Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tice of duelling is rebuked, it is true; but not in that earnest and indignant tone which we have now a right to expect, in the advanced state of public opinion on the subject, not merely from the professed moralist, but from every man of just and humane feelings. Decatur, above all men, could have afforded to despise and resist the common prejudice of his profession on this point. His reputation for personal courage stood so high, that any man who had dared to impugn it would have met only the derision of the community. But he had evidently a secret pride in his fame as a duellist, and he gave to the detestable practice the sanction of his name and example long after his influence was such, that, if properly exerted, he might have banished it from the service. Besides the instances already mentioned, in 1818, he acted as second to Commodore Perry in a duel, and in less than two years afterwards he threw away his own life in a similar encounter with Barron.

The story of Decatur's death is told in a plain and succinct manner, with little comment, the deficiency being supplied by the publication in the Appendix of the whole correspondence between the parties. These letters are quite long, and fully disclose the grounds of the fatal quarrel, and the manner in which it was brought to a crisis. We think they do honor to neither of the writers, or rather that they afford no palliation of their guilt. Decatur does not seem to desire a hostile meeting, but he maintains throughout a lofty and scornful manner which would have goaded almost any person into a frantic attempt to obtain revenge. Barron shuffles and negotiates in order to gain a few paltry advantages in the arrangements for the duel, and to throw off upon his opponent the responsibility of giving the challenge. He seems to desire an encounter, and still to shrink from it, so that the correspondence extends over a period of eight or nine months. Barron sought restitution of his rank in the navy after his suspension on account of the affair of the Chesapeake, and after his absence from this country during the whole of the war of 1812. Decatur was then one of the commissioners of the navy, and strenuously opposed granting the request, commenting very freely upon Barron's past conduct, but declaring that he did so from a sense of official duty, and without any feeling of personal enmity. After a long correspondence, reproachsul on one side, and contemptuous on the

other, these expressions led to a duel, Barron giving the challenge. They met at Bladensburg, on the 22d of March, 1820, and both fell, severely wounded at the first fire. Decatur had again manifested his “ merciful reluctance" to take life, by declaring that he would only wound his opponent in the hip; and again he kept his word. His own wound proved mortal, and he died a few hours afterwards, maintaining unbroken fortitude and composure to the last.

Art. IX. - Hochelaga ; or England in the New World.

Edited by Eliot WARBURTON, Esq., Author of The Crescent and the Cross. New York : Wiley & Putnam. 1846. 2 vols. 12mo.

We find nothing very attractive or inviting in the title of the work before us. It professes to be the ancient name of Canada ; it may have been used by aboriginal historians, but the oldest inhabitant would probably be somewhat puzzled to hear of Hochelaga as the place of his birth, and modern ones have never heard it, unless their lines have fallen in latitudes very different from ours. The title of a book, like a lamp at the street-door, is expected to throw some light on what we are to enter ; if it cannot render this friendly service, it may as well be taken down. Even so do we say of this name, which, like a horn lantern, gives darkness rather than light. The author represents himself as a middle-aged person, well to do in the world. Perhaps he has reached that blissful elevation to which Gobbo aspired, when he should no longer acknowledge his friends, — " And if his name be George, I 'll call him Peter.” But whatever satisfaction he may find in it, we would venture to assure him, if he were within the reach of our counsel, that no one will ever thank him for using a term that sounds poetical, in place of one that can be understood.

The book purports to have been written by one hand, and arranged and beautified by another; and in this intimation there is nothing deceptive, though the traveller is doubtless somewhat younger than he professes to be. At least, middle-aged, corpulent gentlemen, of bachelor habits, are not the most likely

of the human race to be carried away by the charms of moosehunting in an unsettled country. It seems very probable that an editor has applied his hand to it, which is not often done with much effort ; his solemn and deliberate speculations are not apt to chime well with the off-hand notes of the journal. The name of Eliot Warburton, who introduces it to the public, is familiar to our readers as the author of a work on the East, a sensible and labored effort, but not so animated and sprightly as a traveller's book should be. Nothing vexes a reader more, when he is expecting a description of things as they are, than to have the pedigree of every city and kingdom patiently set down, speculations on the past and future long drawn out, and volumes of information condensed to instruct him, when all his curiosity turns to the visible and present, and he would rather have ten words of fresh and clear description than acres of philosophical discussion of the same things as they were before the flood. There is something of this communicativeness in the work before us, particularly in the Canadian part. It reminds us of those kind-hearted but uninteresting members of society, who, when they hear a name, start off on a steeple-chase after the line and ancestry to which it belongs. Well written as many parts of these travels are, we lament this kind of heaviness, and are well content that our country, having no past behind it, cannot serve as a subject for such dissertations, but rejoices in a history clear and easily traced as the course of the St. Lawrence from Ontario to the sea.

The first part of this work is wholly given to Canada, its aspect, interests, and affairs ; and of these he speaks with English feeling certainly, but without drawing too jealous a contrast between them and those of the adjacent States. The friends of English authority in those regions have some right to complain of the meddling Sympathizers who tormented them a few years ago. They were made up in part of those birds of prey who have nothing to do but watch for the buffalo that may be hunted down. Finding that there was likely to be trouble and disaffection in Canada, they turned to it by natural instinct, like doves to their windows; and, as one or two repudiating States impart the ill-savor of their names to the union, which loathes them as much as it is in nature to do, these untimely vagrants were considered as representing the feeling and fair fame of their country. By reversing the 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. The great 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, 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. Still more, 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

« AnteriorContinuar »