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Presidential politeness.

when we parted, in by no means a heart-broken state, with Mr. Pierce, and settled ourselves to bear as best we might the reign of Mr. Buchanan, the general opinion was that we had made a change for the better. There was a notion that Mr. B. was a more respectable man than his predecessor; or, at any rate, [30] that he would be more forbearing in his treatment of his antagonists, and less likely to do hard, ungenerous and ungracious things. In fact, despite the little Ostend escapade, Mr. Buchanan ran very much upon the merits of his respectability and figured in the multitudinous speeches of his champions as a venerable pacificator. It must be confessed that he has done very little in that way thus far. He seems to exhibit rather the querulousness than the placidity of old age. On the contrary, Mr. Pierce was particularly polite, and often advanced the most indefensible opinions in language of more than sophomorical elegance. When at his worst in public policy, he was most dulcet in his demeanor; and he vetoed necessary measures with commendable suavity. Mr. Buchanan, we regret to observe, is rather snappish, and too much inclined to snub the humble petitioners who approach the throne. The different characters of the last and of the present President may receive illustration from the following facts:

Last January, when Mr. Pierce was about to retire from the presidential glees and glooms, he received from the American Bible Society a copy of the Holy Scriptures, as a token of their high regard for the office which he held. “We do not know to whom the Society could more appropriately have made the donation than to one who, during his administration of public affairs, was singularly unmindful of many of the teachings of The Book. Uncharitable people might say that Mr. Pierce's case was like that of the man who, upon being asked by a distributor if he had [31] a copy of the Bible, produced two leaves, with the apologetical remark, that he had no idea that he was so ‘near out.’ ”

But in all respects the gift was creditable to the Society, and we hope that it will prove profitable to Mr. Pierce. A suspicious and touchy man, however, upon receiving it might have resented the presentation as implying a suspicion of his sore need of the instructions of the volume, and of his lack of a copy of it. But Mr. Pierce behaved in no such ungracious way. On the contrary, he sat down at once and wrote a charming letter of acknowledgment to the Society, paying the handsomest compliments to the book in particular and to the Christian religion in general. To be sure, he said some things in it which rather puzzle us; albeit we suppose that they are perfectly plain to The Journal of Commerce and other sheets less benighted than our own. After putting in, as became a sound Constitutional Democrat, a reminder “that in our political institutions there is no union of Church and State,” Mr. Pierce informs us that “Christianity animates our nation; it is the true spirit of good government; it is the characteristic and peculiar quality of modern civilization — the all-pervading principle of our laws, the sentiment and the moral and social existence of the people of the United States.”

This is well expressed; and we are not surprised that it gives our friend Forney's newspaper, from which we copy it, much calm satisfaction. But the ease and accuracy with which it is to be interpreted [32] will depend upon what kind of Christianity Mr. Pierce refers to. The truth is that there are several varieties now in vogue; and when presidents write upon theological subjects, they should be careful to let us know to which particular kind they are alluding. If Mr. Pierce in the above elegant extract referred to the new Christianity invented by the Dr. Rosses, expounded by the Rev. Brownlows, and practically exemplified sometimes behind the Presbyterian meeting-house in Rogersville, Tenn., why then the meaning of the sentence is as plain as a pike-staff. That is the Christianity which “animates our nationality,” and is too much “the all-pervading principle of our laws” --a Christianity which does not let the oppressed go free; but which chases them with blood-hounds, or with the hardly milder myrmidons of the law; a Christianity which, if it does not sanction, fails to rebuke, adultery, cruelty, and one great continuous theft of the earnings of the poor. But if Mr. Pierce refers to that other Christianity of older date, which inculcates good — will to man, then we confess that his words are as mysterious to us as if they were written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Still this has nothing to do with the manner of the letter which all will admit to be remarkably civil.

How different the style in which Mr. Buchanan received his present! Certain gentlemen in Connecticut remarking with pain that he seemed to be ignorant of the principles of the Constitution, as well as of his official duties, prepared and sent to him a little memorial, in which some of the simplest of these principles [33] and duties were pointed out in plain language. The donation was not a magnificent one, it must be confessed, and not worth half so much as those big cheeses which it used to be the fashion to present to presidents. But the donors “gave all; they could no more; though poor the offering was.” That Mr. Buchanan would have found a study of the paper profitable, we confidently aver. But instead of devoting himself to it like a good scholar, he ungratefully wrote to the Connecticut gentlemen a letter, the burthen of which was, “Thank you for nothing!” --a letter the very opposite of what may be called genial, and as puckery as a persimmon before the frost.

Some writer (French, of course) says that he prefers bad morals to bad manners; and without going to that extreme, we must say that suavity in a public officer is by no means to be despised. The mistress of the White House is said to be a well-bred young woman; and we advise Mr. Buchanan to entrust his more delicate correspondence to her. Female tact will amply atone for any lack of political knowledge.

October 10, 1857.

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