Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

British troops would pass, not moving therefore, a magnificent undertaking, aside until a volley from the troops and one to which even Judge Marshall opened a way through them. We might have worthily devoted exclusive would likewise be pleased to hear how attention. It was not an undertaking some of them left their homes on this that could be accomplished “between perilous duty; jumped out of their terms." No history has been written warm beds, and tore themselves away which outlived its author, and which from the still warmer embraces of those deserved to outlive bim, that was not who must not venture forth ; and how the paramount labor of years. Judge they returned, if they did return. Marshall's history is a huge pile, and One or two such instances would rep- has an air of grandeur. But the logs resent the whole. The artist, who were everywhere rolled up whole : the has exhibited one of these family groups saw-mill: and the carpenter's tools just as the middle-aged and the manly having had little to do with the strucyouth are going forth, grey hairs, wo ture. manhood and infancy behind, has done If Judge Marshall had declined the in one way what these letters would do task assigned to him, and undertaken to in an other. Such letters have been edit the Letters of Washington, the task found and published, and we wish that had, no doubt, been compatible with his more could be found and published. leisure, and an earlier day had given to

Who has not frequently been led to the public a harvest of information which draw a comparison between Marshall's Mr. Sparks subsequently gathered up Life of Washington, and the letters of as an humble follower, after it was that great man, which have been pub- supposed the sickle had done its work. lished by Mr. Sparks. Judge Marshall These letters, after all, form the best was a distinguished jurist,--the most Life of Washington. They give him distinguished we have had ; but he was in his own words. It is true, that when not a great historian or biographer. a man speaks of himself, he is not alEven if he had the appropriate talent, ways the best witness in the case. (which no one questions,) he had not Still, the letters he writes are his own the necessary time for success in that language, and contain his own senticharacter. His mind was broad, but it ments. Like all other witnesses on had its limits. He failed where failure the stand, we form our own judgment was unavoidable ; and the failure at- of his credibility. In the present intaches no discredit to his eminent repu- stance, no doubts disturb us. These tation. His judicial duties were an Letters of Washington exhibit him in ample burden. To write the Life of a strong light, from the time he began Washington was a burden, perhaps, his public career until he was about closequally ample. If he had laid down ing it at Mount Vernon, and they leave the one, he could have taken up the scarcely any thing to be wished for other. Both, neither he nor any other that the notes of Mr. Sparks have not man could hope to carry at the same supplied. It is a complete portraiture time. It was natural to look to Judge of services that have no parallel. It is Marshall for this work, which was to not a full-length ; but there has seldom be a national work; and had he put been a full-length where some of it aside all other tasks, and bent his strong might not well have been spared. Too intellect to this task alone, we know not much legs and too much drapery have whether he would not have done wise- deformed many a picture. We desire ly. The Life of Washington might, to see Washington from the surveyor perhaps, have been written, without to the grave; from the time he crossed writing a history of this country during the Alleghany to the time he crossed his age. Judge Marshall judged other- that bourne whence no traveller rewise. He determined that a Life of turns. More than that is not necessary, Washington must embrace a history of or is not in keeping. These letters the Colonies, of the Revolution, of the at once place him on that high level, formation of our present government, below which he never sunk for one moand of the first administration under it. ment during his after life. This determination was, perhaps, un Some have expressed a wish that avoidable. We can hardly see how he these letters had been compressed, or could have contracted his base. It was, abbreviated in some way, by Mr. Sparks.

From this wo infer that such wished France, England, Scotland, and even the letters shorter, or the volumes in the Indies, are equally frank on the fewer, and were indifferent about the same subject. This is precisely the process by which the diminution was information we are most curious to obeffected. Fortunately, Mr. Sparks tain. We have had enough of docuthought differently; that is, he thought mentary opinions, of the language of as most people of sense and taste would courts, of the reports of ministers and have thought in the like case. He felt generals. We desire to hear the talk it his duty to present transcripts of of the streets, the scandal of the parGen. Washington; not a refaciamento lors, the rumors of the hour. of his editor. Extracts from them These letters show how gradually would have been like preserving his the operation between the two countries war-coat and breeches in the shape of took place. They show, by evidence, patchwork, or his war-sword in the incomparably more weighty than any shape of a pruning-hook or a set of official papers, that the colonies were knives and forks. We wanted Wash- truly willing “ to suffer while evils were ington, the whole of Washington, and sufferable ;" that the daughter relucnothing but Washington.

tantly separated herself from the moWe would not lead to any compari- ther; that it was with unaffected reson between these Letters of Wash- gret the familiar and endearing terin ington and those which are before us. “ Home,"-familiarized and endeared They are not like each other in any by the use of more than a century and respect, excepting in form. Washing- a half,- was given up for that of " forton almost always wrote as a public eign land." There is no doubt, such man. He had hardly any private char- is the force of habit, that even the bonds acter in this respect from the beginning. of dependence, and even when they If Mr. Sparks found many private let- have been made irksome, are severed ters, he has not published them; and with feelings that partake as much of we feel sure he would have done so, pain as of pleasure. It was with sorrow had he found them. Washington seem as well as with anger the breach was ed always booted and spurred. If he made. ever were in slippers, few had then a These letters, also, show that some sight of him. Mr. Izard, throughout of these bonds of dependence were not his volume, was in private life. His broken without many fears of severe appointment as one of the Commis- privation. Great Britain, probably, in sioners to France is noticed towards the first place, more to benefit the pathe close, but he had not then begun rent land than to increase the depenhis duties as such. His letters have, dence of her colonies, had made all therefore, none of the formal character those colonies consumers as far as posof an official correspondence. This, sible, and producers as little as possible. however, takes nothing from their in- They were permitted to produce their terest. On the contrary, the want of daily bread. She could not forbid man such a character gives them a peculiar to till the ground, or the earth to bring zest. He wrote as an intelligent, acute forth her increase. But she laid her observer, to intimate friends, and with interdict upon raiment. She did not none of thuse restraints which limit the prohibit the domestic loom, which was freedom of thought and language. He found in every New-England cottage ; probably wrote, as to manner, much as the shuttle there was plied, and suphe would have spoken, had he been plied the frugal family with homespun face to face with the persons he ad- clothes. It was factories and manufacdressed. The value of this influence tories she would not tolerate. Hence, upon his letters cannot fail to be appre- all those who did not spin and weave ciated. He was, at first, on the con- for themselves, that is, all the cities, tinent; afterwards in England, in and all the South, and much of the middle about London ; and then in France. colonies, were clothed by the mother In each of these positions he watched country. They looked to her for covthe growth of the disturbances among ering from the crown of the head to the the colonies, and expresses unreserv sole of the foot. This was a state of edly his feelings and opinions respect- dependence that had more and stronger ing them; while his correspondents, in bonds to it than at first strike the view.

Mr. Izard frequently alludes to the em- uncompromising of statesmen. Had barrassment he felt respecting these he been in the place of Lord North, it sumptuary matters. They did not af- is more than probable, it is almost cerfect, in his mind, the question as to tain, that he would have been equally the rights or wrongs of the colonies ; unyielding towards the colonies. He their birth-right was at stake, and he might have been, and he probably did not think it should be forfeited for a would have been, more prudent or effimess, or a dress. Still, it was natural cient in his measures of enforcement; for hiin, in a private correspondence, to but we have little reason for supposing state his apprehensions that a rupture that any ministers of the crown would would strip his negroes, if not his fami- have failed to claim all the power over ly. . Britain made the negro's blankets, the colonies that Lord North claimed. his coarse woollens, and his coarse cot- Lord Chatham, while minister, had a tons. She therefore clothed the ser more pleasurable task in hand than vile, as well as those who fared sump- that of contending with the colonies of tuously. These circumstances show Great Britain about their rights. The the sacrifices the colonies had to make. wrongs of the British Empire were to John Hancock counted his houses and be vindicated, and he joined the transhis merchandise as nothing, when these Atlantic colonies in the vindication. sacrifices were to be made. Others They were led to cement themselves were as patriotic and as ready. with the mother country by the strong:

These letters, likewise, help us to est of all cements, the cement of shedsolve the historical problem, whether blood. They bled together against wisdom or folly governed the rulers of France in the Canadas and on the Ohio. Great Britain at the period of our Re- The colonies shared in the chagrin at volution. Mr. Izard had occasional in- defeats on the Canadian frontier; they tercourse with all the distinguished took the triumph of Louisburg to statesmen of that country, at that time. themselves; and they had some grounds He knew, personally, Lord Chatham, for belief that the shame of Braddock's Lord Shelburne, Mr. Burke, &c., and defeat would have been avoided, had had interviews with Lord George Ger- the young councils they furnished been maine, Lord North, &c. He well followed. Lord Chatham well knew knew their opinions on the great ques- the influences of this union in the field, tions of the day, and was frequently and may have subsequently charged consulted by them on the affairs of the his successors, with some degree of colonies. This knowledge and inter- plausibility, with having sown the tares course gave Mr. Izard means of obser- of distrust and alienation among his good vation that render his remarks highly seed of confidence and fellowship. It was interesting. He saw the waverings and no doubt fortunate for the colonies that the obstinacy of the men in power. Lord Chatham was not in place when They paused after the flight from Con- the experiment, as to the taxing-power cord; they rushed on again after the held by Parliament over the colonies, fight on Bunker's Hill. The sword came to be made. His habitual foreappeared to turn the scale.

cast, energy, and fulness of preparation The result of the Revolution, un for all emergencies, would have given doubtedly, convicted the rulers of Great the incipient blows a decisive characBritain of having acted unwisely. It ter. It is hardly probable that he does not follow, however, that they would have atteinpted to extend the were blind when they might have seen. Stamp-Act across the Atlantic. It was Miscalculations and misapprehensions truly a penny-wise and pound-foolish are inevitably incident to the manage measure. Once determined, however, ment of the affairs of nations. The he would have stamped in the measure question is, whether any other set of with a strong arm. The impression men would probably have acted different would have been deep and lasting. ly under the same circumstances. The Lord Chatham, as a minister, would opposition of Lord Chatham, and other probably have postponed the Revoluantagonists of the dominant party, can- tion, either by not provoking it, or by not be considered as evidence that he being prepared to suppress it, in case and they would have done so. Lord of such a provocation. There were Chatham was the most energetic and causes for disagreement which no folly

overawe.

had produced, and which no wisdom lution have no other apology. The force could have removed. They were sent to Boston was large enough to equally beyond the control of both provoke, but too small to folly and wisdom. Lord Chatham The curb applied was strong enough to might have delayed, as Lord North irritate, but was likely to snap at the undoubtedly accelerated it. The claims first plunge which that irritation would of the colonies grew with their growth, cause. When the experiment came and, of course, strengthened with their to be made, Gen. Gage found that he strength. The most moderate minis- could not send Col. Grant's completry and the most complying Parliament ment of troops over eighteen miles would have soon come to a stand. without imminent hazard. In the next More would have been claimed than experiment, three times that number would have been granted, and less reached Bunker's Hill, only through would not have contented.

an excess of carnage. But these letters show that there Mr. Izard says, in one of his letters, was, near the outset of the Revolution, that "the king seems to be struck with a medium behind the throne, which, horror at the idea of treating with like a window of stained glass, discol- Congress.” This was in 1775, about ored the light that fell upon it. “ John

one year before the Declaration of InBarleycorn" was the standard of, not dependence. At that time, proper enonly the length of the inch, but of the deavors at conciliation would probably length and breadth of nearly every royal have succeeded. Lord North, as a measure. Lord Bute is the putative fa- man of sense, may have known what ther of the Stamp-Act, which, like a little endeavors were proper. There was leaven, soon leavened the whole lump; but one way then open, and that way and Col. Grant, another Scotchman, could not be taken, because the king when it became necessary, in conse- regarded it with horror. This royal quence of this rising, to send to the repugnance may have saved the indecolonies a military force, said that one pendence of the colonies. It was cerregiment could sweepthem from Canada tain to defeat all advances towards conto Georgia. Lord Chatham would have ciliation, even if Lord Howe had had Jaughed such an assertion to scorn, and the discretion and dignity to address Lord North, probably, did not believe General Washington by his title. it was founded in truth. It is probable, Whether the stupid fastidiousness however, that the king did so believe. which led him to substitute Mr." for He had been educated as an English- “ General," originated in this repugman, and no doubt knew something of nance, or in the pride or weakness of English history; but his family had the commissioners, the effect was the come to the throne after the Round- same. When the first step is an inheads had passed away. Any one of sult, a second step is not often permitthe family which had been expelled to ted to be taken. The course of the make room for his family, would have mother country had raised up a Conunderstood the colonies. Any Stuart tinental Congress. A general revolt would have recollected that there was necessarily produced such a result. a large infusion among them of the There must be a general head, and sturdy spirit which had brought Charles that head was the Congress ; to that I. to the block, and governed Britain alone any appeal, under the circumfrom that Charles to the second stances, could be made. An appeal to Charles, with an outstretched arm that any separate state would have been made all Europe tremble. Constant hopeless; to distinguished individuals manifestations of this spirit had been equally so. Neither states nor individgiven by the colonies. It had showed uals could be applied to without an imitself in unnumbered struggles, Hard- putation of treachery. There was but fought fields could not have showed it one way open, therefore, to open pacifimore strongly. Few men, therefore, cation, and that way was the Continenin England, could have been misled by tal Congress, but the commissioners the gasconade of Col. Grant. George could not take that way. The king's III. must have been among that horror closed it up. few, as the military measures which There can be little doubt that much were taken at the opening of the Revo- of the wrong that was done in the times

[ocr errors]

we are alluding to, was done by the of general interest. He was almost king, notwithstanding his constitutional unique in all these respects in that incapacity to do any wrong. Mr. kingdom where rarities of all kinds Izard says that “ Doctor Hunter, a found so much favor. His influence Scotchman, who is continually about at the court was powerful, and it was the king's family, says publicly, that always exerted in favor of his country. the four New-England Provinces ought And his exertions there, on the whole, to be extirpated." The king did not were undoubtedly more beneficial to say this, and may not have thought it ; this country than those of any other still, a remark of that kind would not man. These services, in her time of have been made in the royal purlieus, need, will never be denied, nor can if it had been liable to rebuke. The their reward be taken away. Still, it atmosphere of the court must have has been alleged, that when the quesbeen genial to such ill-weeds, or they tion of final arrangement came, the would not have sprung up there. lukewarmness or hesitation of that

Some may be deterred from patron- court were not met by Franklin with ising a continuation of these letters, be- the same zeal and independence which cause the preliminary notice of the marked the course of other Americans editor leads to a probability that the there, over whom the blandishments of acts or opinions of Franklin will be the Parisian saloons had less influence, brought into question. Whether it and who were more fresh from the was judicious in the editor thus to scene of action, and better knew the sound the alarm in advance, it is not sentiments and temper of the Amerifor us to determine. It was certainly can people. It was a season when frank and fair. The present volume shades of difference in opinion might contains nothing of this bearing. Even well have floated around. Indeed, if it did, it would not have been the none probably approached the great less acceptable to us, though entertain- questions which then were to be settled ing the highest veneration for the mem- with minds made up. Such pre-deterory of this distinguished patriot and minations had excluded all chances of philosopher. If the charges which adjustment. Some strings were to be those letters may contain were a fresh let down, others to be raised ; otherimputation, the case would be different. wise harmony had never been attained. This is the publication of letters which France had been liberal and kind in her were written seventy or eighty years aid, and she naturally, when the time ago. They speak the opinion of indi- of compensation arrived, looked for a viduals at that time. Such opinions corresponding return. Franklin may had their warrant then, and were ho- have rated her services too high, nestly expressed. That warrant may (though that could hardly have been no longer exist, and the opinions may done) while others, perhaps, rated them all have been proved to be unfounded. too low. Franklin saw only the noble All this may be true, and still the letters and generous ally of America; others be generally acceptable. The reputa- saw only the antagonists of Great tion of Franklin is now independent of Britain. Each saw the true color of all imputations of this kind. His pub- the shield as it presented itself to their lic course in France has been viewed view, without probably being aware and reviewed in all its phases through that the two sides had different colors. more than fifty years, and is now well We will now bring these desultory understood. What these letters will remarks to a close. Our object has develope we do not know. We may, been to raise, as far as in our power, in however, conjecture, without much the public estimation, the character of chance of error.

letters of the description now before us. It is known that many prominent We regard them with great respect : men of America believed they saw, in they are likely to give us more truths Franklin's course while in France, in one page than a dozen pages of other some cause for censure or disapproba- writings. Objections to the correctness tion. This remarkable man was made of history are innumerable. It is a a pet in Paris. His mind, his discove stream that never receives all its triburies, his country, and even his costume, taries until it ends; something, in every all contributed to render him an object age, is pouring in on one side or the

« AnteriorContinuar »