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Chapter 4: in active journalism

  • City editor New York tribune
  • -- visits Europe as correspondent -- revolution of 1848 -- provisional government of France -- sympathizes with the people -- Louis Napoleon a danger to the republic -- the policy and duty of France

As can well be imagined, Dana was not long in reaching the conclusion that the journalistic field of Boston was not likely to afford him a sufficient opportunity for the exercise of his talents or to yield him a sufficient income for his growing necessities. Accordingly he decided, late in 1846, to remove to New York, and through Horace Greeley, whose acquaintance he had made five years before, he secured employment as city editor of the Tribune at ten dollars per week to start with He began work in his new position in February, 1847, but before the year was out he realized that his income was insufficient and felt compelled to strike for a higher salary. Inasmuch as he had not only shown his usefulness, but had attracted attention to himself as a journalist of unusual talents, Greeley promptly yielded, and advanced his assistant's pay to fourteen dollars per week, while his own as chief editor and proprietor was only a dollar more. After this advance Dana gradually became completely absorbed in his work on the Tribune, and was therefore forced to terminate his engagements with other newspapers.

Just what articles he wrote at first for the Tribune, or what class he preferred to write, is not known, but as he was full of energy, exceedingly intelligent, and widely [62] read for so young a man, it may be fairly assumed that he took a hand in every important question before the public. As he was in later days often heard to declare, he had already come to regard the world as a “mighty interesting place,” and nothing which concerned it at large, or his own country in particular, could well be a matter of indifference to him.

It had been a desire of Dana's during the whole of his student life to travel in Europe, especially in Germany. He was greatly interested in the language, literature, and philosophy of that country, and wished above all things to broaden his acquaintance with them. Fortunately the political discussions which began in 1847, culminated in 1848, and finally ended nearly a quarter of a century later in a federated German empire, afforded him the opportunity he was so anxiously looking for. The wish to go abroad was strengthened by the fact that a revolution had broken out in France, which ended in the expulsion of Louis Philippe and the establishment of a republic with Louis Napoleon as president. In view of this troubled condition of affairs, his desire to visit Europe became irresistible. He therefore told Greeley frankly he wanted to go. The interview that took place was related by him many years afterwards substantially as follows:

Greeley said that would be no use, as I did not know anything about European matters, and would have to learn everything before I could write anything worth while. Then I asked him how much he would give me for a letter a week. He said ten dollars. On this I went, about the middle of the year, and wrote one letter a week to the Tribune for ten, one to McMichael's Philadelphia American for ten, one to the New York Commercial Advertiser for ten, one for the Harbinger at five, and one for the Chronotype at five. That gave me forty dollars a week for five letters till the Chronotype went up, and then I had thirty-five. On this I lived in Europe [63] nearly eight months, saw plenty of revolutions, supported myself there and my family here in New York, and came home only sixty-three dollars out for the whole trip.

But this is not all. While the trip was in every way a financial and intellectual success, it is believed that although the letters written to the various journals on his list were not absolutely identical, they constituted the first syndicated correspondence ever contracted for by any one either in Europe or America. Perhaps nothing in Dana's career ever showed more clearly his practical sense, or bore stronger evidence as to his natural genius for journalism, which, except during the war between the States, was to be his occupation to the end of his life.

That Dana was greatly interested at that time in the improvement of the social and economic condition of the masses of mankind, and lost no opportunity to gather information bearing on the subject, is shown by both his correspondence with the Tribune and the editorials which he wrote for that journal after his return. His earliest sympathies in that direction were clearly indicated by his connection with the Brook Farm Association, and by his writings for the Harbinger and Chronotype. But there is reason to believe that his observations abroad, especially of the selfishness, violence, and chicanery of the actual leaders, early began to shake his faith in theories however plausible, and to direct his attention to the motives and character of men as the largest factor in human affairs. It is certain that during his entire stay in Europe he kept a close watch on the leading men as well as on the drift of public affairs, especially in France. He formed definite and not always favorable opinions about those who were most conspicuous. During the summer of 1848 Louis Napoleon made his first appearance as a claimant for public favor, and although he made ample protestations [64] of patriotism and fidelity, Dana as early as December of that year did not hesitate to declare that he had “no faith in the sincerity of Louis Napoleon's adherence to the republic,” and expressed the belief that “he would rather be emperor than president.” In this epigrammatic opinion Dana's insight had made him prophetic, while in others dealing with more complicated subjects, as for instance in the expression which he credits to “a shrewd observer,” that “the ultimate triumph of socialism is certain,” he was at least premature.

Dana's first letter from Paris was written June 29, 1848, and gives a graphic account of the contest which was raging in the streets between the temporary government, representing the conservative interests of society, and the proletariat, composed of the working-men who wanted better wages and conditions, assisted by the professional agitators, who wanted notoriety or social change. It will be recalled that Louis Philippe had been deposed and driven out early in the year, the monarchy had been replaced by the republic, and General Cavaignac had been called to the head of the provisional government with absolute authority to restore and maintain peace. The government had undertaken to find work for the unemployed in and about Paris, but as it had neither workshops nor business organizations, neither factories nor machinery, and was without knowledge of what the public stood in need, it was ignorant of what to produce or how to find a market for it. In pursuance of its benevolent but fatuous policy, the workmen were in one instance set to work wheeling earth from one side of the river to the other, and when they had no more room in which to pile it up, they were required to wheel it back to the place from which they took it. In another they were sent to the country with the promise that work would be ready for them, but the country authorities, having no work for [65] strangers, made haste to send them back to the city. Production and distribution were badly disorganized. The private workshops were closed; the numbers of the unemployed increased till the government found itself at one time with more than one hundred thousand able-bodied idle men on hand. It offered to find places for them in the army, with food and clothing, but this was by no means satisfactory. Many wanted work which would enable them to support their families, while many wanted themselves and families supported without work. The bourgeoisie, who were, then as now, the well-to-do middle class, having capital, factories, and shops, were disgusted with the idleness, confusion, and violence which prevailed, and while it naturally disapproved of the government's well-meant but misdirected efforts to find work for the unemployed, gave ready and effective support to its efforts to suppress insurrection and violence. Indeed, the conservatives of every class became so incensed at the idleness which prevailed on every hand that they openly favored the extermination of the hungry and insurgent proletariat. The government, although established by the revolution, with absolute control of the army, gathered about itself all the elements of conservatism, the royalists, the imperialists, the constitutional republicans, the conservative socialists, and the non-partisan bourgeoisie, and made common cause against the insurgents, killing in a few days as many as ten or twelve thousand.

The French government estimated the killed at fully thirty-six thousand, but Dana, after personal investigation, came to the conclusion that twelve thousand would cover the entire number. During the first ten days of his stay in the distracted city he was constantly on the go, visiting the scenes of interest. Soon after his arrival he was himself subjected to a domiciliary visit, during which he was severely lectured for his slowness in opening his [66] door to the soldiers, and their amiability was not increased by the discovery of an improved gunlock which he had taken over in his baggage to oblige a friend. After a prolonged parley he succeeded in satisfying his suspicious visitors that he was really an American and not a conspirator. He describes most graphically what he saw of the actual insurrection, but as soon as order was restored he devoted himself to the study of what the revolution meant, what had brought it about, and what its objects were. To this end he visited the Assembly, and the bureaus of government where discussions were carried on, and took ample notes of all he saw and heard. His first letter gives a comprehensive account of the course adopted by General Cavaignac, M. Thiers, M. Carnot, M. Considerant, M. Walewski, and many others, who afterwards became prominent or disappeared entirely from public life. He also describes the part played by the working-classes and the conservatives, the stagnation of trade and manufactures, the violence of class hatred, the intense activity of the leading journals, and the re-establishment of social order on a progressive and permanent basis. All this is set forth with unusual lucidity and vigor.

Another letter treats of the condition of the working-classes, and the plans under consideration for their amelioration as set forth in the discussions which took place in the Assembly, where, among other things, it was promised to encourage associations of workmen with their former employers, by allowing them to undertake jobs on the public works without giving bonds, as was required from individual contractors. This proposition was debated with “agitation.” Many amendments were proposed, and much was said about the elevation of the laborer and his emancipation from the wage system. The miseries of these people and the selfishness of the middle classes were described at large. The Assembly devoted itself with deep [67] attention to the subject, and seemed to feel the need of doing something effective, to make the lot of the laborers more tolerable and their life more like the life of human beings.

... “Still,” the writer adds, “there is a long way between such transient emotions and the perception of the fact that the emancipation of labor is the present especial duty and destiny of this nation, and that it depends on the wealthy to say whether it is to be done peacefully and with benefit to all, or whether by refusing to do it they will bring on a new and more desperate phase of the revolution.”

No one can read this letter without perceiving that the French people were deeply moved by the disarrangement of economic conditions which everywhere prevailed. That Dana was full of sympathy for them, and greatly interested not only in the actual condition of affairs, but in the provisions of the new constitution which were then under discussion, is apparent in every line. He attended the daily session of the Assembly, and listened with the closest attention to the debates in which such men as Victor Hugo and Felix Pyat, General Cavaignac and General Baraguay d'hilliers took part. His analysis of the questions and the discussions which followed is most searching. It constitutes an excellent bit of reporting, but in the progress of later years it has lost its significance for the present generation, and must therefore be omitted from this narrative.

Much of a later letter is taken up with an account of the proceedings of the committee on the constitution, the organization of the legislature, the right to labor, religious freedom, the formation of clubs and secret societies, the debate between M. Thiers and M. Proudhon, the proposed intervention in Italy, the condition of trade, and the alarming increase of beggary in Paris. In regard to the last-mentioned subject, I quote as follows: [68]

. To answer the demands made upon one in the streets by those who are evidently unused to begging would require daily a small fortune. At evening all Paris, almost, seems to be abroad in search of charity. Young men stop you in the streets to ask assistance, and respectably dressed women, duly veiled, entreat the passers on the sidewalks to buy sole ornament, which is their last resource against starvation. Charity is, or soon will be, utterly unavailing against the destitution. The number of persons who were in the national workshops was one hundred and five thousand. Since the insurrection there has been a regular system of furnishing those of them who wished with pecuniary relief at their homes. The number claiming it is now more than two hundred thousand. The distributer in one small district says that when he began it was estimated that there were forty-two persons to be aided in his district; at his second distribution there were seventy-one, and at his third, which took place five days after the first, eighty-eight. So that the number of public paupers — for these unfortunates are nothing else --had been more than doubled in five days. Where is the government to find means to sustain this load of misery? ...

The letter of August 3d was devoted mainly to M. Proudhon's reply to the speech of M. Thiers in the Assembly. The subject under consideration was socialism or the rights and duty of property. The Assembly was packed with people anxious to hear this “insatiable radical,” who had been mentioned as “the Robespierre of a new terror,” but whom Dana characterizes as “not so great a man though a better one.”

... He is a logician with the French passion for theatrical effect. Robespierre was a man of profound sincerity. Proudhon is a man of unequalled skill in dialectics. Robespierre was a man of ideas. Proudhon is a man of mental conception. Robespierre spoke to convince; Proudhon to startle. But the man of '48 is of his times, as the man of ‘93 [69] was of his. Robespierre made violence the instrument of liberty. Is it the destiny of fraternity to pass through the same companionship and through similar strains? I cannot believe it. There will be great and trying difficulties, but the passion which raged then can hardly be kindled now, besides, history does not repeat itself. ...

It is noteworthy that this radical philosopher, although possessed of imperturbable nerve and self-control, was listened to by his fellow-members with but little patience. What he considered as his best points against the “royalty of money” and the “aristocracy of capital” were received with laughter and derision. The greatest confusion prevailed throughout his address, but the speaker held his ground as “unchanged as if he were reading aloud to himself.” His offensive doctrines were set forth at great length, but curiously enough the Assembly, after hearing him through to the end, resolved to pass to the order of the day as the best way of expressing its disapproval of Citizen Proudhon's odious attack on the right of property, as an inexcusable appeal to the worst passions of the working people, and a calumny on the revolution of February. The resolution was carried by six hundred and ninety-one as against the single vote of Proudhon and one other member. This overwhelming decision gave satisfactory assurances to the world that the day of violence was past. The sober sense of the Assembly had not only condemned the schemes of the radical socialist, but had pronounced them to be visionary and impracticable as well as subversive of public morals and social order.

It is to be observed that it was in this speech that Proudhon laid before the Assembly and the nation his proposition to abolish interest and rent, as the best means of stimulating production and creating a state of universal abundance, cheapness, and enjoyment. It was also in [70] this speech that he proposed the organization of credit by means of a bank of exchange, which it was contended would make the actual current product of industry instead of specie the standard of circulation, and thus carry the world forward with another great stride. Dana sets forth all Proudhon's theories clearly and with evident interest, but nowhere gives them his approval as practicable or workable schemes of government. They were novel and suggestive speculations on matters of great human concern, but there is no evidence that they produced anything more than a passing impression upon the alert and virile mind of the writer. He alluded to them upon more than one occasion in after life, but, like the French Assembly, ultimately came to look upon them as visionary and impracticable.

Dana spent the whole of July, August, and September (1848), or something over three months, at the French capital, much of the tine in close attendance on the meetings of the Assembly, where the principal business was the framing of a definite constitution of government for the republic. As the men who had that important matter in hand had come to understand fairly well that the causes which had led to the revolution were social rather than political, the discussions turned more upon the condition of labor and industry, and the duties of government in respect thereto, than upon mere political rights or forms of administration. One is struck by the complete absence of all reference to the science of political economy from the discussions of the day, whether in Dana's letters or the French journals. The word economics, now so commonly in use, seems to have been entirely unknown at that time. Dana made no use of it, but, like the leading French journalists and statesmen, spoke and wrote only about socialism. All economic phenomena were classified and discussed under that head, and so far as one can now [71] perceive, Dana as well as the public men with whom he came into daily contact, was dealing largely with symptoms rather than with the actual cause of disease — with abstract theories rather than with practical measures of reform.

In this correspondence Dana charges the conservative or bourgeois party with both making the insurrection and putting it down — with refusing to pay the men in the national workshops and yet continuing to pay them in the shop of charity — with abolishing the monarchy and then conspiring to continue its abuses — with establishing an elective presidency and then preparing to convert it into a hereditary one--with promising aid to Italy and then refusing it. He calls attention to the fact that while all Europe has been going through political convulsions, the retrograde party is everywhere gathering strength—everywhere rejoicing in the prospect of returning to power. “The revolutionary forces have only two allies-winter and famine-against which armies are powerless and martial law of no effect.” The discontentment which had spread to England, and was increased by famine in Ireland, shook his confidence in the eternity of British institutions, and led him to declare:

... The majesty of England is after all fragile at the base, the feet of the statue are of clay. Its day will come, sooner or later, whether to-morrow or the next century, no man can foretell. A feudal aristocracy monopolizing the soil, and the moneyed aristocracy monopolizing the materials and implements of industry, are both things that cannot stand before the spirit that is abroad. Nor will they disappear peacefully by a gradual and harmless process. ...

The agitation continued in France, the army was kept constantly on the alert, the streets of Paris were filled with artillery, conspiracy was suspected on every hand, the [72] republic was in constant fear of overthrow, the provisional government was divided against itself. On every side the call was for a great man who could meet the emergencies, guide the country through the whirlpool, and secure instant safety for the mighty interests of the people. At this juncture Dana pointed out in his letter to the Tribune that it was vain to long for a great leader, and that

... as the world advances the crises of its progress are more and more beyond the control of human genius. This age seems poorer in individual greatness than other ages, because its necessities and perils are more gigantic, and individuals cannot tower above them.

And yet Dana continued to attend the Assembly and to report its proceedings. His September letters constitute a condensed but comprehensive summary of the discussions which took place over the provisions of the new constitution, whether in the press or in the legislature. They present with impartial candor the fervid eloquence of Lamartine, the unimpassioned conservatism of De Tocqueville, the sturdy resolution of Cavaignac, the shifty statesmanship of Thiers, and the lofty patriotism of Hugo. They note with approval or disapproval both the small men and the great, as they passed across the stage, and it may well be doubted if any Newspaper in the world, at that time, presented a more animated or a more truthful picture of the notable men and measures connected with that important historical epoch than that furnished by Dana to the Tribune. However much one may feel disposed to question the personal criticisms or the philosophical reflections in which these letters abound, it must be admitted that they are presented in a freshness and beauty of style which in this day at least would surely result in giving them permanent existence as a book of travels and observation. [73]

After listening to the petty cavillings and verbal criticisms of many small disputants, he hailed with delight Lamartine's approach to the tribune, and from what follows, one can almost hear the distinguished member of the provisional government as he addresses the legislature:

... The essence of Lamartine's oratory is sentiment, imagination. It is not the reason he addresses, and logic is not one of his weapons, but there is something electric, something inspired in his words which makes you forget reason, forget everything, indeed, but the magnificent periods that seem to envelop you like an atmosphere of the finer and more exciting quality. His oratory absorbs you, carries you away, magnetizes and delights you. You are revived, elevated, ennobled by its influence. Your mind afterwards works more freely, as if it had been bathed in some invigorating and expanding element. He has not argued with you, has not convinced you, has not instructed you, but you come from hearing him with a new faith in truth and in humanity, with clearer insight, and with fresh resolution and courage.

A close but kindly criticism follows. The orator fails to grasp great principles in their details and to develop them into workable institutions. While he sympathizes with the people and favors their right to labor, he conveys no intelligible idea of how that right is to be secured. Having no clear idea of his own, he necessarily utters nothing but vague and glittering generalities.

... “But,” says our correspondent, “I find myself criticising him as coolly as if there was nothing else to say about his speech but to point out its faults, when at the time of its delivery one would as soon have thought of finding fault with a summer sunrise.”

As no analysis can do justice to these letters, the reader must be content with an extract now and then on some [74] subject of general interest. In speculating upon the course of events ill Germany and Austria, as viewed from Paris, Dana declares that no reaction can ever take back the abolition of seignorial rights, or reimpose the burdens which the revolution has lifted from the backs of the people. Then he adds, with confidence:

The freedom of the press, the education of the masses can also not be done away with, though they may for a time be subjected to restrictions. It is in vain for barbarism and tyranny to attempt to regain the conquests of liberty; they may seem to triumph for a while, but they are destroyed by their triumph. The Croats of Jellachich may be victorious, but that very victory will leave them less savage than before, and inoculate them with ideas to which they are strangers.

In commenting upon the provisional government under the presidency of General Cavaignac, whom he praises for his honorable descent, his spotless character, his faithful performance of duty, and as though laying down a principle for future use, he says:

... The career of the general has been a brilliant one; from his first entry into military life to the insurrection of June he has been uniformly successful. But to be a successful soldier is one thing, and to be a man capable of directing the affairs of a state in a difficult crisis is another.

General Cavaignac is a soldier still, and only a soldier. His government is the government of the sabre and the bayonet; it rests on military not on moral force. Its end is the preservation of order by means of the army and the dictatorship. His policy is military law; he is not a statesman, but a chieftain whom circumstances have put into power. It follows that this rule is only temporary, and that as the circumstances which raised him to his present prominence disappear .. . he will return to the rank from which he has emerged, a skilful soldier, but politically a cipher... [75]

Indeed, in nothing that belongs to the sphere of the statesman is [his] administration above mediocrity; it marches in the line of juste-milieu and of routine — is neither one thing nor the other-does not gain the confidence of the bourgeoisie nor the attachment of the people, and has nothing to rely upon but the army, the fear of change and an uncertain something that may follow the change, which naturally exercises a great influence in the Assembly, if not on the population in general. . . .

And so it was to the end. The provisional government took no liberties with the people but to maintain order. Its chief laid down no policies and propounded no theories of social reform, but steadily maintained order, holding the drawn sword between the factions, and finally handing over the government intact and unbroken to his elected successor. He had been called by the Assembly to the position he occupied. He had entered upon it with devotion, and he would go out of it with honor. While Dana at the time seemed to think this but a narrow platform — a policy of negation, and therefore a bitter disappointment to the people, whose privations and sacrifices entitled them to something better-he could not withhold his tribute of admiration from its author “for the firmness and chivalrous spirit with which he assumed his position.” He evidently feared his failure, yet hoped for success, and it is to be recorded that his success was complete. What Dana thought of it finally is unknown, but there can be but little doubt that in later years he would have given it unstinted praise had he been called upon for an opinion. Even a revolution does not appear from a central point of observation, as it does from one far removed either in distance or time.

So far as one can judge from Dana's analysis of the speeches and the newspaper discussions, he sympathized with those who stood out for the “right of every individual [76] living on the soil of the republic not to die of hunger, the guarantee of a subsistence procured by labor, and a series of institutions to make good that guarantee,” rather than with those who favored the measures that were passed. It is to be observed that this is merely an inference, and that he nowhere expresses his personal preference or opinion, but contents himself with reporting the discussions of the hour with a good deal of fullness, as bearing upon an acute question in France which had not yet made its appearance in his own country, but which might do so in the natural course of events.

It is only fair to remember that Dana was still gazing at the world with the eyes of curiosity rather than of matured judgment. He was gathering land reporting facts and opinions as he found them, and while he was doubtless thereby forming his own ideas tentatively at least, it was no part of his plan to express them in this correspondence, except upon such fundamental questions as had already been settled both for time and eternity. He favored individual liberty of conscience, religion, and labor; he stood for free opinions, free voting, free press, and free education. He sympathized with the poor and down-trodden. He hated tyranny, oppression, and privilege; he favored the elevation of the people by all proper means, and it is not to be denied that he thought those means might be brought forward more rapidly and more surely by a spirit of aggressive inquiry and investigation than by the conservative processes of evolution. In truth, it must be said he stood in awe of no speculation however bold, but appears to have held himself free to listen to every honest suggestion for the improvement of the human lot, no matter from what source it came or who stood forth as its champion.

It was about the middle of September that Louis Napoleon was elected a member of the National Assembly, in five departments by overwhelming majorities. The event [77] was full of interest to Dana, and he made haste to report and comment upon it to the journals which he represented. To the Tribune he said:

... All the moderate Republicans regard the result as a severe blow at the Republic and lament it. The Legitimists rejoice at it. “A Napoleon was fatal to the Republic of ‘93-a Napoleon will be fatal to the Republic of '48, and a second restoration will be, they think, more fortunate than the former.” The Red Republicans are not sorry; they regard it as a blow not at the Republic, but at the administration of Cavaignac and the state of siege of which they are impatient to be rid.

To say the least, the result is a striking one: Napoleon a pretender whose purposes, or rather those of his friends, are masked but not extinguished; could an extreme reactionist whose Republicanism is more than doubtful; Raspail a violent Revolutionist, and an aspirant for the succession of Marat, a leader in the outbreak of May 15th. These men do not portend peace and quiet, but disturbance and convulsion, and the weakness of those who represent moderate opinions in the press and the chamber only strengthen them. Louis Napoleon in ordinary times and ordinary circumstances would pass for nothing more than a hare-brained and very foolish young man; now he is magnified into a danger to the Republic, and the people vote for him because he is made a greater man than he is [and], because he represents the medium of the emperor. ...

This closely enough foreshadows the course of history in respect to that extraordinary man and his career, to stand for prophecy. In connection with a previous remark of Dana's, that Louis Napoleon would rather have the empire than the republic, and with the fact that he finally overthrew the republic and made himself emperor, it must be conceded that this was a prophecy which hastened hot-foot to fulfilment. In connection with Louis Napoleon's election to the Assembly, Dana calls attention [78] to the fact that the vote actually cast for him was smaller than it was at either of the previous elections in those districts, and that this circumstance seemed to justify the conclusion that a large number of the French people did not, even upon such important occasions, care enough for universal suffrage to take the trouble of going to the polls. Later, in referring to Louis Napoleon's first appearance in the Assembly, Dana says:

... He was instantly the sole object of attention of every person in the House except the unlucky orator who happened to be in the tribune; even the elegant and massive lorgnette of ivory that President Marast wields with such consummate skill was gracefully levelled upon him. He bore the quizzing with calmness and courage. He was dressed in black with a bad-looking mustache-at least that was the verdict of the ladies in the gallery. He is rather undersized and seems worn with dissipation. As soon as his election was proclaimed he read a speech about two minutes long in which he took the oath of allegiance to the Republic and his constituents. All parties joined in applauding it. ...

The fact is that both the radicals and the conservatives were tired and the country impatient. The discussion had been going on with more or less intensity for six months, further agitation was discouraged, and while the committee on the constitution was not altogether satisfied with its work, both the Assembly and the people insisted upon settling down to the organization of a definitive if not a permanent government.

Dana, while faithfully reporting the final result to the newspapers at home, declared with characteristic emphasis:

... The agitation will not stop, and ought not to stop, till all monopolies are abolished and a free field opened to progress of every kind. As long as there are fetters on this [79] people they will struggle to shake them off. Every new effort loosens the bonds somewhat, and if they made no effort they would never be loosened.

Monopolies, that oppress whole classes, “he added,” do not come off easily, but once off can never be restored, and whatever the agitation may cost let us remember this truth, which is too generally overlooked and too easily forgotten, that it cannot be as destructive, inhuman, and fatal in its consequences as the evil that occasions it. ... The struggle for freedom may be terrible, but the stagnation of oppression is more so. The French agitation has its sufferings, but a return to the old quiet would be worse.

And this seems to have been “truth” to Dana throughout his life. Agitation had no terrors for him, but remained as the breath of his nostrils in every great occasion, and even in every occasion which he thought to be great.

On September 28th he wrote two letters, the first of which related exclusively to French affairs, and the second to the progress of the revolution in Germany, Austria, and Italy. On October 4th he wrote his final letter from Paris relating mostly to the policy of France towards the surrounding countries. I shall omit all reference at this time to the second, and confine myself to the consideration of the third. It was a period of universal ferment. The process of consolidation and reconstruction had everywhere begun. Thrones were tottering, republics were rising, and constitutions were coming into existence. France, having been the first to drive out the old and install the new, was regarded as the leader of modern Europe. All the elements of discontentment turned naturally towards her for guidance and assistance, and she was swift to promise both. Ledru-Rollin had eloquently said:

There are two means of propagating Republican principles-one armed, that of force; the other pacific, that of ideas.


The latter the provisional government had inaugurated in a magnificent manifesto which the whole nation received with enthusiasm. This means had been most fruitful, for within two months all the sovereigns of Germany were obliged to settle accounts with their subjects. The cry of France had found an echo. Tie unity of Germany had begun to be founded. The German democracy were ridding themselves of their petty princes, and yet the allied monarchs were, as in ‘93, convinced that it would be necessary to conquer the revolutionary genius of France first to extinguish the conflagration around themselves, and then to destroy forever that France whence the revolution had gone forth.

The spirit of democracy had spread throughout the continent. The people of Italy and Hungary were like those of France and Germany, showing a firm determination to substitute republicanism for despotism. Local disturbances seemed about to merge themselves in European revolution, and the people were everywhere calling for help. But the provisional government wisely declined to send the French army on a democratic crusade. France had troubles of her own in abundance, and deeply as she might sympathize with the people of other countries, she drew lessons of wisdom from her past history, and finally planted herself firmly on the doctrine of non-intervention. It must be confessed that while Dana's views upon this important question are far in advance of the period in which they were uttered, they are none the less eloquent on that account. They are given at length in the extract which follows:

... The duty of France is not to undertake the propagation of Republican principles by armed force. She should not send her armies into a country to compel its people to accept a freedom for which they are not ripe, which they do not desire; but on the other hand it is her duty, neglect [81] of which is exceedingly dangerous, to fly to the assistance of every nation that in the name of Liberty invokes her aid. It is her duty to come out from the old league of kings and despots, and, planting herself on the rock of popular Liberty, to proclaim the era of Universal Emancipation. She is not put at the head of the great movement of these times in order that she may shirk from the responsibilities which that post implies. The aid which from motives of mere self-interest, she rendered to America in the hour of need she is bound to render from motives of paternal generosity to Italy, to Germany, to Hungary, and to Poland, to every appealing nation to which that aid may avail. Those nations are in some sort her children — called into life by her influence and example-and it is treachery of the same hue, though of a fainter tinge, to allow them to be strangled by Absolutism, as it would be to allow one of her own provinces to be taken from her by Austria or Prussia. The notion that they are foreign nations and may be neglected is a relic of an idea happily growing more obsolete every day. The truth that in Christendom, in Europe, there are no foreign nations, but that all are members of one sisterhood, of one commonwealth, is taking its place. These general considerations form only one aspect of the argument. For France it is not only a question of morals but of interest.

The battle between Democracy and Absolutism commenced in Europe long ago; it was definitely engaged in ‘92 when the French Republic was first proclaimed. The Restoration was merely a truce between the contending parties which the Revolution of February [1848] broke off.

. . am not a lover of war but of peace. War is as hateful to me as the direst form of crime and destruction can be to any one, but I believe that the world is not yet so far advanced that it may not be a necessity and a duty. In this view I cannot resist the conviction that there is something providential in the growth of this National Spirit in the French nation. It is their preparation for the last and most momentous war in Europe for the final struggle between Despotism and Liberty. ...


Calling attention to the alliance between Russia, Prussia, and Austria to resist the democratic tendency of the times, he declares:

... If France is the positive pole of Europe, Russia is the negative — the one the day-dawn, the other blackest midnight; the one life, the other death.

Pointing out how Russia was becoming everywhere the leader of the party of resistance, that France was in better condition to make war than any other nation of Europe, and that a general war was sure to break out sooner or later, he argued that the sooner France begun it the sooner and the more certainly would she conquer a lasting peace. But in order that his personal views should not be misunderstood, he said, in conclusion:

... I have not been arguing in favor of war for the sake of war. God forbid that any man should be so depraved as that! I have simply attempted to show that a war is inevitable, that it will be a war between France and Russia, or between Liberty and Despotism, and that France has lost the opportunity of strengthening herself very greatly by neglecting the dictates of humanity in the case of Italy. The issue of the war, as I have already said, can only be in favor of Liberty; first political liberty will be established, clearing the way for progress, and then will follow equality and fraternity. All is not attained with the overthrowal of despots, and all the despotism is not overthrown when the kings are driven from their capitals. From political to social and industrial freedom, the distance at times seems long, but it is not too long for humanity.

While the prophetic strain which characterizes this declaration may be considered premature, it clearly indicates that Dana's sympathies lay with the party of discontentment and progress wherever it might be found, or whatever might be its chance of success.

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