Page images
PDF
EPUB

cases, and imagining gentlemen of this same stamp to have visited us on similar errands, we can better understand how the loyal Canadians feel toward us. They cannot conceive why an executive, which talks of constitutional restraints, but seems always to do just what it pleases, could not, as it professed to desire, abate the nuisance that troubled them. They well knew what uproar would be made in our States, if British Americans should manifest a similar sympathy with us, and with what warmth of hospitality our people would chase them home, relieving them perhaps from the trouble of carrying their empty heads with them. It would not be surprising either, if the signs of the times should give them some uneasiness as to what course our government, in some future day, might think it expedient, or, what is the same thing, popular, to pursue. No one can calculate on the conscience of politicians, without looking to the weather-vane ; wherever the public feeling and fancy turn, they think it their unquestionable duty to go. The mother country has so often set the example of helping herself to any territory that happened to suit her taste, discoursing all the while most touchingly to other nations on the sin of covetousness and extortion, that her motherly influence has produced quite an effect on her daughter. She, too, is beginning to fix an avaricious and grasping eye on the estates of other people round her, and if they do not happen to be strong enough to keep them, she may very possibly follow the course of England in India, and consider all she can get as her own. Christian nations of the world could not protest against such proceedings with much effect, being all the while engaged in some not very honest sequestrations of their own. There is nothing in the prevailing theory of public morals to prevent such appropriations, save the chance of being successfully resisted; of this, should an attempt be made on Canada, there might be some danger ; and as there is no great domestic interest to be favored by it, many years may elapse before our civil moralists make the discovery that British America is, without knowing it, a part of the United States, and as our fathers drave out the heathen, it is our duty to claim and inclose our own.

In connection with these apprehensions of future conflict with the American union, the author of this work indulges in some remarks, which, if he is a soldier, as he is said to be,

The great

Still more,

show a great superiority to the common tone of his brother officers, who are quite apt to exult in such prospects as delightful dreams of profit and honor to themselves, though they must necessarily bring distress and sorrow to great numbers of mankind. There is so much in military service to pervert the moral impressions, and to give names of duty and honor to enterprises which the conscience pronounces unjust and dishonorable, that it is almost a phenomenon to hear a military man speaking with a clear-sighted exemption from these prevailing delusions. He expresses the hope, that the English and American States on this continent may be rivals only in those arts of peace which tend to the benefit and blessing of mankind, and not in those works of death in which there can be no real victory nor gain, but where each injury which one nation does to another is a blow struck against its own welfare, since the real interests of all countries are inseparably one. he expresses a hope, that, in some day not distant, the stern and sad necessity of the sword may be everywhere done away. In this hope, or rather wish, we join him with all our hearts ; but since this necessity is wholly of man's own making, and the human race are so ingenious and well trained in that sort of manufacture, we hardly expect to see the pruning-hook and ploughshare exalted above the sword and spear in the general estimation of mankind.

In passing from the British to the American States our author of course visited Niagara, and his account of that wonderful scene has much interest in it, because it is businesslike and unpretending, and he does not labor to put into language what words have no power to tell. But he takes notice of some points in the scene which are little noticed by others, who have enriched the world with desperately fine descriptions ; such as the cedars, so graceful in form and foliage, overhanging the cliffs and leaning to see the falling waters, and removing all traces of wildness from a view which would otherwise be as savage as it is grand. His experience accords with that of many others, that they could not awake to any full impression of the sublimity of the vision, till they had seen it and pondered it from Table Rock. For beauty is the prevailing spirit of the place ; the American fall, the island which separates it from the great cataract, the woods, the rainbows, the colored waters, are all beautiful; indeed, the whole scene is as singularly beautiful as any thing on

earth can be. But one passage escapes him, which makes his correctness of taste a matter of doubt. He says of the cataract, that, when night came, -" It seemed reckless waste to keep it going still, while its glorious beauty was hidden from mortal view.” Surely, to speak of it as a show got up to astonish the natives, and depending for its value upon the spectators it might gather, seems almost profane ; even the most careless intimation of this sort is not precisely the kind of thought which Niagara might be expected to inspire.

But as we have no room to travel with the author through all his course, we will confine our remarks to his tour in this country, which is but a short one, and yet is more to the purpose than the heavier works of mere professional writers. Flattering it is not ; but we do not complain, for it is not the business of a tourist to flatter. He is less influenced by his English feelings than some other travellers, and does not condemn the Americans, as they do, for not having been born and brought up on English ground, -a privilege which, if it be one, is obviously not always within their reach. On one subject, he exercised more valor than discretion ; when slavery was mentioned, he considered it the duty of an Englishman to bear witness against it, utterly, unconditionally, whether among friends or foes. Nothing can be objected, certainly, to the openness of this course, or to the truth and justness of his feeling ; we should be ready to accede to all that he would say ; the only point to which we should ask his attention is, what good the testimony of an Englishman can be likely to do. None of these philanthropic voices, now so officious in their humanities, were lifted up against the opium war, in which thousands of almost unresisting Chinese were slaughtered; no conscience was troubled about the bloody proceedings in India ; nor does any one concern himself about the poor New Zealanders, whose fate it is to be hunted down. But when England comes to us with blood on her face and hands, and preaches somewhat pertly about our sins, with an amiable unconsciousness of her own, we cannot help thinking that she would not be the worse for at

a cogfu' o' water," before she lectures her friends. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the instructions of wolves to their offspring on subjects of humanity and morals ever sink very deep into their youthful hearts. We VOL. LXIV. - No. 134.

21

should be sorry to deprive her sons and daughters of the clear comfort which they take, in thus flourishing their consciences without any expense to themselves ; but as the power of reproof always depends very much on the quarter from which it comes, it will be some time before ihis English sensibility to all sins except their own will take effect on the American heart.

Our traveller, as he came through New York, was struck with the appearance of prosperity everywhere, the striking result and manifestation of what unfettered industry can do. At first, he was somewhat confounded by the incessant activity and bustle ; but he soon became infected by it, and dashed in and out of railroad-cars and stations with as much headlong precipitation as any Yankee of them all. Some things annoyed him, as well they might, though he says but little about them. The Hottentot fashion, for such it certainly is, in which meals are devoured at our public tables, is a remnant of barbarism, which it is impossible to deny, and foolish to defend. Instead of being angry when any one remarks

upon its coarseness, the better way is to endeavour to correct it by precept, ridicule, and example ; not so much, however, to gain the applause of foreign travellers, as to save ourselves from dyspeptic visitations and untimely graves ; perhaps, too, to avoid a resemblance to him, not exemplary in this respect, who despatched an ox and picked his teeth with the horn. Still more idle is it to resent what foreigners say of our spitting, when, if all that is thus ejected in any given moment were collected into a single current, it would make another Yellowstone river. To be sure, we have not a monopoly of these luxuries ; other nations are about as much accustomed as we are to the use of tobacco, in some of its filthy varieties of form. But since their being as bad as we are does not make us any better, we may as well confess the sin and shame, and endeavour to save the rising generation from the infection of impure examples. In all this, we have spoken much more largely than he does of those offences against decency and good manners, which he could not but see, and with which he had a right to be disgusted. We trust that he is not one of those many Englishmen who, as they travel in our country, offend all civilized persons yet more, by an incessant and horrible profaneness, compared with which these transgressions against propriety

are few and small. It will not do for wretches who shock the ears of all round them by a villanous blasphemy, to complain that the society in which they travel wants an elegant and graceful tone ; their notes collect about them other clean birds of the same feather with their

own,

and instead of seeing the homes of America, they get their impressions from inmates of the stable and the bar. Admitting, to the full extent of truth, all that is charged upon us by English travellers, we see some explanation of their impressions in the tone of the select society into which habits of this kind would have a natural tendency to throw them.

But while this sensible and good-natured traveller, who is a person probably of a different stamp, says but little of offensive peculiarities which he encountered, and gives high praise to ihe American character in the main, he is discriminating in his perception both of defects and virtues ; it is not that he does not see the one, but he more enjoys acknowledging the other. He says that we are absurdly jealous of the opinion of foreigners concerning our country, which is too generally true ; we resent their observing the very things which we scold about from morning till night, as if we expected every one who visits our country to see it best by shutting his eyes. He says that we are touched in every thought and feeling by the passion for traffic ; which, allowing for a figure of speech, is true. But we apprehend that people elsewhere have some little taste for money, and what money will buy, which is about the same ; and this only proves that innumerable avenues to prosperity and gain are open in this country which are closed in most others, and not that the love of gold is peculiar to ourselves, and unknown in foreign lands. He

says that we are jealous and boastsul, which is also true ; but not to such an extent as might be supposed by one who does not remember that flattery is here addressed to the sovereign people as it is elsewhere to the crowned head; and where a good price is paid for such articles, the market will always have a full supply.

As to the want of independence which is charged upon us, it is hard to say what it means.

It is the comnion cant of parties, to say, that, if every one spoke his real convictions, his language would be the same as theirs. If it means that we surrender our right to form opinions, we answer that the dictation of party is not stronger here than in other lands ; it

« PreviousContinue »