January 13

It has been very muddy and dull in camp to-day; weather dark and gloomy: no dress parade; have written to Pert; also received a letter from J. R. Seaver, containing a plan of the hospitals being built at Montpelier, now nearly completed. Lieut. Farr has been in this evening and we have been studying tactics together; guess he takes advantage of my being better posted than he, having been a cadet at Norwich University, Norwich, Vermont, where I was well drilled, and can explain things better. I wish they didn't consider me the best drill in the regiment; it makes me lots of extra work and takes much time. But I must be obliging—not mean and selfish.

Wednesday, January 13th.—Woke at Abbeville; now on the way to Boulogne, where I hope we shall have time to get mails.

p.m.—We went through Boulogne without stopping, and got no mails in consequence; nor could we pick up P., who has been on ninety-six hours' leave. We have been on the move practically without stopping since 11 p.m. last night, and are just getting to Béthune, the place we went to two days after Christmas, where we were quite near the guns, and went over the Cl. H. which had been shelled. Expect to take wounded up here. The country is wetter than ever—it looks one vast swamp. Of course the rain has spoilt our lovely paint!

January 13, 1864

Wednesday. In spite of late hours last night I was up early, and as soon as I had eaten, was off to look up the matter of transportation. If a transport is to sail soon I can go through for nothing. I found it was barely possible one might go this week, but it was quite uncertain. Knowing how very uncertain these army uncertainties are, I went to the office of the Creole and found she sails on Friday. I engaged passage and came back and have since been getting ready to go. Gorton wants me to take his Henry Holmes along to help Mrs. Gorton, and says I can pass him through as my servant free of cost. I told him if that was the case I would take him along, and the darkey is almost as glad to go as I am. Marching orders came to-day, and preparations for a move are already under way. Two regiments of mounted infantry have come in to camp with us and this makes neighbors pretty close.

146. John Adams

Hartford, 13 January, 1777.

The riding has been so hard and rough, and the weather so cold, that we have not been able to push farther than this place. My little colt has performed very well hitherto, and I think will carry me through this journey very pleasantly.

Our spirits have been cheered by two or three pieces of good news, which Commissary Trumbull, who is now with me, tells us he saw yesterday in a letter from General Washington, who has gained another considerable advantage of the enemy at Stony Brook, in the Jerseys, as General Putnam has gained another at Burlington, and the Jersey militia a third. The particulars you will have, before this reaches you, in the public prints. The communication of intelligence begins to be more open, and we have no apprehensions of danger in the route we shall take. Howe has reason to repent of his rashness, and will have more.

My love to my dear little ones. They are all very good children, and I have no doubt will continue so. I will drop a line as often as I can. Adieu.

January 13

January 13, 1863.--To-day it has been the turn of "Polyeucte" and "La Morte de Pompée." Whatever one's objections may be, there is something grandiose in the style of Corneille which reconciles you at last even to his stiff, emphatic manner, and his over-ingenious rhetoric. But it is the dramatic genre which is false. His heroes are rôles rather than men. They pose as magnanimity, virtue, glory, instead of realizing them before us. They are always en scène, studied by others, or by themselves. With them glory--that is to say, the life of ceremony and of affairs, and the opinion of the public--replaces nature--becomes nature. They never speak except ore rotundo, in cothurnus, or sometimes on stilts. And what consummate advocates they all are! The French drama is an oratorical tournament, a long suit between opposing parties, on a day which is to end with the death of somebody, and where all the personages represented are in haste to speak before the hour of silence strikes. Elsewhere, speech serves to make action intelligible; in French tragedy action is but a decent motive for speech. It is the procedure calculated to extract the finest possible speeches from the persons who are engaged in the action, and who represent different perceptions of it at different moments and from different points of view. Love and nature, duty and desire, and a dozen other moral antitheses, are the limbs moved by the wire of the dramatist, who makes them fall into all the tragic attitudes. What is really curious and amusing is that the people of all others the most vivacious, gay, and intelligent, should have always understood the grand style in this pompous, pedantic fashion. But it was inevitable.

January Thirteenth

FIFTY YEARS AFTER—THE VIEW OF A FEDERAL OFFICER OF '61-'65

In case of direct and insoluble issue between Sovereign State and Sovereign Nation, every man was not only free to decide, but had to decide the question of ultimate allegiance for himself; and whichever way he decided he was right.

Charles Francis Adams
(Massachusetts)

 

 

January 13

January 13, 1879.--It is impossible for me to remember what letters I wrote yesterday. A single night digs a gulf between the self of yesterday and the self of to-day. My life is without unity of action, because my actions themselves are escaping from the control of memory. My mental power, occupied in gaining possession of itself under the form of consciousness, seems to be letting go its hold on all that generally peoples the understanding, as the glacier throws off the stones and fragments fallen into its crevasses, that it may remain pure crystal. The philosophic mind is both to overweight itself with too many material facts or trivial memories. Thought clings only to thought--that is to say, to itself, to the psychological process. The mind's only ambition is for an enriched experience. It finds its pleasure in studying the play of its own facilities, and the study passes easily into an aptitude and habit. Reflection becomes nothing more than an apparatus for the registration of the impressions, emotions, and ideas which pass across the mind. The whole moulting process is carried on so energetically that the mind is not only unclothed, but stripped of itself, and, so to speak, de-substantiated. The wheel turns so quickly that it melts around the mathematical axis, which alone remains cold because it is impalpable, and has no thickness. All this is natural enough, but very dangerous.

So long as one is numbered among the living--so long, that is to say, as one is still plunged in the world of men, a sharer of their interests, conflicts, vanities, passions, and duties, one is bound to deny one's self this subtle state of consciousness; one must consent to be a separate individual, having one's special name, position, age, and sphere of activity. In spite of all the temptations of impersonality, one must resume the position of a being imprisoned within certain limits of time and space, an individual with special surroundings, friends, enemies, profession, country, bound to house and feed himself, to make up his accounts and look after his affairs; in short, one must behave like all the world. There are days when all these details seem to me a dream--when I wonder at the desk under my hand, at my body itself--when I ask myself if there is a street before my house, and if all this geographical and topographical phantasmagoria is indeed real. Time and space become then mere specks; I become a sharer in a purely spiritual existence; I see myself sub specie oeternitatis.

Is not mind simply that which enables us to merge finite reality in the infinite possibility around it? Or, to put it differently, is not mind the universal virtuality, the universe latent? If so, its zero would be the germ of the infinite, which is expressed mathematically by the double zero (00).

Deduction: that the mind may experience the infinite in itself; that in the human individual there arises sometimes the divine spark which reveals to him the existence of the original, fundamental, principal Being, within which all is contained like a series within its generating formula. The universe is but a radiation of mind; and the radiations of the Divine mind are for us more than appearances; they have a reality parallel to our own. The radiations of our mind are imperfect reflections from the great show of fireworks set in motion by Brahma, and great art is great only because of its conformities with the Divine order--with that which is.

Ideal conceptions are the mind's anticipation of such an order. The mind is capable of them because it is mind, and, as such, perceives the Eternal. The real, on the contrary, is fragmentary and passing. Law alone is eternal. The ideal is then the imperishable hope of something better--the mind's involuntary protest against the present, the leaven of the future working in it. It is the supernatural in us, or rather the super-animal, and the ground of human progress. He who has no ideal contents himself with what is; he has no quarrel with facts, which for him are identical with the just, the good, and the beautiful.

But why is the divine radiation imperfect? Because it is still going on. Our planet, for example, is in the mid-course of its experience. Its flora and fauna are still changing. The evolution of humanity is nearer its origin than its close. The complete spiritualization of the animal element in nature seems to be singularly difficult, and it is the task of our species. Its performance is hindered by error, evil, selfishness, and death, without counting telluric catastrophes. The edifice of a common happiness, a common science of morality and justice, is sketched, but only sketched. A thousand retarding and perturbing causes hinder this giant's task, in which nations, races, and continents take part. At the present moment humanity is not yet constituted as a physical unity, and its general education is not yet begun. All our attempts at order as yet have been local crystallizations. Now, indeed, the different possibilities are beginning to combine (union of posts and telegraphs, universal exhibitions, voyages round the globes, international congresses, etc.). Science and common interest are binding together the great fractions of humanity, which religion and language have kept apart. A year in which there has been talk of a network of African railways, running from the coast to the center and bringing the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean into communication with each other--such a year is enough to mark a new epoch. The fantastic has become the conceivable, the possible tends to become the real; the earth becomes the garden of man. Man's chief problem is how to make the cohabitation of the individuals of his species possible; how, that is to say, to secure for each successive epoch the law, the order, the equilibrium which befits it. Division of labor allows him to explore in every direction at once; industry, science, art, law, education, morals, religion, politics, and economical relations--all are in process of birth.

Thus everything may be brought back to zero by the mind, but it is a fruitful zero--a zero which contains the universe and, in particular, humanity. The mind has no more difficulty in tracking the real within the innumerable than in apprehending infinite possibility. 00 may issue from 0, or may return to it.