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Chapter 14:

To C. S. Daveis, Portland.

Boston, October 30, 1852.
My dear Charles,—I received your letter, in your old familiar hand,—always welcome to my eyes,—when I returned last evening from the funeral.1 It was refreshing to me, and I needed some refreshment. The scene had been inexpressibly solemn and sad. The family had declined from the President and the Governor everything like the ceremonial observances customary on such occasions, and he was buried simply as a Marshfield man, with Marshfield pall-bearers; his kin—and servants, chiefly black—following next, and then all who had come uninvited to see him laid in his grave. How many of them were there I know not. The procession—wholly on foot—was above half a mile long, and we walked about a mile to the tomb, through a line of saddened forms and faces on each side of us, the eminence to which we advanced being all the while black with the crowds on it, and the crowd on the lawn before the house seeming, as we looked back, not to be diminished in numbers. I do not doubt more than ten thousand persons were there.

And yet it was, in all other respects, a mere New England funeral; no change in the house, no change in the ceremonies. He was buried, as his will prescribed, merely ‘l in a manner respectful to his neighbors’; and if any came to share in their sorrow, it was because they had sorrow of their own to bring them. No military display on earth was ever equal to this moral display of the feeling of a whole people; no ceremonies ordained by imperial power could ever so strike on the hearts of men. . . . .

We are all well, but I have been very much cut up the last fortnight, [284] less perhaps by my own sorrow than by occupation with all the arrangements, and constant excitement from the sorrows of others. In my time, Boston has never been so saddened before; and, if I am not mistaken, the same number of people were never so saddened before in this country. Such a meeting as was held [here] last Wednesday, of three thousand persons, is, I am fully persuaded, unlike any other that was ever held of so many persons, anywhere; not a sound being heard except the voices of the speakers, and the sobs of the audience of grown men, and the response of Aye to the resolutions coming up, at last, like a moan. But we will talk of it all; I cannot write.

Yours always,

To Hon. Edward Everett, Washington.

Boston, November 20, 1852.
My dear Everett,—I have received two notes from you, and sundry packets of letters, etc., relating to Mr. Webster; but I have thought it better not to trouble you with answers. Everything, however, has no doubt come safely that you have sent.2 . . . .

I am surprised anew every day at the sincerity and extent of the sorrow for Mr. Webster's death. There is a touch of repentance in it for the injustice that has been done him, and a feeling of anxiety about the future in our political position, which tend to deepen its channel, as it flows on in a stream that constantly grows broader. The number of sermons that have been published about it in New England is getting to be very great, and the number of those delivered is quite enormous. . . . .

The Library is getting on, but will hardly be opened till after your return.3 I wrote a strong letter to Mr. T. W. Ward—in New York a fortnight or more ago, about funding Mr. Bates's donation, and reserving the income to purchase books of permanent value; which he sent to Mr. Bates, ‘confirming it strongly.’ I added that your [285] opinion coincided with mine. So I hope that will be rightly settled. . . . .

Yours sincerely,

To Sir Edmund Head, Fredericton.

Boston, December 20, 1852.
My dear Sir Edmund,—I am much struck with what you say about the ignorance that prevails in England concerning this country and its institutions, and the mischief likely to spring from it. Indeed, it is a subject which has for some time lain heavy on my thoughts: not that I am troubled about any ill — will felt in England towards the United States, for I believe there never was so little of it; but that, from Punch up to some of your leading statesmen, things are constantly said and done out of sheer misapprehension or ignorance, that have been for some time breeding ill — will here, and are likely to breed more. I will give an instance of what I mean; the strongest, but by no means the only one.

The slavery question—as we do not fail to let all the world know —is our great crux; the rock on which not only our Union may split, but our well-being and civilization may be endangered. All our ablest, wisest, and best men occupy themselves with it, and have long done so; and if we cannot work out a remedy for it among ourselves, we are well satisfied that nobody else can do it for us. Now in this state of the case, when the sensibilities of our whole people are excited on the subject as they never were before, popular meetings have for some years been holding in England about it; American clergymen have been deemed fit or otherwise to preach in English pulpits, according to their opinions on this text; and, finally, the first ladies in the kingdom—to be followed, of course, by a multitude of the rest— are about to interfere, and give us their advice, all well meant, certainly, but all as certainly a great mistake. At least, so it seems to us at the cool North, where no single person, so far as I know, defends the institution of slavery, or would fail to do anything practicable, within his power, to mitigate its evils. The ladies of England, it seems to us, have as little to do with slavery in the Carolinas as they have with polygamy in Algeria, and know less about it; the men of England have, as we think, no more to do with it than they have with our injustice to our Indians, or with the serfdom of Russia, and its evils and abominations.

We feel this all over the country, and you will not be surprised if [286] we soon show that we feel it. The Irish population among us is very large, and has already two or three times made movements to help their kinsfolk at home to break up their union with your island. But thus far they have found little or no sympathy among the rest of our population; the Anglo-Saxon part, I mean. Now, however, the tide is turning. Meagher has been lecturing in New York to immense audiences, and, since I began this letter, I see by the newspaper that Choate, the leading Whig lawyer in New England, Seaver, our Boston Whig Mayor, and many others, who six months ago would have dreamed of no such thing, have sent him a complimentary invitation to come and lecture here. He will of course come, and he will produce not a little effect, even in this conservative town. But the real danger is not yet; that will come when the troubles in Europe come. . . . .

I dare say you will smile at the results to which I come, and I am willing to believe that little of what I picture within the range of possibilities is likely to come to pass. But that the tendency of things at the present moment is toward troubles with England, . . . . nobody hereabouts, for whose opinion you or I should care a button, doubts. . . . .

I began, intending to write a letter about ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin,’ and I have talked about everything else. However, I must still say a word. I have read it with great interest. It is a book of much talent, especially dramatic talent, . . . . but it is quite without the epic attributes that alone can make a romance classical, and settle it as a part of the literature of any country. As an exhibition of manners it is much more exaggerated than it should have been, for neither its good slaveholders nor its bad slaveholders can be taken as examples of even a moderate number of either class. As a political book it greatly exasperates the slaveholders, and perhaps most seriously offends those among them who most feel the evils of slavery, and who most conscientiously endeavor to fulfil the hard duties it imposes on them, the very class whom Mrs. Stowe should, both as a Christian woman and a politician, have sustained and conciliated. Elsewhere —I mean everywhere but in our slaveholding States—it will produce an effect exactly in proportion to the distance of its readers from the scenes it describes, and their previous ignorance of the state and condition of the questions it discusses. Thus, in New England, where we have learned to distinguish between our political relations to the South and our moral relations to slavery, it deepens the horror of servitude, but it does not affect a single vote . . . . . But of one thing [287] you may be sure. It will neither benefit the slaves nor advance the slave question one iota towards its solution. . . . . You ask me about Bunsen's ‘Hippolytus.’ I can hardly say I have read it. I looked over my copy, and then sent it to my kinsman, Mr. Norton, who, from having written learnedly on the ‘Genuineness of the Gospels,’ would be much more interested in it than I can be. I incline, however, to Bunsen's opinion, that the tract he prints is a work of Hippolytus, though I am by no means clear about it, not half so clear as I am that the tract itself is of little importance to anybody. The rest, which is foreign to the subject, seemed to me curious,—the maxims high German, and often very little intelligible; the apology interesting to your Episcopacy, but not to my Puritanism; and the Latin excursus on the old liturgies, or their fragments, most learned and irrelevant to everything else in the book. . . . .

We wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Yours sincerely,—shorter next time,—

To Sir C. Lyell.

Boston, May 23, 1854.
My dear Lyell,—There goes in the diplomatic bag of this steamer a portion of the printed sheets of a work on the ‘History of the Formation and Adoption of the Constitution of the United States.’ It is addressed to Mr. Murray. The book—2 vols. 8vo, when Completed—is by my kinsman, Mr. George T. Curtis, and involves the civil history of the country, in all the relations which constitute the foundations of its present prosperity and character, from 1776 to 1789. It is written with ability, clearness, and power, and it is astonishing how much of what it sets forth from the forgotten journals of the old Congress, and from manuscript sources, is not only new to many persons better informed in the history of the country than I am, but curious and important. It will produce, I think, considerable effect here, and tend to good, both as to our condition at home and our relations with Europe, and especially England. You know how conservative Curtis is, and how frank and fearless he is in expressing his opinions; but the main characteristic of the book is a wise and statesmanlike philosophy, profitable to all . . . . . The Nebraska Bill has passed, as we have heard this morning, not in all its forms, but in effect, by a majority of thirteen,—100 to 113. It is a shameful violation of an old compromise, and will tend to a dissolution of the Union more than any measure ever did. But it will not tend to increase the slave power . . . . [288]

Everett is quite ill, and has resigned his place in the Senate. . . . It is a misfortune for himself to be obliged at this crisis to leave public affairs, and a misfortune to this Commonwealth and to the conservative cause throughout the country. . . . . He will come up again, I trust, in such quiet as his home will give him. . . .

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, May 26, 1854.
My dear Sir Edmund,—I have your two letters, and thank you for them very heartily. . . . . . High matters they contain;—wars and laws. The first troubles me a good deal. Every man, however obscure, is an item in the great and beneficent account of Christian civilization, and anything that puts this paramount interest at the least hazard is a personal danger to him and his children.

I cannot endure the idea that anything should occur to impair the influence of England in the world's affairs. I almost as much deprecate—and, as its corollary, quite as much deprecate—any increase of Russian influence in Western Europe. I detest the Turks, who have never set their standard up over a foot of earth that they have not blighted, and I never, as I think, sympathized with Bonaparte, except when he threatened to drive them over the Bosphorus. But, above all, I deprecate and detest a general war in Europe, which can be a benefit to no one of the parties to it in whom I feel the least interest, and which may be a permanent mischief to the great cause of Christian civilization. I suppose, however, that it must come. . . . .

I bought some rare old Spanish books lately at Richmond, Virginia,—‘Belianis of Greece,’ 1587, the original editions of nearly all Antonio de Guevara's works, etc., . . . . making in all about fifty volumes, well worth having. . . . .

A few days ago Puibusque, who wrote the ‘Histoire compare des Litteratures Espagnole et Francaise,’ . . . . sent me a thick octavo filled with a translation of the ‘Conde Lucanor,’ a long political and military life of its author, Don John Manuel, and copious notes, adding, both in the original and in the French, one more tale, from a manuscript in Madrid, than was before known, making the whole number fifty. The book is a creditable one to the author, but not important, except for the new tale. One odd thing in relation to it is, that he found some of his best manuscript materials in my library when he was here in 1849; a circumstance of which he makes more honorable mention and full acknowledgment than Frenchmen commonly think to be needed. [289]

So, you see, I go on, almost contrary to my principles, piling up old Spanish books on old Spanish books. Cui bono? Time will show. I add a few notes for an edition of my History, to be printed in a year or two, the stereotype plates now used to keep up with the demand being still satisfactory; as nobody knows enough about the subject to care for such little items as my present researches can afford. They are printing now 1,200 copies. But when I make a new edition I shall sacrifice the plates to my vanity of making the book as good as I can. Meantime, the old Spanish books do no harm; they amuse me, and they will be valuable in some public library hereafter. . . . .

To C. S. Daveis.

Caldwell, Lake George, August 2, 1854.
My dear Charles,—. . . . Since I wrote the preceding pages Cogswell has come in upon us for a few days; he looks a little thin and pale, as a man well may who has been in New York all summer, but he seems in good health and spirits. He has already gone with the ladies and Hillard in a boat to the other side of the lake, where they spend the forenoon in those cool woods, with ‘book, and work, and healthful play.’ I seldom join in these excursions. Four or five hours of good work in the forepart of the day, in our own quiet parlor, is as healthful for me as anything, and fits me to lounge with a few agreeable, intelligent habitues of the house, all the rest of the time. We have suffered from the heat, as all men in the United States have this summer, I suppose, but less than most of them. The thermometer has averaged about seven or eight degrees below the temperature from Boston to Baltimore. . . . .

To Sir E. Head, Bart.

Caldwell, Lake George, August 3, 1854.
My dear Sir Edmund,—I am delighted with the news4 in your letter of the 23d ult., which has followed us here, after some delay. You now will remain on this continent yet some years longer, but it will be under circumstances so honorable to you that you will be content with what might otherwise grow burthensome. It is, too, a great [290] opportunity to do good. The relations between the two countries, as they will be adjusted by the Reciprocity Treaty, give you a very fair field; as fair as man can desire. I remember that Metternich, talking about some old Austrian affairs, once said to me, ‘I did not make the Treaty of 1809; I was to come into the Ministry, and I chose to have a terrain net prepared for me by somebody else.’ This terrain net has been prepared for you by Lord Elgin's treaty, and I do not see why you should not earn a higher satisfaction and honor than his, by the results which it will give you an opportunity to bring about. I do not mean annexation. We are too large now. But the moral influence of the North, whether British or American, will be greatly increased by such an union of interests as may be made wisely to grow out of the present adjustment. Indeed, I do not see how anything but good can come out of it, so far as the interests of humanity are concerned; and as for the interests of the two countries, it seems to remove the last perceptible materials for trouble. Thank God for that . . . .

We left Boston at the end of June, and have been ever since on the borders of this beautiful lake. . . . . Except one or two visits to friends, we shall remain here till the beginning of September, and then establish ourselves for the winter at home, where we shall be sure to be in season to receive you, and delighted with the opportunity, of which, till the intimation came from the Lyells, we had almost despaired.

We all send our kindest regards and thanks to Lady Head and yourself for your most agreeable recollection of a promise which I had wholly forgotten, but which I feel not the slightest disposition to deny or evade, or, in American parlance, to repudiate. Nothing could be more agreeable to us all than to visit you in Canada. The only time we were ever there was in the reign of the late Lord Dalhousie. I do not know whether your residence is to be in the old chateau at Quebec, which we found a most comfortable and agreeable place when we dined there, and visited a sick friend in his room, in a way that gave us some notion of its size and resources; but if you do, I think you will be satisfied with it, though you will of course find it as cold as Fredericton, or colder.

However, we will talk of these things in Boston next month. Meantime, give our hearty congratulations to Lady Head. She will certainly find it more agreeable in Canada, summer and winter, than in New Brunswick.

Yours faithfully,


My girls are out under the trees, reading the ‘Paradiso,’ the eldest using the copy you gave her, and helping her sister, who uses the Florence edition, as she is not yet so familiar with the grand old Tuscan as to read him without notes that are very ample.

To John Kenyon, London.

Boston, January 8, 1855.
dear Kenyon,—I do not choose to have another year get fairly on its course, without carrying to you assurances of our continued good wishes and affection. The last we heard from you was through Mrs. Ticknor's correspondent, ever-faithful Lady Lyell, who said she had seen you in the Zoological Gardens, well, comfortable, and full of that happiness that goodness bosoms ever. But this second-hand news is not enough. We are growing old apace. My girls laugh at me, and say that they will not allow me the privileges of age, while I continue to run up two steps of the house stairs at a time, without knowing that I do it. I am wiser, however, in such matters than they are, and, although I am thankful for my excellent health and for an abundant reserve of good spirits, I know that, nevertheless, I passed my grand climacteric some months ago.

But enough of myself. We are all well, wife and daughters, and all send you our love, and ask for yours in return, despatched under your own hand. If anybody like Hillard were going to London, I should charge him with an especial commission to see you, and bring it back to us. But such ambassadors are rare, and I do not send less than the best to old friends like you; for I do not choose to lower the standard by which you measure my countrymen. I would rather raise it; and as I have no ready means to do this, you must write me a letter as soon as you can, telling us all about your brother and his wife, both most lovable people; Mr. Crabbe Robinson, not precisely in the same category, but excellent in his way; that promising, bright son of Henry N. Coleridge, etc., etc. You know who are the persons I need to hear about. It is those you like; but chiefly yourself.

Your friends here are generally as you would have them. Hillard is crowded with law business, but only the happier for work. His book on Italy is more successful than anything of the sort ever printed among us. Above five thousand copies have been sold. I trust you have read it . . . . . Prescott is well, and has in press the first two volumes of his ‘Philip II.’ We see him almost daily, and he is as fresh as ever, with twenty good years of work in him, at fifty-nine. [292]

Savage, blessed old man, is busy with his unending antiquarian researches, and makes his last days happy—though an excellent wife and two daughters have been taken from him—by bringing to his home a daughter, made to carry sunshine anywhere, and a son-in-law of much intellectual cultivation and very agreeable qualities.

We are worried about your war, and are probably more anxious to see an end of it than if we were Englishmen. At least, such is the case with those of us who are most interested in the land of our forefathers. . . . .

My dear Kenyon, remember us, as we do you, with true regard, and write to us as soon as you can.

Yours faithfully always,

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, March 2, 1855.
My dear Head,—Thanks for your letter, with the references to Calderon and Romilly, and for the note with its enclosed pamphlet about the Bodleian. The reference to Romilly came particularly apropos;5 for I have had two letters—the second a sort of postscript to the first from Lord Mahon about the Andre matter. . . . . Lord Mahon cited to me an opinion of Guizot's, given him lately in conversation at Paris, that Washington should not have permitted Andre to be hanged; to which I gave him your reference to Romilly, as a Roland for his Oliver.

He is in trouble, too, about a passage in his last volume concerning the Buff and Blue—‘Mrs. Crewe, true blue’—as the Fox colors, which he intimates, you know, to have been taken in compliment to Washington. But, besides that,—as I think,—the Whigs would have been reproached for this assumption of traitor colors in a way that would not now be forgotten; these colors were fashionable earlier. You will find a curious proof of this in Goethe's autobiography,--‘Dichtung und Wahrheit,’ Book XII:,—where, speaking of the young Jerusalem as the chief prototype of his Werther, he says that he wore a blue coat, and buff vest and underclothes, with top-boots; a dress, he adds, which had been already introduced into Lower Germany, in ‘Nachahmung der Englander.’ This was at Wetzlar, in Upper Germany, in 1772, where the fashion evidently attracted notice as a known English one. Washington's cocked hat, and that of our army at the time, I have supposed, might have been taken from the hat of Frederick [293] II. and his officers. At any rate, they are the same, and the Prussian army was then the model army of Europe. But I have no authority for my conjecture. The pamphlet about the Bodleian6 is much to the purpose about all public libraries, and remarkable for being written so early, before the sound doctrine it maintains was endured either in England or in this country. I shall bind it, and keep it among my curiosa adding to it the anecdote about old Gaisford and the ‘Bibliotheque Nationale.’ I have just been reading the first volume of Prescott's ‘Philip II.’ down to the middle of the War of the Netherlands. The early chapters about the abdication of Charles, etc., he is disposed to think are a little too sketchy, a little too much in the style of memoirs. I differ from him entirely. The manner is suited to the subject, and is attractive and conciliating to a remarkable degree. He will grow grave enough before he gets through, without making any effort for it. Moreover, the last half of the first volume is already such. The battle of St. Quentin, and all about that time, is excellent, and the whole is, I think, in quite as good a style as anything he has done, in some respects better. . . . .

My letters from Paris are full of matter. In one of them I have words spoken by Guizot at a meeting of all the Academies of the Institute, which I hear have been printed, but which, as I have not seen them in print, perhaps you have not. ‘We fail even to use the little freedom which is left to us. We are drunk with the love of servitude, more than we ever were with the passion for liberty.’

The Emperor, I hear, means to gain personal military fame as a commander, probably on the Rhine; and the adoption of De Morny is openly spoken of as a settled thing. It seems as if the worst days of the Roman Empire were come back. It reminds me of a conversation at Chateaubriand's, in 1817,—of which I have a note made at the time,—in which he said, ‘Je ne crois pas à la society Europeenne,’ going on to show that we were about in the fourth century of the Roman Empire. This adoption looks like it. . . . .

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, December 23, 1855.
My dear Head,—Our Christmas greetings are with you. By New Year, if your reckonings are right, you will have your books all arranged, and dear Lady Head will have her drawing-rooms in order, [294] so that both departments will be going on right, and you will be better off for the winter than if you had remained at Quebec. . . . .

I have heard Thackeray's four lectures on the four Georges, truculent enough in their general satire,—though not much beyond the last half-volume of ‘Harry Esmond’ about Queen Anne,—but full of generous passages about individuals. The sketches of the German princes of the seventeenth century, and down to the middle of the eighteenth, with which he opened, amused me more than anything else. They were capital. The passage most applauded was a beautiful tribute of loyalty to Queen Victoria, and the tone and manners of her Court. It was given, on his part, with much feeling, and brought down the house—always crowded—very fervently. . . . His audience was the best the city could give, and above twelve hundred strong, besides which, he repeated the lecture about George III. to an audience of two thousand, two or three evenings ago.7 . . . .

We are all well, and send you kindest regards. . . . . Pleasant letters came from the Lyells, last steamer, and all accounts announce the entire success of Prescott's book.

Yours faithfully,

To King John, of Saxony.8

Boston, November 20, 1855.
Sire,—I received duly your Majesty's last letter, full of wise philosophy and sound sense both on European and American affairs; but I have not earlier answered it, because there is so little to send from this side of the Atlantic that can be interesting on the other.

We think and talk about your great war between the eastern and western divisions of Europe, almost as much as you do, and look with the same sort—if not the same degree—of eagerness for telegraphic despatches. For we feel that all Christendom rests on one basis of civilization, and that whatever shakes its foundations in one part does [295] mischief to the whole. No doubt, a revolution in Europe would not be felt here, at once, as a calamity. It might even, for a time, add to our prosperity, already as great as we can bear. But it would come to us at last, as surely as the great Gulf Stream goes from our shores to yours, and then turns back to begin its course anew from the point whence it started. And steam is every day bringing us nearer together, and making us more dependent on each other. Notwithstanding all you may hear in Europe, there is no prospect that the United States will involve themselves in the present troubles of your part of the world. The apprehension of it that was felt in London, in the latter part of October, was very absurd; and I am happy to be able to add that the indiscreet bullying of the ‘Times’ newspaper produced no effect at all on our population, which has often been so very sensitive to such things . . . . The Nicaragua matter—the claim of the British government to certain rights in the Bay of Honduras—is a matter which may be much complicated by diplomacy, and draw long consequences after it. But the obvious trouble, and the one that can be most easily turned to account, is the attempt made by the British government last summer, in our principal cities, to enlist persons for their military service against Russia; breaking or evading our very stringent laws upon the duties of neutrals. . . . . This is a very disagreeable affair. The people can easily be made angry by it, because it was done in a secret, underhand manner. . . . . The ‘Know Nothings’ have come in contact with the slavery question, and have been much injured by it in their resources and organization, for it is very difficult now to organize a new party, all whose principles shall be acceptable in the free States and in the slaveholding States; and it was always foreseen by intelligent men that this Know Nothing party contained, in its secrecy and in its intolerance, the elements of its own destruction. But it is still strong. The principle, that none but persons born in America, bred in its peculiar institutions, and attached to them by habit as well as choice, shall govern America, is—with reasonable limitations—so just and wise, that the party founded on it will surely leave its impress on a government as popular as ours is. They may not elect the next President,—although even this is possible,—but they will succeed in making a better naturalization law than we have now, and see that it is executed with justice, and even with rigor . . . . Your short crops in Europe are filling the great valley of the Mississippi with population and wealth. The wheat, which it costs the [296] great farmers in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan,—whose population in 1850 was above three millions and is now above four,—the wheat which it costs forty dollars to these great farmers to raise, they can sell at their own doors for above an hundred, and it is sold in London and Paris for nearly three hundred. Indeed, your European wars are not only making the States in the valley of the Mississippi the preponderating power in the American Union, but you are making them the granary of the world, more than ever Egypt or Sicily was to Rome. So interchangeably are the different parts of Christendom connected, and so certainly are the fates and fortunes of each, in one way or another, dependent on the condition of the whole. The war in the Crimea raises the price of land in Ohio. A salutary movement to protect our own institutions checks emigration from Ireland and Germany. The influence of the Know Nothings is felt in Wurtemberg; the Proletaires of Paris enrich the farmers in Illinois, of whose existence they never heard.

The law or the legislation to restrain the use of all intoxicating drinks, by prohibiting the sale of them under severe penalties and by declaring them to be no longer property when so offered for sale, is found ineffectual. It will be abandoned in the course of the coming winter in all, or nearly all the States where it has been attempted to introduce it.

I hope I shall soon hear again from your Majesty, and that you will give me, not only good accounts of yourself and your family, but of Saxony and Dresden, to which we are all much attached, and of the prospects of an European peace. . . . .

I remain very faithfully, your Majesty's friend and servant,

To Sir Charles Lyell.

Boston, June 9, 1856.
My dear Lyell,—. . . . I want to speak to you of our affairs. It is a long time since I have done it, and I have never had occasion to do it so sadly. The country is now almost entirely divided into two sectional, fierce parties, the North and the South, the antislavery fast becoming—what wise men have long foreseen-mere abolitionism, and now excited to madness by the brutal assault on Sumner, by the contest in Kansas, and by the impending Presidential canvass.

I have not witnessed so bad a state of things for forty years, not [297] since the last war with you in 1812-15. At the present moment everything in the Atlantic States is in the hands of the Disunionists, at the two ends of the Union; Butler, Toombs, and the other fireeaters at the South, seeking by their violence to create as much abolitionism at the North as they can, so that it may react in favor of their long-cherished project for a separation of the States; and Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and their coadjutors here striving to excite hatred towards the South, for the same end. It is therefore action and reaction of the worst kind.

But the majority of the people, even at the two ends of the Union, are still sound on the great question, and will, I think, make their power felt at last. One favorable sign is, that wise men are become anxious everywhere, and are ready to act, and take responsibility. . . . . Still, I do not deny that there is much look of revolution in the excitement I see everywhere around me. The South is very desperate. Its people feel every year, more and more, how they are wasting away under the blighting curse of slavery, and struggle like drowning men to recover some foothold on solid ground. The North, justly outraged by the assault on Sumner, and by much that has happened in Kansas, loses—for a time—both patience and wisdom, so that I hear ‘fighting the South’ constantly talked of as a thing not to be deprecated.

But the great West, the valley of the Mississippi, . . . . is comparatively little excited on the great question that makes so fierce a quarrel between the northern and southern Atlantic States. The Mississippi forbids Iowa and Illinois from belonging to a different country from New Orleans; and the laws of the States on its upper waters, excluding all the colored race from their soil, prevent a contest about slavery between them and the States at its mouth. I look, therefore, with confidence to the West, to save the Atlantic States from the madness of civil war. . . . .

Sumner's wounds were severe, and became worse for two days by unskilful treatment. I have seen a letter from his brother, which says that, as soon as the treatment was changed, his condition was improved, and he has been getting well . . . . . His political position is now a commanding one, but not well managed by his friends. How he will manage it himself remains to be seen, but I think he will make fewer mistakes than they have made for him.

The Heads are well; so is Prescott; and so, I think, are all your friends here. We are eminently strong and stout, and the young couple as happy as a honeymoon and bright prospects can make [298] them.9 God bless them! I was, much to my surprise, after the wedding, overtaken with a strange feeling that I had somehow or other met with a loss. The same feeling haunts me still. But I mean to be rid of it when I get to England. We have no well-defined plans after that, but I think we may cross the Channel with you, after which we are most likely to strike for Brussels, Berlin, etc., and take Paris in September, on our way to Italy.

Love to dear Lady Lyell. I begin to long to see you both.

G. T.

1 The funeral of Mr. Webster, who had died on the 24th. Late in September Mr. Ticknor had visited him at Marshfield.

2 Mr. Everett, Mr. C. C. Felton, Mr. G. T. Curtis, and Mr. Ticknor were, by Mr. Webster's will, made his literary executors. With his usual promptness Mr. Ticknor began at once to collect, from all quarters, whatever letters, reminiscences, and documents might serve as materials for future publications. He made excursions to Marshfield and its neighborhood, and to Fryeburg in Maine, expressly for the purpose of seeing and taking down the oral narratives of those who had been Mr. Webster's neighbors, or employed by him.

3 The Boston Public Library, of which an account will be given in the next chapter.

4 Sir Edmund Head was appointed Governor-General of Canada. In the autumn of this year, when he transferred his residence from Fredericton to Quebec, he passed through Boston with his family, and Mr. and Mrs. Ticknor accompanied them to New York.

5 Life and Letters of Romilly, p. 142.

6 A Few Words about the Bodleian. [By Sir Edmund Head.] 1633.

7 Mr. Thackeray was, during both his visits to America, a familiar and welcome guest in Mr. Ticknor's house, and showed his responsive feeling in most kindly ways. Being in Boston at the close of the year once, he invited himself to eat his Christmas dinner with the Ticknors, and on New Year's Eve came to watch the new year in by their fireside, and drink the health of his daughters. On the stroke of twelve o'clock he rose, and with tears filling his eyes exclaimed, ‘God bless my girls, and all who are kind to them.’

8 this Prince had come to the throne, on the death of his brother, in August, 1854.

9 He here alludes to the marriage of his younger daughter, and in the close of the paragraph refers to a projected trip to Europe, of which more will be said in the coming chapters.

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