February 18

Very cold but less wind than yesterday; had our monthly inspection this forenoon at ten o'clock; received no letter from home to-night. Dr. W. A. Child and wife have called this evening. He is a very bright, polished gentleman, but I am afraid of him; probably because he is older than I am; have been studying at Dr. Almon Clark's again to-day; wind abated but cold to-night.

February Eighteenth

We have changed the constituent parts, but not the system of our government. The Constitution formed by our fathers is that of the Confederate States, in their exposition of it; and, in the judicial construction it has received, we have a light which reveals its true meaning.

Jefferson Davis
(Inaugural Address )

 

Jefferson Davis inaugurated, 1861

Federal forces enter Charleston, S. C., 1865

 

 

February 18

February 18, 1854.--Everything tends to become fixed, solidified, and crystallized in this French tongue of ours, which seeks form and not substance, the result and not its formation, what is seen rather than what is thought, the outside rather than the inside.

We like the accomplished end and not the pursuit of the end, the goal and not the road, in short, ideas ready-made and bread ready-baked, the reverse of Lessing's principle. What we look for above all are conclusions. This clearness of the "ready-made" is a superficial clearness--physical, outward, solar clearness, so to speak, but in the absence of a sense for origin and genesis it is the clearness of the incomprehensible, the clearness of opacity, the clearness of the obscure. We are always trifling on the surface. Our temper is formal--that is to say, frivolous and material, or rather artistic and not philosophical. For what it seeks is the figure, the fashion and manner of things, not their deepest life, their soul, their secret.

February 18

February 18, 1871.--It is in the novel that the average vulgarity of German society, and its inferiority to the societies of France and England, are most clearly visible. The notion of "bad taste" seems to have no place in German aesthetics. Their elegance has no grace in it; and they cannot understand the enormous difference there is between distinction (what is gentlemanly, ladylike ), and their stiff vornehmlichkeit. Their imagination lacks style, training, education, and knowledge of the world; it has an ill-bred air even in its Sunday dress. The race is poetical and intelligent, but common and ill-mannered. Pliancy and gentleness, manners, wit, vivacity, taste, dignity, and charm, are qualities which belong to others.

Will that inner freedom of soul, that profound harmony of all the faculties which I have so often observed among the best Germans, ever come to the surface? Will the conquerors of to-day ever learn to civilize and soften their forms of life? It is by their future novels that we shall be able to judge. As soon as they are capable of the novel of "good society" they will have excelled all rivals. Till then, finish, polish, the maturity of social culture, are beyond them; they may have humanity of feeling, but the delicacies, the little perfections of life, are unknown to them. They may be honest and well-meaning, but they are utterly without savoir vivre.

Thursday, February 18th.—In bed, 10 p.m. We have had a very heavy day with the woundeds again from Bailleul. We unloaded again at B. this evening, and are to go up again some time to-night.

There is a great deal going on in our front.

There was a boy from Suffolk, of K.'s Army, in my ward who has only been out three weeks. He talked the most heavenly East Anglian—"I was agin the barn, and that fared to hit me"—all in the right sing-song.

A sergeant of the D.C.L.I. had a fearful shell wound in his thigh, which has gone wrong, and as the trouble is too high for amputation they will have their work cut out to save his life. They were getting out of the trench for a bayonet charge, and he had just collected his men when he was hit; so the officer "shook hands with him" and went on with the charge, leaving him and another man, wounded in the leg, in the trench. They stayed there several hours with no dressings on, sinking into the mud (can you wonder it has gone wrong?), until another man turned up and helped them out; then they walked  to the Regimental Aid Post, 200 yards away, helped by the sound man. There they were dressed and had the anti-tetanus serum injection, and were taken by stretcher-bearers to the next Dressing Station, and thence by horse ambulance to the Field Ambulance, and then by motor ambulance to where we picked them up. There are lots of F.'s regiment wounded.

284. John Adams

Paris, 18 February, 1783.

My dearest Friend,—The peace,[213] which sets the rest of the world at ease, increases, I think, my perplexities and anxiety. I have written to Congress a resignation, but I foresee there will not be a speedy decision upon it, and I shall be left in a state of suspense that will be intolerable. Foreseeing this, I am determined not to wait for an acceptance of my resignation, but to come home without it, provided it does not arrive in a reasonable time. Don't think, therefore of coming to Europe. If you do, we shall cross each other, and I shall arrive in America about the same time that you may arrive in Europe.

I shall certainly return home in the spring. With or without leave, resignation accepted or not, home I will come, so you have nothing to do but wait to receive your old friend

J. Adams.

Footnotes:

[213]The preliminary articles between the three parties, Great Britain, France, and the United States, were signed at Paris on the 28th of January, 1783. Hence this may be considered as the close of the great struggle of the Revolution.

February 18

February 18, 1881.--Misty weather. A fairly good night. Still, the emaciation goes on. That is to say, the vulture allows me some respite, but he still hovers over his prey. The possibility of resuming my official work seems like a dream to me.

Although just now the sense of ghostly remoteness from life which I so often have is absent, I feel myself a prisoner for good, a hopeless invalid. This vague intermediate state, which is neither death nor life, has its sweetness, because if it implies renunciation, still it allows of thought. It is a reverie without pain, peaceful and meditative. Surrounded with affection and with books, I float down the stream of time, as once I glided over the Dutch canals, smoothly and noiselessly. It is as though I were once more on board the Treckschute. Scarcely can one hear even the soft ripple of the water furrowed by the barge, or the hoof of the towing horse trotting along the sandy path. A journey under these conditions has something fantastic in it. One is not sure whether one still exists, still belongs to earth. It is like the manes, the shadows, flitting through the twilight of the inania regna. Existence has become fluid. From the standpoint of complete personal renunciation I watch the passage of my impressions, my dreams, thoughts, and memories.... It is a mood of fixed contemplation akin to that which we attribute to the seraphim. It takes no interest in the individual self, but only in the specimen monad, the sample of the general history of mind. Everything is in everything, and the consciousness examines what it has before it. Nothing is either great or small. The mind adopts all modes, and everything is acceptable to it. In this state its relations with the body, with the outer world, and with other individuals, fade out of sight. Selbst-bewusstsein becomes once more impersonal Bewusstsein, and before personality can be reacquired, pain, duty, and will must be brought into action.

Are these oscillations between the personal and the impersonal, between pantheism and theism, between Spinoza and Leibnitz, to be regretted? No, for it is the one state which makes us conscious of the other. And as man is capable of ranging the two domains, why should he mutilate himself?

85. John Adams

Philadelphia, 18 February.

I sent you from New York a pamphlet intituled "Common Sense," written in vindication of doctrines which there is reason to expect that the further encroachments of tyranny and depredations of oppression will soon make the common faith; unless the cunning ministry, by proposing negotiations and terms of reconciliation, should divert the present current from its channel.

Reconciliation if practicable, and peace if attainable, you very well know, would be as agreeable to my inclinations, and as advantageous to my interest, as to any man's. But I see no prospect, no probability, no possibility. And I cannot but despise the understanding which sincerely expects an honorable peace, for its credulity, and detest the hypocritical heart which pretends to expect it, when in truth it does not. The newspapers here are full of free speculations, the tendency of which you will easily discover. The writers reason from topics which have been long in contemplation and fully understood by the people at large in New England, but have been attended to in the southern colonies only by gentlemen of free spirits and liberal minds, who are very few. I shall endeavor to inclose to you as many of the papers and pamphlets as I can, as long as I stay here. Some will go by this conveyance.

Dr. Franklin, Mr. Chase, and Mr. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, in Maryland, are chosen a committee to go into Canada. The characters of the two first you know. The last is not a member of Congress, but a gentleman of independent fortune, perhaps the largest in America, a hundred and fifty or two hundred thousand pounds sterling; educated in some university in France, though a native of America, of great abilities and learning, complete master of the French language, and a professor of the Roman Catholic religion, yet a warm, a firm, a zealous supporter of the rights of America, in whose cause he has hazarded his all. Mr. John Carroll, of Maryland, a Roman Catholic priest and a Jesuit, is to go with the committee, the priests in Canada having refused baptism and absolution to our friends there. General Lee is to command in that country, whose address, experience, and abilities, added to his fluency in the French language, will give him great advantages.

The events of war are uncertain. We cannot insure success, but we can deserve it. I am happy in this provision for that important department, because I think it the best that could be made in our circumstances. Your prudence will direct you to communicate the circumstances of the priest, the Jesuit, and the Romish religion, only to such persons as can judge of the measure upon large and generous principles, and will not indiscreetly divulge it. The step was necessary, for the anathemas of the Church are very terrible to our friends in Canada.

I wish I understood French as well as you. I would have gone to Canada, if I had. I feel the want of education every day, particularly of that language. I pray, my dear, that you would not suffer your sons or your daughter ever to feel a similar pain. It is in your power to teach them French, and I every day see more and more that it will become a necessary accomplishment of an American gentleman or lady. Pray write me in your next the name of the author of your thin French grammar, which gives you the pronunciation of the French words in English letters, that is, which shows you how the same sounds would be signified by English vowels and consonants.

Write me as often as you can. Tell me all the news. Desire the children to write to me, and believe me to be theirs and yours.