December 2

December Second

The avengers whose lives he had attempted, whose wives and children he had devoted to the hideous brutality of insurgent Africans, spared him all indignities, even moral torture.

Percy Greg


John Brown hanged, 1859



Cold and windy; no quarters or accommodations of any kind; have been down to General Stevenson's to get relieved, but he won't listen to it; went later to Colonel Hunter to get permission to go down town to sleep, but he won't let me go; am to stay with the Quartermaster to-night; have drawn fifty-four shelter tents for the men who are out of everything are blue at having to stay here, and everything's depressing. I am glad they are good men; wish I was out of this.

December 2, 1862

Tuesday. On board the Arago again. That is, most of us are. Some were sent to the hospital instead, Leonard Loucks among them. Orders came in the night, we were routed out, tents struck and tied up. We waited until morning and then till 9 a. m., when we were put on a boat and taken back here, just what for nobody knows that will tell. I declare this "hog-pen," as Thompson called it, seems like home. There is a familiar smell to it, and the beds are dry too.

Cannes Dec. 2, 1881

I have not fired all my shot, and I don't rely on Hartington's translation. His last speech does not strike me favourably.

He puts away the compensation argument in a fashion more parliamentary than statesmanlike. In debate, where effects are immediate and momentary, one is glad of anything that tells against opponents, and gets used to phrases instead of reasons.

Macaulay was indiscreet enough to write to his constituents on Windsor Castle paper. It was good material for a laugh, and no more; but Peel and Graham never let him hear the end of it. "From the proud Keep of Windsor you bade the lieges have no fear," and such like seemed equivalent to argument. When one addresses the Nation, with a sort of Manifesto on a difficult, new, and dangerous question, one must go straight to the point. We expect of a real statesman that he will take the case of his adversary not by its weak end, but at its strongest; that he will see whether he cannot even strengthen it before he replies. If he deals with the weak points, like a lawyer, somebody will follow, and will beat him. That is part of the integrity of public men. And I must say that H.'s idea that he meets the case for compensation by asking whether rack-renting landlords are to be paid for their iniquity, exposes him to a rejoinder so crushing as to damage his position and to strengthen my plea.

There is no constructive power among the Whigs. There is some among the Democrats, because their principles have been thought out, and provide legislation for generations. But the two men capable of working out thoughts into system on other than purely democratic lines are Derby and Goschen. And they are outside, and do not really contribute to the force of the party.


There was that omission in my former letter—not quite by accident. Many things are better for silence than for speech: others are better for speech than for stationery. I have a large store of these.

December 2

December 2, 1851.--Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God. Then if a bird sing among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it. If you are conscious of something new--thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being--do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness; let it take shape and grow, and not a word of your happiness to any one! Sacred work of nature as it is, all conception should be enwrapped by the triple veil of modesty, silence and night.

* * * *

Kindness is the principle of tact, and respect for others the first condition of savoir-vivre.

* * * *

He who is silent is forgotten; he who abstains is taken at his word; he who does not advance, falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed, distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow greater becomes smaller; he who leaves off, gives up; the stationary condition is the beginning of the end--it is the terrible symptom which precedes death. To live, is to achieve a perpetual triumph; it is to assert one's self against destruction, against sickness, against the annulling and dispersion of one's physical and moral being. It is to will without ceasing, or rather to refresh one's will day by day.

* * * *

It is not history which teaches conscience to be honest; it is the conscience which educates history. Fact is corrupting, it is we who correct it by the persistence of our ideal. The soul moralizes the past in order not to be demoralized by it. Like the alchemists of the middle ages, she finds in the crucible of experience only the gold that she herself has poured into it.

* * * *

Wednesday, December 2nd.—We got to Chocques very late last night and are loading up this morning, but only a few here; we shall stop at Lillers and take more on. We went for our usual exploring walk through seas of mud. There are more big motor-lorries here than I've seen anywhere. We wandered past a place where Indians were busy killing and skinning goats—a horrible sight—to one of these châteaux where the staff officers have their headquarters: it was a lovely house in a very clean park; there was a children's swing under the trees and we had some fine swings.

Later.—Officers have been on the train on both places begging for newspapers and books. We save up our 'Punches' and 'Daily Mails' and 'Times' for them, and give them any Sevenpennies we have to spare. They say at least forty people read each book, and they finish up in the trenches.

H.M. King George was up here yesterday afternoon in a motor and gave three V.C.'s.

We have only taken on 83 at the two places. There is so little doing anywhere—no guns have been heard for several days, and there is not much sickness. An officer asked for some mufflers for his Field Ambulance men, so I gave him the rest of the children's: the sailors on the armoured train had the first half. He came back with some pears for us. They are so awfully grateful for the things we give them that they like to bring us something in exchange. Seven men off a passing truck fell over each other getting writing-cases and chocolate to-day. They almost eat the writing-cases with their joy.

p.m.—We filled up at St Omer from the three hospitals there. A great many cases of frost-bite were put on. They crawl on hands and knees, poor dears. Some left in hospital are very severe and have had to be amputated below the knee. Some of the toes drop off. I have one carriage of twenty-four Indians. A Sikh refused to sit in the same seat with a stout little major of the Gurkhas. I showed him a picture of Bobs, and he said at once, "Robert Sahib." They love the 'Daily Mirrors' with pictures of Indians. The Sikhs are rather whiney patients and very hard to please, but the little Gurkhas are absolute stoics, and the Bengal Lancers, who are Mohammedans, are splendid.

274. John Adams

Amsterdam, 2 December, 1781.

My dearest Friend,—Your favors of September 29 and October 21 are before me. I avoided saying anything about Charles to save you the anxiety which I fear you will now feel in its greatest severity a long time. I thought he would go directly home in a short passage in the best opportunity which would probably ever present. But I am disappointed. Charles is at Bilbao with Major Jackson and Colonel Trumbull, who take the best care of his education, as well as his health and behavior. They are to go hence with Captain Hill in a good vessel of twenty guns. Charles's health was so much affected by this tainted atmosphere, and he had set his heart so much upon going home with Gillon, that it would have broken it to have refused him. I desire I may never again have the weakness to bring a child to Europe. They are infinitely better at home. We have all been sick here, myself, Mr. Thaxter, Stevens, and another servant, but are all better. Mr. Thaxter's indisposition has been slight and short, mine and Stevens's long and severe.

I beg you would not flatter yourself with hopes of peace. There will be no such thing for several years. Don't distress yourself neither about any malicious attempts to injure me in the estimation of my countrymen. Let them take their course and go the length of their tether. They will never hurt your husband, whose character is fortified with a shield of innocence and honor ten thousand fold stronger than brass or iron. The contemptible essays made by you know who will only tend to his own confusion. My letters have shown them their own ignorance, a sight they could not bear. Say as little about it as I do. It has already brought them into the true system, and that system is triumphant. I laugh and will laugh before all posterity at their impotent rage and envy. They could not help blushing, themselves, if they were to review their conduct.

Dear Tom, thy letter does thee much honor. Thy brother Charles shall teach thee French and Dutch at home. I wish I could get time to correspond with thee and thy sister more regularly, but I cannot. I must trust Providence and thine excellent mamma for the education of my children. Mr. Dana and our son are well at Petersburg. Hayden has some things for you. I hope he is arrived. I am sorry to learn you have a sum of paper. How could you be so imprudent? You must be frugal, I assure you. Your children will be poorly off. I can but barely live in the manner that is indispensably demanded of me by everybody. Living is dear indeed here. My children will not be so well left by their father as he was by his. They will be infected with the examples and habits and tastes for expensive living without the means. He was not. My children shall never have the smallest soil of dishonor or disgrace brought upon them by their father, no, not to please ministers, kings, or nations. At the expense of a little of this, my children might perhaps ride at their ease through life, but dearly as I love them, they shall live in the service of their country, in her navy, her army, or even out of either in the extremest degree of poverty, before I will depart in the smallest iota from my sentiments of honor and delicacy; for I, even I, have sentiments of delicacy as exquisite as the proudest minister that ever served a monarch. They may not be exactly like those of some ministers.

I beg you would excuse me to my dear friends, to whom I cannot write so often as I wish. I have indispensable duties which take up all my time, and require more than I have.

General Washington has done me great honor and much public service by sending me authentic accounts of his own and General Greene's last great actions. They are in the way to negotiate peace. It lies wholly with them. No other ministers but they and their colleagues in the army can accomplish the great event.

I am keeping house, but I want a housekeeper. What a fine affair it would be, if we could flit across the Atlantic as they say the angels do from planet to planet! I would dart to Penn's hill and bring you over on my wings; but, alas, we must keep house separately for some time. But one thing I am determined on. If God should please to restore me once more to your fireside, I will never again leave it without your ladyship's company—no, not even to go to Congress to Philadelphia, and there I am determined to go, if I can make interest enough to get chosen, whenever I return. I would give a million sterling that you were here; and I could afford it as well as Great Britain can the thirty millions she must spend, the ensuing year, to complete her own ruin. Farewell, farewell.

240. John Adams

Passy, 2 December, 1778.

My dearest Friend,—Last night an express from M. de Sartine, whose politeness upon this occasion was very obliging, brought me your letters of September 29th and October 10th. The joy which the receipt of these packets afforded me was damped by the disagreeable articles of intelligence; but still more so by the symptoms of grief and complaint which appeared in the letters. For Heaven's sake, my dear, don't indulge a thought that it is possible for me to neglect or forget all that is dear to me in this world. It is impossible for me to write as I did in America. What should I write? It is not safe to write anything that one is not willing should go into all the newspapers of the world. I know not by whom to write. I never know what conveyance is safe. Vessels may have arrived without letters from me. I am five hundred miles from Bordeaux, and not much less distant from Nantes. I know nothing of many vessels that go from the seaports, and if I knew of all, there are some that I should not trust. Notwithstanding this, I have written to you not much less than fifty letters. I am astonished that you have received no more. But almost every vessel has been taken. Two vessels by which I sent goods to you for the use of your family, and one by which I sent Mr. Cranch's things, we know have been taken. In every one of these I sent large packets of letters and papers for Congress, for you, and for many friends. God knows I don't spend my time in idleness, or in gazing at curiosities. I never wrote more letters, however empty they may have been. But by what I hear, they have been all, or nearly all, taken or sunk. My friends complain that they have not received letters from me. I may as well complain. I have received scarcely any letters from America. I have written three where I have received one. From my friend Mr. Adams I have received only one short card; from Mr. Gerry, not a syllable; from Mr. Lovell, only two or three, very short. What shall I say? I doubt not they have written oftener, but letters miscarry. Drs. Cooper and Gordon write to Dr. Franklin, not to me. My friend Warren has been good as usual. I have received several fine, long letters, full of sound sense, useful intelligence, and reflections as virtuous, as wise as usual, from him. I have answered them and written more, but whether they arrive, I know not.

I approve very much of your draught upon me in favor of your cousin. The moment it arrives, it shall be paid. Draw for more as you may have occasion. But make them give you gold and silver for your bills. Your son is the joy of my heart, without abating in the least degree of my affection for the young rogue that did not seem as if he had a father, or his brother or sister. Tell Abby her papa likes her the better for what she tells her brother, viz., "that she don't talk much," because I know she thinks and feels the more. I hope the Boston  has arrived. She carried many things for you.

Last night a friend from England brought me the King's speech. Their delirium continues, and they go on with the war, but the speech betrays a manifest expectation that Spain will join against them, and the debates betray a dread of Holland. They have reason for both. They have not and cannot get an ally. They cannot send any considerable reinforcement to America.

Your reflections upon the rewards of the virtuous friends of the public are very just. But if virtue was to be rewarded with wealth, it would not be virtue. If virtue was to be rewarded with fame, it would not be virtue of the sublimest kind. Who would not rather be Fabricius than Cæsar? Who would not rather be Aristides than even William the Third? Who! Nobody would be of this mind but Aristides and Fabricius. These characters are very rare, but the more precious. Nature has made more insects than birds, more butterflies than eagles, more foxes than lions, more pebbles than diamonds. The most excellent of her productions, both in the physical, intellectual, and moral world, are the most rare. I would not be a butterfly because children run after them, nor because dull philosophers boast of them in their cabinets.

Have you ever read J. J. Rousseau? If not, read him. Your cousin Smith has him. What a difference between him and Chesterfield and even Voltaire. But he was too virtuous for the age and for Europe.[196] I wish I could not say for another country.

I am much disappointed in not receiving dispatches from Congress by this opportunity. We expect alterations in the plan here. What will be done with me I can't conjecture. If I am recalled, I will endeavor to get a safe opportunity home. I will watch the proper season, and look out for a good vessel; and if I can get safe to Penn's hill, shall never repent of my voyage to Europe, because I have gained an insight into several things that I never should have understood without it.

I pray you to remember me with every sentiment of tenderness, duty, and affection to your father and my mother, your and my brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and everybody else that you know deserves it. What shall I say, too, of my dear young friends by your fireside? May God Almighty bless them and make them wise!


[196]Rousseau had not yet developed himself clearly before the world, or before the writer.