James Fenimore Cooper.

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and fourteenth centuries, to eifect any material
change. It is odd enough, that in an age when even
despotism is fettered by public opinion, men should
affect to believe that a people whp feel its influence
more than aixy other, who have fortified their insti-
tutions by law, by habit, and by common sense, are
liable to be affected by causes that are hourly losing
their ascendancy in every other country.

I shall state one more simple fact, leaving you to
reason on it for yourself. So far from increasing
familiarity and intercourse with the system of Europe
producing any desire for imitation on the part of
those Americans who are brought in contact w^ith our
privileged orders, it is notorious, that it produces
quite a contrary effect.

But the question of infinitely the most interest is
that which touches the durability of the confedera-
tion. It is the only one of the two that is worthy of
grave comment.

If we fix the habitable territory of the United
States, east of the Rocky Mountains, at 1,000,000 of
square miles, we shall not exceed the truth. By giv-
ing a population of 150 to the square mile, we get a
gross amount of 150,000,000 for the population of
this republic. In 1850, the population w^ill probably
be 24,000,000 ; in 1880, 48,000,000; and in 1920,
near, or quite, 1 00,000,000. I do not think there are
sufiicient reasons to distrust the increase so far as the
period named. If any thing, I believe I am mate-
rially within bounds.

Now the first impression that strikes the mind, is
the impossibility that 100,000,000 of people should



PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS. 341

consent to live quietly under the same government.
It is quite certain that such vast masses of intelligent
men could not be controlled by force ; but it re-
mains to be proved that they cannot be kept together
by interest. Let us examine how far the latter agent
will be active.

The people of the Unit^ States can, under no
other arrangement, enjoy protection against foreign
wars at so cheap a rate. Aggression on their rights
will be out of the question, should they remain
united. Should they separate, they would make
rivals, and of course enemies, at their own doors.
Nature has adapted these vast regions to profit by in-
ternal trade. This species of commerce can never
be conducted on terms so favourable as those offered
by the Union. Should they separate, a thousand
irritating and embarrassing questions about the right
to navigate the rivers and bays, would unavoidably
occur, which now are unknown. They are a people
of peculiar institutions, and vast political weight is
necessary to secure the proud and manly population
of this country, the respect they claim in foreign
countries. They have felt the degradation of being
contemned ; they are beginning to know the privileges
of being respected ; and they will shortly enjoy the
advantages of being feared. It is not in nature to
suppose that men will wilfully and blindly throw
away their superiority. I think there will also be
an outward pressure that will tend to unite them still
closer.

The confederated government of the United States
has not power enough to make itself dangerous to
the rights of the States. In the first place, it is no
more than a representation of the people in another
form ; and there is Kttle probability that any decid-
edly unpopular policy can long continue, if, indeed,
it could be adopted at all. Each hour lessens the
din io;er of particular States receding from the Union,
Ff2



342 PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS.

by lessening their relative importance. Even New-
York, with ten millions of inhabitants, would be
embarrassed, surrounded by a powerful rival of fifty
or sixty millions. The great communities would be
safer, and more important, by exercising their natural
influence in the confederation, and the smaller could
not exist separately. But it may be thought that
the separation will take place in such a manner as
to divide the present Union into two great nations.
That these expectations are vague, and founded on
a general reasoning that may be false when applied
to a particular case, is evident by the fact that men
are divided on the grounds of this separation. Some
say that the slave-holders will separate from their
northern brethren; and some think that the line will
be drawn north and south. Now, in point of fact,
there is no solid reason in either of these opinions,
except as they have a general reference to the difficul-
ty of keeping such masses of men together. My own
opinion is, that the United States are now passing,
or, in fact, have in a great measure passed, the ordeal
of the durability of the Union.

As to grave shakings of the head, and general as-
sertions, they prove nothing, unless, as they often do,
thej^ prove ignorance. Forty years ago, unbehevers
would have shaken their heads, had they been told
that a constitutional government would now exist in
France. We must look at plain, direct, and natural
causes, for the influences that are to support, or to
destroy, this confederation. We can easily see the
advantages of the connexion, now let us endeavoui
to seek the disadvantages.

The first objection that presents itself is distance.
But distance is an object that has more force now,
when roads aftd communication by water are in
their infancy, than it can ever have hereafter. Ex-
isting facts, therefore, not only show that the United
States are suiliciently near to each other for all prac-



PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS. 343

tical and desirable purposes of general government,
but that in truth the empire might still be extended
without material inconvenience.

The next objection is the question of slaves and
of freedom. The control of the slaves is a matter
left entirely to the States who hold them ; and, so far
as they have any direct influence on the durability
of the Union, it is, I think, in its favour, by adding
an additional motive for its continuance to the
southern States. One might acknowledge a danger
of a difference of habits arising under the slave policy,
that would induce a dangerous difference in char-
acter, were it not for the fact, that this state of things
has existed so long, and that the people of the north
and the people of the south are rather assimilating
than becoming more widely distinct in their habits
and opinions.

Next comes local interest. This, after all, is the
only point worthy of much consideration. It is a
branch of the subject that presents two or three dif-
ferent aspects. That of employment, that of geo-
graphical inducements to divide, and that of minute
separate interests. It is plain that the people of a
country in which there is so great a diversity of soil
and of climate, must pursue different employments.
But is not this fact rather a motive of harmony than
of dissension? They can supply each other's wants,
without incurring the danger of rivalry. The north-
ern man will exercise his ingenuity, and will be the
mariner ; the man of the middle States will grow the
primary necessaries of hfe ; and the southern man
will supply both with luxuries. The manufacturer
will buy wheat, and tobacco, and wine, and fifty
other necessaries, of the Virginian, Marylander, &c.
and cotton, and sugar, and olives, and fruits, of the
southern man. They are necessary to each other ;
and it is therefore plain their interests are united.

As to the geographical inducements to separate, it



344 PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS.

IS impossible (when distance is admitted to be con-
quered) to discover more than one. Tiiere might,
under certain circumstances, be a reason why coun-
tries that he on the tributaries of the Mississippi, for
instance, should wish to be under one government.
But they are under one government already, and by
what process can they be more so than they are at
this moment? The Kentuckian, and Tennessean,
and Ohiese, and Indianian, might lose some advan-
tages, in the way of geographical inducements, by
separating from New-York to cling to Louisiana, or
-vice versa ; but what could he possibly gain ? There
might have been a danger of such a separation, when
the outlet of the Mississippi was the property of an-
other nation ; but the outlet of the Mississippi is now
the property of the republicans themselves. The
citizen of New-Orleans has just as much influence in
the general government as the citizen of New-York
or Boston. Independently of these facts, which, I
think, contain an unanswerable argument, each day
is so ramifying and connecting interests throughout
the whole of this Union, as to render it diflicult to
the States, which might be thought to be the most
exposed to what I have called geographical induce-
ments, to make a selection, even in circumstances
that should compel a choice.

The control of minute interests might easily lead
to dissensions, in a free country. But the natural
and exceedingly happy constitution of American so-
ciety leaves the States the control of all matters that
do not require concentrated action ; it leaves even
the counties and towns, also, the right of controlling
their more minute interests.

Now, where are we to seek a rational argument
for believing that this confederation will dissolve ?
Its plan of government leaves as few matters of con-
tention as possible ; while the interests, the habits,
the feelings, and the history, of the people, are the



PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS. 345

same. Moral and physical causes unite to keep
them together, while nothing indicates that they
must divide, but sage and incredulous shakings of the
head ! I make no doubt, that if Coeur de Lion had
been told his brother would be forced to grant a
charter to his barons, his head would have been
shaken too ; and that Queen Elizabeth would not
have believed that the royal veto could ever slumber
for a century ; or that Isabel might have entertained
rational doubts of her American provinces becoming
more important dominions than her own Aragon —
and yet all these things have come to pass ! Are we
to believe for ever only w^hat we wish? We are
told that China contains a hundred and fifty millions
of people, in one empire ; and why are we to believe
that semi-barbarians have more wisdom than a na-
tion that has shown itself as shrewd, as firm, and as
constant as the Americans ?

Let us give one moment's attention to the political
history of this republic since its establishment.

Between the years 1775 and 1789, a confederation
existed, which, though it imperfectly answered the
objects of the war, partook of that flimsiness of tex-
ture which has proved the bane and weakness of so
many previous political unions. The Americans, in-
stead of becoming impatient and restive under ac-
knowledged difficulties, deliberately went to work
to remedy the evil. The present constitution was
formed. Its chief merit consists in its yielding to
unavoidable evils, its consulting natural objects, and
its profiting by those advantages which had endured
the test of time. This is a broad foundation on
which to repose the fabric of government.

Until near the end of Washington's administration,
the Americans were scarcely treated with the cour-.
tesy that was due to a nation. The character of that
illustrious man lent a dignity to his government,
which adventitious circumstances w^ould have re-



346 PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS.

fused. England boldly held military posts within
the undeniable limits of the country ; and a thousand
indignities, and numberless acts of injustice, disgraced
the history of that period. Commanders of vessels
of war exercised a lawless authority on the coasts
of the republic ; and there is an instance on record
of a captain of a sloop of war, openly and insolently
refusing to obey the civil authorities of the country,
because he knew that he commanded a greater
nautical force than that of the whole republic united.
At that day, Europeans generally believed these
people black and barbarous ; and they listened to
accounts of their proceedings, as we listen to the
events of farther India.

Then followed the general war, with its abuses.
The vast commerce of America grew, but it became
a prey to all the belligerents. Acts, that would dis-
grace any man of the smallest pretension to char-
acter, were committed by boastful nations, under the
pitiful plea of power ; and the complaints of a remote
people, were despised and ridiculed, for no other
reason (:han that they were a nation weak and dis-
persed. But a mighty spirit was in the land. The
statesmen were wary, firm in their principles, yield-
ing to events while they protested against injusticCj
and watchful to let no opportunity of regaining their
rights pass without improvement. At this period,
an immense region, which possessed countless posi-
tive advantages, which offered a foothold to rivals,
and which was a constant temptation to division
among themselves, was peaceably acquired. The
purchase of Louisiana was the greatest masterstroke
of policy that has been done in our times. All the
wars, and conquests, and cessions of Europe, for the
last hundred years, sink into insignificance, compared
with the political consequences that are dependent
on this increase of territory. Spain had been acces-
sory to the wrongs, and Spain too was quietly made



PERPETUITY OF THE INSTITUTIONS. 347

to contribute to the peace and security of the repub-
lic, by a cession of the Floridas.

A new era is now about to dawn on this nation.
It has ceased to creep ; it begins to walk erect
among the powers of the earth. All these things
have occurred within the life of man. Europeans
may be reluctant to admit the claims of a competi-
tor, that they knew so lately a pillaged, a wronged,
and a feeble people ; but Nature will have her laws
obeyed, and the fulfilment of things must come. The
spirit of greatness is in this nation : its means are
within their grasp ; and it is as vain as it is weak to
attempt to deny results that every year is rendering
more plain, more important, and more irresistible.



NOTES.



NOTE A.—Pa^s 89 and 205.

Soon after the writer arrived in England, he read an
article in the LXXIII. number of the Quarterly Review,
which created some surprise, as it imparted very different
opmions on the subject of the United States' navy, from those
which he had communicated to his friends. The article to
which he alludes, professes to review the " Personal Narrative
of Travels," &:.c. " with Remarks on the present State of the
American Navy, by Lieutenant the Honourable Frederick
Fitzgerald de Roos, Royal Navy," and another book on the
same country, to which it is not necessary to refer. Anxious
to know whether it was possible that he himself could have
fallen into so many gross errors on the subject of the Amer-
ican marine, he took the following plan of arriving, as near
as circumstances would allow, to the truth. He sent the Re-
view and Travels to an American naval officer, now in Eu-
rope, with a request that he would read them, and favour
him wdth his written opinion of the professional facts con-
tained in both. The answer is below.

" I shall comply with your request quite cheerfully. You
are at liberty to make such use of the httle information I
shall impart, as you may think proper : though 1 have some
delicacy in placing my name before the world as an author,
which, as you very well know, implies a pursuit but httle in
accordance with the education and habits of a sailor.

" I presume you do not intend that I shall touch on any
matters contained in either of the works you have sent me,
but those which are strictly professional. Were any one
disposed to enter into a critical examination of the Review,
or of the ' Travels,' I think very many points would present
themselves for critical examination. Tiie reviewer, for in-
stance, might be asked on what authority he pronounced that
* ten thousand of the men that fought at Waterloo, would
have marched through North America,' when it is matter of
history, that twelve or fourteen thousand of the same men,
went to the right about, after penetrating the State of New-

voL. n. G g



350 NOTES.

York some forty or fifty miles, for fear of the militia of his
diaifected New-England, which was flocking across Cham-
plain to oppose tliem in thousands, and who, forty years
before, had led tlfe precise number he has named (10,000)
captives to Boston ! I had thought the battles of Chippewa,
Niagara, and the two affairs of fort Erie, to say nothing of
Bunker's Hill, New-Orleans, Plattsburgh, Saratoga, and a
multitude of other places and events, might have spared us,
in 1828, the vapourings that were so much in fashion in 1775.
I incline to the opinion that the reviewer is no better soldier
than I am myself: and I think it will be in my pov, er to
show that he has not the utmost possible familiarity with
naval subjects. Mr. de Roos might also be asked on what
authority he says ' that most of the respectable inhabitants
of New-York are seen in turn' in the bar-room of the City
Hotel. If it be the same authority which induced him to say
that ' New-York is situated on the Peninsula which separates
the Hudson and the East River,' I beg to assure him, that it
is not entitled to the smallest credit. But we will quit these
general subjects, for those on which I am more particularly
at home.

" The reviewer commences his nautical career by saying,
^ It is not for us to decide on the policy of the American
government, with regard to the increase of its naval force.'
I take this to be the least exceptionable declaration in the
whole article. I "shall pass over every point that requires
argument to support it, for it is my intention to deal as much
as possible with facts. The reviewer says, ' it will require a
long time, &c. before America can deal single-handed with
the navy of any of the maritime powers of Europe.' Now,
I think, the facts would show that, England and France ex-
cepted, there is not another navy in the world as strong as
that of the United States. ' Viewing it in its greatest extent,'
&c. says the reviewer, ' it (the American navy) may be con-
sidered to consist of twelve sail of the line, twelve frigates,
nine sloops, and a few barges, &c.' The navy of the United
States consists of twelve sail of the line, one sixty, twelve
forty-fours, three thirty-sixes, sixteen corvettes and sloops,
with a few smaller cruizers. These vessels are all on the
ocean. There is (as you say by an error of the press) an
omission of several frigates in your own letter, page 76 of
Vol II., of the sheets you have obligingly permitted me to
read. Your total amount of our marine is correct, but the
omission has been made in the detail. Considering the size
and condition of these vessels, what other marine, except
those named, is as strong? The reviewer says, that ' the



NOTES. 351

order of Confess for building these ships (of the line) limited
their size to that of seventy-fours,' &c. Now it happens that
the Hmitation was just the other way, the law saying- that
they should not be less than of seventy-four guns. I do not
understand what the reviewer means, when he says a ship
is not intended to be launched, ' being built under sheds.'
Does he believe the Americans build sliips to look at ? Next
comes a minute division of an erroneous account of our force.
(See Review, page 273, near the bottom.) One instance of
its mistakes shall suffice. ' Of the twelve frigates, five have
been built,' &-c. The United States, the Liberator, the
Guerrier, the Java, the Macedonian, the Constitution, the
Congress, the Brandywine, and the Potomac, are all afloat,
and most of them have been used. In this detailed account
the reviewer rightly gives two ships rating twenty-four guns,
' but which,' he continues, ' can mount many more.' One
word on this subject in passing. The John Adams, twenty-
four, is an American-built ship. She is pierced for twenty-
four guns, and mounts twenty-four guns, and is rated twenty-
four guns. The Cyane, the other vessel in question, was
captured from the English. She mounts thirty-two guns,
mounted thirty-two, if not thirty-four, when taken, was put
down at that time, in Steele's list, at twenty guns, and is now
rated by us at twenty-four guns. I mention these circum-
stances, in order that they may be proved to be wrong if I am
mistaken. Your remarks on the subject of the rating of
vessels, I believe to be correct. It is worthy of observation,
that the reviewer, in his enumeration of our total force, (page
273,) omits these two twenty -fours, though he introduces
them in the close of the same paragraph.

" I am well content that the reviewer should believe the
Caledonia more than a match for the Pennsylvania; but, I
must say, I think it would have been more prudent not to
hazard any prophetic opinions on the subject. Ships of one
hundred and thirty guns seldom lower their flags to opinions
and it would have"^ been well to have had the result oi an ex-
periment, before so much theoretical confidence was mani-
fested. I have not the smallest doubt that there are many
brave men in the British navy, (in command of the Caledonia)
who would seek a conflict with the Pennsylvania, in the event
of so great a calamity as a war ; but I am quite sure that
any man among them who is likely to be successful in so se-
rious a struo-gle, would be conscious of all its hazards. I
shall sav nothing on the subject of the reasoning of the re-
viewer in relation to the size of ships and tbe weight of metal.
I am old enough to remember very similar doctrines much in



352 NOTES.

fashion in relation to frigates, but as I am very certain tliat
each nation will pursue its own policy in the construction and
armament of its vessels, there is no use in making it a mat-
ter of argument. If there be any thing connected with my
profession for which I have an especial aversion, it is whip-
ping a ship on paper.

" The reviewer is just as confident, that in all the naval
battles of the late war, the Americans had a decided su-
periority of force, as he is now, that even against this supe-
riority of force, the Caledonia could capture the Pennsylva-
nia. I am content that he should think so, though I am by
no means disposed to give implicit credit to the erudite au-
thority he quotes (Mr. James) in support of this opinion.

" There is a remarkable declaration of the reviewer (page
278) to which I desire to call your attention. He says that
the United States, being an agricultural and commercial
nation^ < it is their obvious policy to avoid war as much as
possible, consistent with national honour.' If I were not a
sailor and a Yankee, and he a reviewer and an Englishman,
I should venture to say, that I presume he means ' consistently
with national honour.' I give you this little grammatical
flourish much in the same humour that the reviewer gives us
liis professional knowledge, and, perhaps, quite as ignorantly.
But, retreating to my deck, I would ask if the reviewer means
to imply that England goes to war for other objects ?

" "The next fact that I shall allude to, is the complement
of the North Carolina. The reviewer states, that it is ' con
siderably more than 1,100 persons.' I am compelled to saj-
he has been grossly deceived. If he will look at page 236
letter B [1] of the documents of the Secretary of the Navj'
for the present year, he will see the detail of the complement
of the Delaware, (a sister ship of the Carolina) including
every person on board, from the commodore to the boys, ex-
clusively of the marines. The total is 720 souls. At page
257, No. I. [1] he will find the estimate for her mariiie, viz.
117, including the staff of a squadron. The two sums to-
gether make 837 souls, which, I can assure the reviewer, ig
the full war complement of the ship, with a flag officer, band
marine staff", &c. &c. though liable as in all ships, to be di
minished by service, or temporarily increased by a few super
numeraries, particularly by an officer or two, now and then

" You have sufficiently exposed, in your own note, the mis
take of the reviewer on the subject of the cost of maintaining
our navy.

" Perhaps the most singular assertion in the whole article
is the following : ' The American timber is so bad, that three



NOTES 353

of the line-of-battle ships are already in a state of decay.' All
^ood American ships are built o^ live oak and locust; I should
Be glad to know where better timber is to be found. It is
true, that during the war, we were compelled to construct



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperNotions of the Americans: picked up by a travelling bachelor (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 57 of 58)