The finest modern statue in Berlin
is that of General Ziethen
, the great Hussar commander in the Seven Years War.1
He stands leaning on his sabre in a dreamy, nonchalant attitude, as if he were in the centre of indifference and life had little interest for him. Yet there never was a man more ready for action, or more quick to seize upon and solve the nodus
of any new emergency.
The Prussian anecdote-books are full of his exploits and hairbreadth escapes, a number of which are represented around the base of the statue.
He combined the intelligence of the skilful general with the physical dexterity of an acrobat.
Very much such a man was Samuel Gridley Howe
, born in Boston
November 10, 1801, whom Whittier
has taken as the archetype of an American hero in his time.
If a transient guest at the Bird Club
should have seen Doctor Howe
sitting at the table with his indifferent, nonchalant air, head leaning slightly forward and his grayish-black hair almost falling into his eyes, he would never have
imagined that he was the man who had fought the Turks hand-to-hand like Cervantes
and Sir John Smith
; who had been imprisoned in a Prussian dungeon; who had risked his life in the July Revolution at Paris
; and who had taken the lead in an equally important philanthropic revolution in his own country.
Next to Sumner
he is the most distinguished member of the club, even more so than Andrew
; a man with a most enviable record.
He does not talk much where many are gathered together, but if he hears an imprudent statement, especially an unjust estimate of character, his eyes flash out from beneath the bushy brows, and he makes a correction which just hits the nail on the head.
He is fond of his own home and is with difficulty enticed away from it. Once in awhile he will dash out to Cambridge
on horseback to see Longfellow
, but the lion-huntresses of Boston
spread their nets in vain for him. He will not even go to the dinner parties for which Mrs. Howe
is in constant demand, but prefers to spend the evening with his children, helping them about their school lessons, and listening to the stories of their everyday experiences.
There never was a more modest, unostentatious hero; and no one has recorded his hairbreadth escapes and daring adventures, for those who witnessed them never told the tale,
nor would Doctor Howe
willingly speak of them himself.
He was of too active a temperament to be much of a scholar in his youth, although in after life he went through with whatever he undertook in a thorough and conscientious manner.
He went to Brown University, and appears to have lived much the same kind of life there which Lowell
did at Harvard
,--full of good spirits, admired by his classmates, as well as by the young ladies of Providence
, and exceptionally fond of practical jokes; always getting into small difficulties and getting out of them again with equal facility.
He was so amiable and warm-hearted that nobody could help loving him; and so it continued to the end of his life.
He could not himself explain exactly why he joined the Greek Revolution
He had suffered himself while at school from the tyranny of older boys, and this strengthened the sense of right and justice that had been implanted in his nature.
He had not the romantic disposition of Byron
; neither could he have gone from a desire to win the laurels of Miltiades
, for he never indicated the least desire for celebrity.
It seems more likely that his adventurous disposition urged him to it, as one man takes to science and another to art.
It was certainly a daring adventure to enlist as a volunteer against the Turks.
might expect that whatever advantage wealth and reputation
can obtain for an individual he could always count upon; but what chances would young Howe
have in disaster or defeat?
I never heard that Byron
did much fighting, though he spent his fortune freely in the cause; and Doctor Howe
, as it happened, was not called upon to fight in line of battle, though he was engaged in some pretty hot skirmishes and risked himself freely.
He went to Greece
in the summer of 1824 and remained till after the battle of Navarino in 1827.
was saved, but the land was a desert and its people starving.
returned to America
to raise funds and beg provisions for liberated Hellas
, in which he was remarkably successful; but we find also that he published a history of the Greek Revolution
, the second edition of which is dated 1828.
For this he must have collected the materials before leaving Greece
; but as it contains an account of the sea-fight of Navarino, it must have been finished after his return to America
The book was hastily written, and hastily published.
To judge from appearances it was hurried through the press without being revised either by its author or a competent proofreader; but it is a vigorous, spirited narrative, and the best chronicle of that period in English
Would there were more such histories, even if the writing be not always grammatical.
sentimentalize over the ruins of Sparta
's Academy, but he describes Greece
as he found it, and its inhabitants as he knew them.
He possesses what so many historians lack, and that is the graphic faculty.
He writes in a better style than either Motley
His book ought to be revised and reprinted.
We quote from it this clear-sighted description of the preparation for a Graeco-Turkish sea-fight:
Soon the proud fleet of the Capitan Pashaw was seen coming down toward Samos, and the Greek vessels advanced to meet it. And here one cannot but pause a moment to compare the two parties, and wonder at the contrast between them.
On one side bore down a long line of lofty ships whose very size and weight seemed to give them a slow and stately motion; completely furnished at every point for war; their decks crowded with splendidly armed soldiers, and their sides chequered with double and triplerows of huge cannon that it seemed could belch forth a mass of iron which nothing could resist.
On the other side came flying along the waves a squadron of light brigs and schooners, beautifully modelled, with sails of snowy white, and with fancifully painted sides, showing but a single row of tiny cannon.
There seemed no possibility of a contest; one fleet had only to sail upon the other, and by its very weight, bear the vessels under water without firing a gun.
But the feelings which animated them were very different.
The Turks were clumsy sailors; they felt ill at ease and as if in a new element; but above all, they felt a dread of Greek fire-ships, which made them imagine every vessel that approached them to be one.
The Greeks were at
home on the waves,--active and fearless mariners, they knew that they could run around a Turkish frigate and not be injured; they knew the dread their enemies had of fireships, and they had their favorite, the daring Kanaris, with them.
The heroic deeds of the modern Greeks
fully equalled those of the ancients; and the death of Marco Bozzaris
was celebrated in all the languages of western Europe
, the German poet, composed a volume of fine lyrics upon the incidents of the Greek Revolution
; so that after his death the Greek Government
sent a shipload of marble to Germany
for the construction of his monument.
One day Doctor Howe
, with a small party of followers, was anchored in a yawl off the Corinthian coast
, when a Turk crept down to the shore and commenced firing at them from behind a large tree.
After he had done this twice, the doctor calculated where he would appear the third time, and firing at the right moment brought him down with his face to the earth.
often fired at Turks in action, but this was the only one that he felt sure of having killed; and he does not appear to have even communicated the fact to his own family.
After Doctor Howe
's triumphant return to Greece
with a cargo of provisions in 1828 he was appointed surgeon-general of the Greek navy, and finally, as a reward for all his services,
he received a present of Byron
's cavalry helmet,--certainly a rare trophy.2
's mysterious imprisonment in Berlin
in 1832 is the more enigmatical since Berlin
has generally been the refuge of the oppressed from other European
, expelled by Louis XIV., went to Berlin
in such numbers that they are supposed by Menzel
to have modified the character of its inhabitants.
refugees were welcomed in Prussia
by Frederick William
who had an official hanged for embezzling funds that were intended for their benefit.
In 1770 Frederick the Great
gave asylum to the Jesuits who had been expelled from every Catholic capital in Europe
; and when the brothers Grimm and other professors were banished from Cassel
for their liberalism, they were received and given positions by Frederick William
Why then should the Prussian government have interfered with Doctor Howe
, after he had completed his philanthropic mission to the Polish refugees?
Why was he not arrested in the Polish camp when he first arrived there?
The futile and tyrannical character of this proceeding points directly to Metternich, who at that time might fairly be styled the Tiberius
The Greek Revolution was hateful to Metternich, and he did what he could to prevent its success.
His intrigues in England
certainly delayed the independence of Greece
for two years and more.
He foresaw clearly enough that its independence would be a constant annoyance to the Austrian government,and so it has proved down to the present time.
Metternich imagined intrigues and revolution in every direction; and besides, there can be no doubt of the vindictiveness of his nature.
The cunning of the fox is not often combined with the supposed magnanimity of the lion.
The account of his arrest, which Doctor Howe
gave George L. Stearns
, differs very slightly from that in Sanborn
According to the former he persuaded the Prussian police, on the ground of decency, to remain outside his door until he could dress himself.
In this way he gained time to secrete his letters.
He tore one up and divided the small pieces in various places.
While he was doing this he noticed a bust of some king of Prussia
on top of the high porcelain stove which forms a part of the furniture of every large room in Berlin
Concluding it must be hollow he tipped it on edge and inserted the rest of his letters within.
The police never discovered this stratagem, but they searched his room in the most painstaking manner, collecting all the pieces of the letter he had
torn up, so that they read every word of it. Whether his letters were really of a compromising character, or he was only afraid that they might be considered so, has never been explained.
The day after his arrest he was brought before a tribunal and asked a multitude of questions, which he appears to have answered willingly enough; and a week or more later the same examiners made a different set of inquiries of him, all calculated to throw light upon his former answers.
admitted afterwards that if he had attempted to deceive them they would certainly have discovered the fact.
He was in prison five weeks, for which the Prussian government had the impudence to charge him board; and why President Jackson
did not demand an apology and reparation for this outrage on a United States
citizen is not the least mysterious part of the affair.
A good Samaritan does not always find a good Samaritan.
After his return to Paris Doctor Howe
went to England
, but was taken so severely ill on the way that he did not know what might have become of him but for an English passenger with whom he had become acquainted and who carried him to his own house and cared for him until he was fully recovered.
This excellent man, name now forgotten, had a charming daughter who materially
assisted in Howe
's convalescence, and he said afterwards that if he had not been strongly opposed to matrimony at that time she would probably have become his wife.
He was not married until ten years later; but he always remembered this incident as one of the pleasantest in his life.
The true hero never rests on his laurels.
had no sooner returned from Europe
than he set himself to work on a design he had conceived in Paris
for the instruction of the blind.
Next to Doctor Morton
's discovery of etherization, there has been no undertaking equal to this for the amelioration of human misery.
He brought the best methods from Europe
, and improved upon them.
Beginning at first in a small way, and with such means as he could obtain from the merchants of Boston
, he went on to great achievements.
He had the most difficulty in dealing with legislative appropriations and enactments, for as he was not acquainted with the ruling class in Massachusetts
, they consequently looked upon him with suspicion.
He not only made the plan, but he carried it out; he organized the institution at South Boston
and set the machinery in motion.
The story of Laura Bridgman
is a tale told in many languages.
The deaf and blind girl whom Doctor Howe
taught to read and to think
became as celebrated as Franklin
She was between seven and eight years old when he first discovered her near Hanover, N. H.
, and for five years and a half she had neither seen nor heard.
It is possible that she could remember the external world in a dim kind of way, and she must have learned to speak a few words before she lost her hearing.
taught her the names of different objects by pasting them in raised letters on the objects about her, and he taught her to spell by means of separate blocks with the letters upon them.
She then was taught to read after the usual method of instructing the blind, and communicated with her fingers after the manner of deaf mutes.
said in his report of the case:
Hitherto, the process had been mechanical, and the success about as great as teaching a very knowing dog a variety of tricks.
The poor child had sat in mute amazement and patiently imitated everything her teacher did; but now the truth began to flash upon her; her intellect began to work; she perceived that here was a way by which she could herself make up a sign of anything that was in her own mind, and show it to another mind, and at once her countenance lighted up with a human expression; it was no longer a dog or parrot,--it was an immortal spirit, eagerly seizing upon a new link of union with other spirits!
Finally she was educated in the meaning of the simplest abstract terms like right and
wrong, happy and sad, crooked and straight, and in this she evinced great intelligence, for she described being alone as all one
, and being together all two
,--the original meaning of alone and altogether, which few persons think of. In trying to express herself where she found some difficulty she made use of agglutinative forms of speech.3
The education of Laura has rare value as a psychological study; for it proves incontestably that mind is a thing in itself, and not merely a combination of material forces, as the philosophers of our time would have us believe.
's mind was there, though wholly unable to express itself, and so soon as the magic key was turned, she developed as rapidly and intelligently as other girls of her age. She soon became much more intelligent than the best trained dog who has all his senses in an acute condition; and she developed a sensibility toward those about her such as Indian or Hottentot girls of the same age would not have done at all. She soon began to indicate that sense of order which is the first step on the stairway of civilization.
If these qualities had not been in her they never could have come out.
Why is it that so many superior women remain unmarried, and why do men of superior
intellect and exceptional character so often mate themselves with weak or narrow-minded women?
That a diffident man, with a taste for playing on the flute, should be captured by a virago, is not so remarkable,--that is his natural weakness; but it is also true that the worthiest man often chooses indifferently.
This thing they call matrimony is in fact like diving for pearls: you bring up the oyster, but what it contains does not appear until afterward.
A friend of Sumner
, who imagined his wife had a beautiful nature because she was fond of wild-flowers, discovered too late that she cared more for botany than for her husband.
met with better fortune.
He waited long and to good purpose.
It was fitting that such a man should marry a poetess; and he found her, not in her rose-garden or some romantic sylvan retreat, but in the city of New York
. Miss Julia Ward
was the daughter, as she once styled herself, of the Bank of Commerce, but her mind was not bent on money or a fashionable life.
She was graceful, witty and charming in the drawing-room; but there was also a serious vein in her nature which could only be satisfied by earnest thought and study.
She went from one book to another through the whole range of critical scholarship, disdaining everything that was not of the best quality.
She soon knew so much that the young men became
afraid of her, but she cared less for their admiration than for her favorite authors.
Above all, the deep religious vein in her nature, which never left her, served as a balance to her romantic disposition.
Her first admirer is said to have been an eloquent preacher who came to New York while Miss Ward
was in her teens.
Another man might have crossed Julia Ward's path and only have remembered her as a Summer friend.
recognized the opportunity, and had no intention of letting it slip.
His reputation and exceptional character attracted her; and he wooed and won her with the same courage that he fought the Greeks.
Her sister married Crawford
, the best sculptor of his time, whom Sumner
helped to fame and fortune.
's wedding journey, which included a complete tour of Europe
, seems to have been the first rest that he had taken in twenty years. Such wedding journeys are frequent enough now, but it is a rare bride that finds the doors of distinguished houses opened to her husband from Edinburgh
Was it not a sufficient reward for any man's service to humanity?
For that matter Doctor Howe
's lifelong work received comparatively slight recognition or reward.
A few medals were sent to him from Europe
,--a gold one from the King
--and he was always looked upon in Boston
as a distinguished citizen; but his vocation at the Blind Asylum
withdrew him from the public eye, and the public soon forgets what happened yesterday.
What a blaze of enthusiasm there was for Admiral Dewey
in 1899, and how coldly his name was received as a presidential candidate one year later!
was once nominated for Congress as a forlorn hope, and his name was thrice urged unavailingly for foreign appointments.
He certainly deserved to be made Minister to Greece
, but President Johnson
looked upon him as a very “ultra man” ,--the real objection being no doubt that he was a friend of Sumner
, and the second attempt made by Sumner
himself was defeated by Hamilton Fish
was fully qualified at any time to be Minister to France
, and as well qualified as James Russell Lowell
for the English Mission
; but the appointment of such men as Lowell
has proved to be a happy accident rather than according to the natural order of events.
What reward did Doctor Morton
ever obtain, until twenty-five years after his death his name was emblazoned in memorial hall of Boston State House!
It is an old story.
Yet Doctor Howe
may well be considered one of the most fortunate Americans
Lack of public appreciation is the least evil that can befall a man of truly great spirit, --unless indeed it impairs the usefulness of his work, and Edward Everett
, who had sympathized so cordially with Doctor Howe
's efforts in behalf of the Greeks, could also have told him sympathetically that domestic happiness was fully as valuable as public honor.
Fortunate is the man who has wandered much over the earth and seen great sights, only the better to appreciate the quiet and repose of his own hearth-stone!
The storm and stress period of Doctor Howe
's life was over, and henceforth it was to be all blue sky and smooth sailing.
expressed a kind of regret at Doctor Howe
's marriage,--a regret for his own loneliness; but he found afterwards that instead of losing one friend he had made another.
His visits to South Boston
were as frequent as ever, and he often brought distinguished guests with him,--English, French, and German.
There was no lady in Boston
whom he liked to converse with so well as Mrs. Howe
; and if he met her on the street he would almost invariably stop to speak with her a few minutes.
He sometimes suffered from the keen sallies of her wit, but he accepted this as part of the entertainment, and once informed her that if she were president of the Senate it would be much better for the procedure of the public business.
also came; like his brother, a man much above the average in general ability, and considered quite equal to the delivery of a Fourth of July oration.
He was the more entertaining talker of the two, and in other respects very much like Tom Appleton
,--better known on the Paris
boulevards than in his native country.
Instead of being witty like Appleton
he was brilliantly encyclopedic; and they both carried their statements to the verge of credibility.
organized the blind asylum so that it almost ran itself without his oversight, and as always happens in such cases he was idolized by those who were under his direction.
There was something exceedingly kind in his tone of voice,--a voice accustomed to command and yet much subdued.
His manner towards children was particularly charming and attractive.
He exemplified the lines in Emerson
's “Wood-notes” :
Grave, chaste, contented though retired,
And of all other men desired,
applied to Doctor Howe
more completely than to the person for whom they were originally intended; for Thoreau
's bachelor habits and isolated mode of life prevented him from being an attractive person to the generality of mankind.
It was said of James G. Blaine
that he left every man he met with the impression that he was his best friend.
This may have been well intended, but it has the effect of insincerity, for the thing is practically impossible.
The true gentleman has always a kind manner, but he does not treat the man whom he has just been introduced to as a friend; he waits for that until he shall know him better.
It is said of Americans
generally that they are generous and philanthropic, but that they do not make good friends,--that their idea of friendship depends too much on association and the influence of mutual interests, instead of the underlying sense of spiritual relationship.
When they cease to have mutual interests the friendship is at an end, or only continues to exist on paper.
was as warm-hearted as he was firm-hearted, but he never gave his full confidence to any one until he had read him through to the backbone.
His friends were so fond of him that they would go any distance to see him. His idea of friendship seemed to be like that of the friends in the sacred band of Thebes
, whose motto was either to avenge their comrades on the field of battle or to die with them.
He did not like a hypocritical morality, which he said too often resulted in the hypocritical sort.
He complained of this in Emerson
's teaching, which he thought led his readers to
scrutinize themselves too closely as well as to be too censorious of others; and he respected Emerson
more for his manly attitude on the Kansas
question than for anything he wrote.
He always continued to be the chevalier.
He was like Hawthorne
's gray-haired champion, who always came to the front in a public emergency, and then disappeared, no one knew whither.
When the Bond Street
riot took place in 1837, there was Doctor Howe
succoring the oppressed; in 1844 he joined the Conscience Whigs
and was one of the foremost among them; he helped materially toward the election of Sumner
in 1851, and for years afterwards was a leader in the vigilance committee organized to resist the Fugitive Slave
law. He stood shoulder to shoulder with George L. Stearns
in organizing resistance to the invasions of Kansas
by the Missourians; and again in 1862 when Harvard University made its last desperate political effort in opposition to Lincoln
's Emancipation Proclamation
; but when his friends and his party came into power Howe
neither asked nor hinted at any reward for his brilliant services.
Edward L. Pierce
, the biographer of Sumner
, was not above exhibiting his prejudices as to certain members of the Bird Club
, both by what he has written and what he neglected to write.
He says of the Chevalier: “Dr. Howe
who had a passion for revolutions and civil disturbances of all kinds, and had no respect for the restrictions of international law or comity, was vexed with Sumner
for not promoting the intervention of the United States
in behalf of the insurgent Cubans
This reminds one of Boswell
's treatment of Doctor Johnson
Like John Adams
, Doctor Howe
was a revolutionary character,--and so were Sumner
,--but he was a man in all matters prudent, discreet and practical.
He was as much opposed to inflammatory harangues and French socialistic notions as he was to the hide-bound conservatism against which he had battled all his life.
his revolutionary strokes were well timed and right to the point.
Experience has proved them to be effective and salutary.
It was the essential merit of Sumner
and his friends that they recognized the true character of the times in which they lived and adapted themselves to it. Thousands of well-educated men lived through the anti-slavery and civil war period without being aware that they were taking part in one of the great revolutionary epochs of history.
That Doctor Howe
and Senator Sumner
differed in regard to the Cuban rebellion is a matter of small moment.
considered the interests of the Cubans; Sumner the interests
of republicanism in Spain
and in Europe
Both were right from their respective standpoints.
At the beginning of the war he was sixty years of age,--too old to take an active part in it. This cannot be doubted, however, that if he had been thirty years younger he would either have won distinction as a commander or have fallen on the field of honor.
The best contribution from the Howe family to the war was Julia Ward Howe
's “Battle hymn of the Republic
The war was a grand moral struggle, a conflict of historical forces; and neither Lowell
, nor Whittier
expressed this so fully and with such depth of feeling as Mrs. Howe
There are occasions when woman rises superior to man, and this was one of them.
It was evidently inspired by the John Brown
song, that simple martial melody; but it rises above the personal and temporal into the universal and eternal.
Its measure has the swing of the Greek tragic chorus, extended to embrace the wider scope of Christian faith, and its diction is of an equally classic purity and vigor.
The last stanza runs:
In the beauty of the lily Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As he died to make men holy let us die to make men free;
As we go marching on.
This was the fine fruit of Mrs. Howe
's early religious faith.
It welled up in her nature from a deep undercurrent, which few would have suspected who only met her at Sam G. Ward
's dinner parties and other fashionable entertainments.
Yet, there was always a quiet reserve in her laughter, and her wittiest remarks were always followed by a corresponding seriousness of expression.
Although she studied Spinoza
, admired Emerson
, and attended meetings of the Radical Club
on Chestnut Street, she never separated herself from the Church
, and always expressed her dissent from any opinion that seemed to show a lack of reverence.
On a certain occasion when a member of the club spoke of newspapers as likely to supersede the pulpit, Mrs. Howe
replied to him: “God forbid that should happen.
God forbid we should do without the pulpit.
It is the old fable of the hare and the tortoise.
We need the hare for light running, but the slow, steady tortoise wins the goal at last.”
Religious subjects, however, were not so much discussed at the Radical Club
as philosophy and politics,--and in these Mrs. Howe
felt herself very much at home.
On another occasion, when a member of the club said that he was prepared, like Emerson
, to accept the universe, Mrs. Howe
interposed with the remark that it was Margaret Fuller
who accepted the universe; she “was not aware that
the universe had been offered to Emerson
She said this because Margaret Fuller
was a woman.
Once, when writing for the newspapers was under discussion, Mrs. Howe
remarked that in that kind of composition one felt prescribed like St. Simeon Stylites
by the limitations of the column.
One of the best of her witty poems describes Boston
on a rainy day, and is called “Expluvior,” an innocent parody on Longfellow
's “Excelsior,” which, by the way, ought to have been called Excelsius.
The butcher came a walking flood,
Drenching the kitchen where he stood.
“Deucalion, is your name?”
“Moses,” he choked and slid away.
is one of the most characteristic verses; but in the last stanza she wishes to construct a dam at the foot of Beacon Hill
and cause a flood that would sweep the rebel sympathizers out of Boston
The office of the Blind Asylum was formerly near the middle of Bromfield Street on the southern side.
This is now historic ground.
Between 1850 and 1870 some of the most important national councils were held there in Dr. Howe
's private office.
It was the first place that
went to in the morning and the last place that Governor Andrew
stopped before returning to his home at night.
There Dr. Howe
and George L. Stearns
consulted with John Brown
concerning measures for the defence of Kansas
; and there Howe
, and Bird
concerted plans for the election of Andrew
in 1860, and for the re-election of Sumner
It was a quiet, retired spot in the midst of a bustling city, where a celebrated man could go without attracting public attention.
just one year, and Wilson
followed him not long after.