Изображения страниц

But like a little descendant of the great Vikings, I did not think that it became me to do battle with a great grand-daughter of the Pilgrims about our respective heights, and therefore I merely indicated my satisfaction both by glance and lips, which she could explain as she pleased. She explained it probably to her advantage, because she went on to communicate to me, in a weighty manner, the business which now had brought her to Congress. The little lady was grave and important, Puritanic to the last crumb; but not, I should imagine, very like the old Puritan, her ancestor.

I must now give you a little domestic news. Professor Johnson is come back. When his wife read his letter, which announced his speedy return, she jumped for joy, and I jumped too in sympathy, and from the pleasure which I felt in again seeing one of those happy marriage connections which it is my delight to witness, and so many of which I have already seen in the New World. The expected husband came the next day, a strong, kindhearted, excellent, and good-tempered man, who adds considerably by his presence to the richness and well-being of home, even as far as I am concerned, inasmuch as he reads aloud to me in the afternoons and any evenings when I am disengaged, or when the weather-which has now been wet for a couple of days—prevents my going out. In this way he has read to me Governor Seward's excellent biography of the late President Adams, which has struck me particularly from the heroic character of the noble statesman in his struggle against slavery. A great statesman in this country must be, at the same time, a sage and a hero, if he is to be adequate to his post.

I spend most of my forenoons at the Capitol, and generally in the Senate. In the afternoons some of my friends among the senators frequently drive me out to various places in the neighborhood ; and in the evenings I receive visitors. During such a drive to-day with Governor Sew

ard, he related to me the circumstance in his life which aroused his inextinguishable abhorrence of slavery, and his unwavering opposition to it.

Yesterday afternoon I drove with the senators from Illinois and Miss Lynch to an old battle-field, now a churchyard, on the banks of the Potomac. When I stood with General Shields, and beheld from this spot the extensive view of the river banks, scattered with hamlets and churches, and villas and cottages, amid their garden-grounds, he exclaimed, as he pointed it out, “See! This is America !” And so it is. The true life of the New World is not to be seen in great cities, with great palaces and dirty alleys, but in the abundance of its small communities, of its beautiful private dwellings, with their encircling fields and groves, in the bosom of grand scenery, by the sides of vigorous rivers, with mountains and forests, and all appliances for a vigorous and affluent life. One of the peculiar appliances for this vigor and affluence of life are the magnificent rivers, the many streams of water with which North America abounds, and which promote the circulation of life, both physically and spiritually, and which bring into connection all points of the Union one with another. The circulation of life and population is already very great in the United States, and it becomes greater every day by means of new steam-boat communication and new rail-roads. The North travels to the South, and the South to the North, to and fro, like shuttles in the weaver's loom, partly for business, partly on account of the climate. The Northerners love, during the winter months, to warm themselves in summer air, and to gather flowers in Carolina and Florida (as well as in Cuba, which, indeed, lies out of the political, but not out of the natural Union); and the Southerners escape their always enervating summer, during the months of May, June, July, August, and September, and seek to invigorate themselves on the cool lakes of Massachusetts and New York, or among the White Mountains of the Granite Stato.

The North and the South could not dispense with one another could not break up the Union without the life'sblood of the body politic becoming stagnant and the life itself being endangered. And the great statesmen here know that, and endeavor in the present contest, by means of a compromise, to keep the circulation unimpeded. The ultras of the anti-slavery party maintain that it will go on of itself nevertheless, that for twenty years has this cry of danger to the Union been heard, and that in reality there is no danger at all. But

I have many acquaintance of more than ordinary interest among the men of Washington; but I will tell you about them when we ineet. I have not become acquainted with any ladies who interest me, excepting those of this family, with the exception of Miss Dix. A young and really gifted poetess, Miss C., is too much of an Amazon for my taste, and with too little that is noble as such. She has both heart and genius, but of an unpruned kind. If I saw more of her, we might perhaps approximate more. As it is, our approximation is somewhat like that of a pair of rebounding billiard-balls. The sketches of the members of Congress and of the transactions in the Capitol, which she has published during the present sitting of Congress in one of the papers of the city, are brilliant, bold, and often striking; but they are sometimes likewise deficient in that which-I find deficient in herself. They have excited here the attention which they merit. Another gifted authoress also, who has begun to excite attention by her novels, is too much wrapped up in herself. Mrs. W. and Mrs. P. I like ; but then I have so little time to see those whom I do like. I see every day in the gallery of the Senate many elegant toilets, and very lovely faces, which seem to show themselves there-only to be seen. Again and again, as I gaze on those lovely faces, I am obliged to say silently, regarding their expression, “How unmeaning!" And in. voluntarily, but invariably, I am impressed more and more

with the conviction that the women of America do not, in general, equal that good report which some European travelers have given of them. I would that it were otherwise. And the beautiful examples which I have seen of womanly dignity and grace do not contradict my opinion. But it is not the fault of the women. It is the fault of their education, which, even when it is best, merely gives scholastic training, but no higher training for the world and social life. I can not help it. The men of America appear to me, in general, to surpass the women in real development and good breeding. And it is not to be wondered at. The American man, if he have received only a defective school education, enters early into that great school of public and civil life, which in such manifold ways calls forth every faculty, every power, and whatever capacity for business nature has endowed him with. Thus he becomes early familiar with the various spheres of life, and even if he should not fathom any of them, still there are no cardinal points in them which are foreign to him, so far as they have reference to the human weal and the well-being of social life. Besides, he acquires, through his practical life, local and peculiar knowledge, so that when one converses with a man in this country, one is always sure of learning something; and should he have received from Mother Nature a seed of a higher humanity, then shoot up, as if of themselves, those beautiful examples of mankind and man, which adorn the earth with an anost perfected humanity, some of which I have become acquainted with under the denomination of self-made men."

July 21st. I have been to-day to a Methodist church of free negroes. The preacher, also a negro, and whom I had seen in a shop in the city, had a countenance which bore a remarkable resemblance to an ape; he had, how. ever, that talent of improvisation, and of strikingly applying theoretical truths to the occurrences of daily life,

which I have often admired among the negroes. This man possesses in a high degree the power of electrifying his audience; and as it is the custom in the Methodist churches to give utterance to the feelings and thoughts, it caused an extraordinary scene on this occasion-80 vehement were the cries and expressions of emotion.

The theme of the preacher was a common one-conversion and amendment, or death and damnation. But when he spoke of different failings and sins, his descriptions were as graphic as his gestures. When he spoke about the sins of the tongue, he dragged this “unruly member” out of his mouth, and shook it between his fingers very energetically. On his admonishing his audience to bid farewell to the devil, and turn away from him (after he had vehemently proclaimed the damnation which the Evil One would drag them into), his expressions took such a strong and powerful hold of his hearers, that the whole assembly was like a tempestuous sea. One heard only the cry, “ Yes, yes !" "Farewell! forever!" "Yes, Amen!” “Never mind !"

" Go along !"

“Oh God!” “ Farewell !” “ Amen, amen!" &c. And besides these convulsive groans, cries, and howls, the assembly was ready for any extravagance, whatever it might have been, if the preacher had willed it. The swell of excitement, however, soon abated when the sermon was ended.

After that, a noble instance of social feeling occurred. The preacher announced that a slave, a member of the congregation, was about to be sold “down South," and thus to be far separated from his wife and child, if sufficient money could not be raised in Washington to furnish the sum which the master of the slave demanded for him. And the negro congregation offered to make a voluntary collection for purchasing the freedom of the slave brother. A pewter plate was set upon a stool in the church, and one silver piece after another rang joyfully upon it.

The whole congregation was remarkable for its respect

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »