May 7

May 7, 1864

Saturday. The 128th and another regiment captured and brought in a wagon train loaded with corn and other stuff the Rebs had picked up for their own use. They are skinning the country below here, so we will have to board ourselves or go hungry when we leave Alexandria.

May Seventh

The slaves who ran away from their masters were set to work at once by General Butler and made to keep at it, much to their annoyance. One of these, having been put to it rather strong, said: “Golly, Massa Butler, dis nigger nebber had to work so hard befo'; dis chile gwine secede once moah.”

Ohio Statesman, 1861

 

 

179. John Adams

Philadelphia, 7 May, 1777.

We have no news here except what we get from your country. The privateers act with great spirit, and are blessed with remarkable success. Some merchant ships are arrived this week from Maryland. They were first chased by men-of-war in attempting to get into Chesapeake Bay. They ran from them and attempted Delaware Bay. There they were chased again, whereupon they again shifted their course for Chesapeake, and got in safe, in spite of all the men-of-war could do. Thus, you see, we can and will have trade in spite of them, and this trade will probably increase fast. It requires time for the stream of commerce to alter its channel. Time is necessary for our merchants and foreign merchants to think, plan, and correspond with each other. Time, also, is necessary for our masters of vessels and mariners to become familiar with the coasts, forts, and harbors of foreign countries, and a longer time still is needful for French, Spanish, and Dutch masters and mariners to learn our coasts and harbors.

Yours ever, ever yours.

Friday, May 7th, 1 a.m.—The noise is worse than anywhere in London, even the King's Road. The din that a column of horse-drawn, bolt-rattling waggons make over cobbles is literally deafening; you can't hear each other speak. And the big motor-lorries taking the "munitions of war" up are almost as bad. These processions alternate with marching troops, clattering horses, and French engines all day, and very often all night, and in the middle of it all there are the guns. Tonight the rifle firing is crackling.

Sir John French and Sir Douglas Haig have been up here to-day, and every one is telling every one else when the great Attack is going to begin.

There are three field ambulances up here, and only work for two ( —th and —th), so the —th is established in a huge school for 500 boys, where it runs a great laundry and bathing establishment. A thousand men a day come in for bath, disinfection, and clean clothes; 100 French women do the laundry work in huge tubs, and there are big disinfectors and drying and ironing rooms. The men of the F.A. do the sorting and all the work except the washing and ironing. And the beautifully-cared-for English cart-horses that belong to the F.A., and the waggons and the motor ambulances and the equipment, are all kept ready to move at a moment's notice.

Colonel —— showed me all over it this evening. It is done at a cost to the Government of 7d. per man, washed and clothed.

My blackbird has laid another egg.

May 7

May 7, 1870.--The faith which clings to its idols and resists all innovation is a retarding and conservative force; but it is the property of all religion to serve as a curb to our lawless passion for freedom, and to steady and quiet our restlessness of temper. Curiosity is the expansive force, which, if it were allowed an unchecked action upon us, would disperse and volatilize us; belief represents the force of gravitation and cohesion which makes separate bodies and individuals of us. Society lives by faith, develops by science. Its basis then is the mysterious, the unknown, the intangible--religion--while the fermenting principle in it is the desire of knowledge. Its permanent substance is the uncomprehended or the divine; its changing form is the result of its intellectual labor. The unconscious adhesions, the confused intuitions, the obscure presentiments, which decide the first faith of a people, are then of capital importance in its history. All history moves between the religion which is the genial instinctive and fundamental philosophy of a race, and the philosophy which is the ultimate religion--the clear perception, that is to say, of those principles which have engendered the whole spiritual development of humanity.

It is always the same thing which is, which was, and which will be; but this thing--the absolute--betrays with more or less transparency and profundity the law of its life and of its metamorphoses. In its fixed aspect it is called God; in its mobile aspect the world or nature. God is present in nature, but nature is not God; there is a nature in God, but it is not God himself. I am neither for immanence nor for transcendence taken alone.

Weather very warm, but suited to the work we have got to do. We fell back about a half mile last night, just after Generals Meade and Sedgwick passed our regiment, to some breastworks in which we lay on our arms all night. This morning we were moved to a stronger position on a ridge just to the left of the position we occupied last night, and threw up very strong breastworks, several brass cannon having been placed along the ridge before our arrival. We have remained as support to this artillery all day, but it hasn't been used. The enemy made an attempt to carry the works to our left on the pike early this morning but were repulsed in less than five minutes with a loss of two hundred. We have remained on the defensive all day. The Second Corps repulsed the enemy just at dark, as it was trying to carry their works.

Our regiment has not been engaged to-day, but the suspense has been wearing. The rebel yell when they have made their various assaults at other places on the line to our left, and the ominous bull-dog-like silence along our lines till the roar of musketry commenced when the enemy got in range, made one at the time almost breathless and his heart to stand still on any part of the line. It is awful! But the rebel yell makes one clinch his teeth and determine that it shall be victory for us or death before we will give up our works. But I don't like war and wish it was well over. This is the real  thing, though! Grant don't play  fight.

Our casualties in the Wilderness including the Ninth Corps were 10,220 wounded, 2,902 missing, and 2,265 killed, making a total of 15,387. The Confederate loss was 6,000 wounded, 3,400 missing, and 2,000 killed, making a total of 11,400. The Tenth Vermont lost nine wounded and three killed.

33. Abigail Adams

7 May, 1775.

I received by the Deacon two letters [72] from you, this day, from Hartford. I feel a recruit of spirits upon the reception of them, and the comfortable news which they contain. We had not heard anything from North Carolina before, and could not help feeling anxious lest we should find a defection there, arising more from their ancient feuds and animosities than from any settled ill-will in the present contest; but the confirmation of the choice of their delegates by their Assembly leaves not a doubt of their firmness. Nor doth the eye say unto the hand, "I have no need of thee." The Lord will not cast off his people, neither will He forsake his inheritance. Great events are most certainly in the womb of futurity; and, if the present chastisements which we experience have a proper influence upon our conduct, the event will certainly be in our favor. The distresses of the inhabitants of Boston are beyond the power of language to describe; there are but very few who are permitted to come out in a day; they delay giving passes, make them wait from hour to hour, and their counsels are not two hours together alike. One day, they shall come out with their effects; the next day, merchandise is not effects. One day, their household furniture is to come out; the next, only wearing apparel; the next, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, and he refuseth to hearken to them, and will not let the people go. May their deliverance be wrought out for them, as it was for the children of Israel. I do not mean by miracles, but by the interposition of Heaven in their favor. They have taken a list of all those who they suppose were concerned in watching the tea, and every other person whom they call obnoxious, and they and their effects are to suffer destruction.

Yours,     Portia.

Friday, May 7th, 10 p.m.—A pitch-dark night, raining a little, and only one topic—the Attack to-morrow morning.

The first R.A.M.C. barge has come up, and is lying in the canal ready to take on the cases of wounds of lung and abdomen, to save the jolting of road and railway; it is to have two Sisters, but I haven't seen them yet: shall go in the morning: went round this morning to see, but the barge hadn't arrived.

There are a few sick officers downstairs who are finding it hard to stick in their beds, with their regiments in this job close by. There is a house close by which I saw this morning with a dirty little red flag with a black cross on it, where the C.-in-C. and thirty commanders of the 1st Army met yesterday.

The news to-day of Hill 60 and the gases is another spur to the grim resolve to break through here, that can be felt and seen and heard in every detail of every arm. "Grandmother" is lovingly talked about.

The town, the roads, and the canal banks this morning were so packed with men, waggons, horses, bales, and lorries, that you could barely pick your way between them.

Since writing this an aeroplane has been circling over us with a loud buzz. The sergeant called up to me to put the lights out. We saw her light. There is much speculation as to who and what she was; she was not big enough for our big "'Bus," as she is called, who belongs to this place. No one seems ever to have seen one here at night before.

We are making flannel masks for the C.O. for our men.

Our fat little Gabrielle makes the most priceless soup out of the ration beef (which none of us are any good at) and carrots. She mothers us each individually, and cleans the house and keeps her wee kitchen spotless.

a.m.—The 9.2's are just beginning to talk.

Here is a true story. One of our trenches at Givenchy was being pounded by German shells at the time of N. Ch. A man saw his brother killed on one side of him and another man on the other. He went on shooting over the parapet; then the parapet got knocked about, and still he wasn't hit. He seized his brother's body and the other man's and built them up into the parapet with sandbags, and went on shooting.

When the stress was over and he could leave off, he looked round and saw what he was leaning against. "Who did that?" he said. And they told him.

They get awfully sick at the big-print headlines in some of the papers—"The Hill 60 Thrill"!

"Thrill, indeed! There's nothing thrilling about ploughing over parapets into a machine-gun, with high explosives bursting round you,—it's merely beastly," said a boy this evening, who is all over shrapnel splinters.

May 7

May 7, 1856.--I have been reading Rosenkrantz's "History of Poetry" [Footnote: "Geschichte der Poesie," by Rosenkrantz, the pupil and biographer of Hegel] all day: it touches upon all the great names of Spain, Portugal, and France, as far as Louis XV. It is a good thing to take these rapid surveys; the shifting point of view gives a perpetual freshness to the subject and to the ideas presented, a literary experience which is always pleasant and bracing. For one of my temperament, this philosophic and morphological mode of embracing and expounding literary history has a strong attraction. But it is the antipodes of the French method of proceeding, which takes, as it were, only the peaks of the subject, links them together by theoretical figures and triangulations, and then assumes these lines to represent the genuine face of the country. The real process of formation of a general opinion, of a public taste, of an established genre, cannot be laid bare by an abstract method, which suppresses the period of growth in favor of the final fruit, which prefers clearness of outline to fullness of statement, and sacrifices the preparation to the result, the multitude to the chosen type. This French method, however, is eminently characteristic, and it is linked by invisible ties to their respect for custom and fashion, to the Catholic and dualist instinct which admits two truths, two contradictory worlds, and accepts quite naturally what is magical, incomprehensible, and arbitrary in God, the king, or language. It is the philosophy of accident become habit, instinct, nature and belief, it is the religion of caprice.

By one of those eternal contrasts which redress the balance of things, the romance peoples, who excel in the practical matters of life, care nothing for the philosophy of it; while the Germans, who know very little about the practice of life, are masters of its theory. Every living being seeks instinctively to complete itself; this is the secret law according to which that nation whose sense of life is fullest and keenest, drifts most readily toward a mathematical rigidity of theory. Matter and form are the eternal oppositions, and the mathematical intellects are often attracted by the facts of life, just as the sensuous minds are often drawn toward the study of abstract law. Thus strangely enough, what we think we are is just what we are not: what we desire to be is what suits us least; our theories condemn us, and our practice gives the lie to our theories. And the contradiction is an advantage, for it is the source of conflict, of movement, and therefore a condition of progress. Every life is an inward struggle, every struggle supposes two contrary forces; nothing real is simple, and whatever thinks itself simple is in reality the farthest from simplicity. Therefore it would seem that every state is a moment in a series; every being a compromise between contraries. In concrete dialectic we have the key which opens to us the understanding of beings in the series of beings, of states in the series of moments; and it is in dynamics that we have the explanation of equilibrium. Every situation is an equilibrium of forces; every life is a struggle between opposing forces working within the limits of a certain equilibrium.

These two principles have been often clear to me, but I have never applied them widely or rigorously enough.

102. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 7 May, 1776.

How many are the solitary hours I spend ruminating upon the past and anticipating the future, whilst you, overwhelmed with the cares of state, have but a few moments you can devote to any individual. All domestic pleasures and enjoyments are absorbed in the great and important duty you owe your country, "for our country is, as it were, a secondary god, and the first and greatest parent. It is to be preferred to parents, wives, children, friends, and all things,—the gods only excepted; for, if our country perishes, it is as impossible to save an individual as to preserve one of the fingers of a mortified hand." Thus do I suppress every wish, and silence every murmur, acquiescing in a painful separation from the companion of my youth and the friend of my heart.

I believe 't is near ten days since I wrote you a line. I have not felt in a humor to entertain you. If I had taken up my pen perhaps some unbecoming invective might have fallen from it. The eyes of our rulers have been closed, and a lethargy has seized almost every member. I fear a fatal security has taken possession of them. Whilst the building is in flames, they tremble at the expense of water to quench it. In short, two months have elapsed since the evacuation of Boston, and very little has been done in that time to secure it, or the harbor, from future invasion. The people are all in a flame, and no one among us, that I have heard of, even mentions expense. They think, universally, that there has been an amazing neglect somewhere. Many have turned out as volunteers to work upon Noddle's Island, and many more would go upon Nantasket, if the business was once set on foot. "'T is a maxim of state, that power and liberty are like heat and moisture. Where they are well mixed, everything prospers; where they are single, they are destructive."

A government of more stability is much wanted in this colony, and they are ready to receive it from the hands of the Congress. And since I have begun with maxims of state, I will add another, namely, that a people may let a king fall, yet still remain a people; but, if a king let his people slip from him, he is no longer a king. And as this is most certainly our case, why not proclaim to the world, in decisive terms, your own importance?

Shall we not be despised by foreign powers, for hesitating so long at a word?

I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and, without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet;—

"Charm by accepting, by submitting sway,Yet have our humor most when we obey."

I thank you for several letters which I have received since I wrote last; they alleviate a tedious absence, and I long earnestly for a Saturday evening, and experience a similar pleasure to that which I used to find in the return of my friend upon that day after a week's absence. The idea of a year dissolves all my philosophy.

Our little ones, whom you so often recommend to my care and instruction, shall not be deficient in virtue or probity, if the precepts of a mother have their desired effect; but they would be doubly enforced, could they be indulged with the example of a father alternately before them. I often point them to their sire,—

"engaged in a corrupted state,Wrestling with vice and faction."

9 May.

I designed to have finished the sheet, but, an opportunity offering, I close, only just informing you that, May the 7th, our privateers took two prizes in the bay, in fair sight of the man-of-war; one, a brig from Ireland; the other from Fayal, loaded with wine, brandy, etc.; the other with beef, etc. The wind was east, and a flood tide, so that the tenders could not get out, though they tried several times; the lighthouse fired signal guns, but all would not do. They took them in triumph, and carried them into Lynn.

Pray be kind enough to remember me at all times, and write, as often as you possibly can, to your

Portia.

La Madeleine May 7, 1881

The defect of the argument is that it will neither wear nor wash. It cannot be employed in public. Nobody can say:—"I who overthrew Lord Beaconsfield's ministry, reversed his policy, persuaded the nation to distrust him, and brought his career to a dishonoured end—I who, altogether disagreeing with a certain friend of mine, thought his doctrines false, but the man more false than his doctrine; who believe that he demoralised public opinion, bargained with diseased appetites, stimulated passions, prejudices, and selfish desires, that they might maintain his influence; that he weakened the Crown by approving its unconstitutional leanings, and the Constitution by offering any price for democratic popularity,—who, privately, deem him the worst and most immoral minister since Castlereagh, and have branded him with a stigma such as no other public man has deserved in my time,—nevertheless proceed, in my public capacity, to lock my true sentiments in my breast, and declare him worthy of a reward that was not paid to Fox or to Canning; worthy not only of the tribute due to talents, efficiency, and courage, but of enduring gratitude and honour; and I do it because I am not the leader of the nation, but the appointed minister of its will; because it is my office to be the mouthpiece of opinions I disapprove, to obey an impulse I condemn, to execute the popular wishes when they contradict my own."

That is a position which cannot be held, a motive impossible to avow. But then there is no answer to Labouchere when he recalls the scathing denunciations of last year and asks "whether they were seriously meant, or whether, having served their purpose, they have been abandoned and committed to oblivion; whether the Prime Minister declares their injustice and invites the country to join him in making reparation, whether the responsibilities of power have effected the usual transformation from the exigencies of electioneering agitation, and whether we are to understand that the career of Lord Beaconsfield appears in a different light to those who have inherited his difficulties and have learned to appreciate his aims, from that which blazed on so many platforms. If the Rt. Honble. gentleman maintains his maledictions, if his soul is still vexed by the memory of disgraceful peace and disgraceful war, of tyranny protected, of bloodshed unavenged, then let him not forget the picture which he drew, which still dwells in the hearts of millions; the praise that comes from the lips that uttered those burning words must be hollow, for the soul cannot be there; it would be better that he left the task to more congenial hands, to some who could speak from the fulness of the heart, to some less prominent critic of Tory policy, to some less austere apostle of national duty."

The nation, it is true, supported Lord Beaconsfield, but the same nation also very decidedly condemned and rejected him. The author of the rejection is the worst possible mouthpiece of the former approval. And in a question which is really one of morals everybody must judge and act for himself. If the degradation of public principle spread from Lord Beaconsfield to his party, and from them to the Liberals, to whom are we to look for a stricter spirit and a loftier standard? Is it for him who, as a volunteer, stemmed the tide of corruption, to ride on it now that all authority, moral, political, personal, is concentrated in him? No doubt, the opposition will be overdone; but there are materials which a light and skilful hand, P. J. Smyth, for instance, might use with telling force.

I will propose a double Cartoon: The P.M. proposing the monument, correct, slightly white-chokered, wearing what Whiteside called his oratorical face, making the splendour of words do duty for realities—and the Philippic Demosthenes of Midlothian rousing the sleepy Lion with tumultuous argument and all the unceremonious energy of a deep conviction.

As to Lord Granville's motion on the same subject, I am not sorry to be out of the way of it.

To "sweep away" the House of Lords would be a terrible revolution. The more truly the House of Commons comes to represent the real nation, the more it must fall under the influence of opinion out of doors. It has less and less a substantive and independent will of its own, and serves as a barometer to register the movement going on outside. Now the opinion of a whole nation differs from that of any limited or united or homogeneous class by its inconstancy. It is not pervaded by one common interest, trained to the same level, or inspired by one set of ideas. It is rent by contending motives, and its ideas cannot get a firm grip because there is nothing solid to lay hold of. The whole is not more sure to go wrong than a part, but it is sure not to go long the same way. This sort of fluctuation which is unavoidable in the nation has to be kept out of the state, for it would destroy its credit, its influence abroad, and its authority at home. Therefore, the more perfect the representative system, the more necessary is some other aid to stability. Six or seven such aids have been devised, and we unite three of them in our House of Lords—Primogeniture, Established Church, and an independent judiciary. Its note is Constancy—the wish to carry into the future the things of the past, the capacity to keep aloof from the strife and aims of the passing hour. As we have none of the other resources proper to unmixed governments, a real veto, a federation of states, or a constitution above the legislature, we must treasure the one security we possess. A single assembly has an immense preponderance of authority and experience against it. Chamberlain would soon bring it under the control of instructions, that is, would convert it into a democratic engine, and the empire, I apprehend, would go to pieces.

The worst anybody can imagine is a modification of the House of Lords, such as would make it less independent, less affected by tradition, less united in one interest, but more intelligent and, probably, more powerful. That seems to me possible, though difficult, and uncertain and hazardous in an infinite degree. 1 do not plead for this, but I cannot set myself absolutely and irrevocably against it. The House of Lords represents one great interest—land. A body that is held together by a common character and has common interests is necessarily disposed to defend them. Individuals are accessible to motives that do not reach multitudes, and may be on their guard against themselves. But a corporation, according to a profound saying, has neither body to kick nor soul to save. The principle of self-interest is sure to tell upon it. The House of Lords feels a stronger duty towards its eldest sons than towards the masses of ignorant, vulgar, and greedy people. Therefore, except under very perceptible pressure, it always resists measures aimed at doing good to the poor. It has been almost always in the wrong—sometimes from prejudice and fear and miscalculation, still oftener from instinct and self-preservation. Generally it does only a temporary injury, and that is its plea for existence. But the injury may be irreparable. And if we have manifest suffering, degradation, and death on one side, and the risk of a remodelled senate on the other, the certain evil outweighs the contingent danger. For the evil that we apprehend cannot be greater than the evil we know. I hope the Drawing-room was not very cloudy. Why did not you sit next Lord Granville? He would have been less deaf.

*****

... The arrest of Dillon will produce its effect in the House and on the action of his colleagues, and may be a source of new difficulties. But I cannot find fault with it, not even with the prosecution of Most,[133 ] although Harcourt is in disgrace.... —— takes the line natural in a newspaper, and does not choose to distinguish murder from insurrection—a besetting sin of democrats.

[133 ] Convicted at the Old Bailey for incitement to the murder of the German Emperor.