pulling it
to pieces to get rid of its defects; he liked it all: he laughed and
accepted; he had never known unhappiness and would have gladly lived
his entire life over again exactly as it happened. In the whole New
York school, one met a similar dash of humor and cynicism more or less
pronounced but seldom bitter. Yet even the gayest of tempers succumbs
at last to constant friction The old friend was rapidly fading. The
habit remained, but the easy intimacy, the careless gaiety, the casual
humor, the equality of indifference, were sinking into the routine of
office; the mind lingered in the Department; the thought failed to
react; the wit and humor shrank within the blank walls of politics, and
the irritations multiplied. To a head of bureau, the result seemed
ennobling.

  Although, as education, this branch of study was more familiar
and older than the twelfth century, the task of bringing the two
periods into a common relation was new. Ignorance required that these
political and social and scientific values of the twelfth and twentieth
centuries should be correlated in some relation of movement that could
be expressed in mathematics, nor did one care in the least that all the
world said it could not be done, or that one knew not enough
mathematics even to figure a formula beyond the schoolboy s = gt^2/2.
If Kepler and Newton could take liberties with the sun and moon, an
obscure person in a remote wilderness like La Fayette Square could take
liberties with Congress, and venture to multiply half its attraction
into the square of its time. He had only to find a value, even
infinitesimal, for its attraction at any given time. A historical
formula that should satisfy the conditions of the stellar universe
weighed heavily on his mind; but a trifling matter like this was one in
which he could look for no help from anybody--he could look only for
derision at best.

  All his associates in history condemned such an attempt as
futile and almost immoral--certainly hostile to sound historical
system. Adams tried it only because of its hostility to all that he had
taught for history, since he started afresh from the new point that,
whatever was right, all he had ever taught was wrong. He had pursued
ignorance thus far with success, and had swept his mind clear of
knowledge. In beginning again, from the starting-point of Sir Isaac
Newton, he looked about him in vain for a teacher. Few men in
Washington cared to overstep the school conventions, and the most
distinguished of them, Simon Newcomb, was too sound a mathematician to
treat such a scheme seriously. The greatest of Americans, judged by his
rank in science, Willard Gibbs, never came to Washington, and Adams
never enjoyed a chance to meet him. After Gibbs, one of the most
distinguished was Langley, of the Smithsonian, who was more accessible,
to whom Adams had been much in the habit of turning whenever he wanted
an outlet for his vast reservoirs of ignorance. Langley listened with
outward patience to his disputatious questionings; but he too nourished
a scientific passion for doubt, and sentimental attachment for its
avowal. He had the physicist's heinous fault of professing to know
nothing between flashes of intense perception. Like so many other great
observers, Langley was not a mathematician, and like most physicists,
he believed in physics. Rigidly denying himself the amusement of
philosophy, which consists chiefly in suggesting unintelligible answers
to insoluble problems, he still knew the problems, and liked to wander
past them in a courteous temper, even bowing to them distantly as
though recognizing their existence, while doubting their
respectability. He generously let others doubt what he felt obliged to
affirm; and early put into Adams's hands the "Concepts of Modern
Science," a volume by Judge Stallo, which had been treated for a dozen
years by the schools with a conspiracy of silence such as inevitably
meets every revolutionary work that upsets the stock and machinery of
instruction. Adams read and failed to understand; then he asked
questions and failed to get answers.

  Probably this was education. Perhaps it was the only scientific
education open to a student sixty-odd years old, who asked to be as
ignorant as an astronomer. For him the details of science meant
nothing: he wanted to know its mass. Solar heat was not enough, or was
too much. Kinetic atoms led only to motion; never to direction or
progress. History had no use for multiplicity; it needed unity; it
could study only motion, direction, attraction, relation. Everything
must be made to move together; one must seek new worlds to measure; and
so, like Rasselas, Adams set out once more, and found himself on May 12
settled in rooms at the very door of the Trocadero.


CHAPTER XXV

THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN (1900)

  UNTIL the Great Exposition of 1900 closed its doors in
November, Adams haunted it, aching to absorb knowledge, and helpless to
find it. He would have liked to know how much of it could have been
grasped by the best-informed man in the world. While he was thus
meditating chaos, Langley came by, and showed it to him. At Langley's
behest, the Exhibition dropped its superfluous rags and stripped itself
to the skin, for Langley knew what to study, and why, and how; while
Adams might as well have stood outside in the night, staring at the
Milky Way. Yet Langley said nothing new, and taught nothing that one
might not have learned from Lord Bacon, three hundred years before; but
though one should have known the "Advancement of Science" as well as
one knew the "Comedy of Errors," the literary knowledge counted for
nothing until some teacher should show how to apply it. Bacon took a
vast deal of trouble in teaching King James I and his subjects,
American or other, towards the year 1620, that true science was the
development or economy of forces; yet an elderly American in 1900 knew
neither the formula nor the forces; or even so much as to say to
himself that his historical business in the Exposition concerned only
the economies or developments of force since 1893, when he began the
study at Chicago.

  Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of
ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts. Adams had looked
at most of the accumulations of art in the storehouses called Art
Museums; yet he did not know how to look at the art exhibits of 1900.
He had studied Karl Marx and his doctrines of history with profound
attention, yet he could not apply them at Paris. Langley, with the ease
of a great master of experiment, threw out of the field every exhibit
that did not reveal a new application of force, and naturally threw
out, to begin with, almost the whole art exhibit. Equally, he ignored
almost the whole industrial exhibit. He led his pupil directly to the
forces. His chief interest was in new motors to make his airship
feasible, and he taught Adams the astonishing complexities of the new
Daimler motor, and of the automobile, which, since 1893, had become a
nightmare at a hundred kilometres an hour, almost as destructive as the
electric tram which was only ten years older; and threatening to become
as terrible as the locomotive steam-engine itself, which was almost
exactly Adams's own age.

  Then he showed his scholar the great hall of dynamos, and
explained how little he knew about electricity or force of any kind,
even of his own special sun, which spouted heat in inconceivable
volume, but which, as far as he knew, might spout less or more, at any
time, for all the certainty he felt in it. To him, the dynamo itself
was but an ingenious channel for conveying somewhere the heat latent in
a few tons of poor coal hidden in a dirty engine-house carefully kept
out of sight; but to Adams the dynamo became a symbol of infinity. As
he grew accustomed to the great gallery of machines, he began to feel
the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians
felt the Cross. The planet itself seemed less impressive, in its
old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or daily revolution, than this huge
wheel, revolving within arm's length at some vertiginous speed, and
barely murmuring--scarcely humming an audible warning to stand a
hair's-breadth further for respect of power--while it would not wake
the baby lying close against its frame. Before the end, one began to
pray to it; inherited instinct taught the natural expression of man
before silent and infinite force. Among the thousand symbols of
ultimate energy the dynamo was not so human as some, but it was the
most expressive.

  Yet the dynamo, next to the steam-engine, was the most familiar
of exhibits. For Adams's objects its value lay chiefly in its occult
mechanism. Between the dynamo in the gallery of machines and the
engine-house outside, the break of continuity amounted to abysmal
fracture for a historian's objects. No more relation could he discover
between the steam and the electric current than between the Cross and
the cathedral. The forces were interchangeable if not reversible, but
he could see only an absolute fiat in electricity as in faith. Langley
could not help him. Indeed, Langley seemed to be worried by the same
trouble, for he constantly repeated that the new forces were
anarchical, and especially that he was not responsible for the new
rays, that were little short of parricidal in their wicked spirit
towards science. His own rays, with which he had doubled the solar
spectrum, were altogether harmless and beneficent; but Radium denied
its God--or, what was to Langley the same thing, denied the truths of
his Science. The force was wholly new.

  A historian who asked only to learn enough to be as futile as
Langley or Kelvin, made rapid progress under this teaching, and mixed
himself up in the tangle of ideas until he achieved a sort of Paradise
of ignorance vastly consoling to his fatigued senses. He wrapped
himself in vibrations and rays which were new, and he would have hugged
Marconi and Branly had he met them, as he hugged the dynamo; while he
lost his arithmetic in trying to figure out the equation between the
discoveries and the economies of force. The economies, like the
discoveries, were absolute, supersensual, occult; incapable of
expression in horse-power. What mathematical equivalent could he
suggest as the value of a Branly coherer? Frozen air, or the electric
furnace, had some scale of measurement, no doubt, if somebody could
invent a thermometer adequate to the purpose; but X-rays had played no
part whatever in man's consciousness, and the atom itself had figured
only as a fiction of thought. In these seven years man had translated
himself into a new universe which had no common scale of measurement
with the old. He had entered a supersensual world, in which he could
measure nothing except by chance collisions of movements imperceptible
to his senses, perhaps even imperceptible to his instruments, but
perceptible to each other, and so to some known ray at the end of the
scale. Langley seemed prepared for anything, even for an indeterminable
number of universes interfused--physics stark mad in metaphysics.

  Historians undertake to arrange sequences,--called stories,
or histories--assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect. These
assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty libraries, have been
astounding, but commonly unconscious and childlike; so much so, that if
any captious critic were to drag them to light, historians would
probably reply, with one voice, that they had never supposed themselves
required to know what they were talking about. Adams, for one, had
toiled in vain to find out what he meant. He had even published a dozen
volumes of American history for no other purpose than to satisfy
himself whether, by severest process of stating, with the least
possible comment, such facts as seemed sure, in such order as seemed
rigorously consequent, he could fix for a familiar moment a necessary
sequence of human movement. The result had satisfied him as little as
at Harvard College. Where he saw sequence, other men saw something
quite different, and no one saw the same unit of measure. He cared
little about his experiments and less about his statesmen, who seemed
to him quite as ignorant as himself and, as a rule, no more honest; but
he insisted on a relation of sequence, and if he could not reach it by
one method, he would try as many methods as science knew. Satisfied
that the sequence of men led to nothing and that the sequence of their
society could lead no further, while the mere sequence of time was
artificial, and the sequence of thought was chaos, he turned at last to
the sequence of force; and thus it happened that, after ten years'
pursuit, he found himself lying in the Gallery of Machines at the Great
Exposition of 1900, his historical neck broken by the sudden irruption
of forces totally new.

  Since no one else showed much concern, an elderly person
without other cares had no need to betray alarm. The year 1900 was not
the first to upset schoolmasters. Copernicus and Galileo had broken
many professorial necks about 1600; Columbus had stood the world on its
head towards 1500; but the nearest approach to the revolution of 1900
was that of 310, when Constantine set up the Cross. The rays that
Langley disowned, as well as those which he fathered, were occult,
supersensual, irrational; they were a revelation of mysterious energy
like that of the Cross; they were what, in terms of mediaeval science,
were called immediate modes of the divine substance.

  The historian was thus reduced to his last resources. Clearly
if he was bound to reduce all these forces to a common value, this
common value could have no measure but that of their attraction on his
own mind. He must treat them as they had been felt; as convertible,
reversible, interchangeable attractions on thought. He made up his mind
to venture it; he would risk translating rays into faith. Such a
reversible process would vastly amuse a chemist, but the chemist could
not deny that he, or some of his fellow physicists, could feel the
force of both. When Adams was a boy in Boston, the best chemist in the
place had probably never heard of Venus except by way of scandal, or of
the Virgin except as idolatry; neither had he heard of dynamos or
automobiles or radium; yet his mind was ready to feel the force of all,
though the rays were unborn and the women were dead.

  Here opened another totally new education, which promised to be
by far the most hazardous of all. The knife-edge along which he must
crawl, like Sir Lancelot in the twelfth century, divided two kingdoms
of force which had nothing in common but attraction. They were as
different as a magnet is from gravitation, supposing one knew what a
magnet was, or gravitation, or love. The force of the Virgin was still
felt at Lourdes, and seemed to be as potent as X-rays; but in America
neither Venus nor Virgin ever had value as force--at most as sentiment.
No American had ever been truly afraid of either.

  This problem in dynamics gravely perplexed an American
historian. The Woman had once been supreme; in France she still seemed
potent, not merely as a sentiment, but as a force. Why was she unknown
in America? For evidently America was ashamed of her, and she was
ashamed of herself, otherwise they would not have strewn fig-leaves so
profusely all over her. When she was a true force, she was ignorant of
fig-leaves, but the monthly-magazine-made American female had not a
feature that would have been recognized by Adam. The trait was
notorious, and often humorous, but any one brought up among Puritans
knew that sex was sin. In any previous age, sex was strength. Neither
art nor beauty was needed. Every one, even among Puritans, knew that
neither Diana of the Ephesians nor any of the Oriental goddesses was
worshipped for her beauty. She was goddess because of her force; she
was the animated dynamo; she was reproduction--the greatest and most
mysterious of all energies; all she needed was to be fecund. Singularly
enough, not one of Adams's many schools of education had ever drawn his
attention to the opening lines of Lucretius, though they were perhaps
the finest in all Latin literature, where the poet invoked Venus
exactly as Dante invoked the Virgin:--

  "Quae quondam rerum naturam sola gubernas."

The Venus of Epicurean philosophy survived in the Virgin of the
Schools:--

  "Donna, sei tanto grande, e tanto vali,
   Che qual vuol grazia, e a te non ricorre,
   Sua disianza vuol volar senz' ali."

  All this was to American thought as though it had never
existed. The true American knew something of the facts, but nothing of
the feelings; he read the letter, but he never felt the law. Before
this historical chasm, a mind like that of Adams felt itself helpless;
he turned from the Virgin to the Dynamo as though he were a Branly
coherer. On one side, at the Louvre and at Chartres, as he knew by the
record of work actually done and still before his eyes, was the highest
energy ever known to man, the creator four-fifths of his noblest art,
exercising vastly more attraction over the human mind than all the
steam-engines and dynamos ever dreamed of; and yet this energy was
unknown to the American mind. An American Virgin would never dare
command; an American Venus would never dare exist.

  The question, which to any plain American of the nineteenth
century seemed as remote as it did to Adams, drew him almost violently
to study, once it was posed; and on this point Langleys were as useless
as though they were Herbert Spencers or dynamos. The idea survived only
as art. There one turned as naturally as though the artist were himself
a woman. Adams began to ponder, asking himself whether he knew of any
American artist who had ever insisted on the power of sex, as every
classic had always done; but he could think only of Walt Whitman; Bret
Harte, as far as the magazines would let him venture; and one or two
painters, for the flesh-tones. All the rest had used sex for sentiment,
never for force; to them, Eve was a tender flower, and Herodias an
unfeminine horror. American art, like the American language and
American education, was as far as possible sexless. Society regarded
this victory over sex as its greatest triumph, and the historian
readily admitted it, since the moral issue, for the moment, did not
concern one who was studying the relations of unmoral force. He cared
nothing for the sex of the dynamo until he could measure its energy.

  Vaguely seeking a clue, he wandered through the art exhibit,
and, in his stroll, stopped almost every day before St. Gaudens's
General Sherman, which had been given the central post of honor. St.
Gaudens himself was in Paris, putting on the work his usual
interminable last touches, and listening to the usual contradictory
suggestions of brother sculptors. Of all the American artists who gave
to American art whatever life it breathed in the seventies, St. Gaudens
was perhaps the most sympathetic, but certainly the most inarticulate.
General Grant or Don Cameron had scarcely less instinct of rhetoric
than he. All the others--the Hunts, Richardson, John La Farge, Stanford
White--were exuberant; only St. Gaudens could never discuss or dilate
on an emotion, or suggest artistic arguments for giving to his work the
forms that he felt. He never laid down the law, or affected the despot,
or became brutalized like Whistler by the brutalities of his world. He
required no incense; he was no egoist; his simplicity of thought was
excessive; he could not imitate, or give any form but his own to the
creations of his hand. No one felt more strongly than he the strength
of other men, but the idea that they could affect him never stirred an
image in his mind.

  This summer his health was poor and his spirits were low. For
such a temper, Adams was not the best companion, since his own gaiety
was not folle; but he risked going now and then to the studio on Mont
Parnasse to draw him out for a stroll in the Bois de Boulogne, or
dinner as pleased his moods, and in return St. Gaudens sometimes let
Adams go about in his company.

  Once St. Gaudens took him down to Amiens, with a party of
Frenchmen, to see the cathedral. Not until they found themselves
actually studying the sculpture of the western portal, did it dawn on
Adams's mind that, for his purposes, St. Gaudens on that spot had more
interest to him than the cathedral itself. Great men before great
monuments express great truths, provided they are not taken too
solemnly. Adams never tired of quoting the supreme phrase of his idol
Gibbon, before the Gothic cathedrals: "I darted a contemptuous look on
the stately monuments of superstition." Even in the footnotes of his
history, Gibbon had never inserted a bit of humor more human than this,
and one would have paid largely for a photograph of the fat little
historian, on the background of Notre Dame of Amiens, trying to
persuade his readers--perhaps himself--that he was darting a
contemptuous look on the stately monument, for which he felt in fact
the respect which every man of his vast study and active mind always
feels before objects worthy of it; but besides the humor, one felt also
the relation. Gibbon ignored the Virgin, because in 1789 religious
monuments were out of fashion. In 1900 his remark sounded fresh and
simple as the green fields to ears that had heard a hundred years of
other remarks, mostly no more fresh and certainly less simple. Without
malice, one might find it more instructive than a whole lecture of
Ruskin. One sees what one brings, and at that moment Gibbon brought the
French Revolution. Ruskin brought reaction against the Revolution. St.
Gaudens had passed beyond all. He liked the stately monuments much more
than he liked Gibbon or Ruskin; he loved their dignity; their unity;
their scale; their lines; their lights and shadows; their decorative
sculpture; but he was even less conscious than they of the force that
created it all--the Virgin, the Woman--by whose genius "the stately
monuments of superstition" were built, through which she was expressed.
He would have seen more meaning in Isis with the cow's horns, at Edfoo,
who expressed the same thought. The art remained, but the energy was
lost even upon the artist.

  Yet in mind and person St. Gaudens was a survival of the 1500;
he bore the stamp of the Renaissance, and should have carried an image
of the Virgin round his neck, or stuck in his hat, like Louis XI. In
mere time he was a lost soul that had strayed by chance to the
twentieth century, and forgotten where it came from. He writhed and
cursed at his ignorance, much as Adams did at his own, but in the
opposite sense. St. Gaudens was a child of Benvenuto Cellini, smothered
in an American cradle. Adams was a quintessence of Boston, devoured by
curiosity to think like Benvenuto. St. Gaudens's art was starved from
birth, and Adams's instinct was blighted from babyhood. Each had but
half of a nature, and when they came together before the Virgin of
Amiens they ought both to have felt in her the force that made them
one; but it was not so. To Adams she became more than ever a channel of
force; to St. Gaudens she remained as before a channel of taste.

  For a symbol of power, St. Gaudens instinctively preferred the
horse, as was plain in his horse and Victory of the Sherman monument.
Doubtless Sherman also felt it so. The attitude was so American that,
for at least forty years, Adams had never realized that any other could
be in sound taste. How many years had he taken to admit a notion of
what Michael Angelo and Rubens were driving at? He could not say; but
he knew that only since 1895 had he begun to feel the Virgin or Venus
as force, and not everywhere even so. At Chartres--perhaps at
Lourdes--possibly at Cnidos if one could still find there the divinely
naked Aphrodite of Praxiteles--but otherwise one must look for force to
the goddesses of Indian mythology. The idea died out long ago in the
German and English stock. St. Gaudens at Amiens was hardly less
sensitive to the force of the female energy than Matthew Arnold at the
Grande Chartreuse. Neither of them felt goddesses as power--only as
reflected emotion, human expression, beauty, purity, taste, scarcely
even as sympathy. They felt a railway train as power, yet they, and all
other artists, constantly complained that the power embodied in a
railway train could never be embodied in art. All the steam in the
world could not, like the Virgin, build Chartres.

  Yet in mechanics, whatever the mechanicians might think, both
energies acted as interchangeable force on man, and by action on man
all known force may be measured. Indeed, few men of science measured
force in any other way. After once admitting that a straight line was
the shortest distance between two points, no serious mathematician
cared to deny anything that suited his convenience, and rejected no
symbol, unproved or unproveable, that helped him to accomplish work.
The symbol was force, as a compass-needle or a triangle was force, as
the mechanist might prove by losing it, and nothing could be gained by
ignoring their value. Symbol or energy, the Virgin had acted as the
greatest force the Western world ever felt, and had drawn man's
activities to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or
supernatural, had ever done; the historian's business was to follow the
track of the energy; to find where it came from and where it went to;
its complex source and shifting channels; its values, equivalents,
conversions. It could scarcely be more complex than radium; it could
hardly be deflected, diverted, polarized, absorbed more perplexingly
than other radiant matter. Adams knew nothing about any of them, but as
a mathematical problem of influence on human progress, though all were
occult, all reacted on his mind, and he rather inclined to think the
Virgin easiest to handle.

  The pursuit turned out to be long and tortuous, leading at last
to the vast forests of scholastic science. From Zeno to Descartes, hand
in hand with Thomas Aquinas, Montaigne, and Pascal, one stumbled as
stupidly as though one were still a German student of 1860. Only with
the instinct of despair could one force one's self into this old
thicket of ignorance after having been repulsed a score of entrances
more promising and more popular. Thus far, no path had led anywhere,
unless perhaps to an exceedingly modest living. Forty-five years of
study had proved to be quite futile for the pursuit of power; one
controlled no more force in 1900 than in 1850, although the amount of
force controlled by society had enormously increased. The secret of
education still hid itself somewhere behind ignorance, and one fumbled
over it as feebly as ever. In such labyrinths, the staff is a force
almost more necessary than the legs; the pen becomes a sort of
blind-man's dog, to keep him from falling into the gutters. The pen
works for itself, and acts like a hand, modelling the plastic material
over and over again to the form that suits it best. The form is never
arbitrary, but is a sort of growth like crystallization, as any artist
knows too well; for often the pencil or pen runs into side-paths and
shapelessness, loses its relations, stops or is bogged. Then it has to
return on its trail, and recover, if it can, its line of force. The
result of a year's work depends more on what is struck out than on what
is left in; on the sequence of the main lines of thought, than on their
play or variety. Compelled once more to lean heavily on this support,
Adams covered more thousands of pages with figures as formal as though
they were algebra, laboriously striking out, altering, burning,
experimenting, until the year had expired, the Exposition had long been
closed, and winter drawing to its end, before he sailed from Cherbourg,
on January 19, 1901, for home.



CHAPTER XXVI

TWILIGHT (1901)

  WHILE the world that thought itself frivolous, and submitted
meekly to hearing itself decried as vain, fluttered through the Paris
Exposition, jogging the futilities of St. Gaudens, Rodin, and Besnard,
the world that thought itself serious, and showed other infallible
marks of coming mental paroxysm, was engaged in weird doings at Peking
and elsewhere such as startled even itself. Of all branches of
education, the science of gauging people and events by their relative
importance defies study most insolently. For three or four generations,
society has united in withering with contempt and opprobrium the
shameless futility of Mme. de Pompadour and Mme. du Barry; yet, if one
bid at an auction for some object that had been approved by the taste
of either lady, one quickly found that it were better to buy
half-a-dozen Napoleons or Frederics, or Maria Theresas, or all the
philosophy and science of their time, than to bid for a cane-bottomed
chair that either of these two ladies had adorned. The same thing might
be said, in a different sense, of Voltaire; while, as every one knows,
the money-value of any hand-stroke of Watteau or Hogarth, Nattier or
Sir Joshua, is out of all proportion to the importance of the men.
Society seemed to delight in talking with solemn conviction about
serious values, and in paying fantastic prices for nothing but the most
futile. The drama acted at Peking, in the summer of 1900, was, in the
eyes of a student, the most serious that could be offered for his
study, since it brought him suddenly to the inevitable struggle for the
control of China, which, in his view, must decide the control of the
world; yet, as a money-value, the fall of China was chiefly studied in
Paris and London as a calamity to Chinese porcelain. The value of a
Ming vase was more serious than universal war.

  The drama of the Legations interested the public much as though
it were a novel of Alexandre Dumas, but the bearing of the drama on
future history offered an interest vastly greater. Adams knew no more
about it than though he were the best-informed statesman in Europe.
Like them all, he took for granted that the Legations were massacred,
and that John Hay, who alone championed China's "administrative
entity," would be massacred too, since he must henceforth look on, in
impotence, while Russia and Germany dismembered China, and shut up
America at home. Nine statesmen out of ten, in Europe, accepted this
result in advance, seeing no way to prevent it. Adams saw none, and
laughed at Hay for his helplessness.

  When Hay suddenly ignored European leadership, took the lead
himself, rescued the Legations and saved China, Adams looked on, as
incredulous as Europe, though not quite so stupid, since, on that
branch of education, he knew enough for his purpose. Nothing so
meteoric had ever been done in American diplomacy. On returning to
Washington, January 30, 1901, he found most of the world as astonished
as himself, but less stupid than usual. For a moment, indeed, the world
had been struck dumb at seeing Hay put Europe aside and set the
Washington Government at the head of civilization so quietly that
civilization submitted, by mere instinct of docility, to receive and
obey his orders; but, after the first shock of silence, society felt
the force of the stroke through its fineness, and burst into almost
tumultuous applause. Instantly the diplomacy of the nineteenth century,
with all its painful scuffles and struggles, was forgotten, and the
American blushed to be told of his submissions in the past. History
broke in halves.

  Hay was too good an artist not to feel the artistic skill of
his own work, and the success reacted on his health, giving him fresh
life, for with him as with most men, success was a tonic, and
depression a specific poison; but as usual, his troubles nested at
home. Success doubles strain. President McKinley's diplomatic court had
become the largest in the world, and the diplomatic relations required
far more work than ever before, while the staff of the Department was
little more efficient, and the friction in the Senate had become
coagulated. Hay took to studying the "Diary" of John Quincy Adams
eighty years before, and calculated that the resistance had increased
about ten times, as measured by waste of days and increase of effort,
although Secretary of State J. Q. Adams thought himself very hardly
treated. Hay cheerfully noted that it was killing him, and proved it,
for the effort of the afternoon walk became sometimes painful.

  For the moment, things were going fairly well, and Hay's unruly
team were less fidgety, but Pauncefote still pulled the whole load and
turned the dangerous corners safely, while Cassini and Holleben helped
the Senate to make what trouble they could, without serious offence,
and the Irish, after the genial Celtic nature, obstructed even
themselves. The fortunate Irish, thanks to their sympathetic qualities,
never made lasting enmities; but the Germans seemed in a fair way to
rouse ill-will and even ugly temper in the spirit of politics, which
was by no means a part of Hay's plans. He had as much as he could do to
overcome domestic friction, and felt no wish to alienate foreign
powers. Yet so much could be said in favor of the foreigners that they
commonly knew why they made trouble, and were steady to a motive.
Cassini had for years pursued, in Peking as in Washington, a policy of
his own, never disguised, and as little in harmony with his chief as
with Hay; he made his opposition on fixed lines for notorious objects;
but Senators could seldom give a reason for obstruction. In every
hundred men, a certain number obstruct by instinct, and try to invent
reasons to explain it afterwards. The Senate was no worse than the
board of a university; but incorporators as a rule have not made this
class of men dictators on purpose to prevent action. In the Senate, a
single vote commonly stopped legislation, or, in committee, stifled
discussion.

  Hay's policy of removing, one after another, all irritations,
and closing all discussions with foreign countries, roused incessant
obstruction, which could be overcome only by patience and bargaining in
executive patronage, if indeed it could be overcome at all. The price
actually paid was not very great except in the physical exhaustion of
Hay and Pauncefote, Root and McKinley. No serious bargaining of
equivalents could be attempted; Senators would not sacrifice five
dollars in their own States to gain five hundred thousand in another;
but whenever a foreign country was willing to surrender an advantage
without an equivalent, Hay had a chance to offer the Senate a treaty.
In all such cases the price paid for the treaty was paid wholly to the
Senate, and amounted to nothing very serious except in waste of time
and wear of strength. "Life is so gay and horrid!" laughed Hay; "the
Major will have promised all the consulates in the service; the
Senators will all come to me and refuse to believe me dis-consulate; I
shall see all my treaties slaughtered, one by one, by the thirty-four
per cent of kickers and strikers; the only mitigation I can foresee is
being sick a good part of the time; I am nearing my grand climacteric,
and the great culbute is approaching."

  He was thinking of his friend Blaine, and might have thought of
all his predecessors, for all had suffered alike, and to Adams as
historian their sufferings had been a long delight--the solitary
picturesque and tragic element in politics--incidentally requiring
character-studies like Aaron Burr and William B. Giles, Calhoun and
Webster and Sumner, with Sir Forcible Feebles like James M. Mason and
stage exaggerations like Roscoe Conkling. The Senate took the place of
Shakespeare, and offered real Brutuses and Bolingbrokes, Jack Cades,
Falstaffs, and Malvolios--endless varieties of human nature nowhere
else to be studied, and none the less amusing because they killed, or
because they were like schoolboys in their simplicity. "Life is so gay
and horrid!" Hay still felt the humor, though more and more rarely, but
what he felt most was the enormous complexity and friction of the vast
mass he was trying to guide. He bitterly complained that it had made
him a bore--of all things the most senatorial, and to him the most
obnoxious. The old friend was lost, and only the teacher remained,
driven to madness by the complexities and multiplicities of his new
world.

  To one who, at past sixty years old, is still passionately
seeking education, these small, or large, annoyances had no great value
except as measures of mass and motion. For him the practical interest
and the practical man were such as looked forward to the next election,
or perhaps, in corporations, five or ten years. Scarcely half-a-dozen
men in America could be named who were known to have looked a dozen
years ahead; while any historian who means to keep his alignment with
past and future must cover a horizon of two generations at least. If he
seeks to align himself with the future, he must assume a condition of
some sort for a world fifty years beyond his own. Every
historian--sometimes unconsciously, but always inevitably--must have
put to himself the question: How long could such-or-such an outworn
system last? He can never give himself less than one generation to show
the full effects of a changed condition. His object is to triangulate
from the widest possible base to the furthest point he thinks he can
see, which is always far beyond the curvature of the horizon.

  To the practical man, such an attempt is idiotic, and probably
the practical man is in the right to-day; but, whichever is right--if
the question of right or wrong enters at all into the matter--the
historian has no choice but to go on alone. Even in his own profession
few companions offer help, and his walk soon becomes solitary, leading
further and further into a wilderness where twilight is short and the
shadows are dense. Already Hay literally staggered in his tracks for
weariness. More worn than he, Clarence King dropped. One day in the
spring he stopped an hour in Washington to bid good-bye, cheerily and
simply telling how his doctors had condemned him to Arizona for his
lungs. All three friends knew that they were nearing the end, and that
if it were not the one it would be the other; but the affectation of
readiness for death is a stage role, and stoicism is a stupid resource,
though the only one. Non doles, Paete! One is ashamed of it even in the
acting.

  The sunshine of life had not been so dazzling of late but that
a share of it flickered out for Adams and Hay when King disappeared
from their lives; but Hay had still his family and ambition, while
Adams could only blunder back alone, helplessly, wearily, his eyes
rather dim with tears, to his vague trail across the darkening prairie
of education, without a motive, big or small, except curiosity to
reach, before he too should drop, some point that would give him a far
look ahead. He was morbidly curious to see some light at the end of the
passage, as though thirty years were a shadow, and he were again to
fall into King's arms at the door of the last and only log cabin left
in life. Time had become terribly short, and the sense of knowing so
little when others knew so much, crushed out hope.

  He knew not in what new direction to turn, and sat at his desk,
idly pulling threads out of the tangled skein of science, to see
whether or why they aligned themselves. The commonest and oldest toy he
knew was the child's magnet, with which he had played since babyhood,
the most familiar of puzzles. He covered his desk with magnets, and
mapped out their lines of force by compass. Then he read all the books
he could find, and tried in vain to makes his lines of force agree with
theirs. The books confounded him. He could not credit his own
understanding. Here was literally the most concrete fact in nature,
next to gravitation which it defied; a force which must have radiated
lines of energy without stop, since time began, if not longer, and
which might probably go on radiating after the sun should fall into the
earth, since no one knew why--or how--or what it radiated--or even
whether it radiated at all. Perhaps the earliest known of all natural
forces after the solar energies, it seemed to have suggested no idea to
any one until some mariner bethought himself that it might serve for a
pointer. Another thousand years passed when it taught some other
intelligent man to use it as a pump, supply-pipe, sieve, or reservoir
for collecting electricity, still without knowing how it worked or what
it was. For a historian, the story of Faraday's experiments and the
invention of the dynamo passed belief; it revealed a condition of human
ignorance and helplessness before the commonest forces, such as his
mind refused to credit. He could not conceive but that some one,
somewhere, could tell him all about the magnet, if one could but find
the book--although he had been forced to admit the same helplessness in
the face of gravitation, phosphorescence, and odors; and he could
imagine no reason why society should treat radium as revolutionary in
science when every infant, for ages past, had seen the magnet doing
what radium did; for surely the kind of radiation mattered nothing
compared with the energy that radiated and the matter supplied for
radiation. He dared not venture into the complexities of chemistry, or
microbes, so long as this child's toy offered complexities that
befogged his mind beyond X-rays, and turned the atom into an endless
variety of pumps endlessly pumping an endless variety of ethers. He
wanted to ask Mme. Curie to invent a motor attachable to her salt of
radium, and pump its forces through it, as Faraday did with a magnet.
He figured the human mind itself as another radiating matter through
which man had always pumped a subtler fluid.

  In all this futility, it was not the magnet or the rays or the
microbes that troubled him, or even his helplessness before the forces.
To that he was used from childhood. The magnet in its new relation
staggered his new education by its evidence of growing complexity, and
multiplicity, and even contradiction, in life. He could not escape it;
politics or science, the lesson was the same, and at every step it
blocked his path whichever way he turned. He found it in politics; he
ran against it in science; he struck it in everyday life, as though he
were still Adam in the Garden of Eden between God who was unity, and
Satan who was complexity, with no means of deciding which was truth.
The problem was the same for McKinley as for Adam, and for the Senate
as for Satan. Hay was going to wreck on it, like King and Adams.

  All one's life, one had struggled for unity, and unity had
always won. The National Government and the national unity had overcome
every resistance, and the Darwinian evolutionists were triumphant over
all the curates; yet the greater the unity and the momentum, the worse
became the complexity and the friction. One had in vain bowed one's
neck to railways, banks, corporations, trusts, and even to the popular
will as far as one could understand it--or even further; the
multiplicity of unity had steadily increased, was increasing, and
threatened to increase beyond reason. He had surrendered all his
favorite prejudices, and foresworn even the forms of criticism--except
for his pet amusement, the Senate, which was a tonic or stimulant
necessary to healthy life; he had accepted uniformity and Pteraspis and
ice age and tramways and telephones; and now--just when he was ready to
hang the crowning garland on the brow of a completed education--science
itself warned him to begin it again from the beginning.

  Maundering among the magnets he bethought himself that once, a
full generation earlier, he had begun active life by writing a
confession of geological faith at the bidding of Sir Charles Lyell, and
that it might be worth looking at if only to steady his vision. He read
it again, and thought it better than he could do at sixty-three; but
elderly minds always work loose. He saw his doubts grown larger, and
became curious to know what had been said about them since 1870. The
Geological Survey supplied stacks of volumes, and reading for steady
months; while, the longer he read, the more he wondered, pondered,
doubted what his delightful old friend Sir Charles Lyell would have
said about it.

  Truly the animal that is to be trained to unity must be caught
young. Unity is vision; it must have been part of the process of
learning to see. The older the mind, the older its complexities, and
the further it looks, the more it sees, until even the stars resolve
themselves into multiples; yet the child will always see but one. Adams
asked whether geology since 1867 had drifted towards unity or
multiplicity, and he felt that the drift would depend on the age of the
man who drifted.

  Seeking some impersonal point for measure, he turned to see
what had happened to his oldest friend and cousin the ganoid fish, the
Pteraspis of Ludlow and Wenlock, with whom he had sported when
geological life was young; as though they had all remained together in
time to act the Mask of Comus at Ludlow Castle, and repeat "how
charming is divine philosophy!" He felt almost aggrieved to find
Walcott so vigorously acting the part of Comus as to have flung the
ganoid all the way off to Colorado and far back into the Lower Trenton
limestone, making the Pteraspis as modern as a Mississippi gar-pike by
spawning an ancestry for him, indefinitely more remote, in the dawn of
known organic life. A few thousand feet, more or less, of limestone
were the liveliest amusement to the ganoid, but they buried the
uniformitarian alive, under the weight of his own uniformity. Not for
all the ganoid fish that ever swam, would a discreet historian dare to
hazard even in secret an opinion about the value of Natural Selection
by Minute Changes under Uniform Conditions, for he could know no more
about it than most of his neighbors who knew nothing; but natural
selection that did not select--evolution finished before it
began--minute changes that refused to change anything during the whole
geological record--survival of the highest order in a fauna which had
no origin--uniformity under conditions which had disturbed everything
else in creation--to an honest-meaning though ignorant student who
needed to prove Natural Selection and not assume it, such sequence
brought no peace. He wished to be shown that changes in form caused
evolution in force; that chemical or mechanical energy had by natural
selection and minute changes, under uniform conditions, converted
itself into thought. The ganoid fish seemed to prove--to him--that it
had selected neither new form nor new force, but that the curates were
right in thinking that force could be increased in volume or raised in
intensity only by help of outside force. To him, the ganoid was a huge
perplexity, none the less because neither he nor the ganoid troubled
Darwinians, but the more because it helped to reveal that Darwinism
seemed to survive only in England. In vain he asked what sort of
evolution had taken its place. Almost any doctrine seemed orthodox.
Even sudden conversions due to mere vital force acting on its own lines
quite beyond mechanical explanation, had cropped up again. A little
more, and he would be driven back on the old independence of species.

  What the ontologist thought about it was his own affair, like
the theologist's views on theology, for complexity was nothing to them;
but to the historian who sought only the direction of thought and had
begun as the confident child of Darwin and Lyell in 1867, the matter of
direction seemed vital. Then he had entered gaily the door of the
glacial epoch, and had surveyed a universe of unities and uniformities.
In 1900 he entered a far vaster universe, where all the old roads ran
about in every direction, overrunning, dividing, subdividing, stopping
abruptly, vanishing slowly, with side-paths that led nowhere, and
sequences that could not be proved. The active geologists had mostly
become specialists dealing with complexities far too technical for an
amateur, but the old formulas still seemed to serve for beginners, as
they had served when new.

  So the cause of the glacial epoch remained at the mercy of
Lyell and Croll, although Geikie had split up the period into
half-a-dozen intermittent chills in recent geology and in the northern
hemisphere alone, while no geologist had ventured to assert that the
glaciation of the southern hemisphere could possibly be referred to a
horizon more remote. Continents still rose wildly and wildly sank,
though Professor Suess of Vienna had written an epoch-making work,
showing that continents were anchored like crystals, and only oceans
rose and sank. Lyell's genial uniformity seemed genial still, for
nothing had taken its place, though, in the interval, granite had grown
young, nothing had been explained, and a bewildering system of huge
overthrusts had upset geological mechanics. The textbooks refused even
to discuss theories, frankly throwing up their hands and avowing that
progress depended on studying each rock as a law to itself.

  Adams had no more to do with the correctness of the science
than the gar-pike or the Port Jackson shark, for its correctness in no
way concerned him, and only impertinence could lead him to dispute or
discuss the principles of any science; but the history of the mind
concerned the historian alone, and the historian had no vital concern
in anything else, for he found no change to record in the body. In
thought the Schools, like the Church, raised ignorance to a faith and
degraded dogma to heresy. Evolution survived like the trilobites
without evolving, and yet the evolutionists held the whole field, and
had even plucked up courage to rebel against the Cossack ukase of Lord
Kelvin forbidding them to ask more than twenty million years for their
experiments. No doubt the geologists had always submitted sadly to this
last and utmost violence inflicted on them by the Pontiff of Physical
Religion in the effort to force unification of the universe; they had
protested with mild conviction that they could not state the geological
record in terms of time; they had murmured Ignoramus under their
breath; but they had never dared to assert the Ignorabimus that lay on
the tips of their tongues.

  Yet the admission seemed close at hand. Evolution was becoming
change of form broken by freaks of force, and warped at times by
attractions affecting intelligence, twisted and tortured at other times
by sheer violence, cosmic, chemical, solar, supersensual,
electrolytic--who knew what?--defying science, if not denying known
law; and the wisest of men could but imitate the Church, and invoke a
"larger synthesis" to unify the anarchy again. Historians have got into
far too much trouble by following schools of theology in their efforts
to enlarge their synthesis, that they should willingly repeat the
process in science. For human purposes a point must always be soon
reached where larger synthesis is suicide.

 Politics and geology pointed alike to the larger synthesis of
rapidly increasing complexity; but still an elderly man knew that the
change might be only in himself. The admission cost nothing. Any
student, of any age, thinking only of a thought and not of his thought,
should delight in turning about and trying the opposite motion, as he
delights in the spring which brings even to a tired and irritated
statesman the larger synthesis of peach-blooms, cherry-blossoms, and
dogwood, to prove the folly of fret. Every schoolboy knows that this
sum of all knowledge never saved him from whipping; mere years help
nothing; King and Hay and Adams could neither of them escape
floundering through the corridors of chaos that opened as they passed
to the end; but they could at least float with the stream if they only
knew which way the current ran. Adams would have liked to begin afresh
with the Limulus and Lepidosteus in the waters of Braintree, side by
side with Adamses and Quincys and Harvard College, all unchanged and
unchangeable since archaic time; but what purpose would it serve? A
seeker of truth--or illusion--would be none the less restless, though a
shark!



CHAPTER XXVII

TEUFELSDROCKH (1901)

  INEVITABLE Paris beckoned, and resistance became more and more
futile as the store of years grew less; for the world contains no other
spot than Paris where education can be pursued from every side. Even
more vigorously than in the twelfth century, Paris taught in the
twentieth, with no other school approaching it for variety of direction
and energy of mind. Of the teaching in detail, a man who knew only what
accident had taught him in the nineteenth century, could know next to
nothing, since science had got quite beyond his horizon, and
mathematics had become the only necessary language of thought; but one
could play with the toys of childhood, including Ming porcelain, salons
of painting, operas and theatres, beaux-arts and Gothic architecture,
theology and anarchy, in any jumble of time; or totter about with Joe
Stickney, talking Greek philosophy or recent poetry, or studying
"Louise" at the Opera Comique, or discussing the charm of youth and the
Seine with Bay Lodge and his exquisite young wife. Paris remained
Parisian in spite of change, mistress of herself though China fell.
Scores of artists--sculptors and painters, poets and dramatists,
workers in gems and metals, designers in stuffs and furniture--hundreds
of chemists, physicists, even philosophers, philologists, physicians,
and historians--were at work, a thousand times as actively as ever
before, and the mass and originality of their product would have
swamped any previous age, as it very nearly swamped its own; but the
effect was one of chaos, and Adams stood as helpless before it as
before the chaos of New York. His single thought was to keep in front
of the movement, and, if necessary, lead it to chaos, but never fall
behind. Only the young have time to linger in the rear.

  The amusements of youth had to be abandoned, for not even
pugilism needs more staying-power than the labors of the pale-faced
student of the Latin Quarter in the haunts of Montparnasse or
Montmartre, where one must feel no fatigue at two o'clock in the
morning in a beer-garden even after four hours of Mounet Sully at the
Theatre Francais. In those branches, education might be called closed.
Fashion, too, could no longer teach anything worth knowing to a man
who, holding open the door into the next world, regarded himself as
merely looking round to take a last glance of this. The glance was more
amusing than any he had known in his active life, but it was
more--infinitely more--chaotic and complex.

  Still something remained to be done for education beyond the
chaos, and as usual the woman helped. For thirty years or there-abouts,
he had been repeating that he really must go to Baireuth. Suddenly Mrs.
Lodge appeared on the horizon and bade him come. He joined them,
parents and children, alert and eager and appreciative as ever, at the
little old town of Rothenburg-on-the Taube, and they went on to the
Baireuth festival together.

  Thirty years earlier, a Baireuth festival would have made an
immense stride in education, and the spirit of the master would have
opened a vast new world. In 1901 the effect was altogether different
from the spirit of the master. In 1876 the rococo setting of Baireuth
seemed the correct atmosphere for Siegfried and Brunhilde, perhaps even
for Parsifal. Baireuth was out of the world, calm, contemplative, and
remote. In 1901 the world had altogether changed, and Wagner had become
a part of it, as familiar as Shakespeare or Bret Harte. The rococo
element jarred. Even the Hudson and the Susquehanna--perhaps the
Potomac itself--had often risen to drown out the gods of Walhalla, and
one could hardly listen to the "Gotterdammerung" in New York, among
throngs of intense young enthusiasts, without paroxysms of nervous
excitement that toned down to musical philistinism at Baireuth, as
though the gods were Bavarian composers. New York or Paris might be
whatever one pleased--venal, sordid, vulgar--but society nursed there,
in the rottenness of its decay, certain anarchistic ferments, and
thought them proof of art. Perhaps they were; and at all events, Wagner
was chiefly responsible for them as artistic emotion. New York knew
better than Baireuth what Wagner meant, and the frivolities of Paris
had more than once included the rising of the Seine to drown out the
Etoile or Montmartre, as well as the sorcery of ambition that casts
spells of enchantment on the hero. Paris still felt a subtile flattery
in the thought that the last great tragedy of gods and men would surely
happen there, while no one could conceive of its happening at Baireuth,
or would care if it did. Paris coquetted with catastrophe as though it
were an old mistress--faced it almost gaily as she had done so often,
for they were acquainted since Rome began to ravage Europe; while New
York met it with a glow of fascinated horror, like an inevitable
earthquake, and heard Ternina announce it with conviction that made
nerves quiver and thrill as they had long ceased to do under the
accents of popular oratory proclaiming popular virtue. Flattery had
lost its charm, but the Fluch-motif went home.

  Adams had been carried with the tide till Brunhilde had become
a habit and Ternina an ally. He too had played with anarchy; though not
with socialism, which, to young men who nourished artistic emotions
under the dome of the Pantheon, seemed hopelessly bourgeois, and lowest
middle-class. Bay Lodge and Joe Stickney had given birth to the wholly
new and original party of Conservative Christian Anarchists, to restore
true poetry under the inspiration of the "Gotterdammerung." Such a
party saw no inspiration in Baireuth, where landscape, history, and
audience were--relatively--stodgy, and where the only emotion was a
musical dilettantism that the master had abhorred.

  Yet Baireuth still amused even a conservative Christian
anarchist who cared as little as "Grane, mein Ross," whether the
singers sang false, and who came only to learn what Wagner had supposed
himself to mean. This end attained as pleased Frau Wagner and the
Heiliger Geist, he was ready to go on; and the Senator, yearning for
sterner study, pointed to a haven at Moscow. For years Adams had taught
American youth never to travel without a Senator who was useful even in
America at times, but indispensable in Russia where, in 1901,
anarchists, even though conservative and Christian, were ill-seen.

  This wing of the anarchistic party consisted rigorously of but
two members, Adams and Bay Lodge. The conservative Christian anarchist,
as a party, drew life from Hegel and Schopenhauer rightly understood.
By the necessity of their philosophical descent, each member of the
fraternity denounced the other as unequal to his lofty task and
inadequate to grasp it. Of course, no third member could be so much as
considered, since the great principle of contradiction could be
expressed only by opposites; and no agreement could be conceived,
because anarchy, by definition, must be chaos and collision, as in the
kinetic theory of a perfect gas. Doubtless this law of contradiction
was itself agreement, a restriction of personal liberty inconsistent
with freedom; but the "larger synthesis" admitted a limited agreement
provided it were strictly confined to the end of larger contradiction.
Thus the great end of all philosophy--the "larger synthesis"--was
attained, but the process was arduous, and while Adams, as the older
member, assumed to declare the principle, Bay Lodge necessarily denied
both the assumption and the principle in order to assure its truth.

  Adams proclaimed that in the last synthesis, order and anarchy
were one, but that the unity was chaos. As anarchist, conservative and
Christian, he had no motive or duty but to attain the end; and, to
hasten it, he was bound to accelerate progress; to concentrate energy;
to accumulate power; to multiply and intensify forces; to reduce
friction, increase velocity and magnify momentum, partly because this
was the mechanical law of the universe as science explained it; but
partly also in order to get done with the present which artists and
some others complained of; and finally--and chiefly--because a rigorous
philosophy required it, in order to penetrate the beyond, and satisfy
man's destiny by reaching the largest synthesis in its ultimate
contradiction.

  Of course the untaught critic instantly objected that this
scheme was neither conservative, Christian, nor anarchic, but such
objection meant only that the critic should begin his education in any
infant school in order to learn that anarchy which should be logical
would cease to be anarchic. To the conservative Christian anarchist,
the amiable doctrines of Kropotkin were sentimental ideas of Russian
mental inertia covered with the name of anarchy merely to disguise
their innocence; and the outpourings of Elisee Reclus were ideals of
the French ouvrier, diluted with absinthe, resulting in a bourgeois
dream of order and inertia. Neither made a pretence of anarchy except
as a momentary stage towards order and unity. Neither of them had
formed any other conception of the universe than what they had
inherited from the priestly class to which their minds obviously
belonged. With them, as with the socialist, communist, or collectivist,
the mind that followed nature had no relation; if anarchists needed
order, they must go back to the twelfth century where their thought had
enjoyed its thousand years of reign. The conservative Christian
anarchist could have no associate, no object, no faith except the
nature of nature itself; and his "larger synthesis" had only the fault
of being so supremely true that even the highest obligation of duty
could scarcely oblige Bay Lodge to deny it in order to prove it. Only
the self-evident truth that no philosophy of order--except the
Church--had ever satisfied the philosopher reconciled the conservative
Christian anarchist to prove his own.

  Naturally these ideas were so far in advance of the age that
hardly more people could understand them than understood Wagner or
Hegel; for that matter, since the time of Socrates, wise men have been
mostly shy of claiming to understand anything; but such refinements
were Greek or German, and affected the practical American but little.
He admitted that, for the moment, the darkness was dense. He could not
affirm with confidence, even to himself, that his "largest synthesis"
would certainly turn out to be chaos, since he would be equally obliged
to deny the chaos. The poet groped blindly for an emotion. The play of
thought for thought's sake had mostly ceased. The throb of fifty or a
hundred million steam horse-power, doubling every ten years, and
already more despotic than all the horses that ever lived, and all the
riders they ever carried, drowned rhyme and reason. No one was to
blame, for all were equally servants of the power, and worked merely to
increase it; but the conservative Christian anarchist saw light.

  Thus the student of Hegel prepared himself for a visit to
Russia in order to enlarge his "synthesis"--and much he needed it! In
America all were conservative Christian anarchists; the faith was
national, racial, geographic. The true American had never seen such
supreme virtue in any of the innumerable shades between social anarchy
and social order as to mark it for exclusively human and his own. He
never had known a complete union either in Church or State or thought,
and had never seen any need for it. The freedom gave him courage to
meet any contradiction, and intelligence enough to ignore it. Exactly
the opposite condition had marked Russian growth. The Czar's empire was
a phase of conservative Christian anarchy more interesting to history
than all the complex variety of American newspapers, schools, trusts,
sects, frauds, and Congressmen. These were Nature--pure and anarchic as
the conservative Christian anarchist saw Nature--active, vibrating,
mostly unconscious, and quickly reacting on force; but, from the first
glimpse one caught from the sleeping-car window, in the early morning,
of the Polish Jew at the accidental railway station, in all his weird
horror, to the last vision of the Russian peasant, lighting his candle
and kissing his ikon before the railway Virgin in the station at St.
Petersburg, all was logical, conservative, Christian and anarchic.
Russia had nothing in common with any ancient or modern world that
history knew; she had been the oldest source of all civilization in
Europe, and had kept none for herself; neither Europe nor Asia had ever
known such a phase, which seemed to fall into no line of evolution
whatever, and was as wonderful to the student of Gothic architecture in
the twelfth century, as to the student of the dynamo in the twentieth.
Studied in the dry light of conservative Christian anarchy, Russia
became luminous like the salt of radium; but with a negative luminosity
as though she were a substance whose energies had been sucked out--an
inert residuum--with movement of pure inertia. From the car window one
seemed to float past undulations of nomad life--herders deserted by
their leaders and herds--wandering waves stopped in their
wanderings--waiting for their winds or warriors to return and lead them
westward; tribes that had camped, like Khirgis, for the season, and had
lost the means of motion without acquiring the habit of permanence.
They waited and suffered. As they stood they were out of place, and
could never have been normal. Their country acted as a sink of energy
like the Caspian Sea, and its surface kept the uniformity of ice and
snow. One Russian peasant kissing an ikon on a saint's day, in the
Kremlin, served for a hundred million. The student had no need to study
Wallace, or re-read Tolstoy or Tourguenieff or Dostoiewski to refresh
his memory of the most poignant analysis of human inertia ever put in
words; Gorky was more than enough: Kropotkin answered every purpose.

  The Russian people could never have changed--could they ever
be changed? Could inertia of race, on such a scale, be broken up, or
take new form? Even in America, on an infinitely smaller scale, the
question was old and unanswered. All the so-called primitive races, and
some nearer survivals, had raised doubts which persisted against the
most obstinate convictions of evolution. The Senator himself shook his
head, and after surveying Warsaw and Moscow to his content, went on to
St. Petersburg to ask questions of Mr. de Witte and Prince Khilkoff.
Their conversation added new doubts; for their efforts had been
immense, their expenditure enormous, and their results on the people
seemed to be uncertain as yet, even to themselves. Ten or fifteen years
of violent stimulus seemed resulting in nothing, for, since 1898,
Russia lagged.

  The tourist-student, having duly reflected, asked the Senator
whether he should allow three generations, or more, to swing the
Russian people into the Western movement. The Senator seemed disposed
to ask for more. The student had nothing to say. For him, all opinion
founded on fact must be error, because the facts can never be complete,
and their relations must be always infinite. Very likely, Russia would
instantly become the most brilliant constellation of human progress
through all the ordered stages of good; but meanwhile one might give a
value as movement of inertia to the mass, and assume a slow
acceleration that would, at the end of a generation, leave the gap
between east and west relatively the same. This result reached, the
Lodges thought their moral improvement required a visit to Berlin; but
forty years of varied emotions had not deadened Adams's memories of
Berlin, and he preferred, at any cost, to escape new ones. When the
Lodges started for Germany, Adams took steamer for Sweden and landed
happily, in a day or two, at Stockholm.

Until the student is fairly sure that his problem is soluble, he gains
little by obstinately insisting on solving it. One might doubt whether
Mr. de Witte himself, or Prince Khilkoff, or any Grand Duke, or the
Emperor, knew much more about it than their neighbors; and Adams was
quite sure that, even in America, he should listen with uncertain
confidence to the views of any Secretary of the Treasury, or railway
president, or President of the United States whom he had ever known,
that should concern the America of the next generation. The mere fact
that any man should dare to offer them would prove his incompetence to
judge. Yet Russia was too vast a force to be treated as an object of
unconcern. As inertia, if in no other way, she represented
three-fourths of the human race, and her movement might be the true
movement of the future, against the hasty and unsure acceleration of
America. No one could yet know what would best suit humanity, and the
tourist who carried his La Fontaine in mind, caught himself talking as
bear or as monkey according to the mirror he held before him. "Am I
satisfied?" he asked:--

                          "Moi? pourquoi non?
  N'ai-je pas quatre pieds aussi bien que les autres?
  Mon portrait jusqu'ici ne m'a rien reproche;
  Mais pour mon frere l'ours, on ne l'a qu'ebauche;
  Jamais, s'il me veut croire, il ne se fera peindre."

  Granting that his brother the bear lacked perfection in
details, his own figure as monkey was not necessarily ideal or
decorative, nor was he in the least sure what form it might take even
in one generation. He had himself never ventured to dream of three. No
man could guess what the Daimler motor and X-rays would do to him; but
so much was sure; the monkey and motor were terribly afraid of the
bear; how much,--only a man close to their foreign departments knew. As
the monkey looked back across the Baltic from the safe battlements of
Stockholm, Russia looked more portentous than from the Kremlin.

  The image was that of the retreating ice-cap--a wall of
archaic glacier, as fixed, as ancient, as eternal, as the wall of
archaic ice that blocked the ocean a few hundred miles to the
northward, and more likely to advance. Scandinavia had been ever at its
mercy. Europe had never changed. The imaginary line that crossed the
level continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea, merely extended the
northern barrier-line. The Hungarians and Poles on one side still
struggled against the Russian inertia of race, and retained their own
energies under the same conditions that caused inertia across the
frontier. Race ruled the conditions; conditions hardly affected race;
and yet no one could tell the patient tourist what race was, or how it
should be known. History offered a feeble and delusive smile at the
sound of the word; evolutionists and ethnologists disputed its very
existence; no one knew what to make of it; yet, without the clue,
history was a nursery tale.

  The Germans, Scandinavians, Poles and Hungarians, energetic as
they were, had never held their own against the heterogeneous mass of
inertia called Russia, and trembled with terror whenever Russia moved.
From Stockholm one looked back on it as though it were an ice-sheet,
and so had Stockholm watched it for centuries. In contrast with the
dreary forests of Russia and the stern streets of St. Petersburg,
Stockholm seemed a southern vision, and Sweden lured the tourist on.
Through a cheerful New England landscape and bright autumn, he rambled
northwards till he found himself at Trondhjem and discovered Norway.
Education crowded upon him in immense masses as he triangulated these
vast surfaces of history about which he had lectured and read for a
life-time. When the historian fully realizes his ignorance--which
sometimes happens to Americans--he becomes even more tiresome to
himself than to others, because his naivete is irrepressible. Adams
could not get over his astonishment, though he had preached the Norse
doctrine all his life against the stupid and beer-swilling Saxon boors
whom Freeman loved, and who, to the despair of science, produced
Shakespeare. Mere contact with Norway started voyages of thought, and,
under their illusions, he took the mail steamer to the north, and on
September 14, reached Hammerfest.

  Frivolous amusement was hardly what one saw, through the
equinoctial twilight, peering at the flying tourist, down the deep
fiords, from dim patches of snow, where the last Laps and reindeer were
watching the mail-steamer thread the intricate channels outside, as
their ancestors had watched the first Norse fishermen learn them in the
succession of time; but it was not the Laps, or the snow, or the arctic
gloom, that impressed the tourist, so much as the lights of an
electro-magnetic civilization and the stupefying contrast with Russia,
which more and more insisted on taking the first place in historical
interest. Nowhere had the new forces so vigorously corrected the errors
of the old, or so effectively redressed the balance of the ecliptic. As
one approached the end--the spot where, seventy years before, a futile
Carlylean Teufelsdrockh had stopped to ask futile questions of the
silent infinite--the infinite seemed to have become loquacious, not to
say familiar, chattering gossip in one's ear. An installation of
electric lighting and telephones led tourists close up to the polar
ice-cap, beyond the level of the magnetic pole; and there the newer
Teufelsdrockh sat dumb with surprise, and glared at the permanent
electric lights of Hammerfest.

  He had good reason--better than the Teufelsdrockh of 1830, in
his liveliest Scotch imagination, ever dreamed, or mortal man had ever
told. At best, a week in these dim Northern seas, without means of
speech, within the Arctic circle, at the equinox, lent itself to
gravity if not to gloom; but only a week before, breakfasting in the
restaurant at Stockholm, his eye had caught, across, the neighboring
table, a headline in a Swedish newspaper, announcing an attempt on the
life of President McKinley, and from Stockholm to Trondhjem, and so up
the coast to Hammerfest, day after day the news came, telling of the
President's condition, and the doings and sayings of Hay and Roosevelt,
until at last a little journal was cried on reaching some dim haven,
announcing the President's death a few hours before. To Adams the death
of McKinley and the advent of Roosevelt were not wholly void of
personal emotion, but this was little in comparison with his depth of
wonder at hearing hourly reports from his most intimate friends, sent
to him far within the realm of night, not to please him, but to correct
the faults of the solar system. The electro-dynamo-social universe
worked better than the sun.

  No such strange chance had ever happened to a historian before,
and it upset for the moment his whole philosophy of conservative
anarchy. The acceleration was marvellous, and wholly in the lines of
unity. To recover his grasp of chaos, he must look back across the gulf
to Russia, and the gap seemed to have suddenly become an abyss. Russia
was infinitely distant. Yet the nightmare of the glacial ice-cap still
pressed down on him from the hills, in full vision, and no one could
look out on the dusky and oily sea that lapped these spectral islands
without consciousness that only a day's steaming to the northward would
bring him to the ice-barrier, ready at any moment to advance, which
obliged tourists to stop where Laps and reindeer and Norse fishermen
had stopped so long ago that memory of their very origin was lost.
Adams had never before met a ne plus ultra, and knew not what to make
of it; but he felt at least the emotion of his Norwegian fishermen
ancestors, doubtless numbering hundreds of thousands, jammed with their
faces to the sea, the ice on the north, the ice-cap of Russian inertia
pressing from behind, and the ice a trifling danger compared with the
inertia. From the day they first followed the retreating ice-cap round
the North Cape, down to the present moment, their problem was the same.

  The new Teufelsdrockh, though considerably older than the old
one, saw no clearer into past or future, but he was fully as much
perplexed. From the archaic ice-barrier to the Caspian Sea, a long line
of division, permanent since ice and inertia first took possession,
divided his lines of force, with no relation to climate or geography or
soil.

  The less a tourist knows, the fewer mistakes he need make, for
he will not expect himself to explain ignorance. A century ago he
carried letters and sought knowledge; to-day he knows that no one
knows; he needs too much and ignorance is learning. He wandered south
again, and came out at Kiel, Hamburg, Bremen, and Cologne. A mere
glance showed him that here was a Germany new to mankind. Hamburg was
almost as American as St. Louis. In forty years, the green rusticity of
Dusseldorf had taken on the sooty grime of Birmingham. The Rhine in
1900 resembled the Rhine of 1858 much as it resembled the Rhine of the
Salic Franks. Cologne was a railway centre that had completed its
cathedral which bore an absent-minded air of a cathedral of Chicago.
The thirteenth century, carefully strained-off, catalogued, and locked
up, was visible to tourists as a kind of Neanderthal, cave-dwelling,
curiosity. The Rhine was more modern than the Hudson, as might well be,
since it produced far more coal; but all this counted for little beside
the radical change in the lines of force.

  In 1858 the whole plain of northern Europe, as well as the
Danube in the south, bore evident marks of being still the prehistoric
highway between Asia and the ocean. The trade-route followed the old
routes of invasion, and Cologne was a resting-place between Warsaw and
Flanders. Throughout northern Germany, Russia was felt even more
powerfully than France. In 1901 Russia had vanished, and not even
France was felt; hardly England or America. Coal alone was felt--its
stamp alone pervaded the Rhine district and persisted to Picardy--and
the stamp was the same as that of Birmingham and Pittsburgh. The Rhine
produced the same power, and the power produced the same people--the
same mind--the same impulse. For a man sixty-three years old who had no
hope of earning a living, these three months of education were the most
arduous he ever attempted, and Russia was the most indigestible morsel
he ever met; but the sum of it, viewed from Cologne, seemed reasonable.
From Hammerfest to Cherbourg on one shore of the ocean--from Halifax to
Norfolk on the other--one great empire was ruled by one great
emperor--Coal. Political and human jealousies might tear it apart or
divide it, but the power and the empire were one. Unity had gained that
ground. Beyond lay Russia, and there an older, perhaps a surer, power,
resting on the eternal law of inertia, held its own.

  As a personal matter, the relative value of the two powers
became more interesting every year; for the mass of Russian inertia was
moving irresistibly over China, and John Hay stood in its path. As long
as de Witte ruled, Hay was safe. Should de Witte fall, Hay would
totter. One could only sit down and watch the doings of Mr. de Witte
and Mr. de Plehve.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE (1902)

  AMERICA has always taken tragedy lightly. Too busy to stop the
activity of their twenty-million-horse-power society, Americans ignore
tragic motives that would have overshadowed the Middle Ages; and the
world learns to regard assassination as a form of hysteria, and death
as neurosis, to be treated by a rest-cure. Three hideous political
murders, that would have fattened the Eumenides with horror, have
thrown scarcely a shadow on the White House.

  The year 1901 was a year of tragedy that seemed to Hay to
centre on himself. First came, in summer, the accidental death of his
son, Del Hay. Close on the tragedy of his son, followed that of his
chief, "all the more hideous that we were so sure of his recovery." The
world turned suddenly into a graveyard. "I have acquired the funeral
habit." "Nicolay is dying. I went to see him yesterday, and he did not
know me." Among the letters of condolence showered upon him was one
from Clarence King at Pasadena, "heart-breaking in grace and
tenderness--the old King manner"; and King himself "simply waiting till
nature and the foe have done their struggle." The tragedy of King
impressed him intensely: "There you have it in the face!" he said--"the
best and brightest man of his generation, with talents immeasurably
beyond any of his contemporaries; with industry that has often sickened
me to witness it; with everything in his favor but blind luck; hounded
by disaster from his cradle, with none of the joy of life to which he
was entitled, dying at last, with nameless suffering alone and
uncared-for, in a California tavern. Ca vous amuse, la vie?"

  The first summons that met Adams, before he had even landed on
the pier at New York, December 29, was to Clarence King's funeral, and
from the funeral service he had no gayer road to travel than that which
led to Washington, where a revolution had occurred that must in any
case have made the men of his age instantly old, but which, besides
hurrying to the front the generation that till then he had regarded as
boys, could not fail to break the social ties that had till then held
them all together.

  Ca vous amuse, la vie? Honestly, the lessons of education were
becoming too trite. Hay himself, probably for the first time, felt half
glad that Roosevelt should want him to stay in office, if only to save
himself the trouble of quitting; but to Adams all was pure loss. On
that side, his education had been finished at school. His friends in
power were lost, and he knew life too well to risk total wreck by
trying to save them.

  As far as concerned Roosevelt, the chance was hopeless. To them
at sixty-three, Roosevelt at forty-three could not be taken seriously
in his old character, and could not be recovered in his new one. Power
when wielded by abnormal energy is the most serious of facts, and all
Roosevelt's friends know that his restless and combative energy was
more than abnormal. Roosevelt, more than any other man living within
the range of notoriety, showed the singular primitive quality that
belongs to ultimate matter--the quality that mediaeval theology
assigned to God--he was pure act. With him wielding unmeasured power
with immeasurable energy, in the White House, the relation of age to
youth--of teacher to pupil--was altogether out of place; and no other
was possible. Even Hay's relation was a false one, while Adams's ceased
of itself. History's truths are little valuable now; but human nature
retains a few of its archaic, proverbial laws, and the wisest courtier
that ever lived--Lucius Seneca himself--must have remained in some
shade of doubt what advantage he should get from the power of his
friend and pupil Nero Claudius, until, as a gentleman past sixty, he
received Nero's filial invitation to kill himself. Seneca closed the
vast circle of his knowledge by learning that a friend in power was a
friend lost--a fact very much worth insisting upon--while the
gray-headed moth that had fluttered through many moth-administrations
and had singed his wings more or less in them all, though he now slept
nine months out of the twelve, acquired an instinct of
self-preservation that kept him to the north side of La Fayette Square,
and, after a sufficient habitude of Presidents and Senators, deterred
him from hovering between them.

  Those who seek education in the paths of duty are always
deceived by the illusion that power in the hands of friends is an
advantage to them. As far as Adams could teach experience, he was bound
to warn them that he had found it an invariable disaster. Power is
poison. Its effect on Presidents had been always tragic, chiefly as an
almost insane excitement at first, and a worse reaction afterwards; but
also because no mind is so well balanced as to bear the strain of
seizing unlimited force without habit or knowledge of it; and finding
it disputed with him by hungry packs of wolves and hounds whose lives
depend on snatching the carrion. Roosevelt enjoyed a singularly direct
nature and honest intent, but he lived naturally in restless agitation
that would have worn out most tempers in a month, and his first year of
Presidency showed chronic excitement that made a friend tremble. The
effect of unlimited power on limited mind is worth noting in Presidents
because it must represent the same process in society, and the power of
self-control must have limit somewhere in face of the control of the
infinite.

  Here, education seemed to see its first and last lesson, but
this is a matter of psychology which lies far down in the depths of
history and of science; it will recur in other forms. The personal
lesson is different. Roosevelt was lost, but this seemed no reason why
Hay and Lodge should also be lost, yet the result was mathematically
certain. With Hay, it was only the steady decline of strength, and the
necessary economy of force; but with Lodge it was law of politics. He
could not help himself, for his position as the President's friend and
independent statesman at once was false, and he must be unsure in both
relations.

  To a student, the importance of Cabot Lodge was great--much
greater than that of the usual Senator--but it hung on his position in
Massachusetts rather than on his control of Executive patronage; and
his standing in Massachusetts was highly insecure. Nowhere in America
was society so complex or change so rapid. No doubt the Bostonian had
always been noted for a certain chronic irritability--a sort of
Bostonitis--which, in its primitive Puritan forms, seemed due to
knowing too much of his neighbors, and thinking too much of himself.
Many years earlier William M. Evarts had pointed out to Adams the
impossibility of uniting New England behind a New England leader. The
trait led to good ends--such as admiration of Abraham Lincoln and
George Washington--but the virtue was exacting; for New England
standards were various, scarcely reconcilable with each other, and
constantly multiplying in number, until balance between them threatened
to become impossible. The old ones were quite difficult enough--State
Street and the banks exacted one stamp; the old Congregational clergy
another; Harvard College, poor in votes, but rich in social influence,
a third; the foreign element, especially the Irish, held aloof, and
seldom consented to approve any one; the new socialist class, rapidly
growing, promised to become more exclusive than the Irish. New power
was disintegrating society, and setting independent centres of force to
work, until money had all it could do to hold the machine together. No
one could represent it faithfully as a whole.

  Naturally, Adams's sympathies lay strongly with Lodge, but the
task of appreciation was much more difficult in his case than in that
of his chief friend and scholar, the President. As a type for study, or
a standard for education, Lodge was the more interesting of the two.
Roosevelts are born and never can be taught; but Lodge was a creature
of teaching--Boston incarnate--the child of his local parentage; and
while his ambition led him to be more, the intent, though virtuous,
was--as Adams admitted in his own case--restless. An excellent talker,
a voracious reader, a ready wit, an accomplished orator, with a clear
mind and a powerful memory, he could never feel perfectly at ease
whatever leg he stood on, but shifted, sometimes with painful strain of
temper, from one sensitive muscle to another, uncertain whether to pose
as an uncompromising Yankee; or a pure American; or a patriot in the
still purer atmosphere of Irish, Germans, or Jews; or a scholar and
historian of Harvard College. English to the last fibre of his
thought--saturated with English literature, English tradition, English
taste--revolted by every vice and by most virtues of Frenchmen and
Germans, or any other Continental standards, but at home and happy
among the vices and extravagances of Shakespeare--standing first on the
social, then on the political foot; now worshipping, now banning;
shocked by the wanton display of immorality, but practicing the license
of political usage; sometimes bitter, often genial, always
intelligent--Lodge had the singular merit of interesting. The usual
statesmen flocked in swarms like crows, black and monotonous. Lodge's
plumage was varied, and, like his flight, harked back to race. He
betrayed the consciousness that he and his people had a past, if they
dared but avow it, and might have a future, if they could but divine it.

  Adams, too, was Bostonian, and the Bostonian's uncertainty of
attitude was as natural to him as to Lodge. Only Bostonians can
understand Bostonians and thoroughly sympathize with the inconsequences
of the Boston mind. His theory and practice were also at variance. He
professed in theory equal distrust of English thought, and called it a
huge rag-bag of bric-a-brac, sometimes precious but never sure. For
him, only the Greek, the Italian or the French standards had claims to
respect, and the barbarism of Shakespeare was as flagrant as to
Voltaire; but his theory never affected his practice. He knew that his
artistic standard was the illusion of his own mind; that English
disorder approached nearer to truth, if truth existed, than French
measure or Italian line, or German logic; he read his Shakespeare as
the Evangel of conservative Christian anarchy, neither very
conservative nor very Christian, but stupendously anarchistic. He loved
the atrocities of English art and society, as he loved Charles Dickens
and Miss Austen, not because of their example, but because of their
humor. He made no scruple of defying sequence and denying
consistency--but he was not a Senator.

  Double standards are inspiration to men of letters, but they
are apt to be fatal to politicians. Adams had no reason to care whether
his standards were popular or not, and no one else cared more than he;
but Roosevelt and Lodge were playing a game in which they were always
liable to find the shifty sands of American opinion yield suddenly
under their feet. With this game an elderly friend had long before
carried acquaintance as far as he wished. There was nothing in it for
him but the amusement of the pugilist or acrobat. The larger study was
lost in the division of interests and the ambitions of fifth-rate men;
but foreign affairs dealt only with large units, and made personal
relation possible with Hay which could not be maintained with Roosevelt
or Lodge. As an affair of pure education the point is worth notice from
young men who are drawn into politics. The work of domestic progress is
done by masses of mechanical power--steam, electric, furnace, or
other--which have to be controlled by a score or two of individuals who
have shown capacity to manage it. The work of internal government has
become the task of controlling these men, who are socially as remote as
heathen gods, alone worth knowing, but never known, and who could tell
nothing of political value if one skinned them alive. Most of them have
nothing to tell, but are forces as dumb as their dynamos, absorbed in
the development or economy of power. They are trustees for the public,
and whenever society assumes the property, it must confer on them that
title; but the power will remain as before, whoever manages it, and
will then control society without appeal, as it controls its stokers
and pit-men. Modern politics is, at bottom, a struggle not of men but
of forces. The men become every year more and more creatures of force,
massed about central power-houses. The conflict is no longer between
the men, but between the motors that drive the men, and the men tend to
succumb to their own motive forces.

  This is a moral that man strongly objects to admit, especially
in mediaeval pursuits like politics and poetry, nor is it worth while
for a teacher to insist upon it. What he insists upon is only that in
domestic politics, every one works for an immediate object, commonly
for some private job, and invariably in a near horizon, while in
foreign affairs the outlook is far ahead, over a field as wide as the
world. There the merest scholar could see what he was doing. For
history, international relations are the only sure standards of
movement; the only foundation for a map. For this reason, Adams had
always insisted that international relation was the only sure base for
a chart of history.

  He cared little to convince any one of the correctness of his
view, but as teacher he was bound to explain it, and as friend he found
it convenient. The Secretary of State has always stood as much alone as
the historian. Required to look far ahead and round hm, he measures
forces unknown to party managers, and has found Congress more or less
hostile ever since Congress first sat. The Secretary of State exists
only to recognize the existence of a world which Congress would rather
ignore; of obligations which Congress repudiates whenever it can; of
bargains which Congress distrusts and tries to turn to its advantage or
to reject. Since the first day the Senate existed, it has always
intrigued against the Secretary of State whenever the Secretary has
been obliged to extend his functions beyond the appointment of Consuls
in Senators' service.

  This is a matter of history which any one may approve or
dispute as he will; but as education it gave new resources to an old
scholar, for it made of Hay the best schoolmaster since 1865. Hay had
become the most imposing figure ever known in the office. He had an
influence that no other Secretary of State ever possessed, as he had a
nation behind him such as history had never imagined. He needed to
write no state papers; he wanted no help, and he stood far above
counsel or advice; but he could instruct an attentive scholar as no
other teacher in the world could do; and Adams sought only
instruction--wanted only to chart the international channel for fifty
years to come; to triangulate the future; to obtain his dimension, and
fix the acceleration of movement in politics since the year 1200, as he
was trying to fix it in philosophy and physics; in finance and force.

  Hay had been so long at the head of foreign affairs that at
last the stream of events favored him. With infinite effort he had
achieved the astonishing diplomatic feat of inducing the Senate, with
only six negative votes, to permit Great Britain to renounce, without
equivalent, treaty rights which she had for fifty years defended tooth
and nail. This unprecedented triumph in his negotiations with the
Senate enabled him to carry one step further his measures for general
peace. About England the Senate could make no further effective
opposition, for England was won, and Canada alone could give trouble.
The next difficulty was with France, and there the Senate blocked
advance, but England assumed the task, and, owing to political changes
in France, effected the object--a combination which, as late as 1901,
had been visionary. The next, and far more difficult step, was to bring
Germany into the combine; while, at the end of the vista, most
unmanageable of all, Russia remained to be satisfied and disarmed. This
was the instinct of what might be named McKinleyism; the system of
combinations, consolidations, trusts, realized at home, and realizable
abroad.

  With the system, a student nurtured in ideas of the eighteenth
century, had nothing to do, and made not the least presence of
meddling; but nothing forbade him to study, and he noticed to his
astonishment that this capitalistic scheme of combining governments,
like railways or furnaces, was in effect precisely the socialist scheme
of Jaures and Bebel. That John Hay, of all men, should adopt a
socialist policy seemed an idea more absurd than conservative Christian
anarchy, but paradox had become the only orthodoxy in politics as in
science. When one saw the field, one realized that Hay could not help
himself, nor could Bebel. Either Germany must destroy England and
France to create the next inevitable unification as a system of
continent against continent--or she must pool interests. Both schemes
in turn were attributed to the Kaiser; one or the other he would have
to choose; opinion was balanced doubtfully on their merits; but,
granting both to be feasible, Hay's and McKinley's statesmanship turned
on the point of persuading the Kaiser to join what might be called the
Coal-power combination, rather than build up the only possible
alternative, a Gun-power combination by merging Germany in Russia. Thus
Bebel and Jaures, McKinley and Hay, were partners.

  The problem was pretty--even fascinating--and, to an old
Civil-War private soldier in diplomacy, as rigorous as a geometrical
demonstration. As the last possible lesson in life, it had all sorts of
ultimate values. Unless education marches on both feet--theory and
practice--it risks going astray; and Hay was probably the most
accomplished master of both then living. He knew not only the forces
but also the men, and he had no other thought than his policy.

  Probably this was the moment of highest knowledge that a
scholar could ever reach. He had under his eyes the whole educational
staff of the Government at a time when the Government had just reached
the heights of highest activity and influence. Since 1860, education
had done its worst, under the greatest masters and at enormous expense
to the world, to train these two minds to catch and comprehend every
spring of international action, not to speak of personal influence; and
the entire machinery of politics in several great countries had little
to do but supply the last and best information. Education could be
carried no further.

  With its effects on Hay, Adams had nothing to do; but its
effects on himself were grotesque. Never had the proportions of his
ignorance looked so appalling. He seemed to know nothing--to be groping
in darkness--to be falling forever in space; and the worst depth
consisted in the assurance, incredible as it seemed, that no one knew
more. He had, at least, the mechanical assurance of certain values to
guide him--like the relative intensities of his Coal-powers, and
relative inertia of his Gun-powers--but he conceived that had he known,
besides the mechanics, every relative value of persons, as well as he
knew the inmost thoughts of his own Government--had the Czar and the
Kaiser and the Mikado turned schoolmasters, like Hay, and taught him
all they knew, he would still have known nothing. They knew nothing
themselves. Only by comparison of their ignorance could the student
measure his own.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE (1902)

  THE years hurried past, and gave hardly time to note their
work. Three or four months, though big with change, come to an end
before the mind can catch up with it. Winter vanished; spring burst
into flower; and again Paris opened its arms, though not for long. Mr.
Cameron came over, and took the castle of Inverlochy for three months,
which he summoned his friends to garrison. Lochaber seldom laughs,
except for its children, such as Camerons, McDonalds, Campbells and
other products of the mist; but in the summer of 1902 Scotland put on
fewer airs of coquetry than usual. Since the terrible harvest of 1879
which one had watched sprouting on its stalks on the Shropshire
hillsides, nothing had equalled the gloom. Even when the victims fled
to Switzerland, they found the Lake of Geneva and the Rhine not much
gayer, and Carlsruhe no more restful than Paris; until at last, in
desperation, one drifted back to the Avenue of the Bois de Boulogne,
and, like the Cuckoo, dropped into the nest of a better citizen.
Diplomacy has its uses. Reynolds Hitt, transferred to Berlin, abandoned
his attic to Adams, and there, for long summers to come, he hid in
ignorance and silence.

  Life at last managed of its own accord to settle itself into a
working arrangement. After so many years of effort to find one's drift,
the drift found the seeker, and slowly swept him forward and back, with
a steady progress oceanwards. Such lessons as summer taught, winter
tested, and one had only to watch the apparent movement of the stars in
order to guess one's declination. The process is possible only for men
who have exhausted auto-motion. Adams never knew why, knowing nothing
of Faraday, he began to mimic Faraday's trick of seeing lines of force
all about him, where he had always seen lines of will. Perhaps the
effect of knowing no mathematics is to leave the mind to imagine
figures--images--phantoms; one's mind is a watery mirror at best; but,
once conceived, the image became rapidly simple, and the lines of force
presented themselves as lines of attraction. Repulsions counted only as
battle of attractions. By this path, the mind stepped into the
mechanical theory of the universe before knowing it, and entered a
distinct new phase of education.

  This was the work of the dynamo and the Virgin of Chartres.
Like his masters, since thought began, he was handicapped by the
eternal mystery of Force--the sink of all science. For thousands of
years in history, he found that Force had been felt as occult
attraction--love of God and lust for power in a future life. After
1500, when this attraction began to decline, philosophers fell back on
some vis a tergo--instinct of danger from behind, like Darwin's
survival of the fittest; and one of the greatest minds, between
Descartes and Newton--Pascal--saw the master-motor of man in ennui,
which was also scientific: "I have often said that all the troubles of
man come from his not knowing how to sit still." Mere restlessness
forces action. "So passes the whole of life. We combat obstacles in
order to get repose, and, when got, the repose is insupportable; for we
think either of the troubles we have, or of those that threaten us; and
even if we felt safe on every side, ennui would of its own accord
spring up from the depths of the heart where it is rooted by nature,
and would fill the mind with its venom."

   "If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
          May toss him to My breast."

  Ennui, like Natural Selection, accounted for change, but failed
to account for direction of change. For that, an attractive force was
essential; a force from outside; a shaping influence. Pascal and all
the old philosophies called this outside force God or Gods. Caring but
little for the name, and fixed only on tracing the Force, Adams had
gone straight to the Virgin at Chartres, and asked her to show him God,
face to face, as she did for St. Bernard. She replied, kindly as ever,
as though she were still the young mother of to-day, with a sort of
patient pity for masculine dulness: "My dear outcast, what is it you
seek? This is the Church of Christ! If you seek him through me, you are
welcome, sinner or saint; but he and I are one. We are Love! We have
little or nothing to do with God's other energies which are infinite,
and concern us the less because our interest is only in man, and the
infinite is not knowable to man. Yet if you are troubled by your
ignorance, you see how I am surrounded by the masters of the schools!
Ask them!"

  The answer sounded singularly like the usual answer of British
science which had repeated since Bacon that one must not try to know
the unknowable, though one was quite powerless to ignore it; but the
Virgin carried more conviction, for her feminine lack of interest in
all perfections except her own was honester than the formal phrase of
science; since nothing was easier than to follow her advice, and turn
to Thomas Aquinas, who, unlike modern physicists, answered at once and
plainly: "To me," said St. Thomas, "Christ and the Mother are one
Force--Love--simple, single, and sufficient for all human wants; but
Love is a human interest which acts even on man so partially that you
and I, as philosophers, need expect no share in it. Therefore we turn
to Christ and the Schools who represent all other Force. We deal with
Multiplicity and call it God. After the Virgin has redeemed by her
personal Force as Love all that is redeemable in man, the Schools
embrace the rest, and give it Form, Unity, and Motive."

  This chart of Force was more easily studied than any other
possible scheme, for one had but to do what the Church was always
promising to do--abolish in one flash of lightning not only man, but
also the Church itself, the earth, the other planets, and the sun, in
order to clear the air; without affecting mediaeval science. The
student felt warranted in doing what the Church threatened--abolishing
his solar system altogether--in order to look at God as actual;
continuous movement, universal cause, and interchangeable force. This
was pantheism, but the Schools were pantheist; at least as pantheistic
as the Energetik of the Germans; and their deity was the ultimate
energy, whose thought and act were one.

  Rid of man and his mind, the universe of Thomas Aquinas seemed
rather more scientific than that of Haeckel or Ernst Mach.
Contradiction for contradiction, Attraction for attraction, Energy for
energy, St. Thomas's idea of God had merits. Modern science offered not
a vestige of proof, or a theory of connection between its forces, or
any scheme of reconciliation between thought and mechanics; while St.
Thomas at least linked together the joints of his machine. As far as a
superficial student could follow, the thirteenth century supposed mind
to be a mode of force directly derived from the intelligent prime
motor, and the cause of all form and sequence in the
universe--therefore the only proof of unity. Without thought in the
unit, there could be no unity; without unity no orderly sequence or
ordered society. Thought alone was Form. Mind and Unity flourished or
perished together.

  This education startled even a man who had dabbled in fifty
educations all over the world; for, if he were obliged to insist on a
Universe, he seemed driven to the Church. Modern science guaranteed no
unity. The student seemed to feel himself, like all his predecessors,
caught, trapped, meshed in this eternal drag-net of religion.

  In practice the student escapes this dilemma in two ways: the
first is that of ignoring it, as one escapes most dilemmas; the second
is that the Church rejects pantheism as worse than atheism, and will
have nothing to do with the pantheist at any price. In wandering
through the forests of ignorance, one necessarily fell upon the famous
old bear that scared children at play; but, even had the animal shown
more logic than its victim, one had learned from Socrates to distrust,
above all other traps, the trap of logic--the mirror of the mind. Yet
the search for a unit of force led into catacombs of thought where
hundreds of thousands of educations had found their end. Generation
after generation of painful and honest-minded scholars had been content
to stay in these labyrinths forever, pursuing ignorance in silence, in
company with the most famous teachers of all time. Not one of them had
ever found a logical highroad of escape.

  Adams cared little whether he escaped or not, but he felt clear
that he could not stop there, even to enjoy the society of Spinoza and
Thomas Aquinas. True, the Church alone had asserted unity with any
conviction, and the historian alone knew what oceans of blood and
treasure the assertion had cost; but the only honest alternative to
affirming unity was to deny it; and the denial would require a new
education. At sixty-five years old a new education promised hardly more
than the old. Possibly the modern legislator or magistrate might no
longer know enough to treat as the Church did the man who denied unity,
unless the denial took the form of a bomb; but no teacher would know
how to explain what he thought he meant by denying unity. Society would
certainly punish the denial if ever any one learned enough to
understand it. Philosophers, as a rule, cared little what principles
society affirmed or denied, since the philosopher commonly held that
though he might sometimes be right by good luck on some one point, no
complex of individual opinions could possibly be anything but wrong;
yet, supposing society to be ignored, the philosopher was no further
forward. Nihilism had no bottom. For thousands of years every
philosopher had stood on the shore of this sunless sea, diving for
pearls and never finding them. All had seen that, since they could not
find bottom, they must assume it. The Church claimed to have found it,
but, since 1450, motives for agreeing on some new assumption of Unity,
broader and deeper than that of the Church, had doubled in force until
even the universities and schools, like the Church and State, seemed
about to be driven into an attempt to educate, though specially
forbidden to do it.

  Like most of his generation, Adams had taken the word of
science that the new unit was as good as found. It would not be an
intelligence--probably not even a consciousness--but it would serve. He
passed sixty years waiting for it, and at the end of that time, on
reviewing the ground, he was led to think that the final synthesis of
science and its ultimate triumph was the kinetic theory of gases; which
seemed to cover all motion in space, and to furnish the measure of
time. So far as he understood it, the theory asserted that any portion
of space is occupied by molecules of gas, flying in right lines at
velocities varying up to a mile in a second, and colliding with each
other at intervals varying up to 17,750,000 times in a second. To this
analysis--if one understood it right--all matter whatever was
reducible, and the only difference of opinion in science regarded the
doubt whether a still deeper analysis would reduce the atom of gas to
pure motion.

  Thus, unless one mistook the meaning of motion, which might
well be, the scientific synthesis commonly called Unity was the
scientific analysis commonly called Multiplicity. The two things were
the same, all forms being shifting phases of motion. Granting this
ocean of colliding atoms, the last hope of humanity, what happened if
one dropped the sounder into the abyss--let it go--frankly gave up
Unity altogether? What was Unity? Why was one to be forced to affirm it?

  Here everybody flatly refused help. Science seemed content with
its old phrase of "larger synthesis," which was well enough for
science, but meant chaos for man. One would have been glad to stop and
ask no more, but the anarchist bomb bade one go on, and the bomb is a
powerful persuader. One could not stop, even to enjoy the charms of a
perfect gas colliding seventeen million times in a second, much like an
automobile in Paris. Science itself had been crowded so close to the
edge of the abyss that its attempts to escape were as metaphysical as
the leap, while an ignorant old man felt no motive for trying to
escape, seeing that the only escape possible lay in the form of vis a
tergo commonly called Death. He got out his Descartes again; dipped
into his Hume and Berkeley; wrestled anew with his Kant; pondered
solemnly over his Hegel and Schopenhauer and Hartmann; strayed gaily
away with his Greeks--all merely to ask what Unity meant, and what
happened when one denied it.

  Apparently one never denied it. Every philosopher, whether sane
or insane, naturally affirmed it. The utmost flight of anarchy seemed
to have stopped with the assertion of two principles, and even these
fitted into each other, like good and evil, light and darkness.
Pessimism itself, black as it might be painted, had been content to
turn the universe of contradictions into the human thought as one Will,
and treat it as representation. Metaphysics insisted on treating the
universe as one thought or treating thought as one universe; and
philosophers agreed, like a kinetic gas, that the universe could be
known only as motion of mind, and therefore as unity. One could know it
only as one's self; it was psychology.

  Of all forms of pessimism, the metaphysical form was, for a
historian, the least enticing. Of all studies, the one he would rather
have avoided was that of his own mind. He knew no tragedy so
heartrending as introspection, and the more, because--as Mephistopheles
said of Marguerite--he was not the first. Nearly all the highest
intelligence known to history had drowned itself in the reflection of
its own thought, and the bovine survivors had rudely told the truth
about it, without affecting the intelligent. One's own time had not
been exempt. Even since 1870 friends by scores had fallen victims to
it. Within five-and-twenty years, a new library had grown out of it.
Harvard College was a focus of the study; France supported hospitals
for it; England published magazines of it. Nothing was easier than to
take one's mind in one's hand, and ask one's psychological friends what
they made of it, and the more because it mattered so little to either
party, since their minds, whatever they were, had pretty nearly ceased
to reflect, and let them do what they liked with the small remnant,
they could scarcely do anything very new with it. All one asked was to
learn what they hoped to do.

  Unfortunately the pursuit of ignorance in silence had, by this
time, led the weary pilgrim into such mountains of ignorance that he
could no longer see any path whatever, and could not even understand a
signpost. He failed to fathom the depths of the new psychology, which
proved to him that, on that side as on the mathematical side, his power
of thought was atrophied, if, indeed, it ever existed. Since he could
not fathom the science, he could only ask the simplest of questions:
Did the new psychology hold that the IvXn--soul or mind--was or was not
a unit? He gathered from the books that the psychologists had, in a few
cases, distinguished several personalities in the same mind, each
conscious and constant, individual and exclusive. The fact seemed
scarcely surprising, since it had been a habit of mind from earliest
recorded time, and equally familiar to the last acquaintance who had
taken a drug or caught a fever, or eaten a Welsh rarebit before bed;
for surely no one could follow the action of a vivid dream, and still
need to be told that the actors evoked by his mind were not himself,
but quite unknown to all he had ever recognized as self. The new
psychology went further, and seemed convinced that it had actually
split personality not only into dualism, but also into complex groups,
like telephonic centres and systems, that might be isolated and called
up at will, and whose physical action might be occult in the sense of
strangeness to any known form of force. Dualism seemed to have become
as common as binary stars. Alternating personalities turned up
constantly, even among one's friends. The facts seemed certain, or at
least as certain as other facts; all they needed was explanation.

  This was not the business of the searcher of ignorance, who
felt himself in no way responsible for causes. To his mind, the
compound IvXn took at once the form of a bicycle-rider, mechanically
balancing himself by inhibiting all his inferior personalities, and
sure to fall into the sub-conscious chaos below, if one of his inferior
personalities got on top. The only absolute truth was the sub-conscious
chaos below, which every one could feel when he sought it.

  Whether the psychologists admitted it or not, mattered little
to the student who, by the law of his profession, was engaged in
studying his own mind. On him, the effect was surprising. He woke up
with a shudder as though he had himself fallen off his bicycle. If his
mind were really this sort of magnet, mechanically dispersing its lines
of force when it went to sleep, and mechanically orienting them when it
woke up--which was normal, the dispersion or orientation? The mind,
like the body, kept its unity unless it happened to lose balance, but
the professor of physics, who slipped on a pavement and hurt himself,
knew no more than an idiot what knocked him down, though he did
know--what the idiot could hardly do--that his normal condition was
idiocy, or want of balance, and that his sanity was unstable artifice.
His normal thought was dispersion, sleep, dream, inconsequence; the
simultaneous action of different thought-centres without central
control. His artificial balance was acquired habit. He was an acrobat,
with a dwarf on his back, crossing a chasm on a slack-rope, and
commonly breaking his neck.

By that path of newest science, one saw no unity ahead--nothing but a
dissolving mind--and the historian felt himself driven back on thought
as one continuous Force, without Race, Sex, School, Country, or Church.
This has been always the fate of rigorous thinkers, and has always
succeeded in making them famous, as it did Gibbon, Buckle, and Auguste
Comte. Their method made what progress the science of history knew,
which was little enough, but they did at last fix the law that, if
history ever meant to correct the errors she made in detail, she must
agree on a scale for the whole. Every local historian might defy this
law till history ended, but its necessity would be the same for man as
for space or time or force, and without it the historian would always
remain a child in science.

  Any schoolboy could see that man as a force must be measured by
motion, from a fixed point. Psychology helped here by suggesting a
unit--the point of history when man held the highest idea of himself as
a unit in a unified universe. Eight or ten years of study had led Adams
to think he might use the century 1150-1250, expressed in Amiens
Cathedral and the Works of Thomas Aquinas, as the unit from which he
might measure motion down to his own time, without assuming anything as
true or untrue, except relation. The movement might be studied at once
in philosophy and mechanics. Setting himself to the task, he began a
volume which he mentally knew as "Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres: a
Study of Thirteenth-Century Unity." From that point he proposed to fix
a position for himself, which he could label: "The Education of Henry
Adams: a Study of Twentieth-Century Multiplicity." With the help of
these two points of relation, he hoped to project his lines forward and
backward indefinitely, subject to correction from any one who should
know better. Thereupon, he sailed for home.



CHAPTER XXX

VIS INERTIAE (1903)

  WASHINGTON was always amusing, but in 1900, as in 1800, its
chief interest lay in its distance from New York. The movement of New
York had become planetary--beyond control--while the task of
Washington, in 1900 as in 1800, was to control it. The success of
Washington in the past century promised ill for its success in the next.

  To a student who had passed the best years of his life in
pondering over the political philosophy of Jefferson, Gallatin, and
Madison, the problem that Roosevelt took in hand seemed alive with
historical interest, but it would need at least another half-century to
show its results. As yet, one could not measure the forces or their
arrangement; the forces had not even aligned themselves except in
foreign affairs; and there one turned to seek the channel of wisdom as
naturally as though Washington did not exist. The President could do
nothing effectual in foreign affairs, but at least he could see
something of the field.

  Hay had reached the summit of his career, and saw himself on
the edge of wreck. Committed to the task of keeping China "open," he
saw China about to be shut. Almost alone in the world, he represented
the "open door," and could not escape being crushed by it. Yet luck had
been with him in full tide. Though Sir Julian Pauncefote had died in
May, 1902, after carrying out tasks that filled an ex-private secretary
of 1861 with open-mouthed astonishment, Hay had been helped by the
appointment of Michael Herbert as his successor, who counted for double
the value of an ordinary diplomat. To reduce friction is the chief use
of friendship, and in politics the loss by friction is outrageous. To
Herbert and his wife, the small knot of houses that seemed to give a
vague unity to foreign affairs opened their doors and their hearts, for
the Herberts were already at home there; and this personal sympathy
prolonged Hay's life, for it not only eased the effort of endurance,
but it also led directly to a revolution in Germany. Down to that
moment, the Kaiser, rightly or wrongly, had counted as the ally of the
Czar in all matters relating to the East. Holleben and Cassini were
taken to be a single force in Eastern affairs, and this supposed
alliance gave Hay no little anxiety and some trouble. Suddenly
Holleben, who seemed to have had no thought but to obey with almost
agonized anxiety the least hint of the Kaiser's will, received a
telegram ordering him to pretext illness and come home, which he obeyed
within four-and-twenty hours. The ways of the German Foreign Office had
been always abrupt, not to say ruthless, towards its agents, and yet
commonly some discontent had been shown as excuse; but, in this case,
no cause was guessed for Holleben's disgrace except the Kaiser's wish
to have a personal representative at Washington. Breaking down all
precedent, he sent Speck von Sternburg to counterbalance Herbert.

  Welcome as Speck was in the same social intimacy, and valuable
as his presence was to Hay, the personal gain was trifling compared
with the political. Of Hay's official tasks, one knew no more than any
newspaper reporter did, but of one's own diplomatic education the
successive steps had become strides. The scholar was studying, not on
Hay's account, but on his own. He had seen Hay, in 1898, bring England
into his combine; he had seen the steady movement which was to bring
France back into an Atlantic system; and now he saw suddenly the
dramatic swing of Germany towards the west--the movement of all others
nearest mathematical certainty. Whether the Kaiser meant it or not, he
gave the effect of meaning to assert his independence of Russia, and to
Hay this change of front had enormous value. The least was that it
seemed to isolate Cassini, and unmask the Russian movement which became
more threatening every month as the Manchurian scheme had to be
revealed.

  Of course the student saw whole continents of study opened to
him by the Kaiser's coup d'etat. Carefully as he had tried to follow
the Kaiser's career, he had never suspected such refinement of policy,
which raised his opinion of the Kaiser's ability to the highest point,
and altogether upset the centre of statesmanship. That Germany could be
so quickly detached from separate objects and brought into an Atlantic
system seemed a paradox more paradoxical than any that one's education
had yet offered, though it had offered little but paradox. If Germany
could be held there, a century of friction would be saved. No price
would be too great for such an object; although no price could probably
be wrung out of Congress as equivalent for it. The Kaiser, by one
personal act of energy, freed Hay's hands so completely that he saw his
problems simplified to Russia alone.

  Naturally Russia was a problem ten times as difficult. The
history of Europe for two hundred years had accomplished little but to
state one or two sides of the Russian problem. One's year of Berlin in
youth, though it taught no Civil Law, had opened one's eyes to the
Russian enigma, and both German and French historians had labored over
its proportions with a sort of fascinated horror. Germany, of all
countries, was most vitally concerned in it; but even a cave-dweller in
La Fayette Square, seeking only a measure of motion since the Crusades,
saw before his eyes, in the spring of 1903, a survey of future order or
anarchy that would exhaust the power of his telescopes and defy the
accuracy of his theodolites.

  The drama had become passionately interesting and grew every
day more Byzantine; for the Russian Government itself showed clear
signs of dislocation, and the orders of Lamsdorf and de Witte were
reversed when applied in Manchuria. Historians and students should have
no sympathies or antipathies, but Adams had private reasons for wishing
well to the Czar and his people. At much length, in several labored
chapters of history, he had told how the personal friendliness of the
Czar Alexander I, in 1810, saved the fortunes of J. Q. Adams, and
opened to him the brilliant diplomatic career that ended in the White
House. Even in his own effaced existence he had reasons, not altogether
trivial, for gratitude to the Czar Alexander II, whose firm neutrality
had saved him some terribly anxious days and nights in 1862; while he
had seen enough of Russia to sympathize warmly with Prince Khilkoff's
railways and de Witte's industries. The last and highest triumph of
history would, to his mind, be the bringing of Russia into the Atlantic
combine, and the just and fair allotment of the whole world among the
regulated activities of the universe. At the rate of unification since
1840, this end should be possible within another sixty years; and, in
foresight of that point, Adams could already finish--provisionally--his
chart of international unity; but, for the moment, the gravest doubts
and ignorance covered the whole field. No one--Czar or diplomat, Kaiser
or Mikado--seemed to know anything. Through individual Russians one
could always see with ease, for their diplomacy never suggested depth;
and perhaps Hay protected Cassini for the very reason that Cassini
could not disguise an emotion, and never failed to betray that, in
setting the enormous bulk of Russian inertia to roll over China, he
regretted infinitely that he should have to roll it over Hay too. He
would almost rather have rolled it over de Witte and Lamsdorf. His
political philosophy, like that of all Russians, seemed fixed in the
single idea that Russia must fatally roll--must, by her irresistible
inertia, crush whatever stood in her way.

  For Hay and his pooling policy, inherited from McKinley, the
fatalism of Russian inertia meant the failure of American intensity.
When Russia rolled over a neighboring people, she absorbed their
energies in her own movement of custom and race which neither Czar nor
peasant could convert, or wished to convert, into any Western
equivalent. In 1903 Hay saw Russia knocking away the last blocks that
held back the launch of this huge mass into the China Sea. The vast
force of inertia known as China was to be united with the huge bulk of
Russia in a single mass which no amount of new force could henceforward
deflect. Had the Russian Government, with the sharpest sense of
enlightenment, employed scores of de Wittes and Khilkoffs, and borrowed
all the resources of Europe, it could not have lifted such a weight;
and had no idea of trying.

  These were the positions charted on the map of political unity
by an insect in Washington in the spring of 1903; and they seemed to
him fixed. Russia held Europe and America in her grasp, and Cassini
held Hay in his. The Siberian Railway offered checkmate to all possible
opposition. Japan must make the best terms she could; England must go
on receding; America and Germany would look on at the avalanche. The
wall of Russian inertia that barred Europe across the Baltic, would bar
America across the Pacific; and Hay's policy of the open door would
infallibly fail.

  Thus the game seemed lost, in spite of the Kaiser's brilliant
stroke, and the movement of Russia eastward must drag Germany after it
by its mere mass. To the humble student, the loss of Hay's game
affected only Hay; for himself, the game--not the stakes--was the chief
interest; and though want of habit made him object to read his
newspapers blackened--since he liked to blacken them himself--he was in
any case condemned to pass but a short space of time either in Siberia
or in Paris, and could balance his endless columns of calculation
equally in either place. The figures, not the facts, concerned his
chart, and he mused deeply over his next equation. The Atlantic would
have to deal with a vast continental mass of inert motion, like a
glacier, which moved, and consciously moved, by mechanical gravitation
alone. Russia saw herself so, and so must an American see her; he had
no more to do than measure, if he could, the mass. Was volume or
intensity the stronger? What and where was the vis nova that could hold
its own before this prodigious ice-cap of vis inertiae? What was
movement of inertia, and what its laws?

  Naturally a student knew nothing about mechanical laws, but he
took for granted that he could learn, and went to his books to ask. He
found that the force of inertia had troubled wiser men than he. The
dictionary said that inertia was a property of matter, by which matter
tends, when at rest, to remain so, and, when in motion, to move on in a
straight line. Finding that his mind refused to imagine itself at rest
or in a straight line, he was forced, as usual, to let it imagine
something else; and since the question concerned the mind, and not
matter, he decided from personal experience that his mind was never at
rest, but moved--when normal--about something it called a motive, and
never moved without motives to move it. So long as these motives were
habitual, and their attraction regular, the consequent result might,
for convenience, be called movement of inertia, to distinguish it from
movement caused by newer or higher attraction; but the greater the bulk
to move, the greater must be the force to accelerate or deflect it.

  This seemed simple as running water; but simplicity is the most
deceitful mistress that ever betrayed man. For years the student and
the professor had gone on complaining that minds were unequally inert.
The inequalities amounted to contrasts. One class of minds responded
only to habit; another only to novelty. Race classified thought.
Class-lists classified mind. No two men thought alike, and no woman
thought like a man.

  Race-inertia seemed to be fairly constant, and made the chief
trouble in the Russian future. History looked doubtful when asked
whether race-inertia had ever been overcome without destroying the race
in order to reconstruct it; but surely sex-inertia had never been
overcome at all. Of all movements of inertia, maternity and
reproduction are the most typical, and women's property of moving in a
constant line forever is ultimate, uniting history in its only unbroken
and unbreakable sequence. Whatever else stops, the woman must go on
reproducing, as she did in the Siluria of Pteraspis; sex is a vital
condition, and race only a local one. If the laws of inertia are to be
sought anywhere with certainty, it is in the feminine mind. The
American always ostentatiously ignored sex, and American history
mentioned hardly the name of a woman, while English history handled
them as timidly as though they were a new and undescribed species; but
if the problem of inertia summed up the difficulties of the race
question, it involved that of sex far more deeply, and to Americans
vitally. The task of accelerating or deflecting the movement of the
American woman had interest infinitely greater than that of any race
whatever, Russian or Chinese, Asiatic or African.

  On this subject, as on the Senate and the banks, Adams was
conscious of having been born an eighteenth-century remainder. As he
grew older, he found that Early Institutions lost their interest, but
that Early Women became a passion. Without understanding movement of
sex, history seemed to him mere pedantry. So insistent had he become on
this side of his subject that with women he talked of little else,
and--because women's thought is mostly subconscious and particularly
sensitive to suggestion--he tried tricks and devices to disclose it.
The woman seldom knows her own thought; she is as curious to understand
herself as the man to understand her, and responds far more quickly
than the man to a sudden idea. Sometimes, at dinner, one might wait
till talk flagged, and then, as mildly as possible, ask one's liveliest
neighbor whether she could explain why the American woman was a
failure. Without an instant's hesitation, she was sure to answer:
"Because the American man is a failure!" She meant it.

  Adams owed more to the American woman than to all the American
men he ever heard of, and felt not the smallest call to defend his sex
who seemed able to take care of themselves; but from the point of view
of sex he felt much curiosity to know how far the woman was right, and,
in pursuing this inquiry, he caught the trick of affirming that the
woman was the superior. Apart from truth, he owed her at least that
compliment. The habit led sometimes to perilous personalities in the
sudden give-and-take of table-talk. This spring, just before sailing
for Europe in May, 1903, he had a message from his sister-in-law, Mrs.
Brooks Adams, to say that she and her sister. Mrs. Lodge, and the
Senator were coming to dinner by way of farewell; Bay Lodge and his
lovely young wife sent word to the same effect; Mrs. Roosevelt joined
the party; and Michael Herbert shyly slipped down to escape the
solitude of his wife's absence. The party were too intimate for
reserve, and they soon fell on Adams's hobby with derision which stung
him to pungent rejoinder: "The American man is a failure! You are all
failures!" he said. "Has not my sister here more sense than my brother
Brooks? Is not Bessie worth two of Bay? Wouldn't we all elect Mrs.
Lodge Senator against Cabot? Would the President have a ghost of a
chance if Mrs. Roosevelt ran against him? Do you want to stop at the
Embassy, on your way home, and ask which would run it best--Herbert or
his wife?" The men laughed a little--not much! Each probably made
allowance for his own wife as an unusually superior woman. Some one
afterwards remarked that these half-dozen women were not a fair
average. Adams replied that the half-dozen men were above all possible
average; he could not lay his hands on another half-dozen their equals.

  Gay or serious, the question never failed to stir feeling. The
cleverer the woman, the less she denied the failure. She was bitter at
heart about it. She had failed even to hold the family together, and
her children ran away like chickens with their first feathers; the
family was extinct like chivalry. She had failed not only to create a
new society that satisfied her, but even to hold her own in the old
society of Church or State; and was left, for the most part, with no
place but the theatre or streets to decorate. She might glitter with
historical diamonds and sparkle with wit as brilliant as the gems, in
rooms as splendid as any in Rome at its best; but she saw no one except
her own sex who knew enough to be worth dazzling, or was competent to
pay her intelligent homage. She might have her own way, without
restraint or limit, but she knew not what to do with herself when free.
Never had the world known a more capable or devoted mother, but at
forty her task was over, and she was left with no stage except that of
her old duties, or of Washington society where she had enjoyed for a
hundred years every advantage, but had created only a medley where nine
men out of ten refused her request to be civilized, and the tenth bored
her.

  On most subjects, one's opinions must defer to science, but on
this, the opinion of a Senator or a Professor, a chairman of a State
Central Committee or a Railway President, is worth less than that of
any woman on Fifth Avenue. The inferiority of man on this, the most
important of all social subjects, is manifest. Adams had here no
occasion to deprecate scientific opinion, since no woman in the world
would have paid the smallest respect to the opinions of all professors
since the serpent. His own object had little to do with theirs. He was
studying the laws of motion, and had struck two large questions of
vital importance to America--inertia of race and inertia of sex. He had
seen Mr. de Witte and Prince Khilkoff turn artificial energy to the
value of three thousand million dollars, more or less, upon Russian
inertia, in the last twenty years, and he needed to get some idea of
the effects. He had seen artificial energy to the amount of twenty or
five-and-twenty million steam horse-power created in America since
1840, and as much more economized, which had been socially turned over
to the American woman, she being the chief object of social
expenditure, and the household the only considerable object of American
extravagance. According to scientific notions of inertia and force,
what ought to be the result?

  In Russia, because of race and bulk, no result had yet shown
itself, but in America the results were evident and undisputed. The
woman had been set free--volatilized like Clerk Maxwell's perfect gas;
almost brought to the point of explosion, like steam. One had but to
pass a week in Florida, or on any of a hundred huge ocean steamers, or
walk through the Place Vendome, or join a party of Cook's tourists to
Jerusalem, to see that the woman had been set free; but these swarms
were ephemeral like clouds of butterflies in season, blown away and
lost, while the reproductive sources lay hidden. At Washington, one saw
other swarms as grave gatherings of Dames or Daughters, taking
themselves seriously, or brides fluttering fresh pinions; but all these
shifting visions, unknown before 1840, touched the true problem
slightly and superficially. Behind them, in every city, town, and
farmhouse, were myriads of new types--or type-writers--telephone and
telegraph-girls, shop-clerks, factory-hands, running into millions of
millions, and, as classes, unknown to themselves as to historians. Even
the schoolmistresses were inarticulate. All these new women had been
created since 1840; all were to show their meaning before 1940.

  Whatever they were, they were not content, as the ephemera
proved; and they were hungry for illusions as ever in the fourth
century of the Church; but this was probably survival, and gave no hint
of the future. The problem remained--to find out whether movement of
inertia, inherent in function, could take direction except in lines of
inertia. This problem needed to be solved in one generation of American
women, and was the most vital of all problems of force.

The American woman at her best--like most other women--exerted great
charm on the man, but not the charm of a primitive type. She appeared
as the result of a long series of discards, and her chief interest lay
in what she had discarded. When closely watched, she seemed making a
violent effort to follow the man, who had turned his mind and hand to
mechanics. The typical American man had his hand on a lever and his eye
on a curve in his road; his living depended on keeping up an average
speed of forty miles an hour, tending always to become sixty, eighty,
or a hundred, and he could not admit emotions or anxieties or
subconscious distractions, more than he could admit whiskey or drugs,
without breaking his neck. He could not run his machine and a woman
too; he must leave her; even though his wife, to find her own way, and
all the world saw her trying to find her way by imitating him.

  The result was often tragic, but that was no new thing in
feminine history. Tragedy had been woman's lot since Eve. Her problem
had been always one of physical strength and it was as physical
perfection of force that her Venus had governed nature. The woman's
force had counted as inertia of rotation, and her axis of rotation had
been the cradle and the family. The idea that she was weak revolted all
history; it was a palaeontological falsehood that even an Eocene female
monkey would have laughed at; but it was surely true that, if her force
were to be diverted from its axis, it must find a new field, and the
family must pay for it. So far as she succeeded, she must become
sexless like the bees, and must leave the old energy of inertia to
carry on the race.

  The story was not new. For thousands of years women had
rebelled. They had made a fortress of religion--had buried themselves
in the cloister, in self-sacrifice, in good works--or even in bad.
One's studies in the twelfth century, like one's studies in the fourth,
as in Homeric and archaic time, showed her always busy in the illusions
of heaven or of hell--ambition, intrigue, jealousy, magic--but the
American woman had no illusions or ambitions or new resources, and
nothing to rebel against, except her own maternity; yet the rebels
increased by millions from year to year till they blocked the path of
rebellion. Even her field of good works was narrower than in the
twelfth century. Socialism, communism, collectivism, philosophical
anarchism, which promised paradise on earth for every male, cut off the
few avenues of escape which capitalism had opened to the woman, and she
saw before her only the future reserved for machine-made, collectivist
females.

  From the male, she could look for no help; his instinct of
power was blind. The Church had known more about women than science
will ever know, and the historian who studied the sources of
Christianity felt sometimes convinced that the Church had been made by
the woman chiefly as her protest against man. At times, the historian
would have been almost willing to maintain that the man had overthrown
the Church chiefly because it was feminine. After the overthrow of the
Church, the woman had no refuge except such as the man created for
himself. She was free; she had no illusions; she was sexless; she had
discarded all that the male disliked; and although she secretly
regretted the discard, she knew that she could not go backward. She
must, like the man, marry machinery. Already the American man sometimes
felt surprise at finding himself regarded as sexless; the American
woman was oftener surprised at finding herself regarded as sexual.

  No honest historian can take part with--or against--the
forces he has to study. To him even the extinction of the human race
should be merely a fact to be grouped with other vital statistics. No
doubt every one in society discussed the subject, impelled by President
Roosevelt if by nothing else, and the surface current of social opinion
seemed set as strongly in one direction as the silent undercurrent of
social action ran in the other; but the truth lay somewhere unconscious
in the woman's breast. An elderly man, trying only to learn the law of
social inertia and the limits of social divergence could not compel the
Superintendent of the Census to ask every young woman whether she
wanted children, and how many; he could not even require of an
octogenarian Senate the passage of a law obliging every woman, married
or not, to bear one baby--at the expense of the Treasury--before she
was thirty years old, under penalty of solitary confinement for life;
yet these were vital statistics in more senses than all that bore the
name, and tended more directly to the foundation of a serious society
in the future. He could draw no conclusions whatever except from the
birth-rate. He could not frankly discuss the matter with the young
women themselves, although they would have gladly discussed it, because
Faust was helpless in the tragedy of woman. He could suggest nothing.
The Marguerite of the future could alone decide whether she were better
off than the Marguerite of the past; whether she would rather be victim
to a man, a church, or a machine.

  Between these various forms of inevitable inertia--sex and
race--the student of multiplicity felt inclined to admit
that--ignorance against ignorance--the Russian problem seemed to him
somewhat easier of treatment than the American. Inertia of race and
bulk would require an immense force to overcome it, but in time it
might perhaps be partially overcome. Inertia of sex could not be
overcome without extinguishing the race, yet an immense force, doubling
every few years, was working irresistibly to overcome it. One gazed
mute before this ocean of darkest ignorance that had already engulfed
society. Few centres of great energy lived in illusion more complete or
archaic than Washington with its simple-minded standards of the field
and farm, its Southern and Western habits of life and manners, its
assumptions of ethics and history; but even in Washington, society was
uneasy enough to need no further fretting. One was almost glad to act
the part of horseshoe crab in Quincy Bay, and admit that all was
uniform--that nothing ever changed--and that the woman would swim about
the ocean of future time, as she had swum in the past, with the
gar-fish and the shark, unable to change.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE (1903)

  OF all the travels made by man since the voyages of Dante, this
new exploration along the shores of Multiplicity and Complexity
promised to be the longest, though as yet it had barely touched two
familiar regions--race and sex. Even within these narrow seas the
navigator lost his bearings and followed the winds as they blew. By
chance it happened that Raphael Pumpelly helped the winds; for, being
in Washington on his way to Central Asia he fell to talking with Adams
about these matters, and said that Willard Gibbs thought he got most
help from a book called the "Grammar of Science," by Karl Pearson. To
Adams's vision, Willard Gibbs stood on the same plane with the three or
four greatest minds of his century, and the idea that a man so
incomparably superior should find help anywhere filled him with wonder.
He sent for the volume and read it. From the time he sailed for Europe
and reached his den on the Avenue du Bois until he took his return
steamer at Cherbourg on December 26, he did little but try to kind out
what Karl Pearson could have taught Willard Gibbs.

  Here came in, more than ever, the fatal handicap of ignorance
in mathematics. Not so much the actual tool was needed, as the right to
judge the product of the tool. Ignorant as one was of the finer values
of French or German, and often deceived by the intricacies of thought
hidden in the muddiness of the medium, one could sometimes catch a
tendency to intelligible meaning even in Kant or Hegel; but one had not
the right to a suspicion of error where the tool of thought was
algebra. Adams could see in such parts of the "Grammar" as he could
understand, little more than an enlargement of Stallo's book already
twenty years old. He never found out what it could have taught a master
like Willard Gibbs. Yet the book had a historical value out of all
proportion to its science. No such stride had any Englishman before
taken in the lines of English thought. The progress of science was
measured by the success of the "Grammar," when, for twenty years past,
Stallo had been deliberately ignored under the usual conspiracy of
silence inevitable to all thought which demands new thought-machinery.
Science needs time to reconstruct its instruments, to follow a
revolution in space; a certain lag is inevitable; the most active mind
cannot instantly swerve from its path; but such revolutions are
portentous, and the fall or rise of half-a-dozen empires interested a
student of history less than the rise of the "Grammar of Science," the
more pressingly because, under the silent influence of Langley, he was
prepared to expect it.

  For a number of years Langley had published in his Smithsonian
Reports the revolutionary papers that foretold the overthrow of
nineteenth-century dogma, and among the first was the famous address of
Sir William Crookes on psychical research, followed by a series of
papers on Roentgen and Curie, which had steadily driven the scientific
lawgivers of Unity into the open; but Karl Pearson was the first to pen
them up for slaughter in the schools. The phrase is not stronger than
that with which the "Grammar of Science" challenged the fight:
"Anything more hopelessly illogical than the statements with regard to
Force and Matter current in elementary textbooks of science, it is
difficult to imagine," opened Mr. Pearson, and the responsible author
of the "elementary textbook," as he went on to explain, was Lord Kelvin
himself. Pearson shut out of science everything which the nineteenth
century had brought into it. He told his scholars that they must put up
with a fraction of the universe, and a very small fraction at that--the
circle reached by the senses, where sequence could be taken for
granted--much as the deep-sea fish takes for granted the circle of
light which he generates. "Order and reason, beauty and benevolence,
are characteristics and conceptions which we find solely associated
with the mind of man." The assertion, as a broad truth, left one's mind
in some doubt of its bearing, for order and beauty seemed to be
associated also in the mind of a crystal, if one's senses were to be
admitted as judge; but the historian had no interest in the universal
truth of Pearson's or Kelvin's or Newton's laws; he sought only their
relative drift or direction, and Pearson went on to say that these
conceptions must stop: "Into the chaos beyond sense-impressions we
cannot scientifically project them." We cannot even infer them: "In the
chaos behind sensations, in the 'beyond' of sense-impressions, we
cannot infer necessity, order or routine, for these are concepts formed
by the mind of man on this side of sense-impressions"; but we must
infer chaos: "Briefly chaos is all that science can logically assert of
the supersensuous." The kinetic theory of gas is an assertion of
ultimate chaos. In plain words, Chaos was the law of nature; Order was
the dream of man.

  No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean,
for words are slippery and thought is viscous; but since Bacon and
Newton, English thought had gone on impatiently protesting that no one
must try to know the unknowable at the same time that every one went on
thinking about it. The result was as chaotic as kinetic gas; but with
the thought a historian had nothing to do. He sought only its
direction. For himself he knew, that, in spite of all the Englishmen
that ever lived, he would be forced to enter supersensual chaos if he
meant to find out what became of British science--or indeed of any
other science. From Pythagoras to Herbert Spencer, every one had done
it, although commonly science had explored an ocean which it preferred
to regard as Unity or a Universe, and called Order. Even Hegel, who
taught that every notion included its own negation, used the negation
only to reach a "larger synthesis," till he reached the universal which
thinks itself, contradiction and all. The Church alone had constantly
protested that anarchy was not order, that Satan was not God, that
pantheism was worse than atheism, and that Unity could not be proved as
a contradiction. Karl Pearson seemed to agree with the Church, but
every one else, including Newton, Darwin and Clerk Maxwell, had sailed
gaily into the supersensual, calling it:--

  "One God, one Law, one Element,
   And one far-off, divine event,
   To which the whole creation moves."

  Suddenly, in 1900, science raised its head and denied.

  Yet, perhaps, after all, the change had not been so sudden as
it seemed. Real and actual, it certainly was, and every newspaper
betrayed it, but sequence could scarcely be denied by one who had
watched its steady approach, thinking the change far more interesting
to history than the thought. When he reflected about it, he recalled
that the flow of tide had shown itself at least twenty years before;
that it had become marked as early as 1893; and that the man of science
must have been sleepy indeed who did not jump from his chair like a
scared dog when, in 1898, Mme. Curie threw on his desk the metaphysical
bomb she called radium. There remained no hole to hide in. Even
metaphysics swept back over science with the green water of the
deep-sea ocean and no one could longer hope to bar out the unknowable,
for the unknowable was known.

  The fact was admitted that the uniformitarians of one's youth
had wound about their universe a tangle of contradictions meant only
for temporary support to be merged in "larger synthesis," and had
waited for the larger synthesis in silence and in vain. They had
refused to hear Stallo. They had betrayed little interest in Crookes.
At last their universe had been wrecked by rays, and Karl Pearson
undertook to cut the wreck loose with an axe, leaving science adrift on
a sensual raft in the midst of a supersensual chaos. The confusion
seemed, to a mere passenger, worse than that of 1600 when the
astronomers upset the world; it resembled rather the convulsion of 310
when the Civitas Dei cut itself loose from the Civitas Romae, and the
Cross took the place of the legions; but the historian accepted it all
alike; he knew that his opinion was worthless; only, in this case, he
found himself on the raft, personally and economically concerned in its
drift.

  English thought had always been chaos and multiplicity itself,
in which the new step of Karl Pearson marked only a consistent
progress; but German thought had affected system, unity, and abstract
truth, to a point that fretted the most patient foreigner, and to
Germany the voyager in strange seas of thought alone might resort with
confident hope of renewing his youth. Turning his back on Karl Pearson
and England, he plunged into Germany, and had scarcely crossed the
Rhine when he fell into libraries of new works bearing the names of
Ostwald, Ernst Mach, Ernst Haeckel, and others less familiar, among
whom Haeckel was easiest to approach, not only because of being the
oldest and clearest and steadiest spokesman of nineteenth-century
mechanical convictions, but also because in 1902 he had published a
vehement renewal of his faith. The volume contained only one paragraph
that concerned a historian; it was that in which Haeckel sank his voice
almost to a religious whisper in avowing with evident effort, that the
"proper essence of substance appeared to him more and more marvellous
and enigmatic as he penetrated further into the knowledge of its
attributes--matter and energy--and as he learned to know their
innumerable phenomena and their evolution." Since Haeckel seemed to
have begun the voyage into multiplicity that Pearson had forbidden to
Englishmen, he should have been a safe pilot to the point, at least, of
a "proper essence of substance" in its attributes of matter and energy:
but Ernst Mach seemed to go yet one step further, for he rejected
matter altogether, and admitted but two processes in nature--change of
place and interconversion of forms. Matter was Motion--Motion was
Matter--the thing moved.

  A student of history had no need to understand these scientific
ideas of very great men; he sought only the relation with the ideas of
their grandfathers, and their common direction towards the ideas of
their grandsons. He had long ago reached, with Hegel, the limits of
contradiction; and Ernst Mach scarcely added a shade of variety to the
identity of opposites; but both of them seemed to be in agreement with
Karl Pearson on the facts of the supersensual universe which could be
known only as unknowable.

  With a deep sigh of relief, the traveller turned back to
France. There he felt safe. No Frenchman except Rabelais and Montaigne
had ever taught anarchy other than as path to order. Chaos would be
unity in Paris even if child of the guillotine. To make this assurance
mathematically sure, the highest scientific authority in France was a
great mathematician, M. Poincare of the Institut, who published in 1902
a small volume called "La Science et l'Hypothese," which purported to
be relatively readable. Trusting to its external appearance, the
traveller timidly bought it, and greedily devoured it, without
understanding a single consecutive page, but catching here and there a
period that startled him to the depths of his ignorance, for they
seemed to show that M. Poincare was troubled by the same historical
landmarks which guided or deluded Adams himself: "[In science] we are
led," said M. Poincare, "to act as though a simple law, when other
things were equal, must be more probable than a complicated law. Half a
century ago one frankly confessed it, and proclaimed that nature loves
simplicity. She has since given us too often the lie. To-day this
tendency is no longer avowed, and only as much of it is preserved as is
indispensable so that science shall not become impossible."

  Here at last was a fixed point beyond the chance of confusion
with self-suggestion. History and mathematics agreed. Had M. Poincare
shown anarchistic tastes, his evidence would have weighed less heavily;
but he seemed to be the only authority in science who felt what a
historian felt so strongly--the need of unity in a universe.
"Considering everything we have made some approach towards unity. We
have not gone as fast as we hoped fifty years ago; we have not always
taken the intended road; but definitely we have gained much ground."
This was the most clear and convincing evidence of progress yet offered
to the navigator of ignorance; but suddenly he fell on another view
which seemed to him quite irreconcilable with the first: "Doubtless if
our means of investigation should become more and more penetrating, we
should discover the simple under the complex; then the complex under
the simple; then anew the simple under the complex; and so on without
ever being able to foresee the last term."

  A mathematical paradise of endless displacement promised
eternal bliss to the mathematician, but turned the historian green with
horror. Made miserable by the thought that he knew no mathematics, he
burned to ask whether M. Poincare knew any history, since he began by
begging the historical question altogether, and assuming that the past
showed alternating phases of simple and complex--the precise point that
Adams, after fifty years of effort, found himself forced to surrender;
and then going on to assume alternating phases for the future which,
for the weary Titan of Unity, differed in nothing essential from the
kinetic theory of a perfect gas.

  Since monkeys first began to chatter in trees, neither man nor
beast had ever denied or doubted Multiplicity, Diversity, Complexity,
Anarchy, Chaos. Always and everywhere the Complex had been true and the
Contradiction had been certain. Thought started by it. Mathematics
itself began by counting one--two--three; then imagining their
continuity, which M. Poincare was still exhausting his wits to explain
or defend; and this was his explanation: "In short, the mind has the
faculty of creating symbols, and it is thus that it has constructed
mathematical continuity which is only a particular system of symbols."
With the same light touch, more destructive in its artistic measure
than the heaviest-handed brutality of Englishmen or Germans, he went on
to upset relative truth itself: "How should I answer the question
whether Euclidian Geometry is true? It has no sense!... Euclidian
Geometry is, and will remain, the most convenient."

Chaos was a primary fact even in Paris--especially in Paris--as it was
in the Book of Genesis; but every thinking being in Paris or out of it
had exhausted thought in the effort to prove Unity, Continuity,
Purpose, Order, Law, Truth, the Universe, God, after having begun by
taking it for granted, and discovering, to their profound dismay, that
some minds denied it. The direction of mind, as a single force of
nature, had been constant since history began. Its own unity had
created a universe the essence of which was abstract Truth; the
Absolute; God! To Thomas Aquinas, the universe was still a person; to
Spinoza, a substance; to Kant, Truth was the essence of the "I"; an
innate conviction; a categorical imperative; to Poincare, it was a
convenience; and to Karl Pearson, a medium of exchange.

  The historian never stopped repeating to himself that he knew
nothing about it; that he was a mere instrument of measure, a
barometer, pedometer, radiometer; and that his whole share in the
matter was restricted to the measurement of thought-motion as marked by
the accepted thinkers. He took their facts for granted. He knew no more
than a firefly about rays--or about race--or sex--or ennui--or a bar of
music--or a pang of love--or a grain of musk--or of phosphorus--or
conscience--or duty--or the force of Euclidian geometry--or
non-Euclidian--or heat--or light--or osmosis--or electrolysis--or the
magnet--or ether--or vis inertiae--or gravitation--or cohesion--or
elasticity--or surface tension--or capillary attraction--or Brownian
motion--or of some scores, or thousands, or millions of chemical
attractions, repulsions or indifferences which were busy within and
without him; or, in brief, of Force itself, which, he was credibly
informed, bore some dozen definitions in the textbooks, mostly
contradictory, and all, as he was assured, beyond his intelligence; but
summed up in the dictum of the last and highest science, that Motion
seems to be Matter and Matter seems to be Motion, yet "we are probably
incapable of discovering" what either is. History had no need to ask
what either might be; all it needed to know was the admission of
ignorance; the mere fact of multiplicity baffling science. Even as to
the fact, science disputed, but radium happened to radiate something
that seemed to explode the scientific magazine, bringing thought, for
the time, to a standstill; though, in the line of thought-movement in
history, radium was merely the next position, familiar and inexplicable
since Zeno and his arrow: continuous from the beginning of time, and
discontinuous at each successive point. History set it down on the
record--pricked its position on the chart--and waited to be led, or
misled, once more.

  The historian must not try to know what is truth, if he values
his honesty; for, if he cares for his truths, he is certain to falsify
his facts. The laws of history only repeat the lines of force or
thought. Yet though his will be iron, he cannot help now and then
resuming his humanity or simianity in face of a fear. The motion of
thought had the same value as the motion of a cannon-ball seen
approaching the observer on a direct line through the air. One could
watch its curve for five thousand years. Its first violent acceleration
in historical times had ended in the catastrophe of 310. The next
swerve of direction occurred towards 1500. Galileo and Bacon gave a
still newer curve to it, which altered its values; but all these
changes had never altered the continuity. Only in 1900, the continuity
snapped.

  Vaguely conscious of the cataclysm, the world sometimes dated
it from 1893, by the Roentgen rays, or from 1898, by the Curie's
radium; but in 1904, Arthur Balfour announced on the part of British
science that the human race without exception had lived and died in a
world of illusion until the last year of the century. The date was
convenient, and convenience was truth.

  The child born in 1900 would, then, be born into a new world
which would not be a unity but a multiple. Adams tried to imagine it,
and an education that would fit it. He found himself in a land where no
one had ever penetrated before; where order was an accidental relation
obnoxious to nature; artificial compulsion imposed on motion; against
which every free energy of the universe revolted; and which, being
merely occasional, resolved itself back into anarchy at last. He could
not deny that the law of the new multiverse explained much that had
been most obscure, especially the persistently fiendish treatment of
man by man; the perpetual effort of society to establish law, and the
perpetual revolt of society against the law it had established; the
perpetual building up of authority by force, and the perpetual appeal
to force to overthrow it; the perpetual symbolism of a higher law, and
the perpetual relapse to a lower one; the perpetual victory of the
principles of freedom, and their perpetual conversion into principles
of power; but the staggering problem was the outlook ahead into the
despotism of artificial order which nature abhorred. The physicists had
a phrase for it, unintelligible to the vulgar: "All that we win is a
battle--lost in advance--with the irreversible phenomena in the
background of nature."

  All that a historian won was a vehement wish to escape. He saw
his education complete; and was sorry he ever began it. As a matter of
taste, he greatly preferred his eighteenth-century education when God
was a father and nature a mother, and all was for the best in a
scientific universe. He repudiated all share in the world as it was to
be, and yet he could not detect the point where his responsibility
began or ended.

  As history unveiled itself in the new order, man's mind had
behaved like a young pearl oyster, secreting its universe to suit its
conditions until it had built up a shell of nacre that embodied all its
notions of the perfect. Man knew it was true because he made it, and he
loved it for the same reason. He sacrificed millions of lives to
acquire his unity, but he achieved it, and justly thought it a work of
art. The woman especially did great things, creating her deities on a
higher level than the male, and, in the end, compelling the man to
accept the Virgin as guardian of the man's God. The man's part in his
Universe was secondary, but the woman was at home there, and sacrificed
herself without limit to make it habitable, when man permitted it, as
sometimes happened for brief intervals of war and famine; but she could
not provide protection against forces of nature. She did not think of
her universe as a raft to which the limpets stuck for life in the surge
of a supersensual chaos; she conceived herself and her family as the
centre and flower of an ordered universe which she knew to be unity
because she had made it after the image of her own fecundity; and this
creation of hers was surrounded by beauties and perfections which she
knew to be real because she herself had imagined them.

  Even the masculine philosopher admired and loved and celebrated
her triumph, and the greatest of them sang it in the noblest of his
verses:--

  "Alma Venus, coeli subter labentia signa
   Quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferenteis
   Concelebras ...... .
   Quae quondam rerum naturam sola gubernas,
   Nec sine te quidquam dias in luminis oras
   Exoritur, neque fit laetum neque amabile quidquam;
   Te sociam studeo!"

  Neither man nor woman ever wanted to quit this Eden of their
own invention, and could no more have done it of their own accord than
the pearl oyster could quit its shell; but although the oyster might
perhaps assimilate or embalm a grain of sand forced into its aperture,
it could only perish in face of the cyclonic hurricane or the volcanic
upheaval of its bed. Her supersensual chaos killed her.

  Such seemed the theory of history to be imposed by science on
the generation born after 1900. For this theory, Adams felt himself in
no way responsible. Even as historian he had made it his duty always to
speak with respect of everything that had ever been thought
respectable--except an occasional statesman; but he had submitted to
force all his life, and he meant to accept it for the future as for the
past. All his efforts had been turned only to the search for its
channel. He never invented his facts; they were furnished him by the
only authorities he could find. As for himself, according to Helmholz,
Ernst Mach, and Arthur Balfour, he was henceforth to be a conscious
ball of vibrating motions, traversed in every direction by infinite
lines of rotation or vibration, rolling at the feet of the Virgin at
Chartres or of M. Poincare in an attic at Paris, a centre of
supersensual chaos. The discovery did not distress him. A solitary man
of sixty-five years or more, alone in a Gothic cathedral or a Paris
apartment, need fret himself little about a few illusions more or less.
He should have learned his lesson fifty years earlier; the times had
long passed when a student could stop before chaos or order; he had no
choice but to march with his world.

  Nevertheless, he could not pretend that his mind felt flattered
by this scientific outlook. Every fabulist has told how the human mind
has always struggled like a frightened bird to escape the chaos which
caged it; how--appearing suddenly and inexplicably out of some unknown
and unimaginable void; passing half its known life in the mental chaos
of sleep; victim even when awake, to its own ill-adjustment, to
disease, to age, to external suggestion, to nature's compulsion;
doubting its sensations, and, in the last resort, trusting only to
instruments and averages--after sixty or seventy years of growing
astonishment, the mind wakes to find itself looking blankly into the
void of death. That it should profess itself pleased by this
performance was all that the highest rules of good breeding could ask;
but that it should actually be satisfied would prove that it existed
only as idiocy.

  Satisfied, the future generation could scarcely think itself,
for even when the mind existed in a universe of its own creation, it
had never been quite at ease. As far as one ventured to interpret
actual science, the mind had thus far adjusted itself by an infinite
series of infinitely delicate adjustments forced on it by the infinite
motion of an infinite chaos of motion; dragged at one moment into the
unknowable and unthinkable, then trying to scramble back within its
senses and to bar the chaos out, but always assimilating bits of it,
until at last, in 1900, a new avalanche of unknown forces had fallen on
it, which required new mental powers to control. If this view was
correct, the mind could gain nothing by flight or by fight; it must
merge in its supersensual multiverse, or succumb to it.



CHAPTER XXXII

VIS NOVA (1903-1904)

PARIS after midsummer is a place where only the industrious poor
remain, unless they can get away; but Adams knew no spot where history
would be better off, and the calm of the Champs Elysees was so deep
that when Mr. de Witte was promoted to a powerless dignity, no one
whispered that the promotion was disgrace, while one might have
supposed, from the silence, that the Viceroy Alexeieff had reoccupied
Manchuria as a fulfilment of treaty-obligation. For once, the
conspiracy of silence became crime. Never had so modern and so vital a
riddle been put before Western society, but society shut its eyes.
Manchuria knew every step into war; Japan had completed every
preparation; Alexeieff had collected his army and fleet at Port Arthur,
mounting his siege guns and laying in enormous stores, ready for the
expected attack; from Yokohama to Irkutsk, the whole East was under war
conditions; but Europe knew nothing. The banks would allow no
disturbance; the press said not a word, and even the embassies were
silent. Every anarchist in Europe buzzed excitement and began to
collect in groups, but the Hotel Ritz was calm, and the Grand Dukes who
swarmed there professed to know directly from the Winter Palace that
there would be no war.

  As usual, Adams felt as ignorant as the best-informed
statesman, and though the sense was familiar, for once he could see
that the ignorance was assumed. After nearly fifty years of experience,
he could not understand how the comedy could be so well acted. Even as
late as November, diplomats were gravely asking every passer-by for his
opinion, and avowed none of their own except what was directly
authorized at St. Petersburg. He could make nothing of it. He found
himself in face of his new problem--the workings of Russian
inertia--and he could conceive no way of forming an opinion how much
was real and how much was comedy had he been in the Winter Palace
himself. At times he doubted whether the Grand Dukes or the Czar knew,
but old diplomatic training forbade him to admit such innocence.

  This was the situation at Christmas when he left Paris. On
January 6, 1904, he reached Washington, where the contrast of
atmosphere astonished him, for he had never before seen his country
think as a world-power. No doubt, Japanese diplomacy had much to do
with this alertness, but the immense superiority of Japanese diplomacy
should have been more evident in Europe than in America, and in any
case, could not account for the total disappearance of Russian
diplomacy. A government by inertia greatly disconcerted study. One was
led to suspect that Cassini never heard from his Government, and that
Lamsdorf knew nothing of his own department; yet no such suspicion
could be admitted. Cassini resorted to transparent blague: "Japan
seemed infatuated even to the point of war! But what can the Japanese
do? As usual, sit on their heels and pray to Buddha!" One of the oldest
and most accomplished diplomatists in the service could never show his
hand so empty as this if he held a card to play; but he never betrayed
stronger resource behind. "If any Japanese succeed in entering
Manchuria, they will never get out of it alive." The inertia of
Cassini, who was naturally the most energetic of diplomatists, deeply
interested a student of race-inertia, whose mind had lost itself in the
attempt to invent scales of force.

  The air of official Russia seemed most dramatic in the air of
the White House, by contrast with the outspoken candor of the
President. Reticence had no place there. Every one in America saw that,
whether Russia or Japan were victim, one of the decisive struggles in
American history was pending, and any presence of secrecy or
indifference was absurd. Interest was acute, and curiosity intense, for
no one knew what the Russian Government meant or wanted, while war had
become a question of days. To an impartial student who gravely doubted
whether the Czar himself acted as a conscious force or an inert weight,
the straight-forward avowals of Roosevelt had singular value as a
standard of measure. By chance it happened that Adams was obliged to
take the place of his brother Brooks at the Diplomatic Reception
immediately after his return home, and the part of proxy included his
supping at the President's table, with Secretary Root on one side, the
President opposite, and Miss Chamberlain between them. Naturally the
President talked and the guests listened; which seemed, to one who had
just escaped from the European conspiracy of silence, like drawing a
free breath after stifling. Roosevelt, as every one knew, was always an
amusing talker, and had the reputation of being indiscreet beyond any
other man of great importance in the world, except the Kaiser Wilhelm
and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, the father of his guest at table; and this
evening he spared none. With the usual abuse of the quos ego, common to
vigorous statesmen, he said all that he thought about Russians and
Japanese, as well as about Boers and British, without restraint, in
full hearing of twenty people, to the entire satisfaction of his
listener; and concluded by declaring that war was imminent; that it
ought to be stopped; that it could be stopped: "I could do it myself; I
could stop it to-morrow!" and he went on to explain his reasons for
restraint.

  That he was right, and that, within another generation, his
successor would do what he would have liked to do, made no shadow of
doubt in the mind of his hearer, though it would have been folly when
he last supped at the White House in the dynasty of President Hayes;
but the listener cared less for the assertion of power, than for the
vigor of view. The truth was evident enough, ordinary, even commonplace
if one liked, but it was not a truth of inertia, nor was the method to
be mistaken for inert.

  Nor could the force of Japan be mistaken for a moment as a
force of inertia, although its aggressive was taken as methodically--as
mathematically--as a demonstration of Euclid, and Adams thought that as
against any but Russians it would have lost its opening. Each day
counted as a measure of relative energy on the historical scale, and
the whole story made a Grammar of new Science quite as instructive as
that of Pearson.

  The forces thus launched were bound to reach some new
equilibrium which would prove the problem in one sense or another, and
the war had no personal value for Adams except that it gave Hay his
last great triumph. He had carried on his long contest with Cassini so
skillfully that no one knew enough to understand the diplomatic
perfection of his work, which contained no error; but such success is
complete only when it is invisible, and his victory at last was victory
of judgment, not of act. He could do nothing, and the whole country
would have sprung on him had he tried. Japan and England saved his
"open door" and fought his battle. All that remained for him was to
make the peace, and Adams set his heart on getting the peace quickly in
hand, for Hay's sake as well as for that of Russia. He thought then
that it could be done in one campaign, for he knew that, in a military
sense, the fall of Port Arthur must lead to negotiation, and every one
felt that Hay would inevitably direct it; but the race was close, and
while the war grew every day in proportions, Hay's strength every day
declined.

  St. Gaudens came on to model his head, and Sargent painted his
portrait, two steps essential to immortality which he bore with a
certain degree of resignation, but he grumbled when the President made
him go to St. Louis to address some gathering at the Exposition; and
Mrs. Hay bade Adams go with them, for whatever use he could suppose
himself to serve. He professed the religion of World's Fairs, without
which he held education to be a blind impossibility; and obeyed Mrs.
Hay's bidding the more readily because it united his two educations in
one; but theory and practice were put to equally severe test at St.
Louis. Ten years had passed since he last crossed the Mississippi, and
he found everything new. In this great region from Pittsburgh through
Ohio and Indiana, agriculture had made way for steam; tall chimneys
reeked smoke on every horizon, and dirty suburbs filled with
scrap-iron, scrap-paper and cinders, formed the setting of every town.
Evidently, cleanliness was not to be the birthmark of the new American,
but this matter of discards concerned the measure of force little,
while the chimneys and cinders concerned it so much that Adams thought
the Secretary of State should have rushed to the platform at every
station to ask who were the people; for the American of the prime
seemed to be extinct with the Shawnee and the buffalo.

  The subject grew quickly delicate. History told little about
these millions of Germans and Slavs, or whatever their race-names, who
had overflowed these regions as though the Rhine and the Danube had
turned their floods into the Ohio. John Hay was as strange to the
Mississippi River as though he had not been bred on its shores, and the
city of St. Louis had turned its back on the noblest work of nature,
leaving it bankrupt between its own banks. The new American showed his
parentage proudly; he was the child of steam and the brother of the
dynamo, and already, within less than thirty years, this mass of mixed
humanities, brought together by steam, was squeezed and welded into
approach to shape; a product of so much mechanical power, and bearing
no distinctive marks but that of its pressure. The new American, like
the new European, was the servant of the powerhouse, as the European of
the twelfth century was the servant of the Church, and the features
would follow the parentage.

  The St. Louis Exposition was its first creation in the
twentieth century, and, for that reason, acutely interesting. One saw
here a third-rate town of half-a-million people without history,
education, unity, or art, and with little capital--without even an
element of natural interest except the river which it studiously
ignored--but doing what London, Paris, or New York would have shrunk
from attempting. This new social conglomerate, with no tie but its
steam-power and not much of that, threw away thirty or forty million
dollars on a pageant as ephemeral as a stage flat. The world had never
witnessed so marvellous a phantasm by night Arabia's crimson sands had
never returned a glow half so astonishing, as one wandered among long
lines of white palaces, exquisitely lighted by thousands on thousands
of electric candles, soft, rich, shadowy, palpable in their sensuous
depths; all in deep silence, profound solitude, listening for a voice
or a foot-fall or the plash of an oar, as though the Emir Mirza were
displaying the beauties of this City of Brass, which could show nothing
half so beautiful as this illumination, with its vast, white,
monumental solitude, bathed in the pure light of setting suns. One
enjoyed it with iniquitous rapture, not because of exhibits but rather
because of their want. Here was a paradox like the stellar universe
that fitted one's mental faults. Had there been no exhibits at all, and
no visitors, one would have enjoyed it only the more.

  Here education found new forage. That the power was wasted, the
art indifferent, the economic failure complete, added just so much to
the interest. The chaos of education approached a dream. One asked
one's self whether this extravagance reflected the past or imaged the
future; whether it was a creation of the old American or a promise of
the new one. No prophet could be believed, but a pilgrim of power,
without constituency to flatter, might allow himself to hope. The
prospect from the Exposition was pleasant; one seemed to see almost an
adequate motive for power; almost a scheme for progress. In another
half-century, the people of the central valleys should have hundreds of
millions to throw away more easily than in 1900 they could throw away
tens; and by that time they might know what they wanted. Possibly they
might even have learned how to reach it.

  This was an optimist's hope, shared by few except pilgrims of
World's Fairs, and frankly dropped by the multitude, for, east of the
Mississippi, the St. Louis Exposition met a deliberate conspiracy of
silence, discouraging, beyond measure, to an optimistic dream of future
strength in American expression. The party got back to Washington on
May 24, and before sailing for Europe, Adams went over, one warm
evening, to bid good-bye on the garden-porch of the White House. He
found himself the first person who urged Mrs. Roosevelt to visit the
Exposition for its beauty, and, as far as he ever knew, the last.

  He left St. Louis May 22, 1904, and on Sunday, June 5, found
himself again in the town of Coutances, where the people of Normandy
had built, towards the year 1250, an Exposition which architects still
admired and tourists visited, for it was thought singularly expressive
of force as well as of grace in the Virgin. On this Sunday, the Norman
world was celebrating a pretty church-feast--the Fete Dieu--and the
streets were filled with altars to the Virgin, covered with flowers and
foliage; the pavements strewn with paths of leaves and the spring
handiwork of nature; the cathedral densely thronged at mass. The scene
was graceful. The Virgin did not shut her costly Exposition on Sunday,
or any other day, even to American senators who had shut the St. Louis
Exposition to her--or for her; and a historical tramp would gladly have
offered a candle, or even a candle-stick in her honor, if she would
have taught him her relation with the deity of the Senators. The power
of the Virgin had been plainly One, embracing all human activity; while
the power of the Senate, or its deity, seemed--might one say--to be
more or less ashamed of man and his work. The matter had no great
interest as far as it concerned the somewhat obscure mental processes
of Senators who could probably have given no clearer idea than priests
of the deity they supposed themselves to honor--if that was indeed
their purpose; but it interested a student of force, curious to measure
its manifestations. Apparently the Virgin--or her Son--had no longer
the force to build expositions that one cared to visit, but had the
force to close them. The force was still real, serious, and, at St.
Louis, had been anxiously measured in actual money-value.

  That it was actual and serious in France as in the Senate
Chamber at Washington, proved itself at once by forcing Adams to buy an
automobile, which was a supreme demonstration because this was the form
of force which Adams most abominated. He had set aside the summer for
study of the Virgin, not as a sentiment but as a motive power, which
had left monuments widely scattered and not easily reached. The
automobile alone could unite them in any reasonable sequence, and
although the force of the automobile, for the purposes of a commercial
traveller, seemed to have no relation whatever to the force that
inspired a Gothic cathedral, the Virgin in the twelfth century would
have guided and controlled both bag-man and architect, as she
controlled the seeker of history. In his mind the problem offered
itself as to Newton; it was a matter of mutual attraction, and he knew
it, in his own case, to be a formula as precise as s = gt^2/2, if he
could but experimentally prove it. Of the attraction he needed no proof
on his own account; the costs of his automobile were more than
sufficient: but as teacher he needed to speak for others than himself.
For him, the Virgin was an adorable mistress, who led the automobile
and its owner where she would, to her wonderful palaces and chateaux,
from Chartres to Rouen, and thence to Amiens and Laon, and a score of
others, kindly receiving, amusing, charming and dazzling her lover, as
though she were Aphrodite herself, worth all else that man ever
dreamed. He never doubted her force, since he felt it to the last fibre
of his being, and could not more dispute its mastery than he could
dispute the force of gravitation of which he knew nothing but the
formula. He was only too glad to yield himself entirely, not to her
charm or to any sentimentality of religion, but to her mental and
physical energy of creation which had built up these World's Fairs of
thirteenth-century force that turned Chicago and St. Louis pale.

  "Both were faiths and both are gone," said Matthew Arnold of
the Greek and Norse divinities; but the business of a student was to
ask where they had gone. The Virgin had not even altogether gone; her
fading away had been excessively slow. Her adorer had pursued her too
long, too far, and into too many manifestations of her power, to admit
that she had any equivalent either of quantity or kind, in the actual
world, but he could still less admit her annihilation as energy.

  So he went on wooing, happy in the thought that at last he had
found a mistress who could see no difference in the age of her lovers.
Her own age had no time-measure. For years past, incited by John La
Farge, Adams had devoted his summer schooling to the study of her glass
at Chartres and elsewhere, and if the automobile had one vitesse more
useful than another, it was that of a century a minute; that of passing
from one century to another without break. The centuries dropped like
autumn leaves in one's road, and one was not fined for running over
them too fast. When the thirteenth lost breath, the fourteenth caught
on, and the sixteenth ran close ahead. The hunt for the Virgin's glass
opened rich preserves. Especially the sixteenth century ran riot in
sensuous worship. Then the ocean of religion, which had flooded France,
broke into Shelley's light dissolved in star-showers thrown, which had
left every remote village strewn with fragments that flashed like
jewels, and were tossed into hidden clefts of peace and forgetfulness.
One dared not pass a parish church in Champagne or Touraine without
stopping to look for its window of fragments, where one's glass
discovered the Christ-child in his manger, nursed by the head of a
fragmentary donkey, with a Cupid playing into its long ears from the
balustrade of a Venetian palace, guarded by a legless Flemish
leibwache, standing on his head with a broken halbert; all invoked in
prayer by remnants of the donors and their children that might have
been drawn by Fouquet or Pinturicchio, in colors as fresh and living as
the day they were burned in, and with feeling that still consoled the
faithful for the paradise they had paid for and lost. France abounds in
sixteenth-century glass. Paris alone contains acres of it, and the
neighborhood within fifty miles contains scores of churches where the
student may still imagine himself three hundred years old, kneeling
before the Virgin's window in the silent solitude of an empty faith,
crying his culp, beating his breast, confessing his historical sins,
weighed down by the rubbish of sixty-six years' education, and still
desperately hoping to understand.

  He understood a little, though not much. The sixteenth century
had a value of its own, as though the ONE had become several, and Unity
had counted more than Three, though the Multiple still showed modest
numbers. The glass had gone back to the Roman Empire and forward to the
American continent; it betrayed sympathy with Montaigne and
Shakespeare; but the Virgin was still supreme. At Beauvais in the
Church of St. Stephen was a superb tree of Jesse, famous as the work of
Engrand le Prince, about 1570 or 1580, in whose branches, among the
fourteen ancestors of the Virgin, three-fourths bore features of the
Kings of France, among them Francis I and Henry II, who were hardly
more edifying than Kings of Israel, and at least unusual as sources of
divine purity. Compared with the still more famous Tree of Jesse at
Chartres, dating from 1150 or thereabouts, must one declare that
Engrand le Prince proved progress? and in what direction? Complexity,
Multiplicity, even a step towards Anarchy, it might suggest, but what
step towards perfection?

  One late afternoon, at midsummer, the Virgin's pilgrim was
wandering through the streets of Troyes in close and intimate
conversation with Thibaut of Champagne and his highly intelligent
seneschal, the Sieur de Joinville, when he noticed one or two men
looking at a bit of paper stuck in a window. Approaching, he read that
M. de Plehve had been assassinated at St. Petersburg. The mad mixture
of Russia and the Crusades, of the Hippodrome and the Renaissance,
drove him for refuge into the fascinating Church of St. Pantaleon near
by. Martyrs, murderers, Caesars, saints and assassins--half in glass
and half in telegram; chaos of time, place, morals, forces and
motive--gave him vertigo. Had one sat all one's life on the steps of
Ara Coeli for this? Was assassination forever to be the last word of
Progress? No one in the street had shown a sign of protest; he himself
felt none; the charming Church with its delightful windows, in its
exquisite absence of other tourists, took a keener expression of
celestial peace than could have been given it by any contrast short of
explosive murder; the conservative Christian anarchist had come to his
own, but which was he--the murderer or the murdered?

  The Virgin herself never looked so winning--so One--as in
this scandalous failure of her Grace. To what purpose had she existed,
if, after nineteen hundred years, the world was bloodier than when she
was born? The stupendous failure of Christianity tortured history. The
effort for Unity could not be a partial success; even alternating Unity
resolved itself into meaningless motion at last. To the tired student,
the idea that he must give it up seemed sheer senility. As long as he
could whisper, he would go on as he had begun, bluntly refusing to meet
his creator with the admission that the creation had taught him nothing
except that the square of the hypothenuse of a right-angled triangle
might for convenience be taken as equal to something else. Every man
with self-respect enough to become effective, if only as a machine, has
had to account to himself for himself somehow, and to invent a formula
of his own for his universe, if the standard formulas failed. There,
whether finished or not, education stopped. The formula, once made,
could be but verified.

  The effort must begin at once, for time pressed. The old
formulas had failed, and a new one had to be made, but, after all, the
object was not extravagant or eccentric. One sought no absolute truth.
One sought only a spool on which to wind the thread of history without
breaking it. Among indefinite possible orbits, one sought the orbit
which would best satisfy the observed movement of the runaway star
Groombridge, 1838, commonly called Henry Adams. As term of a
nineteenth-century education, one sought a common factor for certain
definite historical fractions. Any schoolboy could work out the problem
if he were given the right to state it in his own terms.

  Therefore, when the fogs and frosts stopped his slaughter of
the centuries, and shut him up again in his garret, he sat down as
though he were again a boy at school to shape after his own needs the
values of a Dynamic Theory of History.



CHAPTER XXXIII

A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY (1904)

  A DYNAMIC theory, like most theories, begins by begging the
question: it defines Progress as the development and economy of Forces.
Further, it defines force as anything that does, or helps to do work.
Man is a force; so is the sun; so is a mathematical point, though
without dimensions or known existence.

  Man commonly begs the question again taking for granted that he
captures the forces. A dynamic theory, assigning attractive force to
opposing bodies in proportion to the law of mass, takes for granted
that the forces of nature capture man. The sum of force attracts; the
feeble atom or molecule called man is attracted; he suffers education
or growth; he is the sum of the forces that attract him; his body and
his thought are alike their product; the movement of the forces
controls the progress of his mind, since he can know nothing but the
motions which impinge on his senses, whose sum makes education.

  For convenience as an image, the theory may liken man to a
spider in its web, watching for chance prey. Forces of nature dance
like flies before the net, and the spider pounces on them when it can;
but it makes many fatal mistakes, though its theory of force is sound.
The spider-mind acquires a faculty of memory, and, with it, a singular
skill of analysis and synthesis, taking apart and putting together in
different relations the meshes of its trap. Man had in the beginning no
power of analysis or synthesis approaching that of the spider, or even
of the honey-bee; he had acute sensibility to the higher forces. Fire
taught him secrets that no other animal could learn; running water
probably taught him even more, especially in his first lessons of
mechanics; the animals helped to educate him, trusting themselves into
his hands merely for the sake of their food, and carrying his burdens
or supplying his clothing; the grasses and grains were academies of
study. With little or no effort on his part, all these forces formed
his thought, induced his action, and even shaped his figure.

  Long before history began, his education was complete, for the
record could not have been started until he had been taught to record.
The universe that had formed him took shape in his mind as a reflection
of his own unity, containing all forces except himself. Either
separately, or in groups, or as a whole, these forces never ceased to
act on him, enlarging his mind as they enlarged the surface foliage of
a vegetable, and the mind needed only to respond, as the forests did,
to these attractions. Susceptibility to the highest forces is the
highest genius; selection between them is the highest science; their
mass is the highest educator. Man always made, and still makes,
grotesque blunders in selecting and measuring forces, taken at random
from the heap, but he never made a mistake in the value he set on the
whole, which he symbolized as unity and worshipped as God. To this day,
his attitude towards it has never changed, though science can no longer
give to force a name.

  Man's function as a force of nature was to assimilate other
forces as he assimilated food. He called it the love of power. He felt
his own feebleness, and he sought for an ass or a camel, a bow or a
sling, to widen his range of power, as he sough fetish or a planet in
the world beyond. He cared little to know its immediate use, but he
could afford to throw nothing away which he could conceive to have
possible value in this or any other existence. He waited for the object
to teach him its use, or want of use, and the process was slow. He may
have gone on for hundreds of thousands of years, waiting for Nature to
tell him her secrets; and, to his rivals among the monkeys, Nature has
taught no more than at their start; but certain lines of force were
capable of acting on individual apes, and mechanically selecting types
of race or sources of variation. The individual that responded or
reacted to lines of new force then was possibly the same individual
that reacts on it now, and his conception of the unity seems never to
have changed in spite of the increasing diversity of forces; but the
theory of variation is an affair of other science than history, and
matters nothing to dynamics. The individual or the race would be
educated on the same lines of illusion, which, according to Arthur
Balfour, had not essentially varied down to the year 1900.

  To the highest attractive energy, man gave the name of divine,
and for its control he invented the science called Religion, a word
which meant, and still means, cultivation of occult force whether in
detail or mass. Unable to define Force as a unity, man symbolized it
and pursued it, both in himself, and in the infinite, as philosophy and
theology; the mind is itself the subtlest of all known forces, and its
self-introspection necessarily created a science which had the singular
value of lifting his education, at the start, to the finest, subtlest,
and broadest training both in analysis and synthesis, so that, if
language is a test, he must have reached his highest powers early in
his history; while the mere motive remained as simple an appetite for
power as the tribal greed which led him to trap an elephant. Hunger,
whether for food or for the infinite, sets in motion multiplicity and
infinity of thought, and the sure hope of gaining a share of infinite
power in eternal life would lift most minds to effort.

  He had reached this completeness five thousand years ago, and
added nothing to his stock of known forces for a very long time. The
mass of nature exercised on him so feeble an attraction that one can
scarcely account for his apparent motion. Only a historian of very
exceptional knowledge would venture to say at what date between 3000
B.C. and 1000 A.D., the momentum of Europe was greatest; but such
progress as the world made consisted in economies of energy rather than
in its development; it was proved in mathematics, measured by names
like Archimedes, Aristarchus, Ptolemy, and Euclid; or in Civil Law,
measured by a number of names which Adams had begun life by failing to
learn; or in coinage, which was most beautiful near its beginning, and
most barbarous at its close; or it was shown in roads, or the size of
ships, or harbors; or by the use of metals, instruments, and writing;
all of them economies of force, sometimes more forceful than the forces
they helped; but the roads were still travelled by the horse, the ass,
the camel, or the slave; the ships were still propelled by sails or
oars; the lever, the spring, and the screw bounded the region of
applied mechanics. Even the metals were old.

  Much the same thing could be said of religious or supernatural
forces. Down to the year 300 of the Christian era they were little
changed, and in spite of Plato and the sceptics were more apparently
chaotic than ever. The experience of three thousand years had educated
society to feel the vastness of Nature, and the infinity of her
resources of power, but even this increase of attraction had not yet
caused economies in its methods of pursuit.

  There the Western world stood till the year A.D. 305, when the
Emperor Diocletian abdicated; and there it was that Adams broke down on
the steps of Ara Coeli, his path blocked by the scandalous failure of
civilization at the moment it had achieved complete success. In the
year 305 the empire had solved the problems of Europe more completely
than they have ever been solved since. The Pax Romana, the Civil Law,
and Free Trade should, in four hundred years, have put Europe far in
advance of the point reached by modern society in the four hundred
years since 1500, when conditions were less simple.

  The efforts to explain, or explain away, this scandal had been
incessant, but none suited Adams unless it were the economic theory of
adverse exchanges and exhaustion of minerals; but nations are not
ruined beyond a certain point by adverse exchanges, and Rome had by no
means exhausted her resources. On the contrary, the empire developed
resources and energies quite astounding. No other four hundred years of
history before A.D. 1800 knew anything like it; and although some of
these developments, like the Civil Law, the roads, aqueducts, and
harbors, were rather economies than force, yet in northwestern Europe
alone the empire had developed three energies--France, England, and
Germany--competent to master the world. The trouble seemed rather to be
that the empire developed too much energy, and too fast.

A dynamic law requires that two masses--nature and man--must go on,
reacting upon each other, without stop, as the sun and a comet react on
each other, and that any appearance of stoppage is illusive. The theory
seems to exact excess, rather than deficiency, of action and reaction
to account for the dissolution of the Roman Empire, which should, as a
problem of mechanics, have been torn to pieces by acceleration. If the
student means to try the experiment of framing a dynamic law, he must
assign values to the forces of attraction that caused the trouble; and
in this case he has them in plain evidence. With the relentless logic
that stamped Roman thought, the empire, which had established unity on
earth, could not help establishing unity in heaven. It was induced by
its dynamic necessities to economize the gods.

  The Church has never ceased to protest against the charge that
Christianity ruined the empire, and, with its usual force, has pointed
out that its reforms alone saved the State. Any dynamic theory gladly
admits it. All it asks is to find and follow the force that attracts.
The Church points out this force in the Cross, and history needs only
to follow it. The empire loudly asserted its motive. Good taste forbids
saying that Constantine the Great speculated as audaciously as a modern
stock-broker on values of which he knew at the utmost only the volume;
or that he merged all uncertain forces into a single trust, which he
enormously overcapitalized, and forced on the market; but this is the
substance of what Constantine himself said in his Edict of Milan in the
year 313, which admitted Christianity into the Trust of State
Religions. Regarded as an Act of Congress, it runs: "We have resolved
to grant to Christians as well as all others the liberty to practice
the religion they prefer, in order that whatever exists of divinity or
celestial power may help and favor us and all who are under our
government." The empire pursued power--not merely spiritual but
physical--in the sense in which Constantine issued his army order the
year before, at the battle of the Milvian Bridge: In hoc signo vinces!
using the Cross as a train of artillery, which, to his mind, it was.
Society accepted it in the same character. Eighty years afterwards,
Theodosius marched against his rival Eugene with the Cross for physical
champion; and Eugene raised the image of Hercules to fight for the
pagans; while society on both sides looked on, as though it were a
boxing-match, to decide a final test of force between the divine
powers. The Church was powerless to raise the ideal. What is now known
as religion affected the mind of old society but little. The laity, the
people, the million, almost to a man, bet on the gods as they bet on a
horse.

  No doubt the Church did all it could to purify the process, but
society was almost wholly pagan in its point of view, and was drawn to
the Cross because, in its system of physics, the Cross had absorbed all
the old occult or fetish-power. The symbol represented the sum of
nature--the Energy of modern science--and society believed it to be as
real as X-rays; perhaps it was! The emperors used it like gunpowder in
politics; the physicians used it like rays in medicine; the dying clung
to it as the quintessence of force, to protect them from the forces of
evil on their road to the next life.

  Throughout these four centuries the empire knew that religion
disturbed economy, for even the cost of heathen incense affected the
exchanges; but no one could afford to buy or construct a costly and
complicated machine when he could hire an occult force at trifling
expense. Fetish-power was cheap and satisfactory, down to a certain
point. Turgot and Auguste Comte long ago fixed this stage of economy as
a necessary phase of social education, and historians seem now to
accept it as the only gain yet made towards scientific history. Great
numbers of educated people--perhaps a majority--cling to the method
still, and practice it more or less strictly; but, until quite
recently, no other was known. The only occult power at man's disposal
was fetish. Against it, no mechanical force could compete except within
narrow limits.

  Outside of occult or fetish-power, the Roman world was
incredibly poor. It knew but one productive energy resembling a modern
machine--the slave. No artificial force of serious value was applied to
production or transportation, and when society developed itself so
rapidly in political and social lines, it had no other means of keeping
its economy on the same level than to extend its slave-system and its
fetish-system to the utmost.

The result might have been stated in a mathematical formula as early as
the time of Archimedes, six hundred years before Rome fell. The
economic needs of a violently centralizing society forced the empire to
enlarge its slave-system until the slave-system consumed itself and the
empire too, leaving society no resource but further enlargement of its
religious system in order to compensate for the losses and horrors of
the failure. For a vicious circle, its mathematical completeness
approached perfection. The dynamic law of attraction and reaction
needed only a Newton to fix it in algebraic form.

  At last, in 410, Alaric sacked Rome, and the slave-ridden,
agricultural, uncommercial Western Empire--the poorer and less
Christianized half--went to pieces. Society, though terribly shocked by
the horrors of Alaric's storm, felt still more deeply the
disappointment in its new power, the Cross, which had failed to protect
its Church. The outcry against the Cross became so loud among
Christians that its literary champion, Bishop Augustine of Hippo--a
town between Algiers and Tunis--was led to write a famous treatise in
defence of the Cross, familiar still to every scholar, in which he
defended feebly the mechanical value of the symbol--arguing only that
pagan symbols equally failed--but insisted on its spiritual value in
the Civitas Dei which had taken the place of the Civitas Romae in human
interest. "Granted that we have lost all we had! Have we lost faith?
Have we lost piety? Have we lost the wealth of the inner man who is
rich before God? These are the wealth of Christians!" The Civitas Dei,
in its turn, became the sum of attraction for the Western world, though
it also showed the same weakness in mechanics that had wrecked the
Civitas Romae. St. Augustine and his people perished at Hippo towards
430, leaving society in appearance dull to new attraction.

  Yet the attraction remained constant. The delight of
experimenting on occult force of every kind is such as to absorb all
the free thought of the human race. The gods did their work; history
has no quarrel with them; they led, educated, enlarged the mind; taught
knowledge; betrayed ignorance; stimulated effort. So little is known
about the mind--whether social, racial, sexual or heritable; whether
material or spiritual; whether animal, vegetable or mineral--that
history is inclined to avoid it altogether; but nothing forbids one to
admit, for convenience, that it may assimilate food like the body,
storing new force and growing, like a forest, with the storage. The
brain has not yet revealed its mysterious mechanism of gray matter.
Never has Nature offered it so violent a stimulant as when she opened
to it the possibility of sharing infinite power in eternal life, and it
might well need a thousand years of prolonged and intense experiment to
prove the value of the motive. During these so-called Middle Ages, the
Western mind reacted in many forms, on many sides, expressing its
motives in modes, such as Romanesque and Gothic architecture, glass
windows and mosaic walls, sculpture and poetry, war and love, which
still affect some people as the noblest work of man, so that, even
to-day, great masses of idle and ignorant tourists travel from far
countries to look at Ravenna and San Marco, Palermo and Pisa, Assisi,
Cordova, Chartres, with vague notions about the force that created
them, but with a certain surprise that a social mind of such singular
energy and unity should still lurk in their shadows.

  The tourist more rarely visits Constantinople or studies the
architecture of Sancta Sofia, but when he does, he is distinctly
conscious of forces not quite the same. Justinian has not the
simplicity of Charlemagne. The Eastern Empire showed an activity and
variety of forces that classical Europe had never possessed. The navy
of Nicephoras Phocas in the tenth century would have annihilated in
half an hour any navy that Carthage or Athens or Rome ever set afloat.
The dynamic scheme began by asserting rather recklessly that between
the Pyramids (B.C. 3000), and the Cross (A.D. 300), no new force
affected Western progress, and antiquarians may easily dispute the
fact; but in any case the motive influence, old or new, which raised
both Pyramids and Cross was the same attraction of power in a future
life that raised the dome of Sancta Sofia and the Cathedral at Amiens,
however much it was altered, enlarged, or removed to distance in space.
Therefore, no single event has more puzzled historians than the sudden,
unexplained appearance of at least two new natural forces of the
highest educational value in mechanics, for the first time within
record of history. Literally, these two forces seemed to drop from the
sky at the precise moment when the Cross on one side and the Crescent
on the other, proclaimed the complete triumph of the Civitas Dei. Had
the Manichean doctrine of Good and Evil as rival deities been orthodox,
it would alone have accounted for this simultaneous victory of hostile
powers.

  Of the compass, as a step towards demonstration of the dynamic
law, one may confidently say that it proved, better than any other
force, the widening scope of the mind, since it widened immensely the
range of contact between nature and thought. The compass educated. This
must prove itself as needing no proof.

  Of Greek fire and gunpowder, the same thing cannot certainly be
said, for they have the air of accidents due to the attraction of
religious motives. They belong to the spiritual world; or to the
doubtful ground of Magic which lay between Good and Evil. They were
chemical forces, mostly explosives, which acted and still act as the
most violent educators ever known to man, but they were justly feared
as diabolic, and whatever insolence man may have risked towards the
milder teachers of his infancy, he was an abject pupil towards
explosives. The Sieur de Joinville left a record of the energy with
which the relatively harmless Greek fire educated and enlarged the
French mind in a single night in the year 1249, when the crusaders were
trying to advance on Cairo. The good king St. Louis and all his staff
dropped on their knees at every fiery flame that flew by, praying--"God
have pity on us!" and never had man more reason to call on his gods
than they, for the battle of religion between Christian and Saracen was
trifling compared with that of education between gunpowder and the
Cross.

  The fiction that society educated itself, or aimed at a
conscious purpose, was upset by the compass and gunpowder which dragged
and drove Europe at will through frightful bogs of learning. At first,
the apparent lag for want of volume in the new energies lasted one or
two centuries, which closed the great epochs of emotion by the Gothic
cathedrals and scholastic theology. The moment had Greek beauty and
more than Greek unity, but it was brief; and for another century or
two, Western society seemed to float in space without apparent motion.
Yet the attractive mass of nature's energy continued to attract, and
education became more rapid than ever before. Society began to resist,
but the individual showed greater and greater insistence, without
realizing what he was doing. When the Crescent drove the Cross in
ignominy from Constantinople in 1453, Gutenberg and Fust were printing
their first Bible at Mainz under the impression that they were helping
the Cross. When Columbus discovered the West Indies in 1492, the Church
looked on it as a victory of the Cross. When Luther and Calvin upset
Europe half a century later, they were trying, like St. Augustine, to
substitute the Civitas Dei for the Civitas Romae. When the Puritans set
out for New England in 1620, they too were looking to found a Civitas
Dei in State Street; and when Bunyan made his Pilgrimage in 1678, he
repeated St. Jerome. Even when, after centuries of license, the Church
reformed its discipline, and, to prove it, burned Giordano Bruno in
1600, besides condemning Galileo in 1630--as science goes on repeating
to us every day--it condemned anarchists, not atheists. None of the
astronomers were irreligious men; all of them made a point of
magnifying God through his works; a form of science which did their
religion no credit. Neither Galileo nor Kepler, neither Spinoza nor
Descartes, neither Leibnitz nor Newton, any more than Constantine the
Great--if so much--doubted Unity. The utmost range of their heresies
reached only its personality.

  This persistence of thought-inertia is the leading idea of
modern history. Except as reflected in himself, man has no reason for
assuming unity in the universe, or an ultimate substance, or a
prime-motor. The a priori insistence on this unity ended by fatiguing
the more active--or reactive--minds; and Lord Bacon tried to stop it.
He urged society to lay aside the idea of evolving the universe from a
thought, and to try evolving thought from the universe. The mind should
observe and register forces--take them apart and put them
together--without assuming unity at all. "Nature, to be commanded, must
be obeyed." "The imagination must be given not wings but weights." As
Galileo reversed the action of earth and sun, Bacon reversed the
relation of thought to force. The mind was thenceforth to follow the
movement of matter, and unity must be left to shift for itself.

  The revolution in attitude seemed voluntary, but in fact was as
mechanical as the fall of a feather. Man created nothing. After 1500,
the speed of progress so rapidly surpassed man's gait as to alarm every
one, as though it were the acceleration of a falling body which the
dynamic theory takes it to be. Lord Bacon was as much astonished by it
as the Church was, and with reason. Suddenly society felt itself
dragged into situations altogether new and anarchic--situations which
it could not affect, but which painfully affected it. Instinct taught
it that the universe in its thought must be in danger when its
reflection lost itself in space. The danger was all the greater because
men of science covered it with "larger synthesis," and poets called the
undevout astronomer mad. Society knew better. Yet the telescope held it
rigidly standing on its head; the microscope revealed a universe that
defied the senses; gunpowder killed whole races that lagged behind; the
compass coerced the most imbruted mariner to act on the impossible idea
that the earth was round; the press drenched Europe with anarchism.
Europe saw itself, violently resisting, wrenched into false positions,
drawn along new lines as a fish that is caught on a hook; but unable to
understand by what force it was controlled. The resistance was often
bloody, sometimes humorous, always constant. Its contortions in the
eighteenth century are best studied in the wit of Voltaire, but all
history and all philosophy from Montaigne and Pascal to Schopenhauer
and Nietzsche deal with nothing else; and still, throughout it all, the
Baconian law held good; thought did not evolve nature, but nature
evolved thought. Not one considerable man of science dared face the
stream of thought; and the whole number of those who acted, like
Franklin, as electric conductors of the new forces from nature to man,
down to the year 1800, did not exceed a few score, confined to a few
towns in western Europe. Asia refused to be touched by the stream, and
America, except for Franklin, stood outside.

  Very slowly the accretion of these new forces, chemical and
mechanical, grew in volume until they acquired sufficient mass to take
the place of the old religious science, substituting their attraction
for the attractions of the Civitas Dei, but the process remained the
same. Nature, not mind, did the work that the sun does on the planets.
Man depended more and more absolutely on forces other than his own, and
on instruments which superseded his senses. Bacon foretold it: "Neither
the naked hand nor the understanding, left to itself, can effect much.
It is by instruments and helps that the work is done." Once done, the
mind resumed its illusion, and society forgot its impotence; but no one
better than Bacon knew its tricks, and for his true followers science
always meant self-restraint, obedience, sensitiveness to impulse from
without. "Non fingendum aut excogitandum sed inveniendum quid Natura
faciat aut ferat."

  The success of this method staggers belief, and even to-day can
be treated by history only as a miracle of growth, like the sports of
nature. Evidently a new variety of mind had appeared. Certain men
merely held out their hands--like Newton, watched an apple; like
Franklin, flew a kite; like Watt, played with a tea-kettle--and great
forces of nature stuck to them as though she were playing ball.
Governments did almost nothing but resist. Even gunpowder and ordnance,
the great weapon of government, showed little development between 1400
and 1800. Society was hostile or indifferent, as Priestley and Jenner,
and even Fulton, with reason complained in the most advanced societies
in the world, while its resistance became acute wherever the Church
held control; until all mankind seemed to draw itself out in a long
series of groups, dragged on by an attractive power in advance, which
even the leaders obeyed without understanding, as the planets obeyed
gravity, or the trees obeyed heat and light.

  The influx of new force was nearly spontaneous. The reaction of
mind on the mass of nature seemed not greater than that of a comet on
the sun; and had the spontaneous influx of force stopped in Europe,
society must have stood still, or gone backward, as in Asia or Africa.
Then only economies of process would have counted as new force, and
society would have been better pleased; for the idea that new force
must be in itself a good is only an animal or vegetable instinct. As
Nature developed her hidden energies, they tended to become
destructive. Thought itself became tortured, suffering reluctantly,
impatiently, painfully, the coercion of new method. Easy thought had
always been movement of inertia, and mostly mere sentiment; but even
the processes of mathematics measured feebly the needs of force.

  The stupendous acceleration after 1800 ended in 1900 with the
appearance of the new class of supersensual forces, before which the
man of science stood at first as bewildered and helpless as, in the
fourth century, a priest of Isis before the Cross of Christ.

  This, then, or something like this, would be a dynamic formula
of history. Any schoolboy knows enough to object at once that it is the
oldest and most universal of all theories. Church and State, theology
and philosophy, have always preached it, differing only in the
allotment of energy between nature and man. Whether the attractive
energy has been called God or Nature, the mechanism has been always the
same, and history is not obliged to decide whether the Ultimate tends
to a purpose or not, or whether ultimate energy is one or many. Every
one admits that the will is a free force, habitually decided by
motives. No one denies that motives exist adequate to decide the will;
even though it may not always be conscious of them. Science has proved
that forces, sensible and occult, physical and metaphysical, simple and
complex, surround, traverse, vibrate, rotate, repel, attract, without
stop; that man's senses are conscious of few, and only in a partial
degree; but that, from the beginning of organic existence, his
consciousness has been induced, expanded, trained in the lines of his
sensitiveness; and that the rise of his faculties from a lower power to
a higher, or from a narrower to a wider field, may be due to the
function of assimilating and storing outside force or forces. There is
nothing unscientific in the idea that, beyond the lines of force felt
by the senses, the universe may be--as it has always been--either a
supersensuous chaos or a divine unity, which irresistibly attracts, and
is either life or death to penetrate. Thus far, religion, philosophy,
and science seem to go hand in hand. The schools begin their vital
battle only there. In the earlier stages of progress, the forces to be
assimilated were simple and easy to absorb, but, as the mind of man
enlarged its range, it enlarged the field of complexity, and must
continue to do so, even into chaos, until the reservoirs of sensuous or
supersensuous energies are exhausted, or cease to affect him, or until
he succumbs to their excess.

  For past history, this way of grouping its sequences may answer
for a chart of relations, although any serious student would need to
invent another, to compare or correct its errors; but past history is
only a value of relation to the future, and this value is wholly one of
convenience, which can be tested only by experiment. Any law of
movement must include, to make it a convenience, some mechanical
formula of acceleration.



CHAPTER XXXIV

A LAW OF ACCELERATION (1904)

  IMAGES are not arguments, rarely even lead to proof, but the
mind craves them, and, of late more than ever, the keenest
experimenters find twenty images better than one, especially if
contradictory; since the human mind has already learned to deal in
contradictions.

  The image needed here is that of a new centre, or
preponderating mass, artificially introduced on earth in the midst of a
system of attractive forces that previously made their own equilibrium,
and constantly induced to accelerate its motion till it shall establish
a new equilibrium. A dynamic theory would begin by assuming that all
history, terrestrial or cosmic, mechanical or intellectual, would be
reducible to this formula if we knew the facts.

  For convenience, the most familiar image should come first; and
this is probably that of the comet, or meteoric streams, like the
Leonids and Perseids; a complex of minute mechanical agencies, reacting
within and without, and guided by the sum of forces attracting or
deflecting it. Nothing forbids one to assume that the man-meteorite
might grow, as an acorn does, absorbing light, heat, electricity--or
thought; for, in recent times, such transference of energy has become a
familiar idea; but the simplest figure, at first, is that of a perfect
comet--say that of 1843--which drops from space, in a straight line, at
the regular acceleration of speed, directly into the sun, and after
wheeling sharply about it, in heat that ought to dissipate any known
substance, turns back unharmed, in defiance of law, by the path on
which it came. The mind, by analogy, may figure as such a comet, the
better because it also defies law.

  Motion is the ultimate object of science, and measures of
motion are many; but with thought as with matter, the true measure is
mass in its astronomic sense--the sum or difference of attractive
forces. Science has quite enough trouble in measuring its material
motions without volunteering help to the historian, but the historian
needs not much help to measure some kinds of social movement; and
especially in the nineteenth century, society by common accord agreed
in measuring its progress by the coal-output. The ratio of increase in
the volume of coal-power may serve as dynamometer.

  The coal-output of the world, speaking roughly, doubled every
ten years between 1840 and 1900, in the form of utilized power, for the
ton of coal yielded three or four times as much power in 1900 as in
1840. Rapid as this rate of acceleration in volume seems, it may be
tested in a thousand ways without greatly reducing it. Perhaps the
ocean steamer is nearest unity and easiest to measure, for any one
might hire, in 1905, for a small sum of money, the use of 30,000
steam-horse-power to cross the ocean, and by halving this figure every
ten years, he got back to 234 horse-power for 1835, which was accuracy
enough for his purposes. In truth, his chief trouble came not from the
ratio in volume of heat, but from the intensity, since he could get no
basis for a ratio there. All ages of history have known high
intensities, like the iron-furnace, the burning-glass, the blow-pipe;
but no society has ever used high intensities on any large scale till
now, nor can a mere bystander decide what range of temperature is now
in common use. Loosely guessing that science controls habitually the
whole range from absolute zero to 3000 degrees Centigrade, one might
assume, for convenience, that the ten-year ratio for volume could be
used temporarily for intensity; and still there remained a ratio to be
guessed for other forces than heat. Since 1800 scores of new forces had
been discovered; old forces had been raised to higher powers, as could
be measured in the navy-gun; great regions of chemistry had been opened
up, and connected with other regions of physics. Within ten years a new
universe of force had been revealed in radiation. Complexity had
extended itself on immense horizons, and arithmetical ratios were
useless for any attempt at accuracy. The force evolved seemed more like
explosion than gravitation, and followed closely the curve of steam;
but, at all events, the ten-year ratio seemed carefully conservative.
Unless the calculator was prepared to be instantly overwhelmed by
physical force and mental complexity, he must stop there.

  Thus, taking the year 1900 as the starting point for carrying
back the series, nothing was easier than to assume a ten-year period of
retardation as far back as 1820, but beyond that point the statistician
failed, and only the mathematician could help. Laplace would have found
it child's-play to fix a ratio of progression in mathematical science
between Descartes, Leibnitz, Newton, and himself. Watt could have given
in pounds the increase of power between Newcomen's engines and his own.
Volta and Benjamin Franklin would have stated their progress as
absolute creation of power. Dalton could have measured minutely his
advance on Boerhaave. Napoleon I must have had a distinct notion of his
own numerical relation to Louis XIV. No one in 1789 doubted the
progress of force, least of all those who were to lose their heads by
it.

  Pending agreement between these authorities, theory may assume
what it likes--say a fifty, or even a five-and-twenty-year period of
reduplication for the eighteenth century, for the period matters little
until the acceleration itself is admitted. The subject is even more
amusing in the seventeenth than in the eighteenth century, because
Galileo and Kepler, Descartes, Huygens, and Isaac Newton took vast
pains to fix the laws of acceleration for moving bodies, while Lord
Bacon and William Harvey were content with showing experimentally the
fact of acceleration in knowledge; but from their combined results a
historian might be tempted to maintain a similar rate of movement back
to 1600, subject to correction from the historians of mathematics.

  The mathematicians might carry their calculations back as far
as the fourteenth century when algebra seems to have become for the
first time the standard measure of mechanical progress in western
Europe; for not only Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, but even artists like
Leonardo, Michael Angelo, and Albert Durer worked by mathematical
processes, and their testimony would probably give results more exact
than that of Montaigne or Shakespeare; but, to save trouble, one might
tentatively carry back the same ratio of acceleration, or retardation,
to the year 1400, with the help of Columbus and Gutenberg, so taking a
uniform rate during the whole four centuries (1400-1800), and leaving
to statisticians the task of correcting it.

  Or better, one might, for convenience, use the formula of
squares to serve for a law of mind. Any other formula would do as well,
either of chemical explosion, or electrolysis, or vegetable growth, or
of expansion or contraction in innumerable forms; but this happens to
be simple and convenient. Its force increases in the direct ratio of
its squares. As the human meteoroid approached the sun or centre of
attractive force, the attraction of one century squared itself to give
the measure of attraction in the next.

  Behind the year 1400, the process certainly went on, but the
progress became so slight as to be hardly measurable. What was gained
in the east or elsewhere, cannot be known; but forces, called loosely
Greek fire and gunpowder, came into use in the west in the thirteenth
century, as well as instruments like the compass, the blow-pipe, clocks
and spectacles, and materials like paper; Arabic notation and algebra
were introduced, while metaphysics and theology acted as violent
stimulants to mind. An architect might detect a sequence between the
Church of St. Peter's at Rome, the Amiens Cathedral, the Duomo at Pisa,
San Marco at Venice, Sancta Sofia at Constantinople and the churches at
Ravenna. All the historian dares affirm is that a sequence is
manifestly there, and he has a right to carry back his ratio, to
represent the fact, without assuming its numerical correctness. On the
human mind as a moving body, the break in acceleration in the Middle
Ages is only apparent; the attraction worked through shifting forms of
force, as the sun works by light or heat, electricity, gravitation, or
what not, on different organs with different sensibilities, but with
invariable law.

  The science of prehistoric man has no value except to prove
that the law went back into indefinite antiquity. A stone arrowhead is
as convincing as a steam-engine. The values were as clear a hundred
thousand years ago as now, and extended equally over the whole world.
The motion at last became infinitely slight, but cannot be proved to
have stopped. The motion of Newton's comet at aphelion may be equally
slight. To evolutionists may be left the processes of evolution; to
historians the single interest is the law of reaction between force and
force--between mind and nature--the law of progress.

  The great division of history into phases by Turgot and Comte
first affirmed this law in its outlines by asserting the unity of
progress, for a mere phase interrupts no growth, and nature shows
innumerable such phases. The development of coal-power in the
nineteenth century furnished the first means of assigning closer values
to the elements; and the appearance of supersensual forces towards 1900
made this calculation a pressing necessity; since the next step became
infinitely serious.

  A law of acceleration, definite and constant as any law of
mechanics, cannot be supposed to relax its energy to suit the
convenience of man. No one is likely to suggest a theory that man's
convenience had been consulted by Nature at any time, or that Nature
has consulted the convenience of any of her creations, except perhaps
the Terebratula. In every age man has bitterly and justly complained
that Nature hurried and hustled him, for inertia almost invariably has
ended in tragedy. Resistance is its law, and resistance to superior
mass is futile and fatal.

  Fifty years ago, science took for granted that the rate of
acceleration could not last. The world forgets quickly, but even today
the habit remains of founding statistics on the faith that consumption
will continue nearly stationary. Two generations, with John Stuart
Mill, talked of this stationary period, which was to follow the
explosion of new power. All the men who were elderly in the forties
died in this faith, and other men grew old nursing the same conviction,
and happy in it; while science, for fifty years, permitted, or
encouraged, society to think that force would prove to be limited in
supply. This mental inertia of science lasted through the eighties
before showing signs of breaking up; and nothing short of radium fairly
wakened men to the fact, long since evident, that force was
inexhaustible. Even then the scientific authorities vehemently resisted.

  Nothing so revolutionary had happened since the year 300.
Thought had more than once been upset, but never caught and whirled
about in the vortex of infinite forces. Power leaped from every atom,
and enough of it to supply the stellar universe showed itself running
to waste at every pore of matter. Man could no longer hold it off.
Forces grasped his wrists and flung him about as though he had hold of
a live wire or a runaway automobile; which was very nearly the exact
truth for the purposes of an elderly and timid single gentleman in
Paris, who never drove down the Champs Elysees without expecting an
accident, and commonly witnessing one; or found himself in the
neighborhood of an official without calculating the chances of a bomb.
So long as the rates of progress held good, these bombs would double in
force and number every ten years.

  Impossibilities no longer stood in the way. One's life had
fattened on impossibilities. Before the boy was six years old, he had
seen four impossibilities made actual--the ocean-steamer, the railway,
the electric telegraph, and the Daguerreotype; nor could he ever learn
which of the four had most hurried others to come. He had seen the
coal-output of the United States grow from nothing to three hundred
million tons or more. What was far more serious, he had seen the number
of minds, engaged in pursuing force--the truest measure of its
attraction--increase from a few scores or hundreds, in 1838, to many
thousands in 1905, trained to sharpness never before reached, and armed
with instruments amounting to new senses of indefinite power and
accuracy, while they chased force into hiding-places where Nature
herself had never known it to be, making analyses that contradicted
being, and syntheses that endangered the elements. No one could say
that the social mind now failed to respond to new force, even when the
new force annoyed it horribly. Every day Nature violently revolted,
causing so-called accidents with enormous destruction of property and
life, while plainly laughing at man, who helplessly groaned and
shrieked and shuddered, but never for a single instant could stop. The
railways alone approached the carnage of war; automobiles and fire-arms
ravaged society, until an earthquake became almost a nervous
relaxation. An immense volume of force had detached itself from the
unknown universe of energy, while still vaster reservoirs, supposed to
be infinite, steadily revealed themselves, attracting mankind with more
compulsive course than all the Pontic Seas or Gods or Gold that ever
existed, and feeling still less of retiring ebb.

  In 1850, science would have smiled at such a romance as this,
but, in 1900, as far as history could learn, few men of science thought
it a laughing matter. If a perplexed but laborious follower could
venture to guess their drift, it seemed in their minds a toss-up
between anarchy and order. Unless they should be more honest with
themselves in the future than ever they were in the past, they would be
more astonished than their followers when they reached the end. If Karl
Pearson's notions of the universe were sound, men like Galileo,
Descartes, Leibnitz, and Newton should have stopped the progress of
science before 1700, supposing them to have been honest in the
religious convictions they expressed. In 1900 they were plainly forced
back; on faith in a unity unproved and an order they had themselves
disproved. They had reduced their universe to a series of relations to
themselves. They had reduced themselves to motion in a universe of
motions, with an acceleration, in their own case of vertiginous
violence. With the correctness of their science, history had no right
to meddle, since their science now lay in a plane where scarcely one or
two hundred minds in the world could follow its mathematical processes;
but bombs educate vigorously, and even wireless telegraphy or airships
might require the reconstruction of society. If any analogy whatever
existed between the human mind, on one side, and the laws of motion, on
the other, the mind had already entered a field of attraction so
violent that it must immediately pass beyond, into new equilibrium,
like the Comet of Newton, to suffer dissipation altogether, like
meteoroids in the earth's atmosphere. If it behaved like an explosive,
it must rapidly recover equilibrium; if it behaved like a vegetable, it
must reach its limits of growth; and even if it acted like the earlier
creations of energy--the saurians and sharks--it must have nearly
reached the limits of its expansion. If science were to go on doubling
or quadrupling its complexities every ten years, even mathematics would
soon succumb. An average mind had succumbed already in 1850; it could
no longer understand the problem in 1900.

  Fortunately, a student of history had no responsibility for the
problem; he took it as science gave it, and waited only to be taught.
With science or with society, he had no quarrel and claimed no share of
authority. He had never been able to acquire knowledge, still less to
impart it; and if he had, at times, felt serious differences with the
American of the nineteenth century, he felt none with the American of
the twentieth. For this new creation, born since 1900, a historian
asked no longer to be teacher or even friend; he asked only to be a
pupil, and promised to be docile, for once, even though trodden under
foot; for he could see that the new American--the child of incalculable
coal-power, chemical power, electric power, and radiating energy, as
well as of new forces yet undetermined--must be a sort of God compared
with any former creation of nature. At the rate of progress since 1800,
every American who lived into the year 2000 would know how to control
unlimited power. He would think in complexities unimaginable to an
earlier mind. He would deal with problems altogether beyond the range
of earlier society. To him the nineteenth century would stand on the
same plane with the fourth--equally childlike--and he would only wonder
how both of them, knowing so little, and so weak in force, should have
done so much. Perhaps even he might go back, in 1964, to sit with
Gibbon on the steps of Ara Coeli.

  Meanwhile he was getting education. With that, a teacher who
had failed to educate even the generation of 1870, dared not interfere.
The new forces would educate. History saw few lessons in the past that
would be useful in the future; but one, at least, it did see. The
attempt of the American of 1800 to educate the American of 1900 had not
often been surpassed for folly; and since 1800 the forces and their
complications had increased a thousand times or more. The attempt of
the American of 1900 to educate the American of 2000, must be even
blinder than that of the Congressman of 1800, except so far as he had
learned his ignorance. During a million or two of years, every
generation in turn had toiled with endless agony to attain and apply
power, all the while betraying the deepest alarm and horror at the
power they created. The teacher of 1900, if foolhardy, might stimulate;
if foolish, might resist; if intelligent, might balance, as wise and
foolish have often tried to do from the beginning; but the forces would
continue to educate, and the mind would continue to react. All the
teacher could hope was to teach it reaction.

  Even there his difficulty was extreme. The most elementary
books of science betrayed the inadequacy of old implements of thought.
Chapter after chapter closed with phrases such as one never met in
older literature: "The cause of this phenomenon is not understood";
"science no longer ventures to explain causes"; "the first step towards
a causal explanation still remains to be taken"; "opinions are very
much divided"; "in spite of the contradictions involved"; "science gets
on only by adopting different theories, sometimes contradictory."
Evidently the new American would need to think in contradictions, and
instead of Kant's famous four antinomies, the new universe would know
no law that could not be proved by its anti-law.

  To educate--one's self to begin with--had been the effort
of one's life for sixty years; and the difficulties of education had
gone on doubling with the coal-output, until the prospect of waiting
another ten years, in order to face a seventh doubling of complexities,
allured one's imagination but slightly. The law of acceleration was
definite, and did not require ten years more study except to show
whether it held good. No scheme could be suggested to the new American,
and no fault needed to be found, or complaint made; but the next great
influx of new forces seemed near at hand, and its style of education
promised to be violently coercive. The movement from unity into
multiplicity, between 1200 and 1900, was unbroken in sequence, and
rapid in acceleration. Prolonged one generation longer, it would
require a new social mind. As though thought were common salt in
indefinite solution it must enter a new phase subject to new laws. Thus
far, since five or ten thousand years, the mind had successfully
reacted, and nothing yet proved that it would fail to react--but it
would need to jump.



CHAPTER XXXV

NUNC AGE (1905)

  NEARLY forty years had passed since the ex-private secretary
landed at New York with the ex-Ministers Adams and Motley, when they
saw American society as a long caravan stretching out towards the
plains. As he came up the bay again, November 5, 1904, an older man
than either his father or Motley in 1868, he found the approach more
striking than ever--wonderful--unlike anything man had ever seen--and
like nothing he had ever much cared to see. The outline of the city
became frantic in its effort to explain something that defied meaning.
Power seemed to have outgrown its servitude and to have asserted its
freedom. The cylinder had exploded, and thrown great masses of stone
and steam against the sky. The city had the air and movement of
hysteria, and the citizens were crying, in every accent of anger and
alarm, that the new forces must at any cost be brought under control.
Prosperity never before imagined, power never yet wielded by man, speed
never reached by anything but a meteor, had made the world irritable,
nervous, querulous, unreasonable and afraid. All New York was demanding
new men, and all the new forces, condensed into corporations, were
demanding a new type of man--a man with ten times the endurance,
energy, will and mind of the old type--for whom they were ready to pay
millions at sight. As one jolted over the pavements or read the last
week's newspapers, the new man seemed close at hand, for the old one
had plainly reached the end of his strength, and his failure had become
catastrophic. Every one saw it, and every municipal election shrieked
chaos. A traveller in the highways of history looked out of the club
window on the turmoil of Fifth Avenue, and felt himself in Rome, under
Diocletian, witnessing the anarchy, conscious of the compulsion, eager
for the solution, but unable to conceive whence the next impulse was to
come or how it was to act. The two-thousand-years failure of
Christianity roared upward from Broadway, and no Constantine the Great
was in sight.

  Having nothing else to do, the traveller went on to Washington
to wait the end. There Roosevelt was training Constantines and battling
Trusts. With the Battle of Trusts, a student of mechanics felt entire
sympathy, not merely as a matter of politics or society, but also as a
measure of motion. The Trusts and Corporations stood for the larger
part of the new power that had been created since 1840, and were
obnoxious because of their vigorous and unscrupulous energy. They were
revolutionary, troubling all the old conventions and values, as the
screws of ocean steamers must trouble a school of herring. They tore
society to pieces and trampled it under foot. As one of their earliest
victims, a citizen of Quincy, born in 1838, had learned submission and
silence, for he knew that, under the laws of mechanics, any change,
within the range of the forces, must make his situation only worse; but
he was beyond measure curious to see whether the conflict of forces
would produce the new man, since no other energies seemed left on earth
to breed. The new man could be only a child born of contact between the
new and the old energies.

  Both had been familiar since childhood, as the story has shown,
and neither had warped the umpire's judgment by its favors. If ever
judge had reason to be impartial, it was he. The sole object of his
interest and sympathy was the new man, and the longer one watched, the
less could be seen of him. Of the forces behind the Trusts, one could
see something; they owned a complete organization, with schools,
training, wealth and purpose; but of the forces behind Roosevelt one
knew little; their cohesion was slight; their training irregular; their
objects vague. The public had no idea what practical system it could
aim at, or what sort of men could manage it. The single problem before
it was not so much to control the Trusts as to create the society that
could manage the Trusts. The new American must be either the child of
the new forces or a chance sport of nature. The attraction of
mechanical power had already wrenched the American mind into a
crab-like process which Roosevelt was making heroic efforts to restore
to even action, and he had every right to active support and sympathy
from all the world, especially from the Trusts themselves so far as
they were human; but the doubt persisted whether the force that
educated was really man or nature--mind or motion. The mechanical
theory, mostly accepted by science, seemed to require that the law of
mass should rule. In that case, progress would continue as before.

  In that, or any other case, a nineteenth-century education was
as useless or misleading as an eighteenth-century education had been to
the child of 1838; but Adams had a better reason for holding his
tongue. For his dynamic theory of history he cared no more than for the
kinetic theory of gas; but, if it were an approach to measurement of
motion, it would verify or disprove itself within thirty years. At the
calculated acceleration, the head of the meteor-stream must very soon
pass perihelion. Therefore, dispute was idle, discussion was futile,
and silence, next to good-temper, was the mark of sense. If the
acceleration, measured by the development and economy of forces, were
to continue at its rate since 1800, the mathematician of 1950 should be
able to plot the past and future orbit of the human race as accurately
as that of the November meteoroids.

  Naturally such an attitude annoyed the players in the game, as
the attitude of the umpire is apt to infuriate the spectators. Above
all, it was profoundly unmoral, and tended to discourage effort. On the
other hand, it tended to encourage foresight and to economize waste of
mind. If it was not itself education, it pointed out the economies
necessary for the education of the new American. There, the duty
stopped.

  There, too, life stopped. Nature has educated herself to a
singular sympathy for death. On the antarctic glacier, nearly five
thousand feet above sea-level, Captain Scott found carcasses of seals,
where the animals had laboriously flopped up, to die in peace. "Unless
we had actually found these remains, it would have been past believing
that a dying seal could have transported itself over fifty miles of
rough, steep, glacier-surface," but "the seal seems often to crawl to
the shore or the ice to die, probably from its instinctive dread of its
marine enemies." In India, Purun Dass, at the end of statesmanship,
sought solitude, and died in sanctity among the deer and monkeys,
rather than remain with man. Even in America, the Indian Summer of life
should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and
infinite in wealth and depth of tone--but never hustled. For that
reason, one's own passive obscurity seemed sometimes nearer nature than
John Hay's exposure. To the normal animal the instinct of sport is
innate, and historians themselves were not exempt from the passion of
baiting their bears; but in its turn even the seal dislikes to be
worried to death in age by creatures that have not the strength or the
teeth to kill him outright.

  On reaching Washington, November 14, 1904, Adams saw at a
glance that Hay must have rest. Already Mrs. Hay had bade him prepare
to help in taking her husband to Europe as soon as the Session should
be over, and although Hay protested that the idea could not even be
discussed, his strength failed so rapidly that he could not effectually
discuss it, and ended by yielding without struggle. He would equally
have resigned office and retired, like Purun Dass, had not the
President and the press protested; but he often debated the subject,
and his friends could throw no light on it. Adams himself, who had set
his heart on seeing Hay close his career by making peace in the East,
could only urge that vanity for vanity, the crown of peacemaker was
worth the cross of martyrdom; but the cross was full in sight, while
the crown was still uncertain. Adams found his formula for Russian
inertia exasperatingly correct. He thought that Russia should have
negotiated instantly on the fall of Port Arthur, January 1, 1905; he
found that she had not the energy, but meant to wait till her navy
should be destroyed. The delay measured precisely the time that Hay had
to spare.

  The close of the Session on March 4 left him barely the
strength to crawl on board ship, March 18, and before his steamer had
reached half her course, he had revived, almost as gay as when he first
lighted on the Markoe house in I Street forty-four years earlier. The
clouds that gather round the setting sun do not always take a sober
coloring from eyes that have kept watch on mortality; or, at least, the
sobriety is sometimes scarcely sad. One walks with one's friends
squarely up to the portal of life, and bids good-bye with a smile. One
has done it so often! Hay could scarcely pace the deck; he nourished no
illusions; he was convinced that he should never return to his work,
and he talked lightly of the death sentence that he might any day
expect, but he threw off the coloring of office and mortality together,
and the malaria of power left its only trace in the sense of tasks
incomplete.

  One could honestly help him there. Laughing frankly at his
dozen treaties hung up in the Senate Committee-room like lambs in a
butcher's shop, one could still remind him of what was solidly
completed. In his eight years of office he had solved nearly every old
problem of American statesmanship, and had left little or nothing to
annoy his successor. He had brought the great Atlantic powers into a
working system, and even Russia seemed about to be dragged into a
combine of intelligent equilibrium based on an intelligent allotment of
activities. For the first time in fifteen hundred years a true Roman
pax was in sight, and would, if it succeeded, owe its virtues to him.
Except for making peace in Manchuria, he could do no more; and if the
worst should happen, setting continent against continent in arms--the
only apparent alternative to his scheme--he need not repine at missing
the catastrophe.

  This rosy view served to soothe disgusts which every parting
statesman feels, and commonly with reason. One had no need to get out
one's notebook in order to jot down the exact figures on either side.
Why add up the elements of resistance and anarchy? The Kaiser supplied
him with these figures, just as the Cretic approached Morocco. Every
one was doing it, and seemed in a panic about it. The chaos waited only
for his landing.

  Arrived at Genoa, the party hid itself for a fortnight at
Nervi, and he gained strength rapidly as long as he made no effort and
heard no call for action. Then they all went on to Nanheim without
relapse. There, after a few days, Adams left him for the regular
treatment, and came up to Paris. The medical reports promised well, and
Hay's letters were as humorous and light-handed as ever. To the last he
wrote cheerfully of his progress, and amusingly with his usual light
scepticism, of his various doctors; but when the treatment ended, three
weeks later, and he came on to Paris, he showed, at the first glance,
that he ha