North America, by Anthony Trollope

Back to Boston.

From Louisville we returned to Cincinnati, in making which journey we were taken to a place called Seymour, in Indiana, at which spot we were to “make connection” with the train running on the Mississippi and Ohio line from St. Louis to Cincinnati. We did make the connection, but were called upon to remain four hours at Seymour in consequence of some accident on the line. In the same way, when going eastward from Cincinnati to Baltimore a few days later, I was detained another four hours at a place called Crestline, in Ohio. On both occasions I spent my time in realizing, as far as that might be possible, the sort of life which men lead who settle themselves at such localities. Both these towns — for they call themselves towns — had been created by the railways. Indeed this has been the case with almost every place at which a few hundred inhabitants have been drawn together in the Western States. With the exception of such cities as Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, settlers can hardly be said to have chosen their own localities. These have been chosen for them by the originators of the different lines of railway. And there is nothing in Europe in any way like to these Western railway settlements. In the first place, the line of the rails runs through the main street of the town, and forms not unfrequently the only road. At Seymour I could find no way of getting away from the rails unless I went into the fields. At Crestline, which is a larger place, I did find a street in which there was no railroad, but it was deserted, and manifestly out of favor with the inhabitants. As there were railway junctions at both these posts, there were, of course, cross-streets, and the houses extended themselves from the center thus made along the lines, houses being added to houses at short intervals as new-corners settled themselves down. The panting, and groaning, and whistling of engines is continual; for at such places freight trains are always kept waiting for passenger trains, and the slower freight trains for those which are called fast. This is the life of the town; and indeed as the whole place is dependent on the railway, so is the railway held in favor and beloved. The noise of the engines is not disliked, nor are its puffings and groanings held to be unmusical. With us a locomotive steam-engine is still, as it were, a beast of prey, against which one has to be on one’s guard — in respect to which one specially warns the children. But there, in the Western States, it has been taken to the bosoms of them all as a domestic animal; no one fears it, and the little children run about almost among its wheels. It is petted and made much of on all sides — and, as far as I know, it seldom bites or tears. I have not heard of children being destroyed wholesale in the streets, or of drunken men becoming frequent sacrifices. But had I been consulted beforehand as to the natural effects of such an arrangement, I should have said that no child could have been reared in such a town, and that any continuance of population under such circumstances must have been impracticable.

Such places, however, do thrive and prosper with a prosperity especially their own, and the boys and girls increase and multiply in spite of all dangers. With us in England it is difficult to realize the importance which is attached to a railway in the States, and the results which a railway creates. We have roads everywhere, and our country had been cultivated throughout with more or less care before our system of railways had been commenced; but in America, especially in the North, the railways have been the precursors of cultivation. They have been carried hither and thither, through primeval forests and over prairies, with small hope of other traffic than that which they themselves would make by their own influences. The people settling on their edges have had the very best of all roads at their service; but they have had no other roads. The face of the country between one settlement and another is still in many cases utterly unknown; but there is the connecting road by which produce is carried away, and new-comers are brought in. The town that is distant a hundred miles by the rail is so near that its inhabitants are neighbors; but a settlement twenty miles distant across the uncleared country is unknown, unvisited, and probably unheard of by the women and children. Under such circumstances the railway is everything. It is the first necessity of life, and gives the only hope of wealth. It is the backbone of existence from whence spring, and by which are protected, all the vital organs and functions of the community. It is the right arm of civilization for the people, and the discoverer of the fertility of the land. It is all in all to those people, and to those regions. It has supplied the wants of frontier life with all the substantial comfort of the cities, and carried education, progress, and social habits into the wilderness. To the eye of the stranger such places as Seymour and Crestline are desolate and dreary. There is nothing of beauty in them — given either by nature or by art. The railway itself is ugly, and its numerous sidings and branches form a mass of iron road which is bewildering, and, according to my ideas, in itself disagreeable. The wooden houses open down upon the line, and have no gardens to relieve them. A foreigner, when first surveying such a spot, will certainly record within himself a verdict against it; but in doing so he probably commits the error of judging it by a wrong standard. He should compare it with the new settlements which men have opened up in spots where no railway has assisted them, and not with old towns in which wealth has long been congregated. The traveler may see what is the place with the railway; then let him consider how it might have thriven without the railway.

I confess that I became tired of my sojourn at both the places I have named. At each I think that I saw every house in the place, although my visit to Seymour was made in the night; and at both I was lamentably at a loss for something to do. At Crestline I was all alone, and began to feel that the hours which I knew must pass before the missing train could come would never make away with themselves. There were many others stationed there as I was, but to them had been given a capability for loafing which niggardly Nature has denied to me. An American has the power of seating himself in the close vicinity of a hot stove and feeding in silence on his own thoughts by the hour together. It may be that he will smoke; but after awhile his cigar will come to an end. He sits on, however, certainly patient, and apparently contented. It may be that he chews, but if so, he does it with motionless jaws, and so slow a mastication of the pabulum upon which he feeds, that his employment in this respect only disturbs the absolute quiet of the circle when, at certain long, distant intervals, he deposits the secretion of his tobacco in an ornamental utensil which may probably be placed in the farthest corner of the hall. But during all this time he is happy. It does not fret him to sit there and think and do nothing. He is by no means an idle man — probably one much given to commercial enterprise. Idle men out there in the West we may say there are none. How should any idle man live in such a country? All who were sitting hour after hour in that circle round the stove of the Crestline Hotel hall — sitting there hour after hour in silence, as I could not sit — were men who earned their bread by labor. They were farmers, mechanics, storekeepers; there was a lawyer or two, and one clergyman. Sufficient conversation took place at first to indicate the professions of many of them. One may conclude that there could not be place there for an idle man. But they all of them had a capacity for a prolonged state of doing nothing which is to me unintelligible, and which is by me very much to be envied. They are patient as cows which from hour to hour lie on the grass chewing their cud. An Englishman, if he be kept waiting by a train in some forlorn station in which he can find no employment, curses his fate and all that has led to his present misfortune with an energy which tells the story of his deep and thorough misery. Such, I confess, is my state of existence under such circumstances. But a Western American gives himself up to “loafing,” and is quite happy. He balances himself on the back legs of an arm-chair, and remains so, without speaking, drinking or smoking for an hour at a stretch; and while he is doing so he looks as though he had all that he desired. I believe that he is happy, and that he has all that he wants for such an occasion — an arm-chair in which to sit, and a stove on which he can put his feet and by which he can make himself warm.

Such was not the phase of character which I had expected to find among the people of the West. Of all virtues patience would have been the last which I should have thought of attributing to them. I should have expected to see them angry when robbed of their time, and irritable under the stress of such grievances as railway delays; but they are never irritable under such circumstances as I have attempted to describe, nor, indeed, are they a people prone to irritation under any grievances. Even in political matters they are long-enduring, and do not form themselves into mobs for the expression of hot opinion. We in England thought that masses of the people would rise in anger if Mr. Lincoln’s government should consent to give up Slidell and Mason; but the people bore it without any rising. The habeas corpus has been suspended, the liberty of the press has been destroyed for a time, the telegraph wires have been taken up by the government into their own hands, but nevertheless the people have said nothing. There has been no rising of a mob, and not even an expression of an adverse opinion. The people require to be allowed to vote periodically, and, having acquired that privilege, permit other matters to go by the board. In this respect we have, I think, in some degree misunderstood their character. They have all been taught to reverence the nature of that form of government under which they live, but they are not specially addicted to hot political fermentation. They have learned to understand that democratic institutions have given them liberty, and on that subject they entertain a strong conviction which is universal. But they have not habitually interested themselves deeply in the doings of their legislators or of their government. On the subject of slavery there have been and are different opinions, held with great tenacity and maintained occasionally with violence; but on other subjects of daily policy the American people have not, I think, been eager politicians. Leading men in public life have been much less trammeled by popular will than among us. Indeed with us the most conspicuous of our statesmen and legislators do not lead, but are led. In the States the noted politicians of the day have been the leaders, and not unfrequently the coercers of opinion. Seeing this, I claim for England a broader freedom in political matters than the States have as yet achieved. In speaking of the American form of government, I will endeavor to explain more clearly the ideas which I have come to hold on this matter.

I survived my delay at Seymour, after which I passed again through Cincinnati, and then survived my subsequent delay at Crestline. As to Cincinnati, I must put on record the result of a country walk which I took there, or rather on which I was taken by my friend. He professed to know the beauties of the neighborhood and to be well acquainted with all that was attractive in its vicinity. Cincinnati is built on the Ohio, and is closely surrounded by picturesque hills which overhang the suburbs of the city. Over these I was taken, plowing my way through a depth of mud which cannot be understood by any ordinary Englishman. But the depth of mud was not the only impediment nor the worst which we encountered. As we began to ascend from the level of the outskirts of the town we were greeted by a rising flavor in the air, which soon grew into a strong odor, and at last developed itself into a stench that surpassed in offensiveness anything that my nose had ever hitherto suffered. When we were at the worst we hardly knew whether to descend or to proceed. It had so increased in virulence that at one time I felt sure that it arose from some matter buried in the ground beneath my feet. But my friend, who declared himself to be quite at home in Cincinnati matters, and to understand the details of the great Cincinnati trade, declared against this opinion of mine. Hogs, he said, were at the bottom of it. It was the odor of hogs going up to the Ohio heavens — of hogs in a state of transit from hoggish nature to clothes-brushes, saddles, sausages, and lard. He spoke with an authority that constrained belief; but I can never forgive him in that he took me over those hills, knowing all that he professed to know. Let the visitors to Cincinnati keep themselves within the city, and not wander forth among the mountains. It is well that the odor of hogs should ascend to heaven and not hang heavy over the streets; but it is not well to intercept that odor in its ascent. My friend became ill with fever, and had to betake himself to the care of nursing friends; so that I parted company with him at Cincinnati. I did not tell him that his illness was deserved as well as natural, but such was my feeling on the matter. I myself happily escaped the evil consequences which his imprudence might have entailed on me.

I again passed through Pittsburg, and over the Alleghany Mountains by Altoona, and down to Baltimore — back into civilization, secession, conversation, and gastronomy. I never had secessionist sympathies and never expressed them. I always believed in the North as a people — discrediting, however, to the utmost the existing Northern government, or, as I should more properly say, the existing Northern cabinet; but nevertheless, with such feelings and such belief I found myself very happy at Baltimore. Putting aside Boston — which must, I think, be generally preferred by Englishmen to any other city in the States — I should choose Baltimore as my residence if I were called upon to live in America. I am not led to this, if I know myself, solely by the canvas-back ducks; and as to the terrapins, I throw them to the winds. The madeira, which is still kept there with a reverence which I should call superstitious were it not that its free circulation among outside worshipers prohibits the just use of such a word, may have something to do with it, as may also the beauty of the women — to some small extent. Trifles do bear upon our happiness in a manner that we do not ourselves understand and of which we are unconscious. But there was an English look about the streets and houses which I think had as much to do with it as either the wine, the women, or the ducks, and it seemed to me as though the manners of the people of Maryland were more English than those of other Americans. I do not say that they were on this account better. My English hat is, I am well aware, less graceful, and I believe less comfortable, than a Turkish fez and turban; nevertheless I prefer my English hat. New York I regard as the most thoroughly American of all American cities. It is by no means the one in which I should find myself the happiest; but I do not on that account condemn it.

I have said that in returning to Baltimore I found myself among secessionists. In so saying I intend to speak of a certain set whose influence depends perhaps more on their wealth, position, and education than on their numbers. I do not think that the population of the city was then in favor of secession, even if it had ever been so. I believe that the mob of Baltimore is probably the roughest mob in the States — is more akin to a Paris mob, and I may perhaps also say to a Manchester mob, than that of any other American city. There are more roughs in Baltimore than elsewhere, and the roughs there are rougher. In those early days of secession, when the troops were being first hurried down from New England for the protection of Washington, this mob was vehemently opposed to its progress. Men had been taught to think that the rights of the State of Maryland were being invaded by the passage of the soldiers, and they also were undoubtedly imbued with a strong prepossession for the Southern cause. The two ideas had then gone together. But the mob of Baltimore had ceased to be secessionists within twelve months of their first exploit. In April, 1861, they had refused to allow Massachusetts soldiers to pass through the town on their way to Washington; and in February, 1862, they were nailing Union flags on the door-posts of those who refused to display such banners as signs of triumph at the Northern victories!

That Maryland can ever go with the South, even in the event of the South succeeding in secession, no Marylander can believe. It is not pretended that there is any struggle now going on with such an object. No such result has been expected, certainly since the possession of Washington was secured to the North by the army of the Potomac. By few, I believe, was such a result expected even when Washington was insecure. And yet the feeling for secession among a certain class in Baltimore is as strong now as ever it was. And it is equally strong in certain districts of the State — in those districts which are most akin to Virginia in their habits, modes of thought, and ties of friendship. These men, and these women also, pray for the South if they be pious, give their money to the South if they be generous, work for the South if they be industrious, fight for the South if they be young, and talk for the South morning, noon, and night, in spite of General Dix and his columbiads on Federal Hill. It is in vain to say that such men and women have no strong feeling on the matter, and that they are praying, working, fighting, and talking under dictation. Their hearts are in it. And judging from them, even though there were no other evidence from which to judge, I have no doubt that a similar feeling is strong through all the seceding States. On this subject the North, I think, deceives itself in supposing that the Southern rebellion has been carried on without any strong feeling on the part of the Southern people. Whether the mob of Charleston be like the mob of Baltimore I cannot tell; but I have no doubt as to the gentry of Charleston and the gentry of Baltimore being in accord on the subject.

In what way, then, when the question has been settled by the force of arms, will these classes find themselves obliged to act? In Virginia and Maryland they comprise, as a rule, the highest and best educated of the people. As to parts of Kentucky the same thing may be said, and probably as to the whole of Tennessee. It must be remembered that this is not as though certain aristocratic families in a few English counties should find themselves divided off from the politics and national aspirations of their country-men, as was the case long since with reference to the Roman Catholic adherents of the Stuarts, and as has been the case since then in a lesser degree with the firmest of the old Tories who had allowed themselves to be deceived by Sir Robert Peel. In each of these cases the minority of dissentients was so small that the nation suffered nothing, though individuals were all but robbed of their nationality. but as regards America it must be remembered that each State has in itself a governing power, and is in fact a separate people. Each has its own legislature, and must have its own line of politics.

The secessionists of Maryland and of Virginia may consent to live in obscurity; but if this be so, who is to rule in those States? From whence are to come the senators and the members of Congress; the governors and attorney-generals? From whence is to come the national spirit of the two States, and the salt that shall preserve their political life? I have never believed that these States would succeed in secession. I have always felt that they would be held within the Union, whatever might be their own wishes. But I think that they will be so held in a manner and after a fashion that will render any political vitality almost impossible till a new generation shall have sprung up. In the mean time life goes on pleasantly enough in Baltimore, and ladies meet together, knitting stockings and sewing shirts for the Southern soldiers, while the gentlemen talk Southern politics and drink the health of the (Southern) president in ambiguous terms, as our Cavaliers used to drink the health of the king.

During my second visit to Baltimore I went over to Washington for a day or two, and found the capital still under the empire of King Mud. How the elite of a nation — for the inhabitants of Washington consider themselves to be the elite — can consent to live in such a state of thraldom, a foreigner cannot understand. Were I to say that it was intended to be typical of the condition of the government, I might be considered cynical; but undoubtedly the sloughs of despond which were deepest in their despondency were to be found in localities which gave an appearance of truth to such a surmise. The Secretary of State’s office, in which Mr. Seward was still reigning, though with diminished glory, was divided from the headquarters of the commander-inchief, which are immediately opposite to it, by an opaque river which admitted of no transit. These buildings stand at the corner of President Square, and it had been long understood that any close intercourse between them had not been considered desirable by the occupants of the military side of the causeway. But the Secretary of State’s office was altogether unapproachable without a long circuit and begrimed legs. The Secretary of War’s department was, if possible, in a worse condition. This is situated on the other side of the President’s house, and the mud lay, if possible, thicker in this quarter than it did round Mr. Seward’s chambers. The passage over Pennsylvania Avenue, immediately in front of the War Office, was a thing not to be attempted in those days. Mr. Cameron, it is true, had gone, and Mr. Stanton was installed; but the labor of cleansing the interior of that establishment had hitherto allowed no time for a glance at the exterior dirt, and Mr. Stanton should, perhaps, be held as excused. That the Navy Office should be buried in mud, and quite debarred from approach, was to be expected. The space immediately in front of Mr. Lincoln’s own residence was still kept fairly clean, and I am happy to be able to give testimony to this effect. Long may it remain so. I could not, however, but think that an energetic and careful President would have seen to the removal of the dirt from his own immediate neighborhood. It was something that his own shoes should remain unpolluted; but the foul mud always clinging to the boots and leggings of those by whom he was daily surrounded must, I should think, have been offensive to him. The entrance to the Treasury was difficult to achieve by those who had not learned by practice the ways of the place; but I must confess that a tolerably clear passage was maintained on that side which led immediately down to the halls of Congress. Up at the Capitol the mud was again triumphant in the front of the building; this however was not of great importance, as the legislative chambers of the States are always reached by the back doors. I, on this occasion, attempted to leave the building by the grand entrance, but I soon became entangled among rivers of mud and mazes of shifting sand. With difficulty I recovered my steps, and finding my way back to the building was forced to content myself by an exit among the crowd of Senators and Representatives who were thronging down the back stairs.

Of dirt of all kinds it behoves Washington and those concerned in Washington to make themselves free. It is the Augean stables through which some American Hercules must turn a purifying river before the American people can justly boast either of their capital or of their government. As to the material mud, enough has been said. The presence of the army perhaps caused it, and the excessive quantity of rain which had fallen may also be taken as a fair plea. But what excuse shall we find for that other dirt? It also had been caused by the presence of the army, and by that long-continued down-pouring of contracts which had fallen like Danae’s golden shower into the laps of those who understood how to avail themselves of such heavenly waters. The leaders of the rebellion are hated in the North. The names of Jefferson Davis, of Cobb, Toombs, and Floyd are mentioned with execration by the very children. This has sprung from a true and noble feeling; from a patriotic love of national greatness and a hatred of those who, for small party purposes, have been willing to lessen the name of the United States. I have reverenced the feeling even when I have not shared it. But, in addition to this, the names of those also should be execrated who have robbed their country when pretending to serve it; who have taken its wages in the days of its great struggle, and at the same time have filched from its coffers; who have undertaken the task of steering the ship through the storm in order that their hands might be deep in the meal-tub and the bread-basket, and that they might stuff their own sacks with the ship’s provisions. These are the men who must be loathed by the nation — whose fate must be held up as a warning to others before good can come! Northern men and women talk of hanging Davis and his accomplices. I myself trust that there will be no hanging when the war is over. I believe there will be none, for the Americans are not a blood-thirsty people. But if punishment of any kind be meted out, the men of the North should understand that they have worse offenders among them than Davis and Floyd.

At the period of which I am now speaking, there had come a change over the spirit of Mr. Lincoln’s cabinet. Mr. Seward was still his Secretary of State, but he was, as far as outside observers could judge, no longer his Prime Minister. In the early days of the war, and up to the departure of Mr. Cameron from out of the cabinet, Mr. Seward had been the Minister of the nation. In his dispatches he talks ever of We or of I. In every word of his official writings, of which a large volume has been published, he shows plainly that he intends to be considered as the man of the day — as the hero who is to bring the States through their difficulties. Mr. Lincoln may be king, but Mr. Seward is mayor of the palace, and carries the king in his pocket. From the depth of his own wisdom he undertakes to teach his ministers in all parts of the world, not only their duties, but their proper aspiration. He is equally kind to foreign statesmen, and sends to them messages as though from an altitude which no European politician had ever reached. At home he has affected the Prime Minister in everything, dropping the We and using the I in a manner that has hardly made up by its audacity for its deficiency in discretion. It is of course known everywhere that he had run Mr. Lincoln very hard for the position of Republican candidate for the Presidency. Mr. Lincoln beat him, and Mr. Seward is well aware that in the states a man has never a second chance for the presidential chair. Hence has arisen his ambition to make for himself a new place in the annals of American politics. Hitherto there has been no Prime Minister known in the government of the United States. Mr. Seward has attempted a revolution in that matter, and has essayed to fill the situation. For awhile it almost seemed that he was successful. He interfered with the army, and his interferences were endured. He took upon himself the business of the police, and arrested men at his own will and pleasure. The habeas corpus was in his hand, and his name was current through the States as a covering authority for every outrage on the old laws. Sufficient craft, or perhaps cleverness, he possessed to organize a position which should give him a power greater than the power of the President; but he had not the genius which would enable him to hold it. He made foolish prophecies about the war, and talked of the triumphs which he would win. He wrote state-papers on matters which he did not understand, and gave himself the airs of diplomatic learning while he showed himself to be sadly ignorant of the very rudiments of diplomacy. He tried to joke as Lord Palmerston jokes, and nobody liked his joking. He was greedy after the little appanages of power, taking from others who loved them as well as he did privileges with which he might have dispensed. And then, lastly, he was successful in nothing. He had given himself out as the commander of the commander-inchief; but then under his command nothing got itself done. For a month or two some men had really believed in Mr. Seward. The policemen of the country had come to have an absolute trust in him, and the underlings of the public offices were beginning to think that he might be a great man. But then, as is ever the case with such men, there came suddenly a downfall. Mr. Cameron went from the cabinet, and everybody knew that Mr. Seward would be no longer commander of the commander-inchief. His prime ministership was gone from him, and he sank down into the comparatively humble position of Minister for Foreign Affairs. His lettres de cachet no longer ran. His passport system was repealed. His prisoners were released. And though it is too much to say that writs of habeas corpus were no longer suspended, the effect and very meaning of the suspension were at once altered. When I first left Washington, Mr. Seward was the only minister of the cabinet whose name was ever mentioned with reference to any great political measure. When I returned to Washington, Mr. Stanton was Mr. Lincoln’s leading minister, and, as Secretary of War, had practically the management of the army and of the internal police.

I have spoken here of Mr. Seward by name, and in my preceding paragraphs I have alluded with some asperity to the dishonesty of certain men who had obtained political power under Mr. Lincoln, and used it for their own dishonest purposes. I trust that I may not be understood as bringing any such charges against Mr. Seward. That such dishonesty has been frightfully prevalent all men know who knew anything of Washington during the year 1861. In a former chapter I have alluded to this more at length, stating circumstances, and in some cases giving the names of the persons charged with offenses. Whenever I have done so, I have based my statements on the Van Wyck report, and the evidence therein given. This is the published report of a committee appointed by the house of Representatives; and as it has been before the world for some months without refutation, I think that I have a right to presume it to be true.* On no less authority than this would I consider myself justified in bringing any such charge. Of Mr. Seward’s incompetency I have heard very much among American politicians; much also of his ambition. With worse offenses than these I have not heard him charged.

* I ought perhaps to state that General Fremont has published an answer to the charges preferred against him. That answer refers chiefly to matters of military capacity or incapacity, as to which I have expressed no opinion. General Fremont does allude to the accusations made against him regarding the building of the forts; but in doing so he seem to me rather to admit than to deny the acts as stated by the committee.

At the period of which I am writing, February, 1862, the long list of military successes which attended the Northern army through the late winter and early spring had commenced. Fort henry, on the Tennessee River, had first been taken, and after that, Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, also in the State, Tennessee. Price had been driven out of Missouri into Arkansas by General Curtis, acting under General Halleck’s orders. The chief body of the Confederate army in the West had abandoned the fortified position which they had long held at Bowling Green, in the southwestern district of Kentucky. Roanoke Island, on the coast of North Carolina, had been taken by General Burnside’s expedition, and a belief had begun to manifest itself in Washington that the army of the Potomac was really about to advance. It is impossible to explain in what way the renewed confidence of the Northern party showed itself, or how one learned that the hopes of the secessionists were waxing dim; but it was so; and even a stranger became aware of the general feeling as clearly as though it were a defined and established fact. In the early part of the winter, when I reached Washington, the feeling ran all the other way. Northern men did not say that they were despondent; they did not with spoken words express diffidence as to their success; but their looks betrayed diffidence, and the moderation of their self-assurance almost amounted to despondency. In the capital the parties were very much divided. The old inhabitants were either secessionists or influenced by “secession proclivities,” as the word went; but the men of the government and of the two Houses of Congress were, with a few exceptions, of course Northern. It should be understood that these parties were at variance with each other on almost every point as to which men can disagree. In our civil war it may be presumed that all Englishmen were at any rate anxious for England. They desired and fought for different modes of government; but each party was equally English in its ambition. In the States there is the hatred of a different nationality added to the rancor of different politics. The Southerners desire to be a people of themselves — to divide themselves by every possible mark of division from New England; to be as little akin to New York as they are to London, or, if possible, less so. Their habits, they say, are different; their education, their beliefs, their propensities, their very virtues and vices are not the education, or the beliefs, or the propensities, or the virtues and vices of the North. The bond that ties them to the North is to them a Mezentian marriage, and they hate their Northern spouses with a Mezentian hatred. They would be anything sooner than citizens of the United States. They see to what Mexico has come, and the republics of Central America; but the prospect of even that degradation is less bitter to them than a share in the glory of the stars and stripes. Better, with them, to reign in hell than serve in heaven! It is not only in politics that they will be beaten, if they be beaten, as one party with us may be beaten by another; but they will be beaten as we should be beaten if France annexed us, and directed that we should live under French rule. Let an Englishman digest and realize that idea, and he will comprehend the feelings of a Southern gentleman as he contemplates the probability that his State will be brought back into the Union. And the Northern feeling is as strong. The Northern man has founded his national ambition on the territorial greatness of his nation. He has panted for new lands, and for still extended boundaries. The Western World has opened her arms to him, and has seemed to welcome him as her only lord. British America has tempted him toward the north, and Mexico has been as a prey to him on the south. He has made maps of his empire, including all the continent, and has preached the Monroe doctrine as though it had been decreed by the gods. He has told the world of his increasing millions, and has never yet known his store to diminish. He has pawed in the valley, and rejoiced in his strength. He has said among the trumpets, ha! ha! He has boasted aloud in his pride, and called on all men to look at his glory. And now shall he be divided and shorn? Shall he be hemmed in from his ocean, and shut off from his rivers? Shall he have a hook run into his nostrils, and a thorn driven into his jaw? Shall men say that his day is over, when he has hardly yet tasted the full cup of his success? Has his young life been a dream, and not a truth? Shall he never reach that giant manhood which the growth of his boyish years has promised him? If the South goes from him, he will be divided, shorn, and hemmed in. The hook will have pierced his nose, and the thorn will fester in his jaw. Men will taunt him with his former boastings, and he will awake to find himself but a mortal among mortals.

Such is the light in which the struggle is regarded by the two parties, and such the hopes and feelings which have been engendered. It may therefore be surmised with what amount of neighborly love secessionists and Northern neighbors regarded each other in such towns as Baltimore and Washington. Of course there was hatred of the deepest dye; of course there were muttered curses, or curses which sometimes were not simply muttered. Of course there was wretchedness, heart-burnings, and fearful divisions in families. That, perhaps, was the worst of all. The daughter’s husband would be in the Northern ranks, while the son was fighting in the South; or two sons would hold equal rank in the two armies, sometimes sending to each other frightful threats of personal vengeance. Old friends would meet each other in the street, passing without speaking; or, worse still, would utter words of insult for which payment is to be demanded when a Southern gentleman may again be allowed to quarrel in his own defense.

And yet society went on. Women still smiled, and men were happy to whom such smiles were given. Cakes and ale were going, and ginger was still hot in the mouth. When many were together no words of unhappiness were heard. It was at those small meetings of two or three that women would weep instead of smiling, and that men would run their hands through their hair and sit in silence, thinking of their ruined hopes and divided children.

I have spoken of Southern hopes and Northern fears, and have endeavored to explain the feelings of each party. For myself I think that the Southerners have been wrong in their hopes, and that those of the North have been wrong in their fears. It is not better to rule in hell than serve in heaven. Of course a Southern gentleman will not admit the premises which are here by me taken for granted. The hell to which I allude is, the sad position of a low and debased nation. Such, I think, will be the fate of the Gulf States, if they succeed in obtaining secession — of a low and debased nation, or, worse still, of many low and debased nations. They will have lost their cotton monopoly by the competition created during the period of the war, and will have no material of greatness on which either to found themselves or to flourish. That they had much to bear when linked with the North, much to endure on account of that slavery from which it was all but impossible that they should disentangle themselves, may probably be true. But so have all political parties among all free nations much to bear from political opponents, and yet other free nations do not go to pieces. Had it been possible that the slaveowners and slave properties should have been scattered in parts through all the States and not congregated in the South, the slave party would have maintained itself as other parties do; but in such case, as a matter of course, it would not have thought of secession. It has been the close vicinity of slaveowners to each other, the fact that their lands have been coterminous, that theirs was especially a cotton district, which has tempted them to secession. They have been tempted to secession, and will, as I think, still achieve it in those Gulf States, much to their misfortune.

And the fears of the North are, I think, equally wrong. That they will be deceived as to that Monroe doctrine is no doubt more than probable. That ambition for an entire continent under one rule will not, I should say, be gratified. But not on that account need the nation be less great, or its civilization less extensive. That hook in its nose and that thorn in its jaw will, after all, be but a hook of the imagination and an ideal thorn. Do not all great men suffer such ere their greatness be established and acknowledged? There is scope enough for all that manhood can do between the Atlantic and the Pacific, even though those hot, swampy cotton fields be taken away; even though the snows of the British provinces be denied to them. And as for those rivers and that sea-board, the Americans of the North will have lost much of their old energy and usual force of will if any Southern confederacy be allowed to deny their right of way or to stop their commercial enterprises. I believe that the South will be badly off without the North; but I feel certain that the North will never miss the South when once the wounds to her pride have been closed.

From Washington I journeyed back to Boston through the cities which I had visited in coming thither, and stayed again on my route, for a few days, at Baltimore, at Philadelphia, and at New York. At each town there were those whom I now regarded almost as old friends, and as the time of my departure drew near I felt a sorrow that I was not to be allowed to stay longer. As the general result of my sojourn in the country, I must declare that I was always happy and comfortable in the Eastern cities, and generally unhappy and uncomfortable in the West. I had previously been inclined to think that I should like the roughness of the West, and that in the East I should encounter an arrogance which would have kept me always on the verge of hot water; but in both these surmises I found myself to have been wrong. And I think that most English travelers would come to the same conclusion. The Western people do not mean to be harsh or uncivil, but they do not make themselves pleasant. In all the Eastern cities — I speak of the Eastern cities north of Washington — a society may be found which must be esteemed as agreeable by Englishmen who like clever, genial men, and who love clever, pretty women.

I was forced to pass twice again over the road between New York and Boston, as the packet by which I intended to leave America was fixed to sail from the former port. I had promised myself, and had promised others, that I would spend in Boston the last week of my sojourn in the States, and this was a promise which I was by no means inclined to break. If there be a gratification in this world which has no alloy, it is that of going to an assured welcome. The belief that arms and hearts are open to receive one — and the arms and hearts of women, too, as far as they allow themselves to open them — is the salt of the earth, the sole remedy against sea-sickness, the only cure for the tedium of railways, the one preservative amid all the miseries and fatigue of travail. These matters are private, and should hardly be told of in a book; but in writing of the States, I should not do justice to my own convictions of the country if I did not say how pleasantly social intercourse there will ripen into friendship, and how full of love that friendship may become. I became enamored of Boston at last. Beacon Street was very pleasant to me, and the view over Boston Common was dear to my eyes. Even the State House, with its great yellow-painted dome, became sightly, and the sunset over the western waters that encompass the city beats all other sunsets that I have seen.

During my last week there the world of Boston was moving itself on sleighs. There was not a wheel to be seen in the town. The omnibuses and public carriages had been dismounted from their axles and put themselves upon snow-runners, and the private world had taken out its winter carriages, and wrapped itself up in buffalo robes. Men now spoke of the coming thaw as of a misfortune which must come, but which a kind Providence might perhaps postpone — as we all, in short, speak of death. In the morning the snow would have been hardened by the night’s frost, and men would look happy and contented. By an hour after noon the streets would be all wet and the ground would be slushy, and men would look gloomy and speak of speedy dissolution. There were those who would always prophesy that the next day would see the snow converted into one dull, dingy river. Such I regarded as seers of tribulation, and endeavored with all my mind to disbelieve their interpretations of the signs. That sleighing was excellent fun. For myself I must own that I hardly saw the best of it at Boston, for the coming of the end was already at hand when I arrived there, and the fresh beauty of the hard snow was gone. Moreover, when I essayed to show my prowess with a pair of horses on the established course for such equipage, the beasts ran away, knowing that I was not practiced in the use of snow chariots, and brought me to grief and shame. There was a lady with me in the sleigh, whom, for awhile, I felt that I was doomed to consign to a snowy grave — whom I would willingly have overturned into a drift of snow, so as to avoid worse consequences, had I only known how to do so. But Providence, even though without curbs and assisted only by simple snaffles, did at last prevail, and I brought the sleigh horses, and lady alive back to Boston, whether with or without permanent injury I have never yet ascertained.

At last the day of tribulation came, and the snow was picked up and carted out of Boston. Gangs of men, standing shoulder to shoulder, were at work along the chief streets, picking, shoveling, and disposing of the dirty blocks. Even then the snow seemed to be nearly a foot thick; but it was dirty, rough, half melted in some places, though hard as stone in others. The labor and cost of cleansing the city in this way must be very great. The people were at it as I left, and I felt that the day of tribulation had in truth come.

Farewell to thee, thou Western Athens! When I have forgotten thee, my right hand shall have forgotten its cunning, and my heart forgotten its pulses. Let us look at the list of names with which Boston has honored itself in our days, and then ask what other town of the same size has done more. Prescott, Bancroft, Motley, Longfellow, Lowell, Emerson, Dana, Agassiz, Holmes, Hawthorne! Who is there among us in England who has not been the better for these men? Who does not owe to some of them a debt of gratitude? In whose ears is not their names familiar? It is a bright galaxy, and far extended, for so small a city. What city has done better than this? All these men, save one, are now alive and in the full possession of their powers. What other town of the same size has done as well in the same short space of time? It may be that this is the Augustan era of Boston — its Elizabethan time. If so, I am thankful that my steps have wandered thither at such a period.

While I was at Boston I had the sad privilege of attending the funeral of President Felton, the head of Harvard College. A few months before I had seen him a strong man, apparently in perfect health and in the pride of life. When I reached Boston I heard of his death. He also was an accomplished scholar, and as a Grecian has left few behind him who were his equals. At his installation as president, four ex-presidents of Harvard College assisted. Whether they were all present at his funeral I do not know, but I do know that they were all still living. These are Mr. Quincy, who is now over ninety; Mr. Sparks; Mr. Everett, the well-known orator; and Mr. Walker. They all reside in Boston or its neighborhood, and will probably all assist at the installation of another president.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43