February 9

A chilly south wind has been blowing all day, and it looks likely to snow before night; hope it will for if it does not, I fear we will have to make another Rapidan campaign which I am not at all anxious for. I have been over to Lieutenant Thompson's quarters studying to-day, as I have been so annoyed in my own quarters that I could not possibly study; am with Lieut. Ezra Stetson; got a paper from Pert to-night and a New Year's Address.

February Ninth

The great change wrought by the States in resuming their sovereignty, and in forming the Confederate States Government, was attended by no anarchy, no rebellion, no suspension of authority, no social disorders, no lawless disturbances. Sovereignty was not, for one moment, in suspension. Conservatism marked every proceeding and public act. The object was to do what was necessary and no more; and to do that with the utmost temperance and prudence.

J. L. M. Curry

 

William H. Harrison born, 1773

 

 

244. John Adams

Passy, 9 February, 1779.

It is now a year, within a day or two, of my departure from home. It is in vain for me to think of writing of what is passed. The character and situation in which I am here, and the situation of public affairs, absolutely forbid my writing freely. I must be excused. So many vessels are taken, and there are so many persons indiscreet and so many others inquisitive, that I may not write. God knows how much I suffer for want of writing to you. It used to be a cordial to my spirits.

Thus much I can say with perfect sincerity, that I have found nothing to disgust me, or in any manner disturb me, in the French nation. My evils here arise altogether from Americans. If I would have enlisted myself under the banner of either party,[199] I might have filled America, I doubt not, with panegyrics of me from one party and curses and slanders from another. I have endeavored to be hitherto impartial, to search for nothing but the truth, and to love nobody and nothing but the public good, at least not more than the public good. I have hoped that animosities might be softened, and the still small voice of reason heard more and the boisterous roar of passions and prejudices less. But the publication of a certain address [200] to the people has destroyed all such hopes. Nothing remains now but the fearful looking for of the fiery indignation of the monster party, here.

My consolation is that the partisans are no more than

"Bubbles on the sea of matter borne;They rise, they break, and to that sea return."

The people of America, I know, stand like Mount Atlas; but these altercations occasion a great deal of unhappiness for the present, and they prolong the war. Those must answer for it who are guilty. I am not.

Footnotes:

[199]The party of Silas Deane and Dr. Franklin on the one side, and of Arthur Lee and Ralph Izard on the other.

[200]By Silas Deane, who had returned to America.

Tuesday, February 9th.—Again they unloaded us at B. last night, and we are now, 11 a.m., on our way up again. The Indians I had were a very interesting lot. The race differences seem more striking the better you get to know them. The Gurkhas seem to be more like Tommies in temperament and expression, and all the Mussulmans and the best of the Sikhs and Jats might be Princes and Prime Ministers in dignity, feature, and manners. When a Sikh refuses a cigarette (if you are silly enough to offer him one) he does it with a gesture that makes you feel like a housemaid who ought to have known better. The beautiful Mussulmans smile and salaam and say Merbani, however ill they are, if you happen to hit upon something they like. They all make a terrible fuss over their kit and their puggarees and their belongings, and refuse to budge without them.

Sister M. found her orders to leave when we got in, but she doesn't know where she is going. So after this trip we shall be three again, which is a blessing, as there are not enough wards for four, and no one likes giving any up. It also gives us a spare bunk to store our warehouses of parcels for men, which entirely overflow our own dug-outs. As soon as you've given out one lot, another bale arrives.

We have had every kind of infectious disease to nurse in this war, except smallpox. The Infectious Ward is one of mine, and we've had enteric, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and diphtheria.

p.m.—We got to the new place where we wait for a marche, just at tea-time, and we had a grand walk up to the moor, where you can see half over France each way. There is a travelling wireless station up there. Each pole has its receiver in a big grey motor-lorry by the roadside, where they live and sleep. The road wound down to a little curly village with a beautiful old grey church. On the top of the moor on the way back it was dark, and the flash signals were morsing away to each other from the different hills. It reminded me of the big forts on the kopjes round Pretoria.

I had my first French class this afternoon at St Omer, in the men's mess truck. There were seventeen, including the Quartermaster-Sergeant and the cook's boy. I'd got a small blackboard in Boulogne, and they all had notebooks, and the Q.M.S. had arranged it very nicely. They were very keen, and got on at a great pace. They weren't a bit shy over trying to pronounce, and will I think make good progress. They have a great pull over men of their class in England, by their opportunities of listening to French spoken by the French, such a totally different language to French spoken by most English people. My instruction book is Hugo's, which is a lightning method compared to the usual school-books. They are doing exercises for me for next time.

February 9

February 9, 1880,--Life rushes on--so much the worse for the weak and the stragglers. As soon as a man's tendo Achillis gives way he finds himself trampled under foot by the young, the eager, the voracious. "Vae victis, vae debilibus!" yells the crowd, which in its turn is storming the goods of this world. Every man is always in some other man's way, since, however small he may make himself, he still occupies some space, and however little he may envy or possess, he is still sure to be envied and his goods coveted by some one else. Mean world!--peopled by a mean race! To console ourselves we must think of the exceptions--of the noble and generous souls. There are such. What do the rest matter! The traveler crossing the desert feels himself surrounded by creatures thirsting for his blood; by day vultures fly about his head; by night scorpions creep into his tent, jackals prowl around his camp-fire, mosquitoes prick and torture him with their greedy sting; everywhere menace, enmity, ferocity. But far beyond the horizon, and the barren sands peopled by these hostile hordes, the wayfarer pictures to himself a few loved faces and kind looks, a few true hearts which follow him in their dreams--and smiles. When all is said, indeed, we defend ourselves a greater or lesser number of years, but we are always conquered and devoured in the end; there is no escaping the grave and its worm. Destruction is our destiny, and oblivion our portion....

How near is the great gulf! My skiff is thin as a nutshell, or even more fragile still. Let the leak but widen a little and all is over for the navigator. A mere nothing separates me from idiocy, from madness, from death. The slightest breach is enough to endanger all this frail, ingenious edifice, which calls itself my being and my life.

Not even the dragonfly symbol is enough to express its frailty; the soap-bubble is the best poetical translation of all this illusory magnificence, this fugitive apparition of the tiny self, which is we, and we it.

... A miserable night enough. Awakened three or four times by my bronchitis. Sadness--restlessness. One of these winter nights, possibly, suffocation will come. I realize that it would be well to keep myself ready, to put everything in order.... To begin with, let me wipe out all personal grievances and bitternesses; forgive all, judge no one; in enmity and ill-will, see only misunderstanding. "As much as lieth in you, be at peace with all men." On the bed of death the soul should have no eyes but for eternal things. All the littlenesses of life disappear. The fight is over. There should be nothing left now but remembrance of past blessings--adoration of the ways of God. Our natural instinct leads us back to Christian humility and pity. "Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us."

Prepare thyself as though the coming Easter were thy last, for thy days henceforward shall be few and evil.

La Madeleine Feb. 9, 1884

You make writing as difficult as living afar, by your unspeakable goodness, but also by the infusion of the contrary quality. If I promise not to attack the Government, and to believe in Lord Derby, will you agree not to hit me so hard? I cannot well help doing what I do, taking all things into consideration; and as to my tiresome book,[208 ] please to remember that I can only say things which people do not agree with, that I have neither disciple nor sympathiser, that this is no encouragement to production and confidence, that grizzled men, except ——, grow appalled at the gaps in their knowledge, and that I have no other gift but that which you pleasantly describe, of sticking eternal bits of paper into innumerable books, and putting larger papers into black boxes. There is no help for it. But your reproaches are much more distressing to read than you suppose, and make me think them better to read than to hear. Otherwise, I too would have a dream, to describe, and wish that yours came true from January 1 to December 31.

George[209 ] did not catch me at Marienbad, and came from Munich in a big box, only the other day. I had partly read him, but I was in a difficulty about thanking you for it with full honesty as long as I only knew it casually, by unhallowed copies. But I do thank you, if I may do so even now, most gratefully for the kindness of it altogether, and particularly for your belief that I should understand it, and care for it apart from the sender. Although in this you have flattered me; for there are points in which I dare say I do not like him as much as you do.

Do not think ill of the people they call academic Socialists. It is only a nickname for the school that is prevailing now in the German universities, with a branch in France and another in Italy, a school whose most illustrious representative in England, whose most eminent practical teacher in the world, is Mr. Gladstone. In their writings, inspired by the disinterested study of all classic economists, one finds most of the ideas and illustrations of Mr. George, though not, indeed, his argument against Malthus. This makes him less new to one; but nobody writes with that plain, vigorous directness, and I do believe that he has, in a large measure, the ideas of the age that is to come.

I am glad, too, that you like Seeley's book. It is excellent food for thought. But so is the first article in the January Quarterly.[210 ] I wrote eight pages of criticism and should have liked to send them to you instead of Maine, but perhaps you have not read him.

Liddon's objection to saying what may damage a very meritorious body of surviving friends of Rosmini is practically reasonable; but it is rather a reason for not writing at all on the subject. Rosmini made a vigorous attempt to reform the Church of Rome. He was vehemently attacked, repelled, censured; and he defended himself in a work more important, argumentatively, than the first. If this dramatic incident is left untold, if his stronger statements are omitted from his case, we shall get an imperfect notion of a memorable transaction, and of an interesting, if not a great, divine.

I am so very glad that Mr. Gladstone is in his best health, and that the troubled times have put out of sight the notion of retirement. For that reason I could almost console myself in looking at the Soudan. That affair has been in the hands of a colleague without much original resource, attentive to the wind, and glad to follow the advice of local agents. It chances that I have been reading ——'s confidential letters written to a friend sure not to show them to Ministers; and I have thought him deficient in imagination—in the discovering faculty—and also in independence. There is no denying that there has been a lack of initiative genius in the last few weeks, and that Mr. Gladstone would have done more if Bonaparte had been his departmental colleague.

Of all critics of my list,[211 ] Lubbock is best informed in a vast region where I am a stranger. I by no means disregard his criticisms. I have not got the list myself, and should like nothing in the world so much as to sit with you and talk over the objections you have collected. But will that, or will anything like it, ever be? If it may, do send one line on Tuesday to wait arrival at 18 Carlton House Terrace.


[208 ] "History of Liberty."

[209 ] "Progress and Poverty."

[210 ] "The American Constitution."

[211 ] The hundred books.