September 10

Thursday, September 10th.—Dazzling day. War news, "L'ennemie se replie devant l'armée anglaise," and that "Nos alliés anglais poursuivent leur offensive dans la direction de la Marne."—All good so far. No letters yet.

It's a cool day. Company and battalion drill was ordered this afternoon but we didn't drill as the Major is on picket. Lieutenant G. E. Davis came out of the Division hospital this afternoon. He's had a boil. I have made my election returns. It's very pleasant this evening in camp, but dull. I have written Pert.

September Tenth

My life is like the autumn leaf
That trembles in the moon's pale ray;
Its hold is frail, its date is brief,
Restless, and soon to pass away!
Yet ere that leaf shall fall and fade,
The parent tree will mourn its shade,
The winds bewail the leafless tree;
But none shall breathe a sigh for me!
Richard Henry Wilde

 

Richard Henry Wilde dies, 1847

Joseph Wheeler born, 1836

 

 

September 10, 1862

CAMP  Millington. We were too tired last night to look about and see where we were. This morning we were ourselves again, and began to take stock of our surroundings. We are in a newly seeded field, sloping generally to the east, though the upper part of it is nearly level. The place is called Millington, so we have named our camp, "Camp Millington." We pitched our tents in such a hurry that it had not a very orderly appearance, and after breakfast we divided up into companies, and each has tried to beat the other in slicking up.

We have quite an extended view. Towards the east we can see for miles across a sandy plain clear to the waters of Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore lies to the north. In other directions little but trees can be seen. Right in front runs a large brook, which turns the wheels of a flour mill, from which loads of flour are constantly being taken. Back of the mill, and not far from it, runs a railroad, said to be the Baltimore and Ohio. All day long, trains have been running, and the most of them loaded with soldiers. Some go towards Baltimore and some the other way. If I knew what it all means I would tell, but we are all strangers to the place and there is no use asking questions. Guards are posted on every side of us, and outside of that another line of guards called pickets are posted. We were called up and talked to by Major Parker. A whole lot of rules were given out, which, if they are observed, will make the 128th a model regiment and each member of it a gentleman. I have sewed on my corporal stripes to-day, having carried them in my pocket until now. The only difference I have yet found out between a corporal and a private soldier is that a corporal does not have to stand guard. If we are really going to stay here I expect the next thing will be learning how to march, taking up the lesson where we left off in Hudson. From the way the regiment that escorted us through Baltimore handled themselves, I can see we have a whole lot to learn yet.

St. Martin Sept. 10, 1884

I was able to realise your late experience,[233 ] even to the tones of voice in certain passages, and I envied you. It must make one change. He[234 ] cannot any longer elaborately and perversely ignore the fact that he himself is the life and the force of the Liberal party. His reception by Midlothian in 1880, when he did not appear as a candidate for office, constrained him to become Prime Minister; and the more definite issue laid before Midlothian in 1884, still more emphatically answered, determines that he must remain P.M. Just as he accepted the consequences then, when they involved withdrawal of public declarations, he must accept them now, when they compel, and are very definitely designed to compel, the surrender of private aspirations.

The public voice has spoken this time more loudly and more consciously. It would not be right towards the country, but especially towards his colleagues, to obey it then and to resist it now. It would be not only a breach of the contract now made by something more than implication, but a yielding up of the party to its enemies in an inextricable crisis. I have not the least doubt that the position will be so understood.

I think less of the gain which the Ministry derives from the policy, the limitation and the enormous effect of the speeches. It is possible, I think, to detect a weak place in them. When one speaks in answer to opponents who are present, and who state their own case, the thing to do is to demolish it. But when one addresses the public, in the absence of debate, it is often good policy to state the opposite case in one's own way, prior to demolition; one's own way is the way one would state it if it was one's own: and everybody knows that he would make the Tory position more logical, more plausible, and stronger than they make it themselves, if he was on their side. It is a process one has to go through for oneself, to see what the adversary's case looks like, stripped of all the passion, ignorance, and fallacy with which he presents it. We are not sure we are right until we have made the best case possible for those who are wrong; and we are strictly bound not to transform the sophisms of the advocate into flaws in his case.

An intelligent Tory might say that this figure or precept of rhetoric was not followed, and that their argument was presented, not unfairly, but not at its best.

Of course he would see the point of the speeches in the restraint of agitation, and the offer to make terms. I hope—against hope—that this moderation is founded on knowledge of what is going on among the Tories. One sees signs of collapse in their policy of reform, but not in their determination to resist, and my own impression is that even Wemyss meant to fight it out, only in another way. But if there is no collapse, I see no resource except the agitation which Mr. Gladstone still deprecates.

To my mind the most significant passage was that in which he spoke of the probable fall of several Ministries. That means that the Home Rulers are going to be the arbiters of party government. That means ruin to the Liberal party. Many Liberals see the moment looming when they will have more sympathy with a party led by moderate Conservatives than with a party inspired by Radical Democrats. The looming will be quickened by the necessity of presenting a front to the Irish. But that is only a small part of the argument accumulating against retirement before the next Parliament, when the new constituencies will be fixed for generations.

Odo Russell[235 ] leaves a larger gap than he filled, and he is difficult to replace at a moment of peculiar soreness and strain. In the service, I should prefer Dufferin; out of it—Bedford! I understand that he would not accept. I find Lord Granville quite feels that our strongest diplomatist, Morier, is out of the question at Berlin, but it will be ten times worse to send Carlingford, and an indication of weakness.

Many, very many, thanks for your letter, which did not seem to me to suffer from the distractions and dissipations of Dalmeny. The best part of it is the good report of your father's health and spirits.


[233 ] The third Midlothian campaign.

[234 ] Mr. Gladstone.

[235 ] The first Lord Ampthill.