previous next

Mr. Mason's manners.

what are good manners? What is politeness as distinguished from rusticity? Miss Leslie has written a little elementary book intended to teach our Yankee girls how to behave themselves everywhere — in the church, in the drawing-room, in the railwaycar, and at the table d'hote. Mons. de Meilhauval has also compiled a Manuel du Scavoir, which is said to be a great polisher, but we have never seen it, and therefore, for all the good Monsieur might have done for us, we remain in our original ursine condition.

But if we have books for brides and bridegrooms, with treatises upon every manner of incoming and outgoing, incident to human life; if we have complete letter-writers and vade-mecums for all kinds of persons, why should not our ministers plenipotentiary and our embassadors extraordinary have a manual of as much authority as that of General Scott is with infantry? Why should they not be taught to go through their paces, their genuflexions, their advances and their retreats? How must we have suffered in the estimation of polite Europe for the want of such a work, to the compilation of which we do respect-fully entreat Mr. Peter Parley to devote his declining years! Might not such a volume, however elementary in,, its inculcations, have shown to John Randolph, of Roanoke, (clarum et venerable nomen!) the impropriety of approaching in a pair of buckskin breeches the enthroned Majesty of Muscovy? or of falling before Royalty upon his knees? [14] For performing these two feats, the Lord of Roanoke drew eighteen thousand dollars from the treasury of his country, and did that country no conceivable service whatever. Might not a little previous study have saved Minister Hannegan from devoting himself more to Bacchus than to Vatel, Puffendorf and Wheaton, and from being kicked out of the principal taverns near the court to which he was accredited? Might not such a volume have saved James Buchanan (with due reverence his name is here mentioned) from the gross impropriety of the Ostend Conference? Might not such a volume have persuaded a certain Secretary of Legation not to desecrate the sacred seal of Columbia? Might it not have wheedled and coaxed another Secretary of Legation into paying his debts before leaving Paris, so that shopmen would not then have inquired of every American purchaser, when the American Diplomatist intended to return? Pray let us have “The Diplomatist's own Book!”

We have been betrayed into these suggestions by seeing mentioned in the newspapers a painful error, into which the Honorable John Y. Mason, the august representative of this country near the Court of Louis Bonaparte, recently fell. We wish to speak with tenderness of Mr. Mason, because, notwithstanding his innocence of the vernacular of Gaul, he has shown a great desire to acquit himself creditably, by arraying himself upon court-days in the small-clothes and cocked-hat proscribed by the late Mr. Marcy. It is also understood that he would rather stay in Paris [15] than come home, for a reason that he has; that he is not personally a devotee of the principle of rotation, and that as for resigning he will see Mr. Buchanan----first.

But this is a weakness, if it be a weakness, with the whole diplomatic body. In fact, we think we can hear Mr. Buchanan chanting to our friend Cass:

Why do n't the men resign, my Cass--
     Why do n't the men resign?
Each one seems coming to the point,
     But never sends a line.

Mr. Buchanan ought not to be so impatient. Suppose that he were abroad, and did not want to come home; how would he like to be pricked in the tender parts of his constitution?

But the reader may fancy that we are never coming to the point. It is not a point at all. It is the back of a chair. Of a chair, we believe, at the Tuileries. And of a chair with an empress in it — an empress descended from a Scotch merchant and an Hidalgo of the bluest blood of Spain. Near that chair thus imperially occupied, sits the Representative of the United States of America. Perhaps he is standing; but that makes no difference, for the back of the chair might have been a high one. He might also have been masticating the weed of his beloved Virginia; but details, however important, are denied us. Suddenly he throws his arm about the back of the chair of H. S. M.! Oh, heavens! what next? Will not that arm descend upon that snowy and [16] swan-like neck, which we have all so much admired in engravings? Goodness gracious! what might have followed? From the chair-back to that other back, and so on! Depend upon it we were only saved by good luck from a war which all the cunning of diplomacy could not have averted!

“Oh, Diamond! Diamond! thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done!” cried Newton when an ill-conditioned cur overthrew a candle, and burned all the crooked mathematical computations of years. “Oh, John Y. Mason!” say we, “thou little knowest what mischief thou wert in danger of doing!” The venerable Benton once said of Embassador John: “If the man has a belly-full of oysters and a handful of trumps, he will thank God for nothing more!” If that hand had been “going it better” or “nary pair” on that fatal night, we should have been saved from this national discredit.

August 13, 1857.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Y. Mason (4)
James Buchanan (4)
Lewis Cass (2)
Wheaton (1)
N. J. Scott (1)
Manuel Scavoir (1)
John Randolph (1)
Peter Parley (1)
Newton (1)
Meilhauval (1)
Marcy (1)
Leslie (1)
Hannegan (1)
Gaul (1)
Bacchus (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
August 13th, 1857 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: