A Great Public Character

IT is the misfortune of American biography that it must needs be more or less provincial, and that, contrary to what might have been predicted, this quality in it predominates in proportion as the country grows larger. Wanting any great and acknowledged centre of national life and thought, our expansion has hitherto been rather aggregation than growth ; reputations must be hammered out thin to cover so wide a surface, and the substance of most hardly holds out to the boundaries of a single State. Our very history Wants unity, and down to the Revolution the attention is wearied and confused by having to divide itself among thirteen parallel threads, instead of being concentred on a single clew. A sense of remoteness and seclusion comes over us as we read, and we cannot help asking ourselves, “ Were not these things done in a corner ?” Notoriety may be achieved in a narrow sphere, but fame demands for its evidence a more distant and prolonged reverberation. To the world at large we were but a short column of figures in the corner of a blue-book, New England exporting so much salt-fish, timber, and Medford rum, Virginia so many hogshead of tobacco, and buying with the proceeds a certain amount of English manufactures. The story of our early colonization had a certain moral interest, to be sure, but was altogether inferior in picturesque fascination to that of Mexico or Peru. The lives of our worthies, like that of our nation, are bare of those foregone and far-reaching associations with names, the divining-rods of fancy, which the soldiers and civilians of the Old World get for nothing by the mere accident of birth. Their historians and biographers have succeeded to the good-will, as well as to the long-established stand, of the shop of glory. Time is, after all, the greatest of poets, and the sons of Memory stand a better chance of being the heirs of Fame. The philosophic poet may find a proud solace in saying,

“ Avia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante Trita solo ” ;

but all the while he has the splendid centuries of Greece and Rome behind him, and can begin his poem with invoking a goddess from whom legend derived the planter of his race. His eyes looked out on a landscape saturated with glorious recollections ; he had seen Cæsar, and heard Cicero. But who shall conjure with Saugus or Cato Four Corners, — with Israel Putnam or Return Jonathan Meigs ? We have been transplanted, and for us the long hierarchical succession of history is broken. The Past has not laid its venerable hands upon us in consecration, conveying to us that mysterious influence whose force is in its continuity. We are to Europe as the Church of England to her of Rome. The latter old lady may be the Scarlet Woman, or the Beast with ten horns, if you will, but hers are all the heirlooms, hers that vast spiritual estate of tradition, nowhere yet everywhere, whose revenues are none the less fruitful for being levied on the imagination. We may claim that England’s history is also ours, but it is a de jure, and not a de facto property that we have in it, — something that may be proved indeed, yet is a merely intellectual satisfaction, and does not savor of the realty. Have we not seen the mockery crown and sceptre of the exiled Stuarts in St. Peter’s ? the medal struck so lately as 1784 with its legend, HEN IX MAG BRIT ET HIB REX, whose contractions but faintly typify the scantness of the fact ?

As the novelist complains that our society wants that sharp contrast of character and costume which comes of caste, so in the narrative of our historians we miss what may be called background and perspective, as if the events and the actors in them failed of that cumulative interest which only a long historical entail can give. Relatively, the crusade of Sir William Peppered was of more consequence than that of St. Louis, and yet forgive us, injured shade of the second American baronet, if we find the narrative of Joinville more interesting than your despatches to Governor Shirley. Relatively, the insurrection of that Daniel whose Irish patronymic Shea was euphonized into Shays, as a set-off for the debasing of French chaise into shay, was more dangerous than that of Charles Edward ; but for some reason or other (as vice sometimes has the advantage of virtue) the latter is more enticing to the imagination, and the least authentic relic of it in song or story has a relish denied to the painful industry of Minot. Our events seem to fall short of that colossal proportion which befits the monumental style. Look grave as we will, there is something ludicrous in Counsellor Keane’s pig being the pivot of a revolution. We are of yesterday, and it is to no purpose that our political augurs divine from the flight of our eagles that to-morrow shad be ours, and flatter us with an all-hail hereafter. Things do really gain in greatness by being acted on a great and cosmopolitan stage, because there is inspiration in the thronged audience, and the nearer match that puts men on their mettle. Webster was more largely endowed by nature than Fox, and Fisher Ames not much below Burke as a talker ; but what a difference in the intellectual training, in the literary culture and associations, in the whole social outfit, of the men who were their antagonists and companions ! It should seem that, if it he collision with other minds and with events that strikes or draws the fire from a man, then the quality of those might have something to do with the quality of the fire, — whether it shall be culinary or electric. We have never known the varied stimulus, the inexorable criticism, the many-sided opportunity of a great metropolis, the inspiring reinforcement of an undivided national consciousness. In everything but trade we have missed the invigoration of foreign rivalry. We may prove that we are this and that and the other, — our Fourth-of-July orators have proved it time and again,—the census has proved it ; but the Muses are women, and have no great fancy for statistics, though easily silenced by them. We are great, we are rich, we are all kinds of good things ; but did it never occur to you that somehow we are not interesting, except as a phenomenon ? It may safely be affirmed that for one cultivated man in this country who studies American, there are fifty who study European history, ancient or modern.

Till within a year or two we have been as distant and obscure to the eyes of Europe as Ecuador to our own. Every day brings us nearer, enables us to see the Old World more clearly, and by inevitable comparison to judge ourselves with some closer approach to our real value. This has its advantage so long as our culture is, as for a long time it must be, European ; for we shall be little better than apes and parrots till we are forced to measure our muscle with the trained and practised champions of that elder civilization. We have at length established our claim to the noblesse of the sword, the first step still of every nation that would make its entry into the best society of history. To maintain ourselves there, we must achieve an equality in the more exclusive circle of culture, and to that end must submit ourselves to the European standard of intellectual weights and measures. That we have made the hitherto biggest gun might excite apprehension (were there a dearth of iron), but can never exact respect. That our pianos and patent reapers have won medals does but confirm us in our mechanic and material measure of merit. We must contribute something more than mere contrivances for the saving of labor, which we have been only too ready to misapply in the domain of thought and the higher kinds of invention. In those Olympic games where nations contend for truly immortal wreaths, it may well be questioned whether a mowing-machine would stand much chance in the chariot-races,— whether a piano, though made by a chevalier, could compete successfully for the prize of music.

We shall have to be content for a good while yet with our provincialism, and must strive to make the best of it. In it lies the germ of nationality, and that is, after all, the prime condition of all thorough-bred greatness of character. To this choicest fruit of a healthy life, well rooted in native soil, and drawing prosperous prices thence, nationality gives the keenest flavor. Mr. Lincoln was an original man, and in so far a great man ; yet it was the Americanism of his every thought, word, and act which not only made his influence equally at home in East and West, but drew the eyes of the outside world, and was the pedestal that lifted him where he could be seen by them. Lincoln showed that native force may transcend local boundaries, but the growth of such nationality is hindered and hampered by our division into so many half-independent communities, each with its objects of county ambition, and its public men great to the borders of their district. In this way our standard of greatness is insensibly debased. To receive any national appointment, a man must have gone through precisely the worst training for it ; he must have so far narrowed and belittled himself with State politics as to be acceptable at home. In this way a man may become chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, because he knows how to pack a caucus in Catawampus County, or sent ambassador to Barataria, because he has drunk bad whiskey with every voter in Wildcat City. Should we ever attain to a conscious nationality, it will have the advantage of lessening the number of our great men, and widening our appreciation to the larger scale of the two or three that are left, — if there should be so many. Meanwhile we offer a premium to the production of great men in a small way, by inviting each State to set up the statues of two of its immortals in the Capitol. What a niggardly percentage ! Already we are embarrassed, not to find the two, but to choose among the crowd of candidates. Well, seventy-odd heroes in about as many years is pretty well for a young nation. We do not envy most of them their eternal martyrdom in marble, their pillory of indiscrimination. We fancy even native tourists pausing before the greater part of the effigies, and, after reading the names, asking desperately, “Who was he ?” Nay, if they should say, “ Who the devil was he ?” it were a pardonable invocation, for none so fit as the Prince of Darkness to act as cicerone among such palpable obscurities. We recall the court-yard of the Uffizj at Florence. That also is not free of parish celebrities ; but Dante, Galileo, Michael Angelo, Macchiavelli,—shall the inventor of the sewing-machine, even with the button-holing improvement, let us say, match with these, or with far lesser than these ? Perhaps he was more practically useful than anyone of these, or all of them together, but the soul is sensible of a sad difference somewhere. These also were citizens of a provincial capital ; so were the greater part of Plutarch’s heroes. Did they have a better chance than we moderns, — than we Americans ? At any rate they have the start of us, and we must confess that

“ By bed and table they lord it o’er us,
Our elder brothers, but one in blood.”

Yes, one in blood ; that is the hardest part of it. Is our provincialism then in some great measure due to our absorption in the practical, as we politely call it, meaning the material,— to our habit of estimating greatness by the square mile and the hundredweight ? Even during our war, in the midst of that almost unrivalled stress of soul, were not our speakers and newspapers so enslaved to the vulgar habit as to boast ten times of the thousands of square miles it covered with armed men, for once that they alluded to the motive that gave it all its meaning and its splendor ? Perhaps it was as well that they did not exploit that passion of patriotism as an advertisement in the style of Barnurn or Perham. “ I scale one hundred and eighty pounds, but when I 'm mad I weigh two ton,” said the Kentuckian, with a true notion of moral avoirdupois. That ideal kind of weight is wonderfully increased by a national feeling, whereby one man is conscious that thirty millions of men go into the balance with him. The Roman in ancient, and the Englishman in modern times, have been most conscious of this representative solidity, and wherever one of them went there stood Rome or England in his shoes. We have made some advance in the right direction. Our civil war, by the breadth of its proportions and the implacability of its demands, forced us to admit a truer valuation, and gave us, in our own despite, great soldiers and sailors, allowed for such by all the world. The harder problems it has left behind may in time compel us to have great statesmen, with views capable of reaching beyond the next election. The criticism of Europe alone can rescue us from the provincialism of an over or false estimate of ourselves. Let us be thankful, and not angry, that we must accept it as our touchstone. Outstamp has so often been impressed upon base metal, that we cannot expect it to be taken on trust, but we may be sure that true gold will be equally persuasive the world over. Real manhood and honest achievement are nowhere provincial, but enter the select society of all time on an even footing.

Spanish America might be a good glass for us to look into. Those Catharine-wheel republics, always in revolution while the powder lasts, and sure to burn the fingers of whoever attempts intervention, have also their great men, as placidly ignored by us as our own by jealous Europe. The following passage from the life of Don Simon Bolivar might allay many motus animorum, if rightly pondered. Bolivar, then a youth, was travelling in Italy, and his biographer tells us that “ near Castiglione he was present at the grand review made by Napoleon of the columns defiling into the plain large enough to contain sixty thousand men. The throne was situated on an eminence that overlooked the plain, and Napoleon on several occasions looked through a glass at Bolivar and his companions, who were at the base of the hill. The hero Cæsar could not imagine that he beheld the liberator of the world of Columbus ! ” And small blame to him, one would say. We are not, then, it seems, the only foundling of Columbus, as we are so apt to take for granted. The great Genoese did not, as we supposed, draw that first star-guided furrow across the vague of waters with a single eye to the future greatness of the United States. And have we not sometimes, like the enthusiastic biographer, fancied the Old World staring through all its telescopes at us, and wondered that it did not recognize in us what we were fully persuaded we were going to be and do ?

Our American life is dreadfully barren of those elements of the social picturesque which give piquancy to anecdote. And without anecdote, what is biography, or even history, which is only biography on a larger scale ? Clio, though she take airs on herself, and pretend to be “philosophy teaching by example,” is, after all, but a gossip who has borrowed Fame’s speaking-trumpet, and should be figured with a teacup instead of a scroll in her hand. How much has she not owed of late to the tittle-tattle of her gillflirt sister Thalia ? In what gutters has not Macaulay raked for the brilliant bits with which he has put together his admirable mosaic picture of England under the last two Stuarts ? Even Mommsen himself, who dislikes Plutarch’s method as much as Montaigne loved it, cannot get or give a lively notion of ancient Rome, without running to the comic poets and the anecdote-mongers. He gives us the very beef-tea of history, nourishing and even palatable enough, excellently portable for a memory that must carry her own packs, and can afford little luggage ; but for our own part, we prefer a full, old-fashioned meal, with its side-dishes of spicy gossip, and its last relish, the Stilton of scandal, so it be not too high. One volume of contemporary memoirs, stuffed though it be with lies, (for lies to be good for anything must have a potential probability, must even be true so far as their moral and social setting is concerned.) will throw more light into the dark backward of time than the gravest Camden or Thuanus. If St. Simon is not accurate, is he any the less essentially true ? No history gives us so clear an understanding of the moral condition of average men after the restoration of the Stuarts as the unconscious blabbings of the Puritan tailor’s son, with his two consciences, as it were, — an inward, still sensitive in spots, though mostly toughened to India-rubber, and good rather for rubbing out old scores than retaining them, and an outward, alert, and termagantly effective in Mrs. Pepys. But we can have no St. Simons or Pepyses till we have a Paris or London to delocalize our gossip and give it historic breadth. All our capitals are fractional, merely greater or smaller gatherings of men, centres of business rather than of action or influence. Each contains so many souls, but is not, as the word “capital” implies, the true head of a community and seat of its common soul.

Has not life itself perhaps become a little more prosaic than it once was ? As the clearing away of the woods scants the streams, may not our civilization have dried up some feeders that helped to swell the current of individual and personal force ? We have sometimes thought that the stricter definition and consequent seclusion from each other of the different callings in modern times, as it narrowed the chance of developing and giving variety to character, lessened also the interest of biography. Formerly arts and arms were not divided by so impassable a barrier as now. There was hardly such a thing as a pékin. Cæsar gets up from writing his Latin Grammar to conquer Gaul, change the course of history, and make so many things possible, -— among the rest our English language and Shakespeare. Horace had been a colonel ; and from Æschylus, who fought at Marathon, to Ben jonson, who trailed a pike in the Low Countries, the list of martial civilians is a long one. A man’s education seems more complete who has smelt hostile powder from a less æsthetic distance than Goethe. It raises our confidence in Sir Kenelm Digby as a physicist, that he is able to illustrate some theory of acoustics in his Treatise of Bodies by instancing the effect of his guns in a sea-fight off Scanderoon. One would expect the proportions of character to be enlarged by such variety and contrast of experience. Perhaps it will by and by appear that our own civil war has done something for us in this way. Colonel Higginson comes down from his pulpit to draw on his jackboots, and thenceforth rides in our imagination alongside of John Bunyan and Bishop Compton. To have stored moral capital enough to meet the drafts of Death at sight, must be an unmatched tonic. We saw our light-hearted youth come back with the modest gravity of age, as if they had learned to throw out pickets against a surprise of any weak point in their temperament. Perhaps that American shiftiness, so often complained of, may not be so bad a thing, if, by bringing men acquainted with every humor of fortune and human nature, it puts them in fuller possession of themselves.

But with whatever drawbacks in special circumstances, the main interest of biography must always lie in the amount of character or essential manhood which the subject of it reveals to us, and events are of import only as means to that end. It is true that lofty and farseen exigencies may give greater opportunity to some men, whose energy is more sharply spurred by the shout of a multitude than by the grudging Well done! of conscience. Some theorists have too hastily assumed that, as the power of public opinion increases, the force of private character, or what we call originality, is absorbed into and diluted by it. But we think Horace was right in putting tyrant and mob on a level as the trainers and tests of a man’s solid quality, The amount of resistance of which one is capable to whatever lies outside the conscience, is of more consequence than all other faculties together; and democracy, perhaps, tries this by pressure in more directions, and with a more continuous strain, than any other form of society. In Josiah Quincy we have an example of character trained and shaped, under the nearest approach to a pure democracy the world has ever seen, to a firmness, unity, and sell-centred poise that recall the finer types of antiquity, in whom the public and private man was so wholly of a piece that they were truly everywhere at home, for the same sincerity of nature that dignified the hearth carried also a charm of homeliness into the forum. The phrase “ a great public character,” once common, seems to be going out of fashion, perhaps because there are fewer examples of the thing. It fits Josiah Quincy exactly. Active in civic and academic duties till beyond the ordinary period of man, at fourscore and ten his pen, voice, and venerable presence were still efficient in public affairs. A score of years after the energies of even vigorous men are declining or spent, his mind and character made themselves felt as in their prime. A true pillar of house and state, he stood unflinchingly upright under whatever burden might be laid upon him. The French Revolutionists aped what was itself but a parody of the elder republic, with their hair à la Brutus and their pedantic moralities à la Cato Minor,but this man unconsciously was the antique Roman they laboriously went about to be. Others have filled places more conspicuous; few have made the place they filled so conspicuous by an exact and disinterested performance of duty.

In the biography of Mr. Quincy by his son, there is something of the provincialism of which we have spoken as inherent in most American works of the kind. His was a Boston life in the strictest sense. But provincialism is relative, and where it has a flavor of its own, as in Scotland, it is often agreeable in proportion to its very intensity. The Massachusetts in which Mr. Quincy’s habits of thought were acquired was a very different Massachusetts from that in which we of later generations have been bred. Till after he had passed middle life, Boston was more truly a capital than any other city in America, before or since, except possibly Charleston. The acknowledged head of New England, with a population of wellnigh purely English descent, mostly derived from the earlier emigration. with ancestral traditions and inspiring memories of its own, it had made its name familiar in both worlds, and was both historically and politically more important than at any later period. The Revolution had not interrupted, but rather given a freer current to the tendencies of its past. Both by its history and position, the town had what the French call a solidarity, an almost personal consciousness, rare anywhere, rare especially in America, and more than ever since our enormous importation of fellow-citizens to whom America means merely shop, or meat three times a day. Boston has been called the “ American Athens.”Æsthetically, the comparison is ludicrous, but politically it was more reasonable. Its population was homogeneous, and there were leading families ; while the form of government by town-meeting, and the facility of social and civic intercourse, gave great influence to popular personal qualities and opportunity to new men. A wide commerce, while it had insensibly softened the asperities of Puritanism and imported enough foreign refinement to humanize, not enough foreign luxury to corrupt, had not essentially qualified the native tone of the town. Retired sea-captains (true brothers of Chaucer’s Shipman), whose exploits had kindled the imagination of Burke, added a not unpleasant savor of salt to society. They belonged to the old school of Gilbert, Hawkins, Frobisher, and Drake, parcel-soldiers all of them, who had commanded armed ships and had tales to tell of gallant fights with privateers or pirates, truest representatives of those Vikings who, if trade in lumber or peltry was dull, would make themselves Dukes of Dublin or Earls of Orkney. If trade pinches the mind, commerce liberalizes it; and Boston was also advantaged with the neighborhood of the country’s oldest College, which maintained the wholesome traditions of culture, — where Homer and Horace are familiar there is a certain amount of cosmopolitanism, — and would not allow bigotry to become despotism. Manners were more self-respectful, and therefore more respectful of others, and personal sensitiveness was fenced with more of that ceremonial with which society armed itself when it surrendered the ruder protection of the sword. We had not then seen a Governor in his chamber at the State-House with his hat on, a cigar in his mouth, and his feet upon the stove. Domestic service, in spite of the proverb, was not seldom an inheritance, nor was household peace dependent on the whim of a foreign armed neutrality in the kitchen. Servant and master were of one stock; there was decent authority and becoming respect; the tradition of the Old World lingered after its superstition had passed away. There was an aristocracy such as is healthful in a wellordered community, founded on public service, and hereditary so long as the virtue which was its patent was not escheated. The clergy, no longer hedged by the reverence exacted by sacerdotal caste, were more than repaid by the consideration willingly paid to superior culture. What changes, many of them for the better, some of them surely for the worse, and all of them inevitable, did not Josiah Quincy see in that wellnigh secular life which linked the war of independence to the war of nationality ! We seemed to see a type of them the other day in a colored man standing with an air of comfortable self-possession while his boots were brushed by a youth of catholic neutral tint, but whom nature had planned for white. The same eyes that had looked on Gage’s red-coats, saw Colonel Shaw’s negro regiment march out of Boston in the national blue. Seldom has a life, itself actively associated with public affairs, spanned so wide a chasm for the imagination. Oglethorpe’s offers a parallel, — the aide-de-camp of Prince Eugene calling on John Adams, American Ambassador to England. Most long lives resemble those threads of gossamer, the nearest approach to nothing unmeaningly prolonged, scarce visible pathway of some worm from his cradle to his grave ; but Quincy’s was strung with seventy active years, each one a rounded bead of usefulness and service.

Mr. Quincy was a Bostonian of the purest type. Since the settlement of the town, there had been a colonel of the Boston regiment in every generation of his family. He lived to see a grandson brevetted with the same title for gallantry in the field. Only child of one among the most eminent advocates of the Revolution, and who but for his untimely death would have been a leading actor in it, his earliest recollections belonged to the heroic period in the history of Ids native town. With that history his life was thenceforth intimately united by offices of public trust, as Representative in Congress, State Senator, Mayor, and President of the University, to a period beyond the ordinary span of mortals. Even after he had passed ninety, he would not claim to be emeritus, but came forward to brace his townsmen with a courage and warm them with a fire younger than their own. The legend of Colonel Goffe at Deerfield became a reality to the eyes of this generation. The New England breed is running out, we are told ! This was in all ways a beautiful and fortunate life,-—-fortunate in the goods of this world, — fortunate, above all, in the force of character which makes fortune secondary and subservient. We are fond in this country of what are called self-made men (as if real success could ever be other); and this is all very well, provided they make something worth having of themselves. Otherwise it is not so well, and the examples of such are at best but stuff for the Alnaschar dreams of a false democracy. The gist of the matter is not where a man starts from, but where he comes out. We are glad to have the biography of one who, beginning as a gentleman, kept himself such to the end, — who, with no necessity of labor, left behind him an amount of thoroughly done work such as few have accomplished with the mighty help of hunger. Some kind of pace may be got out of the veriest jade by the near prospect of oats ; but tire thorough-bred has the spur in his blood.

Mr. Edmund Quincy has told the story of his father’s life with the skill and good taste that might have been expected from the author of " Wensley.” Considering natural partialities, he has shown a discretion of which we are oftener reminded by missing than by meeting it. lie has given extracts enough from speeches to show their bearing and quality, — from letters, to recall bygone modes of thought and indicate many-sided friendly relations with good and eminent men ; above all, he has lost no opportunity to illustrate that life of the past, near in date, yet alien in manners, whose current glides so imperceptibly from one generation into another that we fail to mark the shiftings of its bed or the change in its nature wrought by the affluents that discharge into it on all sides, — here a stream bred in the hills to sweeten, there the sewerage of some great city to corrupt. We cannot but lament that Mr. Quincy did not earlier begin to keep a diary. Miss not the discourses of the elders,” though put now in the Apocrypha, is a wise precept, but incomplete unless we add, “ Nor cease from recording whatsoever thing thou hast gathered therefrom, —so ready is Oblivion with her fatal shears. The somewhat greasy heap of a literary rag-and-bonepicker, like Athenæus, is turned to gold by time. Even the Virgitium vide tantum of Dryden about Milton, and of Pope again about Dryden, is worth having, and gives a pleasant fillip to the fancy. There is much of this qualityin Mr. Edmund Quincy’s book, enough to make us wish there were more. We get a glimpse of President Washington, in 1795, who reminded Mr. Quincy “ of the gentlemen who used to come to Boston in those days to attend the General Court from Hampden or Franklin County, in the western part of the State. A little stiff in his person, not a little formal in his manners, not particularly at ease in the presence of strangers. He had the air of a country-gentleman not accustomed to mix much in society, perfectly polite, but not easy in his address and conversation, and not graceful in his gait and movements.” Our figures of Wasbington have been so long equestrian, that it is pleasant to meet him dismounted for once. In the same way we get a card of invitation to a dinner of sixty covers at John Hancock’s, and see the rather light-weighted great man wheeled round the room (for he had adopted Lord Chatham’s convenient trick of the gout) to converse with his guests. In another place we are presented, with Mr. Merry, the English Minister, to Jefferson, whom we find in an unofficial costume of studied slovenliness, intended as a snub to haughty Albion. Slippers down at the heel and a dirty shirt become weapons of diplomacy and threaten more serious war. Thus many a door into the past, long irrevocably shut upon us, is set ajar, and we of the younger generation on the landing catch peeps of distinguished men, and bits of their table-talk. We drive in from Mr. Lyman’s beautiful seat at Waltham (unique at that day in its stately swans and halfshy, half-familiar deer) with John Adams, who tells us that Dr. Priestley looked on the French monarchy as the tenth horn of the Beast in Revelations, — a horn that has set more sober wits dancing than that of Huon of Bordeaux. Those were days, we are inclined to think, of more solid and elegant hospitality than our own, — the elegance of manners, at once more courtly and more frugal, of men who had better uses for wealth than merely to display it. Dinners have more courses now, and, like the Gascon in the old story, who could not see the town for the houses, we miss the real dinner in the multiplicity of its details. We might seek long before we found so good cheer, so good company, or so good talk as our fathers had at Lieutenant-Governor Winthrop’s or Senator Cabot’s.

We shall not do Mr. Edmund Quincy the wrong of picking out in advance all the plums in his volume, leaving to the reader only the less savory mixture that held them together, — a kind of filling unavoidable in books of this kind, and too apt to be what boys at boardingschool call stick-jaw, but of which there is no more than could not be helped here, and that light and palatable. But here and there is a passage where we cannot refrain, for there is a smack of Jack Horner in all of us, and a reviewer were nothing without it. josiah Quincy was born in 1772. His father, returning from a mission to England, died in sight of the dear New England shore three years later. His young widow was worthy of him, and of the son whose character she was to have so large a share in forming. There is something very touching and beautiful in this little picture of her which Mr. Quincy drew in his extreme old age.

“ My mother imbibed, as was usual with the women of the period, the spirit of the times. Patriotism was not then a profession, but an energetic principle beating in the heart and active in the life. The death of my father, under circumstances now the subject of history, had overwhelmed her with grief. She viewed him as a victim in the cause of freedom, and cultivated his memory with veneration, regarding him as a martyr, falling, as did his friend Warren, in the defence of the liberties of his country. These circumstances gave a pathos and vehemence to her grief, which, after the first violence of passion had subsided, sought consolation in earnest and solicitous fulfilment of duty to the representative of his memory and of their mutual affections. Love and reverence for the memory of his father was early impressed on the mind of her son, and worn into his heart by her sadness and tears. She cultivated the memory of my father in my heart and affections, even in my earliest childhood, by reading to me passages from the poets, and obliging me to learn by heart and repeat such as were best adapted to her own circumstances and feelings. Among others, the whole leave-taking of Hector and Andromache, in the sixth book of Pope’s Homer, was one of her favorite lessons, which she made me learn and frequently repeat. Her imagination, probably, found consolation in the repetition of lines which brought to mind and seemed to typify her own great bereavement.

‘ And think’st thou, not how wretched we shall be, —
A widow I, a helpless orphan he ? ’

These lines, and the whole tenor of Andromache’s address and circumstances, she identified with her own sufferings, which seemed relieved by the tearsmy repetition of them drew from her.”

pope’s Homer is not Homer, perhaps ; but how many noble natures have felt its elation, how many bruised spirits the solace of its bracing, if monotonous melody ! To us there is something inexpressibly tender in this instinct of the widowed mother to find consolation in the idealization of her grief by mingling it with those sorrows which genius has turned into the perennial delight of mankind. This was a kind of sentiment that was healthy for her boy, refining without unnerving, and associating his father’s memory with a noble company unassailable by time. It was through this lady, whose image looks down on us out of the past, so full of sweetness and refinement, that Mr. Quincy became of kin with Mr. Wendell Phillips, so justly eminent as a speaker. There is something nearer than cater-cousinship in a certain impetuous audacity of temper common to them both.

When six years old, Mr. Quincy was sent to Phillips Academy at Andover, where he remained till he entered college. His form-fellow here was a man of thirty, who had been a surgeon in the Continental Army, and whose character and adventures might almost seem borrowed from a romance of Smollett, Under Principal Pearson, the lad, though a near relative of the founder of the school, seems to have endured all that severity of the old a posteriori method of teaching which still smarted in Tusser’s memory when he sang,

“ From Paul ’s I went, to Eton sent,
To learn straightways the Latin phrase,
Where fifty-three stripes given to me
At once I had.”

The young victim of the wisdom of Solomon was boarded with the parish minister, in whose kindness he found a lenitive for the scholastic discipline he underwent. This gentleman had been a soldier in the Colonial service, and Mr. Quincy afterwards gave as a reason for his mildness, that, “ while a sergeant at Castle William, he had seen something of mankind.” This, no doubt, would be a better preparative for successful dealing with the young than is generally thought. However, the birch was then the only classic tree, and every round in the ladder of learning was made of its inspiring wood. Dr. Pearson, perhaps, thought he was only doing justice to his pupil’s claims of kindred by giving him a larger share of the educational advantages which the neighboring forest afforded. The vividness with which this system is always remembered by those who have been subjected to it would seem to show that it really enlivened the attention, and thereby invigorated the memory, nay, might even raise some question as to what part of the person is chosen by the mother of the Muses for her residence. With an appetite for the classics quickened by “ Cheever’s Accidence,” and such other preliminary whets as were then in vogue, young Quincy entered college, where he spent the usual four years, and was graduated with the highest honors of his class. The amount of Latin and Greek imparted to the students of that day was not very great. They were carried through Horace, Sallust, and the De Oratoribus of Cicero, and read portions of Livy, Xenophon, and Homer. Yet the chief end of classical studies was perhaps as often reached then as now, in giving young men a love for something apart from and above the more vulgar associations of life. Mr. Quincy, at least, retained to the last a fondness for certain Latin authors. While he was President of the College, he told a gentleman, from whom we received the story, that, “if he were imprisoned, and allowed to choose one book for his amusement, that one should be Horace.”

In 1797, Mr. Quincy was married to Miss Eliza Susan Morton of New York, a union which lasted in unbroken happiness for more than fifty years. His case might be cited among the leading ones In support of the old poet’s axiom, that

“ He never loved, that loved not at first sight ” ;

for he saw, wooed, and won in a week. In later life he tried in a most amusing way to account for this rashness, and to find reasons of settled gravity for the happy inspiration of his heart. He cites the evidence of judge Sedgwick, of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Wolcott, of the Rev. Dr. Smith, and others, to the wisdom of his choice. But it does not appear that he consulted them beforehand. If love were not too cunning for that, what would become of the charming idyl, renewed in all its wonder and freshness for every generation ? Let us be thankful that in e very man’s life there is a holiday of romance, an illumination of the senses by the soul, that makes him a poet while it lasts. Mr. Quincy caught the enchantment through his ears, a song of Burns heard from the next room conveying the infection, — a fact still inexplicable to him after lifelong meditation thereon, as he “ was not very impressible by music ” ! To us there is something very characteristic in this rapid energy of Air. Quincy, something very delightful in his naive account of the affair. It needs the magic of no Dr. Heidegger to make these dried roses, that drop from between the leaves of a volume shut for seventy years, bloom again in all their sweetness. Mr. Edmund Quincy tells us his mother was “ not handsome ”; but those who remember the gracious dignity of her old age will hardly agree with him. She must always have had that highest kind of beauty which grows more beautiful with years, and keeps the eyes young, as if with a sort of partial connivance of Time.

We do not propose to follow Mr. Quincy closely through his whole public life, which, beginning with his thirty-second, ended with his seventythird year, fie entered Congress as the representative of a party privately the most respectable, publicly the least sagacious, among all those which under diffarent names have divided the country. The Federalists were the only proper lories our politics have ever produced, whose conservatism truly represented an idea, and not a mere selfish interest, — men who honestly distrusted democracy, and stood up for experience, or the tradition which they believed for such, against empiricism. During his Congressional career, the government was little more than an attache of the French legation, and the opposition to which he belonged a helpless revenant from the dead and buried Colonial past. There are some questions whose interest dies the moment they are settled; others, into which a moral clement enters that hinders them from being settled, though they may be decided. It is hard to revive any enthusiasm about the Embargo, though it once could inspire the boyish Muse of Bryant, or in the impressment quarrel, though the Trent difficulty for a time rekindled its old animosities. The stars in their courses fought against Mr. Quincy’s party, which was not in sympathy with the instincts of the people, groping about for some principle of nationality, and finding a substitute for it in hatred of England. But there are several things which still make his career in Congress interesting to us, because they illustrate the personal character of the man. He prepared himself honestly for his duties, by a thorough study of whatever could make him efficient in them. It was not enough that he could make a good speech ; he wished also to have something to say. In Congress, as everywhere else, quod voluit valde voluit ; and he threw a fervor into the most temporary topic, as if his eternal salvation depended upon it. He had not merely, as the French say, the courage of his opinions, but his opinions became principles, and gave him that gallantry of fanaticism which made him always ready to head a forlorn hope, — the more ready, perhaps, that it was a forlorn hope. This is not the humor of a statesman, no, unless he holds a position like that of Pitt, and can charge a whole people with his own enthusiasm, and then we call it genius. Mr. Quincy had the moral firmness which enabled him to decline a duel without any loss of personal prestige. His opposition to the Louisiana purchase illustrates that Roman quality in him to which we have alluded. He would not conclude the purchase till each of the old thirteen States had signified its assent. He was reluctant to endow a Sabine city with the privilege of Roman citizenship. It is worth nothing, that while in Congress, and afterwards in the State Senate, many of his phrases became the catchwords of party politics. He always dared to say what others deemed it more prudent only to think, and whatever he said he intensified with the whole ardor of his temperament. It is this which makes Mr. Ouincy’s speeches good reading still, even when the topics they discussed were ephemeral. In one respect he is distinguished from the politicians, and must rank with the far-seeing statesmen of his time. He early foresaw and denounced the political danger with which the slave power threatened the Union. His fears, it is true, were aroused for the balance of power between the old States, rather than by any moral sensitiveness, which would, indeed, have been an anachronism at that time. But the Civil War justified his prescience.

It was as Mayor of his native city that his remarkable qualities as an administrator were first called into requisition and adequately displayed. He organized the city government, and put it in working order. To him we owe many reforms in police, in the management of the poor, and other kindred matters, — much in the way of cure, still more in that of prevention. The place demanded a man of courage and firmness, and found those qualities almost superabundantly in him. His virtues lost him his office, as such virtues are only too apt to do in peaceful times, where they are felt more as a restraint than a protection. His address on laying down the mayoralty is very characteristic. We quote the concluding sentences : —

“ And now, gentlemen, standing as I do in this relation for the last time in your presence and that of my fellowcitizens, about to surrender forever a station full of difficulty, of labor and temptation, in which I have been called to very arduous duties, affecting the rights, property, and at times the liberty of others ; concerning which the perfect line of rectitude — though desired — was not always to be clearly discerned ; in which great interests have been placed within my control, under circumstances in which it would have been easy to advance private ends and sinister projects ; —under these circumstances, I inquire, as I have a right to inquire, — for in the recent contest insinuations have been cast against my integrity, — in this long management of your affairs, whatever errors have been committed, — and doubtless there have been many, — have you found in me anything selfish, anything personal, anything mercenary ? In the simple language of an ancient seer, I say, ' Behold, here I am ; witness against me. 'Whom have I defrauded ? Whom have I oppressed ? At whose hands have I received any bribe ? ’

“Six years ago, when I had the honor first to address the City Council, in anticipation of the event which has now occurred, the following expressions were used : ' In administering the police, in executing the laws, in protecting the rights and promoting the prosperity of the city, its first officer will be necessarily beset and assailed by individual interests, by rival projects, by personal influences, by party passions. The more firm and inflexible he is in maintaining the rights and in pursuing the interests of the city, the greater is the probability of his becoming obnoxious to the censure of all whom he causes to be prosecuted or punished, of all whose passions he thwarts, of all whose interests he opposes.’

“ The day and the event have come. I retire — as in that first address I told my fellow-citizens, ' If, in conformity with the experience of other republics, faithful exertions should be followed by loss of favor and confidence,’ I should retire — ' rejoicing, not, indeed, with a public and patriotic, but with a private and individual joy ’; for I shall retire with a consciousness weighed against which all human suffrages are but as the light dust of the balance.”

Of his mayoralty we have another anecdote quite Roman in color. He was in the habit of riding early in the morning through the various streets that he might look into everything with his own eyes. He was once arrested on a malicious charge of violating the city ordinance against fast driving. He might have resisted, but he appeared in court and paid the tine, because it would serve as a good example “ that no citizen was above the law.”

Hardly had Mr. Quincy given up the government of the city, when he was called to that of the College. It is here that his stately figure is associated most intimately and warmly with the recollections of the greater number who hold his memory dear. Almost everybody looks back regretfully to the days of some Consul Plancus. Never were eyes so bright, never had wine so much wit and good-fellowship in it, never were we ourselves so capable of the various great things we have never done. Nor is it merely the sunset of life that casts such a ravishing light on the past, and makes the western windows of those homes of fancy we have left forever tremble with a sentiment of such sweet regret. We set great store by what we had, and cannot have again, however indifferent in itself, and what is past is infinitely past. This is especially true of college life, when we first assume the titles without the responsibilities of manhood, and the President of our year is apt to become our Plancus very early. Popular or not while in office, an ex-president is always sure of enthusiastic cheers at every college festival. Mr. Quincy had many qualities calculated to win favor with the young, — that one above all which is sure to do it, indomitable pluck. With him the dignity was in the man, not in the office. He had some of those little oddities, too, which afford amusement without contempt, and which rather tend to heighten than diminish personal attachment to superiors in station. His punctuality at prayers, and in dropping asleep there, his forgetfulness of names, his singular inability to make even the shortest offhand speech to the students, — all the more singular in a practised orator, — his occasional absorption of mind, leading him to hand you his sand-box instead of the leave of absence he had just dried with it,—the old-fashioned courtesy of his, “ Sir, your servant,” as he bowed you out of his study, —all tended to make him popular. He had also a little of what is somewhat contradictorily called dry humor, not without influence in his relations with the students. In taking leave of the graduating class, he was in the habit of paying them whatever honest compliment he could. Who, of a certain year which shall be nameless, will ever forget the gravity with which he assured them that they were “ the best-dressed class that had passed through college during his administration ” ? How sincerely kind he was, how considerate of youthful levity, will always be gratefully remembered by whoever had occasion to experience it. A visitor not long before his death found him burning some memoranda of college peccadilloes, lest they should ever rise up in judgment against the men eminent in Church and State who had been guilty of them. One great element of his popularity with the students was his esprit de corps. However strict in discipline, he was always on our side as respected the outside world. Of his efficiency, no higher testimony could be asked than that of his successor, Dr. Walker. Here also many reforms date from his time. He had that happiest combination for a wise vigor in the conduct of affairs, — he was a conservative with an open mind.

One would be apt to think that, in the various offices which Mr. Quincy successively filled, he would have found enough to do. But his indefatigable activity overflowed. Even as a man of letters, he occupies no inconsiderable place. His “History of Harvard College ” is a valuable and entertaining treatment of a subject not wanting in natural dryness. His “Municipal History of Boston,” his “ History of the Boston Athenæum,” and his “ Life of Colonel Shaw ” have permanent interest and value. All these were works demanding no little labor and research, and the thoroughness of their workmanship makes them remarkable as the by-productions of a busy man. Having consented, when more than eighty, to write a memoir of John Quincy Adams, to be published in the “ Proceedings ” of the Massachusetts Historical Society, he was obliged to excuse himself. On account of his age ? Not at all, but because the work had grown to be a volume under his weariless hand. Ohne Hast ohne Rast, was as true of him as of Goethe. We find the explanation of his accomplishing so much in a rule of life which he gave, when President, to a young man employed as his secretary, and who was a little behindhand with his work : “ When you have a number of duties to' perform, always do the most disagreeable one first. ‘ No advice could have been more in character.

Perhaps the most beautiful part of Mr. Quincy’s life was his old age. What in most men is decay, was in him but beneficent prolongation and adjournment. His interest in affairs unabated. his judgment undimmed, his fire unchilled, his last years were indeed “lovely as a Lapland night.” Till within a year or two of its fall, there were no signs of dilapidation in that stately edifice. Singularly felicitous was Mr. Winthrop’s application to him of Wordsworth’s verses : —

“ The mooumental pomp of age
Was in that goodly personage.”

Everything that Macbeth foreboded the want of, he had in deserved abundance, — the love, the honor, the obedience, the troops of friends. His equanimity was beautiful. He loved life, as men of large vitality always do, but he did not fear to lose life by changing the scene of it. Visiting him in his ninetieth year with a friend, he said to us, among other things : “ I have no desire to die, but also no reluctance. Indeed, I have a considerable curiosity about the other world. I have never been to Europe, you know.” Even in his extreme senescence there was an April mood somewhere in his nature “that put a spirit of youth in everything.” He seemed to feel that he could draw against an unlimited credit of years. When eighty-two, he said smilingly to a young man just returned from a foreign tour, “ Well, well. I mean to go myself when I am old enough to profit by it.” We have seen many old men whose lives were mere waste and desolation, who made longevity disreputable by their untimely persistence in it: but in Mr. Quincy’s length of years there was nothing that was not venerable. To him it was fulfilment, not deprivation ; the days were marked to the last for what they brought, not for what they took away.

The memory of what Mr. Quincy did will be lost in the crowd of newer activities : it is the memory of what he was that is precious to us. Bonum virum facile crederes, magnum libenter. If John Winthrop be the highest type of the men who shaped New England, we can find no better one of those whom New England has shaped than Josiah Quincy. It is a figure that we can contemplate with more than satisfaction.— a figure of admirable example in a democracy as that of a model citizen. His courage and high-mindedness were personal to him ; let us believe that his integrity, his industry. his love of letters, his devotion to duty, go in some sort to the credit of the society which gave him birth and formed his character. In one resect he is especially interesting to us, as belonging to a class of men of whom he was the last representative, and whose like we shall never see again. Born and bred in an age of greater social distinctions than ours, he was an aristocrat in a sense that is good even in a republic. He had the sense of a certain personal dignity inherent in him. and which could not be alienated by any whim of the popular will. There is no stouter buckler than this for independence of spirit, no surer guaranty of that courtesy which, in its consideration of others, is but paying a debt of self-respect. During his presidency, Mr. Quincy was once riding to Cambridge in a crowded omnibus. A colored woman got in, and could nowhere find a seat. The President instantly gave her his own, and stood the rest of the way, a silent rebuke of the general rudeness. He was a man of quality in the true sense, — of quality not hereditary, but personal. Position might be taken from him, but he remained where he was. In what he valued most, his sense of personal worth, the world’s opinion could neither help nor hinder. We do not mean that this was conscious in him; if it had been, it would have been a weakness. It was an instinct, and acted with the force and promptitude proper to such. Let us hope that the scramble of democracy will give us something as good ; anything of so classic dignity we shall not look to see again.

Josiah Quincy was no seeker of office ; from first to last he and it were drawn together by the mutual attraction of need and fitness, and it clung to him as most men cling to it. The people often make blunders in their choice ; they are apt to mistake presence of speech for presence of mind ; they love so to help a man rise from the ranks, that they will spoil a good demagogue to make a bad general; a great many faults may be laid at their door, but they are not fairly to be charged with fickleness. They are constant to whoever is constant to his real self, to the best manhood that is in him, and not to the mere selfishness, the antica lupa so cunning to hide herself in the sheep’s fleece even from ourselves. It is true, the contemporary world is apt to be the gull of brilliant parts, and the maker of a lucky poem or picture or statue, the winner of a lucky battle, gets perhaps more than is due to the solid result of his triumph. It is time that fit honor should be paid also to him who shows a genius for public usefulness, for the achievement of character, who shapes his life to a certain classic proportion, and comes off conqueror on those inward fields where something more than mere talent is demanded for victory. The memory of such men should be cherished as the most precious inheritance which one generation can bequeath to the next. However it might be with popular favor, public respect followed Mr. Ouincy unwaveringly for seventy years, and it was because he had never forfeited his own. In this, it appears to us, lies the lesson of his life, and his claim upon our grateful recollection. It is this which makes him an example, while the careers of so many of our prominent men are only useful for warning. As regards history, his greatness was narrowly provincial; but if the measure of deeds be the spirit in which they are done, that fidelity to instant duty, which, according to Herbert, makes an action fine, then his length of years should be very precious to us for its lesson. Talleyrand, whose life may be compared with his for the strange vicissitude which it witnessed, carried with him out of the world the respect of no man, least of all his own ; and how many of our own public men have we seen whose old age but accumulated a disregard which they would gladly have exchanged for oblivion ! In Quincy the public fidelity was loyal to the private, and the withdrawal of his old age was into a sanctuary,— a diminution of publicity with addition of influence.

“Conclude we, then, felicity consists
Not in exterior fortunes. ....
Sacred felicity doth ne’er extend
Beyond itself. ....
The swelling of an outward fortune can
Create a prosperous, net a happy man.”’