« НазадПродовжити »
and the projector of the enterprise brought more into relief; we should have wished to be made acquainted with him—to be told of his views, his hopes, his fears, and the details of what he did and attempted in this matter, and of the springs he bronght into play at home and abroad, and the causes that impeded their operation; we should have wished to see him figure as the hero of a great commercial epic, so to speak, and the first one perhaps purely commercial, for which the world has furnished the material, since Jason. But to all this there were insuperable obstacles in the characters of all the parties concerned ; and much development of fact, beyond what has been given, might have been made, but for interests still existing which such disclosures might have injured. Had they been made they would only have shown a greater extent of the same energy, and perseverance, and moral courage, for which all we have already seen is so remarkable.
There is one subject on which we shall say a few words here, to contradict a rumour that this work had been ordered by Mr. Astor from Mr. Irving, executed as a job, and paid for with a stipulated price. We have taken some pains to enquire into this, and we have information which enables us to state positively that Mr. Irving has received no compensation nor pecuniary favours of any sort from Mr. Astor, directly or indirectly. As a friend of Mr. Astor, Mr. Irving could not but know something of this story; it interested his curiosity; he talked often with Mr. Astor about it, and chose it himself as a subject for his pen, brought it out at his own risk and expense, and as yet it has been by no means profitable compared with most of his other works. That Mr. Astor would have aided its execution, and willingly, no one can doubt; but, from a delicacy easily to be appreciated, Mr. Irving would not allow the shadow of such an interference to fall on the performance.
We shall conclude with an extract chosen from many we had marked to show Mr. Irving at home in the wilderness, and dealing, with his congenial humour, with its adventures. It is an onslaught of the Indians upon a party who were bearing despatches to Mr. Astor, the loss of which of course made it necessary for the bearer to go back to the fort for more; and the unlucky fantasy which possessed the Indians in relation to them was one more link in the chain of Astorian fatalities.
“The worthies of Wish-ram, however, were not disposed to part so easily with their visiters. Their cupidity had been quickened by the plunder which they had already taken, and their confidence increased by the impunity with which their outrage had passed. They resolved, therefore, to take further toll of the travellers, and, if possible, to capture the tin case of despatches; which, shining conspicuously from afar, and being guarded by John Reed with such especial care, must, as they supposed, be a great medicine.'
“ Accordingly, Mr. Stuart and his comrades had not proceeded far in the canoes, when they beheld the whole rabble of Wish-ram stringing in groups along the bank, whooping and yelling, and gibbering in their wild jargon; and when they landed below the falls, they were surrounded by upwards of four hundred of these river ruffians, armed with bows and arrows, war clubs, and other savage weapons. These now pressed forward, with offers to carry the canoes and effects up the portage. Mr. Stuart declined forwarding the goods, alleging the lateness of the hour; but, to keep them in good humour, informed them that, if they conducted themselves well, their offered services might probably be accepted in the morning; in the mean while, he suggested that they might carry up the canoes. They accordingly set off with the two canoes on their shoulders, accompanied by a guard of eight men well armed.
“When arrived at the head of the falls, the mischievous spirit of the savages broke out, and they were on the point of destroying the canoes ---doubtless with a view to impede the white men from carrying forward their goods, and laying them open to further pilfering. They were with some difficulty prevented from committing this outrage by ihe interference of an old man, who appeared to have authority among them; and, in consequence of his harangue, the whole of the hostile band, with the exception of about fifty, crossed to the north side of the river, where they lay in wait, ready for further mischief.
In the mean time, Mr. Stuart, who had remained at the foot of the falls with the goods, and who knew that the proffered assistance of the savages was only for the purpose of having an opportunity to plunder, determined, if possible, to steal a march upon them, and defeat their machinations. In the dead of the night, therefore, about one o'clock, the moon shining brightly, he roused his party, and proposed that they should endeavour to transport the goods themselves above the falls, before the sleeping savages could be aware of their operations. All hands sprang to the work with zeal, and hurried it on in the hope of getting all over before daylight. Mr. Stuart went forward with the first loads, and took his station at the head of the portage, while Mr. Reed and Mr. M'Lellan remained at the foot to forward the remainder.
“The day dawned before the transportation was completed. Some of the fifty Indians who had remained on the south side of the river perceived what was going on, and, feeling themselves too weak for an attack, gave the alarm to those on the opposite side, upwards of a hundred of whom embarked in several large canoes. Two loads of goods yet remained to be brought up. Mr. Stuart despatched some of the people for one of the loads, with a request to Mr. Reed to retain with him as many men as he thought necessary to guard the remaining load, as he suspected hostile intentions on the part of the Indians. Mr. Reed, however, refused to retain any of them, saying that M‘Lellan and himself were sufficient to protect the small quantity that remained. The men accordingly departed with the load, while Reed and M‘Lellan continued to mount guard over the residue. By this time a number of the canoes had arrived from the opposite side. As they approached the shore, the unlucky tin box of John Reed, shining afar like the brilliant helmet of Euryalus, caught their eyes. No sooner did the canoes touch the shore, than they leaped forward on the rocks, set up a war
ar-whoop, and sprang forward to secure the glittering prize. Mr. MʻLellan, who was at the river bank, advanced to guard the goods, when one of the savages attempted to hoodwink him with his buffalo robe with one hand, VOL. XXI.-NO. 41.
and to stab him with the other. M'Lellan sprang back just far enough to avoid the blow, and, raising his rifle, shot the ruffian through the heart.
“In the mean time, Reed-who, with the want of forethought of an Irishman, had neglected to remove the leathern cover from the lock of his rifle—was fumbling at the fastenings, when he received a blow on the head with a war club that laid him senseless on the ground. In twinkling he was stripped of his rifle and pistols, and the tin box, the cause of all this onslaught, was borne off in triumph.” Vol. II. pp. 96--98.
Art. V.-Memoirs of Aaron Burr, with Miscellaneous Selec
tions from his Correspondence. By MATTHEW L. Davis. In two volumes. Vol. I. New York: 1836. pp. 436.
This volume has, no doubt, in one respect been a very successful literary enterprise. It has sold well. The subject was one of adventure and peculiar interest, and public curiosity, stimulated as well by the ominous seclusion to which the hero of the narrative had for a long period condemned himself, as by a thousand and one hints of new disclosures and unsuspected revelations, was directed with singular intensity to this biography. Besides the interest of the theme itself, resort had very fairly been had to the artifices which the book-making and book-selling community so well understand, to make the world believe that something more than ordinary was coming. The author, too, Mr. Matthew L. Davis, is, if we mistake not, an accredited contributor to the daily press, having thus great facilities to herald the coming biography, and was regarded as an individual who not only had the advantage of intimate personal association with the hero of his story, but who, from his habits of life, was supposed eminently to possess the talent of close and minute observation, and to deserve all confidence for accuracy and impartiality. The result, as to mere dollars and cents, has been just what might be anticipated. The volume has been very cheap to its proprietor and very dear to the public, and we believe we do not misrepresent public opinion, (we are sure we describe sound critical judgment,) when we say that in precise proportion to the avidity with which the book was sought on its first appearance has been the disappointment its perusal has occasioned. Mr. Davis tells us on his title page, that he comes “to bury Cæsar, not to praise him," and literally does he, in one sense, comply with his promise, for if ever the ashes of the dead were hurried ingloriously to their resting place, they have
been in the case of Mr. Davis's illustrious friend. The dim lamp which the careless chronicler holds over the grave scarcely gives light enough to guide the curious to the spot, and the recorded obsequies of one who, with all his faults, was a man of high promise and eminent talent, would far better suit the veriest beggar in reputation that ever occupied a paragraph in history. Had Aaron Burr been a much worse man than he was, his memory deserved a better fate than to be slurred over in this way. Had he been a moral leper without a single good trait to redeem him, which he certainly was not, his talents, his military daring, his intellectual energy, and the high political station from which he fell, entitled him to exemption from careless neglect. Better would it be to have dragged the body of the fallen tribune through the streets of Rome, and in the face of the multitude thrown it into the Tiber, than to have smuggled it to the grave with the consummate carelessness with which Mr. Matthew L. Davis has treated his “ Cæsar."
We pronounce this harsh judgment with sincere regret, but from an imperative sense of justice. The biography of our country, in its revolutionary era at least, is a sacred theme which we cannot bear to see trifled with. It is consecrated by the purity and sublimity of the cause which was at stake and hallowed by the atmosphere of virtue and high individual morality which encompassed it. Not that all the great mien of the revolution were beyond reproach, either in their public or their private characters. The book before us shows us one exception, and others may no doubt be suggested. Still the instances are inappreciably rare, and the vast amount of public and private virtue which distinguishes our early history must be admitted to form its most beautiful characteristic. Like the snowy summits of the Cordilleras breaking through a dark curtain of cloud, (a sight we once remember to have seen, and who that has seen will ever forget it,) and glowing in the rich sunset of the tropics, are, to the mental vision, the accumulated virtue and wisdom of the revolution in comparison with the misty elevations to which the achievements of our day aspire.
The contrast is as painful as it is distinct. We are not croakers by temperament, nor habitual mourners over the degeneracy of the times. But what we hint at is too palpable to be mistaken. The chivalry of public virtue at least is gone; the romantic purity of patriotism is blurred over; personal integrity and morality have found a counterfeit in what are called "party claims ;" and the reward of an approving conscience-the precious recompense of a sense of duty performed, beyond which our revolutionary ancestors rarely looked, has its substitute in the attainment of “ office and the spoils of political victory." With what dispenser of public honours and emoluments would private moral worth
now o'ltweigh political influence? Let the history of the times answer.'
“ Such were not they of old, whose temper'd blades
Dispersed the shackles of usurped control,
Shone brighter still when called to public view.” We have always thought, that to the private worth and personal merits of our revolutionary ancestors justice has not been done. Every biographer makes his narrative purely the record of public service and neglects the details of personal incidents and private virtues, which should shine so conspicuously in the history of the times. Few who have bestowed any attention on the subject in this aspect, can fail to be deeply impressed with the new claims on gratitude and veneration which thence originate. Our ancestors drew their swords for opinions' sake, for, in fact, they were not harshly governed ; and having drawn it, thought no sacrifice too great for the contest. In private life, the majority of them were men of stern morality and high integrity, whose patriotism and domestic virtues had the same firm basis. They had, too, the reward of social and familiar virtue, in the devoted affection of their families and friends, and in those domestic comforts which that affection so bountifully supplies. Yet all this, the fruits of this familiar love, the delights of this domestic circle, they sacrificed without hesitation at the call of their indignant country-and sacrificed them, too, though not without regret, at least without a murmur. We have, in our mind's eye, at this moment, more than one instance of this patient endurance and personal sacrifice ;-of men who,
· The literary reader will pardon the extract, in a note, of Milton's eloquent vituperation of his own disjointed times :-“This is the masterpiece of a modern politician, how to qualify the sufferance of the people to the length of thai foot which is to tread on their necks; how rapine may serve itself with the fair and honourable pretences of public good; bow the puny law may be brought under the wardship and control of will: in which attempi, if they fall short, then must a superficial colour of reputation by all means, direct or indirect, be gotten to wash over the unsightly bruise of honour. To make men governable in this manner, their precepts mainly tend to break a national spirit and courage, till having thus disfigured and made men beneath men, as Juno in the fable of lo, they deliver up the poor transformed heifer of the commonwealth, to be stung and vexed with the brize and goad of oppression, under the custody of some Argus, with a hundred eyes of jealousy. To be plainer, sir, how to solder, how to stop a leak, how to keep the floating carcass of a crazy and diseased monarchy or state betwixt wind and water, swimming still upon her own dead lees, thal, now, is the deep design of a modern politician.”—Prose Works, vol. i. p. 14.