Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The North American review (Volume 72) online

. (page 1 of 54)
Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesThe North American review (Volume 72) → online text (page 1 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


From the collection of the



o



PreTinger
v Jjibrary



San Francisco, California
2006



1S45



1847 1853



LI 3 2 A R Y



LAWRENCE, MASS



THE



NORTH AMERICAN
REVIEW.



VOL. LXXII



BOSTON:

CHARLES C. LITTLE AND JAMES BROWN,
No. 112 WASHINGTON STREET.

1851.



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851, by CHARLES C. LITTLE,
JAMES BROWN, AND AUGUSTUS FLAGG, in the Clerk's Office of the District
Court of the District of Massachusetts.



CAMBRIDGE :

PRINTED BY BOLLES AND HOUGHTON.



CONTENTS



No. CL.



ART. PAGE

I. THE LIFE OF GENERAL TAYLOR 1

Remarks of DANIEL WEBSTER, in the Senate
of the United States, on the Resolution relative to
the Funeral of GENERAL ZACHARY TAYLOR, late
President of the United States.
II. WAYLAND ON COLLEGE EDUCATION IN AMERICA . 60

Report to the Corporation of Brown University
on Changes in the System of Collegiate Education.
HI. THE TENDENCIES OF MODERN SCIENCE .... 84

1. Principles of Zoology. Part I. Comparative
Physiology. By Louis AGASSIZ and AUGUSTUS A.
GOULD.

2. Proceedings of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science. Second Meeting,
held at Cambridge, August, 1849.

3. The Foot-Prints of the Creator, or the Aster-
olepis of Stromness. By HUGH MILLER.

IV. DANA'S POEMS AND PROSE WRITINGS 115

Poems and Prose Writings. By RICHARD HENRY
DANA. In two Volumes.
V. FEMALE AUTHORS 151

1. A Trap to catch a Sunbeam. By the Author
of " Old Jolliffe."

2. Truth stranger than Fiction : a Narrative of
Recent Transactions. By CATHARINE E. BEECHER.

3. Rural Hours. By a LADY.



IV CONTENTS.

VI. THE LAW OF HOMICIDE 178

Report of the Case of John W. Webster, indicted
for the Murder of George Parkman, before the
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. By
GEORGE BEMIS, ESQ.

VII. THE REBELLION OF THE SLAVONIC, WALLACHIAN
AND GERMAN HUNGARIANS AGAINST THE MAG
YARS 205

1. The North American Review on Hungary.
An Article in the Christian Examiner for November
1850.

2. The War in Hungary, 1848 - 1849. By MAX

SCHLESINGER.

3. Hungary : its Constitution and its Catastrophe.
By CORVINUS.

4. Austria. By PETER E. TURNBULL, ESQ.

5. Verzeichniss der unter den Insurrectionellen
Regierung Ungarns durch Martial-oder Statarialge-
richte hingerichteten, oder ohne Alle Justiz hinge-
schlachteten Individuen.

6. Genesis der Revolution in Oesterreich im Jahre,
1848.

7. Thronfolge und die Pragmatische Sanction in
Ungarn.

8. Geschichte des Oestreichischen Kaiserstaates.
Von JOHANN GRAF MAILATH.

9. Die Letzten zwei Jahre Ungarns.

10. Denkscrift iiber die October-Revolution in
Wien. Verfasst von WENCESLAW GEORG DUNDER,

11. Ueber Oesterreichs Staatsausgaben und Ver-
waltung. Von JOSEPH RITTER VON HAUER.

VIII. CRITICAL NOTICES

1. Buckingham's Newspaper Literature . . . 249

2. Fowler on the English Language .... 252

3. Parker's Poems 254

NEW PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED . . 258



NORTH AMERICAN REYIEW.

No. CL.
JANUARY, 1851.



ART. 1. Remarks of the HON. DANIEL WEBSTER, in the
Senate of the United States, on the Resolution offered by
the Hon. Mr. Downs, of Louisiana, relative to the Funeral
of GENERAL ZACHARY TAYLOR, late President of the
United States. New York Herald, July llth, 1850.

THIS brief, temperate, and apparently well-pondered eulogy,
pronounced in the Senate of the United States by the great
orator and statesman of Massachusetts, upon the character of
General Taylor, late President of the United States, between
the death-bed and the grave, must have accorded with the
solemn feeling then prevailing, not only in that body and
throughout the capitol, but also throughout the nation. At
that time, though hardly a day had elapsed since the illus
trious deceased had closed his life, much of that nation had
become aware of the event, and was reflecting deeply upon
its consequences. The body politic, by the extraordinary
application of scientific improvements to the diffusion of
intelligence, had then a quickness of perception, a power of
rapid communication, that likened it somewhat to the body
human. Through the wonder-workings of this power, the
whole country, even before the remains of the dead were
entombed at Washington, throbbed almost simultaneously
with the same pulsations of regret and sympathy. It was as
if the heart had sent forth a strong impulse, which pervaded,
with electric celerity, the whole body. It was a fitting time
to exert, in such a manner, such a power. It was probably

VOL. LXXII. NO. 150. 1



2 The Life of General Taylor. [Jan.

the first time it had been exerted to such a marvellous
extent.

The occasion which called forth these remarks from the
eminent Senator, was one that was likely to give them unusual
fervor as well as solemnity. Those who preceded him
had felt such to be its influence., arid had spoken with cor
responding emotion. The Massachusetts statesman seemed
to deem it a time for words of truth and soberness alone.
His heart seemed to be held back from his tongue, and his
strong intellect gave out its biddings with all the calmness
and dignity of ordinary times. He may have thought that
such a semblance of moderation was in keeping with the
gravity of his character, if not also with the gravity of the
subject ; and probably he judged rightly. It was certainly a
grateful change, to leave the embossments and gilt of some
of the eulogies heard at that time in other quarters,* and
turn to the severe simplicity of the address now under
consideration. Probably this very simplicity all the more
strongly invited attention, and awakened a deep train of
reflections, which another manner might have left dormant.
We therefore conclude, that the impression made by Mr.
Webster on his auditory, (which embraced not only the Sen
ate, but a large concourse of other hearers,) was eminently
congruous and effective.

We shall be likely, in the course of this article, to allude
particularly to those influences of a military character which
are stated in this address to the Senate as having led to the
elevation of General Taylor to the high place, from which
he had so recently been wrested by the hand of death. We
shall also feel strongly moved to bring into relief several
other passages, which 29 sententiously and expressively pre
sent the marked characteristics of General Taylor to view.
At this stage, we shall make only a quotation or two, which
are so eloquent in his praise, that we feel they cannot meet
the eye of our readers without warming their minds into
respect, if not admiration, for the departed, and thus make



* We may well except from this animadversion the few remarks made by Mr.
Conrad, of the House of Representatives. Speaking in behalf of Louisiana, the
State in which the illustrious dead claimed his citizenship, his remarks were
touching 1 and appropriate, and sketched out the characteristics of General Taylor
with boldness and truth.



1851.] The Life of General Taylor. 3

them the more willing to accompany us onward through our
labor of justice and of kindness. The words of the eulogist, in
the midst of his remarks, flowed into the following just and
encomiastic tribute: "I Suppose, Sir, that no case ever
happened in the very best days of the Roman Republic,
where any man found himself clothed with the highest
authority in the State under circumstances more repelling all
suspicion of pursuing any crooked path of politics, or all
suspicion of having been actuated by sinister views or pur
poses, than in the case of the worthy, and eminent, and
good man, whose death we now deplore." We can hardly
present to our minds a measure of encomium more abundant,
pressed down, and running over, than was presented to the
minds of those who listened to this sentence. To deserve
such praise in our country, and under such circumstances, is,
certainly, glory enough ; and well might the distinguished
orator add, under his sincere conviction that it was deserved,
that General Taylor had " left to the people of his country
a legacy in this : he has left them a bright example, which
addresses itself with peculiar force to the young and rising
generation , for it tells them that there is a path tu the highest
degree of renown, straight onward, without change or devia
tion." Well might this broad seal of approbation be fixed
by the greatest of minds, the most sagacious of statesmen,
the most ripe and sound of politicians, to such an example,
so rare in a republic like ours, where the temptations to
change and deviation are so numerous and so alluring. A
concurrence of circumstances like that which marked the life
under review, almost alone, is likely to exclude them. Ordi
nary careers to eminence in civil affairs are beset with them
throughout, and it is hardly in the strength of human for
bearance to resist them. Fortunately for our country, the
first experiment of our government had the benefit of a
leading man who exhibited a similar example. Washington
was not raised to the Presidency ; he was merely transferred
from one dominant point to another, both upon the same
level. He had no climbing to do, and consequently was
independent of party aid.

Mr. Webster states that General Taylor's services were
mostly upon the frontiers. This is true ; and yet we are not
warranted in supposing that his life had no training but in the



4 Tfie Life of General Taylor. [Jan.

camp. General Taylor had reached the age of manhood,*
though still a young man, when he entered the army. The
many years which preceded this important event of his life
were the plastic years of that life. His character had then,
no doubt, taken much of its form and pressure. We have
not understood when he moved from Virginia to Kentucky.
If it were after he had passed the age of infancy, such a
journey, made, as all such journeys in those days through
that region were made, could not have been without its
deep engravings on his youthful mind". Obliged to share in
the rough and tumble, the privations and exposures, of a
long and hazardous route over mountains and through a wil
derness, where as yet there were only Indian trails, or bridle
paths, that youthful mind would develop itself more in a
few weeks, than, under ordinary circumstances, in as many
years.

The condition of such a family, even after the migration
had come to an end, would, for some years perhaps, be that
of destitution of most of the comforts, and many of the
refinements, of life. Education, especiallv, in all its higher
branches, would necessarily then be out of retiuli. Cuumiuu
schools spring up, in such cases, of course, even under the
shade of the forest. In such rude nurseries for the mind.
General Taylor may have begun his intellectual training.
With the spread of advantages, that training improved ; and
when, at the age of almost twenty-four, he entered the army,
his general intelligence placed him on a footing with most of
his comrades.

But it was doubtless during this period of boyhood and
youth, that General Taylor imbibed his taste for rural life.
He seemed to regard agriculture, in all its forms, with strong
and predominant favor. The surface of the earth, subdued,
cultivated, productive, was ever a pleasant sight to his eye.
Its teeming varieties caught his glance in all situations, under
all circumstances, and would often call forth a cheerful
expression, in look or in word, at times when that situation
was beset with profound anxiety. Farming was a subject
on which he was more fluent and animated than on any



* General Taylor was born in Orange county, Virginia, 1784 ; and married Miss
Margaret Smith of Maryland in 1810.



1851.] The Life of General Taylor. 5

other. He had read much upon it, had thought much
respecting it, and had done as much to improve its character
and results as his profession, so adverse to such pursuits,
would admit.

General Taylor, therefore, when he started in his career as
a military man, had some of the best qualifications for suc
cess in it. His frame, thoroughly adult and matured, and
hardened for endurance by a training from boyhood to man
hood that made it compact and sinewy, fitted him for the
vicissitudes of service." He had also acquired, it is probable,
during his subjection to the fare and labor of a new country,
those habits of abstemiousness, which were likewise equally
favorable to the preservation of health and strength amid those
vicissitudes. His education, of course, had not been military in
any sense of the word, unless the hazards of a frontier life,
which made most persons exposed to them, young and old,
familiar with the rifle, and always under many of their most
appalling aspects, may have been deemed, in part, such an
education. When he joined his regiment, he had to learn,
like nearly all the commissioned officers of that time, the
whole routine of his duty. How far he became proficient,
how well he prepared himself for the most arduous and
responsible calls of duty, the opening events of the war of
1812, which was declared some few years after he had
entered the army, give the most satisfactory proof.

In April, 1812, Captain Taylor was assigned to the com
mand of Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, about fifty miles in
advance of the settlements. This work had been hastily
built by General Harrison, on his march to Tippecanoe, hav
ing one row of high pickets on three sides, and log-huts on
the fourth side, with a common block-house at each end of
the row. The garrison under Captain Taylor's command
consisted of a broken company of infantry. Its strength, as
well as that of the fort, had become well known to the
Indians generally, through the small parties of those who
professed friendship for the Americans, and had been in the
habit of frequently visiting the place. The Prophet's party,
still somewhat formidable, though repulsed at Tippecanoe
the year previous with loss, was then in hostile array on the
Wabash above, and was expected to attack the fort. At
this moment of hazard, Captain Taylor was the only officer
1*



6 The Life of General Taylor. [Jan.

present, his subaltern having been allowed a leave of absence
for the recovery of his health, and he was himself then slowly
recovering from a severe fever. He had with him, however,
a surgeon, who rendered good service to his commander
throughout the subsequent attack. On the 3d of September,
1812, two men were killed by the Indians within a few hun
dred yards of the fort ; and late in the evening of the 4th,
some thirty or forty Indians approached it with a white flag,
informing Captain Taylor that the principal Chief would
have a talk with him the next morning. Captain Taylor
was too well versed in Indian wiles not to know that this
demonstration was the precursor of hostility. He accord
ingly kept the party at bay, and immediately completed all
his arrangements necessary to repulse such hostility.

The force with which Captain Taylor was to effect this
did not exceed fifteen men ; and even some of those were,
like himself, only in a state of convalescence. As had been
anticipated, the attack was made that night, the few defend
ers being found at their posts. Almost simultaneously with
the discharge of musketry on both sides, an alarm was given
by the non-commissioned officer in charge of one of the
block-houses, the under story of which contained the pro
visions of the fort, that the lower part of the building was
on fire. It had been an easy matter for the Indians, amid
the darkness and the interchange of musketry, to creep up
to the base of the block-house, there being no exterior ditch
or impediments in the way, and effect a design of that kind.
The wood of which the fort had been made, was at that time
dry and combustible. The proper orders were immediately
given to extinguish the fire, buckets and water being at hand ;
but the cry of " fire " had caused some confusion among the
men, so few in number, and many of them still debilitated
from sickness ; and before a check could be applied, the
flames had communicated with some whiskey among the
supplies, and at once spread aloft to the roof. Captain
Taylor, in his official report of this event, says : " As the
block-house adjoined the barracks that made part of the
fortifications, most of the men immediately gave themselves up
for lost, and I had the greatest difficulty in getting any of my
orders executed. And, Sir, what from the raging of the fire,
the yelling of several hundred Indians, the cries of nine



1851.] The Life of General Taylor. 7

women and children, the wives, a part of soldiers, a part
of citizens, who had taken shelter in the fort, and the
desponding of so many men, which was worse than
all, I can assure you my feelings were very unpleasant."
" And to add to our misfortune, two of the stoutest men in
the fort, and whom I had every confidence in, jumped the
pickets and left us."

This simple statement shows a fearful crisis. It was one
of those points of extreme flexion, when the bough either
breaks, or regains its position by a force that exceeds the
pressure. Captain Taylor adds to the foregoing, with an
ingenuousness that suits his character, " but my presence of
mind did not for a moment forsake me." We can fully
believe the truth of this assertion, which found a warrant in
the measures for averting the imminent destruction, that
were at once adopted. He saw that, by removing a portion
of the roof of the barrack contiguous to the burning block
house, and keeping that end constantly wet, the flames could
probably be arrested. The loss of the block-house would
leave only a gap of about thirty feet in width, which could
be filled by a temporary breastwork. His men resumed their
confidence at hearing these wise and suitable orders, and
went heartily to work to execute them. While some of
them kept up a discharge. of musketry from the other block
house and from the two bastions, others, with Doctor Clark
(the gallant coadjutor of Captain Taylor during this perilous
night) at their head, ascended to the top of the threatened
barrack, and in a short time threw off sufficient of the roof
to fulfil the necessary purpose in view. Of the men who
discharged this important duty, and who were in unobstructed
range of the enemy's fire, and were rendered shining marks
by the flames, one was killed, and two were wounded. Not
withstanding this successful check of the fire in that quarter,
it still frequently burst forth in other quarters, and kept the
small garrison in constant anxiety about this destructive
enemy within, which was even more formidable than the
enemy without, though the latter was repulsed in all his
efforts to enter the fort through the breach, or at other
quarters, only by the same hardy and inflexible perseverance
which had subdued the flames.

The assault did not slacken for the space of seven hours.



8 The Life of General Taylor. [Jan.

At about 6 o'clock the next morning, the Indians, finding the
guns of the fort, though few in number, aimed with deadly
effect, after daylight exposed them to view, withdrew to a
safe distance. During the following day, the breach was
closed up by a line of pickets, made out of the materials
of the guard-house, and the fort remained without further
molestation. As will be anticipated, it appears, by Captain
Taylor's report, that all the contractor's supplies for the gar
rison were consumed. On this subject, so well fitted to
produce despondence and importunity, the report merely
says, " we lost the whole of our provisions, but must make
out to live upon green corn until we can get a supply ; "
words of submission and good nature, which, under the cir
cumstances, strike us as being in admirable harmony with
the resolution and fertility of shifts that marked' the event
from which this destitution sprung.

We have entered into the details of this affair more, per
haps, than would seem at first view to be warranted. A
little reflection, however, will show that it deserves all the
space we have given to it. In such cases, it is not alone
the numbers engaged that give them character. Difficulties
often multiply as numbers diminish. Captain Taylor found
it so in this instance. His fort was small, it is true ; and
yet it was out of all proportion to .the force with which he
was to defend it, and gave him little chance of defending it
with success. He could place but one or two men at each
face of it. This inadequacy of means might well have dis
couraged his men, even while the defences remained entire.
When a wide breach was made in them, it was natural that
they should have despaired. All officers are not equal to such
emergencies. Indeed, it is only a few who prove themselves
to be so. Captain Taylor happened to prove himself one of
those few. This defence of Fort Harrison exhibited most of
the strong points of his character. He there proved himself
to be a firm and able man, fully equal to the strait in which
he found himself, and one who would not probably be found
wanting in other straits of greater magnitude.

This instance of good fortune on the interior frontier was of
national importance. A series of disasters had happened there
by which the nation was filled with doubt and discourage
ment. The Indians had signalized their zeal in favor of the



1851.] The Life of General Taylor. 9

British, and their enmity towards us, by hearty and efficient
cooperation in the field at Mackinac, and by a cunningly
devised plan of getting possession of the fort at Chicago,
following up the event by treachery and bloodshed, which
showed what formidable auxiliaries our new enemy had found
within our own borders. Fort Harrison was in no suitable
condition for successful defence. Prudence would have dic
tated its abandonment in time to save the few men there
from a destruction that seemed otherwise inevitable. Cap
tain Taylor had no orders for such a course, and felt himself
bound to defend it to the last extremity. Chicago fell, when
it ought to have stood, and could have stood ; Fort Harrison
stood, when, under the command of most men, it would have
fallen. The two instances were a trial of character, and the
result showed who was found wanting in the hour of need ;
who was to sink into obscurity ; who to rise in the scale of
services and distinction, as opportunity might open the way.*
During the ensuing years of this war with Great Britain,
Major Taylor was upon the western and northwestern

frontier, having no sharp in thf. rnnrp. rnnspirMiniis p.vp.nt.s that
marked its progress In other parts of the United States.

At the reorganization and reduction of the army at the
peace of 1815, Major Taylor, according to the mode adopted at
the time, in order to crowd as much rank and experience as
possible into the diminished establishment, was retained as a
Captain, with the brevet rank of Major. The more fresh
and, perhaps, importunate claims of those who had served in
the brilliant campaigns of 1814 and the beginning of 1815,
may have led the Military Board, to which was assigned the
difficult task of selecting the complement of officers to
remain in service, to weigh somewhat lightly the initial suc
cess on land of the war, the first dayspring of victory that
broke through the thick darkness of disaster with which it had
begun. Major Taylor had no hesitation as to the course he
ought to take. He quietly declined to accede to any sur
render of his well-earned rank, and prepared to resume an
agricultural life with feelings that probably had less of regret
in them than gratification. Fortunately for the country,

* Captain Taylor received the brevet rank of Major for his services in the
defence of Fort Harrison. It was the first compliment of this kind conferred
during this war.



10 The Life of General Taylor. [Jan.

however, this turning of his sword into a ploughshare was
not permitted. He was subsequently retained with his rank
as Major, and resumed his military duties as an infantry
officer., which still kept him on the interior frontier.

During the years which elapsed between this restoration
and the war in Florida, Major Taylor became successively
promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel of
infantry, and held various commands near and among the
Indians, which always involved more or less responsibility,
the tribes long retaining an unquiet feeling, arising from a
partiality for the British, and an aversion to the United States,,
that frequently broke out into open hostility. Among these
ruptures, which always began in massacre, and generally
ended in hollow truces, that which was termed the Black
Hawk war threatened to throw back the advancing settle



Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesThe North American review (Volume 72) → online text (page 1 of 54)