May 2

May 2, 1864

Monday. I don't know what has been done to-day, and I don't care. I have had troubles enough of my own. Dr. Warren has excused me from duty. Tony made me a stew that needed no chewing, and I drank it without asking what he made it from.

Still another fine day, and yet the army remains idle. The query generally is, "when will the army move, and where?" I guess we will wish it hadn't when it does move. General U. S. Grant seems to keep his own counsel, like the silent man he is. It is well. A furious wind-storm occurred about 5 o'clock p. m. but did not disturb us much.

May Second

A strange fatality attended us! Jackson killed in the zenith of his successful career; Longstreet wounded when in the act of striking a blow that would have rivalled Jackson's at Chancellorsville in its results; and in each case the fire was from our own men! A blunder! Call it so; the old deacon would say that God willed it thus.

Col. Walter H. Taylor


Stonewall Jackson wounded at Chancellorsville, 1863

Emma Sanson directs Forrest in pursuit of Streight, 1863



May 2

May 2, 1877.--Which nation is best worth belonging to? There is not one in which the good is not counterbalanced by evil. Each is a caricature of man, a proof that no one among them deserves to crush the others, and that all have something to learn from all. I am alternately struck with the qualities and with the defects of each, which is perhaps lucky for a critic. I am conscious of no preference for the defects of north or south, of west or east; and I should find a difficulty in stating my own predilections. Indeed I myself am wholly indifferent in the matter, for to me the question is not one of liking or of blaming, but of understanding. My point of view is philosophical--that is to say, impartial and impersonal. The only type which pleases me is perfection--man, in short, the ideal man. As for the national man, I bear with and study him, but I have no admiration for him. I can only admire the fine specimens of the race, the great men, the geniuses, the lofty characters and noble souls, and specimens of these are to be found in all the ethnographical divisions. The "country of my choice" (to quote Madame de Staël) is with the chosen souls. I feel no greater inclination toward the French, the Germans, the Swiss, the English, the Poles, the Italians, than toward the Brazilians or the Chinese. The illusions of patriotism, of Chauvinist, family, or professional feeling, do not exist for me. My tendency, on the contrary, is to feel with increased force the lacunas, deformities, and imperfections of the group to which I belong. My inclination is to see things as they are, abstracting my own individuality, and suppressing all personal will and desire; so that I feel antipathy, not toward this or that, but toward error, prejudice, stupidity, exclusiveness, exaggeration. I love only justice and fairness. Anger and annoyance are with me merely superficial; the fundamental tendency is toward impartiality and detachment. Inward liberty and aspiration toward the true--these are what I care for and take pleasure in.

30. John Adams

Hartford, 2 May, 1775.

Our hearts are bleeding for the poor people of Boston. What will or can be done for them I can't conceive. God preserve them.

I take this opportunity to write, by our committee who were sent to this colony,[67] just to let you know that I am comfortable, and shall proceed this afternoon. Pray write to me, and get all my friends to write, and let me be informed of everything that occurs. Send your letters to Colonel Palmer or Dr. Warren, who will convey them. They will reach me sooner or later. This colony is raising six thousand men. Rhode Island, fifteen hundred. New York has shut up their port, seized the custom house, arms, ammunition, etc., called a Provincial Congress, and entered into an association to stand by whatever shall be ordered by the Continental and their Provincial Congress. Dr. Cooper [68] fled on board a man of war, and the Tories are humbled in the dust.

Tell my brothers I have bought some military books, and intend to buy more, so that I shall come back qualified to make them complete officers. Write me whether either of them intends to take a command in the army. I won't advise them, but leave them to their own inclinations and discretion. But, if they should incline, they should apply to Colonel Palmer and Dr. Warren soon.


[67]This committee had been sent to Connecticut under an alarm of a separate negotiation, which is explained by Dr. Gordon, Vol. II., p. 19.

[68]Dr. Myles Cooper, an Englishman, graduated at Oxford, and sent out by Archbishop Seeker to be president of King's College. He was an old school High Church and State man, and proved one of the most active opponents of the Revolutionary movement. The rumor here mentioned was not true at this time. But eight days later the Dr. narrowly escaped rough treatment by a mob, from whom he fled, and found his way on board the Kingfisher, which took him to England. He died at Edinburgh in 1785.

May 2

May 2, 1852. (Sunday) Lancy.--This morning read the epistle of St. James, the exegetical volume of Cellérier [Footnote: Jacob-Élysée Cellérier, professor of theology at the Academy of Geneva, and son of the pastor of Satigny mentioned in Madame de Staël's "L'Allemagne."] on this epistle, and a great deal of Pascal, after having first of all passed more than an hour in the garden with the children. I made them closely examine the flowers, the shrubs, the grasshoppers, the snails, in order to practice them in observation, in wonder, in kindness.

How enormously important are these first conversations of childhood! I felt it this morning with a sort of religious terror. Innocence and childhood are sacred. The sower who casts in the seed, the father or mother casting in the fruitful word are accomplishing a pontifical act and ought to perform it with religious awe, with prayer and gravity, for they are laboring at the kingdom of God. All seed-sowing is a mysterious thing, whether the seed fall into the earth or into souls. Man is a husbandman; his whole work rightly understood is to develop life, to sow it everywhere. Such is the mission of humanity, and of this divine mission the great instrument is speech. We forget too often that language is both a seed-sowing and a revelation. The influence of a word in season, is it not incalculable? What a mystery is speech! But we are blind to it, because we are carnal and earthy. We see the stones and the trees by the road, the furniture of our houses, all that is palpable and material. We have no eyes for the invisible phalanxes of ideas which people the air and hover incessantly around each one of us.

Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and silent propaganda. As far as lies in its power, it tends to transform the universe and humanity into its own image. Thus we have all a cure of souls. Every man is the center of perpetual radiation like a luminous body; he is, as it were, a beacon which entices a ship upon the rocks if it does not guide it into port. Every man is a priest, even involuntarily; his conduct is an unspoken sermon, which is forever preaching to others; but there are priests of Baal, of Moloch, and of all the false gods. Such is the high importance of example. Thence comes the terrible responsibility which weighs upon us all. An evil example is a spiritual poison: it is the proclamation of a sacrilegious faith, of an impure God. Sin would be only an evil for him who commits it, were it not a crime toward the weak brethren, whom it corrupts. Therefore, it has been said: "It were better for a man not to have been born than to offend one of these little ones."