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Diary entries for today

April 24

It's been a beautiful day; left camp at 6 o'clock this morning and reached Brandy Station at 9 a. m. One would hardly think it was Sunday by the stir about camp and our base of supplies, but war knows no Sunday; arrived in Washington at 4 p. m. and went to the National Hotel. War rumors load the very air here.

Saturday, April 24th.—We were watching hundreds of men pass by to-day, whistling and singing, on their way to the trenches.

News came to us this morning of the Germans having broken through the trench lines north of Ypres and shelled Poperinghe, which was out of range up to now, but it is not official.

The guns are very loud to-night; I hope they're keeping the Germans busy; something is sure to be done to draw them off the Ypres line.

April Twenty-Fourth

Apropos of this last, let me confess, Mr. President—before the praise of New England has died on my lips—that I believe the best product of her present life is the procession of 17,000 Vermont Democrats that for twenty-two years, undiminished by death, unrecruited by birth or conversion, have marched over their rugged hills, cast their Democratic ballots, and gone back home to pray for their unregenerate neighbors, and awoke to read the record of 26,000 Republican majority! May the God of the helpless and heroic help them!

Henry W. Grady


Henry W. Grady born, 1851



April 24, 1863

The morning paper gives a glowing account of the great expedition of the 128th. Speaks well of the behavior of both officers and men and their great respect for private property. But Colonel Cowles has been lecturing them and his account differs from the newspaper reports on nearly all points.

We were paid off to-day and the money flies. We have floors in our tents now. An order has gone forth for camp inspection once each day. The tents, the cook-houses and cooking utensils and everything will be inspected, and must be as clean as possible or trouble will come. Taking it all in all we have good times. One of the boys has a fiddle, and some are good singers. We have only enough to do to make us hungry when meal time comes.

April 24, 1864

Sunday. Agreeable to orders, Bell and I reported to the quartermaster at 7 o'clock and were given 134 men and sent to the rapids to unload boats and load up wagons for transportation below the falls. One was to check what came off the boats and the other what the wagons carted off. Someone else checked again as the stuff was loaded on the boats below the falls, and if anything was lost it was easy to tell who was to blame. My tooth ached so badly that the quartermaster put another in my place and I went back to camp to try and get rid of it. Dr. Andrus talked me off the notion, and gave me something to put in it, which helped it so much that I went back and finished out the day. When we reached camp at night I felt as if I had earned my pay, having walked sixteen miles, done a lot of writing, and had suffered severely with toothache nearly all the time.

April 24

April 24, 1869.--Is Nemesis indeed more real than Providence, the jealous God more true than the good God? grief more certain than joy? darkness more secure of victory than light? Is it pessimism or optimism which is nearest the truth, and which--Leibnitz or Schopenhauer--has best understood the universe? Is it the healthy man or the sick man who sees best to the bottom of things? which is in the right?

Ah! the problem of grief and evil is and will be always the greatest enigma of being, only second to the existence of being itself. The common faith of humanity has assumed the victory of good over evil. But if good consists not in the result of victory, but in victory itself, then good implies an incessant and infinite contest, interminable struggle, and a success forever threatened. And if this is life, is not Buddha right in regarding life as synonymous with evil since it means perpetual restlessness and endless war? Repose according to the Buddhist is only to be found in annihilation. The art of self-annihilation, of escaping the world's vast machinery of suffering, and the misery of renewed existence--the art of reaching Nirvâna, is to him the supreme art, the only means of deliverance. The Christian says to God: Deliver us from evil. The Buddhist adds: And to that end deliver us from finite existence, give us back to nothingness! The first believes that when he is enfranchised from the body he will enter upon eternal happiness; the second believes that individuality is the obstacle to all repose, and he longs for the dissolution of the soul itself. The dread of the first is the paradise of the second.

One thing only is necessary--the committal of the soul to God. Look that thou thyself art in order, and leave to God the task of unraveling the skein of the world and of destiny. What do annihilation or immortality matter? What is to be, will be. And what will be, will be for the best. Faith in good--perhaps the individual wants nothing more for his passage through life. Only he must have taken sides with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno, against materialism, against the religion of accident and pessimism. Perhaps also he must make up his mind against the Buddhist nihilism, because a man's system of conduct is diametrically opposite according as he labors to increase his life or to lessen it, according as he aims at cultivating his faculties or at systematically deadening them.

To employ one's individual efforts for the increase of good in the world--this modest ideal is enough for us. To help forward the victory of good has been the common aim of saints and sages. Socii Dei sumus was the word of Seneca, who had it from Cleanthus.

April 24

April 24th. (Noon ).--All around me profound peace, the silence of the mountains in spite of a full house and a neighboring village. No sound is to be heard but the murmur of the flies. There is something very striking in this calm. The middle of the day is like the middle of the night. Life seems suspended just when it is most intense. These are the moments in which one hears the infinite and perceives the ineffable. Victor Hugo, in his "Contemplations," has been carrying me from world to world, and since then his contradictions have reminded me of the convinced Christian with whom I was talking yesterday in a house near by.... The same sunlight floods both the book and nature, the doubting poet and the believing preacher, as well as the mobile dreamer, who, in the midst of all these various existences, allows himself to be swayed by every passing breath, and delights, stretched along the car of his balloon, in floating aimlessly through all the sounds and shallows of the ether, and in realizing within himself all the harmonies and dissonances of the soul, of feeling, and of thought. Idleness and contemplation! Slumber of the will, lapses of the vital force, indolence of the whole being--how well I know you! To love, to dream, to feel, to learn, to understand--all these are possible to me if only I may be relieved from willing. It is my tendency, my instinct, my fault, my sin. I have a sort of primitive horror of ambition, of struggle, of hatred, of all which dissipates the soul and makes it dependent upon external things and aims. The joy of becoming once more conscious of myself, of listening to the passage of time and the flow of the universal life, is sometimes enough to make me forget every desire, and to quench in me both the wish to produce and the power to execute. Intellectual Epicureanism is always threatening to overpower me. I can only combat it by the idea of duty; it is as the poet has said:

"Ceux qui vivent, ce sont ceux qui luttent; ce sont Ceux dont un dessein ferme emplit l'âme et le front, Ceux qui d'un haut destin gravissent l'âpre cime, Ceux qui marchent pensifs, épris d'un but sublime, Ayant devant les yeux sans cesse, nuit et jour, Ou quelque saint labeur ou quelque grand amour!"

[Footnote: Victor Hugo, "Les Chatiments."]

Five o'clock.--In the afternoon our little society met in general talk upon the terrace. Some amount of familiarity and friendliness begins to show itself in our relations to each other. I read over again with emotion some passages of "Jocelyn." How admirable it is!

"Il se fit de sa vie une plus mâle idée: Sa douleur d'un seul trait ne l'avait pas vidée; Mais, adorant de Dieu le sévère dessein, Il sut la porter pleine et pure dans son sein, Et ne se hâtant pas de la répandre toute, Sa résignation l'épancha goutte à goutte, Selon la circonstance et le besoin d'autrui, Pour tout vivifier sur terre autour de lui."

[Footnote: Epilogue of "Jocelyn."]

The true poetry is that which raises you, as this does, toward heaven, and fills you with divine emotion; which sings of love and death, of hope and sacrifice, and awakens the sense of the infinite. "Jocelyn" always stirs in me impulses of tenderness which it would be hateful to me to see profaned by satire. As a tragedy of feeling, it has no parallel in French, for purity, except "Paul et Virginie," and I think that I prefer "Jocelyn." To be just, one ought to read them side by side.

Six o'clock.--One more day is drawing to its close. With the exception of Mont Blanc, all the mountains have already lost their color. The evening chill succeeds the heat of the afternoon. The sense of the implacable flight of things, of the resistless passage of the hours, seizes upon me afresh and oppresses me.

"Nature au front serein, comme vous oubliez!"

In vain we cry with the poet, "O time, suspend thy flight!"... And what days, after all, would we keep and hold? Not only the happy days, but the lost days! The first have left at least a memory behind them, the others nothing but a regret which is almost a remorse....

Eleven o'clock.--A gust of wind. A few clouds in the sky. The nightingale is silent. On the other hand, the cricket and the river are still singing.

Cannes April 24, 1881

I am not sure that there is any quite available and compendious answer to the two reproaches of setting the poor against the rich, and of giving power to those least fit for it. There lurks in each an atom of inevitable truth; and the sententious arguments which serve to dazzle people at elections may generally be met by epigrams just as sparkling and as sound on the other side. Politics are so complex that almost every act may be honestly seen in very different lights; and I can imagine so strong a case against our African policy as to drive from his moorings any man not well anchored in justice.

Assuming that the first objection culminates in Midlothian: it was necessary to bring home to the constituencies, to needy and ignorant men, the fact that Society, the wealthy ruling class, that supported our late Mazarin[126 ] in clubs and drawing-rooms, was ready to spend the treasure and the blood of the people in defence of an infamous tyranny,[127 ] to gratify pride, the love of authority, and the lust of power. Nearly the same situation arose in Ireland, and in other questions not so urgent. Secondly, as to Democracy, it is true that masses of new electors are utterly ignorant, that they are easily deceived by appeals to prejudice and passion, and are consequently unstable, and that the difficulty of explaining economic questions to them, and of linking their interests with those of the State, may become a danger to the public credit, if not to the security of private property. A true Liberal, as distinguished from a Democrat, keeps this peril always before him.

The answer is, that you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs—that politics are not made up of artifices only, but of truths, and that truths have to be told.

We are forced, in equity, to share the government with the working class by considerations which were made supreme by the awakening of political economy. Adam Smith set up two propositions—that contracts ought to be free between capital and labour, and that labour is the source, he sometimes says the only source, of wealth. If the last sentence, in its exclusive form, was true, it was difficult to resist the conclusion that the class on which national prosperity depends ought to control the wealth it supplies, that is, ought to govern instead of the useless unproductive class, and that the class which earns the increment ought to enjoy it. That is the foreign effect of Adam Smith—French Revolution and Socialism. We, who reject that extreme proposition, cannot resist the logical pressure of the other. If there is a free contract, in open market, between capital and labour, it cannot be right that one of the two contracting parties should have the making of the laws, the management of the conditions, the keeping of the peace, the administration of justice, the distribution of taxes, the control of expenditure, in its own hands exclusively. It is unjust that all these securities, all these advantages, should be on the same side. It is monstrous that they should be all on the side that has least urgent need of them, that has least to lose. Before this argument, the ancient dogma, that power attends on property, broke down. Justice required that property should—not abdicate, but—share its political supremacy. Without this partition, free contract was as illusory as a fair duel in which one man supplies seconds, arms, and ammunition.

That is the flesh and blood argument. That is why Reform, full of questions of expediency and policy in detail, is, in the gross, not a question of expediency or of policy at all; and why some of us regard our opponents as men who should imagine sophisms to avoid keeping promises, paying debts, or speaking truths.

They will admit much of my theory, but then they will say, like practical men, that the ignorant classes cannot understand affairs of state, and are sure to go wrong. But the odd thing is that the most prosperous nations in the world are both governed by the masses—France and America. So there must be a flaw in the argument somewhere. The fact is that education, intelligence, wealth are a security against certain faults of conduct, not against errors of policy. There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men. Imagine a congress of eminent celebrities, such as More, Bacon, Grotius, Pascal, Cromwell, Bossuet, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Napoleon, Pitt, &c. The result would be an Encyclopædia of Error. They would assert Slavery, Socialism, Persecution, Divine Right, military despotism, the reign of force, the supremacy of the executive over legislation and justice, purchase in the magistracy, the abolition of credit, the limitation of laws to nineteen years, &c. If you were to read Walter Scott's pamphlets, Southey's Colloquies, Ellenborough's Diary, Wellington's Despatches—distrust of the select few, of the chosen leaders of the community, would displace the dread of the masses. The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. The law of liberty tends to abolish the reign of race over race, of faith over faith, of class over class. It is not the realisation of a political ideal: it is the discharge of a moral obligation. However that may be, the transfer of power to the lower class was not the act of Mr. Gladstone, but of the Conservatives in 1867. It still requires to be rectified and regulated; but I am sure that in his hands, the change would have been less violent.

Nor do I admit the other accusation, of rousing class animosities. The upper class used to enjoy undivided sway, and used it for their own advantage, protecting their interests against those below them, by laws which were selfish and often inhuman. Almost all that has been done for the good of the people has been done since the rich lost the monopoly of power, since the rights of property were discovered to be not quite unlimited. Think not only of the Corn Laws, but of the fact that the State did nothing for primary education fifty years ago. The beneficent legislation of the last half century has been due to the infusion of new elements in the electoral body. Success depended on preventing the upper class from recovering their lost ground, by keeping alive in the masses the sense of their responsibility, of their danger, of the condition from which they had been rescued, of the objects still before them, and the ancient enemy behind. Liberal policy has largely consisted in so promoting this feeling of self-reliance and self-help, that political antagonism should not degenerate into social envy, that the forces which rule society should be separate from the forces which rule the state. No doubt the line has not always been broadly marked between Liberalism where it borders on Radicalism, and Radicalism where it borders on the Charter. Some reproach may visit Bright and Mill, but not Mr. Gladstone. If there were no Tories, I am afraid he would invent them. He has professed himself a decided Inequalitarian.[128 ] I cannot discover that he has ever caressed the notion of progressive taxation. Until last year I don't think he ever admitted that we have to legislate not quite impartially for the whole nation, but for a class so numerous as to be virtually equal to the whole. He dispels the conflict of classes by cherishing the landed aristocracy, and making the most of it in office. He has granted the Irish landlords an absolution ampler than they deserve. Therefore, though I admit that the condition of English society tends in some measure to make the poor regard the rich as their enemies, and that the one inveterate obstacle to the welfare of the masses is the House of Lords, yet I must add that he whose mission it is to overcome that interested resistance has been scrupulous not to excite passionate resentment, and to preserve what he cannot correct. And I do not say it altogether in his praise.

It is the law of party government that we contend on equal terms, and claim no privilege. We assume the honesty of our opponents, whatever we think or know. Kenealy and Bradlaugh must be treated with consideration, like Wilberforce or Macaulay. We do not use private letters, reported conversations, newspaper gossip, or scandals revealed in trials to damage troublesome politicians. We deal only with responsibility for public acts. But with these we must deal freely. We have to keep the national conscience straight and true, and if we shrink from doing this because we dare not cast obloquy on class or party or institution, then we become accomplices in wrong-doing, and very possibly in crime.

We ought not to employ vulgar imputations, that men cling to office, that they vote against their convictions, that they are not always consistent, &c. All that is unworthy of imperial debate. But where there is a question of unjust war, or annexation, of intrigue, of suppressed information, of mismanagement in matters of life and death, of disregard for suffering, we are bound to gibbet the offender before the people of England, and to make the rude workman understand and share our indignation against the grandee. Whether he ought, after that, to be left to Dean Stanley[129 ] is another question.

But I am not surprised at the complaint you heard. To many people the idea is repugnant that there is a moral question at the bottom of politics. They think that it is only by great effort and the employment of every resource that property and religion can be maintained. If you embarrass their defence with unnecessary rules and scruples, you risk defeat, and set up a rather arbitrary and unsanctioned standard above the interest of their class or of their church. Such men are not at their ease with the Prime Minister, especially if he is against them, and even when they are on his side. I am thinking of Argyll in Lytton's first debate; of Kimberley always; of soldiers and diplomatists generally.

Whilst you find Conservatives surprised at the moderation of the Bill, I have had the pleasure of meeting two members of the Government who think it goes much too far. And now the papers announce two more impending secessions.[130 ] I really don't know what is to become of us in the Lords.

The Pall Mall  résumés of Lord Beaconsfield have been intensely interesting. None seemed to me too severe, but some were shocking at the moment. He was quite remarkable enough to fill a column of Éloge. Some one wrote to me yesterday that no Jew for 1800 years has played so great a part in the world. That would be no Jew since St. Paul; and it is very startling. But, putting aside literature, and therefore Spinoza and Heine, almost simultaneously with Disraeli, a converted Jew, Stahl, a man without birth or fortune, became the leader of the Prussian Conservative and aristocratic party. He led them from about 1850 to 1860, when he died; and he was intellectually far superior to Disraeli—I should say, the greatest reasoner that has ever served the Conservative cause. But he never obtained power, or determined any important event. Lassalle died after two years of agitation. Benjamin,[131 ] the soul of the Confederate ministry, now rising to the first rank of English lawyers, had too short and too disastrous a public career. In short, I have not yet found an answer.

I think, failing sons and secretaries, it is really important that the P.M. should set somebody in Downing Street to read Wagner's Grundlegung. It would be a great advantage to an outsider if he were to get it up, and to know exactly where the agrarian question now stands in Europe, both as to theory and practice. It is an exceedingly able, bold, and original book, and the author occupies, at Berlin, the first chair of Pol. Economy in Germany. I would even venture to ask you to mention it to him, as flotsam from the Riviera.

[126 ] Lord Beaconsfield.

[127 ] The Sultan's.

[128 ] See Diary in Ruskin's "Letters to M. and H. G." (privately printed).

[129 ] For burial in the Abbey.

[130 ] Lord Lansdowne's and Lord Listowel's.

[131 ] Judah Philip Benjamin, Q.C., author of "Benjamin on Sales." He left America after the defeat of the South, and attained great distinction at the English Bar.