Henry Cabot Lodge.

The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index online

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South End is no longer the place for me. Dearest,

'Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,'

never to leave this Aladdin's-palace-like steamboat, but spend our
lives in perpetual trips up and down the Hudson."

To which not very costly banter Isabel responded in kind, and rapidly
sketched the life they could lead aboard. Since they could not help
it, they mocked the public provision which, leaving no interval
between disgraceful squalor and ludicrous splendor, accommodates our
democratic menage to the taste of the richest and most extravagant
plebeian amongst us. He, unhappily, minds danger and oppression as
little as he minds money, so long as he has a spectacle and a
sensation, and it is this ruthless imbecile who will have lace
curtains to the steamboat berth into which he gets with his pantaloons
on, and out of which he may be blown by an exploding boiler at any
moment; it is he who will have for supper that overgrown and shapeless
dinner in the lower saloon, and will not let any one else buy tea or
toast for a less sum than he pays for his surfeit; it is he who
perpetuates the insolence of the clerk and the reluctance of the
waiters; it is he, in fact, who now comes out of the saloon, with his
womenkind, and takes chairs under the awning where Basil and Isabel
sit. Personally, he is not so bad; he is good-looking, like all of us;
he is better drest than most of us; he behaves himself quietly, if not
easily; and no lord so loathes a scene. Next year he is going to
Europe, where he will not show to so much advantage as here; but for
the present it would be hard to say in what way he is vulgar, and
perhaps vulgarity is not so common a thing after all.




JOHN HAY

Born in Indiana in 1838, died in 1905; graduated from Brown
University in 1858; admitted to the bar in Illinois; one of
the private secretaries of President Lincoln; secretary of
Legation in Paris, Madrid and Vienna; Assistant Secretary of
State in 1879-81; president of the International Sanitary
Commission in 1891; ambassador to England in 1897-98;
Secretary of State in 1898; author of "Castilian Days,"
published in 1871, "Pike County Ballads" in 1871, "Abraham
Lincoln: a History," in collaboration with John G. Nicolay
in 1890.




LINCOLN'S EARLY FAME[61]


His death seemed to have marked a step in the education of the people
everywhere. It requires years, perhaps centuries, to build the
structure of a reputation which rests upon the opinion of those
distinguished for learning or intelligence; the progress of opinion
from the few to the many is slow and painful. But in the case of
Lincoln the many imposed their opinion all at once; he was canonized,
as he lay on his bier, by the irresistible decree of countless
millions. The greater part of the aristocracy of England thought
little of him; but the burst of grief from the English people silenced
in an instant every discordant voice. It would have been as imprudent
to speak slightingly of him in London as it was in New York.
Especially among the Dissenters was honor and reverence shown to his
name. The humbler people instinctively felt that their order had lost
its wisest champion.

[Footnote 61: From Volume X, Chapter XVIII, of "Abraham Lincoln: a
History." Copyright, 1886, 1890, by John G. Nicolay and John Hay.
Published by the Century Co.]

Not only among those of Saxon blood was this outburst of emotion seen.
In France a national manifestation took place, which the government
disliked but did not think it wise to suppress. The students of Paris
marched in a body to the American Legation to express their sympathy.
A two-cent subscription was started to strike a massive gold medal;
the money was soon raised, but the committee was forced to have the
work done in Switzerland. A committee of French liberals brought the
medal to the American minister, to be sent to Mrs. Lincoln. "Tell
her," said Eugène Pelletan, "the heart of France is in that little
box." The inscription had a double sense; while honoring the dead
republican, it struck at the Empire: "Lincoln - the Honest Man;
abolished Slavery, reestablished the Union; Saved the Republic,
without veiling the Statue of Liberty."

Everywhere on the Continent the same swift apotheosis of the people's
hero was seen. An Austrian deputy said to the writer, "Among my people
his memory has already assumed superhuman proportions; he has become a
myth, a type of ideal democracy." Almost before the earth closed over
him he began to be the subject of fable. The Freemasons of Europe
generally regard him as one of them - his portrait in masonic garb is
often displayed; yet he was not one of that brotherhood. The
spiritualists claim him as their most illustrious adept, but he was
not a spiritualist; and there is hardly a sect in the Western world,
from the Calvinist to the atheist, but affects to believe he was of
their opinion.

A collection of the expressions of sympathy and condolence which came
to Washington from foreign governments, associations, and public
bodies of all sorts, was made by the State Department, and afterward
published by order of Congress. It forms a large quarto of a thousand
pages, and embraces the utterances of grief and regret from every
country under the sun, in almost every language spoken by man.

But admired and venerated as he was in Europe, he was best understood
and appreciated at home. It is not to be denied that in his case, as
in that of all heroic personages who occupy a great place in history,
a certain element of legend mingles with his righteous fame. He was a
man, in fact, especially liable to legend....

Because Lincoln kept himself in such constant sympathy with the common
people, whom he respected too highly to flatter or mislead, he was
rewarded by a reverence and a love hardly ever given to a human being.
Among the humble working people of the South whom he had made free
this veneration and affection easily passed into the supernatural. At
a religious meeting among the negroes of the Sea Islands a young man
exprest the wish that he might see Lincoln. A gray-headed negro
rebuked the rash aspiration: "No man see Linkum. Linkum walk as Jesus
walk; no man see Linkum."...

The quick instinct by which the world recognized him even at the
moment of his death as one of its greatest men, was not deceived. It
has been confirmed by the sober thought of a quarter of a century.
The writers of each nation compare him with their first popular hero.
The French find points of resemblance in him to Henry IV; the Dutch
liken him to William of Orange: the cruel stroke of murder and treason
by which all three perished in the height of their power naturally
suggests the comparison, which is strangely justified in both cases,
tho the two princes were so widely different in character. Lincoln had
the wit, the bonhomie, the keen practical insight into affairs, of the
Béarnais; and the tyrannous moral sense, the wide comprehension, the
heroic patience of the Dutch patriot, whose motto might have served
equally well for the American President - _"Sævis tranquillus in
undis."_ European historians speak of him in words reserved for the
most illustrious names.

In this country, where millions still live who were his
contemporaries, and thousands who knew him personally; where the
envies and jealousies which dog the footsteps of success still linger
in the hearts of a few; where journals still exist that loaded his
name for four years with daily calumny, and writers of memoirs vainly
try to make themselves important by belittling him - his fame has
become as universal as the air, as deeply rooted as the hills. The
faint discords are not heard in the wide chorus that hails him second
to none and equaled by Washington alone. The eulogies of him form a
special literature. Preachers, poets, soldiers, and statesmen employ
the same phrases of unconditional love and reverence. Men speaking
with the authority of fame use unqualified superlatives....

It is not difficult to perceive the basis of this sudden and
world-wide fame, nor rash to predict its indefinite duration. There
are two classes of men whose names are more enduring than any
monument: the great writers, and the men of great achievement - the
founders of states, the conquerors. Lincoln has the singular fortune
to belong to both these categories; upon these broad and stable
foundations his renown is securely built. Nothing would have more
amazed him while he lived than to hear himself called a man of
letters; but this age has produced few greater writers. We are only
recording here the judgment of his peers. Emerson ranks him with Æsop
and Pilpay, in his lighter moods....

The more his writings are studied in connection with the important
transactions of his age, the higher will his reputation stand in the
opinion of the lettered class. But the men of study and research are
never numerous; and it is principally as a man of action that the
world at large will regard him. It is the story of his objective life
that will forever touch and hold the heart of mankind. His birthright
was privation and ignorance - not peculiar to his family, but the
universal environment of his place and time; he burst through those
enchaining conditions by the force of native genius and will: vice had
no temptation for him; his course was as naturally upward as the
skylark's; he won, against all conceivable obstacles, a high place in
an exacting profession and an honorable position in public and private
life; he became the foremost representative of a party founded on an
uprising of the national conscience against a secular wrong, and thus
came to the awful responsibilities of power in a time of terror and
gloom. He met them with incomparable strength and virtue. Caring for
nothing but the public good, free from envy or jealous fears, he
surrounded himself with the leading men of his party, his most
formidable rivals in public esteem, and through four years of
stupendous difficulties he was head and shoulders above them all in
the vital qualities of wisdom, foresight, knowledge of men, and
thorough comprehension of measures. Personally opposed, as the
radicals claim, by more than half of his own party in Congress, and
bitterly denounced and maligned by his open adversaries, he yet bore
himself with such extraordinary discretion and skill that he obtained
for the government all the legislation it required, and so imprest
himself upon the national mind that without personal effort or
solicitation he became the only possible candidate of his party for
reelection, and was chosen by an almost unanimous vote of the
electoral colleges....

To these qualifications of high literary excellence, and easy
practical mastery of affairs of transcendent importance we must add,
as an explanation of his immediate and world-wide fame, his possession
of certain moral qualities rarely combined in such high degree in one
individual. His heart was so tender that he would dismount from his
horse in a forest to replace in their nest young birds which had
fallen by the roadside; he could not sleep at night if he knew that a
soldier-boy was under sentence of death; he could not, even at the
bidding of duty or policy, refuse the prayer of age or helplessness in
distress. Children instinctively loved him; they never found his
rugged features ugly; his sympathies were quick and seemingly
unlimited. He was absolutely without prejudice of class or condition.
Frederick Douglass says he was the only man of distinction he ever met
who never reminded him, by word or manner, of his color; he was as
just and generous to the rich and well-born as to the poor and
humble - a thing rare among politicians. He was tolerant even of evil:
tho no man can ever have lived with a loftier scorn of meanness and
selfishness, he yet recognized their existence and counted with them.
He said one day, with a flash of cynical wisdom worthy of a La
Rochefoucauld, that honest statesmanship was the employment of
individual meanness for the public good. He never asked perfection of
any one; he did not even insist, for others, upon the high standards
he set up for himself. At a time before the word was invented he was
the first of opportunists. With the fire of a reformer and a martyr in
his heart, he yet proceeded by the ways of cautious and practical
statecraft. He always worked with things as they were, while never
relinquishing the desire and effort to make them better. To a hope
which saw the delectable mountains of absolute justice and peace in
the future, to a faith that God in his own time would give to all men
the things convenient to them, he added a charity which embraced in
its deep bosom all the good and the bad, all the virtues and the
infirmities of men, and a patience like that of nature, which in its
vast and fruitful activity knows neither haste nor rest.

A character like this is among the precious heirlooms of the
republic; and by a special good fortune every part of the country has
an equal claim and pride in it. Lincoln's blood came from the veins of
New England emigrants, of Middle State Quakers, of Virginia planters,
of Kentucky pioneers; he himself was one of the men who grew up with
the earliest growth of the great West. Every jewel of his mind or his
conduct sheds radiance on each portion of the nation. The marvelous
symmetry and balance of his intellect and character may have owed
something to this varied environment of his race, and they may fitly
typify the variety and solidity of the republic. It may not be
unreasonable to hope that his name and his renown may be forever a
bond of union to the country which he loved with an affection so
impartial, and served, in life and in death, with such entire
devotion.




HENRY ADAMS

Born in Boston in 1838; graduated from Harvard in 1858,
private secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams,
American Minister to England in 1861-68; a professor at
Harvard in 1870-77; editor of the _North American Review_ in
1870-76; author of "Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law," "Life of
Albert Gallatin," and a "History of the United States" in
nine volumes.




JEFFERSON'S RETIREMENT[62]


The repeal of the embargo, which received the President's signature
March 1, closed the long reign of President Jefferson; and with but
one exception the remark of John Randolph was destined to remain true,
that "never has there been any administration which went out of office
and left the nation in a state so deplorable and calamitous." That the
blame for this failure rested wholly upon Jefferson might be doubted;
but no one felt more keenly than he the disappointment under which his
old hopes and ambitions were crusht.

[Footnote 62: From the final chapter of the "History of the United
States in the Administration of Thomas Jefferson." Copyright, 1889, by
Charles Scribners' Sons.]

Loss of popularity was his bitterest trial. He who longed like a
sensitive child for sympathy and love left office as strongly and
almost as generally disliked as the least popular president who
preceded or followed him. He had undertaken to create a government
which should interfere in no way with private action, and he had
created one which interfered directly in the concerns of every private
citizen in the land. He had come into power as the champion of state
rights, and had driven states to the verge of armed resistance. He had
begun by claiming credit for stern economy, and ended by exceeding the
expenditure of his predecessors. He had invented a policy of peace,
and his invention resulted in the necessity of fighting at once the
two greatest powers in the world....

In truth, the disaster was appalling; and Jefferson described it in
moderate terms by admitting that the policy of peaceable coercion
brought upon him mortification such as no other president ever
suffered. So complete was his overthrow that his popular influence
declined even in the South. Twenty years elapsed before his political
authority recovered power over the Northern people; for not until the
embargo and its memories faded from men's minds did the mighty shadow
of Jefferson's Revolutionary name efface the ruin of his presidency.
Yet he clung with more and more tenacity to the faith that his theory
of peaceable coercion was sound; and when within a few months of his
death he alluded for the last time to the embargo, he spoke of it as
"a measure which, persevered in a little longer, we had subsequent and
satisfactory assurance would have effected its object completely."

A discomfiture so conspicuous could not fail to bring in its train a
swarm of petty humiliations which for the moment were more painful
than the great misfortune. Jefferson had hoped to make his country
forever pure and free; to abolish war with its train of debt,
extravagance, corruption and tyranny; to build up a government devoted
only to useful and moral objects; to bring upon earth a new era of
peace and good-will among men. Throughout the twistings and windings
of his course as president he clung to this main idea; or if he seemed
for a moment to forget it, he never failed to return and to persist
with almost heroic obstinacy in enforcing its lessons. By repealing
the embargo, Congress avowedly and even maliciously rejected and
trampled upon the only part of Jefferson's statesmanship which claimed
originality, or which in his own opinion entitled him to rank as
philosophic legislator. The mortification he felt was natural and
extreme, but such as every great statesman might expect, and such as
most of them experienced. The supreme bitterness of the moment lay
rather in the sudden loss of respect and consideration which at all
times marked the decline of power, but became most painful when the
surrender of office followed a political defeat at the hands of
supposed friends....

In his style of life as President, Jefferson had indulged in such easy
and liberal expenses as suited the place he held. Far from showing
extravagance, the White House and its surroundings had in his time the
outward look of a Virginia plantation. The President was required to
pay the expenses of the house and grounds. In consequence, the grounds
were uncared for, the palings broken or wanting, the paths undefined,
and the place a waste, running imperceptibly into the barren fields
about it. Within, the house was as simple as without, after the usual
style of Virginia houses, where the scale was often extravagant but
the details plain. Only in his table did Jefferson spend an unusual
amount of money with excellent results for his political influence,
for no president ever understood better than Jefferson the art of
entertaining; yet his table cost him no excessive sums. For the best
champagne he paid less than a dollar a bottle; for the best Bordeaux
he paid a dollar; and the Madeira which was drunk in pipes at the
White House cost between fifty and sixty cents a bottle. His French
cook and cook's assistant were paid about four hundred dollars a year.
On such a scale his salary of twenty-five thousand dollars was
equivalent to fully sixty thousand dollars of modern money; and his
accounts showed that for the first and probably the most expensive
year of his presidency he spent only $16,800 which could properly be
charged to his public and official character. A mode of life so simple
and so easily controlled should in a village like Washington have left
no opening for arrears of debt; but when Jefferson, about to quit the
White House forever, attempted to settle his accounts, he discovered
that he had exceeded his income. Not his expenses as President, but
his expenses as planter dragged him down. At first he thought that his
debts would reach seven or eight thousand dollars, which must be
discharged from a private estate hardly exceeding two hundred thousand
dollars in value at the best of times, and rendered almost worthless
by neglect and by the embargo. The sudden demand for this sum of
money, coming at the moment of his political mortifications, wrung
from him cries of genuine distress such as no public disaster had
called out....

On horseback, over roads impassable to wheels, through snow and storm,
he hurried back to Monticello to recover in the quiet of home the
peace of mind he had lost in the disappointments of his statesmanship.
He arrived at Monticello March 15, and never again passed beyond the
bounds of a few adjacent counties.




BRET HARTE

Born in 1839, died in 1902; removed to California in 1854,
where in 1868 he founded _The Overland Monthly_; professor
in the University of California in 1870; removed to New York
in 1871; consul at Crefeld, Germany, in 1878-80, and at
Glasgow in 1880-85; published "The Luck of Roaring Camp" in
1868, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" in 1869, "Poems" in 1871,
"Stories of the Sierras" in 1872, "Tales of the Argonauts"
in 1875, "Gabriel Conroy" in 1876, "Two Men of Sandy Bar" (a
play) in 1877, "A Phyllis of the Sierras" in 1888.




I

PEGGY MOFFAT'S INHERITANCE[63]


The first intimation given of the eccentricity of the testator was, I
think, in the spring of 1854. He was at that time in possession of a
considerable property, heavily mortgaged to one friend, and a wife of
some attraction, on whose affections another friend held an
encumbering lien. One day it was found that he had secretly dug, or
caused to be dug, a deep trap before the front door of his dwelling,
into which a few friends in the course of the evening casually and
familiarly dropt. This circumstance, slight in itself, seemed to point
to the existence of a certain humor in the man, which might eventually
get into literature; altho his wife's lover - a man of quick
discernment, whose leg was broken by the fall - took other views. It
was some weeks later that while dining with certain other friends of
his wife, he excused himself from the table, to quietly reappear at
the front window with a three-quarter-inch hydraulic pipe, and a
stream of water projected at the assembled company. An attempt was
made to take public cognizance of this; but a majority of the citizens
of Red Dog who were not at dinner decided that a man had a right to
choose his own methods of diverting his company. Nevertheless, there
were some hints of his insanity: his wife recalled other acts clearly
attributable to dementia; the crippled lover argued from his own
experience that the integrity of her limbs could only be secured by
leaving her husband's house; and the mortgagee, fearing a further
damage to his property, foreclosed. But here the cause of all this
anxiety took matters into his own hands and disappeared.

[Footnote 63: From "The Twins of Table Mountain." Copyright, 1879, by
Houghton, Mifflin Company.]

When we next heard from him, he had in some mysterious way been
relieved alike of his wife and property and was living alone at
Rockville, fifty miles away, and editing a newspaper. But that
originality he had displayed when dealing with the problems of his own
private life, when applied to politics in the columns of _The
Rockville Vanguard_ was singularly unsuccessful. An amusing
exaggeration, purporting to be an exact account of the manner in which
the opposing candidate had murdered his Chinese laundryman, was, I
regret to say, answered only by assault and battery. A gratuitous and
purely imaginative description of a great religious revival in
Calaveras, in which the sheriff of the county - a notoriously profane
skeptic - was alleged to have been the chief exhorter, resulted only
in the withdrawal of the county advertising from the paper.

In the midst of this practical confusion he suddenly died. It was then
discovered, as a crowning proof of his absurdity, that he had left a
will, bequeathing his entire effects to a freckle-faced maid-servant
at the Rockville Hotel. But that absurdity became serious when it was
also discovered that among these effects were a thousand shares in the
Rising Sun Mining Company, which a day or two after his demise, and
while people were still laughing at his grotesque benefaction,
suddenly sprang into opulence and celebrity. Three millions of dollars
was roughly estimated as the value of the estate thus wantonly
sacrificed. For it is only fair to state, as a just tribute to the
enterprise and energy of that young and thriving settlement, that
there was not probably a single citizen who did not feel himself
better able to control the deceased humorist's property. Some had


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