previous next

Chapter 10:

Mr. Ticknor's second return from Europe resembled the first in the happiness it brought, and in the warmth of affection with which he was greeted by his friends and kindred, but differed from it in the character of his general reception; for he was not now simply a young man of brilliant promise, but he had, by his talents and character, made a mark in the community, and his absence had been distinctly felt. A visit to Europe, especially one of so long duration, was still a rare event, and the return of such a man, after such an absence, was a matter of no common interest. Almost as soon as he entered the rooms provided for him at the Tremont House, the parlor was entirely filled by friends and acquaintances—some of whom had met him at the station—eager to welcome him; and while he remained there, many hours of each day were occupied by these cordial greetings. His love of home, his pride in his country, and his preference for a regular, domestic life, always—as has already been said—made him regard his absences as periods taken out of his legitimate life; and he now resumed, as quickly as possible, his share in the interests of his native sphere.

For a year or more after his return, he and his family still lived somewhat like travellers, visiting various relatives and friends during the two summers, and in the winter and spring, while in Boston, passing a few weeks at a hotel, and five months under the hospitable roof of their friend, F. C. Gray. In September, 1839, they were able to return to their house in Park Street, which had been rented for four years, and at the expiration of that time had required some renovation and change. [185]

During the succeeding years, Mr. Ticknor's correspondence with friends, both in America and in Europe, became more interesting than before; but it contains few allusions to his personal occupations, or the daily incidents of his life. It shows the strong feeling he had for the progress of his country, and his desire to have it better understood abroad; and it is always full of a warm-hearted interest in whatever concerned those to whom he was personally attached.

The frequent reference to political subjects in his letters, especially at a later period, will be observed, not only as somewhat unexpected from a man devoted to scholarly and literary pursuits, but as opposed to the impression entertained by those who knew him only slightly, that he was indifferent to matters of government and politics. That he had strong convictions and intelligent opinions on all the political movements of his time in his own country, that he observed carefully, and watched with interest what may be called comparative politics, historical and contemporaneous, will readily be seen. The formation of his views was the result of influences, some of which were peculiar in his case.

One of his marked characteristics was loyalty to truth; and he always felt that this virtue could be maintained in politics, as in everything else. He thought that in our written Constitution we had a standard of political truth and integrity to which it was always safe and patriotic to conform. He therefore belonged to whatever party in the country gave the most trustworthy assurance of adhering to the Constitution and preserving the Union, with least variation from the principles of its founders. He belonged to a generation which began life while yet the discussions connected with the first creation of the United States government were fresh in men's minds; when the opinions of Washington, Hamilton, and Adams were familiarly known; and he lived through a period when the progress of the nation was remarkably rapid, well-balanced in material, moral, and intellectual growth, and guided by men of worth as well as of ability. As his generation began to pass away, an enormous material development, immense immigration, and eager divergence into sectional parties, [186] changed the character of the country in several important respects.

His intercourse in Europe with men distinguished both as leading statesmen and as political thinkers; his pursuit, even at Gottingen, of studies calculated to make him a competent observer of the public life, the statesmen, and the governments of different lands,—all trained his judgment and quickened his insight into similar subjects at home.

In consequence of this, he took, for more than fifty years, as keen an interest in all the active political thought of his time, as if he himself had been concerned in its creation or its control His ability and his sagacity will be differently estimated by different readers; but his interest, and the breadth, wisdom, and elevation of his desires for his country, will be apparent to all. He loved his native land, and always fulfilled the duties imposed on private citizens with the privileges of a free government. That he was thought sometimes desponding about the success of our institutions grew, probably, out of the eagerness and emphasis which he, often put into the expression of that consciousness of our dangers, from which no man, with his antecedents and his point of view, could escape; but which to younger men, of a generation marked by a spirit of laissez-faire and sanguine confidence, seemed exaggerated and depressing.

His conversation showed his sense of the responsibility which rests on every man of thought and integrity to transmit to others the great truths and traditions he has received as an inheritance from those before him; to discountenance opinions which he is satisfied are dangerous to civilization and to healthy progress (a duty, as he once wrote, especially important where the government rests on public opinion); and to promote, so far as in him lies, the sovereignty of law and justice.

When a young law student, 1813-15, Mr. Ticknor belonged to the Federalist party, and he always adhered to its creed, calling himself, in his latest years, an ‘old Federalist.’ In those early days he wrote political articles for the newspapers, and was somewhat a partisan; but after his first return from Europe he did not renew either this spirit or that habit. [187]

Mr. George T. Curtis furnishes the following anecdote, which is associated with this subject: ‘I chanced,’ he says, ‘at a public dinner in Boston, on some political occasion, to sit next to a gentleman of some literary celebrity, who, although he resided in the neighborhood, was not intimately acquainted with Mr. Ticknor, and who did not know that he was my kinsman. In the course of the evening he spoke with some asperity of Mr. Ticknor, as a man who never voted at elections. I told him he was entirely mistaken; that Mr. Ticknor had always voted at elections, when he was at home; that I had very often gone with him to the polls, and when I had not done so, I knew that he had voted, and how. This statement occasioned some surprise among those who heard it, and who had been in the habit of regarding Mr. Ticknor as a man who held himself entirely aloof from all sympathy in the political questions that agitated his country or his State.’ Abundant testimony could be gathered on this point, as his friends and family know that he never failed to vote at municipal, State, and general elections.

Premising that, from this time forward, all his winters—except one—during the remainder of his life were passed in Boston, and that the summers of 1840, 1841, and 1842 were spent in a quiet spot on the sea-shore,—partly described in the letters, --we give a selection from the correspondence, in chronological order.

To Earl Fitzwilliam.

Boston, October 17, 1838.
my dear Lord Fitzwilliam,—. . . . Since we saw you, we have seen a good deal of our own country, . . . . and I cannot express to you how much I have been struck with the progress everything has made during the three years of our absence. And yet, during those years, we have passed through the severest commercial embarrassments we have ever experienced, and have sustained losses which almost anywhere else would have left deep, if not dangerous traces. But the truth is, the condition of the lowest classes of the people is so truly comfortable, there is so much thrift and prosperity among them, and, above all, so much education, intelligence, and domestic [188] happiness and purity, that the changes which affect the condition of the rich reach them always very slowly, and generally not at all . . . . I witness, therefore, wherever I go, nothing but proofs of improvement,—houses everywhere just built and building; villages and hamlets starting, as it were, from the earth before me; three railroads just opened into this city; steamboats plying in all directions; and all the signs of activity and success, an activity and success which belong not to a few, or to a class, but to the whole people . . . .

Education is advancing more rapidly, even, than wealth is accumulated. . . . . Indeed, if we can keep the relations of domestic life as true and as pure as they now are, and continue the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and intelligence through the whole people, I know not that we can ask anything more for the country. Our free institutions will then have a fair chance; and if they fail, they will fail from the inherent faults of such institutions, and not from the unfavorable circumstances under which the experiment will be tried. . . . .

To Miss Maria Edgeworth, Edgeworthtown.

Boston, U. S. A., March 6, 1839.
dear Miss Edgeworth,—. . . . We have been at home long enough to feel quite settled; and we are very happy in it. Our family circle is large, and the circle of kind friends much larger. The town, too, is a good town to live in. It is a part of my enjoyments,— and one that I feel deeply,—that in this town of 80,000 inhabitants, —or, with the suburban towns, 120,000,—where there is a great deal of intellectual activity and cultivation, there is no visible poverty, little gross ignorance, and little crime.

. . . . The principle, that the property of the country is bound to educate all the children of the country, is as firmly settled in New England as any principle of the British Constitution is settled in your empire; and as it is alike for the interest of the majority, who have but little of the property that is taxed to pay for the education, and for the interest of the rich, who protect their property by this moral police, it is likely to be long sustained, as it is now sustained, by universal consent. But, though I do not foresee the effects, it requires no spirit of prophecy to show that they must be great; and can they be anything but good? The present effect, which I feel every day, is, that Boston is a happy place to live in, because all the people are educated, and because some of them, like Dr. Channing, Mr. Norton, and [189] Mr. Prescott, who have grown out of this state of things, and Mr. Webster, and others, who could have been produced in no other than this state of things, are men who would be valued in any state of society in the world, and contribute materially to render its daily intercourse agreeable. . . . .

. . . . Among the books republished here, and of which more copies have been sold in America than were sold of the original edition in England, is Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter, about which you ask. It is a most interesting book, and has greatly interested the multitudes here, who feel that Scott belongs to us as he does to you, and who thank God that Milton's language is our mother-tongue, and Shakespeare's name compatriot with our own. But the ocean that rolls between us operates like the grave on all personal and party feelings; and our thoughts and feelings towards such as Sir Walter and yourself are as impartial, at least, if not as wise and decisive, as the voice of posterity. We were, therefore, pained by some parts of this book . . . . To the admirers of Sir Walter in America, who knew him only as they know Shakespeare, part of what is in Lockhart was an unwelcome surprise, much more so than it was in England, where the weaknesses of his character were known to many. Sir Walter, therefore, does not stand, in the moral estimation of this country, where he did.

Perhaps Lockhart could not avoid this, certainly he could not avoid it entirely, but there is one thing he could have avoided; I mean printing some of the letters, and some parts of the private journal. No doubt the letters, generally, are the most delightful part of the whole work, and if all had been like those to you, they would have given only pleasure. But in some of them Sir Walter is made to expose himself. There was no need of this, and it has given great pain. Some day I hope we shall see all the letters you were so kind as to show us at Edgeworthtown. Two or three of them do him more honor, than any in Lockhart. Nothing, however, can prevent the book from being a painful one. I felt, in reading it, as if I were witnessing the vain and cruel struggles of one driven forward by the irresistible fate of the old Greek tragedians. . . .

To H. R. H. Prince John, Duke of Saxony.

Boston, U. S. A., May 17, 1839.
my dear Lord,—I received in the summer of year before last a kind letter from you, in reply to mine from Florence about Carlo [190] Troya, and I intended to have done myself the honor to thank you for it; but constant travelling, with the occupations consequent upon my return home, have thus far prevented me. But our recollections of Dresden, and of all the kindness we received there, are too deep and sincere to permit us to neglect any opportunity of recalling ourselves to the memories of those to whom we owe so much.

I am the more anxious to write to you now, because I wish to offer you a book published last year by one of my most intimate friends; the ‘History of Ferdinand and Isabella,’ by Mr. William H. Prescott, of this city, a work which has obtained great success in England as well as in this country, and which is beginning to be known in France and Germany. Our friend Count Circourt published an elaborate review of it lately in the ‘Bibliotheque Universelle,’ giving it great praise; and Hallam, Southey, and others of the best judges in England have placed it equally high. I wish to offer it to you, therefore, as a specimen of the progress of letters in this country at the present time, and I think it will give you pleasure to look over it. To Baron Lindenau I send, by the same conveyance, a Commentary on the ‘Mecanique Celeste’ of La Place,1 which marks the limit of our advancement in the exact sciences.

But everything with us makes progress. I am struck with it on all sides, since I came home, after an absence of three or four years. I wish, indeed, that in some respects our progress were less rapid, for I should then feel that it would be more safe, and that its results would be more solid. But there is no remedy for the evil, if it be in fact an evil, which the future only can prove; for progress—rapid, inevitable progress in wealth, in education, in civilization—is the very law of our condition, and its impulse is irresistible. We all feel and obey it.

I am very anxious to hear of the publication, or rather the printing, of your translation of the ‘Purgatorio.’ It must, I think, by this time be out of the press. . . . .

And now, my dear Prince, I pray you to keep us in your kind thoughts, for we always think of you and of our pleasant winter in Dresden with gratitude. Offer too, we pray you, our respectful homage to the King and Queen. . . . .

Ever, my dear Prince, very faithfully yours,


To Hugh S. Legare, Charleston, S. C.2

Boston, December 29, 1839.
my dear Legare,—After the old Anglo-Saxon fashion, I wish you a Happy New Year, and doubt not my greeting will find you well in possession of it; for your letter has a cheerful tone about it. You were just arrived at your own home,—if such a desperate bachelor as you are has anything, or deserves to have anything, that is such a real comfort,—and your heart seemed to feel light. I rejoice at it, and counsel you, while you make the most of what you have, to add the rest,—as it were the shirt to the ruffle,—as soon as you find a good chance. Your present wheels, like those of Pharaoh's chariots in the Red Sea, will drive more heavily the farther you go in your journey. . . . .

It is true, as you say, that our old friend Hita, or Hyta, speaks doubtfully of the place where the glorious Alonso de Aguilar, of the Ballads, fell But there is really no doubt about it. It was in the Sierra Vermeja. One of the most picturesque passages in the history of any country is the account by old Mendoza, of an expedition by the Duke of Arcos, in the days of what is quaintly called the Rebellion of the Moors,—say 1570,—and of his finding in the Vermeja the bones of those that perished with Alonso; a passage you will enjoy the more if you will compare it with Tacitus' account of the finding, by Germanicus, of the bones of Varus' lost legion, which the old Spaniard has so exquisitely used, and stolen, as to make his very theft a merit and a grace. Do read it. It is in the fourth book of the proud old courtier, and fully confirms the ballad. . . . .

Gray, Prescott, and the rest of tutta quella schiera,—as you call it, and you might have added benedetta,—are well. We dined together yesterday, and wanted you cinquieme, Sparks being the fourth. . . . . We are all well in my house, and enjoy a quiet winter and many most agreeable evenings. I am teaching five or six very nice girls, of [192] sixteen to nineteen, who belong to my family, to understand and love Milton, and it is a great pleasure to find how they take to it.

Yours always,

G. T.

To Charles S. Daveis, Portland.

Boston, December 31, 1839.
my dear Charles,—. . . . The world goes on here, inside and outside my domicile, much after its old rate. The money market is easier, business men less anxious, and the prospect of getting into new scrapes and embarrassments, from Eastern or Western lands, up-town lots, or other absurdities, very promising. The opinion here is that money will be a drug in April, and the consequence of that, I suppose, is inevitable. Old Mr. Lyman used to say he never knew anybody learn anything by experience; and the Yankees, nowadays, seem to justify his wisdom, or sarcasm. Whereupon, I hold it judicious to sell out all bank, insurance, and other stocks, whether fancy or not, and live on mortgages and such small deer, till the succession of gales now blowing, and of political parties now fighting, are pretty much gone by, and things are settled down into some sort of peace and order; for, considering how much we are under the fluctuations of foreign affairs as well as domestic follies, and, taking Louis Philippe, the Chartists, the Northeastern Boundary, and the Southwestern bankruptcy, all into the computation, a close reef is better than a flowing sheet. ‘Ye have what I advise,’ as Beelzebub said, braggingly, after he had counselled ‘ignoble ease and peaceful sloth,’—a parallel to my case, if you like so to call it.

. . . . We are all well; my wife famously, and the bairns thrivingly. Whiggery is low. I never thought much of it, and now less than ever, since the Whigs have chosen a nullifier and a sub-treasury man for Speaker.3 . . . . But we shall get settled some time or other, and so will you in Maine. When will you get your land on the Madawaska, and when will you get pay for your frolic last winter? However, laissez-aller. It is a new year. Love to all.

Yours always,

G. T.

To Charles S. Daveis, Portland.

Boston, May 12, 1840.
Guizot's essay on the character of Washington is admirable, and Hillard has done justice to it in the translation. As soon as it is out [193] I pray you to read it, and cause it to be read in your purlieus. It is a salutary document, and as beautiful as it is salutary; full of statesmanlike wisdom, and with an extraordinary insight into the state of our affairs, in their most troublesome and difficult times. Moreover, no man, I think, has rendered such ample and graceful justice to Washington's character. Brougham's sketch is an ordinary piece of shallow rhetoric compared to it.

I received a few days ago from our old friend, Professor Smyth, the two first volumes of his lectures on history; a genial work, like himself, and, if not a regular abstract of dates and events, a work as well fitted as any I have ever seen to rouse up the minds of young men and induce them to inquire and learn for themselves. . . . . The rather irregular mode in which it is all done adds, perhaps, to its effect, by giving it the same air of frankness and sincerity that marks his own character and talk, and are more persuading than anything formal ever is.

We are all well For the last week we have had five nieces staying with us, and so have made a merry time of it; but in a day or two they will go home and leave us to ourselves. It is perhaps time, on some accounts. We have had our house full a large part of the winter. . . . .

To Miss Maria Edgeworth, Edgeworthtown.

July 10, 1840.
You ask me, dear Miss Edgeworth, to give you some account of the state of metaphysics in this country, desiring, I think, chiefly to be informed of their practical effect on life and character among us. It is very kind in you thus to give me an opportunity of speaking to you, and so keeping up a little of that intercourse which, during the few days we were at Edgeworthtown, was so truly delightful to us. But I do not know that I should venture to take you at your word, if the story were not a very short one; for I think you have as little fancy for metaphysics, taken in the common and popular sense of the word, as I have; and that a history of them, given at any length, would be very wearisome to you.

Luckily we are a practical people, perhaps a little too much given to the merely useful, but we are eminently a practical people. If, therefore, we are at any time attacked by the metaphysical disease, we must, like the Scotch, necessarily have it lightly. It cannot become chronic or permanent in the constitution, as with the more spiritualized [194] and imaginative Germans. Indeed, I doubt whether we should, at any period of our history, have been metaphysically inclined, if our popular theology had not long been of a character so peculiar . . . . The Assembly's Catechism and other similar works, acutely metaphysical, were the books in almost universal use among us, and the only truly great metaphysical work we have produced is the type and complement of such a state of things.4 . . . .

No doubt such sort of reading as this, which was the popular reading in New England, where everybody read, had a considerable effect on the character of the people for a time. One of the most practically wise statesmen now alive has often told me, that we never should have had our Revolution, if all the people had not been, for a century, in the habit of discussing the Westminster Assembly's Catechism. And there is more truth in the odd jest than at first appears . . . .

However, as I said before, we are a practical people,—eminently so,—and it was not possible metaphysics should become part of our constitution. Since, therefore, our revolutionary condition has passed away,—revolutionary, I mean, in intellectual movement as well as political,—and has given place to a more settled state of things, we have shown little tendency to metaphysical discussions or controversies. Even Calvinism, where it exists, has lost much of its theoretical, philosophical character and severity; and the other religious sects, seeing to what absurdities the Calvinists were so long carried, by their perverse intellectual philosophy, have been—especially for the last five-and-twenty years—even more afraid than was reasonable of the logical deductions to which their systems may lead them.

Still, there is, at this moment, a tendency in a few persons among us to a wild sort of metaphysics, if their publications deserve so dignified a name . . . . But such discussions come from a source totally different from that of the hard metaphysics of the old school, and are going in quite an opposite direction. They are of German origin, and within the last few years have been modified and rendered grotesque by a free infusion from the school of Carlyle, whose follies of form and style they have adopted, without finding any of his power. . . . .

I do not mean, however, by what I have said, that we are careless of what is valuable in practical metaphysics. On the contrary, in relation to this really important portion of the science, we were never so much in earnest. In proof, I send you the account, given in two successive reports of the Blind Asylum, in this city, partly on the education of a child, who, at the age of two years, wholly lost her eyes [195] and hearing, who has a very imperfect taste, and no smell at all; in short, a child who . . . . has no idea of the external world, and no means of communicating with it but through the sense of touch. The great question, of course, was how to educate her, how to give her any ideas, and open a communication between her and the outer world. It was a question hard for any ingenuity of intellectual philosophy or practical metaphysics to solve. . . . .

After being in the Institution a little more than three years, she has been brought to the incredible point of writing-quite alone a letter to her mother, of which a facsimile is given in the Report for 1840. . . . . She is an intelligent, rapidly improving, happy, gay child. Now, this I call practical metaphysics, and rejoice in it; and when the book is printed about her,—that will be printed when her education is further advanced,—it will, if I mistake not, awaken the attention of the wiser sort of intellectual philosophers throughout the world; such philosophers, I mean, as you and I, who care to make people happy, and not to make them crazy or quarrelsome. . . .

To Charles S. Daveis, Portland.

Boston, December 3, 1840.
The great political question which you were in doubt about . . . . has been triumphantly settled. Yesterday the flag on the top of our State House showed what was going on below, and I could not help thinking what a beautiful and provident arrangement it was, that made it necessary to cast the Electoral vote on the same day, and at nearly the same hour, through all the States. And this brought me to think of the convention that made the Constitution, and the Madison papers. Have you looked them over? I say looked over, for it is not likely many people will read them through. I have done as much, I suppose, as I ever shall with them, and was struck with the moderate amount of talent, knowledge, and practical skill in government that was shown in the whole body. Nor was I displeased to see that it was so; for it gave so much the more prominence and value to their honesty. I do not believe that so honest a body of men was ever collected, for a similar purpose, since the world was made; and it was their honesty, their sincere desire to fulfil the great duty for which they were appointed, which, under God, saved us,—not their talent or their wisdom,—and gave us the best form of government that was ever made. [196]

And this I regard as a fact in the history of nations, and in the development of God's providence in political affairs, of almost unrivalled importance, and full of benefits to the future. It seems from it, as if honesty could do almost anything; and when we see what has been doing the past years, and a long way back, it seems almost to prove the converse of the proposition, and show that talents alone can do nothing,—can bring nothing to pass that will last. Pray make a speech to that effect when you go to the Senate; or, if you think it would make friends and enemies, all round, think you are crazy, give my respects to Dr. Nichols, and ask him to preach upon it next Fast Day. It is no paradox; it is a great truth, and the old Convention is as striking and weighty an illustration of it, at the same time, as could be asked for.

To Hugh S. Legare.

Boston, June 16, 1841.
Mr. Dear Legare,—Your letter came last Saturday morning, and the same day there dined with me Allston, Prescott, Longfellow, and Hillard, the editor of Spenser. You ought to have been there, for we had a good time, wholly extempore, by accidental coming together, and it is the last gathering under my roof-tree, till the cool weather and longer evenings make such things worth while. Meanwhile we are to be found at Woods' Hole, the extreme southerly point of Falmouth, at the bend of Cape Cod, where, as the saying goes, there is nothing but Ticknors and fish. We shall, however, expect you if you come into these parts, . . . . and when you get there you will find a decent inn, containing, in general, nobody but ourselves and our servants, the thermometer never above 76°, no dust, no noise, no insects,—except flies,—no company; a plenty of Spanish books, fish, and sea-bathing . . . . Perhaps you can arrange to come with Mr. Jeremiah Mason, or some of our friends who will be coming to taste the cool air on our Point, which is exactly opposite the Elizabeth Islands . . . . We go in three days, and stay till the end of September.

Meantime, I shall receive and read your libellus on Demosthenes with great interest, and, I dare say, with the same delight with which I read your account of Demus himself.5 It will, no doubt, savor of that ingrained love of political life which will never come out of you [197] except with all the rest that is in you. As the Spanish girl tells her sister about love, in one of the old Ballads,—

No saldra del alma
Sin salir con ella.

So the next thing I shall hear of you, after all your Greek and Spanish, will be a seat in the House of Representatives, or a foreign mission. But first you must come here, and swear, like the knight, that it is all naught, and I will believe nothing of what you say, nor even do you the grace to think you perjured.

To Hon. Hugh S. Legare, Washington.6

January 2, 1842.
Many thanks for your kindness to the Lyells.7 They deserved it. You give us the last news we get of them, and the last, perhaps, we ever shall get, if your account of the storm in which they left Washington is to be taken without mitigation. But I suspect you politicians there are so in the habit of exaggeration, that fiction, half the time, comes as handy as fact. At the latest dates, I notice, the Treasury was so empty that the draft of the proper officer, to procure funds to pay members of Congress, was refused. I wish I could believe it. The rule of the Chinese, in relation to their doctors, would apply admirably to all of you at Washington; for they of the Celestial Empire pay their physicians a salary, which stops the moment the payor becomes indisposed, and is renewed as soon as he is well again. And I would pay you all for the time you are not in Washington, cutting off your rations the instant you go there, and begin to talk and act. Besides all other benefits, we should get some of you here at the North, ‘the quarters of the North,’—Satan's kingdom, you know, —where we would make merry excellently; better in a winter's visit than even in a summer's.

Morpeth8 went off a week ago, having given us rather a severe tour of duty here in the way of dining out. You will have him in Washington about the 20th, I suppose, and will entertain him there, no doubt, with bull-fights on the floor of the House, and perhaps a gay affair or so at the President's. But go your ways. You are not to be mended. He is a good-natured fellow, cultivated and intelligent, [198] and generous of everything but his own opinions, of which I think you shall get no great profit. We liked him.

We are all well, and have just gone through a Merry Christmas —really and truly merry—and a really happy New Year. All good wishes we send you; and shall expect to have yours in return very soon, to stow away with the rest in our great treasury, upon which you, too, may draw when you like, and find it, perchance, sounder and safer than anything you are likely to make in Washington this year. Addio, caro.

G. T.

To Hon. Hugh S. Legare, Washington.

March 4, 1842.
my dear Legare,—

They tell us 't is our birthday, and we'll keep it
With double pomp of sadness,
'T is what the day deserves, etc.

Dryden, All for love, Act I. Sc. 1.

The four poor guns at sunrise this morning, instead of the hundred that ushered in the day last year at this time,9 were an apt commentary on Mark Anthony's drivelling, and much in the same key. Whiggery is over. Tylerism there never was any,10 at least not in this part of Christendom. And if there had been symptoms of either, the legislature that adjourned last night, to the great delight of all sensible people, has done what it could to prevent the disease from breaking out. Besides the foolish and useless extra session, which the Whigs ordered by a strictly party vote, three quarters of them, with the governor at their head, went against a State tax; while the other quarter, with about four fifths of the Locos, went for it, and lost it by a majority of eight, thus putting us into the same road of repudiation with other States, to the annoyance of every man in Boston whose opinion you or I should care a button about.11 However, I was glad to see in the paper this morning, that one of the leading Democrats warned them yesterday, in his place, that ‘next year there will be a party in power who will dare to pay the State debt.’ Indeed [199] it is not uncommon now, to hear good leading Whigs say, that, ‘after all, we have made so many mistakes about banking, and currency, and such matters, that perhaps the other party have been as nearly right for the last ten years as we have, and that they may now try their hands at putting things in order.’ And certainly they are in great luck. You will just have gone through the whole odium of the bankrupt law, and the bankrupt banks; will have adjusted everything with England; and, in short, done up whatever disagreeable and dirty work Van Buren would have been unwilling to do, and then he will come in, with renewed strength, upon the sober third thought of the people, and sail upon a sea of glory to the end of his course. Huzza for Demus!12

Webster's letter about the Creole, concerning which,13 of course, you may like to hear a word, excites some talk here, but not a great deal. Sumner is the only person I have met with who is vehement against it. But it is, of course, against the moral sense of our community, and though the legal sense will sustain it, that is not enough.

Alla van leyes,
Adonde quieren reyes,
says the old Spanish proverb; and as the people is King here in New England more than on any other spot of earth since the days of the saurians and ichthyosauria,—who unquestionably made a pure democracy,—the people in the long run will settle the law of this matter as of others. We made a bargain with you south of Mason and Dixon's line, and we mean to keep it; but when it comes to enforcing it, you must expect Venetian law, and nothing more. We shall give you the pound of flesh, but not a drop of blood. Negro slaves are property, by the Constitution of the United States,14 and we are willing to claim them as such for you, when by the act of God, or by violence, they fall into the British power. But by British law they are not property, and therefore, if England turns round and says she is too moral to recognize them as such, we shall reply, perhaps, that it comes with a very ill grace from her, after having for eight centuries [200] recognized and profited by serfdom and slavery, and after having planted these very negroes here, two centuries ago, against our will; we may say this, I have no doubt, and gird at her well, in sundry well-written diplomatic notes; but if it grows more serious, and there is talk of fighting about it, we shall be a great deal too moral at the North to belong to the war-party. Considering how direct taxes have been managed, we feel fully justified in being thus strict constructionists about this matter. The most we shall sustain you in doing, will be in making a good bargain for the protection of black property, going through those ugly Bahama shoals Webster talks about, if you are willing to set the matter on the coast of Africa right, so that we shall not favor the slave-trade as we do now, to our disgrace before all Christendom. Indeed, this is likely enough to be the whole amount of the game you are playing. Webster's letter is very able; so able that, while it convinces many, it strengthens the Abolitionists, by showing how very disagreeable is the true constitutional ground, which hangs a man as a pirate, for having been willing to jeopard his life in order to obtain the freedom in which that same Constitution says he was born.

The moral I draw from all this is, that as you have nothing to hope as a Whig party, at Washington, I trust you will make up your minds to do your duty to the country, in such a way as to make it plain that you mean to do it, being beyond fear or favor.

Yours faithfully,

G. T.

To Rev. W. E. Channing, Boston.

Boston, April 20, 1842.
I am rejoiced to hear what you tell me, of Chancellor Kent's opinion, and I wish the Supreme Court of the United States might declare it to be the law of the land. On the subject of our relations with the South, and its slavery, we must — as I have always thought-do one of two things; either keep honestly the bargain of the Constitution, as it shall be interpreted by the authorities to whom we have agreed to confide its interpretation,—of which the Supreme Court of the United States is the chief and safest,—or declare honestly that we can no longer in our consciences consent to keep it, and break it. I therefore rejoice at every legal decision which limits and restrains the curse of slavery; both because each such restriction is in itself so great a good, and because it makes it more easy to preserve the Union. I fear the recent decision, in the case of Pennsylvania and Maryland, works the [201] other way, but hope it will not turn out so, when we have it duly reported; and I fear, however the decisions may stand, that the question of a dissolution of the Union is soon to come up for angry discussion.


To Prince John, of Saxony.

Boston, U. S. A., March 15, 1842.
my Lord,—I received duly your very kind letter, and the beautiful copy of the translation of Dante's ‘Purgatorio’ that accompanied it. For both, I pray you to accept my best thanks. As in the case of the ‘Inferno,’ I find the translation conscientiously accurate; but the notes are quite different from those you gave before, the ‘Inferno’ requiring historical, and the ‘Purgatorio’ requiring theological elucidations. With the last I have been extremely struck. It must have cost you great labor and a very peculiar course of study to enable you to prepare them. But they are worth all the trouble they gave you. From the ‘Ottimo Comento,’ through Landino, and so on, down to the last of the annotators, no one has made the metaphysical difficulties of the ‘Purgatorio’ so intelligible. I trust you are employed on the ‘Paradiso,’ and that I shall soon enjoy the results at which you will arrive. Dante is a mare magnum for adventure, and every time I read him I make, or think I make, new discoveries.

I take the liberty to send you, with this, Stephens's work on the aboriginal antiquities found in the woods of Central America. You will find it, I think, very curious, especially in the comparisons it will suggest with the earliest remains of ancient art in Egypt and Asia. . . . .

In the same parcel you will find two newspapers, of the vast size in which they are often published in this country. The one printed at New York contains Mrs. Jameson's translation of the Princess Amelie's ‘Oheim’; the one printed in Boston contains an original translation of the ‘Verlobung.’ Of each of these papers eight or ten thousand copies were printed. Please to give those I send you, with my best respects, to the Princess. It will amuse her to see how popular she is in the New World.

My family are all well, and we have had great health and happiness [202] and little sorrow since we saw you. We all remember Dresden, and its hospitalities, with much pleasure and gratitude, and hope we have friends there who will not entirely forget us. Mrs. Ticknor desires that her acknowledgments and compliments may be offered to you.

I remain, my dear Prince,

Very faithfully and affectionately yours,

From Prince John, of Saxony.

Dresden, 4 July, 1842.
dear Sir,16—I have received, with great pleasure, your letter and the books and newspapers you had the kindness to send me. Mr. Stephens's work seems to be very interesting. I have, methinks, found some time ago a notice of it, in the ‘Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung.’ My sister being in this moment at Florence, the newspapers are to make a journey into the bel paese la dove'l si suona. I am sure the author will be much charmed by it, being not insensible to success. The annotations and preface to the ‘Uncle’ are very interesting for an European and German, because they show the difference of views and sentiments in the two peoples. Mrs. Jameson, the translator, was here, and is personally known to my sister.

I am glad you were content with the ‘Purgatorio’ and my theological annotations to it. These last are—like all hardly got children—favorite children with me. The translation of the ‘Paradiso’ is finished, but the studies which I must undertake, for the annotation to it, are yet more difficult than they were for the ‘Purgatorio’; and yet I would not give out something incomplete, so that the publication of this last part may yet be deferred some time. But I console myself with the nonum prematur in annum of Horace.

I am charmed to hear that you have had no sorrow in your family. For myself, I cannot say quite the same thing. My wife has suffered this last spring from a very serious illness, which presented even, one day, an immediate danger for her life, and was followed by a long and painful convalescence. . . . . Now, by the mercy of God, I hope to be almost relieved of every apprehension for the future. My children, likewise, were almost all more or less sick at the same time, yet none so seriously, and they are now all well again.

In Europe all is now peaceful, at least for the moment. The misfortune [203] of Hamburgh has made a great sensation in the whole of Germany. Our affairs in Saxony, particularly, go on well. Trade and industry are flourishing, and agriculture, which was till now a little neglected, begins to make good progress

You will, perhaps, find a notable difference in the character of my writing, and I hope not for the worse. I am indebted for this change to the New World, having taken, this winter, lessons in writing after the American method, as one calls it in Gerrany. Now, it may be, or not be, an invention of the New World. I, for my part, am very content with it, having till now been much censured for my bad writing.

I finish these lines by praying you to commend me to Mrs. Ticknor's recollection, and by the expressions of the highest consideration, with which I am

Your affectionate

John, Duke of Saxony

To Rev. H. H. Milman, London.

Boston, U. S. A., May 7, 1842.
my dear Sir,—A recent and most pleasant visit we have had from our mutual friends,—as I trust I may now call them,—the Lyells, reminds me that I owe an acknowledgment for your very agreeable letter, written to me last winter, and that I have a subject on which to speak to you, that will make you glad to listen to me. For I know you will always be glad to hear about the Lyells; and I am sure you can hear nothing from this side of the Atlantic about them which would not give you pleasure. Their visit has thus far certainly been successful. Mr. Lyell has found enough in the geology of the country to reward him for his trouble, and enough intelligent geologists to help him on, and show him what he wanted to see. After his long tour at the South, therefore, in the States where the presence of slavery infects everything, and renders the travelling—especially to strangers—disagreeable, he has just left us—first stopping a fortnight in my family—for a still longer tour in the West and in Canada. . . . But to Mrs. Lyell these varieties, as far as they chance to be disagreeable, are not of consequence, so long as geology goes on well. She is one of those who ‘make a sunshine in a shady place,’ and I really believe she has enjoyed herself, almost everywhere she has been. Certainly everybody has been delighted with her. . . . .

And this reminds me of what I said in a former letter about education in Boston, and your reply to it, that Boston is, probably, in advance [204] of the other cities of the country in this respect. It is so. But Boston is often not in advance of the villages, and townships, in the interior of Massachusetts, and of New England. On the contrary, they are often in advance of us. In illustration of this, I send you what I regard as the most curious and important document, concerning popular education, that has ever been published. I mean one of the annual reports condensed—and agreeably condensed—from the returns made to the Legislature of Massachusetts for the 3,103 public free schools of the State. . . . The whole of the statistics in this volume are, I think, curious; but I would call your attention to the subjects and books taught, to the money paid, and to the occasional remarks of the committee, nine out of ten of the members of which must have been originally educated in the schools they now control.

. . . . I add for Mrs. Milman, with my best respects, a little volume recently printed by my friend Mr. Longfellow, asking her not to omit the Preface. Mr. Longfellow is just gone to the Rhine, to try to mend his health in some of its baths, and when he stops in London a few days next October, I will take the liberty to tell him he may call on you in my name, if you happen to be in town. He is a most amiable and agreeable person, of whom we are all very fond. Mrs. Ticknor desires her kind regards may be given to Mrs. Milman and yourself.

Very faithfully yours,

To Count Adolphe de Circourt, Paris.

Boston, May 30, 1842.
my dear Count Circourt,—In your very kind and most agreeable letter, written last February, you ask me to write to you on the political prospects of the United States. More than once I have determined to do so, but have been compelled to forbear, because everything was so unsettled, and it was so uncertain what course would be finally taken. Now, however, we begin, I think, to see some of the results at which we must, before long, necessarily arrive, and having something really to say, I shall have much pleasure in saying it to you. But you must bear in mind that it is in the nature of prophecy, and, therefore, rather consider it as the ground for your own speculations, than as anything more sure and solid.17 [205]

The refusal of President Tyler, last summer, to sign the bill for a National Bank, gave, as you know, an opportunity to Mr. Clay to attempt to prevent Tyler from being again a candidate for the Presidency; indeed, to attempt to compel him to resign. In this last he failed, but he necessarily broke up the party of both of them,—the Whig party,—of which Mr. Clay retains much the larger portion, but of which neither has enough to command a majority in the nation, or in Congress. Of course, effectual measures cannot be taken, except under a great pressure of popular opinion, compelling Congress to act for the good of the nation. This is the present state of affairs, in reference to practical legislation. President Tyler and his Cabinet are in a small minority, both in Congress and with the people.

Meantime, large portions of the country are suffering. At the South and Southwest—where individuals and States borrowed rashly and unwisely—there is great distress. To individuals, the Bankrupt Law is bringing appropriate relief; but to the States, the process must be more slow. Some of them, like Illinois and Indiana, never will pay. They have not the means, and cannot get the means. They are honest and hopeless bankrupts, and will do what they can, but it will not be much. Others, like Mississippi,—which repudiated its obligations so shamelessly,—will be compelled to pay by the force of public opinion. Others, like Pennsylvania and Maryland, are troubled by the pressure of the times, but are able to pay, and have no thought of avoiding it or attempting to avoid it. All the rest—eighteen or twenty—are in no trouble, nor are likely to be. The lesson will have been an useful one, but the final loss, except in the atrocious case of the Pennsylvania United States Bank, will be small to any one. But Europe, I trust, will lend us no more money. It is for the benefit of both sides of the Atlantic that she should not. In New England our credit has been untouched, and our industry prosperous. At the South, and in the slave States, they are poor and growing poorer, even where they are not in debt. . . . .

Now at this moment the country is in debt, perhaps to the amount of twenty-five millions of dollars. The sum is trifling, no doubt, but it is wholly odious to the people to be in debt at all. The means, too, for raising a sufficient revenue are abundant; the country, notwithstanding the indebtedness of the five or six suffering States, and the [206] multitudinous bankruptcies of individuals is rich, and was never at any moment more productive than it is now. We could, without injury, bear taxation to thrice the amount that would be needful to put the finances of the general government into the best possible condition. But this subject can be approached only through a discussion and adjustment of the whole tariff; and the tariff is a name that, more than any other, rouses up the sectional feelings and interests, and disturbs the passions of the country. It must, however, be discussed and settled, and that, too, in the course of the months of June and July. The country requires it, and it must be done. That a really wise and judicious tariff will be made, I do not venture to hope; but no doubt, as it seems to me, a tariff equal to the wants of the government will be passed, and after that there will be no more talk of financial difficulties. It is quite ridiculous that they have ever existed, and has been wholly owing to the state of parties; but the mass of the people, who have been forgotten in the strife for office and power, are the real masters, and they have plainly determined that their interests shall no longer be sacrificed. Congress will obey, and, with the settled finances of the country, its prosperity will return.

On our foreign relations, I have always told you, I have no anxiety, Mr. Webster's wisdom and moderation are a guaranty for peace, and Lord Ashburton has so found it. Everything in our relations with England will be settled, and that speedily, and placed on a more firm and satisfactory foundation than they have been before, since the two countries were separated. The only point of any real difficulty has been found to be the Northeastern Boundary. This Mr. Webster has skilfully composed, by asking Maine and Massachusetts to appoint commissioners, with full powers to consent to such an adjustment as they may deem satisfactory, and honorable, to their respective States . . . .

The other points—the affairs of the Creole and the Caroline, with the right of search on the coast of Africa, as explained by Lord Aberdeen—are very easy to adjust, and are in fact adjusted. The whole, too, has been done, as between the principal negotiators, in the best possible spirit. Mr. Webster told me the other day, that he did not think a person, more fitted to the place he fills than Lord Ashburton, could have been found in the Queen's dominions; and I understand Lord Ashburton, on his part, is equally well pleased. The English affairs, then, I consider settled; though, when the treaty comes before the Senate, there will be some factious opposition to it, and though you will not have the official annunciation for a couple of months. [207] Mr. Webster's letter to the governor of Maine has done more for this result than any other thing. It was a capo d'opera, and left nothing for faction to take advantage of. . . .

The little affair of Rhode Island has tended, I think, to strengthen our institutions, by settling the principle that the people of a State have no right to change their Constitutions, except in the forms provided by law. The case was this. The Constitution, or Charter, of Rhode Island was one sufficiently absurd, which had been given by Charles II., and had long since ceased to be suited to the people. But the landholders, who had all the power, refused to give it up until lately, when the mass of the people became so exasperated that, without observing the forms prescribed by law, they made a Constitution for themselves, and undertook to carry it into practical operation. Everything but bloodshed followed; but the popular party was completely put down, and now a suitable Constitution will be legally formed and peaceably carried into execution. It constitutes a strong case, because the people were originally right, and only erred in the forms, and in the passions they indulged. But enough of politics.

To Hon. Hugh S. Legare, Washington.

Lebanon Springs, June 9, 1842.
dear Legare,—A nice place it is, to be sure, as you say, and I do not wonder that you spent sundry happy days here last summer, except that there were so many people in it. We came a week ago, and had the Prescotts and Gray,18 till day before yesterday, when they returned, and left us to enjoy this rich and beautiful nature quite alone. It is really delicious. Don't you think we can tempt you to give up at Washington and come here? We can offer you the beautiful woods and valleys you know of, and as many sheep as your shepherd's craft can manage. It would be better than being the Poimenos Laon; especially when the people don't follow. Not a soul has disturbed` our peaceful repose, except that Colonel Colden and the Dickenses came, one night after we were gone to bed, and cleared out the next day at noon, much grieved that the Shakers were so insensible to his widespread merit, and so little respecters of persons, as to refuse to show him any of their mysteries, or managements touching men or [208] beasts. We have, therefore, all the endless piazzas of Mr. Bentley's huge, out-squandered house, and all the fine drives in the Berkshire valleys, as much to ourselves as if there were no fashionables in New York; and, having stipulated beforehand for a separate establishment and table, we may hold out, perhaps, even after the first irruption begins. But, as soon as the Philistines are really upon us, we shall be gone; and that will no doubt be in the course of ten days. . . . Don't tell of us, but come and see; a word I utter just as if it could have any meaning in political ears. Well, I am sorry for you. As old Cooper said, you were really made for better things, and, when you are fairly turned out of office, it is within the limits of a miraculous possibility that you should find it out. Perhaps the revelation will come to you at Woods' Hole, which he of the Lamentations19 calls my Patmos, or, more euphoniously, ‘Ticknor's Patmos.’

. . . . Write to me, and tell me of some glimpses of sunshine in Congress; some ground for rejoicing in the country; something that shall make a man submit more willingly to bear the name of an American. They that were in Hamburg when it was burnt up, or in Cape Francois when it was sunk, were better off than a citizen of the United States will be in London or Paris a year hence, if in the interval things go downward as fast as they have a year past. Take that to the next Cabinet meeting, and show it to President Tyler. They say he loves plain truth, and seldom gets it; but I rather think that, like other men, he gets as much as he wants, probably more.

Addio, caro. You see how this gentle nature mollifies mine, and makes me gracious beyond my wont.

Always yours in good faith,

Geo. T.

Mrs. T. sends kindest regards, and will shortly prepare a pastoral for you. My daughter, too, desires to be remembered. Piccinina talks of you. We all want to see you. My next, I suppose, will be from the Classic ‘Hole,’—Jeremiah's ‘Patmos,’—a more euphuistical combination of four words than has been made since the days of Lily. I am vain of it.

You will probably gather from the bucolic entusimuzy of my letter that I never was in this part of the world before. It is so. All Berkshire is new to me; but I think we shall come here often hereafter. It is more agreeable, as well as more picturesque, than I expected.


To William H. Prescott, Nahant.

Woods' Hole, Sunday, August 14, 1842.
my dear William,—you will be glad to hear that the rest of your manuscript is safe.20 . . . . We were just ready for it, having, a few hours before it came, reached the antepenultimate chapter of the first portion of the manuscript. Last night, when we went to bed, we left poor Montezuma moaning out his life, in the hands of his atrocious conqueror. I cannot bear to have his sufferings prolonged, and as the next chapter despatches him, we shall go through it at once. I should feel much more satisfaction if it were Cortes himself, who richly deserves all that Montezuma suffers, and more too.

Meanwhile, I am going slowly through the whole the second time; not having, till to-day, finished the second book. The first time going over, especially in the more interesting and exciting passages, I am quite unable to attend to the smaller matters of style and phraseology. But what I do note is put on separate paper. Afterwards it is jotted down, in pencil, on your manuscript. The whole is not much; and even in the little I have seen fit to mark, I do not suppose you will often agree with me, and shall never know whether you do or not, for they are trifles so unimportant that I shall not remember them myself, when I read again the same passages.

There can be no doubt of your success. The subject is not so grand and grave, and you do not have such opportunity for wisdom and deep inquiry, as in ‘Ferdinand and Isabella,’ but it is much more brilliant and attractive. It reads like romance, and there is a sort of epic completeness about it, which adds greatly to its power and effect. But these are things we will talk about hereafter. . . . .

We are all well,. . . . and we have gone on with great quietness and peace since I wrote you last. Mr. Mason and his two daughters spent three days here, last week; but they were up stairs all the forenoons, so that I have been lord of all below. In the afternoon Jeremiah came out with his politics, dark enough. But Gallio careth for none of these things. . . . . We deserve what we get, and shall deserve it if we get worse. . . . . Tyler will, I think, take a full loco-foco Cabinet, and sail on a sea of glory to the end of his term, when he will disappear, and never be heard of afterwards. In six months it will be matter of historical doubt whether such a man ever existed. . . . . Addio, caro.

G. T.


To Hon. Hugh S. Legare, Washington.

Boston, October 2, 1842.
my dear Legare,—You will be curious to know how Webster's speech21 has taken with the people here; and as there is no question about it, I write just a line to say that the success is extraordinary. I did not hear it, but all who were there say the effect was prodigious. . . . .The excitement in the afternoon, about town, was obvious in walking through the streets, where knots of men were everywhere discussing it. Next day,—yesterday,—on 'Change, it was plain the effect was produced. Things had taken a new turn. Mr. Webster will be let alone, to do as he likes. The courage by which this has been accomplished is the most remarkable thing about it, in my estimation; the next, the perfect tact with which it was done, notwithstanding the resentment he felt, which must constantly have prompted him to go too far. The Prophet22 was present, and was filled with admiration. So was everybody, down to my tailor, bookseller, and. bookbinder. Webster, I think, is looked on as a greater man to-day in Boston than he ever was before. Certainly he is more felt to have been injured. . . . .

We left Patmos on Wednesday morning. . . . . That villanous hoarseness, and slight cough, which disturbed my lady wife when you were with us, is not wholly gone, and, therefore, it is not unlikely we shall take a turn of a few days on the Worcester Hills,—the sovereign'st thing on earth for such a cold. I am quite resolved it shall not run into the cold weather, else I might be obliged to bring her as far south as Washington,—a nauseous medicament, not to be thought of except in the failure of all others. However, I have no fear of such a dose, and only mention it by way of mere impertinence.

We missed you grievously; but played a few games of whist through our tears the night after.

To Hon. Hugh S. Legare, Washington.

Boston, October 21, 1842.
dear Legare,—Your friends in Washington must be wise men, and sagacious politicians, to complain of the mighty Pan's speech in Faneuil Hall. It is the only thing that has done them any good for months, and no other man in New England would have been listened [211] to if, on that spot, he had dared to say half so much in favor of the Administration. He was every moment upon the brink of all his audience hated, and it is still a wonder how he got through without being mobbed. That what he said should not please everybody, as much as it did the good people of Boston, is natural enough, and indeed inevitable. No speech could suit more than a small fraction of a party, falling to pieces as fast as the Whig party is. . . . When he delivered it he was in a pretty savage temper, from all I hear. I only wish he had been a little more provoked, and laid one of his great paws on the Administration. How he would have been glorified! Every cap in that vast multitude would have been in the air. But, unluckily, he was in the humor of speaking well of the President and all the rest of you in the Cabinet, and told Mason, and his other friends who talked with him, all about your paper on the Creole, and what other people did to help on affairs. How he feels now I don't know, for, since the morning after the explosion, nobody has seen him. He has been chiefly in New Hampshire, and writes to nobody, and seems to care for the opinion of nobody. Look out.

To Hon. H. S. Legare

Boston, April 16, 1843.
Our spring has been anything but tempting, and if I had succeeded in decoying you here, a fortnight or three weeks ago, you would have found yourself in the midst of a succession of snow-storms; for which, I suppose, you would have held me responsible, and which certainly would have made me the more cross, if you had been here to suffer from them. The last of the ice, however, I am happy to say, is now disappearing from the dark corners under the fences, and the swelling buds show that spring is to come over the hills with a rush that will bring summer quickly on her traces.

Meantime, what are your projects?, . . . . . Why not come North and make us a little visit? We shall keep in town, I think, but am not quite sure, till the end of June; and I dare say we shall be here in the middle of it, when Webster will make his speech at Bunker's Hill. Why can't you come then? We will abuse you handsomely, as one of Tyler's men, and I dare say might make some money by showing you in a cage, which is worth thinking about in these hard times. . . .

We are all well, and just beginning to enjoy drives into the country, where the brooks are in all their beauty, and the birds beginning to [212] rejoice at the disappearance of the snow. . . . . . But when July suns begin to scorch, we shall escape to our Patmos, and look for a visit from you then, at any rate. It is the pepper-corn rent due from you, annually, by prescription; and we have no mind to give it up.

This is the last letter that remains of a truly delightful correspondence; and in the one to Mr. Kenyon, which stands next in these pages, Mr. Ticknor describes the sudden shock, and the striking scenes, with which the warm and satisfying friendship was ended, that had grown closer between him and Mr. Legare as years went on. Such companionship was, indeed, hard to relinquish, and it was sad to part from the hopes for their country that Mr. Ticknor had rested on his friend's talents and principles.

To Mr. John Kenyon, London.

Boston, June 29, 1843.
dear Kenyon,—By each of the last steamers I received a letter from you, the first a long one, both most refreshing and delightful, and full of your kind and faithful nature. I wish I could answer them both as they ought to be answered, cheerfully, brightly, heartily. But I cannot. I am full of troubled thoughts, even I may say I am full of sorrow. An old and much-loved friend has just died in my house, in my arms,—Mr. Legare of South Carolina, our Attorney-General; and, at the moment of his death, filling, ad interim, the place of Secretary of State, which Webster's resignation six weeks ago had left vacant.

He came here, with the President and his whole Cabinet, to the great national celebration of the completion of our monument on Bunker's Hill, when Webster, on the 17th of June, made a grand speech to all the authorities of the country, and 40,000 or 50,000 besides. But poor Legare could not be there. He was taken ill the same morning, with what seemed a simple obstruction of the bowels. Medical aid was called at once. I was with him that day and the next,—during which his sufferings were great,—and removed him to my house, where he survived but thirty-six hours, without having at any moment obtained the slightest relief. On a post mortem examination, it was found that no relief was possible from the first . . . .

The suddenness of the death,—he was ill but seventy-eight hours, and we were really anxious about him only eighteen,—and the greatness [213] of the loss,—for he was certainly the most important man in the Administration after Webster left it,—filled our city with sorrow and consternation, shocking all so much the more, for the jubilant excitement of the days immediately preceding it. To me the personal loss is very great. He was a man of genius, full of refinement and poetry, and one of the best scholars in the country; but, more than all this, he was of a most warm and affectionate spirit. I had known him familiarly from 1819, when we studied together in Edinburgh. When we passed that winter in Dresden, in 1835-36, of which you know so well, he, being then our minister at Brussels, came to us and spent a week with us; and every year but one, since we came home, he has made a pilgrimage to the North, to see us. But the two last years he came to us in our retreat on the sea-shore, and made it brilliant to us by his wit and dear by his affections; and now, when the President should have left Boston, he intended to have given us four or five days of quiet enjoyment. But God has ordered otherwise, and if we can all submit with as much docility as he did, it is enough.

He possessed his powers in perfect composure to the last moment; made his will, sent all his public papers to the President, who was lodged quite near to us, and did everything suited to the occasion, without once altering the level tone of his voice, except when he spoke of the only remaining member of his immediate family, a muchloved unmarried sister. And yet this man was only forty-seven years old; just as the country, divided about everything else, was beginning to look with great unanimity to him, from a perfect confidence alike in his talents, his principles, and his honor,—it was, indeed, just when he felt sure he was at once ‘to burst out into sudden blaze,’ that ‘the blind Fury came, and slit the thin-spun life.’

It is one of the most solemn and striking events that has ever come within my knowledge. The old physicians who attended him, and who have attended their thousands before, were as much astonished at his composure as I was. But he saw nobody, except for a moment one member of the Cabinet, who insisted upon looking at him once more; so that the quietness of everything gave it a power that makes me shudder when I think of it.23 . . . . [214]

Sydney Smith's petition has done good, and it is something to be able to say this. Nearly every newspaper in the United States has printed it, generally without commentary; now and then enforcing its doctrines, and sometimes, though very rarely, trying to apologize for the indebted States. In only two cases I have heard of any exception to the above courses. One Boston paper, and one New York paper, disavowing the whole doctrine of repudiation, and declaring every dollar of the debts must be paid, yet abused Mr. Sydney Smith for the manner in which he urged his claims, and for the motives that led him to invest money in American stocks. I replied to both these, in a short article I enclose, the only article savoring of politics that I remember to have written since I was twenty-one years old. Perhaps you will find some mistakes of fact about Mr. Smith in it, though I rather think not, as I remember my authorities—chiefly himself—for all I have said about him. You will notice, however, that our newspapers, like many of yours, insist on spelling his name Sidney.

On the whole subject of repudiation I feel better than I did when I wrote you last about it, eight or nine months ago. The country, I think, is getting to understand the matter, and, what is more, to feel it. What Prince Metternich once said to me, in reproach of our democratic institutions, is entirely true: we must first suffer from an evil before we can apply the remedy; we have no preventive legislation upon such subjects. But then, on the other hand, when the people do come to the rescue, they come with a flooding force, which your societies, where power is balanced between the governments and the masses, know nothing about. I have much hope that this rescue is coming; I think I see signs of it throughout all our ‘fierce democratie.’ The people cannot bear to be dishonored, disgraced. They suffer as Metternich said, but not as he meant; and I begin to trust to them again, with my former slowly placed confidence.

1 By Dr. Bowditch.

2 the Hon. Hugh Swinton Legare, already mentioned more than once (see Vol. I. pp. 278, 450, and 488), had gradually reached a position of much eminence in the United States. He was a statesman, with opinions and views of the broadest character, who, in the nullification troubles in his native State of South Carolina, in the years 1832-33, was a firm and influential adherent of the Union, in opposition to the local sentiment of the State. The friendship between him and Mr. Ticknor grew warmer, and their intercourse more frequent. Mr. Legare had been a member of Congress, but was at this time (December, 1839) practising his profession (the law) with almost unrivalled distinction in South Carolina.

3 R. M. T. Hunter.

4 Edwards on ‘The Freedom of the Will.’

5 Articles on ‘Demosthenes’ and ‘Athenian Democracy,’ written by Mr. Legare for the ‘New York Review.’

6 Mr. Legare was now Attorney-General of the United States.

7 Mr.Lyell and Mrs. Charles Lyell, afterwards Sir Charles and Lady Lyell.

8 Afterwards seventh Earl of Carlisle, died 1864.

9 The inauguration of General Harrison, as President of the United States, occurred March 4, 1841.

10 Vice-President Tyler had succeeded to the office of President, on the death of General Harrison.

11 After the demise of the old Federal party, Mr. Ticknor voted with the Whigs, without being always ready fully to indorse their action.

12 The Democrats came in with Mr. Polk.

13 See Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ Vol. II. pp. 119-122.

14 For those who are not familiar with the details of our history and form of government, it may be well to say, that Mr. Ticknor here refers to the right to hold slaves as property, not as directly established by the Constitution of the United States, but as indirectly recognized in it, through the arrangements made for the basis of representation in Congress, and the extradition of fugitives.

15 Mr. Ticknor often said, that after his visit to Washington in 1824, he always felt that a civil war might grow, sooner or later, out of the question of slavery. He dreaded this, and always desired its postponement, if it could not be averted, on the ground that every year the resources of the North were strengthened, and its power to maintain the cause of the Union increased.

16 Prince John always wrote to Mr. Ticknor in English, and the correspondence continued till the end of Mr. Ticknor's life.

17 In writing to M. Legare about this time on politics, Mr. Ticknor gives what he says ‘may be taken for the tone of opinion here at this moment, which I gather at Dr. Bowditch's old office [the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Office], where I am an unworthy vice-president, and where I meet most of the men whose affairs and opinions direct the times.’

18 JudgePrescott and Mrs. Prescott, Mr. W. H. Prescott and his daughter, and Mr. F. C. Gray.

19 Hon. Jeremiah Mason.

20 Manuscript of the ‘Conquest of Mexico.’

21 This speech was to explain Mr. Webster's course in remaining in the Cabinet of President Tyler. See Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ Vol. II. p. 142.

22 Mr. Mason.

23 The death of Mr. Legare, with its attendant duties and sorrows, caused an entire change in the plans of Mr. Ticknor and his family; and this summer, of 1843, was passed in various excursions in Massachusetts and New York. They avoided Woods' Hole, where Mr. Legareas annual visit had added so much to their enjoyment, and where, in fact, they never went again.

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (8)
Saxony (Saxony, Germany) (6)
New England (United States) (6)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (3)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (3)
Maine (Maine, United States) (3)
Dresden, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Rhode Island (Rhode Island, United States) (2)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Paris, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (2)
Florence, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Dresden (Saxony, Germany) (2)
Bunker Hill (West Virginia, United States) (2)
Woods Hole (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Venice (Italy) (1)
New Hampshire (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
Nahant (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Milton, Mass. (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Mason, N. H. (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
Lockhart (Texas, United States) (1)
Lebanon Springs (New York, United States) (1)
Indiana (Indiana, United States) (1)
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (1)
Hamburg, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Hamburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Gottingen (Lower Saxony, Germany) (1)
France (France) (1)
Falmouth, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Dixon, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (1)
Charleston (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Central America (1)
Cape Cod (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Canada (Canada) (1)
Brussels (Belgium) (1)
Berkshire (United Kingdom) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
Daniel Webster (18)
George Ticknor (17)
Hugh Swinton Legare (11)
Hugh S. Legare (9)
Tyler (8)
G. Ticknor (7)
William H. Prescott (7)
Jeremiah Mason (5)
Charles Lyell (5)
Maria Edgeworth (5)
H. S. Legare (4)
John Kenyon (4)
Sydney Smith (3)
H. H. Milman (3)
Henry W. Longfellow (3)
John G. Lockhart (3)
Charles S. Daveis (3)
Adolphe Circourt (3)
Boston (3)
Columbia Washington (2)
John L. Stephens (2)
Shakespeare (2)
W. H. Prescott (2)
Montezuma (2)
Jameson (2)
George Stillman Hillard (2)
George Harrison (2)
Francis Calley Gray (2)
Demus (2)
Demosthenes (2)
Dante (2)
George Ticknor Curtis (2)
Henry Clay (2)
W. E. Channing (2)
Nathaniel Bowditch (2)
Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung (1)
Varus (1)
Ticknors (1)
Tacitus (1)
Charles Sumner (1)
Spenser (1)
Jared Sparks (1)
Robert Southey (1)
William Smyth (1)
Walter Scott (1)
I. Sc (1)
Saxon (1)
H. R. H. Prince (1)
Polk (1)
Louis Philippe (1)
Andrews Norton (1)
J. Nichols (1)
Milton (1)
Mendoza (1)
Theodore Lyman (1)
Von Lindenau (1)
Legareas (1)
M. Legare (1)
Poimenos Laon (1)
Anton King (1)
James Kent (1)
R. M. T. Hunter (1)
William Hamilton (1)
Henry Hallam (1)
M. Guizot (1)
F. C. Gray (1)
Germanicus (1)
Geo (1)
Gallio (1)
English (1)
Dryden (1)
G. T. Curtis (1)
Cortes (1)
Cooper (1)
David Colden (1)
Adolphe De Circourt (1)
Thomas Carlyle (1)
Henry Lord Brougham (1)
Bentley (1)
Arcos (1)
Anthony (1)
Washington Allston (1)
Alonso Aguilar (1)
John Adams (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: