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Chapter 19: Paris again.—March to April, 1839.—Age, 28.

Changing the plan of his journey, in which a visit to Germany was to follow his visit to England, Sumner turned towards Italy, and crossed the Channel, by way of Dover and Boulogne, on the night of March 22. During four weeks in Paris, he renewed his intercourse with friends1 from whom he parted the year before; and was kindly received by Lord Granville, then British ambassador, to whom he had been commended by Lord Morpeth. He also saw much of Lord Brougham,2 who was then making one of his frequent visits to that city.

He undertook at this time a patriotic service, which interfered with the pursuit of the special objects of his journey,—the defence of the American title to territory included in the ‘Northeastern Boundary’ controversy between the United States and Great Britain. The friendly relations of the two countries were then disturbed, not only by the territorial dispute, but also by the affair of the ‘Caroline.’ Partisans on both sides were indulging in recriminations and threats of hostilities. The State of Maine had erected forts along its frontier, and armed a civil posse to maintain possession of the disputed district. The controversy grew out of the uncertain language by which the treaty of 1783 defined the line between the two countries, as running ‘from the North-west angle of Nova Scotia; namely, that angle which [84] is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the Highlands; along the said Highlands, which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the North-westernmost head of Connecticut River, &c’. The application of the terms ‘North-west angle,’ ‘Highlands,’ ‘Atlantic Ocean’ (whether including or not the Bay of Fundy), and ‘the North-westernmost head of Connecticut River,’ was much contested by the parties. Great Britain, under her interpretation, asserted title to the northern part of Maine,—a pretension stoutly resisted by the United States. The conflicting claims were considered in 1814 in the negotiations at Ghent, but without any result. They were referred, in 1827, to the King of the Netherlands as arbitrator; but his award was unsatisfactory to both parties, and was not carried into effect. The longer the controversy lasted, the more it imperilled the peaceful relations of the two nations. It was thought important by Americans in Paris, particularly by General Cass, that the American argument, which was not as yet well known in England and on the Continent, should be stated in a form best calculated to reach foreign opinion. At a meeting held at the American Legation, Sumner proposed that Robert Walsh should prepare a paper on the subject. This was agreed to; but Walsh, when waited upon by Sumner, declined. General Cass next undertook the work, but did not persevere; and, at his request, Sumner finally prepared the argument. It was an elaborate paper, the materials of which were confessedly drawn from an article in the New York Courier and Enquirer; but original sources were also examined. It reviewed at length the history and points of the dispute, and particularly the speeches in Parliament at the time of the treaty of 1783. It was printed in ‘Galignani's Messenger,’ April 12, filling six and a half columns. A large number of copies, at the instance of General Cass, were sent to England, addressed to members of Parliament and other leaders of public opinion; and thus the American view was diffused in that country. The paper is largely documentary and critical; the concluding paragraph shows the spirit in which it was prepared. In it, as also in his correspondence at the time, one observes thus early strong convictions upon the peace question:—

We have endeavored honestly and candidly to present some of the principal considerations that bear on this important question. We hope that, in [85] doing it, we have not failed in respect for England. To her, as the land from which our fathers came, we bear a sentiment of love and devotion little short of what is felt by her own immediate children. We feel the inspiration of her history and literature, and are proud to claim them partly as our own. Her power we do not question. It was an American3 who, on the floor of the Senate of the United States, in allusion to her magnificent empire, has said that “she has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts;” and that her “morning drum-beat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England.” We venture to ask her to be as just as she is powerful. “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war;” and may it be reserved to the youthful Queen, who now sits on the English throne, to illustrate her reign by a greater victory than that of the Armada,—the overcoming of a national prejudice and the acknowledgment of a national wrong.

A Citizen of the United States. Paris, April 9.

In the negotiations which finally closed this ancient controversy, questions of title were not argued. The parties, wearied with the hopeless task of attempting to convince each other, at length, in 1842, by the treaty of Washington, established a conventional line,—a line by compromise,—each abating its pretensions, and parting with alleged rights for supposed equivalents. The United States gave up a large territory, for which it compensated the State of Maine by the grant of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the payment of the expenses of its civil posse. Mr. Webster, when assailed, four years later, with the charge of having failed, as Secretary of State, in his duty to his country, defended the treaty in the Senate in an able speech; and his name and that of Ashburton, the British representative, are associated on one of the most honorable pages in the history of diplomacy.4

Sumner's article was well received in this country. It was reprinted in full in the Boston Courier,5 where it was commended as ‘a clear and able statement of the American view.’ A correspondent of the ‘Advertiser,’6 writing with the signature of ‘Senescens,’ said:—

The article is written by our townsman, Mr. Charles Sumner, whose name makes any particular commendation superfluous. . . . It is a learned, [86] perspicuous, and satisfactory view of the subject, presenting the American argument to the European public more clearly than it has heretofore been presented in any form equally compendious, and for that reason calculated to render important public service. . . . The copy of the letter before us was specially transmitted to this country by our Minister at Paris, General Cass, to whom, when it first appeared, the article was attributed in Paris. Nor was the praise bestowed upon it confined to the Americans. Avowedly temperate in its tone and candid in its manner of handling the subject, it received the approbation of liberal Englishmen. The British ambassador at Paris, Lord Granville, spoke of it in decided terms of commendation. . . . In conclusion, allow me, sir, as an individual citizen, to express my obligations to Mr. Sumner for the worthy use which in this and other ways he has made of his residence abroad.

Professor Greenleaf wrote, May 17:—

I ran my eye rapidly over your article on the North-eastern Boundary in “Galignani's Messenger.” The impression it gave me was delightful. They ought at least to give you a secretaryship of legation for it.

Governor Everett wrote, May 20:—

I am greatly indebted for the paper containing your admirable article on the North-eastern Boundary.

Hillard wrote, May 24:—

Your article does you great credit. . . . Its tone and spirit are just what they ought to be,—manly, patriotic, and decided; but courteous, dignified, and bland. You seem to make the argument as clear as a proposition in geometry.

Mr. Ingham wrote, May 29:—

I read attentively your argument, which is conclusive, I think, on the two points,—that “Mars Hill” is not the Highlands, and that the “Bay of Fundy” is the ocean; and these points being decided against the British claims, there is nothing in the text of the treaties to support them. I believe that the desire for continued peace and amity between the two countries is sincere and fervent with all of those whom Cobbett used to call our “thinking people.”

Sumner was much annoyed by a personal incident connected with the publication. Walsh, a sensitive and disappointed person, was not quite pleased with the credit which the authorship had given to another; and besides disparaging Sumner's article in an American newspaper, he furnished for the London Times an incorrect report of Lord Brougham's conversations in Paris, which tended to weaken the effect of his remarks in the House of Lords favorable to the American view; giving as authority, ‘an [87] American who was in the habit of seeing him (Lord Brougham) frequently when he was recently in Paris.’ Sumner, who had talked too freely with Walsh, was the only American to whom the description could apply, and soon after he received a note from Lord Brougham, kindly in terms, but complaining of the report of his conversations. Sumner wrote a letter to the ‘Times’7 from Rome, May 23, stating Walsh's account to be ‘entirely false,’ and giving the true version. His relations with Brougham were not disturbed by the affair.


To Lord Morpeth.

Paris, Rue De La Paix, April 12, 1839.
my dear Morpeth,—Since I left England, the alternate tidings I have had from your country and from America have made me anxious—you will not think me too anxious—with regard to the question of peace and war; and our minister at Paris, a sensible, able, and honest man, has sympathized with me fully. I have written an article in ‘Galignani's Messenger,’ in which I have aimed to present the American side in away not disagreeable, I trust, to Englishmen. I have examined the question since I have been in Paris; and though I saw it undoubtedly through the American medium, yet I endeavored to look at it candidly: and I cannot resist coming to the conclusion that we are right, and that the subject needs to be more studied in England. I have examined the debates in the treaty of 1783, at the time when the question of boundaries was discussed, and have made some extracts from them in the hasty article I have written. Lord Brougham—who is not very well now8—has expressed himself very strongly to me with regard to the American claim, and has told me that Lord Jeffrey was of the same opinion with himself. Let us keep war afar: I tremble at the thought of it.

I send herewith the ‘Galignani,’ and venture to ask you to run your eye over it. You know my love for England; and I believe you will do me the justice to think that I would never write about her, except in the spirit of love.

This letter will find you in the midst of your own ministerial contest. You will have the ardent opposition of Leader, but the support of Hume. Lady Granville has received me most kindly. I owe you many thanks for introducing me to her.

I leave Paris soon for Rome, where I shall be in the middle of May. My [88] address will be with Torlonia & Co.; and I should be much gratified by an assurance from you that we shall have peace between our two countries.

As ever, very sincerely yours,

To George S. Hillard, Boston.

Paris, April 15, 1839.
dear Hillard,—Wherever I am, I find something to do more than I anticipated. I am here simply en route for Italy; but I could not be in this charming place without reviving some of my old acquaintances, and once more enjoying the splendid museums and galleries and sights. What a change from London! I was not aware that the atmosphere of London was so black and surcharged with dirt as I am now convinced it is by the contrast; the gilding, and silks, and furniture of the drawing-rooms—salons —are here so clear and bright, compared with those of London, where damp and dirt are constantly at work.

I came from Boulogne in the diligence with an English M. P., who did not know me personally, but who took me for an Englishman, and talked about the Americans; while I, enjoying it so much, forbore to undeceive him. I love Paris for its sights and gay scenes, and for its palaces for the people: its museums, stored in the halls of kings, which are gazed on by the humble, the lowly, and the poor. I again entered the Louvre with a throb, and rejoiced as I ascended its magnificent stairway, to think that it was no fee-possession, set apart to please the eyes of royalty. One day I have passed at Versailles, to revive the recollections of that place; and I stood with melancholy interest before that exquisite conception of Joan of Arc, by poor Mary of Orleans. This sculptor-princess I once saw. She seemed pretty, intelligent, and lively; and this statue is brimful of genius and thought. In that mighty palace of France, where it now is, there is nothing more touching. One night, I listened to Mademoiselle Rachel,— the new meteor that has illuminated the French drama. Without beauty, she has intense dignity, a fine voice, and great power of conceiving the meaning of the poet. Another night, I was charmed by the wonders of the French opera, the glories of the ballet, the dance and song; another, I was an indifferent listener to Grisi, Lablache, Tamburini, and the Italian corps. And then, society has spread its nets. I have found invitations when I did not wish them. Lord Granville has been very kind to me. Thorn's balls are truly brilliant, and his house is one of the finest I have ever seen. People with titles beg for invitations there. Before the last ball, Lord Brougham, who was in Paris, and of whom I have seen much, wrote me a note,—which I send you for an autograph,—asking me to get him an invitation! Said Brougham to me the other day, as we were walking arm-in-arm: ‘Ah! my dear friend, is this like Boston?’ Tell Cleveland and Longfellow that we were then in the shadow of Napoleon's Column, in the Place Vendome; and ask them whether they find any thing in Boston like that. Strange things I may tell of Brougham. I have talked with him much about our [89] Maine affair. ‘It shall be discussed!’ said he, with an oath, when I told him that all we wanted was to have the subject looked into and studied; but I have written two very long letters to Governor Everett on this subject. At the request of General Cass, our minister, I have written a long article in ‘Galignani's Messenger,’ stating the American side. It was after no little ado that it was admitted. It is the longest article ever published in that journal since its foundation, and, I believe, the longest American article ever published in Europe. Besides the circulation it will have of some eight or ten thousand on the continent of Europe, there are one thousand copies struck off to send to members of the English Parliament. Mr. Hume (M. P.) was so interested in it that he has undertaken to distribute it. I am convinced that we are right, and have said so, but have expressed myself full of kindness to England. More than this: I have written to some thirty persons of influence in British politics, soliciting their attention to this subject; being fully convinced that, if they will look at it, they will agree with us. I have felt anxious to avail myself of the personal relations which I have with English statesmen, for the benefit of my country. But this affair is merely a day's episode in my travels. You will find something new in my article with regard to the intention of the framers of the treaty. Brougham told me it was ‘unanswerable.’

Ever affectionately,

C. S.

To George S. Hillard.

Paris, April 20, 1839.
dear Hillard,—In an hour or two, I shall be rattling behind shaggy demons of horses in the malle-poste for Lyons. I shall be two nights and a day in the confined vehicle, without stopping, except for a single half hour. Why do I find so much to do, always? I have found it almost impossible to get away from Paris. The letters I have been obliged to write have consumed a great deal of my time. It is not simply the seeing sights and enjoying society that occupy me; but I happen everywhere upon people who wish some sort of thing, some information about something which I am supposed to know, who wish introductions in America, or England, or the like; and, forsooth, I must be submissive, and respond to their wishes. I assure you my tour has been full of pleasure and instruction; but it has not been less full of work. I have been gratified to find how readily I have fallen into the hours of Europe, without deranging my constitution or my pursuits in the least. Thus, now, I take my coffee and roll (c'est tout) at eight, and dine at six or seven o'clock,—eating nothing in the mean time. Indeed, I do not find time to eat. I should think anybody mad who asked me at one, two, or three o'clock to waste an hour or two, by sitting down to a meal. We lose a great deal of time in our thrifty country, by cutting the day in two, as we do. But on my return to America, I shall not hesitate to conform to the habits of our town; and I feel assured, from experience, that [90] I can return to former hours with the same facility with which I abandoned them.

Last night, I dined in company with Papineau, and then went to Lord Granville's,—thus passing from the so-called traitor to the ambassador. I like Papineau9 very much. He is a remarkable man,—firm and dignified in his manner, and conversing with great grace and ability. His hatred of England somewhat shocked my love of my mother-country. He prefers to speak French; and it was easy to see, when he used English, that he was not at home, and that his ideas lost much of their force. I have seldom met a person who interested me more, and whose society I felt more anxious to cultivate. Perhaps I was won by his misfortunes. As we parted,—he treating me with great warmth and attention,—I contented myself with saying, and I could not say less: ‘Monsieur Papineau, je vous souhaite le bonheur.’—‘Ah!’ he replied, ‘Nous nous verrons encore une fois en Amerique dans les jours qui seront bons et beaux.’

The last ‘Quarterly Review’ contains an article on a Spanish subject,— written undoubtedly by Ford, who will review Prescott. Fearing that Ford's high Toryism might be turned against us by recent events, I wrote him yesterday in order to turn aside his wrath, and suggesting to him that the Muse should extend her olive branch, even in this time of semi-strife, between our two countries. I go to Naples as fast as I can go. You will next hear from me lapped in soft Parthenope; and perhaps I may encounter even the August heat of Rome, without, alas! hearing the hoarse verses of Codrus.

Ever affectionately yours,

P. S. Foelix has just been here to take leave, and has given me a most noisy kiss, à l'allemande.

1 At this, or during the latter part of his previous, visit to Paris, he made the acquaintance of Alexis de Tocqueville.

2 James Watson Webb, already editor of the New York Courier and Enquirer, since Minister to Brazil, was then in Paris. He had taken much interest in the North-eastern Boundary question, and had, in elaborate articles, maintained in his journal the title of the United States to the disputed territory. He was, together with Brougham and Sumner, present at a dinner given by General Cass; and, after Sumner had retired to meet another engagement, Lord Brougham said that he had never met with any man of Sumner's age of such extensive legal knowledge and natural legal intellect, and predicted that he would prove an honor to the American bar. General Webb always maintained very friendly relations with Sumner. This veteran editor (1877), aged seventy-five, now lives in New Haven Conn.

3 Mr. Webster.

4 The history of the question and of its settlement is given in Webster's Works, Vol. I. pp. cxxi-cxxix; Vol. V. pp. 78-150; Vol. VI. pp. 270-290.

5 June 4, 1839. The article was also reprinted in the ‘Globe,’ where it was ascribed to General Cass.

6 May 28.

7 Printed in the ‘Times,’ June 14.

8 He was just getting well, as Sumner states in another letter, ‘of a needle he had swallowed.’

9 A Canadian revolutionist.

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