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FOREIGN LIFE,—WESTERN. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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“He that would bring back the wealth of the Indies must carry out the wealth of the Indies:” and the knowledge of this was what caused the unusual excitement in the public mind of America when it became known there that Harriet Martineau was about to visit the United States. They had been annoyed by incompetent persons assuming to be their factors and interpreters to Europe, but here was one of a different type; and the single thought was of the return freightage. No English traveller had before visited the country with so brilliant a prestige. She brought out such a reputation for learning as well as genius, for piety as well as power, for trained critical ability as well as natural observing faculty, for thorough knowledge of England as well as kindly dispositions towards America, that the statesman-like acquirements and literary success which had constituted her greatness at home were but few among many of the considerations that made her fame abroad.
She came with a social prestige to the showy dwellers of Atlantic cities. These were the persons whose ambition, or rather lack of genuine self-esteem, was shown by their efforts, in humble imitation of the obnoxious class distinctions which the best Englishmen think the least worth perpetuating, to keep up among themselves dim traditional notions and literary illusions unrecognized by the land at large. Her aristocratic friendships were better known to them than her democratic sympathies; and they desired the reflected light of such glories. She came, too, with an unequalled religious prestige to her own denomination; which, unlike Unitarianism at that time in England, was here an influential one for its wealth, social position, and literary culture. She came with unexampled claims on the minds of leaders in national and state politics; while our “millions,” the reading public, who were to succeed to this leadership in their turn, were longing to express their grateful acknowledgments for the pleasant awakening she had given to their moral sense.
For the thing that had principally marked the few years immediately preceding her arrival was a singular moral apathy or paralysis of the public mind, which made its literature, politics, and religion all seem either formal and unreal, or disproportioned and extravagant, — the smooth, relenting movement of the spent engine, with great noise and bustle among the conductors. Life was fast degenerating into insipid sentimentalism or ridiculous caricature among all who were not actually struggling for a living. There was no advance, for that part of the nation that ought by position and cultivated intelligence to have led had lost the way.
But popularly accepted and borne onward by the admiration of all, Harriet Martineau enjoyed unequalled opportunities for coming to just conclusions about America. She landed in New York in the middle of September, 1834, and travelled first in the states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, examining their cities, villages, and manufactories, visiting friends and making pilgrimages to every scene of interest, from its sublimity and beauty, or from its moral associations. She remained six weeks in Philadelphia, where there are as many circles of society as at Geneva, each personally unknown to the other, having constant intercourse with most of them; and she stayed three weeks in Baltimore before establishing herself at Washington for the session of Congress. While in the capital of the nation, she was earnestly sought by all the eminent men of all parties among senators, representatives, and judges of the Supreme Court, and was on terms of friendship and intimacy with the leading minds of the whole Union. She enjoyed the advantage of intimate and confidential intercourse with a class of men of whom none now remain, — the founders of the Republic and their immediate successors. She was in Richmond while the Virginia Legislature was in session, and then made a long winter journey through North and South Carolina. Thence she traversed the State of Georgia to Augusta, and from that capital to Montgomery, Alabama, descending the river afterwards to Mobile. Her route led thence to New Orleans and up the Mississippi and Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee, on the Cumberland River, and to Lexington, averaging a fortnight in each place. After visiting the wonderful Mammoth Cave in Kentucky she descended the Ohio to Cincinnati, and after making a visit of ten days there, and again ascending that river, she landed in Virginia, visiting all the natural wonders and beauties of the region. She arrived a second time at New York about the middle of July, 1835. The autumn she spent in the smaller towns of Massachusetts, not neglecting to visit its principal cities, making a long visit in the family of Dr. Channing at Newport, and an excursion to the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. All this time the newspapers were zealous heralds and homagers, so that it might have been a refreshment to her to take up one that did not follow her progress with praise. One winter she passed in Boston, during the session of the Massachusetts Legislature, always in the houses of persons who had become intimate and dear friends; who, though of opposite parties, sects, and aims, had the common feeling of affection for her, and the common wish to put in her possession every means of information, or opportunity for becoming acquainted with New England. Plymouth, the landing-place of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620, she saw at the celebration of “Forefathers’ Day,” December 22, 1835; and the day completed two hundred and fifteen years since the ancestors of the people she had been studying emerged from their little vessel with that independence of mind which made of their posterity
“A church without a bishop, and a state without a king.”
Another two months’ visit in New York, with another month of New England farm-house life, and then came her last American journey into the West by ship across the great inland seas, and along to the prairies beyond the far lake-shore; again, through the State of Ohio, taking the river at Beaver and visiting Rapp’s Communist settlement, thence onward by Pittsburgh and the canal route through Pennsylvania, and by railroad over the Alleghanies, reaching New York in time to sail for England on the 1st of August, 1836.
An amount of life was crowded into these two years which her six volumes on America could by no means fully tell, nor her Autobiography, nor her voluminous private journal, now lying under my hand. She had entered by sympathy and insight into the lives of so many families and the secrets of so many hearts, as to have been to them like a sister, daughter, and next friend and counsellor. The society of a foreign country is to few travellers more than a stage procession, to most an enigma; but to her it was a field of action and a host of friends for life. She had formed no special plans of American travel, not even the common one of not venturing to take a living interest in the land while she remained in it, nor to write a book about it when she should return. She came for rest and the refreshment of change; and in order to learn what were those principles of justice and mercy towards the less fortunate classes which the Americans had been thought by good men in her own country to have more truly ascertained than themselves.
“As to actual knowledge of their country,” she says, “my mind was nearly a blank. I remember the vague idea I had, before this expedition to the United States, that there were thirteen of them, and that was almost the only idea about them I did possess.” Her journal is a full memorandum of facts, events, statistics, experiences, and all those special “happenings” of which some persons have to a proverb more than others; and she was one of those who have most. The best knowledge ever is the knowing how and what to learn: and this she possessed in such an abundant measure, that her two American years were better than the ignorant and careless lifetime of many another. Her letters and journals are filled with sketches of personages, traits of character, and pictures of scenery, — jottings of the salient points of the new life she was living, and its consequent ideas, thoughts, and queries. They are not a record of feelings or opinions, but texts for the long running commentary of conversation with family and friends on return.
Her first care is seen to be the acquirement of a thorough knowledge of American parties and American politics, and the morals of both as shown in all the action and inaction of the country. She studied the theory and the apparatus of the government, she watched the office-seekers and the office-holders, and the state of the citizens’ minds, as shown in speeches and conversation, in silence, and in various public life. She observed to what motives the newspapers appealed or declined to appeal, what were the sectional and caste prejudices shown in the political non-existence of certain classes. In looking into the social economy of the United States she shared the life of the solitary pioneers of civilization, and the life of the fashionable watering places; the various life of the far West; the plantation and city life of the South; the life of the New England farming and manufacturing populations and fishing villages; the life of the leading statesmen, magistrates, and literary men; the family life of its fashion, of its gentry, and of its ministers of religion.
She especially studied the agriculture of the country, and all the land and labour questions it involves, with its markets, means of transport, and internal improvements.
This was a time of masonic and anti-masonic strife; of bank and anti-bank excitement; of tariff and anti-tariff: and she enjoyed every possible facility for life-studies of the commerce, manufactures, and currency of the country. Slavery, as a part of its economy and as interwoven with its morals, a subject too on which she had so recently written and thought, she could not of course overlook.
But what most deeply interested her was, what new type of civilization is to evolve from these new institutions? Is suffrage to remain subject to its present restrictions? Is woman to remain subordinate? Is property to remain subject to its present laws, or shall there be better mutual arrangements? Does the evident dissatisfaction of all classes with the present prophesy a reorganization of society on a better basis in the future? She looked to see what are the points of honour among the people; what the position of the women; what the standard of elegance and politeness; what the treatment of children; what degree of happiness is the result of marriage as existing among them. She was full of thought about the suffering classes, — whether through crime, or by reason of deficiency or infirmity of organization, or misfortune of position. One of her main objects was to observe the workings of slavery. The religion of America in its science, spirit, and administration was closely observed by her; and the book of which her mind was then full, and which was published after her return, is entitled “How to Observe.” It gives her methods of obtaining facts and coming at the truth by their means. Her powers of observation were enlarged by greater exercise than other persons undergo, for her deafness compelled a persistent course of inquiry, — a more careful inspection and a more thorough examination than they think of exercising. It obliged her also to take the precaution of being always accompanied by a friend. This gave a double strength to her testimony; for although one may be presumed to be sometimes mistaken, in the mouth of two witnesses every word is established. She was thus obliged to know every thing at first hand, and too soon and too certainly learned how little persons in general know of their own country, to feel any temptation to take second-hand information. Previous to coming to the United States she had written that letter to the deaf, which brought her very near the hearts of all afflicted like herself with that exclusion through the failure of the sense of hearing of which none but the sufferers can know all the sadness. One natural reward of the frank, self-regulated course which made her example so powerful a seconder of her precepts was, to be placed on all public occasions so as to hear the speakers. One natural consequence of her inability to hear general conversation was that intimate interchange of thought and feeling which made her the confidential friend of all the eminent persons she met; and their number was very great. There was not an eminent statesman or man of science, not an active politician or leading partisan, not a devoted philanthropist, not a great jurist, nor university professor, nor merchant-prince, nor noted divine, nor distinguished woman in the whole land who did not to the fullest measure of their natures pay homage to the extraordinary compass of hers. At the South she was in every city she visited the honoured guest of its most distinguished families. The Madisons and the Clays, Calhoun and the Porters, were especially devoted to her. Her visit to the Madisons was never to be forgotten by them or by herself. All parties possessed the eminent social gift of talking and letting talk. Of this time the whole of each day was spent in rapid conversation. Mr. Madison, for his share of it, discoursed on the principles and history of the Constitution of the United States; and his insight respecting the condition of foreign nations, and his dispassionate survey of that period, with his abundant household anecdotes of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, were an invaluable privilege. Judge Marshall was the daily guest of Mr. Madison during these profoundly interesting days. Their interest was not confined to the past nor to the present, but stretched far into the future, and Harriet Martineau always spoke of this period with delight: she came at a happy hour, — the last possible one for the enjoyment of these privileges, which brought her into the line of our American traditions, while yet these founders of the state were living to give her the key-note of the American Republic. Of Judge Marshall she never spoke without emotion. He had at once felt in hers a kindred mind; and she had instantly reverenced in him that majestic grace of departing days that attends the close of a grand and virtuous life. There was too much of mutual respect in their first meeting; and it was not until succeeding ones had made them intimate friends that she learned, in addition to her general knowledge of his character and services, how rare were his individual merits: and in after times she was never tired of describing “the tall, majestic, bright-eyed old man.” “Old,” she somewhere says, “by chronology, and by the lines on his composed face, and by his services to the Republic, but so dignified, so fresh, so present to the time, that no feeling of compassionate consideration for age dared to mingle with the contemplation of him.” Of the admiring friendship that she saw existing between himself and Mr. Madison, so strongly tried, yet never touched by their long political opposition, and of his reverence for woman, seldom seen so impressive in kind or in so high a degree, founded on his extensive knowledge and experience as the father and grandfather of women, she never spoke without enthusiasm. “Made clear-sighted by his purity,” she said, “and by the love and pity which their offices command, he had a deep sense of their social injuries, and a steady conviction of their intellectual equality with men.” One cannot find space even to name the multitudes at Washington with whom she became intimately acquainted. She was, among many other such happenings, invited to assist in doing the honours of the British Legation to the seven judges of the Supreme Court and seven great lawyers besides: “The merriest day that could well be. There is no merrier man than Mr. Webster, who fell chiefly to my share, and Judge Story would enliven a dinner-table at Pekin.”
The letter of moral credit, so to call it, which Judge Marshall gave to Harriet Martineau on every inhabitant of the land, expressing in advance his gratitude to any and all who should do her service, was with him no customary form or idle compliment. It was the expression of his sense of the value of her character to the nation through which she was passing.
Without a reference to the map of the United States, and a sketch of their origin, chronology, and modes of life, I could not give to a European an adequate knowledge of the wide sections of country visited by Harriet Martineau during the years of her American life. It is a nation as various as its territory is vast; and such geographical particulars as I have found space for are given merely to show the great opportunities that her genius then opened to her, and which she had the eye to see and the tact to seize. It is impossible to give an adequate idea of the influences she set in motion, both by origination and sympathy. She visited the prisons, the hospitals, the asylums, the educational institutions: the factories, the farms, the plantations, and the courts of law were equally familiar to her. She was in ball-rooms and drawing-rooms in alternation with senates and legislatures. She was the beloved and venerated guest of the richest and the poorest, — dwelling by turns in all America had to show for palaces, and in the log-houses of the pioneer settlements. She saw the two proscribed races — the negroes and the Indian tribes — in all their aspects, and the dominant one in all its forms. She met men in their families, churches, and markets, at their festivals, funerals, and weddings, at their land-sales, political gatherings, and slave-auctions.
There are persons whose gift it is to teach, lead, influence; persons of so loving a nature that, without a thought of popularity, they make themselves generally and passionately beloved: and of these she was chiefest. I could not count the American families who held her dear as one of their own members: and who ever spoke of her as one whose intercourse brightened their whole past. In some instances there was a tone of regret that she had not always remained as they knew her first. Like doting families who dread to see their youth outgrowing youth’s peculiar charm to man and womanhood, they wished her always to remain an inquirer into their institutions. They were ready to weep on seeing her depart from the region of Sabbath rest where she found and left them in this season of refreshment from toil and preparation for battle. But this feeling of course diminished in exact proportion as her influence made them worthier; and at length even slaveholders seemed, in after days, in some instances to have forgotten their anger at the time when her carefully formed judgment was pronounced upon the agitating and in after years successfully solved problem, though the consequences of delaying the solution are still strongly felt in America. They began to fancy her philosophy the only bar to friendship between them and herself.
The subjoined letter from one of the Southern cities in which she passed a delightful period will show how she was esteemed there. It is from Mr. and Mrs. Gilman of South Carolina, to her mother, in England.
TO MRS. MARTINEAU.
Charleston, S. C., 1835.
Dear Madam, —
An hour before parting from your daughter I offered, in the fulness of my heart, to write to you. Knowing the feelings of a mother, I send you this letter as I would give a piece of bread to a hungry man, not because it is the most savoury thing in the world, but because a good appetite will make it sweet. — The fortnight Harriet passed with us (you know she loves that appellation) we shall never forget: not from the development of her fine powers in general society, but from the winning manner in which she gave and inspired confidence at home. I love to remember the frank and hearty air in which, when we had fought through a day of varied and sometimes exhausting engagements, she threw aside her cloak and said to my husband and myself, at eleven o’clock at night, “Come, now, let us have a little talk!” How far we looked down into each other’s hearts in those winged midnight hours! and what a treasure of friendship was garnered up, not for this world, — for, alas, we shall probably never meet again, — but for another, where no wide sea shall separate us!
I had written thus far when an unusually rapid scratching of my husband’s pen attracted my attention, and peeping over his shoulder I perceived that he was writing on the same subject as myself to his brother, E. G. Loring of Boston. It saves me a little embarrassment to copy his letter, because I cannot pour out my thoughts as unreservedly to you on your daughter’s merits as I would to another.
“Dear Friend and Brother, —
I have been for some days meditating a letter to you on the subject of Miss Martineau. It was a true and happy impulse which caused both Caroline and myself to think of sending her a letter of invitation to stay with us as long as she remained in Charleston. The letter met her in Richmond; and, as she has since repeatedly said, gave her great pleasure. We expected an elegant, talented, good woman. We did not expect, in addition to all this, a lively, playful, childlike, simplicity-breathing, loving creature, whose moral qualities as much outshine her intellect as these last do those of the ordinary run of mankind. But exactly so, and without any exaggeration or enthusiasm in my picture, we found her. On account of the necessary irregularity and dissipation of her present mode of life, I gave her full liberty to keep her own hours, and to be free from the rules of the family. But no; she found out our hours of family prayer, and always came in most punctually with her favourite Bible, the Porteusian edition, which she reads more than any other book. In fact, though intending to be with us only a fortnight, she at once domesticated and ensconced herself among us as quietly and closely as if she had come for ten years. Dining out frequently and passing the evening at one or two parties, as soon as she came home at night, and had read at my request a devotional hymn in her own sweet and primitive manner, she would take Caroline on one side and me on the other, and there, fixed eye to eye and soul to soul, would she enchain and enchant us until long after midnight, when we were obliged to tear ourselves away, only out of tenderness to her. I do not think a woman ever lived who had such power to inspire others with affection. So you will say when you know her; so every body says who has passed two hours in her society. — One peculiar bond of interest between us was that all her early attempts at publication, which laid the foundation of her subsequent fame, were issued in the ‘Monthly Repository,’ just about the time when I used to contribute to that periodical a series of papers called the Critical Synopsis of the ‘Monthly Repository,’ consisting of remarks on every piece inserted in that work. We passed several hours in looking over those volumes. She never knew the author, or his name; but told me she used to figure him as a fat old gentleman in New England, sitting in his easy-chair, with a blue coat and yellow buttons, pronouncing decisions on her youthful compositions. On the second of the two Sundays she passed with us I taught her a part of John’s first chapter in Greek. Her accuracy and determination to pass over not a single principle in grammar or criticism, however minute, was astonishing. — When I asked my Caroline, who was with us at the time, if she was not jealous of my growing too fond of Harriet Martineau, my glorious wife* said, ‘O, no! take all the comfort in her that you can.’ She has a wonderful power of inspiring confidence, and extorting from those in whom she is interested the whole history of their past lives. This power was exercised over several of our leading politicians at Washington and elsewhere, as well as over us. Mr. Calhoun took infinite pains to indoctrinate her into the system of nullification. When we dined with General H. we were invited an hour before the other guests, that he might give her, at her request, his views on slavery. She studiously avoided arguing on these subjects, but quietly and keenly directed her attentions and questions to gentlemen of all parties in such a manner as to bring out the whole scope of detail of their several opinions. She made no secret of her aversion to slavery. She perceives and acknowledges, however, that the movements of the abolitionists have injured and retarded the cause of slaves here. Many little presents were sent her and Miss J. while here, and the mode of attention would probably have been manifested much more frequently had she remained longer. Mrs. W’s. gift (your Louisa will be interested to know) was six linen cambric handkerchiefs, marked with various emblems of Harriet’s character and fame. She threw out many little pleasantries on the six carriages that were offered for her use (one of which stood regularly at our door at eleven o’clock daily), threatening to make a procession of them and sit in the first. We gave her no party on account of our accumulated engagements, but invited friends to breakfast with her. She loves children, and children love her. She has brought ours a Bible play for Sunday evenings, in which adults join with great interest. On the last day of her being in Charleston she resisted several invitations in order to comply with our girls’ desire to have her visit their dancing-school. Caroline and I accompanied her eighteen miles out of town, where we spent the day in rambling in the woods or reading her works. We could not have done any thing else. On our return home at night we found that our Louisa (fourteen years old) had beguiled the time by composing her first piece of music and calling it the ‘Martineau Cotillon.’ I have purchased the Boston edition of her ‘Illustrations’ for my wife, and Miss M. has written, after a little coaxing from her, one or more sentences in every number, giving a precious bit of history or remark respecting the tales. She could hear most of my sermons through her horn, and has, I trust, benefited me by her remarks and encouragements. She is a deep adept in the philosophy of Carlyle, the reviewer of Burns, and the characteristics, in the Edinburgh. She devoted several reading evenings to these articles for us and Colonel C.’s family, our charming neighbours. She will speak of Coleridge and Wordsworth and spiritual growth to your heart’s content. Colonel P., the senator from Columbia, who says to her in a recent letter, ‘How can you make people love you so?’ has purchased her portrait, by Osgood. General H. sent her a set of the ‘Southern Review,’ and we had a delicious evening after she went away marking the author’s names and talking her over with the C.’s. — She contrived to run through several books in one fortnight, besides writing to her numerous correspondents and bringing up her journal; yet she never was in a hurry, never kept people waiting, and seemed only to hanker for long, sweet, private conversations with Caroline and myself. Her friend, Miss J., is an original, keen, frank, intelligent young lady, and secures friends in every quarter; my wife abandoned herself to the pleasure of intercourse with them. Her deportment to them was that of resistless hilarity, while mine was more solemn, under the painful consciousness that our interview must soon be over. My letter is a poor, faint idea of what you will find her. Her laugh is exquisitely amiable, frequent, and joyous. Wife is going to write to Harriet’s mother. She adores her brother James, a young Liverpool minister, more than any body else in the world,* and next to him Mr. Furness; but E. G. Loring will step in between brother James and Mr. Furness.”
My long extract, dear madam, will give you a correct impression of the nature of the intercourse with your daughter on our part. I will only add that her journey through the United States has thus far been one of triumph, — the best kind of triumph too, for she has been borne along on our hearts.
Remember us to “brother James and sister Ellen” and the other members of a family whom “not having seen we love.”
Harriet Martineau was deeply impressed, on arrival in the United States, with a society basking, as she somewhere says, in one bright sunshine of good-will. Such sweet temper, such kindly manners, such hearty hospitality, such conscientious regard for human rights, received from her a warm tribute of admiration. Her journals and letters record it all; and room should be found for a few passages, all in harmony with the preceding letter.
65 Broadway,New York, September 22, 1834.
. . . . General Mason and family are loading us with attentions. He is one of the most finished gentlemen I ever saw; and, if I am not mistaken, one of the most sensible of men. . . . . He is guiding us as to our route, and insists on our whole party to Niagara taking possession of his country-house on Lake Erie, which he writes to direct his son to prepare for us. His son is governor, and lives at Detroit.
How shall I ever tell you what we are doing? At the table of honour appropriated to us I am compelled to take the highest place. Half our day is taken up with callers. Such trains of them! The late mayor, to bid me welcome, members of Congress, lawyers and candidates for office, interested in poor-laws and what not, — you must fancy all this. Some of my honours are, having three special orders issued for my things to pass the custom-house untouched; tributes from Bryant and others ingeniously placed under my eyes; a letter from the principal booksellers of the State, asking leave to negotiate for any work I may think of publishing, and begging me to designate from their book-list what works they shall have the pleasure to present me with. And every copy of my books is snapped up. . . . . To-morrow we dine with the Carys. . . . . Mr. Furness preached at Mr. Ware’s chapel on Sunday. It was most delightful. The chapel is large, cool, and well planned and well filled. The pews are beautifully disposed, and the white building with its large green blinds might tempt in wanderers on a hot day. . . . . The quiet, deep tones of Mr. Furness’s fine voice suited my ear so well that I heard every syllable without effort. . . . . Mr. Furness came straight down from the pulpit to me, in much agitation, — begged me to accept the hospitality of his house first when I go to Philadelphia. He was almost in tears, and so were we, it was so like a brotherly meeting. I have had divers invitations to Philadelphia, but Mr. Furness is to entertain us first.
I am told that the violence about the slavery question is all among the Irish and low labourers, who are afraid of the coloured people being raised to an equality with them. If this is true, it alters the state of the case.
There is no bringing away any thing about Jackson, they contradict one another so flatly.
Within five minutes after I had crossed the threshold of my Broadway lodgings I was informed that the institutions of the country will have fallen into ruin before I leave; that “the levelling spirit” is desolating society here; and that America is on the verge of a military despotism! Such were the first politics I heard in America! I need not tell you my informant was not over wise.
New York,September 24. — Mr. Gallatin called. Old man. Began his career in 1787. Has been three times in England. Twice as minister. Found George IV. a cipher. Louis Philippe very different. Will manage all himself, and keep what he has. William IV. silly as Duke of Clarence. Gallatin would have the President a cipher too, if he could, i. e. would have him annual, so that all would be done by the ministry. As this cannot yet be, he prefers four years’ term without renewal, to the present plan, or to six years. The office was made for the man, — Washington, who was wanted (as well as fit) to reconcile all parties. Bad office, but well filled till now. Too much power for one man: therefore it fills all men’s thoughts to the detriment of better things. Jackson “a pugnacious animal.” This the reason (in the absence of interested motives) of his present bad conduct.
New-Englanders the best people, perhaps, in the world. Prejudiced, but able, honest, and homogeneous. Compounds elsewhere. In Pennsylvania the German settlers the most ignorant, but the best political economists. Give any price for the best land, and hold it all. Compound in New York. Emigrants a sad drawback. Slaves and gentry in the South. In Gallatin’s recollection, Ohio, Illinois, (?) and Indiana had not a white except a French station or two: now a million and a half (?) of flourishing whites. Maize the cause of rapid accumulation, and makes a white a capitalist between February and November, while the Indian remains in statu quo, and when accumulation begins, government cannot reserve land. The people are the government, and will have all the lands. [Ponder this.] Drew up a plan for selling lands. Would have sold at $ 2. Was soon brought down to $ 1¼, with credit. Then, as it is bad for subjects to be debtors to a democratic government, reduction supplied the place of credit, and the price was brought down to ¼ dollar.
All great changes have been effected by the democratic party, from the first, up to the universal suffrage which practically exists.
Aristocracy must arise. (?) Traders rise. Some few fail, but most retain, with pains, their elevation. Bad trait here, — fraudulent bankruptcies, though dealing is generally fair. Reason, that enterprise must be encouraged, — must exist to such a degree as to be liable to be carried too far.
Would have no United States Bank. Would have free banking as soon as practicable. It cannot be yet. Thinks Jackson all wrong about the bank, but has changed his opinion as to its powers. It has no political powers, but prodigious commercial. [Is not this political power in this country ?] If the bank be not necessary, better avoid allowing this power. Bank has not overpapered the country.
Gallatin is tall, bald, toothless, speaks with burr, looks venerable and courteous. Opened out and apologized for his full communication. Kissed my hand.
Van Buren is the chief of the tories. Clay is the father of the tariff system. A hearty orator. Is it the Irish and low labourers who riot against abolition?
September 24, 1834. — Rode to the James King’s, at High Wood, two miles beyond Hoboken. Saw bullocks yoked; ridge of rock and wood; splendid sunset, with crimson sky; pretty white wooden cottages, with thatched verandas. View from Mr. King’s garden beautiful; down to the Narrows, and up twelve miles. Glass-factory flaming among woods opposite, and elegant sloops moored in soft red light on river. Pretty and free-and-easy young people. Once made a qualification for office that the candidate should never have fought, and should never hereafter fight, any duel. God rid of by moving that promissory oaths are unlawful. Fight at Hoboken, and escape into New York. Robert Sedgwick thinks Webster equal to Demosthenes, and Clay’s warmth external. Saw Miss Sedgwick’s picture at his house, — fine expression, thoughtful and sweet.
September 25. — Colonel Johnson maimed in war. Likely to be President, General M. says. Saw Cass, Secretary of War. Shrewd, hard-looking man. Once vehement in politics, but tongue stopped by Jackson. Has been Secretary only this term. Irish driving of stage. Civility and freedom of manners. Rail-cars very comfortable. Snake Hill beautifully wooded. Many butterflies. Profusion of other animal life compared with human. Dwellings dotted. Indian corn. Hay left on ground to be carried in frost. Smooth Hackensack and Passaic. Alternate salt plains and wood. Fine weeds and elegant pokeberry, used (and hops too) as asparagus when young. Cattle feeding in enclosure where stumps are gray and like rocks. Paterson stands in a basin; but basin above level of stream. Rough and good people. Most immoral before manufactures were established. Now, drunkenness, but great improvement in other respects. Stand made by Mr. Collet against factory immorality. When currency troubles came, and all but three factories closed, young folks dropped into parents’ farms. When business was gradually resumed, dropped in again, so no want of hands. Difficult to get servants, from girls preferring factory-work. No place to deposit money; so often lost. The maid to-day with no cap. Pretty girl of fourteen nursing baby. Tall, and not awkward. Very simple. All seem to think that repeal of our corn laws would break up aristocracy. Also that they themselves are becoming too democratical. Must educate the people, and not legislate against democracy. All think Brougham mad or drunk. Cooper vain and petulant, Mrs. Griffith says. Lady fell from rocks at Passaic. Husband married again, and proposed bringing his second wife the day after their marriage! Fire-works at the falls; little water to-day; but wooded hills and rocks beautiful. Different levels of water, some turbulent, some still. Stumps in field. Fine fern. View of Paterson, under amphitheatre of ridges. Fine situation. Figures crossing turf, — “plodding homewards.” Young girls earn three or four dollars, and can board for one and a quarter. Talk on female education, &c., with Mr. Collet. Curd and preserves, cheese and fruit, for dessert. Raw beef and cakes and biscuits for tea. Delicious ice at eight.
October 10. — We must remember this day for having seen our first log-hut, and got some idea of forest sights. O, the dark shades of those thronging trees, with their etherealized summits! The autumn woods have hitherto seemed too red and rusty; these were the melting of all harmonious colours. And the forms! drooping, towering, — all sorts: and the tallest bare stems with exquisite crimson creepers. The cleared hollows and slopes, with the forest advancing or receding, but ever bounding all, is as fine to the imagination as any natural language can be. I looked for an Indian or two standing on the forest verge, within a shade as dusky as himself. I have written of utility being transmuted into beauty as time modifies tastes. This country must be the scene; for here, while utility is advancing gigantically, there is no time to impair the wild beauty of nature. The two will be found in new and natural combination. Should there not grow up from this a new order or period in the fine arts? Ought the Americans long to go on imitating? Ponder how much, and speculate on new orders of architecture, &c. . . . .
No beggary, but universal decency. I have seen girls barefoot, but they carried umbrellas! To-day we saw a pig-driver in spectacles! Reached Auburn in the middle of the day, and walked about. New houses on outskirts pretty, as usual, and beautiful bounding forest. 6,000 inhabitants; many of them contractors for prison manufactures, namely, clocks, combs, cabinet and chair work, weaving, tailoring, shoemaking, machinery, making carpeting, stone-cutting, &c. The contractors furnish the materials and superintend the work.
Niagara. You must not expect a description from me. One might as well give an idea of the kingdom of heaven by images of jasper and topazes as of what we have been seeing by writing of hues and dimensions. Except the hurricane at sea, it is the only sight I ever saw that I had utterly failed to imagine. It is not its grandeur that strikes me so much; but its unimaginable beauty. All images of softness fail before it. Think of a double rainbow issuing from a rock one hundred feet below one, and almost completing its circle by nearly lighting on one’s head. The slowness with which the waters roll over is most majestic. There is none of the hurry and tumble of common waterfalls, but the green transparent mass seems to ooze over the edges. The ascent of the spray, seen some miles off, surprised me; it did not hang like a cloud, but curled vigorously up, like smoke from a cannon or a new fire. We have crossed the ferry, and done more than in my present state of intoxication I can well remember or tell you of. On the spot, I felt quite sane, — sure-footed and reasonable; but when I sat down to dinner, I found what the excitement had been. I could not tell boiled from roast beef, and my only resource was to go out again as soon as we could leave the table; and now I am very sleepy. I expected I should be disappointed, and told Miss Sedgwick so. She was right in saying that it was impossible. If one looks merely at a cataract, it would be easy to say, “Dear me! I could fancy a rock twice as high as that, and a river twice as broad,” but I do not think any imagination could conceive of such colouring; and I was wholly unprepared for the beauty of the surrounding scenery. Fragments of rainbow start up and flit and vanish, like phantoms at a signal from the sun. We have watched the growth of this moon, “the Niagara moon;” and there she is, at her very brightest! What pleasure there is in a wholly new idea! It never occurred to me before that there can never be a cloudless sky at Niagara. A light fleecy rack is always in the sky over the falls; and the watcher may here see the process of cloud-making. No more now. Rejoice with me that I have now seen the best that my eyes can behold in this life. . . . .
Yours most affectionately,
Meadville. Hotel,October 29, 1834. — Waiting for breakfast, and then sitting down with labourers, but civil and respectable men. Then most hearty reception by the Huidekopers; father, and fine, handsome son and daughters. Pretty situation of the house, with woody hills opposite. A walk to the college. Mr. Huidekoper anti-Jackson, — strong. Gave a list of things that J. has protested against, and then done. Patronage can’t be done away. 150,000 interested persons, with all their influence to contend against.
Methodist college (purely literary) finely placed; has been opened just a year. Poor students pay by working at increasing the building, which is not new (twenty years old about). The Rev. — — is a pleasant specimen of Methodist minister. Library of 8,000 volumes, presented by Winthrop, and seems choice. Some Oriental specimens. Beginning of museum: Indian axe and arrow-heads. Peep into store in coming home. Drover raised from being a very poor boy, and likely to be wealthy. Now making $4,000 per month, of which half goes to the friends who advanced money to set him up. Meadville is on French Creek; has canal, and about 1,400 population. Good tea; English news in American papers, inundation of ladies, unexpectedly. Beautiful Miss — —. Fire in comfortable room; journal amid much sleepiness, and now to bed.
October 30. — Glorious weather. Talk and callers during morning till noon, when Mr. Huidekoper, Anna, and Mr. Wallace and I went out. A fine rapid walk of five miles, over opposite hill and through wood. Two black squirrels. Sweet, rich fields stretching under shelter of woods down to creek. Drive in afternoon. Long covered bridge, once shattered by a freshet; but children of two years play safely. Accidents don’t happen to little Americans. Walked to the C.’s to tea. Pleasant evening, with few strangers. Bad cold, and so to bed. Gentleman from Philipsburg says it is a forced settlement; poor land.
October 31. — Read Norton’s excellent, but supercilious, truth-telling Preface to work in disproof of Trinitarian doctrines, and some of the chapters. He gives up Revelations as a prophecy. Read some of Palfrey’s sermons. Read Reports of Blind Institution at Philadelphia: of House of Refuge, interesting, (why are not the children kept longer than from a few months to two years?) and of Penitentiary; interesting. Came down and found Mrs. — —, Mrs. H.’s deaf sister, a cheerful, shy woman, very good, I should think. Lent her my spare tube for two days. Sweet drive after dinner. Rich valley, and the softest woods when the red evening sun shone out. Saw good house building for a farmer who lost his by fire last winter. Neighbours bear the loss among them, so that he is better off for a house than before. Much talk on politics and morals in evening, with Messrs. H. and D. Horror here of ministers meddling in politics beyond just voting. Mr. H. a dismal looker-on in politics. Believes that thirty years hence they will be under a despotism: now coming under mob law. Asked him why he did not go elsewhere; answer, where could he be better off? Cannot cut off President’s patronage without altering the Constitution, and, besides, opposition is too strong. Sure that all the intelligence of the community is against Jackson. Attributes the evil to universal suffrage. Would have property represented instead of both property and person. Thinks ill of trial by jury. Here jury are paid a dollar per day, besides mileage. Hence needy men say, “Put my name in the wheel,” — thirty-six names for petty, twenty-four for grand jury. Lenient to criminal so far as to encourage crime. Also, protection wanted for prosecutor. If he fails to convict, culprit brings action for false imprisonment. (Dr. Follen disbelieves this, as a general statement.) Mr. H. upholds tariff system. During the war, America prospered from large markets for her corn. Then, no country would take it, and there was extensive ruin from want of subdivision. Relief brought at once by tariff, and since, New England has bought more corn than all other places, while she has been better employed than in growing it. This is the argument which Mr. H. seems to think will hold good for ever. Mr. Huidekoper says Jackson would give away lands, which are already sold too low. This would afford another premium on agriculture, which is too much pursued (he thinks) already. He says it is impossible to get on without a Central or National Bank, which must necessarily have great commercial power; but Jackson wants that it should be political power, and would have a treasury bank. (If it be true that the nation is verging towards anarchy and despotism, can I do any thing to show them what they have been, what they are, what they might be?)
We are going to visit Miss Sedgwick for two days. I wish Miss Mitford knew that we were going.
After speaking of the American women she had met, “some perfect ladies,” “some pale-faced, indolent folk who make a point of their shoes above all things,” “some pedants,” — she says: —
“It seems right, dear mother, to tell you that they are not at all shy of me. In all the letters we carry from one place to another the sentiment is amusingly uniform, namely: ‘The authoress and instructress of statesmen is forgotten in the,’ &c., &c. This looks as if pedantry was the common consequence of acquirement among the women. Miss J—’s cheerful intelligence makes her friends every where. We have begun a regular plan of Bible-reading and discussion together, and are quite disposed to rest invariably on the Sundays. When I told the General what is thought among us (and especially by Lord Durham) of the American Report on Sunday travelling, he was highly delighted, the author being his most intimate friend. He will introduce him to us at Washington, and thinks he has a good chance for the presidency next time; but every man thinks so of his particular friend.
“We have been exquisitely happy at Stockbridge, with the Sedgwicks. Miss Sedgwick is all I heard of her, which is saying every thing. All these Mr. Sedgwicks, her brothers, with their wives and blooming families, are an ornament to their State. They are among the first people in it, gracing its literature and its legislation, and spreading their accomplishments through the fair country in which they dwell. Such a country, of mountain and lake and towering wood! I was ‘Layfayetted,’ as they say, to great advantage. All business was suspended, and almost the whole population was busy in giving me pleasure and information. I never before was the cause of such a jubilee. If Ellen thought much of my mode of leaving Liverpool, what would she think here? We were carried to Pittsfield, to an annual agricultural assemblage, where I learned much of the people, and was made to drink the first out of a prize cup. O, the bliss of seeing not a single beggar, — not a man, woman, or child otherwise than well dressed! Captain Hall says no women appear at these public meetings, and that they are dreadfully solemn. We saw as many women as men, and few but smiling faces; but Captain Hall went to one meeting, on a wet, cold day, and drew a general conclusion, as is his wont. I am told he was asked if he would take a piece of something at dinner, and answered that he would have a bit, — that was the proper word; piece sounded very improper to English ears! What a traveller!
“I have learned more than I well know how to stow, at Stockbridge, the unrivalled village, where the best refinements of the town are mingled with the wildest pleasures of the country. We are to go again and again if they say true; and this morning at six we departed from amid a throng of tearful friends, feeling that we shall never meet with kinder. I never saw so beautiful a company of children as were always offering me roses, or lying in wait for a smile or an autograph, or to bring me lamp or water, or whatever I might want. Miss Sedgwick is the beloved and gentle queen of the little community. They gave me letters to Van Buren (the Vice-President, and centre of all the political agitation here), expecting that I should meet him at Washington; but on arriving here I found that he has just returned from the Falls, and had been inquiring for me, and after dinner he called with his son. He is simple in his manners, and does not look the wily politician he is said to be, nor as if he had the cares of this great Republic on his shoulders. He hopes to welcome me to Washington.”
LETTER TO HER FAMILY.
Philadelphia, December 12, 1834.
I do not know where to begin, dear ones all, in my pleasant story, but seem to have lived half a lifetime when I think of my intercourse with these friends, and yet it appears but a day since I sealed my last to England. Briefly and from my heart thanking you for your full communications, I proceed to give you a few scraps of my delights. First, we are still here and likely to be. I should have been torn to pieces, or I should have set people by the ears together, if I had gone elsewhere. We are also so ineffably happy together, that we all banish the thought of parting as often as it obtrudes itself. All Philadelphia has called upon me, — people of many ranks and all opinions, religious and political. We have been to dinners and balls among “the high fashionables,” while through our host we have seen, I fancy, more of the enlightened men of the city than we could have met elsewhere. The Biddles and other great men have made much of me for my Political Economy, and the best of the Quakers on account of “Demerara.” So that I do believe I have been in the best circumstances for accomplishing my object, while I cannot imagine that I could any where else have found the deep repose with which I solace myself in this blessed house, after the vanities and toils of the day. [Then follows a charming description of a charming family.] O, those precious children! I must not now write. Our days are, — breakfast at half past eight (after worship), a lingering breakfast, and more talk than eating. Out early, to see sights, return calls, and escape callers, a pack of whose cards daily awaits us when we return to dress for dinner. We dine somewhere, drink tea somewhere else, and then go to an evening party, finishing with a delicious talk, till twelve or one, over the fire. A lady here placed a carriage and black coachman at my command the first day I came.
We stay here over the twenty-third, which is the anniversary of the young, admirable blind school, for which I have, by request of the patriarch Vaughan, written a prologue.
We see no difficulties before or behind, or on either side of us, and are full of happiness. Yet I have seen much sorrow here. If I have been much among the great and the gay, I have been also among the wretched. Not only have I been much in hospitals and such places, but there are daily appeals to me to visit some who are sick, that want to talk to me about the “Traditions;” or some who are deaf, that want to follow up with me the letter in Tait; or the managers of the insane, who want to know more about Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. If I did not know the vanity of all these things, I should think I had been able to do more good here than in any year of my life before. There is such an ordering of tubes from Baltimore, such a zeal to get a copy of our Poor-Law Bill, and such an earnest seeking after my opinion about their public institutions! The best of all is, that after one interview we all forget that I am a foreigner. The inquiries about my “impressions” are dropped, and we get at once to our subject, without any tendency to institute comparisons. The honours of a stranger are offered me without the penalties. The nearest place (that I may hear) is left for me every where; but there is a thorough union of hearts as to what is going on. I have now intimate intercourse with two or three valuable people, who had vowed to keep out of the way of the English, but who, finding others dropping all mention of the book I was to write, have come out of their holes, and laid open themselves and their country to me. I really believe this never happened to Hall or any other of our travellers; and I am truly thankful for it, for more reasons than I can mention now. Patriarch Vaughan and the venerable Bishop White (called here the bishop of all the churches) have done me the honour of seeking me; and when they are gone (as they must soon be), it will be a tender pleasure to think of it. I have presents of books and flowers, and tickets to public institutions, &c.; and this morning I have been touched (in spite of the absurdity) by a letter from an insane gentleman, of Ohio (gone mad on high subjects), appointing me high priestess of God and nature, if I dare undertake the charge.
The most interesting, perhaps, of my employments has been visiting the penitentiary, for the sake of discovering the causes of crime here. I am almost the first who has been admitted alone to the solitary prisoners. The board ordered that I should do as I pleased at all times in the prison, and I have been shut up with murderers, burglars, forgers, and others, listening to their eager and full confidences about their crimes and their miseries. It is all I can do to command my feelings for them when I see them look up in amazement at my unexpected entrance, and struggle with the tears which spring at the first kind word I speak to them. What revelations will I give you, some day, of the lives of these poor creatures! But it is too large a subject for this letter. The worst thing is, that the relations of the prisoners sometimes hear of my visits, and they come and insinuate family tidings to me, which I am bound in honour not to communicate. It is hard upon me to refrain from telling a prisoner how his wife is, and how she is labouring for his release. My rule is to tell all this to the governor, who can do as he thinks proper, and to keep the confessions of the prisoners to myself. It is a noble institution. But what must be the state of society where it is humanity to prepare such an elaborate apparatus of human misery!
Of slavery and public affairs I cannot write to-day. Only take care how you suppose you understand the case of the Bank till you hear from me at full length. I have never given an opinion on their politics since I came, nor is there any need. People bring theirs to me abundantly; but when they question me, it is not of their politics, but something which they rightly suppose I know more about. I have fully ascertained that at Washington one may mix freely with the leading men of all parties and not be liable to the charge of treachery or partisanship.
Farewell, all my precious family! Dearest Helen, kiss you bairns for me, and don’t let them forget me! God bless you, and keep you all as happy as I am!
Yours most tenderly,
And now, furnished with half a hundred letters from every body worth having known to every body worth knowing, and anxiously expected by Webster, Calhoun, Clay, and all the rest, Miss Martineau took leave of Philadelphia, where she had been so much beloved. “I am sure I am a more virtuous person for all this happiness,” she said at the time.
I have succeeded in my search for the “prologue” which Miss Martineau wrote, at the request of Mr. Vaughan, for the anniversary of the Philadelphia institution for the blind, because it “would save Mr. Furness the trouble.”
EXTRACTS FROM THE PHILADELPHIA, BALTIMORE, AND WASHINGTON JOURNAL.
It seems to me that reporters of the state of society here forget how heterogeneous it is, and what a marvel it is that there is any common mind at all, among so many. If the bigotry that marks the religious world extended to other matters, there would be no living in such a Babel as it would be.
Christmas. — Called on the Fortins. Mr. Fortin dusky, with white hair. Told us his history. By sail-making he has raised himself to competence. His son-in-law, Mr. Purvis, has been to England. Told us of O’Connell’s greeting. Would not shake hands with an American till he knew what part he had taken about slavery, but held out his hand instantly to one of the proscribed race. It is painful to hear them speak of their proscription. Purvis is a fine young man. The number of coloured people in the States in Mr. Fortin’s youth was 350,000; now between two and three millions.
January 1. — Snow piled up every where and the sleighs, with their belled horses, very lively. Mr. Read gave me for a New-Year’s gift an original letter of Washington, and has sent me Washington’s account-book, presented to Congress, containing his account of expenses during the war, when he would have no salary. Very small memorandums, and characteristic from their exactitude and justice. Mr. Latrobe means to inform me fully on colonization, — from this State.
January 2. — Sight-seeing, — infirmary, — medical school. Subjects almost exclusively supplied from the coloured people, because they can’t resist; — taken chiefly from the graves. So these dusky bodies are not contemptible when they are dead. Home. Found Mr. Read and Mrs. Cumberland Williams, who won my heart by her praise or rather love of my Philadelphia friends. She was Pinckney’s daughter. Met Governor Barbour, Dr. and Mrs. Collins, and Mr. Kennedy at the Skinners’. A merry party of little folks at the Shaws’ in the evening. Plenty of the little beauties came and gossiped with me.
January 6. — Sleighed round the outskirts for an hour. Pleasant party, and Mr. Latrobe full of information about colonization. He knows what he is about. It is plain that the North has one set of interests and the South another, and that the Colonization Society loses by trying to reconcile the two. Maryland is interposed, and what she does is most important. Mr. Latrobe wants to establish a cordon sanitaire of colonization States round the worst; and believes they are ready. Individual State action is the way. . . . . If abolition were ordained in any State, the blacks would only be sold into the South; and if every where, they would die of vice. The rule here is that all freed slaves must go away; so the more manumission there is the more opposition from the slave States, unless colonization be provided as an outlet. . . . .
The state of feeling about these poor creatures is monstrous. There seems no rest for the soles of their feet. . . . . O, what a retribution! Very pleasant day if I had been well; but I would have incurred worse illness for the sake of what Mr. Latrobe told me.
January 14. — Mr. S. C. Phillips took me to the Senate Chamber, where Sir C. Vaughan welcomed me heartily. A beautiful room and forty-eight fine heads. Webster conspicuous. He and Clay spoke. It was the French Question, — against the President’s recommendation of reprisals. Webster’s voice beautiful. More to my ear than Clay’s. My head ached vehemently, and so we went home. Mr. and Mrs. Calhoun and Colonel and Mrs. Preston called, and were most affectionate. Mr. Sprague; — model of an American legislator. Thinks Calhoun not practical, though theoretically complete. Afternoon, calls, — calls, — calls. Evening, Mr. Palfrey, Judge Story, Mr. Everett. The rest went to a great party which we declined, and Mr. Everett remained. We talked on Furness, Dewey, Channing; on the Senate, on English reviewing, on Mr. Gallatin, on Jackson, on prisons. Mr. Phillips tells me that Massachusetts hopes to get Edward Everett to be either governor of Massachusetts or senator with Webster.
Read Carlyle’s article on Burns. Was mightily cheered and lifted up by it. I must read it again when I find myself growing worldly.
So few travellers feel at home in a foreign land, so many make it a principle to suspend actual life till their return, subsisting meanwhile as spectators, and hardly feeling the odd, unaccountable beings by whom they are surrounded to be fellow-creatures, that one cannot help wishing for the publication of all Harriet Martineau’s American letters; for they are all filled with the same live element of personality which shows, as in these few that can with propriety be copied, how differently she took foreign life. She stood in no need of Voltaire’s reminder to his friend on the eve of sailing for Japan: “Never forget, mon enfant, that the whole world are exactly like your father and mother;” and this makes the peculiar charm of those ingenuous outpourings of the worshipper of nature and the lover of humanity, sharing with her kindred what she reserved for them alone, — the innocent satisfaction of her nobly earned success, and the joy of new friendships, scenes, and thoughts in the new half-civilized world.
What the old over-civilized world would think of it all was the natural anxiety on both sides. Harriet Martineau was the representative to all, of the mother country, which stood to them as the representative of civilization. The United States seemed for the moment a mere whispering-gallery for the transmission of her opinions. In addition to her English fame, she had by this time attained an American popularity, and made herself everywhere felt by an especial adaptation or natural fitness in her character to influence that of our people. One gentleman “had heard from her such striking thoughts on prison discipline and criminal legislation as would modify his whole future political life.” Another “had found the Bible a new book since reading it in the light of what she said to him of its depth and power.” “The whole subject of family discipline has taken a new aspect to me,” said a lady to whom she spoke of the power of love and the evil effect of punishment in creating in a child the spirit of fear and bondage. She awakened whole societies to new and important ideas about health. She had sown deep in a thousand hearts new and grand thoughts of the nature, sphere, duties, and rights of woman; and wherever she went, the splendour of truth and the value of religious liberty and the importance of moral independence were talked of and felt as never before. All these things came daily to our ears, — every one telling with a sort of rapturous veneration what an awakening to the spirit her conversation had been. But with all this came from time to time reports of her condemnation of the abolitionists. “She says they have done the cause of the slave great injury.” “She says your language and your measures are unjustifiable.” “She says you do not understand the matter.” All this made no impression on my mind to her discredit, for how should one coming to learn, see these things otherwise than as presented by the authorities on such subjects: — the first people, — the best people, — the leading people. But one of her penetration could not be sent out of the country hoodwinked, however she might be led blindfolded through it; yet it might well take long to understand this “mystery of iniquity.” We had lived all our youth under the benumbing vassalage of slavery, and never dreamed it was so, till Garrison’s voice “broke the deep slumber in our brain.” How should she see at a glance what had been so skilfully wrapped up in darkness for wellnigh half a century? One of the clearest minds connected with the cause took the responsibility of entreating her to delay judgment till she should have examined thoroughly, in the following letter.
ELLIS GRAY LORING TO HARRIET MARTINEAU.
Boston, April 18, 1835.
My brother, the Rev. Mr. Gilman of Charleston, S. C., has encouraged me, in a late letter, to venture the invitation I make to you of being my guest during your expected visit in Boston. He tells me he has spoken to you of his sister, my wife, and of myself, and I therefore take this way of recalling to you our names, and of expressing the hope, which would otherwise have appeared to me only a fruitless wish, that we may know you intimately. We have heard much of you personally from our correspondents, and we are as ready to love you cordially as a friend as we have long been to admire and respect the author of your works.
Your tour through the United States is contemplated with great interest by all who know the weight your opinions of us and our institutions will have both in Europe and America. A continual attempt will be made, and is, I know, now made, to prevent your seeing them in any but their most becoming attitude. I trust you will duly estimate the amount of compensation this circumstance requires. All that hospitality can do to win the heart and to seduce the judgment will of course be done. But your head as well as your heart is to act an important part in marking the destinies of this young empire. You know your responsibilities, and will observe, judge, and act accordingly.
You must see all around you illustrations of my meaning, — but one is so near my heart that I cannot but suggest it. The apologists for slavery in this country are thoroughly alarmed at your journey of observation. The author of “Demerara” is a formidable personage in the Southern States. Your coming was hailed with delight by the friends of the slaves and of the true interests of the country, and was looked to with dismay by those whose interest here is oppression. What is the course taken by these last? You are received with the most marked attention, writer as you are of the best antislavery tale ever written, — while a New England man who should have written that work would have been (pardon the truth) indicted and imprisoned, if nothing worse, had he set his foot for the next twenty years into South Carolina or Georgia. The highest literary rank and worth could not have wholly saved one of us from the consequences of such an unpardonable offence. But Miss Martineau is the world’s property, and as she cannot be crushed, she must, if possible, be blinded. — Forgive my zeal if I say to you, do not judge of slavery as you see it in the drawing-rooms of the men of refinement and perhaps of principle whom you visit, — of course the very élite of the Southern country; but look at it among the field slaves of Carolina, the semi-civilized back settlements of Alabama and Mississippi, or in the New Orleans slave-market. Alas! you cannot see it in these aspects; — your standing with its inevitable associations, but far more your sex, must prevent your catching more than partial glimpses of what it is not meant you should see. I might better ask you to keep in mind the dreadful statistics of our domestic slave-trade: 6,000 (chiefly young persons) annually exported from Virginia alone, away from relations and home, to die in the unwholesome Southwest.
You will have heard, before you return to the North, stories of the fanaticism and indiscretion of the antislavery party, from many sources, — from the ambitious statesmen, who wish to serve and be rewarded by two masters, who would stand well with the North and the South; from the “wise and prudent,” who think the whole truth on any subject inexpedient, and regard it as more dangerous even to talk of remedying an abuse than to wait for it to tumble down destruction on their own heads. You will, of course, be asked to measure the violence and recklessness of our Northern attacks on slavery by the irritation they cause in the slaveholder. Most of these accounts are exaggerations or falsehoods. But this would be comparatively unimportant, except as it may insensibly affect our view of the great controversy of principles which is awakening throughout the land. For the sake of the cause, I ask you to suspend your opinion of the antislavery measures and men till you can look at them for yourself. . . . .
I live in a retired and quiet manner at 671 Washington Street. Your welcome there would be most cordial. It would be a true gratification to my wife and myself to have you come to our house on your arrival in Boston, and to make it your home as long as we could succeed in making you happy there.
I feel that I have taken an unusual liberty in writing you such and so long a letter. I have no apology to offer but the gratitude and regard I feel for one to whom I have owed both delight and improvement, and who has done so much to make society wiser and happier.
With renewed apologies and the truest esteem I am your obedient servant,
ELLIS GRAY LORING.
Between the time of her receiving Mr. Loring’s letter and the date of this reply her private journal is extremely interesting. It was at this period that she was applied to to make a constitution for Texas, and there one sees all the passion of her enjoyment for natural scenery. The record all along, of each day, ends thus: “Read the New Testament.”
Subjoined is Miss Martineau’s answer.
Lexington, Kentucky, May 27, 1835.
Dear Sir, —
Your kind and gratifying letter followed me from New Orleans, and has, at length, met me here, at Mr. Clay’s. Mrs. Gilman led me to hope that I should hereafter have the pleasure of becoming acquainted with yourself and Mrs. Loring; but I did not anticipate so early an intercourse as you have kindly offered me the means of holding with you. I have already engaged myself at Boston to Dr. Tuckerman and to your namesakes, Mr. and Mrs. Charles G. Loring; but I hope to remain there long enough to avail myself also of your offered hospitality, and shall consider myself engaged to spend a little time with you when I have passed a week with each of these friends I have mentioned. I am sure we shall have a great deal to say to each other, and I shall say my share with peculiar ease and pleasure under your own roof. We should no doubt have known each other without the intervention of our dear friends the Gilmans; but that we share their love is a sufficient reason for dispensing with the usual preliminaries of a friendship.
We shall spend many a half-hour in talking over the principal subject of your letter. It is too copious a one to be entered upon now, but I cannot honestly let you suppose that I agree with you in thinking that there has been any attempt or wish to blind me as to the real state of things at the South. I have been freely shown the notoriously bad plantations because they were bad, and have been spontaneously told a great number of dreadful facts which might have just as well been kept from me, if there had been any wish to deceive me. I have seen every variety of the poor creatures, from the cheerful, apt house-servant, to the brutish, forlorn, wretched beings that crawl along the furrows of the fields. The result has been a full confirmation of the horror and loathing with which I have ever regarded the institution, and a great increase of the compassion I have always felt for those who are born to the possession of slaves; a compassion which has something of respect mingled with it, when I see them persecuted by a foreign interference, which is now the grand hindrance to their freeing themselves from their intolerable burden. How Christians can exasperate one another under the pressure of so weary a load of shame and grief I can scarcely understand; and I have been fancying, all through the Southern States, how, if Jesus himself were to rise up amidst them, he would pour out his compassion and love upon those who are afflicted with an inheritance of crime. If his spirit were in us all the curse would be thrown off in a day; and as it is, I am full of hope that the day of liberty is rapidly approaching, notwithstanding the mutual quarrels of colonizationists and abolitionists, and the hard thoughts which the friends and masters of the slaves entertain of each other. The reasons of my hope, — my confidence, I will tell you when we meet. I have had the honour of a slight correspondence with Mrs. Child, and look forward with much pleasure to meeting her. Dr. and Mrs. Follen are well known to me by name, which is the same thing as saying that I want to know more of them. We (my friend Miss J. and myself) have had the pleasure of travelling over many hundred miles with Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Loring. They are now at Cincinnati, and are going to the Virginia Springs, while we turn westward as far as St. Louis at least. We hope to be at Cambridge by Commencement, and then to travel through New England during September and October, previous to our settling down in Boston for a long visit.
I beg to present my respects to Mrs. Loring, and to assure you that I am truly your obliged
Here were reproduced the very sentiments, and for the most part the phraseology of the more decent slaveholding world and its allies, — yet with a difference. None of them had ever said that “if all had the spirit of Jesus the curse would be thrown off in a day.” That they would have rebuked as “immediatism,” — a thing impossible to be so explained as not to be liable to misapprehension, and therefore not proper for the time. As to the spirit of Jesus in itself considered, all their logic went to prove that the slaveholders unquestionably possessed it; while the abolitionists were destitute of it in the precise proportion of their devotedness as such.
For the rest, these ideas were identical with the American ones. Just so the world that hated and despised the abolitionists viewed with mingled compassion and respect the men born to the possession of slaves. Just so it called our antislavery efforts, justified by our own guilty complicity, through the constitutional compact, “foreign interference.” Just so it laid the crime of the longer continuance of slavery at our door. Just so it claimed the peculiar love and compassion of Jesus for a blameless set of men, loaded down with the shame and grief of a burden they could not get rid of; — not sinners, but afflicted with the consequences of anterior transgression.
All this wrought somewhat painfully on the minds of many of the abolitionists, particularly when they found it gave intense delight to every body but themselves. Every body “hated and loathed slavery” too, but that was all. It was the step farther that was to cost, and therefore could never be taken. So men went on talking of the gentleness of Jesus; and of the Sunday schools for slaves, which antislavery violence had put a stop to; and of the revivals of religion at the South, which showed how Christ owned and accepted as his people the persecuted slaveholders: “And so Miss Martineau thought, and she had been through the whole Southern country;” and they never failed to inquire, thereupon, what we thought of the pious John Newton, “who had sweet seasons with God while he was engaged in the slave-trade.” “I think he was an old Antinomian!” was the reply furnished us by the Rev. Dyer Burgess, one of our excellent coadjutors from Ohio, who had been assisting at our five-o’clock morning prayer-meetings for the cause. There might have been seen representatives of every shade of opinion, from rationalism to the most extreme Calvinism, drawn together by the strength of a common desire. Dr. Watts’s description of heaven would in a sense have characterized these assemblies: —
The humanitarian said amen to prayers offered in the name of the Holy Trinity, for the triumph of the principles. Evangelical Orthodoxy embraced as brethren in the cause the Unitarians and philosophers who were ready to shed their own blood for its sake. One after another, with but little variation of form, they prayed the same prayer. “Bear with our many repetitions,” — prayed the hater of sentimental religion, faith without works, the antinomianism of a slave-trading piety, — “Thou who didst pray unto thy Father, in thine agony on man’s behalf, three times saying the same words!” We only wished Harriet Martineau could have heard.
Then, too, the “quarrels” of colonizationists and abolitionists! So she understood “that death-grapple in the darkness ’twixt old systems and the Word!”
It was a great breach of conventionalism to thrust in at this stage of the correspondence between herself and Mr. Loring, but I felt sure of the real character of the illustrious personage, and that she would not fail, after having seen all, to discern the unusual stress of the time, and to find in it a reason and an excuse for so unusual a procedure.
I returned again and again in memory to her declaration, “If all had the spirit of Jesus it would be abolished in a day;” for I knew that to her mind “the spirit of Jesus” was the synonyme of all that was authoritative by reason of excellence. I did not build so much as others upon her having written the best antislavery tale. It would not follow because Mrs. Behn and Steele and the Duchess de Duras were equal to the conception of “Orinoko,” “Inkle and Yarico,” and “Ourika,” that they could be true to human nature, under the severest ordeal, — as that certainly was to which slavery in the United States subjected every foreigner of distinction. But the writer of “the Scott papers,” the true painter of woman, the exalter and consoler of poverty, — no, I never could doubt that she must eventually see things as they really were. I wrote to her, but I have no recollection of her reply as differing in tone or spirit from her letter to Mr. Loring, nor do I find it among the collection of her letters to myself. I suppose it was lent at the time, and worn out, as the other letters had wellnigh been. They were not private letters. Whatever it was, it did not shake my faith in her, and I awaited her coming with undiminished interest.
How well I remember the first sight of her so long ago! We had, as it were, a long sitting, for we first saw her at church, — Dr. Channing’s. It was a presence one did not speedily tire of looking on, — most attractive and impressive; yet the features were plain, and only saved from seeming heavily moulded by her thinness. She was rather taller and more strongly made than most American ladies. Her complexion was neither fair nor sallow, nor yet of the pale intellectual tone that is thought to belong to authorship. It was the hue of one severely tasked, but not with literary work. She had rich, brown, abundant hair, folded away in shining waves from the middle of a forehead totally unlike the flat one described by those who knew her as a child. It was now low over the eyes, like the Greek brows; and embossed rather than graven by the workings of thought. The eyes themselves were light and full, of a grayish greenish blue, varying in colour with the time of day or with the eye of the beholder, — les yeux pers of the old French Romance writers. They were steadily and quietly alert, as if constantly seeing something where another would have found nothing to notice. Her habitual expression was one of serene and self-sufficing dignity, — the look of perfect and benevolent repose that comes to them whose long, unselfish struggle to wring its best from life has been crowned with complete victory. You might walk the livelong day in any city streets, and not meet such a face of simple, cheerful strength, with so much light and sweetness in its play of feature. And the longer one knew her the more this charm was felt; for it was the very spirit “of love and of power and of a sound mind.”
In intimate conversation she was free and winning beyond any one we had ever seen. Her one great gift seemed then to be utterance; not rhetoric, not elocution, not eloquence, not wit, — though her talk was full of short corner-touches, — but the faculty of rapidly communicating thought and feeling. Her fulness of sympathy made it natural to her to meet every mind in private society just as she unfailingly did the public mind in her writings, — exactly where it laboured. She could not help saying to every person something not to be forgotten; and seeing how many there were whose after-lives she acted upon by a word, her one great gift seems to have been to influence and to teach. There was something in her which broke down the American caution and reserve. Give her ten minutes, and it all melted away. She was surprised to find the New-Englanders so merry a people; but interchange of thought in a free country, where each is sovereign, was then less safe than under a despotism; and a paid government-spy in every social circle less a check on intercourse than the American dread of public opinion under the rule of slavery; and so we laughed together, because we could do that without risk. We had a jesting spirit in conformity to our institutions, when slavery was one of them. It was neither the English humour nor the French wit, but a droll narrative humourousness of our own, — wit forced out of dangerous channels into safe ones. It was our refuge from the dulness of “non-committal” intercourse. Ladies might not avail themselves of it without so much of limitation that it then made them seem stiff and pedantic. And though at that time we were a friendly hearted, we were not, on the whole, a social people. And all this made Harriet Martineau’s cheerful, free simplicity like a fresh breeze in a stagnant place. Discussion, debate, monologue, and dialogue are all more natural to us than conversation. So little, in fact, was it then in our nature or habits, that we thought conversible Europeans must have been trained to it as an art. Parties not being permanent, no protection existed for the one-sided freedom of intercourse which could exist in England.
Then, in addition to whatever there was of natural inaptitude, increased by whatever might be the effect of institutions, came in the check of incessant strife between our theory and our practice. All this made a comparatively wintry state of heart; which, however it might warm up in the actual conflict of life, could seldom cast off in society the conversational mufflers of health, weather, light literary criticism, fine-art pedantry, and fun.
The passage through our society of one so full and free was a season of refreshing. Harriet Martineau did New England good wherever she went, entering with the liveliest pleasure into all the interests of the hour. At Salem, where she was the guest of Mr. Stephen C. Phillips, then our Massachusetts member of Congress, she became the influencing friend of many. It was for the Sunday school there that she wrote a new “tradition of Palestine,” the little story of “Elec and Rachel;” and the children gathered round to touch her dress unawares, as if she could put them in nearer communication with Christ. And she could not only, on occasion, make the young serious, but their elders gay. The annexed jeu d’esprit pleased her so much on account of its ingenuity, that, much as she herself deprecated flattery, she preserved it for her mother. It was given her after an evening’s conversation, by Dr. Flint, a Unitarian minister and a poet, who had made numberless inquiries about English living authors.
It was of these lines that an amused friend remarked, “They would have been capital for the nonce, if it had not been so difficult to read them effectively.”
DR. FLINT’S SONNET TO MISS H. MARTINEAU’S EAR-TRUMPET.
We gathered, from the surprise she seemed to feel at finding the abolitionists to be persons of good sense and education, — freer than the rest of the world from narrowness, violence, and fanaticism, — through what a course of misrepresentations of them she must have passed. Indeed, it could have been no otherwise. The whole land rung with the abuse of them that preceded and prepared for violence, and not a voice had spoken for the absent.
“Mr. Clay ought to have told me,” she said, “of such a man as Mr. Birney, living within thirty miles of him.” This was Judge Birney of Alabama, in poverty and exile in a free State for having emancipated his slaves, although surrounded by a young family dependent on him for education and support; and, what was far more a trial of faith and principle (as he, alas! afterwards found), he had joined the antislavery movement, to which he owed the happy impulse.
She was told the abolitionists were unsexing woman, so that good men found it necessary to republish in America good little English books on her appropriate moral sphere.
“But what is her appropriate moral sphere?”
“Why, certainly a special and different one from man’s.”
“But if so, she would have had a special and different Christ.”
“But, dear Miss Martineau, is it possible you think women have the same duties and rights as men?”
“I think their powers ought to settle that question.”
Circumstances coeval with the settlement of the country had been preparing it for that question, but it was Harriet Martineau who took the initiative in presenting it for a practical solution in the United States, by her conversation and example, seconding her writings.
Then, the abolitionists were “people of one idea.” “But you Americans,” she replied, “all seem to have a special mission. Is it not natural we should all have one, in accordance with our individual capacities? Some devote themselves respectively to temperance, education, peace, or the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts; why should not Freedom be the mission of others?” This made so wide an impression, that we became at length wearied with the echo of this saying about a “mission” among persons who still refused to let abolitionists have the benefit of it.
Once the conversation falling upon endurance, and what men might be called by a sense of duty to encounter in consequence of doing right, and what prospects the mind could be brought to dwell on with composure, she said, “I have often thought that the worst thing that could befall me would be to die of starvation on a doorstep; and (gleefully) I think I could bear it.”
Talking of the difficulties that beset Necessarianism as compared with the Boston Unitarian ideas, she said, “I find no difficulty so great as a God that did not hinder what happened to-day and does not know what is going to take place to-morrow.” Once when atheism was the subject of conversation, she was told there was but one avowed atheist in the State. “I wish there were a thousand,” she said; “for what depths of concealment and suffering the fact implies!”
This one avowed atheist, Abner Kneeland, was then under prosecution for blasphemy, for having declared in his newspaper, “The Investigator,” that he thought “the God of the Universalists, with all his moral attributes (aside from nature itself), a chimera of their own imagination.”
Harriet Martineau’s conversation with her friend, Mr. Ellis Gray Loring, on the subject of freedom of speech and of the press in connection with this case, resulted, on Mr. Kneeland’s subsequent conviction, in the preparation of a petition, signed by Dr. Channing and a hundred and sixty-seven others, all Christians, and some of them evangelical Christians, for the pardon of the offender.* This petition was rejected by the governor and council, but the end was not yet. Not only was it the last prosecution of a theological opinion in Massachusetts; it set in motion a demand for equal legal rights irrespective of theology; and what is popularly called “the Atheist Witness bill” — agitated from time to time in our Massachusetts Legislature for two-and-twenty years — passed both branches, to the statute-book, and was only prevented from formal record as a law, in accordance with the public conviction of its everlasting need, by the electioneering necessities of the moment.
At this time there was no discordance between herself and our Unitarians generally on the subject of a First Cause other than the approximation to the Orthodox world occasioned by her Necessarianism. Yet I think her mind must have begun to transcend their usual forms of thought. To one who spoke to her of the importance of sympathy with God she replied, “Yes! — for it is the love of truth.” “We must be true to our own consciences,” continued the first. “Yes, — but conviction is not truth.”
She was puzzled about our “harsh language,” as it was called by the tender-hearted country at large, that bore to look on torture and dare not look on truth. “Why don’t they prosecute you for defamation?” she said. “Because we don’t defame.” That then was not it; and she finally seemed to settle into the opinion that it was our bad taste that made the difficulty, — an unfortunate defect on our part to be deprecated as lessening the force of the idea. We were not prepared to make our defence on the score of taste. “Tastes differ,” to so proverbial an extent, that Lord Chesterfield forbade so rude a thing in society as finding fault with them. We only stated the fact that ours was the accepted mode of preaching of the vast majority of the clergy of the country, the evangelical custom, — not to say fashion; though to English Episcopacy and Unitarianism, and all who “never mention hell to ears polite,” it of course seemed to be removed from the category of profane swearing only by being couched in Biblical language. And though we loved the Hebrew sound of it, she might be allowed to find fault. But we refused to grant the same immunity to Andover and Princeton, whose mother tongue it was, without a scorching exposure of their hypocrisy.
“Now tell me how much of the ‘Liberator’ you really write?” said she, seeing I had defended it on both principle and expediency, and on the very grounds for which it was generally condemned. “One would think, to hear you, that there was but one duty in life, — rebuke.” “Exactly so,” I was about to say; “these are of the times when rebuke is ‘wisdom, holiness, goodness, justice, and truth.’ ” But something of elevated emotion in her look stopped me; and I only said, “I desire no further special conversation with you on this subject. I am sure of your determination to see and know all things for yourself, and of your determination to act rightly and justly in every emergency.” Again she had used the very words of the enemies of the cause, but with a spirit so foreign to the moral toadyism of Unitarian sentimentality and evangelical hypocrisy, that one could only hail it with satisfaction. The abolitionists had been reviled without exception for their sweeping, unmitigated censures, but always most unjustly. The blessing besought by the old Massachusetts divine had been vouchsafed to them, — “Lord, grant us thy crowning mercy to discriminate between things that differ.” By their fruits we knew men. Their words were merely their disguises at this time; and often plausible enough “to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect.”
I only added that I wished she knew Mr. Garrison, whose journal I had been defending as a means of the highest degree of excellence and adaptation in American affairs and character. I had no long conversation with her after. Previous to her accepting our invitation to attend the antislavery meeting of which she has given an account, she asked if the ground we had taken, of opposition to slavery, had cost us many friends? We said yes. “Remember not to be unjust, and say that they deserted you; for it is you who have deserted them. It is you who are changed. They remain the same.” It was very true; only men do not long remain the same under such circumstances, — they inevitably grow worse; and that she had opportunity to see afterwards, though the time was not yet.
We have seen what England was when she came into it; now let us look back to the condition of America when she entered it. It was during her first sojourn in Massachusetts, at the time such thoughts as these were revolving in her mind, that we made our first attempt to see Harriet Martineau. We too, with the rest, were drawn to meet her, whose way it had never been, as a family, to seek strangers of distinction, and who were now too busy with our antislavery conflict to have taken up an ordinary guest. But in this case our family elders encouraged us. Was she not of their own faith, — the “essential,” “unfolded,” “manifested” faith of the prize essays? Had she not established a claim on them, and so on us, by her letter to the deaf? Had she not created Cousin Marshall, and Letitia, and Ella of Garveloch, and Cassius of Demerara? And while the Tories had been taunting the English abolitionists, up to the very hour when dawn broke into the windows of Parliament upon their victory, with having done nothing all these forty years, was she not one of them? Her they encouraged us to seek, and her we determined to see. Chiefs of all parties and advocates of all schemes were thronging to her for sanction, and what should hinder us? They had enthroned her under the palm-tree (and even under the palmetto), and all our American Israel was trooping up to her for judgment, and why not we among the rest? Nay, I inwardly felt, why not we especially, of all the rest? for, being what her works proclaimed her to be, I knew our lives could not fail to be of one substance, nor our lot of being cast in together.
But the hearts of some misgave them on the way. “We are young,” we said, “and unknown.” “No matter,” we made answer to ourselves, with all the preoccupation of Sisera’s mother, “we understand her! and all these troops of homagers do not.” Here we were doubtless mistaken. We did but feel, in common with the rest, the lift and sway of the powerful nature that was passing by. We went, in the joy of our hearts, to meet it, forecasting the coming interview as we went.
“But the trumpet!” said one of the young girls of the band; “how shall we venture to speak to her through that?” And our ignorance and our imaginations of what we had never seen magnified it into an instrument of dreadful resonance, drawing every eye upon the speaker. But we were not in a state of mind to be daunted by trifles, and quickly gathered up our courage. “No matter how much noise it makes; we shall have altogether the advantage of others, for we have something to say. Only we have hold of the root of all American problems, — ‘we few, we happy few!’ Others will take the trumpet as she presents it, and in their confusion will fail to make themselves understood. (We had previously had minute accounts of the manner of her receptions, and how gray-headed statesmen lost their presence of mind as they took it from her hand.) ‘What did you observe?’ she will inquire. ‘I merely remarked that it was a very fine day.’ It will give no such uncertain sound when we take it in hand! ‘I said they are men-stealers!’ will bear repeating twice!”
Since the Vision of Alnaschar there had not been so clear a foreshadowing of what was not to come to pass. She was not at home: and Mrs. Tuckerman, her hostess for the day, told us that she would be able to see no more visitors till after her return from the South.
It was no freak of calling their elders names that, just before Harriet Martineau’s arrival, had unaccountably seized a set of well-bred young people of much hope and promise; no sudden fit of insanity, destroying their usefulness and blighting their prospects in life. A grander prospect was opening to them, and the most exalted uses. To a nation blindly wandering to no end, after blind guides, or deluded by deceivers, a leader had now arisen, — it was hoped in season to arouse the United States to a sense of their condition. They had been delivered over, bound hand and foot, to the service of slavery, and they neither knew nor felt the ruin and dishonour of submitting to such a tyranny. Under its corrupting influence the country had actually lost the sense of moral distinctions. The terms good and evil, right and wrong, sin and holiness, vice and virtue, no longer represented the original ideas when Garrison, the first to whom this fresh inspiration of freedom came, undertook to awaken in the people a feeling of guilt and danger. Now for the first time was heard, on the soil of the New World, an appeal to the higher and exclusively human instincts, — mightier than penalties and arms: —
“I determined to lift up, at every hazard, the standard of emancipation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birthplace of liberty. That standard is now unfurled — till every chain be broken and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble, — let their secret abettors tremble, — let their Northern apologists, — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble!
“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not a cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge not me to use moderation in a case like the present. I am in earnest, — I will not equivocate, — I will not excuse, — I will not retreat a single inch — and I will be heard.
“It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment, to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years, — not perniciously, but beneficially; not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God that he enables me to disregard ‘the fear of man which bringeth a snare,’ and to speak his truth, in its simplicity and power.”
At first not more than a Spartan three hundred heard and heeded, — small force to battle for three millions, against the whole land on the other side, — but they did not shrink abashed in their insignificance from the magnitude of the undertaking, although its ultimate import loomed up brighter and broader every instant before their gaze, till it speedily took the grand proportions of the salvation of a world, — involved in the question of human freedom. All questions, all rights, all futurity, became visible in its radiance. These were strong hours in a land’s destiny, but not a doubt or fear perplexed them that came forward to give it shape. The intimate conviction of each one of them seemed to be,
“For this, amongst the rest, was I ordained!”
and they gave themselves to the work with a joyful disregard of the personal cost, which entirely took from their deed the character of sacrifice. They wrought their righteous will, and took the consequences. “One to a hundred thousand” (they were told), “you are mad to expect success.” “We should be worse than mad to doubt, for that one is in the right.” “Nobody else sees a chance of success for you.” “Nobody else knows what we are willing to pay for it.”
The work they had undertaken was to them not only an enterprise and an association: it was also a principle, a cause, a religion. Every heart and brain was under the charm of all the great thoughts and feelings that have ever stirred humanity. As they battled with the thousand shifty pretences men took to escape the truth and avoid doing justice to the slaves, it was to make an enemy and meet a calumny at every blow; and thus, amid church-craft and state-craft, and over all the crafty special defences of slavery, built up around it by a people it had utterly corrupted and subdued, the fight went on. France is logical, and England is compromising; but free, slaveholding America was both: and hence the keen scholastic strife, the energy of holy warfare, unknown in union in the day of Peter the Hermit, Abeillard and William de Champeaux. But it was no barren subtlety or mad crusade that occupied our minds. Though each was for himself in search of absolute truth and absolute right, yet all were as one in refusing longer to brook that broad gross insult to a Saviour-Christ, that outrage against the moral sense offered by the reigning public opinion of the land, — the justification of slaveholders as good Christians. They pronounced a slaveholder a blot upon Christianity, and condemning the American slave system as the vilest that ever saw the sun, they demanded that it should be immediately abolished. “But the nation is not ready.” “The slaves are ready. Every good man is ready.” “But the obstacles!” “There are none but your selfish injustice.” “But the preparation!” “The demand is the preparation; and the only preparation indispensable:” and they made it; — in every form of argument, appeal, entreaty, reproof, statistics, petition; through such a variety of instruments, all tuned to concert-pitch, as left nothing to be desired for the completeness of the harmony. They claimed for the slaves liberty and equality before the law. “You are amalgamationists.” They demanded the abolition, by the nation, of all slavery within its jurisdiction. “You are disunionists and incendiaries.” They demanded the withdrawal of all religious sanctions from the system. “You are infidels.” And the reverend and approved good masters of the South became furious and lawless, and the hollow hearts and cardinal sins of the North felt rebuked and outraged, and both took counsel together how they might destroy us out of the land, before we should succeed in implanting in it a hatred of slavery.
At this time it was that Harriet Martineau was telling her mother, and noting in her private journal, what she saw of the “theory and practice of society in America.” Among merchants speculating in Alabama lands, or involved by mortgages in the ownership of slaves; among planters, with their capital in cotton-raising and slave-breeding; among tender-spirited clergymen, enjoying the spaniel’s privileges in the midst of such; among politicians, gambling for the high offices which give the means to buy their tools with petty places; among manufacturers and land-owners, possessing wealth enough to make tools of rival sects by paying the heaviest proportion of the preaching-tax, — among these and such as these she was likely to find better theory than practice. The former can be learned in a day: the latter is less obvious. The rending antislavery battle then going on had for its object to show the world how the whole land was sown with invisible sharp instruments to wound whatever feet should press too near the political and religious machinery of despotism in America. It took years of severe conflict to carry these outworks and lay the springs of slavery bare.
Meanwhile, the very best men Harriet Martineau met, — whose natures should have instantly kindled at our call, — seized with misplaced modesty, were breathing a quieting sentimentalism over the country; while others, of hardier spirits, while they trampled down this true revival of religion, were setting in motion the idle machinery of sectarian “revivalism,” with strictest care to put nothing between its millstones to grind. The more compassionate, the more cunning, and the statistically given, were busy with that lie with circumstance, — the Colonization Society. It was difficult, indeed, to rouse such men to the burden and heat of so great a day. The curse of knowing better than they lived came upon them; and the few who laid the cause of liberty to heart were left to stand by it alone, and bide the brunt of every calumny that could be heaped on “ignorant and mischievous fanatics,” — “the vulgar and debased dregs of the land.”
And men who could have undeceived Harriet Martineau at every step, because they personally knew the honour and excellence of the persons thus maligned on account of their best qualities, — men who would themselves have been abolitionists but for the loss and glorious shame of the thing to which they were not equal, — were meanly mute when their silence endangered the lives of their best fellow-citizens: and when at length they spoke, it was to endanger them still more. The model statesman and scholar suggested their indictment at common law, and sold their rights of speech, and of the press, and of association, to his slaveholding dictators for a future senatorship and foreign embassy. The pattern saint authenticated the street calumny that the abolitionists were in favour of cruel vengeance on the part of the slaves. The leading jurist said law was not for the protection of abolitionists, — only for the safe guarding of slave-property. The model gentleman sneered at them as very low in the social scale, — “ancillary,” he thought, for he was too much a gentleman to call the ladies, his neighbours, servant-maids, — and he suffered himself to be driven stupidly with the rest into this disgrace, by infamous editors, hired to do the work of merchants whose Southern land-speculations and carrying-trade might be more or less productive as slavery was more or less firm in the market. And all the wealth, official station, literary prestige, religious authority, in short (to use a New England provincialism), “all the property and standing” of the country, rose up against the abolitionists. They thought of that strange, impressive utterance — satire at once and psalm — of David: “The mighty are gathered against me, — not for my transgression, nor for my sin.”
Harriet Martineau used to laugh at us Americans for our habit of beginning at the beginning in our talk. “I ask a question here,” she said, “and you begin at the creation and go on to the day of judgment.” But yet what we did in talk she always did in reality. She was, I think, the most whole-minded, large-minded, right-minded person I ever met in any country; the most capable of discerning the end from the beginning in human affairs; and hence her instinctive power — confiding and free from suspicion as her nature was — to discern halfness, untruth, and insufficiency in human character.
She had, I think, but one personal interview with Mr. Garrison (then unknown, except in an unfavourable manner, as a tenant of the Maryland state-prison, and as the “low criminal” on whose head a price of $5,000 had been set by the State of Georgia), while she was long the favoured guest and beloved friend of Dr. Channing, and the admired and honoured guest or associate of Mr. Clay and Judge Story, Mr. Webster and Mr. Everett and a hundred others, — the representative great men of America. But her mind carefully and surely discriminated between the good great man and the good men who were not great; between the grand, uncompromising spirit, working, giant-like, to turn the current of an evil age, and the bad great men of the hour, whether bold or timid, who did but float upon it to some selfish end.
Dr. Channing, between whom and Harriet Martineau a true friendship subsisted to the day of his death, was a good man, but not in any sense a great one. With benevolent intentions, he could not greatly help the nineteenth century, for he knew very little about it, — or indeed of any other. He had neither insight, courage, nor firmness. In his own church had sprung up a vigorous opposition to slavery, which he innocently, in so far as ignorantly, used the little strength he had to stay. He was touched by Brougham’s eloquent denial of the right of property in man, and he adopted the idea as a theme, but he dreaded any one who claimed, on behalf of the slaves, that their masters should instantly renounce that right of ownership; he was terror-stricken at the idea of calling on the whole American people to take counsel on so difficult and delicate a matter in antislavery associations; and above all he deprecated the admission of the coloured race to our ranks. He had been selected by a set of money-making men as their representative for piety, as Edward Everett was their representative gentleman and scholar, Judge Story their representative gentleman, jurist, and companion in social life, and Daniel Webster their representative statesman and advocate, looking after their business interests in Congress.
And herein lay the secret of these great American reputations. Not one of them was of power to have made his way against public opinion. The public acclamation that sustained them was not hero-worship, but self-adulation. “Surely” (it meant, being interpreted), “the vigorous money-making power is the greatest of all, and we ourselves as good as great preachers, orators, lawyers, and scholars; since they act according to our directions, and never transcend our convictions. These are our proxies; and while we drive them along before us in the sight of the world, we too are famous in their fame.”
Herein, too, lay the secret of the public rage when the fact appeared that the illustrious stranger — however drawn to one by a like conscientious piety, to another by similarity in social, scientific, or legislative powers, and to a third by appreciation of belles-lettres scholarship — had not found these men themselves illustrious; while she bore with the greatest composure to be laughed at for pointing out the despised youth Garrison as the great man of the age.
It was a pleasure to see her honest, earnest abandonment of her mind to the power of evidence, and how patiently she would settle herself to listen to another side of a question of which she thought she had already seen enough to justify her conclusion; ready to go over again with the whole case as affected by the new element. You saw she had but one desire, — the fact: but one object, — the truth. “Is it so, or is it not so?” was the unmingled expression of her face while listening to the various testimony that came before her.
She possessed a singular mobility of countenance. It was simple, compound, or changeful, with the occasion, keeping exact pace with the movement of her thought. I recollect once reading to her a few verses I had written expressing the feelings of three hundred delegates of antislavery societies in the country towns of New England, for whose reception we could obtain no hall in Boston, their Mecca, their Jerusalem, “the city of their solemnities.” I have forgotten entirely the verses, but I remember the change of her face with each as I repeated them, as something extraordinary for sincerity and strength. But I was speaking of her impartiality. It was from experience that she wrote at that time her essay on Moral Independence — as one of them that “know what it is to rise in the morning with a strong persuasion of something, to be shaken before noon, to perceive a troublesome amount of evidence on the other side before night; . . . . who know what it is to mix alternately with the friends and foes of some institution, and have their sympathies engaged by each, till they begin to wonder if there are any bounds to the conflicting evidence which may be offered, any unity of principles in the case, or any power of judgment in themselves. They know that the only hope of rational and steadfast conviction lies in diligent study, patient thought, and a faithful comparison of new facts with old principles, — a process which few are able and fewer still are willing to carry out with perfect fidelity. . . . . If such be the weakness of the strongest, such the difficulties of the most resolute, what is authority? . . . . It is only by taking our stand on principle, keeping ourselves free to act untrammelled by authority, that we can retain any power of resolving and working as rational and responsible beings.
“Not only does individual peace depend on freedom from authority, but the very existence of society rests on individual rectitude.”*
In this essay she speaks of those who for various reasons forfeit their moral independence; “Those who are so overpowered by an idea of the greatness of man in the abstract that their own individuality shrinks, and they submit to authority under the idea of doing homage to humanity; . . . . those who relinquish it by moral perversion of some kind, whether called selfishness, timidity, or mistake as to the right objects of pursuit; . . . . those who fail for lack of nerve, taking pledges they know they shall forfeit, deny principles they know to be true, hide truths confided to them to be revealed, uphold institutions their Maker’s hand is pulling down, hold their peace when they should speak, and shut their eyes against the light, and all ‘because they cannot meet the questioning eye, or bear the pointing finger, or contemplate the petty instruments of man’s persecution’; . . . . those who uphold with clamor a barbarous institution, if it only keeps up a demand for their merchandise; . . . . the office-seekers who, in reptile degradation, prey upon the honours of society; . . . . those who act for fame, profaning with the breath of men the power that ought to be sanctified to the service of truth, putting their manhood up for sale, and actually begging a place in the great slave-market of society.”
Eloquent, beautiful, and true; capable of making the profoundest impression: but all this and more, covering their whole case, New England men could bear, at any time, of a writer or a preacher, and remain entirely unmoved, — nay, boast meanwhile, in virtue of having listened to it, that they were “as much antislavery as any body.”
Harriet Martineau was soon to learn what it was they would not bear.
Although it seemed to us at that time — what it really was — the greatest possible privilege to serve the antislavery cause, we should have shrunk as from dishonour from dragging any one unwittingly into its service; and in offering to Harriet Martineau every opportunity for observation and information, it never darkened my mind that it would bring her into the same position of danger and difficulty with ourselves, to make use of them. I thought her immense personal popularity would be her protection in obtaining personal knowledge of the crisis, even at an antislavery meeting. I wished her to see, that she might be able to say in England, after her return, that the abolitionists, though few in number, were a fair specimen of all classes and conditions of Americans; and I thought she might do so safely. I was mistaken. My country was even more corrupted by slavery than I had thought. I did not know what the paper contained that was given her to read at the antislavery meeting which she has described, at the house of Mr. Francis Jackson, but I never saw severer pain (with a touch of displeasure too) on any human countenance than was then expressed for a moment by hers; and once more I saw that there are two different hours of righteous witness for the truth: one glad and joyful like our own, and one like His who said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass.”
It was whispered round the room that this was a request on the part of Mr. Loring that Miss Martineau would address the meeting. I remembered words of hers to which I had listened in a previous conversation, — “The martyr’s real trial is the doubt whether he is right,” — and I rejoiced to see that hers was not that trial. It was but a moment, and she was ready, with no trace of pain or displeasure on her face. She spoke with unequalled simplicity and dignity; and the few words she uttered conveyed the grounds of that momentary look of reproach (which, if legitimate, she never afterwards felt or made), and marked the limitations of her testimony to the exact degree of her feeling and knowledge.
“I have been requested by a friend present to say something, if only a word, to express my sympathy in the objects of this meeting. I had supposed that my presence here would be understood as showing my sympathy with you. But, as I am requested to speak, I will say what I have said through the whole South, in every family where I have been, that I consider slavery as inconsistent with the law of God, and as incompatible with the course of his providence. I should certainly say no less at the North than at the South concerning this utter abomination; and I now declare that in your principles I fully agree.”
A sublimer act of self-renunciation for the sake of right it had never been my happiness to witness; for never have I seen, before or since, one who had so much to renounce. I had not thought to afford occasion for it, nor did I suppose my friend Mr. Loring to have acted in foreknowledge of the immediate consequences to herself. But this I know, that one circumstanced as Harriet Martineau then was may well bless the chance and thank the instrument that makes way for dealing so effectual and heroic a blow for a land’s redemption. She took her life in her hand and deliberately cast it from her into coming time, and the nobility of the deed will give light to all in need of the strength of a bright example forever!
The country was again in arms, and against her as an individual. Abuse was exhausted. The organ of the Boston self-styled aristocracy, the “Daily Advertiser,” “the respectable daily,” as it was then for distinction’s sake called, heading the vulgar pack. A harder thing to bear was the grief of the timid good at the immediate consequences of an action whose scope and nature they no more comprehended than the born blind the day; while the obtrusive and officious betrayed, by their anxiety to nullify her testimony, their own opposition to the cause.
Very few beyond the thin ranks of the abolitionists ventured to approve, and efforts were made to persuade her that they too were regretting the step she had taken. Of these few the excellent Stephen Clarendon Phillips, who had hung her portrait, painted for the place, at his home in Salem, when she bade that town farewell, wrote thus to her from Philadelphia, on his way from Washington, where he had left the question of slavery agitating Congress through all its ranks: —
We shall have an agitating session, but what of that? Do you not already understand enough of our institutions to know that excitement is often salutary, and may always be rendered so? Let there be free discussion; give us the power of truth and moral courage, just as much as is wanted, and the more excitement the better. I have no fears from bringing the slavery question into Congress; my only fears are from its being kept out. The sooner the opposite opinions can meet each other the better. Till then, truth cannot vanquish error. But the question cannot be long kept out. The votes for laying upon the table, and for the previous question, will grow weaker and weaker. The project of rejecting petitions expired in its first attempt to breathe. Petitions will crowd in upon each other, knocking for admission, and presently they will be heard, discussed, and granted. I care not if it be the work of years. I rejoice that I have lived to see the work commenced. . . . .
I meant to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and to have told you what I thought about your speech. But it is of no consequence. I believe that you are fulfilling your mission. Is that enough? May I not hear from you very shortly? Believe me sincerely yours,
S. C. PHILLIPS.
The Rev. Ephraim Peabody, of whom at his death, twenty years after, it was told in the journals of the succeeding day, as his greatest distinction, that he was “the friend of Harriet Martineau,” wrote to her thus from his sick-bed in New Orleans, weighed down by thoughts of the opposition of his fellow-Christians every where: —
New Orleans, February 17, 1834.
My dear Miss Martineau, —
I received your letter just as I was starting South, and I pray that sickness may never make you know the worth of such a letter, nor of your kind acts and words at Watertown. You warn me not to answer your letter. — It was kindly done; but the truth is, that in the feverish wakefulness of long nights and days too I have written in thought more than a hundred letters to you, and I wish (and shall I not?) to write one, on paper, to say how large a place you fill in my mind and in my heart; how much I would give for the sound of your voice, — and that not so much for the wisdom or beauty of what you might say, but for the same reason that in this city of strangers my wife’s voice or sister’s would be music from heaven, because I love them. I know you will pardon me for saying this, as it is very likely the last time I may speak or write to you. I wish to write also to say that the little and contemptible newspaper persecution you were subjected to for speaking your thoughts of abolition has made me think of the subject till all my sympathies, and to a very great extent my judgment, is with the abolitionists, — entirely so, if Dr. Channing is one. I know you acted from a good conscience, and conscience is “a strong-siding champion,” that needs not the aid of others; but if others have criticised what you did in attending an abolition meeting, I also may say that, though at that time* my opinions were very different from yours, I could not but from the bottom of my soul honour you for what you did. . . . . May God bless you and prosper you; it is the prayer of your friend,
Others there were who expressed, like Nicodemus, by night, the feelings it would have cost too much to proclaim by day.
I would here fain group together the words of glowing charactery from a hundred strong minds and hearts, each of so different a strain that their combination would show better than the best words of the most graphic description the impression this great heart made while it dwelt among them. A few, at least, I may preserve.
Of us, though not among us, he who had years before made himself first known to the world as of all things best judge of bravery and truth, — Emerson, — now approved himself a judge once more. “Joy,” he said, “that you exist. Honour to your spirit, which is so true and brave.”
Mary Ware, the last of that fine race of New England women that was true to New England’s noble old standard of womanly excellence before the proclamation of a nobler, wrote thus: —
“I know not how to be grateful enough that I have known you. That you have given us pleasure you cannot but know; but you cannot know how much good you have also done us.”
Dr. Follen, the patriot hero of Germany, the student, the poet, the philosopher, the victim of the Holy Alliance, the Christian teacher, the American abolitionist, and the victim of American despotism, had undergone an experience which enabled him to appreciate that of Harriet Martineau. He was one of those rare great spirits that find no alternative at the call of a great cause but obedience. He was the only European exile of that vintage who declined to prosper as an American by flattering the nation’s sin, — so rare is the virtue that can pour out its life-blood twice. While suffering proscription from the land of his birth, he identified himself with Garrison among the earliest, and suffered, with the rest, a fresh proscription from the land of his love and his adoption. When the venal journal of Boston corruption was used to persecute and insult Harriet Martineau as the friend of freedom and the friend of the slaves’ only advocates, as the practical defender of the imperilled right of speech and of association, he saw, though without help from the example of his friend, Dr. Channing, that it is no sin against the freedom of the press instantly to cease to support a tool of slavery. His charming American wife, no less devoted to the cause than himself, strove, like him, to turn the tide of malediction, but in vain.
Their friend’s popularity among the outraged ladies and gentlemen was gone.
This is Dr. Follen’s letter to her on that strange occasion, when the most highly bred nation on earth, in its treatment of women, rose up as one man to insult and injure the most distinguished woman of another land for an act that would have saved it from the curse of slavery if any one act could.
EXTRACT OF LETTER FROM DR. FOLLEN TO H. MARTINEAU.
November 30, 1835.
. . . . You are now experiencing what cannot be new to you, though you may not have met with it in this country: how little in times of trial we can rely on those whose affection for us is grounded on other things than our principles; who cannot bear to hear any evil spoken against us; who fear our influence may be impaired by an ill-timed assertion of unpopular truth, &c.! Those principles in which we live and move and have our being, though as old as the creation of man, are still a new doctrine, the elements of a new covenant, even in civilized, republican, Christian America. They are as the bread and wine of the altar, to which all are invited, but of which few partake, because they dread to sign in their own hearts the pledge of truth which may have to be redeemed by martyrdom. For is it not true that those who maintain that all men have an innate divine right to all the means of improvement and happiness within the reach of man, and that all have a corresponding divine obligation to claim that innate right for each human being, are either shunned with silent condemnation as abolitionists, democrats, agrarians, or hailed with the cries of “Crucify! Crucify!” as fanatics and incendiaries? But if the world separate itself from us, it leads us to find a world in ourselves and in each other; not to form a new aristocracy of a somewhat higher stamp, but to unite our strength to break down every wall of our partition that interferes with man and our fellowman.
Our meeting with you, dear Harriet, was a blessed recognition, rather than a new acquaintance; our friendship had a pre-existence in kindred principles. Were it otherwise, I should tenderly regret that your late conscientious “indiscretion” should have brought upon you censure, and acquainted you with the weight and measure of many professions and sentiments. But you have “settled your points and acted thereupon,” and that is sufficient to compensate you for all the world can give and take away. . . . .
Yours very truly,
We were never able to perceive a shadow of dissatisfaction or impatience under all this outcry and clamour; yet she was one who delighted in public sympathy, and desired approbation as much as she disliked flattery and the homage of selfishness. All the more serious inconvenience of the derangement of her travelling plans, by the risk of life incurred if after this she attempted to carry them out, with the continual disquiet of a threatening danger, — all were borne with a perfect composure.
Dr. Follen, her most intimate American friend of that time, who knew her by parity of greatness as none other could, said she was like Joan of Arc; and so indeed she was, by a thousand traits of resemblance. There was the same great public spirit, with the same strong domestic affections and skill in all domestic arts, yet unsustained by family appreciation. There was the same keen political sagacity, with the same infantine candour and simplicity that historians tell of, in every look and gesture. There was the same obedience to her “voices,” the dictates of her combined faculties personified by a reverential imagination, in conformity with the teachings of the time, with the same initiatory anguish in view of the consequences of obedience; and with a final sense of so great a joy in that obedience as in like manner to wish the interior monitor might never cease to speak. She was attended, too, in like manner, by the adoration of the many and the hatred of the few; and the sign she gave of her mission was the same, — always to raise the siege. There was in her nature the same sensitiveness to suffering, and the same inability to avoid it by unfaithfulness. There was the same bravery in conflict, the same avoidance of controversy,* the same tenderness to the vanquished. There was the same rare unconsciousness which can only accompany that genius in action which is an inspiration of the heart; and there was the same power of sacred companionship —
“Holy amid the knighthood of the land” —
with all, of whatever sect or sex or race or nation, to whom the welfare of mankind was dear. And while she was thus unconsciously informing, enlightening, and, so to speak, inspiring those to whom real interchange of thought and communion of heart was a new thing, — unconscious of mere feature, they felt a presence like that of the Maid of Orleans, radiant with joy and fame.
It fell often to my lot in those days to defend the right of woman to do whatever good she could; and I used, in speaking of woman as she should be, the words of Beattie when he characterizes Scotland, —
The words exactly described Harriet Martineau.
The time of her departure was now at hand, and the whole country awaited anxiously her next words from the other shore. For ourselves, our uncertainties were over. The mission of her life to the United States of America had begun; and with her, words are nothing distinct from life. The symphony predicts the coming strain.
With all the confidence we felt in knowing her so well, we yet knew her with so little personality that we could not, like others, follow her to the last with blessing and adieu. We could but say in our own hearts, as she departed, “Farewell, steadfast-hearted one, — so wise, so tender, so simple, grand, and true!”
And we turned to meet the coming battle with a loftier joy.
[* ]“I tell the tale as ’t is told to me.” — Note by Mrs. Gilman.
[* ]Except her mother. — Note by Mrs. Gilman.
[* ]There was great difficulty in obtaining this number of signatures. Not a single one was furnished from any theological seminary, while a counter petition was numerously and spontaneously signed by most prominent and influential men in the community. In Mr. Loring’s original draft there were two additional grounds of opposition to religious prosecutions: 1. That belief, not being voluntary, cannot rightfully be rewarded or punished; 2. That in so important a matter as what a man believes to be true, on subjects of a practical bearing, the expression of it is not only his right, but a clear duty to others. These seemed to Dr. Channing, who headed the petition, to savour too much of the metaphysics of Unitarianism to be admissible in a document intended for general signature.(!) To one neither metaphysician nor Unitarian it would certainly seem that if there ever did exist practical universal truths, making a part of the very nature of things, these are they. In deference to him, they were, however, omitted. But this was the character of that good man’s mind. He constantly needed the admonition of the French statesman, conveyed in his definition of a bétise, — “C’est oublier la chose essentielle.”
[* ]Essay on Moral Independence. Miscellanies, p. 179, Boston edition.
[* ]Three months previous.
[* ]“Je sais bien que batailler n’est pas mon ouvrage,” says the old chronicle, of Joan of Arc.