Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end. All other inconsistencies are as in the original.
LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
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VOL. IV.—SEPTEMBER, 1863.—NO. III.
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SOUTHERN HATE OF NEW ENGLAND.
In these days of strange and startling events, of rapid and fundamental changes, of curious and unexpected developments; these days, tremulous with the vibrations of the political atmosphere, and quaking with the fierce earthquake of national war; these days, that are filling up a web of history with more fearful rapidity, more complete, important, and decisive results than any previous epoch in the world's annals,—a history which, if ever truly and worthily penned, will demand a deeper search into moral causes and effects, a closer scrutiny of the philosophy of mind, and a more careful balancing of political judgments, than any drama ever before played on the great world's stage,—in such days as these, I say, it is curious and profitable to subject each new moral phase that presents itself to a rigid analysis, and trace every effect, moral, political, governmental, or popular, to the cause or causes that may, after a fair showing, appear to have produced it. A fair and dispassionate application of true and just principles is as essential to a right political judgment as to a correct moral decision, and he who allows himself to be led by passion, selfishness, prejudice, or a blind adoration of party, instead of the calm convictions of educated reason and conscience, thereby dishonors himself, and abdicates the right he possesses of acting for the best interests of himself and all. Especially is this true under a democratic form of government—where every citizen is a legislator, virtually,—where opinion leads to political action, and is consequently responsible for the course that action may take, and where each one helps to swell the numbers of those great parties that in their plannings and counterplannings make or mar the general good fortune. If this is true of individual citizens, how much more is it true of those mighty engines of the press and of party, that sweep such grand circles of influence, and install, in grandeur or in gloom, such important national conditions. That these are fruitful of evil as well as of good, every great national struggle, every crisis in the affairs of nations and of humanity, bears witness. Every national contest has seen the rise and the fall of an anti-war party, and felt the influence of a press wielded in the interest of that party. These have not, necessarily, always been in the wrong. The contrary has been often true, though their fall, and the opprobrium cast upon them have been none the less sure. It is only when these have arisen during the progress of a war involving great moral and humanitarian principles in its successful prosecution, that the whole force of such an opposing influence is felt, the whole evil apparent. No cause however just, no war however holy, no trust however high and honorable, but has met the violence of this evil opposition, and the danger of betrayal from this source. Not while men possess the greed of power, place, and gold; not while reason is held in abeyance to passion, is freedom safe without a guardian, or the liberties of mankind able to abide without 'eternal vigilance.' Even our national war, the grandest and holiest of time, both in its purposes and results, is only the last most mournful illustration of this fact. When these contemporaneous judgments, true or untrue, as they shall prove, now in the heat of the time evolved in the thoughts of those who do think, and becoming crystallized in the countless newspapers and periodicals which deluge our land, and in the party records of the hour, come to be thoroughly sifted, and the sure and impartial verdict made up to pass into 'the golden urn of history,' without appeal thenceforth, great will be the glory or the shame of the prominent actors in the drama now enacting before the eyes of the world.
What is the spectacle that our astonished eyes behold? The Genius of Liberty, standing on the threshold of her besieged temple, pale, fettered, betrayed in the house of her very friends, but resolute and dauntless as ever, her eye calm and steadfast, her hand firmly grasping the Magna Charta of our birthright, and the birthright of all the race. While a raging and vindictive foe bays her in front, and the leal and true are pressing in countless hosts around her at her call, a false and craven crew are basely creeping in at undefended passages, and, with lies and slanders and deceitful tongues, endeavoring to undermine the foundations of her strength. Base sappers and miners! Thank God ye are few! And the number of the people ye are trying to hoodwink and seduce from their allegiance is hourly growing less, as your cunningly devised schemes explode. Do ye not know that the people of the Free States are loyal to the core? That great principles are invincible as fate, say rather, Providence? and that those who will not move in their onward course must be overwhelmed beneath the wheels of their triumphal chariot? Do ye not fear the award of posterity? Let the partisan press of to-day, and those who inspirit and sustain it here at the North, who are vainly and impotently trying to turn back the tide of human progress by aiding and abetting the vilest rebellion against a good government that has been seen since Satan, that arch rebel, chose 'rather to reign in hell than serve in heaven,' shudder at the report the unerring tongue of history will give them, even if they care nought for the good of humanity as bound up in the well being of this land. I have called these men few, for it cannot be that the great and time-honored organization of which I hope these men are but the calumniators, boasting the grand old names of Jefferson and Jackson as founders, and enrolling in its ranks so many thousands of the substantial yeomanry and solid men of the country, will really prove false to its name and trust, and be willing to descend into history in the robe of horror and infamy which, like the fabled shirt of Nessus, would cling to it forever as the country's betrayer, if it shall not shake itself free from these vile contaminators. No party could survive the weight of the foul imputation of putting barriers in the way of this war, which, we firmly believe, though terrible and bloody while it lasts, is to end by giving a fresh and vigorous impulse to the cause of human redemption and advancement—an impulse that nothing thereafter shall be able to check materially.
Although one only comprehensive principle lies at the bottom of the anomalous condition of things which preceded, and at last culminated in, the tremendous civil contest through which the country is now passing—a fierce baptism of fire and blood necessary to purge and reinstate her in pristine purity and grandeur, whose end is certainly not yet—still it is constantly assuming new disguises, and has been aptly likened to a virulent and incurable cancer in the body politic, which, driven in in one place, instantly breaks out with redoubled fierceness in another. Its latest and favorite form is that of hatred to New England. I have called it Southern hatred of New England. By this I do not mean to denote any geographical limit or boundary. This war is not a war of sections, but a war of ideas; and the terms Southern and Northern are to be limited to this ideal meaning. The two sections, as such, are not arrayed against each other, but the two antagonistic principles represented by these sections are, in sad truth, at deadly warfare. We see Union men at the South, and secessionists at the North; but there is this difference in the position of those who oppose the Government North, and those who favor it South. The former are would-be leaders, who assume to act for the outraged people; the latter are merely the people, or a portion of them, lacking organization and leadership, and consequently obliged to submit to the tyranny that has laid its iron hand upon them. I do not believe, and never have believed, in the asserted unanimity of the Southern people. Recalling my eight years' residence among, and acquaintance with, the people of the South, of two of the cotton States principally, I cannot think that they have, almost to a man, lost their respect and love for the national banner and authority, and, rather than submit to it again, would prefer to be 'English Colonists,' 'French vassals,' or 'Russian serfs!' No; their leaders first grossly cajole and deceive them, and then basely slander them. That there is an apparent oneness, I admit; but I think the time is not far off when, if the Federal Government but does its duty, and uses its authority and strength wisely, crippling the rebel faction in every possible way, thousands of liberated arms will spring forth to seize the sword in its defence, and as many liberated voices swell the All hail! that will burst out for its welcome. For, so long tutored to the repression of any independent ideas, any sentiments that do not tally with the doctrines to full belief in which these leaders have aimed to educate the men of the last generation, viz., the divine origin and purpose of slavery, and the other mischievous and absurd dogma of State sovereignty, which, but for slavery and its imperative demands, would never have seen the light, but have perished stillborn—they have no idea of the freedom of opinion and expression permitted among us, and their minds and consciences have become nerveless and supine to an astonishing degree; or, if thinking and feeling, as very many do, they suffer in silence, not daring to resist the oppressive faction that has ruled them so long. Moral force and courage is not the fruit of subserviency to the principles and ideas that have gradually filled the Southern mind. No wonder that the Union sentiment that showed itself so plainly at the outbreak of the rebellion became, ere long, like one of those streams that, starting impetuously from its mountain source, flows on awhile clearly and rapidly, and then begins to wander and slacken its pace, till finally it is lost in the dreariness and desolation of some marshy wilderness, and so never reaches its destination, the open sea. There is no people in the world so abused and defrauded as the bulk of the Southern whites. If you pity the oppressed of another race, then pity still more those of your own blood who are suffering a worse slavery, and who yet do not know it, but hug fondly the chains of their servitude. Then, too, consider the thousands of Northern men and women scattered all over the South, and say if you think they are linked, heart and hand, with the destroyers of the Government.
But with all this as an offset, still there is an undeniably strong and unscrupulous faction there, composed of the leading minds of the South, acute, imperious, sophistical, used to political and social rule, and backed by a small but cunning minority here at the North, so vile and contemptible that, in comparison with its adherents, they, these slave oligarchs, are 'Hyperion to a satyr.' These, with the thousands both North and South, misled and befooled by them, form the formidable opposition with which the Government is even now closing in a life-or-death encounter. These represent one of the two grand ideas at last met in a decisive struggle on this North American Continent, after the numberless petty skirmishes, reconnoissances, and lesser conflicts which have stained the battle fields of the world with the best blood of humanity during so many thousand years. No child's play now—no diplomatic dissembling—no sword thrusts intended to be parried, no machiavelian hits nor disguises. The fight is close, desperate, deadly; it is yard arm to yard arm; it is heart seeking for naked heart, flashing eye to eye, visor down, and hot breath mingling with hot breath, as the foes close in the last grapple. The other idea is embodied in the principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and is represented by the Federal authority. The South, then, is taken to mean the one, and the North, its opposite. On one side barbarism, slavery, injustice, ignorance, despotism, the woes and maledictions of oppressed races, the carnival of fiends; on the other, civilization, freedom, justice, education, republicanism, the gladness and gratitude of redeemed humanity, the jubilee of joy among angels. On the side of disunion, endless bickerings, intestine wars, standing armies, crushing debts, languishing commerce, all improvement at a stand still, tyranny settling darkly down over the liberties of the people and of individuals, and national influence gone forever. On the side of Union, honorable peace, legitimate expansion, social order and improvement, increasing commerce, the education and elevation of the masses, the path of success open to all, the freedom and rights of all, even the least and poorest secured, and the nation occupying a front rank among nations, her flag loved no less than feared, her government the model one of the world, and the great experiment of self-government safe beyond the peradventure of failure. Who doubts the issue of such a struggle—who would cheat himself of being one with God and good men in the glory of a triumph so possible and certain?
But why is it that the hate of all rebels, North and South, is so malignantly directed toward New England especially? What has she done more than New York or Illinois? Again I reply, it is not geographical New England that is so feared and hated, but the ideas she represents. I have called these, already, the Northern idea. But if the nature of our political philosophy be closely scanned, if we exactly analyze the genius of our institutions in their proper and unbiased action, we shall be forced to acknowledge that it was the Puritan idea which predominated; that it is, in fact, the saving clause in the gospel of our national salvation. And New England was the first home of the Puritans—the focus from which have radiated the myriad beams of the light of which they were the repositories to the remotest corners of the land. Let no one be alarmed at the mention of the word Puritan. There are some people who have no other notion of a Puritan than that of a close-cropped, saturnine personage, having a nasal twang, who is forevermore indulging an insane propensity to sing psalms, quote Scripture, or burn witches. These are the people who can never see into the profound deep of a great truth, but are quite ready to laugh at its travesty or caricature. And what high or holy truth has not been caricatured? For one, I envy not the head or the heart of him who can think the name of Puritan a badge of shame or reproach, and who has no sympathy nor admiration for the stern resolution, the wondrous fortitude, the deep enthusiasm for freedom, the unwavering faith, and the high religious devotion of those men and women who first lit a torch in the wilderness, soon to become the beacon light of the world.
Nor would I be understood to mean a wholesale and indiscriminate adoration of the Puritans as a sect. The appellation, which was bestowed upon them in opprobrium, and which they certainly wore in no meek manner, but evidently gloried in as a word of highest praise and honor, I use as a convenient one to characterize the idea I would represent. These men were but the chosen instruments in the hands of Him who no doubt has ever ordered the course of affairs in the world, to open up a new epoch in its history. The time was ripe—the men had been moulded—and through them the free principles which had been culminating through the ages, which had stirred the souls, animated the imaginations, and quickened the desires of the best and noblest of the race from its birth till now, were at last to find a resistless voice, a limitless scope, an unrepressed expansion, on a new and magnificent theatre. For freedom is of no time, nor clime, nor color, nor sect, nor nationality. She is the primal gift of God to his intelligent creatures, and is the kingly dower of every human soul. She was not born with the Puritans, nor did she die with them. In no age or land, among no sect or people, has she been without her priesthood, her altar, her ritual, her heart worship. Nor is she to blame for the wrongs and atrocities committed in her name. The ideas and principles the Puritans were ordained to carry out and embody in a great political structure were of the noblest, rarest, most enduring and beneficent; the faults that marred the beauty and consistency of their own character, were the exaggerations of their virtues, and arose from the frailty and instability of the human heart, even when most governed and inspired by the highest motives. The principles remain steadfast, immovable, immortal; the defects we can but grieve over and forgive for the sake of the grandeur they only marred but could not destroy.
Through the weakness of our nature, through the deceitfulness of the heart, the zeal which, in its proper exercise, is admirable, as inciting us to a grand enthusiasm in a cause believed to be true and holy, ofttimes degenerates into a blind and bitter bigotry, as unreasoning as reprehensible; the faith which pierces the unseen and eternal, and fixes its calm eye on One who sits changeless amid infinite series of changes, all-wise amid infinite follies and wickednesses of His creatures, all-merciful and all-loving amid the hate and opposition of weak, finite hearts, becomes a gloomy asceticism, or a fierce inquisitorial despotism, perverting Him—this glorious and loving God—into a cold, selfish, unreasonable Being, as far removed from our sympathies and love as He is from caring for us, and only existing to receive the hateful homage of fearful and enslaved souls; and what was a high, disinterested, fearless devotion to truth and duty becomes a narrow, selfish, insane thirst for the ascendency of sect or party, or the propagation of some pet dogmas, which, so far from touching practically the happiness, duty, or destiny of the soul, are mere stumbling stones, strewing the dark mountains of vain, egotistic, arrogant human speculation. As there is no power so relentless as a theological or spiritual despotism, so there is no tendency of the mind more easy, subtle, or strong, than a tendency toward it. To say these men erred, is to say that they were men. But if they partook of the common liability to error of this nature, let us not forget that but for them, fallible and inconsistent as they were, the seeds of liberty, wafted from a thousand shores, and gathered through thousands of ages, might not have been transplanted to this continent, nor this mighty banyan of American freedom have struck its million roots into the soil far and wide, and stretched its million interlacing arms abroad, a sure and safe refuge for the nations.
It is not as a sect that I admire the Puritans. Away with all party lines, all sectional prejudices, all barriers of creed or sect at such a time as this, when all nations and creeds and colors are forming in serried ranks, a close and impervious breakwater, to resist the threatening tide of rebellion and ruin whose sullen roar is in our ears, and when 'heaps of brothers slain' look into the sad face of heaven from fields where they fell, battling heroically to preserve the common heritage. No! a better day is dawning—a day of fairer promise, of more tranquil beauty, of more enduring blessedness, than ever before gladdened the hearts of men. To see that day come, all the good and true and loyal are waiting and working, no matter of what faith, or tongue, or nationality. I do not regard the sins of the Puritans as resulting from the principles by which they professed to be governed, but rather as something extraneous and antagonistic to them. Their ideas and principles resulted in the broadest constitutional liberty, while the free thought, free speech, free inquiry, the wide individual freedom, which, as a church, under the influence of a stern theological despotism they sought to stifle, under those very institutions they founded are to-day the pride, the life, the glory of free and progressive New England.
It is only in this broad sense, then, that I use the term Puritan, to denote the agency whereby Providence saw fit to inaugurate the ideas which were to form the foundation of our national polity.
The Puritan idea, then, predominated in the principles embodied in the Declaration of Rights and in the Constitution. But says one, Washington was no Puritan, nor Jefferson, nor the majority of the first framers of our Government. Granted that they were not born on Puritan soil, par excellence, but were they not of the spirit and understanding of the Puritans? (In fact, I suspect that Washington was a Puritan of the Puritans.) A Virginia Puritan, a cavalier Puritan even, was not then the strange phenomenon, the lusus naturae, it would be nowadays. Besides, let it be remembered that the Constitution was not the production of any man or set of men. It was the outgrowth of the political ideas and necessities of the age and country. These men, trained in the spirit of the time, gave direction to their development, assisted to inaugurate the reign of those ideas, and to give them a specific embodiment, no more. Great and good men they were—the fit productions of the renowned epoch of the birth of a great people. It is a noble thing, a thing for fame and just pride, if men live at such a time who can share the inspiration, and cause it to live in great deeds, to say nothing of creating it.
What, then, are the distinguishing characteristics of this Puritan idea or influence?
Since the country had a history at all, New England has been reputed the centre, the abiding home of a pure morality. This needs no elaborate argument to sustain it. The records of her criminal and civil courts attest it; so do the general good order of her small communities and larger cities, as well as the high character of the numerous men and women who, emigrating to the various portions of the country, carry with them, wherever they choose a home, the pure principles they have learned around the home firesides in their native New England—the industry, the thrift, the obedience to law, the superior intelligence, which make them the best citizens in any community. The New England communities, generally, possess a higher standard of morals, a more intelligent adhesion to what is regarded as duty, a more simple social intercourse, and purer social manners and customs, with fewer dissipations and derelictions, than perhaps any other people in the world can boast. Nor is there claimed for the New England Puritan a perfect character. On the contrary, there are some traits which, in their excess, we could wish were omitted in his composition. These, however, will be found to be but exaggerations of his virtues for the most part, and for the sake of those virtues can easily be tolerated, though they have been sufficiently inveighed against from time to time. From this high state of morals there results a very high degree of social order, which, in its result, again, gives large social and individual liberty. Nowhere will there be found a freer people, and yet one more observant of law. Indeed, the former is only the effect of the latter. A cultivated reason sees at once that the more perfectly law is observed, the more absolute does freedom become; that the highest personal and social freedom is only attainable through a perfect obedience to the laws by which persons and societies are bound.
Again, it is no doubt true, and may be stated as a characteristic correlated to the one above mentioned, that nowhere else is a purer gospel preached than in New England. The piety of the New England heart is deep and strong, if not demonstrative and fervent. It is not like the sweep of the winds, nor the rush of the torrents; its faith may be burning, but it is the steady burning of the hidden fire, a vestal flame, not the glare of the conflagration. It rather reminds me, in its depth and strength and purity, of the ocean, calm, uniform, and monotonous outwardly, but concealing under its surface many a swift current and strong countercurrent, many a fair expanse, many a lovely secret of life, beauty, and glory. The religious faith of New England fully and devoutly receives those sublime doctrines of Christianity which were given as good news, indeed, to the race; not to a favored few, but to the individual man and woman of the race. It credits in a real and literal sense the declaration of Paul that 'God hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth;' and the opening sentence of the Declaration of Rights is something more to them than a 'glittering generality.' A deep, intelligent religious faith may be said to underlie all the institutions of New England, political and social. For what is that genius of Christianity that has ever found its truest exponent in the teachings of the New England theology, and in the lives and practice of her people? Is it not the liberty of every person, without respect to color or condition, but simply in consideration of his humanity, to learn and to obey every law of his being, physical, moral, intellectual, social, and religious? To be untrammelled in following out the best light conscience and revelation may afford him as to the constitution and laws of his being, his duty to himself, his fellow man, and his Creator, and his destiny, which he himself is to determine? The Christian religion may be comprehensively defined as the golden circlet which includes all the complex duties, interests, and affections of the most complex being, man, and lifts him up, and binds him back, with all his capacities, hopes, and sympathies, to the throne of the Infinite, from which, in his low, fettered, and sinful estate, he is an alien; and all this through the love and mercy of the Infinite One Himself. This I conceive to be the true intent and glorious result of Christianity, when allowed to have free and unimpeded action on the soul of man. It will be seen to be wellnigh limitless—a power adequate to the work to be accomplished, and in this sense is truly 'the power of God and the wisdom of God.' This power is dominant, either consciously or unconsciously, over every relation of life in New England, being interwoven in the very life of her institutions. I believe this secret, quiet, yet active, all-pervading influence is very little understood, and yet it will explain much in the Puritan character that no other key will unlock. I have mentioned a pure morality, which is the effect, before a pure Christianity, which is the cause, simply because the effect is more obvious at first glance.
The third great characteristic of the Puritan idea is a pure republicanism. In the largest sense, I hold this also to be the effect of the one just mentioned; for, if tested, the whole spirit and tone of Christianity are republican. On New England soil, from the hour when the little band of pilgrim heroes first set foot on an inhospitable shore, by their footprints upon it making a barren rock a holy shrine for the world's love and veneration, has ever been a sure refuge, a very palladium of republican institutions, of human liberties. It was not alone its religious tendencies that excited the persecution and detestation of Puritanism in the Old World which gave impulse to the resolution to transplant themselves to a land where freedom, if nothing else, was to be found. It was equally as much its republican and democratic theories. Souls made free by the spirit of the Lord, as the souls of those grand old Puritans were, could no more brook the tyranny of the Charleses and Georges of Britain, and so, through blood and fire and sword and chains, was the germ of liberty borne across the watery waste, to be sown anew, as they thought and proposed, in the genial soil of the region bordering on the Hudson, but, as God willed it, in the perverse and barren soil of rockbound, sea-washed New England. Truly this was a novel spectacle. Never in the history of peoples before was it seen that a bare idea was strong enough to lay the foundations of a great state, through persecution, exile, and death, and untold privations worse than death. O you who would bring discredit on the memory and name of the Puritans, recall this noblest era of time; rise for one hour, if your souls have any wings, to the height of this grandeur, and bid calumny and defamation be dumb!
This germ of republican freedom took deep root, and acquired an ineradicable hold of their civil polity, and the whole machinery of their civil government; and, spreading from New England to the adjoining colonies, and from these to others, soon permeated the whole confederation, at length forming the basis of a national government, a national condition which has heretofore represented the highest civilization of the world.
Is it not plain, then, why they do so, who oppose and hate the influence and ideas of New England? If anything could measure the utter vileness of slavery and its degrading effect on the mind, it would be the consideration of the unblushing assurance with which its lovers defend it, and at the same time assail those sacred principles which lie at the root of our national life, and without which we are dead and cumbering the ground. Our nation holds in trust certain principles, for the successful carrying out of which the nations of the earth wait in hushed and anguished expectancy, and in the failure of which we should be no better than any of the effete, defunct peoples of buried ages; or, rather, in the failure to bring them to a triumphant vindication, we had far better be as Sodom and Gomorrah. These principles are now the stake for which the loyal men of the land are gladly offering up life, treasure, children, all, so they but win.
We hear a great deal, nowadays, from rebel sources, of the different race which settled Virginia and Carolina from that which peopled New England, and the immeasurable superiority of the former. If the mouthpiece of the confederacy, Mr. Jefferson Davis, may be believed, the latter and their descendants are not worthy even to be the slaves of the former, and are a degree lower in the scale of creation than the hyenas! Differing in language, manners, customs, ideas, there is no possibility of a peaceable union, say the confederate organs. In fine, language is exhausted of epithets expressive of their scorn, contempt, and hatred of the Yankees, as they are opprobriously nicknamed. But do these men ignore the fact that the original settlers of both New England and Virginia were purely English? They were from the same stock precisely. As to the character of each, I cannot do better than to quote from a work of which Americans may well be both glad and proud, a work that has set us and our institutions in a truer and juster light than any before it. I allude to the work of M. De Tocqueville on 'Democracy in America.' In volume first, chapter fifth, he says:
'The men sent to Virginia were seekers of gold, adventurers without resources and without character, whose turbulent and restless spirits endangered the infant colony, and rendered its progress uncertain. The artisans and agriculturists arrived afterward; and although they were a more moral and orderly race of men, they were in no wise above the level of the inferior classes in England. No lofty conceptions, no intellectual system, directed the foundation of these new settlements.'
He adds, in a note:
'It was not till some time later, that a certain number of rich English capitalists came to fix themselves in the colony.'
It is true that in the course of time some men of high character and position were attracted to the genial climate and virgin resources of the new Southern colonies, and, buying up large tracts of land, fixed themselves permanently, sensibly modifying the condition of affairs. The descendants of such men as these afterward became the most famous leaders of the Revolution which Puritan principles effected. They were men of whom descendants may well be proud, but it is certain that they have had very few descendants; therefore, the great body of the slaveholders, each one of whom would fain believe himself, and try to make others believe him, a scion of this renowned stock, must have had a very different origin.
In striking contrast with the above account, here is what he says of the first settlers of the Northern colonies:
'The settlers who established themselves on the shores of New England all belonged to the more independent classes of their native country. Their union on the soil of America at once presented the singular phenomenon of a society containing neither lords nor common people, neither rich nor poor. These men possessed, in proportion to their number, a greater mass of intelligence than is to be found in any European nation of our own time. All, without a single exception, had received a good education, and many of them were known in Europe for their talents and their acquirements. The other colonies had been founded by adventurers without family; the emigrants of New England brought with them the best elements of order and morality; they landed in the desert, accompanied by their wives and children. But what most especially distinguished them was the aim of their undertaking. They had not been obliged by necessity to leave their country; the social position they abandoned was one to be regretted, and their means of subsistence were certain. Nor did they cross the Atlantic to improve their situation, or to increase their wealth: the call which summoned them from the comforts of their homes was purely intellectual; and in facing the inevitable sufferings of exile, their object was the triumph of an idea.'
Let the world judge between the Puritan and the so-called Cavalier!
As the same author remarks—'The influence of slavery, united to the English character, explains the manners and the social condition of the Southern States;' so it is no less true, that the influence of an almost unlimited democracy, the product of widespread intelligence and pure religion, united to the English character, explains the peculiar civilization of New England. It is nothing strange, certainly, that, after the wide and continued divergence of two aggressive principles for more than two hundred years, they should at last come to stand in the position of giant antagonisms, and close in a deadly grapple for the ascendency. It is perfectly natural that the ignorance and mental darkness of slave Virginia or Carolina should fear and hate above all things the light of knowledge that streams from New England; it is natural that the unquestioned immorality and laxity of principle engendered by slavery should shrink from the contrast with a state of morals unsurpassed for purity in the world; and that an obsequious church and clergy, which, in the holy name of religion, and 'using the livery of heaven to serve the devil in,' had dared by the thinnest sophistries and most palpable perversions to garble the true teachings of the Bible, and been willing to brave the anathemas denounced against those who add to or subtract from aught written therein, should accede willingly to a separation which could relieve them somewhat from an odious comparison, to say the least. Compare the vigorous, consistent, and sublime theology of New England, the widely spread influence of her cultivated and philanthropic clergy, with that part of the clergy and church of the South which, in sustaining slavery, has lost all hold upon human sympathies, all influence, save in the regions where the highest crime against humanity has become a matter of interest, of sordid speculation. Alas! what sadder spectacle could be seen than the ministers of Christ using their talents to lead their people into wrong, mocking religion, trailing its snowy wings in the mire of the most corrupt political dogmas, doing their utmost to upheave that grand corner stone set by Christ himself in the primal temple of Christianity and humanity: 'All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.'
That men and women, taught from infancy to look upon slavery as a moral and political as well as a material good; whose ideas, manners, habits have become interwoven with its existence in their midst, and who, no matter how falsely, as those may think who look upon it from a comparatively disinterested standpoint, conceive that it lies at the base of their social prosperity and happiness; who have been accustomed from forum, hustings, pulpit, and press, to hear an institution that appeals to so many selfish instincts and principles in the human heart, lauded and defended, and made to be the Ultima Thule of Southern hope, pride, and ambition; that they should view with displeasure and anger such an influence as the institutions of New England must always wield, is not so surprising. But that men can be found here in the free North, yea, more, in New England itself, to sympathize with them, to echo their degraded sentiments, and to wish to see the slave power supreme in the land, is what surpasses wonder, and almost belief. Yet a portion of a large, old, and venerated party have come to be their miserable allies and claqueurs. The truth is, we may say and believe that slavery is a dire wrong, a foul injustice, done to a whole race, and therefore ought to die, but that does not tell one half of the damning story: the worst is this, that it gradually kills out the virtue, the manliness, the moral vitality of the nation that allows it; that it has done so in our own nation to an alarming extent is the great, the fear-impelling cause why it should be rooted out, abolished, as an influence in the Government.
'Ah, but,' says the Northern traitor, 'that very abolition has done the whole mischief. If there had been no Abolitionists, there would have been no war. The Abolitionists are responsible for it all.' Softly, poor, weak-minded man! Does not any man's common sense tell him that wherever a wrong exists, it is in the nature of things that somebody should oppose it—that a desire should arise to get rid of it? It is the chief mercy of God to the world, next to His providing salvation for it, that this conscience is left to it, this sense of wrong, and the will and struggle to abolish the wrong. For such remonstrance the Abolitionists are indeed responsible!
There are certain words that have come to be used in an indefinite, canting sort of way, so that they have no meaning at all, or, at least, a meaning very deceptive. These words represent bugbears to unthinking people, and unscrupulous men do not fail to pervert this fact to their own or party ends. Such are some of the terms which have been applied to New England, both South and North. She is called radical, and a most absurd and mischievous idea of New England radicalism is rife, especially in the South. Said a Southern gentleman to me on one occasion (he was a physician, was one of the most intelligent slaveholders I ever met, and was an occasional contributor to De Bow's Review):
'You New Englanders do not believe anything; you are all freethinkers—is it not so?'
Par parenthese, that word freethinker is another of the terms conventionally abused. This gentleman had just been speaking of this very thing, New England radicalism, and in his query showed an evident idea that it involved that species of unbelief, that discarding of all creeds or standards of belief, popularly known as freethinking. It also includes, in the minds of many of the Southern people, the exercise of a kind of personal license, an abandoning of the good old established landmarks of thought and action, and a strong-minded striking out into new paths of experiment, regardless of form or law. A Northern woman going to the South is assumed to be strong-minded, especially, till she has proved herself feminine. There is nothing so absurd as this idea, when one considers that there is no people on earth as free, independent, and original, intellectually, as they are, who possess so deep and abiding a respect and veneration for those same laws and institutions. New England is the prolific hive whence swarm all the isms that infest the country, say they. They do not understand that in a state of society where education is universal, where mind is constantly meeting mind, and thought clashing with thought, the restless and heaving mass must be always throwing up something to the surface, it may be froth, it may be tangled weeds, rough stones, or plain shells, or it may be curious and valuable gems fit to glitter in a coronet, or shells of dazzling colors and manifold convolutions fit to shine in rare cabinets. The waveless and stagnant calm of the mass of the Southern mind can have no conception of the intellectual movement that is ever going on in such a community as New England.
But this radicalism especially bears on its 'horrid front' that bugbear of all conservatism, the world over—abolition. There is no word so abused as that. The thing itself is as old and inevitable as the relation of cause and effect, as the existence of sin and righteousness, as the contest between God and Satan. Just as if there could help being an abolition sentiment where there existed the aggressive, hateful principle of slavery!
Then that peculiar and valuable trait of Yankee character, which the French so aptly call savoir faire, and which they themselves term faculty, the power of accomplishing, the knowing how to do, the understanding how to suit means to ends, which makes a Yankee so useful and versatile, and consequently a valuable acquisition to society—has received its full share of Southern abuse and ridicule. 'They palm off upon us their inventions, half of which are worthless,' say they. 'They cheat us with their wares, their manufactures, their patents, and nostrums. They grow rich on our necessities, and take the world's trade from our harbors, so superior to theirs, and they are always busy, and intermeddling in everybody's affairs; and we hate them—ah, how we do hate them!' In short, a certain leading class at the South, that which moulds and leads the hollow, shrinking, scared thing they called public opinion, have come to hate and detest everything distinctively New English, and finally to make the wicked, traitorous attempt to overturn the Government, which they know received its highest and controlling impulse from the Puritan ideas of that portion of the country. In the material world, nothing is plainer than the fact embodied in the old adage, 'Straws show which way the wind blows.' In the realm of moral and social law, however, the indications, just as palpable, of the direction in which the current of public sentiment is setting, are usually ignored or pass unobserved at the time being; and not till great events have called attention to the causes that produced them, do these indications take all the prominence due to them. These minor symptoms I have noticed, of the dislike of New England in the Southern mind, have been plainly to be seen in all the doings and sayings of their public men of this generation at least, to go no further back, and in the utterances of the press throughout the South. Flings, innuendoes, sarcasms, condescensions, insults, have been heaped upon the Yankees, by the representatives of the slave power, in the National Congress, in the State Legislatures, in their public speeches, and by the minions of the press, until it would seem as if they must have fallen on dead ears, so little fever they have stirred in the blood of the North. Still, if anyone supposes that the ostensible causes of dislike are the real ones, he is mistaken. Does any man of them all, of these leaders, I mean, suppose for one instant that the Yankee negro-trader, overseer, peddler, lucre-loving tradesman, slaver, slave catcher, subservient politician, or mouthing, dirt-swallowing pulpit huckster, is a true representative of the influence and ideas of New England? Or that the present Copperhead Democracy of that section is the real exponent of the genuine spirit of the Puritan Democracy? Certainly not. They are shrewd men, of great discernment, and in their way brave and chivalrous, and I verily do not wonder if they would not have these renegade Yankees even as slaves. No! the actual cause of their hatred is the silent, all-pervading influence of the free institutions of New England, which derive their power and efficacy from the universal means of education there enjoyed. Shut up the schoolhouses, and burn the schoolbooks in New England, to-day, and let these free institutions become a dead letter thereby, and the Yankees would be as good as anybody in their eyes, because the sword which their intelligence keeps ever suspended over the head of slavery would be effectually laid to rust in its scabbard. Is it not a pitiful, a disgusting sight, that men are found, Northern men, New-England Yankees even, to kneel before the slaveocrats still, after the load of scorn and contumely already heaped upon them, and humbly cry, 'More—give us more contempt—our backs are made to bear the burden!'
God pity such creatures!
And these are the men who advocate a confederation of States with New England left out to shift for herself! New England left out? Fools! to think it possible. Knaves! to deem it desirable, if it were possible. As well banish the Creator from the universe He has made—the sun from the system he warms and enlightens! Not until you have destroyed the essence, the inner spirit of the Government which of all the governments in the world secures 'the greatest good to the greatest number;' not until Freedom is dead and laid in her final grave; not until the temple of knowledge is barred and double barred; not until all your common schools are closed, your free presses manacled, your free Bible suppressed, your right of free speech and free inquiry smothered to death; not until your ships have gone down in the waters, and the hammer rests in your shipyards, and your railroads cease to open a way in the wilderness made straight for the entrance of the most advanced civilization; not until the race of Yankee capitalists is extinct, and enterprise, thrift, industry, nerve, moral courage, the intellectual conquest of the material world become traditional, will that be possible. No! I thank God, that the record of New England is so sure and indelible that nothing can root her out of this land, not even if her whole geographical area were forever submerged by the waters of the ocean that girts her round in barren majesty. Ideas, principles, can never die or be effaced. They shall survive the wreck of matter, and the final catastrophe of the universe. And her empire is that of ideas. Small as she is, she wields the power of the very foremost ideas of the highest civilization of the world. These ideas have at last held at bay the so long encroaching slave principles which were so strangely left to grow alongside with them by the early framers of the Government, and who doubts which is to conquer? The struggle may be a long one, a costly one, and freedom may at last barely escape with her life. But so sure as humanity sweeps onward; so sure as the average progress of the race is never retrograde; so sure as right bears in its bosom the seeds of eternal life, and wrong the seeds of eternal death; so sure as God sits on His throne and the heavens do rule,' the free ideas of New England will yet bear sway over this continent, and, in their moral force at least, mould and remodel the governments of the world. If not preserved intact by the men of this generation, then by others will this ultimate result be reached. God is not confined in His agencies. He sets up one, and puts down another, and the generation that is found worthy to build the temple for Him to dwell in, to preserve and perfect the beautiful heritage He has provided for His freedmen, His redeemed and enfranchised people out of all the nations in which they have been held in mental and political bondage, shall have the honor and privilege, be sure. And think not, O ye men to whom is committed this high trust, that it will be a small thing to leave this birthright unto others; for as no people were ever before so distinguished in having this holiest ark of the covenant of freedom in their midst, so the grave of infamy into which ye shall be cast, if the Philistines dispossess you of it, shall be bottomless. There is no resurrection for the people who should betray such a cause, freighted as it is with the hopes and future destiny of the struggling races of the earth.
And O ye other men (would ye were men!) who are in league with traitors, ay, who are even worse than they, to do this accursed thing, know that this pit is yawning for you. Down—down—deeper—deeper—pressed to perdition by the curses of those who are to come after you, whom you wronged so remorselessly.
In that terrific vision of hell, seen by the poet Dante, those who had betrayed country, freedom, were visited by the most awful sufferings, pursued by the most vengeful fiends, and pushed to the most dire extremity of woe. Among the pale, haunted, shrieking shades flitting through that limbo of horrors, they were conspicuous in punishment. And if remorse is in reality the undying worm, the quenchless fire of that future state which recompenses for the deeds of this, surely the traitor to this good, free Government will be made to experience its unmeasured horrors. The salvation of our country, then, and its position and influence as one of the family of nations, depend on its return to, and its enforcing of, those fundamental principles of freedom, moral right, and justice which underlie our system, and for the most part form our superstructure. Ours is the moral lever that is to move the world, if we will have it so. If we lose our moral prestige we are nothing. We have the best Government in the world, but it has, since the time of the fathers, for the most part, been the worst administered. Instead of being made to work in the interest of freedom, the opposite has been the fact, and the whole influence and patronage of the Government for years have been in favor of the slave element. Prior to the incoming of the present Administration, this gradual deterioration in the animus of the Federal Government had culminated in a condition so disgraceful and shameful, that it is enough to dye the cheek of any honest man with red, only to think of it. It was time, if ever, for the climax to be put upon it all, and now it will be a thing to give endless thanks for, if enough virtue and manliness and true patriotism are left in the loyal States to bring the nation, under God, safely through the troubles and disasters into which its supineness, its temporizing and subserviency to wrong have led it.
Oh, could I speak with the convincing tones of a prophet or an angel, instead of the weak voice of a woman, I would make myself heard throughout the length and breadth of the land by every man, of whatever caste or color, whatever birth or tongue, whatever nationality or political creed, North, East, West, South, and especially this great West, of which I am so proud and confident, and would say to them:
'Rise! quit you like men—be strong! Upon you the ends of the world have come. If you have manhood, assert it now! If you are worthy the name of American, make it now to be honored among the nations. If there is any incentive in the glory of the career that would open to the accelerated progress of a Union at last free and redeemed, without a tyrant or a slave, let it nerve your hearts and inspire your exertions now. If you do not desire the self-gratulations of the crowned despots of the world, and the despair and lamentation of their subject millions, see to it that this great experiment of self-government fail not now. If you would gladden the hearts of our friends in other lands, the Brights and Cobdens, the Gasparins and Laboulayes, liberal men, who love truth, justice, right, freedom, who are 'one with their kind,' be ambitious of cooeperating with them in the work of human elevation and amelioration.'
Those who seize upon great opportunities are the men whom History rescues from oblivion, and sets in the memory of mankind forever, whether with blessings or cursings, with glory or shame, as the benefactors or the enemies of their kind. A rare opportunity is passing before this nation. Who will seize upon it, and how? We shall see.
WAITING FOR NEWS!
The succeeding Poem, 'Waiting for News,' was written by a mother, who says.
'If there is any power in truth, this poem should express what is intended; for my own boy, but little more than fifteen, had been in the battle at Culpepper, and I knew not if he were living or dead! He was far too young to enter the army, but I could not resist his earnest pleadings—for he is tall and manly, and I well know, were I in his place, I too would shoulder my knapsack and go!'
All honor to such mothers!—ED.
Waiting, O Father! a fond mother waiting, Waiting so anxious, the dark tide's abating! Waiting all breathless, in agonized anguish, Living by heart-throbs that spring up—then languish; Catching each sound that comes back from the battle, Dark shrieks and groans and the lonely death rattle, Imaging visions of feverish thirsting— Hearts in their utterest loneliness bursting!
Thinking of him, late the babe of her bosom, Fair faced and blue eyed, love's tenderest blossom, Dashing along 'mid the carnage around him, Fearless as Mars 'mid the balls that surround him, Changed, as by magic, from home's tender brother, Lovingest son, both to father and mother— Changed to a man, to a stern, noble soldier— None in the field that is braver or bolder! Writing: 'I'm proud of the name, dearest mother! Craven is he who would hold any other While our loved standard of freedom 's in danger, May he forever be held as a stranger!' Such are the words in his last noble letter! What fifteen years that could write any better? Now I am waiting to know if he 's wounded— Waiting—to know how my fears must be bounded: Closed his eyes may be to sorrow or danger— Dead he may be in the land of the stranger!
God of the desolate—Rachel's Consoler! Light of the universe—Nature's Controller! Pity me, pity me! Send consolation! Let not my heart feel this deep desolation! He is so young, and he loves me so truly— Scourge me not, Father! so deep—so unduly! Leave him! to lighten my life-load of sorrow! Leave him to brighten the clouds of my morrow! Leave him to love me when other loves fail me, Leave him to strengthen when rude storms assail me! Leave him—so kind, both as son and as brother; Leave him, a future of hope to his mother! God of all battles! speed, speed this decision! Let us not look, as afar, at a vision! Send to our soldiers the true men to lead them: They have the courage—do Thou guide and speed them! Then shall our sisters, our wives, and our mothers Feel that our husbands, our sons, and our brothers, Though they may fall, are not led to the altar Heedless and reckless, like beasts by the halter! Then we may feel, though their dear blood is staining Freedom's fair banner, a COUNTRY we're gaining! Then we may look, though with eyes dim and burning, Some day or other, their blessed returning! Or we may see, though with eyes dim with weeping, Freedom's bird hover in love o'er their sleeping: Feeling, though sorrow may make our heads hoary, They are not victims of weakness, but glory!
EARLY HISTORY OF THE PRINTING AND NEWSPAPER PRESS IN BOSTON AND NEW YORK.
To write an article on the history of the Art of Printing, without paying our respects, in the first instance, to the Devil and Doctor Faustus, will be considered not only a violation of all precedent, but, as regards those individuals, a positive breach of good manners. They have so long been associated together, not only in popular tradition but in books, that the greater part of the reading world seem to think them to have been the original partners in the republic of letters. Indeed, for some absurd reason or other, the opinion is even yet quite prevalent that one of the original concern has been a silent partner, though not a sleeping one, in every printing establishment since. The proposition, to this extent, is certainly inadmissible; and yet, from the moral condition of a large portion of the press, it must be confessed there is strong presumptive evidence that in the unhappy influences exercised by the personage referred to over the affairs of men, he is not altogether neglectful of the press. Be this, however, as it may, the press has become, in this country especially, an engine of such great importance in the daily affairs of life—its energies are of such tremendous power, either for good or evil, that it is believed a few moments can be profitably spent in glancing at its rise and early progress in Boston and New York.
The honor of setting up the first printing press in the American Colonies belongs to Massachusetts. Only eighteen years had elapsed from the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, before a press was in operation at Cambridge—then as populous as Boston. The project of establishing a press in the New World was conceived and almost executed by the Rev. Jesse Glover, a dissenting clergyman in England, who had interested himself largely in planting the colony, and a portion of whose family was already in America. Mr. Glover raised the means of purchasing his press, types, and other necessary apparatus by contributions in England and Holland. With these materials he embarked for America in 1638, but died a few days before the ship reached the shore. Cambridge was at that time the seat of the civil and ecclesiastical power in Massachusetts; and as the academy which subsequently grew into Cambridge University had then been commenced, it was determined by the leading men of the colony to establish the press there; and there it remained for sixty years under their control, and forty years before a press was established in any other colony. The first printer was Stephen Day, engaged in London by Mr. Glover, and supposed to be a descendant of the celebrated John Day, the noted printer. The second printer in the Colonies was Samuel Green, to whom Day relinquished the business in 1649. Colonel Samuel Green, the late venerable editor of the New London Gazette, was a descendant in a direct line from the original printer of that name; the family having uninterruptedly engaged in that business for nearly two hundred years. The elder Green printed the Indian Bibles and Testaments for those early apostles of the New World who first engaged in the benevolent work of attempting the civilization and evangelization of the aboriginals of this country—a noble race of wild men, who have melted away before the palefaces, like the hoarfrost beneath the beams of the morning sun.
The sturdy republican religionists of New England became very soon as chary of allowing the freedom of the press as were the Pontiff and the crowned heads of Europe. Some religious tracts having been published which the clergy and the General Court deemed of too liberal a character, licensers of the press were appointed in 1662; but in the year following, it was ordered by the Provincial Government that 'the printing press be as free as formerly.' This freedom, however, was soon exerted more freely than ever. The attention and the fears of the Government were accordingly again awakened; and in October, 1664, it was enacted that no printing press should be allowed in any other town or place of the colony than Cambridge; and that no person or persons should be permitted to print anything even there, but by the allowance of at least two of a board of three censors appointed for that purpose. But even the licensers were not sufficiently rigid to please the General Court—for, having permitted the publication of that most excellent and pious little work, 'The Imitation of Christ,' by Thomas a Kempis, it was held to be heretical by the Legislature, and its further publication without a new revision was prohibited in 1667. The principal specification against it was that it was written by a Popish minister.
In 1671, the General Court directed the revision and publication of the laws of the colony. Until that time the laws had always been printed at the expense of the commonwealth. But a wealthy bookseller, by the name of John Usher, applied for permission to publish them on his own account; and to prevent Green from printing extra copies for himself, he procured the passage of an act prohibiting the printing of any more copies than he should direct; and in this enactment we find the origin of copyright in this country. In 1673, the copyright was secured to Usher for seven years. Green soon became a prolific printer. He came to this country so destitute as to be obliged to sleep under the shelter of a barrel; but lived to an advanced age, and had two wives and nineteen children. He was early in life elected an ensign of the Cambridge militia company, and subsequently rose to the rank of captain, under which commission he served thirty years. So exceeding fond was he of his martial life, that, when extremely old, he was carried to the parade ground in a chair to direct the exercises of his company. Some of his descendants have been engaged in the printing business for more than a century past in Connecticut. Others of his family established their business at Annapolis, in Maryland, in 1740, where it has been continued by their descendants until the present day.
The partner of the elder Green, for a number of years, was Marmaduke Johnson, who had been sent over from England by the Commissioners of Indian affairs to assist in printing the Bible in the Indian language. He turned out badly, however, and, in two years after his arrival, was tried and convicted of making an unlawful impression upon Mr. Green's daughter. The charge in the indictment was 'for alluring the daughter of Mr. Samuel Green, printer, and drawing away her affection, without the consent of her father.' This was a direct breach of the law of the colony; for in those good times, no young lady might venture to fall in love without, like a dutiful child, asking her father's consent. But Johnson was doubly guilty, since he had a wife in England. He was therefore fined five pounds, and ordered to go home to his first love. This order, however, was for a time evaded; and he afterward found means of procuring a reconciliation with Green—his wife having probably died in the mean time—and of entering into a partnership with the father of his American charmer. Her prudent father, however, as is most likely, obliged her to leave off loving him, since the chronicles of those days say that the inconstant typographer was married in 1770 to Ruth Cane of Cambridge. He then began to look up in the world, and was elected to the office of constable, which in those days was much more elevated than that of sheriff is now.
In 1674 the first press was established in Boston by permission of the General Court; and two additional licensers were appointed—one of whom was the Rev. Increase Mather. The printer was John Foster, who was also somewhat of an astronomer. He made and printed almanacs; but died at the early age of thirty-three. He was a man of so much consideration that two poems were published on the occasion of his death. One of them concluded with the following lines:
'This body, which no activeness did lack, Now 's laid aside like an old almanack;— But for the present 's only out of date, 'Twill have at length a far more active state. Yea, though with dust thy body soiled be, Yet at the resurrection we shall see A fair EDITION, and of matchless worth, Free from ERRATAS, new in Heaven set forth; 'Tis but a word from God, the Great Creator, It shall be done, when he saith IMPRIMATUR.'
'Whoever,' says Isaiah Thomas, 'has read the celebrated epitaph of Franklin on himself, will have some suspicion that it was taken from this original.'
One of Green's apprentices was an Indian lad, who became master of the business, and assisted in printing Eliot's Indian Bible. When King Philip's war came on, however, his bosom was fired with amor patriae, and he ran off and joined himself to his countrymen. Returning again, under the proclamation, after the death of the great Narragansett king, James, for such was his English name, obtained a pardon, and worked at the business for the remainder of his life. From Eliot's account of him, he was the most accurate printer in the colony—the only one 'who was able to correct the press with understanding.' He printed the Psalter and several other works in the Indian language; and being always known as James the Printer, he assumed the latter as his surname. He married and reared a family by that name, whose descendants were recently living in Grafton.
The first newspaper published in North America was the Boston News Letter, commenced in April, 1704, by John Campbell. It was printed by the authority of the licensers, as a half sheet of what was then called pot paper—a large size of foolscap. Campbell was a bookseller, and the postmaster of Boston. The paper was printed by Bartholomew Green. The first number contained the Queen's speech to both houses of Parliament; some notice of the attempts of the Pretender, James the Eighth of Scotland, who was said to be sending over Popish missionaries from France; three or four paragraphs of domestic intelligence; four items of ship news from Philadelphia, New York, and New London; and one advertisement by the editor. The paper was continued fifteen years, weekly, upon the half sheet of foolscap, without a rival on the continent, and continually languishing for want of support.[A] In 1719 the editor made a great effort to enlarge his publication. He stated in his prospectus that he found it to be impossible, with a weekly half sheet, to carry on all the public occurrences of Europe, with those of the American colonies and the West Indies. He was then thirteen months behind the news from Europe, and to obviate the difficulty he resolved to publish every other week a full sheet of foolscap, he afterward announced, as the advantage of this enlargement, that in eight months he was able to bring down the foreign news to within five months of the date of his publication!
What a contrast between the newspaper of that day and our own! Then news from England, five months old, was fresh and racy. Now we must have it in twelve days, and even then send out fleets of newsboats from Cape Race to bring it to us two days sooner than steam can take the ship up to New York and Boston. Then, news seven days old from New York to Boston was swift enough for an express. Now, if we cannot obtain the news from Washington in less than the same number of minutes, we rave and storm, and talk of starting new telegraph companies. Then, four snug little foolscap papers a month contained all that the world was doing that any one cared to know. Now, a paper published every morning as large as a mainsail needs a supplement; and I presume there is not an editor in any of our large cities who publishes half the new matter he gets prepared.
The second American newspaper was the Boston Gazette, the first number of which was published in December, 1719, by William Brookes, the successor of Campbell as postmaster. It was printed on half a sheet of foolscap by James Franklin, brother of Benjamin Franklin, who served his apprenticeship with him. The proprietor, printer, and publisher of the Gazette, however, were soon changed; and in 1721 the New England Courant was established in Boston by James Franklin, who was both proprietor and publisher. With the establishment of this paper commenced the newspaper wars of America, which have continued ever since. Franklin, piqued at having been ousted from the Gazette, commenced attacking that journal with bitterness. He did not make the Courant so much of a newspaper as an essayist; and it was filled with discussions of the prevailing religious opinions of that day, and with attacks upon the public officers and the clergy. These essays were furnished by a society of nine literary gentlemen, who were called a set of freethinkers by some, and the 'Hell Fire Club' by others. Young Benjamin wrote some of the essays, although the authorship was not at the time known. Among other matters, inoculation for the small pox was then warmly opposed as being highly improper. The character of the paper was spirited, and its tone that of religious scepticism. It was not long in attracting much of the public attention, and in provoking the resentment of the colonial Government and clergy. The Rev. Increase Mather having been claimed in the Courant as one of its supporters, came out with a long and wrathful contradiction of the assertion. 'I can well remember,' says that eminent and excellent divine, 'when the civil Government would have taken an effectual course to suppress such a cursed libel! which, if it be not done, I am afraid that some awful judgment will come upon this land, and that the wrath of God will arise, and there will be no remedy. I cannot but pity poor Franklin, who, though but a young man, it may be, speedily he must appear before the judgment seat of God; and what answer will he be able to give for printing things so vile and abominable?' In sober truth, it would be well for all those connected with the press to bear in mind this passage from that excellent man; for who can estimate the evil of even one lie, once put into circulation?
It was not long before Franklin was arrested by the Government, and imprisoned four weeks in the common jail, for the conduct of his paper. The council also published an order, setting forth that Franklin had published many passages, boldly reflecting upon the Government of the province, the ministry, the churches, and the college, and that it often contained paragraphs tending to fill the readers' minds with vanity to the dishonor of God, and the service of good men—in consequence of which, it was resolved that nothing should be published in the said colony, that had not been first perused and allowed by the secretary of the colony.
The order does not seem to have been enforced; and the first number of the paper, after James Franklin's release, contained another essay from the club, of increased boldness. It was headed by a sort of a text as follows: 'And then, after they had anathematized and cursed a man to the devil, and the devil would not, or did not, take him, then to make the sheriff and the jailer take the devil's leavings.'
Other publications, equally liberal, and equally offensive to the civil authorities, were brought before both Houses of the General Court, and a joint committee was appointed to consider and report. This committee reported that the tendency of Franklin's paper was 'to mock religion and bring it into contempt.' They therefore recommended that James Franklin be prohibited from publishing anything not previously examined and approved by the secretary. The recommendation was adopted, but Franklin again disregarded the order, for which he was prosecuted for a contempt of the General Court; but the jury ignored the bill. He was, however, bound to good behavior, in conformity to the order of the General Court.
These proceedings were severely attacked in the American Weekly Mercury, which by that time had been established in Philadelphia; and the Assembly of the Province of Massachusetts was denounced as being made up of oppressors and bigots, who made religion only an engine of destruction to the people. Their public officers were proclaimed to be remarkable for their hypocrisy, raised up as 'a scourge in the hands of the Almighty for the sins of the people.'
These attacks were undoubtedly written by the club in Boston and sent to Philadelphia for publication. But neither the club nor James Franklin would submit to the order of the Court; and for the purpose of evading it, the name of James was taken out of the paper, and that of Benjamin substituted. The latter was then a minor, and this was the first introduction of his name into public life. But though a poor printer's lad, the name thus first used as a shield for others who were behind the curtains, has since challenged the world for illustrious deeds of his own.
With this change of the name of the publisher, came a new prospectus, probably the first effort of the kind, of the then youthful philosopher. This prospectus was rather an odd one, as will be seen by the following extract: 'The main design of this weekly will be to entertain the town with the most comical and diverting incidents of human life; which in so large a place as Boston will not fail of a universal exemplification. Nor shall we be wanting to fill up these papers with a grateful interspersion of more serious morals, which may be drawn from the most ludicrous and odd parts of human life.'
The character of the paper, however, does not appear to have been changed for the better by the change of names. It was continued in the name of Benjamin Franklin some time after he had left it; but the members of the club at length grew wearied with the labor, and the paper expired in 1727. James Franklin then removed to Rhode Island, and established the first newspaper in that State, at Newport.
It remains to notice but one more of the early Boston editors, who seems to have been an odd fish—somewhat witty, but, to use a homely proverb, 'as rough as a rat-catcher's dog.' He first established the Boston Weekly Rehearsal, in 1731, and afterward the Boston Evening Post. His name was Thomas Fleet. Massachusetts was then a slaveholding country, and Fleet owned several negroes, two of whom he instructed in the art of printing. Their names were Pompey and Caesar—the only two Romans, I believe, who ever belonged to the printing fraternity. These honest fellows lived and printed until after the war of the Revolution, having become freemen by the Constitution of Massachusetts of 1780. Fleet was droll and witty in the conduct of his paper, especially in his advertisements. Witness the following advertisement of one of his negro women for sale: 'To be sold, by the printer of this paper, the very best negro woman in this town, who has had the small pox and the measles; is as hearty as a horse, as brisk as a bird, will work like a beaver.'
There was a common evil existing in those days which, it is to be feared, has now become chronic. People were prone to omit paying for their newspapers. Fleet had often to complain of this crying sin, even against men of great religious professions. On one occasion he read them quite a severe lesson upon their injustice and oppression in this respect. 'Every one,' says he, 'thinks he has a right to read news, but few find themselves inclined to pay for it. 'Tis a great pity a soil that will bear piety so well, should not produce a tolerable crop of common honesty.'
It is, moreover, slanderously reported in the ancient chronicles, that Fleet was not blessed with the most beautiful and sweet-tempered wife and daughters in Boston. On one occasion he invited a friend to dine with him on pouts, a kind of fish then esteemed a great delicacy, and of which he knew his friend to be remarkably fond. His domestic matters, however, did not move along very smoothly that morning, and when they sat down to table, the gentleman remarked that the pouts were wanting.
'Oh no,' said Fleet, 'only look at my wife and daughters!'
Twenty-one years elapsed from the establishment of a newspaper in Boston, before William Bradford commenced the New York Gazette, in October, 1725. It was printed on a half sheet of foolscap, with a large and almost wornout type. There is a large volume of these papers in the New York City Library, in good preservation. The advertisements do not average more than three or four a week, and these are mostly of runaway negroes. The ship news was diminutive enough; now and then a ship, and some half a dozen sloops arriving and leaving in the course of the week. Such was the daily paper published in the commercial metropolis of the United States, one hundred and thirty-eight years ago!
Eight years after the establishment of Bradford's Gazette, the New York Weekly Journal was commenced by John Philip Zengar. This paper was established for the purpose of opposing the colonial administration of Governor Crosby, under the patronage, as was supposed, of the Honorable Rip Van Dam, who had previously discharged the duties of the executive office, as President of the Council. The first great libel suit tried in New York was instituted by the Government in 1734 against Zengar. He was imprisoned by virtue of a warrant from the Governor and Council; and a concurrence of the House of Representatives in the prosecution was requested. The House, however, declined. The Governor and Council then ordered the libellous papers to be burned by the common hangman, or whipper, near the pillory. But both the common whipper and the common hangman were officers of the corporation, not of the Crown, and they declined officiating at the illumination. The papers were therefore burned by the sheriff's deputy at the order of the Governor. An ineffectual attempt was next made to procure an indictment against Zengar, but the grand jury refused to find a bill. The Attorney-General was then directed to file no information against him for printing the libels, and he was kept in prison until another term. His counsel offered exceptions to the commissions of the judges, which the latter not only refused to hear, but excluded his counsel, Messrs. Smith and Alexander, from the bar. Zengar then obtained other counsel—John Chambers, of New York, and Andrew Hamilton, of Philadelphia. The trial at length came on, and excited great interest. The truth, under the old English law of libel, could never be given in evidence, and was of course excluded on the present trial. Hamilton nevertheless tried the case with great ability. He showed the jury that they were the judges as well of the law as of the fact, and Zengar was acquitted. The verdict was received with cheers by the audience; and the corporation voted the freedom of the city to Andrew Hamilton, 'for the remarkable service done to the inhabitants of this city and colony, by his defence of the rights of mankind and the liberty of the press.' The certificate was sent to Mr. Hamilton by Mr. Stephen Bayard in a superb gold box, on the lid of which were engraved the arms of the city with several classical and appropriate mottoes.
Thus ever has power been arrayed against the liberty of the press; and thus ever have the people been ready to sustain it.
Soon after the relinquishment of his paper by Bradford, it was resumed by James Parker, under the double title of The New York Gazette and Weekly Post Boy. In 1753, ten years afterward, Parker took a partner by the name of William Wayman. But neither of the partners, nor both of them together, possessed the indomitable spirit of John Philip Zengar. Having in March, 1756, published an article reflecting upon the conduct of the people of Ulster and Orange counties, the Assembly, entertaining a high regard for the majesty of the people, took offence thereat, and both the editors were taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms. What the precise nature of the insult upon the sovereign people of those counties was, does not appear. But the editors behaved in a craven manner. They acknowledged their fault, begged pardon of the House, and paid the costs of the proceedings; in addition to all which, they gave up the name of the author. He proved to be none other than the Rev. Hezekiah Watkins, a missionary to the county of Ulster, residing at Newburgh. The reverend gentleman was accordingly arrested, brought to New York, and voted guilty of a high misdemeanor and contempt of the authority of the House. Of what persuasion was this Mr. Watkins, does not appear. But neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Hugh Latimer would have betrayed the right of free discussion as he did, by begging the pardon of the House, standing to receive a reprimand, paying the fees, and promising to be more circumspect in future, for the purpose of obtaining his discharge.
This case affords the most singular instance of the exercise of the doubtful power of punishing for what are called contempts, on record. A court has unquestionably a right to protect itself from indignity, while in session; and so has a legislative body, although the power of punishing for such an offence, without trial by jury, is now gravely questioned. But for a legislative body to extend the mantle of its protection over its constituency in such a matter, is an exercise of power of which it is difficult to find a parallel. Sure it is that a people, then or now, who would elect such members to the Legislature deserve nothing else than contempt.
The fourth paper established in New York was called the Evening Post. It was commenced by Henry De Forest in 1746. It was remarkable chiefly for stupidity, looseness of grammar, and worse orthography, and died before it was able to go alone.
In 1752 the New York Mercury was commenced, and in 1763 the title was changed to the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. This paper was established and published by Hugh Gaine, at the sign of the Bible and Crown, Hanover square. It was conducted with taste and ability, and became the best newspaper in the Colonies. In 1763, Gaine was arraigned by the Assembly for publishing a part of its proceedings without permission, and withal incorrectly. He was a gentleman of a kind spirit, and never had the power to withhold an apology when it was asked. He accordingly apologized, was reprimanded, and discharged.
As the storm of war drew on in 1775, the Mercury contained a series of patriotic papers, under the signature of the Watch Tower. But as the British forces drew near to New York, the patriotism of Gaine began to cool; and during the whole course of the Revolutionary war, his Mercury afforded very accurate indications of the state of the contest. When with the Whigs, Hugh Gaine was a Whig. When with the Royalists, he was loyal. When the contest was doubtful, equally doubtful were the politics of Hugh Gaine. In short, he was the most perfect pattern of the genuine non-committal. On the arrival of the British army he removed to Newark for a while; but soon returned to the city and published a paper devoted to the cause of the Crown. His course was a fruitful theme for the wags of the day; and at the peace, a poetical petition from Gaine to the Senate of the State, setting forth his life and conduct, was got up with a good deal of talent and humor. His paper ceased with the war.
Another paper, called the New York Gazette, was commenced by Wayman, the former associate of Parker. In 1766, Wayman was arrested for a contempt of the Assembly, upon no other charge than that of two typographical errors in printing the speech of Sir Henry Moore, the Governor of the Colony. One of these errors consisted in printing the word NEVER for ever; and the other was the omission of the word NO, by reason of which the meaning of the sentence was reversed. Wayman protested that it was a mere inadvertency; but so tenacious were legislators in those days of 'privilege,' that an investigation was instituted; but in the end the transgressor was discharged from 'durance vile,' on condition of acknowledging his fault, asking pardon, and promising to behave more circumspectly for the future.
The Assembly, however, was more rigid in this case, from the suspicion entertained that one of the errors was intentional; but such was clearly not the fact.
Nothing can be more annoying to authors and publishers than errors of the press; and yet those who are unskilled in the art of printing, can scarcely conceive the difficulty of avoiding them. The art of proof reading with perfect accuracy is an high and difficult attainment. To arrive at ordinary accuracy in a daily newspaper, requires the reading and correction of at least two proofs; and even then an editor, who has not become case hardened, by long practice and long endurance, will often be shocked at the transformation of sense into nonsense, or the murdering of one of his happiest conceits, or the plucking of the point out of one of his neatest paragraphs, by a typographical error.
In the early stages of the art of printing, typographical errors were far more numerous than in books of modern execution, where there is a real effort to attain to ordinary accuracy. It was then very common for a volume of ordinary size to contain page upon page of errata at the close. One of the most remarkable instances of this kind was the curious treatise of Edward Leigh, 'On Religion and Learning,' published in 1656. At the close of the work were two folio pages of corrections in very minute characters. The author himself complains as follows: 'We have no Plantier or Stevens (two celebrated printers of another day) amongst us; and it is no easy task to specify the chiefest errata; false interpunctions there are too many; here a letter wanting, there a letter too much; a syllable too much, one letter for another; words joined, which should be severed; words misplaced, chronological mistakes, &c.'
Leigh's case, however, was not so hard as that of a monk, who wrote and published the 'Anatomy of the Mass,' in 1561. The work itself contained only one hundred and seventy-two pages, to which were added FIFTEEN pages of errata. The pious monk wrote an apology for these inaccuracies, which, if true, proved that his case was indeed a cruel one—clearly proving, moreover, that even if the devil had originally assisted Doctor Faustus and Gutenberg in the invention, his brimstone majesty very soon became sick of his bargain. The monk avers that he wrote the work to circumvent the artifices of Satan, and that the devil, ever on the alert, undertook to circumvent him. For this purpose Satan, in the first place, caused the MS. to be drenched in a kennel, until it was rendered comparatively illegible; and, in the second place, he compelled the printers to perpetrate more typographical blunders than had ever before been made in a book of no greater magnitude. But the malice of Lucifer did not end here. He compelled the priest to act under his influence while making the corrections!
But they were not all unintentional errors of the press in those days that appeared such. There were words and phrases interdicted by the Pope and the Inquisition; and sometimes by adroit management the interdicted word, though not inserted in the text, could be arrived at in the table of errata.
It is a singular fact, that the edition of the Latin Vulgate, by Pope Sixtus the Fifth, although his Holiness carefully superintended every sheet as it passed through the press, has ever remained without a rival in typographical inaccuracy. Still more curious was the fact, that the Pope, in the plenitude of pontifical infallibility, prefixed to the first volume a bull of excommunication against any and every printer, who in reprinting the work, should ever make any alteration in the text. To the amazement of the public, however, when the Bible appeared, it swarmed with errors too numerous for an errata. In a multitude of instances it was necessary to reprint whole passages in scraps, and paste over the incorrect verses. Great efforts were made to call in the edition; and it is now only to be found among rare collections, as a monument of literary blunders. If the Devil ever troubles himself about the correction of proofsheets, he was much more likely to be standing at the Pope's elbow while the Bible was printing, than to be bothering his head in regard to the poor monk's mass book to which allusion has been made.
Typographical errors happen in a variety of ways; sometimes by carelessness, sometimes by the ignorance and stupidity of the printer, and sometimes by design. Occurring in either way, they are often ludicrous, and sometimes productive of positive evil. A few examples of each variety will suffice.
In the fine description of the Pantheon, by Akenside, the expressive phrase 'SEVERELY great,' not being understood by the printer, who undertook to think for himself, was printed 'serenely great.'
An edition of the Bible was once published in England, in which the word not was omitted in the seventh commandment. For this offence, whether by carelessness or by design, the archbishop imposed the heaviest penalty ever recorded in the annals of literary history. The edition was required to be called in and destroyed, and a fine imposed of L20,000 sterling.
There was a more severe punishment than even this awarded in Germany once, for a wilful alteration of the sacred text. It seems that in Gen. iii. 16, the Hebrew word which has been rendered husband in the English translation, is lord in the German. It is the passage in which God tells Eve: 'And thy desire shall be to thy husband, who shall rule over thee.' The German word signifying lord is HERR; and in the same language the word NARR answers for fool. The case was this: A new edition of the Bible was printing at the house of a widow, whose husband had been a printer. The spirited lady, not liking the subordinate station of her sex, and having acquired a little knowledge of the art, watched an opportunity by night to enter the printing office; and while the form was lying on the press, she carefully drew out the letters H and e, and inserted in their stead the letters Na. The outrage was not discovered in season, and the Bible went forth declaring that man should be the woman's fool. Such, probably, is too often the case, but the gentlemen would not like to see it in print. Gravely, however, the person committing such an offence must needs stand in awful apprehension of the fearful curse denounced in the conclusion of the Apocalypse.
An edition of the Catholic Missal was once published in France, in which the accidental substitution merely of the letter u for an a, was the cause of a shocking blunder, changing, as it did, the word calotte (an ecclesiastical cap or mitre) into culotte, which, as my readers are aware, means, in drawing-room English, a gentleman's small clothes. The error occurred in one of the directions for conducting the service, where it is said: "Here the priest will take off his culotte!"
Among the errors that have occurred through design, was one which happened in the old Hudson Balance, when the Rev. Dr. Croswell was the editor of that ancient and excellent journal. A merchant by the name of Peter Cole chanced to get married. Cole, however, was very unpopular, and was not one of the brightest intelligences even of those days. The bride, too, was a little more no than yes, in her intellectual furnishment. It used to be a common practice in the country, in sending marriages to the press, to tack on a bit of poetry in the shape of some sweet hymenial sentimentality. In compliance with this custom, the groomsman added a line or two from one of the poets, where the bard speaks of the bliss of the marriage state, 'when heart meets heart reciprocally soft.' The wicked boys in the printing office, however, corrected the poet, making the stanza read thus:
'When head meets head, reciprocally soft.'
Another instance, more ludicrous still, was the following: A lad in a printing office, who knew more about type setting than he did of the Greek mythology, in looking over a poem they were printing, came upon the name of Hecate, one of the lady divinities of the lower world, occurring in a line like this:
'Shall reign the Hecate of the deepest hell.'
The boy, thinking he had discovered an error, ran to the master printer, and inquired eagerly whether there was an e in cat. 'Why, no, you blockhead,' was the reply. Away went the boy to the press room, and extracted the objectionable letter. But fancy the horror of both poet and publisher, when the poem appeared with the line:
'Shall reign the HE CAT of the deepest hell.'
But let a form of types, arranged either for book or newspaper, be ever so correct when sent to the press, errors not unfrequently happen from yet another cause, viz.: the liability of now and then a letter to drop out, when the form has not been properly adjusted, or locked sufficiently tight in the iron frame which by printers is called a chase. How important the loss of a single letter may become is seen by the following example. A printer putting to press a form of the Common Prayer, the c in the following passage dropped out unperceived by him: 'We shall all be CHANGED in the twinkling of an eye.' When the book appeared, to the horror of the devout worshipper, the passage read: 'We shall all be HANGED in the twinkling of an eye.'
Sometimes a whole page or a whole form drops through, and falls into what printers call pi—that is, a mass of all sorts of letters, stops, marks, points, spaces, forming a jumble of everything—and involving the dire necessity of assorting over the whole mass, letter by letter. In isolated printing houses, where they have but few workmen, and assistance is not near, such a catastrophe is a serious matter. An instance of this kind, which happened many years ago in the county of Oneida, is in point. An editor was putting his paper to press (for in the country, editor and printer are often combined) when down fell his form—a wreck of matter and a crush of words. There was no other printing office nearer than Albany, and it was impossible for him to rearrange his types for the paper that week. But his paper must come out at all hazards, on account of the legal advertisements on the first side. He therefore hit upon the expedient of publishing his paper with a blank page, inserting in large letters, 'Omitted for want of room!'
But, after all, when it is considered of how many separate and minute pieces of metal a book form or the page of a newspaper is composed, the wonder is that errors of the press are not far more numerous than they are. A single page of one of our largest papers cannot contain less than 150,000 separate pieces of metal, each of which must be nicely adjusted in its own proper place, or error and confusion will ensue.
But to return from this long digression of the early newspaper press of New York. A paper called the New York Chronicle was published during the years 1761-'62, and then died. The New York Pacquet was next published, in 1763, but how long it lived is not known. In 1766, Holt established the New York Journal, or General Advertiser, which in the course of the year was connected with Parker's Gazette, the Journal, however, being printed as a separate paper. John Holt edited the first Whig paper published in New York; nor, as in the case of Hugh Gaine, did his patriotism come and go as danger approached or receded from the city. In 1774, Holt discarded the King's arms, and took that engraving from the title of his paper, substituting in place of it, a serpent cut in pieces, with the expressive motto, 'Unite or Die.' In January, 1775, the snake was united and coiled, with the tail in its mouth, forming a double ring: within the coil was a pillar standing on Magna Charta and surmounted with the cap of liberty: the pillar on each side was supported by six arms and hands, figurative of the colonies. On the body of the snake, beginning at the head, were the following lines: