Andrew Dickson White.

A letter to Wm. Howard Russell, LlD., on passages in his Diary North and South. online

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Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteA letter to Wm. Howard Russell, LlD., on passages in his Diary North and South. → online text (page 1 of 3)
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SiRi A recent writer in a London journal having sketched
the tricks of a Parisian juggler, spake on this wise : " M. Ed-
mond might have been a Spurgeon, a Gumming, a Hume, a
Morrison (of the pills,) a Montalembert, a D'Israeli, or a news-
paper correspondent."

This bit of phrasing is, as you see, in the most approved

London style jaunty, knowing, and so thrown as to befoul

slightly two men of whom Europe has reason to be proud, and

who were not in the least concerned in the subject discussed.

But it is chiefly interesting as a confession regarding the worth

of much of the famed correspondence published in certain London

newspapers a confession from one of those who know it best.

From such eminent authority I dare not dissent as regards

<* the manufacture of London correspondence in general'; but it is

t precisely because I have dissented in regard to your correspon-

'$ dence in particular, and because you have not been placed in

3 the same category with your quackish imitators, that I take|the

liberty of writing you upon your " Diary North and South."

No sane man cares to answer the letters which your succes-

f sors are writing from America. It would be absurd to refute

ol them when they so abundantly refute themselves ; and it would

P be unjust to blame them when they merely manufacture the ex-

"~ act article for which they are paid. But the justification for

writing you is simple. Your " Diary," while it gives lessons

. for which thoughtful Americans thank you, contains errors in

o observation, deduction, and, worst of all, in preliminary judg-

^~ ment, which ought to be shown.

My excuse for writing at so late a day is that I have hoped

C3 i -i i i

,._, to see you opposed by some champion better armed.

To clear the way toward your smaller errors let me show

; j what Americans think of your great error.

^ This great mistake mother of a vast brood of wrong judg-
ments is that, before the present war, there was throughout
the United States a hate for every thing English ; that it had
become morbid ; that the present bitterness is but that old
chronic hate made acute by disappointments in our civil war.

The importance of a right understanding is my excuse for
asking you to look back along our common history.

No candid man can wonder that an anti-English spirit lin-
gered in America after the War of Independence. Every
statesman's mind bore remembrances of that peculiarly English
series of insults of which Wedderburn's treatment of Franklin
was the climax ; every hamlet had its traditions of the allied
British and Indians. No man could forget that at Wyoming
the British were to the Indians as three to one.

No more is it matter for surprise that the Avar of 1812, and
the policy which led to it, revived the old spirit. In the light
of their own feelings at the " Trent" affair the unauthorized
seizure of two men not British subjects, from a packet ship, in
a distant sea, Englishmen can hardly be surprised that the
Americans were exasperated at the " Chesapeake" affair the
authorized seizure of their own citizens, upon their own coasts,
from an imperfectly equipped American frigate.

Nor can it be wondered at that English employment of In-
dians in this second war, after the dreadful experiences of the
first ; and the abuse heaped by the greater portion of the Eng-
lish press on everything which Americans venerated, made
matters still worse. When bitter things are said in America
of the British Government, it would, perhaps, but be fab- to
remember that many men are still living who saw the mangled
bodies of women and children victims of the British allies ;
and that there are thousands who remember seeing even worse
names applied by English journals to Jackson and Clay than
the same journals gave, a few years since, to Napoleon the
Third ; or than they now give to Lincoln, Butler, and Seward.

And, even if all this could have been forgotten in a day
(would that it might have been!) what chance has since been
given for any growth of gocd feeling ?

Look at the tourists who have preceded you ! and at their

Two or three have been kindly and fair. One was so witty
that, though we winced as he stung us, we joined in the world's
laugh afterward and confessed ourselves foolish ever to have
been offended. But the others poor souls ! a week in one
great state, a day in another, an hour in a third pirouetting
from great city to great city not deigning to look at the vast
intervening spaces where the strongest elements in the new civ-
ilization were developing gathering husks and rinds to be pa-

raded in England as fruit too dignified to suffer acquaintance
with the sturdy men who were grappling with the great prob-
lems presented ; only condescending in noting the idioms of
wagon-drivers and bar-keepers ; too careless to reason upon the
great work going on ; only careful to blame the nation for not
abolishing slavery, despite the Constitution, as they now blame
us for having striven to restrict it, in accordance with the Con-
stitution ; too blind to see that a country might be, in many
details unlike England, and yet have some life ; only keen in
seeing spittle, and hearing the nasal twang. Candidly, Sir,
can you winder that a nation, new, and pardonably sensitive
to the opinion of the world, should be irritated against a nation
of whom these were almost the only representatives it knew ?

Even if the dislike had been far deeper, would it have been
at all strange, seeing that thereby Americans would but have
ranged themselves with almost all other nations ? Leaving out
of the question Germany, Spain, and Italy, where it can hard-
ly be pretended that love for England is very hearty, take the
great ally France. Choose your Frenchman as Carlyle would
have you choose a statesman the first specimen hit with ran-
dom orangepeel. Get under the surface of his thoughts bring
out his pet ideas and, be he a gamin of the Faubourg St.
Antoine, or a rag-picker of the Faubourg St. Marceau, or a
bluff merchant of [the Faubourg Montmartre, or a noble of the
Faubourg St. Germain Legitimist, Oiieanist, Napoleonist, or
Republican, you find that the idea he at this moment fondles
most is that "the Emperor, remembering 1815, has humbled
Russia, has punished Austria, and is now making ready to take
revenge on England."

Or take Russia, bound to England by many common strug-
gles and interests. It was my fortune during the Crimean war,
to look out on Russian things and thoughts with whatever ad-
vantages w r ere then given to those attached to the American
Legation, and it was no small surprise to find that though all
Russians allowed that France was striking far harder blows
than England, France was respected and England hated.

And the last news from Rio ! Mr. Christie- in his glory, and
the Brazilians running through the streets crying " Death to
the English!"

May it not be that England has been somewhat in fault ?
May not the reasons for this American dislike, which is seen to
be shared by so many other nations, be found quite as much in

certain English ways of dealing with the world, as in the utter
perverseness of all other nations ?

So much to show how that American dislike was born how
it was fed how it was not the morbid thing you seem to sup-
pose. Now let me show how it was dying out nay, how that
old dislike was killed before the present civil war commenced.

And, first, the common language, when a chance was given
it, did its work in uniting tbe Free States to England, and I
cannot but be surprised that one, who rejoices in so learned a
title as yours should have been content with so superficial a view
as that contained in the statement that " Their language is the
sole link between England and the United States, and it only
binds the England of 1770 to the American of I860.*

The sole link ! even grant that but do you not see Dr.
Russell, that a common language gives something more than
the same words for bread and butter ; that it must produce
community or similarity of view on a vast range of subjects
from greatest to least, and that, when the thoughts of two na-
tions are thus tied together, the men of the two nations begin
to be tied together ?

No Western hamiet so rude that it does not contain admirers
of Wordsworth, Tennyson, Dickens, Hughes, and the rest ;
few pulpits so remote that the spirit of Selwyn, or Kingsley, or
Chalmers, or Robertson, or Noel, or Colenso has not reached
them ; few men so ignorant as not to know when a valiant blow
is struck in England for truth or right.

A few years since when one of my colleagues died, it was
inscribed on his monument as a thing to insure veneration, " He
was a scholar of Arnold, of Rugby." A few months since I
saw a strong man in a little ulterior village ready to shed tears
at the death of Buckle, and at the loss America had thereby
sustained. A few weeks since I heard a young American mer-
chant say very naively to a Woolwich Functionary, who was
expounding certain regulations concerning foreigners, " But you
doirt consider Americans foreigners, do you ?" Thousands of
examples could be given to show that the common language,
instead of the filmy thread you think, was a strong cord extend-
ing from every great mind in England to the best minds of ev-
ery one of our little villages, drawing them and the men they
influenced out of the old dislike into sympathy, not, perhaps,
with the English Government, but with all that was good and
true in the English people.

* Vol. ii. p. 37-8.

Nay, you seem yourself to get a glimpse of this when you
say, " And yet it (England) is the only power in Europe, for the
good opinion of Avhich they really seem to care. Let any
French, Austrian, or Russian journal write what it pleases of
the United States, it is received with indifferent criticism or
callous head-shaking. But let a London paper speak, and the
whole American press is delighted or furious."*

Despite a too evident partiality for a portion of the London
press, there is great truth in that. Would that it had pleased
you to get at it and make it known, rather than to encrust it
with showy phrases.

And, kind as were the feelings spreading among the people
at large, there was even a better spirit in the young men who
during the last ten years have been issuing from the Northern
Colleges to lay hold upon public opinion. The Anglo-mania
of the Eastern Colleges has been notorious. During the past
five years I have stood in the midst of nearly six hundred stu-
dents brought together upon the munificent foundation laid by
the Government of the United States in one of the Western
States. In this body of young men, constantly receiving and
constantly sending out the best blood of the North- West, there
was gratitude to LaFayette, there was wonder at Napoleon, but
toward England there was a tendency by all their habits of
thought. I remember well how in scholarly discussion of Gui-
zot's idea, that French civilization leads in Europe and has been
superior to English civilization, the partisans of England were
to those of France as five to one.

But to this growth in good feeling there was one exception.
There was one part of the United States whence hatred for
England was never eliminated the Slave States.

The reason is simple. England w r as the " hot-bed of aboli-
tionism," English newspapers were opposed to slavery (I refer,
of course, to a period anterior to the late Scriptural defence of
slavery by some of the foremost,) Englishmen were bent on
thwarting filibusters, English women had written^ monster let-
ter'urging emancipation, England had sent us George Thompson,
and had received Frederick Douglas and Mrs. Beecher Stowe.

Therefore the hatred of the South for England was always
fervent ; and the two men who wrought most vigorously, and
spoke most fiercely to keep this hatred at the boiling point, were
Mr. Jefferson Davis and Mr. James M. Mason ;f and among

* Vol. ii. p. 37.

| The present " Confederate Commissioner" in London.


the choicest results of the spirit they kept alive was the outrage
on Captain Aldham in the Southern commercial capital and the
insult to the Prince of Wales in the Southern political capital.

There were, indeed, some men in the North who followed
the Southern leaders in this, but it was simply because they
followed them in everything. Whenever a man was found in
a free state reviling England, it was at once generally under-
stood that he supported the South and slavery. It must be
owned however that these men spoke with much force. They
told us that leading Englishmen would not regret to see our land
divided, that the sweet speeches at international dinners were
humbug, that in case America got into trouble English ill-will
would show itself, that if there was a liking for emancipation
there was a passion for cotton.

But in those days before the civil war began, the disciples'of
these men had become a mere handful, and it was only at rare
intervals that they were strong enough to. take advantage of
some overbearing act of England, and bring out a little of the
old ill-will.

Having shown how the old currents of anti-English feeling
were almost entirely dried up, let me show you how the new
currents of ill-feeling began to flow the new currents which
you mistake for the old.

You judge rightly when you say, " They seemed to think
that England was bound by her anti-slavery antecedents to
discourage to the utmost any attempts of the South to establish
its independence on a basis of slavery."* Quite true. No
man among us except the small party of anti-English croakers
doubted that, despite sundiy minor mistakes, England would
be heartily with us. England's help we did not want. Eng-
land's sympathy we expected as a thing of course. Of course
England would spurn the claims to sympathy of a band of men
willing to deluge their country in blood sooner than see the
slighest barrier to the spread of slavery ; of course England
would loathe a Government whose chief "corner-stone," accord-
ing to the official declaration of its greatest statesman, was

o o


Few American patriots will forget the sadness with which

they came out of that dream. As unpleasant symptoms were.

seen in the English press earnest men said triumphantly, " Wait

for Lord John Russell to speak !" Lord John Russell spoke,

* Vol. 1. p. 65.


and we were informed that the war was a mere struggle for do-
minion on one side and independence on the other ; that it was
like the Grecian struggle Northerners resembling Turks,
Southerners Greeks. Then flitted over news that a majority
of the journals had declared against us ; that Mr. Lincoln had
been hissed and Mr. Davis applauded by the assembled youth-
ful wisdom of Oxford ; that an overwhelming majority of a de-
bating union at Cambridge had decided their question in favour
of the South ; then came huzzas as peaceful American ships
were burned by a privateer ; then soft reproofs of Southern
atrocities, and loud praise for the vigorous Southern policy of
which these atrocities were the essential part ; then denuncia-
tions at any severity on the part of the North, and taunts for
Northern weakness in policy, caused by reluctance to be severe ;
then a high carnival of abuse and caricature. Thus began the
new current of dislike for England. It was this new current
which you saw, not the old.

Even if this dislike were far stronger, it would not, I think,
approach the ill-feeling shown by great numbers in England to-
ward America. No one can foil to be struck by it in railway
cars, steamers, omnibusses, shops, debating clubs, private resi-
dences. I have never heard in America any sueh bitter ex-
pressions against England, as in England against America. The
first kindness shown me on a recent visit to England was when
an Englishman pointed out and exulted over a steamer prepar-
ing to run the blockade. I have heard a speaker rejoice be-
cause " that republic of blackguards is gone forever." I have
heard a Bond-street bookseller, while bowing an aristocratic
patron to the door, declare that the news from Fredericksburg
did not please him, that he was sorry the Yankees had not lost
more. You may say that these were men of a low class. Grant
it ; but I never saw in America the man of a class so low as
to rejoice over the blood of ten thousand Englishmen slain in
one battle, and to clamor for more.

This awakening of old hates on both sides both of us regret ;
my only hope is that the voices of the " nobodies" who fear
not to brave the storm, and to show their good-will toward a
nation struggling for life or death with slavery, will ring out
louder and longer than the voices of our revilers, and that the
kind words of the minority wih 1 be remembered when the scoffs
of the majority are forgotten. So long as Mill, and Bright, and
Forster, and Milnes, and the rest of the heroic brood of " no-
bodies" live, America cannot utterly hate England.


Let me call jour attention to another error in your " Diary,"
also fundamental. You convey the idea that Americans are
utterly intolerant of criticism, that so long as a tourist praises
everything all goes well : that so soon as he blames anything
all goes ill ; you support the idea by a quotation from De Toc-

The remark of the great French writer was doubtless made,
like some harsh criticisms toward the end of your second vol-
ume, during a momentary loss of temper. The whole force of
his statement was broken at once by the reception of his book
in America. No man has cut more mercilessly than he into
some of the most cherished theories of American Democracy.
No man has laboured more vigorously to prove many things
defects which we consider beauties. Yet you find the " De-
mocracy in America" on the shelves of every earnest collegian
and every aspiring lawyer. The name of De Tocqueville is
honoured from one end of the land to the other.

Why ? Simply because he had a mind large enough to be
fab-. At neither of his visits did he .seek to please a coterie in
Europe, nor did he allow his view to be obstructed by a coterie
in America. Whether in Judge Spencer's library at Albany,
or in DeBeaumont's canoe at Saginaw, his whole aim was to
get at the great truths good for all men to hear. He traveled
much and endured much, but he never pours out his soul in dis-
sertations on the horrors of milk-drinking and tobacco-chewing.

So too Yon Raumer, Michel Chevalier, Ampere. They said
many severe things, but they were none the less honoured. In
them there was none of that patronizing way, w T hich seems the
predestined sin of English tourists : none of those attempts at
wit, which compare with the real thing, as London Porter with
sparkling St. Peray.

Let me tell you frankly why you and your sprightly letters
were disliked. It was desired on all sides that you should be
as accurate as possible in your criticisms ; but the idea soon
spread that you had much unction in prophesying difficulties
which never came, and in making great use of the "I told you
so" style over those which did come. It was thought that
Avhen the question was between a body of men avowedly fight-
ing their country to perpetuate slavery, and a body of men
seeking to save their country, and quite generally hoping to

cripple slavery, you preferred the side where you foimd

* Vol. ii. p. 298.


the canvass-backed ducks, the mellowed Burgundy, the men
most resembling members of the London Clubs. It was known
that the newspaper which employed you had commenced a cru-
sade against our country, and it was thought that you some-
times showed something of its spirit looking down upon us as
Jupiter upon frogs.

Undoubtedly, also, the non-fulfilment of so many of your
early prophecies, and the awkward work which the national
patriotism made with your famous statement regarding the com-
plete apathy of our people, shook national respect for your in-
fallibility. Then, too, the hardy farmers, into whose life you
penetrated far enough to see that they wore sombre clothing,
and whittled on court-days but whom I saw, when the news
came from Fort Sumpter, with tears streaming down their
cheeks, hurrying from their farms to offer themselves and their
sons to their country those men whom I saw, in one of the
little unromantic towns you caricature, form two companies on
Sunday after service those men did not stop to learn your
merits, but simply considered you as but one more English tou-
rist of the old sort, skipping joyfully from North to South, and
South to North, buzzing unpleasantly over the battle-fields
where lay then 1 dead sons and brothers, and so at last they lifted
up their hard hands and tried to brush you off.

Such were the reasons why you were not always treated as
you should have been; and I cannot forbear adding that, in
the opinion of men whom we both hold in respect, had there
been, both in your "letters" and "Diary," a little less stress
laid on your petty discomforts and our petty barbarisms a lit-
tle broader view on the great questions at issue a little more
allowance for pardonable faults, and, above all,, a little better
preservation of your temper toward the last, you would have
gained for your criticisms close study and for yourself lasting

Yet I think you are mistaken in supposing that the feeling
toward you was entirely or mainly a feeling of dislike. A man
so frank as yourself in declaring the truth to others will not
blame me for assuring you that at last you were far more fre-
quently laughed at than scolded at. Your account of the nick-
names and caricatures bestowed upon you is correct. The
people generally figured you as the traditionally stout English
gentleman, fussy, meddlesome, making much of a learned title,
using that English accent which is not duly appreciated "by


Americans, making prophecies which constantly came to nought.
The threatening letters on which you naturally lay so much
stress, were, without doubt additional evidences of that fault in
our people which you condemn elsewhere want of respect for
distinguished men in short, a poor sort of practical jokes.

The assertion that there was needed in your book somewhat
more kindliness may be thought unjust. To cite proofs from
the end of the book, where Mr. Stantoivs course causes an evi-
dent ebullition, would be unfair. Let me cite them from the
first part from the story of your first hour in New York.

_ You say that, after leaving the Jersey City ferry, you went
"rattling over a most abominable pavement, plunging into mud-
holes, squashing throughs now-heaps in ill-lighted narrow streets
of low, mean-looking, wooden houses,'** &c.

I have passed scores of times to and from the aforesaid ferry,
"up all manner o' streets," by every avenue which the. most
bewildered coachman could take ; many of them I have found
narrow, ill-lighted and muddy nearly as much so as some far
more pretentious streets in London. In some of them one
might find a few houses of wood; but any thing like "streets of
low, mean-looking, wooden houses " no one has seen there
within twenty years.

This is, indeed, but a straw. Let me show another straw
in the current flowing throw the next page.

" At intervals there towered up a block of brickwork and
stucco, with long rows of windows lighted up, tier above tier,
and a swarming crowd passing in and out of the portals, which
were recognized as the barrack-like glory of American civiliza-
tion a Broadway monster hotel.' "f

You may think it over-senitiveness, but the phrase "barrack-
like glory of American civilization " seems far more sonorous
than kind. American civilization is as yet far from what we
hope for it but its glory is not the hotel.

And if that part of your first hour betrays want of kindli-
ness, another part betokens want of fairness. You know well
that in England, more than in any other country, the culture
of other nations is judged by the reality of their architecture.
Why then rob the great Broadway hotels of what little merit
they possess by speaking of them as "blocks of brickwork and

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Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteA letter to Wm. Howard Russell, LlD., on passages in his Diary North and South. → online text (page 1 of 3)