« PreviousContinue »
many excellent personal friends, are pleased to place on my regard for them; and I pray you and them, gentlemen, to accept my sincere and respectful thanks."' Vol. 1. pp. 213–216.
Who needs to be reminded, that by thus boldly and eloquently asserting the cause of freedom, wherever he went in his wide tour throughout the United States, General Lafayette turned the etiquette of a ceremonious reception into a living and abiding lesson of the highest truth? By whom else with such authority, on what occasion with such force, to what audience with such pertinency, could the cause of Spanish liberty have been pleaded? This beautiful incident was followed up by another, if not more imposing, equally interesting and affecting.
'In the crowd,' says Colonel Levasseur, 'I noticed some ecclesiastics, and among the rest a Capuchin, whose costume, new to me, had attracted my attention on the day of my arrival. The account which I received of him highly interested me, and will, I doubt not, interest the reader.
'Father Antonio is a venerable Spanish ecclesiastic of the Franciscan order, for many years residing in Louisiana. Surrounded by a population composed of different sects, he has never thought it his duty to trouble the consciences of others, by seeking recruits to his own faith. Sometimes, as a Capuchin, Father Antonio solicits charity, but it is only when he has some good action to perform, and his slender means, exhausted by constant alms-giving, are inadequate of themselves to the object. Every year, when on the return of the sickly season, the yellow-fever drives the wealthy inhabitants of New Orleans to their country seats for protection from disease and death, the worth of Father Antonio is seen in all its force. In these days of terror and mourning, how many unfortunates, abandoned by their friends and even their relations, have been indebted for health and life to his devotedness, to his cares, to his piety! Of all whom he has thus saved (and they are numerous), there is not one who can say, "Before taking me under his care, he inquired what was my religion."' 'When he came to see the General, Father Antonio was clothed according to the rule of his order, in a long brown frock, tied with a rope about the body. As soon as he perceived the General, he threw himself into his arms, saying, “Oh, my son, I have found favor with the Lord, for he has granted me, before I die, to see and hear the worthiest apostle of liberty." He then conversed with the General, for a few moments, in the most affectionate manner, complimented him on the glorious and well deserved reception which he had received from the Americans, and modestly withdrew into a corner of the apartment.' 'When
the crowd had retired and he found the General alone, he ran to him and pressing him again in his arms, exclaimed, "Adieu my son; adieu, beloved General. Farewell! may the Lord go before thee, and after thy glorious visit is over, may he guide thee to the bosom of thy beloved family, to enjoy in peace the recollection of thy good actions, and the friendship of the people of America. Oh, my son, perhaps thou art still reserved for great achievements! Perhaps the Lord will yet make thee the instrument of emancipating other nations. Should that time come, think, my son, of poor Spain. Abandon not my dear country, my unhappy country. The tears fell on his venerable beard; his utterance was choked, and it was only after a pause of the deepest emotion that he was able to add, "My son, my dear son, do something for my wretched country." pp. 230-233.
When we read, in the last papers from France, the accounts of the present state of things in that kingdom; when we notice the irresistible onset made upon the ministry, and the visible purturbation of its ranks, it is impossible wholly to suppress the idea, that another great change is at hand. When we see the spontaneous movement of the people toward the person of Lafayette, the glowing zeal with which they have turned an excursion of business into another triumphant progress, strewing his way with honors such as loyal France never paid to her most cherished princes, we cannot but think, that the aspiration of the venerable Spanish priest is almost prophetic. The feelings of men inspire their actions; public sentiment governs states; and revolutions are the outbreakings of mighty, irrepressible passions. It is in vain to deny that these passions are up, in France; and happy is it, that they have concentrated themselves upon a patriot, whom prosperity has as little been able to corrupt, as adversity to subdue.
The happy amalgamation of the French and American population in Louisiana was evidently one of the most agreeable spectacles, which presented itself to General Lafayette, on his tour. It is one of the most precious lessons which our history contains. When Louisiana was acquired, a great problem presented itself, of which the solution could not be thrust aside; which it was necessary for the government and the people of the United States and the inhabitants of Louisiana to meet. France sold the country to the United States. plain, that, on American principles, France could do nothing, which would bind any body but herself; and that we could acquire no rights, under the purchase, except as against France VOL. XXX, No. 66.
and other powers admitting the right of a mother country to transfer the jurisdiction of a colony. It was the opinion of Mr Jefferson and his cabinet, that it was necessary for the people of Louisiana to do some act, expressive of their willingness to join the American people, and that the constitution of the United States must be amended, to admit of this addition to the confederated family. The first measure (which presented no practical difficulties, that we are aware of) was superseded by the obvious good will and predisposition of the population. The second (which in the theory of our government was necessary) was waved under the dictation of high national convenience; and it is not within our knowledge, that the momentous result of transferring all Louisiana (an empire of itself) from one jurisdiction to another, was attended with an irregular movement, which it required a sergeant's guard to repress.
While the Canadas have been haunting the British parliament, for seventy years, like a wrathful ghost, constantly harassed with a legislation that never satisfies them, overwhelmed with favors that do not propitiate, and taunted with concessions which are as grateful to a proud colony as alms-bread is to a proud man, Louisiana has sprung up at once into an affectionate, congenial member of the confederacy. She was Catholic; how did Protestant America deal with that fearfully sensitive interest, the Catholic faith of her newly gathered brethren? The treaty of cession guarantied to them the undisturbed liberty of conscience, with the assurance that this is all, which any communion in the whole republic enjoys. In Canada, the British government tolerates the Catholic faith, the faith of the mass of the population, (and next to persecution, toleration is the most odious word in the vocabulary of oppression; for the power, that makes a merit of tolerating, claims ipso facto the right of not tolerating, that is, of persecuting), endows the Church of England, and even requires the professors of her colleges in Canada to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles.*
In the very interesting debate in the House of Commons, May 2, 1828, 'on the civil government of the Canadas,' Sir James Mackintosh observed, 'In Upper Canada, the people were much dissappointed, by the immense grants of land, which had been made to the Church of England, and the reserves kept for a church, which is not the religion of a majority of the people. Such endowments may be held sacred, when they have been long made, but I do not see the propriety of now
Louisiana had been both a Spanish and a French colony; how did republican America manage the nice questions of government and law? She guarantied to them the enjoyment of all those portions of their old law, which they themselves might choose to retain; declared them independent, and free to adopt any modification of republican government, that they might choose; and admitted them into the federal union, on terms of equality. In Canada, before the question can be answered, on what footing England has placed the law and the government, you must say as to what period of ten years you inquire; for two lustrums is an old age for a British charter in Canada. There is the law of 1763, and the law of 1774, and the law of 1778, and the law of 1791, as each new minister chooses to make what he deems experimentum in corpore vili.
Most ardently is it to be wished, that the happy example, which has so prosperously attached to our union, on the south, the French colony of Louisiana, could effectually point the way to an equally auspicious junction of the. French colonies of the north. What privileges would it open for the Canadas; what collisions would it obviate between Great Britain and the United States; what a relief would it afford to England; what a noble accession would it constitute to our republic. Great Britain, of course, in the present improved state of political science, can claim no right to control the will of the people of Canada. When this subject was alluded to, in the House of Commons, in the debate above mentioned, all that was maintained in favor of a perpetuity of the colonial bond, was that England was bound to protect the colonies. This obligation, of course, ceases at the will of the colonists. It is not the duty of England to protect them, if they do not wish to be protected; and if the four British provinces in North America should to-morrow propose to renounce the government of Great Britain, and join the confederacy of the United States, as the Congress of 1774 invited them to do,
making such endowments for a church which is not the religion of the people, nor do I understand the regulations, which have been made for the new college in Upper Canada. I see, with astonishment, that in a country, where the majority of the people do not belong to the Church of England, the professors must all subscribe to the Thirty. nine Articles; so that if Dr Adam Smith were alive, he could not fill the chair of political economy, and Dr Black would be excluded from the chair of chemistry.'
we do not know on what sound principles of natural or national law Great Britain could interpose an objection.
But, to return once more to the work before us, the passage of General Lafayette up the Mississippi; his visits to St Louis, to Kaskaskia in Illinois, to Nashville in Tennessee, to Jeffersonville in Indiana, to Kentucky and Ohio; his return to this neighborhood, to assist in the laying of the corner-stone of the monument on Bunker Hill; his excursion to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine; his return through New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, to Washington; his valediction at Washington; his passage back to France, and his reception at home, the topics which fill the residue of the second volume, are richly diversified with interesting matter of every kind. We might specify his rencounter with a female Indian, who had been brought up in civilized, and returned to savage life, the daughter of a chief who had served under Lafayette in 1778, and received from him a written testimonial to his character; the interview at Nashville with the President of the United States; the disaster on the Ohio, occasioned by a snag; the visit to Mr Gallatin; the whole ceremonial of Bunker Hill; and the farewell scene at Washington. But we have left ourselves no space for further extracts.
There are those who deny to General Lafayette the name of a great man. This is a vague phrase, hard to define, of an acceptation somewhat dependent on the circle in which it is used. Does goodness belong to greatness, and make a part of it? Who is there, that has run through such a career with so little reproach? Are military courage and conduct the test of greatness? Lafayette was trusted by Washington with all kinds of service; the laborious and the complicated, which required patience and skill; the perilous, that demanded nerve; and we see him keeping up a pursuit, effecting a retreat, outmanœuvring an enemy, and heading an assault, with equal reputation and success. Are the willingness to meet tremendous responsibility, and the cool and brave administration of gigantic power, proofs of greatness? Lafayette commanded in chief the national guard of France, three millions of bayonets. Is the fortitude, required to resist the urgency of a multitude. pressing onward their leader to crime, a trait of true greatness? Behold Lafayette, when he might have been the chief, becoming the fugitive of the French revolution. Is the solitary and unaided opposition of a good citizen to the pretensions of